Chapter XV. The Limbus.

THIS diagram presents a view of the LIMBUS which man derives from the purest substances of the natural world and which he retains as a cutaneous envelop of his spiritual body after death. This cutaneous envelop is called Limbus in the Latin of True Christian Religion TCR 103 where we read, –

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself, and the body, which is from the mother, is not in itself the man, but from him. The body is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [substances] as are of the natural world; but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every man after death lays aside the natural [body] which he carried from the mother, and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain Limbus of the purest [substances] of nature around it.”

The degrees A B C and D combined, represent the whole of the spiritual part of man, that is, all which is composed of spiritual substances (TCR 103, DLW 388), A representing the supreme degree or soul-proper; B the internal or spiritual mind with all its degrees; C the external or natural mind with its degrees; and D the spiritual body, consisting of the spiritual sensual and spiritual corporeal as shown in Diagram XIII.

The Limbus E and gross body F together constitute the entire natural or material body; the limbus being nearer to the spirit and invisible to the natural eye, the gross body more external and rejected at death. E is drawn in green to distinguish it from the spiritual structures above, F consisting of gross natural substances is drawn in dark.

This Limbus, man does not cast off at death but retains as a permanent cutaneous envelop of his spiritual body. The substances of the limbus are the natural substances meant in Divine Love and Wisdom, where we read-

“The natural mind of man consists of spiritual substances and at the same time of natural substances; from its spiritual substances, thought is produced but not from its natural substances; these [natural] substances recede, [or pass from activity to quiescence] when man dies but not the spiritual substances, wherefore that same natural mind after death when man becomes a spirit or an angel, remains in a form similar to that in which it was in the world. The natural substances of this mind, which as was said recede by death, make the cutaneous envelop of the spiritual body in which spirits and angels are. By such envelop, which is taken from the natural world, their spiritual bodies [permanently] subsist, for the natural is the [fixed] containing ultimate.”- DLW 257.

The limbus is described in the same work as something fixed containing the spiritual organism:

“The material form [or natural body of man] which is added and superinduced [upon his spirit] in the world, is not a human form of itself, but from the human form of the spirit, added to and superinduced [upon the spirit] that man may do uses in the natural world, and also that he may carry with him [after death] from the purer substances of the world, something fixed containing his spirituals, and so continue and perpetuate life.”- DLW 388.

And in Divine Providence, we read, –

“Man by death puts off the grosser [substances] of nature and retains the purer which latter are next to his spiritual, and these are then his containants.”-DP 220.

The necessity of a limbus composed of natural substances to keep the spiritual body in form and order arises from the difference between natural substances and spiritual substances. This difference also necessitates the natural world to contain and preserve the spiritual world. The substances of which the bodies of spirits and angels are composed, being interior and evanescent, not ultimate and fixed like material substances, require an envelop of natural substances to hold them permanently in form. But even this natural cutaneous envelop could not preserve the spiritual body of an angel or spirit, in form, were not the envelop itself contained within and resting upon something firmer and more solid than itself, that is, upon the finer substances and through them upon the grosser substances of the natural body of man. (LJ 9.) The evanescence of spiritual substances may be illustrated by the escapement and diffusion of fluids in the natural world. The whole physical universe is related to the spiritual universe as man’s physical body to his spirit, and the highest or inmost plane of this physical universe is related to the spiritual universe as man’s limbus to his spirit. The inmost plane being the nearest covering of the spiritual universe must be the medium by which the life of the spiritual world flows into and operates upon all lower natural substances which constitute the gross physical body of the universe. (Read attentively D. W. in AE VIII, 4, 5.)

Inasmuch as the bodies of men rest on the earth, and spirits and angels through the limbus rest on men, it follows that angels and spirits rest mediately upon the earth itself as the last foundation. (LJ 9.) Angels and spirits rest on men by means of their limbus because the natural substances composing the limbus are joined with the lowest spiritual substances and are in a sense intermediate between the spiritual and the grosser and palpable natural organisms of men. The limbus must be kept in form by connection with natural substances coarser and firmer than itself in graded structures even down to earthly solids.

When we say the limbus is composed of the purest substances of nature we mean the purest of the human body; the substances of the natural sun and others proximately emanating therefrom are doubtless prior to these.

On the nature of spiritual substance on the one hand and material on the other, on the intermediate nature of the Limbus and its use in giving permanence to the existence of angels and spirits and connecting them with men, we read in Divine Wisdom,

“The angelic mind cannot be procreated, and through procreation be multiplied except in man.

“He who knows the quality of substances in the spiritual world, and the quality respectively of matters in the natural world, can easily see that there is no procreation of angelic minds nor can be, except in those and from those who inhabit the ultimate work of creation, the earth. But because the quality of substances in the spiritual world in relation to matters in the natural world is unknown [it shall now be told]. Substances in the spiritual world appear as if they were material, but they are not; and because they are not material therefore they are not constant. They are correspondences of the affections of the angels, and with the affections or the angels they are permanent, and with them they are separated [that is, on the cessation of the affections, the substances composing the object are dispersed, and the Object vanishes, see D. L. W. 344; TCR 78]. Similar would it have been with the angels, had they been created there. But besides, there is not, nor can be, with the angels any procreation and thence multiplication other than a spiritual one, which is that of wisdom and of love, such as is also of the souls of men who are generated anew or regenerated. But in the natural world there are matters, by which and from which procreations and afterwards formations can take place, thus multiplication of men and thence of angels.

Spirits and angels hence derive substance and life to eternity.

“The reason is that every angel and spirit from having been first born a man in the world derives substance, for he retains with himself from the inmost [substances] of nature a medium between the spiritual and the natural by which he is finited [that is, definitely terminated and fixed in form] so that he may subsist and be permanent; by this medium he has something related to the things which are in nature and also correspondent to them.

“By this also spirits and angels can be adjoined, and conjoined to the human race, for there is conjunction and where there is conjunction there must be a medium.

“That there is such a medium the angels know, but because it is from the inmost [substances] of nature and the words of languages are from the ultimates of nature it cannot be described except by abstract [terms].” –D.W. in AE VIII, 3, 4, 5, (See also DLW 344; 6 to 9.)

In Divine Providence we read, –

“The natural and temporal are the outmosts and ultimates into which man first enters, which he does at birth in order that he may afterwards be introduced into things interior and superior; for outermosts and ultimates are containants, and these are in the natural world. This is why no angel or spirit was created immediately, but why all were first born men and so introduced [into things interior or superior]; hence they have the outermosts and ultimates which in themselves are fixed and established, within which and by which interiors can be held together in connection. But man first puts on the grosser [substances] of nature; his body is from them but by death he puts them off, and retains the purer [substances] of nature which are nearest to spiritual [substances] and these then are his containants. Furthermore in outermosts or ultimates, all things interior or superior are together; wherefore every operation of the LORD is from firsts and ultimates together, thus in fullness. But as the outermosts and ultimates of nature cannot receive the spiritual and eternal things to which the human mind is formed, as these are in themselves, and yet man was born to become spiritual and live forever, therefore man puts off the ultimates, and retains only the natural interiors which meet and accord with the spirituals and celestials and subserve them as containants. This is done by the rejection of temporal and natural ultimates, which is the death of the body.”-.DP 220.

In the above we have the reason of the universal order of creation-the finer in the grosser, the active in the inert, the first in the last, the spiritual in the natural. This difference of substances is necessary, for were there no active, fluid, evanescent substances there would be no life, force, or motion; and were there no solid, inert substances there would he no stability and duration of form.

From the foregoing we see that

Because substances in the spiritual world are evanscent and matters in our world are stable and constant especially in ultimates, the whole spiritual universe acquires organic permanence solely by the natural universe clothing and sustaining it.

And we see that

Inasmuch as the human spirit in its rudimental form as an offshoot from the soul of the father is an organism of spiritual substances evanescent in their nature (DLW 432; TCR 103; CL 220), it must (when begotten) be immediately fixed by taking on the primordial rudimentary form of the material body from the purest elements of nature supplied for the purpose by the mother, thus securing permanence and subsequent growth.

And we further see that

Man does not at death cast off the whole of his material form but only the gross mass and retains the purest part which was nearest his spirit, as a limbus or cutaneous envelop to hold his spirit in endless duration, and as a medium conjoining him with man in the world, thus preserving both; spirits and angels resting on men and men receiving influx from them. Hence man at death, when he becomes a spirit, is not utterly separated from the material world since he does not reject ALL he has taken on from this world but remains (to the extent of his limbus) unconsciously connected with it: all this is to secure the Divine end of creation, an ever increasing and ever enduring heaven of human beings.

There is a difference between the states of the limbus of those who die in infancy and of those who die in adult age. In Heaven and Hell we read:

“They who die adult have and carry with them a plane acquired from the earthly and material world. This plane is their [external or natural] memory, and its bodily, natural affection. This remains fixed, and is then quiescent; but still it serves their thought after death as an ultimate plane, for the thought flows into it. Hence such as that plane is and such as is the correspondence of the rational with the contents of that plane such is the man after death. But those who died infants and were educated in heaven have not such a plane, but a spiritual natural plane: because they derive nothing from the material world and the earthly body they cannot be in so gross affections and hence thoughts; for they derive all from heaven.”- HH 345.

We must not infer from the above that those who die in infancy retain no limbus from nature to preserve their spiritual organism. The meaning is they have not a merely natural memory, that is a memory formed in the plane of the limbus by the use of the natural senses as those have who grow up in this life. But while growing up in the other life, their memory is formed in a spiritual structure just within the plane of the spiritual senses and is called spiritual natural because it is in a spiritual plane resting upon the natural. Should their limbus he insufficient for adult stature, it will necessarily be increased as they advance.

As all living organisms undergo change by a resolution and passing off of their substances and renewal by appropriation of new substances, so must it be with the limbus.

We must not suppose that the limbus is taken into the spiritual world. It is natural and must remain in the natural world. Man as to his spirit being of the spiritual world even from birth and unconsciously an inhabitant there during life in the body, does not go into that world at death but merely awakens to manifest presence there by the opening of his spiritual senses. This is because the spiritual and the natural worlds are not separated by distance but are together and conjoined like soul and body.

How can spirits move from place to place in the spiritual world while clothed with a cutaneous envelop of natural substances? Change of locality in that world is effected by change of state. Swedenborg so traveled there as to his spirit while clothed with the gross body even. (See E.U. 127, HH 192, 195.) A fuller answer to this question is given at the end of Chapter XXIII.

The mental functions of the Limbus will be presented in Chapters XVIII to XXIV.

The meaning of the statement “This limbus with those who come after death into heaven is below and the spiritual above, but with those who come into hell the limbus is above and the spiritual below,” etc., (TCR 103) will be best understood after study of the mental functions of the limbus above referred to. (See Diagram XXIV.)

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