17 Angelic Intermediary in Divine Revelation

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17 Angelic Intermediary in Divine Revelation

“And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren the prophets. Worship God.” Revelation 22:8,9

The Need for Divine Revelation

Wherever a true religion has existed among men, its inner goal has been to seek a conjunction, not with spirits or even angels, but with God. But since man cannot of himself know God, the first requisite for such a conjunction had to be a self-revelation by the Creator.

Nature exerts so hypnotic an attraction for us that our attention is largely focussed upon its material objects and objectives. We may admit that other men help to form our opinions and excite our moods and motives through actions and words conveyed to our senses. But we are slow to believe that all our shifting mental states, as well as our deeper loves and convictions, have a spiritual origin. Yet physical sensation, and the words of other men, would cause no feeling and have no meaning unless there inflowed from the spiritual world the light of understanding. And this is mediated by the societies of spirits in whose midst our own mind or spirit unconsciously dwells—spirits closely kindred to our own personality. By their imperceptible influx such spirits actually enable our thinking. They utilize the knowledge in our minds, and in so doing they impart to us a sense of its implication and significance.454

But when mankind invites the presence of evil spirits, the conversion of sensory knowledge into perceptions of truth becomes more difficult. The Lord has therefore provided us with a unique opportunity especially adapted to the needs and peculiar genius of our race: He has given a series of Divine revelations of spiritual truth in the form of a written Word of God—as a means by which we may be led into conjunction with heaven and Himself.

Such written revelation was unnecessary in the primeval age symbolized by “Adam” in paradise—when the race had not as yet become infected with hereditary inclinations to evil, and could even enjoy an open intercourse with angelic spirits.455 Towards the end of the Most Ancient Church open communion with spirits became most dangerous.456 And the Lord then prepared special prophets whom He inspired to write sacred scriptures which revealed the essential truths concerning God, charity, and eternal life.

Man cannot think up a knowledge of God or of heaven from rational thought alone.457 Although there is “an influx into the souls of men” predisposing them to accept the truth that God is and that He is one,458 yet whatever religious knowledge mankind possesses was handed down as traditions stemming from primeval revelations. The reason why many pagan religions show a fundamental similarity is that they preserve, in variously perverted forms, such common traditions. The animistic, idolatrous, and magical features which they present are contorted race memories of the ancient science of the correspondences between natural and spiritual things. For the religious truth of the ancients was conveyed mostly in correspondences, symbolic stories, or ritual forms.

The Sacred Scripture was inspired by the Lord in order to preserve the truth in its purity, stripped of polytheistic imagery yet deeply veiled in symbolic language that would hide its inner message from the worldly-wise and prudent while revealing it “unto babes,” that is, to those who are humble and poor in spirit.459

The Angel of Jehovah

The question arises, whether the Lord in revealing Himself by Scripture would need to employ the agency of spirits and angels. A written Word of God is provided especially to prevent the deceptions that corporeal and evil spirits might impose upon men if spirits were permitted to speak to men openly. But can God reveal Himself without the intermediacy of spirits or angels ?

It is an ancient saying that “no man can see God and live.” Seemingly this would effectively prevent any revelation of the Divine Being as He is in His infinite Esse. But the Being (Esse) of God is revealed in His forthstanding form as Divine Man, and as such He has been worshipped in all ages; even before He descended to become incarnate in an earthly body and by degrees manifested His Divine qualities of love and wisdom. For prior to His advent He had revealed Himself both in the heavens and before appointed prophets. Yet this theophany could not be effected except by means of angels who thus for the occasion entered into the most sublime function which any finite being could serve.

The Word of the Old Testament often relates how patriarchs and prophets in vision saw the glorious form of a man, or “one resembling the son of man,” who proved to be an angel, yet who spoke as if he was the Lord Himself. Such an angel was called “Jehovah” or “the angel of Jehovah.”460 How this angelic mediation took place is described in the Arcana Coelestia:

“… It was an angel who appeared to Moses as a flame in the bush, and he spoke as Jehovah because the Lord or Jehovah spoke through him. For in order that the speech may come to man by words of articulate sound and in ultimate nature, the Lord makes use of the ministry of angels, filling them with the Divine and lulling the things which are their own. . . . “46l “Sometimes an angel does not speak from himself, but from the Lord, and he then does not know but that he is the Lord; but then his externals are quiescent. It is otherwise when his externals are active. The reason is that the internal man of the angels is the Lord’s possession; and so far then as their own things do not impede, it is the Lord’s and even is the Lord.”462

It is also said that in such a case the Lord fills or infills the angel with His Divine aspect so that he does not speak at all from himself but hears the words inspired from the Divine. Yet as soon as such angels are addressed by the man to whom they appear they would become aware of their own distinct individuality and avert any attempt of man to worship them.463

In the ages before the Advent the Lord’s appearance to the prophets through some angel whom He infilled with His Divine Spirit was called His “representative Human.” Each angel portrayed some aspect of the Divine. But such a representative Human borrowed from the heavens could not be fully efficacious for it could not spiritually enlighten the natural minds of men; it could convey no rational idea of the Lord, but only a symbolic picture.464

The “angel of Jehovah” served as a medium in the inspiration of the Word of the Old Testament.

The ancients received the Divine influx into their interiors ; but the prophets of Israel simply felt it as a dictation by a living voice, and sometimes as audible sound which they perceived as coming from an angel appearing before them. “They heard a voice, they saw a vision, and they dreamed a dream; but as they had no perception these were merely verbal or visual revelations, without any perception of what they signified.”465

It is essential to note that although angels served as the instruments by which the Holy Scriptures were dictated, not a single word came from the angels nor was it selected by them. And “as the words came forth immediately from the Lord, each of them was infilled with the Divine” and thus they conceal within them the infinite wisdom of God, as an internal sense of which the biblical writers were unaware.466The angelic intermediacy did not prevent the Old Testament from being Divine as to the very text and syllables. But it did prevent the heavenly truth from appearing except in representative forms and clothed in dark symbols; even as Isaiah suggests when he says, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.”467

Revelations after the Advent

The Divinely inspired books of the New Testament—the four Gospels and the Apocalypse—contain some of the words which “the Lord spoke from the Divine itself” in parables and other types of spiritual teaching. His words were indeed pure correspondences, representative and significative of Divine things, yet they referred openly to the things of heaven and the church.468 The entire biography of the Lord, including His own discourses, was also written down by the evangelists under immediate Divine inspiration. The Lord predicted this when He made the promise that the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, would come: “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.”469

No mention is here made of any angel mediating the apostolic inspiration. When in the world the Lord appeared to men’s physical sight in His own assumed human. After this had been glorified and after His ascension into heaven He appeared in person to men only when their spiritual eyes were opened.470 It is related in the Writings that the Lord manifested Himself “in person,” that is, in His glorified Human, before Swedenborg’s spiritual sight and filled him with His Spirit, in order that he might receive the doctrines of the New Church in the understanding and “teach them through the Word from Him.” In the course of this his mission Swedenborg was introduced into the spiritual world and spoke continually with spirits and angels. Yet, he adds, “I have not received anything that pertains to the doctrine of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while reading the Word.”471

Yet the mediation of angels in the giving of Divine revelation had not ceased with the Lord’s ascension into heaven. In the last chapters of the Apocalypse it is plainly shown how John was instructed by the Lord Jesus Christ through an angel filled with the Divine who declared “the true sayings of God.” The angel was not speaking from himself and therefore explained to John that he was only serving as a prophet and was not to be worshipped; but immediately after this he resumes his message: “I am Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end, the first and the last. … I Jesus send My angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. . . . “472

While the Lord, in His person or as to His Divine Human, is constantly encompassed by the heavenly sun, He often presents Himself “by aspect” in and below heaven and among the angels. This is effected through some angel whom He fills “from afar” with His Divine.473 On a number of occasions the Lord so appeared before Swedenborg. The ancient mode has not been abrogated, but is utilized when the states of the angels so require. Yet there is an important difference. For it is the Lord in His glorified Human—”the Divine Natural”—which is now revealed when it pleases the Lord to appear in a borrowed angelic form.474

Swedenborg and the Angels

The inspired writing of the Heavenly Doctrine and the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word was not accomplished by any dictation by the Lord through angels. To stress this important fact is not to deny that Swedenborg’s mission would have failed unless the Lord had provided for him a constant and open companionship with spirits and angels.

It should be observed that the prophets of old had two specific states which must be well distinguished. While in vision they saw various representations in the other world with the eyes of their spirit, their body being in a passive state of trance. On the other hand, while writing the Scriptures they were “in the body” and enjoyed a Divine inspiration and a dictate by which the words were selected from their memories, in such a way that each writer retained his own peculiar style.475 Their occasional introduction into spiritual vision was necessary to furnish their memory with a field of symbols and correspondences wider than that which their earthly experience and their narrow knowledge of human history could provide.

Swedenborg, for the writing of the Heavenly Doctrine, had to be given a far wider, more prolonged and profound experience of the spiritual world and all its phenomena. Different from any of the prophets, he was to grasp the laws of that world with a rational understanding and, as an official observer, report what he had been “led to perceive.” His memorable narrations of his spiritual experiences therefore occupy a considerable portion of the inspired Writings. He became familiar, in his daily intercourse with spirits, with all manner of spiritual states, those of the angels and also those of the infernals. Even his contact with the most repulsive spirits could add to his knowledge of the truth.

Thus he notes in his journal, “Even those things which I have learned by means of evil spirits, I have learned from the Lord alone, although the spirits spoke.”476 He was forbidden to believe anything that they said, and was held in an inmost reflection on whatever was represented before him, and at the same time given an internal dictate from the Lord as to what was the truth.477 He perceived distinctly what came from angels and spirits and what from the Lord. “What has come from the Lord has been written,” he testified; “what has come from angels has not been written.”478 His spiritual experiences were sometimes recalled to his memory by an angel when he returned into the state of the body and began to write.479 In order to be informed about the way the prophets were inspired, he was brought into certain experimental states when spirits led his pen and dictated the words.480 But he did not write down the doctrine from any verbal dictation by any “angel of Jehovah,” but from an immediate inspiration, or “from the mouth of the Lord alone.” His inspiration came “while reading the Word.”481 Not only was he then given to see the internal sense of the Scriptures which is the doctrine of heaven, but by the same means he was able to recognize and formulate those many principles of “angelic wisdom” which —as an interpretative philosophy—are applied in the Writings to our human situations and problems, such as relate to social uses, government, marriage, education, or to our concepts of creation and the cosmic whole.482

Revelation through the Word

The reason why the written Word was given is that man can no longer profit from immediate or conscious intercourse with the inhabitants of the spiritual world. Since the Old Testament Scriptures, and also the Apocalypse, were clothed in heavy veils of correspondences and sensuous imagery, an ‘angel of Jehovah’ served to convey them to their inspired writers. But in the Gospels and in the Writings, wherein the correspondential and prophetic Word is fulfilled and explained, the Lord speaks directly and more plainly, as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the glorified Human, the Spirit of Truth which shall lead men into all truth.

The goal of all religion is a conjunction of man with the Lord. Not with spirits or angels, however necessary these are as associates and guardians of our souls. And to the New Christian Church the Lord is at last openly manifested in His Divine Human as the one God of heaven and earth, visible to men and angels even without the mediation of any borrowed angelic form.483

In the literal sense of the Word, when this is understood from the Heavenly Doctrine which is its internal sense, the Lord is present with men and speaks to them directly, and enlightens their rational minds.484 This enlightenment is brought about only when man’s spirit is environed by angelic spheres which hold him in a love of spiritual truth.485 But it is the Lord, not the angels, who is the source of the light. And it is taught that after the Advent this enlightenment is not, as theretofore, “mediate through the angelic heaven,” but “immediate” from the Lord’s Divine Natural.486 The only “mediation” is now the Word itself. The Lord now manifests Himself to men “only” through the Word in its internal sense, for the Word, which is the Divine truth, is the Lord Himself in heaven and in the church.487

The general teaching points out that representatives ceased when the Lord rose from the sepulchre and entered into the power of His Divine Natural, by which He could become visible and “immediately present” with man. For thus He could illustrate man’s natural mind with heavenly light and operate “perceptively” in man by His Holy Spirit, so that man “can comprehend spiritual truths naturally.”488

To see God means to see the truth concerning Him. “They who are in enlightenment when they read the Word, see the Lord; and this takes place from faith and from love. This is effected in the Word only, and not in any other writing whatsoever.”489 “It has been believed that man might be more enlightened and wise if he should have an immediate revelation through speech with spirits and with angels. But the contrary is the case.” Enlightenment by means of the Word is effected by an interior way—through the will into the understanding; while enlightenment from speech with spirits is effected by an exterior way—through the hearing into the understanding. If spirits were permitted to instruct any man they could in any case only speak according to the man’s own religious ideas and could tell him nothing new. This was the reason why the Scribe of the Second Advent—although informed through daily intercourse with spiritual beings—was “not allowed to take anything from the mouth of any spirit, nor from the mouth of any angel, but from the mouth of the Lord alone.”490 And this was the reason why the Lord in His parable cites Abraham as saying, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”491

It is therefore to the Word in all its forms of Scripture and Doctrine that man must turn for Divine instruction and leading. Through that which the Lord reveals man can be separated from the spheres of evil spirits and introduced as to his affections into a secret yet effective bond with angelic societies. This consociation is brought to pass through the sense of the letter of the Word when this is understood from the doctrine of genuine truth; which is now openly disclosed by the Lord in His second advent—not by any “immediate revelation from spirits or angels” but by an “immediate revelation” “from the mouth of the Lord alone.”492

The new doctrine not only opens the internal depths of Divine wisdom within the inspired Scriptures and displays the arcana of the Lord’s glorification and the provisions for man’s regeneration, but it also discloses the secrets of the afterlife and the relations of spirits and men. It unfolds the mind of God and the ends of His creation. By this doctrine of genuine truth the Lord stands revealed in the very literal sense of His Word. For “the Lord is present with man and enlightens him, and teaches the truths of the church, there and nowhere else.”493

The Word in all its forms, whether given through an “angel of Jehovah” or inspired directly by the Lord in His Divine Human, is the sole means whereby an errant race may find its way back to conjunction with God.

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