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We all have a pretty clear idea of what “natural” means – it includes anything having to do with nature, the physical reality we live in, and extends to the impulses we have that arise from the natural world. So it’s natural for the sun to shine, for water to flow and for plants to grow. It’s natural for us to want food, water and shelter. And it’s natural for us to want want sex, wealth, children, respect, control over ourselves and even control over others – all things that serve the natural goals of surviving and passing on our genetics. In the modern world that extends to desires for success in our jobs, for physical attractiveness, for the ability to compete for a respected place in the world, and other basic urges.

If you think about it, most of those urges are ones shared by animals, and those that aren’t are extensions of desires animals do have. For instance, an animal would not desire a promotion at work, but they do desire enhanced social status and access to resources, which is a more general expression of the same thing.

That’s one way Swedenborg uses the term “natural” – it distinguishes the physical reality we’re aware of from the spiritual reality we’re not aware of. And he says that within that physical reality, we are pretty close to being animals, driven by basic urges and instinct. But Swedenborg also says that the human mind is a spiritual organ, that within our minds we can rise above nature to see things in spiritual light. That’s how we can perceive a better possibility for ourselves as spiritual beings, and can decide to act contrary to our urges and instincts in pursuit of more exalted goals – things that animals can’t do.

But Swedenborg also uses the word “natural” to identify the lowest level of spiritual reality, and the lowest level of heaven. Angels of the natural heaven love to understand what the Lord wants and to do it, and love each other equally to themselves. Their orientation is toward outward action, putting deeper ideas from other sources into play. The same could be said of the natural level we all have in our minds: That’s where the deeper spiritual concepts get translated into specific ideas that can be put into action. It’s also where gather natural knowledge – scientific knowledge and other ideas arising from the natural world – so that it can be used in our spiritual thoughts.


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Is your body “you”?

It sure doesn’t feel that way, does it? Your body is “yours,” you inhabit it, but the real “you” is inside, thinking and feeling and aware. “You” don’t sense “yourself” as something physical.

This is something that has confounded scientists and philosophers for centuries. That feeling is universal, and it’s awfully hard to say it’s not true, but there’s no way to demonstrate it scientifically or to even define its functions in concrete terms philosophically. If you’re not physical, then what are you made of? How does the “you” affect the physical world? How do “you” even control your own body?

There are no good answers from the natural world, so people have jumped to the hazy idea that there is a spiritual reality which parallels and interacts with natural reality, and the real “you” is a spirit, made of spiritual material.

Swedenborg says that not only is this true, but that spiritual reality – what he calls the “spiritual world” – is actually more real than the physical world, and is actually the source of physical reality. In fact, he says that every detail of the natural world is a sort of projection of a detail of the spiritual world, and if we understand those relationships we can see the spiritual reality within natural things, much as we see lines and curves on paper and understand them as words.

Often, then, the word “spiritual” is used by Swedenborg and on this website as a sort of catchall for non-material reality, everything about heaven and hell and our deeper loves and thoughts, when those loves and thoughts extend beyond physical things.

But Swedenborg also divides spiritual reality into three layers, and (somewhat confusingly) uses “spiritual” to describe the middle of those three layers.

The inmost level of spiritual reality is referred to as “celestial,” and is marked by a pure love of the Lord, which flows forth directly as wisdom. This is the highest state humans can reach, and is the state of the highest heavens, where people live in complete innocence and harmony from the Lord’s love.

The outermost layer of spiritual reality is referred to as “natural,” and is marked by a love of doing the Lord’s will and a knowledge of what the Lord teaches. This level exists in all of us, and is where we put what we know and love into action, where everything becomes tangible. Those in the natural heaven live simply, loving to do what’s right and taking joy in understanding what’s right.

Between those two is the midde, or “spiritual,” layer of spiritual reality. It is marked by love of other people, and a love of exploring and understanding the things the Lord teaches, making it in a way the most intellectual of the three. Those in the spiritual heaven love to explore what is true for its own sake, and marry that to a love of those around them, a love of serving and being good to them.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4286 [2]; De Verbo 3 [1-3]; Divine Love and Wisdom 174, 251; Doctrine of Life 86; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 48)


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In some ways, the Lord is simplicity itself. Taken in His essence, He is love. His attitude toward us is also simplicity itself: He loves us. And He expresses that love in an unending stream that works completely and constantly to get us to freely accept and return His love. When you start looking at how that process works, it can start to seem complicated. But in essence, it could hardly be more simple.

It makes sense, then, that the best state we can achieve as humans is to receive the Lord’s love and love Him back. That’s the state Swedenborg means by “celestial”: It is the highest, best, most pure, most innocent and most joyful state human beings can experience, one powered by love of the Lord. It is also the state of the highest, inmost heaven, and is in some degree present in everyone as the recipient of the Lord’s love.

Not all of us receive and manifest the Lord’s love in the same way, though (in fact, none of us do), so the pure simplicity of the celestial state gets complicated as people open themselves up only partway to the Lord and redirect His love toward lesser things. Swedenborg’s works tell us that this results in three distinct “levels” of existence, based on what people love. The celestial is the highest of these levels, based on love of the Lord; the “spiritual” is based on love of other people, and the “natural” is based on the delight we feel in being good. The spiritual is more external and less pure then the celestial, and the natural is more external and less pure than the spiritual.

Each of those levels is further divided, however, between those who are led directly by the level’s defining love and those who are led by the ideas that spring from that love. Some celestial angels, then, are led by the love of the Lord itself, while others are led by the exquisite concepts that express love to the Lord. Unfortunately, Swedenborg also uses the words “celestial” and “spiritual” to identify that division, with “celestial” representing the love of each level and “spiritual” representing the truth and wisdom of each level. So the celestial level – centered on love of the Lord – has a celestial aspect and a spiritual aspect. The spiritual level – centered on love of other people – also has a celestial aspect and a spiritual aspect. And the natural level – centered on the delight of being good – has a celestial aspect and a spiritual aspect.

That might sound awfuly complicated – maybe even unnecessarily complicated – but it makes sense if you think about it. We all know people who are simply motivated by the desire to be good and to do things the “right” way. That’s an example of the natural level of existence, focused largely on external things, but aligned with the Lord’s wishes. Within that group, there are those who do what’s right pretty much by instinct, following their good affections; they would be the celestial natural. There are also those who like to know the rules and think about the instructions, so they can know intellectually that they are doing things right; they would be the spiritual natural. There are similar distinctions on the spiritual level and the celestial level.

One other thing is worth noting: Swedenborg’s works say that very few in the modern world are capable of reaching the celestial level, due to the amount of knowledge we have, the external nature of our lives and the need we have to use our minds to advance spiritually. The celestial heavens are largely populated by people from ancient times, who were able to live in closer, more direct communion with the Lord. As we understand the Lord’s wishes on a deeper and deeper level, though, we can open up greater possibilities for ourselves and for future generations.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 162, 1470, 1824, 3887, 9868; Arcana Coelestia 4286 [2]; Arcana Coelestia 9915 [2]; Arcana Coelestia 9993 [1-2]; Heaven and Hell 23, 31)


HR90 The Science Of Correspondence


Ca784That natural things represent spiritual things, and that they correspond, may also be known from the fact that what is natural cannot possibly come forth except  from a  cause prior to itself. Its cause is from what is spiritual; and there is nothing natural which does not thence derive its cause. Natural forms are effects; nor can they appear as causes, still less as causes of causes, or beginnings; but they receive their forms according to the use in the place where they are; and yet the forms of the effects represent the things which are of the causes; and indeed these latter things represent those which are of the beginnings. Thus all natural things represent those which are of the spiritual things to which they correspond; and in fact the spiritual things also represent those which are of the celestial things from which they are. [AC2991]

The correspondence of the will and understanding with the heart and lungs cannot be abstractly proved, that is, by mere reasonings, but it may be proved by effects. It is much the same as it is with the causes of things which can be seen rationally, yet not clearly except by means of effects; for causes are in effects, and by means of effects make themselves visible; and until causes are thus made visible, the mind is not assured respecting them. In what follows, the effects of this correspondence will be described. But lest any one should fall into ideas of this correspondence imbibed from hypotheses about the soul, let him first read over carefully the propositions in the preceding chapter, as follows: Love and wisdom, and the will and understanding therefrom, make the very life of man (n. 363, 365). The life of man is in first principles in the brains, and in derivatives in the body (n. 365). Such as life is in first principles, such it is in the whole and in every part (n. 366).  By means of these first principles life is in the whole from every part, and in every part from the whole (n. 367). Such as the love is, such is the wisdom, consequently such is the man (n. 368). [DLW375]

Ends are in the first degree, causes in the second, and effects in the third.

Ends   Who does not see that the end is not the cause, but that it produces the cause, and that the cause is not the effect, but that it produces the effect; consequently that they are three distinct things which follow in order? The end with man is the love of his will, for what a man loves, this he proposes to himself and intends; the cause with him is the reason of his understanding, for by means of it the end seeks for mediate or efficient causes; and the effect is the operation of the body from them and according to them. Thus there are three things in man, which follow each other in order, in like manner as the degrees of altitude follow each other. When these three things appear in act, then the end is inwardly in the cause, and the end through the cause is in the effect, wherefore the three coexist in the effect. On this account it is said in the Word, that everyone shall be judged according to his works; for the end, or the love of his will, and the cause, or the reason of his understanding, are together in the effects, which are the works of his body; thus the quality of the whole man is in them.

They who do not know these things, and do not thus distinguish the objects of reason, cannot avoid terminating the ideas of their thought in the atoms of Epicurus, the monads of Leibnitz, or in the simple substances of Wolff, and thus they close up their understandings as with a bolt, so that they cannot even think from reason concerning spiritual influx, because they cannot think concerning any progression; for the author says concerning his simple substance, that if it is divided it falls into nothing. Thus the understanding stands still in its first light, which is merely from the senses of the body, and does not advance a step further. Hence it is not known but that the spiritual is a subtile natural, and that beasts have a rational as well as men, and that the son is a breath of wind such as is breathed forth from the breast when a person dies; besides many things which are not of light but of thick darkness. Since all things in the spiritual world and all things in the natural world proceed according to these degrees, as was shown in the preceding article, it is evident that intelligence properly consists in knowing and extinguishing them, and seeing them in their order. By means of these degrees, also, every man is known as to his quality, when his love is known; for, as was said above, the end which is of the will, and the causes which are of the understanding, and the effects which are of the body, follow from his love, as a tree from its seed, and as fruit from the tree. There are three kinds of loves, the love of heaven, the love of the world, and the love of self; the love of heaven is spiritual, the love of the world is material, and the love of self is corporeal. When the love is spiritual, all the things which follow from it, as forms from their essence, derive their spiritual nature; similarly if the principal love is the love of the world or of wealth, and thus is material, all the things which follow from it, as derivatives from their principle derive their material nature; likewise if the principal love is the love of self, or of eminence above all others, and thus is corporeal, all the things which follow from it derive their corporeal nature. The reason is, because the man who is in this love regards himself alone, and thus immerses the thoughts of his mind in his body. Wherefore, as was just now said, he who knows the ruling love of anyone, and at the same time the progression of ends to causes and of causes to effects, which three things follow in order according to the degrees of altitude, knows the whole man. Thus the angels of heaven know everyone with whom they speak; they perceive his love from the tone of his speech; and they see his image from his face, and his character from the gestures of his body. [ISB17]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

There Are Three Heavens



HEAVEN >> Divine Order >> Divine Form >> Divine Human


There are three heavens, entirely distinct from each other, an inmost or third, a middle or second, and an outmost or first. These have a like order and relation to each other as the highest part of man, or his head, the middle part, or body, and the lowest, or feet; or as the upper, the middle, and the lower stories of a house. In the same order is the Divine that goes forth and descends from the Lord; consequently heaven, from the necessity of order, is threefold.[HH29]

The interiors of man, which belong to his mind and disposition, are also in like order. He has an inmost, a middle, and an outmost part; for when man was created all things of Divine order were brought together in him, so that he became Divine order in form, and consequently a heaven in miniature.{1} For this reason also man, as regards his interiors, has communication with the heavens and comes after death among the angels, either among those of the inmost, or of the middle, or of the outmost heaven, in accordance with his reception of Divine good and truth from the Lord during his life in the world. [HH30]

The Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the third or inmost heaven is called celestial, and in consequence the angels there are called celestial angels; the Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the second or middle heaven is called spiritual, and in consequence the angels there are called spiritual angels; while the Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the outmost or first heaven is called natural; but as the natural of that heaven is not like the natural of the world, but has the spiritual and the celestial within it, that heaven is called the spiritual-natural and the celestial-natural, and in consequence the angels there are called spiritual-natural and celestial-natural.{1} Those who receive influx from the middle or second heaven, which is the spiritual heaven, are called spiritual-natural; and those who receive influx from the third or inmost heaven, which is the celestial heaven, are called celestial-natural. The spiritual-natural angels and the celestial-natural angels are distinct from each other; nevertheless they constitute one heaven, because they are in one degree. [HH31]

In each heaven there is an internal and an external; those in the internal are called there internal angels, while those in the external are called external angels. The internal and the external in the heavens, or in each heaven, hold the same relation as the voluntary and intellectual in man-the internal corresponding to the voluntary, and the external to the intellectual. Everything voluntary has its intellectual; one cannot exist without the other. The voluntary may be compared to a flame and the intellectual to the light therefrom. [HH32]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG  (1688-1772)


Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.




Using Swedenborg to Understand the Quantum World I: Events

Swedenborg Foundation

By Ian Thompson, PhD, Nuclear Physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryFor the last hundred years, physicists have been using the quantum theory about the universe, but they still do not properly understand of what the quantum world is made.


The previous physics (referred to as “classical” and started by Isaac Newton) used ideas of “waves” and “particles” to picture what makes up the physical world. But now we find that every object in the quantum world sometimes behaves as a particle and sometimes behaves as a wave! Which is it? In quantum physics, objects behave most of the time like waves spreading out as they travel along, but sometimes measurements show objects to be particles with a definite location: not spread out at all. Why is that? It is as though their size and location suddenly change in measurement events. This is quite unlike classical physics, where particles exist continuously with the same fixed shape. In quantum physics, by contrast, objects have fixed locations only intermittently, such as when they are observed.  So they only offer us a discrete series of events that can be measured, not a continuous trajectory. Quantum objects, then, are alternately continuous and discontinuous.

Why would we ever expect such a fickle world? Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) has some ideas that might help us. He describes how all physical processes are produced by something mental, or spiritual, and this can be confirmed by reason of the similarity in patterns between the physical processes and their mental causes. In Swedenborg’s words, there are correspondences between the physical and the mental—that they have similar structures and functions, even though mind and matter are quite distinct.

I need to state what correspondence is. The whole natural world is responsive to the spiritual world—the natural world not just in general, but in detail. So whatever arises in the natural world out of the spiritual one is called “something that corresponds.” It needs to be realized that the natural world arises from and is sustained in being by the spiritual world . . . (Heaven and Hell §89)

Although these ideas are not part of present-day science, I still hope to show below that they may have some implications for how science could usefully develop.

Swedenborg’s theory of mind is easy to begin to understand. He talks about how all mental processes have three common elements: desire, thought, and action. The desire is what persists and motivates what will happen. The thought is the exploration of possibilities for actions and the making of an intention. The action is the determined intention, the product of desire and thought that results in an actual physical event.

The [actions] themselves are in the mind’s enjoyments and their thoughts when the delights are of the will and the thoughts are of the understanding therefrom, thus when there is complete agreement in the mind. The [actions] then belong to the spirit, and even if they do not enter into bodily act still they are as if in the act when there is agreement. (Divine Providence §108)

All of the three spiritual elements are essential. Without desire (love), or ends, nothing would be motivated to occur. Without thought, that love would be blind and mostly fail to cause what it wants. Without determined intention, both the love and thought would be frustrated and fruitless, with no effect achieved at all. In everyday life, this intention is commonly called will, but it is always produced by some desire driving everything that happens. Here is the pattern:

      Spiritual                                                                   Natural
Desire + Thought Mental Action (Intention)  Physical Action, or Event, in the World

Swedenborg summarizes the relationship between these elements as follows:

All activities in the universe proceed from ends through causes into effects. These three elements are in themselves indivisible, although they appear as distinct in idea and thought. Still, even then, unless the effect that is intended is seen at the same time, the end is not anything; nor is either of these anything without a cause to sustain, foster and conjoin them. Such a sequence is engraved on every person, in general and in every particular, just as will, intellect, and action is. Every end there has to do with the will, every cause with the intellect, and every effect with action. (Conjugial Love §400:1–2)

Now consider Swedenborg’s theory of correspondences mentioned above. He says that there is a similar pattern between the details of the effects and the details of the causes. ”As above, so below,” others have said. So if mental action produces some effect in the physical world, then, by correspondence, we would expect a similar pattern between that physical effect and each of the three elements common to all mental processes. We would expect something physical like desire, then something physical like thought, and finally something physical like mental action. Do we recognize these patterns in physics? And if so, do we recognize them better in classical physics or in quantum physics?

I claim we do recognize them in physics:

  • We recognize the “something physical like desire” as energy or propensity. These are what persist physically and produce the result, just like desire does in the mind. They are in both classical and quantum physics.
  • We recognize the “something physical like thought” as the wave function in quantum physics. This describes all the possibilities, propensities, and probabilities for physical events, just like thought does in the mind.
  • We recognize the “something physical like mental action” as the actual specific physical outcome, a selection of just one of the possibilities to be made actual. This is a measurement event in quantum physics, the product of energy or propensity and the wave function, just like the product of desire and thought is the mental action.

We will discuss energy and wave functions in later posts, focusing here on the final step of mental actions and physical events. According to Swedenborg’s ideas, the structure of mental processes and the structure of physical events should be similar. So, too, the function of mental processes and the function of physical events should be similar. Can we tell from this whether we should expect a classical world or a quantum world?

One feature of thought and mental action with which we should be familiar is time. That is, we always need time to think! Without any time gap between desiring and intending, we would be acting instinctively and impulsively. Sometimes that works but not always (at least in my experience!). Most often, there has to be some delay, even some procrastination, between having a desire and fulfilling it. That delay gives us time to deliberate and decide on the best action to select. And, most importantly, if it is we who decide when to act, we feel that we act in some freedom. It feels better.

If the physical world corresponds to those mental processes, according to Swedenborg, what hypothesis do we reach about physics? It is that there will be corresponding time gaps between the beginning of some persisting energy or propensity and the selection of physical outcome. Remember that quantum objects are selected and definite only intermittently—when measured, or observed—while classical objects are continuously definite with no gaps. All this leads us to expect that physical events should not be continuous; that is, we should expect a quantum world rather than a classical world.

Continue with Part II: Desire and Energy>

Ian Thompson is also the author of Starting Science from God, as well as Nuclear Reactions in Astrophysics (Univ. of Cambridge Press) and more than two hundred refereed professional articles in nuclear physics.

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Chapter XXV. The Wicked.

< Chapter XXIV. The Third Degree of Regeneration. ^ Discrete Degrees ^ PART II. Assumption and Glorification of the Human by the Lord. >


THIS diagram illustrates the state of the wicked. Their spiritual mind is closed and almost inoperative, thus with them heaven is shut. Their natural mind being filled with evil and falsity is perverted. The natural mind in such case reacts against the spiritual mind and closes it, so that but little influx can enter the natural mind from above or through heaven.

Z represents the three hells as they appear below the world of spirits. No new degrees are here represented but only the degrees of the natural mind in a state of perversion as they appear when disrobed of every semblance of goodness and truth. The three degrees of the natural mind when in a state of order are in the world of spirits appearing there beneath the heavens, conjoined with the heavens and acting as one with them. They can appear elsewhere only by being brought into a state of inverted order,. which inversion is represented by their appearance at Z without the pale of true order.

Some of the wicked however are more deeply sunken in the evils of one degree and some in the evils of another. The predominant evils and falsities of some are in w, and with them this degree is more operative than the lower degrees. These constitute the first hell, thus

The evils and falsities of others are in x. These constitute the middle hell, thus

And still others are in y. These constitute the lowest hell, thus

The hells then consist of those who are in the perverted rational, scientific, sensual.

In The True Christian Religion we read, –

“If a man neither acknowledges God, nor worships Him with actual piety, he puts off the image of God and becomes like some animal except that he enjoys the faculty of understanding and thence of speech. If he then closes [against heaven] the highest natural degree [represented by w] he becomes with respect to love like a beast of the earth; but if he closes the middle natural degree [x] he becomes with respect to love like a fox and with respect to the sight of the understanding like a bird of the evening; but if he also closes the ultimate natural degree [y] as to its spiritual, he becomes with respect to love like a wild beast and with respect to the understanding of truth like a fish.” -TCR 34.

In the light of this diagram and of Diagram XI we can easily understand Arcana Coelestia AC 6564, 10492, 10429. In this light read The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 33, 36 to 46; True Christian Religion TCR 401, 402; Arcana Coelestia 9701 to 9709, 9128; Divine Love and Wisdom 162, 270; Apocalypse Explained 406 [a], 940, 939, 941, 1145 (Atli.Cr. 44). The internal man of the evil mentioned in Arcana 9128 is the interior of the natural mind. (Diagram XI.)

Inversion of order and therewith the existence of evil cannot occur in the spiritual mind B though this may be closed by the prevalence of evil in the natural mind C. The spiritual mind is formed for the exclusive occupancy of love to the LORD and love to the neighbor; but if those loves are not exercised, this mind shrinks and closes. The natural mind is the abode of self-love and the love of the world. These when submissive to the higher loves and animated by influx from them, are orderly and good, but when rebellious they are disorderly and evil. (Chapters VI and XVIII.)


Previous: Chapter XXIV. The Third Degree of Regeneration. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: PART II. Assumption and Glorification of the Human by the Lord.