After

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After, a photo of a bulb pushing up through the earth, by Brita Conroy

According to Swedenborg, time and space don’t exist in spiritual reality; they are purely natural things that exist only on the physical plane. This means that one spiritual thing can’t happen “after” another spiritual thing in time, because there is no time. And one spiritual thing can’t follow “after” another in space because there is no space.

Instead, spiritual reality is structured on the basis of spiritual state, or the loves and thoughts of angels. These loves and thoughts connect in chains of cause and effect, which angels experience much as we experience time.; one thought flows into another on the spiritual level, and angels sense that progression the same way we sense the progression of one moment flowing into another. And when angels have thoughts and feelings that are similar, they experience a closeness that is very much the same as our experience of physical closeness; their idea of “space” is the variation in thoughts and affections held by spirits throughout the spiritual world.

When the Bible describes something as “after” something else, then, the spiritual meaning has to do with the progression of spiritual states; it is a new spiritual state emerging from the one before it. And since higher states flow into lower states, the things coming “after” tend to be the lower, more external ones. For instance, the deep, internal desire to be good to others flows of its own accord into specific ideas of specific good things we can do. Those specific ideas, then, would be “after” the desire to be good.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1955, 2019, 5216, 8209, 9251, 10099, 10550)


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