Commentary

Angels

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The Writings offer a tremendous amount of material on angels. The book "Heaven and Hell" offers detailed discussions as it describes heaven; "Conjugial Love" has much to say about marriage and romantic love in heaven; "Divine Love and Wisdom" offers insight into how angels in their nature reflect the nature of the Lord. So we'll offer some basics here and recommend those books to those who want more detail.

(References: Divine Love and Wisdom 231; Divine Providence 60)


Basically, the Writings say that if people in this life open themselves to the Lord, follow the Lord's teachings and let the Lord change their selfish desires into generous loves, they will go to heaven as angels after they die. If they don't, and instead embrace their selfishness, they will go to hell as evil spirits. The Writings also say that this is the only source of angels and evil spirits - they were all once people. There is no separately created race of angels, no fallen angel Lucifer who is now the Devil; that belief is based solely on a few lines of misinterpreted scripture.

This makes sense if you look at it logically. If the Lord could create beings that would live in love and harmony with him with no possibility of evil, why would He have bothered with us? Why not just make more of them? The fact is, such beings would not have any choice in their actions, making them no better than animals. And ultimately, if they were purely good then they would really just be extensions of the Lord, so in loving them He would be loving Himself. The reverse is true of the idea of Satan or "the" Devil. The Lord creates us from love so that he can love us, bring us to heaven and make us happy. For Satan to exist, the Lord would have had to create him, and it would be contrary to His essence to create something that was not intended for heaven, for joy, and for union with the Lord.

So angels were once people, who got to be angels by embracing the idea of being good and followed the Lord's teachings as best they could. The Writings make it clear these people can come from anywhere, from any religious background. Some churches may have doctrine that is closer to the truth than others, but the point of any religion is for people to desire to be good and try to be good using the tools they have.

When those people die, they go first to a place called the "world of spirits." There everyone who has recently died can learn about the Lord and spiritual life and prepare for heaven. There also, people's inner affections start showing on the surface; those who are ultimately evil start losing the ability to cover it up, and the love starts shining through for those who are ultimately good. As this continues and as people learn more, they naturally start congregating with others who have similar loves. This way evil people eventually take themselves to hell, where they can be with others who share their evil. Good people, on the other hand, can be prepared for heaven.

Two important things have to happen for us to truly enter fully into heaven. First, the Lord will push aside our remaining evil desires, so they cannot hurt us or tempt us anymore; angels are in a marvelous state of peace, with no active evil to trouble them. Second, we will each be led by the Lord to the perfect married partner, the one whose soul matches ours, the one we can love blissfully to eternity. All angels are married, because the marriage of a man and a woman represents the marriage of love and wisdom in the Lord, and also the marriage of the desire for good and understanding of truth in each of us. Because of this, we can only fully receive and return the Lord's love as married partners, and heaven is suffused with the sphere of marriage and the love of marriage.

The angelic couples will find their way to communities of other angels whose loves match their own, people with whom they can share the deepest friendships imaginable. They will have houses which reflect the character of their loves, and will be given work to do that springs from their loves and fills them with joy. Beyond that, their lives are much as life might be in this world, though free of sickness and aging and boredom and conflict. They have bodies that are human in form - no wings! - but a beauty in face and form that reflects the good loves they have inside. They eat and drink and laugh and sleep and have parties and games; all filled with the delight of mutual love.

The Writings tell us the work angels do is varied far beyond what we can imagine, though they only describe a few aspects. Among other things, angels care for people in this life, passing on to them true ideas and desires for good from the Lord. They also teach those in the World of Spirits, greet those who have just died, raise those who died as children, keep order in hell and do many other things.

We would finally note that there are three degrees of angelic life, based on the loves people embraced in this life. The first, lowest heaven, called the "natural heaven," is filled by those who are in the love of service. Angels there love to do what's right because they know it is right. The second, middle heaven, called the spiritual heaven, is filled by those who are in the love of the neighbor. Angels there love to engage their minds with spiritual questions to gain an ever-deeper understanding of how to be loving to one another. The third, highest heaven, known as celestial, is filled with those who are in love of the Lord Himself. From that love they have such innocence that they look like children, and they instantly perceive what is true, in all its variety, from the light of that love.

(References: Apocalypse Revealed 818; Arcana Coelestia 228, 454, 1802, 2551, 2572 [3-4], 5470, 6872 [2-3], 8747, 9503, 9814 [2], 10604 [2-4]; Conjugial Love 44 [6-10], 52; Divine Love and Wisdom 19, 63, 71, 115, 116, 202, Divine Love and Wisdom 321, 322, 334; Heaven and Hell 75, 133, 266, 267, 304, 311, 415)

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #2572

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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2572. 'Dwell in that which is good in your eyes' means His Being, present in everything where good exists, and in the proximate sense His Being, present in the good of doctrine. This becomes clear from the meaning of 'the eyes' as the understanding part of the mind, which is the recipient of doctrine, and from the meaning of 'dwelling' as living, Arcana Coelestia 1293, here as Being (Esse) because what is said has reference to the Lord. This Being (Esse), present in everything where good exists, is the essential being within a complete knowledge of all Divine, celestial, spiritual, rational, and natural things. And the reason for this lies with Divine Love, for Divine Love holds within itself a complete knowledge of all those things, Arcana Coelestia 2500.

[2] What is more, there is the good of doctrine and there is the truth of doctrine. The good of doctrine is love and charity, the truth of doctrine is faith. People with whom the good of doctrine resides, that is, love and charity, have with them the truth of doctrine, that is, faith. But it is one thing for good, that is, love and charity, to exist with a person, quite another for the good of doctrine to do so. Young children with whom love towards parents and charity towards other young children exist are moved by good but not by the good of doctrine, nor consequently by the truth of doctrine, or faith. The people with whom the good of doctrine exists are those who have been regenerated by means of the truths of faith. To the extent that good resides with them truths reside with them; that is, to the extent that love and charity reside with them so does faith, and therefore wisdom and intelligence.

[3] Because love to the Lord and mutual love resides with angels, so also does all truth and thus all wisdom and intelligence, not only in celestial and spiritual things but also in rational and natural. For by virtue of love, it being from the Lord, they are in touch with the very beginnings or sources of things, that is, with ends in view and causes. Seeing from beginnings, that is, from ends and causes, is seeing from heaven all things that are below, even those on earth. This is like - to use a comparison - someone in a watch-tower set on a high mountain. He is able to look around for many miles on the objects that are below, while those who are below, especially those down in a valley or in a forest, can hardly see the same number of paces away. So it is with those governed by the good of doctrine in comparison with those governed by the truth of doctrine separated from good. Although the latter imagine that they can see further than the former, they do not in fact see any good at all, nor any truth except very slightly and superficially, and even that is defiled by falsities.

[4] Even so, the wisdom and intelligence of angels is finite, and in comparison with the Lord's Divine Wisdom most finite, amounting to hardly anything. This may be recognized from the fact that the infinite and the finite cannot be measured one against the other, and yet communication from the Divine omnipotence is possible; also from the fact that the Lord is Good itself and Love itself, and is therefore the Essential Being (Esse) of good and the Essential Being (Esse) of love which resides with angels, and so the Essential Being (Esse) of their wisdom and intelligence. From this it may also be evident that the Lord is present in heaven and on earth in everything where good exists. People who imagine that the Lord is present in truth separated from good are very much mistaken, for He is present solely in good and from this in truth, that is, in love and charity, and from these in faith.

(References: Genesis 20:15)

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