Some Essays on the
Influence of Spirits upon Men,
as Described in the
Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Hugo Lj. Odhner
THE ACADEMY BOOK ROOM
Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania
Copyright 1958 BY
THE ACADEMY OF THE NEW CHURCH
Printed 1958, 500 copies
PRINTED IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY
LANCASTER PRESS, INC., LANCASTER, PENNA.
I The Knowledge of the Afterlife 1
II Spirits and Men 7
III The Danger of Open Communication with Spirits 20
IV Our Spiritual Guardians 42
V Spirits and Human States 62
VI Spiritual Associations 75
VII Influx and Persuasion 87
VIII Influx and Cupidity 101
IX Enthusiastic Spirits 112
X Spiritual Causes of Fortune 124
XI "Cuticular Spirits" and "Sirens" 131
XII Dreams 138
XIII General Influx 152
XIV Influx and Disease 171
XV Mental Causes of Illness 185
XVI Spiritual Sources of Health 205
XVII Angelic Intermediacy in Divine Revelation 211
KEY TO REFERENCES
Cited Works by Emanuel Swedenborg
AC Arcana Coelestia
AE Apocalypse Explained
AR Apocalypse Revealed
Can. Canons of the New Church
Char. Doctrine of Charity
CL Conjugial Love
CLJ Continuation of the Last Judgment
DLW Divine Love and Wisdom
Dom. De Domino
DP Divine Providence
DV De Verbo
EU Earths in the Universe
5 Mem. Five Memorable Relations
NJHD New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine
HH Heaven and Hell
Infl. Influx, or Intercourse Of Soul and Body
Inv. Invitation to the New Church
LJ The Last Judgment
LJ post. The Last Judgment (posthumous)
Lord The Doctrine concerning the Lord
Love On the Divine Love
9Q Nine Questions concerning the Trinity
SD The Spiritual Diary
SD min. The Spiritual Diary Minor
TCR The True Christian Religion
WE The Word Explained (Adversaria)
Wis. On the Divine Wisdom
1 Econ. Economy of the Animal Kingdom, Part I
2 Econ. Economy of the Animal Kingdom, Part II
Fibre Economy of the Animal Kingdom, Part III
R. Psych. The Rational Psychology
Docu. Documents concerning Swedenborg (R. L. Tafel)
A large part of the material used in the following essays was originally collected for some doctrinal addresses given before audiences in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, some twenty years ago. Chapter IV is based on an article published in New Church Life in May 1932. With reference to the chapters on Disease, Doctor Marlin W. Heilman and Doctor Robert Alden made several kind suggestions. And the Reverend W. Cairns Henderson has acted as my valued consultant in the preparation of the manuscript for the press.
Selected references to the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg have been inserted as footnotes for the convenience of those who might wish to consult our sources on specific points; and a list of abbreviations used to designate various cited works of Swedenborg is given at the beginning of the volume.
Since the subjects of the chapters intertwine, a certain amount of reiteration could not be avoided except at the sacrifice of clarity. The book is submitted in its present form--with many references--in the hope that it may encourage its readers to further studies of the unique testimony of Swedenborg about the relationship of the two worlds and the connection of the spirit with the body. Its publication by the Book Room of the Academy of the New Church adds to the many debts which the author owes to his Alma Mater.
HUGO LJ. ODHNER
"In My Father's house
are many mansions. If it
were not so I would have
told you. I go to prepare
a place for you." John 14:2
The Knowledge of the Afterlife
Few deny that man has a mind as well as a body. And since time immemorial it has been felt--in a parallel fashion--that there is an unseen realm of spiritual life, the abode of souls, the real home of the human mind, beyond or within the material world.
But in this pragmatic century any mention of a "spiritual world" will likely cause embarrassment or misgivings unless the reference is simply to the familiar haunts of our own mind. Even from Christian pulpits the doctrine of man's immortality is often spoken of only in apologetic whispers. And when the more conservative among the clergy speak at a funeral, it is only to announce in dolorous tones that the departed will sleep in the grave until a mythical day of general resurrection. Nothing is said of the bourne to which the deceased has departed, nor of the life-functions which might now become his, or the spiritual treasures which he takes with him. Since the churches are silent, it is not surprising to find a credulous multitude who draw a confused comfort from the report of mysterious and unusual happenings which they interpret as interventions by the spirits of the dead in our human affairs.
Nor is it any wonder that the respectable scientist shies off from the study of such a field--wherein fact and fancy seem to intertwine. When the imagination has once been aroused, a less cautious mind may easily overstep the evidence.
Such fantasies are enough to discourage sober minds from an acceptance of inconclusive claims. Yet the failure to prove the presence of spirits by sensual demonstrations does in no wise disprove the existence of a spiritual world which influences our lives intimately and in orderly ways, but which by its very nature eludes experimental approach and although there is much self-delusion, and much trickery and deception among the so-called "mediums" who claim contact with spirits, there is also evidence at hand to show that mankind is still confronted with unsolved problems and that there are undiscovered depths within the human mind itself which transcend our rational analysis. Empirical science has not given any satisfying explanation even of the ordinary processes of our thought, memory, and emotion. Nor can it with any surety deny the visionary experiences of many who assert that they have "seen spirits."
Revelations about the Spiritual World
Besides all this: Can we ignore the testimony of all the prophets, philosophers, saints and seers, many of whom we still reckon among the most enlightened of men, and who not only sincerely believed in guardian spirits but whose eyes were at times open to glimpses of the world of the hereafter! Did not our Lord Himself confirm the age-long conviction of mankind when He said, "In My Father's house are many mansions. If not, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you"?
The promise of such an explicit revelation was fulfilled in an unexpected way. It was granted to Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish savant and philosopher of the eighteenth century, to become a citizen of two worlds for a period of twenty-seven years. Inspired by the Spirit of Truth he was given to write down his experiences gathered during his intercourse with spirits and angels in the spiritual world, and to publish the truth about the afterlife, lest the spirit of denial which was already then beginning to rule the worldy-wise should also corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith.1 Only a Divine revelation could disclose to our race the truth about heaven and hell. At the same time Swedenborg, after diligent study of the Sacred Scriptures, was inspired to find its internal or symbolic meaning which accorded in every part with the doctrine known to the angels in heaven.
Since the present little book may find its way into the hands of readers who are not familiar with the doctrines of the New Church, it seems well at the outset to review some of the leading truths which New Church readers take for granted. These teachings, which must be postulated if we are to understand the Scriptures rationally and explain the phenomena of the mind and of nature, may be summarized as follows:
1. The Divine purpose in creation is to provide a heaven from the human race.
2. Man is a spirit or mind clothed, while on earth, with a material body.
3. There are two distinct worlds--a material world in which men live as to their bodies, and a spiritual world where angels and spirits dwell. The spiritual world is substantial, yet independent of what we know as "space" and "time"--which are properties of nature.
4. The spirit or mind of man is immortal. At death he lays aside his material body, never again to assume it.
5. No angels were created directly into the spiritual world, nor did any spiritual beings exist before the creation of mankind. The spiritual world contains a heaven and a hell, both of which consist of the spirits of men who have been born on some earth in the vast universe. There are no angels, spirits, or devils who were not born as men.
6. Between heaven and hell there is a "world of spirits," which is the realm or state into which all spirits pass immediately after death to prepare for their chosen heaven or for their chosen hell. When evil becomes predominant in this intermediate realm, it is ordered by a general "last judgment." The final of these judgments-symbolically predicted in the Book of Revelation--took place in the year 1757.
7. The inhabitants of the spiritual world constantly exert an influence on the human race on earth analogous to the influence which a man's own spirit exerts on his body.
8. Nonetheless the two worlds are utterly separate in appearance and invisible to each other, lest the freedom of man or the progress of spirits be disturbed.
9. It is therefore disorderly and injurious for men to seek open intercourse with spirits, and it is also forbidden for spirits to seek to obsess men.
10. The only legitimate way to learn about the afterlife is through the teachings of Divinely appointed prophets and seers: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Lu. 16:31). The doctrines given through Swedenborg constitute a final revelation granted for the sake of the restoration of a true Christian religion or a New Church.
The title of our book does not imply any claim that it covers all the relations of spirits and men. Nor is it our purpose here to describe the spiritual world or to define the nature of the soul and its life. But in the voluminous Writings of Swedenborg we have an inexhaustible field of information about the arcana of the spiritual world "from things seen and heard" and about the laws which govern the impact of that world upon our lives. There, also, are shown the different angelic influences which succeed each other as man advances along the path of regeneration.
What we here wish to stress is that man's character is finally formed by the spiritual influences which he invites from the unseen world. It is often claimed that man is merely a product of his heredity and his environment. But while the parental strain determines the initial form of his mind and the more active loves and abilities with which he starts in life; and while his surroundings are at first predetermined and certainly limit his opportunities for knowledge and usefulness; yet within the range of these two factors of heredity and environment man exercises a choice which gradually builds within him a character quite individual and free. For as to his mind he moves in a spiritual environment which always corresponds to his own states of mind.
And the purpose of the following essays is to examine some of the manifold ways in which our lives are moulded for good or ill by the influx of these invisible agencies.
"What is man that Thou
art mindful of him"
Psalm 8: 4
Spirits and Men
Faith and Superstition
The ages preceding the dawn of the New Church were steeped in superstition. Every graveyard was peopled with spectres. The Devil made his appointments with witches and wizards, and ministers of the church solemnly cooperated with panicky magistrates to prevent unlawful intercourse with spirits. Diseases were often treated by exorcism--by driving the obsessing demons away.
Today most of us sneer at superstitions. And when we of the New Church nevertheless proclaim our faith in the proximity and influence of the spirit-world, there are those who sneer at us.
But true faith is a very different thing from superstition. Superstition wishes to assign to the supernatural all unknown causes of natural happenings and evades reasonable explanations. It lacks authority. It creates fear rather than understanding. It advances elusive claims to special sanctity or unusual enlightenment which some will capitalize for their own gain or repute. It leads not towards freedom and charity and social progress, but to a slavery to forms and castes, and often engenders distrust and persecution.
Superstition does not draw its origin from Divine revelation, but is conceived from human anxieties and undue ambitions while it is mothered by ignorance. It is not satisfied with the revealed knowledge and shows a lack of faith in the Lord's omnipotent laws.
But over against Superstition stands Skepticism, which proudly spurns admitting the existence of any invisible factors in life except the purely physical.
2 TCR 665
A rational faith in the interdependence of the inhabitants of the spiritual world and those of the natural, and in the normal but unconscious communion of spirits and men, stands free from both superstition and skepticism. Such a rational faith is derived solely from Divine revelation. Yet it is also founded on the primary testimony of man's own consciousness--that he is essentially a spiritual being, a free thinking mind, although he is clothed by a body of carefully selected material substances which in many ways limit the expression of his mental powers. Nor can any authentic experience upset our faith in the continual operation of the spiritual world--the proper world of human minds and living forces--into the world of nature. Without any hesitation we can postulate, and challenge any one to disprove, that life does not inhere in matter but inflows from an inner source. Indeed it is beyond the scope of science ever to deny that--ultimately-matter is derived from life.
The mode by which the Lord created the universe is a subject far afield from our present discussion. Still it must be premised that the spiritual can act upon the natural, that the mind can be present in the body, and that there can be an influx of the life of spirits into men living on earth. And this because the world of matter is created and sustained by the Lord mediately through the spiritual world.3
3 Can., God iv
4 TCR 280:8
Faith, to be rational, must be calm. It must not be based in, hysteria or upon passing moods, or on the testimony of purely exceptional and questionable phenomena; nor on research conducted in darkened chambers. Faith must see the operation of the soul upon the body and of spiritual things upon natural, not as a mechanical process or as a transfer of energy from one physical realm to another, but as the bestowal of the qualities of life upon visible things of nature, which, so far as their own substance and motions are concerned, are dead. Such a bestowal of qualities takes place, we conceive, by what the Writings call "influx." The spiritual does not act upon matter as do physical forces; instead, it bestows qualities.
When the Writings expound the doctrine that the life of God is mediated for human minds by the spiritual world, or by the spirits and angels there, they are not discussing the currents of natural energy which fashion corpuscular matter and course through the bodies of men, but the transmission of human qualities--of good and evil--qualities which make the natural activities of one man vastly different from those of another; different throughout, different in intention, different in mode, different in effect. The things of dead, elemental nature have attributes, dimensions, conditions, motions.
In man, this freedom becomes self-conscious. He is sensitive to the qualities of life. He is subject to various states and attitudes, and feels that he can to an extent determine them. He can choose between right and wrong. He cannot change his natural environment of a sudden, although this also will yield somewhat to his will. But in the inner realm of his spirit he feels himself above the conditions of nature, feels himself part of a free world in which he can will and think as he pleases; and for what he does in that world he feels responsibility.
But even in his mind man is not utterly free. His natural mind is built up out of elements drawn from heredity and from education, from early impressions and unconscious influences. Is he solely accountable for all the changes within his mind--all the suggestions and impulses of his inner world? If he were, would it not be a terrible responsibility--beyond his power to bear? One moment of impulse could determine his entire spiritual destiny--one decision might send him into anguish forever--if that were so! And if thus determined, he would no longer be free to change his general state.
Even spiritual freedom is therefore governed most carefully by the Lord. The Lord leads man gently into his freedom. Even the spirit of man has to be surrounded by restraining conditions and circumstances.
Therefore it is provided, that man's spirit should be surrounded with attendant spirits, good and evil, through whom the influx of life may be accommodated so that his choice and his responsibility can be particularized and limited to his capacity at each moment. It is of Divine mercy that this is so; otherwise man could never be saved, but he would plunge himself into hell with the first evil choice. Instead of being at once introduced into the responsibility for his whole spiritual destiny, he is therefore gradually introduced into a choice between particular states, or between the delights offered by particular spirits, good and evil. He is not made responsible for the state of his whole mind at once.
This, then, is the explanation of the many shifting and contradictory states of a man. He is held in an equilibrium between good spirits and evil spirits. He is given his chance to change his general state, by countless particular opportunities of choice. His spiritual freedom is doled out to him "piecemeal," and from his moments of choice, a series of free decisions, his character is built up and gradually matures, and becomes able to enter an ever wider choice, a more intelligent freedom.
This is, of course, illustrated by the gradual way in which one acquires freedom in natural affairs in youth and adult age. Parents, teachers, masters or employers will give the youth more freedom, more autonomy, so far as he can be trusted to understand what he is actually committing himself to. But when it is seen that he does not yet have any real insight into a situation or into the consequences of his actions, but is blinded by prejudice or simply borne away by impulsive desires, so far his freedom is--if possible--prudently withheld by wise governors.
The spirit of man is therefore free and responsible only when he realizes the spiritual situation in which he is, and feels himself free to choose. In order that this may be the case, the Lord so orders the lives of men and spirits, that men should not sensibly feel the presence of spirits, or their influx into his mind. If we felt our will as the will of another prompting us we would not feel free--whether the prompting were good or evil. Yet at the same time, if we were never able to know how the case actually is, we would not be able to realize the nature of our choice. From doctrine we are therefore taught about the functions of the spirits who are with us; so that we may see the importance of our choice, the inward nature of our responsibility, the fact that in our consent or resistance to various states, suggestions, desires, and moods, we are in fact turning either towards heaven or towards hell.
Man's Dependence on Spirits
It is therefore revealed as a truth in the Gospel, that man can do nothing except it be given him from above. And this general truth is in the Writings filled in with infinite particulars which show that man cannot lift hand or foot or think the least idea from his own will or understanding: for his will and understanding are vessels responsive to the spheres of spirits and angels. Swedenborg, in order that he might be instructed, was brought into a state in which he perceived the operation of spirits, yet--by a miracle--was at the same time not: deprived of freedom.5 He then received "the dearest experimental proof that all human thought, will, and action are directed determinatively by the Messiah alone"; that there was "not even the least of thought that did not sensibly inflow" from spirits who were themselves also "ruled as passive powers" by the Lord.
5 AC 6191
6 WE 1147, 943
Spirits who use man as a subject in this manner are not aware that they are with man. Such a spirit "knows so little of the man that he is not even aware the man is anything distinct from himself." Man is thus nothing in the eyes of spirits. And if they knew him--as they did Swedenborg--they might chide him with "being nothing" or at best an inanimate machine. Meanwhile the man all the time supposes himself to be living and thinking and the spirits to be "nothing!"7
7 SD 3633
In his Diary Swedenborg tells that, despite the fact that he could not make the least little motion of his body from himself, yet at the same time there was insinuated into him a faculty of choice in whatever he did. Spirits then supposed that he might have acted otherwise. But it was shown them that as a matter of fact the circumstances and the spiritual influxes had conspired and led Swedenborg to what he had (afterwards) decided to do; and also that they themselves had effected nothing from themselves but were subjects of other spirits and societies in an unending chain. It then seemed to these spirits that, if so, they were "nothing"; and they were unwilling to admit this. But Swedenborg insisted that this was indeed true; still, it was enough for them that they seemed to themselves to be able to think, speak, and act as from themselves, and to be their own. What more did they want?8
8 SD 2464, 2465, 4100
Surprisingly, Swedenborg instructed some spirits that only when they acknowledge that they are nothing, can they begin to be something.
9 SD 2043f, 2060, 2467, 2671:2
10 SD 2466
But when some spirits were unable to tolerate the expression "that they were nothing," the seer consoled them by saying that "they are always something, but that something is from the Lord."11 And it is the same with man: "Unless the Lord saw the man to be something," the whole world of spirits would see him as nothing--or as an inanimate thing. He is "something--not a mere idea of being!"12 And this something is something of reception. Man cannot control the experiences that come to him: but he can receive or reject, react affirmatively or negatively. Heaven consists in every one regarding himself as nothing.13 The celestials know this. They know that to attribute anything to themselves, except reception, is of evil. No doubt this is involved in the Lord's saying: "Your speech shall be Yea, yea, Nay, nay; whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil!"
11 SD 4100
12 DP 46:3, 308:2, 309
13 SD 2520
The Non-appropriation of Evil
Evil has no power over one who in sincerity of faith believes himself to be nothing!14
14 SD 4067, 4228
How vitally important and practically effective this truth of faith is, may be judged from the doctrine which describes how evil enters into man. Evil is continually infused by unclean spirits into man's thoughts, and is as constantly dispelled by the angels. This does not actually harm man.
15 AC 6204
The evil was not produced by man! Evil spirits--the whole network of hell--produced it, infused it, and subtly made man to feel as if he did it from himself. "If man believed as the case really is, then evil would not be appropriated to him, but good from the Lord would be appropriated to him; for then, immediately when evil flows in, he would think that it was from evil spirits with him; and when he thought this angels would avert and reject it. For the influx of angels is into that which a man knows and believes and not into what man does not know and does not believe."16
16 AC 6206, 761, 3743, 6324f; DP 320
If an evil is appropriated it can be removed only by the arduous and long road of self-examination and of actual repentance. But here we are shown an easier way! Shown how to shun evils before they become man's own or before they become actual or confirmed; shown how faith defends men from evil! And if a man really believes that the good that prompts him inflows from the Lord through heaven, he is thereby freed from any self-righteous reflection on his own act--a thought which would poison the good which he has received and turn it into the evil of merit and the pride and the contempt of others that follow in its wake.
The knowledge and belief that all our affections, emotions, and moods are the actual results of the presence of spirits, good or evil, must become a watchman who must never slummer.
Choice versus Freedom
Man's spirit is free. Yet it is bound up with the states of the men and spirits around him. No one can deny that our thoughts and affections are influenced by the men of the society with which we are associated in the world's work and pleasures. Even the church undergoes its cycles of common states, its temptations, its progression in which all take part. Even angelic societies whose uses are intertwined by marvelous modes experience common states, recurrent mornings, noons, and evenings; for each angel is a center for the influx of all others.17
17 SD 4090, 6058e; AC 4225, 2057:2
Man's spirit is free, but never independent! It cannot alter its general spiritual environment by any sudden decision, any more than a man in the world can change the face of nature. The speed of the growth of the mind and of the progression of a man's spirit is not measured by the fixed time which is associated on earth with the clock and the calendar and the orbit of the planets. Yet spiritual states have their durations--require a preparation and a gradual growth, have their own cycles, rhythms, and climaxes which cannot be circumvented.
How men's spirits are affected by the spirits who live in the world of spirits is seen from the state before the coming of the Lord, when no flesh could have been saved unless the spirits of that world had been reduced into order. And history repeats itself. For Swedenborg notes that in his day the whole world of spirits had become evil, and therefore it could not but be that mankind should become worse through the nearer influx of hell. The good inflowing from the Lord availed less and less, until man could hardly be bent to any genuine good.18
18 SD 4285, 4286, 2180
A general judgment then became inevitable; and it took place in the world of spirits in the year 1757.19 Its result was to restore spiritual freedom. Men and spirits had been in spiritual captivity--had been in states which they could not alter or change. The progression of their spiritual life of reformation and regeneration had been arrested because they had been intricately entangled with evil spirits from whom they had no power to separate.
19 AR preface, TCR 772; LJ and CLJ passim
It is not to be thought that men living before the last judgment did not have free agency in spiritual things. All men have free choice, then as now. In the issues which they discerned from time to time they had their choice. But freedom implies more than choice. It implies that one should be free to follow out one's choice, to progress according to the choice, and find and enter into the delights of his ruling love. Interiorly, all salvable spirits in this world and in the "lower earth" of the other life had made a choice of good as over against evil. Yet they were so much a part of the perverted world of spirits that they could not shake off their infesters who stole their delight in spiritual good and truth, insinuated unhappiness, destroyed cooperation, induced obscurity and confusion as to what was right and wrong, and prevented them from finding their way to heaven--or to the true uses of heavenly life.
The freedom to progress requires an ability to perceive interior truths. It was this new freedom that was "restored" when the Lord ordered the world of spirits by His redemptive work.20 The ordering was done by separating the spirits there according to their various qualities, so that spirits in different spiritual states might be seen in contrast, in their true colors, or--in the light of heaven.
20 LJ 73, 74
The light of Divine truth which brought about the judgment and reduced the spiritual world into order is still present in that world; and that Divine light is spreading also into this world of ours, through the teachings of the Writings of the New Church. It is the same light. It passes "not through spaces, like the light of the world, but through the affections and perceptions of truth."21 It affects, and tends to distinguish and order, the spirits who are with us. We would surmise that it also orders the things which go on--subconsciously--within man's thinking; and thus ensures the free operation of the rational faculty with men, for good or for evil. But consciously and directly it reaches us in the Writings. The teaching is, therefore, that after the last judgment (when the group of spirits which the Apocalypse calls "the Dragon" was cast down), "there was light in the world of spirits. A similar light also then arose with men in the world, from which they have a new enlightenment."22
21 CLJ 14
22 CLJ 30
The Writings are shedding a new light on all the states through which men pass on earth. They also disclose the character of the spirits who are responsible for our moods of sadness, temptation, melancholy, enthusiasm, rashness, confusion.
"Regard not them that
have familiar spirits,
neither seek after wizards
to be defiled by them. I
am Jehovah your God."
Leviticus 19: 31
The Danger of Open Communication with Spirits
Sensual Thought about the Afterlife
Despite the official teachings of the churches, few men in Christendom believe that they will live after death.23 Few believe that there are spirits with them, or "even that there are any spirits." The chief reason assigned for this prevalent condition is that at this day there is no faith, because genuine charity is lacking.24 So testify the Writings.
23 AC 5006:4
24 AC 5849
Belief is more than a mere lame assent. There are few who would not give a superficial assent to the possibility, nay the probability of human survival after death. But only those believe who live in the full conviction and consciousness that this earthly existence is but a preparation for eternal life.
Among the winds of doctrine that blow across the world, one of the chilliest is this fallacy that nothing is real beyond the world of matter and that the grave marks the end of all our hopes. It looks back to childhood with nostalgia as the halcyon time of one's life, when one could still live in blessed fancies. It robs manhood and even parenthood of any genuine delight, leaving only the struggle for bread and social position. It saves up for old age only the dried crusts of memory and a final disillusionment.
Perhaps it might be doubted that so few, in their actual life, are motivated by a belief in another world.
How empty life must seem for those who think of death as the termination of everything, and those whose only sure hope of immortality lies in the size of their grave-stones or the survival of their names. The thoughts of those who attend the funeral of a friend are usually directed to natural life, in tribute to his virtue or accomplishment; yet his death stands out as an object lesson that all is vanity. For before the thought of an afterlife most men's minds recoil with a deep discomfort, a pathetic realization of ignorance and doubt, which the formal confessions of their churches cannot dispel.
At such times those who are bereaved grope about for comfort, and their minds are somewhat more ready than usual to seize upon either truth or falsity if it will but relieve their sadness and apprehension. Their hearts may be hardened and embittered and they may sternly dismiss the possibility of the soul's survival. But others may feel a desperate desire for some confirmation that the dead still live, or will live;
Even so, people are wont to think sensually about the life beyond the grave. Even when the teachings of the New Church are presented, the imagination often kindles only to the descriptions of the objective appearances of heaven which seem to fulfil some of our beautiful wish-thoughts, while the real fact is forgotten that all things in the eternal world are spiritual. Swedenborg's revelations of the afterlife have indeed had a tremendous influence quite apart from the New Church, and have colored the thoughts of millions. But when first broached, our doctrine about heaven usually meets only with an interested tolerance and a politely suppressed wonder that we seem so sure about it all. For to the average person in Christendom nothing is very sure. There are few champions of definite views of the afterlife, although you often meet with the complacent philosophy that no one church has a monopoly in matters of truth, and that there may be some truth in all religions, however contradictory. And so the pulpits in most churches avoid preaching against falsities; perhaps on the principle that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, but also because "church-goers" absorb far more of their spiritual food from prevailing spheres of thought--from opinions which are dished out promiscuously in magazines and books or offered in casual conversations--than from their own church.
A certain saving measure of common sense has to a large part modified the orthodox teachings of Protestants that the dead sleep in the grave until the Day of Doom and the general resurrection. Hamlet's reverie recurs: "To die: to sleep--perchance to dream. For in that sleep of death what dreams might come.... " The idea has found favor that the spirit--waiting for the final judgment--is somewhere consciously alive.
The doctrine of the Roman Catholics is couched more definitely. It states that the soul is committed to heaven or to hell immediately after death, although even a penitent person must make up for his omissions by sufferings in the fires of purgatory; and later--at the last judgment--each soul will join its body in a material resurrection on a reconstructed earth.
Sensual thought about heaven places its reality in material things. It pictures a place--whether this earth, purified by fire, or some central star--in which the blessed should gather in refined and sexless material bodies; perhaps a place presided over by a race of "angels" created before earth ever was. It pictures heaven as a place of sensual rewards. The quality of men's ideas of what they expect heaven to be is described in the work on Conjugial Love, where it is told how novitiate spirits were cured of their persuasions as to the various imaginary joys in which they believe eternal bliss to consist: paradisal delights, feasting, conversations, wealth and power, or perpetual glorifications and ecstatic songs of praise; or--as some thought--mere admission into the sphere of heaven.25
25 CL 2-10
Ignorance about man's state after death naturally breeds fantasies. Lack of any rational teaching encourages the imagination to roam at will.
Ancient and Modern Spiritism
Divine revelation has consistently warned against this attempt of man to pry open the gates of the unseen world. "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards ... "--it was written in the Mosaic law. "There shall not be found among you any one ... that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.... "26 Such were to be punished with death. But this prohibition soon proved to be ineffective. Israel could not resist the pressure of the combined superstitions of the East! Even Saul, after banishing all sorcerers, succumbed to the temptation and sought counsel of the ghost of Samuel.
26 Lev. 19:31, 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:9-14
27 Isa. 8:19, 20
The Lord while on earth constantly refused the testimony of evil spirits as he drove them out of those who were "possessed." And in one of His parables He cites Abraham as refusing to send Lazarus back into the world to warn the five brethren of the rich man; saying, "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."28 But even at that time angels, unsolicited, appeared to men in vision. And in the early days of Christianity, the Christian Fathers were careful to warn their followers against trusting spirits. John wrote in his epistle, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.... Any spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God...."29
But the early Christian "gift of prophecy" inadvertently paved the way for incantations and sorcery, and in medieval times the belief in the afterlife was accompanied by a dread of ghosts and ghouls that haunted the cemeteries, and of fantastic vampires and of elemental spirits that could control the wild forces of nature unless curbed by magical formulas or exorcised by the prayers and solemn rites of the church. Within the pale of the church, priests and "saints" were subject to visions and revelations, while unauthorized mystics and seers claimed intercourse with the unseen world. The hysteria which marked the great witch-trials even on the American continent was but an indication of the insanities to which men laid themselves open by illicit attempts to communicate with spirits and thus invite obsession.
28 Luke 16:19-31
29 I John 4:1, 3
After the last judgment in 1757, there came something of a lull in the efforts to seek intercourse with spirits. It became frowned upon as superstitious, and although the same abuses continued, outstanding instances became rarer. And then, towards the middle of the nineteenth century, there sprang up a new movement towards its revival in a more respectable garb and in more "scientific" form: a movement which goes under the name of Modern Spiritualism. This was supposedly a research into occult phenomena by empirical methods.
Although claiming continuity with the work of seers, prophets and mystics of all previous ages and denying any kinship to sorcerers and magi, the partisans of this movement date its practical beginning with the "Rochester spirit-rappings" in 1848, when the Fox family heard knocks and noises which they ascribed to spirits who answered their questions according to a pre-arranged code. Children at that time, the Fox sisters later toured this country and England to display their peculiar spirit-telegraphy. And although one of them publicly disavowed her own part in these phenomena as so much fake, the movement had gathered too great momentum to be stopped. People were eager to believe the marvelous, and many soon discovered themselves also to be "sensitives"; found that they could serve as "mediums" for spirits who then "controlled" them. Once established as mediums, they could draw profitable audiences of ardent believers; and from time to time for the next fifty years the free publicity given these mediums was tremendous. In 1884 unsubstantiated claims were made of many million "adherents" in America. It was claimed by spiritists that the world of the departed had long been seeking for this means of coming into contact with mortals, and that now spirits were crowding the air and descending to inaugurate a new era in which unbelief would be wiped out.
The particular accomplishments which spirits learned to perform included the power to give messages about dead friends, through the voice or pen of the medium; to write on covered slates; to lift bouquets of flowers from room to room, blow trumpets and beat tambourines without human aid; to suspend the laws of gravity, lifting people or chairs or tables into the air; and finally--but more rarely--to materialize themselves in a substance ("ectoplasm") which perspired from the body of the medium so that they could become tangible and visible, and even be kissed and photographed and engaged in conversation.
The spirits (or the mediums) were unwilling to participate in most of these phenomena except amidst small groups of affirmative friends, and an extra-ordinary preference was shown for dark rooms and closed cabinets. Yet several prominent scientists, like Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, W. F. Barrett and Charles Richet, were converted to a belief in the geniuses of some of the phenomena. In many lands some society for psychical research now gathers and sifts the evidence presented by alleged mediums and others, and so far as is possible, some of their learned investigators have imposed almost fool-proof conditions upon their experiments. One fact, however, is universally admitted: that almost every "physical" medium has been proved at some time to have cheated by producing the desired phenomena by clever trickery. This is variously explained by spiritualists: first of all they admit that the spirits who use the medium are quite apt to encourage deception, since they retain human failings; secondly, they concede that a medium whose powers are exhausted and abused, will naturally be reluctant to admit it; and thirdly, the genuine adherents disown all responsibility for professional exhibitionists.
The societies and laboratories established for psychical research and "parapsychology" make it their task to investigate all proffered claims to extra-sensory perception, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psycho-kinesis, etc., as well as alleged occurrences of "materializations" and poltergeists. Most of such studies are conducted quite apart from any religious inferences. Within the small group of learned men who confess themselves baffled by some of the experiments, many are inclined to explain their results as due to physical and mental powers within man, hitherto not understood. Certain psychologists have indeed suggested that some echo of man might survive death, not as an individual but as a part of an interpersonal psychic field perhaps capable of contact with the living.* But the hope of spiritualists to convince the world of the survival of the dead has not been fulfilled. To most people, the clever accomplishments of the mediums are a nine-days wonder soon dismissed. And the vapid messages of cheer from the other world which the seances produced have been so ambiguous and valueless that they spoke poorly for the intelligence of the departed. Confused pratings that suggest marvelous revelations to come--but which never come--hold the attention of the devotee. People soon recognized that an atmosphere of unbounded credulity was basic to the spiritistic movement. Its organized cults have dwindled in membership, although it has uncounted adherents and sympathizers among the laity and even the clergy of various denominations, and its beliefs and practices are shared by several strange sects that dabble in occultism.
* Professor Gardner Murphy, "Field Theory and Survival," in Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Oct. 1945.
As a religion, spiritualism is of course founded on a sifting out of certain common elements within the contradictory "revelations" of the mediums and the "automatic writers."
The opposition to Spiritualism comes mainly from the Roman Catholic Church, from many literalistic sects, from some of the clergy of more conservative churches, from most scientists and from skeptics everywhere. Each group has reasons of its own, either doctrinal or pragmatic, for resisting the movement. But as is usual in such opposition, each--in denouncing the spiritistic movement--also rejects the fundamental truths which that movement has misused and perverted. An instance of this is seen in the attitude of some physicians who from their studies of the psychopathic wards have contracted the habit of regarding all extraordinary human states as abnormal and due to mental disorder. Such men are not content to condemn the practice of spiritism because of its ill effects on the nervous system of its victims: they also regard all claims to spiritual intercourse as the result of a disordered mind and would classify even the visions of the prophets and disciples as sensory hallucinations due to paranoia, paraphrenia, or other forms of disease.
Swedenborg and Modern Spiritualism
In several works on the history of modern spiritualism, considerable space is given to Emanuel Swedenborg, who has been labeled as "the foremost mystic and seer of modern times" or as "the father of our new knowledge of supernal matters." "When the first rays of the rising sun of spiritual knowledge fell upon the earth they illumined the greatest and highest human mind before they shed their light on lesser men. That mountain peak of mentality was this great reformer and clairvoyant medium, as little understood by his own followers as ever the Christ has been. In order fully to understand Swedenborg one would need to have a Swedenborg brain, and that is not met with once in a century." So writes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, lately the leading champion and biographer of the movement. His words are flattering to Swedenborg; but not to the New Church, which--he says--"has allowed itself to become a backwater instead of keeping its rightful place as the original source of psychic knowledge."30
30 Arthur Conan Doyle, M. D. LL.D., The History of Spiritualism, 2 vols. (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1926), I, pp. 11, 12, 20. See also J. Arthur Hill, Spiritualism, Its History, Phenomena and Doctrine (Cassell and Co., Ltd., 1918)
It would seem that Conan Doyle, delving into clues for the solution of the final mystery, himself lacked the Swedenborg brain. For the theology of the New Church and the disclosure of the spiritual sense of the Word, which were the net result of Swedenborg's revelations, are not of any comfort to the spiritistic movement.
30 Arthur Conan Doyle, M. D. LL.D., The History of Spiritualism, 2 vols. (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1926), I, pp. 11, 12, 20. See also J. Arthur Hill, Spiritualism, Its History, Phenomena and Doctrine (Cassell and Co., Ltd, 1918)
To the eyes of New Church readers this admission unwittingly reveals more than was intended. For when spirits do speak to men, it is spirits who are of his own religion or who adopt his ideas; they can only "confirm whatever the man has made a part of his religion; thus enthusiastic spirits confirm in a man all that pertains to his enthusiasm; Quaker spirits all things of Quakerism; Moravian spirits all things of Moravianism, and so on." This is said to show that it is untrue "that man might be more enlightened if he had direct revelation through speech with spirits and angels."31 Spirits who speak with a man speak only from his affections and according to his thoughts and knowledge. This provision is made to preserve man's freedom even when he tries to squander it by offering himself as the dupe of evil spirits.
31 AE 1182:4; DV 29
The only real information that has been given to men since known history began comes, of course, from the Word and now especially from the Writings of Swedenborg. And some of this knowledge, mixed with all manner of superstition, contorted by Christian traditions and modified by wishful thinking and hoax, has found a fruitful soil in the imagination of many a spiritist. At the seance, this welter of information is present in the mind either of the medium or the questioner. So far as there is any clarity in the supposed answer, it comes indirectly from the Writings. Nothing new--nothing which in the slightest adds to the comprehension of the life and order of the spiritual world--has ever been furnished by the "wizards that peep and mutter."
Possibility of the Intercourse of Spirits and Men
There are many powers latent within man that are not well understood. Far above our conscious thought there is an interior memory in which all that we have experienced resides in perfect detail, although beyond our ability to recollect. In known cases, as for instance in hypnotic sleep, the astonishing contents of this memory may be divulged or become active as "subconscious intellection," as "automatic writing," or as somnambulency. That spirits can operate this memory of man is clear from our dreams and may lie behind the emergence of a "split personality."
There is also a possibility that people who are united in bonds of kinship or affection may at times convey their thoughts or fears to each other at a distance by what is called "telepathy." There is attested evidence that in rare cases visual ideas may similarly be communicated by "clairvoyance. It is told of Swedenborg that when at Gothenburg he was able to report on the progress of a fire raging near his house in Stockholm (Docu. 273). Seemingly the prophet Elisha was clairvoyant when he told the king of Israel the plans of the Syrians (2 Kings 6:12). That such unusual occurrences are caused by the communication existing between associated spirits is not unlikely.
But it is also well to note that many of the claims of modern mediums go directly counter to what is taught us in the Writings. There is indeed an influx of the spiritual world into the natural, and it is by this influx that all organic growth, vegetable and animal, takes place. Destructive organisms, such as noxious pests, are--we are taught--creations that received their contorted forms from the influx of the hells into corresponding substances on earth.32
32 DLW 343
33 HH 112; AC 3702, 4042
34 R. Psych. 523; WE 1457
35 Dom. 14
The explanation is simple and reasonable. For man is created with spiritual senses as well as with natural senses. He possesses a body of matter held together by physical forces--by electromagnetic and gravitational fields of force. But these fields of force are ruled, unified, disposed and directed by a soul or spirit, and thus by a spiritual purpose and a superconscious wisdom which is far above our comprehension. In fact, the spirit is the real man, and is organized far more intricately than the body. It is indeed a spiritual body36 which is endowed with spiritual senses and thus with the power to perceive knowledge--to see spiritual objects, "see" truths, civil, moral and spiritual, and to feel and recognize mental states and sense the relations of all the things which compose his spiritual environment.
36 TCR 583
37 AC 69
38 SD 2541f; AC 125
Swedenborg distinctly claimed that such intercourse as his own with spirits was not miraculous. "These revelations," he wrote, "are not miracles, since every man as to his spirit is in the spiritual world without separation from his body in the natural world; but I with a certain separation, but only as to the intellectual part of my mind...."39 He claimed no uniqueness in being able to converse with spirits, but noted that the type and the marvelous extent of these revelations surpassed even the visions of the men of the Golden Age; for they remained in natural light while Swedenborg was granted to be in spiritual light and in natural light at the same time. Such intercourse had never before been known in history, and--taken in connection with the manifestation of the Lord in person to Swedenborg and the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word--was "superior to any miracles."40 In the Most Ancient Church, direct or immediate revelations were given through open intercourse with angels, and there was no need for a written Word.41
39 Inv. 39; Coro., Miracles v.
40 Inv. 52, 43, 44, 39
41 DV 27; AC 3432
42 AC 7802, 7804, 10632, 10380ff
43 Num. 24:15 seq., II Kings 6:17
44 DP 134; HH 309
Something should here be added concerning the visions which were permitted to the prophets and others whose spiritual senses were opened so that they could perceive events which occurred in the spiritual world.
The fact that those who are infirm in mind and indulge much in fancies are apt to become subject to hallucinations, does not mean that genuine visions have never been granted. Pathological symptoms--such as manic-depressive delusions and schizophrenia and hallucinations--are only perversions of man's normal faculties and are due to "spirits who by means of fantasies induce appearances which seem to be real." People with visionary tendencies may thus--like credulous children--see monsters behind the trees of the forest or convert shadows into ghosts.45
45 SD 1752, DP 134
But genuine visions are the actual seeing of "such things in the other life as have real existence."46
46 AC 1970
47 AC 6000, 1975, DP 134
The men of the Most Ancient Church were instructed by such heavenly visions, for they were given to know their inner meaning.48 The Hebrew prophets, and John at Patmos, had such real or Divine visions significant of the thoughts and affections of angels, but understood them not.49 Some of the prophets were actually possessed by spirits; like Saul, who spoke and acted in a state of trance.50 Others exercised their own discretion, and spirits spoke to their inner hearing.51 When in "vision" the prophets were not in the body, but m the spirit."52 As was foretold in Daniel, prophetic visions of whatever kind were discontinued after the Christian dispensation had begun.53
48 AC 125, 1122
49 AE 575: 2, AR 7, 36, 229e
50 AC 6212, SD 2022, 2282
51 AC 6212
52 Lord 52, DP 134
53 Dan. 9:24, 12:9, DP 134
The Divine visions which the Lord from childhood had in His Human on earth were most perfect, because "He had a perception of all things in the world of spirits and in the heavens, and had an immediate communication with Jehovah."54
54 AC 1584, 1784, 1786
Swedenborg also experienced certain visions. But his normal state, he tells us, was not one of vision as usually understood or one of "trance." But what he saw, heard and felt in the spiritual world was experienced in full wakefulness of body.55 And like the "Divine visions" seen by the prophets, Swedenborg's explorations in the other world were for the sake of his being instructed by the Lord. The Scriptures were not revealed in a state of vision, but were "dictated by the Lord to the prophets by a living voice."56
55 AC 1885, CLJ 35, TCR 157, cp WE 1351, 1353
56 AR 36, AC 7055:3, HH 254 22: 23
57 AC 6597, 6608, 5171, SD 4820. TCR 779, DV 5, 6. See chapter XVII
A type of diabolical visions can be induced by "enthusiastic spirits." This is produced by the "magic" of hell, and it distorts the truth, as was the case with the lying prophets mentioned in the book of Kings.58 The spirits who cause such visions are now separated and restrained in their hells.59
58 DP 134, AE 575: 2, I Kings
59 SD 1756
The Writings have now made unnecessary any private revelations or visions. Divine or prophetic visions are no longer provided and would not be understood if they were. Diabolical visions are severely restricted by spiritual laws. And there remain now only fantastic visions, which are "mere delusions of an abstracted mind."60
60 DP 134
Warnings against Seeking Speech with Spirits
"Nevertheless, conversation with spirits is possible, though rarely with the angels of heaven; and this has been granted to many for ages back."61 And human nature is such that those who have only had fantastic visions are inclined to boast about them and exaggerate them to gain the ear of an audience.62 Speech with spirits "is rarely permitted, because it is perilous.... Some who lead a solitary life occasionally hear spirits speaking to them, and without danger." A spirit may thus come to a man and communicate some words; but still it is not permitted the man to speak with him mouth to mouth, lest the spirit should come to realize that he is with a man.63
61 DP 135, comp. HH 253
62 SD 1752
63 HH 249
64 DP 135, 172
A man who is in enlightenment from the Lord through a love of the truths of the Word may sometimes hear the speech of spirits, but he is never taught by them, but "led" with every precaution for his freedom.65 This speech may be perceived by such men as a kind of "response by vivid perception in their thought or by a tacit speech therein, and rarely by open speech; and it is to the effect that they should think and act as they will and as they are able, and that he who acts wisely is wise and he who acts foolishly is foolish; but they are never instructed what to believe and what to do.... They who are taught by influx what to believe or what to do are not taught by the Lord nor by any angel of heaven, but by some enthusiastic spirit ... who leads them astray."66
65 AE 1183
66 DP 321:3
Those who desire to be instructed by spirits "do not realize that it is conjoined with peril to their soul!"67 Only evil spirits come to the summons of man:
67 AE 1182, HH 456:3
"When spirits begin to speak with a man he ought to take heed lest he should believe anything whatever from them; for they say almost anything! They fabricate things and lie.... If they were permitted to describe what heaven is ... they would tell so many lies--and this with solemn affirmations--that a man would be amazed. Therefore when spirits are speaking, I have not been permitted to have faith in the things they related.
68 SD 1622
And they can impersonate others so that they even deceive themselves that they are some one else! "Let those who speak with spirits beware, therefore, lest they be deceived when the spirits say that they are those whom they have known and who have died. For ... when like things are called up in the memory of man and so are represented to them, they think that they are the same persons."69 "These things make evident the danger in which a man is who speaks with spirits or who manifestly feels their operation."70
69 SD 2860f, 2687
70 AE 1182, Docu. n. 246; Letters and Memorials of Emanuel Swedenborg (Swed. Sc. Ass'n 1955), pages 533, 534.
Such warnings against seeking sensual proof for the existence of spirits should suffice for any New Church man. Yet from the beginning, the temptation to explore the other world, as Swedenborg did, or to call upon its powers of influx illicitly, has threatened the New Church. A few instances may be cited.71 In 1786, a French society of "Illuminati" was formed by Abb Pernety, which mixed New Church doctrine with spiritism and Freemasonry. Similar ideas, in milder forms, such as the practice of "animal magnetism" and the healing of the sick by exorcising spirits, brought an early end to a genuine New Church movement in Stockholm about 1790.
71 See C. T. Odhner, Annals of the New Church, vol. I (Bryn Athyn, Pa., 1904); and Marguerite Beck Block, The New Church in the New World (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1932)
But it is not enough to say that the New Church, like many other worthy movements, must have its "lunatic fringe." For throughout the years the recurrent defense of spiritistic practices in several New Church journals has shown that the temptation to find a sensual approach to the spiritual world is likely to come wherever the faithful study of the Heavenly Doctrine is neglected, or where a secret or open desire is harbored to abandon the arduous way of redemption which the Lord offers to those who are of the spiritual church. This appointed way is reformation through doctrine and reason, through the discipline of self-compulsion and loyalty to the truth. It is a difficult road, but one which is necessary for our race and genius, that is, for all those whose hearts must confess to being subject to hereditary and actual evils.
The temptation is to think that we do not need to walk that road, to think that we have attained to a celestial state and may ignore the discipline of doctrine and can rely on our own power to withstand the onslaughts of the hells and on our instinctive discernment to know an evil spirit when we meet him. But let us humbly recognize that "the Lord enters into man through no other than an internal way, which is through the Word and doctrine and preachings from the Word."72 This way does not lead downward to a dependence on the senses and its innumerable fallacies, but up to the rational mind where alone a man is free to see the spiritual things of heaven in their own light.
72 DP 131
"The angel of the Lord
encampeth round about
them that fear Him, and
Our Spiritual Guardians
At creation, as recorded in the book of Genesis, God said, "Let us make man in our image after our likeness." Some have been disturbed by this wording, which suggests that many Divine creators might have been at work. And the Hebrew word for God is Elohim, which is a plural construction. It is a "plural of eminence" used for the one God; but only when the Divine truth is referred to, for truth displays the manifold powers and aspects of God. Many Divine laws concurred in man's creation. The same word, elohim, is however used also for the false gods of the nations and even for the angels and prophets who receive Divine truths.73 And in the spiritual sense, the six days of creation describe the process of man's regeneration, the name Elohim being used to indicate that in regenerating man the one God acts through innumerable agencies, and that it is through the ministry of angels that He leads, awakens, governs, and disposes man's spiritual life and thus bestows upon him the truly human qualities which are meant by the image and likeness of God.74
73 See John 10:34 and Psalm 78
74 AC 50, 300
The inmost soul of man, or the human internal, is indeed not affected by this angelic ministry. For it is, in degree, far above the angelic heavens and is acted upon only by the Lord whose life inflows into it by an immediate way.75
75 AC 1999:3, 4; Infl. 8, LJ 25:6
76 AC 3644, 10604:5, DP 307:2, 278b:6, TCR 14, CL 530:2
77 HH 430, AC 5854
The body of man is under the general influx of heaven. It is in the order of its creation and governed by the soul. Spirits are not adjoined to man's body,78 and do not affect its life and its states directly; nor do they have any part in the expression of our thought and will in speech and act; for this influx of the mind into the body follows orderly laws outside of the control of either men or spirits.79
78 See chapter XIV
79 AC 5862, 5990; HH 296. See chapter XIII
Spirits do however "inflow" into what is thought and consciously desired by man. Their hidden operations are what make possible man's conscious life and affection, and manifest themselves in us as impulses, imaginations and reasonings. The angels, on the other hand, act upon man's interiors, and produce no perceptible effects in man's mental life. For their influx is "tacit." It does not stir up material ideas or object-memories;80 but is directed to man's ends or inner motives, which are not consciously articulated in man's mind, but which are none the less efficient and secretly powerful.81 The angels also rule and regulate the evil spirits who are near a man, generally without the knowledge or perception of these spirits.82
80 AC 6209
81 AC 5854
82 SD 3525
The revelations of the Second Advent lay bare the magnificent order of the spiritual empire of the Lord, in which the Lord correlates the finite wills of all men, spirits, and angels, and holds them in mutual freedom, under the rule of a law which is able to guarantee a sense of "as-of-one's-self" life to every living being on every plane, yet is able to weave their uses together for the creation of a glorious form wherein the happiness of each one is reflected to all and that of all to each.
To every man the Lord has assigned two guardian angels, one celestial and one spiritual.82 This is not an arbitrary number. It results from the fact that man's will and understanding, at every stage of life, each have a ruling state and quality which responds to that particular influx which is most kindred to it. And each angel in heaven also instinctively seeks that ultimate expression for his life which most closely corresponds to his love. For life descends to ultimates. Yet the angel does not desire to descend to the level of merely external human life, or to face again the imperfections of earthly conditions, such as are reflected in man's outward thinking. He dwells with man in the community of those spiritual riches of the internal man with which man's supraconscious thought is stored; which include not only childhood "remains" of innocence, but all the later states of faith and worship which abide where moth and rust do not corrupt.
82 SD 3525
In this life, man is not conscious of his spiritual treasures, or of the brilliant wealth and glory that is concealed within his vague spiritual perceptions. They come to him only as the stirring of something of charity, or as occasional enlightenment and delight in truth.83 The spiritual thought of man flows into his natural thought, which in turn clings to his memory. With Swedenborg, the case was indeed different. With him, by a Divine provision, a certain separation took place between the thought of his spirit and the thought of his body. And he could therefore perceive the presence of the spirits and angels, who were with him; which is not possible to ordinary men.84
83 DLW 252
84 Coro., Mir. v, HH 246
It is not possible for guardian angels to see the man with whom they are, although they know when they are with a man. To lead and moderate his affections, and to modify and bend them in various directions as far as man's free will permits, is indeed one of the specific functions of angelic service.85 The angels observe if any new hells are opened; and if man brings himself into any new evil, they close those hells as far as man suffers it. They dissipate foreign or strange influxes which may tend to harm man, calling forth goods and truths from man's mind to combat the evil put forth by the wicked spirits; and they are vigilant every moment in regard to man's safety.86 They attentively and continually notice what the evil spirits and genii with man are intending and attempting, and they feel great joy when they perceive that their service has made it possible to remove some evils and to lead man nearer heaven.87
85 AC 5992, HH 39
86 AC 5992
87 AC 5980, 5992, HH 391
These angels, or angelic spirits, were seen by Swedenborg "near the head" of man. Yet it does not appear that they visualize the man. Unless they reflect, they think no otherwise than that they are the man--but the interior man, the man as to his interior thought which man does not yet consciously realize. If they reflect, they are able to discern that they are angelic spirits,88 and have been with a man; even as we know that some impulse we feel came from spirits. But the angelic spirits consciously perform the use of extending the Lord's protection to man. And the union at the time is intimate: they dwell in the man's affections,89 live themselves into his inmost unconscious life, and feel the utmost sympathy with all the good thoughts which thence issue into man's mind.
88 SD 3525
89 HH 391
90 AC 761, 2890
Yet angelic spirits are not aware of what man is doing or thinking in the externals of his thought. For their sphere is that of the interior memory.91 And especially is this the case, Swedenborg notes, at this day when angels cannot have any direct conjunction with man.92 The angels therefore have an ardent longing that the kingdom of God Messiah might come so that a closer conjunction might be brought about between them and mankind.93
91 SD 206, AC 2473, 2477
92 HH 593
93 SD 206
In most ancient times, as still on certain other earths, spirits were at times able to communicate openly with men and converse with them. The spirit is then reduced to the state in which he was when on earth; his external memory is aroused so that he assumes again the whole complex of his former natural thought; and then the interior sight of the man is opened, and they appear to each other as if both were men together.94 In such a way angels appeared to the prophets. But at this day such vision is rarely given, lest men be compelled to belief. On the other hand, even today, those men who think abstractedly from the body, while in meditation, interior reflection, or sustained abstruse ideas, are sometimes seen as to their spirits in their own society in the spiritual world.95 There such are easily distinguished from other spirits; "for they go about meditating and in silence, not looking at others and apparently not seeing them; and as soon as any spirit addresses them, they vanish."96
94 AC 10751
95 HH 438, SD 4769
96 HH 438
Because Swedenborg thought profoundly, he would, like other men, normally have appeared at times in societies of angelic spirits. But the peculiar state of Swedenborg was such that he could maintain himself in independent abstract thought and thus consciously converse with spirits and enjoy spiritual sensation even while in bodily wakefulness.
When his spiritual thought was not abstracted from the thought of material objects he was invisible to the angelic spirits. For material objects cannot be reproduced as such in the spiritual world; and the ideas of such objects in time and space cannot be expressed by the universal spiritual language. But when he became "in the spirit"--that is, when material ideas were separated from his spiritual thought (and only those material ideas which were in entire correspondence with the spiritual ideas were at all active)--then he became visible to the spirits, could perceive their wisdom, and consociate with them as one of themselves. It was thus that Swedenborg could explore the heavens and live the life of angels and spirits. It was thus that the treasures of the spiritual sense of the Word, and every Divine arcanum, could be conveyed to his mind and be grasped in enlightenment and later, under Divine inspiration, could be written in rational natural language, "clear as crystal" (DV 6).
But Swedenborg's mission also gave him an opportunity to instruct angels about their relation to men. We do not imagine that when he visited some heaven he reduced all the angels there into the state of that class of angelic spirits who "are with men" and are called "guardian angels." Still, Swedenborg was sometimes allowed to direct his spiritual thought into natural thought, and thus--by way of experiment--show approximately the change which occurs when angelic spirits are with men.
Thus it is told how certain angelic spirits, when they retired from Swedenborg into their own spiritual society, came into a spiritual state and into supereminent ideas of spiritual thought and into the understanding of spiritual speech and writing which conveyed this thought most accurately and fully.97 But when they returned to Swedenborg, they found themselves to have come into his natural state and were entirely unable to express their spiritual ideas or to understand the speech or writing of heaven: but they could now think only in terms of Swedenborg's thoughts or, rather, converse with each other by his ideas and speak to him only by the natural languages that he knew. In other words, from their ordinary state as angelic spirits they had been reduced to attendant spirits, by their directing their attention to his thoughts which were conjoined to his natural memory. Yet they were still able to converse openly and consciously with Swedenborg as a person, for he was in a state widely different from that of other men, and was obviously a different individual from them. Some of these spirits actually accompanied him to his home, and as he began to write they could see through his mind a moth which was walking on his paper.97 This is not possible to our attendant spirits.
97 CL 327-329, comp. DV, chap. iii.
The State of an Attendant Spirit
From these incidents it is very clear that our guardian angels are--for the sake of their use--reduced into a state resembling man's. Angels principally inflow into the interior thought which a man is unable to perceive within himself because it is in the realm of ends and is not articulated to his conscious reflection. This interior thought they assume as their own, implying an accommodated state not comparable to angelic wisdom itself.
98 LJ 9, SD 5190
The answer must be that the angels have access to mankind as a general basis even when not serving a use as man's guardians. And it is indeed said that the particular spiritual beings who "are with men" are not from heaven or from hell, but are spirits who as yet await their judgment or final preparation.99 But such statements do not contradict the principle elsewhere laid down, that spirits who are with men can indeed be from hell or from heaven. If from hell, they must be such as are not confined there but who--not having been as yet fully vastated--have emerged into the world of spirits for a more complete vastation and are thus in the state of the world of spirits, or in something of a natural-rational state. In the case of angelic guardians, they--whether spirits or angels--must also be reduced into the state of man's natural thought and life. And the general rule may thus be seen that the guardian spirits with man are all emissaries or representatives of some spiritual society either in heaven or in hell. In other words, they are "subject-spirits."100
99 AE 537, DLW 140, AC 5852, HH 600
100 AC 4403, 5983-5989, 5852, HH 601, AR 816:2, SD 5529, 3632e, comp. 4461
If all angels were reduced into a state attuned to that of man, it would defeat the purpose of influx and guardianship. Instead the Lord provides that each angelic society should act upon man through intermediates. These may be spirits in the world of spirits into one of whom the angels of the society concentrate their thought, and whom they inspire with their own illustration and power so that he may act for them and from them. Or else, one of the members of that society serves as an emissary and subject.
101 AC 5987
Through these particular spirits the currents of life and illustration are directed to the varied states of man, so as to stir particular states in his mind, without rousing the whole dormant will of the proprium. For his will, from heredity and birth, is entirely evil in tendency. His will is a malformation which can receive only the life of hell. If there should be a sudden excitation of the whole of this life, all would be over with man. He would be submerged in a flood of passion and fantasy; and heavenly influx would be impossible.
The Lord has ordained otherwise. He has provided that man's native life shall not suddenly exhibit all its hideous potentialities, but that it shall be revealed only little by little while earth-life progresses--aroused only so far as it can be comprehended by conscious thought. In other words, the Lord has provided that there shall be no general influx into the conscious part of the mind, but that man's responsible life shall be carried on in the understanding by states of thought and will that develop gradually; and that all the forces of the spiritual world shall have their representatives near man and shall balance each other's influence, and so leave man in freedom.
The Number of Our Attendant Spirits
In general, each man has four attendant spirits. Two angelic spirits are present. The other two are the subjects--respectively--of the hell of "genii" and the hell of "satanic spirits."
102 AC 6189, HH 207, AC 5848, 5983, 904
103 AC 1880, 5470, 5849
The intimacy of these spirits with man's whole mind may be seen from the revealed fact that the spirits near to man think that they are the man and, if evil, are unwilling to admit that they are no longer living in the body, although this could easily be shown them if they were willing to reflect.104 The appearances upon which their self-deception rests are indeed strong. For such spirits, while they are near man, possess or assume his whole memory! Angelic spirits would assume his whole interior memory; other spirits his exterior memory105 with all his past, with his whole personality, his active self; yet all this without disturbing man's feeling of self-life and freedom in the least. Nothing of a spirit's own natural memory is permitted to be active. Spirits forget themselves and their own natural past, lest confusion should result in man's mind by their communicating their memories to him. Several spirits, forgetting their own identities, may at the same time suppose themselves to be the man, and yet man be happily oblivious of their illusions!l06 Each spirit would then take, from the mazes of man's memory, all that harmonizes with his own affection, and man may thus find himself torn by opposing delights. But all the attending spirits, because they thus identify man's mind with their own, act as his friends.107
104 AC 6192, HH 292
105 SD 3104
106 AC 6194, SD 3525
107 SD 2852, 7961, 4716, AC 6192, 6200
Spirits generally do not remain long with a man but are always changing according to man's advance in age or state.
108 CL 321
From a certain relation we judge that these four special attendants, or at least one among them, may be the same for a long time. In the presence of Swedenborg, and through his memory, spirits could sometimes become aware with what men they were closely consociated. Such consociate spirits resemble their earthly alter ego, sometimes even as to dress. One such spirit declared that he could understand clearly all that the man he attended said, but that the man could not understand the things he, the spirit, said. Another admitted that he thought and spoke from a certain man on earth as the man did from him.109 But this realization was exceptional, due to Swedenborg's presence.
109 TCR 137
Without an associate spirit with an affection similar to his own, and thence perceptions of a like kind, a man could not think analytically, rationally or spiritually.110 The attendant spirits may take on the man's whole memory or only a part, and remain with the man as long as they represent a general state. As the man advances from childhood, both his angelic guardians and his infernal attendants are changed. In infancy, angels of the celestial type, including infant spirits, are with him and insinuate innocence. In childhood, spirits of the natural heaven are close, instilling an affection of knowing. In youth, spirits of intelligence, subjects of the second heaven, are his guardians.
110 TCR 380:3
111 HH 295, AC 5342
Yet more remotely there are hosts of other spirits, good and evil, who make temporary use of the shifting ideas of man's memory and arouse in him passing delights and tentative affections, without so fully identifying themselves with the man. In this variety man finds a freedom of choice, and his thoughts are through them extended to new societies in heaven or in hell.112 Every moment there passes a swift flow of such spiritual associates--like specific radio-currents to which our mind is tuned in--to inspire, maintain and enrich the colorful procession of our thoughts, evoking old memories, suggesting new connections of one idea with another, inducing new moods of courage or dismay, and kindling flashes of new perceptions.
112 AE 1093:2-5
People whose thoughts are fixed upon sensual objects have few spirits with them,113 while with men whose ideas are more interiorly active and are constantly "multiplied and divided," there are obviously very many more associations made with spirits, good or evil.114 With those who think abstractly there are therefore many spirits in constant flux.115 But it is intimated that those who are led more according to spontaneous order--as for instance children in their innocence--need fewer spirits to govern them than do most adults. Adults, who act from prudence and are apt to resist the truths of faith more stubbornly, require a greater force of spirits to reform them.116 The orderly thing is for these spirits to be adjoined when man's affections are stirred. But there are also "strange influxes" from spirits who are not invited by man's real consent, but who induce moods of sadness, melancholy or homesickness.117
113 SD 160
114 AC 6610-6612
115 SD 160, comp. AE 1092:3, 1093:2
116 SD 2839
117 AC 6202
Spirits Rest on Symbols
Spirits find their resting-place with man in the "ultimates" of his mind--that is, in external signs and symbols which are indications of his inner purposes and loves. To avoid confusion and to prevent strange and unwanted influxes, man has to order his life by self-imposed habits and established externals of worship and morality. The object of all the sacraments, rites, blessings, and institutions of the church is to help to introduce our spirit into heavenly societies. Baptism is a most striking example. For is not its avowed purpose to transfer a man into the society of his faith-into the company of souls who rejoice in the heavenly doctrine and who can protect him against "wandering spirits?" Is not the Holy Supper a means for introducing our spirit into heaven, and a sealing (in the sight of all spirits) of our desire to become the children of God. Is not every good habit of worship and piety, of order and cleanliness, of industry and courtesy, an ultimate protection against strange spirits who would insinuate fantasies, doubts, and conflicts and thus harm our devotion to the uses which we have freely assumed? Inauguration into the priesthood ensures--so far as the candidate permits--the guardianship of societies which love the priestly use and the salvation of souls, and which encourage interior progress in this use. Betrothal, marriage, and priestly blessings of all kinds have within them the same intent--to assure an interior progress by conjunction with our heavenly guardians.
In each case, these ceremonies are marked by specific acts or procedures which set the person apart, not only in the eyes of men but also to the minds of spirits. Spirits do not see the man baptized, but the memory of the act inheres as a permanent and ineradicable basis of association with spirits of his faith, and as a fulcrum for the presence of angelic societies. The impress of the rite in the external memory is made a symbol for the celestial and spiritual "remains" and for the deep stirrings of charity and faith which at the same time are insinuated in the interior memory--a memory which is forever exempt from any infestation by evil spirits. The knowledge of baptism becomes the center for a gathering group of ideas open to spiritual influx. The Writings aid us to become aware of the spiritual significance and effect of our external acts, customs and decisions. The real issues of our life have to do with the question as to what unseen spiritual associates we invite to linger and lodge in our mind, our imagination, our thought, and our heart. And spirits are associated with our minds by many seemingly inconsequential and trifling circumstances, which yet have deep symbolic significance. Even as a world of emotion can be stirred up in us by the sight of a rose or a child's toy, so spirits see--in the objective things of our memory--great depths of associated meanings which have immense importance for them and hence for us. This is the basic reason for correspondential rituals.
The mind is ritualistic. We are compelled to resort to ritual to compensate for the fact that we do not fully comprehend the simplest elements of our own thought. We recall an object, and may have to be content to recollect that it once suggested a world of particular meanings--meanings which we ourselves now have forgotten and cannot fathom or explain! But the spirits with us--they understand! They cause a host of "such things as were adjoined" to be lifted up around our material idea of the object, as an undulating sphere of associated ideas.
118 AC 6200, 6319:2
In other words, without spirits we could not be humanly conscious--could not interpret our memories into meanings. Our words and memory images would be without sense or import unless there were spirits who can, by their peculiar power and prerogative, see and gather all the implications and arouse all the thoughts and delights that are interiorly attached to these dead symbols. Their prerogative is to see spiritual relations--to see the whole thought with its complex roots and branches. Even with the help of his attendant spirits, man can see only the vaguest generals.118
118 AC 6200, 6319:2
It is thus clear that a man can think and will only together with the spirits who are with him.119 The teaching that "spirits and men are in each other's thoughts and affections"120 is countered by another which shows that "everything of thought and affection flows in through spirits and angels,"121 by a third, which states that men and spirits "are not conjoined as to thoughts, but as to affections,"122 and by a fourth, which tells that spirits do not introduce thoughts into man, but only affections.123
119 AC 5861
120 AC 5853
121 AC 6191
122 TCR 607
123 HH 298
It is indeed the affection of the spirit which flows in. But so far as this affection is in accord with man's interior affection which is built up from his free choice, it can also flow into his understanding and manifest itself there as perception and thought. Man is active as to memory-ideas; the spirit is active as to the affection which carries its own wisdom or meaning within it; and so the two act as one, man and spirit in one mental act which each senses as his own.
Man as a Plane for Spirits and Angels
The evidence presented in the Writings concerning the relationships of spirits and men is very complex and extensive, and as it is largely descriptive in character, it leaves room for uncertainties and for various interpretations. Thus it is the general doctrine that "angels and spirits cannot be separated from men";124 yet their life is in effect quite independent as far as all appearances go. We are convinced that angels are not always in the need of assuming some man's interior memory as their own, any more than all spirits need to identify themselves definitely with man's personality and natural memory.
124 AE 1207
Angels who are not assigned to particular men are at greater liberty to use the memories of many men at the same time for their basis. "Many men can at the same time serve as a plane for one angel," we read. "The Lord so arranges that what is absent in one may be [found] in another; He also composes one thing from many, so that it may still serve simultaneously for a plane."125 And if mankind were deficient, it would be possible for the natural memories of spirits to be sufficiently activated so as to become a fulcrum and plane for angelic ideas.126 In fact, things from the memory of an intelligent man may serve for such a plane whether he be thinking about them or about other things, or even while he is asleep. Whatever in the memory of mankind and of spirits might correspond to an angel's active affection can be called into use as a reflective basis for his heavenly perception,-as if the whole human race lay before him as an open book, in order that no impediments may prevent his progress into ever greater wisdom.126
125 SD 5617, 797
126 SD 2755
But a special widening of the vision of the angels occurs when men on earth read the Word reverently. For the natural thoughts of the man are then not so limited or so colored by his own states as ordinarily. He is in Divine ultimates. And the angels with him then "pay no attention whatever to ... those things which are in the thought of the man at the time he reads it," nor to those things which are in the sense of the letter; but only to the interiors of the Word, from the man.127
127 SD 5607
Angels in this state "take delight in the man because of the wisdom which then flows through the Word to them." But this approbation of the man is an afterthought.128 They are not aware of the man. They are perhaps reading the Word as it exists in its spiritual form in heaven, and the things within the Word appear to them "as if they thought them from themselves"--appear presented before their eyes "in a celestial and spiritual manner, with innumerable representatives, in the light of life."129
128 AC 9152, SD 5610 and context
129 AC 2551:2, DV 45
The question might be raised as to what would happen if the race on some earth in the universe should perish--which is a possibility as a result of man's freedom to separate himself from the Divine and to rush into unchecked wickedness and race suicide, despite the Lord's intervention.130 The answer is given that the heavens from the inhabitants of that earth would then be "transferred" to rest on the minds of men on some other planet.131 It was to prevent such a contingency that the Lord came in the flesh and that the written Word was provided as a perpetual ultimate."
130 LJ 10
131 AE 726:7
132 AC 9400, SD 4376, EU 113ff
Angelic Perception of Our Word
There are two groups of teachings about the way in which human states affect the angels and qualify their wisdom. On the one hand it is said that the angels are in greater clearness as to the spiritual sense "when little children are reading the Holy Bible" or when the reader "pays no attention to the things he reads and has no perception of them." Then "the sense and perception of those things are elevated to the angels more distinctly than when the natural human mind is also active."133 And the general doctrine is given, that when the Word is read by men who are in the life of faith, the spiritual things of the continuous internal sense "lie open to the angels ... even if they who read do not attend to its meaning. And the Jews, when in states of external holiness, could also be a means by which the Word was presented before the angels; for the correspondences communicate, whatever the quality of the person who reads, if only he acknowledges the Word to be Divine.134 "All the wisdom of the angels is given by means of the Word, since in its internal and inmost sense it is the Divine wisdom, which is communicated to the angels through the Word when this is read by men and when it is thought from...."135
133 SD 895, 2435
134 AC 3480e
135 SD 5187-5190
It would seem that man's wisdom and understanding do not necessarily have any part in limiting the angelic perceptions. What is more essential to angelic illustration seems to be the quiescence and silencing of our natural imagination and the states of our proprium. Then the angels can use us for a reflecting plane, and can see the interiors of the Word of God in its own glory and light.
But it is otherwise when the angels become our guardians.
Thus it is quite comprehensible that there should be a difference of illustration with the angels when they "are with men"--a difference due to the different qualities of the personal states of the men. "As are the ultimates, so are the primaries."136 Concerning this we read:
136 SD 5608, comp. AC 5857
"If the men who are reading the Word or thinking or preaching from the Word, are wise, then the angels do not know it, but still the wisdom of their thought falls into them (illa) as into its plane,... and they are entirely unaware that it so happens.
"Angels have told me that they are sometimes in great wisdom, sometimes in less, sometimes in clarity, sometimes in obscurity; and that their thoughts are variously directed to the quarters, now this, now that; and that they are in greater clearness or obscurity according to the direction--but that they are [then] not turned to themselves, but to man;
137 SD 5609, 5610
We may therefore understand how the changes of state with the angels are based upon their uses to each other and to men; how the wisdom of heaven is derived from the Word when this is read by men; how the wisdom and delight of the angels inflow into regenerating men and make it possible for them also to perceive the depths of the Word so far as their natural cognitions allow; and how there is thus a conjunction of thought and life between angels and men--with a lifting of man's mind and a gracious accommodation on the part of the angels.
For this is a part of the angelic use. And thus although, when man enters with attention and understanding into the interior meaning of the Word, the perception of the angelic spirits is in a measure limited by the alien elements that man may introduce, yet it is better "if man also is at the same time in light" and thus be conjoined with the angels. The higher angels--who love others more than themselves--gladly perform this use. But angelic spirits of a lower order may, at times, instinctively snatch away man's illustration and delight, by failing to enter fully into their use as guardian angels.138
138 SD 4242-4249
If man's mind is furnished with light from the Heavenly Doctrine--and if he loves the Lord and holds evils in aversion--he will not demand so great accommodation or sacrifice of illustration on the part of his angelic guardians.
139 AC 3316:3, HH chap. 34
"My name is Legion, for
we are many."
Spirits and Human, States
The World of Spirits after the Last Judgment
After the Last Judgment, the spirits who are in the "world of spirits," or--what is much the same--the spirits who attend man more nearly, are reduced into such an order that they cannot for long arrest the progress of a novitiate spirit, that is, cannot for long evade judgment nor for long hinder him from entering either heaven or hell.
This new order makes it impossible for false religions to establish permanent strongholds in the spiritual world, as was often the case before the last judgment. Spirits from each religion do, as formerly, flock together, and engage in common life and worship. But their doctrines and principles of life are continually challenged, their societies are repeatedly broken up, and the individual spirits are separately judged soon after their death. Within about thirty years, each spirit has passed through the three states of the world of spirits, and enters his heaven or his hell.*
* See LJ 64
This new order is referred to, when it is stated that in the year 1770, on the nineteenth day of June, after the True Christian Religion had been written out, the Lord sent His twelve disciples into all parts of the spiritual world, proclaiming the gospel that "the Lord Jesus Christ reigneth."140
140 TCR 791, 4, 108
A new light came into the world of spirits.141
141 CLJ 30
142 SD 892, 2296
The spirits now in the world of spirits are being prepared for judgment and are thus destined either for heaven or for hell. And some of these spirits surround the spirit of every man living on earth, and act upon him according to their own particular genius and state. Man is free to choose between good and evil, and as he does so, he receives influences from spirits who accord with his choice. But he still has near him the opposite type of spirit. And, moreover, his choice does not extend very widely or deeply. If he shuns some suggestion or intention of evil that is formulating itself in his conscious mind, this may indeed cause that certain evil spirits no longer take any pleasure in the things then active in his mind, and thus remove themselves for the time being. But it does not mean that he has changed his whole spiritual association, his mental state, or his mood. Such a general change is achieved very gradually. It involves many things over which man can have no control.
Spirits and Man's Progressive States
We may see this in connection with adolescence. An infant is attended, in general, by spirits and angels of a celestial type--and no exertion on the part of the infant or his parents can change this general fact, and its resulting states. We cannot hasten growth. We can disturb it somewhat, by unwise treatment; but we cannot stop it nor accelerate it. The same applies to later ages: spiritual angels and spirits, and then natural ones, come by degrees to dominate the child's spiritual environment and thus influence his states. No choice of man's can change this orderly progression of general states, although at each moment particular states may be changed as if of man's will.143
143 HH 295
The Lord rules these progressions by means of angels and spirits. If the Lord should remove the spirits proper to such states, man would perish. If He removed all evil spirits from man, man would die--for his natural heredity is in the perverse form of self-love, and requires for its nutriment or life the mediating presence of some evil spirits.144 Only gradually can these be displaced by good spirits. In the meantime they must be controlled or kept in the external order which is proper to society.
144 AC 4563:2, 5854:3, HH 293
It is the same with the adult. He is free to choose between good and evil when he discerns that he is faced by a clear choice: if he evades his clear responsibility, it means that he is choosing evil. On the other hand, he often feels himself captivated by a mood, a state which he can hardly understand and cannot shake off. He becomes conscious of a limitation in his mind, a sense of obscurity, confusion, discouragement, or unhappiness. He can sometimes see its causes, but usually he does not.
The appearance is, of course, that our various moods are the results of our physical states of health or disease, weariness, penury or struggle, lack of proper food or pleasure or of mental stimulus or companionship. Many people unhappily married seek to reach an elusive bliss by divorce and remarriage, only to find that the source of their unhappiness still pursues them. It is not their conditions that are at fault, but their state and attitude. Others seek increased wealth or comfort as an assurance of content. Certainly the restoration of health or fortune does produce remarkable changes in a man s perspective. Still, these physical blessings do not by themselves give happiness. They give the natural man a sense of well-being and sell-sufficiency. And the Lord knows that some can stand such blessings without detriment to their spiritual states. But a complete natural satisfaction--if alone--is apt to hold a man enthralled in externals, while he becomes somnolent as to his soul and evasive of all spiritual issues.
Happiness-eventual, eternal happiness--cannot be gained except by the struggles of the mind against evils or sins. It is not reached unless man undergoes spiritual temptations. For it is only by temptations that the spiritual environment of the man's spirit is radically changed. It is only by temptations that new and different groups of spirits can become associated with man, and a new spiritual orientation be accomplished. The result of a temptation-period is a general change of state, and with this, of course, there is the appearance of a new freedom, a freedom to progress, to come nearer to the heaven of one's final destiny.
The state of temptation is not to be confused with the act of choice. In choice, man is active from a conscious freedom granted by the Lord. In temptation, man feels relatively passive, from lack of freedom to progress. Even during temptation, man is interiorly free145 and acts from the love already established with him, and as it were combats as of himself, cooperating with the good spirits who oppose the evil spirits who attend him. But he does not feel free. He is in anxiety, suffering, feels himself surrounded by his own evils and falsities as by mighty walls; scandals and doubts are insinuated against goods and truths; so that there is an apparent shutting up of his interiors, and of the capacity of thinking from his own faith and willing from his own love. His interior love is hemmed in--it cannot find a restingplace in his conscious mind.146
145 HD 200
146 HD 196
Nevertheless, when the temptation has passed its climax of despair, the general state of man is changed. He feels a new peace, a unity of mind, a consolation that perhaps there may be salvation, after all. This feeling comes not from any reflection upon the good things he may have done, but from a realization that evil comes from evil spirits whose main object is to discourage man and make his own cooperative efforts seem useless. When man admits that his efforts indeed are in vain, and that the victory must be from the Lord, then the temptation is soon over.
The fact that good is from the Lord alone, does not imply that man should fold his hands and wait for influx. In temptation man must fight--urged by the necessity of the moment.
Man must fight for the love and the faith which he seems in danger of losing. He must fight from the knowledge and affection of truths and goods, (rather than from himself, or from pride in what he believed as his state of good). And he prays to the Lord for deliverance, for a change of state. Yet often the Lord does not hear the prayers that are offered during temptations!147
147 AC 8179
Prayer to the Lord is a powerful means of changing a man s particular state, or aiding man to choose aright in clear issues and matters that lie waiting for his conscious decision. But general states involve too many elements that are beyond man's scrutiny. He must wait for the Lord. The temptation must run its course, the state of the spiritual society from which the infestation originates, must be judged. And this takes time.
Nor is the time wasted. For man is not ready for the new state, is not ready for the extension of his freedom. His progress is held back in mercy. Man may have free choice: but--fortunately--the Lord rules the circumstances.
Man's mind is very complex. Each idea of his thought has hidden connections with all his past states, long forgotten. But to the spirits and angels who are with him, all these states are available as bases of their own perceptions. Thus man's thoughts and affections extend unbeknownst into societies both in the world of spirits and in heaven; yea, also in hell. The Lord governs man's mind by ruling these societies and controlling their emissaries or "subject spirits." Man may long to change an unpleasant state, but if this is to be done, the Lord must change or re-order and gradually transplant the deep-lying roots of his whole being, one by one.148
148 AE 1174:2
How States Are Changed
Much, however, is still left for man to do. Whether he is conscious of it or not, he is continually changing his particular states--every moment of his life. So, for instance, he often seeks some recreation to change his mood. He is so busy changing his states that he seldom reflects that he is doing it. And certainly he is quite unaware that by so doing he is also "changing spirits."
Ordinarily, the spirits who are affected by his sudden changes are those associated with the surface, the superficial ripples, of his mind. Yet all his changes of state have their roots in the world of spirits, and occur according to spiritual laws. A man who, visiting friends at a distance, feels a certain homesickness, is quite unaware that some of the spirits who are with him are attached to the idea of objects and things which are not so sharply in his mind while he is away from home. If he returns home, the nostalgia ceases.
Here, indeed, we meet with an important law which governs the presence of spirits with man. Swedenborg records that after he had been long in one room, he could better command his ideas there than in some strange room. A certain tranquillity was induced among the spirits attending him, when he was in his own familiar surroundings. He noted the fact that "spirits wish to have their ideas connected with a place"; their ideas, which are spiritual, are in themselves not determined, defined, terminated, or limited, without space or structure, and this is provided for them in the material ideas which are available in the men with whom they are.149
149 SD 3605, 3608ff, 3753
Every one knows that the crucial changes of our thought and thus the determination of the important trends of external events are often clearly occasioned by trivial things. We might see a certain book on a shelf. We might stop to pick up a paper flying in the breeze. Our whole earthly career may turn on such a chance-event, on certain coincidences, in themselves trivial. But spiritual doctrine makes us realize that there is no "chance"; that the Divine Providence, in order to be universal, must also be most detailed, in every single thing, in the fall of a sparrow, in the turn of a page, or the twist of the dice. If the Divine government is in all things, it must see and rule things as a whole, somewhat in the manner that the soul rules the body. All the states of human consciousness, whether in this life or the next, must--in some way--be a unit, an interdependent whole, a cooperative scheme in which each state contributes its distinctive element to every other.
Thus it should be realized that angels (of each heavenly degree), spirits (interior and external), and men, all have their own distinctive function in that spiritual world the outskirts of which man senses in what he calls his "mind."
After some reflection, few would deny that the crowning purpose of creation lies in the development of the human mind. Many would also see that in the mind, the gifts of created nature are turned to eternal uses; and that we truly live, not in the physical world, but in our mental world, in our states, our thoughts, our moods of consciousness. It is also evident that the mind is formed largely by means of the senses and especially by the experience of sight and hearing. Objects, images, enter through the physical organs of the body into the interiors of the brain and nervous system. There they are given an interpretation, a meaning, a value; in each man, the same object may be given a different value, according as it has been associated with some previous mental state of delight or pain.
It should not be so incredible, then, when Swedenborg tells us in his Diary that certain spirits with him pressed him to use one certain tea-cup, others another; that some spirits had one of his bound journals as their special ultimate, while other spirits chose another! They were particular about what garments he wore. It sounds childish, this preference, until we realize that our own minds work in the same way. We are, in the state in which we are on earth, utterly lost without ultimates of thought. We wish to be surrounded by objects which bring a memory that is cherished or a field of ideas that stimulates certain delights. We attach strange values to things that are valueless in themselves.150 In dreams we may sometimes suffer tortures because of the impending loss of something utterly trivial.
150 SD 3753, 3608-3610, 3605
Spirits are in a different situation after death. For many good reasons, their natural memory--the chronological record of their earthly experience, fixed in space-time imagery, or as material ideas--is gradually closed and becomes quiescent. Otherwise they could not progress into interior states, into thought which is spiritual and not bound to the imagery of spatial objects.
Yet spirits newly risen instinctively hunger for the objects which by them were vested with symbolic importance.
151 SD 1928
This law of spiritual association is of course the underlying principle of all symbolic ritual as was shown in a former chapter. But it also operates in our most ordinary life.
Spirits and the Objects of Man's Thought
Spirits have the peculiar power to lead man to fix his attention upon such ultimates of thought as please them, i.e., they run through all the possible states of his mind in a moment until they find something familiar to them, and then they come into their own life. Sometimes, when spirits thus fix man's reflection on objects, they create trouble for a man; they cause accidents, break his line of thought, cause worries, deliriums and even insanities.152 They are not aware of the man, however, but believe that they think from themselves. Evil spirits love to fix his mind on objects which to the man are invested with a sphere of the forbidden, or with suggestions of disease, cruelty, monstrosity, stagnation, hatred, pride, disorder, excrementitious or lascivious things, or filthy language.
152 SD 4224, 3624-3628
That spirits seek for evil ultimates which correspond to their states is illustrated and symbolized by the spirits called Legion, who--on being driven out of the man at the Gadarene shore--fled into the herd of swine.153
153 Mk 5:1-20, Luke 8:2640
A change even of a word may change the spirits who are with us, Swedenborg reports.154 And here the power of man to change his states, enters in. That power is not from himself. He is kept in freedom by the fact that no one spirit, or no one group of spirits, can totally dominate him, as long as he is in this world. Nor can there now be any such corporeal obsessions by spirits as we read of in the Gospel. For the Lord holds man in freedom, through the presence of angels.
154 SD 4143
Even the wisdom of angels finds its basic focus and resting point in material ideas such as are with man, and especially in the sense of the letter of the Word. But the values which angels attach to such ultimates is not the same as that which good spirits would see, or still less what man sees. Man sees mostly material uses for the objects he beholds. Spirits see more interior delights and uses, suitable to their life and their ideas. But angels see the spiritual and celestial uses and meanings of each object. In their eyes, man's material ideas and scientifics are valued and endowed with meaning so far as they are "open even to the Lord" and thus contain a sphere of charity and faith, wisdom and love to the Lord.* In the ideas man has derived from the Word they see Divine uses, Divine eternal values; yea, they see the presence of the Lord Himself. And therefore our attending angels imbue the objects in man's memory-world with new values and thus new uses.
* AC 99, 8456e, 8513, 8868:3
Swedenborg records in his Journal of 1744 that in one of his struggles against infesting spirits who sought to obsess his mind he finally found refuge by fixing his gaze on a piece of wood, and from this his thought was led to the wood of the cross, and then to the thought of the Lord. By a shift of attention, he thus broke the hold of the evil spirits upon his mind.155
155 Jour. 121
A normal, wholesome life implies a variety of experiences, and changing states. The Lord therefore ordains for us a life of active uses, by which the objects which we see and remember are associated with useful values, states of charity and service to others, to society and to the church. Evil spirits who love idleness put a value on things merely so far as they favor our self-indulgence.
But the Lord also ordains that the Divine Word shall be with men, so that by means of its Divinely ordered field and sequence of material ideas--historicals, propheticals, and parables--the angelic hosts may have their own ultimates with men. Every word, every natural idea in the Scripture possesses a spiritual value and meaning for the angels. If we habitually read the Word in reverence, we invite ever new groups of angelic societies into our mind; and we are thus led to travel an orderly road in the pilgrimage of our spirit towards heaven; to progress under the Lord's own protection through the many stages of life.
"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth
to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
Heredity and Human Types
Nothing is more plain than the fact that men differ as to the general state of their minds. "Many men, many minds." But there are also resemblances. All infants and adolescents are in states which are characteristic of their general age. Those of the same race incline to show a common genius. Teachers, laborers, lawyers, business men, show certain traits of mind and attitudes typical of their profession or work. And, besides these distinctions, all individuals may be classified according to temperaments, seemingly inborn yet following no known law of heredity.
Students have therefore observed that every nation or large society includes some people who are predominantly instinctive in their reactions, others who are imaginative and easily influenced by suggestion, others who possess speculative and perhaps fanatical tendencies, and some who are critical, analytic, calculating, or reflective. According to another classification, we find those who are characterized by intellect, those in whom the will is a prominent trait, and those who are action-types, whether they be dull and slow, or excitable and impulsive.
These observed types are seldom pure, and the classes overlap--fortunately. For no one type is perfect in and by itself. The Writings--amplifying the Lord's saying that in the Heavenly Father's house there are many mansions--teach that every type of mind is accommodated within the Grand Human Form of the Divine economy:
Men can modify but not essentially alter the hereditary temperaments of their natural minds. By regeneration, a man can also receive the Lord's gift of spiritual life in a more and more interior form, and thus the Lord will open within him the degrees of the spiritual mind, which places him in the spiritual or celestial degree of his heaven. But the basic type of his natural mind, the result of heredities and of the social environment, is only to some extent modified by his choosing, and remains to qualify the general state of his spirit. His natural mind is formed, under the auspices of the Divine providence, largely without man's help, as a vessel receptive of life. He changes its particular states, but not its general state or type. After all, it is only a vessel, a tool for a deeper life. And therefore, in heaven, the natural mind of an angel becomes as it were transparent from the spiritual within.156
156 SD 2158
If we should ask wherein lies the permanence of a racial type, such as the Chinese or the Semitic, we might receive many answers. The scientist would labor to explain about the strange process of meiosis or reductive division, whereby the hereditary factors in sperm and ovum are varied while the persistent characteristics of the species are preserved. The New Church scientist would wish to allow for gradual changes even in the germ plasm, in each generation--although he might stress that the observable changes of the cell could be responsible only for the physical and not for the spiritual inheritance, which latter cannot be traced according to any Mendelian "laws."
What a man inherits from his parents is only a vessel of life: but a vessel so ordered that it receives a certain type of influx, or receives life mediated by certain groups of angels and spirits. It is in the inflowing life that the reality of heredity lies: or, in the spirits and angels which mediate life for the receiving vessel. So far as some other type of life could be received by the germ-plasm, or by the inner organics of the child and man, so far another type of mind (and even of body) would result! This is the reason that heredities can be altered by the life of religion: for religion is the only power that can deeply reorder the spirits and angels about a man, or change such a general state as that of an inherited disposition.157
157 CL 202, 203, TCR 103, AC 8550
General states--states rooted in wide groups of societies in the spiritual world--can be changed only by the Lord whose Providence works through ultimate conditions in this world and thus upon all spirits and angels. And the process is slow because the deeper evils of heredity can be modified only with men who are capable of sustaining spiritual temptations.
The Divine truth is one and indivisible. It is the one essential reality behind creation. It exists as Law, spiritual law and natural law. This law is one, the same for all, whether men differ about it or not. In the Writings, the Divine law is stated in the form of doctrine adapted to rational comprehension. But that law, the one Divine truth, is older than the Writings, older than the Scriptures. It is eternal--the Word which was in the beginning.
The Divine truth is one. Yet there have been many religions on earth. An incomplete census taken in 1956 of sixty-eight million reported church-adherents in the United States of America records one hundred and fourteen religious organizations, most of them with varied doctrines. A denomination generally represents a general state, which has taken from various sources whatever religious truth that state is adapted to receive, and has rejected any truth which it is not able to admit: and in place of rejected truth there usually come falsified truth and a contorted perception of the whole.
The same holds true of each individual man. His religious perception is according to his state. He sees only one phase of the Divine truth at a time.
As a man grows up, he passes through many general states. His faith is at first imitative and blindly literalistic. Later, his faith becomes imaginative, emotional, perhaps enthusiastic. Afterwards, it turns critically upon itself, becomes analytic and at length rational. At each stage there are truths which cannot be received: at least he cannot see them except in a symbolic way, or only in their most general form. Religion means different things for different ages as well as for different races.
Some years ago a psychologist suggested that since each religion fills the need of some special mood or instinct, we should really, in our progression through life, change our religion at each stage. He also classified various religions as especially satisfying to certain psychological types. This man was a pessimist as to religion. He believed that creeds were only wish-thoughts, that no one could ever contact the one and indivisible Divine truth. The New Church man of course knows that human states limit the reception of that Divine truth. But he also knows that all normal and orderly human states can receive something of that Divine truth without rejecting the rest, and that a true religion has in it that which can guide and feed these normal states without encouraging what is disorderly and evil: i.e., without stooping to falsehoods or fantasies.
Universality of the New Church
The New Church is a religion of universal application. It is adaptable to the needs of all states.
The growth of mankind required that there should have been true religions in the past which were sufficient to the needs of those times. The Most Ancient Church, the Ancient Church, and the Christian, were, each in their day of flower, true religions. Yet they were of a preparatory character, and do not reach to all the normal states of a mankind fully matured. It is in a manner true that our race, as it grew into new states, did change its religion. And so, in the New Church, we go back to the true religions of the past for the needs of those progressive states which every man experiences as he grows up.
Each successive stage of life thus has its religion! Yet the religions of childhood, youth, and age, are the same, comprised within the one Divine truth; indivisible, yet such that it accommodates itself to all ages and types and states.
It is for this reason that the Heavenly Doctrine, the spiritual sense of the Word which is now revealed in the Writings, can in the spiritual world become a source of light to all races and nations, that is, to spirits of all types. Yet so far as falsities of religion have been deeply impressed by accustomed life on earth, the light of truth can be received only in a very partial way. The whole spiritual world is ordered--society after society--according to the ways and degrees in which the light of Divine truth is received in the understanding and in life. There are heavens formed from those in all nations and religions, past and present, Gentile and Christian. Such heavens are in varying degrees of spiritual light.
Now all the life and thought that man has comes from the spiritual world, through such spirits as are with him. His mental light which should give clarity to his ideas, is obscure or bright according to his spiritual associations. He will be in a state of spiritual illustration if he is closely associated with the New Christian Heaven where the Lord is fully revealed in His Divine Human.158 But so far as he departs from the societies of spirits who communicate with this heaven, so far his mind is dimmed as to all spiritual things, although it may still be quite clear and indeed brilliant in worldly affairs.
158 AR 547, AE 732, 759:4, Docu. n. 234, TCR 784
The New Church on earth is established that it may be associated with the New Christian Heaven and partake of its spiritual illustration. Indeed, the New Heaven is the internal whence alone the New Church can increase.158 The New Church can grow only in proportion to its conjunction with the New Heaven. And therefore the Lord, who rules all things from primes through ultimates, has provided means for this conjunction. The conjunction itself is that of love and charity, for these alone conjoin.
The Power of Baptism
The Lord has ordained two sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper, as the ultimates of all spiritual order with men. Order is the opposite of confusion. Order calls for distinctions. There would be no real freedom in a state of confusion. This is the reason why all in the spiritual world are distinguished according to their religions. Moreover, all of the same religion are arranged into societies according to affections of love to God and to the neighbor--and their opposites. "On the distinct arrangement there, the preservation of the whole universe depends!"159
159 TCR 678, 680
It is of order, also, that spirits of alien religions--such as the Mohammedan and those of idolaters--should not apply themselves to the infants or children of Christians and infuse into them an inclination for such religions, and thus draw them away and alienate them from Christianity. For this would be to distort and destroy spiritual order and would create utter confusion and internal conflict in the mind of the child, preventing any orderly development of progressive states. And what holds true with infants, is true also with adults.
By Baptism a sign is placed upon a man that he belongs to the church. The experience of the baptismal rite--the promises of the man or, with the child, of his parents, the sensation of the water, the words of the sacred text, the sign of the cross, the act of benediction by the laying on of hands--enters deeply into the memory, and (whether consciously or unconsciously) remains there indelibly to color every idea which the mind later comes to entertain.
160 TCR 680e
Not the water, or the act alone, constitutes the Baptism: but the intention associated with the act. No spirit is a witness to the act itself. But spiritual beings who are with us see the associated thoughts in the minds of the one baptized and of the priest and witnesses--see all the ideas which have ever been adjoined to the idea of the ritual itself. If priest and witnesses adjoin the ideas of a Trinity of Divine Persons, of a vicarious atonement by sufferings, or of a salvation by faith only, then the act of baptism effects an introduction--in this world and among spirits--into the assembly of those who so believe. But if the ritual arouses in priest and witnesses the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God, and if the ideas that are associated are from the Heavenly Doctrine and thus conjoined with an acknowledgment of the Lord's second advent, then it makes for an introduction into the New Jerusalem, into the New Church and the New Heaven. The memory of the baptism will be the lasting focus of all these suggested ideas: all will be recalled to spirits when the baptism is recalled; and all are invitations to such spirits to be with the man, a cloud of unseen witnesses: and there will be a connection established between all the new experiences that the man absorbs and the initial ideas centering around the material fact of baptism.
The baptismal ceremony as such is only a natural event. Our remembrance of it is centered about the material ideas of the water, the washing, the cross. But, as was noted previously, Swedenborg testifies that while a man thinks, his material ideas are as it were in the midst of a wave of such things as are adjoined in the memory--all that was ever known on the subject; and thus the full thought, not the material idea, is apparent to the spirits about him. Swedenborg likens that surrounding wave of associations to spiritual wings by which the thing thought of is elevated out of the memory, and is endowed with meaning and value.161 And something of this is interiorly meant when the Lord said to Moses, about the exodus from Egypt: "I bare you on eagle's wings, and brought you unto Myself"; and the same is suggested when He lamented: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"162
161 AC 6200
162 Exod. 19:4, comp. Matt. 23:37, Isa. 40:31, Rev. 12:14
By Baptism the Lord does gather His children together under the protective sphere of the New Heaven. This sphere is a sphere of spiritual thought and affection. It guards, but does not compel. It aids, through our spiritual associates, to ward off alien spirits. At any time we are free to break away from its gentle gyres, and--by focussing our life and thought on ultimates that are opposed to it, on falsities or on things that are symbolic of evil--we can enter by degrees into other spiritual connections, if these are more accordant with our life's delight.
"When the unclean spirit
is gone out of a man,
he walketh through dry
places seeking rest ..."
Influx and Persuasion
The Spiritual State of Christendom
It is revealed in the Writings that the first Christian Church, founded on the Gospels, has reached its consummation, judgment, and end.163 This pronouncement is not a judgment on individuals nor on specific societies in this world. But it is a Divine warning that religion has now reached the stage of decline predicted by the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew-a state when, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold"; a state when spiritual enlightenment and progress are generally impossible. This situation came about by degrees, because in the course of centuries the evils of men allowed false doctrines to creep in and be enthroned in Christendom: doctrines about three Divine persons which are but three gods, and about a vicarious atonement by Christ's blood; doctrines about the Pope's vicarship and of priestly powers to dispense salvation; doctrines about a salvation by faith without charity or change of life; doctrines which all pose as sacred mysteries into which the human understanding was forbidden to enter.
163 AR 750, Coro., Sum.
From early Christian times such falsities came to usurp the place of the Word through which communion with heaven can alone be effected. The serene light of Divine revelation was not allowed to shine in the minds of men. Its message of spiritual faith and charity was covered over with a contorting shroud of perversions.
* Inv. 38
In the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg a new Divine revelation was provided which exposes and discredits the falsities which, like a leaven, had soured all the teachings of the New Testament. The modern world, since the last judgment, has little courage left to defend these false dogmas. Yet they are still accepted by untold millions and are officially taught in schools and seminaries of Christian sects. And where they are no longer insisted on, many new falsities and denials, worse than the old, have sprung up--and these tend to divert men's minds from any acknowledgment of the Deity of Christ and the holiness of the Word of God.
Even while the Christian denominations grow in the number of their nominal adherents, the Christian Church has lost its living office to serve as a medium of conjunction with heaven; "remaining in its external worship, as the Jews do in theirs, in whose worship it is well known that there is nothing of charity and faith, that is, nothing of the Church."164 Like the unclean spirit of the parable, a falsity may return under the guise of seven others worse than itself; even as the theological dogma of predestination has come back to haunt us in the more formidable aspect of materialistic determinism. Whether still vindicating the age-worn creeds or whether preaching the social gospels of the humanists and vaguely advancing various opposing political cure-alls, the Christian Church has lost its central place in the spiritual world.
164 AC 1850
So far as any one is still persuaded in the teachings of the old church, he will attract to himself the spirits who are in the same falsities or who can for the time adopt his beliefs and ideas. And there are multitudes of such spirits in the world of spirits even at this day. It is true that they are no longer permitted to establish powerful societies there, nor is any one spirit able to maintain himself in the "world of spirits" for more than about thirty years.165 Still, there have to be spirits of every religion and every general faith there, to minister to their like on earth. And this will be possible as long as men adhere to such beliefs on earth.166 If uncongenial spirits were associated with a man, he would fall into a state of continuous sadness and disquietude. If angels or spirits closely associated with a man as much as converse together about things contrary to man's faith or life, such sadness would affect him even if he was then thinking about something utterly different.167
165 HH 426, AR 866
166 SD 5408
167 SD 4644
So far as a man's mind is under the shadow of false persuasions his spiritual progress is delayed here on earth and spiritual illustration is denied him. Although the world of spirits is now ordered and purged so that the progress of spirits after their death is quickened--the evil being judged sooner than formerly and the good being instructed sooner--yet on earth the progress is halted so long as man is under the restraining pull of false doctrines. And it is only exceptionally that men can liberate their minds from false beliefs and come to embrace the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine.
The New Church on earth can therefore grow only very slowly, and then only from such as are "interiorly affected by truths," thus from "such as have cultivated their intellectual faculty and have not destroyed it in themselves by the loves of self and the world."168 Natural affections for kindred and friends form strong bonds which are difficult to sever. Experience testifies that conversion into the New Church is usually made easier with a man who is being introduced into a new environment or comes into a radical change of state through which the spirits with him are also changed; as when he moves to a new city or country, or enters into the married state, or comes of age, or comes into an entirely new group of friends and acquaintances who believe in the Writings. The intermediation of friendship is also a common aid in such changes of state.
168 AR 546f, AE 732
But the loosening of the hold of false doctrines and social bonds marks only an external phase of the process which leads to illustration and association with the New Heaven. The internal conjunction with heaven and the Lord is by means of the Word--the Word seen no longer through the veils of falsities, but as it is in itself.
There is no conjunction with heaven through the doctrine and faith of the old church. But among the simple and sincere in the Christian world there are vast numbers who read the Word without much reflection upon false doctrines, and who consequently find in it the simple directions for salvation--faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and charity to man. And these, through the Word, are conjoined interiorly with spirits who are being led towards the New Heaven. Indeed, in all religions there are those who are in such simple states--upon whom the false doctrines of their religiosities have only a superficial hold: who have shunned evils as sins and placed religious life, usefulness, and common-sense charity higher than "orthodoxy."
169 AE 732
Spirits and their Use of Man's Memory
The general rule that each man is attended by spirits of his own faith is based on certain laws governing the relationship of the two worlds. For these worlds are held apart so that the life of each may be free. As has already been pointed out, men would not be free ii they were sensibly ruled by spirits or were conscious of their presence; and spirits would not be free to progress into interior states if they were aware of the men with whom they are or felt that they used the memory of someone else. And in order that the two worlds might be apart in appearance although mutually conjoined and dependent on each other in actual fact, it is necessary that spirits and men should live consciously on two different planes and in two different states or mental environments.
When a man becomes a spirit he leaves the material body with its sense organs which throughout life had enriched his corporeal memory with constantly new impressions and with knowledges about the ultimate things of the world.
170 SD 2199, AC 3679:5, 2479-2485, 4588, SD min. 4645f, SD 5552
The lulling of a spirit's external natural memory is not sudden but gradual; yet it appears to be accomplished only a relatively few days after death.171. The Lord may indeed--by various guarded modes--re-awaken a spirit's particular earthly experiences at least in part. But this is done only for the sake of spiritual use to be served. In order to progress in his eternal development a spirit must be liberated from such memories and from the sphere of his own material ideas which are based on space and time and personal bias. If this is not done the spirit would be unable to enter into the spiritual ideas which are proper to the more brilliant and colorful mental life which he can enjoy after death.172
172 AC 2476-2486, 5858, SD 2989
Terrible consequences would also threaten mankind if spirits could actively use their own external memory. Some spirits told Swedenborg that the human race would then be liable to perish.173 For the man would then become aware of the spirits, and be unable to think from his own memory-experiences. The memory of the spirits would be confused with man's own.174
173 AC 2477
174 AC 2478
175 HH 256, 298, SD 3285, 3917, AC 5858, 24771
Swedenborg makes the comment that the life of a spirit is happy, that is, happy compared to that of men, and his faculties of sensation and thought vastly more distinct and subtle.176 Man has to eke out his life of thought from a few very limited experiences and from knowledges gathered with great labor. Man's affections are clothed with no great variety in his few knowledges and in his still more scanty words. His states often fail to mature or develop, because time and space cut them short. But spirits live an intenser life--for "a spirit no longer subsists on his own basis, but upon a common basis, which is the human race."177
176 SD 2956, 1983, 2548f, 3351, AC 10758:4, 5078:4, 4622, HH 576
177 LJ 9
Indeed, "man is the ultimate of order ... and all ideas, even those of spirits, are terminated in man's memory."178 The thoughts of spirits eventually terminate and come to rest in the material ideas, the objects and mental images, of the men with whom they are associated. The spirits select these ideas from men without any conscious effort, and each spirit may be associated with a great many men at the same time, to complete the terminations of his thought. We should not take this to mean that the spirit thinks with material ideas borrowed from men. Unless he belongs to a class of exceedingly gross spirits179 he thinks quite apart from space-time concepts, and takes the material ideas of man only as a sort of basic symbol for a field of abstract ideas upon which he loves to dwell.180
178 SD 3022
179 SD 5607-5617
180 SD 6049, 4212, AE 654:2, EU 38
181 SD 3753, 3608ff
The reality, to spirits, of such material ideas, is illustrated by the fact that spirits after death inhabit such cities and places as they had frequented before death: but these cities are purely spiritual, and thus are based on general states of mind. They are not exactly like the corresponding cities in this world, but resemble them, especially as to the streets and well known public squares. They are of spiritual origin. The houses therein are "not built as in the world, but rise up in a moment, created by the Lord."182 Yet they are usually quite permanent, and their inhabitants are at home in them for long periods. If spirits leave the city for good, their houses also disappear. Swedenborg gives in his journal the following interesting information "concerning cities in the afterlife and concerning the Providence of the Lord in preserving them":
182 LJ post. 12
"There appear to spirits cities similar to the cities in the world--a London, an Amsterdam, a Stockholm, and so on. The reason for this is that every man has with himself spirits who are in the other life, and these possess the interiors of the man, thus all things of his memory. They do not, indeed, see the world through his eyes, but still they are inwardly in it from his ideas. Hence the ideas of similar houses, buildings, and streets of the cities appear as if they were the places themselves....
183 SD 5092; comp. 3857, 4716. The description cited above was written by Swedenborg about the time of the last judgment, when great hordes of gross spirits occupied the world of spirits. Later he notes that after the judgment another arrangement was taking place in the cities there, and he intimates that the correspondence of the spiritual cities to the natural thenceforth would not be so "material," "not so direct and close, but more remote." (SD 5716)
This throws considerable light on the teaching that "the angelic mansions are indeed in heaven, and to appearance separate from the abodes in which men are. And yet they are with man, in his affections of good and truth."184 This is said of the angels, however. And angels do not dwell, as spirits do, in the material ideas with men, but in more interior things. Yet the terminations of the spiritual world are in the ultimates of man's life. It is true that "angels and spirits are entirely above or outside of nature, and in their own world which is under another sun." But it is an error to think of the spiritual world from appearances, as if it were in natural space, and to imagine angels and spirits as dwelling in the interiors of nature, in the ether or on the stars, or far away from men. Where there is no space, there is no distance. The kingdom of God is within you. "The spiritual world is where man is and in no wise apart from him."185
184 LJ 9
185 DLW 92
The spirits who are with man live in a real world of spiritual substance, but the ultimates of this substantial world around them is somehow built up from the spiritual forms of ideas taken from men. The ultimates of the spiritual world lodge in the natural minds of men, while the interiors of men's minds are formed from the spiritual world and according to its states and its inhabitants.
The spirits with a man think spiritually,186 and generally do not take the material ideas of his thought as standing for material objects, but as foci and basic symbols for a field of abstract ideas upon which they dwell. The man, on the other hand, is only vaguely aware of these clustering associations of ideas which the spirits take up with delight as a part of their own thoughts, imagining that it is all from themselves. For spirits do not reflect on the sources of their thoughts. But the use of these inner fields of suggestion with man--by spirits who connect them with meanings, allusions, and values never guessed by man--enriches man's thought with a sense of pleasure; so that he actually partakes of the delight which spirits have in his meagre ideas. And the result is that he is thus confirmed in the sphere of ideas in which he is.
186 Wis. vii. 5, AE 654:2
Angels when they are present with a man are especially able to widen his ideas and insinuate a sense of interior value, profounder meaning, and greater delight into them. When angels inflow, the Arcana tells us, "it is not an influx of such thoughts as the man then has, but it is according to correspondences; for the angels are thinking spiritually whereas the man perceives this naturally....When a man speaks of bread...the thought of the angels is about the goods of love....Objects such as a man sees with his eyes do not appear before the spirits who are with the man, neither are words heard such as the man hears with the ear, but such as the man is thinking....When the angels inflow, they adjoin affections also, and the very affections contain innumerable things within them. But of these countless things only a few are received by the man--in fact only those which are applicable to the things which are already in the memory.
187 AC 6319, 6320
Spirits Confirm Man's Persuasions
This brings us back to the important principle that spirits cannot infuse new persuasions, new truths or new falsities, into the mind of a man.188 No angels from the New Heaven (for instance) can possibly inflow into the minds of mortals and change their faith, remove their falsities, and introduce truths in their place. Such angels can act only into men who have something of faith from the Heavenly Doctrine in their mind; and the effect of their presence is one of confirming them in the truths which they have already seen. This was no doubt implied by Swedenborg when he wrote to Doctor Beyer about the publication of the True Christian Religion: "I am certain of this, that after the appearance of the book referred to, the Lord our Savior will operate both mediately and immediately towards the establishment throughout the whole of Christendom of a New Church based on this 'theology.' The New Heaven will ... very soon be completed ..." (April 30, 1771).189 The Lord acts immediately from the Writings, and--so far as these are received--He acts mediately through the New Heaven.
188 SD 3782
189 Docu. n. 245BB
Spirits have two kinds of life--the life of persuasion and the life of cupidity. When a spirit is in his persuasions, or in the thought from some faith which he has confirmed, he excites for his own use endless confirmations from the memory of the man with whom he is, and this without man knowing or feeling it. The spirit, since he cannot use his own corporeal memory,190 puts on the man's knowledges, beliefs, and preconceptions, and assumes the man's experience to be his own.191
190 SD 3783
191 AC 5860, SD 37821
192 SD 4114f
193 SD 4115, 2927f
If a man should change his persuasions, then other spirits quickly apply themselves to him. But man "is not easily brought to renounce a preconceived persuasion"; "wherefore it is good for a man not to be persuaded in falsities, but to be confirmed in truths."194
194 SD 4114-1/2
Yet man's mind, even when it is enlightened by a true religion, is a very complex thing which has murky corners into which his faith has never really penetrated. It has logic-proof compartments and unexplored jungles where his hereditary evils hold sway and various false views, excuses, or stubborn reservations hold out against the faith which he professes. In such distant corners lie hidden all manner of inconsistencies from past states, undigested information and old prejudices bolstered by the pride of the proprium. With the regenerating man these old states are pushed to the sides more and more until they have little part in his mental life. But none the less they are easily observed by spirits who are in the same kind of rebellious falsities and who eagerly seize upon them as inviting fields of confirmation.195 Thus the man may be thrown into spheres of doubt and obscurity, and so far as his faith in truths is from the heart he will then suffer anxiety and temptation.
195 SD 4114-1/2
Doubts are of Providence permitted. Certain intellectual spirits who were prone to reflect and to be stuck in doubts, complained that faith--the persuasion of faith--could not be given one in a moment. But it was pointed out to them that man's states are continually changing. What is clearly seen in one state may become doubtful later on. A sudden persuasion may satisfy one state, but it would not be adequate to answer all the questions of the next state.196 Faith takes root by degrees and grows in process of time under the Lord's direction, like the mustard seed of the parable. And there is also another reason why "it is according to the laws of order that no one ought to be persuaded about truth in a moment in such a way ... as to leave no doubt whatever about it; for the truth which is so impressed becomes persuasive truth, and lacks any extension and also any yielding quality."197 It becomes hard, bigotted, and not easily applicable to the diverse duties of life. Therefore, in the spiritual world, when a truth is being brought out before good spirits, a doubt--something opposite--is soon afterwards presented; so that they might think about it and consider whether it is so and collect reasons for it, and so bring the truth into their minds rationally. Only so can the truth be seen in its varieties of forms and applications, and the real essential meaning discerned. And this is done by reflection. This spiritual law was signified in the Word by the notable mention that, after Aaron had cast his rod before Pharaoh and it had become a serpent, the magicians of Egypt did likewise with their enchantments.198 Still, Aaron's rod swallowed up all the rest.
196 SD 2988
197 AC 7298
198 AC 7298, Exod. 7:8-13
All those laws which govern the influx of the spheres of spirits into man s mind, have a constant regard for man's freedom of choice. Only that which is insinuated in full freedom remains deeply inscribed on man's being. This is the reason why thought is not insinuated into man by any spirit. The spirit inflows with an affection, and it is only when this affection accords with man s affection that it is received by man in his thought--his interior thought--and thus tends to confirm and extend that thought more widely and more profoundly.
The life of a spirit's thought is based upon the general ideas which are with man as upon a soil or background. But it is also and equally true that man's entire emotional life with all its affections, is derived solely from the spirits that are with him. Few realize how much we are placed under the control of spirits when we give way to emotional states; and how these cupidities may then enkindle all manner of persuasions and fantasies.
VIII "So the devils besought
Him, saying, If Thou cast
us out, suffer us to
away into the heard of
Influx and Cupidity
The Awakening of Hereditary Evils
It is a general doctrine that the life of man's understanding and thought is constantly stimulated and enriched from the sensations of his body, or from without, while the life of the will, or that of his emotions, seems to well up from the depths of his being, or from within. In other words, truth comes from without, good comes from within. That which affects his understanding can be traced to other men and to various other agencies and sources; while that which is of his will seems to originate in himself.
Yet the doctrine shows that even the life of man's emotions or affections comes to him through media, namely, through the spiritual world and its many societies. The influx of life from the Lord is both immediate, into man's soul and essential human faculties, and mediate. And the mediate influx from the Lord is through heaven. The Lord rules men mediately through angelic societies which are in subordination and mutual dependence. He rules also by lower types of spirits, good and evil, who are present in endless chains connected with all the particulars of man's memory, on which his conscious life is founded.
The infinite operation, or the ordering influx of the Lord, is not made any the less infinite or less Divine, although it works through these finite mediations. Yet there are also things which come to man from the media themselves, that is, from angels and spirits:
199 AC 8728
"There is good without influx through societies."200 Nor is there any evil which does not have extension into infernal societies according to the quality and extent of their evil. All man's affections arise from the influx of spirits. It is therefore stated that evil spirits induce in man cupidities, but no persuasions; and that they operate into man through his affections, and that they excite his evils.201 But it is specified that spirits are not allowed to operate into those evils which are hereditary--as long as such evils are merely latent, as in infancy. Evil spirits do not venture to introduce any evil so long as the apparent goods of ignorance hold sway. Evil spirits are then held in subjection, and merely serve. But the case is quite different when man has procured evil to himself by sinful acts, and has acquired a sphere of cupidities and falsities. Then the evil spirits as it were rebel, and stir up his evils, and seek to dominate. This is represented by the rebellion of Sodom against Chedorlaomer.202
200 AC 8794
201 SD 4001, 4114ff, 3782f, AC 904
202 Gen. 14, AC 1667f
If evil spirits could operate directly into the hereditary tendencies to evil before these come to man's consciousness, there could be no salvation for man. For they would then excite his whole native will, and set loose such an influx of cupidity that man would perish as with a flood.
But the Lord, whenever possible, acted to save the human race by separating man's understanding from the primal emotions and thus preventing the evil will from swamping man's conscious life. This He did by confining to hell all those evil genii in the spiritual world who operated into man's hereditary will; and by placing man's conscious development in the realm of his understanding He thus absolved men from responsibility for their inherited evil will. He permitted no spirits to dominate any man unless that man had invited them through actual evils and thereby had taken over conscious responsibility for their presence.
What is this 'actual evil,' into which spirits are permitted to inflow? It is evil which is recognized as such by the understanding, and yet condoned, excused and defended. If a man sees an evil as evil, and yet approves it by the understanding, he confirms it and appropriates it to himself, and becomes responsible for it.203
203 DP 81
It becomes clear, therefore, that the evil will is not suddenly loosed in man. In childhood, when angels and good spirits rule, man's first life, with its slumbering cupidities and unanalyzed delights, is however nursed by an influx from evil spirits; and this in order that he may be sustained and not perish.144 At first this is wholly unrecognized by the child and man. Evil is hidden or only latent, because the evil spirits serve and do not rule.204 But as the child emerges from the state of innocence and becomes self conscious, affections of evil from the will gradually extend themselves into the understanding, and there they appear before man's judgment, one by one, as his understanding grows:
204 AC 1667. See footnote 144
205 AC 1695:2, 1749:2
In this connection we may understand the statement that in the temptations of a man of the spiritual church "evil spirits are associated who excite nothing but his scientifics and rational things," while "spirits who excite cupidities are entirely warded off from man."206 For the evils or cupidities of the native will are not excited, except so far as these are confirmed in the understanding, or have taken on the form of perverted knowledge, sordid imaginations, and false principles.
206 AC 653
It is the man himself who thus confirms by thought the cupidity or evil which the spirits infuse, or else refuses to think from that evil and instead decides to think from the purer motives that emanate from good spirits.
Imputation and Control of Cupidities
Hereditary evils which have not been made actual are not imputed as guilt in a man. Neither is a man blamed for evils which spirits infuse without his knowledge--evils which man has not recognized as evils, nor confirmed by his understanding. Such evils or cupidities are only of the will, and not of the understanding.207 Gentiles and children are not rightly held responsible for all their behavior--on the principle, "If ye were blind, ye would have no sin." This does not mean that such evils do not carry their weight of consequences, but that these miserable consequences are external rather than internal.
207 AC 9069
208 TCR 523, CL 529
Certain acts of sudden passion may thus be caused by an influx of cupidity from spirits in the other life, before a man finds time to consider rationally how insane they are. Even in courts of law, such lack of premeditation is considered a mitigating circumstance, although the crime still remains. If such crimes were not punished at all, society would dissolve. If we were simply to condone our own momentary lapses, we would soon be a prey to evil spirits, a tool in their hands. For we would then relax the effort to use our God-given faculty of reason for disciplining our will: and we would revert to the level of beasts, and go back to the state of the antediluvians, whose own will was their only law. And all hell would rejoice.
Still it is told that good spirits, when angry, have been known to burst forth into effusions which one would expect only from the worst. The cause of their anger--Swedenborg observed--was that they were not admitted to do good.209 An upright man, when angry, is acting from the external man, from the proprium. Yet interiorly he feels that his good intention is foiled, or that a good love is assaulted. His anger, inwardly viewed, is only a zeal to remove obstacles; and to do this by the brute force of his natural affections, without consulting the understanding, is often fatal.
209 SD 3028
210 AE 693:2, Char. 166, AC 4164, 5725, 8598
It was intimated above that no spirit is allowed to teach or lead man "except from cupidity."211 Spirits do not infuse new thoughts, whether false or true, into any man. But it is also true, that "the life of cupidities tends to induce persuasion"; although man must lend his consent to this.212 When a man has confirmed some lust, spirits can inflame him to a high pitch of rage from which his imagination is filled with fantasies of revenge and murder--insane persuasions about how ill-treated or persecuted he is, thoughts of self-importance and of envy which distort the perspective of his whole mind. Evil spirits are then in their delight, for such thoughts exalt their own fantasies with a sense of power and fulfilment. They cause the man to take delight in these thoughts, and--unknown to both--the spirits then rule the man, and hold him so bound that only the Lord can disentangle him.213
211 SD 4001
212 SD 4117
213 AC 7501, SD 4621, 3782
The more a man confirms an evil and takes delight in it and persuades himself that it is allowable,214 the more intimate becomes his conjunction with the society in hell which is in that special evil and in its many fantasies and falsities. Indeed, he is preparing himself for that society in which he will be a slave after death. A succession of emissaries from that infernal society are always with him-spirits who for a time are lifted out of that hell into the world of spirits to rule him.
214 DP 81
215 AC 5851f
Yet the whole leading of the Divine Providence seeks to prevent a man from confirming his favorite vices except so far as he insists. The pressures of daily necessity, the rush of natural routine, the fact of man's limitations and lack of opportunity to enter very deeply into his particular evils, are all means that tend to mitigate his state, and preserve him from rushing headlong into his hell. By his everyday life, his work and his social contacts, he is kept in a state of freedom--a state in which other spirits can operate upon him. Even if he lacks an interior plane of conscience through which angels can be near him, still good spirits can associate themselves with him externally whenever he is not in open evils.216 For even a wicked man may have a hereditary good nature and possess many lovable traits and apparent goods; and he may have many truths in his understanding. Heaven can inflow through spirits into his externals, into his regard for others and into his fear of the law, even though this proceeds from a dread of losing reputation or life. Thus they hold him in an external honorable conduct as far as they can. "This is the plane into which heaven inflows at this day"; but this plane is not retained in the other life.217
216 AC 4167, 5145, 8002:2, SD min. 4545f
217 SD 4622, 4611
The Lord thus rules the thoughts and speech of man through good spirits, who hold him as it were bound while he is engaged in thinking about his uses. And in this state the evil spirits with the man are also held in servitude. It is related of a preacher who lived a bad life, that while he was preaching and commending the life of good, the angels excited the evil spirits present to think and speak in a similar vein.
218 SD 4129
By a life of use to society, even an evil man is therefore a partaker in the benefits of heaven in that he is temporarily removed from the control of evil spirits, and can therefore be in external order. Indeed, all men come by uses into the stream of Providence. Swedenborg cites the Swedish proverb, "Idleness is the devil's pillow," as an indication that when we are no longer in the sphere of the love of uses we become the prey of disorderly spirits who roam through all sorts of by-places in the world of spirits seeking rest.219
219 SD 6072, Char. 168, 194
It is remarkable that the Writings refer to the corrupt states of the Christian world, yet refer to each of the nations as noble, e.g., "the noble French nation," "the noble German nation." This is because a nation is an organization of uses, uses so ordered that heaven can be present in them. A country is therefore a higher form of the neighbor, inferior only to the church. When we depart from the spirit of cooperating in the uses of state, society, or church; or when, in the execution of our duties, we withdraw into ourselves and turn away from the common illustration of others who are in the same use, the protection of ultimate order is no longer over us. We become like a house, empty, swept, and garnished--inviting the influx of strange spirits.220 We become unable to see things in their true proportions or to see the true relative significance of things. Our mind comes into various moods, solicitudes, and fancies; comes to brood over imagined slights, to worry about unimportant details or obstacles, or feel frustrated because of certain conditions which are quite outside of our power or office to alter; to become despondent about the state of the people about us; in short, to come either into melancholy, pessimism, or sadness, or else into some fanatical zeal or into religious scruples.
220 Matt. 12:43
The Causes of Morbid Moods
Swedenborg had experience with a great many of the different groups of spirits who caused these moods to which we are all so liable. Most of these spirits operate by holding man in reflection upon a certain object of thought, until the idea becomes almost an obsession, a "fixed idea" against which no argument or conscious effort avails. Thus Swedenborg found that as often as he was anxious about his garden and its care, about the probable reception of his Writings, or about money-matters and other like things, spirits would immediately throw in inconvenient, troublesome and evil suggestions, with confirmations and cupidities. He thus learnt that the longer a man is held in such thoughts, the more difficult do spirits make it for man to free himself of them.221
221 SD 3624
In the same way, when anyone comes to brood overly much upon spiritual or abstract things without finding relief in varieties and social contacts; or when his thought dwells on the fear of hell-fire or ruminates some misfortune; the spirits with him stir up his proprium and draw out from his memory many related things which thus continually haunt him so that the subject becomes--sometimes--a form of monomania.222 Those who live a solitary life are especially prone to melancholy and delirium. But there is particular danger when a solicitude of self-love, or a love of gain, prompts a man to be anxious about the future.
222 SD 3625, HH 299
Modern psychiatrists indeed recognize the setting of these symptoms.
But New Church psychologists know in addition that such phobias and fixations are organized by the influx of spirits and must therefore correspond to the lusts of a group of spirits in the other world. And just as each society sends out emissary spirits or employs some one spirit as a subject-spirit through which they can act with man, so these hidden knots of passion which are called "complexes" have symbolic representatives in the conscious mind--objects of thought, which the spirits love to arouse. When man's attention is held fixed on these objects, which are usually harmless in themselves, he comes into a certain mood because an influx from these spirits then takes place. These things occur with perfectly normal people. A man may be unable to account for his anxiety, his unreasonable fear or melancholy, or for his excitement and enthusiasm. His friends may wonder at his depression or elation--wonder why he is getting so excited or irritated over some triviality. Often he could not possibly explain. He does not know. But the spirits with him, they know; although they are not aware that they are with the man.
All human minds are subject to some of these irrational moods. Ordinarily their coming and passing is quite normal--part of the life of the mind. But--we read in the Diary- "some persons are led by spirits to such an extent that they cannot return into truths.
223 SD 3626f
It is obvious that if evil held sway in man's mind, his reason would soon totter. Passions such as envy distort man's thought about others. Hatred or revenge fill his imagination with fantasies. The fear that springs from a sensitive self-love gives birth to hideous suspicions, utterly unfounded. And in the other world the lust for gain and wealth turns evil spirits periodically into gloating idiots. Indeed, hell is insane from no other source. And the Scribe of the Second Advent consequently writes:
"Therefore the Lord alone makes provision that man may not come into such insanities, and thence into innumerable fantasies: in order to prevent this, He commands that we shall have no care for the morrow; for this is what is meant by having solicitude for the morrow. Those, therefore, who are in such conceits, and strongly incline to them, can by no means be drawn out of them, except by faith in the Lord. Those who are in faith are liberated by the Lord, however infested by spirits, and this by innumerable methods, both external and internal."224
224 SD 3628. See chapters XIV to XVI.
"Believe not every spirit ..."
John's First Epistle 4:1
Emotional Good without Truth
It is a matter of common observation that even good men are often misled. If we stop to reflect, we find that the impulse which is thus misdirected is usually "good without truth"; and especially natural good, such as pity or generosity or "sentimentality."
All men are endowed by nature (or heredity) with inclinations toward certain "goods" or virtues. Some are by nature brave, others seem to be born cautious and meek. Some are naturally generous or affectionate, loyal or trusting, apt to be guided by family feeling, friendship, love of ease, social praise or pleasure. Various circumstances may also encourage the development of certain good natural traits. Yet the Writings teach us to distrust our "natural good." Not only does it hide the evils of selfishness under a pleasant exterior, but it makes self-examination difficult. Man is apt to take a good deal of credit for his "natural good"; when yet he is no more responsible for it than an animal is for its instinctive nature. We are also warned that natural good is like a reed, on which it is dangerous to lean. It is fickle, deceptive, easily bent. It lays a man open to all sorts of influences. It can turn us to defend evil, it weakens the judgment. It is easily swayed and persuaded. It receives the influx of evil spirits, and thus works harm which we may not intend.
Good, when undisciplined by truth and antagonistic to instruction, is not really good, but is a mere emotionalism. It: must therefore be tutored, guided, held under control, made to serve under rational principles.
225 SD 5714, AC 6769, DLW 253
True faith, faith in true doctrine, gives protection. The general doctrines of the New Church are compared to the four walls of the New Jerusalem, into which there shall not enter anything that defileth or maketh a lie. Doctrine protects against evil spirits and their false persuasions. It is doctrine which leads to salvation, with gentiles and babes as well as with adult members of the Church.
In the world of spirits, those who are not in any doctrine but are led hither and thither by their emotions and fantasies cannot dwell in cities. Cities there impose a certain restrictive order. Evil spirits untutored by the self-restraining influence of doctrines or common principles cannot enter the cities, or, if they do, can only traverse the public streets. But in the less inhabited regions around the towns they feel more free to carry out their impulses. Cities represent doctrines. Yet cities in the other life may represent doctrines that are vitiated by falsities. If so, the protection which they give is only temporary. There is no permanent safety against infesting spirits, no permanent salvation except in true doctrine.225
225 SD 5714, AC 6769, DLW 253
The statement is made that "non-truths communicate with evil spirits." This seems to mean that falsities and fallacies are planes into which evil spirits can operate effectively and conveniently. When a man has fallen into a belief in some false principle, he opens himself to be led from this error into a series of other fallacies, and into doubts about truths, and thus into a negative attitude. Fortunately, if a man is well disposed, he will--with the aid of good spirits--resist following the logic of his position if he perceives that it is leading him into absurdities or into evils. The Writings cite instances of such a blessed inconsistency.
226 TCR 796
Misconceptions about the Holy Spirit
Swedenborg himself confesses that he had formerly entertained--from the universal doctrine of Christendom--the false persuasion that the Holy Spirit was the third person of the Divine Trinity. This laid a plane in his external mind for infestations by spirits who supposed themselves to be the Holy Spirit and who terrified him. "But afterwards"--he writes--"I became persuaded that the Lord alone is holy, and that all, both angels and spirits, are profane in themselves, and are called 'holy' only from those true and good things which are from the Lord; so I am no longer infested.... " For spirits are obliged to assume the persuasions of the men with whom they are.227
227 SD 2935 (Aug. 26, 1748), 1369, TCR 26
It is of interest to note that clergymen, on their entrance into the other life, are straightway instructed that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person or separate spirit.228 For if a spirit should hold that idea, he is set upon by so-called "enthusiastic spirits" who are in the insane fantasy that they are the Holy Spirit, and who terrify others if they do not obey them; since many, in the world, were taught that a sin against the Holy Spirit was unpardonable. "Enthusiastic spirits are distinguished from other spirits by this, that they believe themselves to be the Holy Spirit and believe that the things which they say are Divine."229 The word "enthuse" literally means to "fill with God." Clergymen are especially vulnerable to these infestations, and also to these fantasies. It is believed by many ministers that while they are preaching from zeal, they are "inspired"; so that some even affirm that they have felt the influx of the Holy Ghost. The fact is--as the True Christian Religion points out--that they have confused the zeal they exhibit while preaching, with the Divine operation in their hearts; when yet zeal is only a violent heating up of the natural man! And this is just as easily excited with preachers who are in extreme falsities, and even more so with enthusiasts, or those who are in the effort to stir up emotions and external affections and play on the feelings of their hearers. Revivalists--under the influence of enthusiastic spirits, the Writings point out--often produce louder shouts and deeper sighs than is usual with those who are in zeal from heavenly love!230
228 TCR 138
229 Matt. 12:31, HH 249
230 TCR 146
Let us not decry zeal! "If there is within it the love of truth, then it is like the sacred fire which flowed into the apostles"--when, on Pentecost, tongues of fire appeared over their heads.230 But emotional appeals which are not from a love of truth, nor directed to stimulate love of truth, are dangerous.
230 TCR 146
There is that in human nature which makes one love to be stirred by emotion. We enjoy being carried along in mass-emotions-which is an explanation of certain phases of the behavior of a mob, or of a people during war, or at election-time, or at football games. We enjoy being carried off our feet by thrills of various kinds. There is a delight--a sensual pleasure--in casting prudence and responsibility aside, at times, and simply surrendering to the whirl of an emotion.
Some types of people are more than others susceptible to being led by impulse or to being sphered by eloquence and persuasion. Hence religion takes an emotional and fanatical form with such people. It is not as if the emotions were necessarily evil: the main difficult being, that in states of high-strung natural emotion, the good and the evil cannot be distinguished. Hope and the assurance of faith, high resolve and deep contrition, mingle with guilt and fear and a lust for power or repute. It is a common fact, that at every "camp-meeting" of revivalist sects, there are not only cases of "conversions" but cases of "reversions"--in that some are so moved by the general hysteria that all their moral inhibitions become loosened. If the desire for an emotional outlet does not find a sincere religious form, it may seek a satisfaction in various sensual and sexual excesses.
The pervading idea among the "enthusiastic" sects, is to find salvation by a personal surrender to the Holy Spirit, until its leading is felt, sensibly felt, as a bodily reaction. The "converted soul" is moved by the "Holy Spirit." The Quakers and the Shakers were so called, because they actually began to tremble, twitch and jerk, or rhythmically dance, under the hypnotic influence of their emotion. The paroxysms, obsessive convulsions, marchings and shoutings which often occur at revival meetings, are reminiscent of the corresponding features of other religions, as that of the whirling dervishes, and of the ritual abandon which marks primitive peoples.
It is obvious that when emotion is given such free range, the spirits who are with the man are afforded an unusually delightful opportunity to take control. And the spirits who inflow are those who rejoice in the flattery offered by the deluded human who gives them credit for being "the Holy Spirit." Indeed, these spirits then come solemnly to believe--unless challenged--that they are "the Holy Spirit, and even that they were from eternity!231
231 SD 3838ff, 3804e, TCR 138
The history of such a type of spirits is interesting. The hells of the Noahtic or Ancient Church consist for the most part--we are informed--of "magicians"; spirits who still practice their arts by the abuse of correspondences, by inducing illusions and fantasies and by persuasive assurances and prophesying. It is from the influx of these hells that the various "enthusiastic" movements have arisen in the Christian world.232
232 Coro. 45
As a matter of record, the early Christian Church was very hardly beset by the contagion of old customs and beliefs from the corrupted religions of the ancient East. The most developed philosophies of antiquity contained the central concept that the real, inmost self of man, was a spark of God's life. This had sprung from the persuasion of the antediluvians that God had transfused His Divine into men so that they were inwardly gods.233 In time, the Orientals--as for instance the Hindoos--began to feel that the God they must seek, was an "inner God." Brahm (God) and Atman (the soul) were identical. If they could turn their thoughts inwardly, and know their own souls, they would know God. If they listened to their souls, they would come to hear the voice of God!
233 Coro. 38
The Quaker Movement
The Writings speak of this in connection with the Quakers. But there were many enthusiastic spirits in the other life even before the Quaker movement arose about 1650. Swedenborg wrote, a century later: "Almost the whole world of spirits is wicked and enthusiastic, and is sedulously desirous to obsess man."234 The belief in the falsity that the Holy Spirit was a separate Divine person laid men particularly open to such infestations. In the spiritual world, such enthusiastic spirits as believe themselves the Holy Spirit are held separated from others, and wander about. When Quakerism commenced, however, there came a powerful call for such spirits, who then came out of the forest districts around the world of spirits and obsessed many men. They infused the persuasion that men were moved by the Holy Spirit. With some men their influx was sensible, and resulted in a convulsive trembling.235 For a time, the Quaker movement went from bad to worse and the usual effects of religious hysteria were manifested by secret and hushed up excesses, into which their "Holy Spirit" led those who gave no moral resistance.
234 SD 3781
235 CLJ 83, 84
We know the Quakers as a very peaceful, thrifty people, who suffered much unjust persecution in the early periods.
236 CLJ 84:2, SD 3814, LJ post. 58
237 CLJ 83ff, SD 3751ff, 3762ff, 3784f
Thus they are bound to no doctrine--for what they rely on finally is "the Inner Light." This is clear from their history: for by degrees the denial of the full Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ took a hold on many in the sect, and the movement called Hicksite Quakers was organized, in 1827; where the emphasis is laid on Christ only as the chief member--or head--of the spiritual body of the church.
In the spiritual world, no society is formed from Quakers. They are spiritual nomads. Other spirits cannot explore them, for they are secretive, reserved in opinion and actions. They are unwilling to speak of their own doctrinal things, yet desire to hear the doctrines of others, but as it were surreptitiously, and without either being impressed by them or rejecting them.
It is the most gross among them who become "enthusiastic spirits" and are persuaded in the fantasy that they are the Holy Spirit. These--having no fixed spiritual locality, because no fixed doctrine--inflow with spirits or with men wherever there is the awaiting of influx from the Spirit--or wherever there is a reliance on an "Inner Light. For adoption of this chief principle of the enthusiasts connects man with enthusiastic spirits, without violating the law that spirits are attached to man according to his faith.
"Those who are taught by influx what to believe or what to do, are not taught by the Lord or by any angel of heaven." "All influx from the Lord takes place by an enlightenment of the understanding and by an affection of truth, and through this affection into the understanding."238 The "Light Within," about which the Quakers are wont to preach, is not intellectual light, but a mere obscure luminous something which does not enlighten at all.
238 DP 321, SD 3840
In illustration of the influence of the Quaker principle of an inner guidance, we may refer to the wide and sudden spread some decades ago of a non-sectarian movement whose devotees sit silent, pencil in hand and minds in a blank, waiting for the Holy Spirit to dictate a Divine message as to what they should do or speak.
Mysticism versus Enlightenment
The New Church man knows that there is Divine guidance, or government, in all things of life;
239 SD 3114
In internals the Lord operates without man's cooperation--as is plain from the secret processes of bodily growth and digestion and from the operations of spirits and angels upon us and the subconscious effects of these in our minds. But "in externals man is led and taught by the Lord, in all appearance as if by himself." Man is given the rational responsibility of using his best thought and effort to act as of himself, in all the circumstances of his life. If he seeks Divine guidance and Divine light, it is possible for him to find it in the Word of God, and receive it rationally as enlightenment in the understanding. Man "is led and taught immediately by the Lord alone when this is done from the Word."240
240 DP 174, 172
Enthusiastic spirits operate very differently with different men. While clergymen sometimes feel the zeal of their preaching as Divine inspiration, other men often take a general emotional hysteria to be a sign of the stir of the Holy Spirit. Some again--mostly simple recluses--believe that any spirit which may address them in the course of their religious brooding, is the Lord, or the Holy Spirit. To "quietists," like the Quakers, a bodily trembling and the fancy of an inner lumen, betokens the presence of the Holy Spirit. And this is sometimes, varied, as in Buchmanism, into the belief that God indicates to them what to do.
In all these cases, the fact is that spirits operate into man and persuade him that what is human is Divine. In men who--by education--are intellectually mature, indoctrinated and self-disciplined, spirits cannot act so crudely. But if man believes it possible, spirits are given the power to infuse the feeling that what he does is from the Holy Spirit or that some perceptions of his mind are Divine.
241 SD 6002f
242 SD 6104
If this were true, the Lord could not do good through man's cooperating will, unless man were conscious of the Holy Spirit acting through him! Nor could the Lord cause man to think what is true, except while man felt the Holy Spirit thinking in his understanding!
The error of the English priests was disturbing to Swedenborg, who again and again confutes it. He shows that there is no reception of good and truth except when man acts and thinks as of himself; yet "the good which is imparted by the Lord is wrought within him while he does not reflect from himself upon it; that is, while man remains ignorant of it."243 This does not mean that man acts from himself or meritoriously whenever he acts from the Word. When he obeys the Lord's commandments he does good from the Lord. And if all that proceeds from man were to be condemned as meritorious, how could the Lord have said that we would be judged according to our works?244
243 SD 1561
244 TCR 506, 461, comp. 371
Through reliance on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many mystically inclined persons have claimed that their words are holy and infallible Divine truths, or that their perceptions constitute a private Divine revelation apart from the Word.
245 See Personal Christianity... The Doctrines of Jacob Boehme. A compilation by Franz Hartmann (New York: Macoy Publ. Co., 1919)
But man cannot rely on any inner light, cannot by any self-conscious process reach for illustration. Light from the Lord does not come by making the mind blank or by placing our God-given faculties at the disposal of nomadic spirits who are on the look-out for an empty mind. Light comes from truths--from the Divine truth revealed in the Word.
Therefore we read: "Illustration is from the Lord. Perception is with man according to the state of his mind, formed by doctrinals; if these are true, the perception becomes clear from the light which illustrates; but if they are false, the perception becomes obscure, which, however, may appear as if clear, from confirmations; but this is from the light of infatuation, which to merely natural sight is like clearness."246
246 TCR 155
Illustration is from the Lord alone. Yet it is still effected by the mediation of spirits and angels, and by the introduction of man's mind--although he is not sensibly aware of it--into association with such spiritual societies as are in light.247 For spiritual light, which in its essence is the Divine wisdom, enters man's understanding as far as, from knowledges, he has the faculty of perceiving it. It "does not pass through spaces, like the light of the world, but through the affections and perceptions of truth, thus in an instant to the last limit of the heavens.... "248 And we are now assured that "the time is coming when there will be enlightenment."249
247 DLW 150
248 CLJ 14
249 AC 4402e
"The very hairs of your
head are all numbered."
Matthew 10: 30
Spiritual Causes of Fortune
There is No Blind Chance
As was pointed out in another chapter, man is not responsible for all his general states. A child is not responsible for his childishness, and no adult can be blamed for having passed into maturity or old age. Neither can any arguments or any deliberate effort bring a woman into the state of a man or a wife into the state of her girlhood. Whenever our bodies grow tired after a day of activity, our minds inevitably come into new states, less strenuous; until we sink into oblivion of all cares, and spirits of a celestial type environ us.
How little we are (at least consciously) responsible for certain of our general states, seems to be clear from that which is called "fortune" or "luck. Men commonly blame many of their disappointments on "bad luck," or ascribe their windfalls to a lucky chance. But the Writings declare to us that there is no such thing as blind chance. For the Divine providence operates even in the least and most detailed circumstances of our lives, and thus "in the most singular things of man s thoughts and actions."250
250 DP 212
It is easy to see that the real causes behind man's general states lie in the presence with him of spirits of different types, and thus in the different spiritual mediations which modify the influx of the Lord's life into men. We can also see that evil spirits could lead men into many kinds of accidents and misfortunes. Swedenborg records that such spirits at times caused his feet to stumble, and that they were responsible for certain slips and errors in his manuscript.
251 AC 6493, SD 2372, SD min. 4784 (4758m)
252 SD min. 4784, SD 4137f, 4562
"They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him." For whatever happens, whether it appears as prosperous or not, is still good for them, conducing to their eternal happiness. But with the wicked the unforeseen goods which come from the Lord are turned into an evil effect.253
253 AC 8480
Swedenborg comments that it seems incredible that spirits should be the cause of misfortunes. Yet it may seem still more incredible that even the course of what is called "a streak of luck" in cards, dice-games, etc., is intermediated through the spiritual world. "Hardly any one" knows this. But spirits convinced Swedenborg that the turns of fortune in a game of dice could be predicted by them from the unfailing appearance of certain signs--a dark cloud about him if he was to lose, a white one if he was to win!254 The "dark cloud" was of course not the cause of the misfortune; but it was a spiritual manifestation or representation of the state in which he was--a state which because of his own needs permitted him to immerse himself into a natural series of events which in their very nature would lead to "bad luck."
254 AC 6493f
Seemingly there is nothing less determined beforehand than the outcome of a lottery or the fall of a pair of dice. The only predictable factor in the fall of the dice seems to be a definite ratio of probabilities which in the long run is almost fixed, but which leaves the outcome of each single throw in uncertainty. There appear to be certain natural laws which limit the uncertainties and operate to balance the probabilities. And the more we analyze a situation, the clearer it becomes that to an all-seeing eye there is no "chance"; but that for the sake of man's freedom it is not given him to see all the contributing contingencies or all the operations even of the natural laws involved. Swedenborg learned things about this which he was forbidden to make known.255
255 DP 212
Providence in the Ultimate of Order
"Chance" is defined in the Writings as the operation or influx of the Divine providence into "the ultimate of order, in which all things are comparatively inconstant."256
256 AC 6493, comp. DP 212
The Lord rules, and has always ruled, human minds, and thus the heavens and the hells, from primes through ultimates. In the ultimates of the world we may observe a fixed and constant order founded on space and time. We find orderly changes and progressions over which man has no power, and inevitable chains of cause and effect which will and thought cannot budge. Untold subatomic units moving ceaselessly at random without any purpose are gathered into great mass-actions which apparently have both order and use and which fall under the inexorable cycles of changes and of seasons. Countless data of knowledge without seeming order or connection are gathered into man's mind.
257 DP 212
If the Lord rules our minds from ultimates, it would seemingly be a contradiction to say that fortune and chance depended on the kind of spirits which are with man. But, actually, spirits need certain kinds of ultimates, depending on their states. And in various ways, hidden to man, they lead him through his own affections to seek such correspondent ultimates. In the apparent inconstancies and details of nature there is a profusion of correspondent foci. According as man places undue value on selected external objects or objectives, he becomes a source of delight for either good or evil spirits. Their sphere affects him. He steps into an unknown and uncontrollable stream of events. Evil spirits would then distract his attention from truthful circumstances and would find a way of avoiding the order and purpose of the whole by taking the parts and constructing out of them a series or order of their own--an order conducive to "ill luck" or apparent misfortune.
What we know as the laws of nature are formulations of the series of physical causes and effects from the cumulative experience of human observers; although actually natural laws should be regarded as the effects of spiritual laws. Men are apt to think of the government of Providence from the picture other in a chain of fixed "necessities. To counter this viewpoint, the Writings record some conversations which Swedenborg had with angels and spirits.258 He tells of certain spirits who, knowing that the Lord leads men through apparent necessities,259 had the idea of a preordained fate or absolute necessity by which the entire life is necessity, so that even the Lord was bound by necessity. But since this idea of the Divine was colored by our concepts of human necessities, attention was called to the fact that man has freedom, and he who acts from freedom of choice is not under necessity; the very idea of choice implies this. There converge many circumstances--"contingencies" or happenings--which can carry man in opposite directions. The moments of a man's life are like pebbles which a man scatters at pleasure, from freedom rather than from any necessity. Yet the Lord foresees the form in which man will eventually arrange his life, and His providence is in every single detail, "but not according to such an order as man proposes to himself." From the Divine foresight the Lord sees the relationships between the "pebbles"--as an architect sees the design behind a heap of building materials--and fills in what is lacking, to provide for consequences a thousand years later.
258 AC 6479-6494, SD min. 4692
259 SD 2628-2630
260 AC 6486f, SD min. 4692
Thus the Lord "foresees with an unceasing accommodation" how man as it were leads himself.261 Every change and variation in the human mind produces a change in the series of things that follow, and this progressively to eternity. But the drift of all the sequences of human states which man determines, would go far wide of the goal of creation "if the Lord did not lead the states of human minds every least moment"--and this through spirits and angels. This leading is secret and does not interfere with human prudence or choice, but is "accommodated" to man's free agency. For each single thing which man does, sees, or thinks, the Lord does and sees infinite things. On the surface, the history of the race and the life of each man and each church seems to be determined by human decisions. If it were not so, man might just as well not exist, for he would have no sense of accomplishment, no incentive either to will or to think, still less to work or take responsibility. But the Lord acts to correct human mistakes, through unforeseeable things. He acts through heaven, mediately, and also immediately from Himself, not only into the will and thought of man, with or without man's consent, "but also at the same time into the many things which befall him."262 These "contingent" things, or providential circumstances, are the means by which the Lord, from His infinite resources, supplies the links between the moments of human decision, and by which He fills in the interstices which man has not thought of!
261 DP 202e
262 AC 6480
Yet man speaks of "chance." We do not believe that spirits have any power over nature or nature's laws. They did not even know beforehand how the dice would fall at Swedenborg's backgammon table.
"Love not the world, nor
the things that are in the
world ... For all that is
in the world--the lust of
the flesh, and the lust of
the eyes, and the pride of
life--is not of the Father
... And the world pas-
seth away and the lust
John's First Epistle 2:15-17
"Cuticular Spirits" and "Sirens"
It is impossible even to classify the various spirits who inject evil enticements of different kinds. But two types are described in the Writings and these may serve as examples.263
263 SD 1743
Swedenborg once became aware of the predominance of certain spirits from the province in the Grand Man which answers to the cuticle or the surface of the skin. And it was then shown him what the state is of a person "who takes an excessive care of his skin, which is the same as to have his mind ruled by such spirits." "When a man is in this state, he is withheld from all useful endeavors (studio), and at the same time there is insinuated into him a distaste for doing anything real, so that there is a certain reaction and consequent repugnance against any project, whether in civil or moral life or in matters of faith and charity, and whether in deed or in thought. For he is held back from these, while at the same time certain blasphemies against them are insinuated into him.... " There is then a distaste for anything interior or spiritual.264
264 SD 1744, 1746, AC 4054
"Cuticular spirits" flock cajolingly around those who place their delight in the appearance or in the sensations and delights of the skin, and draw them away from any good or essential work. Such people are called "delicate" and "fastidious," placing life in daintiness, culture, refinement, and judging all things by aesthetic standards rather than by their moral, civil, and spiritual values. And so naturally their tendency is also to "place their wisdom ... in being able elegantly to vituperate or refute the doctrine of an internal man...."265
265 SD 1746ff
It is difficult for a man to guess the tremendous forces of evil that are sometimes present around him, laboring to establish their power by what appears as relatively innocent habits. Evil spirits can hide themselves behind apparent goods, turning these goods gradually to a sinful or shameful end; with a view to exclude spiritual and celestial spheres from the mind and to fill it with worldliness or with externals. All of us find a number of good things to do just to make life pleasant and safe for ourselves and our families--enough to fill our day without taking time out to read the Word or to enjoy a while of worship and meditation before the family shrine. It is a question of Martha versus Mary.
The superficial uses of life, which regard the introduction of grace and beauty and soft comforts into the home and the society, are in themselves good. But they represent only the cuticle, the scarf-skin, of that eternal body of human uses which doctrine calls "the Grand Man. Their proper function is to introduce, to contain, and to defend interior things. And when there is an equilibrium with other obligations, and they are pliably disposed to serve interior uses, then only are they Genuine and in their place.266 Tremendous groups of good and salvable spirits therefore belong to the province of the skin. And their character varies widely.
266 SD 1749
In relation to heaven as a whole, the spirits who come from our planet mostly serve the function that is described by that of the skin, the membranes and external senses of the Grand Man. Thus their uses have to do with the sciences which are based on sensual observation.267 Yet this does not mean that the spirits of our earth cannot "easily come into the interior and inmost heaven after their exteriors have been devastated." And some can serve as "ministries for the instruction of others who have no knowledges from revelation" such as our Word provides.268 Among those who come to constitute the skins, cartilages and bones of the Grand Man are also many gentiles who while on earth could not be reached by the Gospel. The modest uses which these perform after death still give them the highest joy of which they are capable.269
267 SD 1736ff, 1741, 1531, 4782, AC 9107, 9360, 8630
268 SD 1531
269 DP 254:3, 4
All spirits of the province of the skin are comparatively external in type. Since they have no extension of mind, they are mostly easily deceived. Some are devoid of perception and only want to argue about everything, and always from the appearances of the senses.270 Being in relatively little of spiritual life, such spirits dwell in the entrances or fore-courts of heaven.271
270 AC 1385, 4046
271 AC 6402, 5553f
The "Sirens," and Interior Obsessions
Depraved skin-spirits are all in the desire to possess man's whole life. If it were possible, such spirits would fain cast out man's own spirit, and enter instead. But this can, of course, be done only in fantasy, for man's spirit is his interior organism which cannot be changed for another.272
272 SD 1750, 4420
The only type of obsession possible at this day is called "interior obsession."
273 AC 5990
274 SD 2659, 2277ff
275 HH 257, AC 5990, SD 2665, 4668
Among these are the "sirens," so called because they allure the unwary. They obsess man's interiors through his exteriors.276 Such sirens are both male and female, but are mostly women who on earth were distinguished and esteemed, having lived in fair externals and in elegance--in which alone they delighted.277 They are bound by a regard for decorum and apparent propriety which had influenced them more than others; but when acting among themselves, their external bonds are relaxed. Their influx is especially destructive of conjugial love and tends to loosen the bonds of marriage and insinuate what is obscene and voluptuous.
276 SD 3716
277 AC 1983, SD 3716ff, 4420, 4448f
278 SD 4668, AC 5990
279 SD 3717
280 AC 4793f, SD 3567
We cannot refrain from suggesting that it is the hells of the sirens that are the real source of much of the literature and drama of today which flood the mind with prurient and profane imagery under the pretense of "realism" or "art"; hovering on the brink of the forbidden, making mock of innocence and marriage and the sanctities of human life, or insinuating contempt for the Lord and the Word under the guise of learning. This is the modern form of sorcery and obsession.
Man is of course ignorant of the interior obsession which results from such spheres of thought. But Swedenborg testifies, "This is the obsession which exists at this day."
281 SD 4594ff, 4573
At the last judgment the sirens were confined in their hells. But continually new spirits of the same type enter the other life from the earth, and especially from the "civilized" world. And for our admonition the seer was prompted to write:
"Whether many persons are at this day thus obsessed may ... be inferred from this: Let a man examine himself as to whether he is in any internal bond so that his thoughts abhor and turn away with loathing [from evil], and he suffers himself--inwardly or as to the thoughts--to abstain in some way from the most wicked, unmentionable, and obscene things; or whether it is merely external bonds which detain him." Man may then find out whether he is struck with shame and fear and recoils in horror from the thought of such evil, or whether, if fear of the law and public opinion were removed, he would desire to do it. For if the latter is the case, "then he is inwardly obsessed by such sirens." "Let a man thoroughly ponder whether he is of such a quality, for he is now able to know!"282
282 SD 3714, 3716, 3717
This is the purpose of these revelations of the Second Advent. "Man is now able to know." He is able to know that when his thought is led into evil, this is the direct result of spirits who belong in hell and who must not be entertained in the human mind. But such thoughts--entering as they do even through innocent channels--are not imputed to man nor appropriated by him if he acknowledges their source and prays to the Lord for deliverance.
"So he giveth His be-
loved in sleep."
The Blessing of Sleep
The stream of man's conscious life is intermittent, broken by recurring lapses into the unconscious state of sleep, from which he wakens with a new vigor of mind and body, in a new state and with a new start. The state of yesterday is still with us in the morning, as a memory that calls to us for a resumption of our duties or our routine; but it does not bind us entirely. Much is happily forgotten, and the thought of the burden and the heat of yesterday is not so oppressively present. Gradually we pick up the threads of former thoughts, discarding much that is unimportant.
It might seem as if our life was cut up into disjointed segments by these periods of sleep. But nothing is lost from our mind. The stream of consciousness has simply found rest in a limpid pool where its waters are clarified for its further progress. It is the conscious mind--the self-directed thought--that is affected by the apparent death of sleep. "Love does not sleep," we read in the Arcana Coelestia.283 The affections, the subconscious yearnings, instincts, and delights of the will provide a continuity of the whole personality. Man wakes the same man. And through the miracle of memory he has still at his disposal all his past experience and knowledge.
283 AC 1983
The function of sleep is so important that even the angels, in their evening states, find comfort and refreshment in slumber.
Man's body, during the day, is largely governed by the caprice of his own will, by his voluntary decisions, which are not always rational. If man could know the exact degree of strain which each part of his body could bear without injury, he might avoid some of the abuses to which he actually exposes his organism. But even so there would be need for relaxation of body and brain and for a restoral of equilibrium after every sustained exertion.
In his philosophical works, Swedenborg offers an explanation of the physiology of sleep. He states that man's conscious will (or voluntary) resides in the cerebrum or anterior part of the brain, and that deliberate action is initiated from the "cortical glands" there. These brain-cells, by extending fibres, govern all the muscles of the limbs and of the skeletal frame, and force the body into motion and position. The cerebellum or hind-brain, on the other hand, has control of all the viscera and their internal workings, quite independently of man's will and unbeknown to his consciousness. The cerebellum also causes "antagonistic" muscles to counterpoise, makes smooth the workings of the muscles controlled by the cerebrum, and restores the natural equilibrium of forces which the conscious will has disturbed. In wakefulness, the cerebellum is relatively overruled and not active to its fullest extent. But in sleep, which comes over a man when the abused fibres of body and brain are no longer responsive to his will, the little cells of the cerebrum become relaxed. They are then isolated from the continual stream of subtle nourishment which is offered them through the arteries; so that they no longer receive the "purer blood" which they otherwise renovate and propel into the fibres. They continue indeed to receive, for their own future need, constant supplies of what Swedenborg calls "etherial chyle" through the "corporeal fibres";
284 See especially n. 79 of the 286 AC 1977, SD 3183 work on The Brain (London, 1882), which is from Codex 58. Compare also AC 1977:2, SD 3183, 4518
In sleep, therefore, the soul, acting through the cerebellum, restores the order of nature. Acting by involuntary fibres it mends the broken or strained tissues, reestablishes a balance in the metabolism of the cells of the whole body, and improves the spontaneity of the various organs.285
285 AC 9683, SD 4237
The Arcana states that "the cerebellum is awake in time of sleep when the cerebrum slumbers."286 "The Lord guards man with most especial care during his sleep," for without sleep "the human race would perish." In sleep, the Lord Himself watches even over His enemies and does them good.287 He loves all, and "He giveth His beloved in sleep."288
286 AC 1977, SD 3183
287 AC 959, SD 3231, 4420, 4236ff
288 Psalm 127:2, Jewish Publ. Society version, 1917
Sleep bears a certain likeness to death. In sleep man retires from the world and its anxieties and departs from all his fellow men. His senses being inactive, he not only becomes oblivious to the fixed world about him, but his memory of it also sinks into quiescence. Up to a certain point, physical pain and states of emotion which stir up his blood may prevent such a retirement. But when he finally gives way to sleep, he enters a world without sense of time and indifferent to space.
Even as the angels of the resurrection are celestial in type, so also are the angels whom the Lord appoints to guard man in sleep.
289 AC 1977
The World of Dreams
Sleep is a state of unconsciousness. Yet there are certain factors-conditions which we cannot catalogue--which cause the return of consciousness in a strange and partial way. "To sleep--perchance to dream." The natural memory may be aroused in a new manner, and man comes into that state on the borderland of the unconscious which we call the world of dreams: a strange world of fancy, built up from the broken fragments of experience into sequences which defy the logic by which we discipline our conscious thinking.
The fact of this dream-world has ever fascinated men. Primitive peoples saw in it a sign that there existed another world--a world of "doubles"--which they mostly confused with the spiritual world itself, but in which they saw themselves as actors. For in dreams the spirit of man seems to be released from the body to wander abroad in wider fields. The ancients also attached special meanings to their dreams, seeing obscure warnings and predictions in the jumbled recollections of their nocturnal experiences. Plato believed that our dreams gave us intimations of the various appetites and instincts which lay hidden in our nature; including bestial desires which the self-rebuke of reason kept out of our consciously directed thoughts, but which were given free rein during sleep.290
290 See Phaedrus 571-2, cited by Will Durant in his "Story of Philosophy," New York, 1926, p. 33
Indeed, behind all these traditional views of dreams there lies a substratum of truth. Dreams do touch the fringe of the spiritual world. Dreams do at times have a prophetic burden or some special significance. Dreams occasionally reveal to man some of the longings and delights that are submerged and repressed in the depths of his being. Robsahm writes in his memoirs: "I asked Swedenborg whether, in our times, it was worth while to pay attention to dreams; upon which he answered that the Lord no longer at the present day makes revelations by dreams, but that nevertheless it may happen that one who understands correspondences may derive advantage from his dreams; just as a person who is awake may examine his own state by comparing his own will with God's commandments."291
291 Docu. n. 5:32
This account by Robsahm cannot be taken as entirely correct, but is none the less interesting when we consider that in the period when Swedenborg's spiritual faculties were first being opened he kept a private record of his dreams and of the interpretations that he put upon them. He instinctively felt that his dreams were--like his commencing visions--significative and symbolic. In his humility he did not spare himself in these interpretations.
That dreams, whether they are orderly or incoherent, are significant is as true as that the whole world is a theater representative of uses. Everything in both worlds, and in both body and mind, is symbolic of the forces at work--could we but know what these are. In the Writings these forces are described. And it appears from the teachings that no blame is attached to man for things occurring during sleep. For then man relinquishes his command. His will, or proprium, is taken away, and his natural understanding is laid asleep.292 In dreams, his "spiritual sight" is helpless and irresponsible and therefore usually quite impersonal, while the contents of his memory are being reconstructed into vivid imagery and into situations which symbolize states that are not his own, but which belong to spirits, and perhaps to angels, who are with him.
292 SD 498, comp. AE 706:3
"Such stuff as dreams are made on" comes from the man. Nothing actually new--never before seen or felt-comes through dreams. But because man's internal sight then is only a beholder," and man not really a responsible actor, the most strange and impossible situations usually cause him no surprise, the most ridiculous happenings cause no amusement, terrors may cause no fear. His memory may retain the dream in part, or he may--like Nebuchadnezzar--be unable to remember it. When an emotion, such as fear or shame, is felt in a dream, the man on waking need not take any responsibility for it.
We have been treating of dreams in general. But the Writings tell us that there are at least three distinct kinds of dreams, or dreams from three sources.293
293 AC 1976, SD 3877
The first type is a dream which comes from the Lord Himself, either immediately or mediately through heaven.294 Such were the prophetic dreams mentioned in the Word. This is a form of Divine revelation. Thus an angel was filled with the Divine to the exclusion of his own proprium and consciousness, and appeared in a dream to a prophet on earth, clothing himself in the mental imagery of the man's external memory and, thus seen, impressed the man with a series of representations which were adopted as the direct symbols of the Lord's Divine truth. Such dream-visions sometimes conveyed to the prophet's mind an external significance, as for instance a prediction of some future event. But the spiritual meaning of dreams was seen only by internal men such as the people of the most ancient church.295
294 SD 3877, AC 1976, 5091, 4682
295 See SD 3382, AC 1745, 6212
One class of dreams stands by itself, although it somewhat resembles the prophetical. We refer to a dream in which the Lord was seen by Swedenborg. The actual call to his mission had occurred in a state of vision.296 But in the Diary he jotted down the following remarkable memorandum: "The Lord was seen by me in a dream with the face and form in which He was in the world. It was such that it was interiorly full and thus so that He could rule the whole heaven within....
296 Jour., Apr. 67, July 1-2, 1744; comp. WE 3557; SD 397, Docu. n. 5:15
297 SD min. 4831 (4791m)
The second kind of dream comes through angelic spirits who from an ardor for the happiness of others serve as guardians over those who sleep. These angels are at the entrance of those heavenly "paradises" which to the angels represent only celestial and spiritual things, but which spirits delight in for their own sake. These paradises appear in the externals of heaven, or are created there when angels of a superior heaven converse together intellectually about truths of wisdom and faith. The angelic spirits in question love to affect a man who is asleep and thus receptive, with the enjoyable and delightful things which they see in his affection and genius. They arouse from the dreamer's mind beautiful and pleasant representations which refresh him with tranquil charm. But Swedenborg observed that they did not themselves know whence such beautiful presentations came to them "all in a moment," except that they came "from heaven." Nor is it orderly that they should know the man whom they are watching over.298
298 AC 1977
Presumably all men, when asleep, have such heavenly guardians, more or less distantly present. Yet the statement is that these are "entrusted with the duty of watching over certain men"--as if all were not equally favored. And this suggests that the Lord may have a particular concern about those in this world who perform more eminent or responsible uses; whose reliance on the spiritual reserves of the other world and of the subconscious processes of the mind must be greater. Such men, by day, enjoy the illustration of their use, which comes from their being spiritually present in the societies of such use in the other world.
Dreams such as are induced by these angelic spirits actually originate in angelic discourse--in conversations between angels on spiritual subjects. The order of the angelic ideas is at once presented in the world of spirits in representatives of great variety, differently in every group of spirits that is affected. Thus with Swedenborg and the spirits associated with him as a man--spirits who were using his memory--the forms of the dream which resulted were shaped according to his memory and his general affection. From the same spiritual origin can thus arise dreams totally different, yea, opposite. For what may cause joy to one man, may to others call up tedium and nausea, shame or horror.299 The reason for this lies in the universal spiritual law that no influx from spirits or angels can introduce new persuasions or alter the faith or memory of spirit or man.
299 AC 1980, SD 4151ff
On some occasions, Swedenborg related his dreams to the angelic spirits who caused them, and they recognized in his mental pictures and states the correspondential representations of their own conversation.300 Yet he also saw the diversified dreams caused in various spirits from the same origin, and confessed that it could never be known from the natural imagery of their dreams what the spiritual influx involved or contained; and he suggests that the influx was not always strictly "an influx by correspondences." The imagery was not purely correspondential. Yet it was representative. Strictly speaking, "correspondences" are true creative relations of cause and effect, the same everywhere. So for instance, light corresponds to truth and heat to love--always.
300 AC 1980f
301 SD 4152, AC 1980
302 Oneiromantien. An anonymous work variously attributed to the Rev. O. P. Fredell or--from internal evidence--to C. F. Nordenskjld
The dreams introduced by angelic spirits contain within them the order of heaven, even if man cannot discern it. Normally the dreams they induce are pleasant, sweet, and peaceful; but with the man they may also be turned into warnings, as is often done on some other planets when men fall into evil. Such dreams can be induced not only upon men, but even upon spirits. Swedenborg relates a strange thing--that while he was among the cerebellar spirits as a spirit, he also was able, repeatedly, to introduce dreams into a sleeper.303 He checked the experiment with the man upon whom he had acted--which spirits can, of course, not do. Yet men also can impose dreams upon their fellow-men, by using hypnotic methods.
303 SD 3181
Dreams Induced by Spirits
The third type of dreams spoken of in the Writings is not produced through angels, but through the spirits who are near man while he sleeps.304 Such dreams are also significative, for the influx calls forth from man's memory such things as have a special significance, but a significance to the spirits, not to the man.
304 AC 1976
Angels produce dreams that please, because they take care that what they draw forth should be associated with delight in the man's mind. They look for such ultimates in man because they always consider first the freedom of man, and lead him only so far as his own affections respond. But spirits in the world of spirits are not so considerate. Fortunately they have no power to harm man while he sleeps, although they use his mind as their own. But if they could, they would exclude everything from a man's waking life which is not in line with their own delights. They would impose their own will upon him and sometimes desire to obsess him utterly--and if he should then resist them they would seek to destroy him. For this reason spirits who are with men are kept quite ignorant of the fact. They know not the man, but believe that they think quite independently of men. Yet they think and converse among themselves by using the ideas of the men with whom they are associated; and--as has been pointed out repeatedly--the spirits most closely adjoined to a man assume his whole memory and think themselves to be the man. They become so immersed in man's attitudes and memory that they may even impersonate him in the other world--look like him in dress and demeanor. Each man has at least one such "consociate spirit."305
305 TCR 137
When a spirit is asleep, good spirits can act through him. It is therefore provided that when a man falls asleep, his closer attendant spirits will also fall asleep, since the memory of the man then becomes inactive.
306 AC 5988, SD 3231f
But while the attendant spirits dwelling in his superficial spheres of thought fall asleep along with the man, other spirits, more distant from the ordinary states of his life, may still exert their influence upon him. They have indeed no power to stir up his interior thought or affection; for if they did the man would awake in a moment.307 But they can use the memory of man quite freely, although it is the Lord Himself who gives the final permission and prevents abuses.
307 Comp. SD 1983, SD min. 4693
And now there commences in man--and somewhat similarly in his consociate spirits--the strange fantasmagoria of dreams. Each spirit takes on from man's memory whatever objects or sensory stimuli that agree with his own life. It is a characteristic of such dreams that, if persons should figure in the scene, each spirit assumes all that a man knows about a certain individual, and actually impersonates him and acts his part in the mental drama. And some may also impersonate the sleeper himself, and speak to other spirits in his tone of voice; but the contents of the speech may not at all be what the man would normally say, but the most stupid nonsense or the grossest falsehood.308
308 SD 180, 3877, AC 1983
At times, actual spirits may themselves, by the Lord's leave, be seen in a dream under an appearance that is familiar to the sleeping man.
309 SD 5980, 5949, CLJ 60, LJ post. 104
And Spirits who sleep simultaneously with man sometimes oversleep! Swedenborg found them sleeping, yes, and dreaming, after he himself had awakened. He compared experiences with them and found that they sometimes dreamt when man was not dreaming--which no doubt allows man to change his state.310 Yet the rule is that their dreams are mostly garbed in the ideas of man's memory. The dreams of spirits are generally caused by spirits who are in a more interior state than they are themselves. But sometimes evil spirits can induce bad dreams upon spirits that are to be vastated.311
310 SD 2240ff, 664, 2436, 4284
311 SD 427, AC 5988
Apart from these three types of dreams--those caused by the Lord, those induced through angels, and those which spirits inject--the Arcana Coelestia speaks of "fantastic dreams."312 This class is dismissed with a bare mention. But with us mortals here below, such fantastic dreams may be quite disturbing. They seem as disordered processions of fragmentary thoughts, unconnected pictures, ludicrous figments of a fevered imagination, meaningless, isolated; or perhaps as images and situations that rise up to strike us with horror, as in nightmares or in some delirium that attends an illness. That their origin is from the other world is of course necessarily true. No emotion or consciousness is possible with man except from the presence of spirits. Yet these fantastic dreams are, we surmise, not characteristic of the true sleeping state in which the natural memory is closed from below and is moved only from within.
312 AC 1976
In states of disease or discomfort such as may result from overstrain or from too rich food or from the use of various drugs, the senses are sometimes still pounding from below upon our consciousness even after we have fallen asleep. And while the state of the blood and the senses is such that the brain cannot find continual repose, there are countless opportunities on the part of hordes of wandering spirits--such as the curious spirits belonging to the "province of the chyle-duct"--to seek a temporary lodgment in the mind of a man. But this kind of influx touches closely upon another phase of our general subject, namely, the connection of spirits with disease.
The teachings concerning dreams may not appear to be, by themselves, an important part of the doctrine of the church. Yet they present another aspect of the marvelous economy of human life, which is ordered by infinite protective agencies and is ruled in every detail by the Lord of creation.
"He sendeth rain upon
the just and the unjust."
"Life inflows." This statement is a postulate which no one can refute. For life, wherever it manifests itself, cannot be proved to be inherent in any natural form or to be identical with it. The death of the body testifies to the truth that life is a gift, an "influx" from a realm beyond our sight. Life is a gift--a loan. Revelation assures us that for men it is a permanent loan which shall not be taken away from us. And the further truth is revealed that the life which unfolds its strange dualities in the tiny organisms, from lichens to men, which flourish so miraculously on the surface of the planets, is derived from the Lord God who is infinitely Man--infinite Love and infinite Wisdom.
The Lord governs the heavens and the galaxies of worlds by the modes of His influx--by laws according to which He gives of His life to all finite recipients, just so far as there is response and reciprocation. The Lord alone is Life. What appears as life with man is only reception--variable and limited states of reception. To receive is the esse of man's life.313 His body is not his own, but is built for him out of the matters of the earth and the atmospheres. His soul is beyond his control and is eternally under the Lord's care, being formed from higher spiritual substances as the Lord's own abode with him.314 His mind is formed from lower spiritual substances, and into it are focused knowledges and thoughts and spheres of affection from neighboring minds and spirits; for no man either wills or thinks from himself.
313 AC 3938:2
314 Infl. 8, HH 39, LJ 25
Man himself is but a state of reception, a state of response to the rich gifts of life which press in from within and from without--"good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over." Yet he is the focus, the ultimate upon which all the influxes of life are centered as upon their final object in and through which all the ends of creation are to be fulfilled.3l5 The faculty of reception is given to man by the Lord's life acting both immediately and through diverse instrumentalities. The Lord inflows into the interiors of man, or into his rational thought and will, both immediately from Himself and mediately through heaven or the spiritual world. He also inflows into the exteriors of man's natural, both immediately, and mediately through the spiritual world.316
315 LJ 9
316 AC 6472
The Lord's immediate influx is not only into the will and thought of man "but also at the same time into many things which befall him"--thus ruling apparent accidents, chance and fortune; which (as was shown in a preceding chapter) are called "Providence in the ultimate of order, in which all things are relatively inconstant," or wherein no order or necessary sequence can be discerned, but which are according to Divine foresight.317
317 AC 6493e, 6180, DP 212
The Lord's mediate influx, or His mediate government of man's mind and body is effected through the spiritual world--through the heavens and the hells. We have already stressed the teaching that all man's states draw their causes from the spirits and angels who attend him. We are creatures of changing moods. But we are usually able, on reflection, to account for the states into which we have imperceptibly drifted, by tracing them to natural causes. To excuse our frailties or our impatience, we complain that we are tired, are unjustly treated, are bored or homesick, etc.
Yet common experience tells us that the same apparent natural causes do not always produce the same moods but serve merely as an occasion favorable to their appearance. The Writings convert this vague perception into a clear doctrine which teaches that there would be no conscious life, no realized affections or distinct thought with man, except for the influx of spirits and angels; and that the real meanings which we attach to our sensations and experiences in this world are derived from the moods which spirits instil into us--moods of delight or aversion.
If we are to pursue the subject further, however, we must learn to distinguish between "particular influx" and "general influx"--between two types of influx, both mediated by the spiritual world, but affecting men in different ways.318
318 AC 5850
General Influx and Particular Influx
"There flows from the Lord through the spiritual world into the subjects of the natural world a general influx and also a particular influx--a general influx into those things which are in order, a particular influx into those which are not in order."318 Animals are all born into the order of their creation and are ruled by a general influx, without the mediation of any spirits and angels; which is of course obvious, since animals existed before mankind. The first men were also created into the order of their lives. And before the Fall, men, like the animals, were no doubt born into similar instinctive grasp of the knowledge needed for their natural life; but they were also born with a faculty to develop a perception of spiritual wisdom which beasts cannot have.
318 AC 5850
319 AC 6323, HH 296, 247
But differently from the beasts, man could change the original order of his life--although only with reference to his mental life. With the fall into sin, as hereditary evils began to multiply among men, man's natural mind became utterly divorced from heaven. The sensual degree of that mind became by heredity so infected and perverted that the Writings declare that every tender babe now born is born in "a state of damnation!"320 For an infant feels anything as good if it favors self. This shocking truth implies first of all that man's mind cannot any longer be governed by a general influx from heaven. The only general influx that it could receive would be a general influx from hell which would flood his unresisting understanding with fantasies of self-love. All his mental instincts would then be perverse beyond any possibility of change, and he would live like a ravening beast without any restraints of reason.321
320 DP 83
321 SD 2379, AC 5993
It was therefore provided by the Lord that man's will should be separated from his understanding so that the rational part of his mind could be built up in a certain independence of the native will. Although he might long for evil, he could then still learn about truth and good. He could see truths and reflect upon them, so that a new world could be created within him in which he becomes more or less detached from that which was natural and spontaneous to him from birth. He could then be governed in a new way under the Lord's auspices--by "particular influx" or by limited influences through a succession of angels and spirits so counter-poised that man might be held in a freedom of choice. Two good spirits and two evil spirits thus become his attendants.
Under the regime of particular influx man is born into ignorance, not as a prey to his instincts. His responsibility is confined to the states which would be gradually aroused through knowledge and experience. His native will is mere self-love, with animal appetites capable of incredible ferocity. But man does not normally realize the character of these dormant loves, for they are mercifully covered over with apparent goods. The hereditary will is covered over, closed and reserved, lest it should overwhelm the mind with irresistible waves of passion. This is the salvation provided for the "spiritual" race on our earth, and is signified by Noah's retreat into the ark, the lowest mansion of which was shut up.322
322 AC 641
Through particular influx man becomes aware of his evil potentialities by their gradual admission into consciousness, as intentions; which is permitted only so far as the understanding is equipped to analyze, to recognize, and to challenge them. Man has no power to change the general state of his natural mind by any sudden exertion of free choice. But he has the power to act from his understanding and judge as to particular states when they come forth one by one. He cannot shun all his evil tendencies, but he can resist them one by one as they appear while he is in free and rational states. By placing man under the rule of particular influx, the Lord as it were permits man to break the bundle of sticks one by one.
By placing man's disordered mind under particular influx, the Lord did not abrogate the general influx of heaven wherever such influx could be received.
323 HH 296, AC 5862
324 SD 4010. 4013
On reflection we may see that man's own part in life is very small, and it is sometimes said that "Nature" carries out the processes of growth, digestion, etc., with an instinctive intelligence immeasurably wiser than man's own. But nature has no intelligence. It is the Creator Himself who inflows with life immediately into the human soul--the inmost of the spirit--and operates these miracles. The soul, which is above the ken or control of both angels and men, is created in the image and likeness of God and bears within it the cause, pattern and conatus by which the body is formed and maintained.325
325 AC 1999, 3633, 6468:3, TCR 166, 103
The body, as to its essential form, is therefore also under the Creator's direct rule, so that man cannot by any mental resolve make a single hair white or black. For it is under a general influx, not needing the mediation of any particular spirit.326
326 Comp. SD 2591
Yet the medium through which the human body is created and maintained by general influx is "the Grand Man, which corresponds in all its minute details to human bodies."327 "Bodily things are exempt from the particular influx of spirits and angels," lest men should suffer bodily obsessions.328 But the ordinate flow of the will and the thought into bodily acts is "by means of a general influx according to the correspondences of the Grand Man."329 The human form of the body is indeed modified by parental and environmental factors, through angels, spirits and men. But this modification is comparatively slight and superficial. For "what is effected through mediate influx ... is relatively very little."330 The image of the whole of the Grand Man dominates every society of heaven, and the more general societies correspond to the organs and viscera of the body, and so regard each other mutually and make a one.331
327 SD 1708-1714, 4064f, 3972, 3148, 1145 1/2
328 AC 5990
329 AC 5862f
330 AC 7004:3
331 AC 6115:3
It is a new truth revealed in the Writings that there is a general influx from each general society of heaven into the corresponding part of the human body.332 Such an influx is necessary to maintain the uses of these organs. Without it, not the smallest part of the body could have any life. We read that "spirits are appointed to every member of speech and every member of action; but these spirits do not know it."
332 AC 3629ff
333 AC 6211, comp. SD 2379
From all these things the universal law may be seen that from the Lord through the spiritual world there flows a general influx into those things which are of order, and a particular influx into what is not in spontaneous order, and that man's mind, being now in a contrary order, could not subsist without spirits adjoined to him who agree with his life.334 With the people of the most ancient church the affections, such as joy, fear, reverence or shame, were involuntarily expressed in their faces "by a general natural influx."335 Animals, whether mild or ferocious, are governed by general influx. Indeed, nature, in whole and in part, is so governed.
334 AC 5850, SD 2379
335 SD 3861
But general influx has an even wider range. It may be compared with the pressure of the atmosphere which holds all things in their order. The sphere of Divine good, like an atmosphere, infills the universal heaven and encompasses, guards and preserves it. Inmostly it acts even upon the hells, although it is not openly received there and can rule only as Divine truth.336 Unless order was so imposed both in heaven and in hell, the end of creation could never be fulfilled, for even particular influx through spirits would not be possible. No freedom can exist except on the basis of order; without order there can be no clear distinctions, and thus no choice.337
336 AC 10188, 9049:3
337 AC 5703, 6370, 8700, 331:2
Swedenborg sensed this general influx as a stream of general affections--an invisible stream of providential guidance which overrules all the conflicting endeavors of spirits and men and unifies them into forms of uses through laws of spiritual necessities. It is like an atmospheric current which holds everything in freedom, yet always within bounds. He likens the sweep of this river of heaven to the general motions of the heart and the lungs which dominate the body yet leave its parts in freedom even to the point of contrariety.
338 SD 4272ff, TCR 652
Spheres of Universal Loves
All life would perish unless there proceeded from the Lord certain universal spheres which fill each world, the spiritual and the natural, and sustain it.339 One of these Divine spheres looks to the preservation of the universe by means of the procreation of successive generations, and with men this makes one with the sphere of conjugial love. By a general influx it operates the miracle of propagation in all forms of life-from the simplest fern to the most perfect tree and from the unicellular protozoa to the highest mammalian structure. This sphere causes the cells to multiply and the sexes to unite from a spontaneous impulse.
339 CL 386, 388
With men, this sphere descends also through the celestial heaven as a free gift of conjugial love which with its ineffable delight comes to lovers everywhere as a temporary loan, by a general influx. But the feeling of selfless surrender which is instilled by this sphere cannot long remain pure, but vanishes like the manna in the desert, leaving life bleak and meaningless unless the minds of the partners are opened, by their own choice and effort, to the particular influx of celestial angels. For these inspire a resistance to evils as sins against God, and a love of the truth which alone can knit the lives of lovers more and more closely into a union of common uses--uses which make marriage the nursery of the human race and the seminary of heaven.
The second universal influx is the Divine sphere which looks to the preservation of what has been procreated. Even in the ultimates of nature we see a distant reflection of this influx in that gems are found in matrices and seeds in husks.
340 AC 2738, CL 222
A reason why the young of every species are so protected is that a sphere of innocence inflows into the helpless progeny and thence affects parents. With men, the love of procreating and the love of infants can become spiritual loves when the final end regarded is to enrich heaven with as many angels as there are descendants and when the offspring are loved for their moral virtues and their spiritual intelligence.341 Natural loves are provided as free gifts by the Lord's general influx, to sustain His creation. But spiritual loves can be received only through the man's own selection of associate spirits, or by particular influx.
341 CL 394ff
General influx is described in the Arcana as "a continuous endeavor from the Lord through the whole heaven into everything pertaining to the life of man."342 It presses continually for the maintenance of external order and connection and health, so far as man's freedom will allow it. Evil spirits also are brought into order, within "generals" which govern their particular forms of spiritual rebellion.343 Indeed, there are no hells which are not opposites or perversions of some general good of heaven.
342 AC 6211
343 AC 1322
How the general influx of heaven as a whole--all its provinces and societies--maintains order, is seen illustrated in human society. For in a city or commonwealth "every use derives its life from the general" or from the community. Each use depends on the common good (Char., chap. vi). And the uses spring from the natural loves which are implanted in all men. All rewards of use, all wealth, all knowledge, comes to each man from the community, which is therefore likened to a lake from which each man derives his necessities, utilities, and delights; even as the organs of the body derive their nourishment from the common blood-stream. Because of a general influx into the "common good" there can be order in society in spite of the prevalence of evil and selfishness among individuals. There is a general influx of the whole into all the parts, holding them in form. The social instinct comes from a general influx, like the herding instinct with animals. Particular influx through specific spirits who are ever changing, makes for individuality and freedom for both the evil and the good. But general influx protects the state as a whole and causes the common good to be regarded. It causes a nation to unify in face of common dangers, to harbor common ideals and common delusions and to be moved by prejudices and passions peculiar to itself.
General influx maintains cooperative order. But it does not reform the spirit of man. Only by the repentance and regeneration of its citizens can the spiritual state of a nation be changed for the better. Order and legislation can never regenerate society. They merely facilitate the mutual uses of the people. And by this they furnish a neutral plane in which both good and evil men seek their individual ends. It is a common plane for many individual states and particular attitudes, a plane of automatic procedures which cannot be essentially changed or upset by any single person.
Habit and General Influx
It is the Lord who rules our spirit-associations in correspondence with our states and needs. Yet man can select the spirits who rule him. Doctrine states that there is no physical influx--no influx from men to spirits or from this world into the spiritual world. We can therefore not alter the character of the spirits who are with us. They do indeed adopt our natural memory and along with it our beliefs and ideas; and they are held in these ideas as long as they are with us. But we cannot transfer to them the changes of heart which we may experience. If we from free choice shun an evil, the spirits who induced that evil are simply compelled to retire, and are separated.
Students of the Spiritual Diary have marked with surprise that the world of spirits seemed to show no effect of the strong sphere of spiritual interest and exaltation which is apparently present among Christians on the occasions of festival seasons such as Christmas and Easter. To judge from Swedenborg's entries on such days, the spiritual world was utterly unaffected by the holiday moods of men. Yet we seem to feel a stronger sphere from the spiritual world on such days; as we also do at church gatherings and at the death of a friend.
What men do--their habits and their reflections--invites the corresponding types of spirits. This is indeed how habits are formed. For usually a habit is of the mind before it is of the body. Our states of mind mould our habits; which is the same thing as to say that we make our own habits quite freely, by repeating the same decision again and again, thus acting in the same way under similar circumstances. We thus become less and less conscious of our habit. It becomes "second nature," and thus almost automatic. We add it to our life, and the control of it is as it were elevated into our subconscious memory. We give up controlling the habit. It controls us.344
344 AC 3108:2, 3161:2, 3843:2
Viewed from the spiritual world, the establishment of a certain habit actually means that we have placed ourselves under the rule of a special kind of spirits who delight in that routine. We no longer bother to spend any thought upon it. The question whether it is right or wrong no longer comes up. This is for us a great saving of mental labor and even of physical energy. Human life would be most arduous, if not impossible, if whatever a man learned to do would have to be reasoned out again whenever he wished to repeat it. Man could then never acquire skill or facility in anything. No matter how often he had convinced himself of some truth, he would still have recurrent doubts until he worked it all out in his mind again.
345 HH 534:3, SD 5986, AE 206, DP 60, LJ 48e
When we exercise our freedom of thought in the course of our earthly life we are, from time to time, making decisions as to what particular spirits we desire to receive; for choice has to do with "particular influx." As long as we are in the life of the body there will be repeated opportunities for such choice. Yet it seems likely, that when we are being carried along in a confirmed habit, which has established an unconscious plane of order or second nature, individual spirits are not so much in question as whole groups of spirits--a selected group of societies through whom life is channeled into our minds.
A man must therefore take thought and explore his habits of mind and body, before they are confirmed beyond the point of no return. In our habits we can recognize the workings of our self-love, our lack of consideration and charity, our impiety, brutality, conceit, or vanity. Our habits will reveal to us our ruling loves, our besetting sins and temptations. External habits which are in themselves good may because of their obsession over us indicate that we place overmuch value on external things.
We can imagine an evil man, a slave to his passions, without restraints or shame, who by his habits has abandoned himself to the general influx from an infernal society. His love has been fixed to the degree that he no longer desires to exercise his freedom of choice, but has surrendered to evil openly and irrevocably, so that his rational mind no longer resists.
Yet if this be true of an evil man, it must also be true that a regenerating man--after his work of reformation, with its cultivation of good habits, has been completed--will thereafter be upheld in the spontaneous sphere of a more general influx from heaven.
General States and General Influx
A man has freedom and choice in the particular states of his life. But general states are outside of his control. It is from a "general influx" that infants grow up in an unvarying order of development, year by year. Common ages imply common states, with only slight variations. In later life there is very much more differentiation between individuals of the same ages, because as to particular states, self-chosen, men are quite unlike each other in thought and affection.
Even so, there are general or common states among adults. Those in the same use or profession are also in a common state. We often speak of the illustration of a man's use, a peculiar attitude, light, inspiration, or wisdom, which dignifies an office. The Writings indicate that this is based on general influx, which is given where there is the order of some use. This general influx is not based on man's regeneration, but on his devotion to the use. An unregenerate man is of course constantly tending to break down the order of his use through dishonesty or indolence and is thus in danger of losing his professional illustration. But a faithful worker--although moved by selfish interests--is externally associated with societies of that use in the other world, and is restrained by their general influx from injuring his use.
That this is so is clear from the appointed rite of priestly ordination. The use of the priesthood being essential to the welfare of mankind, the entrance into this use must be orderly, and is solemnly marked by the laying on of hands (which represents the communication of the powers of illustration) and by "the promise of the Holy Spirit." In effect the candidate accepts the order and responsibility which open him to a general influx from societies of the priestly use in the other world. But his own personal and inward repentance and regeneration can alone open his heart to the reception of the Holy Spirit. Such internal reception must come by way of particular influx.
With respect to the general environment in which man's spirit is, order requires that the spirits normally around a man should be those of his own religious persuasion. Without this order--which implies also a general influx to maintain it--there could be no true freedom or normal progress, but man would become an easy prey to fickle states of doubt and spiritual indecision.
Generals come first, particulars come later. We know that as an infant grows up, he enters first into concepts of most general truths and that particulars are later given to infill them. The generals of childish thought are such that they may be accepted from natural affections which are full of hereditary evils as yet hidden. It is not to be doubted that these basic orders of generals from natural experience and from the natural sense of the Word, are maintained by general influxes from the other world. And even with adults, the literal sense of the Scriptures is delightful because the things therein can be explained to favor their own states and opinions, until these generals are qualified by an understanding of particulars and these by a perception of singulars.346
346 AC 4345, 5620:13
It is the same with generals of doctrine which are taught in the church.
The Invitation to the New Church--a work which records the results, in past churches, of relying on the momentum of a merely historical faith-therefore contains the following statement: "Unless the present little work be added to the preceding one [the True Christian Religion], the church cannot be healed. For it would be a merely palliative cure.... The doctrine of the New Church indeed furnishes the medicine, but only exteriorly" (Inv. 25). The little work referred to was therefore added; for it contained certain particulars of utmost importance for the establishment and survival of the church.
General Influx into the Mind
The body is held by the Lord under general influx, as an instrument for man's mind. The externals of human society are also held in order by general influx.
347 TCR 8
348 AE 955e, 954:2, SD 2148, comp. 2001ff, 2174, SD min. 4644; Char. 123
Indeed, our faculty of thinking could not operate unless certain "generals" were so implanted in our minds that we are not aware of them. Animals, of course, are wholly led by a connate disposition and order which automatically responds to specific general influxes of their predestined natural affections. It is from an ordering by general influx that both men and animals instinctively learn to judge distances and without reflection learn to avoid objects. And man learns to order all that he knows into general categories, arranging his knowledge into series and orders according to general qualities, classing particular ideas under general heads, and thus marking out limits and protective bounds within his thoughts.349
349 SD 3666, 4190
But, finally, general influx is also responsible for that gift which is common with the simple but often lacking among those of the learned who cannot think from general principles. This is "common sense"--thought that is not the product of learned arguments or preconceived logical formulas, but comes from seeing truth in its own light. Common perception is the great preservative of mankind.350 It can in a moment explode the most elaborate structure of fallacy. It spans our practical difficulties. It cuts the Gordian knot of seemingly hopeless dilemmas. It nullifies theological doubts. As a fresh breeze it clears the smoke clouds from the scene of our intellectual battles; and remains usually the sole victor. And upon it rest the blessings of heaven. Yet common sense--alone--cannot regenerate or even reform. It can but preserve the remnants of order in the mind.
350 Comp. SD min. 4644, DP 317, CL 28
Whatever comes from general influx depends on a remnant of order, on the health of the body or the mind. Where evil steps in or disease enters this order is disturbed, and heaven reluctantly withdraws her protective wings somewhat, with the distressing result that individual spirits of hell begin to inflow.
"It is easier to say to one
sick of the palsy. Thy
sins are forgiven thee; or
to say, Arise, take up thy
bed, and walk?"
Infant and Disease
Order, Freedom, and the Permission of Evil
"Heaven keeps all things in connection and safety." But "hell destroys and rends all things asunder."351 This is the general truth from which the Arcana Coelestia proceeds to its teaching about the origin and nature of disease.
351 AC 5713
The societies of heaven receive from the Lord an influx of mutual love, which seeks to give happiness to others and allows freedom for the uses of others. Therefore there is a general influx from the Lord through the societies of heaven which maintains the order and health of human society and of the human body. By general influx, the human body is moulded into an organism which corresponds to all the uses of the Grand Man of heaven. Similarly, by general influx, a society is moulded into a replica of the human form. So far as a society is performing the uses of communal life, it is in the order of heaven, and in a noble form. So far as the human body is functioning, it has beauty and grace and nobility, even if man's mind be perverted. For the Lord spreads the sunshine of health upon the evil and upon the good. Only upon the basis of a sound body can a sound mind be built. Only in states of health and rationality can man's spiritual reformation proceed. The Lord exerts His providence to provide these ultimates of order for all men, because His primary gift to man--the freedom which makes of man a responsible human soul--can be exercised only where order exists.
But freedom would be but a name, if man could not at all reject or disturb the order which the Lord provides for him. Freedom implies that man can, if he will, disturb that order not only for himself, but for others! Freedom implies that man should be free not only to think and will against the order of God, but that he shall also feel able to carry his purposes into act and set up a plane of disorder in the world. In no other way could his free will be conveyed to the comprehension of others; in no other way could he invoke the cooperation or opposition of others, who, in their turn, are free to respond. Life would not be free if it were confined within the airtight space of one's own intentions! Man must be free to commit mistakes, to do actual evil, to spoil the handiwork of the Creator, and abuse His agencies.
When this occurs, and order has been disrupted, the general influx from heaven gives way so far as man insists. Fundamentally, and as to all His final purposes, the Lord alone rules the universe, which cannot be upset by fickle man. It is legitimate to inquire, how far evil can derange the ultimate order of life.
That it can do so in the realm of the mind, is of course plain to see. The two higher degrees of the mind of which we are not cognizant in this life, are indeed in the order of heaven.352 But the natural degree, or the "natural mind" in which man is conscious on earth, becomes perverted as to its thoughts and affections, as to its organic habits, its spontaneous reactions, and its reasonings. Indeed, by birth, or from heredity, the natural mind of present day man is utterly opposed to the gyre and flow of heaven. It is within the various degrees of that natural mind that the hells are formed.353
352 DLW 432, 238, 252
353 DLW 275, 269, 345
But perversions go further than the mind. The brain and the rest of the body can become disordered, and after death they actually disintegrate in the grave. Not only disease, but "death," comes from "no other source than sin."354 But let us here pause a moment to free our minds of several possible misunderstandings.
354 AC 5726, cp SD 4592
The Actuality of Evil and the Necessity of Death
Swedenborg did not belong to that school of so-called "idealists" which regards the body and the world of matter as mere projections of the mind. He believed in the reality of the natural world which he describes as existing independently of man or man's thought. He states that man was created last of all--as the culmination of the organic kingdoms. There is therefore no kinship between the teaching of the Writings and that of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of "Christian Science"). It has recurrently been stated that "Christian Science" was partly derived from Swedenborg. And on the surface, we find a great many phrases and ideas in Science and Health which are obviously borrowed from the Writings. "The three great pioneers of mental-healing, Dr. Quimby, Dr. Evans, and Mrs. Eddy, were readers and students [?] of Swedenborg ... but they were more influenced by Berkeley...."355 As the late Rev. John Whitehead put it: "Many flowers have been culled from Swedenborg's garden, but they have been transplanted without roots." Both Swedenborg and Mrs. Eddy teach that the natural mind (or what she called the "mortal mind") is the seat of evil and the origin of disease.
355 John Whitehead, Illusions of Christian Science, Boston, 1907
When the Writings state that death has no other origin than sin, the reference is presumably to death from disease. The language of Scripture alludes to the life of sin as the death of the soul. In the symbolic story of Genesis, death is said to have come upon man because of his eating of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil"; which made him feel like a god who could decide for himself what was good and evil. This was the spiritual death which overcame the first race--those signified by "Adam"--who were of a "celestial" genius. And the Arcana Coelestia explains that the "antediluvians" who perished in the "Flood" meant some of their descendants who could not master their evil passions--with the physical result that they died of a species of suffocation.356
356 AC 5725
Thus the symbolic prediction became literally fulfilled. And the same still holds of death from disease. But in a wider sense, death antedates both disease and sin. Death, so regarded, is but a part of finite life. Our blood dies and is restored with each breath of the lungs. The cycles of finite things all end in a death of passivity. Endless successions of plants and animals lived and propagated and died before man's advent on earth. And mankind, before its fall into sin, was not immune to bodily death. Eternally to live on earth could be no reward for virtue. The statement that death is from no other source than from sin, is therefore qualified by the explanation that "if man had lived the life of good ... he would be without disease, and would only decline to extreme old age, even until he became a child again, but a wise child; and when the body could no longer minister to his internal man or spirit, he would pass without disease out of his earthly body into a body such as the angels have."357
357 AC 5726, SD 4592
A further word might be premised about the reason why evil, which is a mental state, is permitted to extend its influence into the body and the natural world. Evil that is hidden cannot be examined, shunned, and removed. Evil in the mind exists as a desire not only to think and intend, but also to do and speak. It goes out to change the state of others--forcibly to remould the world more nearly to one's advantage, and to profit despite another's hurt! Unless it be seen that such indeed is the effect of the evil state of mind, evil could never be recognized. Evil in a man harms uses--his own and those of others--harms his body and the bodies of others.
In an orderly life we see a balance of good uses--such as we observe in a healthy organism. But when evil and its bodily effects came into existence, one evil is used to counter-balance another. We see this in the constant warfare of insect-pests, in the neutralization of extremes, in the balanced germ-life of our own bodies. It is even suggested that evil men do not defeat the Divine government since "one is the remedy of the other, for evil is cured by evil."358
358 SD 2874
On earth there is much grumbling against the Divine Providence because evils and bodily sufferings are permitted. Yet in the view of the angels, bodily sufferings are as nothing when the eternal welfare of a man is at stake. The use of pain--as a signal to man that his body is in disorder--is indispensable.
The general effect of the teachings of the Writings seems to be that the real origin of disease was evil and self-will. The insistence on breaking the rules of rational moderation, the indulgence to excess, the refusal to curb the appetites, have caused men to turn aside from the "tree of life" and to eat gluttonously of the fruit of knowledge which would make men as gods who determined for themselves what was good or evil for them.
We rightly call disease and its consequent pains evil, because they imply a partial defeat of the ends of life, for they disturb the uses of society. They pull the mind down and make one conscious of his body, which should serve--as it did in most ancient times--merely as an instrument whereby the soul may perform uses for the minds of others.
Evil spirits love material things and attach material values, material meanings, even to spiritual things. Therefore they seek to immerse man's mind into his bodily life. They rejoice and are in their delights when they can induce man to reflect on his sensual pleasures or pains. Some spirits would indeed obsess man, if they could, and return into the body through men. Such, however, are now confined in their hells, i.e., they are not permitted near men. To cure them of their desire, certain punishing spirits are permitted to induce upon them the feeling that they, too, actually have a material body. And to spirits it is an inconceivable torture to feel themselves bound within an earthly body, for thus they can be subjected to all manner of tormenting fantasies.359
359 SD 4207
* * *
To assert that "every one draws disease upon himself from the evil of life" may seem a hard saying.360 We may readily admit that many diseases are obviously traceable to over indulgences, passions, or a useless, self-centered life. But there is some comfort in the further teaching of the Writings which shows that the real cause of disease lies in the other world--thus not necessarily in man's own evils, but in the influx of the hells. "All the infernals induce diseases.... If infernals apply themselves, they induce diseases, and at last death."361
360 SD 2439, 4592, AC 5715
361 AC 5713, SD min. 4733 (4731m)
The idea that illnesses come from the influence of evil spirits is regarded in the world as a superstition. And yet it must be admitted that all man's passions and lusts are nothing but effects of the spirits whose invisible presence feeds our contrary moods. If disease comes from such a source, it can readily be understood why the miracles which the Lord performed on earth were chiefly works of healing. His mission was to restore order in the spiritual world. What He did on earth corresponded to His work of redeeming mankind from the dominion of evil spirits.362 He did not come to take away all sickness; but each of His miraculous cures marked a step in the battle against the hells--representing on earth what He was doing in the spiritual world. There were many sick and blind in those days, but only a relatively few were healed.363
362 AC 7337
363 AC 8364
Many of the early Christians believed that the Lord came to establish a kingdom of God on earth, in which evil would have no place, nor disease or death. Yet after nearly two thousand years have passed, illness and evil persist.
364 HH 257, SD 2659
The spiritual law now operating is, that selected good spirits and evil spirits are allowed to inflow into men's minds. The evil spirits thus stir up lusts and falsities, by particular influx, and man feels these changing states as his own. But, as was shown in chapter XIII, the body is governed by a general influx through the societies of the Grand Man of heaven. So far as spirits are performing uses in the Grand Man, so far their societies are assigned as media for the general influx of life into the various corresponding organs and parts of the human body. The influx takes place "into the use of the organ" and so into the organ itself."365 So far as man's body is in functional order, so far it mirrors and receives the flux of corresponding spiritual uses which make up the Grand Man; and then evil spirits are entirely unable to cause any disorders in the body. "They are not permitted to inflow as far as into the solid things of the body," thus not into tissues or organs. But if for any reason the order of the body is disturbed, then evil spirits--who are not within the Grand Man, but together compose an opposite spiritual form which might rather be called "the Grand Monstrosity"--are permitted to inflow into the disorder, or "into the unclean things which belong to disease."366
365 SD 4630. But note AC 5862
366 AC 5713, SD 4585, cp 2659
(The precise meaning of these teachings may be somewhat debatable. In discussing the subject of disease, we are conscious of the imprudence of trespassing on alien ground; for it belongs to the medical profession to form a philosophy of disease and cure. Yet the doctrinal statements that will provide the principles for such a philosophy must be cited, since we set out to treat of the influence of spirits upon human states. Admittedly, in drawing out these statements, a certain personal perspective cannot be avoided).
Causes and Cures, Natural and Spiritual
"Only when a man falls into disease" can spirits inflow into his body, and then only "into those things in the man where the disease is" or "into such unclean things as belong to the disease."366 What are these unclean things? And how does a man "fall into disease"?
366 AC 5713, SD 4585, cp 2659
That illnesses exist which flow directly from lusts and passions of the mind has already been mentioned.367 But we are also assured that "diseases do indeed exist from natural causes among men but as soon as they exist, spirits flow thither which correspond to that disease." Swedenborg continues: "For spirits who are in evil and falsity, produce precisely such things as are sensibly perceived in sicknesses, as I have plainly experienced beyond all mistake. Hence it is, since such spirits apply themselves there and aggravate the disease by their presence, that if they should be removed by the Lord, man would at once be restored; for there are evil and false spirits to whom correspond diseases and ailments of every kind."368 We presume that such a sudden restoral is possible only where no member is actually cut off.
367 SD 4592, AC 5712
368 SD min. 4648, cp. SD 4585
Swedenborg himself seems to have been immune to any diseases which came from natural causes.
369 SD min. 4649
Why was this? Perhaps because natural causes do not appear as natural to one who is sensible of the spiritual realm! At any rate, he continues: "But, because we do not believe spirits to be about us, all these things are ascribed to natural causes. Medicines help! But still more the Lord's Providence--as people do confess. And, strange to say, sufferers pray to God that they may be restored, and declare that God has restored them; but still, when they are out of that state, every one of them ascribes [his cure] to nature!"370
370 SD min. 4650, 4657
If we analyze natural causes, they are bound to resolve into spiritual causes. Even an earthquake could not affect anyone unless a spiritual cause--a mental state--has led him to abide in the zone of danger. And in the spiritual world those causes which on earth seem utterly disconnected and beyond any visible law, may be seen to be marvelously dependent on spiritual laws of Divine foresight and permission.
Yet man on earth, not knowing these spiritual connections and interior causes, must act according to his own judgment and prudence. For Providence, in His leading of man, uses also man's prudence. Disasters that appear to have natural causes, can be ameliorated--at least for the time--by natural remedies. "Medicines help!" "Diseases"--we read--"can be, and also ought to be cured by natural means, for the Providence of the Lord concurs with such means; and thus also man is the longer kept from faith in a Divine Providence in most particular things: for if man should believe this, and then deny it, he would profane a most sacred truth, which profanation is itself a most dreadful hell."371
371 SD 45851 cp 4571e
The fact that there are spiritual causes operating within disease, "does not prevent man's being healed naturally, for the Divine Providence concurs with such means."372 Even the Lord Himself, in one instance, used an external means of cure, when He made clay of His spittle and laid it on the blind man's eyes. There is power in ultimates. For influx is according to the vessel that receives. A disorderly plane attracts evil influx. If the disorder is corrected, the forces of the general influx through heaven-which operate in unison with the soul's healing power and creative, formative influx into the body--will again take charge and restore the broken tissues so far as is possible.
372 AC 5713
It is important to distinguish between a disorder in the body and the disease which may follow it. A small wound, accidentally incurred, will heal without difficulty if it be kept clean. It is only a wear in the tissues--such as occurs, in different fashion, again and again in normal life; and the formative powers of the soul immediately begin to weave new fibres, new cell-structures, to repair the damage. For the soul is as it were omniscient as to all that happens in its body, and continually creates new cells, and redistributes the functions of the body most wisely while healing is going on. The soul also unifies the action of all the cells and fibres and organs into a single whole. There is no break in what we have called "general influx." But when decay and infection set in, then the "unclean things of the disease" also attract a corresponding influx from the spiritual world. For life is constantly present--it is never absent, knows no limitations of time or space. "The expanse of life ... is not an extense, but is yet within the extense of the natural sun, and is with living subjects there according to reception, and reception is according to forms and states."373
373 TCR 35:11, CL 380
What occurs in man's body in illness resembles what takes place in a man's mind, which is subject to spiritual diseases. "The sins retained in an impenitent man may be compared to various diseases in him: unless medicines are brought to bear on them, and the malignities are thereby removed, the man dies."374
374 TCR 524
This is more than a comparison. For the mind also is in the human form, and has its ailments, each of which corresponds to some bodily disease. The mind--we must remember-is a spiritual organism. And while we live on earth, our mind is enclosed within the tissues of our material body, so intimately that every state of the mind has an effect on the interiors of the body; and in turn the mind accommodates itself so closely to the state of the body, that it appears as if the body had an effect upon the mind.
Spiritual states--mental states--are actuated from the presence of spirits. These spirits do not see or know the man. They only see the knowledges of man's memory, and think by their means just as if they were man. And when we say that evil spirits inflow or act upon the diseased things of the body, this is said according to the appearance. Spirits cannot "enter" man's body, nor do they seem to themselves to do so. But when they act spiritually into evil ideas, fantasies, and emotions, and follow the "ways" of spiritual decay which correspond to opposites of the human body, then the sphere of these spirits causes a maladjustment of the currents regulating growth in the body.375
375 Compare AC 5717e
376 AC 5713
377 AC 5717
378 AC 5863, SD min. 4648, cp AR 531
379 AC 5180
It belongs to the various departments of medicine to determine what the influx of spirits effects in the bodies of men during disease. Some of these effects are well known. There may be a sudden multiplication of bacterial colonies. There may be the engendering of poisons that infect the fluids and retard or disturb the tissue processes. There may be misdirected or cancerous growths of certain tissues. There may be upsets of the body-tone and of the harmonious vibratory motions by which life in the body is sustained. There may be deficiencies of some of the simple elements or of the complex organic chemicals which food must contain to supply the cells and tissues with the means of growth and renewal. In many cases there occurs an abnormal rise or fall of the vital heat upon which the chemistry of the body depends for its balance.
Diseases are sometimes attended by the presence of bacteria-germs which multiply with incredible speed to generate poisons and to clog the tissues. The nature of such disease germs was not known in Swedenborg's day and is therefore not directly discussed in the Writings.
380 SD 4585, AC 5713
That the inmost soul has at its disposal many marvelous agencies in the body is obvious in all stages of the formation of the embryo and the growth of the body. The strange appearance of "anti-bodies" to counter disease germs in the blood stream is an example of how the balance of organic life is maintained as if by an omniscient government; as is also the dominant role played by the secretions of the endocrine glands. That this government is mediated by the spiritual world has been the theme of this book. But man's mind is his own special spiritual world. And health and disease may both depend on his psychical states. The philosophy of disease and cure which will eventually take form among the people of the New Church must account first of all for the relation of the body to the mind, and thus to the spiritual world.
"A cheerful heart is a
good medicine, but a
downcast spirit dries up
A Hebrew Proverb
Mental Causes of Disease
Is Illness the Fault of Man?
Many Christians believe that all accidents and diseases are retributions of Providence for personal sins. This idea was common among the Jews, who conceived of no higher good than health and prosperity, nor any higher destiny than a long life on earth. The Lord sought to disabuse the minds of the disciples of this fallacy when he said concerning the man who had been born blind, "Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him"; and when He said that the eighteen killed by the fall of the tower in Siloam were not sinners above others in Jerusalem.381
381 John 9:3, Luke 13:4
Men--from no individual fault of their own--may fall sick from natural causes which in turn come from spiritual causes hidden from man's understanding. And by natural remedies he may be restored. But while the disease lasts, evil spirits are able to extend their operations from the realm of the mind into the body, working against a cure by inflowing into the unclean things which belong to the disease, which they aggravate. The stress of the Writings is laid upon the fact that without the influx from the hells there would be no actual disease. "Every disease in the human race" comes from sin, which is spiritual disease.382 We cannot take this to mean that it is always a man's fault if he is sick, any more than it is his fault that he has hereditary tendencies to evil.
382 AC 8364
383 AC 8364:2
It does not follow that an evil man is always, or necessarily, sick, or cannot remain in what appears as perfect bodily health. But actually, the things that come to belong to man's life are not only of his mind but of his whole body, from head to foot.384 And therefore it is disclosed in the Writings that the blood in the lungs purifies and nourishes itself correspondently to the affections of the mind, and that in evil states it absorbs a subtle food of unwholesome quality, unsuitable to serve the soul in its impartial and wise economy. Yet no one can ascertain this quality of the blood by any qualitative chemical analysis since "it is a purer blood, called by some 'the animal spirit,' which is purified" with the regenerating man.385
384 DLW 268
385 DLW 420, 423
Certain "lusts and passions of the mind" are more prone than others to "destroy man's interiors," and thus to "drag" man into disease and death.386 Such passions may be classed as breaches of the moral law.
386 AC 5712, SD 4592
Intemperance, drunkenness, gluttony, luxuries of various kinds, and pleasures that cater to bodily enjoyments alone, head the list. For these upset the routine of use and the balance of the body functions; denying to the body the proper exercise or the proper sleep; or compelling the stomach to absorb useless food or drink, for the sake of the transient pleasures of the senses. Drunkenness causes a man to lose his manhood, since it is his intellectual faculty that marks him a man. It not only brings damage on his body and so hastens his death, but it wastes in extravagance what might be of use to many.387
387 SD 2422
Hatred and revenge also visibly poison the body and heat the blood, as well as warping the judgments of the mind. States of bitterness and brutality have always been compared to gall--the bile rejected from the liver and longing to punish the stubborn food in the intestinal tract. Lasciviousness--when given rein--leads to sexual diseases of varied types, affecting the glands, tissues, and nerves, and even infecting the blood itself. Hypocrisy and deception tax the nervous system by inducing constant fear of detection.
Mental states can so influence the body as to create organic disorders therein into which the hells can operate because the mind or spirit while man lives on earth is not apart from his body nor present only in the brain, but is within the whole body and animates it with life. "The spiritual," we read, "accompanies every stamen [of the viscera, organs, and members of man] from outmost to inmost, and therefore all the minute structures and fibres of the heart and lungs." This is the reason given for the fact that the spiritual body, which is formed within the natural body, rises at death in a similar form. Death "is merely the separation of the spiritual substance from the material."388 The spiritual which is present in the body and its brain, and thus acts into nature, is called, in the Writings, the "ultimate-spiritual" and also the "spiritual-natural degree"; for it is the ultimate degree of the spiritua1.389
388 Wis. vii. 2:4
389 DLW 345
390 DLW 257, Wis. viii. 5, AE 1222:3
391 DLW 345, 270
392 DLW 260, 263, 269, 432
It is the natural mind that is formed in direct contact with the natural substances of the body. And although the natural mind or the "spiritual-natural" in man is perverted by heredity, yet it is none the less ruled by the superior spiritual degrees in such a way that these can act by it in creating the body into the general image of the soul and usually maintaining it in seeming health. The perversion of the substance of the "ultimate spiritual" is thus of such a nature that its essential function of conveying life is outwardly unimpaired.
This ultimate spiritual degree with man unfolds itself as the natural mind--which is itself of three degrees, sensual, natural and rational. There is need in the body, then, for various planes of organics which shall serve to express the powers of that mind. For no life, no thought or affection, could possibly manifest itself in the realm of nature, unless nature furnished a receptive vessel, responsive to its influx.
Swedenborg's Early Views on Diseases
In the Writings, little is said of these body-planes which display the powers of the spirit. But in his philosophical works, Swedenborg gives much thoughtful attention to them. What he says therein cannot be taken as revealed doctrine and is not binding on our minds.
His general theory was that there are, in the body, three vital fluids. Each builds for itself a center, or principal court. The grossest of the vital fluids we call "the red blood," and its center is the heart. The fluid of middle degree Swedenborg calls by various names--the "animal spirit," the "purer blood"--and for its centers are prepared uncounted millions of cortical "glands" in the brain. Thence it flows at incredible speed through the nervous system and also enters into the composition of blood and tissues in various ways. The third and highest vital fluid--the "spirituous fluid" or "purest blood"--has innumerable centers in each cortical gland--centers which are called "simple corteces," and thence it flashes like rays of force through the simplest invisible fibres, and through nerve fibres and blood vessels into the entire body. Indeed, the body is the product solely of the ineffable formative activities of these simplest fibrillae. For this "spirituous fluid" is the servant of the soul itself, and may indeed be called "the soul of the body."*
* Not only does it form the organics of its body but it continually heals, repairs, and renovates them. (I Econ. 253-255)
Into this framework of vital fluids and fibres, formed by the soul itself out of the best of nature's gifts, Swedenborg then places the degrees of that mind which man employs in the world. The blood serves as the plane of the vegetative and most sensuous life of the mind. The cortical glands, with their vital nerve juices, are made the plane for the animus, its sensations, imaginations and passions. The simple cortex and simplest fibre and thus the highest vital substances of the body, are cited as the organic instruments of the rational mind and the pure natural intellect.
Diseases are affections of the various natural organics mentioned above.
393 Fibre 376, 488. In the theological Writings the word "guilt" is used in a more restricted sense, not as hereditary evil, as here.
Yet the afflictions of the "purest blood" cause a sickness which affects the workings of man's intellectual mind: it shows itself, not as a disease, but as a perversity in will and judgment--as vain ambition, malice, and a banishing of conscience. Thus insanities and vices result.394 The cure for such irrational states, Swedenborg suggests, is to gain health of body and animus, and then to enlighten one's mind through masters who have saner judgment; but also to learn from revealed and rational theology, and to exercise freedom of thought and especially self-control!395 (And in the Writings it is added that "all who love uses think sanely in their spirit, and their spirit thinks sanely in their body)."396
394 Fibre 374, 2 Econ. 315
395 Fibre 374
396 Love xv
If the "purer blood," which runs through the cortical glands and the nervous fibres, becomes vitiated, there arises not disease as such, but "passions of the animus," such as moody anger, jealousy, foolish prides or fears, melancholy, fickleness, weakness of the imagination, loss of memory, and many other ills which depend on the state of the brain and its various parts.397
397 Fibre 373
All the natural affections or the mediate loves of the animus are in themselves healthy instincts.398 But when taken as ends-in-themselves, and indulged not for the sake of uses or for the sake of higher ends, but only for selfish satisfaction, then some of them become intemperate and urge us to excesses. We may call these natural affections, "natural goods," because they are implanted in the natural mind from birth.
398 R. Psych., chapter beginning with n. 197
Swedenborg also suggests remedies for the sicknesses and upsets of the animus. Medicines, he says, may be employed to purify and restore the red blood; for it may be some external condition of the body and its blood that accounts for the mental state. Yet if the cause is not in the body, the state might be amended by an improvement of the mental environment: agreeable feasts, convivial companionships, and broader social contacts may put one in a more normal frame of mind! If this does not help, let the sufferer seek recourse to moral philosophy and in a bit of practical self-analysis, so that he rectifies the mistakes into which he has drifted.399 On the other hand, the trouble may be derived from perversities of the intellectual and rational mind--and then repentance is called for!
399 Fibre 373
Health cannot truly exist, unless all the planes of the body and mind are in harmony and cooperation! If the inner mind is cheated of its ends, the animus may become angered, the blood hot, and a bilious fever may seize the viscera!400
400 Fibre 377
Lack of harmony with interior planes is therefore a cause of bodily disease--disease "properly so called." But not the only cause; for the body is affected by any organic deterioration of blood, serum, or tissue.401 And the principal and most common cause of bodily disease has to do with the lack of proper nourishment or with the food that we eat; and also with the subtle food which we draw in by breathing the air, and even the still more subtle nourishment which the "purer blood" drinks in from the ether.402 For the blood must be provided with aliments of sufficient quantity and the right quality. Our philosopher therefore classes--among the remedies for the body--not only various drugs, drawn from the three kingdoms of nature, and moderate diet, exercise, rest, sleep, moderate temperature; but also mental calm. And he leaves the field open for new discoveries of ways by which the blood may be purified, amended and renewed.403
401 Fibre 375
402 Fibre 381a et seq.
403 Fibre 372, 387
The Theological Writings on the Causes of Organic Disease
We have cited these observations which Swedenborg made before he was called to his religious mission, in the hope that they might help us to understand more clearly certain statements made in the Arcana, the Spiritual Diary and the other theological works.
In the Arcana Coelestia we read that evils "close the smallest and altogether invisible vessels of which the next larger, also invisible, are woven; for the vessels which are smallest of all and wholly invisible, are continued from man's interiors.
404 AC 5726, cp 4227:3, 1801
405 AC 5726, 3318
406 AC 2487
407 DLW 263, 270, 254, CL 203:2, DP 319:3, AE 1168:3
408 TCR 103, DLW 432
409 DLW 345
410 DLW 260, 263
411 TCR 38, DLW 345
Hereditary evils, it is well to note, are not "guilt" or "sin" or "original sin," but only tendencies or inclinations to evil. It would seem to follow, that with the newborn infant the "smallest and invisible vessels" which are receptive of the spirit and undoubtedly carry the marks of heredity, are not closed but have the tendency to close themselves against the spiritual mind; nor is there as yet any "inmost vitiation of the blood." So far as the child, and later the man, does not prevent, the Lord continues to hold him in innocence and mental health, by a general influx. With infants and well-disposed children, even the worst spirits, if present, would be compelled to serve the Lord's will and cannot introduce any evil. It is when the child begins to acquire a sphere of evil that the inmost vessels are "closed" to the influx of the unperverted spiritual412 and become opened to an influx of cupidity from evil spirits; and then the "animal spirit" begins to absorb the malignities to which it had formerly been immune.
412 AC 1667, DLW 261
While an evil inheritance may thus give a predisposition to certain diseases, most babes are born healthy; unless some deficiency in maternal nourishment or some accident in the womb has interfered with the execution of the soul's pattern of the embryonic body--that marvelous four-dimensional pattern which is latent in the germ-cells and which Dr. Schroedinger has described as a code-script for the individual's entire future development.413 Hereditary evil does not affect the physiological functions of the soul in the body, for the inmost natural vessels are utterly obsequious to the soul in its general influx. Swedenborg therefore stated in the Economy of the Animal Kingdom that the spirituous fluid which is present as a formative substance in the parental seed cannot be perverted or injured or essentially changed in its form except with reference to a variant reception of life and wisdom.414
413 Erwin Schroedinger, What is Life? (New York: Macmillan, 1946), pp. 19, 20
414 2 Econ. 314-316
If this be so, it may be surprising that any one could be born an idiot. Yet even if the "spirituous fluid" is perfect in its physiological action there can be congenital defects in the derivative organisms or injuries to the nervous tissues due to malnutrition or to some trauma experienced either before or after birth. There are no doubt special reasons in the Divine providence why idiots should remain in the state of innocence for their entire life time, or why those who lose their rational balance through disease should be arrested for a time in their mental development. But the law is that "life ... acts according to the ultimate determinations, but not from them."415
415 DLW 259
The internal man may be quite rational even when the mind cannot be rightly channeled into corresponding imaginations, words, or acts. In a private letter, Swedenborg observed that "real madness and insanity resides in the external or natural, not in the internal or spiritual man." There are no natural diseases among spirits in the other life, nor any hospitals; although there are spiritual asylums for spirits who become insane and idiotic from a denial of God. Natural diseases, blindness, lameness, insanity, etc., are cured when man sheds his externals and his internals are opened in the other life.416
416 Docu. n. 243
Yet natural insanity may be caused or abetted by unwholesome mental habits and by the leading of evil spirits. For if our rational mind is not in control, spirits will lead man and cause mental fixations and monomanias.417
417 SD 3624-3628
Nerves, Glands, and Spirits
There are two general ways by which mental and emotional states can affect the body. One is through the nervous system, the other is through the secretions which the glands communicate to the blood. Both originate in the brain. Swedenborg explained that the brain is not only a common sensory and a common motory for the body, but is also a complex gland which acts as a chemical laboratory. And the soul and the mind exercise their special functions, both conscious and unconscious, through the brain. The influence of our spiritual environment thus affects us first of all through the brain. And even as speech corresponds to the thought of the mind, so the influx of the mind into the body always expresses itself according to laws of correspondence.
It is a particular influx from hells attracted by our chosen states that stirs up partiality and dissension among the affections of the natural mind, causes mental symptoms, emotional moods, psychic disturbances and disorders in the functions of the brain cells, and upsets the balance in the products of the endocrine glands.
The conscious part of the mind, or the voluntary, by its deliberate or at least perceptible decisions moves the body by means of the central nervous system. Our errors of judgment or intent may thus cause injury to the body by over-straining it or leading it into perils with which it is not equipped to cope. But emotional states may cause illness even when man is not really aware of them except as a frame of mind; and they may affect the body through the autonomic nervous system centered in the hypothalamus and midbrain, causing unwanted muscle tensions and pains in the esophagus and stomach and in various parts of the alimentary canal, resulting in symptoms like those of peptic ulcers or gas or appendicitis. The breathing may be affected and cause undesirable changes in the blood.
The second bodily agency to respond to our mental states is the glandular system. In his physiological works and later in the Writings Swedenborg called attention to the important functions of what is now called the endocrine glands--anticipating many discoveries by more than a century. In fact he noted that there is no viscus which does not contribute a secretion to the bloodstream.418 Chief of all the glands he considered the brain with its constituent "cortical glands," some of the products of which were strained through the region of the hypothalamus into the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and thence--edified in various ways--into the jugular vein, thereby vivifying the blood with "animal spirit." Health depends on the proper balance and purity of these fluids, and many diseases result from their deficiency or wrong distribution.419
418 SD 925
419 SD 1801, 1812
Swedenborg concluded that the "animal spirit" which is so essential for the balance of all body functions contains within it a life-carrying "spirituous fluid" which is generated in the inmost structures of the cortical cells. All the ductless glands in the body are regulated through the pituitary gland which is the outlet for this subtle nerve-product. In his various treatises he points especially to the uses of the thymus, the adrenals, the spleen, the pancreas, the liver and the testicles; which all aid in modifying, tempering, and salvaging the animal spirit.
420 SD 3459
It can hardly be doubted that what Swedenborg called "animal spirit" is closely related to what medical science in this century refers to as hormones produced by internal secretory glands. The pituitary is now acknowledged as the master gland and the source for a number of hormones which regulate almost every process in the body and condition the various organs to avert any threats to bodily well-being. Most important, however, is the finding that these glands are so sensitive to emotional stresses and psychic states (such as mental blocks and aversions) that they can cause corresponding illnesses and symptoms in the body. The relation of the endocrine glands to our inner states is so close that some have named them "the glands of personality." The accumulating evidence of symbolic symptoms in psychosomatic diseases is not: surprising to the New Church man who is familiar with the universal correspondence of the natural to the spiritual and knows the body as the instrument and clothing of the mind. Yet we may sometimes forget the further truth--that our inner life does not originate with ourselves but is induced by the spirits who are attracted by the contents of our mind.
Our morbid psychic states need not at once, nor necessarily, cause disease in the body. But when a disorder exists in the body itself, the sphere of evil spirits acts spontaneously by a law of correspondence. In certain cases, they can cause disease only when men invite the evil which these spirits represent; and in such cases the Lord cannot avert their sphere.421
421 AC 5719
We read strange things in the Writings about this correspondent influx--things which can be appreciated only after reflection and a study of the doctrine of the Grand Man. Thus hypocritical spirits--who wish to evade judgment--tend to inflow to produce toothache and what appears to be neuralgia.422 Certain dominating, pompous and impatient spirits induce great pain and weakness and weariness of mind and body.423 The sphere of selfish and slothful spirits produce numbness and oppression in the stomach. Spirits who have been in much solicitude or are inclined to avarice and are unwilling to leave "the state of externals" in which newcomers are in the other life, affect the stomach with nervous indigestion.424 Revengeful spirits aggravate superacidity in the stomach.425 Those who make everything a matter of conscience also induce abdominal anxieties.426 In each instance there are profound correspondential reasons for such influxes.
422 AC 5720, 4348, AE 556:9
423 AC 57201
424 AC 5177f, 6202, HH 299
425 SD 1272f
426 SD 1241
Anxieties of a different kind are due to the presence of unworldly female spirits of the province of the adrenal glands who are in solicitude from a life lacking in variety. But these spirits, who also act on newly born infants, are merely concerned to hold the mind in some line of thought that excludes what is worldly. Certain other spirits, who in the Grand Man relate to the infundibulum, are--like the fluids in the ventricles-inconstant and undetermined, and cause in man states of impatience and suspicion.427 Those who do not like work but seek social prominence and pleasures as their sole gratification, correspond to obstructions in the brain, and their presence causes stupidity, dullness and loss of affection.428
427 SD 915, 919 1/2
428 AC 4054
429 AC 5724, SD 1239ff
When sickness coincides with temptation, man's lot is unenviable. "Temptations," we read, "are most grievous when they are accompanied with bodily pains, and still more so when those pains continue for a long time and no deliverance is granted even though the Divine mercy is implored."430 Yet illness itself, even when the mind is anxious and moody, is very different from spiritual temptation. Real temptations have a spiritual issue involved--a struggle to retain spiritual health and faith and charity. Still, moods of sadness may break like a flood upon a man who has lived in good when he relapses into the sphere of his proprium; and then he may become indignant and angry. He thinks restlessly and his desires become impetuous; although when this flood is lifted, he returns to a serene and cheerful state. Such temptations affect the animus and perhaps the body. In the case of the last posterity of the Most Ancient Church, such a profane flood of evil and insanity was let loose that people perished physically, by a species of suffocation. This, therefore, was actually a death of sin, and--as was shown above-was described by the great Deluge.431
430 HH 196
431 AC 5725
The indications are that diseases are usually receptive of an influx from particular spirits, who then inflow by their sphere into a particular part of man's body. But a localized disease may become general, or may attract a more general influx.
This is noted in the case of fevers. Many places in the hells, among obstinate and pernicious spirits, exude an excessive heat, impure and corporeal. This sphere inflows partly into the mind of man, by means of particular spirits, to inflame him with cruelty or adulterous lust; but partly also it may, by a "general sphere or a general influx," produce a febrile heat in the diseased parts of the body as well as a delirium in the mind.432 Indeed it is stated that "the sick man summons" those who infuse such heat, and that spirits most marvelously know how to determine their sphere into the body, and this despite the fact that spirits do not know the man with whom they are. Fortunately the Lord controls them under laws of order, withdrawing them periodically; wherefore several fevers have stated alternations."433 It is generally admitted that the rise of body temperature into fever heat is a defensive reaction of the body in its resistance to disease.
432 SD 4590f, HH 571f
433 SD 4571f
Spiritual Uses of Sickness
Disease and melancholic anxiety may be classed among natural temptations.434 But the difference between an illness and a state of spiritual temptation is well illustrated in the case of certain spirits who relate to the province of the stomach and especially to the undigested things therein. The general action of these spirits is to instill feelings of oppressive sadness and uncomfortable melancholy for which no perceptible cause or occasion can be recognized. The spirits who thus inflow are not the spirits who are with man as his attendants and who resemble him as to affections; but they are strange spirits who have been sent forth from some infernal society into the sphere of his life.
434 AC 8164
435 AC 6202
What has been said may aid us to understand the teaching that a man cannot be reformed--or he cannot change his ruling love--while in states of sickness of mind or body.436 While ill, the mind is not always rational, and ii rational yet is not free. Man then lives apart from his world of uses and duties and is withdrawn in his spirit. The Writings liken such a man to a religious recluse, a hermit bent on thoughts about his own salvation; and the same is the state of one who is in some extreme danger or in sudden misfortune. Besides, the sick man may be oppressed by moods beyond his control, and is released from his usual responsibilities and from the pressure of many of the affections that normally wage their silent warfare for predominance.
436 DP 141, 142
So far as a man can carry on his uses, he cannot be called sick in the above sense. Nor does illness prevent a person already on the road of reformation from being strengthened in his good resolutions by the reflections on his sick-bed. There is therefore room for the further teaching that a very large class of men (who are represented in the Word by the Hebrew manservant) "cannot be reformed otherwise" than through the hardships of life, such as anxieties, misfortunes, and even sicknesses! These are they who from infancy have given little thought to anything but worldly life and success, yet have lived morally and accepted the doctrine of their church on hearsay.
437 AC 8980, 8981, Exod. 21:1-6
Even like gifts of wealth and peace, the gift of health is happily in the Lord's hands to dispense--for those to whom health may be a blessing. In our hearts we all pray for health when it eludes us. Yet it is the Lord's admonition that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. "He who is in faith from the Lord asks for nothing but what contributes to the Lord's kingdom and to himself for salvation." The angels told Swedenborg that if they should pray for anything else, they could have no faith that they would receive it.438
438 AE 815:10
Sickness is not a total waste in the Lord's sight. We are encouraged to practice foresight and to seek to maintain our health by prudence as well as by medicine. But to be brooding constantly upon the possible ailments of our body and to delve intently into anatomical details all one's life, is not in itself an aid to health.439 "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The regenerating man, even in his pastimes, looks to uses as an end. He loves the things of his body for the sake of having a healthy mind, and consults for his body as the first requirement for usefulness; and he "loves his mind and its health for the sake of an end still more interior--that he may have a relish for good and may understand truth."440 This is further explained as follows:
439 SD 2736
440 AC 6936, 5159, 4459:6
"He who is in merely external pleasures makes much of himself, indulges his stomach, loves to live sumptuously, and makes the height of pleasure to consist in things to eat and drink. One who is in internal things also finds pleasure in these things, but his ruling affection is to nourish his body with food pleasurably for the sake of its health, to the end that he may have a sound mind in a sound body; thus chiefly for the sake of the health of the mind, to which the health of the body serves as a means. One who is a spiritual man does not rest here, but regards the health of the mind or soul as a means for acquiring intelligence and wisdom--not for the sake of reputation, honors, and gain, but for the sake of the life after death. One who is spiritual in a more interior degree regards intelligence and wisdom as a mediate end having for its object that he may serve as a useful member in the Lord's kingdom; and one who is a celestial man, that he may serve the Lord. To such a one bodily food is the means for the enjoyment of spiritual food, and spiritual food is a means for the enjoyment of celestial food; and as they ought to serve in this manner, these foods also correspond, and are therefore called 'foods'" (AC 4459:6).
"Unto you that fear My
name shall the Sun of
righteousness arise with
healing in His wings."
Spiritual Sources of Health
The causes of emotionally induced diseases may be traced from the autonomic nerves to their cortical origins and from the secretions of the endocrine glands to their source in the inmost organic structures which Swedenborg called the "simple cortex." But here nature gives way to spirit. For the brain-cells absorb their subtle material aliments from earth and atmosphere and produce their complex chemical carriers of life according to the states of a man's affections.441 And man's affections are derived from the spirits who are with him.
441 DLW 423
The only real health is from the Lord. A wicked man may seemingly have a strong and healthy body. But inwardly there is no soundness in him. His "purer blood" or animal spirit is not being purged from those malign substances which attract the influx from the hells. He carries with him the poison of deceit, the seeds of insanity, and the latent causes of disease.
Just as anger and cankering emotions make for illness, love and faith are the fountainhead of health and an important element in cures. It is well known that a patient must have an incentive to recover and a faith in its possibility. But to avert illness a man must at all times keep his mind free from morbid states of self-pity, anger, pessimism, suspicion, impatience and intemperance, and from all other moods or emotions which seem to brood below the level of his thoughts but which actually inflow from evil spirits.
Moral virtues do not suffice to combat evil spirits. Evils must be shunned as sins against God if the angels are to banish the unclean spirit that would return with seven others to the house of the garnished mind. The protection of heaven comes to the just man who loves mercy and walks humbly before his God. And the promise is, "Unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings."442
442 Matt. 12:43, Mic. 6:8, Mal. 4:2
Interior happiness comes from a heart made humble by knowing its own weaknesses and strong by putting trust in the Divine providence. The hectic pursuit of worldly fame or personal power or luxury is responsible for much illness. Uses are provided us as a means to forget ourselves, not as a path to selfish pleasures or personal vanity. The true way to happiness and health is to find our place of use in society, to employ our talents with a cheerful heart to mitigate the misfortunes of others, to sustain their good efforts, to contribute of our best illustration to their spiritual welfare. A man who can attract good spirits is of more value to his fellow men than the inventor of atomic engines or the most brilliant of secular thinkers--if the latter do not first seek the kingdom of God.
Protection in Uses
A most powerful protection against evil and disease is to be found in the love of being useful--the zeal for work from an interest in the needs of others. This love conquers many illnesses and delays the inroads of old age. Indeed even an evil man or spirit is to a certain point protected by society and by heaven so long as he performs a use. The people of Israel were under a Divine protection from pestilences and disasters so long as they were faithful to their covenant, even though their function was one of merely "representing" a church. Muscles never used would weaken and talents not exercised tend to disappear. The Writings urge us to temper our uses with a due amount of rest and proper recreation. But "they who love idleness more than use gather evils into their spirit," for they turn to things filthy and evil, vain and frivolous, until their mind grows stupid and their body torpid. On the other hand, "while a man is in some study and business or is in a use, his mind is limited and circumscribed as by a circle within which it is coordinated by stages into a form truly human."443
443 SD 5839, CL 249
"Use is to discharge the works of our employment sincerely and industriously." The love of use and the derivative application prevent the mind from wandering in idle day-dreams and from drinking in the allurements of sensual lusts which scatter all thoughts of religion and morality to the winds.444 Hence it is that the delight of heavenly life, as well as its wisdom, revolves about uses to be done. The angels know that to love the Lord as a person and not to love uses, is to love Him from self; but use in itself is Divine, and to do uses is to love the Lord and to be in Him--in the very current of His sustaining life, or in that kingdom of uses which is described as the Grand Man of heaven. And through the ordered uses of the home, society, and the church, this kingdom extends its protection over men on earth also.
444 CL 16, Love xiii
Love, the Key to Health
Love is the key to health as well as to happiness. Even the food we eat has a different effect when it is eaten with thankfulness and delight, than when it is gulped in a state of anxiety. Delight aids the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes and "opens the chyle-ducts" so that the nourishment can be rightly absorbed.445 Food and drink nourish the body better and more suitably when a man, at dinner or supper, is cheerful in spirit and is at the same time "in the delight of conversing with others about the things he loves, than when he sits at table alone."446 Indeed, man shall not live by bread only. Among the proper "diversions of charity" are dinners, suppers, or parties "with those who are in mutual love from a similar faith"; where the conversation turns on various civic and domestic topics, but the chief interest centers on the church. The sphere of love and charity on such occasions exhilarates every mind, softens every voice, and brings festive feelings into all the senses.447 All of which confirms the proverb, "Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."448
445 AC 5147:3
446 AC 5576:3, 8352:3, 6078
447 TCR 433
448 Prov. 15:17
It is really love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor which invite the wholesome spheres of heaven. And no love can give a more complete protection against the hells or offer more support to heaven than a love truly conjugial such as exists with two married partners who together look to the Lord in their common uses.449 For marriage was instituted by the Lord to be the norm of human life in which all the needs of soul and mind and body find their fulfillment and through which the Divine uses of creation are to be accomplished.
449 AE 999:2, 1002e
The love of propagating and the love of protecting the offspring comes to all men as a sphere out of heaven and as a general influx. In the natural man, as in animals, it is received as a love of the sex. This is a natural instinct, and if it is not tempered by reason or conscience, it becomes the main source of mental stresses and social problems. But it is intended as the womb of conjugial love. And conjugial love can be received only according to the states of the church with man, or according as man, as of himself, orders his life by revealed Doctrine to recognize the purposes of creation. It is given to those who shun their evils as sins, approaching the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and of earth, and who thus can sustain the particular influx of the angelic guardians which come from the celestial heavens with innocence and peace. Under such angelic auspices the conflicts of one's natural affections are easily resolved and the disturbing undercurrents of fretting emotions are frankly analyzed and their stress weakened.
The states of a truly conjugial life are described as "innocence, tranquillity, inmost friendship, full confidence, a mutual desire of mind and heart to do the other every good; and from all these, blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure; and from the eternal fruition of these, heavenly felicity."450 This is not a cloudy ideal impossible of fulfillment in our day and age. It is possible wherever men thirst for the water of life and the New Jerusalem can be planted in their hearts.
450 CL 180
451 AC 5051
The Heavenly Doctrine was not given in order to restore to men the means of procuring physical health. It extends no hope for miraculous cures by prayer or by faith alone. Yet beside the pure river of water of life which flows crystal clear from the throne of God, there grows the tree of life whose fruits shall be for meat and whose leaves are for medicine--for the healing of the nations.452 These curative leaves signify the rational truths now revealed in the Writings, which can restore sound judgment to those who have been infested by evils and falsities, and may lead them to live becomingly and eventually to receive spiritual truths.453
452 Rev. 22:2, comp. Ezek. 47:9
453 AR 936
"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 proph-
ets. Worship God."
Revelation 22:8, 9
Angelic Intermediacy in Divine Revelation
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 focused 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.
454 AC 6200, SD 2174, 2728, 2254, cp 5094, 5716
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.
455 AC 125, 1121, 3432:2, DV 27
456 See above, pp. 34f, 37ff, 41
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.
457 AC 8944, SD 4757ff, DV 16, SS 115e
458 TCR 8
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
459 Matt. 11:25
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 forth standing form as Divine Man, and as such He has been worshiped 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.
460 Gen. 18:1, 14, 33; Exod. 3:2, 6; Judg. 6:12, 16, 22, 23
" ... 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...."461 "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
461 AC 1925
462 AC 1745, cp 1594:5
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
463 Judg. 13:16, Rev. 19:10, 22:8, 9; HH 254
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;
464 9Q vi, ii; AC 6371, TCR 109
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
465 AC 5121, 6000, AE 624:15
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.466 The 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
466 HH 254
467 Isa. 45:15
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.
468 AC 2900, AE 405:24, SS 20
469 John 14:26, cp SD 1509
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
470 TCR 777, Lu. 24:31
471 TCR 779, Inv. 43, DP 135
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."
472 Rev. 22:9, 13, 16; 19:9, 10; AR 945f
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
473 AR 465, 938, AE 412:16, HH 52, 55, 121, SD 2990
474 9Q ii
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.
475 AR 36, 945, AC 6212e
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
476 SD 4034, cp DP 340:6
477 SD 1647
478 AE 1183:2
479 CL 73e, 81:5, 329
480 WE 6884, 7006, SD 2270
481 DV 29e, TCR 779
488 Note "Angelic Wisdom" used in the titles of DLW, DP, etc.
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.
483 TCR 7861
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
484 SS 41, TCR 780
485 DLW 150
486 DLW 233, SS 99
487 AE 594:3
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
488 Coro. 51, TCR 109, 9Q v
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
489 SS 50, 53, 62
490 DV 29
491 Lu. 16:31
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
492 Compare DV 29 and HH 1e
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.
493 SS 53, 62
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.