44. The second experience.
I once saw three spirits newly arrived from the world, who were wandering about, gazing around and asking questions. They were surprised to find that they were still living as human beings, and seeing familiar sights. For they knew that they had departed from the previous, natural, world, and that there they had not believed that they would live as human beings until after the day of the Last Judgment, when they would again be clothed in the flesh and bones they had left in their graves. So to free them of all doubt that they were really human beings, they took turns to examine and touch themselves and others, handling objects and finding a thousand proofs that they were just as much human beings as in their previous world, with the one difference that they could see one another in brighter light, and objects in greater splendour, that is to say, more perfectly.
 Then it happened that two angelic spirits came across them. They stopped them to ask, 'Where do you come from?' 'We have departed from the world,' they replied, 'and are living again in a world, so we have moved from one world to another; that is what is making us wonder.' The three newcomers then questioned the two angelic spirits about heaven; and since two of the newcomers were young men, and their eyes glittered with the spark of sexual lust, the angelic spirits said, 'Have you perhaps seen any women?' 'Yes, we have,' they answered.
In reply to their questions about heaven the angelic spirits said, 'In heaven everything is magnificent and splendid, things of a sort you have never set eyes on. There are girls and youths there, the girls so beautiful they could be called models of beauty, and the youths of such good character they could be called models of good character. The beauty of the girls and the good character of the youths match so well that they resemble shapes that fit snugly together.
The two newcomers enquired whether human form in heaven is exactly like that in the natural world. The reply was that they are exactly alike, with nothing taken away from the man or from the woman. In short, a man is a man, and a woman is a woman, with all the perfection of shape with which they were endowed by creation. Please go aside and check yourselves over, to make sure you are just as much a man as before.'
 The newcomers asked another question: 'We were told in the world we have left that in heaven there is no giving in marriage, because people are then angels. So is sexual love possible?' The angelic spirits replied, 'Your sort of sexual love is impossible, but there is angelic sexual love, which is chaste and free from all the allures of lust.' 'If sexual love,' said the newcomers, 'is devoid of allures, what is it then?' Thinking about that kind of love made them groan and say, 'How boring heavenly joy must be! How could any young man long to go to heaven? Is not such love barren and lifeless?'
The angelic spirits replied with a smile, 'Sexual love among the angels, the kind of love there is in heaven, is still full of the most intimate delights. It is an extremely pleasant feeling, as if every part of the mind were expanded. This affects all parts of the chest, and inside it is as if the heart were playing games with the lungs; and this play gives rise to breathing, sound and speech. These make contact between the sexes, that is, between young men and girls, the very model of heavenly sweetness, because it is pure.
 All newcomers who come up to heaven are tested to see how chaste they are. They are introduced into the company of girls of heavenly beauty, and these can detect from their sound, speech, face, eyes, gestures and the sphere they emit, what their sexual love is like. If it is unchaste, they run away and tell their friends they have seen satyrs and priapi. The newcomers too undergo a change and appear hairy to the eyes of angels, with feet like calves or leopards. They are quickly sent back down, so as not to pollute with their lust the atmosphere there.'
On hearing this the two newcomers said again, 'So there is no sexual love in heaven! What can chaste sexual love be but love stripped of its living essence? Surely the contacts between young men and women there are boring pleasures. We are not made of stone or wood, but sensations and the wish to live.'
 On hearing this the two angelic spirits indignantly replied, 'You are quite ignorant of what chaste sexual love is, because you are not yet chaste yourselves. That love is the supreme delight of the mind and so of the heart, but not of the flesh too below the heart. Angelic chastity, which is shared by either sex, prevents that love from passing beyond the barrier of the heart, but within and above it the young man's good character enjoys the delights of chaste sexual love with the beauty of the young woman. These are too inward and too rich in charm to be described in words. This sexual love is the prerogative of angels, because they have only conjugial love; and this cannot be combined with unchaste sexual love. Truly conjugial love is a chaste love, and has nothing in common with unchaste love. It is confined to one person of the opposite sex to the exclusion of all others, for it is a love of the spirit leading to love of the body, not a love of the body leading to love of the spirit, that is to say, not a love which attacks the spirit.'
 The two newcomers were pleased to hear this and said, 'So there is sexual love in heaven. What else is conjugial love?' But the angelic spirits replied, 'Think more deeply and check your thoughts; you will find that your sexual love is love outside marriage, quite different from conjugial love, which is as different from it as wheat from chaff, or rather what is human from what is bestial. If you ask women in heaven what is love outside marriage, I assure you they will reply, "What do you mean? What are you saying? How can you utter a question that hurts our ears like this? How can a love which was not created be generated in a person?"
'If you then ask them what truly conjugial love is, I know they will answer that it is not sexual love, but the love of one of the opposite sex, something that happens only when a young man sees the young woman the Lord has provided for him, and the young woman sees the young man. Then they both feel the fire of marriage catch alight in their heart, and he sees that she is his and she sees that he is hers. One love meets the other, makes itself known and instantly joins their souls, and thus their minds. From there it enters their chests, and after they are married spreads further, so becoming love in all its fulness, growing together day by day, until they are no longer two, but as if one person.
 'I know too that these women in heaven will swear that they know no other kind of sexual love. For they say, "How can sexual love exist, if it does not go out to meet the other and receive it in return, so as to long for everlasting union, the two becoming one flesh?"' To this the angelic spirits added, 'In heaven no one knows what promiscuity means or even the possibility of its existence. Angels feel cold all over at the idea of unchaste love or love outside marriage; on the other hand chaste or conjugial love makes them feel warm all over. In the case of men, all their sinews go slack at the sight of a whore, and become tense on seeing their wives.'
 On hearing this the three newcomers asked whether married couples in the heavens have the same kind of love as they do on earth. The two angelic spirits replied that it is exactly the same. Then seeing they wanted to know whether the ultimate delights were the same there, they said they were exactly the same, but far more blessed, 'because,' they said, 'angels' perception and feeling is much more exquisite than those of human beings; and what brings love alive but the current of potency? Surely its failure leads to a cessation and cooling of that love? Is not that power the very measure, degree and basis for that love? Is it not its beginning, its strengthening and its completion? It is a universal law that first things are brought into being by ultimates, are kept in being by them and endure by their means. So it is with this love; so if the ultimate delights were absent, there would be no delights in conjugial love.'
 Then the newcomers asked whether the ultimate delights of that love led to the birth of children there, saying that, if not, what use were they? The angelic spirit replied that there are no natural, only spiritual children. 'What,' they asked, 'are spiritual children?' 'A married couple,' they answered, 'are more and more united by the ultimate delights in the marriage of good and truth. The marriage of good and truth is that of love and wisdom, and love and wisdom are the children born of that marriage. Since in heaven the husband is wisdom and the wife is the love of wisdom, both being spiritual, they cannot have any but spiritual children conceived and born there. This is why these delights do not leave angels depressed, as some on earth are, but cheerful; this is due to the constant inflow of fresh strength to replace the former, at once renewing and enlightening it. For all who reach heaven return to the springtime of their youth, recovering the strength of that age, and keeping this for ever.'
 On hearing this the newcomers said, 'Do we not read in the Word that in heaven people are not given in marriage, since they are angels?' 'Look up to heaven,' was the angelic spirits' answer to this, 'and you will receive your answer.' They asked why they should look up to heaven. 'Because,' they were told, 'it is from there we get our interpretation of the Word. The Word is deeply spiritual, and angels, being spiritual, will teach us its spiritual meaning.'
After a short while heaven was thrown open overhead, and two angels came into view, who said, 'There are weddings in the heavens as there are on earth, but only for those for whom good and truth are married, for no others are angels. So it is spiritual weddings, the marriage of good and truth, which are meant by this passage. These are possible on earth, but not after death, and so not in the heavens. So it is said of the five foolish maidens, who were also invited to the wedding, that they could not go in, because they lacked the marriage of good and truth; for they had no oil, but only lamps. Oil means good and lamps truth; and being given in marriage is entering heaven, where that marriage is.'
The three newcomers were very happy to hear this, being full of the longing for heaven and hoping to get married there. So they said, 'We shall devote ourselves to good behaviour and a decorous life, so that we can achieve our aims.'
(References: Matthew 25:1-10)