Conjugial Love #207

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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207. To this I will append two narrative accounts. Here is the first:

Some time later 1 I looked in the direction of the city Athenaeum, which I said something about in an earlier account, 2 and I heard an unusual clamor. In the clamor I heard an element of laughter, in the laughter an element of displeasure, and in the displeasure an element of sorrow. However, the clamor was not therefore inharmonious, but harmonious, because the elements did not mix with each other, but one was contained within another. (In the spiritual world, one distinctly perceives the variety and combination of affections in a sound.)

From a distance I asked, "What is the matter?"

They then said, "A messenger came from the place where newcomers from the Christian world first appear, saying he had heard from three of them there that in the world they had come from, they had believed like everyone else that the blessed and happy after death would have complete rest from their labors, and that since positions of responsibility, occupations and employments are labors, they would have rest from these.

"An emissary of ours has now brought these three here, and they are standing at the gate and waiting. A commotion broke out because of this, and after deliberating, the people have decided not to bring them into the Palladium on Parnassium hill, as they have done with visitors before, but to bring them into the great hall there, to disclose the news they have from the Christian world. Several delegates have been sent to formally usher them in."

[2] Since I was in the spirit - and since distances for spirits depend on the states of their affections, and I was then affected with a wish to see and hear these people - I found myself present there and saw them brought in and heard them speak.

The people in the hall who were older or wiser sat towards the sides, with the rest in the middle, and in front of them was a raised dais. In formal procession through the middle of the hall, some of the younger people conducted the three newcomers and the messenger to it. Then, after waiting for silence, one of the older ones there greeted them and asked, "What news do you have from earth?"

They said, "We have much that is new, but tell us, please, on what subject?"

So the older man replied, "What news do you have from earth regarding our world and heaven?"

They then answered, "When we first came into this world, we learned that here and in heaven there are positions of responsibility, ministries, occupations, business dealings, scholarly studies in every field of learning, and wonderful kinds of employment. Yet we had believed that upon our departure or passage from the natural world into this spiritual one, we would come into everlasting rest from our labors. What are occupations but labors?"

[3] To this the older man replied, "Did you think that eternal rest from labors meant eternal idleness, in which you would continually sit around or lie about, breathing in auras of delight with your breast and drinking in outpourings of joy with your mouth?"

Laughing gently at this, the three newcomers said that they had supposed something of the sort.

At that they then received this response: "What do joys and delights and thus happiness have in common with idleness? Idleness causes the mind to collapse rather than expand, or the person to become deader rather than more alive.

"Picture someone sitting around in a state of complete idleness, with hands hanging down, his eyes downcast or shut, and imagine that he is at the same time surrounded with an aura of rapture. Would drowsiness not seize both his head and his body, and the lively swelling of his face drop? With every fiber loosened, would he not finally begin to sway back and forth and eventually fall to the ground? What keeps the whole system of the body expanded and taut but an intentness of mind? And what produces an intentness of mind but responsibilities and employments, when these are undertaken with delight?

"So, then, I will tell you some news from heaven, that they have there positions of responsibility, ministries, higher and lower courts of law, and also trades and employments."

[4] When the three newcomers heard that in heaven they have higher and lower courts of law, they began to say, "What is the purpose of these? Are not all in heaven inspired and led by God, and do they not all therefore know what is just and right? What need is there then for judges?"

But the older man replied, "In this world we are instructed and taught what is good and true, also what is just and right, the same as in the natural world. Moreover, we learn these things not directly from God but indirectly through others. Every angel, too, like every man, thinks truth and does good as though of himself, and this is not pure but mixed in character, depending on the angel's state. In addition, among angels also, some are simple and some wise, and the wise have to make judgments when the simple ones among them, owing to their simpleness or ignorance, are uncertain about what is just or deviate from it.

"But," he said to them, "since you are still newcomers in this world, follow me into our city, if you wish, and we will show you all."

[5] So they left the hall, with some of the older people accompanying them as well. And they went first to a great library, which had been divided into a number of smaller collections according to subject fields.

The three newcomers were dumbfounded at seeing so many books, and they said, "You have books in this world too! Where do you get the parchment and paper? Where you get the pens and ink?"

The older men said in reply, "We perceive that you believed in the previous world that because this world is spiritual, it would be barren. Moreover, that you believed this because you harbored an idea of spiritual existence that was abstracted from a material one, and anything abstracted from material existence seemed to you to be nothing, consequently as something barren. Yet we have a full array of everything here. It is just that everything here is essential in nature rather than material, and material objects take their origin from essential ones. Those of us who live here are spiritual beings because we are essential beings rather than material ones. So it is that everything found in the material world exists here in its perfect form, even books and manuscripts, and many other things."

When the three newcomers heard the term essential used, they thought it must be so, both because they saw the books that had been written, and because they had heard it said that material objects have their origin from essential forms.

To convince them further with respect to this, the men took the newcomers down to the quarters of copyists who were making copies of drafts written by some of the wise people of the city; and when the newcomers looked at the manuscripts, they marveled at how neat and polished they were.

[6] After this they escorted the newcomers to professional academies, gymnasia and colleges, also to places where their scholarly forums were held, some of which they called forums of the Daughters of Heliconeum, some forums of the Daughters of Parnassium, some forums of the Daughters of Athenaeum, and some forums of the Muses of the Spring. 3 They said they gave them these names because daughters or maidens symbolize affections for various kinds of knowledge, and everyone's intelligence depends on his affection for various kinds of knowledge. The forums so called were spiritual exercises and debates.

Next they took the newcomers around the city to its directors and managers and their officials, and these in turn introduced them to marvelous works, which their craftsmen create in a spiritual manner.

[7] After the newcomers had seen these things, the older man spoke with them again concerning eternal rest from labors, into which the blessed and happy come after death.

"Eternal rest does not mean idleness," he said, "because idleness affects the mind and consequently the whole body with listlessness, lethargy, insensibility and slumber, and these are conditions of deadness, not life, much less the eternal life experienced by angels of heaven. Eternal rest, therefore, is rest that dispels these states and vitalizes a person, and this must be something which rouses the mind. Thus it is some pursuit or employment by which the mind is awakened, animated, and afforded delight, which in turn depends on some useful service for the sake of which, in which, and towards which it is working. So it is that the whole of heaven is viewed by the Lord as a world of useful service, and each angel is an angel according to the service he renders. The pleasure in being useful carries him along, like a boat in a favoring current, bringing him into a state of eternal peace and the rest that comes with peace. This is what is meant by eternal rest from labors.

"An angel's vitality depends on an application of his mind to some pursuit for the sake of being useful, and confirmation of this is clearly seen from the fact that they each possess conjugial love with its vigor, potency and delights in the measure that they are engaged in a pursuit of genuine use."

[8] When the three newcomers had been convinced that eternal rest does not mean idleness but the pleasure in some employment that is of use, some young women came with articles of needlework and sewing, works of their own hands, which they presented to them. Then, as these newly introduced spirits were departing, the young women sang a song whose angelic melody expressed an affection for employments of use and its accompanying satisfactions.


1. I.e., some time after the occurrence related in no. 182.

2. See no. 182; also nos. 151[r]-154[r]

3. In reference to these names, cf., in previous accounts of this city, the topographical features mentioned in nos. 151[r]:1, 182:1, 2.

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Many thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem, and to Rev. N.B. Rogers, translator, for the permission to use this translation.