Conjugial Love #380

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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380. I shall append two Memorabilia.


Once 1 I was feeling amazement at the vast number of men who ascribe creation and hence all things under and above the sun to nature, saying from an acknowledgment of the heart, when they look at a thing, "Is it not the work of nature?" Asked why they say it is nature's work and not God's, when yet they sometimes say with the generality of people that God created nature, and therefore could as easily say that the things they see are God's as that they are nature's, they reply in a smothered, almost inaudible voice, "What is God but nature?" In their persuasion that the creation of the universe is nature's work, and in this insanity which seems wisdom, they all appear pretentious; so much so that they look on all who acknowledge that the universe was created by God as if they were ants creeping on the ground and keeping to the beaten way, or butterflies fluttering in the air. They call their doctrines dreams, because they see what really they do not see, and ask, "Who has seen God, and who has not seen nature?"

[2] As I felt astounded at the number of such men, an angel appeared beside me and said to me, "What are you meditating about?"

I replied, "About the multitude of those who believe that nature created the universe."

The angel said to me, "All hell consists of such men, where they are satans or devils - those being called satans who have confirmed themselves in favor of nature and hence have denied God, and those being called devils who have lived iniquitously and so have rejected all acknowledgment of God from their hearts. But I will conduct you to the schools in the southwest quarter where such men are to be found before they enter hell."

He took me by the hand and led me. I saw some small buildings in which were the schools, and in the midst of them one which appeared to be the headquarters building. This was built of pitch-black stone, overlaid with thin glass-like plates sparkling as if from gold and silver, like what is called glacies Mariae, and interspersed here and there were shells, which glittered, too.

[3] We approached this building and knocked, and presently a man opened the door and said, "Welcome." He ran to a table and fetched four books. "These books," he said, "are the wisdom which a number of nations are applauding today. Many in France applaud this book or wisdom; many in Germany, this book; some in Holland, this book; and this, some in Britain." He continued, "If you care to see it, I will make these four books shine before your eyes." He poured and shed around them the glamour of his reputation, whereupon the books flashed as with light. But the light vanished at once before our eyes.

Then we asked, "What are you writing about at present?" He replied that he was drawing forth and expounding from his treasuries matters of inmost wisdom, in brief these: (1) Is nature derived from life or life from nature? (2) Is a center derived from its expanse or

The expanse from its center? (3) What are the center and the expanse of nature and of life?

[4] So saying, he sat down again at the table. We walked about in his school, a spacious one. He had a candle on the table, for the light in the place was not the diurnal light of the sun but the nocturnal light of the moon. To my surprise, the candle seemed to move about the room and illuminate it, although, not having been snuffed, it gave only a little light. As the man wrote, we saw images of different shapes flying from the table to the walls, which in that nocturnal moonlight looked like beautiful Indian birds; but when we opened the door, in the solar daylight they looked like birds of evening with weblike wings. For they were semblances of truth, made into fallacies by being confirmed, and these he wove ingeniously into a series.

[5] Having watched this phenomenon, we went to the table and asked him what he was writing about now. He said, "About the first problem, Is nature derived from life or life from nature?" Of this he said that he could confirm either idea and make it true; but that as something lurked within which excited his fears, he ventured to confirm only this, that nature is of, that is, from life, and not that life is of, that is, from nature.

We asked courteously what it was he feared which lay hidden within. He said it was that he might be called a naturalist and thus an atheist by the clergy, and a man of unsound reason by the laity, "for both these are either believers from a blind faith or see from the sight of those who confirm blind faith."

[6] But then we addressed him in some indignation of zeal for the truth, saying, "Friend, you are very much mistaken. Your wisdom, which is a literary skill, has seduced you, and the glamour of reputation has led you to confirm what you do not believe. Do you not know that the human mind is capable of being raised above sensuous things or such things as are in the thoughts from the bodily senses; and that, thus elevated, it sees the things of life above, and the things of nature beneath? What is life but love and wisdom? And what is nature but the receptacle of these, by which they elaborate their effects or uses? Can these be one except as principal and instrumental? Can light be identical with the eye? Or sound with the ear? Are not their sensations from life, while their forms are from nature? What is the human body but an organ of life? Are not each and all things in the body organized to do what love wills and understanding thinks? Are not the organs of the body from nature, but love and thought from life? Are they not quite distinct from each other? Raise the insight of your skill a little higher still, and you will see that it is the property of life to be affected and to think, and that to be affected is from love and to think is from wisdom, and both are from life; for, as we said, love and wisdom are life. If you raise your faculty of understanding yet a little higher, you will see that there can be no love and wisdom without an origin somewhere, and that this origin is love itself and wisdom itself, and hence life itself, which are God, from whom is nature."

[7] Afterwards we talked with him about the second problem, Is a center derived from its expanse or the expanse from its center? We asked him why he took this up. He replied that he did so in order to come to a conclusion about the center and the expanse of nature and of life, thus about the origin of the one and the other. When we asked what his opinion was, he made similar answer as before, that he could confirm either idea, but that for fear of damaging his reputation he would confirm the idea that an expanse is of, that is, from its center, "although I know," he said, "that there was something before the sun, and this was everywhere in the universe, and that these things flowed together into order, thus into centers, by themselves."

[8] Again we addressed him in an indignant zeal and said, "Friend, you are insane." At this he pushed his chair back from the table and looked at us fearfully. Then he lent an ear, but with a smile, and we proceeded: "What is more insane than to say that center is from expanse and thus that the universe came into existence apart from a sun? For by your center we understand the sun, and by your expanse we understand the universe. Does not the sun make nature and give it all its properties? which are dependent solely on the heat and light proceeding from the sun by its atmospheres. Where were all things of nature before? [Whence they are we shall tell in the following discussion.] Are not the atmospheres and all things on the earth like surfaces, and the sun the center of them? What are they all apart from the sun? Could they subsist for one moment? What then were they all before there was a sun? Could they have subsisted? Is not subsistence a perpetual coming into existence? Since, therefore, the subsistence of all things of nature is from the sun, it follows that their coming into existence is also from the sun. This every one sees and acknowledges from his own observation.

[9] As the posterior exists from the prior, does it not also subsist from the prior? If the surfaces were prior and the center posterior, would not the prior subsist from the posterior? But this is contrary to the laws of order. How can things posterior produce things prior? Or exteriors produce interiors? Or things grosser, things purer? How then can surfaces, which constitute the expanse, produce centers? Who does not see that this is against the laws of nature? We have brought forward these arguments from rational analysis to establish that an expanse exists from its center, and not the contrary, although every one who thinks rightly sees it without these arguments. You said that the expanse flows together of itself into the center; did it then by chance flow into such a wonderful and stupendous order that one thing serves another, and each and all serve man and man's eternal life? Can nature, from any love by any wisdom, provide such things, and make angels of men, and form a heaven of angels? Suppose this, and reflect, and your idea of the existence of nature from nature will fall to pieces."

[10] Then we asked him what he had thought and what he now thought about the third topic, The center and the expanse of nature and of life; did he believe the center and the expanse of life to be identical with the center and expanse of nature? He said he hesitated. He had previously thought that the interior activity of nature was life, and that from this are the love and wisdom which essentially make man's life; and that they are produced by the fire of the sun through its heat and light, the atmospheres serving as means. But now on account of what he had heard about man's eternal life he was in doubt. The doubt swayed his mind now upward and now downward; when upward he acknowledged a center of which he had known nothing before, and when downward he saw a center which he had believed was the only one. Life (he said) is from the center of which he had not known before, and nature from the center which he had believed was the only one, and each center has an expanse about it.

[11] To this we said, "Good! If only you would also view the center and the expanse of nature from the center and expanse of life, and not contrariwise." We informed him that above the angelic heaven is a sun which is pure love, in appearance fiery like the sun of the world. From the heat which proceeds from that sun angels and men have will and love, and from the light from it they have understanding and wisdom. Further, the things which are of life are called spiritual, and those which proceed from the sun of the world are containants of life and are called natural. Then (we went on), the expanse of the center of life is called the spiritual world which subsists from its own sun, and the expanse of nature is called the natural world, which subsists from its sun. Now, as spaces and times cannot be predicated of love and wisdom, but rather states, the expanse about the sun of the angelic heaven is not an extended area, and yet is within the domain of the natural sun, and is with animate subjects there according to reception, which is according to the form."

[12] "But then," he asked, "whence is the fire of the sun of the world or of nature?"

We answered, "From the sun of the angelic heaven, which is not fire but Divine love, proximately proceeding from God who is Love itself."

As he marvelled at this, we explained it in this way: "Love in its essence is spiritual fire. Hence in the Word, in its spiritual sense, fire signifies love; priests in temples accordingly pray that heavenly fire, by which they mean love, may fill the heart. The fire of the altar and the fire of the candlestick in the tabernacle with the Israelites represented nothing else than Divine love. The heat of the blood, or the vital heat of men and of animals in general, has no other source than the love which makes their life. A man is enkindled, waxes warm, and is inflamed, therefore, when his love is intensified into zeal, anger, and wrath. This fact, that spiritual heat, which is love, produces natural heat in men, even kindling and inflaming face and limb, assures one that the fire of the natural sun came into existence from no other source than the fire of the spiritual sun, which is Divine love.

[13] Now, as an expanse springs from its center and not the reverse, as we said before; and as the center of life, which is the sun of the angelic heaven, is Divine love proximately proceeding from God, who is in the midst of that sun; and as the expanse of that center, called the spiritual world, is thence; and as from that sun the sun of the world came into existence, and from it its expanse, called the natural world, it is clear that the universe is created from the one God."

Thereupon we left, and he accompanied us out of the schoolyard, talking with us about heaven and hell and about the Divine auspices with a new sagacity in his genius.


1. These Memorabilia also occur in True Christian Religion 35.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.