207. I'll add to these remarks two stories. This is the first:
At a later time I looked toward the city of Athens, mentioned in earlier stories, and I heard an unusual clamor coming from it.
There was an element of laughter in it and in the laughter an element of indignation, and in the indignation an element of grief.
Yet that did not make the noises dissonant, but consonant, because one sound was not at the same time as another. They came one after another. In the spiritual world you distinctly notice varieties and mixtures of feelings in sound.
I asked from a distance, "What's the matter?"
They said, "A messenger came from the place where arrivals from the Christian world first show up, saying that he heard from three of them there that in the world they came from, they and others believed that the blessings and happiness after death would be total rest from labors, and that the blessings would be rest from management, duties, and jobs, because these are labors.
"Our messenger has now brought the three here, and they stand waiting outside the gate, so a clamor went up. And on consideration they decided not to bring them into the Palladium on Parnassus as before, but into the great auditorium there, so they can break the news they have from the Christian world.
Some people were appointed to introduce them properly."
I was in spirit, and distances for spirits are according to their feelings. I felt like seeing and hearing them, so I found myself present there, and I saw them introduced and heard them speaking.
The elders or wiser ones were seated at the sides of the auditorium, and the rest were in the middle. A raised platform was in front of them. To this the younger men brought the three newcomers, with the messenger, with due ceremony, through the center of the auditorium. And once it quieted down one of the elders there greeted them and asked, "What is new from Earth?"
They said, "Much is new, but please name a subject."
The elder said, "What is new from Earth about our world and heaven?"
They answered, "When we new spirits came into this world we heard that here and in heaven there's management, administration, duties, business, studies in all disciplines, and wonderful craftsmen.
And yet we thought that after passing over, or being carried across, from the natural world into this spiritual one we would come into eternal rest from work. And what are duties but work?"
To this the elder said, "By 'eternal rest from work' did you understand eternal leisure, where you would continually sit and lie down, gathering delights in your breast and drinking in pleasures with your mouth?"
To this the three newcomers laughed politely and said that they had supposed something like that.
The answer to that was, "What do pleasures and delights and the happiness from them have to do with inactivity? Idleness collapses your mind - it doesn't open your mind up. In other words, it makes a person dead, not alive. Picture someone sitting in complete idleness, hands hanging down, eyes downcast or staring, and picture him surrounded with pleasures at the time.
Wouldn't his head and body both get drowsy, and wouldn't the lively smile on his face droop? And with every fiber relaxed, wouldn't he nod and sway until he fell on the ground? What loosens and tones up all the parts of your body like a focused mind? And where does mental focus come from unless it comes from management and jobs, when they are done from delight?
"So I'll tell you the news from heaven. There's management, administration, higher and lower courts there, and there are also trades and employment."
When the three newcomers heard that there are higher and lower courts in heaven, they said, "Why is that? Isn't everyone in heaven inspired and led by God? Don't they know what's just and right from that? What do the courts do?"
The elder man answered, "In this world we are taught and learn about what is good and true and also what is just and fair, the same as in the natural world. We don't learn this directly from God, but indirectly through others. And every angel, like every person, thinks truth and does good as if by himself. It is mixed and impure according to the angel's condition.
"And also some angels are plain and some are wise, and the wise ones have to judge, when the plain ones, in their simplicity and ignorance, are undecided about what is just, or wander away from it.
"But since you have just come into this world, if you feel like it, follow me into our city, and we'll show you everything."
They left the auditorium, and some of the elders also went with them.
First they went to the great Library, which was divided into smaller libraries according to fields of knowledge. When they saw so many books, the three newcomers were astonished and said, "Are there books in this world, too? Where do you get parchment and paper? Where do you get pens and ink?"
The elders answered this. "We notice that in the former world you thought that this world was empty because it is spiritual.
You thought so because you cherished a notion of spirit without matter, and without matter it seemed like nothing to you, thus like a vacuum, when instead everything is complete here. Everything here is substantial and not material. Material things come from substantial things. We who are here are spiritual people, because we are substantial, not material. This is why all the things in the natural world are here in their perfection - even books and literature and many other things."
When the three newcomers heard the things called "substantial," they thought it must be so, both because they saw the written books and because they heard the statement that substance is the source of matter.
To further assure them about these things they were taken to where the scribes lived who were making copies of books by the city's wise men. They inspected the writing and were surprised that it was so neat and refined.
After this they were led to museums, schools, and colleges, and to where those people's literary contests were. Some were called games of the Heliconians, others games of the Parnassians, others games of the Athenians, and others games of the Virgins of the Spring. They said that these last were called this because virgins stand for affections having to do with knowing things, and a person has intelligence according to his affection for knowing things. The games called this were spiritual exercises and trials of skill.
Later they were led around in the city to rulers, administrators, and their officers, and by them to wonderful structures that were made in a spiritual way by tradesmen.
After they saw these things the elder spoke with them again about the eternal rest from work that the blessed and happy enter after death, and he said, "Eternal rest is not idleness, because from idleness the mind, and from the mind the whole body, gets weariness, numbness, lethargy, and sleepiness, and these are death, not life, and still less are they the eternal life that angels of heaven live. So eternal rest is rest that dispels those things and makes the person live, and this must be something that lifts your mind. So it is some study and work that excites, enlivens, and pleases your mind.
This happens in pursuit of some usefulness that you work for, on, and at. For this reason the entire heaven as the Lord sees it is one continuous activity, and every angel is an angel according to participation.
The joy of usefulness carries him the way a following current does a ship, and it puts him in eternal peace and the rest that peace brings. This is what eternal rest from work means.
"The fact that an angel is alive according to how eagerly he applies his mind because he is occupied shows clearly in the fact that everyone has married love with its strength, potency, and joy, according to how he applies himself to his real calling."
Then the three newcomers were convinced that eternal rest is not idleness but the joy of some work that is useful. Some young women came with needlepoint and sewing, their handwork, and gave it to the newcomers. And the young women sang a song with an angelic tune as the new spirits went away. The song expressed the feeling of doing useful things, and its pleasures.