Love in Marriage #6

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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6. After that the angel spoke to the ones who had decided that for them heavenly joys and eternal happiness would be feasts with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and after the feasts shows and games, and then more feasts, and so on to eternity.

"Follow me," he said, "and I will lead you into the pleasures of your joys." And he led them through a grove to a level place with a floor, which had tables placed on it - fifteen on one side and fifteen on the other.

"Why so many tables?" they asked.

"The first table is Abraham's, the second Isaac's, the third Jacob's," said the angel, "and next to them are lined up the tables of the twelve Apostles. On the other side is the same number of tables, for their wives. The first three tables are for Sarah, Abraham's wife; Rebecca, Isaac's wife; and Leah and Rachel, Jacob's wives. The other twelve are for the twelve Apostles' wives."

After a while, we saw all the tables loaded with platters placed between little ornamental pyramids of delicacies. The guests stood around them waiting to see the heads of the tables. In a while they arrived as expected, filing in, from Abraham to the last Apostle. Soon each approached his own table and settled onto a couch at the head of it. And then they told the standing group, "Settle back like us."

They did - the men with the Fathers and the women with their wives - and ate and drank in happiness, and with reverence.

After dinner the Fathers went away, and then began the sports, the dances of young women and men, and after them the performances.

When it was over, they were invited to feast again. It was set up so that the first day one ate with Abraham, the next with Isaac, the third with Jacob, the fourth with Peter, the fifth with James, the sixth with John, the seventh with Paul, and with the rest in order until the fifteenth day, when the feasting would start over again in the same order, and so on to eternity.

After this the angel called together the men in the group and told them, "All the people you saw at the tables had the same unreal concept as you about the joys of heaven and the eternal happiness one gains from those joys. To let them see how unreal their ideas were and to lead them away from those notions, mock revelries like that were provided and permitted by the Lord.

"Those leaders you saw at the heads of the tables were aged impersonators - mostly unsophisticated - who were prouder than others because they had beards and some wealth, which induced the fantasy that they were the ancient Fathers.

"But follow me. I'll show you the way out of this training room."

They followed and saw fifty people here and fifty there who had stuffed their bellies with food to the point of nausea and badly wanted to return to familiar home surroundings - some to their duties, some to their businesses, and some to their work. But the attendants in the grove detained many of them and asked about their days of feasting, and whether they had eaten at the table with Peter and Paul yet, saying that if they were leaving before they did so, it would be improper and shameful.

But most of them answered, "We are stuffed full with our joys. Food has lost its flavor for us. Our pleasure in it has burned out. Our stomachs loathe it. We can't bear to taste it. We have dragged ourselves through several days and nights of this indulgence, and we earnestly beg to be let out." And when they were turned loose they fled home, gasping for breath, at a dead run.

After these events the angel called together the men in the group, and on the way he taught them these things about heaven:

"There is food and drink in heaven just as in the world. There are parties and feasts. And for the leaders there, there are tables with splendid meals on them, delicacies and luxuries, which exhilarate and refresh their spirits. And there are also games and performances, and musicals and sings - all in the highest perfection.

These things are delightful for them, too, but they are not happiness.

They are within the joys and therefore come from joys. The happiness behind the pleasures makes them pleasant, enriches them, and keeps them from fading and becoming distasteful. And this happiness comes to everyone from the usefulness in what he does. In the dispositions of every angel's will there is a natural bent that attracts his mind to something that needs to be done, and it soothes and satisfies his mind. This serenity and satisfaction produce a mental state that can receive from the Lord a love of being useful. From receiving this comes heavenly happiness which is the vital element in those joys that were mentioned before.

"Heavenly food in essence is nothing but love, wisdom, and usefulness together! In other words, a use carried on, with wisdom, and springing from love. On account of this, a person in heaven gets food for his body according to the useful things he does - magnificent food for people who are useful on a large scale, plain but very delicious for those engaged in average usefulness, common food for those who do common work, and none for the inactive."

  
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