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Secrets of Heaven #50

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50. What the people of the earliest church meant when they spoke of the Lord's image involves more than can be put into words.

People have no idea whatever that the Lord governs them through angels and spirits, or that at least two spirits and two angels accompany each of them. The spirits create a link with the world of spirits, 1 and the angels create one with heaven. We cannot possibly live without a channel of communication open to the world of spirits through spirits and to heaven through angels (and in this way to the Lord through heaven). Our life depends totally on such a connection. If the spirits and angels withdrew from us, we would be destroyed in a second.

[2] As long as we are unregenerate, we are governed in a completely different way than the regenerate. Before regeneration we have with us evil spirits whose grip on us is so strong that the angels, though present, can achieve hardly any results. All they can do is head us off from rushing into the worst kind of evil and divert us toward some form of good. They even use our own appetites to lead us toward good, and the illusions of our senses to lead us toward truth. Under these circumstances we communicate with the world of spirits by means of the spirits around us but not so much with heaven, since the evil spirits are in charge and the angels only deflect their influence.

[3] When we are regenerate, on the other hand, the angels are in charge, inspiring us with all kinds of goodness and truth and instilling a horror and fear of evil and falsity.

Angels do give us guidance, but they are mere helpers; the Lord alone governs us, through angels and spirits. Since angels have their assisting role, the words of this verse appear in the plural — "Let us make a human in our image." But since only the Lord rules and manages us, the next verse uses the singular — "God created the human in his image." The Lord states his role clearly in Isaiah:

This is what Jehovah has said, your Redeemer and the one who formed you from the womb: "I, Jehovah, make all things, stretching the heavens out on my own, spreading the earth out by myself." (Isaiah 44:24)

The angels themselves confess that they have no power but act only at the Lord's behest.


1. On the world of spirits, see note 3 in §0. [LHC]

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Secrets of Heaven #0

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First seek God's kingdom and its justice and you will gain all. — Matthew 6:33

[Author's Table of Contents]

THE "secrets 1 of heaven" that have been disclosed to us in Sacred Scripture, or the Lord's Word, 2 can be found in the exposition of the Word's inner meaning. To learn about the nature of this meaning, see what my experience has shown in §§1767-1777 and 1869-1879; and see too what appears in the body of the text in §§1-5, 64, 65, 66, 167, 605, 920, 937, 1143, 1224, 1404, 1405, 1408, 1409, 1502 at the end, 1540, 1659, 1756, 1783, 1807.

Accounts of the wonders I have seen in the world of spirits and in the heaven of angels 3 are appended at the beginning and end of each chapter. In this first volume they are as follows: 4

1. Our resurrection from death and entry into eternal life §§168-181

2. Our entry, once revived, into eternal life (continued) 182-189

3. Our entry into eternal life (continued) 314-319

4. What the life of the soul or spirit is then like 320-323

5. Several examples from spirits of opinions they adopted during their physical lives concerning the soul or spirit 443-448

6. Heaven and heavenly joy 449-459

7. Heaven and heavenly joy (continued) 537-546

8. Heaven and heavenly joy (continued) 547-553

9. The communities that make up heaven 684-691

10. Hell 692-700

11. The hells of those who spent their lives in hatred, revenge, and cruelty 814-823

12. The hells of those who spent their lives in adultery and lechery; in addition, the hells of deceivers and witches 824-831

13. Misers' hells; the foul Jerusalem and outlaws in the wilderness; and the feces-laden hells of those who have pursued sensual pleasure alone 938-946

14. A different set of hells than those already mentioned 947-970

15. Spiritual devastation 1106-1113

16. The earliest church, called "humankind," or Adam 1114-1129

17. The pre-Flood people who died out 1265-1272

18. Location in the "universal human;" 5 in addition, place and distance in the other life 1273-1278

19. Location and place in the other life; distance and time there as well (continued) 1376-1382

20. The ability of spirits and angels to perceive things; auras in the other life 1383-1400

21. Perception and auras in the other life (continued) 1504-1520

22. The light in which angels live 1521-1534

23. The light in which angels live (continued); their magnificent gardens and their dwellings 1619-1633

24. The way spirits and angels talk 1634-1650

25. The way spirits talk (continued) and how it varies 1757-1764

26. Sacred Scripture, or the Word, which conceals a divine message that lies open to the view of good spirits and angels 1767-1777

27. Sacred Scripture or the Word (continued) 1869-1879

General information about spirits and angels 1880-1885


1. The Latin word here translated "secrets" is arcana, which generally refers to sacred secrets or mysteries; the English equivalent, "arcana," has a similar sense, but has come to have a more limited use. Most previous translations of this work retained the Latin title Arcana Coelestia, literally, "heavenly arcana." [RS]

2. Although the use of the term "the Word" for the Bible was common in Swedenborg's time, his conception of "the Word" does not include all the books of which the Bible is generally understood to be composed. He generally limits his definition of "the Word" to those parts of Scripture that he believes to have an inner meaning throughout: the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the historical books (Joshua, Judges, 1, 2 Samuel, 1, 2 Kings), the Psalms, the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi), the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and Revelation. He thus omits certain parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as 1, 2 Chronicles, Ruth, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon, as well as the writings of the apostles in the Greek Scriptures. For a discussion of his reasons for these omissions, see his letter to his friend Gabriel Beyer (1720-1779) dated April 15, 1766, cited in Acton 1948-1955, 612-613, and quoted in the introduction to this volume, pages 86-87 [NCBSP: in the printed edition]. On the use of the term "the Lord" in Swedenborg's writings, see note 2 in §1. [GFD, RS]

3. Swedenborg describes the next world as being divided into three major areas: heaven, hell, and a middle region called the world of spirits (see §5852, for example). A fourth area could be added: the "underground realm" (see note 2 in §247). [LHC] In his 1758 work Heaven and Hell 421, Swedenborg says, "The world of spirits is neither heaven nor hell but a place or state between the two. It is where we first arrive after death, being in due time either raised into heaven or cast into hell from it depending on our life in this world." (The translations from Heaven and Hell quoted in these notes are those of George F. Dole.) Angels form an extremely important part of Swedenborg's metaphysical system. Key aspects of his thought in this regard are that angels are persons in the strict sense, not abstract forces or entities. They have bodies as we do, and even wear clothing and live in houses in heaven (Heaven and Hell 73-77, 177-190). Moreover, angels were not originally created as such: every angel was at one point a person alive either on this earth or on some other planet (see his 1758 work Other Planets 1). Much of Swedenborg's information about the unseen worlds is reported in the form of conversations with angels. [RS]

4. Swedenborg later came to refer to these "accounts of the wonders ... seen in the world of spirits and in the heaven of angels" with the Latin term memorabilia. Traditionally they have been referred to in English as either "memorabilia" or "memorable relations;" in the annotations to this edition they are called "accounts of memorable occurrences," or some variation of that term. (Strictly speaking, the first separate "memorable occurrences" distinctly labeled in small capitals in the first editions appeared in Swedenborg's 1766 work Revelation Unveiled, but the term has since been applied to the shorter accounts embedded in his previous material.) Because of their basis in Swedenborg's spiritual experiences, these accounts are also sometimes referred to as "experiential" material (as opposed to doctrinal or exegetical). Swedenborg apparently saw the experiential material in the Secrets of Heaven volumes as the reader's easiest avenue of access to the work; in order to distinguish it, he had it printed in italics, in slightly larger type, and with more space between the lines. In this table of experiential material in the first volume, the first edition (the Latin edition of 1749) cites the passages by page number, an odd exception to Swedenborg's customary use of section numbers to refer to his text. He may have felt that the use of page numbers would make these topics more accessible to the browsing reader. The corresponding section numbers have been substituted in this edition. It should be noted that this first volume of the present edition contains about half the material in the first volume of Swedenborg's edition; so that when he here refers to "accounts of the wonders" (Latin mirabilia) appearing "in this first volume," the reader must understand that the passages cited after §946 appear now in volume 2. The same applies to the section numbers cited just above in the text. [SS]

5. Swedenborg describes heaven as having the form of a single human being, which he calls maximus homo, here translated "universal human." See §§550, 911:2, and the sections referred to here by Swedenborg. See also note 1 in §318 below. [LHC]

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Many thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation and its New Century Edition team.