Commentary

Angels

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'Soul Carried to Heaven,' by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a 19th-century French traditionalist.

The Writings offer a tremendous amount of material on angels. The book "Heaven and Hell" offers detailed discussions as it describes heaven; "Conjugial Love" has much to say about marriage and romantic love in heaven; "Divine Love and Wisdom" offers insight into how angels in their nature reflect the nature of the Lord. So we'll offer some basics here and recommend those books to those who want more detail.

(References: Divine Love and Wisdom 231; Divine Providence 60)


Basically, the Writings say that if people in this life open themselves to the Lord, follow the Lord's teachings and let the Lord change their selfish desires into generous loves, they will go to heaven as angels after they die. If they don't, and instead embrace their selfishness, they will go to hell as evil spirits. The Writings also say that this is the only source of angels and evil spirits - they were all once people. There is no separately created race of angels, no fallen angel Lucifer who is now the Devil; that belief is based solely on a few lines of misinterpreted scripture.

This makes sense if you look at it logically. If the Lord could create beings that would live in love and harmony with him with no possibility of evil, why would He have bothered with us? Why not just make more of them? The fact is, such beings would not have any choice in their actions, making them no better than animals. And ultimately, if they were purely good then they would really just be extensions of the Lord, so in loving them He would be loving Himself. The reverse is true of the idea of Satan or "the" Devil. The Lord creates us from love so that he can love us, bring us to heaven and make us happy. For Satan to exist, the Lord would have had to create him, and it would be contrary to His essence to create something that was not intended for heaven, for joy, and for union with the Lord.

So angels were once people, who got to be angels by embracing the idea of being good and followed the Lord's teachings as best they could. The Writings make it clear these people can come from anywhere, from any religious background. Some churches may have doctrine that is closer to the truth than others, but the point of any religion is for people to desire to be good and try to be good using the tools they have.

When those people die, they go first to a place called the "world of spirits." There everyone who has recently died can learn about the Lord and spiritual life and prepare for heaven. There also, people's inner affections start showing on the surface; those who are ultimately evil start losing the ability to cover it up, and the love starts shining through for those who are ultimately good. As this continues and as people learn more, they naturally start congregating with others who have similar loves. This way evil people eventually take themselves to hell, where they can be with others who share their evil. Good people, on the other hand, can be prepared for heaven.

Two important things have to happen for us to truly enter fully into heaven. First, the Lord will push aside our remaining evil desires, so they cannot hurt us or tempt us anymore; angels are in a marvelous state of peace, with no active evil to trouble them. Second, we will each be led by the Lord to the perfect married partner, the one whose soul matches ours, the one we can love blissfully to eternity. All angels are married, because the marriage of a man and a woman represents the marriage of love and wisdom in the Lord, and also the marriage of the desire for good and understanding of truth in each of us. Because of this, we can only fully receive and return the Lord's love as married partners, and heaven is suffused with the sphere of marriage and the love of marriage.

The angelic couples will find their way to communities of other angels whose loves match their own, people with whom they can share the deepest friendships imaginable. They will have houses which reflect the character of their loves, and will be given work to do that springs from their loves and fills them with joy. Beyond that, their lives are much as life might be in this world, though free of sickness and aging and boredom and conflict. They have bodies that are human in form - no wings! - but a beauty in face and form that reflects the good loves they have inside. They eat and drink and laugh and sleep and have parties and games; all filled with the delight of mutual love.

The Writings tell us the work angels do is varied far beyond what we can imagine, though they only describe a few aspects. Among other things, angels care for people in this life, passing on to them true ideas and desires for good from the Lord. They also teach those in the World of Spirits, greet those who have just died, raise those who died as children, keep order in hell and do many other things.

We would finally note that there are three degrees of angelic life, based on the loves people embraced in this life. The first, lowest heaven, called the "natural heaven," is filled by those who are in the love of service. Angels there love to do what's right because they know it is right. The second, middle heaven, called the spiritual heaven, is filled by those who are in the love of the neighbor. Angels there love to engage their minds with spiritual questions to gain an ever-deeper understanding of how to be loving to one another. The third, highest heaven, known as celestial, is filled with those who are in love of the Lord Himself. From that love they have such innocence that they look like children, and they instantly perceive what is true, in all its variety, from the light of that love.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 228, 454, 1802, 2551, 2572 [3-4], 5470, 6872 [2-3], 8747, 9503, 9814 [2], 10604 [2-4]; Conjugial Love 44 [6-10], 52; Divine Love and Wisdom 19, 63, 71, 115, 116, 202, Divine Love and Wisdom 321, 322, 334; Heaven and Hell 75, 133, 266, 267, 304, 311, 415; The Apocalypse Revealed 818)

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #10604

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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10604. 'And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke' means the Divine celestial and spiritual realities belonging to the interior level of these three entities, which are present also in those external things. This is clear from the meaning of these 'tablets' as the outward or external things of the Word, the Church, and worship, dealt with above in Arcana Coelestia 10603; and from the meaning of 'the words' which Jehovah wrote on them as Divine things on an interior level, thus those composing the inward or internal sense, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 10453, 10461, which appear before the angels in heaven, in the light there, and are therefore called celestial and spiritual realities. The celestial realities there are those of love, and the spiritual ones are those of faith springing from love. From all this it is evident that 'I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke' means that the Divine celestial and spiritual realities belonging to the interior level of the Word, the Church, and worship are present also in those external things. For the nature of all this, see what has been shown in the previous paragraph.

[2] Since at the present day the fact that the Word contains an internal sense, and indeed what the internal sense of the Word is, are completely unknown, a further brief statement must be made regarding it. The ideas constituting angels' thought are not natural, as those constituting men's are; instead they are spiritual. But it is difficult for anyone to grasp what their spiritual ideas are like unless he thinks and reflects on a more internal level about his own thoughts as they are in their first beginnings. They then exist without the words of language, as is recognized from their being of such a nature that a person can grasp in an instant more than can be expressed by an utterance made in any space of time. Ideas such as these composing thought belong to the person's spirit. But the ideas that a person grasps and that pass into words are natural ones, which the learned call material, whereas the former, that is, those existing on a more internal level, are called spiritual, and by the learned immaterial. A person enters into these ideas after death, when he becomes a spirit, and uses them to converse with other spirits. A correspondence exists between these ideas and natural ones, and through that correspondence spiritual ideas are converted into natural ones when the person speaks. The person is not conscious of this because he does not stop to reflect on it, nor are any capable of reflecting on it except those who think on a more internal level, that is, on that of their spirit separately from the body. This is something that people whose minds do not rise above the level of the senses cannot do at all.

[3] Now since a correspondence exists between spiritual thought and natural thought, and since angels' thought is spiritual, that which man perceives on a natural level the angels perceive on a spiritual one; and they do so in an instant without any reflection on the difference. This happens in particular when a person reads the Word or has thoughts inspired by the Word; for the Word has been written in such a way that a correspondence exists in every single part, as when for example a person reads these words of the Lord in Matthew,

After the affliction of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and glory. Matthew 24:29, 30.

(References: Matthew 24:29-30)


[4] The angels understand these words altogether differently from man. By 'the sun' which will be darkened they do not understand the sun but love to the Lord; nor by 'the moon' do they understand the moon but faith in the Lord, nor by 'the stars' the stars but cognitions or knowledge of goodness and truth. By 'the Son of Man' they understand the Lord in respect of Divine Truth, and 'the tribes of the earth' all the truths of the Church; by 'the clouds of heaven' they understand the Word in the literal sense, and 'power and glory' the Word in the internal sense. Angels come, through correspondence, instantaneously into this understanding of these words when a person reads them. Nor do they know that the person's thoughts then are of the sun, moon, stars, clouds of heaven, and all the rest. The reason for this is that angels' ideas are spiritual, and spiritual ideas are such that objects belonging to the natural order are converted into realities seen in heavenly light, which is Divine Truth from the Lord.

[5] A further reason why angels perceive the Word in that kind of way when a person reads it is that angels are present with a person, residing in his affections, while the person as to his spirit lives in association with spirits, and as to his more internal thought, which is spiritual, with the angels of heaven. From this also comes the person's ability to think.

These things have been mentioned in order that people may know what the internal sense of the Word is or what the interior things of the Word, the Church, and worship are, which are called celestial and spiritual realities.

(References: Exodus 34:1)

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