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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 #1802

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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1802. 'Saying, This man will not be your heir' means that that which is external will not be the heir of His kingdom. This is clear from the meaning of 'becoming the heir' or 'inheriting', dealt with already just above. The heir to the Lord's kingdom is not that which is external but that which is internal. Yet that which is external is heir as well, but only through that which is internal, for the two in that case act as one. To understand what is implied by this, one needs to keep in mind the thought that all who are in the heavens, including those in the first and in the second heavens as well as those in the third, that is, including those who are external and those who are more interior as well as those who are internal angels, are the heirs of the Lord's kingdom; for they all constitute one heaven. In the Lord's heavens internal things stand in relation to external exactly as they do with man. Angels in the first heaven are subordinate to angels in the second; and these in turn are subordinate to angels in the third. That subordination however is not one of command, but, as in man, is an influx of internal things into more external; that is to say, the Lord's life is flowing through the third heaven into the second, and through this into the first - through all the heavens in their ordered sequence, as well as into every individual heaven directly. The lower angels, or those in a subordinate position, are not aware that this is so unless they are given to reflect on it by the Lord; thus their subordination is not one involving command.

[2] Insofar as that which is internal resides in an angel of the third heaven he is an heir of the Lord's kingdom; also, insofar as that which is internal resides in an angel of the second heaven he too is an heir; and in a like manner, insofar as that which is internal resides in an angel of the first heaven he is an heir as well. It is the internal that makes each of them an heir. With angels who are more internal that which is internal exists in greater measure than with those who are more external, and therefore they are nearer to the Lord and the more His heirs. That which is internal is love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour. In the measure that they have love and charity therefore they are sons and heirs, for in the same measure they inherit the Lord's life.

[3] But no one can possibly be brought from the first or external heaven into the second or more interior heaven until he has been taught the goods of love and the truths of faith. Insofar as he is taught these he is able to be brought to and to enter the company of angelic spirits. Something similar must occur before these angelic spirits are able to be brought to or to enter into the third heaven, that is, into the company of angels. By means of such teaching, more interior and then internal things are formed, and are made suitable to receive the goods of love and truths of faith, and so to receive the perception of what is good and true. No one is able to see with perception what he does not know and believe. Thus no one can be granted an ability to see perceptively any good of love or truth of faith except through cognitions, which enable him to know what good or truth is and the nature of it. This is so with all people, even with young children, all of whom receive teaching in the Lord's kingdom. But these are taught without difficulty because they have not been imbued with false ideas. Yet they are taught general truths only, and when they receive them, there is no limit to the things they can perceive.

[4] It is the same as when a person has been persuaded of some truth in its general or overall presentation of itself. He then sees easily and so to speak from himself, or spontaneously, the particular facets that make up the general aspects, and the individual details that make up the particular facets, which are confirmatory. For stirred by an affection for a truth in its general presentation, he is also as a consequence stirred by the confirmatory facets and details of the same truth. Those particular facets and details, accompanied by delight and pleasantness, enter into the general affection and thereby perfect it constantly. Such facets and details are the internal things by virtue of which people are called heirs, that is, by which they are able to inherit the Lord's kingdom. But those people first begin to be heirs or to receive the inheritance when an affection for what is good, that is, when mutual love, exists in them, into which they have been introduced by means of cognitions of good and truth and by means of affections for these. And insofar as an affection for good, that is, insofar as mutual love, is present in these people, they are heirs or recipients of the inheritance; for mutual love is that very life itself which they receive from the Lord's essence, as from their Father. These considerations may also become clear from what follows next in verse 5.

(References: Genesis 15:4)

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