79. The fifth account:
The same angel as before, who had been my guide and companion to the ancient peoples who had lived in the four ages called golden, silver, copper and iron - the same angel appeared again and said to me, "You would like to see the age that followed those ancient ages, to find out what it was like, and what it is still like today. Follow me, then, and you will see. These are the people of whom Daniel prophesied when he said:
(A kingdom will arise after those other four, in which iron will be mixed with miry clay.) They will mingle together through the seed of man, but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. (Daniel 2:41-43)"
The angel added, "The seed of man, through which iron will be mingled with clay, and yet without their adhering together - this seed means the truth of the Word falsified."
 After these words I followed him, and on the way he told me this. "They live," he said, "in the border region between the south and the west, but at a great distance beyond those who lived in the previous four ages, and also deeper down."
So we continued through the south to a region bordering on the west, and we passed through a dreadful forest. For we found pools of water there from which crocodiles raised their heads, gaping at us with jaws open wide and showing their teeth. And between the pools we saw horrible dogs, some of them with three heads like Cerberus, some of them with two heads, all of them with hideous mouths and watching us with savage eyes as we passed by. Entering the western part of this area, we also saw dragons and leopards, like the ones described in the book of Revelation,chapters 12:3 and 13:2.
 Then the angel said to me, "All these wild beasts you have seen are not beasts but correspondent and thus representative forms of the lusts that motivate the inhabitants we are going to visit. Those hideous dogs represent the lusts themselves; the crocodiles, their deceits and deceptions; the dragons and leopards, their falsities and corrupt feelings towards things that have to do with worship.
"The inhabitants thus represented, however, do not live just the other side of the forest, but beyond a great desert that lies between, to keep them completely away and separate from the inhabitants of the preceding ages. Moreover, they are altogether alien - totally different from those other people. Indeed, they have heads above their breasts, breasts above their loins, and loins above their feet, like the earliest people. But there is not a bit of gold in their heads, or of silver in their breasts, or of bronze in their loins. In fact, there is not a bit of just plain iron in their feet. Instead, they have iron mixed with clay in their heads, both of these mixed with bronze in their breasts, both of these also mixed with silver in their loins, and these mixed with gold in their feet.
"By this inversion they have been transformed from human beings into caricatures of human beings, in which nothing inwardly holds together. For what had been uppermost has become lowermost, so that what was the head has become the heel, and vice versa. Viewed from heaven, they look to us like play-actors who turn their bodies upside down, support themselves on their elbows and thus move about. Or they look like animals that lie upside down on their backs, raise their feet in the air, and, digging their heads into the ground, from that position look up at the sky."
 We passed through the forest and proceeded into the desert, which was no less horrible. It consisted of piles of rocks, with pits in between, out of which crept poisonous snakes and vipers and from which flew fiery serpents.
This whole desert kept sloping downward, and we descended by a long decline, until at last we came to a valley inhabited by the people of that region and age. We saw huts here and there, which finally appeared to come together and be joined into the form of a city.
We went into the city, and behold, the houses were constructed out of charred tree branches mortared together with clay. The roofs were made of black tiles. The streets were irregular, all narrow at first, but widening as they went, becoming finally quite broad and terminating in squares. Consequently there were as many squares as there were streets.
Darkness fell as we entered the city, because the sky was not visible. We looked up, therefore, and we were given light by which to see.
I then asked the people I encountered, "Can you see, since the sky does not appear above you?"
And they replied, "What sort of question is this? We see clearly. We walk in full light."
Hearing this the angel said to me, "Darkness to them is light, and light to them is darkness, as it is for nocturnal birds. For they look downwards instead of upwards."
 We went into some of the shacks here and there, and in each we saw a man with his woman. And we asked whether all of them here lived each in his own house with only one wife.
But they replied to this with a hiss, "What do you mean, with only one wife? Why not ask whether we live with only one harlot? What is a wife but a harlot?
"According to our laws we are not allowed to commit whoredom with more than just one woman, but still it is not dishonorable or shameful for us to do so with more than one, provided we do it away from the house. We boast about it with each other! In this way we enjoy license and its pleasure more than polygamists do.
"Why is having more than one wife denied to us, when it has been permitted in the past and is permitted today in the whole world around us? What is life with just one woman but captivity and imprisonment?
"But here we break open the bar of this prison and so rescue ourselves from slavery and set ourselves free. Who is angry with a prisoner if he liberates himself when he can?"
 To this we replied, "You speak, my friend, like one devoid of religion. What person endowed with any power of reason does not know that adulterous affairs are profane and hellish, and that marriages are sacred and heavenly? Are not adulterous relationships found among devils in hell, and marriages among angels in heaven? Have you not read the sixth commandment in the Decalogue? And in Paul, that adulterers can by no means come into heaven? 1
At this our host laughed heartily, and he looked on me as a simpleton - almost, even, as insane.
But at that very moment a messenger came running from the headman of the city and said, "Bring the two strangers to the city square, and if they will not come voluntarily, drag them there! We saw them under the dark cover of daylight. They have come here in secret. They are spies!"
The angel then said to me, "The reason we seemed to be under dark cover is that we were in the light of heaven, and the light of heaven to them is darkness, while the darkness of hell to them is light. This is because they regard nothing as sinful, not even adultery, and consequently they see falsity altogether as truth. Falsity shines with light in hell, in the eyes of satanic spirits, while truth darkens their eyes like the gloom of night."
 Then we said to the messenger, "We will not be forced, still less dragged to the city square, but we will go with you voluntarily."
So we went, and behold, we found a great crowd there. From it came some lawyers who whispered in our ear, "Take care that you do not say anything against religion, against our form of government, or contrary to good manners."
But we kept answering, "We will only speak in favor of them and in accordance with them."
Then we asked, "What is your religion in regard to marriage?"
At this the crowd began to murmur, and they said, "What concern do you have here with marriage? Marriages are marriages."
So we asked a second time, "What is your religion in regard to licentious relationships?"
At this the crowd began to murmur again, saying, "What concern do you have here with licentious relationships? Illicit affairs are illicit affairs. He who is without guilt, let him throw the first stone. 2
So we asked a third time, "Does your religion teach regarding marriages that they are sacred and heavenly, and regarding adulterous affairs that they are profane and hellish?"
In response to this many in the crowd guffawed, mocked, and jeered, saying, "Ask our priests about matters of religion, not us. We accept without comment whatever they say, since nothing of religion falls within the ability of the understanding to judge. Have you not heard that the understanding is devoid of reason in the mysteries on which the whole of religion is based?
"Besides, what do our actions have to do with religion? Is it not the pious murmurings of the heart that makes souls blessed - murmurings about expiation, satisfaction and imputation - and not works?"
 But then some of the so-called wise men of the city came over and said, "Get away from here. The crowd is becoming inflamed. There will be a riot in a minute. Let us talk about this by ourselves. There is an alley behind the courthouse. Let us go back there. Come with us."
So we followed. And then they asked us where we came from and what our business was there.
We said, "We have come to be instructed about marriage, to find out whether or not marriages among you are sacred unions as they were among the ancient peoples who lived in the golden, silver and copper ages."
But they replied, "What do you mean, sacred unions? Are they not deeds of the flesh and the night?"
Then we began to answer, "Are they not also deeds of the spirit? And what the flesh does impelled by the spirit, is that not spiritual? Moreover, everything that the spirit does, it does from a marriage of goodness and truth. Is it not this spiritual marriage which enters into the natural marriage that exists between husband and wife?"
To this the so-called wise men replied, "You probe and refine the matter too much. You leap over rational considerations to spiritual ones. Who can begin there, then descend and thus form a judgment about anything?" To which they added sarcastically, "Perhaps you have the wings of an eagle and can soar to the uppermost regions of the sky and look down on such matters. But we cannot."
 So we then asked them to tell us, from the height or region to which the ideas of their minds flew aloft, whether they knew or were able to know that such a thing exists as the conjugial love of one man with one wife, into which have been gathered all the blessings, felicities, delights, gratifications and pleasures of heaven. Moreover, that this love comes from the Lord according to people's reception of goodness and truth from Him, thus according to the state of the church.
 Hearing this they turned away and said, "These men are crazy. They go into outer space with their rational faculties, form empty conjectures and shower us with nutty speculations."
Afterwards they turned around to us and said, "We will give a straight answer to your airy conjectures and dreams."
Then they said, "What does conjugial love have in common with religion and with being inspired by God?
"Does that love not exist in everyone according to the condition of his sexual powers? Is it not found among people who are outside the church as well as among people who are in the church? Among gentiles as well as among Christians? In fact, among impious people as well as among pious ones?
"Does the vigor of that love in everyone not come either from heredity, or from good health, or from temperance of life, or from the warmth of the climate? And can it not also be strengthened and stimulated by drugs?
"Is the same love not found in animals, especially in birds which mate in pairs? Is that love not a matter of the flesh? What does a matter of the flesh have to do with the spiritual state of the church?
"Does that love with a wife in its ultimate expression differ one bit from love with a harlot in its ultimate expression? Is the lust not the same, and the delight the same?
"It is harmful, therefore, to trace the origin of conjugial love from the sacred things of the church."
 When we heard this we said to them, "You are reasoning from the heat of lasciviousness and not from conjugial love. You do not know at all what conjugial love is because among you that love is cold. We are convinced by what you have said that you come from the age that is named after and consists of iron and clay, which do not cohere, according to the prophecy in Daniel 2:43. For you make conjugial love and licentious love the same thing. Can these two cohere any more than iron and clay? People believe you are wise and call you wise, yet you are anything but wise!"
Inflamed with anger at these words, they began to cry out and call the crowd to throw us out. But then, by a power given us by the Lord, we stretched out our hands, and suddenly fiery serpents, vipers and poisonous snakes came from the desert, and dragons, too, and they invaded and filled the city, so that the inhabitants became frightened and fled away.
And the angel said to me, "New people keep coming from earth to this region every day, and the previous inhabitants are by turns removed and cast down into chasms in the west, which at a distance look like lakes of fire and brimstone. The people there are all adulterers, both spiritually and naturally."
1. See 1 Corinthians 6:9.
2. Cf. John 8:7.