35. I shall here add the following account of an experience. 1
Once I was amazed at the huge number of people who regard nature as the source of creation, and therefore of everything beneath or above the sun. When they see anything they say, and they give it heartfelt acknowledgment, 'Surely this is due to nature'; and when they are asked why, they say that this is due to nature rather than to God, when they still sometimes follow the usual view that God created nature, so that they could just as well say that what they see is due to God rather than to nature, they reply muttering almost inaudibly to themselves, 'What is God but nature?' This false belief that nature created the universe, a piece of madness they take for wisdom, makes them so puffed up that they look on all who acknowledge that God created the universe as ants, creeping along the ground, treading a worn path; and some as butterflies flying around in the air. They call their dogmas dreams, because they see things the others cannot, and they say: 'Who has ever seen God? We can all see nature.'
 While I was wondering at the immense number of such people, an angel came and stood beside me, saying 'What are you thinking about?'
I replied, 'How many people there are who believe that nature produces itself and is therefore the creator of the universe.'
'The whole of hell,' the angel told me, 'is composed of such people; there they are called satans and devils. Those who have formed a firm belief in nature and consequently denied the existence of God are satans; those who have spent their lives in crimes and thus banished from their hearts any acknowledgment of God are devils. But I will take you to the schools in the south-western quarter where such people who are not yet in hell live.'
So he took me by the hand and guided me. I saw some cottages containing schools and one building in their midst which seemed to be their headquarters. It was built of pitch-black stones coated with glassy plates giving the appearance of glittering gold and silver, rather like the stones called selenites or mica. Here and there were interspersed shining shells.
 We went up to this building and knocked. Someone quickly opened the door and made us welcome. He hurried to a table and brought us four books, saying: 'These books contain the wisdom which the majority of kingdoms approve to-day. This book contains the wisdom favoured by many in France, this by many in Germany, this by some in Holland, and this by some in Britain.' He went on: 'If you like to watch, I will make these four books shine before your eyes.' Then he poured forth and enveloped the books in the glory of his own reputation, so that at once the books shone as it were with light. But this light immediately vanished from our sight.
We asked him then what he was now writing. He replied that at present he was bringing out of his stores and displaying the very kernel of wisdom. This could by summarised as: (1) Whether nature is due to life, or life to nature; (2) whether a centre is due to an expanse, or an expanse to a centre; (3) about the centre and expanse of nature and life.
 So saying he sat down again at the table, while we strolled around his spacious school. He had a candle on the table, because there was no sunlight there, but only moonlight. What surprised me was that the candle seemed to roam about and cast its light; but because the wick was not trimmed it gave little light. While he was writing, we saw images of different shapes flying up from the table on to the walls. In that night-time moonlight they looked like beautiful birds from India. But as soon as we opened the door, in the sunlight of daytime they looked like nocturnal birds with net-like wings. They were apparent truths turned into fallacies by adducing proofs which he had ingeniously linked into coherent series.
 After seeing this we approached the table and asked him what he was now writing.
'My first proposition:' he said, 'whether nature is due to life or life to nature.' He remarked that on this point he could prove either proposition and make it appear true. But because of some lurking fear which was not explicit, he dare only prove that nature is due to life, that is to say, comes from life, and not the reverse, that life is due to, that is, comes from nature.
We asked politely what was the lurking fear he could not make explicit.
He replied that it was the fear of being called by the clergy a nature-worshipper and so an atheist, and by the laity a person of unsound mind, because both parties are either believers from blind faith or people who see that it is so by studying supporting arguments.
 Then our zealous indignation for the truth got the better of us and we addressed him thus: 'My friend, you are quite wrong. Your wisdom, which is no more than an ingenuity of style, has led you astray, and your desire for reputation has induced you to prove what you do not believe. Do you not know that the human mind is capable of being raised above the objects of the senses, that is to say, the thoughts engendered by the bodily senses; and when it is so raised it can see the products of life at a higher level and the products of nature below? What is life but love and wisdom? And what is nature but a receiver of love and wisdom, a means to bring about their effects or purposes? Can these be one, except as principal and instrumental? Light surely cannot be one with the eye, nor sound with the ear. What is the cause of these senses if not life, and what is the cause of their shapes if not nature? What is the human body but an organ for receiving life? Are not all its parts organically constructed to produce what love wills and the understanding thinks? Surely the body's organs spring from nature, but love and thought spring from life. Are these not quite distinct from each other? Raise the view of your mind a little higher, and you will see that emotion and thought are due to life; that emotion is due to love and thought to wisdom, and both of them are due to life, for, as has been said before, love and wisdom constitute life. If you raise your intellectual faculty a little higher still, you will see that love and wisdom could not exist unless somewhere they had a source, and that this source is Love Itself and Wisdom Itself, therefore Life Itself. These are God, who is the source of nature.'
 Afterwards we talked with him about his second proposition, whether the centre is due to the expanse, or the expanse to the centre. We asked his reasons for discussing this subject. He replied that it was in order to enable him to reach a conclusion about the centre and expanse of nature and life, which one was the source of the other. When we asked his opinion, he made the same reply as before, that he could prove either proposition, but for fear of losing his reputation he proved that the expanse was due to, that is to say, was the source of the centre. 'All the same,' he said, 'I know that something existed before there was a sun, and this was distributed throughout the expanse, and this of itself reduced itself to order, so creating a centre.'
 The zeal of our indignation made us address him again, saying: 'My friend, you are mad.' On hearing this he drew his chair back from the table and looked fearfully at us, but then listened with a smile on his face. 'What could be more crazy, 'we went on, 'than to say the centre is due to the expanse? We take your centre to mean the sun, and your expanse to be the universe; so you hold that the universe came into existence without the sun, do you? Surely the sun produces nature and all its properties, which are solely dependent upon the light and heat radiated by the sun and propagated through atmospheres? Where could these have been before there was a sun? We will explain their origin later on in the discussion. Are not the atmospheres, and everything on earth, like surfaces, the centre of which is the sun? What would become of them all without the sun? Could they last a single instant? And what of them all before there was a sun? Could they have come into existence? Is not subsistence continuous coming into existence? Since therefore the subsistence of everything in nature depends upon the sun, so must their coming into existence. Everyone can see this and acknowledge it from personal experience.
 Does not what is later in order subsist, just as it comes into existence, from what is earlier? If the surface were earlier and the centre later, should we not have what is earlier subsisting from what is later - something which is contrary to the laws of order? How can the later produce the earlier, or the more outward the more inward, or the grosser the purer? How then could the surfaces making up an expanse produce a centre? Anyone can see that this is contrary to the laws of nature. We have drawn these proofs from rational analysis to show that the expanse is produced by the centre, and not the reverse, although everyone who thinks correctly can see this for himself without these proofs. You said that the expanse of its own accord came together to form a centre. Did this happen by chance, that everything fell into such a wonderful and amazing order, so that one thing should be on account of the next, and every single thing on account of human beings and their everlasting life? Can nature inspired by some love and working through some wisdom have ends in view, foresee causes and so provide effects to bring such things about in due order? Can nature turn human beings into angels, build a heaven of them, and make its inhabitants live for ever? Accept these propositions and think them over; your idea of nature begetting nature will collapse.'
 After this we asked him what he had thought, and still did, about his third proposition, about the centre and expanse of nature and life. Did he believe that the centre and expanse of life were the same as the centre and expanse of nature?
He said that here he hesitated. He had previously believed that the inward activity of nature was life and that love and wisdom, which are the essential components of human life, come from this source. It is produced by the heat and light coming from the fire of the sun and transmitted through atmospheres. But now as the result of what he had heard about people living after death he was in doubt, a doubt which alternately lifted up and depressed his mind. When it was lifted up, he acknowledged a centre which had previously been quite unknown to him; when it was depressed he saw a centre which he thought to be the only one. Life was from the centre previously unknown to him, and nature from the centre he thought to be the only one, each centre being surrounded by an expanse.
 We said we approved of that, so long as he was willing to view the centre and expanse of nature from the centre and expanse of life, and not the reverse. We taught him that above the heaven of the angels there is a Sun which is pure love; it appears fiery, like the sun in the world, and the heat radiated from it is the source of will and love among angels and human beings; the light radiating from it produces their understanding and wisdom. Everything from this source is called spiritual; but the radiation from the sun of the natural world is a container or receiver of life; this is what we call natural. The expanse proper to the centre of life is called the spiritual world, and the expanse proper to the centre of nature is called the natural world, which owes its subsistence to its own sun. Now because space and time cannot be predicated of love and wisdom, but there are states instead, it follows that the expanse surrounding the sun of the heaven of angels is not a spatial extension, though it is present in the extension to which the natural sun belongs, and with the living things there, depending upon their ability to receive them, and this is determined by their forms and states.
 But then he asked, 'What is the origin of fire in the sun of the world, the natural sun?'
We replied that it was from the sun of the heaven of angels, which is not fire, but the Divine Love most nearly radiating from God, who is in its midst. Since he found this surprising, we gave this explanation: 'Love in its essence is spiritual fire; that is why "fire" in the spiritual sense of the Word stands for love. That is why priests in church pray that heavenly fire may fill their hearts, meaning love. The fire on the altar and the fire of the lampstand in the Tabernacle of the Israelites was nothing but a representation of Divine Love. The heat of the blood, or the vital heat of human beings, and of animals in general, comes from no other source than the love which makes up their life. That is why people become warm, grow hot and burst into flame, when their love is raised to zeal, or is aroused to anger and rage. Therefore the fact that spiritual heat, being love, produces natural heat in human beings, to such an extent as to fire and inflame their faces and bodies, can serve as a proof that the fire of the natural sun arose from no other source than the fire of the spiritual sun, which is Divine love.
 Now because the expanse arises from the centre, and not the reverse, as we said before, and the centre of life, which is the sun of the heaven of angels, is the Divine Love most nearly radiating from God, who is in the midst of that sun; and because this is the origin of the expanse deriving from that centre, which is called the spiritual world; and because that sun brought into being the sun of the world, and also the expanse which is called the natural world, it is plain that the universe was created by God.'
After this we went away, and he accompanied us out of the courtyard of his school, speaking with us about heaven and hell, and about Divine guidance, showing new powers of sagacity.
1. This is repeated from Conjugial Love 380.