77. The second memorable occurrence. Early one day, after I had emerged from sleep but was still not fully awake, I was meditating in the light of the cloudless morning, when through the window I saw something like lightning flashing and heard something like a peal of thunder. As I was wondering what was going on, I heard from heaven that there were some not far from me who were aggressively debating about God and nature. The flashes of light like lightning and the rumble in the air like thunder were correspondences manifesting the conflict and clashing of the arguments. One side was for God, the other for nature.
This spiritual confrontation arose in the following way. Some satans in hell had said to each other, "I wish we could talk to angels from heaven. We could fully and completely demonstrate to them that what they call God, the source of all things, is actually nature. God is only a word, unless it means nature. "
Because the satans believed this with all their heart and soul, and because they longed to talk with angels from heaven, they were given permission to come up from the mud and darkness of hell and speak with two angels who were just then coming down from heaven.
 The satans were in the world of spirits, which is midway between heaven and hell. Once they spotted the angels, the satans hurried rapidly toward them.
With voices full of rage the satans began shouting, "Are you the angels of heaven we are allowed to meet face to face to debate God and nature? They call you wise for acknowledging God, but actually you are complete idiots. Who has seen God? Who understands what God is? Who grasps the idea that God rules and has power over the universe and everything in it? Only the lower classes would acknowledge something they dont see or understand. What is more obvious than the fact that nature is the all in all? What eye has seen anything but nature? What ear has heard anything but nature? What nose has smelled anything but nature? What tongue has tasted anything but nature? What hand or body has felt anything but nature? Our physical senses are our witnesses to truth. We swear on the testimony of our senses. Our breathing is another witness - the respiration that keeps our body alive. What do we breathe but nature? Our heads and yours are in nature. Where does the inflow into the thoughts in our heads come from if not from nature? If nature were taken away, could you think at all?" And many other arguments made out of the same ingredients.
 After the satans finished, the angels answered, "You speak that way because you trust your senses alone. All the spirits in hell enmesh their thinking in their physical senses. They cannot lift their minds above their senses. So we forgive you. A life of evil and a belief in falsity have closed off the inner realms of your minds so completely that you cannot be lifted above sensory input - unless you happen to be in a state that is remote from the evils in your life and the falsities in your belief. A satan who hears the truth can in fact understand it as well as an angel can; but the satan does not retain it, because evil erases truth and introduces falsity. We are aware, though, that you are in a remote state now and are able to understand the truth we are telling you. Pay attention, then, to what we are about to say.
"You used to be in the physical world," the angels continued. "You left that place and now you are in the spiritual world. Before now, did you know anything about life after death? You previously denied that there was a life after death. You put yourselves on a par with animals. Did you know anything before about heaven and hell? Did you know anything about the light and heat in this world? Do you realize that you are now above the realm of nature and no longer in it? This world is spiritual, and so is everything in it. Spiritual things are so far beyond physical things that not even the least bit of the nature where you used to be can flow into this world.
"Because you viewed nature as some god or goddess, you still view the light and heat of this world as nature's light and heat, although they do not belong to nature at all; in fact, what is light and warm in nature is dark and cold here.
"Did you know anything before about the sun in this world that provides our light and heat? Were you aware that this sun is pure love, while the sun in the physical world is pure fire? You realized that the sun of pure fire in the physical world was the origin and sustainer of nature. Did you realize that the sun of pure love in heaven is the origin and sustainer of life itself (which is love together with wisdom)? Nature, then, which you made into a god or a goddess, is clearly dead.
 "If you were granted protection, you could ascend with us into heaven. If we were granted protection, we could descend with you into hell. In heaven you would see magnificent and dazzling things. In hell we would see hideous and filthy things. This difference between heaven and hell exists because all who are in heaven worship God, while all who are in hell worship nature. The magnificent and dazzling things in the heavens correspond to feelings of love for good and truth. The hideous and filthy things in the hells correspond to feelings of love for evil and falsity. From all that we have said, then, make up your minds now about whether God or nature is the all in all. "
The satans replied to this, "In our current state, from what we have heard we are able to conclude that there is a God; but when our enjoyment of evil preoccupies our minds we see nothing but nature. "
 I could see and hear the two angels and the satans because they were standing not far from me. To my surprise, around them I saw many who had been famous scholars when they were in the physical world. I was amazed to notice that at one moment the scholars would stand beside the angels and the next moment beside the satans; they agreed with whomever they were standing beside.
I was told, "The changes in place the scholars make are actually the changes of state in their mind as they agree first with one side and then with the next. They are chameleons in their beliefs. What's more, we'll tell you a mystery. We have looked down into the world at famous scholars and have found that six hundred out of a thousand are for nature and the rest are for God. Furthermore, we found that the only reason there were even that many for God was that they often made statements based not on any comprehension but merely on their having heard that nature comes from God. Repeated statements based on something remembered give the impression of belief even when there is no thought or understanding there. "
 Afterward the satans were granted protection and went up with the two angels into heaven. They did indeed see magnificent and dazzling things. Enlightened in the light of heaven there, they acknowledged that there is a God, that nature was created to serve the life that comes from God, and that nature of itself is dead. It activates nothing on its own; instead it is activated by life.
When they had seen and learned these things they went back down. As they went down, their love for evil returned. It closed off their intellect at the top and opened it up at the bottom; above it there appeared a dark shadow flashing with hellfire. The instant they set foot on the ground it opened up under them and they fell back down to their own people.