Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Heaven And Hell

I've recently enjoyed reading the experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg.  He claimed visions and spiritual gifts seldom enjoyed in his day or ours.  Some of his writings seem to verify his claim.  His visions apparently began Easter weekend on 6 April 1744 and persisted thereafter.  He was in his 50s at the time.   

Since I recently mentioned the ministry of angels, I thought I'd share something I read earlier today.  The following is from one of his books, originally published in Latin in 1758 and translated to English in 1886:  
 "I have seen a thousand times that angels are human forms, or men; for I have conversed with them as man with man, sometimes with one alone, sometimes with many in company; nor did I discover in their form anything different from the form of man; and I have repeatedly wondered that they were such. And lest it should be said that it was a fallacy, or a visionary fancy, I have been permitted to see them in a state of full wakefulness, when I was in the exercise of every bodily sense, and in a state of clear perception. I have also frequently told them that men in the Christian world are in such blind ignorance concerning angels and spirits, as to believe them to be minds without form, and mere thoughts, concerning which they have no other idea than as of something ethereal, in which there is somewhat vital; and because they thus ascribe to them nothing human except a thinking principle, they imagine that they cannot see, because they have no eyes; nor hear because they have no ears; nor speak, because they have neither mouth nor tongue. The angels said in reply, that they knew such a belief exists with many in the world, and that it is the prevailing belief among the learned, and also, to their astonishment, among the clergy. They also assigned as a reason for this, that the learned, who were the leaders, and who first broached such ideas concerning angels and spirits, thought of them from the sensual conceptions of the external man; And they who think from these, and not from interior light, and the general idea implanted in everyone, must of necessity adopt such fictions; because the sensuals of the external man can comprehend only what is within nature but not what is above it, thus nothing whatever of the spiritual world. From these leaders as guides, the false notion concerning the angels was communicated to others, who did not think for themselves, but from them; and they who first think from others, and make the things so thought matters of their faith, and afterwards view them as such from their own understanding, can with difficulty recede from them; wherefore they generally acquiesce in confirming them. They further said that the simple in faith and heart have no such idea concerning the angels, but think of them as heavenly men, because they have not extinguished by erudition what was implanted in them from heaven, nor can they conceive of anything without a form. Hence it is that angels are always represented in temples, both in sculpture and painting, as men. Concerning what is thus implanted from heaven, they added, that it is the Divine communicated by influx to those who are in the good of faith and life.

"From all my experience, which is now for many years, I can declare and affirm that the form of the Angels is in every respect human; that they have faces, eyes, ears, breasts, arms, hands, feet; that they see, hear, and converse with each other; in a word, that they lack nothing which belongs to man, except the material body. I have seen them in a light, which exceeds by many degrees the noonday light of the world; and in that light I observed all parts of their faces more distinctly and clearly than ever I did the face of man on earth. I have also been permitted to see an angel of the inmost heaven. His countenance was brighter and more resplendent than the faces of the angels of the inferior heavens. I examined him closely, and his form was perfectly human. It is, however, to be observed, that angels cannot be seen by man with his bodily eyes, but with the eyes of the spirit which is within him; because the spirit is in the spiritual world, and all things of the body are in the natural world. Like sees like, because from like. Besides, everyone knows that the organ of bodily vision, which is the eye, is so gross that it cannot see even the smaller things of nature except by the aid of optical glasses; much less, then, can it discern those which are above the sphere of nature, as are all things in the spiritual world: nevertheless, these are seen by man when he is withdrawn from the bodily sight, and the sight of his spirit is opened. This is effected in a moment, when it pleases the Lord that man should see spiritual things" (Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, pp. 49-51).

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