There is a saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But is there a definition of beauty upon which we can all agree? Surely, if we were to alter the proportion or symmetry of our human body, it would lose its harmony. For example, if we were to move one eye a few millimeters closer to the top of our head or our nose a few millimeters to the left, our form would become monstrous and most people would be disturbed by our appearance. It seems we take the harmonious proportions of nature around us for granted.

From elegant landscapes, majestic trees, lovely flowers to graceful birds and animals, to the human body itself, most natural forms are harmonically proportioned. Is there a reason for this? In the Bible, we learn that the universe involved and evolved in correspondence with the Word or Divine Truth. Thus, Divine Truth is the blueprint of the universe. Every natural form tends toward the form of Divine Truth, Divine In-formation or Divine Form. We may then conclude that natural beauty originates from spiritual beauty or Divine Truth, which is the form of God.

Every being that evolved from the earth is reflecting Divine Truth. And, because every creature is only an image or reflection, due to the freedom and uncertainty of existence, some animal species, such as snakes, alligators, bats, mice or spiders, tend to reflect deceit, maliciousness and falsehood rather than the beauty of Truth, although their bodies may still display elements of symmetry and proportion. It then appears that most of the creatures of the earth are displaying the Truth and beauty of Heaven but some are reflecting the selfishness, falsehood and ugliness of hell.

In the spiritual world, our outer form corresponds to our inner spiritual form and substance. In fact, Swedenborg observed that the spirits who are in hell appeared as monstrous forms or wild beasts that corresponded to their evil affections and false beliefs. And, in heaven, he noticed that each angel or even a whole society of angels appeared in a beautiful human form. This unique human form corresponded to the quality of their particular unselfish loves and true beliefs. In fact, he was informed that the whole of heaven was in the Divine-human form because Divine Truth is the form of the Lord.

Natural beauty must necessarily stem from spiritual beauty or the harmonic proportions of Heaven. Spiritual beauty is righteousness or Justice. So, there is also beauty on the intellectual, moral and spiritual levels. The reason why most of us find selfish or immoral acts of violence, abuse, rape, or murder repulsive is because they are not in harmony with our soul. Whatever resonates with our soul produces joy within us while whatever is discordant results in distress, sorrow and pain.

Artists are free to express themselves any way they desire because the human imagination is free to think rationally or irrationally and the human heart is free to love selfishly or unselfishly. But, if we desire to be in the beautiful fields of Heaven, we must think rationally, love unselfishly and do what is useful and just.

When we first enter the world of spirits (which happens shortly after the reawakening just described), our spirit has a similar face and tone of voice as it did in the world. This is because at that point we are in the state of our external concerns, with our deeper concerns not yet uncovered. This is our initial state after decease. Later, though, our face changes and becomes quite different. It comes to look like the ruling affection in which the deeper reaches of our minds were engaged in the world, the kind of affection characteristic of the spirit within our body, because the face of our spirit is very different from the face of our body. We get our physical face from our parents and our spiritual face from our affection, which it images. Our spirit takes on this face after our physical life is over, when the outer coverings have been removed. This is our third state.

I have seen some newcomers from the world and have recognized them by their faces and voices; but when I saw them later, I did not recognize them. People who were engaged in good affections had lovely faces, while people who were engaged in evil affections had ugly ones. Seen in its own right, our spirit is nothing but our affections, whose outward form is our face.

The reason our faces change is that in the other life no one is allowed to pretend to affections they do not really have, so we cannot put on a face that is contrary to the love we are engaged in. We are all refined down to a state in which we say what we think and manifest in expression and act what we intend. This is why our faces all become forms and images of our affections; and this is why all the people who have known each other in the world still recognize each other in the world of spirits, but not in heaven or hell, as already noted. Emanuel Sedenborg [HH 457]

Credit: Seated Woman, Painting by Pablo Picasso