Heavenly Usefulness

Many people still dream of retiring one day, doing exactly what they desire while they are being served a tropical drink by others on a beautiful island. Others are anxious to leave this difficult world so they can enter Heaven, where they will play the harp, loaf around with other angels and praise the Lord. But, when we look at the facts, we discover that many people who stop working eventually become physically ill, others fall into depression and some even commit suicide. Why? The Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of joy, peace and harmony because it is a kingdom of uses. And the only way to derive real joy and contentment in the universe is by being useful. It is only in deeds of usefulness that Love and Wisdom are realized.

One of the Ten Commandments in the Word of God (Bible) is to observe the Sabbath day. It is a reminder that one day the work of regeneration and salvation will end and we will be able to enter the harmonic fields of Heaven. In fact, the seven days of Creation in Genesis correspond to the seven stages of human reformation and regeneration. During six stages, the Lord reforms our mind and regenerates our will through the strife of spiritual temptation and on the seventh day (stage), He rests from this work because we enter the Heavenly fields of Peace. Now, Heaven is a Kingdom of Peace, Harmony and Love but it is also a Kingdom of Use. In Heaven, our mind is in Peace and our heart is in Love and we can realize this Love by being useful to others and God. This is how we share the delight of Love with others and God.

On earth, before we are regenerated, life is more difficult because we also have to continually contend with the false ideas and selfish urges that are flowing into our mind and heart. But, as in Heaven, our useful employment should be a source of joy. Yet we know that most people only choose to work in order to pay their bills and be sheltered, clothed and nourished. Hence, they are working against their will and their job also becomes a source of strife, suffering and discontent. We all have to contend with the struggle and strife of spiritual temptation but there is no reason our job should be a source of suffering.

The only reason many people are not happy in their work on Earth is because their job does not match their talent. Since human beings were essentially designed to will what is Good and do what is useful, when they love and enjoy what they do, this work actually becomes the source of their joy and contentment. This is especially evident in musicians, dancers, scientists and mathematicians. But, it does not really matter what our job happens to be as long as we willingly do it from the heart, perform it as diligently as possible and make sure it benefits others.

In fact, each one of us has been given a talent that is unique. And no one in the universe can do what we can do. How do we know this? We know that the human body was designed according to the proportions of Heaven or the Divine-Human. Now, notice how every biological cell in the human organism is in its appropriate and unique place and doing the work it was designed to do. This corresponds exactly with what is occurring in Heaven. Each angel is in a society that corresponds to his/her particular affections and true beliefs and engaged in useful work that corresponds to his/her unique talents. This is how angels derive real joy and contentment. And this joy increases eternally as they understand more Truth, will more Good and do what is useful to others and God.

Swedendorg also tells us that angels rest intermittently from their work and play. But this leisurely enjoyment is the result of their work. After their rest, they thirst again for more Truth and hunger for more Love and this spiritual thirst and hunger can only be satisfied by performing a unique service to others and God.

Now, think again about the human body. Do we not need our thumbs as much as we need our brain? Do we not need our liver as much as we need our heart? If our brain were functioning but we lacked our thumbs, we would be able to think but we would not be able to realize our ideas by doing with our hands. If our heart were functioning and not our liver, we would not live very long. Thus, we see that as much as the work of every biological cell is equally necessary in the human organism, the work of every angel is equally valuable in Heaven. This is equally true on Earth where the useful work of every individual contributes to the proper functioning of the whole society.

Spiritually, the level of the Earth corresponds to the world of spirits. It is an intermediate spiritual region where we are in equilibrium and still able to freely choose between Good and evil, Truth and falsehood. This is why when we are on earth we are full of doubt and still deciding as to what we really love. We are continually wavering between Heaven and hell. But thanks to Swedenborg, we know exactly what Heaven and hell are like and we can choose once and for all. Hell is a kingdom of darkness, selfishness and abuse while Heaven is a kingdom of Light, unselfishness and usefulness.

When we were a child, we often dreamed of being a fireman, policeman or doctor. But, if we do not want to lead a meaningless and vain existence motivated by lust, greed and selfishness, discovering our talent as soon as possible is of extreme importance. In order to live a joyful, useful, meaningful and purposeful life, what we do must originate from the love in our heart. Essentially, we must answer the following question: What is the job that I would be willing to do even if I were not compensated for my services?

When we survey those who have been successful in their work on Earth, we discover that they were all driven by a love for what they were doing. In fact, this is how they derived joy in their lives. And, in most cases, what they produced was beneficial and useful to other human beings. Of course, there were also those who became wealthy and famous by providing others with the means to indulge in abuse, lust and greed. But these people were equally driven to succeed by their love of abuse, love of the world and love of self. Therefore, what we do in the world is driven by what we love. And what we love determines the spiritual sphere in which we subsist after death. If we desire to subsist in the spiritual spheres of Heaven, we should make sure the work that we do on Earth is useful to others and God. This is also the means to derive real joy in our life.

Before creation, God was love itself and wisdom itself. That love and that wisdom had a drive to be useful. Without usefulness, love and wisdom are only fleeting abstract entities, and they do indeed fly away if they do not move in the direction of usefulness. The two prior things without the third [love and wisdom without usefulness] are like birds flying across a great ocean that eventually become worn out, fall into the ocean, and drown.

God created the universe so that usefulness could exist. Therefore the universe could be called a theater of useful functions. Because we, the human race, are the principal reason for creation, it follows that absolutely everything else was created for our sake. All aspects of the divine design have been brought together and concentrated in us so that God can perform the highest forms of useful service through us.

Without usefulness as a third party, love and wisdom would be as unreal as the heat and light of the sun would be if they had no effect on people, animals, and plants. That heat and that light become real by flowing into things and having an effect on them.

Another set of three things that follow in order is purpose, means, and result. The learned world knows that a purpose is nothing unless it has reference to an efficient cause or means; and the purpose and the means are nothing unless there is a result. We can of course contemplate a purpose and the means of accomplishing it purely in our minds, but we still do so only for the sake of the result that the purpose intends and that the means make possible.

Likewise with love, wisdom, and useful service. Useful service is what love intends and what it occasions through the means. When useful service results, love and wisdom take on a real existence. In that useful service, they set up a place for themselves to live and stay, and there they rest as if they were at home. We are that way ourselves when God’s love and wisdom are in us and we do something useful. The reason we were created images and likenesses of God, or forms of the divine design, was so that we would be able to do God’s useful services. Emanuel Swedenborg [TCR 67]

These are general categories of angels’ activities, but each individual has her or his own specific contribution to make. This is because every general service is made up of countless elements that are called mediate or subservient or supporting services. All of these are arranged and ranked according to the divine design, and taken together they make up and complete an overarching function that is the common good.

The people in heaven who are involved in church affairs are the ones who loved the Word in the world and looked for truths in it with lively interest, not for the sake of eminence or profit but for the service of their own life and the lives of others. In proportion to their love and eagerness for service, they are enlightened there and are in the light of wisdom, attaining it because of the Word in the heavens, which is not natural the way it is in the world, but spiritual. They have the gift of preaching; and in keeping with the divine design, the ones who are more highly placed there are the ones who surpass others in the wisdom they derive from their enlightenment.

The people who are involved in civic affairs are the ones who loved their country and its welfare more than their own, who behaved honestly and fairly out of a love for what is honest and fair. To the extent that they sought out laws of justice because of the urging of this love and thereby became discerning they enjoy the ability to fill governing offices in heaven. They perform these duties in the place or on the level appropriate to their discernment, which in turn is equivalent to their love of service in the common good.

Further, there are so many offices and departments in heaven, so many tasks, that there are simply too many to list. There are relatively few in the world. No matter how many people are involved, they are all caught up in a love of their work and tasks out of a love of service-no one out of selfishness or a love of profit. In fact, there is no love of profit for the sake of livelihood, since all the necessities of life are given them gratis. They are housed gratis, clothed gratis, and fed gratis. We can see from this that people who have loved themselves and the world more than service have no place in heaven. In fact, our love or affection invariably stays with us after our life in the world. It is not uprooted to eternity.

Everyone in heaven is engaged in his or her work according to its correspondence, and the correspondence is not with the work itself but with the use of each particular task; and everything has a correspondence. When we are engaged in an activity or a task in heaven that does answer to its use, then we are in a state of life very much like the one we were in in this world. This is because what is spiritual and what is natural act as one by means of their correspondence, but with the difference that [after death] we enjoy a deeper delight because we are engaged in a spiritual life. This is a deeper life, and therefore more open to heavenly blessedness. Emanuel Swedenborg [HH 392-394]