It has been a question which has interested the human mind, whether the globes which compose our planetary system and the starry universe, are inhabited by rational beings like ourselves. Many of them are vastly larger than the earth we inhabit, and in number surpassing all finite conception. It is not reasonable to suppose, that bodies so vast are left an uninhabited solitude. The same Divine Love and Wisdom, from which has gone forth the creation of all things on our earth, must have led the Divine Being to people other earths with creatures to whom He could impart His own life and bliss. Creation, especially that of sensitive beings capable of enjoyment, results naturally, not to say necessarily, from the essential property of the Divine Love, which is the one only Life— a desire to impart good to all other beings in whom there is a capacity of reception.
Modern Astronomy has greatly extended our views of the magnitude—the immensity of the material universe. Swedenborg has shown that the spiritual heavens are correspondingly immense. (See H. and H. on the Immensity of Heaven.) In fact, the material universe is the ultimate,—the basis, the firmament, and the continent of the other. The material cosmos is the effect, the cause of which is the spiritual world. And an a cause cannot exist without an effect, nor an effect without a cause, their existence must be coeval. It was fitting that contemporaneously with the revival of the noble science of Astronomy, there should be a revelation of the fact, that the vast bodies of which it treats are inhabited by beings made in the image of God, and who acknowledge the one only Lord, whom we adore. This is not a fact designed merely to gratify a selfish curiosity, but one that has its important bearings upon the progress of human redemption. It greatly exalts our conception of the Lord’s boundless and everlasting love. It gives us an actual exhibition of His infinite goodness, so far as we are able to grasp the idea. This cannot be deemed a matter of trifling importance. It shows us the one only God, who came down to this world, as the God of all worlds— not merely according to the Jewish conception, as the God of a nation, or particular province. The former view of the Deity belongs to the New Age. It is one of the glories of the New Jerusalem. No other dispensation has so fully grasped the idea. The extension of the human race, in countless numbers, to all the earths in the stellar universe, serves to make man think less of himself as an individual, and thus to weaken that deep-seated love of self, which is the root of all evil. If all the vast globes in the starry firmament are inhabited by beings like ourselves, we, as individuals, sink into comparative nothingness. God loves them each and all as much as He loves us. He who can love the Lord—the one Lord of the heavens and the earths—because He loves each of this countless family as much as He loves us, will find himself elevated to a higher plane of spiritual existence than he could be without the knowledge of the vastness of the intelligent creation. He will find it easier to consecrate himself to the good of universal being, which is the nature of the angelic and heavenly life, and which will descend more and more from God out of heaven into the New Jerusalem. Such a conception of God as the Universal Father, and such a love to Him and worship of Him, is not found but in the New Church. But here the Lord Jesus. Christ is thus God.
Professor Joseph le Conte, in a lecture before the Smithsonian Institution remarks: “In comparing modern with ancient, or even mediaeval civilization, nothing is more striking or more significant than the difference in the manner in which nature is viewed in relation to man. The spirit of the older civilization tended to exalt man in his own estimation, and to degrade nature; while that of modern civilization tends to humiliate, by insisting upon his insignificance in comparison with the greatness of Nature.” This is manifestly a correct view of the influence of the ancient science, compared with that of the improved philosophy of the present day. To assist and strengthen this redeeming tendency of the modern science, the Lord, in mercy, gave to His servant that remarkable experience recorded in the little work entitled, ” Concerning the Earths in our Solar System, which are called Planets, and Concerning the Earths in the Starry Heavens, with an Account of their Inhabitants, and also of the Spirits and Angels there.”
The manner in which he saw the things he describes, is in perfect harmony with the laws of the human mind, and accords with his whole experience of the spiritual world. But how could he have sensible evidence of the existence of those remote earths and their inhabitants, without a miracle ? This question can be satisfactorily answered to any one who is able to comprehend the laws of our interior being. He shows that the inhabitants of those earths are men like ourselves, with only certain specific differences adapting them to the peculiarities of their abode. After death, they become spirits. In fact, all the inhabitants of the ever-present spiritual world, were once men on our earth, or some other globe in the universe. A spirit after death retains the memory of all the affairs of the world he occupied, so that not the least particular of all he ever saw or heard is lost, but remains indelibly imaged upon the mind, and may be seen and read there as in a book, by other spirits and angels. If any one, for the accomplishment of some benevolent aim in the kingdom of God, should be elevated to a state of spirit, and should be permitted to hold conscious intercourse with spirits and angels, he could see in their memory all the things they ever saw. In that higher or interior realm of being, the things of the mind become cognizable to the spiritual perception. Thus Swedenborg did not see, directly or immediately, those far distant earths, and the inhabitants living upon them. He saw them mediately, or through the minds of others. He came into communication with spirits who once lived on those globes. Being in the spirit, and having his spiritual vision opened, he saw in the memory of those spirits all that they ever saw of the world they once occupied. Suppose you had never seen Niagara Falls, and your friend had; he would not be able, by any verbal description, to transfer the idea of it to your mind as it is in his. But if your spiritual vision could be so exalted as to see the impression it made upon his mind, you would then perceive it in his memory just as he saw it. It is reasonable to suppose, that in a purely spiritual world, where the soul is raised above the conditions and limitations of matter—time and space—that the things of the mind, its thoughts, affections, and memories, are as clearly discerned by the spiritual vision, as in this world we see with the natural eye the features of the face, and its variations. The changes in the countenance of the natural body are effects. The cause is found in the variations of the affections and thoughts. In another world, knowledge becomes real, because it is a cognizance of things in their causes. There we shall not see through a glass darkly, but shall know as we are known. (1 Cor. xiii. 12.)
How could Swedenborg come into communication with spirits from those earths? This question will be easily answered to any one who can so elevate his thought above the range and dominion of sense, as to conceive of spirit as a substance entirely discrete or distinct from matter. The essential conditions of the existence of matter are space and time. In the spiritual world there is no time, no space, for the reason that it is a spiritual, and not a material world. Instead of space and time, there are states of the will and understanding. Nearness is not, as here, proximity in space, but resemblance or similitude of interior state. Remoteness is opposition of state. We instinctively recognize the truth of this. We say of one, that he seems near to us; of another, that he is distant; that we cannot get near to him. The sense of nearness, in the one case, if we look at it more closely, will be found to be only similarity of interior state, or sympathy of character. The sense of distance results from dissimilitude of thought and feeling, and opposition of the emanating sphere. This consciousness of nearness, this sense of spiritual proximity, is perceived by us, independent of spatial distance. Miles and leagues have nothing to do with it. In order to come into association with the spirits of another earth, we have only to come into a state like theirs—into a similar mode of thought and feeling; for similitude of state is nearness. The gradual process by which we come into that state, would give us the appearance of progression through space. The longer the time requisite to effect the change in us, the further we should seem to journey. But when we come into that state, distance is annihilated, and separation impossible. In harmony with these simple laws of the human mind, Swedenborg came into communication with the spirits of other earths, and saw their inhabitants and their affairs in the memory of those who once inhabited them. All tliis is in perfect harmony with the rest of his experience in the spiritual world, and was necessary to the fulness and completeness of his providential mission.
He thus unfolds the mental laws, in accordance with which this seemingly wonderful experience was granted him. ” He who is unacquainted with the arcana of heaven, cannot believe that man is capable of seeing earths so remote, and of giving any account of them from sensible experience: but let such a one know, that the spaces and distances, and consequent progressions, which exist in the natural world, are, in their origin and first cause,’ changes of the state of interior things, and that with angels and spirits they appear according to such changes; and that therefore angels and spirits may by such changes be apparently translated from one place to another, and from one earth to aaother, even to earths at the extreme boundaries of the universe. The case is the same also with man as to his spirit, and therefore he may be so translated, whilst his body continues in its own place. Thfs has been the case with myself, since by the Divine . Mercy of the Lord it has been given me to conver-e with spirits as a spirit, and at the same time with men as a man. The sensual man is not capable of conceiving that man as to his spirit can be thus translated, inasmuch as the sensual man is immersed in space and time, and measures his progression accordingly.” (E. U. 125.)
In another place he says: ” I was led by angels from the Lord to a certain earth in the starry heavens, where it was given to take a view of the earth itself, yet not to speak with the inhabitants, but with spirits who came from thence (for all the inhabitants or men of every earth, after finishing their course of life in the world, become spirits, and remain near their own earth) ; from these, however, I received information concerning the earth, and concerning the state of the inhabitants thereof; for men, when they leave the body, carry with them all their former life, and all their memory. To be led to earths in the universe is not to be led and translated thither as to the body, but as to the spirit; and the spirit is led by variations of the state of interior life, which appear to it as progressions through spaces. Approaches, or near advancements, are also effected according to agreements or resemblances of states of life; for agreement or resemblance produces conjunction, whereas disagreement and dissimilitude produce disjunction. Hence, it may appear how translation is effected as to the spirit, and its approach or near advancement to things remote, whilst the man remains in his own place.” (E. U. 127.)
All this experience, though unusual, is not only possible, but rational and credible. It was not sought, but given in mercy by the Lord for the accomplishment of worthy ends in the great plan of His Providence. It is not reasonable to believe that the vast realm of spirit, with which we stand in such vital connection and relation, should be always left enshrouded in impenetrable midnight. A revelation on this subject was needful to the advancement of the Lord’s redemptive work. Neither is it supposable that in the progress of human knowledge, we were to be left in ignorance of the inhabitants of the other earths in the universe. A revelation on this subject is included necessarily in a full disclosure of truth respecting the spiritual world. The one is the whole; the other a constituent part. And a whole cannot be conceived without the parts that compose it. It was not proper that these all-important matters, so identified with our supreme interests as beings destined to immortality, should be left to conjecture. They ought to be subjected to a solid experimental demonstration. Nothing short of this would satisfy the genius of the modern scientific mind. If such knowledge were ever to be given, if the veil were ever to be lifted from these sublime mysteries, no more fitting time could have been selected, and no better instrument chosen, for making the disclosure. If it were ever to be done, it is impossible for us to conceive how it could be accomplished in a manner more rational and credible, or more in harmony with our knowledge of the Divine Love and Wisdom, and the usual procedure of the Divine Providence.
His experience also establishes one interesting fact, and solves one otherwise impenetrable mystery—that the inhabitants of our earth are more under the dominion of the senses, more material and corporeal, than those of any other. It is here alone that the art of printing exists, for it would seem that in no other is it necessary that the Word should be so ultimated, and rendered apprehensible by the senses as in our world. Here is uncovered the mystery, why the Lord became incarnate on our earth, rather than on any other. He who was the first must become the last. Here alone the Divine Being could be fully ultimated, and the Word made flesh. He came down to the lowest range of human existence, in order to unite in His Divine Person the two extremes of rational being, the first and the last, the highest and the lowest. This greatly exalts our conception of His redeeming love, and lays the foundation for our firmest trust. The more we study the facts of this wonderful experience of Swedenborg, the more we shall perceive its importance, and its necessary connection with the ushering in of a new Age of the Church. If there is to be a new dispensation, if the New Jerusalem is to come down from God out of heaven, it will as greatly extend the range of human knowledge and thought over what had been granted to the human mind in the previous age, as that enlarged the boundaries of the mind’s action beyond what was granted to Judaism or Paganism.
Author: Warren Felt Evans (1817-1889)