Since human beings evolve from the Earth, most people’s idea of happiness is often linked to their outer circumstances. But Swedenborg discovered that real or Heavenly joy is something completely different; it concerns the state of our being. The source of real joy is a state of innocence and peace where we are in perfect and infinite harmony with others and God. Hence, this joy is the result of being useful and loving to others and God.
THAT IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO JOY APART FROM USE.
Several times I spoke with spirits concerning heavenly joy – that men, at this day, do not know what heavenly joy, thus what heaven, is; but that they suppose it to consist in this, that they should be cared for by angels and spirits, and should thus breathe joy in idleness; and this to eternity. That this is false, was shown them by the fact, that there are no spirits and angels who have not been men: Secondly, that in heaven, it is not permitted to be served by others, but to serve others; and that mere joy in idleness, vanishes away in a few hours or days, since it is without life. Idleness at length wearies everyone, no matter what joy they may be in. But [it was shown] that heavenly joy consists in an active life, thus in use; and that according to the use they possess joy, so that use is the subject of joy; and that the latter, without the subject from which it is derived, can never exist. Concerning the uses which angels perform, and by virtue of which they perceive joy, it was also said, that these are very numerous, and more remarkable than man ever believes. Glorifying the Lord is not a use, but a recreation; for [angels] glorify the Lord in every use. This the Lord loves. Their uses, also, are (1) to be with men, to insinuate there goods and truths, and to turn aside evils and falses. (2) To instruct spirits who come from the world. (3) To instruct infants. (4) To awaken the dead, and to lead and inform those who are awakened. (5) To watch over these, and, moreover, to attend to domestic duties there; for such things are there-which man has not known: besides other things innumerable. In these things the angels take such joy as is indescribable: for these things relate to mutual love, or charity towards the neighbor. Emanuel Swedenborg [SE 4773]
There was one man who had been particularly powerful during his physical life, and who in the other life still had his desire to be in control. He was told that he was in another kingdom now, an eternal one, and that his own dominion was in the land of the dead. Here no one was valued for anything but their virtue and truth, and for the Lord’s mercy they had enjoyed through their earthly lives. He was also told that this kingdom was like earthly ones where people were valued for their wealth and their standing with the leadership. Here wealth was virtue and truth, and standing with the leadership was the mercy the individual had enjoyed from the Lord through life in the world. If he wanted to rule on any other basis he was a revolutionary, since he was in someone else’s kingdom. He was embarrassed when he heard this.
I talked with some spirits who thought that heaven and heavenly joy consisted of being important; but I told them that in heaven the greatest is the one who is least. This is because people are called “least” when they have no ability or wisdom and do not want any ability or wisdom on their own, but only from the Lord. This kind of “least person” has the greatest happiness. And because such people do have the greatest happiness, it follows that they are the most important, because this is how they have all their capability and the most wisdom of all-from the Lord. Further, what is being the greatest if not being the happiest? The greatest happiness is what powerful people are seeking with their power and what rich people are seeking with their wealth.
I went on to say that heaven did not consist of wanting to be least in order to be greatest. People who do this pant and long for greatness. Rather, it means a heartfelt wishing better for others than for oneself, and serving others for the sake of their happiness with no thought of reward, simply out of love.
Actual heavenly joy as it is in and of itself is beyond description because it dwells in the deepest natures of angels. It flows from there into the details of their thought and affection and from these into the details of their speech and action. It is as though their deeper levels were wide open and freed to accept a delight and bliss that spreads out through all their fibers and therefore through their whole being, giving them a kind of perception and feeling that simply cannot be described. Anything that arises from the deepest levels flows into the details that derive from those deepest levels and proliferates toward the outer levels, constantly gaining strength.
When good spirits who have not yet experienced this pleasure (not having been raised into heaven yet) perceive it from the aura of love from some angel, they are filled with such pleasure that they find themselves in a kind of sweet faint. This often happens to people who want to know what heavenly joy is.
Some spirits wanted to know what heavenly joy was, so they were allowed to feel it to the point that they could not bear any more. Still, this was not angelic joy, but only the slightest trace of the angelic quality that they were allowed to observe and share. It was so slight that it was almost cool, yet they called it most heavenly because it was so deep within them. I could tell from this not only that there are levels of heavenly joy, but also that the deepest level of one individual barely touches the outmost or some median level of another. I could also see that when we do reach our own deepest level we are in our own heavenly joy and that we could not bear anything deeper because it would become painful for us.
Some spirits who were not evil settled down into a peaceful state, rather like sleep, and in this way were taken into heaven in respect to the deeper levels of their minds; for before the deeper levels of their minds are opened, spirits can be taken into heaven and taught about the happiness of the people who live there. I saw them rest quietly for half an hour and then return to the outer consciousness they had been in before, but with a memory of what they had seen. They said that they had been with angels in heaven and had seen and perceived stunning things all gleaming like gold and silver and precious gems, in amazing forms that varied bewilderingly. They said that the angels took no particular delight in these outward things but in what they represented-unutterable, divine things of infinite wisdom; these were their real joy. There were countless other things that human language could not describe, not a ten-thousandth part, things that would not fit into any concepts that had anything material about them.
Almost all the people who arrive in the other life are ignorant of the nature of heavenly bliss and happiness. This is because they do not know what inner joy is or what its quality is except on the basis of their grasp of physical and worldly good cheer and pleasure. Since they do not know about it they think it is not real, when in fact physical and earthly pleasures are nothing in comparison. So in order that they may know and recognize it, honest people who do not know what heavenly joy is are first taken to parks that surpass every image of their imagination. Just when they think that this is a heavenly paradise, they are told that this is not real heavenly happiness. So they are allowed to recognize deeper states of joy as these are perceptible to their deepest natures; and then they are transported into a state of peace that reaches their very inmost nature. They confess that no part of this can be expressed or even comprehended. Then they are taken into a state of innocence, again all the way to their own deepest feeling. In this way they are enabled to realize what real spiritual and heavenly goodness are.
To enable me to know what heaven and heavenly joy are and what their quality is, though, the Lord has allowed me to feel the pleasures of heavenly joy often and at length. Because this was living experience, I may indeed know about them, but there is no way to describe them. Still, something should be said in order to provide at least some notion about them. There is an effect of countless pleasures and joys that unite to present a single something, a unity or united affection that contains a harmony of countless affections that do not come through to consciousness individually, only vaguely, because the consciousness is so very general. It was still possible to perceive that there were countless elements within it, so beautifully arranged as to defy description. The qualities of those countless elements flow from the very design of heaven; and this kind of design is resident in the very least affections, affections that are manifest and perceived only as a very general unity, depending on the perceptive ability of the subject. In a word, there are infinite elements in a most intricate form in every general entity, and there is nothing that is not alive and does not affect everything even at the very center, since heavenly joys emanate from the very center.
I have also noticed that heavenly joy and delight seemed to be coming from my heart, spreading very subtly through all my inner fibers and from there into the gatherings of fibers with such a profound sense of pleasure that my fibers seemed to be nothing but joy and delight, and everything I perceived and felt was alive with bliss. Next to these joys, the joy of physical pleasures is like crude and irritating dust compared to a pure and gentle breeze.
I noticed that when I wanted to convey all my pleasure to someone else, a deeper and fuller pleasure flowed in ceaselessly in its place. The more I wanted to convey it, the more it flowed in; and I perceived that this was from the Lord.
People in heaven are continually progressing toward the springtime of life. The more thousands of years they live, the more pleasant and happy is their springtime. This continues forever, increasing according to the growth and level of their love, thoughtfulness, and faith.
As the years pass, elderly women who have died of old age-women who have lived in faith in the Lord, thoughtfulness toward their neighbor, and in contented marriage love with their husbands-come more and more into the flower of growing youth and into a beauty that surpasses any notion of beauty accessible to our sight. Their goodness and thoughtfulness is what gives them their form and gives them its own likeness, making the pleasure and beauty of thoughtfulness radiate from every least corner of their faces so that they become actual forms of thoughtfulness. Some people have seen them and have been stunned. The form of thoughtfulness that is open to view in heaven is like this because it is thoughtfulness itself that both gives and is given visible form. In fact, it does this in such a way that the whole angel, especially her face, is virtually thoughtfulness itself appearing to open perception. When people look at this form, its beauty is unutterable, affecting the very inmost life of the mind with thoughtfulness. In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young. People who have lived in love for the Lord and in thoughtfulness toward their neighbor are forms like this, or beauties like this, in the other life. All angels are forms like this, in infinite variety. This is what makes heaven. Emanuel Swedenborg [HH 407-414]