There are societies in the other life of all qualities whatsoever that could ever come into mankind’s thought or desires – into the thoughts, for example, when I was thinking about some matter that was not being uncovered, but hidden in the Word, concerning the Ark of Noah. On this occasion there were societies,
1) who were pondering nothing else but whether it should be uncovered,
2) whether it is the truth,
3) whether it can be divulged.
Those constituted the greater part who were conjecturing whether it is, and whether it is so, who were very many societies, especially wondering whether it is so, then wandering off into countless details, or wandering only into irrelevancies, not entering into of what quality it is. There were very many societies of them that were dispersed for they hindered the seeing of what it is, getting stuck fast at every turn in this, whether it is, and whenever they were in this, whether so, they were still in whether it is and whether it is so; therefore they were wandering about like furies on the outermost skin.
4) There were many, many societies that conjecture egotistically, one thus, another thus, in long series.
5) There are societies that do not want the truth to be disclosed, some from indignation, that they cannot be the highest, some from unmercifulness, some from apathy, some from the desire that others should investigate the matter from their own effort, as they are doing from theirs. Again others [say] that one should persevere in the attempt, with no other purpose than that of trying, so that the person or spirit will lose hope, be displeased, become angry, and cast himself headlong into every error and insanity. I spoke with them, saying that such a purpose is diabolical, since nothing is guiding the attempts toward some use – besides many other comments about purpose, still others having different views.
6) But the good want to know the truth. They want to teach, want it to be opened up to all. They desire nothing more than to share whatever they know, and to free others from temptation and the resulting evil. [S.E. 4154. ]
About a change of societies
It was observed that a spirit, and even more so an angel, changes societies in accordance with his own changes of state, something that is taking place constantly; but he is transferred by the Lord into societies after societies, at the Lord’s good pleasure. I have at times noticed clearly being transferred into different societies, and that I had now receded from those I had been with before, and had advanced to others. It appeared just like a crossing over from place to place, or a removal downwards, to the left, to the right, or upwards. I then spoke with the spirits I had been with before, quite far away, and who complained, and then with those to whom I had advanced, thus through the societies one after the other even to that society to which it had pleased the Lord for me to come. This has happened to me often. It is a kind of pilgrimage, so to speak. I arrived today at a certain polite society. [S. E. 4232. ]
Communications of societies with other societies are effected through spirits whom they send forth and through whom they speak. These spirits are called Subjects. When any society was present with me, I could not know it until they sent forth a spirit, at the sending of whom communication was at once opened. This is a very familiar thing in the other life and is frequently done. From this it may be seen that the spirits and angels who are with man, are for the sake of communication with societies in hell and with societies in heaven. [AC 5856.]
THAT SOCIETIES ARE DISPERSED AND REDUCED TO ORDER IN VARIOUS MODES.
As already said, there are those who represent the east wind, inasmuch as they disperse societies so that they in the society are separated by force from each other. Likewise there are innumerable media besides for dissolving societies, because societies are badly filled up when kept long in a similar state. Today I saw, when the discourse was concerning these matters, that no one thought and spoke from himself, but from others, and these others from others still, so that no one was excited from himself; hence that the universal heaven was in a manner present in every idea, and thus were formed ideas, in which are indefinites, and inasmuch as these things exceeded the comprehension of spirits, and they were not willing to believe, therefore it was shown them, to wit, by one after another, afterwards by a society at a distance from me, very many of whom spoke together, which thing they plainly heard and perceived, and hence were convinced, not only that there was from societies afar off an influx into his or their speech who were round about me, but also because many of these spoke together, that it inflowed from elsewhere that they were thus able to speak together. This they also admitted, for they saw it also by a spiritual idea, inasmuch as it was from heaven [quod e coelo]. [S. E. 2177.]
CONCERNING THE SOCIETIES OF SPIRITS.
There are societies of spirits who are desirous to use their license and wander forth. In the societies of such are wont to be some who are averse to their license and oppose themselves thereto, in order that they may thus be reduced to order. Of such a sort as those who are found in these societies are those in the world who can ingratiate themselves amongst all, and yet can think differently, and whose thoughts do not appear from their faces, inasmuch as they always put forth the face of sincerity and civility. But inasmuch as thoughts are manifest in the other life of spirits, and thereby the repugnance perceived, although such a one is tolerated amongst many, yet are they hostile to him; and if any occasion be given, do him injury, like as when any filthy representation occurs they then expose such by, as it were, ejecting them from themselves. This I have often seen done, and it was acknowledged on both sides that the cause was as stated. [S. E. 2166.]
But be it known that the thoughts and affections which penetrate into societies do not in a specific manner move the societies to think and will as does the man, spirit, or angel, from whom the thoughts and affections go forth; but they enter into the universal sphere of the affection and consequent thought of these societies. Consequently the societies know nothing about the matter; for the spiritual sphere in which all societies are, is varied with each society; and when the thoughts and affections enter into this sphere, the societies are not affected. All thoughts and affections enter into the spheres of the societies with which they are in agreement. Hence it is that there exist extensions in every direction in freedom, like the extension of rays from objects in this world, which freely penetrate all around to the sight of everyone who stands there, with variety according to the clearness and the dullness of the sight, and also according to the serenity or obscurity of the atmosphere. In the spiritual world the affection of knowing truth and good corresponds to the serenity of the atmosphere. [S. E. 6603. ]
THAT CERTAIN REPRESENTATIONS AND MANY THINGS [BESIDES] ARE VARIATIONS OF SOCIETIES.
Progressions from one place to another, which do not exist from phantasy, signify changes of societies, for all societies have their own situation, wherefore every change of situation proceeds from a change of society. It was observed that this is true, both in general and in particular; wherefore the like holds of changes of places, so that there is not the least step which does not exist from a change of society. [S. E. 3941.]
About societies of friendship
High overhead there are societies, which should be called societies of friendship, who live amicably among themselves, thus in the pleasure of friendship, not in the pleasure and blessedness of mutual love. They have with them an almost flaming light, and very many pleasures that they enjoy, together with other delights. They had been with me, or above me, two or three times, when it was granted me to learn the source of their pleasure. Wherever they come, they divert the enjoyments of others toward themselves, and those whom they deprive of them are then in darkness, and in misery. They said that they were unaware of this, but it was proven to them to be the case. They likewise took away my delight, and I was then plunged into darkness and gloom, which increased in proportion as their pleasure increased. I spoke with them, and reproached them.
 I was informed that this was the nature of the pleasure of friendship when it is not the pleasure of mutual love. This shows the state of those in the other life who love their companions above all others, but only for the sake of pleasure, and still more what those immersed in self-love are like, who deprive all others of their pleasure, diverting it to themselves – for which reason they are separated, and when they come toward an angelic society, they sink down like a heap of earth, or a weight. [S.E.4439. ]
How spirits and angels are in different societies
Spirits and angels do change societies, according to the Lord’s every wish, thus from one society to another, to a thousand, and ten thousands, to all societies that agree in one way or another, depending upon their desires. And one thing worthy of amazement is that in response to variations of their feelings and longings, societies are continually being created, adding to their delights and joys, and then they feel themselves to be in a different delightful state. For their delights and joys depend on societies. [S.E. 2091. ]
Societies sometimes compete for a person’s thoughts,that is, good societies, and evil ones
I learned today by actual experience how heavenly societies were competing for my thoughts. Spirits worrying about bodily concerns were on the outside, a little overhead, trying to create thoughts and desires from everything that confronted my senses. Sometimes they reach out for everything they see.
A good society within were obviously trying to draw me toward themselves. I felt the pull. Meanwhile they spoke about whether they would win out. [SE 1205. ]
About a polite society in the other life
There are many societies that are polite societies, and should be so called, because they exercise civility toward everyone, not so much from the heart as from the mouth, but still harboring nothing of evil and falsity at heart. For example, they would say to a guest that his coming is pleasing and welcome, or when they would like him to depart, that they have some business to attend to, and like gestures. But still, they do not lie from some deceptive or evil motive, but they are accustomed to speaking in this way from their life in the body, in order to obtain their object.
They are good spirits. I spoke with them about this, and was inspired to say that speaking in this way does not matter, since there is nothing evil in it. The angels do not see anything but the intention, the purpose, or the will, and are unaware of their words. So when the intention, purpose, will, in which there is life, is good, then let the words fall as they may – with the proviso for those who have conscience that nothing should be said contrary to what one thinks. [SE 4233. ]
CONCERNING THE LIFE OF SPIRITS AND ANGELS.
There are genera and species of lives, and societies are distinguished according to differences of life. Everyone has societies corresponding to his life; the general quality of that life obtains among many societies, of which each has its peculiar life. A man or a spirit according to his changes of state is successively in those societies, but in some one society he finds a ruling life in common with his own, into which he, as it were, glides. Without those societies he does not easily pass, if he passes at all, and when he does he is brought back to them again; for without [the sphere of] those societies and of his own in particular, he finds no delight of life, but everything is irksome and unpleasant. [HH 4188.]
Hell, like heaven, is distinguished into societies, and into as many societies as there are in heaven; for every society in heaven has a society opposite to it in hell, and this for the sake of equilibrium. But the societies in hell are distinguished in accordance with evils and the falsities therefrom, because the societies in heaven are distinguished in accordance with goods and the truths therefrom. That for every good there is an opposite evil, and for every truth an opposite falsity, can be known from this, that nothing can exist without relation to its opposite, and what anything is in kind and degree can be known from its opposite, and from this all perception and sensation is derived. For this reason the Lord continually provides that every society of heaven has an opposite in some society of hell, and that there is an equilibrium between the two. [SE 541. ]
Societies of spirits have their own proper means of defense
Societies of spirits, who are not yet so spiritual and heavenly that evil genii may be held off by opposition, but who are still spirits, dwelling among themselves, when evil spirits come to them wanting to bring evil upon them, and to steal among them secretly, they are permitted to defend themselves by certain methods – these societies in their way, others in theirs. Some spirits of the feminine sex, when the evil were secretly stealing among them, were then by a certain method pushing them down by so to speak focusing their humming sound and then their powers upon them, driving them far away, other societies in other ways, or by different methods. This is also portrayed in nature, in that every animal has its own means of defense. [SE 4675.]
There are very many societies in the other life that are called societies of friendship. They are composed of those who in the life of the body preferred to every other delight that of conversation, and who loved those with whom they conversed, not caring whether they were good or evil, provided they were entertaining; and thus who were not friends to good or to truth. They who have been such in the life of the body are such also in the other life, in which they associate solely from the delight of conversation. Many such societies have been with me, but at a distance, being seen chiefly a little to the right above the head. That they were present it was given me to note by a torpor and dullness, and by a privation of the delight in which I was, the presence of such societies inducing these effects. For wherever they come they take delight away from others, and wonderful to say, they make it their own; for they turn away the spirits who are with others, and turn them to themselves, whereby they transfer another’s delight to themselves; and as they are on this account troublesome and injurious to those who are in good, they are therefore kept away by the Lord, lest they should come near to the heavenly societies. From this it was given me to know how much injury friendship occasions man as to his spiritual life if the person and not good is regarded; everyone may indeed be friendly to another, but still he should be most friendly to what is good. [AC 4804.]
HOW SPIRITS AND ANGELS ARE IN VARIOUS SOCIETIES.
Spirits and angels change societies according to all the Lord’s good pleasure, therefore from one society to another, so into thousands and myriads; all which are suitable in this or that respect, and according to their desires; and what is worthy of admiration is, that according to their affections, therefore the variations of their desires. Societies are formed thus, continually to their delight and joy; and that they then perceive themselves to be in another delightful state, for their delights and joys are according to their societies. [SE 2091.]
In societies there are also those who speak up, or disagree
In societies that have not yet been brought into order, or are still struggling with many faults, there are spirits who do not agree, but disagree, even if not always openly, yet in thought. I have observed such in some societies, to whom those in the group are hostile, and whom, given the opportunity, the group members try to throw out or expose to mockery and jeopardy. They also accuse them vehemently for speaking against and not agreeing with those in the society.
The reason for this is to prevent those in the group from wandering too far afield, and to keep them in a kind of equilibrium, that is to say, fairness of thinking, speaking and acting, and those spirits are like restraints. And I have noticed, when they complained about them and described them, that those spirits do not oppose them always by truths, but sometimes do this only so as to disagree; but sometimes by truths, depending on the society’s character. [SE 2361.]
CONCERNING CERTAIN APPEARANCES, AMONG SPIRITS, RELATING TO THE SOCIETIES WITH THEM –
SUCH AS HATS AND OTHER ARTICLES OF CLOTHING, AND THINGS ON THE OUTSIDE OF MAN.
It is worthy of relation, that the angelic societies with a spirit, not only inflow into those things which belong to his mind and body, but also into those things which are external to the body – as, for example, those which they [the societies] specially affect, hat, wig, cap, scarf [or kerchief]; so, also, into garments everywhere. Hence it is, that, by the garments a spirit has, it can be known with which societies he is conjoined. A certain female spirit had a chest, wherein were some garments belonging to an infant, and other things pertaining to infantile innocence. This chest she concealed. When, however, it was taken away, infantile innocence perished. Hence it was evident, that infantile societies favored that. It is similar with those who have a sword, or even a staff with a transverse piece of wood, or of silver, or of gold. This also happens by means of influx from societies which are in the power of truth. That sword [appears through influx from a society] which is in the function of defense, by means of truth. If a hat, or cap, or wig, is taken away from anyone, the communication with such things as inflow from above, perishes; so that these articles of clothing are from thence. When there is a connection with anyone, this is represented by means of a band which he holds in the hand: the communication and influx of thoughts [is represented] by ropes descending, and so forth. [SE 4786.]
Societies consist mainly of those who are of one kind having its own species
That spiritual and angelic societies consist of those who are of one kind, having its own species, is clear from their likeness of affection. For in the world, like persons associate as if of their own will, but in the world of spirits and in heaven, this happens by arrangement of the Lord. And because societies there are not put together as they are on earth, out of necessity, and having a deficiency of people who are alike, therefore those [angels and spirits] who are alike as to feelings and convictions are associated by arrangement of the Lord. [SE 2103. ]
About angelic spirits, and about the Word, and societies
Angelic spirits are various in character, and most distinctly arranged in societies. They are at a middle distance between the angel, and good spirits, and the angels flow into them, and they flow into good spirits. When they are in their own societies or among themselves, they are not conscious of people on earth, and yet they flow into them in a variety of ways, depending on the essence of mutual love with them. I spoke with them about this, and they said they did not know anything about man, but I told them that I consciously sensed their inflow. [SE 4242. ]
I have been clearly shown that man’s thought, and also that of spirits and of angels, pours itself around into many societies in the spiritual world, but the thought of one person in a different way from the thought of another. In order that I might know this for certain, I have been allowed to speak with some societies to which my thought had penetrated, and from this I was given to know what flowed into the thought, from what society it came, and also where and of what quality the society was, so that I could not be mistaken. The capacity of understanding and perceiving in man, spirit, and angel is in accordance with the extension of his thoughts and affections into the societies.
 He who is in the good of charity and of faith has extension into the societies of heaven, ample according to the degree in which he is in them, and in which he is in genuine good; for these things are in agreement with heaven, and therefore flow in there spontaneously and widely. Yet there are some societies into which the affection of truth, and others into which the affection of good, penetrates. The affection of truth penetrates to the societies of the spiritual angels, but the affection of good to the societies of the celestial angels. But on the other hand the thought and affection of those who are in evil and falsity have extension into infernal societies, and this also according to the degree of evil and falsity with them.
 It is said that the thought and affection of man, spirit, and angel pour themselves around into the societies, and that from this come the understanding and perception; but be it known that it is so said according to the appearance, for there is no influx of the thoughts and affections into the societies; but from the societies, and this through the angels and spirits with the man. For as has been shown at the end of preceding chapters, all influx comes from what is more interior; thus with the good from heaven (that is, through heaven from the Lord), and with the evil from hell. [ AC 6600.]
CONCERNING SEPARATIONS FROM SOCIETIES.
When they are separated from societies in which they are, because they do not accord, this is represented to the eyes of spirits, as if the whole man projects himself round about, and twists himself out [extorqueat] by circum-projection from the society, and so removes himself; and this [occurs] quite visibly. They also appear sometimes as projections, not downwards, but towards the circumferences. I was informed that when such projection appears from right to left, that he wishes to separate himself from the society; when from left to right, that they wish to retain him, and so strive together with their strength to retain him. When [it appears] otherwise, now in this direction, now in that, and with unequal projection, which is especially apparent from the head; then it is intermediate, and not part his, and part theirs. These things were shown me to the life. [SE 2991.]
Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)