THE KNOWLEDGE OF SPIRITUAL REALITIES
by Frank Sewall
The Sapientia Angelica, hence, is a knowledge of spiritual realities or of those truly vital substances and forces which go to furnish the great mechanism of nature with a soul. It is the actual vision and touch of a world of spiritual substance which the purified human spirit is capable of experiencing after rising out of the world of symbolic material phenomena by putting off the material body with its senses. Rarely, if ever, does Swedenborg employ the term ‘ philosophy ‘ in reference to this immediate angelic experience, which he calls ‘ wisdom.’ He uses this term intentionally in distinction from knowledge or intelligence, the first of these being, in his definition, applied to the acquiring of information through the senses and their environment ; the second, to the orderly arrangement of these acquired knowledges in their respective groups by means of the rational faculty ; the third, the wisdom itself, being the truth acquired now seen and loved truly, in its own nature and worth, as the form of good. Wisdom, therefore, while resting upon knowledge and reason, yet is a distinct kind of immediate perception which the purified spirit enjoys after death in the degree in which, in his own experience, the truth has become the form of his action from his very love of it as the form of good. It is not to be identified with the Gnostic’s or the theosophist’s immediate vision of the truth as a state above and apart from voluntary and intellectual activity. In wisdom the proprium, or the personality of the angel, is realized in its most intense form. If it were not so this angelic contemplation of reality would fail of its purpose in the divine scheme of the round of uses. The angelic contemplation of reality comes from the shining of a real heavenly light in the mind.
Can there, now, be any comprehensive philosophy of Swedenborg, strictly speaking? We answer Yes, for the two reasons that there are certain fundamental constructive laws that characterize alike both systems, the natural and the spiritual, and that accordingly the two worlds and their respective cosmogonies are brought visibly into their relation of a perfect correspondence. The harmony of the two systems can only be attributed to their being constructed according to a common organon, or method.
SWEDENBORG’S NOVUM ORGANUM
This truly new organum, which constitutes Swedenborg’s great contribution to philosophy, is his doctrine of Influx, of Discrete Degrees and their Correspondence.
The world is vibration, —action, and reaction. The Universe is the theatre of altruistic love. Force originates in will, and the primal will is the Divine Love. Life is love emanating by wisdom into created spheres, and there operating in uses. These spheres are not a continuous plane, but are in discrete degrees, and related by correspondence.
These discrete degrees are, in their eternal divine potential nature, Love, Wisdom and Use ; in their cosmological functions, End, Cause and Effect ; in theology, God, Spirit and the Natural World ; in revelation they are given the names of a holy Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In ontological terms they become Substance, Form and Thing ; in philosophy, the Real, the Ideal and the Actual ; in psychology, the Will, the Intellect and Action; in speech, Affection, Thought and Utterance ; in the building of language, the Vowel, the Consonant and the Word ; the Verb, the Subject and the Predicate. In all these trines, which cover with sufficient completeness the whole realm of being and activity, there will be found the invariable presence of these three essentials, which are necessary to the being of anything that exists or can be conceived of as existing ; namely, the why, or the purpose for which it exists, which Swedenborg calls the End ; the how, or the manner and law by which it exists, called by Swedenborg Cause (meaning the instrumental cause or, causa efficiens, in distinction from the end as the causa finalis), and finally the resultant thing, the what, or that which Swedenborg calls the Effect. These three are discrete because they are, by the very nature of things, intransmutable. One may reside within and actuate, the other, but without ever becoming that other. Will may prompt the intellect, and put on a form or determination in the intellect, and both these may become actual in a word or deed of the body. But will is not intellect, nor is intellect action. They are for ever discrete in their nature, however one may operate through another, and so all become embodied in the ultimate what, or thing. These fundamental distinctions, existing eternally in the very order of the world when strictly observed, forbid the confusion of substance between spirit and matter and between God and nature, and so render possible a conception of the immanence of God in nature which is free from Pantheism, or the confusion of God with nature.
These ‘discrete degrees,’ thus distinguished by Swedenborg from ‘continuous degrees,’ or the ordinary degrees of comparison which mean merely more or less of the same quality, are thus essentially constructive degrees; they are productive, even dynamic in character, as they imply the action of one force through various media under a fixed law. The force is life itself; the media are the series, orders and degrees through which life descends from its source to its ultimates; the descent itself is influx ; and the law of relation and adaptation by which the descent is possible is the law of Correspondence.
It is by virtue of correspondence that thought can express itself in the definite form of airwaves we call a word the two orders of existence being in themselves utterly discrete. So the mind finds its utterance or activity in the body, and the whole spiritual world its expression and its symbol in the whole physical universe. There is no confusion of substance even by means of the finest electron. The two worlds are absolutely discrete in nature, but they communicate by a perfect correspondence.
The eye itself is formed in correspondence with the nature of the ether vibrations which reach it, and so is capable of transmitting, not the ether, but its motions in the substance of the nerves and fibres of vision and so to the seats of sensation. Here these motions are again taken up by the vessels of the mind in the soul’s vision, imagination, thought and determination, from which begins the reaction through the motor nerves. There is no interfusion of matter and thought. There is a series and order of degrees, and there is a correspondence, and so an influx of motion and of force.
Viewed under the same law, the cosmos is a system of spheres emanating from the infinite Divine. The same law which governs the series God, the Spiritual Word and Nature, controls the relation of the successive atmospheres aura, ether, atmospheric air. The same trinal series is visible in the succession of forms vortical, spiral, circular in the formation of the material atom. It is the transmission of one force by vibratory motion through various media that constitutes what is known as the transmutation of energy. The various planes of the human mind, volitional, intellectual and sensuous, constitute the same trinal series, and so in consequence the same trinal division of the angelic heavens. Of these the highest, or celestial, is characterized by the spontaneity of love, the second or spiritual by the guidance of faith, and the lowest by the simple will to obey and to serve the power from above.
In this universal world-view, the all of being is brought into the unity of the trinal One ; not by confusion of substance but by influx, degrees and thus correspondence. So vast is this extension of the law of Discrete Degrees when seen to govern the spiritual as well as the natural world, that Swedenborg speaks of it, in his later period, as something hitherto unknown. In its natural scope he had indeed applied this law during the earlier period, and had been guided by it in all his researches. In his Principia he develops a world through the three degrees of Finites, Actives and Elementaries. In the Soul he describes the effect by contiguity, and the transmission, by vibration, of the ether rays upon the eye, of the eye upon the nerve, of the nerve upon the brain, of the brain upon the imagination, of the imagination upon the intellect, of the intellect upon the soul all by virtue of the perfect correspondence of each of these subtle media with the force communicated. But it was only the greater vision of the later illumination that enabled Swedenborg to see the same law operating in the action of God upon the spiritual world, and of the spiritual world upon nature. These entities are nowhere interfused or blended into a pantheistic mass, but for ever exist in their discrete degrees, eternally distinct, but one by perfect correspondence and harmonious interaction. Hence we may denominate Swedenborg’s philosophic system as that of a Trinal Monism.
Without these three, End, Cause and Effect, nothing is, whether we speak of universal Being or the least existing thing. Each degree constitutes a plane of being by itself ; it never becomes the other in its own series by any blending or continuity. It is in the other and actuates it, but never becomes the other. The End is in the mediate or Cause, and through this in the Effect or the thing ultimated. Effect is not continuous with cause, as mere Cause intensified, nor is Cause intensified End. God is in all spiritual things without losing Himself in them by confusion with them. Spirit is in all nature and in all matter, giving it its form and all its force, without itself becoming matter, or matter by any process of refinement ever becoming spirit. Just as a man’s will is in his thought, and both are in the spoken or written word, yet the word is not thought, and the thought itself is not will ; but the three are one in the utterance, without confusion of substance. So is God in His going forth: is in all things and the Source of all things, and yet these things are not Himself.
In order that each lower degree may be the form and expression of the higher, it must perfectly correspond. Hence the Law of Correspondence is the correlative of the Law of Discrete Degrees. According to it each thing in nature corresponds to something in a co-existing spiritual world, which is the world of causes inasmuch as it is only in mind or spirit that relations have a real existence and hence that design and direction are possible. Only mind can do this. And finally, all things in the spiritual world have their real being in those particular ends in the Divine Love from which they are created.
THE LAW OF CORRESPONDENCE APPLIED TO THE INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES
The application of the Law of Correspondence to the interpretation of Holy Scripture as actual Divine revelation becomes manifest. As everything in nature has a Divine end and a spiritual meaning, so Divine revelation, expressed in terms taken from nature and from the thoughts and images of the human mind, becomes rationally conceivable. For the mind can conceive of the Divine Spirit selecting, by inspiration in the mind of the amanuensis, out of the vocabulary not only of nature but of human history and tradition, those things, countries, persons and events which may be the outward form and symbols of inner, spiritual realities.
So may God ‘ open His mouth in parables ‘ and make known ‘ by things that are made the things invisible, even His eternal power and God-head.’
Applied to the conception of God and the Divine Trinity, the law of Discrete Degrees distinguishes the Father as the Esse, the Divine Love and primal Substance from the Son as the Existere, the Wisdom or Word by whom all things are, and from the Holy Spirit as that proceeding and perpetual Operation of the Divine Love and Wisdom in uses in the created world. It is in the sending forth of the Divine that things are created. Potentially existing from eternity as Love, Wisdom and Use in the one God, Jehovah, the Trinity becomes actual in time in the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ. In the Word made Flesh the Divine Love, which is the Father, is made manifest, and through this the Holy Spirit is breathed upon the world. Thus in Him, Jesus Christ, ‘ welleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.’ The Divine Trinity is not a trinity of persons, but of person. The essential trinity of love, wisdom and their operation, or of will, thought and work, constitute personality whether human or divine. In the work of redemption Jehovah has clothed Himself in the womb of a virgin with the nature of man, and thus in the person of Jesus Christ taken upon Himself the burden of all the accumulated sinful heredity of mankind from the beginning. In the life of Jesus Christ on earth the Divine fought with those evils admitted into the infirm humanity by temptation and conquered them. By so doing He overcame the hells and subdued them unto Himself, and was enabled with the cry upon the cross, ‘ It is finished,’ to say to all men ‘ Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.’ Redemption therefore consisted, not in a plan of judicature by which divine justice was to be satisfied by a vicarious sacrifice, but it is a veritable fait accompli, a most real warfare with and victory over the hells, achieved by the one Champion of human spiritual liberty. This liberty is attainable by men through faith and obedience, not as conditions arbitrarily imposed, but as essential to that free self-activity on man’s part, which enables him to become a voluntary recipient of God’s love, and a willing subject of His Kingdom. The worship of Jesus Christ in His Divine Humanity as the one and only God of heaven and earth, and the one and only Saviour of mankind, is therefore the corner stone of Swedenborg’s religious system and of the doctrine which he outlined of a New Christianity. Swedenborg’s religious scheme knows nothing of sect or nationality as affecting the Divine regard for man. All nations, and all religions are embraced under the survey of the Divine Providence, which looks to eternal ends, and strives to lift men continually out of the evil into which they have fallen through the abuse of their moral freedom, and to bring them into the liberty of heaven.
Since God in Jesus Christ is alone worshipped in all the heavens, all men of all religions who have believed and worshipped, however blindly and grossly here, will, in the intermediate World of Spirits, have the veils of heredity and local ignorance removed, and come to see the one true God behind all the various symbols by which He has been worshipped here. The only essential conditions of salvation are belief in the Divine and voluntary self-subjection to the Divine Law because it is Divine.
Swedenborg’s religion is eminently ethical and practical. According to him the ‘ Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of uses.’ ‘ All religion,’ he says, ‘ is of life, and the life of religion is to do good.’ But by doing good is not meant eleemosynary acts of benevolence of the works of piety. It is rather the shunning of evils as sins against God, and the faithful performance of the duties of one’s station from a religious motive. This constitutes the essence of Charity in the sublime sense in which Swedenborg uses this much-abused word. Charity is simply the love of God to man exercised by means of, or through, voluntary human agents. Men, by shunning evils as sins, open the channels of their life for the influx from above, and the outflow to their fellow-man of this universal divine benevolence and its delights. The universe is love ; but love requires human moral freedom as the condition of its own exercise. “When sinful self-love is removed by man, all the works that he performs become good works, and all earthly uses become the ultimate forms in which the ends of Divine love are realized in effect.
THE SPIRITUAL HISTORY OF THE WORLD
As life is essentially love, so a man’s life is what his love is : his intellect and his thoughts are the servants of this master, and the spiritual body is his immortal sensuous organism, adapted to uses in a world whose atmospheres are spiritual. Death is therefore but a cessation of consciousness in the material plane or degree, when the body, through injury or decay, ceases to respond to the vibrations or influx of the spiritual life. By death man wakes to the consciousness of his spiritual body, and of the objective and substantial reality of the spiritual world. According to the law of Discrete Degrees, the higher may enter into the lower, but not the lower into the higher. On the plane of physics, the ether may permeate the air ; but not the air the ether. As matter can accordingly have no place in the spiritual world, there is no resurrection of the material body. ‘ It is sown a natural, it is raised a spiritual body.’
Every man undergoes his own judgment in the great meeting-place of all departed spirits, the intermediate ‘”World of Spirits.’ This is effected by the unveiling, in the light of eternal realities, of his own essential character, ‘ his ruling love,’ and led by this the spirit now seeks his own place, whether among the blessed or the lost. But there also occur, in the World of Spirits, at the end of each age or epoch of the world’s history, a great general or Last Judgment, in which the spiritual throngs there are restored to their social order. This order becomes disturbed in the course of a long, period by the accumulated confusion of incongruous and undeveloped states, and these intermediate spheres through which the heavenly influences descend to man need to be clarified of the invading clouds of evil. Through the clarifying and rectifying adjustments of such a judgment a new heaven and a new earth come into being. These great spiritual Aufklarungen result in great moral and social revolutions below. The history of the world, therefore, has its counterpart and its true key in the history of these great general judgments in the World of Spirits ; and these are symbolically revealed in the Holy Scriptures in the great crises and epochal upheavals there described. Swedenborg accordingly divides the history of the world into five ages or churches, each of which is characterized by ‘ its understanding of the Word,’ i.e. by its mode of receiving and obeying revealed divine truth. Thus the real springs of the history of mankind are religious. These five spiritual ages of the world are, in their order : —
I. The Adamic, or Eden Age : when the Divine was revealed intuitively to the child-like perception of the race, and ‘ heaven lay about us in our infancy.’
II. The Noahtic Age : the age of the living symbol, when symbols were chosen out of nature to stand for their correspondent spiritual essences or qualities. Here is the origin of hieroglyphics, of mythology, and of all spoken and written language.
III. The age of the dead symbol, when the living idea was lost and the natural object substituted in its place. This is the age of ‘ Animism,’ the beginning of the historic ages and generally but erroneously accounted the beginning of religion. In reality the Animistic Age is that of religion’s lowest decline from the primitive monotheism and child-like innocence of the Golden Age. This third, or first historic age, is that of the Israelitish Church, its written Word, its sacrificial worship and obligatory ritual. Revelation, which in the first age was by immediate vision, and in the second by symbol or allegory in which the heavenly realities were clothed, now finds in a fixed, divinely sanctioned ritual the only means of preserving the human race from the universal tendency to idol-worship and utter materialism.
IV. The Fourth Age is that of the Incarnation of the Word, which was necessitated when the letter of Holy Scripture was becoming of no effect through man’s traditions, and when the salvation of mankind could be effected no longer by the presence of the Divine in nature, in symbol, in written law, or in the holy ritual now become dead. Only by the presence on earth of God incarnate in human nature, and His entering through human temptations into conflict with the hells, and by His victory over them, could the human race now be saved from self-destruction. The Christian Church thus founded is a dispensation of the letter of the Gospel ; its end is prophesied by Christ Himself under the figure of the ‘ end of the world,’ when the ‘love of many shall wax cold’ and ‘the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.’ These prophecies are realized in the breaking up of the old conceptions of Christian truth based upon the ‘ letter that killeth.’ The Christian Church, or the Fourth Spiritual Age, has in its turn, according to the divine prophecy, declined into tritheistic conceptions of God, the substitution of ‘ faith alone ‘ for charity, and the building up of purely material ideas of heaven and of the Lord’s coming. But according to Christ’s promise, the ‘ parables ‘ and ‘ proverbs ‘ of His own teaching are to give place to the ‘ plain showing of the Father.’ This full and final revelation is, says Swedenborg, the opening of the spiritual sense of the Word, and is correspondently prefigured in the language of Scripture as the coming of Christ ‘ in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.’ The fuller revelation or coming of the “Word no longer in the cloud, or symbol of the letter alone, but in the glory of spirit, produced in the spiritual world the great changes known as the Last Judgment. Hence the illusions of the old fictitious heavens pass away, and from the light of the new heavens, the Holy City, the Church in her final and perfected glory, descends to earth.
V. This is the inauguration of the Fifth Age of the World, the New Jerusalem ‘ descending from God out of heaven,’ and whose religion shall be the worship of Jesus Christ in His Divine Humanity as God and the restored union of charity and faith in man’s religious life. From this real inaugurative judgment, of which Swedenborg claims to have been a witness in the World of Spirits, have flowed down into this world of effects those marvellous changes which have constituted what all men testify to witnessing in these days the beginning of a new age of the world. It is a new spiritual age, distinguished by its mark as a ‘ new church,’ in the broad and catholic sense in which Swedenborg uses this term.
THE DIVINE ALTRUISM, OR LOVE THE FINAL CAUSE OF CREATION
SWEDENBORG’S entire system, regarded as a unit, finds its highest and most complete summarization in the doctrine of the Divine Love as the final cause of creation. In the earlier period the Infinite is regarded as the source of the universe, and creation begins with a conatus of motion in the Infinite. In the Principia we are told that all existence originates in motion from the Infinite ; and with motion all modification, all variety, all force, all activity. Motion is subject to the threefold analysis, conatus, motion and force. Pure motion consists in the internal state, or conatus. It is differentiated from substance itself, and, while defined as the origin of all existence, still is declared to ‘ originate in a more subtle element than that in which its activity is manifest’ (Principia, i. 137). Again, we are told that motion itself is not substantial, but produces an appearance of substance and form. The internal motion is the only producing power, for without it there can be neither centre nor circumference, neither contingency nor limit; but as a centre and a conatus it can exist among finites and in space.
This concept of motion as the beginning of creation, mathematically or formally complete, lacks the element of substance itself, or the what that moves and is moved. It is only in the Sapientia Angelica that Swedenborg reaches the solution in the doctrine of the Good as the substance of all things and Truth as the Form of Good. This dual classification into Good and Truth as essential Substance and Form exhausts the entire realm of Being, and gives us the dynamic explanation of the universe. For in Good we have the end, the (Causa finalis itself of creation, or that which is loved by the infinite Creator; and Truth is that inmost law, or Causa efficiens, by which all things take form in finite existence; and in use, or action, we have the end ultimated. Love, Wisdom and Use become now the divinely humanized Infinite in place of the purely mathematical conception of a causeless conatus and motion. The Conatus now becomes that of the essential nature of love itself. The essence of love is conjunction ; its activity is only reciprocal. There can be no love without an object, therefore love, of necessity, creates an object, and from necessity makes that object capable of freely reciprocating and returning the love bestowed. Hence Swedenborg lays down the fundamental law and cause of creation, ‘ That the divine love and the divine wisdom cannot be and exist except in other beings or existences created from itself. For love consists in our willing what is our own to be another’s and feeling his delight as delight in ourselves. It is an essential of love not to love itself, but to love others and to be joined to them by love ; it is also an essential of love to be beloved by others, for thereby there is a conjunction. . . .
Hence it is evident that the Divine love cannot be and exist otherwise than in other beings or existences whom it loves and by whom it is beloved : for when such a quality exists in all love it must needs exist in the greatest degree, that is, infinitely in Love Itself (Divine Love and Wisdom, 47-8).
The reciprocal love which love demands from its object can only be exercised by an object that is free. The universe as an automaton acting only under the compulsion of divine law would never furnish the response which the divine creative love demands. Hence in all creation there is, with the evolution of forms recipient of divine life, at the same time an evolution of freedom. All created forms, even of the lowest mineral or atmospheric atom, act from a certain conatus, or motive, as if from some power of their own; but really as impelled by the divine wisdom. The vegetative and the animal souls are but an instinctive following of the laws of their special service in the kingdom of uses. Only in man is reached the entire moral freedom that is capable of returning a free answer to the love of the Creator, and this implies equally the ability to turn away from that love. Nature is but a ladder of uses by which all things ascend in higher and higher degrees of love and adoration to the Deity.
The highest exercise of freedom is in man’s self-compulsion. The ability to compel one’s self is the highest gift of God to man and is that upon which rests the whole order of creation, which is that of action and reaction. In order that there shall be an other to the Infinite and the Self-existent, that other must be finite and dead. Hence creation is a receding of the spheres of life emanating from God into those extremes where existence becomes utterly passive, inert and resistent; and the material world is that sphere of existence which has the ability to react against the living force of mind and life, and assert itself as the supreme and utter other to life and the infinite. Morally, freedom must consist in the ability to love self alone utterly and to deny truth ; to turn light into darkness and heat into cold. All this is necessary to the creation of a moral world. But even in the dead object there must be a force and will to react, and this is divinely imparted and constitutes the gift of moral freedom, or the ability to act, according to Swedenborg’s formula, sicut a se— as if of oneself,
The principles of human freedom are thus set forth by Swedenborg in treating of the Laws of Divine Providence in his work entitled The Apocalypse Explained (1150).
‘The fourth law of the Divine Providence is, That the understanding and the will should not be in the least degree compelled by another, since all compulsion by another takes away freedom ; but that man should compel himself ; for to compel himself is to act from freedom. Man’s freedom belongs to his will ; from the will it exists in the thought of the understanding ; and by means of the thought it shows itself in speech and in the action of the body. For man says, when he wills anything from freedom, ” I will to think this,” ” I will to speak this,” and “I will to do this.” From freedom of will he has also the faculty of thinking, of speaking and of acting, for the will gives this faculty because it is freedom. Since freedom belongs to man’s will, it belongs also to his love, since nothing else in man constitutes freedom, but the love which belongs to his will. The reason is, that love is the life of man ; for man is of the same quality as his love ; consequently that which proceeds from the love of his will, proceeds from his life. Hence it is evident that freedom belongs to man’s will, to his love and to his life ; consequently, that it makes one with his proprium (or selfhood), and with his nature and disposition. Now because the Lord desires that everything which proceeds from Himself to man should be appropriated to man as if it were his own, for otherwise there would be in man no means of reciprocity by which conjunction is effected, therefore it is a law of the Divine Providence, that the understanding and the will of man should not be at all compelled by another.’ The reconciliation of human freedom with divine sovereignty lies in the hidden, unconscious operation of the divine love upon the inmost affections of man.
‘The reason that man does not perceive the operation of the Divine Providence is, that such perception would take away his freedom, and hence the faculty of thinking as if from himself, and with it also all the enjoyment of life, so that he would be like an automaton in which there is no principle of reciprocity. He would also be a slave, not a free man. The principal cause that the Divine Providence moves so secretly that there is scarcely any vestige of it apparent, although it operates upon the most minute things of man’s thought and will which regard his internal state, is, that the Lord continually desires to impress His love upon man, and through it His wisdom, and thus to create him into His image. Therefore it is that the operation of the Lord is upon man’s love, and from it upon his understanding, and not from his understanding upon his love. The love, with its affections, which are manifold and innumerable, is not perceived by man except from a most general feeling, and that in so small a degree that it is scarcely perceptible at all ; and yet man is to be led from one affection of love into another, according to the connection in which they are arranged, in order that he may be reformed and saved. This is incomprehensible, not only to man but also to the angels. If man discovered anything of these arcana, he could not be withdrawn from leading himself, even though it were continually from heaven into hell ; notwithstanding he is constantly led by the Lord from hell into heaven ; for from himself he constantly acts against [Divine] order, but the Lord constantly according to it ‘ (The Apocalypse Explained, 1153).
The two forces of the creative love, therefore, lie at the base of human history ; the wandering from God, the return to God ; the descent or fall of man from the pristine innocence of his infantile or golden age down to the beginning of the Ascent in Christ, the New Adam, as humanity redeemed. The same law operates in the physical universe in two forces, the centrifugal force creating the ‘ other ‘ to the utmost extreme, the centripetal drawing the : other ‘ back to itself. The equilibrium of the two forces establishing the fixed orbit of the planet is nature’s reflection of the plane of human moral freedom.
The creation of the other than itself by emanations is effected by degrees, or in successive atmospheres or auras, receding farther and farther from the source of life and motion until they become inactive or dead. In the Principia and the Regnum Animate these are treated of as physical spheres, even to the highest or universal aura in which the soul lives, as it were, in its own element, and which is above time and space and knows only the force of gravity or the attraction and repulsion which are most nearly allied to the forces of love and so of the moral world. Beneath these are successively the solar vortex, or the magnetic aura, the interplanetary aura, or the ether, and last of all the atmospheric air encompassing each planet. But in the Sapientia Angelica there is a wonderful transformation of these physical auras into the great dual correspondential system of the Two Worlds. Here the highest or innermost aura, the soul’s atmosphere of the Regnum Animate, becomes the complete spiritual world, possessing its own sun and its own trinal succession of atmospheres or heavens, which at once are the types and furnish the emanating forces of the natural sun and of the physical atmospheres of the material world.
‘ “When I was in enlightenment,’ says Swedenborg, meaning after his spiritual illumination, ‘I perceived that, from the light and the heat of the sun of the spiritual world, spiritual atmospheres were created one from another which were in themselves substantial: but . . . the sun from which all natural things proceed was created at the same time ; and through this, in like manner by means of heat and light, three atmospheres environing the three former ones’ (True Christian Religion, 76). Here we have the ultimate explanation of Swedenborg’s doctrine of the Universe as an ‘ animated mechanism.’ The material world, dead, inert, powerless of itself, as the ‘ other ‘ to the World of Spirits, is nevertheless actuated everywhere, even to its most minute atmospheric particles, by the corresponding particles of the spiritual atmospheres emanating from the sun of the spiritual world ; which sun itself is the first effulgence of the Love and “Wisdom of the Creator. The nature of the correspondence of the Two Worlds is thus set forth :
‘ The Divine Proceeding is what, around Him, appears to the angels as a sun ; from this proceeds His Divine through spiritual atmospheres which He has created for the transmission of light and heat down to the angels, and which He has accommodated to the life both of their minds and their bodies, in order that they may receive intelligence from the light, also in order that they may see, and also that they may breathe according to correspondence; for the angels breathe like men. Also that they may receive love from the heat, may feel, and also in order that their hearts may beat according to correspondence ; for the angels have a beating of the heart like men. These spiritual atmospheres are increased in density by discrete degrees . . . down to the angels of the lowest heaven, to whom they thus become accommodated. Hence it is that the angels of the highest heaven live as it were in a pure aura, the angels of the middle heaven as it were in ether, and the angels of the lowest heaven as it were in air. Under these atmospheres, in each heaven are earths on which the angels dwell ‘ (Divine Wisdom, xii. 5).
‘But it is to be known that the atmospheres originating from the sun of heaven, properly speaking, are not three, but six ; three above the sun of our world and three below the sun of our world. The three above the sun of our world continually and immediately follow the three natural atmospheres, and cause man in the natural world to be able to think and feel. For the atmospheres originating from the sun of our world have not life in themselves, because they originate from a sun which is pure fire ; whereas the atmospheres originating from the sun of heaven, which is the Lord, 1 have life in themselves because they originate from a sun which is pure love and pure wisdom. The atmospheres originating from the sun of our world, which is pure fire, cause those things which are in the earth and in the human body to remain in existence, and to be held together in connection, and not to be changed except according to the laws of natural order. Hence is the difference of things in the natural and spiritual worlds ‘ (Last Judgment, 31).
Together with the translation of the divine love and wisdom as spiritual forms into their equivalents in the natural world’s heat and light, there comes the representation of mental states in the spiritual world by the fixed times and spaces of the world of nature. 2
Times and spaces are determined in the spiritual world, says Swedenborg, by mental states of affection and thought ; whereas they are determined in the natural world by the fixed standards of the earth’s revolutions and dimensions. “While the spiritual times and spaces are, therefore, ‘ appearances ‘ in the spiritual world, they are nevertheless real because they are necessary to the spirit’s existence in an objective world, i.e. in a world of that which is other than himself; and such a world is morally necessary to man’s exercise of the neighbourly love which is the divine altruism or charity taking finite form in himself. Heaven is therefore not a world of personalities submerged and dissolved in the one abyss of Being, but a world of the utmost distinctness of personality, each member being a distinct, special ‘ form of charity ‘ inspired with the love of others, and governed by the moral law of use, or of service to the neighbour, which is the fundamental law of creation from first to last and from last to first. The spatial distinctions of the spiritual world are, therefore, most real, because they are fundamental to the existence of man in neighbourly relations ; they are made even more real, by deriving their essence from living states of mind, than are the actual spaces and times of nature which depend on the mechanical standards of the natural world.
THE GREAT CATEGORIES : THE TWO KINGDOMS, THE THREE DEGREES
Finally, the great categories under which Swedenborg embraces all philosophical concepts are those of the Two Kingdoms Substance and Form, and of the Three Degrees End, Cause and Effect. The substance of things is their good : the form of things is their truth, or that by which the good appears and acts. But good, being also the end desired of the purpose in anything, is of the will and love : in like manner the form of its expression and activities is of the intellect. Hence all that pertains to substance is of the will or voluntary kingdom, as all that pertains to form is of the intellectual kingdom.
Man and nature not living of themselves, but as recipients of life from God, are constituted the twofold receptacles of the inflowing Divine. Man by his will and intellect receives the love and truth which are the essentials of his life ; and nature receives the same inflowing principles in the heat and light and the respective physical forms and forces proceeding from the natural sun. So do the two worlds correspond in every minutest form and activity; and there is no form or function in one that may not be expressed in the terms of the other, the heat principle having everywhere a hidden relation to love and to good, the light principle being always manifestly related to truth. Upon this law of the basic or constructive relations of nature and spirit rests Swedenborg’s doctrine of the internal sense of the divinely dictated Word, and of the possibility of its discovery by means of the Science of Correspondences. Upon the same dual constitution of nature rests all the imagery of language, the possibility of speech, and the laws of the mind’s growth and education.
Besides the Two Kingdoms of Good and Truth as the essential substance and form of things, Swedenborg also furnishes philosophy with a new schema, of the activities of these two Kingdoms, in their respective three Discrete Degrees of End, Cause and Effect. These in their descending order he names the Celestial, the Spiritual and the Natural degrees of life. The celestial, characterized by love, is the highest of these planes of life in man or angel ; the spiritual, where truth is the prevailing motive, is the mediate, and beneath these two there is the plane of action into which both descend and find their ultimate expression and use. To man’s will and intellect there is added therefore the body of sense and action. The normal activity of the body is that of obedience to the intellect which carries out the desire of the will. So on the largest scale nature, as effect, is the body obedient to the impulses of spirit, or mind: and these are the great instrumental cause itself moved and actuated by the Supreme End, the Good of the divine love.
God, Spirit, Nature ; Love, Wisdom and Use such is the eternal Trinity which is reflected alike in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, in the universe and in man. By these successive degrees in their descending order God enters immediately into man from within and from above, without his knowledge, but as the very life itself from which man acts in all his conscious life. This is the subconscious, or instinctive life of the man. From below or from without, through the senses and into the plane of the body’s activity and bondage to nature, God also enters into man’s consciousness by the mediate influx of what the senses perceive and what the spirit imbibes from the world. Intermediate between these inflowings is the rational plane of the intellect and of the will’s moral freedom, and here is born the spiritual man, or that principle where man leaves the animal and natural plane and enters the truly human plane , of his immortal and angelic life. Here, as man consciously and of his free-will puts on the hitherto subconscious states of the higher life and makes them his own, he is born again as the child of God and made an heir to the kingdom of heaven. The ascending ladder of life now enables man to bring all the treasures of nature into the service of the Creator, and so to realize the reciprocal conjunction of God with the world. The spirit, when freed from the bonds of a time-and-space world and of a perishable body, finds its full social development in the Maximus Homo, or heaven, as the perfected society, the city of God. In heaven’s life of mutual love and service, inspired by the devout adoration of the Creator, the divine altruism finds its complete actualization and Love, as the final Cause of creation, has attained its End.
1 Swedenborg is only intensifying the symbol when he says here that the sun of heaven is the Lord ; for in Divine Love and Wisdom, 93, he declares that ‘ that sun is not God, but it is the proceeding from the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom of God-Man : in like manner the light and heat from that sun. . . . Beware of thinking that the sun of the spiritual world is God Himself 1 God is Man. The first proceeding from His love and wisdom is a fiery spiritual principle which appears in the sight of the angels as a sun.’
2 An interesting inquiry is prompted here as to the real relation of Swedenborg’s doctrines of times and spaces being fixed in the natural world but existing as appearances, or phenomenally, in the spiritual world, with Kant’s Phenomenology of the Spirit and the mediatory function in the ‘Esthetic of the time-and-space forms of judgment. The sources of this comparison are given in the Introduction on Kant and Swedenborg by Frank Sewall to Goerwitz’s translation of Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit Seer, published by Swan Sonnenschein & Co., London, 1900. It is an interesting coincidence that Swedenborg’s little work on the Two Worlds, De Commercio, or Influx, published in 1769, should have been followed the next year by Immanuel Kant’s Inaugural Address on the same theme, ‘ De Mundo sensibile et de Mundo intelligibile.’
Author: Frank Sewall from Swedenborg and The Sapientia Angelica (1881)