It seems to have been the mission of Swedenborg in the plan of Providence, to restore to the Church the almost obliterated knowledge of the spiritual world. In the unbelieving age in which he lived, there was but little faith in the reality of man’s existence after death. The Church was so sunk in sensualism and materialism, that the belief of man’s future existence was so feeble as to have little or no influence. It was becoming the wisdom and goodness of Providence to check the progress of this Sadducean spirit, lest the Church should come to an end, and the race perish. It cannot be supposed that the Church would be suffered always to live with the spiritual world at so cold a distance, but that the clouds and darkness which rested upon that unknown realm would be removed, and the solid and enduring realities of the higher realm of being revealed. In the earliest age, according to the Scriptures, men lived in communication with angels. Is Christianity intended to close heaven entirely? Is it consistent with the known character of God, as a Being of boundless love and wisdom, to suppose that the spiritual world to which we hasten would always remain a dark, unknown realm, a terra incognita? Is it not probable to reason that it would sometime be revealed, and the veil of darkness lifted from it? With regard to the disclosures of Swedenborg, and his teachings respecting the unseen world, they entirely satisfy the wants of the human soul, and commend themselves to our accceptance for their inherent beaufy and reasonableness. The more highly enlightened the mind that contemplates them, the more readily they are admitted. Moreover, his intercourse with spirits and angels was no miracle, but took place in perfect harmony with the laws of the soul. He unfolds those mental laws in accordance with which it took place. What he did, every soul is capable of doing, if it so pleased the Lord.* The spiritual world is a world of substantial realities. There are in the human spirit senses that will sometime become cognizant of those vital realities. If it were consistent with the highest interests of men, their inner senses might now be uncovered, and heavenly things laid open to their view. In the progress of the New Dispensation, and as soon as it can be done safely to man’s regeneration and salvation, conscious intercourse with the ever-present heavens will be less unfrequent. There is little doubt, that in this respect, in some future period, men in the New Jerusalem Age will commune with angels (who are but redeemed human spirits), as was the case in the Golden Age, or Paradisiacal state of the Church.
Swedenborg has shown that every man, as to his interior being, is already in the spiritual world. His soul constitutes a part of that world. He teaches that time and space are the properties of material things, but do not belong to things spiritual. ” Space is a mode of thought, in which, as in a frame, we must range everything which belongs to the sphere of sense, but within which nothing relating to the spiritual or moral world can be brought.”—(Knapp’s Christian Theology, p. 106.) Hence the world of spirits, though a real and substantial world, is not removed by spatial distance from men on the earth. It is an interior world, and is within the material cosmos, as the soul is within and animates the body. Not that it lies within towards the centre of the earth, or heavenly bodies, for that would confine it to space, and make it material; but material things are the outside circumference of being, or are the ultimates of spiritual things. Everything on the globe lives from something spiritual with which it corresponds, and which it represents, as the body the soul. In searching for the spiritual world, we shall find it just as we find our souls, and where we find them. To close the corporeal senses, to open the spiritual vision, is to come into it, wither that take place at the rending off the material envelope at death, or by a complete introversion of mind. Many good men have experienced enough to render credible all the disclosures of the great Swedish philosopher and theologian. Can it be pronounced unreasonable, that for the accomplishment of great ends in the kingdom of God, his interior vision should have been so opened as to pierce the veil that covered the spiritual realm ? We are connected by the great law of moral affinity,—which is to the spiritual world what gravitation is to the natural,—with our like in heaven or hell. Man is such by creation, that he is capable of being among the angels of heaven as to his spirit, while as to his body he is among men on earth. Dr. Knapp has truly said, ” By the presence of a spiritual being with us, we mean that he thinks of us, and in this way acts upon us. But in order to this we need not suppose his local presence, or the approximation of the spiritual substance. We are present in spirit with an absent friend, when we think of him, and thus act upon him. Paul says, (1 Cor. v. 3,) ‘Absent in body, but present in spirit.’ We see thus that our minds have an agency different from that of matter, though we are ignorant of the mode of their operation.” (Christian Theology, p. 106.) Here is a glimpse of those hidden laws of the human spirit, which have been fully unfolded by Swedenborg, and in harmony with which his most wonderful experience took place. No man has ever thrown so much light upon the nature, powers, and laws of the human soul as he. While he has revealed heaven, and all its wonders and glories to man, he has revealed man to himself. His works are deserving of earnest study for the profound knowledge of human nature which they contain and impart.
He has given reality, and consequently influence and power, to our conceptions of heaven. He has so revealed heaven as to render it desirable to every virtuous mind. He has shown that it is only inward purity that will give us communication with its blest inhabitants, either in this life or the next. No man presents vice to our view in his teachings, in such hideous deformity, or virtue in such attractive loveliness. He has told us why it was granted him by the Lord to have, unsought, living and conscious intercourse with the ever-present spiritual world, and why it is denied to others, who perhaps may desire it. He says, ” It is given to no one to discourse as a spirit with angels and spirits, unless he be such that he can consociate with angels and spirits as to faith and love; nor can he so consociate, unless he have faith and love to the Lord, for man is joined to the Lord by faith and love to Him, that is, by truths of doctrine and good principles of life derived from Him; and when he is joined to the Lord, he is secure from the assaults of evil spirits from hell: with others the interiors cannot be so far opened, since they are not in the Lord. This is the reason why there are few at this day, to whom it is given to speak and converse with angels.” (Earths in the Universe, 123.)
It is only necessary to remark, that his whole experience of open communication with the spiritual world, and all his teachings respecting it, are widely different from the phenomena of the modern Pythonism. In their moral influence they are as far above them as heaven is above hell. The one comes like a beam of heavenly light in our darkness; the other like the dark and deadly vapor of the Stygian lake. The one leads the soul away from the Divine Word, the fountain of all spiritual life; the other continually appeals to the Word and the testimony, and inspires in us a profound love and respect for the living oracles. The former makes Christ a mere man, and God a principle and not a person, and is a refined materialism and atheism; the latter finds in Christ the one only Deity, the personal and living God, and introduces the soul to an all-satisfying communion with Him.
* ” Man was so created by the Lord, that during his life in the body, he might have a capacity of conversing with spirits and angels, as also was done in the most ancient times; for he is one with them, being a spirit clothed with a body; but because in process of time mankind so immersed themselves in bodily and worldly things tkat they njid little regard to anything else, therefore the way was closed; yet as soon as the bodily things, in which he is immersed, recede, the way is opened, and he is among spirits, and associates his life with them.”—(A. C. C9.)
Author: Warren Felt Evans (1817-1889)