TIME >> Changes of State
ETERNITY >> Infinite State


Although there is a succession and a progression of all things in heaven, as in the world, yet angels have no notion or idea of time and space; and this so completely that they do not even know at all what time and space are. Time in heaven will here be considered, and space in its own chapter. [HH162]

Angels do not know what time is, although with them there is a successive progression of all things, as there is in the world, and this so completely that there is no difference whatever; and the reason is that in heaven instead of years and days there are changes of state; and where there are years and days there are times, but where there are changes of state there are states. [HH163}

In the world there are times because the sun of the world seemingly advances in succession from one degree to another, producing times that are called seasons of the year; and besides, it revolves about the earth, producing times that are called times of day; both of these by fixed alternations. With the sun of heaven it is different. This does not mark years and days by successive progressions and revolutions, but in its appearance it marks changes of state; and this, as has been shown in the preceding chapter, is not done by fixed alternations. Consequently no idea of time is possible to angels; but in its place they have an idea of state (see above n. 154).[HH164]

As angels have no idea derived from time, such as men in the world have, so neither do they have any idea about time and what pertains to it. They do not even know what is meant by the terms of time, such as year, month, week, day, hour, to-day, to-morrow, yesterday. When angels hear these terms used by man (for angels are always associated with man by the Lord) in place of them they perceive state and what pertains to states. Thus the natural thought of man is turned into spiritual thought with angels. This is why times in the Word signify states, and the terms of time, as enumerated above, signify corresponding spiritual things.{1} [HH165 ]

The like is true of all things that exist from time, as the four seasons of the year, called spring, summer, autumn, and winter; the four periods of the day, morning, noon, evening, and night; and the four ages of man, infancy, youth, manhood, and old age; and all other things that either exist from time or have a succession in accordance with time. In thinking of these a man thinks from time, but an angel from state; and in consequence what there is in them from time with man is with the angels turned into an idea of state. Spring and morning are turned into an idea of the state of love and wisdom such as they are in angels in their first state; summer and noon are turned into an idea of love and wisdom such as they are in the second state; autumn and evening such as they are in the third state; night and winter into an idea of such a state as exists in hell. This is why these periods have a like significance in the Word (see above, n. 155). This makes clear how natural things in the thought of man become spiritual with the angels who are with man. [HH166}

As angels have no notion of time so they have an idea of eternity different from that which men on the earth have. Eternity means to the angels infinite state, not infinite time.{1} I was once thinking about eternity, and was able, with the idea of time, to perceive what to eternity means, namely, without end, but not what from eternity means, thus not what God did from eternity before creation. When anxiety on this account arose in my mind I was raised up into the sphere of heaven, and thus into the perception that angels have in respect to eternity; and it was then made clear to me that eternity must be thought of, not from time but from state; and then the meaning of from eternity can be seen. This then happened to me. [HH167]

When angels speak with men they never express themselves in natural ideas proper to man, all of which are from time, space, matter, and things analogous thereto, but in spiritual ideas, all of which are from states and their various changes within the angels and outside of them. Nevertheless, when these angelic ideas, which are spiritual, flow into men, they are turned in a moment and of themselves into natural ideas proper to man, that correspond perfectly to the spiritual ideas. Neither angels nor men know that this takes place; but such is all influx of heaven into man. Certain angels were permitted to enter more nearly into my thoughts, even into the natural thoughts in which there were many things from time and space; but as they then understood nothing they suddenly withdrew; and after they had withdrawn I heard them talking, and saying that they had been in darkness. [2] It has been granted me to know by experience how ignorant the angels are about time. There was a certain one from heaven who was able to enter into natural ideas, such as man has; and after he had done this I talked with him as man with man. At first he did not know what it was that I called time, and I was therefore obliged to tell him all about it, how the sun appears to be carried about our earth, and to produce years and days, and how years are thereby divided into four seasons, and also into months and weeks, and days into twenty-four hours; and how these times recur by fixed alternations, and how this is the source of times. On hearing this he was surprised, saying that he knew nothing about such things, but only what states are. [3] In speaking with him I added that it is known in the world, for men speak as if they knew that there is no time in heaven, saying of those who die that they “leave the things of time,” and that they “pass out of time,” meaning by this out of the world. I said also that some know that times in their origin are states, for they know that times are in exact accord with the states of their affections, short to those who are in pleasant and joyous states, long to those who are in unpleasant and sorrowful states, and various in a state of hope and expectation; and this therefore leads learned men to inquire what time and space are, and some know that time belongs to the natural man. [HH168}

The natural man might think that he would be deprived of all thought if the ideas of time, space, and material things were taken away; for upon these all the thought of man rests.{1} But let him know that so far as thoughts partake of time, space, and matter they are limited and confined, but are unlimited and extended so far as they do not partake of these, since the mind is in that measure raised above bodily and worldly things. This is the source of wisdom to the angels; and such wisdom as is called incomprehensible, because it does not fall into ideas that are wholly made up of what is material. [HH169]

At the appointed time. That this signifies when the rational was such as to receive, is evident from the signification of “time.” There are two things which while man lives in the world appear to be essential, because they are proper to nature, namely, space and time. Hence to live in space and time is to live in the world or in nature. But in the other life these two things are of no consequence. In the world of spirits indeed they do appear to be of some consequence, for the reason that spirits fresh from the body still retain the idea of natural things; yet it is not long before they perceive that there is no space and time there, but state instead; and that in the other life states correspond to spaces and times in nature; to spaces states as to Being [esse], and to times states as to Coming forth [existere]. (In regard to space or place see above, n. 1274, 1379, 1380, 1382.)

[2] From this anyone can see what kind of an idea a man may have, while in the world or in nature, respecting the things of the other life and many arcana of faith; namely, that he is not willing to believe them until he apprehends them by means of the things in the world, nay, by sensuous things; for he must needs suppose that if he were to put off the idea of space and time, and still more space and time themselves, he would become absolutely nothing; and thus that he would have nothing left from which he could feel and think, except something confused and incomprehensible; when yet the case is exactly the reverse. Angelic life is of such a nature as to be the wisest and happiest of all.

[3] This is the reason why in the Word “ages” in the internal sense do not signify ages, but states; so that in this verse “old age” does not mean old age. And in the same way the numbers do not signify numbers, but some specific state, as for instance the number a hundred years, concerning which hereafter. From this we can now see that by the “appointed time” is signified the state when the rational was such as to receive.

[4] In regard to the specific matter here treated of, namely, that the Divine rational was and came forth from the unition of the Divine spiritual with the Divine celestial of the Lord, when the days were fulfilled for the human to be put off, and when the rational was such as to receive (all of which is signified in the internal sense by Sarah’s conceiving and bearing to Abraham a son to his old age at the appointed time), be it known that the human begins in the inmost of the rational (see n. 2106, 2194); and that the Lord advanced successively to the union of the Human Essence with the Divine Essence, and of the Divine Essence with the Human Essence (n. 1864, 2033, 2523); and this by His own power (n. 1921, 2025, 2026, 2083), by continual temptations and victories (n. 1737, 1813, 1690), and by continual revelations from His Divine (n. 1616, 2500); and this until at length He had expelled all the maternal human (n. 1414, 1444, 2574); and thus had made His Human Divine in respect to the rational, according to the things contained in this verse. Hence it is manifest what is to be understood by the days being fulfilled for the human to be put off, and by the rational being such as to receive.

[5] Some idea of this may be formed from what takes place in those who are being regenerated. The celestial things of love and the spiritual things of faith are not at once implanted in them by the Lord, but successively; and when by means of them the man’s rational has become such that it can receive, then for the first time is he becoming regenerate, for the most part by means of temptations in which he conquers. When these things take place, the days are fulfilled for him to put off the old man, and to put on the new. (Concerning man’s regeneration, see above, n. 677, 679, 711, 848, 986, 1555, 2475.) [AC 2625}

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

Credit for Hubble Image: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Credit for CTIO Image: N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley) and NOAO/AURA/NSF