Selection from Apocalypse Revealed ~ Emanuel SwedenborgI saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them, that they might converse with them face to face, and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen, standing before them, and they said, "The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts."
And they answered, "We have been told by our priests, that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone, because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry, which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet, in many things, one did not agree with another, and still they all said, `Believe us;' and some of them, `We are God's ministers, and know.' But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith, and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees."
Then the angels answered, "Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain." But two of the company said, "We have read, but did not understand."
And the angels replied, "You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities"; and the angels said further, "What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? This is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you, that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal, who sees the food of his life, not that of his body, but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it, and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality, but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything, but have only heard sounds, that are for the most part dissonant.
"But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding, one from the world, and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again. Examples must serve for illustration: are you not able to understand what charity is, and what faith is; that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?" They replied, that they understood these things.
The angels said further, "Do you not understand, that repentance from sins is to be performed, in order that man may be saved, and that, unless a man actually repents, he abides in the sins into which he was born, and that the work of repentance consists in not willing evils because they are against God, and in examining himself once or twice a year, in seeing his evils, in confessing them before the Lord, imploring assistance, desisting from them, and leading a new life, and as far as he does this, and believes in the Lord, so far his sins are remitted?" Then some of the company replied, "This we understand, and thence also what remission of sins is."
And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, "We will not say anything but what you can understand, otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish."
- Concerning God they said, "All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any, therefore it ceases and perishes. The idea of God as Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea; but the idea of God as Man is a just idea, for God is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, with every quality belonging thereto, and the subject of these is man, and not ether or wind. The idea of God in heaven is the idea of the Lord. He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like unto ours, and we shall be consociated together." On saying these words, their faces became resplendent.
- Concerning the Immortality of the Soul, they said, "Man lives to eternity, because he can be conjoined with God by love and faith, this indeed is possible with everyone. That this possibility constitutes the immortality of the soul you may understand, if you think of it a little more deeply."
- Concerning Regeneration; "Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God, or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that everyone has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually; for which reason he becomes guilty, if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability; but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself, provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance, and believes in the Lord, is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this 'as from himself' is from the Lord. It is true that man cannot contribute anything thereto, no not in the least, nevertheless you were not created statues, but you were created men, that you might do that from the Lord as from yourselves. This is the only reciprocal of love and faith, that it is altogether the Lord's will that it should be done by man unto Him. In a word, do it from yourselves, and believe that you do it from the Lord, thus do it as from yourselves."
But then the Englishmen inquired, Whether to act as from oneself, is a faculty implanted in man from creation? The angel answered, "It is not implanted, because to act from Himself is the Lord's alone, but it is communicated continually, that is, adjoined continually, and then so far as man does good and believes what is true, as from himself, so far he is an angel of heaven; but so far as he does evil and thence believes what is false, which is done also as from himself, so far he is an angel of hell. That this also is as from himself surprises you, but still you see that it is so, when you pray that you may be preserved from the devil, lest he should seduce you, and enter into you, as he did into Judas, fill you with all iniquity, and destroy you, soul and body. But everyone incurs guilt who believes that he acts from himself, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; but he does not incur guilt, who believes that he acts as from himself."
- Concerning Baptism, they said, "That it is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; and that an infant is reformed and regenerated, when, on becoming an adult, he does the things which his sponsors promised for him, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; and second, that he shall believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Moreover baptism is a sign before the angels that a man is of the church.
On hearing these things, some of the assembly said, "This we understand." But a voice was heard from one side, exclaiming, "We do not understand;" and another voice, "We will not understand;" and inquiry was made from whence these voices proceeded, and it was found that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, and who wished to be believed as oracles, and thus to be adored.
The angels said, "Be not surprised: there are very many such at this day; they appear to us from heaven like graven images, made with such art as to be able to move the lips, and utter sounds like organs, but without knowing whether the breath, by means of which they utter these sounds, comes from hell or from heaven, because they do not know whether a thing be false or true. They reason and reason; they confirm and confirm, nor do they ever see whether it is so. But know, that human ingenuity can confirm whatsoever one wishes, even until it appears to be so; therefore heretics and impious persons, yea atheists can confirm that there is no God, but nature only."
Afterwards the assembly of Englishmen, enkindled with the desire of being wise, said to the angels,
- "So many various opinions are spoken of the Holy Supper, tell us what is the truth." The angels replied, "The truth is that the man who looks to the Lord and performs repentance, is conjoined with the Lord by means of that most holy sacrament, and is introduced into heaven." But some of the company said, "This is a mystery." To which the angels replied, "It is a mystery, but still such that it can be understood. The bread and wine do not produce this effect, for there is nothing holy in them, but material bread and heavenly bread correspond mutually to each other, and so do material wine and heavenly wine; and heavenly bread is the holy of love, and heavenly wine is the holy of faith, both from the Lord, and both the Lord. Thence there is a conjunction of the Lord with man, and of man with the Lord, not with the bread and wine, but with the love and faith of the man who had done the work of repentance; and conjunction with the Lord is also introduction into heaven."
And after the angels had taught them something concerning correspondence and its effect, some of the company said, "Now for the first time we understand." And when they said, "We understand," behold a flame with light descending from heaven, consociated them with the angels, and they loved one another.
(Apocalypse Revealed 224)