April 25, 2015

Spiritual Scenery

Selection from Arcana Coelestia - Emanuel Swedenborg
Concerning Angelic Paradisal Scenes, and Their Dwellings
When man's interior sight is opened, which is the sight of his spirit, the things in the other life appear, which cannot possibly be made visible to the sight of the body. The visions of the prophets were nothing else. In heaven, as has been said, there are continual representations of the Lord and His kingdom; and there are things that are significative; and this to such an extent that nothing exists before the sight of the angels that is not representative and significative. Thence come the representatives and significatives in the Word; for the Word is from the Lord through heaven.

The things presented to view in the world of spirits and in heaven are more than can be told. In this place, as the light is treated of, it is proper to tell of the things that are immediately from the light; such as the atmospheres, the paradisal and rainbow scenes, the palaces and dwellings, which are there so bright and living before the outer sight of spirits and angels, and are at the same time perceived so fully by every sense, that they say that these are real, and those in the world comparatively not real.

As regards the atmospheres in which the blessed live, which are of the light because from that light, they are numberless, and are of beauty and pleasantness so great that they cannot be described. There are diamond-like atmospheres, which glitter in all their least parts, as if they were composed of diamond spherules. There are atmospheres resembling the sparkling of all the precious stones. There are atmospheres as of great pearls translucent from their centers, and shining with the brightest colors. There are atmospheres that flame as from gold, also from silver, and also from diamond-like gold and silver. There are atmospheres of flowers of variegated hue that are in forms most minute and scarcely discernible; such, in endless variety, fill the heaven of infants. There are even atmospheres as of sporting infants, in forms most minute, indiscernible, and perceptible only to an inmost idea; from which the infants receive the idea that all the things around them are alive, and are in the Lord's life; which affects their inmosts with happiness. There are other kinds besides, for the varieties are innumerable, and are also unspeakable.

As regards the paradisal scenes, they are amazing. Paradisal gardens are presented to view of immense extent, consisting of trees of every kind, and of beauty and pleasantness so great as to surpass every idea of thought; and these gardens are presented with such life before the external sight that those who are there not only see them, but perceive every particular much more vividly than the sight of the eye perceives such things on earth. That I might not be in doubt respecting this, I was brought to the region where those are who live a paradisal life, and I saw it; it is in front of and a little above the corner of the right eye. Each and all things there appear in their most beautiful springtime and flower, with a magnificence and variety that are amazing; and they are living, each and all, because they are representatives; for there is nothing that does not represent and signify something celestial and spiritual. Thus they not only affect the sight with pleasantness, but also the mind with happiness. [2] Certain souls, newcomers from the world-who from principles received while they lived, doubted the possibility of such things existing in the other life, where there is no wood and stone-being taken up thither and speaking thence with me, said in their amazement that it was beyond words, and that they could in no way represent the unutterableness of what they saw by any idea, and that joys and delights shone forth from every single thing, and this with successive varieties. The souls that are being introduced into heaven are for the most part carried first of all to the paradisal regions. But the angels look upon these things with different eyes; the paradises do not delight them, but the representatives; thus the celestial and spiritual things from which these come. It was from these representatives that the Most Ancient Church had what related to paradise.

As regards the rainbow scenes, there is as it were a rainbow heaven, where the whole atmosphere throughout appears to be made up of minute rainbows. Those who belong to the province of the interior eye are there, at the right in front, a little way up. There the whole atmosphere, or aura, is made up of such flashes of light, irradiated thus, as it were, in all its origins. Around is the encompassing form of an immense rainbow, most beautiful, composed of similar smaller ones that are the beauteous images of the larger. Every color is thus made up of innumerable rays, so that myriads enter into the constitution of one general perceptible ray; and this is as it were a modification of the origins of the light from the celestial and spiritual things that produce it; and which at the same time present before the sight the representative idea. The varieties and varyings of the rainbows are innumerable; some of them I have been permitted to see; and that some idea may be conceived of their variety, and that it may be seen of what innumerable rays one visible ray consists, one or two of the varieties may be described.

I saw the form of a certain large rainbow, in order that from it I might know what they are in their smallest forms. The light was the brightest white, encompassed with a sort of border or circumference, in the center of which there was a dimness as it were terrene, and around this it was intensely lucid, which intense lucidity was varied and intersected by another lucidity with golden points, like little stars; besides variegations induced by means of flowers of variegated hue, that entered into the intense lucidity. The colors of the flowers did not flow forth from a white, but from a flaming light. All these things were representative of things celestial and spiritual. All the colors seen in the other life represent what is celestial and spiritual; colors from flaming light, the things that are of love and of the affection of good; and colors from shining white light, those which are of faith and of the affection of truth. From these origins come all the colors in the other life; and for this reason they are so refulgent that the colors in this world cannot be compared to them. There are also colors that have never been seen in this world.

A rainbow form was also seen in the midst of which there was a green space, as of herbage; and there was perceived the semblance of a sun which was itself unseen, at one side, illuminating it, and pouring in a light of such shining whiteness as cannot be described. At the outer border or circumference, there were the most charming variations of color, on a plane of pearly light. From these and other things it has been shown what are the forms of the rainbows in their minutest parts, and that there are indefinite variations, and this in accordance with the charity, and the derivative faith, of him to whom the representations are made, and who is as a rainbow to those to whom he is presented in his comeliness and in his glory.

Besides these paradisal scenes, cities are also presented to view, with magnificent palaces, contiguous to one another, resplendent in their coloring, beyond all the art of the  architect. Nor is this to be wondered at; cities of similar appearance were seen also by the prophets, when their interior sight was opened, and this so clearly that nothing in the world could be more distinct. Thus was the New Jerusalem seen by John, which is also described by him in these words:

And he carried me away in the spirit upon a mountain great and high, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem; having a wall great and high, having twelve gates; and the building of the wall thereof was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto golden glass. The foundations of the wall there adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprasus, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst (Rev. 21:10, 12, 18-20).
Such things were seen also by the prophets. Similar things, beyond number, are seen by angels and angelic spirits in clear day; and wonderful to say, they are perceived with all fullness of sense. These things cannot be credited by one who has extinguished spiritual ideas by the terms and definitions of human philosophy, and by reasonings; and yet they are most true. That they are true might have been apprehended from the fact that they have been seen so frequently by the saints.

Besides the cities and palaces, I have sometimes been permitted to see their decorations, such as those of the steps and of the gates and these were moving as if alive, and continually changing, with a beauty and symmetry ever new. And I have been informed that the variations may thus succeed each other perpetually, even if it were to be to eternity, with new harmony continually, the succession itself also forming a harmony. And I have been told that these were among the very little things.

All the angels have their own dwellings in the places where they are, and they are magnificent. I have been there, and have sometimes seen and marveled at them, and have there spoken with the angels. They are so distinct and clearly seen that nothing can be more so. In comparison with these, the habitations on earth amount to scarcely anything. They also call those which are on the earth dead, and not real; but their own, living and true, because from the Lord. The architecture is such that the art itself is derived from it, with a variety that knows no limit. They have said that if all the palaces in the whole world should be given them, they would not receive them in exchange for their own. What is made of stone, clay, and wood is to them dead; but what is from the Lord, and from life itself and light itself, is living; and this is the more the case that they enjoy them with all fullness of sense. For the things that are there are perfectly adapted to the senses of spirits and angels; for spirits cannot see at all by their sight the things that are in the light of the solar world; but things of stone and wood are adapted to the senses of men in the body. Spiritual things are in correspondence with those who are spiritual, and corporeal things with those who are corporeal.

The habitations of good spirits and of angelic spirits commonly have porticos or long entrance halls, arched, and sometimes doubled, where they walk. The walls of these are formed with much variety, and are also decorated with flowers and garlands of flowers wonderfully woven together, and with many other ornaments, that are varied and succeed one another, as before said; these they see, now in a clearer light, and now in one less clear, but always with inward delight. Their dwellings are also changed into more beautiful ones, as the spirits who inhabit them are perfected. When they are changed, there appears something representing a window, at one side; this is enlarged, and it becomes darker within; and there opens as it were something of heaven, with stars, also a kind of cloud; which is an indication that their dwellings are to be changed into dwellings still more pleasant.

Spirits are very indignant that men have no conception of the life of spirits and angels, and that they suppose them to be in an obscure state, which cannot but be most sad, and as it were in vacuity and emptiness; when yet they are in the greatest light, and in the enjoyment of all good things as to all the senses, and this with an inmost perception of them. There have also been souls who had lately come from the world, and who had brought with them, from the principles there accepted, the idea that there were no such things in the other life. They were therefore introduced into the homes of angels, and spoke with those who were there, and saw these things. When they returned, they said that they had perceived that it was so, and that the things were real; but that they had not at all believed this in the life of the body, and could not believe it; also that these must of necessity be among those wonderful things that are not believed because they are not comprehended. But as the experience is a thing of sense, but of the interior sense, this also was said to them-that still they are not to doubt because they do not apprehend; for if nothing were believed except that which is apprehended, nothing would be believed respecting the things of interior nature; still less concerning the things that are of eternal life. Hence comes the insanity of our age.

They who had been rich in the life of the body, and had dwelt in magnificent palaces, placing their heaven in such things, and, being destitute of conscience and charity, had despoiled others of their goods under various pretenses, when they come into the other life, are, as before said, first introduced into the very same life that they had in the world. And there also they are sometimes allowed to dwell in palaces, as they had done in the world. For in the other life all are at first received as guests and as newcomers; and as their interiors and ends of life are not yet to be disclosed, angels from the Lord treat them with favor and kindness. But the scene is changed. The palaces are gradually dissipated, and become small houses, more and more mean, and at last none at all. And then they wander about, like those who ask alms, and beg to be received. But because they are of such a character, they are expelled from the societies; and at last they become excrementitious, and exhale a sphere of the stench of teeth.

I have spoken with angels concerning representatives, to the effect that there is nothing in the vegetable kingdom on the earth that does not in some way represent the Lord's kingdom. They said that all the beautiful and graceful things in the vegetable kingdom derive their origin from the Lord through heaven; and that when the celestial and spiritual things of the Lord inflow into nature, such things have actual existence; and that this is the source of the vegetative soul or life. Hence come representatives. And as this is not known in the world, it was called a heavenly secret.

(Arcana Coelestia 1619 - 1632)