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Arcana Coelestia, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1749-56], tr. by John F. Potts [1905-10], at

Arcana Coelestia


As regards the churches that in course of time succeeded one another, and of which it is said that one was born from another, the case with them was the same as it is with fruits, or with their seeds. In the midst of these, that is, in their inmosts, there are as it were fruits of the fruits, or seeds of the seeds, from which live as it were in regular order the successive parts. For the more remote these are from the inmost toward the circumference, the less of the essence of the fruit or of the seed is there in them, until finally they are but the cuticles or coverings in which the fruits or seeds terminate. Or as in the case of the brain, in the inmost parts of which are subtle organic forms called the cortical substances, from which and by which the operations of the soul proceed; and from which in regular order the purer coverings follow in succession, then the denser ones, and finally the general coverings called meninges, which are terminated in coverings still more general, and at last in the most general of all, which is the skull.


These three churches, "Man" "Seth" and "Enosh" constitute the Most Ancient Church, but still with a difference of perfection as to perceptions: the perceptive faculty of the first church gradually diminished in the succeeding churches, and became more general, as observed concerning fruit or its seed, and concerning the brain. Perfection consists in the faculty of perceiving distinctly, which faculty is diminished when the perception is less distinct and more general; an obscurer perception then succeeds in the place of that which was clearer, and thus it begins to vanish away.


The perceptive faculty of the Most Ancient Church consisted not only in the perception of what is good and true, but also in the happiness and delight arising from well-doing; without such happiness and delight in doing what is good the perceptive faculty has no life, but by virtue of such happiness and delight it receives life. The life of love, and of the derivative faith, such as the Most Ancient Church enjoyed, is life while in the performance of use, that is, in the good and truth of use: from use, by use, and according to use, is life given by the Lord; there can be no life in what is useless, for whatever is useless is cast away. In this respect the most ancient people were likenesses of the Lord, and therefore in perceptive powers they became images of Him. The perceptive power consists in knowing what is good and true, consequently what is of faith: he who is in love is not delighted in knowing, but in doing what is good and true, that is, in being useful.


Verses 10, 11. And Enosh lived after he begat Kenan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died. Here in like manner the "days" and numbers of "years" and also "sons and daughters" and his "dying" signify like things.


"Enosh" as before observed, is a third church, yet one of the most ancient churches, but less celestial, and consequently less perceptive, than the church "Seth;" and this latter was not so celestial and perceptive as the parent church, called "Man." These three are what constitute the Most Ancient Church, which, relatively to the succeeding ones, was as the kernel of fruits, or seeds, whereas the succeeding churches are relatively as the membranaceous parts of these.


Verse 12. And Kenan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalalel. By "Kenan" is signified a fourth church, and by "Mahalalel" a fifth.


The church called "Kenan" is not to be so much reckoned among those three more perfect ones, inasmuch as perception, which in the former churches had been distinct, began now to become general, comparatively as are the first and softer membranes relatively to the kernel of fruits or seeds; which state is not indeed described, but still is apparent from what follows, as from the description of the churches called "Enoch" and "Noah."


Verses 13, 14. And Kenan lived after he begat Mahalalel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died. The "days" and numbers of "years" have the same signification here as before. "Sons and daughters" here also signify truths and goods, whereof the members of the church had a perception, but in a more general manner. That he "died" signifies in like manner the cessation of such a state of perception.


It is here only to be remarked, that all things are determined by their relation to the state of the church.


Verse 15. And Mahalalel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared. By "Mahalalel" is signified, as before said, a fifth church; by "Jared" a sixth.


As the perceptive faculty decreased, and from being more particular or distinct, became more general or obscure, so also did the life of love or of uses; for as is the life of love or of uses, so is the perceptive faculty. From good to know truth is celestial; the life of those who constituted the church called "Mahalalel" was such that they preferred the delight from truths to the delight from uses, as has been given me to know by experience among their like in the other life.


Verses 16, 17. And Mahalalel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred ninety and five years, and he died. It is the same with these words as with the like words before.


Verse 18. And Jared lived a hundred sixty and two years, and begat Enoch. By "Jared" as before said, is signified a sixth church; by "Enoch" a seventh.


Concerning the church called "Jared" nothing is related; but its character may be known from the church "Mahalalel" which preceded it, and the church "Enoch" which followed it, between which two it was intermediate.


Verses 19, 20. And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years, and he died. The signification of these words also is similar to that of the like words above. That the ages of the antediluvians were not so great, as that of Jared nine hundred and sixty-two years, and that of Methuselah nine hundred and sixty-nine years, must appear to everyone, especially from what of the Lord's Divine mercy will be said at verse 3 of the next chapter, where we read, "Their days shall be a hundred and twenty years;" so that the number of the years does not signify the age of any particular man, but the times and states of the church.


Verse 21. And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah. By "Enoch" as before said, is signified a seventh church; and by "Methuselah" an eighth.


The quality of the church "Enoch" is described in the following verses.


Verse 22. And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. To "walk with God" signifies doctrine concerning faith. That he "begat sons and daughters" signifies doctrinal matters concerning truths and goods.


There were some at that time who framed doctrines from the things that had been matters of perception in the most ancient and succeeding churches, in order that such doctrine might serve as a rule whereby to know what was good and true: such persons were called "Enoch." This is what is signified by the words, "and Enoch walked with God;" and so did they call that doctrine; which is likewise signified by the name "Enoch" which means to "instruct." The same is evident also from the signification of the expression to "walk" and from the fact that he is said to have "walked with God" not "with Jehovah:" to "walk with God" is to teach and live according to the doctrine of faith, but to "walk with Jehovah" is to live the life of love. To "walk" is a customary form of speaking that signifies to live, as to "walk in the law" to "walk in the statutes" to "walk in the truth." To "walk" has reference properly to a way, which has relation to truth, consequently to faith, or the doctrine of faith. What is signified in the Word by "walking" may in some measure appear from the following passages. [2] In Micah: He hath showed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do judgment and the love of mercy, and to humble thyself by walking with thy God? (Micah 6:8), where to "walk with God" signifies to live according to the things here indicated; here, however, it is said "with God" while of Enoch another word is used which signifies also "from with God" so that the expression is ambiguous. In David: Thou hast delivered my feet from impulsion, that I may walk before God in the light of the living (Ps. 56:13), where to "walk before God" is to walk in the truth of faith, which is the "light of the living." In like manner in Isaiah: The people that walk in darkness see a great light (Isa. 9:1). So the Lord says by Moses: I will walk in the midst, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people (Lev. 26:12), signifying that they should live according to the doctrine of the law. [3] In Jeremiah: They shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and to the armies of the heavens, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought (Jer. 8:2), where a manifest distinction is made between the things of love, and those of faith; the things of love being expressed by "loving" and "serving;" and those of faith by "walking" and "seeking." In all the prophetical writings every expression is used with accuracy, nor is one term ever used in the place of another. But to "walk with Jehovah" or "before Jehovah" signifies, in the Word, to live the life of love.


Verses 23, 24. And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years. And Enoch walked with God, and he was no more, for God took him. By "all the days of Enoch being three hundred sixty and five years" is signified that they were few. By his "walking with God" is signified, as above, doctrine concerning faith. By "he was no more, for God took him" is signified the preservation of that doctrine for the use of posterity.


As to the words "he was no more, for God took him" signifying the preservation of that doctrine for the use of posterity, the case with Enoch, as already said, is that he reduced to doctrine what in the Most Ancient Church had been a matter of perception, and which in the time of that church was not allowable; for to know by perception is a very different thing from learning by doctrine. They who are in perception have no need to learn by formulated doctrine that which they know already. For example: he who knows how to think well, has no occasion to be taught to think by any rules of art, for in this way his faculty of thinking well would be impaired, as is the case with those who stick fast in scholastic dust. To those who learn by perception, the Lord grants to know what is good and true by an inward way; but to those who learn from doctrine, knowledge is given by an external way, or that of the bodily senses; and the difference is like that between light and darkness. Consider also that the perceptions of the celestial man are such as to admit of no description, for they enter into the most minute and particular things, with all variety according to states and circumstances. But as it was foreseen that the perceptive faculty of the cost Ancient Church would perish, and that afterwards mankind would learn by doctrines what is true and good, or by darkness would come to light, it is here said that "God took him" that is, preserved the doctrine for the use of posterity.


The state and quality of the perception with those who were called "Enoch" have also been made known to me. It was a kind of general obscure perception without any distinctness; for in such a case the mind determines its view outside of itself into the doctrinal things.


Verse 25. And Methuselah lived a hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech. By "Methuselah" is signified an eighth church, and by "Lamech" a ninth.


Nothing is mentioned concerning the quality of this church; but that its perceptive faculty was general and obscure, is evident from the description of the church called "Noah;" so that perfection decreased, and with perfection wisdom and intelligence.


Verses 26, 27. And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty and nine years, and he died. These words have a like signification.


Verse 28. And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and ten years, and begat a son. By "Lamech" is here signified a ninth church, wherein the perception of truth and good was so general and obscure that it was next to none, so that the church was vastated. By the "son" is signified the rise of a new church.


That by "Lamech" is signified a church wherein the perception of truth and good was so general and obscure as to be next to none, consequently a church vastated, appears from what was said in the preceding chapter, and from what follows in the next verse. "Lamech" in the preceding chapter has nearly the same signification as in this, namely, vastation (concerning which see Gen. 4:18, 19, 23, 24); and he who begat him is also called by nearly the same name, "Methuselah" so that the things signified by the names are nearly the same. By "Methuselah" and "Methuselah" is signified something that is about to die; and by "Lamech" what is destroyed.


Verse 29. And he called his name Noah, saying, He shall comfort us from our work, and the toil of our hands, out of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed. By "Noah" is signified the Ancient Church. By "comforting us from our work and the toil of our hands, out of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed" is signified doctrine, whereby what had been perverted would be restored.


That by "Noah" is signified the Ancient Church, or the parent of the three churches after the flood, will appear from the following pages, where Noah is largely treated of.


By the names in this chapter, as we have said, are signified churches, or what is the same, doctrines; for the church exists and has its name from doctrine; thus by "Noah" is signified the Ancient Church, or the doctrine that remained from the Most Ancient Church. How the case is with churches or doctrines has already been stated, namely, that they decline, until there no longer remains anything of the goods and truths of faith, and then the church is said in the Word to be vastated. But still remains are always preserved, or some with whom the good and truth of faith remain, although they are few; for unless the good and truth of faith were preserved in these few, there would be no conjunction of heaven with mankind. As regards the remains that are in a man individually, the fewer they are the less can the matters of reason and knowledge that he possesses be enlightened, for the light of good and truth flows in from the remains, or through the remains, from the Lord. If there were no remains in a man he would not be a man, but much viler than a brute; and the fewer remains there are, the less is he a man, and the more remains there are, the more is he a man. Remains are like some heavenly star, which, the smaller it is the less light it gives, and the larger, the more light. The few things that remained from the Most Ancient Church were among those who constituted the church called Noah; but these were not remains of perception, but of perfection, and also of doctrine derived from the things of perception in the most ancient churches; and therefore a new church was now raised up by the Lord, which being of an entirely different native character from the most ancient churches, is to be called the Ancient Church-Ancient from the fact that it existed at the close of the ages before the flood, and during the first period after it. Of this church, by the Divine mercy of the Lord, more will be said hereafter.


That by "comforting us from our work and the toil of our hands, out of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed" is signified doctrine, whereby what had been perverted would be restored, will also appear, of the Lord's Divine mercy, in the following pages. By "work" is signified that they could not perceive what is true except with labor and distress. By the "toil of the hands out of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed" is signified that they could do nothing good. Thus is described "Lamech" that is, the vastated church. There is "work and labor of the hands" when, from themselves or from their Own, men must seek out what is true and do what is good. That which comes of this is the "ground which Jehovah hath cursed" that is, nothing comes of it but what is false and evil. (But what is signified by "Jehovah cursing" may be seen above, n. 245.) To "comfort" has reference to the "son" or Noah, whereby is signified a new regeneration, thus a new church, which is the Ancient Church. By this church, or "Noah" is therefore likewise signified rest, and comfort that comes from rest, just as it was said of the Most Ancient Church that it was the seventh day, in which the Lord rested. (See n. 84-88.)


Verses 30, 31. And Lamech lived after he begat Noah [illum Noachum] five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years, and he died. By "Lamech" as before said, is signified the church vastated. By "sons and daughters" are signified the conceptions and births of such a church.


As nothing more is related concerning Lamech than that he begat sons and daughters, which are the conceptions and births of such a church, we shall dwell no longer on the subject. What the births were, or the "sons and daughters" appears from the church; for such as is the church, such are the births from it. Both the churches called "Methuselah" and "Lamech" expired just before the flood.


Verse 32. And Noah was a son of five hundred years; and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth. By "Noah" as has been said, is signified the Ancient Church. By "Shem, Ham, and Japheth" are signified three Ancient Churches, the parent of which was the Ancient Church called "Noah."


That the church called "Noah" is not to be numbered among the churches that were before the flood, appears from verse 29, where it is said that it should "comfort them from their work and the toil of their hands, out of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed." The "comfort" was that it should survive and endure. But concerning Noah and his sons, of the Lord's Divine mercy hereafter.


As in the foregoing pages much has been said about the perception possessed by the churches that existed before the flood, and as at this day perception is a thing utterly unknown, so much so that some may imagine it to be a kind of continuous revelation, or to be something implanted in men; others that it is merely imaginary, and others other things; and as perception is the very Celestial itself given by the Lord to those who are in the faith of love, and as there is perception in the universal heaven of endless variety: therefore in order that there may be among men some conception of what perception is, of the Lord's Divine mercy I may in the following pages describe the principal kinds of perception that exist in the Heavens.


CONTINUATION CONCERNING HEAVEN AND HEAVENLY JOY. A certain spirit attached himself to my left side, and asked me whether I knew how he could get into heaven. I was permitted to tell him that admission into heaven belongs solely to the Lord, who alone knows what a man's quality is. Very many arrive from the world who make it their sole pursuit to get into heaven, being quite ignorant of what heaven is, and of what heavenly joy is, that heaven is mutual love, and that heavenly joy is the derivative joy. Therefore those who do not know this are first instructed about it by actual experience. For example, there was a certain spirit, newly arrived from the world, who in like manner longed for heaven, and in order that he might perceive what the nature of heaven is, his interiors were opened so that he should feel something of heavenly joy. But as soon as he felt it he began to lament and to writhe, and begged to be delivered, saying that he could not live on account of the anguish; and therefore his interiors were closed toward heaven, and in this way he was restored. From this instance we may see with what pangs of conscience and with what anguish those are tortured who not being prepared for it are admitted even but a little way.


There were some who sought admission into heaven without knowing what heaven is. They were told that unless they were in the faith of love, to enter heaven would be as dangerous as going into a flame; but still they sought for it. When they arrived at the first entrance court, that is to say, the lower sphere of angelic spirits, they were smitten so hard that they threw themselves headlong back, and in this way were taught how dangerous it is merely to approach heaven until prepared by the Lord to receive the affections of faith.


A certain spirit who during his life in the body had made light of adulteries, was in accordance with his desire admitted to the first threshold of heaven. As soon as he came there he began to suffer and to be sensible of his own cadaverous stench, until he could endure it no longer. It seemed to him that if he went any farther he should perish, and he was therefore cast down to the lower earth, enraged that he should feel such torment at the first threshold of heaven, merely because he had arrived in a sphere that was contrary to adulteries. He is among the unhappy.


Almost all who come into the other life are ignorant of the nature of heavenly happiness and bliss, because they know not the nature and quality of inward joy. They form a conception of it merely from the delights and joys of the body and the world. What they are ignorant of they suppose to be nothing, the truth being that bodily and worldly joys are relatively non-existent and foul. In order therefore that those who are well disposed may learn and may know what heavenly joy is, they are taken in the first place to paradises that surpass every conception of the imagination (concerning which, of the Lord's Divine mercy hereafter), and they suppose that they have arrived in the paradise of heaven; but they are taught that this is not true heavenly happiness, and are therefore permitted to experience interior states of joy which are perceptible to their inmost being. They are then transported into a state of peace, even to their inmost being, and they confess that nothing of it is at all expressible or conceivable. And finally they are introduced into a state of innocence, also to their inmost feeling. In this way are they permitted to learn the nature of true spiritual and celestial good.


Certain spirits who were ignorant of the nature of heavenly joy were unexpectedly taken up into heaven after they had been brought into such a state as to render this possible, that is to say a state in which their bodily things and fanciful notions were lulled into quiescence. From there I heard one saying to me that now for the first time he felt how great is the joy in heaven, and that he had been very greatly deceived in having a different idea of it, but that now he perceived in his inmost being a joy immeasurably greater than he had ever felt in any bodily pleasure such as men are delighted with in the life of the body, and which he called foul.


They who are taken up into heaven in order that they may know its quality either have their bodily things and fanciful notions lulled to quiescence-for no one can enter heaven with the bodily things and fanciful notions that they take with them from this world-or else they are surrounded by a sphere of spirits who miraculously temper such things as are impure and that cause disagreement. With some the interiors are opened. In these and other ways they are prepared, according to their lives and the nature thereby acquired.


Certain spirits longed to know the nature of heavenly joy, and were therefore allowed to perceive the inmost of their own, to such a degree that they could bear no more; and yet it was not angelic joy, being scarcely equal to the least angelic joy, as was given me to perceive by a communication of their joy. It was so slight as to be as it were chilly, and yet being their inmost joy they called it most heavenly. From this it was evident not only that there are degrees of joys, but also that the inmost of one scarcely approaches the outmost or middle of another, and that when anyone receives his own inmost joy, he is in his heavenly joy, and cannot endure that which is still more interior, for it becomes painful.


Certain spirits who were admitted into the heaven of innocence of the first heaven spoke to me thence, and confessed that the state of joy and gladness was such as they never could have conceived any idea of. Yet this was only in the first heaven, and there are three heavens, and states of innocence in each, with their innumerable varieties.


But in order that I might know the nature and quality of heaven and of heavenly joy, for long and often I have been permitted by the Lord to perceive the delights of heavenly joys, so that as I know them from actual experience I can indeed know them, but can by no means describe them. However, in order to give some idea of it I may say that heavenly joy is an affection of innumerable delights and joys that form one general simultaneous joy, in which general joy, that is, in which general affection, there are harmonies of innumerable affections that do not come distinctly to perception, but obscurely, because the perception is very general. Yet I was permitted to perceive that there are things innumerable within it, in such order as can never be described, these innumerable things being such as flow from the order of heaven. Such order exists in every least thing of the affection, all of which together are presented and perceived as a very general one according to the capacity of him who is the subject of it. In a word, in every general joy or affection there are illimitable things ordinated in a most perfect form, and there is nothing that is not alive or that does not affect even the inmost things of our being, for heavenly joys proceed from inmost things. I perceived also that the joy and deliciousness came as if from the heart, and very softly diffused themselves through all the inmost fibers, and so into the congregated fibers, with such an inmost sense of delight that the fiber is as it were nothing but joy and deliciousness, and the whole derivative perceptive and sensitive sphere the same, being alive with happiness. In comparison with these joys the joy of bodily pleasures is like gross and pungent dust as compared with a pure and gentle breeze.


In order that I might know how the case is with those who desire to be in heaven and are not such that they can be there, once when I was in some heavenly society, an angel appeared to me as an infant with a chaplet of bright blue flowers about its head, and girded about the breast with wreaths of other colors. By this I was given to know that I was in some society where there was charity. Some well-disposed spirits were then admitted into the same society, who the moment they entered became much more intelligent, and spoke like angelic spirits. Afterwards some were admitted who desired to be innocent from themselves, whose state was represented to me by an infant that vomited milk out of its mouth. Such is their state. Then some were admitted who supposed that they were intelligent from themselves, and their state was represented by their faces, which appeared sharp, but fair enough; and they seemed to wear a peaked hat from which a sharp point projected, but their faces did not appear to be of human flesh, but as if carved out and devoid of life. Such is the state of those who believe that they are spiritual from themselves, that is, able from themselves to have faith. Other spirits were admitted who could not remain there, but were dismayed, became distressed, and fled away.


CHAPTER 6 CONCERNING HEAVEN AND HEAVENLY JOY. The souls who come into the other life are all ignorant of the nature of heaven and of heavenly joy. Very many suppose it to be a kind of joy into which any can be admitted no matter how they have lived, even those who have borne hatred against their neighbor and have passed their lives in adulteries, being quite unaware of the fact that heaven is mutual and chaste love, and that heavenly joy is the derivative happiness.


I have sometimes spoken with spirits fresh from the world concerning the state of eternal life, telling them how important it was for them to know who is the Lord of that kingdom, and what is the nature and form of its government, just as those in this world who go into another kingdom are especially interested to know who and of what sort is the king, what is the nature of the government, and many other things that belong to the kingdom; and how much more should they be interested in this kingdom, where they are to live forever. I told them that the Lord alone rules both heaven and the universe, for He who rules the one must rule the other; and that the kingdom in which they were now is the Lord's kingdom, the laws of which are eternal truths, all of which are based on the one great law that men shall love the Lord above all things and their neighbor as themselves, and now even more than themselves, for if they would be as the angels this is what they must do. To all this they could make no reply, because in their bodily life they had heard something of the kind, but had not believed it. They marveled that there is such love in heaven, and that it is possible for anyone to love his neighbor more than himself, seeing that they had heard that they were to love their neighbor as themselves. But they were instructed that in the other life all goods are immeasurably increased, and that the life in the body is such that men can go no further than loving the neighbor as themselves because they are in the things of the body, but that when these are removed, the love becomes purer, and at last angelic, which consists in loving the neighbor more than themselves. The possibility of such love is evident from the conjugial love that exists with some persons, who would suffer death rather than let their married partner be injured; and also from the love of parents for their children, in that a mother will endure starvation rather than see her infant hunger, and this even among birds and animals; and likewise from sincere friendship, in that perils will be undergone for our friends; and even from polite and feigned friendship, that would emulate real friendship in offering the better things to those to whom we wish well, making great professions even when they do not come from the heart. And finally its possibility is evident from the very nature of love, which finds its joy in being of service to others, not for the sake of self but for the love's own sake. But all this could not be comprehended by those who loved themselves more than others, and who in the bodily life had been greedy for gain, and least of all by the avaricious.


The angelic state is such that everyone communicates his own bliss and happiness to others. For in the other life there is a most exquisite communication and perception of all the affections and thoughts, so that each person communicates his joy to all, and all to each, so that each one is as it were the center of all. This is the heavenly form. And therefore the more there are who constitute the Lord's kingdom, the greater is the happiness, for it increases in proportion to the numbers, and this is why heavenly happiness is unutterable. There is this communication of all with each and of each with all when everyone loves others more than himself. But if anyone wishes better for himself than for others the love of self reigns, which communicates nothing to others from itself except the idea of self, which is very foul, and when this is perceived the person is at once banished and rejected.


Just as in the human body all things both in general and particular contribute to the general and individual uses of all the rest, so is it in the Lord's kingdom, which is constituted like a man, and in fact is called the Grand Man. In this way everyone there contributes either more nearly or more remotely, and in many ways, to the happiness of all, and this in accordance with the order instituted and consequently maintained by the Lord alone.

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