The Wisdom of Heaven’s Angels (Continued)

We may gather how great angels’ wisdom is from the fact that in heaven there is a communication that involves everyone. The intelligence and wisdom of one individual is shared with another: heaven is where everyone shares everything of value. This is because the very nature of heavenly love is to want what is one’s own to belong to another; so no one in heaven regards his or her good as authentically good unless it is someone else’s as well. This is also the basis of heaven’s happiness. Angels are led into it by the Lord, whose divine love has this same quality.

I have also been granted knowledge, by experience, of this kind of communication in the heavens. Once some simple people were taken up into heaven, and after they had arrived, they arrived also at an angelic wisdom. They understood things they could not grasp before and said things they could not express in their former state.

Words are not adequate to describe the quality of angels’ wisdom—it can be suggested only by some generalizations. Angels can express in a single word what we cannot express in a thousand words. Further, in a single angelic word there are countless things that are beyond the capacity of human words to convey. In the details of angelic speech there are actually treasures of wisdom in unbroken connection, utterly beyond the reach of human knowledge. Then too, what angels cannot evoke with the words of their language they fill in with the sound, which embodies their sensitivity to the proper arrangement of things; for as already noted (Sections 236, 241), they express their affections through the sounds and the concepts derived from their affections through the words. This is why the things that people have heard in heaven are called ineffable.

Angels can also state completely in a few words the details that are written in a whole volume, giving each word something that raises it toward a deeper wisdom. Their language by nature agrees with their affections, and every word agrees with their concepts. The words actually vary in infinite shadings depending on the way they express in sequence things that are simultaneous in their thought.

The more inward angels can even tell a speaker’s whole life from the tone of voice and a few words. From the way the sound is differentiated by concepts into words, they actually perceive the speaker’s ruling love, in which, so to speak, the very details of life are engraved.

We can see from all this what angels’ wisdom is like. Relative to our wisdom, it is on the order of ten thousands to one. It is like the ratio between the motor energies of the body, which are countless, to some act that results from them, which to our senses seems like a single event. Or it is like the thousands of things we see through a perfect microscope compared to the one fuzzy thing we see with the naked eye.

I should also like to illustrate the matter with one example. An angel, out of his wisdom, described the process of regeneration and presented mysteries about it in their proper sequence, amounting to a hundred. He filled out each single mystery with concepts containing even deeper mysteries, and did this from beginning to end, explaining how the spiritual person is conceived anew; is carried in the womb, so to speak; is born; matures; and is gradually perfected. He said that he could multiply the number of mysteries into the thousands, and that the things he was talking about involved only the regeneration of the outer person.

There were countless more about the regeneration of the inner person. This and other things of the same sort that I have heard from angels have shown me how much wisdom they have and how much ignorance we have by comparison, with hardly any knowledge of what regeneration is and no awareness of a single step when we are being regenerated.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 268, 269

The Wisdom of Heaven’s Angels (Continued)

The reason angels can accept so much wisdom is that their deeper levels are open, and wisdom, like any perfection, increases as one moves toward the deeper levels and as they are opened.

In every angel there are three levels of life corresponding to the three heavens (see Sections 29–40). People whose first level has been opened are in the first or most remote heaven. People whose second level has been opened are in the second or intermediate heaven. People whose third level has been opened are in the third or inmost heaven. The wisdom of angels in heaven is according to these levels; so the wisdom of angels of the third heaven vastly transcends the wisdom of angels of the intermediate heaven, and their wisdom in turn transcends that of angels of the farthest heaven (see above, Sections 209–210, and on the nature of the levels, see Section 38).

The reason for these differences is that the elements of the higher levels are detailed, and those of the lower are general, the general ones being inclusive of the details. The ratio of details to generalizations is on the order of thousands or ten thousands to one, so this is the ratio between the wisdom of angels of a higher heaven and that of angels of a lower heaven.

However, the wisdom of these latter angels similarly transcends our wisdom, for we are engrossed in our bodies and their sensory operations, and these physical sensory faculties are on the lowest level of all. This fact enables us to see the nature of the wisdom of people who base their thinking on sensory information—that is, the ones we call sense-oriented people. Specifically, they have no access to wisdom, only to information.c It is different, though, for people whose thoughts are raised above sensory matters, and even more for people whose deeper levels have been opened all the way into heaven’s light.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 267


Sections 29-40: See 7/1/17-7/6/17

The Wisdom of Heaven’s Angels (Continued)

We may gather what angels’ wisdom is like from the fact that they live in heaven’s light, and in its essence heaven’s light is divine truth or divine wisdom. This light illuminates at one and the same time both their inner sight, which is mental, and their outer sight, the sight of their eyes. (On heaven’s light being divine truth or divine wisdom, see above, Sections 126–133.) Angels also live in heaven’s warmth, which in its essence is divine good or divine love, and from this comes their affection and longing for wisdom. (On heaven’s warmth being divine good or divine love, see above, Sections 133–140.)

Angels enjoy wisdom to the point that they might be called “wisdoms,” as we may gather from the fact that all the elements of their thoughts and affections flow according to the heavenly form, which form is the form of divine wisdom, and further that their more inward levels, which are open to wisdom, are framed according to this form. (On angels’ thoughts and affections, and therefore their intelligence and wisdom as well, flowing according to heaven’s form, see above, Sections 201–212.)

We may further infer the excellence of angels’ wisdom from the fact that their speech is the speech of wisdom. It actually flows directly and freely from their thought, which in turn comes from their affection, so that their speech is their thought from affection in an external form. Consequently, nothing draws them away from the divine inflow: there is none of that external matter that for us keeps intruding into our speech from thoughts about other things. (On angels’ speech being the speech of their thought and affection, see Sections 234–245.)

It also contributes to this kind of angelic wisdom that everything they see with their eyes and perceive with their senses is in harmony with their wisdom. This is because all these things are correspondences and therefore the objects of their senses are forms that portray elements proper to their wisdom. (On the fact that everything visible in heaven is in correspondence with the deeper levels of the angels and is representative of their wisdom, see above, Sections 170–182.)

Further, angels’ thoughts are not bounded and constrained by concepts drawn from space and time the way ours are; for space and time are properties of nature, and properties of nature distract the mind from spiritual things and deprive our intellectual sight of breadth. (On angels’ concepts being devoid of time and space and therefore unlimited, relative to ours, see above, Sections 162–169 and 191–199.)

Angels’ thoughts are not diverted to earthly and material concerns or interrupted by the cares and needs of life, so they are not distracted by such things from the joys of wisdom the way our thoughts are in this world. They are given everything by the Lord gratis: they are clothed gratis, fed gratis, housed gratis (Sections 181–190); and beyond this, they are provided with joys and pleasures in proportion to their acceptance of wisdom from the Lord.

All this has been presented to show where angels derive this kind of wisdom.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 266


Sections 126-133: See 11/22/16-11/27/16
Sections 134-140: See 11/28/16-12/2/16
Sections 170-176: See 12/12/16-12/15/16
Sections 162-169: See 4/30/17-5/2/17
Sections 191-196: See 10/1/16-10/2/16

The Wisdom of Heaven’s Angels

THE nature of the wisdom of heaven’s angels is almost beyond comprehension because it so transcends human wisdom that there are no means of comparison, and anything transcendent seems to be nothing at all. Still, there are a few overlooked means that can be used for description, means which until they are recognized seem like shadows in the mind and actually obscure the nature of the matter as it is in itself.

Yet they are the kinds of things that can be known, and can be understood once they are known, if only the mind takes delight in them; for since delight arises from love, it has a light with it; and for people who love matters of divine and heavenly wisdom, that light radiates from heaven and provides them with enlightenment.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 265

No One Can Do Anything Genuinely Good on His or Her Own (Continued)

In what follows, people who do good actions that come from themselves will be called “earthly people,” since their moral and civic behavior is earthly in essence; while people who do good actions that come from the Lord will be called “spiritual people,” because their moral and civic behavior is spiritual in essence.

The Lord tells us in John that no one can do anything that is genuinely good on his or her own:

People cannot receive anything unless it has been given to them from heaven. (John 3:27)

And again,

Those who abide in me and in whom I abide bear much fruit, because without me you cannot do anything. (John 15:5)

“Those who abide in me and in whom I abide bear much fruit” means that everything good comes from the Lord—“fruit” meaning what is good. “Without me you cannot do anything” means that none of us can do good on our own.

People who believe in the Lord and who do what is good from him are called “children of the light” (John 12:36; Luke 16:8), “children of the wedding” (Mark 2:19), “children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), “children of God” (Luke 20:36; John 1:12), and those “born of God” (John 1:13). It says that “they will see God” (Matthew 5:8), that “the Lord will make a home with them” (John 14:23), that they “have the faith of God” (Mark 11:22), and that “their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:21).

These statements are summed up in the following words:

As many as received Jesus, he gave them power to become children of God and believe in his name, who were born not of blood, and not of the will of the flesh, and not of the will of a man, but of God. (John 1:12, 13)

Believing in the name of the Son of God is believing the Word and living by it. The will of the flesh is our own will, which in and of itself is evil; and the will of a man is our own understanding, which in and of itself is false as a result of the evil. Those who are born of these are people who derive what they intend and act and think and speak from their own selves. Those born of God are people who derive what they intend and act and think and speak from the Lord.

In brief, what comes from us is not good. What comes from the Lord is good.

from Life/Faith, Sections 16, 17

No One Can Do Anything Genuinely Good on His or Her Own (Continued)

You can see from what it says in Sections 27, 28, and 38 of Teachings on Sacred Scripture that what is first, what is intermediate, and what is last make a single entity like a purpose, a means, and a result; and because they do make a single entity, the purpose itself is called the primary purpose, the means is an intermediate purpose, and the result is the final purpose. So you must see that for us, if we have spiritual goodness, our moral goodness is spiritual on the intermediate level, and our civic goodness is spiritual on the lowest level.

That is why, as already noted, if we have spiritual goodness we are moral and civic individuals as well; but if we do not have spiritual goodness we are neither moral nor civic but only seem to be. We seem to be to ourselves and to others as well.

The reason we can still think and therefore talk rationally, like spiritual people, even when we ourselves are not spiritual is that our understanding can be raised into heaven’s light, which is truth, and can see things on that basis. However, our will cannot in the same way be lifted into heaven’s warmth, which is love, and act on that basis.

That is why truth and love are not united in us unless we are spiritual. It is also why we possess the power of speech. This actually is what differentiates us from animals. It is because our understanding can be raised into heaven when our will has not yet been raised that we can be reformed and can become spiritual. We are not reformed and do not become spiritual, though, until our will has been raised.

Because at first our understanding has more of this ability than our will does, we are able to think and therefore talk rationally like spiritual people no matter what our nature, even if we are evil. However, the reason we are not rational is that our understanding does not lead our will. Rather, our will leads our understanding, as noted in Section 115 of Teachings on Sacred Scripture. All understanding does is teach us and show us the way; and as long as our will is not one with our understanding in heaven, we are not spiritual and therefore are not rational. You see, when we are left to our will or love, then we toss out our rational thinking about God, heaven, and eternal life and instead pick up whatever agrees with our will or love and call this “rational.” But this will be given further attention in the works on angelic wisdom.

from Life/Faith, Sections 14, 15

No One Can Do Anything Genuinely Good on His or Her Own (Continued)

There are good works that are civic, good works that are moral, and good works that are spiritual. Good works that are civic are things we do because of civic law. To the extent that we practice civic goodness, we are citizens of this earthly world. Good works that are moral are things we do because of rational law. To the extent that we practice moral goodness, we are human. Good works that are spiritual are things we do because of spiritual law. To the extent that we practice spiritual goodness, we are citizens of the spiritual world.

These types of goodness follow in this sequence: spiritual goodness is highest, moral goodness is intermediate, and civic goodness is lowest.

If we have spiritual goodness we are moral and civic individuals as well; but if we do not have spiritual goodness we may seem to be moral and civic individuals but in fact we are not.

The reason we are moral and civic if we have spiritual goodness is that spiritual goodness contains within itself the essence of what is good and is the source of moral and civic goodness. The only possible source of the real essence of goodness is the one who is goodness itself. Cast the net of your thinking as wide as you will, concentrate, and ask what makes good good, and you will see that it is its essence; a good deed is good if it has the essence of goodness within it. This means that a deed is good if it originates in goodness itself—in God. So if some good deed originates not in God but in ourselves, it is not good.

from Life/Faith, Sections 12, 13

No One Can Do Anything Genuinely Good on His or Her Own (continued)

Good deeds that come from God and good deeds that come from ourselves could be compared to gold. Gold that is nothing but gold and is called unalloyed gold is good gold. Gold that is alloyed with silver is gold, too, but its value depends on the alloy, while gold alloyed with copper is less valuable.

Artificial gold, though, and things given the color of gold, are not good; there is no real gold in them.

There is also gilding. There is gilt silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead, and also gilt wood and gilt stone. They may look like gold superficially, but since they are not gold they are valued according to their artistry or the cost of the gilding or the cost of the gold that can be stripped from them. This value is as different from that of gold as the value of clothes is from the value of the one who is wearing them.

For that matter, you can cover rotten wood or slag or even excrement with gold. This is “gold” that could be compared to pharisaical “good works.”

We can tell by science whether gold is substantially good, whether it is alloyed or fake, or whether it is just gilding; but science cannot tell us whether the good we are doing is essentially good. All we know is that good actions that come from God are good and good actions that come from ourselves are not good; so since it is important for our salvation to know whether the good things we are doing come from God or not, this needs to be revealed. Before it is revealed, though, something needs to be said about good works.

from Life/Faith, Sections 10, 11

No One Can Do Anything Genuinely Good on His or Her Own

The reason hardly any of us has known whether our good actions were coming from ourselves or from God is that the church has divorced faith from caring, and doing good comes from caring. We give to the poor; help those in need; endow churches and hostels; are considerate of our church, our country, and our fellow citizens; attend church regularly and worship and pray devoutly when we do; read the Word and religious literature; and think about our salvation—all without knowing whether our actions come from ourselves or from God.

These same actions can come from ourselves or from God. If these actions come from God, they are good; if they come from ourselves, they are not good. In fact, there are acts that in and of themselves resemble good ones and yet are obviously evil—hypocritical good deeds, for example, that are deceptive and deliberately misleading.

from Life/Faith, Section 9


Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) was born Emanuel Swedberg (or Svedberg) in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 29, 1688 (Julian calendar). He was the third of the nine children of Jesper Swedberg (1653–1735) and Sara Behm (1666–1696). At the age of eight he lost his mother. After the death of his only older brother ten days later, he became the oldest living son. In 1697 his father married Sara Bergia (1666–1720), who developed great affection for Emanuel and left him a significant inheritance. His father, a Lutheran clergyman, later became a celebrated and controversial bishop, whose diocese included the Swedish churches in Pennsylvania and in London, England.

After studying at the University of Uppsala (1699–1709), Emanuel journeyed to England, Holland, France, and Germany (1710–1715) to study and work with leading scientists in western Europe. Upon his return he apprenticed as an engineer under the brilliant Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem (1661–1751). He gained favor with Sweden’s King Charles XII (1682–1718), who gave him a salaried position as an overseer of Sweden’s mining industry (1716–1747). Although he was engaged, he never married.

After the death of Charles XII, Emanuel was ennobled by Queen Ulrika Eleonora (1688–1741), and his last name was changed to Swedenborg (or Svedenborg). This change in status gave him a seat in the Swedish House of Nobles, where he remained an active participant in the Swedish government throughout his life.

A member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, he devoted himself to scientific studies and philosophical reflections that culminated in a number of publications, most notably a comprehensive three-volume work on mineralogy (1734) that brought him recognition across Europe as a scientist and philosopher. After 1734 he redirected his research and publishing to a study of anatomy in search of the interface between the soul and body, making several significant discoveries in physiology.

From 1743 to 1745 he entered a transitional phase that resulted in a shift of his main focus from science and philosophy to theology. Throughout the rest of his life he maintained that this shift was brought about by Jesus Christ, who appeared to him, called him to a new mission, and opened his perception to a permanent dual consciousness of this life and the life after death.

He devoted the last decades of his life to studying Scripture and publishing eighteen theological titles that draw on the Bible, reasoning, and his own spiritual experiences. These works present a Christian theology with unique perspectives on the nature of God, the spiritual world, the Bible, the human mind, and the path to salvation.

Swedenborg died in London on March 29, 1772, at the age of eighty-four.

from Regeneration, Pages 163, 164