The true nature of divine love is recognizable from its sphere, which pervades the universe and affects each of us in different ways depending on our state. That sphere of divine love has a special influence on parents. Because of it, they tenderly love their children (who are outside themselves), they want to be one with them, and they want to bless them from themselves. The sphere of divine love affects not only the good but also the evil, and not only people but also animals and birds of every kind.
Surely in the course of giving birth every mother’s only thought is of bonding with and caring for her offspring. Every bird hatching chicks from eggs thinks only of cherishing them under her wings and putting food in their mouths with kisses. Even poisonous snakes and vipers love their offspring, as is commonly known.
This universal sphere has a special influence on those who let God’s love in—those who believe in God and love their neighbor. The goodwill that is in them is an image of God’s love.
Even among people who are not good, friendship emulates this love. At her or his own table, the host will give the guest the better food. Friends will kiss, hug, and join hands, and promise each other help and support. This love is also the sole origin of alliances and the tendency for like-minded and compatible people to form partnerships.
Even in inanimate things like trees and plants that same divine sphere is at work, although in this case it operates through the sun in this world, and its heat and light. Heat comes from the outside into trees and plants and becomes a part of them, causing them to sprout and then develop flowers and fruit, which are in turn blessings to animals. Physical heat has this effect because it corresponds to spiritual heat, which is love.
In fact, even among various substances of the mineral kingdom there are representations of divine love at work. Allegories of divine love appear in the processes for refining these substances to increase their usefulness and value.
From this description of divine love’s essence, you can also see what the essence of diabolical love is like; it becomes visible by contrast.
Diabolical love is a love for oneself. This is called love, but seen in its own right it is really hatred. It does not love anyone outside itself. It does not want to form a partnership with others in order to bless them; it wants to bless only itself. From deep inside, it constantly strives to dominate all others and to own the good things they have.
Eventually it wants to be adored as God. This is why those who are in hell do not acknowledge God. Instead they acknowledge as gods those who have power over others. From hell’s point of view, then, there are lower and higher gods, or lesser and greater gods, according to the reach of each one’s power. Because all who are in hell carry love for themselves in their heart, they burn with hatred against their “god.”
The “gods” in turn burn with hatred against all who are under their thumb; they think of them as vile slaves. They manage to speak softly to them as long as their followers keep showing adoration. They openly rage against all others. Inwardly or at heart, they rage against their followers as well.
Love for oneself is the same love you see among thieves, who kiss each other when they are on a job together, but later each burn with a desire to kill the others and take their share.
In hell, love for oneself is the dominant force. It causes the people there and their selfish lusts to appear at a distance as various species of wild animal. Some people there look like foxes and leopards, some like wolves and tigers, some like crocodiles and venomous snakes. Their love for themselves also causes the deserts they live in to consist of mere piles of stones and bare gravel, with swamps here and there that contain croaking frogs. Over their huts fly miserable screeching birds. These animals and birds are the same as the owls, the wild beasts of the desert, and the jackals mentioned in the prophetical books of the Word in reference to the love of dominating that comes from love for oneself (Isaiah 13:21; Jeremiah 50:39; Psalms 74:14).
from True Christianity, Sections 44, 45