ANYONE who thinks deeply and knows anything about the workings of the human mind can see and understand how significantly superior spirits are to other people. In a minute, we can consider and turn over and decide in our minds more than we can express in speech or writing in half an hour. This shows how much better we are when we are in the spirit and therefore when we become spirits, since it is the spirit that thinks and the body is what the spirit uses to express its thoughts in speech or writing.
This is why people who become angels after death have access to indescribable intelligence and wisdom relative to the intelligence and wisdom they had while they were living in the world. While they were living in the world, their spirits were confined in a body and by that means were in the natural world. So when the spirit did think spiritually, the thoughts flowed into natural concepts that are relatively general, crude, and hazy. This means they are not open to the countless elements characteristic of spiritual thought. They also immerse them in the thickets of the cares of the world. It is different once the spirit has been freed from the body and has arrived at its own spiritual state, which happens when it crosses from the natural world to the spiritual world that is appropriate to it. We can see from what has already been said that its state in regard to thoughts and affections is far better than its former state. This is why angels think thoughts that are unutterable and indescribable, things that cannot come through to our natural thoughts. Yet in fact, every angel was born a person on earth and lived as such, and then seemed to himself or herself to be no wiser than anyone else.
The level of wisdom and intelligence for angels is also the level of malice and craft among hellish spirits. The issue is much the same because once the human spirit is freed from its body it devotes itself wholly to its virtue or to its vice. An angelic spirit devotes itself to its virtue and a hellish spirit to its vice. This is because every spirit actually is its own good or its own evil because it is its own love, as has often been stated and explained above. This means that just as angelic spirits think and intend and speak and act from their good, so hellish spirits do the same from their evil. Thinking and intending and speaking and acting from evil itself is doing so on the basis of everything implicit in evil.
It was different while they were living in the flesh because then the evil of their spirits was under the restraints that apply to all because of the law, or because of money, position, reputation, and their fears of losing these things. So the evil of their spirits could not break out and show itself in its true colors. Further, the evil of their spirit then lurked hidden by veils of outward integrity, honesty, fairness, and affection for what is true and good, qualities that such people presented and simulated in their speech for worldly reasons. All the while, the evil remained so hidden and veiled that they themselves scarcely knew that there was so much malice and craft in their spirits, that they were therefore intrinsically the very devils they would become after death when their spirits would come into their own and display their own nature.
The kind of malice that surfaces then defies all belief. There are thousands of things that burst forth from the evil itself then, including some that are beyond the words of any language to describe. I have been allowed to learn and even to observe what they are like by many experiences because the Lord has granted me to be in the spiritual world as to my spirit while I was in the natural world as to my body. This I can testify: their malice is so great that scarcely a thousandth part of it can be described. Further, if the Lord did not protect us we would never be able to escape from hell; for with each of us there are both spirits from hell and angels from heaven (see Sections 292–293). Further, the Lord cannot protect us unless we acknowledge the Divine and live faithful, thoughtful lives. Otherwise, we are turning away from the Lord and toward hellish spirits and are therefore in spirit absorbing the same kind of malice.
Still, the Lord is constantly leading us away from the evils that we assimilate and attract by associating with these spirits, leading us if not by the inner restraints of conscience (which we do not accept if we deny the Divine), then by the outer restraints already listed, the fears of the laws and their penalties, of the loss of money and the forfeiture of rank and reputation. People like this can be led away from evils through the delights of their love and the fear of losing and forfeiting these delights, but they cannot be led into spiritual virtues. To the extent that they are led into them, you see, they convert them into guile and craft by pretending to be good and honest and fair-minded with a view to persuading and deceiving others. This guile is added to the evil of their spirits and gives it form, lending its own nature to the evil.
from Heaven and Hell, Sections 576-577
Sections 292-293: Published 6/22/2018-6/23/2018