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 The Difference in General between Natural, Spiritual and Celestial Things

celheavThere are three heavens: a lowest one, a middle one, and a highest. In the lowest heaven the people are natural, but their natural quality stems either from the spiritual   quality that belongs to the middle heaven or from the celestial quality that belongs to the third heaven. In the second heaven the people are spiritual, and in the third heaven celestial. There are also some in between, who are called spiritual- celestial. Many of these are preachers in the highest heaven.

[2] The difference between natural, spiritual and celestial things is such that there is no proportional relation between them. Therefore natural things cannot in any way by any approximation approach in likeness spiritual things, nor spiritual things celestial things. That is why the heavens are distinct. I have been given to know this from much experience. Again and again I have been conveyed into the company of spiritual angels, and I then spoke with them in their spiritual way of speaking, and what I said I then made a point of remembering. When I returned into my natural state-the state every person in the world is in-I then tried to recall what I had said from my earlier remembrance and write it down, but I could not. It was impossible. No words were to be found and not even any mental concepts by which to express it. The spiritual mental concepts and words were so removed from natural mental concepts and words that there was not the least approximation. Surprisingly, when I was in that heaven and spoke with angels, I then knew no other than that I was speaking in the same way that I speak with people here. But afterward I found out that the thoughts and speech were so dissimilar that the one could not approximate the other, consequently that they have proportional relation.

[3] There is a similar difference between spiritual and celestial things. I have been told that there is a similar difference, and also that the difference is such that no proportional relation or approximation is possible. But I could not be given confirmation of this through personal experience without actually being an angel of the middle heaven. It was therefore granted some angels of the middle heaven to be together with angels of the third heaven, and while there to think and speak with them, and also to make a point of remembering what they thought and what they said, and afterward to return to their own heaven. And they told me then that they could not express any idea or any word from the earlier state, that it was impossible; and they said in conclusion that there is no proportional relation or approximation.

[4] For the same reason I have a number of times been given to be in the presence of angels of the middle and highest heaven, and to hear them talking together (whenever this happened I had been in an interior natural state, removed from worldly and bodily concerns specifically, upon first waking from sleep); and I heard indescribable and inexpressible things, as we read happened with Paul.* And sometimes I was let into a perception and understanding of the things they talked about. The things they said were full of secrets having to do with the Lord, redemption, regeneration, providence, and other like things; and afterward I was given to see that I could not express or record those things using any spiritual or celestial term-but that they could nevertheless still be described in words of natural language, even to rational comprehension. I was also told that there are not any Divine mysteries that cannot be perceived and expressed naturally also, even though more generally and less perfectly; and that those who perceive such things naturally with their rational understanding from an affection for truth, are able afterward to both perceive and express the same things spiritually when they become spirits, and in a celestial way when they become angels; but not so others. For one Divine truth perceived and loved naturally is like a crystal or porcelain goblet which is afterward filled with wine, the nature of the wine being such as the nature of the truth was, and the quality of its taste, so to speak, such as was the quality of the affection for the truth.

[5] That there is such a difference, which may be called an unlimited one, between natural, spiritual and celestial things, can be seen from the difference in the thoughts of people and angels, and from the difference in their speech and also in the things they do, and from the difference in their forms of writing. From these things, as from so many proofs, it will become apparent what the one and the other are like, and how the perfections of all things ascend and pass from the world into heaven, and from one heaven into another.

[6] Regarding thoughts: All the thoughts of people, including each single idea in them, involve conceptions drawn from space, time, person, or material-things that appear in natural light or the light of the world. For no one can think anything apart from light, just as nothing can be seen without light. And natural light or the light of the world is lifeless, being from the sun of the world, which is nothing but fire. Nevertheless, the light of heaven flows into that light everywhere and continually, giving it life and making possible the perception and understanding of things. The light of the world by itself cannot impart any perceptive or intellectual ability or confer any natural or rational sight, but it does so from the light of heaven, because the light of heaven comes from the sun of heaven, which is the Lord and so is life itself. The influx of the light of heaven into the light of the world is like the influx of a cause into its effect-the nature of which will be explained elsewhere. It is apparent from this what natural thought is like, or ideas of thought in people, namely, that they are inseparably bound up with notions of space, time, personality and material. Because of this, those thoughts or ideas of thought are very limited and restricted, and so are crude, and must be called material. The thoughts of angels of the middle heaven, on the other hand, are all without notions of space, time, personality and material, so that they are unlimited and unrestricted. The objects of their thoughts are, like the thoughts themselves, spiritual, so that they think about them spiritually and not naturally. As for angels of the highest heaven, they do not have thoughts, but they have perceptions of the things they hear and see. Instead of thoughts they have affections, and these keep varying with them, just as thoughts keep varying in the case of spiritual angels.

0533   [7] Regarding forms of speech: The things people say and the way they say them are like the ideas of their thoughts, for ideas of thought become words when they go out into speech. Consequently the speech of people in every word has something to do with space, time, personality, or material. By the same token, however, the things angels of the middle heaven say and the way they say them are like the ideas of their thoughts, for these are what the words of their speech express. On the other hand, the things angels of the highest heaven say and the way they say them all come from changes in their affections-though when they speak with spiritual angels, they speak as the spiritual do; but not so among themselves.

Since that is what the speech of angels is like, and what the speech of people is like, therefore their forms of speech are so different that they have nothing in common. They are so different that a person cannot understand any word an angel says, nor an angel any word a person says. I have listened to angels speaking and memorized the words, and have afterward tried to see whether any of those words matches any word in the expressions or languages of people, and there was not one. (Spiritual speech is the same for all; it is innate in everyone, and a person comes into it as soon as he becomes a spirit.)
Regarding forms of writing, this is like their speech. The writing of spiritual angels in its letters is similar to the writing of people in the world, but every letter has a meaning. Consequently if you saw it in a natural state, you would say it consisted only of letters. On the other hand, instances of writing in the highest heaven are not similar in their letters. They have letters formed by various curved strokes, not unlike the letters of Hebrew, but always rounded, with no straight lines anywhere. Each letter also carries some meaning, which they have a perception of from affection and not from thought. Because of all this, one who is natural does not comprehend a thing from spiritual writing, nor one who is spiritual a thing from natural writing. Neither does one who is spiritual comprehend anything from celestial writing, or one who is celestial anything from spiritual writing-unless he is with someone spiritual.

[8] It is similar with the things they do, which are many, for everyone is engaged in some activity. How the spiritual do what they do cannot be described to one who is natural, nor can how the celestial do what they do be described to one who is spiritual. For these differ as much as their thoughts, speech and writing.

[9] It can be seen from this what a difference there is between natural, spiritual and celestial things-that the difference is such that they have no accordance at all except by correspondences. This, too, is the reason that people do not know they have an association with spirits, and spirits that they have an association with people, when in fact there is a constant association. For a person could not live one minute without being in the midst of spirits in respect to his thoughts and affections, nor could spirits and angels live a moment without being with people. The reason is that there is a continual connection extending from first things to last things, thus from the Lord to mankind; and from creation the connection was established by correspondences, one that flows in through angels and spirits. Everything celestial flows into something spiritual, and everything spiritual into something natural, and it terminates in the last of this, which is physical and material, and there abides. Without such a final abode for intermediates to flow into, there would be no other permanence than that of a house built in the air. The human race is therefore the base and foundation of the heavens.

[10] No angel knows that there is such a difference between natural, spiritual and celestial things. The reason is that an angel does not change his state or go from a spiritual state into a natural one so as to be able to explore the differences. I have spoken with them about this, and they said they do not know the differences. They believed they thought, spoke, wrote and did things in the same way as in the world. But they were shown the truth by their changing their states so that they thought alternately now in the one, now in the other, and so that they likewise spoke alternately in the one and the other, and also read what they wrote in a spiritual state and in a natural state, and similarly did things; and they then found that there is such a difference that it cannot be described. It has been possible for me to instruct even angels on this point, because I have been given to be in both worlds alternately and to explore the one from the perspective of the other; and they have all admitted afterward that it is the case.

[11] Nevertheless, there is a similarity between the natural, spiritual and celestial states in regard to the various kinds of things that present themselves as objects of sight, taste, smell and hearing, and of the sense of touch. For to the sight angels all look like people in the world. Their clothes look similar, and their houses, also their gardens and parks, and their fields, likewise their bodies of land and water, as well as their various kinds of food and drink. So, too, do the animals of the land, the birds of the air, and the fishes in the waters, all of various kinds in their various species. Their speech sounds as it did in the world, also the rhythms and melodies of their vocal and instrumental music. Flavor is similar, and also the way things smell. In a word, everything that appears or makes itself perceptible to any sense does so similarly. But still the things in the other world are from a spiritual origin, and the angels therefore think of them spiritually and give them spiritual names.
Despite what has been said, however, even all these things as they appear and are perceived in the middle and highest heavens-in the excellence of their forms and harmonies and in their perfections, which are of a superior and surpassing preeminence-can only be described imperfectly. They can be described only as being like the most perfect things in the world, which are nevertheless imperfect in comparison to the things that are in heaven. * See 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. [DV 3]


PHOTO: Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI) Acknowledgment: S. Casertano (STScI)

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