THE DIFFERENCE IN GENERAL BETWEEN THE NATURAL, THE SPIRITUAL, AND THE CELESTIAL.
There are three heavens, the lowest, the middle, and the highest; in the lowest heaven they are natural, but their natural is derived either from the spiritual, which is of the middle heaven or from the celestial, which is of the third heaven. In the second heaven they are spiritual, and in the third heaven celestial; there are also intermediate angels who are called spiritual-celestial; many from these are preachers in the highest heaven.
 The difference between the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial is such, that there is no ratio between them, for which reason the natural can in no wise by any approximation approach towards the spiritual, nor the spiritual towards the natural; hence it is that the heavens are distinct. This it has been given me to know by much experience; I have often been sent among the spiritual angels, and I then spoke with them spiritually, and then, retaining in my memory what I had spoken, when I returned into my natural state, in which every man is in this world, I then wished to bring it forth from the former memory and describe it, but I could not, it was impossible; there were no expressions, nor even ideas of thought, by which I could express it; they were spiritual ideas of thought and spiritual expressions so remote from natural ideas of thought and natural expressions, that they did not approximate in the least. What is wonderful, when I was in that heaven and conversing with the angels, then I knew no otherwise than that I spoke in like manner as I speak with men; but afterwards I found that the thoughts and the discourses were so unlike that they could not be approximated, consequently that there is no ratio between them.
 There is a similar difference between the spiritual and the celestial. I was told that there is a similar difference, and that it is such, that there is given no ratio or approximation between them; but as I could not be confirmed in this by my own experience, unless I was altogether an angel of the middle heaven, therefore it has been granted to some angels of the middle heaven to be with angels of the third heaven, and then to think and speak there with them, also to retain in their memory what they had been thinking and speaking, and afterwards to return into their own heaven; and they told me from that heaven that they were not able to express a single idea or a single word of their former state, and that it was impossible, and lastly they said, that there is no ratio nor any approximation between them.
 It has accordingly been sometimes granted me to be among the angels of the middle and of the highest heaven, and to hear them conversing with one another, at which time I was in an interior natural state, removed from worldly and corporeal things, namely, when first waking after sleep; then I heard things unutterable and inexpressible, as we read happened with Paul; and sometimes I was let into the perception and understanding of the subjects they were conversing upon; the subjects they conversed upon were full of arcana concerning the Lord, redemption, regeneration, providence, and other similar things: after which it was given me to understand that I could not utter nor describe them by any spiritual or celestial expression, but that nevertheless they could be described even to their rational comprehension by words of natural language. And it was told me that there is not any Divine arcana which may not be perceived, and even expressed naturally, although more generally and imperfectly; and that they who, in a natural manner, by means of their rational understanding, perceive those things from the affection of truth, afterwards, when they become spirits, can perceive and speak of them in a spiritual manner, and when they become angels, in a celestial manner, but no others. For one Divine truth naturally perceived and loved, is like a crystal or porcelain vessel, which is afterwards filled with wine, and with such wine as the nature of the truth was, and as it were of such a taste as the affection of the truth was.
 That there is such a difference, which may be termed unlimited, between the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial, may clearly appear from the difference between the thoughts of men and angels, as well as from the difference of their speech and operations, and also from the difference of their writings; from all which, as from so many confirmations, it will appear what the quality is of each, and in what manner the perfections in everything ascend and pass from the world into heaven and from heaven to heaven.
 As regards thoughts: all the thoughts of man, together with the single ideas thereof, derive something from space, time, person, and matter, which appear in natural light or the light of the world, for nothing can be thought without light, in like manner as nothing can be seen without light, and natural light or the light of the world is dead, because it is from its sun, which is pure fire; nevertheless the light of heaven everywhere and constantly flows into and vivifies that light, communicating perception and understanding of the subject. The light of the world alone cannot give anything perceptive and intellectual, or present any natural or rational light [lumen]; but the light of the world gives and presents it from the light of heaven, because the light of heaven is from its sun, which is the Lord, and thence life itself. The influx of heavenly light into the light of the world is like the influx of the cause into the effect; the nature of this influx shall be explained elsewhere. From this it appears what the quality of natural thought is, or what quality the ideas of men's thoughts are, namely, that they inseparably cohere with space, time, with what is personal, and material; consequently, such thoughts or ideas of thoughts are very limited and bounded and thus gross, and to be called material. But the thoughts of the angels of the middle heaven are all without space, time, or what is personal, and material, for which reason they are unlimited and unbounded; the objects of their thoughts are spiritual like the thoughts themselves, for which reason they think concerning those objects spiritually and not naturally. But with regard to the angels of the highest heaven, they have no thoughts, but perceptions of the things which they hear and see; instead of thoughts they have affections, which with them are varied in like manner as thoughts are varied with the spiritual angels.
 As regards speech: the speech of men is according to their ideas of thoughts, for the ideas of thought become expressions when they pass into speech; for which reason the speech of man in every expression partakes of space, time, what is personal, and material. But the speech of the angels of the middle heaven is also like the ideas of their thought, for the words of speech express them. But the speech of the angels of the highest heaven is from the variation of their affections; but when they are speaking with the spiritual angels they speak in a similar manner, but not so when conversing with each other. Since such is the speech of angels, and such the speech of men, therefore their speech differs so much that they have nothing in common; their difference is such that a man cannot understand a single expression of an angel, nor an angel a single expression of a man. I have heard the speech of angels, and retained the expressions, and I afterwards examined whether any expression coincided with any word of the speech or languages of men, and there was not one. Spiritual speech is the same with all, and is implanted in every man, and he comes into it as soon as he becomes a spirit. As regards writing, it is similar to their speech. The writing of the spiritual angels as to the letters resembles the writing of men in the world, but every letter signifies a thing, so that you would say if you saw it in a natural state, that it consisted merely of letters; but writings in the highest heaven have no resemblance as to letters, for with them letters are drawn in various curvatures, not unlike the letters of the Hebrew language, but everywhere inflected, and not consisting merely of lines. Every letter involves a thing, of which they have a perception from affection, and not from thought. Hence it is that the natural comprehends nothing of spiritual writing, nor the spiritual of natural writing; neither does the spiritual comprehend anything of celestial writing, nor the celestial of spiritual writing, unless he is with the spiritual.
 Their operations, which are many, are similar, for every one is in some work. How the spiritual work cannot be described to the natural; nor can it be described to the spiritual, how the celestial angels work; for they differ as much as in their thoughts, speech, and writings.
 From these things it is evident, what the difference is between the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial, that it is such that they do not at all agree except by correspondences; which is also the reason that men do not know that they are in consociation with spirits, and spirits that they are in consociation with men, when nevertheless the consociation is continual; for man cannot live a single instant, unless he is in the midst of spirits as to his thoughts and affections; neither can a spirit or an angel live a single moment unless he is with man; the reason is, because there is a perpetual conjunction from firsts to ultimates, thus from the Lord to man; and conjunction from creation is effected by correspondences, and flows in through angels and spirits. Everything celestial flows into the spiritual, and the spiritual into the natural, and terminates and subsists in the ultimate of this, which is the corporeal and material. Without such an ultimate, into which the intermediates flow, there is no subsistence, otherwise than like a house built in the air; wherefore the basis and the foundation of the heavens is the human race.
 No angel knows that there is such a difference between the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial; the reason is, because an angel does not change his state, nor pass from a spiritual into a natural state, and thus be able to explore the differences. I have spoken with them on this subject, and they said they did not know the differences. They believed that they thought, spoke, wrote, and worked in the same manner as in the world. But the difference was shown them by this, that they changed states, and thought first in one state, then in the other by turns, then in like manner that they spoke by turns in one state and then in another, and further that they read their writings in a spiritual state and in a natural state, and in like manner worked, then they found that there is such a difference as cannot be described. On this subject it was granted me to instruct the angels themselves, because it has been granted me to be alternately in both worlds, and from the one to explore the other, and they all afterwards confessed that it was so.
 But the similitude of the natural, spiritual, and celestial states is in such things as are objects of sight, taste, smell, and hearing, also the sense of touch of various kinds. In their sight they appear like men in the world. Their garments so appear, also their houses, and gardens, or paradises, as also fields, likewise land and water, food and drink of various kinds, besides animals of the earth, the flying things of heaven, and fishes in waters, of various kinds and of various species. Their speech is heard as in the world, likewise singing and musical modulations. Taste is similar, and also odor; in a word, everything that appears and is perceived by any of the senses. But still those things are from a spiritual origin, and therefore they think of them spiritually and give them spiritual names. But even all these things, in what manner they appear and are perceived in the middle and highest heaven, as to the excellence of their forms and harmonies, and as to their perfections, which are supereminent and transcendent, can only be described in an imperfect manner, only as it were by the most perfect things in the world, which nevertheless are imperfect, respectively to those things which are in heaven. [DV 3]
And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, signifies the Lord as to the Word, here as to its ultimate sense, which is called the sense of the letter. This is evident from the signification of a "strong angel," as being the Lord as to the Word (of which presently); it means as to the Word in its ultimate sense, which is called the sense of the letter, because it is from that sense that the Lord is called "strong," for all the strength and all the power of Divine truth exist and consist in its ultimate, consequently in the sense of the letter of the Word (of which also presently).
 Because it is the sense of the letter of the Word that is meant, therefore it is said that the angel was seen "coming down out of heaven." The like is said of the Word, which is the Divine truth; this comes down from the Lord through the heavens into the world, consequently it is adapted to the wisdom of the angels who are in the three heavens, and is also adapted to men who are in the natural world. For this reason the Word in its first origin of all is wholly Divine, afterward celestial, then spiritual, and lastly natural; it is celestial for the angels of the inmost or third heaven, who are called celestial angels, it is spiritual for the angels of the second or middle heaven who are called spiritual angels, and it is celestial-natural and spiritual-natural for the angels of the ultimate or first heaven who are called celestial-natural and spiritual-natural angels, and it is natural for men in the world; for so long as men live in a material body they think and speak naturally. This then is why the Word is with the angels of each heaven, but with a difference according to the degrees of their wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge [scientia]; and although it differs in its sense in each heaven, still it is the same Word, because it is the Divine itself, which is in the Word from the Lord that becomes Divine celestial when it comes down to the inmost or third heaven, and becomes Divine spiritual when it comes down therefrom to the middle or second heaven, and becomes Divine celestial-natural or spiritual-natural when it comes down from that heaven to the ultimate or first heaven, and when it comes down therefrom into the world becomes a Divine natural Word, such as it is with us in the letter. These successive derivations of Divine truth proceeding from the Lord Himself exist by virtue of correspondences, established from creation itself, between things higher and lower, respecting which, the Lord willing, more will be said hereafter.
 All strength and all power are in the ultimates of Divine truth, thus in the natural sense of the Word, which is the sense of the letter, because this sense is the containant of all the interior senses, that is, of the spiritual and celestial (spoken of above); and as it is the containant it is also the base, and in the base lies strength itself. For if higher things do not rest upon their base they fall and are scattered. So would it be if the spiritual and celestial things of the Word did not rest upon its natural or literal sense, for this not only sustains the interior senses, but also contains them, consequently the Word or Divine truth is not only in its power, but also in its fullness in this sense. (But on this subject more may be seen above; namely, that strength is in the ultimate, because the Divine is there in its fullness, n. 346, 567. That interior things flow in successively into exteriors, even into the most external or ultimate, and that they coexist there, see Arcana Coelestia, n. 634, 6239, 6465, 9215, 9216; that they not only flow in successively, but also form in their ultimate what is simultaneous, in what order, n. 5897, 6451, 8603, 10099. That therefore there is strength and power in ultimates, n. 9836; that therefore responses and revelations were given in ultimates, n. 9905, 10548; that therefore the ultimate is more holy than the interiors, n. 9824.) From this, too, it follows that everything of doctrine of the church ought to be formed and confirmed from the literal sense of the Word, and that also doctrine has its power from that (see above, n. 356). This is why the "angel coming down out of heaven" is said to be "strong." That "angel" in the Word means in the highest sense the Lord, in a relative sense every recipient of Divine truth from the Lord, and in an abstract sense Divine truth itself, may be seen above (n. 130, 302); here, therefore, "angel" means the Lord as to the Word, because the Word is Divine truth itself. That the Lord Himself is here meant by "angel" can be seen from a like representation of the Lord Himself as to face and feet in the first chapter of this book, where it is said of the Son of man, who is the Lord: That His face shone as the sun in his power, and that His feet were like unto burnished brass glowing in a furnace (verses 15, 16). [AE 593]
Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)