Omni3_600_600 God is omniscient, that is, He perceives, sees, and knows each thing and all things, even to the most minute, that take place according to order, and from these the things   also that take place contrary to order. God is omniscient, that is, perceives, sees, and knows all things, because He is wisdom itself and light itself; and wisdom itself perceives all things, and light itself sees all things. That God is wisdom itself has been shown above; He is light itself because He is the sun of the angelic heaven, which enlightens the understandings of all, both angels and men. For just as the eye is illuminated by the light of the natural sun, so is the understanding illuminated by the light of the spiritual sun; nor is it illuminated merely, it is filled with intelligence in accordance with the love of receiving that light, for that light in its essence is wisdom. Therefore it is said in David:

That God dwells in the light inaccessible (Ps. 104:2); comp. (1 Tim. 6:16); and in the Apocalypse:

That in the New Jerusalem they need no candle, for the Lord God giveth them light (Apoc. 22:5);

and in John:

That the Word, which was with God and was God, is the light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:1, 9);

the “Word” meaning the Divine wisdom. For this reason, so far as the angels are in wisdom they are in clearness of light, and for the same reason, whenever light is mentioned in the Word it means wisdom. [TCR 59]

God perceives, sees, and knows all things, even to the most minute, that take place according to order, because order, from being in the smallest particulars, is universal, for these smallest particulars taken together are called the universal, as the particulars taken together are called the general. The universal, including its smallest particulars, is a work coherent as a unit, to the extent that no one part can be touched and affected without some sense of it overflowing to all the rest. Such being the nature of the order of the universe there is a likeness of it in all created things in the world. But this shall be illustrated by comparisons taken from things visible. In man as a whole there are generals and particulars, the generals including the particulars, with all harmoniously arranged in such connection that each belongs to the other. This is effected by means of a common covering surrounding every member of the body, and insinuating itself into every particular therein, so that they act as one in every function and use. For example, the covering of each muscle enters into the particular motor fibers and clothes them from itself. So the coverings of the liver, the pancreas, and the spleen enter into the interior parts of these organs; and the covering of the lungs, which is called the pleura, enters into their interiors; in like manner the pericardium enters into each and all parts of the heart; and in general the peritoneum enters all parts by anastomoses with the coverings of all the viscera. So again, the meninges of the brain, by threads drawn from them, enter into all the underlying glands, and through these into all the fibers, and through these again into all parts of the body. And it is in this way that the head by means of the brain rules each and all things subject to it. These facts are cited simply that by means of visible things some idea may be formed of how God perceives, sees, and knows all things, even to the most minute, which take place according to order. [TCR 60]

That from the things that are according to order God perceives, knows, and sees each and all things even to the most minute that take place contrary to order, is because He does not keep man in evil, but withholds him from evil; thus He does not lead him on, but strives with him. From this perpetual striving, struggling, resistance, repugnance, and reaction of evil and falsity against His good and truth, thus against Himself, God perceives both their quantity and their quality. This follows from God’s omnipresence in all things and in each thing of His order, and also from His perfect knowledge of each thing and all things of it, comparatively as one with an ear for harmony and consonance notices accurately what is inharmonious and dissonant, when it comes in, also the extent and character of the discord; or as one whose feelings are occupied with what is delightful detects the intrusion of what is undelightful; or as one whose eye is occupied with what is beautiful notices it with more precision when anything unshapely is beside it; for which reason it is customary for painters to place an ugly face beside a beautiful one. It is the same with good and truth when evil and falsity are striving against them; since from good and truth evil and falsity are distinctly perceived. For everyone who is in good can perceive evil; and he who is in truth can see falsity. And the reason is that good is in the heat of heaven, and truth is in its light; while evil is in the cold of hell, and falsity in its darkness. This may be illustrated by the fact that the angels of heaven can see whatever is done in hell, and what kind of monsters exist there; while, on the other hand, the spirits of hell can see nothing whatever that is going on in heaven; they can no more see the angels than if they were blind, or were gazing into the empty air or ether. Those whose understandings are in light from wisdom are like men who at mid-day are standing upon a mountain and seeing clearly all that is below; while those who are in still superior light are comparatively like men who see, through telescopes, outlying and lower objects as if they were near at hand. But those who are in the false light of hell, through the confirmation of falsities, are like men standing upon the same mountain at night with lanterns in their hands, who see only the objects nearest to them, and these with forms indistinct and colors confused. A man who is in some light of truth, although in evil of life, while he finds delight in his love of evil, sees truths at first much as a bat sees linen hanging in a garden, to which it flies as to a place of refuge. Afterwards he becomes like a bird of night, and at length like a screech-owl. Then he becomes like a chimney-sweep sticking fast in the gloom of a chimney, and seeing, when he looks upward, the sky through smoke, and when downward the hearth from which the smoke comes. [TCR 61]

It must be remembered that the perception of opposites is different from the perception of relatives; for opposites are things without, and are opposed to things within. An opposite has its beginning where one thing wholly ceases to be anything, and another then arises with an effort to act against the former, as when a wheel acts against another wheel, or a current against another current. But relatives pertain to the arrangement of many and various parts in an order that is concordant and harmonious, like precious stones of various colors in the stomacher of a queen, or like flowers of different colors arranged in a garland to give pleasure to the sight. Therefore in both of these opposites there are relatives, that is, in what is good as well as in what is evil, in what is true as well as in what is false, thus both in heaven and in hell, all the relatives in hell being the opposites of the relatives in heaven. Since, then, from the order in which He is, God perceives and sees and is cognizant of all things relative in heaven, and thereby perceives, sees, and is cognizant of all the opposite relatives in hell (as follows from what has been said), it is clear that God is omniscient in hell as well as in heaven, and in like manner with men in the world; thus that He perceives, sees, and is cognizant of their evils and falsities from the good and truth in which He Himself is, and which in their essence are Himself; for we read:

If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there (Ps. 139:8);

and again:

Though they dig into hell, thence shall Mine hand take them (Amos 9:2). [TCR 62]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

PHOTO: NASA, ESA, T. Megeath (University of Toledo) and M. Robberto (STScI)

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