QUARTERS >> Directions of Ruling Love >> Facing the Lord
EAST >> Before the Face, WEST >> Behind the Face,
SOUTH >> To the Right, NORTH >> To the Left

quar1ters The four quarters, north, south, east, and west, are often mentioned in the Bible, and sometimes in a way to show that they have an important spiritual meaning. Notice, for example, the importance given to the quarters in the arrangement of the tabernacle, in the order of march and encampment of the Israelites, in descriptions of the land of Canaan, and in the description of the holy city. (AC 3708) With many ancient people the quarters were regarded as significant in religious ceremonies. The east was believed to be the most sacred, and they turned to that quarter in worship. A relic of this ancient practice still remains in the custom of building churches so that the worshippers shall face the east. (DLW 123; AC 9642)

The association of spiritual qualities with the quarters, like the knowledge of the significance of all natural things, dates from the days when men had frequent communication with angels and learned in heaven the relation of all outward things to states of human life. In heaven all the angels' desires and thoughts turn towards the Lord; they keep Him and His will in view in all they do. And as all outward things about the angels. are an expression of what is within them, as they look up they see the Lord before their eyes, clothed with the glory of the sun of heaven. He appears before them at a middle altitude, and where He is seen, is the angels' east. Men also turn their thoughts and affections towards the Lord in worship, and it was delightful to the wise ancients at the same time to turn their faces to the east where the rising sun was a reminder to them of the Lord ever present before the angels. (HH 141-153; DLW 119-123; AE 422; AC 3708) The east in heaven is where the Lord appears as the heavenly sun before the angels; the west is therefore at their back, the south at their right, and the north at their left. They also associate with each quarter certain states and qualities; for persons of certain character have their homes in each quarter, according to their relation to the Lord. In the east are those who are nearest to the Lord and most open to receive His love; among them are the angels who take care of little children in heaven. In the west are those more remote from the Lord, who receive His love in more external ways. In the south are those who are in clear light of intelligence. In the north are those who receive the light of intelligence more obscurely. (HH 148-150, 332; AE 417, 422; AR 901; CL 3, 132)

We in this world speak of the different quarters, meaning not simply the points of compass, but the people who live in those quarters, with their peculiar traits of character. We say "the East," meaning Asia and its peoples. In the United States we speak of the South and the North, of the East and the West, with little thought of direction, but rather of people and states of human thought and feeling. This helps us to understand how the quarters mean to angels the qualities of those who dwell in the several quarters of heaven. The ancients, also, knew this heavenly meaning of the quarters. We must learn to understand them so when we read in the Bible of east and west and north and south. East will suggest nearness to the Lord, and interior heavenly affections. West will suggest remoteness from the Lord, and more external good affections; or even sometimes evil affections. South means the clear light of intelligence, and north, obscure light. (DLW 121; AE 422; AC 37o8)

We can now see a deeper meaning in passages like these: "I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back." (Isa. xliii. 5, 6) "And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." (Luke xiii. 29; Matt. Viii. 11) The verses tell us that the Lord receives into His church and into heaven not those only who have much of heavenly affection and intelligence, but also those who have little good affection and whose intelligence is obscure. The words show also the Lord's care to preserve for the eternal life all that there is in any soul of heavenly affection and intelligence, even the least. (AE 724, 239, 422; AC 3708; HH 324) The holy city shown to John had "on the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates." (Rev. xxi. 13) This also shows that the Lord's church and heaven are open to good affection and intelligence of every kind and degree. (AR 901, 906; AE 1310)

Other passages emphasize even more the mercy of the Lord in leading to His kingdom those in states of obscure understanding and feeble affection. "Behold, these shall come from far: and lo, these from the north and from the west." (Isa. xlix. 12; AC 3708; AE 1133; PP) So also the Psalm which begins, "O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south." (Ps. cvii. 1-3; AC 3708; AE 422)

"The LORD said unto Abram, . . . Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever." (Gen. xiii. 14, 15) And to Jacob in his vision the Lord said, "Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Gen. xxviii. 14) These promises are not for the Jews as a family or nation, but for the Lord's church. They tell of the infinite varieties of good affection and of intelligence which the Lord has brought within the reach of men. They assure us that men will receive them from Him, and find blessedness in them. (AC 1605, 3708; AE 340)

If we remember now the instructions given to the Israelites for their marching and their camping, and for the building of the tabernacle and the placing of its furniture, we see new meaning in the arrangement of all things according to the quarters. Notice especially that the tabernacle opened towards the east; reminding us that angels look to the Lord in that quarter, and that innocent affection, the quality associated with the east, is what keeps heaven or any single heart open to the Lord. (AC 101, 3708, 9668) In Ezekiel's vision of the temple we read: "Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. . . . And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east." (Ezek. xliii. 1-4) How beautifully this tells of the entrance of the Lord into the hearts of men and angels, as they draw near to Him in affection for all that is innocent and good! (AC 101; AE 179, 422)

In the Revelation we read: "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice, . . . Hurt not, . . . till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." (Rev. vii. 2, 3) And as we read on in the chapter we find that the sealing means the bringing out of heavenly character and separation from the evil. The angel ascending from the east and crying with a loud voice, represents the Lord's Divine love protecting, and saving all who are willing to be saved. (AE 422; AR 344) "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. xxiv. 27) Enlightenment of the understanding is promised. It comes from the Lord and His Divine love, whose presence is the angels' east; and it is received by those who love what is good, according to the quality and degree of their affection. (AC 9807; AE 422)

Remembering that the east in heaven is the quarter of childlike innocence and of openness to the Lord's Divine love, what beauty there is in this simple statement about the first church on earth! "The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed." (Gen. ii. 8) What does it tell us of the character of those early people? And remember that a garden of fruitful and lovely trees represents intelligence of all heavenly kinds, developing under the Lord's loving care. (AC 98-101; AE 739)

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matt. ii. r, 2) Wise men from the east, mean spiritually those whose love for goodness keeps their minds open to heavenly truths. The wise men who came to worship the Lord were remnants of an early race whose innocence was the means of preserving to them some heavenly wisdom. They retained, chief of all, the knowledge that the Lord should come, which was especially represented by the guiding star. The wise men from the east represent all innocent souls who suffer their knowledge of Divine and heavenly things to lead them to the Lord. (AC 3762; AE 422) What does the statement mean, that "Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt "? (1 Kings iv. 30) It means that heavenly wisdom excels all external knowledge, which is meant by Egypt, and all the interior perceptions of an innocent heart, to which men attain, which are meant by the children of the east country. (AC 3762; AE 654; Chapter 38)

Abram came "unto a mountain on the east of Bethel. . . . And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south." (Gen. xii. 8, 9) This seems a trifling incident to be a part of the Lord's Word, but it becomes important when we know that Abram's story tells, as in a parable, the history of a regenerating life in its beginning, and in the highest sense of the Lord's own inner life as a child. This camp upon the mountain eastward, tells of a state of interior openness to the Divine love. The journeying on toward the south, tells of progress into states of intelligence. (AC 1449-1458) We are taught that as children grow to the age of knowledge and understanding, they are withdrawn from the influence of the loving angels of the east in which they were in infancy, and come under the influence of wise angels of the southern quarter. (TCR 476; HH 295)

In a beautiful Psalm of forgiveness we read, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Ps. ciii. 12) The words contrast the Lord's infinitely tender love with our state so remote from Him; and they teach us that transgressions are removed in proportion as we do right and receive the love for goodness, from the Lord. (PP)



qua1rtersw  Both in heaven and in the world there are four quarters, east, south, west, and north, determined in each world by its own sun; in heaven by the sun of heaven, which is  the Lord, in the world by the sun of the world. And yet there are great differences between them. In the first place, in the world that is called the south where the sun is in its greatest altitude above the earth, north where it is in its opposite position beneath the earth, east where it rises at an equinox, and west where it then sets. Thus in the world it is from the south that all the quarters are determined. But in heaven that is called the east where the Lord is seen as a sun, opposite to this is the west, at the right is the south in heaven, and at the left the north; and this in whatever direction the face and the body are turned. Thus in heaven it is from the east that all the quarters are determined. That is called the east [oriens] where the Lord is seen as a sun, because all origin [origo] of life is from Him as a sun; moreover, so far as angels receive heat and light or love and intelligence from the Lord He is said to arise [exoriri] upon them. For the same reason the Lord is called the East [Oriens] in the Word.{1} [HH141]  

Another difference is that to the angels the east is always before the face, the west behind, the south to the right, and the north to the left. But since this cannot be easily comprehended in the world, for the reason that men turn the face to every quarter, it shall be explained. The entire heaven turns itself to the Lord as to its common center; to that center do all the angels turn themselves. Also on the earth, as is well known, there is a directing of all things towards a common center; but there is this difference between this directing in the world and that in heaven, that in heaven the front parts are turned to the common center, but in the world the lower parts of the body. In the world this directing is called centripetal force, also gravitation. The interiors of angels are actually turned forwards; and since interiors manifest themselves in the face it is the face that determines the quarters.{1}  [HH142 ]

It is still more difficult to comprehend in the world that in every turning of their face and body the angels have the east before the face, since man according as he turns, has every quarter before his face. This shall also be explained. Although angels, like men, turn and direct their faces and bodies in every direction, they nevertheless have the east always before their eyes. But the turnings of angels are unlike the turnings of men, because they are from a different origin. They appear alike, but they are not. The origin of these turnings is their ruling love, and from this all directions with angels and spirits are determined, for, as just said, their interiors are actually turned towards their common center, which in heaven is the Lord as a sun; consequently their ruling love is always before their face, because their love is always before their interiors, and the face has existence from the interiors, for it is their outward form; and in the heavens this love is the Lord as a sun because it is from Him that they have their love.{1} And as the Lord Himself is in angels in His love, it is the Lord who causes them to look to Him whithersoever they turn. This cannot be explained any farther now; but it will be made clearer to the understanding in subsequent chapters, especially where representations and appearances, and time and space in heaven, are treated of. That the angels have the Lord constantly before their faces it has been granted me to know and also to perceive from much experience; for whenever I have been in company with angels I have noticed the Lord’s presence before my face, not actually seen, and yet perceptible in a light; and angels have often testified that this is so. As the Lord is constantly before the faces of the angels, so it is said in the world of those who believe in the Lord and love Him that they have God before their eyes and their face, and that they look to God, and see God. These expressions have their origin in the spiritual world, from which are many things in human speech, although their source is unknown to men. [HH143]

This turning to the Lord is among the wonderful things in heaven. There may be many together in one place, some turning the face and body one way and some another, and yet all see the Lord before them, and have everyone has the south at his right, the north at his left, and the west behind him. Another wonderful thing is that, although the angels look only to the east they have also a look towards the other three quarters; but the look to these is from their interior sight, which pertains to their thought. And it is yet another wonderful thing that in heaven no one is ever permitted to stand behind another and look at the back of his head, for this would disturb the influx of good and truth from the Lord. [HH144] 

The Lord is seen by the angels, and the angels are seen by the Lord in another way. Angels see the Lord through their eyes; but the Lord sees the angels in the forehead, and this for the reason that the forehead corresponds to love, and it is through love that the Lord flows into their will, while it is through the understanding, to which the eyes correspond, that He causes Himself to be seen.{1} [HH145]

The quarters in the heavens that give form to the Lord’s celestial kingdom differ from the quarters in the heavens that give form to His spiritual kingdom, for the reason that He is seen by the angels in His celestial kingdom as a sun, but by the angels in His spiritual kingdom as a moon; and where the Lord is seen is the east.  The distance there between the position of the sun and that of the moon is thirty degrees, and there is a like difference in the position of the quarters. That heaven is divided into two kingdoms, called the celestial kingdom and the spiritual kingdom, may be seen in its own chapter (n. 20-28); and that the Lord is seen in the celestial kingdom as a sun, and in the spiritual kingdom as a moon (n. 118). But it does not follow that the quarters of heaven become confused on this account, for neither can the spiritual angels ascend among the celestial angels, nor the celestial descend among the spiritual, as may be seen above (n. 35). [HH146]

This makes clear the nature of the Lord’s presence in the heavens, that He is every where and with everyone in the good and truth that go forth from Him; consequently He is with angels in what is His own, as has been said above (n. 12). The perception of the Lord’s presence is in their interiors; and it is from these that their eyes see, and it is by this continuity that they see the Lord outside of themselves. This shows what is meant by the Lord’s being in them and they in Him, according to His own words:  

Abide in Me and I in you (John 15:4).  

He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me and I in him (John 6:56).  

“The Lord’s flesh” signifies Divine good and “His blood” Divine truth.{1} [HH147]   

All in the heavens have their own places of abode in accordance with the quarters. Those who are in the good of love dwell towards the east and west, those who are in clear perception of it towards the east, and those who are in obscure perception of it towards the west. Those who are in wisdom from the good of love dwell towards the south and north-those who are in the clear light of wisdom towards the south, and those who are in obscure light of it towards the north. The angels of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom and those of His celestial kingdom dwell in a like order, but differently as their good of love and light of truth from good differ; for in the celestial kingdom the love is love to the Lord, and the light of truth therefrom is wisdom; while in the spiritual kingdom there is love towards the neighbor, which is called charity, and the light of truth therefrom is intelligence, which is also called faith (see above, n. 23). The quarters differ also in the two kingdoms by thirty degrees, as has been said just above (n. 146). [HH148]

In like order the angels in each society in heaven dwell in relation to one another-towards the east there those who are in greater degree of love and charity, towards the west those who are in less degree; towards the south those who are in greater light of wisdom and intelligence, and towards the north those who are in less.  This arrangement prevails because each society represents heaven, and is a heaven in a smaller form (see above, n. 51-58). The same arrangement prevails in their assemblies. They are brought into this order by virtue of the form of heaven, from which everyone knows his own place. The Lord also provides that there be in each society those of every kind, for the reason that in form heaven is every where like itself; and yet the arrangement of the whole heaven differs from the arrangement of a society as what is general from its parts, since the societies towards the east surpass those towards the west, and those towards the south surpass those towards the north. [HH149] 

Because of this the quarters in the heavens signify such things as pertain to those that dwell in them,--the east signifying love and its good clearly perceived, the west the same obscurely perceived, the south wisdom and intelligence in clear light, and the north the same in obscure light. And because of this signification of the quarters in heaven they have a like signification in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word,{1} since the internal or spiritual sense of the Word is in entire accord with what is in heaven. [HH150]

The reverse is true of those in the hells. Those who are there do not look to the Lord as a sun nor as a moon; but they look backward away from the Lord to that dense darkness that is in the place of the sun of the world, and to the darkness that is in the place of the earth’s moon. Those that are called genii look to that dense darkness that is in the place of the world’s sun, and those called spirits look to the darkness that is in the place of the earth’s moon.{1} It has been shown above (n. 122) that the world’s sun and the earth’s moon are not seen in the spiritual world, but in place of that sun a dense darkness over against the sun of heaven, and in place of that moon a darkness over against the moon of heaven.  For this reason the quarters with those in the hells are opposite to the quarters of heaven. The east to them is where that dense darkness and darkness are, the west is where the sun of heaven is, the south is to their right, and the north to their left, and this also in every turning of their bodies. Nor can they face otherwise, because the whole bent and consequent determination of their interiors tends and strives that way. It has been shown above (n. 143) that the bent and consequent actual determination of the interiors of all in the other life are in harmony with their love. The love of those in the hells is the love of self and the world, and these loves are what are signified by the world’s sun and the earth’s moon (see n. 122); and these loves are opposite to love to the Lord and love towards the neighbor;{2} and this is the cause of their turning themselves backwards away from the Lord to this dense darkness. Moreover, those in the hells dwell likewise in accordance with their quarters, those who are in evil from love of self dwelling from their east to their west, and those who are in the falsities of evil from their south to their north. But more will be said about this below, where the hells are treated of. [HH151]  

When an evil spirit comes among good spirits the quarters are usually so confused that the good scarcely know where their east is.  This I have sometimes seen take place, and have also heard about it from spirits who complained of it. [HH152] 

Evil spirits are sometimes seen turned towards the quarters of heaven; and they then have intelligence and perception of truth, but no affection for good; but as soon as they turn back to their own quarters they have no intelligence or perception of truth; and then they declare that the truths they heard and perceived are falsities and not truths, and they wish falsities to be truths. In respect to this turning I have been told that with the evil the intellectual part of the mind can be so turned, but not the voluntary part; and that this is provided by the Lord to the end that everyone may have the ability to see and acknowledge truths, but that no one can receive truths unless he is in good, since it is good, and never evil, that receives them; also that man has a like ability to the end that he may be made better by means of truths. Nevertheless, he is made better only so far as he is in good; consequently a man can in like manner be turned to the Lord; but if his life is evil he immediately turns himself back and confirms in himself the falsities of his evil, which are contrary to the truths he had understood and seen; and this takes place when he thinks in himself from his interior states. [HH153]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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