Heaven and Hell/10

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Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg
Chapter X, Therefore Every Angel is in a Complete Human Form

X
Therefore Every Angel is in a Complete Human Form[edit]

73. In the two preceding chapters it has been shown that heaven in its whole complex, and likewise each society in heaven, reflects a single man. From the sequence of reasons there set forth it follows that this is equally true of each angel. As heaven is a man in largest form, and a society of heaven in a less form, so is an angel in least. For in the most perfect form, such as the form of heaven is, there is a likeness of the whole in the part and of the part in the whole. This is so for the reason that heaven is a common sharing, for it shares all it has with each one, and each one receives all he has from that sharing. Because an angel is thus a recipient he is a heaven in least form, as shown above in its chapter; and a man also, so far as he receives heaven, is a recipient, a heaven, and an angel (see above, n. 57). This is thus described in the Apocalypse:

He measured the wall of the holy Jerusalem, a hundred and forty and four cubits, the measure of a man, which is that of an angel (21:17).

"Jerusalem" means here the Lord's church, and in a more eminent sense, heaven;[1] the "wall" means truth, which is a defence against the assault of falsities and evils;[2] "a hundred and forty and four" means all goods and truths in the complex;[3] "measure" means what a thing is,[4] a "man" means one in whom are goods and truths in general and in particular, thus in whom is heaven. And as it is from this that an angel is a man, it is said "the measure of a man, which is that of an angel." This is the spiritual meaning of these words. Without that meaning how could it be seen that "the wall of the Holy Jerusalem" is "the measure of a man, which is that of an angel?"[5]


74. Let us now turn to experience. That angels are human forms, or men, has been seen by me a thousand times. I have talked with them as man with man, sometimes with one, sometimes with many together; and I have seen nothing whatever in their form different from the human form; and have occasionally been surprised to find them such. And that this might not be said to be a delusion or a vision of fancy, I have been permitted to see angels when fully awake or in possession of all my bodily senses, and in a state of clear perception. And I have often told them that men in the Christian world are in such blind ignorance in regard to angels and spirits as to believe them to be minds without form, even pure thoughts, of which they have no idea except as something ethereal in which there is some vitality. And as they thus ascribe to angels nothing human except a thinking faculty, they believe that having no eyes they do not see, having no ears they do not hear, and having no mouth or tongue they do not speak.

[2] To this the angels replied that they are aware that such a belief is held by many in the world, and is prevalent among the learned, and to their surprise, even among the clergy. The reason, they said, is that the learned, who were the leaders and who first concocted such an idea of angels and spirits, conceived of them from the sense-conceptions of the external man; and those who think from these, and not from interior light and from the general idea implanted in everyone, must needs fabricate such notions, since the sense-conceptions of the external man take in only what belongs to nature, and nothing above nature, thus nothing whatever of the spiritual world.[6] From these leaders as guides this falsity of thought about angels extended to others who did not think from themselves but adopted the thoughts of their leaders; and those who first take their thoughts from others and make that thought their belief, and then view it with their own understanding, cannot easily recede from it, and are therefore in most cases satisfied with confirming it.

[3] The angels said, furthermore, that the simple in faith and heart have no such idea about angels, but think of them as the men of heaven, and for the reason that they have not extinguished by learning what is implanted in them from heaven, and have no conception of anything apart from form. This is why angels in churches, whether sculptured or painted, are always depicted as men. In respect to this insight from heaven they said that it is the Divine flowing into such as are in the good of faith and life.


75. From all my experience, which is now of many years, I am able to say and affirm that angels are wholly men in form, having faces, eyes, ears, bodies, arms, hands, and feet; that they see and hear one another, and talk together, and in a word lack nothing whatever that belongs to men except that they are not clothed in material bodies. I have seen them in their own light, which exceeds by many degrees the noonday light of the world, and in that light all their features could be seen more distinctly and clearly than the faces of men are seen on the earth. It has also been granted me to see an angel of the inmost heaven. He had a more radiant and resplendent face than the angels of the lower heavens. I observed him attentively, and he had a human form in all completeness.


76. But it must be remembered that a man cannot see angels with his bodily eyes, but only with the eyes of the spirit within him,[7] because his spirit is in the spiritual world, and all things of the body are in the natural world. Like sees like from being like. Moreover, as the bodily organ of sight, which is the eye, is too gross, as everyone knows, to see even the smaller things of nature except through magnifying glasses, still less can it see what is above the sphere of nature, as all things in the spiritual world are. Nevertheless these things can be seen by man when he has been withdrawn from the sight of the body, and the sight of his spirit has been opened; and this can be effected instantly whenever it is the pleasure of the Lord that man should see these things; and in that case man does not know but what he is seeing them with his bodily eyes. Thus were angels seen by Abraham, Lot, Manoah, and the prophets; and thus, too, the Lord was seen by the disciples after the resurrection; and in the same way angels have been seen by me. Because the prophets saw in this way they were called "seers," and were said "to have their eyes opened" (1 Sam. 9:8; Num. 24:3); and enabling them to see thus was called "opening their eyes," as with Elisha's servant, of whom we read:

Elisha prayed and said, Jehovah, I pray Thee open his eyes that he may see; and Jehovah opened the eyes of the young man and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

77. Good spirits, with whom I have spoken about this matter, have been deeply grieved at such ignorance in the church about the condition of heaven and of spirits and angels; and in their displeasure they charged me to declare positively that they are not formless minds nor ethereal breaths, but are men in very form, and see, hear, and feel equally with those who are in this world.[8]


  1. "Jerusalem" means the church (n. 402, 3654, 9166).
  2. The "wall" means truth defending against the assault of falsities and evils (n. 6419).
  3. "Twelve" means all truths and goods in the complex (n. 577, 2089, 2129, 2130, 3272, 3858, 3913). Likewise "seventy-two," and "a hundred and forty-four," since this comes from twelve multiplied into itself (n. 7973). All numbers in the Word signify things (n. 482, 487, 647, 648, 755, 813, 1963, 1988, 2075, 2252, 3252, 4264, 4495, 5265). Multiplied numbers have a like signification as the simple numbers from which they arise by multiplication (n. 5291, 5335, 5708, 7973).
  4. "Measure" in the Word signifies the quality of a thing in respect to truth and good (n. 3104, 9603).
  5. In regard to the spiritual or internal sense of the Word see the explanation of The White Horse in the Apocalypse, and the Appendix to The Heavenly Doctrine.
  6. Unless man is raised above the sense-conceptions of the external man he has very little wisdom (n. 5089). The wise man thinks above these sense-conceptions (n. 5089, 5094). When man is raised above these, he comes into clearer light, and finally into heavenly light (n. 6183, 6313, 6315, 9407, 9730, 9922). Elevation and withdrawal from these was known to the ancients (n. 6313).
  7. In respect to his interiors man is a spirit (n. 1594). And that spirit is the man himself, and it is from that spirit that the body lived (n. 447, 4622, 6054).
  8. Inasmuch as each angel is a recipient of Divine order from the Lord, he is in a human form, perfect and beautiful in the measure of his reception (n. 322, 1880, 1881, 3633, 3804, 4622, 4735, 4797, 4985, 5199, 5530, 6054, 9879, 10177, 10594). It is by means of Divine truth that order exists; and Divine good is the essential of order (n. 2451, 3166, 4390, 4409, 5232, 7256, 10122, 10555).