Heaven and Hell/22

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Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg
Chapter XXII, Space in Heaven


XXII
Space in Heaven[edit]

191. All things in heaven appear, just as in the world, to be in place and in space, and yet the angels have no notion or idea of place and space. As this must needs sounds like a paradox, I will endeavor to present the matter in a clear light, as it is of great importance.


192. All changes of place in the spiritual world are effected by changes of state of the interiors, which means that change of place is nothing else than change of state.[1] In this way I have been taken by the Lord into the heavens and also to the earths in the universe; and it was my spirit that so journeyed, while my body remained in the same place.[2] Such are all movements of the angels; and in consequence they have no distances, and having no distances they have no spaces, but in place of spaces they have states and their changes.


193. As changes of place are thus effected it is evident that approaches are likenesses of state of the interiors, and separations are unlikenesses; and for this reason those are near each other who are in like states, and those are at a distance who are in unlike states; and spaces in heaven are simply the external conditions corresponding to the internal states. For the same reason the heavens are distinct from each other, also the societies of each heaven and the individuals in each society; and this is why also that the hells are entirely separated from the heavens, because they are in a contrary state.


194. For the same reason, again, any one in the spiritual world who intensely desires the presence of another comes into his presence, for he thereby sees him in thought, and puts himself in his state; and conversely, one is separated from another so far as he is averse to him. And since all aversion comes from contrariety of affection and from disagreement of thought, whenever in that world several are together in one place they are visible [to one another] so long as they agree, but vanish as soon as they disagree.


195. Again, when any one goes from one place to another, whether it be in his own city, or in courts or in gardens, or to others out of his own society, he arrives more quickly when he eagerly desires it, and less quickly when he does not, the way itself being lengthened and shortened in accordance with the desire, although it remains the same. This I have often seen to my surprise. All this again makes clear how distances, and consequently spaces, are wholly in accord with states of the interiors of the angels;[3] and this being so, no notion or idea of space can enter their thought, although there are spaces with them equally as in the world.


196. This can be illustrated by the thoughts of man, in that space does not pertain to thought, for whatever is thought of intently is set before one as present. Again, whoever reflects about it knows that his sight recognizes space only by intermediate objects on the earth that are seen at the same time, or by recalling what he already knows about the distance. This happens because of the continuity; and in what is continuous there is no appearance of distance except from things not continuous. This is even more true of the angels, because their sight acts as one with their thought, and their thought acts as one with their affection, and things appear near or remote, and also varied, in accordance with the states of their interiors, as has been said above.


197. It follows from this that in the Word places and spaces, and all things that in any way relate to space, signify such things as relate to states, such as distances, near, far off, ways, journeys, sojourning, miles and furlongs, plains, fields, gardens, cities and streets, motions, measures of various kinds, long, broad, high, and deep, and innumerable other things; for most things in man's thought from the world take on something from space and time.

[2] I will mention here only what is signified in the Word by length, breadth, and height. In this world, that is called long or broad which is long or broad in relation to space, and the same is true of height. But in heaven, where there is no thought from space, length means a state of good, breadth a state of truth, and height the distinction between them in accordance with degrees (see n. 38). Such is the meaning of these three dimensions, because length in heaven is from east to west, and those that dwell there are in good of love; while breadth in heaven is from south to north, and those that dwell there are in truth from good (see n. 148); while height in heaven applies to both of these in respect to degrees. This is why length, breadth, and height have these significations in the Word, as in Ezekiel (from chap. 40 to 48), where the new temple and the new earth, with the courts, chambers, gates, doors, windows, and surroundings are described by measures giving the length, breadth, and height, by which a new church, and the goods and truths that are in it are signified. Otherwise to what purpose would be all those measures?

[3] In like manner the New Jerusalem is described in the Apocalypse in these words:

The city lieth foursquare, and the length thereof is as great as the breadth; and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs; the length, the breadth, and the height are equal (21:16).

Because "the New Jerusalem" here signifies a new church these measures signify the things of the church, "length" its good of love, "breadth" truth from that good, "height" good and truth in respect to degrees, "twelve thousand furlongs" all good and truth in the complex. Otherwise, how could there be said to be a height of twelve thousand furlongs, the same as the length and the breadth? That "breadth" in the Word signifies truth is evident from David:-

Jehovah, Thou hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy, Thou hast made my feet to stand in a broad place (Psalm 31:8).

Out of straitness I called upon Jah; He answereth me in a broad place (Psalm 118:5). Besides other passages (as in Isaiah 8:8; and in Habakkuk 1:6). So in all other cases.

198. From all this it can be seen that although there are spaces in heaven as in the world, still nothing there is reckoned in accordance with spaces but in accordance with states; and in consequence spaces there cannot be measured as in the world, but can be seen only from the state and in accordance with the state of the interiors there.[4]


199. The primary and veriest cause of this is that the Lord is present with everyone in the measure of his love and faith,[5] and that it is in accordance with the Lord's presence that all things appear near or far away, for it is from this that all things in the heavens are determined. Also it is through this that angels have wisdom, for it is through this that they have extension of thought and through this a sharing of all things in the heavens; in a word, it is through this that they think spiritually, and not naturally like men.


  1. In the Word places and spaces signify states (n. 2625, 2837, 3356, 3387, 7381, 10580); from experience (n. 1274, 1277, 1376-1381, 4321, 4882, 10146, 10580). Distance signifies difference of state of life (n. 9104, 9967). In the spiritual world movements and changes of place are changes of the state of life, because they originate in these (n. 1273-1275, 1377, 3356, 9440). The same is true of journeyings (n. 9440, 10734); illustrated by experience (n. 1273-1277, 5605). For this reason "to journey" signifies in the Word to live and progress in life; and "to sojourn has a like meaning (n. 3335, 4554, 4585, 4882, 5493, 5605, 5996, 8345, 8397, 8417, 8420, 8557). To go with the Lord means to live with Him (n. 10567).
  2. Man may be led a long distance in respect to his spirit by means of changes of state, while his body remains in its place, also from experience (n. 9440, 9967, 10734). What it is to be "led by the spirit to another place" (n. 1884).
  3. Places and spaces are presented to the sight in accordance with the states of the interiors of angels and spirits (n. 5605, 9440, 10146).
  4. In the Word length signifies good (n. 1613, 9487). "Breadth" signifies truth (n. 1613, 3433, 3434, 4482, 9487, 10179). Height signifies good and truth in respect to their degrees (n. 9489, 9773, 10181).
  5. The conjunction and presence of the Lord with the angels is according to their reception of love and charity from Him (n. 290, 681, 1954, 2658, 2886, 2888, 2889, 3001, 3741-3743, 4318 4319, 4524, 7211, 9128).