Heaven and Hell/37

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Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg
Chapter XXXVII, Little Children in Heaven

XXXVII
Little Children in Heaven[edit]

329. It is a belief of some that only such children as are born within the church go to heaven, and that those born out of the church do not, and for the reason that the children within the church are baptized and by baptism are initiated into faith of the church. Such are not aware that no one receives heaven or faith through baptism; for baptism is merely for a sign and memorial that man should be regenerated, and that those born within the church can be regenerated because the Word is there, and in the Word are the Divine truths by means of which regeneration is effected, and there the Lord who regenerates is known.[1] Let them know therefore that every child, wherever he is born, whether within the church or outside of it, whether of pious parents or impious, is received when he dies by the Lord and trained up in heaven, and taught in accordance with Divine order, and imbued with affections for what is good, and through these with knowledges of what is true; and afterwards as he is perfected in intelligence and wisdom is introduced into heaven and becomes an angel. Everyone who thinks from reason can be sure that all are born for heaven and no one for hell, and if man comes into hell he himself is culpable; but little children cannot be held culpable.


330. When children die they are still children in the other life, having a like infantile mind, a like innocence in ignorance, and a like tenderness in all things. They are merely in the rudiments of a capacity to become angels, for children are not angels but become angels. For everyone passing out of this world enters the other in the same state of life, a little child in the state of a little child, a boy in the state of a boy, a youth, a man, an old man, in the state of a youth, a man, or an old man; but subsequently each one's state is changed. The state of little children surpasses the state of all others in that they are in innocence, and evil has not yet been rooted in them by actual life; and in innocence all things of heaven can be implanted, for it is a receptacle of the truth of faith and of the good of love.


331. The state of children in the other life far surpasses their state in the world, for they are not clothed with an earthly body, but with such a body as the angels have. The earthly body is in itself gross, and receives its first sensations and first motions not from the inner or spiritual world, but from the outer or natural world; and in consequence in this world children must be taught to walk, to guide their motions, and to speak; and even their senses, as seeing and hearing, must be opened by use. It is not so with children in the other life. As they are spirits they act at once in accordance with their interiors, walking without practice, and also talking, but at first from general affections not yet distinguished into ideas of thought; but they are quickly initiated into these also, for the reason that their exteriors are homogeneous with their interiors. The speech of angels (as may be seen above, n, 234-245) so flows forth from affection modified by ideas of thought that their speech completely conforms to their thoughts from affection.


332. As soon as little children are resuscitated, which takes place immediately after death, they are taken into heaven and confided to angel women who in the life of the body tenderly loved little children and at the same time loved God. Because these during their life in the world loved all children with a kind of motherly tenderness, they receive them as their own; while the children, from an implanted instinct, love them as their own mothers. There are as many children in each one's care as she desires from a spiritual parental affection. This heaven appears in front before the forehead, directly in the line or radius in which the angels look to the Lord. It is so situated because all little children are under the immediate auspices of the Lord; and the heaven of innocence, which is the third heaven, flows into them.


333. Little children have various dispositions, some that of the spiritual angels and some that of the celestial angels. Those who are of a celestial disposition are seen in that heaven to the right, and those of a spiritual disposition to the left. All children in the Greatest Man, which is heaven, are in the province of the eyes-those of a spiritual disposition in the province of the left eye, and those of a celestial disposition in the province of the right eye. This is because the angels who are in the spiritual kingdom see the Lord before the left eye, and those who are in the celestial kingdom before the right eye (see above, n. 118). This fact that in the Greatest Man or heaven children are in the province of the eyes is a proof that they are under the immediate sight and auspices of the Lord.


334. How children are taught in heaven shall also be briefly told. From their nurses they learn to talk. Their earliest speech is simply a sound of affection; this by degrees becomes more distinct as ideas of thought enter; for ideas of thought from affections constitute all angelic speech (as may be seen in its own chapter, n. 234-245). Into their affections, all of which proceed from innocence, such things as appear before their eyes and cause delight are first instilled; and as these things are from a spiritual origin the things of heaven at once flow into them, and by means of these heavenly things their interiors are opened, and they are thereby daily perfected. But when this first age is completed they are transferred to another heaven, where they are taught by masters; and so on.


335. Children are taught chiefly by representatives suited to their capacity. These are beautiful and full of wisdom from within, beyond all belief. In this way an intelligence that derives its soul from good is gradually instilled into them. I will here describe two representatives that I have been permitted to see, from which the nature of others may be inferred. First there was a representation of the Lord's rising from the sepulchre, and at the same time of the uniting of His Human with the Divine. This was done in a manner so wise as to surpass all human wisdom, and at the same time in an innocent infantile manner. An idea of a sepulchre was presented, and with it an idea of the Lord, but in so remote a way that there was scarcely any perception of its being the Lord, except seemingly afar off; and for the reason that in the idea of a sepulchre there is something funereal, and this was thus removed, after wards they cautiously admitted into the sepulchre something atmospheric, with an appearance of thin vapor, by which with proper remoteness they signified spiritual life in baptism. Afterwards I saw a representation by the angels of the Lord's descent to those that are "bound," and of His ascent with these into heaven, and this with incomparable prudence and gentleness. In adaptation to the infantile mind they let down little cords almost invisible, very soft and tender, by which they lightened the Lord's ascent, always with a holy solicitude that there should be nothing in the representation bordering upon anything that did not contain what is spiritual and heavenly. Other representations are there given, whereby, as by plays adapted to the minds of children, they are guided into knowledges of truth and affections for good.


336. It was also shown how tender their understanding is. When I was praying the Lord's Prayer, and from their under standing they flowed into the ideas of my thought, their influx was perceived to be so tender and soft as to be almost solely a matter of affection; and at the same time it was observed that their understanding was open even from the Lord, for what flowed forth from them was as if it simply flowed through them. Moreover, the Lord flows into the ideas of little children chiefly from inmosts, for there is nothing, as with adults, to close up their ideas, no principles of falsity to close the way to the understanding of truth, nor any life of evil to close the way to the reception of good, and thereby to the reception of wisdom. All this makes clear that little children do not come at once after death into an angelic state, but are gradually brought into it by means of knowledges of good and truth, and in harmony with all heavenly order; for the least particulars of their nature are known to the Lord, and thus they are led, in accord with each and every movement of their inclination, to receive the truths of good and the goods of truth.


337. I have also been shown how all things are instilled into them by delightful and pleasant means suited to their genius. I have been permitted to see children most charmingly attired, having garlands of flowers resplendent with most beautiful and heavenly colors twined about their breasts and around their tender arms; and once to see them accompanied by those in charge of them and by maidens, in a park most beautifully adorned, not so much with trees, as with arbors and covered walks of laurel, with paths leading inward; and when the children entered attired as they were the flowers over the entrance shone forth most joyously. This indicates the nature of their delights, also how they are led by means of pleasant and delightful things into the goods of innocence and charity, which goods the Lord continually instilled into these delights and pleasures.


338. It was shown me, by a mode of communication common in the other life, what the ideas of children are when they see objects of any kind. Each and every object seemed to them to be alive; and thus in every least idea of their thought there is life. And it was perceived that children on the earth have nearly the same ideas when they are at their little plays; for as yet they have no such reflection as adults have about what is inanimate.


339. It has been said above that children are of a genius either celestial or spiritual. Those of a celestial genius are easily distinguished from those of a spiritual genius. Their thought, speech, and action, is so gentle that hardly anything appears except what flows from a love of good to the Lord and from a love for other children. But those of a spiritual genius are not so gentle; but in everything with them there appears a sort of vibration, as of wings. The difference is seen also in their ill-feeling and in other things.


340. Many may suppose that in heaven little children remain little children, and continue as such among the angels. Those who do not know what an angel is may have had this opinion confirmed by paintings and images in churches, in which angels are represented as children. But it is wholly otherwise. Intelligence and wisdom are what constitute an angel, and as long as children do not possess these they are not angels, although they are with the angels; but as soon as they become intelligent and wise they become angels; and what is wonderful, they do not then appear as children, but as adults, for they are no longer of an infantile genius, but of a more mature angelic genius. Intelligence and wisdom produce this effect. The reason why children appear more mature, thus as youths and young men, as they are perfected in intelligence and wisdom, is that intelligence and wisdom are essential spiritual nourishment;[2] and thus the things that nourish their minds also nourish their bodies, and this from correspondence; for the form of the body is simply the external form of the interiors. But it should be understood that in heaven children advance in age only to early manhood, and remain in this to eternity. That I might be assured that this is so I have been permitted to talk with some who had been educated as children in heaven, and had grown up there; with some also while they were children, and again with the same when they had become young men; and I have heard from them about the progress of their life from one age to another.


341. That innocence is a receptacle of all things of heaven, and thus the innocence of children is a plane for all affections for good and truth, can be seen from what has been shown above (n. 276-283) in regard to the innocence of angels in heaven, namely, that innocence is a willingness to be led by the Lord and not by oneself; consequently so far as a man is in innocence he is separated from what is his own, and so far as one is separated from what is his own he is in what is the Lord's own. The Lord's own is what is called His righteousness and merit. But the innocence of children is not genuine innocence, because as yet it is without wisdom. Genuine innocence is wisdom, since so far as any one is wise he loves to be led by the Lord; or what is the same, so far as any one is led by the Lord he is wise.

[2] Therefore children are led from the external innocence in which they are at the beginning, and which is called the innocence of childhood, to internal innocence, which is the innocence of wisdom. This innocence is the end that directs all their instruction and progress; and therefore when they have attained to the innocence of wisdom, the innocence of childhood, which in the meanwhile has served them as a plane, is joined to them.

[3] The innocence of children has been represented to me as a wooden sort of thing, almost devoid of life, which becomes vivified as they are perfected by knowledges of truth and affections for good. Afterwards genuine innocence was represented by a most beautiful child, naked and full of life; for the really innocent, who are in the inmost heaven and thus nearest to the Lord, always appear before the eyes of other angels as little children, and some of them naked; for innocence is represented by nakedness unaccompanied by shame, as is said of the first man and his wife in Paradise (Gen. 2:25); so when their state of innocence perished they were ashamed of their nakedness, and hid themselves (chap. 3:7, 10, 11). In a word, the wiser the angels are the more innocent they are, and the more innocent they are the more they appear to themselves as little children. This is why in the Word "childhood" signifies innocence (see above, n. 278).


342. I have talked with angels about little children, whether they are free from evils, inasmuch as they have no actual evil as adults have; and I was told that they are equally in evil, and in fact are nothing but evil;[3] but, like all angels, they are so withheld from evil and held in good by the Lord as to seem to themselves to be in good from themselves. For this reason when children have become adults in heaven, that they may not have the false idea about themselves that the good in them is from themselves and not from the Lord, they are now and then let down into their evils which they inherited, and are left in them until they know, acknowledge and believe the truth of the matter.

[2] There was one, the son of a king, who died in childhood and grew up in heaven, who held this opinion. Therefore he was let down into that life of evils into which he was born, and he then perceived from the sphere of his life that he had a disposition to domineer over others, and regarded adulteries as of no account; these evils he had inherited from his parents; but after he had been brought to recognize his real character he was again received among the angels with whom he had before been associated.

[3] In the other life no one ever suffers punishment on account of his inherited evil, because it is not his evil, that is, it is not his fault that he is such; he suffers only on account of actual evil that is his, that is, only so far as he has appropriated to himself inherited evil by actual life. When, therefore, the children that have become adults are let down into the state of their inherited evil it is not that they may suffer punishment for it, but that they may learn that of themselves they are nothing but evil, and that it is by the mercy of the Lord that they are taken up into heaven from the hell in which they are, and that it is from the Lord that they are in heaven and not from any merit of their own; and therefore they may not boast before others of the good that is in them, since this is contrary to the good of mutual love, as it is contrary to the truth of faith.


343. Several times when a number of children that were in a purely infantile state have been with me in choirs, they were heard as a tender unarranged mass, that is, as not yet acting as one, as they do later when they have become more mature. To my surprise the spirits with me could not refrain from inducing them to talk. This desire is innate in spirits. But I noticed, each time, that the children resisted, unwilling to talk in this way. This refusal and resistance, which were accompanied by a kind of indignation, I have often perceived; and when an opportunity to talk was given them they would say nothing except that "It is not so." I have been taught that little children are so tempted in order that they may get accustomed to resisting, and may begin to resist falsity and evil, and also that they may learn not to think, speak, and act, from another, and in consequence may learn to permit themselves to be led by no one but the Lord.


344. From what has been said it can be seen what child education is in heaven, namely, that it is leading them by means of an understanding of truth and the wisdom of good into the angelic life, which is love to the Lord and mutual love, in which is innocence. But how different in many cases is the education of children on the earth can be seen from this example. I was in the street of a large city, and saw little boys fighting with each other; a crowd flocked around and looked on with much pleasure; and I was told that little boys are incited to such fights by their own parents. Good spirits and angels who saw this through my eyes so revolted at it that I felt their horror; and especially that parents should incite their children to such things, saying that in this way parents extinguish in the earliest age all the mutual love and all the innocence that children have from the Lord, and initiate them into the spirit of hatred and revenge; consequently by their own endeavors they shut their children out of heaven, where there is nothing but mutual love. Let parents therefore who wish well to their children beware of such things.


345. What the difference is between those who die in childhood and those who die in mature life shall also be told. Those dying in mature life have a plane acquired from the earthly and material world, and this they carry with them. This plane is their memory and its bodily natural affection. This remains fixed and becomes quiescent, but still serves their thought after death as an outmost plane, since the thought flows into it. Consequently such as this plane is, and such as the correspondence is between the things that are in it and the rational faculty, such is the man after death. But the children who die in childhood and are educated in heaven have no such plane, since they derive nothing from the material world and the earthly body; but they have a spiritual-natural plane. For this reason they cannot be in such gross affections and consequent thoughts, since they derive all things from heaven. Moreover, these children do not know that they were born in the world, but believe that they were born in heaven. Neither do they know about any other than spiritual birth, which is effected through knowledges of good and truth and through intelligence and wisdom, from which man is a man; and as these are from the Lord they believe themselves to be the Lord's own, and love to be so. Nevertheless it is possible for the state of men who grow up on the earth to become as perfect as the state of children who grow up in heaven, provided they put away bodily and earthly loves, which are the loves of self and the world, and receive in their place spiritual loves.


  1. Baptism signifies regeneration by the Lord by means of the truths of faith from the Word (n. 4255, 5120, 9088, 10239, 10386-10388, 10392). Baptism is a sign that the man baptized is of the church in which the Lord, who regenerates, is acknowledged, and where the Word is from which are the truths of faith, by means of which regeneration is effected (n. 10386-10388). Baptism confers neither faith nor salvation, but it is a witness that those who are being regenerated will receive faith and salvation (n. 10391).
  2. Spiritual food is knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom, thus the good and truth from which these are (n. 3114, 4459, 4792, 5147, 5293, 5340, 5342, 5410, 5426, 5576, 5582, 5588, 5655, 8562, 9003). Therefore in a spiritual sense everything that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord is food (n. 681). Because bread means all food in general it signifies every good, celestial and spiritual (n. 276, 680, 2165, 2177, 3478, 6118, 8410). And for the reason that these nourish the mind, which belongs to the internal man (n. 4459, 5293, 5576, 6277, 8410).
  3. All kinds of men are born into evils of every kind, even to the extent that what is their own is nothing but evil (n. 210, 215, 731, 874-876, 987, 1047, 2307, 2308, 3518, 3701, 3812, 8480, 8550, 10283, 10284, 10286, 10731). Consequently man must needs be reborn, that is, regenerated (n. 3701). Man's inherited evil consists in his loving himself more than God, and the world more than heaven and in making his neighbor, in comparison with himself, of no account, except for the sake of self, that is, himself alone, thus it consists in the love of self and of the world (n. 694, 731, 4317, 5660). All evils are from the love of self and of the world, when those loves rule (n. 1307, 1308, 1321, 1594, 1691, 3413, 7255, 7376, 7488, 7490, 8318, 9335, 9348, 10038, 10742). These evils are contempt of others, enmity, hatred revenge, cruelty, deceit (n. 6667, 7370-7374, 9348, 10038, 10742). And from these evils comes all falsity (n. 1047, 10283, 10284, 10286). These loves, so far as the reins are given them, rush headlong; and the love of self aspires even to the throne of God (n. 7375, 8678).