… an angel or spirit can in an instant present himself to another, so long as he assumes a similar affection of love and so thinks alike; for it is these two factors which control the appearance of space [in the spiritual world]. (Emanuel Swedenborg, in True Christian Religion, paragraph 64)
There are many stories of angelic encounters out there. You can buy a variety of books which recount such tales from most bookshops. They are most often stories of people in desperate need who receive comfort, protection, guidance or a timely warning. The heavenly messenger appears and disappears suddenly. He may be seen by many, or seen by only the recipient of the blessing. They are inspiring stories. However, they leave behind more questions than they answer. For all the people who find solace or salvation in the arms of an angel, there are many more (some we would judge to be far more worthy) whose prayers go unanswered – Why? And where do angels come from? How can the ordinary person find the kind of special blessing which is apparently reserved for a select few? Not surprisingly, the number of experts in the field has increased exponentially with the growing interest in angelology. Offering answers. Offering to put you in touch with your spirit guide or guardian angel. Offering you spiritual protection. But one man stands head and shoulders above the rest – the great scientist, philosopher, theologian and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg. His explanations are simple, logical, sensible, … and they don’t cost anything. Swedenborg was born in 1688, the son of a Lutheran Bishop. His early life was spent in the pursuit of learning, particularly in science. During this period he published extensively, made many discoveries, and designed a number of inventions years ahead of his time – a submarine and a flying machine, for example. But throughout his scientific and engineering career, he maintained a Christian faith, and wondered where the soul was. This interest led him to study human anatomy and physiology, including pivotal discoveries into the workings of the brain. Of course, he failed to find the soul within the body, and turned instead to his faith to provide the answers he sought. This led to a spiritual awakening, and thirty years spent in the daily company of angels and spirits. He conversed with them, and felt their effects upon his mind and body, describing these experiences in great detail, most famously in his book, Heaven and Hell (only one of some thirty volumes written in the latter half of his life).
Swedenborg’s Teachings About Angels
His teaching about angels can be summarised as follows (see links to quotes from Swedenborg):
- Angels represent the pinnacle of human growth and development (they are not a separately created race).
- Every person is associated with both angels and evil spirits
- Angels generally exert an unseen influence upon us
- We strengthen (or weaken) our connection with those angels and spirits by our motivations, desires and the life we lead
- Every person has the potential to enter heaven as an angel after death, if they so choose
Swedenborg doesn’t promise that everyone will see angels. However, he does state that every person has the opportunity to feel the effects of angels in their lives. His ideas are not particularly spectacular, but they are hopeful and helpful. His philosophy is easily learned and understood. It can make a real difference to the lives of those who practice what they have learned.
Quotes From Swedenborg
Angels represent the pinnacle of human growth and development. Each angel is in a perfect human form. .. (Heaven and Hell 73)
…an angel is a heaven in the smallest form. For heaven is not outside an angel, but within him. Actually, his more inward elements, which belong to his mind, are arranged in the form of heaven precisely so that they can accept all the elements of heaven that are outside him. The angel accepts them according to the quality of the good that is in him from the Lord. (Heaven and Hell 53)
People who are in heaven progress steadily toward the springtime of life, and the more thousands of years they live, the more pleasant and happy the springtime. This goes on forever, with the increase keeping pace with the growth and level of their love, charity, and faith. (Heaven and Hell 414)
Angels are not a separately created race. The Lord alone is Man, and it is owing to Him that angels, spirits, and inhabitants of the world are called men. (Arcana Caelestia 6626)
…in all of heaven there is not a single angel who was created at the beginning, nor is there in hell any devil who was created an angel of light and cast down. Rather, all the individuals in both heaven and hell are from the human race. (Heaven and Hell 311)
As for angels being human forms, or people, this I have seen thousands of times. I have actually talked with them person to person, sometimes with one, sometimes with several in a group, without seeing anything about their form to distinguish them from man. (Heaven and Hell 74)
Every person is associated with both angels and evil spirits. To enable man to be in freedom, the Lord places him in a position in which he is poised between evil and good, and between falsity and truth. He accomplishes this by means of evil spirits positioned on one side and angels on the other. For if he is to be saved a person must be in freedom, and in freedom be led away from evil and towards good. (Arcana Caelestia 5982)
… there are in general two gates with every individual person. One gate is exposed towards hell and is open to evils and falsities from there. In that gate genii and spirits from hell are present. The other gate is exposed towards heaven and is open to goods and truths from there. In that gate angels are present. (Arcana Caelestia 2851.2)
…even wicked people also have angels present with them, the reason being that they are able to turn, if they will, towards heaven, receive what flows in from there, and be reformed. (Arcana Caelestia 7295.2)
Angels generally exert an unseen influence upon us. Broadly speaking, angels of a particular community are sent to people on earth, to watch over them, to lead them away from evil affections and thoughts, and to instil, to the extent that people accept them freely, good affections, thereby governing people’s actions and words by removing evil intentions as far as this is possible. (Heaven and Hell 391)
…an influx coming through angels adjusts itself to the person’s affections, which they guide gently, turning those affections towards what is good without breaking them. The actual influx is silent, barely perceptible, for it is an influx into the person’s interiors, always operating through his freedom (Arcana Caelestia 6205)
People who are instructed by spiritual communication what to believe or what to do are not instructed by the Lord or by any angel of heaven but by some other enthusiastic spirit, who leads them astray. All communication from the Lord is effected by enlightenment of the understanding and by the affection for truth, this taking place through the affection into the understanding. (Divine Providence 321)
We strengthen (or weaken) our connection with those angels and spirits by our motivations, desires and the life we lead. When angels are with people on earth, they live in their affections, so to speak – near at hand to the extent that a person is in something good on the basis of things that are true, farther away to the extent that his life is remote from such things. (Heaven and Hell 391)
…a person who is thinking about Divine matters while he is active is in touch with angels of heaven. To the extent that he is doing this he is bonded to them, and in this way his inner person is opened, which, seen in its own light, is the spiritual person. (Heaven and Hell 530)
… every man who is in the goods and truths of spiritual life derived from the Word has been associated with the angels of heaven, and he dwells with them as to the interior things of his mind … (Apocalypse Revealed 906)
Every person has the potential to enter heaven as an angel after death, if they so choose….’an angel’ also means the qualities which originate in the Lord that are with people on earth who receive them. For those people who have within themselves from the Lord the good of love to Him and the truths of faith in Him become angels after death; and those who become angels are also inwardly such while they live in the world (Arcana Caelestia 10528)
… the whole angel, especially his face is virtually charity appearing and perceived openly. When this form is seen, there is an indescribable beauty that moves the deepest life of the mind with charity. … People who have lived in love for the Lord and in charity toward the neighbour become such forms, or such beauties in the other life. (Heaven and Hell 414)
In the next life those who during their lifetime have been receiving Divine things which are the Lord’s (that is, who have been receiving his love towards the whole human race, and so those who have been receiving charity towards the neighbour, also those who have been receiving reciprocal love to the Lord) are granted intelligence and wisdom, and indescribable happiness. For they become angels and thus human beings in the truest sense. (Arcana Caelestia 4220)
…no one becomes an angel, that is, comes into heaven, unless he carries with him from the world something of the angelic character; and in this there is present a knowledge of the way, from walking in it, and a walking in the way through a knowledge of it. (Divine Providence 60)
(PLEASE NOTE – the sites listed here do not necessarily reflect the teaching of the New Church)
- www.angels-online.com – Prayers, stories of encounters with angels, and other material.
- www.catholic.org/saints/ – The Catholic Church’s page on saints and angels, including lots of information about the official Catholic teaching about angels.
- www.newadvent.org/cathen/01476d.htm – ‘Angels’ in the Catholic Encyclopaedia
- www.spirithome.com/angels.html – Information on angels from a traditional Christian perspective
More detailed information about angels and our spiritual growth programme, Entertaining Angels, can be found HERE. If you wish to make further inquiries, please contact:
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