Heaven and Man Conjoined

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, 22 August, 2004

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

Our text for this morning is well known. It begins with the words, "Jesus said," which tells us that the Lord was speaking here as the Divine Truth itself, or the Word because that is what "Jesus" represents. He was saying that He, that is, the Divine Truth contained with the Word, is the means whereby there is a conjunction of heaven with the human race. Since this connection or conjunction between the spiritual and natural worlds is essential to the orderly flow of life and rationality from God into the world of men, we need to understand it better so that we can better carry out our duties and responsibilities as New Church men and women.

The basic premise from which we begin is that the good that is with a person is from God, and his evil is from hell. However, it is not possible for good to be from God, and evil to be from hell unless there us a conjunction between man and heaven and hell – how else would the get from the spiritual worlds into the natural world where we consciously exist?

The spiritual connection between God and man is maintained by what are called "associate" spirits, for it is their use to associate with people. Everyone has associate spirits. Everyone is conjoined with heaven through a series of good spirits and angels, and conjoined to hell through a like series of evil spirits and devils. The spirits who are closest to use while we are still in the world of nature are not angels or devils, but spirits recently from the world who are in still in the introductory state called "the world of spirits." The law of spiritual association says that people associate with those who are of the same or very similar spiritual degree.

Just as we are unaware of the spirits with us, they are unaware of us. If they were aware of us, they would wish to speak with us, and such a direct contact would be destructive.

One can understand that if spirits are to serve as a bridge between man and God why He would cause good spirits to be near us, but why is it necessary for Him to give us evil associate spirits? Each person has a heredity from his parents. That hereditary nature contains both evils and goods. That means that, like it or not, evil is a part of every one of us from birth, and our first life is from those evils. It’s ironic, but sweet little babies who let us feel the presence of angels among us are in fact purely selfish, completely motivated in all things by their love of self. Any time they are uncomfortable, hungry, or unhappy, they cry and demand attention with no regard for what important thing Mom might be trying to do at that moment. Our purpose, our reason for being in this world, is to start making choices that will invert that vessel, turn it around so that it receives influx from heaven instead of hell.

Since the vessel begins life inverted, there are only two choices: to forcibly turn the vessel, or to provide a way for life to inflow from below. To forcibly turn the vessel would destroy man’s spiritual freedom, so instead the Lord provides for his freedom by allowing life to flow into the inverted vessel up through hell by means of evil spirits in association with each of us. Of course, the good spirits are always present as well, looking for the slightest turning in their direction, the smallest opportunity to encourage and support the life of good.

Having both good and evil spirits associated with us is essential to our eventual reformation and regeneration, for we are held in our own life by the evil spirits, and withheld from it by the good spirits, and through the Lord’s government the two are kept in balance. The end result is that we can have a character that is made up of all kinds of loves, and still be in a state of freedom to choose among them.

Why does the Lord not just force the good upon us, forcibly turn the vessel towards heaven? Because it is a spiritual principle that nothing remains with anyone unless it is received with affection. It cuts both ways. If we could be forced to good by the Lord, we could also be forced to evil by hell. For the sake of our freedom, we cannot be forced by either.

The spirits who are nearest to us change as our states change. Good spirits are selected for us by the Lord, chosen according to our eternal needs and welfare, while we select our own associate evil spirits by summoning them up with our own evil affections. With those who cannot be saved, the Lord still works to turn them to milder evils, and chooses the spirits to associate with them on that basis. Thus it is that even while on earth, a good person is conjoined with heaven, and a bad person with hell. Good spirits in the world of spirits are in turn associated with spirits in the natural heaven; these with spirits in the spiritual heaven; and these with spirits in the celestial heaven. Thus, everyone is in communication with the Lord by means of the heavens. The same thing is true in hell by correspondence.

Everyone receives life from the Lord in two ways: mediately, and immediately. So far, we have been talking about mediate influx, that is, a flowing in of life from the Lord that comes to us by means of others, specifically by means of the angelic heavens and the world of spirits. But there is also another kind of influx from the Lord that flows directly into the soul of every human being that gives that soul eternal life that cannot ever be harmed. Since it flows directly from God to man, it is called "immediate," or "without mediary."

We are told that if humans were born into the good that is in accord with the order of heaven, there would not be a need for the Lord to govern with influx through the heavens. If we were in heavenly order, we could freely respond to the Lord on the basis of our reception of His life immediately. But, although this may one day be the case again, it is not the case now. Today, we are worn down by our evils, and the Lord uses the angels of heaven to help lift us up out of our own hells.

The associate spirits are not normally permitted to inflow with their own thoughts or memories, because if they did, it would cause confusion, for the person would not be able to distinguish between the things from the spirit and things that were actually a part of their own memories. On those rare occasions when it does happen, it gives rise to the deja vu experience when one has a vivid memory of something that could not have actually happened. Such experiences have given support to the belief in reincarnation.

But if thoughts and ideas do not inflow, then what does? Affections of good and truth flow in from heaven, while affections for evils and falsities flow in from hell. Everyone is subject to innumerable spiritual influences every moment as they flow in from the spiritual world, but we only notice those that are in tune with the state of our affections.

It is similar to the way radio works. The atmosphere of the earth is constantly filled with radio signals at all frequencies and from a thousand different sources – radio, television, radar, microwaves, cell phones. All these signals are present with us all the time, but we don’t notice them or get any information from them unless we have a device that is specifically designed to receive a particular band and tuned to a particular frequency. Then a signal is received. Similarly, we don’t receive the all the affections from the spiritual world at once, but only those we are "tuned in" to.

The fact that we receive affections and not thoughts is key to our spiritual freedom, for although our will is corrupt, the human mind has been designed to be able to rise above the will through truth from the Word in the understanding. This means that no matter what affections we may feel, no matter how evil or filthy, we can think with our rational minds and realize that such feelings are from hell, and then choose to turn our minds onto a healthier subject. When we use our minds to turn away from evil, we appropriate the opposite good. On the other hand, when we welcome and encourage certain filthy affections from hell, these evils are appropriated to us and also become a part of our eternal character.

The outward appearance is that the natural world is made up of a lot of things, most of which are quite different from one another. But that view changes when we begin to look more interiorly into things. Specifically we find that all the millions of different things in the natural world are made up of varying combinations of only 103 different elements. When we look even more interiorly, we find that those 103 elements themselves are made up of only 3 kinds of matter; and when we look farther, we discover that inmostly they are nothing but pure energy. Thus we can see that in the world of nature there is a direct connection between pure energy and the things of the world. There is nothing that exists that is not part of this system.

One might say that atomic energy is the first, the things of the natural world are the ultimates, and the elements and compounds are the intermediates. If so, it would be true to say that there is a connection between the first and the last by means of the intermediates; there is a connection between pure energy and natural objects through or by means of atoms. We can also see that if the chain is broken at any point, the whole thing falls apart, it would be disastrous for pure energy to flow into a natural object – it would cause an explosion.

This order of the natural world exists because it mirrors the order of the spiritual world, and demonstrates the spiritual fact that there is a connection of all things from first to last through the intermediates.

This connection means that mankind serves a most important function, for unlike angels, men have a spiritual mind living in a body of natural substances. Therefore, when life flows from the Lord as the source through the angelic heavens as intermediates and finally into men, it is able to come to rest in the ultimates of the world. The exterior degree of our minds, associated as it is with the ultimates of our body, actually serves as the foundation for heaven in the same way that blocks of stone and rough-poured concrete serve as foundations for the most beautiful and delicate buildings. You simply cannot have one without the other.

The connection and conjunction of heaven with the human race is such that one continues in existence from the other, and that the human race apart from heaven would be like a chain without a hook; and heaven without the human race would be like a house without a foundation" (HH 304)

But man has broken this connection through evil by turning his interiors away from heaven and towards the loves of self and the world. In so doing, he has so withdrawn from heavenly things that he cannot any more receive them, and so cannot serve as a true foundation. But heaven must have a foundation, so the Lord provided the Word instead. As said before, heaven must rest on the minds of men on earth in order for the Lord’s influx to reach down into the ultimates of the world and enliven them so that they can provide delight. Before the fall, men’s minds served this purpose, but when they turned to perverted truths, they instead formed the foundation for hell.

In order to make a new foundation for heaven, the Lord sent the Word by means of the various prophets, and the Word was written in such a way that it seemed to be a history of the Jewish people, but yet every word contained spiritual truth within it. The result was that an evil man could read the Word, seeing nothing eternal or spiritual in it, but at the same time the spirits associated with him would be hearing the internal sense which teaches of nothing but the Lord and His kingdom. In this way, the Word serves as a foundation of truth even in the minds of evil men.

And it reaches even those outside of the church, but through the church where the Word is read and understood. The church specific stands as a beacon, radiating light from the Word. The light is received with varying intensity depending on the distance from the source, but all men on earth are connected with the influx of heaven by the church where the Word is read and understood. Without this light, men would loose their rationality

There are scholars who criticize and belittle the literature of the Bible because they say it is all written in common dialects, that in the Hebrew or Greek, the language is common, vulgar. They seem to believe that the Word of God should be written in difficult, lofty words. But what if it were? Would it not then be a book for the educated only? Is it not intended to be a book for all people? That is the reason why it was written in the spoken Hebrew of the day, not in classical Chaldean, that is why the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, and that is why Swedenborg’s Latin is some of the most flowing, easy to read Latin ever written – because God wanted everyone to understand what it said. He never intends that language should get in the way of meaning and understanding. The angels say that although the style of the Word seems simple in the sense of the letter, it is such that nothing can ever be compared with it in excellence, since Divine Wisdom lies concealed not only in the meaning as a whole, but also in each word; and that in heaven, this wisdom shines forth (see HH 310).

Without the Word, there would be no light of heaven with the men of earth, nor would there be any conjunction of heaven with them. There is conjunction only so far as the light of heaven is present with man. The light of heaven is only present so far as Divine Truth is with them, revealed by means of reading the Word from doctrine. This truth, that our very life depends on the conjunction of heaven with mankind by means of the Word, is for the most part unknown in the world. Those men who do know of the internal sense, and while reading the Word think in accordance with such truths as they know, they will come into interior wisdom, and be even more closely conjoined with heaven because they would be entering into ideas like those of the angels.

So, how important is regular study of the Old and New Testaments in the light of the spiritual sense now revealed? Only that it forms the foundation of heaven itself, is our connection to the Lord, and is the means whereby all people may come into interior wisdom.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock (MAT 7:24,25). AMEN.


First Lesson: Mat 20:1-16

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. {2} "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. {3} "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, {4} "and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. {5} "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. {6} "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ {7} "They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ {8} "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ {9} "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. {10} "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. {11} "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, {12} "saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ {13} "But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? {14} ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. {15} ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ {16} "So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen." Amen.

Second Lesson: Heaven and Hell 302.

I have talked with angels about the conjunction of heaven with the human race, saying that while the man of the church declares that all good is from God, and that angels are with man, yet few believe that angels are conjoined to man, still less that they are in his thought and affection. The angels replied that they knew that such a belief and such a mode of speaking still exist in the world, and especially, to their surprise, within the church, where the Word is present to teach men about heaven and its conjunction with man; nevertheless, there is such a conjunction that man is unable to think the least thing unless spirits are associated with him, and on this his spiritual life depends. They said that the cause of ignorance in this matter is man’s belief that he lives from himself, and that he has no connection with the First Being (Esse) of life; together with his not knowing that this connection exists by means of the heavens; and yet if that connection were broken man would instantly fall dead. If man only believed, as is really true, that all good is from the Lord and all evil from hell, he would neither make the good in him a matter of merit nor would evil be imputed to him; for he would then look to the Lord in all the good he thinks and does, and all the evil that flows in would be cast down to hell from which it comes. But because man does not believe that anything flows into him either from heaven or from hell, and therefore supposes that all things that he thinks and wills are in himself and therefore from himself, he appropriates the evil to himself, and the good that flows in he defiles with merit. Amen.