"All who have acquired intelligence and wisdom in the world,are received in heaven, and become Angels, everyone according
to the quality and degree of his intelligence and wisdom."[Heaven and Hell 349]
The last quarter of the 20th century has witnessed a remarkable
change in people's willingness to more openly talk about paranormal
experiences. The extensive publicity surrounding the Near Death
Experience phenomena, to which modern scientific research has
given some credence, seems to have "broken the shackles"
of society taboos on talking about incidences such as meetings
with supernatural beings, communications from spirit guides,
clairvoyance, clairsentience, E.S.P. The mostly positive experiences
involving rescue in life-threatening situations, causing unexpected
physical healings, creating changes to outlook and direction,
etc. have caught the imagination and interest of many others,
bringing encouragement to those with a belief in the spiritual
Cultures throughout history have recorded stories of supernatural
beings "Messengers from the Divine Realm" within
the sacred texts of all ages and all peoples. Angels, Cherubim,
Seraphim, Devas, and Orishas are some of the names given to
these beings or "shining ones" that guide, help and
inspire. Yet, explanations of who and what angels are vary within
and between the religious and spiritual traditions.
The term Angel comes from Hebrew and Greek words meaning
"a messenger" or "one who is sent".
Over the centuries, angels in varying forms have taken a prominent
place in religious art and literature. No other author has dealt
with angels (and devils, too) at so great a length or in such
precise detail than Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18th Century scientist,
Christian mystic and visionary. In a massive output of 30 large
volumes resulting from experience in the spiritual realm continuously
over 27 years, there are more than 7,000 references to angels
and angelic life. He addresses what he believed to be many misconceptions
about angels that had developed within orthodox Christianity.
The information below broadly introduces what Swedenborg recorded
concerning the origin, nature, life and purpose of angels.
Angels - Their Origin
The most widely held belief about angels is that they are a
divinely created separate race of beings. Not so according to
Swedenborg; all angels and spirits are people who began their
life in this world and now live in the spiritual dimension after
physical death. In essence, the order of creation is to first
allow us the opportunity to freely choose our own responses
to situations, others and life generally, which this gross material
world permits. Once a general pattern is established, we continue
to develop this chosen pathway in the spiritual plane as angels
in "Heaven" or selfish spirits in "Hell"
(Heaven/Hell are states of being rather than places). Swedenborg
teaches that all people are born to become angels. Anyone, of
whatever religion, can become an angel if only he or she believes
in a Divine creator and tries to live in loving harmony with
other people in accordance with what is genuinely believed to
What do Angels look like?
Every angel continues to be fully human to eternity and has
a body - head, eyes, ears, trunk, arms, hands and feet - of
spiritual substances more real and responsive than material
substances. Most accounts and pictures of angels express them
in the human form, usually more perfect, beautiful and peaceful
than mere mortals, supporting Swedenborg's assertion that angels
in heaven "constantly advance to the springtime of
their youth." Angels wear clothes that are a perfect
representation of their inner qualities, and as their states
of love change, so do their clothes.
Angelic Environment and Work
Angels live in communities with homes, gardens, countryside,
places of work, etc. much like we do here except that all aspects
of their environment are more beautiful and perfect, nor are
they fixed, being an outer reflection of individual and collective
inner states. A person's sex remains after death and angels
live as married couples either with the partner they truly loved
in this world or with one having a deeply complimentary nature.
They communicate using a universal language (perceptive, verbal
and written) which conveys their inmost thoughts and affections.
Angels, says Swedenborg, can express in one word what we cannot
do in a thousand!
Angels are involved in innumerable activities and tasks, all
related to ensuring the greatest perfection and happiness for
the whole of heaven - no unemployment there! Each angelic community
is distinguished by the activity carried out such as divine
or civil government, productive occupations or domestic responsibilities.
Special functions include caring for young children (all children
who die grow up in heaven) and educating newly arrived persons
from this world.
Another special use is their ministry with each individual in
this world protecting us (so far as we allow them) against selfish
thoughts and desires coming from the activity of evil spirits
by bringing counterbalancing influences leading us to make spiritually
healthy choices. We are generally unconscious of this process
except when our conscience is troubled by difficult choices
- the tip of the spiritual temptation "iceberg". At
least two guardian angels are constantly with us and it is this
presence, bringing teaching, healing and comfort, of which we
can become directly aware, but only if that is what is best
for our eternal, spiritual welfare.
"Harps and Wings"
The language of sacred scriptures, dreams and visions expresses
spiritual realities in a way which is understandable to human
experience in this world. The feelings of inner peace and bliss
from unselfish service and being useful was best represented
to those living in drudgery in earlier times by the creating
of sweet and uplifting tones glorifying the Divine. Similarly,
wings (which only began to be added to paintings of angels after
4th century A.D.) convey a spiritual truth to mortals, held
in the constraints of time and space, of an angel's ability
to apparently move swiftly from one place to another as a result
of a change in their thoughts and feelings.
Angelic Life Now
We do not have to wait until after we die to experience heavenly
joy, for Swedenborg writes: "Heavenly love is loving
what is good, honest, and fair because it is good, honest and
fair, and doing it because of that love. So they have a life
of goodness, honesty, and fairness, which is a heavenly life.
The person who loves these things for their own sake and who
does and lives them, also loves the Lord supremely, because
these things come from Him." Heaven and Hell
We recommend Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell
for an in-depth presentation of what Swedenborg experienced concerning
Angels and heaven, and to appreciate the necessity of beginning
the path to angelhood here and now.