Extracts

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Esoteric history

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[1 of 2] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "History, esoteric" (search under Outer Life/People, Places, History)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.3": detail "Section 2243"
The Most Ancient Church, which was called Man, was the most celestial of all; this in process of time so degenerated from the good of love, that at length nothing celestial remained, and then was its consummation, which is described by the state of those before the flood. The Ancient Church, which was after the flood, and was called Noah, and was less celestial, also in process of time so departed from the good of charity that nothing of charity remained, for it was turned partly into magic, partly into idolatry, and partly into a certain dogmatic system, separate from charity, and then was its consummation. Another church succeeded, which was called the Hebrew Church, and which was still less celestial and spiritual, since it placed a kind of holy worship in external rites; this church, in process of time, became deformed in a variety of ways, and that external worship was turned into idolatry; and then was its consummation. A fourth church was then restored among the posterity of Jacob, which had nothing celestial and spiritual, but only what was representative thereof, on which account that church was a church representative of celestial and spiritual things, for its members did not know what their rites represented and signified; but it was instituted in order that there might be some connection between man and heaven, such as there is between the representatives of good and truth, and good and truth themselves; this church at length so fell away into falsities and evils that every rite became idolatrous, and then was its consummation.
 Therefore after this successive decline of these several churches, when in the last of them the connection between the human race and heaven was altogether broken asunder, insomuch that the human race would have perished by reason of there being no church, by which there might be a connection and bond, the Lord then came into the world, and by the unition of the Divine Essence with the Human Essence in Himself, conjoined heaven with earth, and at the same time established a new church, which was called the Christian Church. This church was at first in the good of faith, and its members lived with one another in charity, like brethren. But this church in various ways in process of time fell away, and at this day has become such that its members do not even know that the fundamental of faith is love to the Lord, and charity towards the neighbour; and although from doctrine they say that the Lord is the Saviour of the human race, that they will rise again after death, and that there is a heaven and a hell, few believe these things. Since this church has become such, its consummation is not far off. Hence it may appear what consummation is, namely, that it takes place when evil has come to its highest pitch. The case is similar in particular, that is, with each individual man.


[2 of 2] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "History, esoteric" (search under Outer Life/People, Places, History)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.12": detail "Section 10355"
In the most ancient times men were informed concerning heavenly things, or those relating to eternal life, by direct intercourse with the angels of heaven; for heaven at that time acted unitedly with the men of the Church, because it flowed in through the internal into the external man, in consequence of which they had not only enlightenment and perception, but they also held discourse with the angels. That time was called the Golden age, from the fact, that men were then in the good of love to the Lord; for gold signifies that good; these things are also described by paradise in the Word [Bible]. Afterwards, information concerning heavenly things, and those relating to eternal life, was imparted by means of those things that are called correspondences and representations, the knowledge of which was derived from the most ancient men who had direct intercourse with the angels of heaven. Into those correspondences and representations, at that time, heaven flowed in with men, and enlightened them; for correspondences and representations are the external forms of heavenly things. And so far as men at that time were in the good of love and charity, in so far were they enlightened; for all Divine influx from heaven is into the good in man, and by good into truths; and because the men of the Church at that time were in spiritual good, which in its essence is truth, therefore those times were called the Silver Age; for silver signifies such good. But when the knowledge of correspondences and of representations was turned into magic, that Church perished, and a third succeeded, in which, indeed, all worship was conducted almost by similar observances; but their signification was unknown.
 This Church was instituted with the Israelitish and Jewish nation. But because information concerning heavenly things, or concerning those things that relate to eternal life, could not be imparted to the men of that Church by influx into their interiors, and thus by enlightenment, therefore angels from heaven spoke by a living voice with some of them, and instructed them about external things, but little about internal things, because they could not comprehend these. Those who were in a state of natural good received reverently the things taught them, whence those times were called the Brazen age, for brass signifies such good. But when not even natural good remained with the man of the Church, the Lord came into the world, and brought into order all things in the heavens and the hells, in order that men might receive influx from Him from heaven, and be enlightened, and that the hells might not hinder and diffuse thick darkness. Then a fourth Church commenced, which is called Christian Church. In this Church, information about heavenly things, or the things which relate to eternal life, comes solely by means of the Word [Bible], through which men receive influx and enlightenment; for the Word has been written both by pure correspondences and by pure representatives, which signify heavenly things. Into these heavenly things the angels of heaven come when a man reads the Word. Hence by means of the Word the conjunction of heaven with the Church, or of the angels of heaven with the men of the Church is effected, but only with those there who are in the good of love and charity. But because the man of this Church has extinguished this good also, therefore he can receive information neither by influx nor enlightenment therefrom, except only in regard to certain truths, which nevertheless do not unite with good. These times, therefore, are called the Iron Age; iron denoting truth in the ultimate of order. From this it is evident how revelations have followed in order from the most ancient times to the present; and that at this day revelation is by the Word alone, but genuine revelation is with those who are in the love of truth for the sake of truth, and not with those who are in the love of truth for the sake of honours and gains, as ends.