Law of Degrees


[1 of 5] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Law of Degrees" (search under Cosmology/Cosmology, Laws)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.12": detail "Section 10181"
There are degrees of two kinds — those of length and breadth, and those of height and depth; the latter degrees differ much from the former. The degrees of length and breadth extend from the centre to the circumference; but those of height extend from interior to exterior. The degrees of length and breadth are those that continually decrease from the centre to the circumference, as the light given off by flame decreases to obscurity, and as the sight of the eye discerns less as objects are more remote, and as intellectual vision passes from clearness to obscurity. But degrees of height, which proceed from inmost to outermost things, or from highest things to lowest, are not continuous, but discrete; for they are like the inmost parts of a seed compared with its exterior parts; and like the inmost part of a man compared with the outermost; and like the inmost of the angelic heaven in relation to its outermost. These degrees are discriminated, or distinct one from another, like that which produces and that which is produced. The things that are in an interior degree are more perfect than those that are in an exterior degree, and the only similitude that exists between them is the result of correspondences. This is why those who are in the inmost heaven are more perfect than those who are in the middle heaven, and these more perfect than those who are in the ultimate heaven. The case is the same with man in whom heaven is formed; his inmost is more perfect than the middle, and this more perfect than the ultimate; and they are united only by correspondences.
 One who does not understand the nature of these degrees, cannot at all know the distinctions between the heavens, and the distinctions between the interior and exterior faculties of man, and consequently he cannot perceive the distinction between the soul and the body; nor can he comprehend what the internal sense of the Word [Bible] is, and the difference between it and the external sense. So too he cannot understand how the spiritual world differs from the natural world; nor can he understand the nature of correspondences and representations and their origin, and hardly at all what influx is. Men engrossed with the things which appeal to the senses do not comprehend these distinctions, for they regard the increase and decrease in these degrees as continuous, or like the increase of length and breadth, therefore they are far removed from an intelligent state of mind.

[2 of 5] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Law of Degrees" (search under Cosmology/Cosmology, Laws)": source "Divine Love and Wisdom": detail "Section 184"
Degrees are of twofold kind, degrees of altitude and degrees of latitude. The knowledge of degrees is as it were a key for opening the causes of things, and for entering into them. Without this knowledge, scarcely anything of cause can be known. For without it, the objects and subjects of both worlds appear of such a sameness, as if there were nothing involved in them except what is seen with the eye; when yet relatively to the things which lie hidden within, what is thus seen is as one to a thousand or to tens of thousands. The interiors which are not patent cannot be uncovered in any way without a knowledge of degrees. For exteriors pass to interiors, and by these to intimates, through degrees; not through continuous degrees, but through discrete degrees.
 Continuous degrees are called decrements or decreasings from grosser to finer, or from denser to rarer; or rather as it were increments and increasings from finer to grosser, or from rarer to denser; just like the stages of light to shade, or of heat to cold. But discrete degrees are entirely different: they are as things prior, posterior, and postreme; or as end, cause, and effect, These degrees are called discrete, because the prior is by itself; the posterior is by itself; and the postreme is by itself; and yet taken together they make one. The atmospheres from the highest to the lowest, or from the sun to the earth, the ethers and the airs, are discreted into such degrees; and they stand as simples, as congregates of these, and again as congregates of these, which taken together are called a composite. These degrees are discrete, because they exist distinctly, and they are understood by degrees of altitude; but the former degrees are continuous, because they increase continuously, and they are understood by degrees of latitude.

[3 of 5] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Correspondence, between nature and spirit" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Apocalypse Explained, vol.6": detail "‘Divine Wisdom’ [posthumous] XII.4"
Each of these — the Divine Esse as well as the Divine Existere — is infinite and eternal, because the Divine Love is infinite and eternal, and the Divine Wisdom is infinite and eternal. Both of these nevertheless can enter into conjunction with angels and with men, although there can be no ratio between what is finite and what is infinite. But because the understanding cannot easily conceive how there can be any conjunction where there is no ratio, it shall be explained. No ratio is possible between what is natural and what is spiritual, but there is conjunction through correspondences; neither is there any ratio between the Spiritual in which the angels of the ultimate heaven are, and the Celestial in which the angels of the highest heaven are, but conjunction exists through correspondences. Similarly, there is no ratio between the Celestial in which the angels of the highest heaven are and the Divine of the Lord, but yet there is conjunction through correspondences. …
 Since there is no ratio between the infinite and finite, beware of thinking of the infinite as nothing; for “infinite” and “eternal” cannot be predicated of nothing, neither can conjunction with any thing; nor does any thing come from nothing. But the infinite and eternal Divine is esse itself, from which the finite is created, and with which there is conjunction. This might be illustrated abundantly by a comparison of natural with spiritual things; between these no ratio exists, still there is conjunction through correspondences. Such is the case with every cause and effect, with prior and posterior, also with a higher degree and a lower one, and also with the love and the wisdom of men and angels; nevertheless, the love and wisdom of angels, although ineffable and incomprehensible to man, are still finite, and incapable of comprehending that which is infinite, except by correspondences.

[4 of 5] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Humans, makeup, nature of" (search under Outer Life/Body)": source "Divine Love and Wisdom": detail "Section 237 - 239"
The three degrees of altitude [in every man] are named respectively natural, spiritual and celestial. Man, at birth, comes first into the natural degree, and this increases with him by continuity, according to his various knowledge, and according to the understanding acquired thereby, until he reaches the highest point of the understanding which is called the rational. Nevertheless, the second degree, which is the spiritual, is not opened by this means. This degree is opened by the love of uses arising out of the things of the understanding, namely, by the spiritual love of uses, which love is love towards the neighbour. This degree likewise may increase by continuous degrees to its highest point, and it increases by cognitions of truth and good, that is, by spiritual truths. But even by these truths the third degree, which is the celestial is not opened, for this degree is opened by the celestial love of use, which love is love to the Lord; and love to the Lord is nothing else than committing the precepts of the Word [Bible] to life, the sum of which precepts is, to shun evils because they are infernal and diabolical, and to do goods because they are heavenly and divine. These three degrees are thus successively opened with man.
 So long as a man lives in the world, he has no knowledge of the opening of these degrees within him. This is because he is then in the natural degree, which is the ultimate, and from it he thinks, wills, speaks, and acts; and the spiritual degree, which is the interior, does not communicate with the natural degree by continuity, but by correspondences; and communication by correspondences is not sensibly felt. But nevertheless, when a man puts off the natural degree, which is the case when he dies, he then comes into that degree which has been opened with him in the world; he comes into the spiritual degree, with whom the spiritual degree has been opened; and he comes into the celestial degree, with whom the celestial degree has been opened. He who comes into the spiritual degree after death, no longer thinks, wills, speaks and acts naturally, but spiritually; and he who comes into the celestial degree, thinks, wills, speaks and acts according to his degree. And because communication between the three degrees exists only by correspondences, therefore the distinctions of love, wisdom and use according to these degrees, are of such a nature, that they have no common ground together through any kind of continuity. From these things it is plain that there are three degrees of altitude for man, and that they can be opened successively.
 Since three degrees of love and wisdom, and thence of use, exist with man, it follows that three degrees of will and understanding, and of their deed of conclusion, and thus of determination to use, are also his; for the will is the receptacle of love, the understanding is the receptacle of wisdom, and the deed of conclusion is the use arising out of these. From which considerations it is evident that there is with every man a natural, spiritual, and celestial will and understanding in potency by birth, and in act when they are opened. In a word, the mind of man, which consists of a will and an understanding from creation, and thence from birth, is of three degrees, so that man has a natural mind, a spiritual mind, and a celestial mind; and by virtue of this he can be elevated to angelic wisdom, and possess it while he lives in the world, but still he only comes into it after death, that is, if he becomes an angel, and then he speaks ineffable things and things incomprehensible to the natural man.

[5 of 5] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Law of Degrees" (search under Cosmology/Cosmology, Laws)": source "Apocalypse Explained, vol.6": detail "‘Divine Love’ [posthumous] XI"
There are continuous degrees and discrete degrees; both of these are in every form, whether in the natural world or the spiritual world. Everyone is acquainted with continuous degrees, but few with discrete degrees; and those who are not acquainted with the latter grope about, as it were, in the dark, when they investigate the causes of things. … Continuous degrees, with which all are familiar, are like degrees of light passing into shade, of heat into cold, of rarity into density. …
 But discrete degrees are entirely different; these proceed not in a plane to the surrounding sides, but from the highest to the lowest; therefore they are called descending degrees. They are discrete like efficient causes and effects, which again become efficient even to the ultimate effect. They stand in the relation of a producing force to the resulting forces, which again become producing forces, even to the final result. In a word, they are the degrees of the formation of one thing from another, thus from the first or highest to the ultimate or lowest, where formation ceases. These degrees, therefore, are prior and posterior things, as well as higher and lower things. All creation takes place by means of these degrees; all production is the result of them, and equally all integration in the world of nature. For if you analyze anything of a composite nature, you will see that one thing therein is from another, even to the outermost, which is common to all.