An excerpt from Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg, sections #303-6
People who think from their deeper rationality can see that there is a connection of all things, through intermediate ones, with a First, and that anything that is not so connected will disintegrate. When they think about it, they know that nothing can exist on its own, but requires something prior to itself, which means that everything goes back to that First. They know that the connection with what is prior is like that of an effect with its efficient cause, since when the efficient cause is removed, the effect comes apart and collapses. Since this has been the thought of the learned, they have both seen and pronounced that existence is a constant becoming, so that all things are constantly coming into being—that is, existing—from that First from which they originated.
But there is no way to explain briefly the nature of that connection of everything with what is prior and therefore with the First that is the source of everything, because it is varied and diverse. We can say generally only that there is a connection of the natural world with the spiritual world that results in a correspondence between everything in the natural world and everything in the spiritual world. (On this correspondence, see #103–115, and on the connection and consequent correspondence of everything in us with everything in heaven, see #87–102.)
We have been so created that we have a connection and a union with the Lord, while with angels we have only an association. The reason we have only an association, not a union, with angels is that we are from creation like angels in respect to the deeper levels of our minds. We have a similar purposefulness and a similar capacity to understand. This is why we become angels after death if we have lived according to the divine pattern, and why we then, like the angels, have wisdom. So when we talk about our union with heaven, we mean our union with the Lord and our association with angels, since heaven is not heaven because of anything that really belongs to the angels but because of the divine nature of the Lord. (On the fact that the Lord’s divine nature makes heaven, see #7–12 above.)
Over and above what angels have, though, there is the fact that we are not just in a spiritual world by virtue of our inner natures but are at the same time in a natural world by virtue of our outward natures. These outward things that are in the natural world are all the contents of our natural or outer memory and the thinking and imaging we do on that basis. In general, this includes our insights and information together with their delights and charm to the extent that they have a worldly flavor, and all the pleasures that derive from our physical senses. Then too, there are those senses themselves and our words and actions. All these are ultimate things in which the Lord’s divine inflow comes to rest, since it does not stop in the middle but goes on to its very limit.
We may gather from this that the ultimate form of the divine pattern is in us, and since it is the ultimate form, it is the basis and foundation.
Since the Lord’s divine inflow does not stop in the middle but goes on to its very limit, as just stated, and since the intermediate region it crosses is the angelic heaven and the limit is in us, and since nothing disconnected can exist, it follows that there is such a connection and union of heaven with the human race that neither can endure without the other. If the human race were cut off from heaven, it would be like a chain with a link removed, and heaven without the human race would be like a house without a foundation.
However, since we have broken this connection by turning our inward natures away from heaven and toward the world and ourselves through our self-love and love of the world and have so pulled away that we no longer serve heaven as its basis and foundation, the Lord has provided a medium to serve in place of that basis and foundation and to maintain the union of heaven with humanity. That medium is the Word.
Just how the Word serves as that medium, though, has been shown at length in Secrets of Heaven, with pertinent material collected in the booklet The White Horse Described in the Book of Revelation and also in the “Appendix to the Heavenly Teaching.”
I have been told from heaven that the earliest people had direct revelation because their inner natures were turned toward heaven, and that this was the source of the Lord’s union with the human race at that time. After those times, though, there was not the same kind of direct revelation, but an indirect revelation through correspondences. All their divine worship consisted of these; so the churches of those times were called symbolic churches. They knew what correspondences and representations were and that everything on earth answered to spiritual things in heaven and the church (or represented them, which amounts to the same thing). In this way, the natural elements that constituted their outward worship served them as means for thinking spiritually and therefore thinking with angels.
Once all knowledge of correspondences and representations had been lost, then a Word was written in which all the words and the meanings of the words are correspondences and therefore contain that spiritual or inner meaning in which angels are engaged. So when we read the Word and grasp it in its literal or outward meaning, angels grasp it in its inner or spiritual meaning. In fact, all the thought of angels is spiritual, while ours is natural. These two kinds of thought do seem different, but they are one because they correspond.
This is why, after we had moved away from heaven and broken the connection, the Lord provided that there should be a means of union of heaven with us through the Word.