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Time in Heaven by Emanuel Swedenborg

Time in heaven

162. Although there is a succession and a progression of all things in heaven, as there is in the world, yet angels have no notion or idea of time and space; and this ignorance is so complete that they do not even know what time and space are. Time in heaven will now be considered, and space in its own chapter.

163. Angels do not know what time is, although with them there is a successive progression of all things, as there is in the world; and this lack of awareness is so complete that there is no difference whatever. The reason for this is that in heaven, instead of years and days, there are changes of state. Where there are years and days there are times; but where there are changes of state there are states.

164. In the world, there are times because the sun seemingly advances in succession from one degree to another, producing times that are called seasons of the year. And besides, it revolves about the earth, producing times that are called times of day; both of these by fixed alterations. With the sun of heaven, however, it is different. This does not mark years and days by successive progressions and revolutions, but in its appearance it marks changes of state. Consequently no idea of time is possible to angels; instead, they have an idea of state.

165. As angels have no idea of time, such as humans in the world have, neither do they have any idea about things relating to time. They do not even know what is meant by the words used to describe time, such as year, month, week, day, hour, today, tomorrow and yesterday. When angels hear these terms used by people (for angels are always associating with humans through the Lord) they understand state and what relates to states.

Thus the natural thought of humans is turned into spiritual thought with angels.

166. The same is true for all things that exist from time, such as the four seasons of the year, called spring, summer, autumn and winter; the four periods of the day: morning, noon, evening, and night; the four ages of the human: infancy, youth, adulthood and old age, and all other things that either exist from time or unfold in accordance with time. In thinking of these, a human thinks from time, but an angel from state.

167. As angels have no notion of time, so they have a different idea of eternity from humans on the earth. To the angels, eternity means infinite state, not infinite time. I was once thinking about eternity, and was able, with the idea of time, to perceive what to eternity means, namely, without end. But I could not perceive what from eternity means, and therefore not what God did from eternity before creation. When I became anxious about this, I was raised up into the sphere of heaven, and thus into the understanding that angels have of eternity; and it was then made clear to me that eternity must be thought of, not from time but from state; and then the meaning of from eternity can be seen. This then happened to me.

168. When angels speak with humans they never express themselves in natural ideas common to earth, all of which are from time, space, matter and things related to them; but rather, they use spiritual ideas, which are derived from states and their various changes within the angels and outside them. Nevertheless, when these angelic ideas, which are spiritual, flow into humans, they instantly become natural ideas common to humans that correspond perfectly to the spiritual ideas. Neither angels nor humans know that this takes place; but such is always the way when heaven reaches into earth.

169. The natural person might think that they would be deprived of all thought if the ideas of time, space and material things were taken away; for upon these all human thought rests. But let them know that in so far as thoughts use time, space and matter they are limited and confined, and become unlimited and extended only as they leave these concerns, and find their minds raised above bodily and worldly things. This is the source of wisdom for the angels; and such wisdom is reckoned incomprehensible, because it does not relate to material ideas.

“Time in heaven is an extract from Heaven and Hell: A 2011 Abridged Edition by Emanuel Swedenborg with Simon Parke


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