Interaction SB (Hartley) n. 16

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16. XIV


It is discovered by the investigation of causes from effects that there are two kinds of degrees: one in which things are prior and posterior, and another in which they are greater and less. The degrees which distinguish things prior and posterior are to be called DEGREES OF ALTITUDE, or DISCRETE DEGREES; but the degrees by which things greater and less are distinguished from each other are to be called DEGREES OF LATITUDE, and also CONTINUOUS DEGREES.

[2] Degrees of altitude, or discrete degrees, are like the generations and compositions of one thing from another; as for example, of some nerve from its fibres, and of any fibre from its fibrils; or of some piece of wood, stone, or metal from its parts, and of any part from its particles. But degrees of latitude, or continuous degrees, are like the increases and decreases of the same degree of altitude with respect to breadth, length, height and depth; as of greater and less volumes of water, air, or ether; and as of large and small masses of wood, stone, or metal.

[3] All things in general and in particular in both worlds, the spiritual and the natural, are by creation in degrees of this double kind. The whole animal kingdom in this world is in those degrees, both in general and in particular; so likewise are the whole vegetable kingdom and the whole mineral kingdom; and also the atmospheric expanse from the sun even to the earth.

[4] There are, therefore, three atmospheres, discretely distinct according to the degrees of altitude, both in the spiritual and in the natural world, because each world has a sun; but the atmospheres of the spiritual world, by virtue of their origin, are substantial, and the atmospheres of the natural world, by virtue of their origin, are material. Moreover, since the atmospheres descend from their origins according to those degrees, and are the containants of light and heat, and as it were the vehicles by which they are conveyed, it follows that there are three degrees of light and heat; and since the light in the spiritual world is in its essence wisdom, and the heat there in its essence is love, as was shown above in its proper article, it follows also that there are three degrees of wisdom and three degrees of love, consequently three degrees of life; for they are graduated by those things through which they pass.

[5] Hence it is that there are three angelic heavens: a supreme, which is also called the third heaven, inhabited by angels of the supreme degree; a middle, which is also called the second heaven, inhabited by angels of the middle degree; and a lowest, which is also called the first heaven, inhabited by angels of the lowest degree. Those heavens are also distinguished according to the degrees of wisdom and love: those who are in the lowest heaven are in the love of knowing truths and goods; those in the middle heaven are in the love of understanding them; and those in the supreme heaven are in the love of being wise, that is, of living according to those truths and goods which they know and understand.

[6] As the angelic heavens are distinguished into three degrees, so also is the human mind, because the human mind is an image of heaven, that is, it is heaven in its least form. Hence it is that a man can become an angel of one of those three heavens; and he becomes such according to his reception of wisdom and love from the Lord: an angel of the lowest heaven if he only receives the love of knowing truths and goods; an angel of the middle heaven if he receives the love of understanding them; and an angel of the supreme heaven if he receives the love of being wise, that is, of living according to them. That the human mind is distinguished into three regions, according to the three heavens, may be seen in the memorable relation inserted in the work on CONJUGIAL LOVE, no. 270. Hence it is evident that all spiritual influx to a man and into a man from the Lord descends through these three degrees, and that it is received by the man according to the degree of wisdom and love in which he is.

[7] A knowledge of these degrees is, at the present day, of the greatest value: for many persons, in consequence of not knowing them, remain in and cling to the lowest degree, in which are the senses of their body; and from their ignorance, which is a thick darkness of the understanding, they cannot be raised into spiritual light, which is above them. Hence naturalism takes possession of them, as it were spontaneously, as soon as they attempt to enter on any inquiry and examination concerning the soul and the human mind and its rationality; and still more if they extend their inquiries to heaven and the life after death. Hence they become like persons standing in the market-places with telescopes in their hands, looking at the sky and uttering vain predictions; and also like persons who chatter and reason about every object they see and everything they hear, without anything rational from the understanding being contained in their remarks; but they are like butchers, who believe themselves to be skilful anatomists, because they have examined the viscera of oxen and sheep outwardly, but not inwardly.

[8] The truth, however, is, that to think from the influx of natural light [lumen] not enlightened by the influx of spiritual light is merely to dream, and to speak from such thought is to make vain assertions like fortune-tellers. But further particulars concerning degrees may be seen in the work on THE DIVINE LOVE AND THE DIVINE WISDOM, nos. 173-281.

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