224. To these things I will add this MEMORABLE OCCURRENCE. I saw a group of spirits, all on their knees, praying to God to send them angels, with whom they might speak face to face and open up the thoughts of their hearts. And when they stood up, three angels in white linen were seen standing in full view of them. And the angels said, 'The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you. Open to us the thoughts of your hearts.'  And they replied, 'The priests have told us that in theological matters it is not the understanding that counts, but faith; and that in those matters an intellectual faith is of no use to anyone, because it is derived from the man. We are Englishmen, and we have heard many things from our sacred ministry, which we have believed; but when we have spoken with some calling themselves the Reformed, and with others calling themselves Roman Catholics, and with dissenters as well, they all seemed to us to be learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with the other. Yet they all said, "Believe us", and some of them said, "We are God's ministers and we know". Because, however, we have come to know that the Divine truths that are called truths of faith, and are the truths of the Church, are not with anyone the result merely of birth, nor of what is hereditary, but are from God out of heaven; and because these truths show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity and so lead to eternal life, we have become anxious and have prayed to God on our knees.'  Then the angels replied, 'Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths that will be of your faith and life. In Christendom all draw their doctrinal tenets out of the Word as out of the one and only fountain.' But two of the group said, 'We have read but have not understood.'  And the angels answered, 'You have not approached the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in untruths.' And the angels said further, 'What is faith without light, and what is thinking without understanding? It is not human. Even ravens and magpies can learn to speak without an understanding. We can positively assert that any individual whose soul longs for it is able to see truths of the Word in the light; for there is not an animal that does not know its own life's food when it sees it, and a man is a rational and spiritual animal. Such an animal, if he hungers for it and seeks it from the Lord, sees the food not of the body but of the soul; and this is the truth of faith. Whatever is not being received also in the understanding, is not being lodged in the memory as regards the thing itself but only as regards the words. Therefore when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything, but have only heard sounds, mostly disharmonious.  However, we shall mention some things that the learned among the clergy have withdrawn from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways into the understanding, one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord, when He is enlightening it, lifts the understanding up out of the world. If, however, the understanding is closed up as a result of religion, the way from heaven is closed to it, and in that case a man sees in the Word no more than a blind person sees. We have seen many such who fell into pits, out of which they have not risen. Let there be examples for enlightenment. You are able, are you not, to understand what charity is, and faith, that charity is to act well with the neighbour, and that faith is to think well about God and the essentials of the Church, and consequently that he who acts well and thinks well, that is, lives well and believes well, is saved.' [In response] to these things, they declared that they did understand them.  The angels said further, 'Do you not understand that a repentance from sins is to be practised in order that a man may be saved, and that unless the man practises repentance he continues in the sins into which he has been born; and that to practise repentance is not to will evils because they are sins against God, and to examine oneself once or twice a year to see one's own evils, to confess them in the presence of God, to pray earnestly for help, to desist from the evils, and enter on a new life; and that in the measure that he is doing this, and believing in the Lord, his sins are being remitted.' Then some of the group said, 'We understand these things, and so we also understand what the remission of sins is.'  'And then they asked the angels to give them further information, and this time about God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration, and baptism. To these requests the angels replied, 'We shall say nothing that you do not understand. Otherwise our discussion is falling as rain upon sand, and upon the seeds there, which, however watered from heaven, still wither away and perish. 'And concerning GOD they said, 'All who come into heaven are allotted a place there, and eternal joy, in accordance with an idea of God, because this idea reigns throughout us all things of worship. An idea of God [as] invisible is not directed to anyone, nor is it defined in terms of anything, and therefore it ceases and perishes. An idea of God as a Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea: but an idea of God as a Man is a just idea, for God is Divine Love and Wisdom with every quality thereof, and the subject of these is a Man, and not ether or wind. In heaven the idea of God is an idea of the Lord. He Himself is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like ours, and we shall be associated together. 'When they had said these things their faces became radiant.  Concerning THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL they said, 'A man lives to eternity, because he can be conjoined to God by means of love and faith. This is possible with each individual. If you think about this a little more deeply you can understand that this "possibility" brings about the immortality of the soul.'  Concerning REGENERATION; 'Who does not see that every man has the freedom to think about God or not to think about Him, provided he has been instructed that God exists. So everyone has freedom in spiritual things, just as in things civil and moral. The Lord gives this continually to all, and therefore [a man] becomes guilty if he does not think. A man is a man as the result of his being able to do this, while a beast is a beast as the result of its inability to do so. A man, therefore, is able to reform and regenerate himself as from himself, provided he acknowledges at heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who practises repentance and believes in the Lord is being reformed and regenerated; the man will do both as from himself, but the 'as from himself' is from the Lord. It is true that the man cannot contribute anything to this [process], nothing at all, nevertheless you have not been created statues, but you have been created men so that you might do this from the Lord as from yourselves. This is the one and only reciprocation of love and faith that the Lord expressly wills to be made to Him by a man. In a word, do it from yourselves, and believe that it is from the Lord. In this way you do it as from yourselves.'  But then the Englishmen inquired whether to do as from oneself was imparted to the man from creation. An angel replied, 'It has not been imparted, because doing from Self is of the Only God, but it is being given continually, that is, being adjoined continually. And then in the measure that the man does good and believes what is true as from himself he is an angel of heaven, but in the measure that he does evil and believes what is untrue, this being also as from himself, he is an angel of hell. You are astonished that this also is as from oneself, but still you see it while you are praying that you may be protected from the devil, lest he should seduce you and enter into you as he did into Judas, fill you with all iniquity, and destroy both soul and body. Everyone becomes guilty, however, who believes that he is doing anything from himself, whether it is good or evil, but he who believes that he is doing it as from himself it does not become guilty.  'Concerning BAPTISM they said that it is a spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration, and that a little child will be reformed and regenerated when, having grown up, he does the things that his sponsors promised on his behalf, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works, and second that he shall believe in God. All the little children in heaven are being initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Besides, baptism is a sign in the presence of angels that a man belongs to the Church.  On hearing these things some of the group said, 'We understand'; but a voice was heard from one side complaining, 'We do not understand', and another voice, 'We do not want to understand'; and an inquiry was made as to whom these voices came from, and it was discovered that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in untruths of faith, and who wanted to be believed as oracles, and so to be adored. The angels said, 'Do not be astonished. There are very many like this at the present day. From heaven they appear to us like graven images, so skilfully made that they can move the lips, and sound like organs, without knowing whether the breath causing them to sound is out of hell or heaven, because they do not know whether it is untruth or truth. They go on reasoning and confirming without seeing whether it is so at all. But you should realise that human nature is able to confirm whatever it wishes, even so that it appears as if it were so. Therefore heretics can do this. So can the wicked. Indeed even atheists [can prove] that there is no God, but nature only.'  Afterwards the group of Englishmen, fired with a longing to become wise, said to the angels, 'So many diverse things are said concerning the HOLY SUPPER, tell us what the truth (veritas) is.' The angels said, 'The truth is that a man who has the Lord in view and practises repentance is conjoined with the Lord and introduced into heaven by means of that most holy [sacrament].' But some of the group said, 'This is a mystery'; and the angels replied, 'It is a mystery, but yet such as can be understood. The bread and wine do not bring this to pass, nor is there anything holy in them, but material bread and heavenly bread correspond one to the other, also material wine and heavenly wine; and heavenly bread is the holy of love, and heavenly wine is the holy of faith, each of them from the Lord, and each of them being the Lord. Resulting from this there is a conjunction of the Lord with the man, and of the man with the Lord, not with the bread and wine, but with the love and faith of the man who practises repentance; and conjunction with the Lord is also introduction into heaven.' And after the angels taught them something about correspondence and its effect, some of the group said, 'Now for the first time we understand.' And when they said, 'We understand', behold a flame descending out of heaven with light associated them with the angels, and they loved each other.