Abstract: This text is extracted from the book “Heaven and Hell, Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen” by Emanuel Swedenborg. The following text is from Chapter 60 – the Malice and Unspeakable Skills of Hellish Spirits. From a Christian perspective, we will attempt to show how these spirits are operating in this chaotic world we are living in today and for the Christian adherent to better know their enemy.
“I have done this to keep Satan from getting the better of us. We all know what goes on in his mind” (2 Corinthians 2:11)
Key to Blog Text,
Bold highlighting = Important terms and concepts. Blue highlighting = words, terms, and concepts containing primarily a spiritual sense or TRUTH. Red highlighting = words, terms, and concepts containing a sense directly related to The Lord Himself or LOVE. Gray highlighting = words, terms, and concepts relating to evil and hell. Italic letters in (parentheses) = my emphasis.
Anyone who thinks deeply and knows anything about the workings of the human mind can see and understand how significantly superior spirits (when people die and leave the body) are to other people (in the world). In a minute, we can consider and turn over and decide in our minds more than we can express in speech or writing in half an hour (the thinking is so much faster and clearer for spirits). This shows how much better we are when we are in the spirit (we have communication with heaven and the Lord while we are still in the world) and therefore when we become spirits (die and leave this body behind) since it is the spirit that thinks and the body is what the spirit uses to express its thoughts in speech (talking to others) or writing (putting down our thoughts and thinking to paper)
This is why people who become angels after death have access (they have wonderful new wisdom and love) to indescribable (wonderful things that are not available to people on earth) intelligence and wisdom relative (compared side by side) to the intelligence and wisdom they had while they were living in the world (or in the body). While they were living in the world, their spirits were confined in a body and by that means were in the natural world. So when the spirit did think spiritually, the thoughts flowed into natural concepts that are relatively general, crude, and hazy (like the common thinking that angels sit on clouds and play the harp). This means they are not open to the countless elements characteristic of spiritual thought (when in the spiritual world). They also immerse them in the thickets of the cares of the world (always thinking about the needs of the body and the world makes it more difficult to be spiritual) It is different once the spirit has been freed (released) from the body and has arrived at its own spiritual state (that it now lives in after taking off the body), which happens when it crosses from the natural world to the spiritual world that is appropriate to it. We can see from what has already been said that its state in regard to thoughts and affections is far better than its former state (without the person’s body the spirit is so much more able to work well). This is why angels think thoughts that are unutterable (things that people in the body never know could be possible) and indescribable (there is just no way an angel could describe in words the wonderful life their spirits have), things that cannot come through to our natural thoughts (to the person who still lives in the body). Yet in fact, every angel was born a person on earth (this is true) and lived as such (before they change into an angel after death, they also once lived on the earth in a body), and then seemed to himself or herself to be no wiser than anyone else (they did not think too highly of themselves while they lived in the body)
In the same degree in which angels have wisdom and intelligence, infernal spirits have malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) and cunning (able to tell lies and make other people believe they are telling the truth); for the case is the same, since the spirit of man when released from the body (when the body dies) is in his good or in his evil – if an angelic spirit, in his good, and if an infernal (evil) spirit, in his evil. Every spirit is his own good or his own evil because he is his own love (whether the person loves himself and the world, or loves God and the neighbor) as has often been said and shown before. Therefore, as an angelic spirit thinks, wills, speaks, and acts (doing good things) from his good, so does an infernal spirit from his evil; and to think, will, speak, and act (doing very bad things) from evil itself, is to think, will, speak, and act from all things included in the evil. So long as man lived in the body (in the world) it was different (things in the heart can remain hiding while people are living in the body, and the true good or bad person is not easily seen by others)
Then the evil of the man’s spirit (every person who is born into the world is born with evil emotions and thinking. That is why they must be born again and be created into a new person who is being made ready to become an angel and live with God forever in His kingdom in heaven) was in the bonds (a rule or condition that limits their freedom to act out evil thoughts) that every man has from the law (police could arrest them if they do bad things), from hope of gain (if people can see how much they love money and things of the world they may not get close to that person), from honour (being thought of highly and looked up to as a person by other people means no one must ever find out how evil and selfish their thinking is), from reputation (people seek out their wisdom), and from the fear of losing these (all these things are very imprtant to an evil person so they can go on doing bad things in the world); and therefore the evil of his spirit could not then burst forth and show what it was in itself (truly for all these reasons no one must find out how much they love themselves and think so little of other people).
Moreover, the evil of the man’s spirit then lay wrapped up and veiled (hidden from other people’s eyes) in outward probity (so that others may think they are good moral citizen of the world), honesty (other people must think they are always telling the truth), justice (other people must think they are always fair in their business dealings), and in the affection of truth and good (it does not hurt to attend church once in a while so people think they are good Christian peoples), which such a man professes (says all the right and good things so that others may like him) and counterfeits (tells many lies and trys to trick others in thinking highly of them) for the sake of the world (so he can use these tricked people to give them things that they want and that they do not own); and under these semblances (all the fake lies) the evil has lain so concealed (hidden from other peoples eyes) and obscured (they must never see how selfish and evil they are) that he himself scarcely knew that his spirit contained so much malice and craftiness (while they do all these things to hide their real person, inside their hearts they think they are really pretty good people which is madness) that is (the truth is), that in himself he was such a devil as he becomes after death (when they leave the body), when his spirit comes into itself and into its own nature (the real person they have been hiding now comes out in full anger and rage)
Such malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) then manifests (this evil behavior is seen as it really is) itself as exceeds all belief (this terrifying and horrible evil has rarely been seen in the world). There are thousands of evils that then burst forth from evil itself (they hatch out like alligator and snake eggs); among which are such as cannot be described in the words of any language (this evil is so much terror). What they are has been granted me to know (the Lord opened my eyes so I could see it) and also to perceive by much experience (over and over again I have seen these things happen), since it has been granted me by the Lord to be in the spiritual world as to my spirit and at the same time in the natural world as to my body (like the Apostle John and Paul, and like many of the prophets in the Old Testament I was shown these things so that I may teach and warn others). This I can testify (it is true and I have seen such things), that their malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) is so great (their overpowering desire and lusts) that it is hardly possible to describe even a thousandth part of it (I cannot begin to tell you the absolute terror of this evil); and so great (their overpowering desire and lusts) that if man (people in the world) were not protected by the Lord he could never be rescued from hell (if Jesus did not help people in the world they would be eaten up and destroyed by this evil); for with every man there are spirits from hell (bad spirits) as well as angels from heaven (good spirits). (very much like the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other shoulder found in cartoons always trying to have the person make a good decision or a bad decision) (see in this book sections 292-293); and the Lord cannot protect man unless he acknowledges (believes that He exists) the Divine (that God is all-powerful and nothing is above Him) and lives a life of faith and charity (follows the teachings in the Ten Commandments); for otherwise man (people will) turns himself away from the Lord and turns himself to infernal spirits (they allow this horrible evil to come in like a tsunami because they do not believe in creator God), and thus his spirit becomes imbued with a malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) like theirs (because the evil wants to destroy and hurt other people at all times)
Nevertheless, man (people who live in the world) is continually led by the Lord (not like evil, Jesus wants to love and help people) away from the evils that he attaches and, as it were, attracts to himself by his association (when the person is not thinking about Jesus and His laws) with infernal spirits (they allow this horrible evil to come in like a tsunami because they do not believe in creator God). If this is not done by the internal bonds of conscience (every person in the world is given a conscience so they know what is right and what is wrong), which he fails to receive (if they do not listen to it, they lose the help) if he denies the Divine (then by not doing what is right they turn their back on God), he is nevertheless withdrawn by external bonds (God in His mercy and love still has things in place that help people and society), which are, as said above, fears in respect of the law and its penalties, and fears of the loss of gain and the deprivation of honor and reputation (these things are like ropes tied around them to keep them from doing extreme evil in the world). In fact, such a man (a person in the world) may be led away from evils (change the path in which they are walking) by means of the delights of his love and through fear of the loss or deprivation of those delights (these things are like ropes tied around them to keep them from doing extreme evil in the world); but he cannot be led thereby into spiritual goods (the Lord protects societies and people, but the evil person cannot be led to the Lord directly for help in changing because Creator God allows people the freedom to make their own decisions about how they want to live in the world). For to the extent (how much they allow themselves to think about) that he is led (the path to hell becomes wide open) into these (having the desire for lusts and evils), to that extent he begins to give his thought to pretenses (telling lies to get what they want) and devices (schemes and scams) by simulating (pretending to be something they are not) or counterfeiting (fake news) what is good, honest, and just (trying to be the exact opposite of what they really are like which is evil), for the purpose of persuading and thus deceiving (they do not want anyone trying to stop them). Such cunning (able to tell lies and make other people believe they are telling the truth) adds itself to the evil of his spirit (their human spirit becomes more and more corrupted) and forms it to be such evil as is his own nature (after a while the difference between their own human spirit and the spirits of hell that they chose to follow are the same)
How Malicious Spirits Operate and Attack Their Victims
The worst of all are those who have been in evils from love of self and at the same time inwardly in themselves (in their hearts) have acted from deceit (telling lies and pretending to be something they are not); for deceit penetrates more deeply into the thoughts (it rots and corrupts the mind) and intentions (it makes it easier not to tell the truth all the time) and infects them with poison and thus wholly destroys a man’s spiritual life (it makes it harder to ever return to a good moral life).
Most of these are in the hells behind the back, and are called (black) “genii”; and there they delight to make themselves invisible (to not be seen by their victims before they attack), and to flutter about (like they are floating in the air) others (of the “genii” are) like phantoms (a ghostly looking person), secretly infusing into (people are injected like from a scorpion) them evil, which they spread around (into the person) like the poison of a viper (snake). These are more direfully tormented than others (in the hells so they will not do such evil). But those who are not deceitful, and who have not been so filled with malignant craftiness, and yet are in the evils derived from the love of self, are also in the hells behind, but in those less deep (down). On the other hand, those who have been in evils from the love of the world are in the hells in front, and are called “spirits”. These “spirits” are not such forms of evil, that is, of hatred and revenge, as are those who are in evils from the love of self; they therefore do not have such malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) and cunning (able to tell lies and make other people believe they are telling the truth); and in consequence their hells are milder (their punishment is not so vicious and severe)
I have been permitted to learn by experience (from angels teaching me from the Lord) what kind of malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) those possess who are called “genii”. “Genii” do not act upon and flow into the thoughts (their poison flows), but into the affections (the “Genii” can see the weaknesses in the person like anger, resentment of not liking another person, or giving in to other vices and addictions). They perceive (they know they are there) and smell out the affections as dogs do wild beasts in the forest (they can chase down these weaknesses in the person and attack them as if through an open door)
Where they perceive good affections (they know they are there, maybe they like to attend a church for example), they instantly (try to) turn them into evil ones (maybe they will try to get two church people to argue on something which destroys the peace of being in a church), leading (by the weaknessess in their hearts) and bending them (twisting and making them ugly that were good) in a wonderful manner (the skill in which they do this is like a medical surgeon) by means of the other’s delights (their secret weaknesses); and this so secretly (the victim that is being attacked cannot see it is even happening) and with such malignant skill (only a “genii” could think of such horrible torture and wickedness) that the other knows nothing of it, for they most carefully guard against anything entering into the thought (the “genii” want nothing more than they will not be found out they are there for this is the breathing of life to them to hurt others), as thereby they would be manifested (be found out)
The seat of these (weaknesses in character) with man is beneath the back part of the head (contained within the brain there, so the “genii” sneak up from behind like cowards to attack the victim there). In the world (when these “genii” lived in the world) these were the men (people) who deceitfully (not giving away to the victim their true intentions to attack and kill spiritually) captivated the minds (like a witch casting spells of evil) of others, leading and persuading them by the delights of their affections (the things in their hearts that they do not want to give up or ask the Lord for help) or lusts. But these “genii” are held by the Lord at a distance (they cannot get too close) from every man (person) of whose reformation (being born again into the kingdom and being trained for the life there) there is any hope (if they still have a conscience Jesus still hopes for the best); for they (the “Genii”) have the ability (the power) not only to destroy the conscience but also to stir up in man his inherited evils (human beings naturally like to entertain evils when they enter the world), which otherwise lie hidden (the “Genii” will try to stir these emotions into a flame of fire and into full-blown sin). Therefore, to prevent man’s being led into these evils, these hells, by the Lord’s provision, are entirely closed up (unless they desire to have these emotions and lusts); and when any man of such a genius (of loving the world and loving themselves) comes after death (when they leave the body) into the other life (of eternity), he is at once cast into their hell. When the deceit and craftiness of these genii are seen they appear as vipers (poisonous snakes to the eyes of angels when they look upon them)
What kind of malice (which is the threatening of evil and feeling a need to see others suffer) infernal spirits possess (the power) can be confirmed (they can be seen) from their nefarious arts (wickedness and evil to harm others), which are so many that to enumerate them would fill a book (no one except God knows all the tricks they can use on their victims), and to describe them would fill many books. These arts are mostly unknown in the world. ONE kind relates to abuses of correspondences (for example from the Bible we know words like a “dove” is peaceful and harmless, and the word “serpent” is dangerous and evil. But the “serpent” was still able to deceive Eve with lies) A SECOND (kind) to abuses of the ultimates of Divine order (they are able to operate in the lower spiritual world); A THIRD to the communication and influx of thoughts and affections by conversions, by inspections, and by the instrumentality of other spirits apart from themselves, and spirits sent out by themselves (they are able to operate as gangs and infernal crews to gather information on a victim); A FOURTH to operations by phantasies (they can make the victim enter a dream world in their minds to escape reality); A FIFTH to projections out beyond themselves, and consequent presence elsewhere than where they are in the (spiritual) body (this is known as “astral-projections” or the ability to move the consciousness of the mind away from the body to attack victims); A SIXTH to pretences (saying one thing but meaning another), persuasion (telling the victim what they want to hear), and lies (saying things that are just untrue but still hoping the victim buy the lie). The spirit of an evil man comes of itself into these arts when he is released from his body (after he dies), for they are inherent (although not easily seen it is there) in the nature of the evil in which he then is (after death and free from the body the evil has the full ability to cause harm). By these (magical) arts (the six kinds we just explain and more) they torment each other in the hells (there is no love there so there is only revenge and hatred). But as all of these (magical) arts, except those that are effected by pretenses (saying one thing but meaning another), persuasions (telling the victim what they want to hear), and lies (saying things that are just untrue but still hoping the victim buy the lie), (these three things are common in the world, but the others are not very common) are unknown in the world, I would not here describe them in detail, both because they are not comprehended, and because they are wicked (they are so horrific and terror filled it is not even good to talk about)
The Lord permits torments (for evil spirits) in the hells because in no other way can evils be restrained (kept in check so they will not harm others) and subdued (to do what they are told to do). The only means of restraining and subduing evils and of keeping the infernal crew in bonds is the fear of punishment. There is no other way. For without the fear of punishment and torment, evil would burst forth into rages, and everything would go to pieces, like a kingdom on earth where there is no law and there are no penalties.