280. Fourth Memorable Relation:
I once saw at a distance walks between rows of trees, and groups of youths assembled there, forming as many companies discussing matters of wisdom. This was in the spiritual world. I went towards them, and as I drew near I saw one whom the rest venerated as their primate, because he excelled them in wisdom.
When he saw me he said, "I wondered when I saw you approaching, that at one time you came in sight and at another you dropped out of sight, or I could see you and then suddenly I could not. You are certainly not in the same state of life as we are."
Smiling at this I said, "I am not a stage-player, nor a Vertumnus, but I am alternately in your light and in your shade; thus here I am both a foreigner and a native."
At this the wise man gazed at me and said, "Your words are strange and marvelous; tell me who you are."
And I said, "I am in the world in which you once were and from which you came, which is called the natural world; and I am also in the world in which you now are, which is called the spiritual world; consequently, I am at the same time in a natural state and in a spiritual state, in a natural state with men on earth, and in a spiritual state with you; and when I am in a natural state I am not seen by you, but when in a spiritual state, I am seen. That I am such is granted me by the Lord. To you who are enlightened it is known that a man of the natural world does not see a man of the spiritual world, nor the reverse; therefore when I had let my spirit down into my body I was not visible to you, but when I raised it out of the body I was visible. This comes from the distinction between the spiritual and the natural."
 When he heard the words, "the distinction between the spiritual and the natural," he said, "What is the distinction? Is it not like that between the purer and the less pure, that is, that the spiritual is simply a purer natural?"
I answered, "Such is not the distinction. By no sort of refinement can the natural so approximate the spiritual as to become the spiritual; for the distinction is like that between the prior and the posterior, between which there is no finite ratio. For the prior is in the posterior as a cause in its effect; and the posterior is from the prior as an effect is from its cause. Therefore the one is not visible to the other."
At this the wise man said, "I have meditated on this distinction, but thus far in vain; I wish I could perceive I replied, "You shall both perceive and see the distinction between the spiritual and the natural." And I then said, "You are in a spiritual state when you are with your associates, but in a natural state when with me; for with your associates you speak in a spiritual language, which is common to every spirit and angel; but with me you speak in my native tongue, for every spirit and angel when speaking to a man uses the man's own language; thus, French to a Frenchman, Greek to a Greek, Arabic to an Arabian, and so on.  If therefore you would know the difference between the spiritual and the natural in regard to language, do this: go to your companions and there say something; retain the words, return with them in your memory, and utter them to me."
This he did, and returned to me with the words in his mouth, and uttered them; and they were words wholly strange and foreign, such as are not found in any language in the natural world. By this experiment several times repeated, it became clearly manifest that all in the spiritual world have a spiritual language that has nothing in common with any natural language, and that every man comes of himself into that language after death. I also found on one occasion that the very sound of spiritual language differs so much from the sound of natural language, that even a loud spiritual sound could not be heard at all by a natural man, nor a natural sound by a spiritual man.
 After this I asked the spirit and those standing about to go among their companions, and write some sentence upon paper, and then come out to me with the paper and read it. This they did, and returned with the paper in their hands; but when they came to read it, they could not, because the writing consisted solely of some alphabetical letters, with curves over them, each one of which meant something pertaining to the subject. Inasmuch as each letter of the alphabet there stands for some meaning, it is plain why the Lord is called "the Alpha and the Omega." When they had gone in again and again and had written and returned, they found that the sting involved and comprehended innumerable things which no natural writing could possibly express; and they were told that this is so because the spiritual man's thoughts are incomprehensible and ineffable to the natural man, and that they can be put into no other writing or language.
 Then as the bystanders had no wish to understand that spiritual thought so far exceeds natural thought as to be comparatively ineffable, I said to them, "Make an experiment; enter your spiritual society and think of some subject, retain it, and return and express it in my presence."
They entered, thought of a subject, retained it, and came out; and when they tried to give expression to it they could not; for they could find no idea of natural thought adequate to any idea of purely spiritual thought, and thus no words to express it; for the ideas of thought become words in speech. Afterwards they entered again, and returned; and became convinced that spiritual ideas are supernatural, inexpressible, ineffable and incomprehensible to a natural man; and they said that being so supereminent, spiritual ideas or thoughts in comparison with natural are ideas of ideas and thoughts of thoughts, and therefore by them the qualities of qualities and the affections of affections are expressed; consequently that spiritual thoughts are the beginnings and origins of natural thoughts; and from this it is evident that spiritual wisdom is the wisdom of wisdom, and is therefore inexpressible to any wise man in the natural world.  Then it was said from the higher heaven that there is a still more interior or higher wisdom which is called celestial, the relation of which to spiritual wisdom is like the relation of this to natural wisdom, and that these inflow in order according to the heavens from the Lord's Divine wisdom, which is infinite.
Thereupon, the man speaking with me said, "This I see, because I perceive it, that one natural idea is the containant of many spiritual ideas; also that one spiritual idea is the containant of many celestial ideas. From this it follows as a consequence, that what is divided does not become more and more simple, but more and more manifold, because it approaches nearer and nearer to the infinite, which contains all things infinitely."
 After all this had taken place, I said to the bystanders, "From these three experimental proofs you see what kind of distinction there is between the spiritual and the natural, and also the reason why a natural man is not visible to a spiritual man, or a spiritual man to a natural man, although both are in a complete human form, and from that form it seems to each as though he might see the other. But the interiors Which belong to the mind are what constitute that form; and the minds of spirits and angels are formed out of spiritual things, while the minds of men so long as they live in the world, are formed out of natural things."
After this a voice was heard from the higher heaven, saying to one who stood by, "Come up hither." He went up, and returned and said that the angels had not before known the differences between the spiritual and the natural, because the means of comparison had not previously been furnished in a man who was in both worlds at once, and without comparison and relation those differences are unknowable.
 Before we separated we talked again about this matter, and I said, "These distinctions come solely from this, that you in the spiritual world are substantial but not material, and substantial things are the beginnings of material things. What is matter but an aggregation of substances? You therefore are in principles and thus in the least particles, while we are in derivatives and compounds; you are in particulars, while we are in generals; and as generals cannot enter into particulars, so neither can natural things, which are material, enter into spiritual things, which are substantial; just as a ship's cable cannot enter or be drawn through the eye of a sewing needle, or a nerve cannot be drawn into one of the fibers of which it is composed. This then is why the natural man cannot think the thoughts of the spiritual man, and therefore cannot utter them. So what Paul heard from the third heaven he called ineffable.  Add to this, that to think spiritually is to think apart from time and space, while to think naturally is to think in accord with time and space; for to every idea of natural thought there adheres something from time and space; but it is not so with any spiritual idea, and for the reason that the spiritual world is not in space and time, as the natural world is, but is in the appearance of these two. In the same way do the thoughts and perceptions of the two worlds differ. For this reason you are able to think of the essence and omnipotence of God from eternity, that is, to think of God before the creation of the world, because you think of the essence of God apart from time and of His omnipotence apart from space; and thus you can comprehend such things as transcend man's natural ideas."
 I then told them that I had once thought about the essence and omnipresence of God from eternity, that is, about God before the creation of the world; and because I was not then able to separate spaces and times from the ideas of my thought I became anxious, since the idea of nature in place of God pressed in. But it was said to me, "Separate the ideas of space and time and you will see;" and I was permitted to separate them, and I saw; and since then I have been able to think of God from eternity, but by no means of nature from eternity, because God is in all time apart from time, and in all space apart from space; but nature in all time is in time, and in all space is in space; and nature with its time and space must needs have beginning; but not God who is apart from time and space. Therefore nature is not God from eternity, but is from God in time, in connection with its own time and space.