Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Angels See the Word Like an Image in an Anamorphoscope

The Heavenly Doctrines describe the difference between what we see in the Word and what angels see in the Word in many different ways. I read a fun description yesterday that I'd never heard before.
How the Word of the Lord appears before the angels cannot be described, but some idea can be formed by those who have seen in museums the optical cylinders in which beautiful images are represented from things roughly projected. Although the things which are round about in the projection appear to have no form, series, or order, and to be merely confused projections, still when they are concentrated toward the cylinder, they there present a lovely image. So it is with the Word of the Lord, especially with the prophetic Word of the Old Testament. In the literal sense there is scarcely anything that does not appear destitute of order, but when it is being read by a person, and especially by a little boy or girl, it becomes more beautiful and delightful by degrees as it ascends, and at last it is presented before the Lord as the image of a human being.... (Arcana Coelestia 1871)
I'm told that Swedenborg is describing an anamorphoscope. The best pictures and explanation of what this is that I could find are in the book, The Magic Mirror: An Antique Optical Toy (The link lets you look at a couple of pages from the book on Amazon.com. The explanation is on the Front Flap page.)

As a side note, this passage ends with the intriguing statement that, when the image of the Word ascends and is presented before the Lord, it is as a human being, in which heaven is represented, “not as it is, but as the Lord wills it to be, namely, a likeness of Himself.”

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