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Chapter 61

The Appearance, Situation, and Number of the Hells.

582. In the spiritual world, that is, in the world where spirits and angels are, the same objects appear as in the natural world, that is, where men are. In external appearance there is no difference. In that world plains and mountains, hills and rocks, and valleys between them are seen; also waters, and many other things that are seen on earth. And yet all these things are from a spiritual origin, and all are therefore seen by the eyes of spirits and angels, and not by the eyes of men, because men are in the natural world. Spiritual beings see such things as are from a spiritual origin, and natural beings such things as are from a natural origin. Consequently man with his eyes can in no way see the objects that are in the spiritual world unless he is permitted to be in the spirit, or after death when he becomes a spirit. On the other hand, an angel or a spirit is unable to see any thing at all in the natural world unless he is with a man who is permitted to speak with him. For the eyes of man are fitted to receive the light of the natural world, and the eyes of angels and spirits are fitted to receive the light of the spiritual world; although the eyes of the two are exactly alike in appearance. That the spiritual world is such the natural man cannot comprehend, and least of all the sensual man, who believes nothing except what he sees with his bodily eyes and touches with his hands, and therefore takes in by sight and touch. As his thought is from such things it is material and not spiritual. Such being the likeness between the spiritual world and the natural world, man can hardly believe after death that he is not in the world where he was born, and from which he has departed. For this reason death is called simply a translation from one world into another like it. (That the two worlds are thus alike can be seen above, where representatives and appearances in heaven have been treated of, n. 170-176.)

583. The heavens are in the higher parts of the spiritual world, the world of spirits in the lower parts, and under both are the hells. The heavens are visible to spirits in the world of spirits only when their interior sight is opened; although they sometimes see them as mists or as bright clouds. This is because the angels of heaven are in an interior state in respect to intelligence and wisdom; and for this reason they are above the sight of those who are in the world of spirits. But spirits who dwell in the plains and valleys see one another; and yet when they are separated there, which takes place when they are let into their interiors, the evil spirits do not see the good spirits; but the good spirits can see the evil spirits. Nevertheless, the good spirits turn themselves away from the evil spirits; and when spirits turn themselves away they become invisible. But the hells are not seen because they are closed up. Only the entrances, which are called gates, are seen when they are opened to let in other like spirits. All the gates to the hells open from the world of spirits, and none of them from heaven.

584. The hells are everywhere, both under the mountains, hills, and rocks, and under the plains and valleys. The openings or gates to the hells that are under the mountains, hills, and rocks, appear to the sight like holes and clefts in the rocks, some extended and wide, and some straitened and narrow, and many of them rugged. They all, when looked into, appear dark and dusky; but the infernal spirits that are in them are in such a luminosity as arises from burning coals. Their eyes are adapted to the reception of that light, and for the reason that while they lived in the world they were in thick darkness in respect to Divine truths, because of their denying them, and were in a sort of light in respect to falsities because of their affirming them. In this way did the sight of their eyes become so formed. And for the same reason the light of heaven is thick darkness to them, and therefore when they go out of their dens they see nothing. All this makes it abundantly clear that man comes into the light of heaven just to the extent that he acknowledges the Divine, and establishes in himself the things of heaven and the church; and that he comes into the thick darkness of hell just to the extent that he denies the Divine, and establishes in himself what is contrary to the truths of heaven and the church.

585. The openings or gates to the hells that are beneath the plains and valleys present to the sight different appearances. Some resemble those that are beneath the mountains, hills and rocks; some resemble dens and caverns, some great chasms and whirlpools; some resemble bogs, and some standing water. They are all covered, and are opened only when evil spirits from the world of spirits are cast in; and when they are opened there bursts forth from them either something like the fire and smoke that is seen in the air from burning buildings, or like a flame without smoke, or like soot such as comes from a burning chimney, or like a mist and thick cloud. I have heard that the infernal spirits neither see nor feel these things, because when they are in them they are as in their own atmosphere, and thus in the delight of their life; and this for the reason that these things correspond to the evils and falsities in which they are, fire corresponding to hatred and revenge, smoke and soot to the falsities therefrom, flame to the evils of the love of self, and a mist or thick cloud to falsities from that love.

586. I have also been permitted to look into the hells and to see what they are within; for when the Lord wills, the sight of a spirit or angel from above may penetrate into the lowest depths beneath and explore their character, notwithstanding the coverings. In this way I have been permitted to look into them. Some of the hells appeared to the view like caverns and dens in rocks extending inward and then downward into an abyss, either obliquely or vertically. Some of the hells appeared to the view like the dens and caves of wild beasts in forests; some like the hollow caverns and passages that are seen in mines, with caverns extending towards the lower regions. Most of the hells are threefold, the upper one appearing within to be in dense darkness, because inhabited by those who are in the falsities of evil; while the lower ones appear fiery, because inhabited by those who are in evils themselves, dense darkness corresponding to the falsities of evil, and fire to evils themselves. Those that have acted interiorly from evil are in the deeper hells, and those that have acted exteriorly from evil, that is, from the falsities of evil, are in the hells that are less deep. Some hells present an appearance like the ruins of houses and cities after conflagrations, in which infernal spirits dwell and hide themselves. In the milder hells there is an appearance of rude huts, in some cases contiguous in the form of a city with lanes and streets, and within the houses are infernal spirits engaged in unceasing quarrels, enmities, fightings, and brutalities; while in the streets and lanes robberies and depredations are committed. In some of the hells there are nothing but brothels, disgusting to the sight and filled with every kind of filth and excrement. Again, there are dark forests, in which infernal spirits roam like wild beasts and where, too, there are underground dens into which those flee who are pursued by others. There are also deserts, where all is barren and sandy, and where in some places there are ragged rocks in which there are caverns, and in some places huts. Into these desert places those are cast out from the hells who have suffered every extremity of punishment, especially those who in the world have been more cunning than others in undertaking and contriving intrigues and deceits. Such a life is their final lot.

587. As to the positions of the hells in detail, it is something wholly unknown even to the angels in heaven; it is known to the Lord alone. But their position in general is known from the quarters in which they are. For the hells, like the heavens, are distinguished by their quarters; and in the spiritual world quarters are determined in accordance with loves; for in heaven all the quarters begin from the Lord as the sun, who is the East; and as the hells are opposite to the heavens their quarters begin from the opposite point, that is, from the west. (On this see the chapter on the four quarters in heaven, n. 141-153.) [2] For this reason the hells in the western quarter are the worst of all, and the most horrible, becoming gradually worse and more horrible by degrees the more remote they are from the east. In the western hells are those who in the world were in the love of self, and in consequent contempt of others, and in enmity against those who did not favor them, also in hatred and revenge against those who did not render them respect and homage. In the most remote hells in that quarter are those that had belonged to the Catholic religion, so called, and that had wished to be worshiped as gods, and consequently had burned with hatred and revenge against all who did not acknowledge their power over the souls of men and over heaven. These continue to have the same disposition, that is, the same hatred and revenge against those who oppose them, that they had in the world. Their greatest delight is to practice cruelties; but in the other life this delight is turned against themselves; for in their hells, with which the western quarter is filled, one rages against every one who detracts from his Divine power. (But more will be said about this in the treatise on The Last Judgment and the Destruction of Babylon.) [3] Nevertheless, no one can know how the hells in that quarter are arranged, except that the most dreadful hells of that kind are at the sides towards the northern quarter, and the less dreadful towards the southern quarter; thus the dreadfulness of the hells decreases from the northern quarter to the southern, and likewise by degrees towards the east. Towards the east are the dwelling places of the haughty, who have not believed in the Divine, and yet have not been in such hatred and revenge, or in such deceit, as those have who are in a greater depth in the western quarter. [4] In the eastern quarter there are at present no hells, those that were there having been transferred to the western quarter in front. In the northern and southern quarters there are many hells; and in them are those who while in the world were in love of the world, and in various kinds of evil therefrom, such as enmity, hostility, theft, robbery, cunning, avarice, and unmercifulness. The worst hells of this kind are in the northern quarter, the milder in the southern. Their dreadfulness increases as they are nearer to the western quarter, and also as they are farther away from the southern quarter, and decreases towards the eastern quarter and towards the southern quarter. Behind the hells that are in the western quarter there are dark forests, in which malignant spirits roam like wild beasts; and it is the same behind the hells in the northern quarter. But behind the hells in the southern quarter there are deserts, which have been described just above. This much respecting the situation of the hells.

588. In regard to the number of the hells, there are as many of them as there are angelic societies in the heavens, since there is for every heavenly society a corresponding infernal society as its opposite. That the heavenly societies are numberless, and are all distinguished in accordance with the goods of love, charity, and faith, may be seen in the chapter that treats of the societies of which the heavens consist (n. 41-50), and in the chapter on the immensity of heaven (n. 415-420). The like is true, therefore, of the infernal societies, which are distinguished in accordance with the evils that are the opposites of those goods. [2] Every evil, as well as every good, is of infinite variety. That this is true is beyond the comprehension of those who have only a simple idea regarding every evil, such as contempt, enmity, hatred, revenge, deceit, and other like evils. But let them know that each one of these evils contains so many specific differences, and each of these again so many specific or particular differences, that a volume would not suffice to enumerate them. The hells are so distinctly arranged in order in accordance with the differences of every evil that nothing could be more perfectly ordered or more distinct.

Evidently, then, the hells are innumerable, near to and remote from one another in accordance with the differences of evils generically, specifically, and particularly. [3] There are likewise hells beneath hells. Some communicate with others by passages, and more by exhalations, and this in exact accordance with the affinities of one kind or one species of evil with others. How great the number is of the hells I have been permitted to realize from knowing that there are hells under every mountain, hill, and rock, and likewise under every plain and valley, and that they stretch out beneath these in length and in breadth and in depth. In a word, the entire heaven and the entire world of spirits are, as it were, excavated beneath, and under them is a continuous hell. Thus much regarding the number of the hells.

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Footnotes to Chapter 61

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