Friday, December 7, 2018

An Explanation of Swedenborg's Extraterrestrial Encounters

Emanuel Swedenborg was a scientific genius of the 18th century, who later in life experienced a spiritual awakening and was introduced to the spiritual world. He was given new revelations concerning Christianity, and wrote volumes concerning a systematic and rational Christian theology that reveals the spiritual sense of scripture. Time and time again, it was verified that he had some clairvoyant abilities, one of which was verified by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. However he attempted to keep these private, as spiritual truths should be examined on their own merits, without external "miraculous" proofs.

In his 27 years of waking visions of the spiritual world, Swedenborg was surprised to encounter angelic spirits of the human race that were not from our planet but from other planets. In his attempt to determine where they originated, Swedenborg concluded that some originated from planets of this solar system, based on his limited astronomical knowledge of the 18th century. This has caused many to offhand reject the revelations that Swedenborg received, and many who study the theology have questions about this.

So what is the explanation? Swedenborg's visions of extraterrestrials were first published in interspersed passages in a massive multi-volume work Heavenly Arcana (aka Arcana Coelestia, meaning "Heavenly Secrets"). He then republished these experiences in a smaller work, Earths in the Universe. Both of these are available in the multi-volume set, The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem. However, the original encounters with extraterrestrials were first recorded in his private diary, which I have published separately in The Spiritual Diary of Emanuel Swedenborg. This Spiritual Diary contains details about these extraterrestrials which were not in the published accounts, and in fact provides some insightful answers.

Although I have discussed extraterrestrials before, I realized I never gave an overall assessment of Swedenborg's work, Earths in the Universe. So, using the resources at hand, lets examine this closely, point by point, to give others the proper background in this area.


At times Swedenborg had remote clairvoyant visions of physical locations. However these are rare. These particular waking visions took place in the spiritual world, where physical concepts such as time and space become irrelevant. In this state, the physical natural world is invisible. Swedenborg states that the light of the sun in the natural world is complete darkness to the angelic spirits of the spiritual world:
"It is to be known that the sun of the world does not appear at all to any spirit, nor any of its light. The light of that sun is to spirits and angels like thick darkness. That sun remains only in the perception of spirits, from their having seen it while in the world, and is presented to them in idea as something dusky and this behind at a considerable distance" (Earths in the Universe, n. 42).
Also Swedenborg admits that he could by no means see the planet, only the spirits from that planet:
"no earth is anywhere seen by those who are in the spiritual world, but only the spirits and angels who are from it" (Earths in the Universe, n. 47).
So this obviously leaves room for error as to one's exact physical location or dimension. At times Swedenborg tries to get around this limitation which does not always provide a correct answer.


In the spiritual world, ideas are elevated to an abstract level, where a person, place or thing is not thought of, but what that person, place or thing signifies in a spiritual sense. For example, our physical idea of "light" is translated into a higher level concept of "truth." Every physical idea we have corresponds to a higher level concept. And this would include the planets of our solar system. When Swedenborg saw from afar what the solar system looked like, it looked nothing like our physical solar system (see Earths in the Universe, n. 42), for things appeared according to their symbolic spiritual relationships.


In Swedenborg's visions, he saw that all of heaven were arranged into individual societies, and sometimes he references particular stars. However in the spiritual world it is known that stars in the physical world correspond to societies of angels in the spiritual world. Swedenborg briefly notes this in a couple of passages in Heavenly Arcana:
"The very stars correspond, the societies of heaven and their habitations being what they have correspondence with; not that they are there, but that they are in a similar order." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5377.2)
"That the Divine was signified by what is high, was because by the starry heaven was signified the angelic heaven, and it was also believed that it was there, though the wiser among them knew that heaven was not on high, but where the good of love is, and this within man, wheresoever he may be." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8153)
Thus the stars in the natural world correspond to angelic societies in the spiritual world. But in Earths in the Universe, Swedenborg did not indicate this, and when he speaks of an extraterrestrial society, he talks of their star system as a physical star system. In The Spiritual Diary, Swedenborg also explains that an angelic society, although few, can represent an entire planet in its form:
"It is to be observed that in heaven a few may represent themselves as if they were all, and that some few from a globe represent, as it were, the whole planet. Such is the representation in heaven, for the individuals are images of the whole, as a few are images of all." (Spiritual Diary, n. 1444)

Another point that plays a major role in the revelations concerning Christianity is that all of the heavenly societies in the spiritual world correspond to an aspect of the human form, which is termed as the "Grand Man" or "Greatest Man" -
"It is most hidden in the world, yet nothing is more manifest in the other life, even to every spirit, that all things in the human body have correspondence with those that are in heaven; and this so fully that there is not the smallest particle in the body, to which something spiritual and celestial does not correspond... Hence it is that the whole heaven is called also the Greatest Man; and hence it is that it has been so often said that one society belongs to one province of the body, another to another, and so on. The reason is, that the Lord is the Only Man, and heaven represents Him" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2996)
An important corollary point to this is that if a particular society is lacking or deficient in representing a full and complete human form, angelic spirits from other earths will be brought into spiritual communion with our society to "fill the gap" -
"That the universal heaven has the form of one man, which is therefore called the Greatest Man, and that all things and everything pertaining to man, both exterior and interior, correspond to that Man, or heaven, is an arcanum not yet known in the world; but that it is so, has been abundantly shown. To constitute that Greatest Man, spirits are required from many earths, those who come from our earth into heaven not being sufficient, being comparatively few; and it is provided by the Lord that whenever and wherever there is a deficiency in the quality or quantity of correspondence, those are summoned at once from another earth who may supply the deficiency, so that the proportion may be preserved, and thus heaven be kept in due form." (Earths in the Universe, n. 9, also Heavenly Arcana, n. 6807)
So, what Swedenborg saw as "our solar system" was probably a communion of different spiritual societies, so that each society represented a different aspect of the human psyche. In comparison with other extraterrestrial societies, Swedenborg saw that we are the most external and materialistic of most other societies, corresponding to the external senses of the body. Other extraterrestrial societies have to be brought into communion with ours to represent the full aspect of the spiritual levels of the human psyche. Some of this is summarized in the Spiritual Diary:
"In like manner the spirits of the earth Jupiter represent rational ideas... The spirits of the earth Saturn correspond to interior sense, or reason; The spirits of the earth Mercury to knowledges; The spirits of the earth Mars to thought." (Spiritual Diary, n. 1558)
Our earthly society corresponds to what is most external, that is the external sensual of the body, and spiritual concepts and ideas are relatively ignored or absent. Most people put up an external appearance in front of others, and are concerned about external appearance, or material things. But overall most ignore the internal thoughts, intuitions, dreams, conscience and feelings inside of us. To make up for this imbalance, other extraterrestrial spiritual societies have been drawn in to rectify this imbalance.


In Earths in the Universe, Swedenborg starts off describing an interstellar wandering group of extraterrestrials, whose sole purpose in life is to gather knowledge. Swedenborg simply says they are from the planet Mercury. But when we read of the original encounter in The Spiritual Diary, the answer is not so clear. In fact we can see Swedenborg jumps to the conclusion that they must be from a planet in our solar system, but the answer was never once given to him:
"When I represented the planets to them - because they could not say from what planet they came - they said that they know that there are many earths, and they know various things pertaining to the inhabitants of those earths, for they are delighted with cognitions. And when I represented in a spiritual manner the planets which are called Mercury and Venus, they directed my sight to the planet Venus, but I could perceive that they wanted to conceal [where they came from]. Thus I could perceive that they were from the planet nearest the sun" (Spiritual Diary, n. 1425).
This account is omitted in Earths in the Universe. Swedenborg first assumes they are from our solar system, even though they are telling him there are many planets in the universe. He then picks Mercury and Venus, they say "not Venus" and Swedenborg then assumes it must be Mercury. And this from a group of extraterrestrials that we would perhaps call "habitual liars," because it was their custom to give either an opposite or indirect answer to a question. This they did not consider a "lie," but rather it was to excite the curiosity to know:
"They said that when they speak with the men of their own earth, they do the same, and this not with the intention of deceiving, but to inspire the desire of knowing. For when they suggest what is opposite, and conceal things in a certain manner, the desire of knowing is excited, and thus from the endeavor to examine into what is presented, the memory is perfected." (Earths in the Universe, n. 35, also Heavenly Arcana, n. 7074)
As to why Mercury was selected, this is explained in the myths of Mercury and Hermes who are associated with travel, knowledge and trade, which would correspond to an extraterrestrial society that travels the universe to gather knowledge. When one knows how physical ideas correspond to spiritual ones, the identification makes perfect sense.


Swedenborg talks extensively about the extraterrestrials from the planet Jupiter, and like the ones from Mercury he says he was told that they were from Jupiter. Again there is a more nuanced explanation in The Spiritual Diary that explains why Swedenborg associated this particular extraterrestrial society with the planet Jupiter. First, there is this entry from Jan. 3, 1748:
"representations were shown me of those who are worshipped as saints and gods. The gods and goddesses of the ancients are still represented, as Venus, Diana, Phoebus, Jupiter, and indeed each in his or her own peculiar attire... Moreover, of the men who were worshipped as saints and thus as gods, three kinds only were represented to me. Namely, there were those who are averse to that worship, who were among the angels and guarded by them. Then there are those who do not wish to be among the gods and to be worshipped as gods, but who still retain something of the outward appearance although they repudiate it with the mouth. The third kind are the profane who receive such worship and want to be acknowledged as saints and gods." (Spiritual Diary, n. 440, 443)
Soon after this entry, in the same month Swedenborg encounters the extraterrestrial society "of Jupiter," where they described that some of their society wished to be worshipped as saints or gods. As the myths of Jupiter indicate that Jupiter or Zeus is the head of the gods, it makes perfect sense for Swedenborg's idea of "Jupiter" corresponds to such a society. Jupiter, or Zeus, is the god of thunder, and a representation of that was also shown:
"Jupiter was represented with a continuous power, as it were, of lightning, which cannot be described because it cannot be conceived, by which all are driven away" (Spiritual Diary, n. 440)
And, it just so happens that Swedenborg sees lightning in his interactions with the extraterrestrial society of Jupiter:
"They said that when any little disagreement arises among them, there appears as it were a slender bright ray like that of lightning, or like a little belt in which are gleaming and wandering stars; but any disagreement among them is soon adjusted. Stars gleaming and at the same time wandering signify what is false, but stars gleaming and fixed signify what is true; and thus the former signify disagreement" (Earths in the Universe, n. 50, also Heavenly Arcana, n. 8112).
Lightning, in the spiritual sense, also signifies a heavenly revelation that is dissipated by falsehood (see Heavenly Arcana, n. 3900.9). As in this society there were some disagreements about religion, so it was associated with the god of thunder.


This is a subtle alternate explanation. Since every physical terrestrial object corresponds to something in the spiritual world which is living or alive, every physical planet or star will have a spiritual society associated with it whether that system is actually inhabited or not. As Swedenborg had limited scientific knowledge at the time, he assumed all planets were inhabited. However he does make this alternate conclusion when he realizes that the moon of our earth does not have an atmosphere to support life:
"but still that the human race was there, because there is nothing without an end: thus [so] nothing without the human race, to be a [the] bond between terrestrial and natural things, and celestial things: for otherwise, never can an earth, whether planet, or moon, or satellite, exist" (Spiritual Diary, n. 3244)
The natural world exists and subsists from the spiritual world, which Swedenborg explains further throughout his works. This is an alternate conclusion which unfortunately he did not publish in his work Earths in the Universe.


This is another alternative explanation. In the last 10 years or so, scientists now know much more about Venus and Mars, and there is strong evidence that they were previously inhabitable. While this is now recently known to be true for Mars, one model suggests it is also true for Venus: see NASA Climate Modeling Suggests Venus May Have Been Habitable. Both Venus and Mars once had a breathable atmosphere, and both once had water on the surface. The environment of Venus gradually changed as our Sun grew hotter, and Mars suffered a cataclysm on a grand scale in its distant past. So, in this theory, Venus and/or Mars were previously inhabited, and Swedenborg may have described societies there that have long since died out. That, of course, would entail a radical revision of our human history.


In this theory, some of the societies that Swedenborg is seeing are not extraterrestrial at all, but represent former civilizations from planet earth. Swedenborg saw that angelic spirits are associated with planets from where they are from, since they are of a similar genius and character to those living on the planet. But what happens to former civilizations on earth that have died out, which are of a different character than those living on the planet in the present? If they are of a different character, then the angelic societies of these former civilizations would start to form their own spiritual community, and appear from a different "planet" in the spiritual world.

There are only two "extraterrestrial" societies that Swedenborg describes that are candidates for this theory. One concerns the society of "Mars." For Mars, Swedenborg describes their character and he himself makes the observation that they are of a similar character to the antediluvians that existed on our planet before the flood of Noah. Both the antediluvians and this extraterrestrial society had a similar way of breathing, and were of a "celestial" character as they both were in close contact with heaven, which is described in the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Some, similar to the story of Adam being cast out of the garden of Eden, or Cain being forced to wander, are cast out of their society when they begin to act selfishly. Also like the antediluvians, they are vegetarian.

So what is it about the planet Mars that corresponds to the Adamic race that existed before the flood? For one, the name "Adam" means not only earth but also is related to a word meaning red, and Mars of course is known as the "red planet." As Mars appears red from earth, in ancient mythology he was considered the god of war since they associated the color red with blood. Thus the physical idea of "Mars" corresponds with Adam, and thus in the spiritual world would become associated with the ancient society of the antediluvians. In the spiritual realm, physical ideas get translated into their corresponding abstract ideas independent of the place.

There is one other physical correspondence between the planet Mars and the ancient antediluvians from our history, and this is a little weird because it was not known to Swedenborg. Mars, as it turns out, experienced massive flooding in its distant past. And this is a recent discovery, and it is quite obvious from the analysis of recent probes there. See Remnants of a Mega-Flood on Mars for detailed pictures. Mars happens to have the largest flood channels in the solar system. But this was not known to Swedenborg - the ancient floods of Mars is a recent discovery.

Other than Mars, Venus is the other "extraterrestrial" society that Swedenborg describes which may actually be a spiritual society from our own planet earth. The spiritual society of Venus is divided into two societies, one gentle and humane on the far side, but the one facing our earth is of a savage nature. When describing them, Swedenborg compares them to savage people living on our earth 3000 years ago:
"I have been told by angels what their quality is, and whence they have so savage a nature — namely, that their chief delight is in plundering, and especially in feasting on their plunder. Their enjoyment when thinking of feasting on their plunder, was communicated to me, and was perceived to be extreme. That there have been inhabitants on our earth also of such a savage nature, is plain from the histories of various nations; also from the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (1 Sam. xxx. 16), and from the Jewish and Israelitish nation even in the time of David — in their making yearly excursions to plunder the nations and feast with rejoicing on the spoil. It was also said, that those inhabitants are for the most part giants, and that the men of our earth only come up to their middle" (Earths in the Universe, n. 108, also Heavenly Arcana, n. 7248)
This may just happen to be describing the "Nephilim" - an ancient race of giants that inhabited the land of Canaan during the time of David. They were the descendants of the "sons of God" mating with women during antediluvian times:
"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose... There were giants (Nephilim) in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." (Gen. 6:1-2, 4)
These same giants were encountered in the land of Canaan at the time the Israelites spied upon the land (Num. 13:32-33). There is one ancient theory, popular among the Essenes of ancient Israel, that states that the "sons of God" in the passage of Genesis were extraterrestrial beings. They are described in the apocryphal book of Enoch. They are described as "angels" who descended from heaven, but as they have physical bodies, this ancient work is actually proposing an extraterrestrial origin from a race similar to ours. These beings mated with women to produce giants through illicit sexual relationships. Thus it would make sense for the idea of "Venus" to be associated with this society since Venus is the goddess of love and sex. However this is admittedly strange since this ancient theory was unknown to Swedenborg and even Swedenborg gives an alternate explanation for Genesis 6. The apocryphal book of Enoch was rediscovered in the year 1773, a year after Swedenborg had died. In the latter half of the 20th century remnants of the book were also recovered from the Dead Sea Scrolls. So like Mars, this correspondence is a bit odd as it is based on knowledge unknown Swedenborg.


Besides Swedenborg's other clairvoyant experiences, which were highly accurate according to numerous witnesses, is there any information that was given to factually validate that he indeed came into contact with other extraterrestrials in the spiritual world? Sadly very little. However an exception arises when Swedenborg asks the extraterrestrial society of "Saturn" what the rings looked like to them, for these angelic spirits had retained their memory from their physical lifetime. He gives the following description:
"They were asked about that great ring which appears from our earth to rise above the horizon of that planet, and to vary its situation. They said that it does not appear to them as a ring, but only as a snowy light in the sky, varying in direction." (Earths in the Universe, n. 104, also Heavenly Arcana, n. 8952)
Back in the 18th century, it was thought that the rings of Saturn were solid rings. The rings were first discovered in 1655, but it was not until 1787 after Swedenborg died that Laplace proved that a solid band of rings would be unstable. And it was not until the 19th century that the nature of Saturn's rings became more well defined. From Wikipedia:
"In 1859, James Clerk Maxwell demonstrated that a nonuniform solid ring, solid ringlets or a continuous fluid ring would also not be stable, indicating that the ring must be composed of numerous small particles, all independently orbiting Saturn. Later, Sofia Kovalevskaya also found that Saturn's rings cannot be liquid ring-shaped bodies. Spectroscopic studies of the rings carried out in 1895 by James Keeler of Allegheny Observatory and Aristarkh Belopolsky of Pulkovo Observatory showed Maxwell's analysis was correct."
And now, in the 21st century, the observations of the Cassini probe show that the rings of Saturn are almost entirely composed of particles of water ice, and when seen up close it would look like "snowy light." Here is an image from Cassini:

Like Mercury and Jupiter, Saturn may have misidentified by Swedenborg, and was shown a society that also happens to have rings around its planet. It is now known that it is not unique to Saturn - see Which Planets have Rings?


Since the explosion of the atomic bomb at the end of World War 2, there have been multiple witness accounts of encounters with human or humanoid extraterrestrials. In some of these accounts, it is explained that the human form is common throughout the universe, confirming Swedenborg's statement. Although there is a large body of evidence in this area, it is an active area of counter-intelligence, where frauds and hoaxes are invented every day. It takes discernment to see beyond the methods of "poisoning the well" and "character assassination" as well as the social taboo of ridicule. The methods of secrecy around this subject serve to protect the spiritual truths revealed to Swedenborg against profanation:
"The case is this: When men have become inverted orders of life, and are unwilling to live and be wise except of themselves and from their proprium, then whatever they hear that relates to faith they reason whether it is so or not; and as they do this from themselves, from their sensual ideas and knowledges, they cannot but deny, and when they deny they blaspheme and profane. And at length they do not care if they commingle things profane with those that are holy. When a man has come into such a state of profanation, he is in the other life condemned beyond all hope of salvation" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 301).
In other words, these accounts of extraterrestrials may have been revealed so people would simply not believe and reject anything Swedenborg had to say. For it would be better for them to not to believe, than to take the revelation and then reject or distort it. And the amount of effort that goes in to keep any extraterrestrial contact secret serve to keep the spiritual revelations given to Swedenborg hidden in plain sight.

What is interesting about some of these witness accounts is that some report feeling an intense, irrational anxiety or fear before and during the encounter. Some break out into a sweat before the encounter. And this comes from independent accounts. It is unexplainable, even to those who think they are rationally or intellectually prepared for it. It is very similar to some of the encounters Swedenborg described, in which angelic spirits from our earth started to experience a fear when encountering those from another planet:
"These spirits were altogether unwilling to think of their body, and indeed of any thing corporeal and material — quite unlike the spirits from our earth. This was why they were not willing to come near. And yet after the removal of some of the spirits of our earth, they came nearer and spoke with me. But then anxiety was felt, arising from collision of spheres; for spiritual spheres encompass all spirits and societies of spirits; and as they flow forth from the life of the affections and of the thoughts therefrom, so where there are opposing affections there arises collision, and thence anxiety" (Earths in the Universe, n. 148)
Swedenborg explains that there is an unseen spiritual aura that surrounds each and every living thing. Thus when something foreign is encountered, it engages a "fight or flight" biological response (see Fight-or-flight response). This, as well as other factors, would explain why extraterrestrials would choose not to contact us even though they would become aware of us.


So this sums up my current view on the extraterrestrials that Swedenborg encountered in the spiritual world. Given Swedenborg's other confirmed clairvoyant experiences, it means somewhere out there there are other intelligent and loving human races. None of Swedenborg's experiences by any means discounts any of the other revelations he received, but one has to study the spiritual revelations in order to understand Swedenborg's accounts. Without understanding spiritual correspondences, one is going to get hopelessly lost in the literal account.

As to why these revelations were given to Swedenborg, it is my belief that they were given to help prepare us for eventual extraterrestrial contact. It was also explained to Swedenborg why God chose to become incarnate on our earth and not on others. It serves to expand our limited view to a more universal view, one of understanding of others who are different from us. It is a logical revelation for us to grow in the love for others, to create a bridge across the gulf of separation.


  1. 8: “scientists now know much more about Venus and Mars, and there is strong evidence that they were previously inhabitable.”
    Or ‘habitable’?

    1. Hello Ian, "inhabitable" and "habitable" are synonyms in English, they both mean the same thing.

  2. Hi Doug,

    Just a couple of comments:

    Point 8

    It's best not to get too excited about astronomers concluding that a particular planet may now be habitable, or may have been habitable in the past. In scientific terms, "habitability" includes any form of life. For example, if a planet is capable of supporting microbial life, it is considered habitable.

    In other words "habitable" does not mean "capable of supporting intelligent life," but "capable of supporting life in some form."

    In the case of Venus, due to its relatively short time period of possible habitability, scientists currently think it could at best have evolved microbial life that became aerial. See: Wikipedia -> Life on Venus -> Past habitability potential.

    Similarly, scientists currently think that life on Mars, if it ever existed, did not evolve beyond the microbial stage. See: Wikipedia -> Life on Mars -> Habitability -> Past.

    I'm not aware of any reputable scientific material suggesting that either Venus or Mars could have supported intelligent life.

    In short, current science on the possible past or present habitability of provides no support for the idea of intelligent life existing on either planet, whether in the past or in the present.

    Point 10

    Given Saturn's thick atmosphere, if humanoid life existed on its surface (which present science deems impossible), its inhabitants would not have a clear view of the rings. Therefore Swedenborg's statement in AC 8952 and EU 104 that the inhabitants of Saturn see the rings as "a snowy light in the sky, varying in direction" doesn't tell us anything definite about the nature and composition of the rings, whose light would appear diffuse to surface inhabitants regardless of whether they were solid or made up of particulate matter.

    1. True on Venus and Mars. Unknown and slim possibility there, but I leave it open for sake of completeness.

      For Saturn, as Mercury and Jupiter were misidentified, Saturn probably as well which I did not explicitly state, in which case another planet that also has rings. Thus I pointed out other planets in our solar system which have rings. In the Spiritual Diary when he starts to speak about Saturn he simply says "boundary of our solar system" (n. 1513). But we now know Saturn is not the boundary. What we can say is it may represent a society most removed from the external naturalism of this earth, and that is exactly what is stated: the society of Saturn is closer to the spiritual side than the natural, and an opposition of "opposing spheres" causes the societies to be distant from each other.


Comments, questions, corrections and opinions welcome...