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Every day, incredibly powerful beings wage war on evil to protect us. They have unique abilities, work in teams, and fight solely for the greater good.
These aren’t comic book superheroes—they’re real-life angels.
It’s hard to talk about angels without talking about power, but exactly how powerful are angels? What can they really do—and why don’t they do more? In this episode, host Curtis Childs takes a look at Swedenborg’s experiences with these beautiful, powerful, loving beings.
A Will and a Look
Though they’re called many things, there’s a shared experience of angels and a general agreement that they are powerful beings. However, most people don’t see their power—or do they?
People who do not know anything about the spiritual world and its inflow into the natural world cannot grasp the fact that angels have power. They think that angels cannot have power because they are spiritual and so pure and insubstantial that they cannot even be seen by our eyes. People who probe more deeply into the causes of things, though, feel otherwise about it. (Heaven and Hell §228)
If you understand the way the spiritual world flows into the visible world, the power of angels becomes much more clear. If you say you’ve never met an angel, Curtis asks, “Have you ever walked?” The ability to function streams from God, through angels, and into us. Swedenborg experienced this firsthand, but many in his church at the time didn’t feel it as intensely.
In fact, according to Swedenborg, we can become angels—it’s our destination. We’re all angels-in-training, but Swedenborg got to jump ahead and experience the full power of being an angel. In one place, he describes how he was granted the ability to fight “profane magicians”—evil spirits who abuse natural laws to harm people.
Against the power of an angel, these forces of evil are totally helpless. He was able to do this through focus, which is why prayer can be so powerful—it’s a focus of intention. With an angelic mind, he could directly channel that energy.
If anything is opposed to the divine design, angels overturn it with minimal effort.
In the spiritual world angels have so much power that if I were to highlight everything I have seen, it would strain credulity. If anything there is in the way and needs to be removed because it is opposed to the divine design, they raze and overturn it simply by an effort of will and a look. (Heaven and Hell §229)
The pure power of angels would make the average superhero look powerless. They can crush mountains that hide evil or cast demons into hell by the multitude. This power transcends the spiritual world, as reported throughout the Bible, where angels have destroyed earthly armies.
With so much power, do angels have a weakness?
The Angelic Achilles Heel
An angel’s kryptonite has to do with ownership. If they take credit for their power—which all comes straight from God—they can lose it instantly. If they don’t attribute their power to the Lord, which is the power of love, they can’t resist even one evil spirit.
Since angels must be humble in order to function, they don’t focus on themselves as individuals. Curtis draws a comparison to an old cartoon called Captain Planet, where a group of people with different types of powers unite to form a single hero. In a similar way, angels can unite their powers to become an archangel. Angels like Michael or Gabriel aren’t single beings who are better than other angels; these names actually represent functions that are formed by groups of angels working together.
We’ve looked at how to lose power, but how do angels gain it? Swedenborg has the answer:
Jesus said, “If you have faith, if you say to this mountain, ‘Get up, throw yourself into the sea,’ it will be done. In fact, everything that you ask believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:21–22) This is a way of describing the power of people who are in the Lord. They do not want anything and therefore do not ask for anything unless it is from the Lord, and whatever they want and request from the Lord is done, for the Lord says, “Without me you cannot do anything: dwell in me, and I in you.” Angels in heaven have this kind of power, so that if they simply want something, they receive it. However, they do not want anything unless it is useful, and they want it apparently on their own, but actually from the Lord. (Revelation Unveiled §951)
The secret to power is to have the same desires that God has: to find the best, most loving solution to any situation. When angels want the greatest good to come to the whole human race, they channel God’s divine power.
Divine power comes straight from the Lord, and it is made up of good and truth. Angelic power comes from the light of heaven, and the more they align themselves with divine intention, the more power they gain. They use this power for more than just the destruction of evil.
What’s the Use?
What is the useful purpose of angels’ power? One function of angels is to be our protectors. Though animosity pushes in on us, angels push back even harder by tapping into infinite divine power.
Another way that angels use their power is as a means to enlighten us. In one story Swedenborg tells, an angel uses his power to open the mind of a person who had done harm to others in the world. But the angel doesn’t do it to attack or make the other person feel bad—he does it to serve. Angels live to serve in this way.
Swedenborg often describes heaven as a “Grand Human” or “Universal Human,” where each angel has his or her own role to play, in much the same way that different organs and limbs serve different functions in the human body. The strongest angels are those who act as the arm and hand of heaven.
What’s Your Superpower?
We each have the potential to be a manifestation of divine love and wisdom in a way that nobody else can. Everyone has a totally unique offering they can bring to the natural and spiritual worlds. However, we must overcome many spiritual challenges, which Swedenborg called “chastenings,” to develop that power.
Power is obtained only by chastenings. I spoke with spirits who were undergoing chastening and were losing hope, because they did not want to believe what they were being told—namely, that they can only obtain the power to become angels through chastenings. Before they have gotten as a gift from the Lord the amount of power needed to be able to be led as angels, they cannot be let in. There must be a fullness of power before admission is possible; hence the chastening process. (Spiritual Experiences §1218)
These powers can only be unlocked by going through difficulty. Angels are always refining and improving their unique powers. This is the reason for adversity—it’s an opportunity to grow stronger.
So what kind of superpowers can we look forward to? Curtis goes through the list, which includes superhuman strength, X-ray vision, and the ability to fly. These spiritual powers make Superman look silly! But why aren’t these super-powerful angels saving the world?
Absent and Silent
As powerful and plentiful as angels are, interference can limit the visibility of their power. Swedenborg describes a psychic field created collectively by the spirits closest to our world that blocks heaven from communicating directly with us.
There are modern reports of a similar phenomenon: author Marilynn Hughes, for instance, talks about pushing through a field of thousands of demons floating above a city. She explains that we can contribute to this field by thinking or acting negatively, or we can help to clean it up by pushing away negativity.
Swedenborg also tells us that we can push angels away or draw them closer through our state of mind:
Before regeneration we have with us evil spirits whose grip on us is so strong that the angels, though present, can achieve hardly any results. All they can do is head us off from rushing into the worst kind of evil and divert us toward some form of good. They even use our own appetites to lead us toward good, and the illusions of our senses to lead us toward truth. Under these circumstances we communicate with the world of spirits by means of the spirits around us but not so much with heaven, since the evil spirits are in charge and the angels only deflect their influence. When we are regenerate, on the other hand, the angels are in charge, inspiring us with all kinds of goodness and truth and instilling a horror and fear of evil and falsity. (Secrets of Heaven §50:2–3)
Curtis compares the field to space junk. Our planet is surrounded by clutter, and any one piece of debris could smash a satellite. If we push through it, however, we can become the superhuman angels we are born to be!
In the last segment, Curtis answers these questions from our viewers:
- How do some angels become more powerful than others (the ones of the right arm)?
- How do I know when I have met an angel?
- Can the souls in hell confront the angels in heaven?
- Do angels come through to people who do bad things on earth?
- When you refer to “The Lord,” who or what do you think “The Lord” is, according to Swedenborg?
- How does a man develop that much faith? It sounds to be a complete submission to God’s will with a complete loss of self.
- Can I request to talk with my angel? Can I see my angel?
- About the future new church that is coming, is that church eternal or are we going to get it for a while then start to go downhill again and repeat the process?
Related Swedenborg and Life Videos
Swedenborg and Life “Angels & Spirits” Playlist includes twenty more videos about angels, life in heaven, communication with the beyond, and ways to combat the influence of evil spirits in our lives.
The following videos were also referenced in the episode:
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About Swedenborg and Life
In a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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