The following is Chapter 6 of Emanuel Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell, taken from Sacred-Texts.com because their website is not mobile friendly. So I copied the chapter here which will be read and discussed during our family study time this coming Saturday. Information about the Chinese translation of this book can be seen here.
VI. THE HEAVENS CONSIST OF INNUMERABLE SOCIETIES. The angels of each heaven are not together in one place, but are divided into larger and smaller societies in accordance with the differences of good of love and of faith in which they are, those who are in like good forming a single society. Goods in the heavens are in infinite variety, and each angel is as it were his own good. 41-1
Moreover, the angelic societies in the heavens are at a distance from each other as their goods differ in general and in particular. For in the spiritual world the only ground of distance is difference in the state of interiors, thus in the heavens difference in the states of love, those who differ much being far apart, and those who differ but little being but little apart, and likeness causing them to be together. 42-1
All who are in the same society are arranged in like manner in respect to each other; those who are more perfect, that is, who excel in good, thus in love, wisdom, and intelligence, being in the middle; those who are less pre-eminent being round about at a distance in accordance with the decrease of their perfection. The arrangement is like light diminishing from the middle to the circumference, those who are in the middle being in the greatest light, and those towards the circumference in less and less.
Like are drawn spontaneously as it were to their like; for with their like they are as if with their own and at home, but with others they are as if with strangers and abroad; also when with their like they are in their freedom, and consequently in every delight of life.
All this makes clear that all in the heavens are affiliated by good, and are distinguished according to the quality of the good. Nevertheless it is not the angels who thus affiliate themselves, but the Lord, from whom the good is. The Lord leads them, conjoins and separates them, and preserves them in freedom proportionate to their good. Thus He holds everyone in the life of his love and faith, of his intelligence and wisdom, and the resulting happiness. 45-1
Again, all who are in like good, even though they have never seen each other before, know each other, just as men in the world do their kinsmen, near relations, and friends; and for the reason that in the other life there are none but spiritual kinships, relationships, and friendships, thus such as spring from love and faith. 46-1 This it has sometimes been granted me to see, when I have been in the spirit, and thus withdrawn from the body, and in the society of angels. Some of those I then saw seemed as if I had known them from childhood, but others as if not known at all. Those whom I seemed to have known from childhood were such as were in a state similar to that of my spirit; but those who seemed unknown were in a dissimilar state.
All who form the same angelic society resemble each other in countenance in a general way, but not in particulars. How these general resemblances are related to differences in particulars can in some measure be seen from like things in the world. It is well known that with every race there is a certain general resemblance of face and eyes, by which it is known and distinguished from all other races. This is still more true of different families. In the heavens this is much more fully the case, because there all the interior affections appear in and shine forth from the face, for there the face is the external and representative form of those affections. No one there can have any other face than that of his own affection. It was also shown how this general likeness is varied in particulars with individuals in the same society. A face like an angel’s appeared to me, and this was varied in accordance with such affections for good and truth as are in those who belong to a single society. These changes went on for a long time, and I noticed that the same face in general continued as a ground work, all besides being what was derived and produced from that. Thus by means of this face the affections of the whole society were exhibited, whereby the faces of those in it are varied. For, as has been said above, the faces of angels are the forms of their interiors, thus of the affections that belong to their love and faith.
From this it also comes to pass that an angel who excels in wisdom instantly sees the quality of another from his face. In heaven no one can conceal his interiors by his expression, or feign, or really deceive and mislead by craft or hypocrisy. There are hypocrites who are experts in disguising their interiors and fashioning their exteriors into the form of that good in which those are who belong to a society, and who thus make themselves appear angels of light; and these sometimes insinuate themselves into a society; but they cannot stay there long, for they begin to suffer inward pain and torture, to grow livid in the face, and to become as it were lifeless. These changes arise from the contrariety of the life that flows in and affects them. Therefore they quickly cast themselves down into hell where their like are, and no longer want to ascend. These are such as are meant by the man found among the invited guests at the feast not clothed with a wedding garment, who was cast out into outer darkness Matt. 22:11, seq.).
All the societies of heaven have communication with one another, though not by open interaction; for few go out of their own society into another, since going out of their own society is like going away from themselves or from their own life, and passing into another life which is less congenial. But all the societies communicate by an extension of the sphere that goes forth from the life of each. This sphere of the life is the sphere of the affections of love and faith. This sphere extends itself far and wide into the surrounding societies, and farther and wider in proportion as the affections are the more interior and perfect. 49-1 In the measure of that extension do the angels have intelligence and wisdom. Those that are in the inmost heaven and in the middle of it have extension into the entire heavens; thus there is a sharing of all in heaven with each one, and of each one with all. 49-2 But this extension will be considered more fully hereafter, where the form of heaven in accord with which the angelic societies are arranged, and also the wisdom and intelligence of angels, will be treated of, for in accordance with that form all extension of affections and thoughts proceeds.
It has been said above that in the heavens there are larger and smaller societies. The larger consist of myriads of angels, the smaller of some thousands, and the least of some hundreds. There are also some that dwell apart, house by house as it were, and family by family. Although these live in this scattered way, they are arranged in order like those who live in societies, the wiser in the middle and the more simple in the borders. Such are more closely under the Divine auspices of the Lord, and are the best of the angels.