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Once by permission a satan and a woman with him, ascended from hell, and came to the house where I was. Seeing them I closed the window, but talked with them through it. I asked the satan where he came from; and he said from his own companions.
And I asked where the woman came from; and he made the same answer. She was from a crowd of sirens, such as are skilled in assuming by means of fantasies all the modes and forms of beauty and adornment, now putting on the beauty of Venus, and now the chaste features of Parnassian nymphs; and again decking themselves out like queens with crowns and royal robes, and walking majestically leaning on silver canes. Such in the world of spirits are harlots, and study fantasies. Fantasy arises from sensual thought when the ideas springing from any interior thought have been excluded.
I asked the satan if she was his wife. He replied, "What is a wife? I do not know and my society does not; she is my harlot." Then she inspired him with lascivious desire, which sirens can do with great skill; and on receiving it he kissed her, and said, "Ah my Adonis!"
But to proceed to serious things. I asked the satan what his occupation was; and he said, "My occupation is the pursuit of learning; do you not see the laurel on my head?" This his Adonis had created by her art, and put on him from behind. And I said, "Since you come from a society where learning prevails, tell me what you and your companions believe in regard to God."
He replied, "To us God is the universe, which we also call nature, and which the more simple of our people call the atmosphere, by which they mean the air, but the wise mean by it the ether. God, heaven, angels and the like, about which many in this world have much to say, are empty terms, and fictions taken from the meteors which here play before the eyes of many people. Are not all things that are visible on the earth created by the sun? At its approach every spring are not winged and creeping insects brought forth; and do not birds, moved by its heat, love each other and propagate their species; and does not the earth when warmed by its heat make seeds to sprout and finally yield fruit as offspring? Is not the universe then a god, and nature a goddess; and does she not, as the spouse of the universe, conceive, bear, bring up, and nourish these offspring?"
I asked further what he and his society believed about religion. He replied, "To us, who are more learned than the masses, religion is nothing but a bewitchment of the common people, which encompasses, like an aura, the sensitive and imaginative powers of their minds; and in that aura notions of piety fly about like butterflies in the air; and their faith, which connects these ideas, as it were, in a chain, is like a silkworm in his cocoon, from which he comes forth as king of the butterflies. For the unlearned masses, from a desire to fly, love to imagine things above their bodily senses and their thought therefrom, in this way making wings for themselves, with which they may soar like eagles and cry boastfully to those on the ground, `Look at me!' But we believe what we see, and we love what we touch." With that he touched his harlot and said, "This is something I believe in because I see and touch it. But we throw that other nonsense out of our windows, and blow it away with a breath of laughter."
I then asked what he and his companions believed about heaven and hell. He replied with a loud laugh, "What is heaven but the ethereal firmament above? And what are its angels but spots wandering about the sun? And what are archangels but comets with long tails, upon which a crowd of them dwell? And what is hell but bogs where, in their imagination, frogs and crocodiles are the devils? Everything beyond these ideas of heaven and hell is mere trumpery brought forth by some prelate for the purpose of winning glory from the ignorant multitude."
All this he said precisely as he had thought upon these subjects in the world, not knowing that he was then living after death, and having forgotten all that he had heard when he first entered the spiritual world. So again he replied to a question about a life after death, that it was a thing of the imagination; and that perchance some effluvium arising from a buried corpse in the shape of a man, or a thing called a ghost, about which some tell stories, had introduced such a notion among men's fancies.
When I heard this I could no longer keep from laughing; and I said, "Satan, you are raving mad. What are you now? Are you not now in the form of a man? Do you not talk, see, hear, walk? Recall to mind that you have lived in another world which you have forgotten, and that you are now living after death, and that you were even now talking just as you formerly did." And recollection was given him, and be remembered and was ashamed; and he cried out, "I am mad! I saw heaven above, and I heard angels there uttering things ineffable; but that was when I first came here. I will now keep this in mind to tell to my companions from whom I came; and perhaps they too will be ashamed as I am." And he kept repeating that he would call them madmen; but as he descended forgetfulness expelled remembrance; and when he reached his companions he was as mad as they, and said that what he had heard from me was madness.
In this way do satans think and talk after death. Those are called satans who have confirmed in themselves falsities until they believe them; and those are called devils who have confirmed in themselves evils by their life.
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