I’ve been thinking a lot over the last year about the significance of community. Having a group of people who you feel known and understood by, loved and supported by, and with whome that feeling is reciprocated, is an amazing gift.
Earlier in my life I experienced high anxiety as a result of a lack of that kind of community. More specifically it was feeling like my internal emotions and experience didn’t line up with the external appearances about the community I lived in. In terms of religion, skin color, and economic standing I fit with the majority but internally I didn’t feel like I fit in. I also felt as if I had to hide some part of me and that caused significant anxiety.
In some ways being an “obvious” part of the majority of the community was a big part of my emotional conflict. I didn’t feel confrontational or brave enough to demonstrate to people the ways I didn’t fit expectations, but the internal awareness of the fact that I didn’t fit and hiding that caused a lot of anxiety.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized many of these things and decided to let go of trying to hide and force myself to fit into communities where I don’t actually fit. This has left me struggling at times to find where I do fit, or what kind of “fitting” actually matters. Here on earth that has been much more about finding internals that line up than externals.
As humans we are designed to have infinite variety. On earth we look like our genetic family, which doesn’t always match our spiritual family, especially on a broader scale. In heaven things work a little differently.
This section from Heaven and Hell explains how heavenly communities are structured. I love the idea that in heaven there is still the infinite variety of appearance that there is here on earth, but that in heaven those communities (and so also the physical appearances) are determined by our internal loves and so we are always surrounded by that love and support and familiarity that we sometimes have to work so hard to find on earth.
“41. The Heavens Are Made Up of Countless Communities
The angels of any given heaven are not all together in one place, but are separated into larger and smaller communities depending on differences in the good effects of the love and faith they are engaged in. Angels engaged in similar activities form a single community. There is an infinite variety of good activities in heaven, and each individual angel is, so to speak, his or her own activity.
42. The distances between angelic communities in the heavens also vary as their activities vary, in general and in detail. This is because the only cause of distance in the spiritual world is the difference of the state of our more inward natures-in the heavens, then, differences in the state of love. When communities are very different, the distance between them is great; when the difference is slight, the distance is slight. Likeness makes for unity.
43. All the individuals in a single community are distanced from each other by the same principle. The better ones, that is, the ones who are more complete in goodness and therefore in love, wisdom, and intelligence, are in the center. Those who are less outstanding surround them at distances graded in proportion to their lessened perfection. It is like the way light decreases from a center toward a circumference. The ones who are in the middle are in the greatest light, while the ones who are toward the perimeter are in less and less.
44. Kindred souls gravitate toward each other spontaneously, as it were, for with each other they feel as though they are with their own family, at home, while with others they feel like foreigners, as though they were abroad. When they are with kindred souls, they enjoy the fullest freedom and find life totally delightful.
45. We can see from this that the good gathers everyone together in the heavens, and that angels are differentiated by what good they do. Still, it is not the angels who gather themselves, but the Lord, the source of all that is good. He leads them, unites them, differentiates them, and keeps them in freedom to the extent that they are engaged in what is good. So he keeps every individual in the life of his or her own love, faith, intelligence, and wisdom-and therefore in happiness.
46. Further, people of similar quality all recognize each other there just the way people in this world recognize their neighbors and relatives and friends, even though they may never have seen each other before. This happens because the only relationships and kinships and friendships in the other life are spiritual ones, and are therefore matters of love and faith….
49. All the communities communicate with each other, but not through open interaction. Actually, not many individuals leave their own community to go to another, because leaving their community is like leaving themselves or their life and crossing over into another that does not suit them. Rather, they all communicate by the outreach of the auras that emanate from the life of every individual. An aura of life is an aura of affections based in love and faith. This reaches out far and wide into surrounding communities, farther and wider as the affections are deeper and more perfect. Angels possess intelligence and wisdom in proportion to this outreach. The ones who are in the most inward heaven and therefore at the center have an outreach into all of heaven, so that there is a communication of everyone in heaven with each individual and of each individual with everyone.
50. We have noted above that there are larger and smaller communities in the heavens. The larger ones consist of tens of thousands of individuals, the smaller of some thousands, and the smallest of hundreds. There are even people who live alone, house by house, so to speak, and family by family.”
What implications do you think these passages about communities in heaven have for finding and/or creating communities on earth?