Babylon refers to evil leaders that use religion to deceive and control people from their own lust for power. This takes place in both the spiritual world and on earth.
When people first enter the spiritual world, they usually seek out loved ones, and they are always attended by angels. The evil spirits used their arts to deceive the new spirits, and, by persuasion and deception, they seduced these people to enter their own city, whether they were good or bad. The city, or the society, the renegade spirits created was not heaven or hell, but rather it was a pseudo-heaven created by the evil spirits where the good and the bad lived together as they did on earth. These pseudo heavens were below the real heaven in the world of spirits, which is between heaven and hell. They were run by evil spirits that posed as good leaders. These cities were defying the laws of the Lord’s divine order, and are a tragic situation that is greatly lamented by the angels. As we have shown before this is part of the decline of religion. Lets look at this in scripture.
This theme of the captives is described in many places in the Word, but perhaps nowhere better than in the parable of the wheat and the chaff. This parable describes how an enemy sowed the chaff with the wheat, which is where chaff doesn’t belong. The two become inextricably tied together, and the Lord tells them to not separate the two until the time of the harvest. After telling the parable about the plants, He then tells the internal meaning of the story to the disciples. The parable is an overview of the judgement, and a description of the process of it. The events described partly take place on earth, but mostly in the spiritual world. The events described in Revelation are a detailed description of how the Lord separated out the good and the evil in each particular place, otherwise known as the judgment. Without an understanding of the correspondential meaning of the cities, places, and events in Revelation, and without an understanding of how these apply to the spiritual world, it is hard to get a grasp of how to understand that book. It is often asked, “Why did the Lord allow the good and evil to remain together until the harvest?” We will address this question because it helps to give us a tangible understanding of the process.
The activity in the psuedo heavens in the spiritual world mirror what was happening in the church on earth, and we can get an idea of the dynamics there by by observing them in the Jewish religion. The religious leaders of the ancient Jews had become mostly power obsessed. They claimed authority to them selves and kept the people under their power with all the strict religious rules. The people themselves though, still learned of God and religion from them, and if they practiced their faith sincerely, even if it had falsities, they received some degree of connection to the Word and heaven. The religious leaders had to act according to the laws and keep up appearances even if inwardly they were evil. In this way the two were inistricably tied together. The leaders served the purpose of religion, even though they had evil motivations, so the Lord could not separate them from the people until the time was right to abolish the representative church. The same kind of thing was taking place in the psuedo heavens in the spiritual world. The leaders were sheltered from the Lord’s immediate judgement because they were serving a religious purpose to the common people, that is, they provided knowledge of the Word to the people and oversaw all the functions of the temple that provided correspondences to heaven. But when the Lord came into the world everything was prepared for all this to change, and each person would receive justice according to their internal state. The captives specifically then are those who were unjustly kept in the psuedo heavens of the spiritual world. This attack and insurrection of evil forces in the world of spirits (that I just describes as the psuedo heavens) is told by correspondences in the story of the Tower of Babel. I will aduce two places in scripture that describe this situation; the first quote is from the book of Revelation, and the second quote is from Isaiah:
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth (Gen. 11:2-4).
And in Isaiah:
Thou mayest take up this parable concerning the king of Babylonia. Jehovah hath broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of those having dominion; thou, Lucifer, hast fallen from heaven; thou art cut down even to the earth; thou hast said in thy mind, I will ascend into the heavens; I will exalt my throne over the stars of God, and I sit on the mountain of the assembly, in the sides of the north, I will become like the Most High. Nevertheless thou shalt be cast down into hell, to the sides of the pit; I will cut off the name and residue of Babylon and will cause her to become an hereditary possession of the bittern (Isaiah 14:4, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15, 22, 23).
These scriptures tell how evil minded leaders used and abused the power of the Word to set up false heavens and control the people, but were finally taken down in the judgement. Swedenborg describes the inner meaning of the Tower of Babel:
By Babylon are meant all who wish to have dominion by religion. To have dominion by religion, is to have dominion over men’s souls, thus over their very spiritual life, and to use the Divine things, which are in their religion, as the means. All those who have dominion for an end, and religion for the means are in general Babylon. They are called Babylon because such dominion began in ancient times; but it was destroyed in its beginning. Its commencement is described by the city and the tower, the head of which was to be in heaven (AC 54).
The man…who does not acknowledge a God, is under the dominion of infernal spirits. Knowing this, (leaders) who build Babylonish towers make themselves a name by means of doctrinal and holy things, for otherwise they could not be worshiped, which is signified in what next follows by their otherwise being scattered over the faces of the whole earth, that is, they would not be acknowledged. And from this it follows that the higher such men can lift up the head to heaven, the more they make themselves a name. Their dominion is greatest over those who have some conscience; for these they lead whithersoever they will; but as to those who have not conscience, they rule all such by means of various external bonds (AC 1308).
The story of the tower of Bable is a description by correspondences of how the evil forces would build the false heavens in the world of spirits and infultrate the natural and spiritual heaven. Babylon is also a general term that refers to an accumulation of power by evil leaders possing as good, and who then control the people. In the above quote the phrase ‘Their dominon is greatest over those who have some conscience’ harkens back to the description I gave on how cults work. Those who have a conscience, those who have some intelligence and want to please, are more readily led astray by ‘mind control’, or what is the same, the mental intimidation of the the religious leaders. These leaders themselves, talented and skilled in the art of deception as they may be, are themselves led by evil spirits from the deepest hells who are much more artful then they. If the process just described had continued without correction, the captives and eventually all of humanity would have lost all freedom at the hand of evil spirits.