1 The Knowledge of the Afterlife

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1 The Knowledge of the Afterlife

“In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14: 2

Few deny that man has a mind as well as a body. And since time immemorial it has been felt—in a parallel fashion— that there is an unseen realm of spiritual life, the abode of souls, the real home of the human mind, beyond or within, the material world.

But in this pragmatic century any mention of a “spiritual world” will likely cause embarrassment or misgivings unless the reference is simply to the familiar haunts of our own mind. Even from Christian pulpits the doctrine of man’s immortality is often spoken of only in apologetic whispers. And when the more conservative among the clergy speak at a funeral, it is only to announce in dolorous tones that the departed will sleep in the grave until a mythical day of general resurrection. Nothing is said of the bourne to which the deceased has departed, nor of the life-functions which might now become his, or the spiritual treasures which he takes with him. Since the churches are silent, it is not surprising to find a credulous multitude who draw a confused comfort from the report of mysterious and unusual happenings which they interpret as interventions by the spirits of the dead in our human affairs.

Nor is it any wonder that the respectable scientist shies off from the study of such a field—wherein fact and fancy seem to intertwine. When the imagination has once been aroused, a less cautious mind may easily overstep the evidence. Even science has bred a fiction of its own, and there has been a recrudescence of a specific brand of popular literature which solemnly gathers hearsay evidence not only about apparitions and “poltergeists” who play noisy havoc in haunted houses and spirits who at will assume “ecto-plastic” bodies, but about space-wanderers in “flying saucers” which defy gravity and dematerialize in a moment!

Such fantasies are enough to discourage sober minds from an acceptance of inconclusive claims. Yet the failure to prove the presence of spirits by sensual demonstrations does in no wise disprove the existence of a spiritual world which influences our lives intimately and in orderly ways, but which by its very nature eludes experimental approach. And although there is much self-delusion, and much trickery and deception among the so-called “mediums” who claim contact with spirits, there is also evidence at hand to show that mankind is still confronted with unsolved problems and that there are undiscovered depths within the human mind itself which transcend our rational analysis. Empirical science has not given any satisfying explanation even of the ordinary processes of our thought, memory, and emotion. Nor can it with any surety deny the visionary experiences of many who assert that they have “seen spirits.”

Revelations about the Spiritual World

Besides all this: Can we ignore the testimony of all the prophets, philosophers, saints and seers, many of whom we still reckon among the most enlightened of men, and who not only sincerely believed in guardian spirits but whose eyes were at times open to glimpses of the world of the hereafter ? Did not our Lord Himself confirm the age-long conviction of mankind when He said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions. If not, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you”? Yet He also intimated that the time was not yet ripe to speak openly of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He could speak of them only in parables. “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs,” He said, “but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25). “When the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The promise of such an explicit revelation was fulfilled in an unexpected way. It was granted to Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish savant and philosopher of the eighteenth century, to become a citizen of two worlds for a period of twenty-seven years. Inspired by the Spirit of Truth he was given to write down his experiences gathered during his intercourse with spirits and angels in the spiritual world, and to publish the truth about the afterlife, lest the spirit of denial which was already then beginning to rule the worldly-wise should also corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith.1Only a Divine revelation could disclose to our race the truth about heaven and hell. At the same time Swedenborg, after diligent study of the Sacred Scriptures, was inspired to find its internal or symbolic meaning which accorded in every part with the doctrine known to the angels in heaven.

Doctrinal Preliminaries

Since the present little book may find its way into the hands of readers who are not familiar with the doctrines of the New Church, it seems well at the outset to review some of the leading truths which New Church readers take for granted. These teachings, which must be postulated if we are to understand the Scriptures rationally and explain the phenomena of the mind and of nature, may be summarized as follows:

  1. The Divine purpose in creation is to provide a heaven from the human race.
  2. Man is a spirit or mind clothed, while on earth, with a material body.
  3. There are two distinct worlds—a material world in which men live as to their bodies, and a spiritual world where angels and spirits dwell. The spiritual world is substantial, yet independent of what we know as “space” and “time”—which are properties of nature.
  4. The spirit or mind of man is immortal. At death he lays aside his material body, never again to assume it.
  5. No angels were created directly into the spiritual world, nor did any spiritual beings exist before the creation of mankind. The spiritual world contains a heaven and a hell, both of which consist of the spirits of men who have been born on some earth in the vast universe. There are no angels, spirits, or devils who were not born as men.
  6. Between heaven and hell there is a “world of spirits,” which is the realm or state into which all spirits pass immediately after death to prepare for their chosen heaven or for their chosen hell. When evil becomes predominant in this intermediate realm, it is ordered by a general “last judgment.” The final of these judgments—symbolically predicted in the Book of Revelation—took place in the year 1757.
  7. The inhabitants of the spiritual world constantly exert an influence on the human race on earth analogous to the influence which a man’s own spirit exerts on his body.
  8. Nonetheless the two worlds are utterly separate in appearance and invisible to each other, lest the freedom of man or the progress of spirits be disturbed.
  9. It is therefore disorderly and injurious for men to seek open intercourse with spirits, and it is also forbidden for spirits to seek to obsess men.
  10. The only legitimate way to learn about the afterlife is through the teachings of Divinely appointed prophets and seers: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead” (Lu. 16:31). The doctrines given through Swedenborg constitute a final revelation granted for the sake of the restoration of a true Christian religion or a New Church.

The title of our book does not imply any claim that it covers all the relations of spirits and men. Nor is it our purpose here to describe the spiritual world or to define the nature of the soul and its life. But in the voluminous Writings of Swedenborg we have an inexhaustible field of information about the arcana of the spiritual world “from things seen and heard” and about the laws which govern the impact of that world upon our lives. There, also, are shown the different angelic influences which succeed each other as man advances along the path of regeneration.

What we here wish to stress is that man’s character is finally formed by the spiritual influences which he invites from the unseen world. It is often claimed that man is merely a product of his heredity and his environment. But while the parental strain determines the initial form of his mind and the more active loves and abilities with which he starts in life; and while his surroundings are at first predetermined and certainly limit his opportunities for knowledge and usefulness; yet within the range of these two factors of heredity and environment man exercises a choice which gradually builds within him a character quite individual and free. For as to his mind he moves in a spiritual environment which always corresponds to his own states of mind. The ability of man to become responsible for his own inner character and final destiny is due to the fact that he can—in freedom and according to his reason—choose what kind of spirits shall inspire his thoughts, purposes, and decisions. Although he feels at all times as if he were moved by his own affections, his spirit is actually held, unknowingly, in an equilibrium between influences from heaven and from hell, and is motivated either by the affections of angels or by the lusts of evil spirits. He does not live from himself. He is only a receptacle of a life which originates from God but which is mediated by the souls, good and evil, who inhabit the spiritual world.

And the purpose of the following essays is to examine some of the manifold ways in which our lives are moulded for good or ill by the influx of these invisible agencies.

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11 thoughts on “1 The Knowledge of the Afterlife

  1. Perhaps I have misunderstood your position but much of what you have written is opposite to what the Bible reveals concerning the creation, substance and condition of humankind. At the second coming, which the Bible reveals as a literal, visible, audible and personal event – every eye will see it – we are told that those who are alive and those who are resurrected at that time put on immortality – because death is finally defeated and we have reunion with God.
    No where in the Bible is there an indication that humankind have innate or intrinsic immortality. Humankind and animal kind consist of dust of the earth and the breath of life or spark of life that comes from God. There is no spirit – a ghostly, sentient, immortal presence – that inhabits some spiritual world and has influence over the happenings of earth. When we fall asleep into the grave we are at full stop until resurrection morning.

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    • Are you sure of that, the bible has multi dimentional layers of understanding and spiritual meaning or else it cannot be the holy word of God
      But it does say in the bible the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God
      WELCOME TO THE DAWN OF THE NEW CHRISTIAN AGE THAT JESUS SPOKE ABOUT, ALL THE BEST IN YOUR SEARCH FOR THE ULTIMATE TRUTH

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  2. Just to make sure, I went back and read your post again. Within your 10 points, I have several questions but one thing that troubles me is that it sounds like you are presenting these ideas and then applying them to the Bible. It supposed to work in the reverse.
    1. The Divine purpose in creation is to provide a heaven from the human race.
    Not sure what you mean by that. Are you trying to make a distinction between material and spiritual? Isn’t that Greek philosophy?

    2. Man is a spirit or mind clothed, while on earth, with a material body.
    It doesn’t say that anywhere in the Bible. We are created as whole physical beings. At the resurrection, we are restored – our brokenness is healed – but we remain as whole physical bodies.

    3. There are two distinct worlds—a material world in which men live as to their bodies, and a spiritual world where angels and spirits dwell.
    It’s true there is a spiritual realm with spiritual forces but these are the angels – loyal and fallen. Because of what I mentioned in #2, this realm cannot and does not include humankind.

    4. The spirit or mind of man is immortal. At death he lays aside his material body, never again to assume it.
    Again, this is a concept totally foreign – actually opposed to – the teaching of human creation and existence. The only place this was taught was in Eden, by the serpent, who said, “you shall not surely die. This idea denies the resurrection – a foundational truth of scripture.

    5. No angels were created directly into the spiritual world, nor did any spiritual beings exist before the creation of mankind. The spiritual world contains a heaven and a hell…
    The Bible mentions other worlds with created beings on them. We don’t know much about them but it does indicate they existed before earth was created.
    Hell – as in the pop culture place of torment and burning is a false teaching not contained in the Bible. The words that typically get translated as the english word hell just mean the grave.

    6. Between heaven and hell there is a “world of spirits,” which is the realm or state into which all spirits pass immediately after death…
    No. When a person passes away, they go into the grave (whatever form that might be) and remain in the grave (decomposing) until resurrection day.

    7. The inhabitants of the spiritual world constantly exert an influence on the human race…
    Fallen angels certainly influence but I’m not sure about the loyal angels. God treasures free choice and, as noted by Job, Satan would be all over God if he was pushing people one way or the other. Rather, God influences by his love which he demonstrated most clearly by the cross.

    I’m skipping because it’s more of the same.

    10. The only legitimate way to learn about the afterlife is through the teachings of Divinely appointed prophets and seers: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead” (Lu. 16:31). The doctrines given through Swedenborg constitute a final revelation granted for the sake of the restoration of a true Christian religion or a New Church.
    God spoke though the prophets in times past but spoke most clearly through Jesus Christ who is the image of God, truly God among us. If one claims to be a prophet speaking for God then that person must speak in harmony with what the Spirit has already spoken through the preceding prophets – God is not a God of confusion. Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Prophets are generally not self-proclaimed, those are usually false. Rather one is recognized to have the gift of prophecy by the church (the faithful of God) who measure the prophet against the scriptures.

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    • keep reading swedenborg he’s the real deal
      like i said there’s more to the bible then the literal sence of the word and swedenborg those a great job in revealing that

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    • The human being by natural birth must necessarily live in a world of time and space. From daily experience on earth we quickly learn that everything has a beginning and an ending. For us, therefore, there is necessarily, A time to be born, and a time to die [Ecclesiastes 3:2 ESV]. But this is not the whole story, for in many places Scripture teaches us that God cannot be confined or limited by time and space: –

      From everlasting to everlasting you are God.
      [Psalm 90:2 ESV]

      Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
      [John 8:58 ESV]

      With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
      [2 Peter 3:8 ESV]

      God has neither beginning nor ending. He remains untouched by the passage of time, living in a state of eternal being. Much is revealed by his chosen name, I AM [see also Exodus 3:14]; it is the name of one who is always alive and whom death can never touch. Our own search for immortality will be in vain unless it begins with the God who is, I AM. This God is the same Lord of whom the psalmist writes: –

      The Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore.
      [Psalm 133:3 ESV]

      Because the Lord is ever the I AM, he can do no other than look to what is eternal in all things. As a consequence, his view of the human race and its potential is far wider and bigger than our own. It is this bigger picture that Emanuel Swedenborg glimpses when he writes, We are created so that our inner self cannot die [Heavenly Doctrine 223]. God has put within each one of us the spark of eternal life. This promise of eternity is not written into our physical body which, like everything of the natural world, must inevitably die and decay, but rather into our soul or inner self.

      If anatomical studies have never found the soul it is because the soul does not reside in the physical body. Nevertheless this body is closely connected to the soul, drawing life from it in much the same way as a physical book takes its life from the ideas and affections in the author’s mind. The human body draws its existence and form from the human soul. We might think of the soul as the life source and the body as an effect which comes into being from that source. Furthermore Jesus Christ teaches us that the soul has an enduring life beyond the death of the physical body, Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [Matthew 10:28 ESV].

      Just as the burning of a book cannot destroy the ideas and affections that gave it life, so the soul remains unaffected by the death of the physical body. In order fully to understand this we need to know that, Human beings have been so created as to be at once in the spiritual world and the natural world [Swedenborg Heavenly Doctrine 36]. Even while the physical body is alive and conscious in the natural world, the soul or inner self dwells in the spiritual world. There it receives life from the Lord. We are not human, nor do we have existence, from the physical body but from the soul which, Is the prior or primary form from which anyone becomes and is a human being … these inward aspects possess no life in themselves but are recipient forms of the Lord’s life [Swedenborg Arcana Caelestia 1999].

      The human soul, residing as it does in the spiritual world, not only survives physical death but also afterwards remains complete in all respects. It is sustained by God, from whom it receives an unbroken stream of life. Does this perhaps go some way to explaining why even as people grow physically older they still feel young inside? Despite the ageing and weakening of the physical body, a person’s inner love and faith can, and often does, grow stronger. The inner soul is not dependent on the body for its life but on God, in whom we live and move and have our being.

      Even as we live on earth we are already, in our inward parts at least, in the spiritual world. The deepest experiences of the human soul are first and foremost experiences of the spiritual world. And when the physical body finally dies we are released from this natural world of time and space to enjoy the fullness of the soul’s life in the heavens. Many have imagined that this will be a rather ghostly kind of life, for what else can there be if our physical body has been cast off and returned to the dust of the earth?

      The apostle Paul, however, suggests something rather different. He writes, So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable … It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body [1 Corinthians 15:42,44 ESV]. Paul seems to be saying that after death we are gifted with a new spiritual body within which our soul remains the essential human life. Emanuel Swedenborg writes at some length about this new spiritual body, reassuring us that it is both human and substantial:

      After the death of the body a person’s spirit appears in the spiritual world in human shape, exactly as in the world. He also enjoys the faculties of sight, hearing, speech and feeling as in the world. He has to the full his faculties of thinking, willing and doing, as in the world. In short, he is a human being in every detail.
      [The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 225]

      The spiritual body has all the same organs, limbs, and senses as does the physical body, but is different in that it neither grows old nor sick. This body enables the human being to live a full and active life in the spiritual world, where we continue to enjoy marriage, friendships, work, worship, and play. All this is possible because the Lord, the eternal I AM, continually bestows life upon all human souls. His whole being finds its meaning and joy in creating, loving, and bringing to eternal life, souls other than himself. In him we shall always have life and have it in great abundance.

      Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”.
      [John 11:25 ESV]

      Jesus said, “That the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him”.
      [Luke 20:37,38 ESV]

      https://havau22.com/2017/05/19/we-are-born-as-eternally-living-souls/

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