Reincarnation – How plausible is it?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

reincarnationMore people in the West are becoming interested in the concept of reincarnation. They are attracted to the idea that the human spirit lives on beyond death. I suspect they have lost patience with two specific doctrines of traditional Christian religion.

Instead of reincarnation, final destiny according to actions in one life

The first of these is that one’s soul is judged to eternity on the basis of how one behaved in one’s short life on earth. Given the unequal range of hereditary and environmental influence, on the face of it, there seems to be too short a time in one life to provide sufficient opportunity for one’s destiny to be decided.

Instead of reincarnation, final destiny according to beliefs in one life

The second doctrine is that one can be judged as deserving eternal damnation because of lack of belief about Jesus Christ. It smacks of a God of condemnation rather than one of love. The first doctrine seems unjust and the second abhorrent.

Reincarnation as not a final judgment

In contrast, the Eastern religious idea of reincarnation is that the soul or spirit of a person returns to live in one or more new bodies, giving us more than one life-time to be purified of our weaknesses and failings.  It does seem more reasonable to suppose that a gradual improvement of the individual spirit takes place rather than a sudden change.

Swedenborg’s account of the spiritual world as an alternative to reincarnation

However, there is an alternative way of thinking to that of reincarnation that takes account of these problems. This is to do with Emanuel Swedenborg’s account of the spiritual world.

If you believe everything that is alive in the body belongs strictly to the soul (or spirit), then it follows that the spirit is the actual person. In line with this is the experience of Swedenborg that when a person’s body is separated from his spirit at death, he or she is still a person — still alive having a spirit body and retaining a complete personal memory.

This would mean the continuation of your personal identity in a spiritual world and thus no loss of your present personality in any new incarnations in the physical world. You wouldn’t have to keep repeating the whole process of childhood, teenage and adult mental and emotional growth.  Nor could you be blamed for any impairments or deformities as signs of past wrongdoing in a previous life which is a problem with the doctrine of reincarnation.

Swedenborg says he has psychically observed how individuals in the next life continue to spiritually develop; a growth that depends on the character they have formed on earth. This observation is in line with the idea of karma that what one does in this present life will have its effect in the next life: what we sow we will reap.

Retention of individuality

He indicates that after death spirit people retain their individuality and pass through stages something similar to what we might say are different kinds of psychotherapy. He claims this will involve you firstly in self-exploration: secondly in a stage where any attitudes, desires or habits of thought, that are out of line with your basic character, are removed: and thirdly in a situation where you will be able to learn more about spiritual life if you so wish. In other words, as long as you are genuinely sorry about your wrongdoings, these can be forgiven and set aside.

Phenomena apparently supporting reincarnation

One phenomenon, apparently supporting the conclusion that one has had a previous existence, is that of déjà vu – sometimes finding a place or person familiar although not actually previously seen and thus knowing what to expect. Another phenomenon that seems to support reincarnation is the memory of past life as revealed in regressive hypnosis.

My own view is we should try to distinguish between this evidence and its interpretation. I do believe these actually are evidence of past lives — but not the individual’s own past lives.

Swedenborg testifies from his psychic journeys that all spirits in the spirit world are men and women who once lived on our physical plane when they were in the body. I am persuaded by his experience that there is a psychic presence of these spirits of dead people with all of us on earth. It’s just that we cannot ordinarily see them.  I cannot see or hear them but I believe that their desires and thoughts come into my heart and mind; feelings and ideas that I mistakenly assume to be my own. Swedenborg says I am free to choose which one’s to ignore and which one’s to listen to and act on.

He writes that these spirits are normally not permitted to communicate from their own memories. However, for some reason, that admittedly is not clear to me, he says it does sometimes occur and, when it does the person recollects something he or she has never seen or heard.

So the explanation of the experience of past lives that I offer, is of an occasional overstepping of the boundaries by spirits associated with people leading them to believe they must have lived before.

Instead of thinking of reincarnation in terms of human souls reincarnating in new physical bodies, we could think of the Source of all life repeatedly reincarnating through each new created soul. We could also think of this Creative Source being reborn again and again within each person who is willing to receive the Divine inspiration during an eternal process of personal regeneration in this life continuing in a next world of spirit.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

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Posted on9th November 2011CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningTags, , , , , ,, , , ,, , , , , , ,, , , , , ,,  Leave a comment

What should we think about suicide?

by Rev. John Odhner

Suicide brings up a lot of pain and grief for those affected by it. There is usually anger, guilt and depression surrounding it, and the process of working through these feelings can take time. Unfortunately, these feelings are often compounded by expressions of criticism, judgment and blame. We think: “If only this person had behaved differently,” or, “That person should have done something sooner.” We may pass judgment on the person who commits suicide, or we may place the blame on family or friends. Either way, it puts an additional, unnecessary burden on people who are already burdened.

Some people say those who commit suicide cannot go to heaven, or will suffer terribly after death because of their crime. Perhaps this idea is intended as a deterrent to suicide. I think it actually is not an effective way to prevent suicide, since it can make a suicidal person feel even more unloved and distant from God.

I also believe it causes extra pain for the family and friends, who then have to deal with the thought that someone they love is headed for hell or suffering horrible punishments. They are already in a very painful situation, dealing with real hurts, and don’t need imaginary and hypothetical ones added. Furthermore, I believe it is wrong to pass such judgments on people, living or dead.

Suicide does not end our problems

Emanuel Swedenborg had the ability to be conscious in both the spiritual world and the natural world at the same time.  Because of this he was able to tell us what happened to people after their death, and also to see how people who have gone on to the spiritual world influence people who are still on earth. In Swedenborg’s unpublished diary we read what happened to a person who committed suicide:

A certain one in the life of the body had committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife, having been driven to desperation through depression, to which he had been driven by diabolical spirits. He came to me complaining that he was being miserably treated by evil spirits, and said that he was among the furies who were continually provoking him. The place where he was, was in the lower earth, a little to the left. He also seemed to me to have a knife in his hand which he wanted to drive into his breast. He labored hard with that knife, wanting to throw it away from himself but without success. For whatever happens in the last hour of death remains for a long time before it disappears, as I was told. (Spiritual Diary 1336, 1337)

This shows us that whatever inner problems we have in this life we will generally have to face in the next life. If we look at this passage negatively, we might conclude that people who commit suicide will after death be tormented by evil spirits and will continue to have suicidal experiences. But before we make such generalizations, we should note that this passage is describing a particular person’s experience, and with other people suicide may have different effects.

We should also note that this person’s difficult time was temporary. He had to go through painful experiences in order to come into a better state. By struggling with the evil spirits who were attacking him, he could eventually overcome his depression and suicidal tendencies. What happens at the time of death is likely to have a big impact on a person’s subsequent thoughts and actions but this does not mean that all who commit suicide will respond in the same way. In fact, the next two passages indicate that this does not happen with every suicide.

Are people punished after death for suicide?

The fact is that no one is punished in the next life for deeds committed in this life. When people are drawn to suicide through evil that they have deliberately chosen, that evil will probably stay with them, and they will suffer as a result. But when the suicide is from pressures beyond their control (such as insanity), they will not suffer for it at all in the next life. The following passages do not speak specifically of suicide, but the connection is clear:

No one in the other world suffers punishment on account of the evils that he had done in this world, but only on account of the evils that he then does; although it amounts to the same . . . , since everyone after death returns into his own life and thus into like evils and the person continues the same as he had been in the life of the body. . . . But good spirits, although they had done evils in the world, are never punished, because their evils do not return. Moreover, I have learned that the evils they did were of a different kind or nature, not being done purposely in opposition to the truth, or from any other badness of heart than that which they received by inheritance from their parents, and that they were carried into this by a blind delight when they were in externals separate from internals. (Heaven and Hell 509; emphasis added)

But as regards good spirits, if perchance they speak or do evil, they are not punished, but pardoned, and also excused. For their end is not to speak or do evil, and they know that such things are excited in them by hell, so that they have not come to pass by their fault; and the same is also observed from their resistance, and afterward from their grief. (Arcana Coelestia 6559)

From this we can see that a person who is basically good who commits suicide will not be punished at all for this in the other life, because his or her intention in committing suicide is not to hurt other people.

Suicide permitted to protect a person’s soul

Another passage in Swedenborg’s private diary speaks of evil spirits who attempt to kill the people they are with:

It was told me they were such as had formerly [in their lifetime] slaughtered whole armies, as is recorded in the Scripture histories, having induced insanities upon them, for they rushed into the chambers of their brain, and then inspired such terror that one slew another. That they were able to strike such terror I was assured, but it is seldom done at the present day. It is extremely rare that the bonds are loosened to any of them at this day, and only takes place in the case of some one who is of such a quality that it were better that he should be permitted to perish as to his body than as to his soul, and in regard to whom, unless he perished bodily in this manner, by means of insanity and suicide, he could not well be prevented from perishing to eternity. (Spiritual Diary 1783; compare Arcana Coelestia 5717)

This passage also may not apply to every suicide, but like the first passage, it shows us that suicide can result from insanity induced by evil spirits. Perhaps more important here is the teaching that suicide is permitted in order to keep a person from perishing eternally . This is quite different from the teaching of some other religions: that people who commit suicide go to hell. The truth is that the Lord may allow people to commit suicide when He sees that it is the only way they can come into heaven.

As a confirmation of the fact that people who commit suicide can go to heaven, note that the Writings imply that Judas, who committed suicide, is now in heaven. (True Christian Religion 791, Matthew 27:5)

Swedenborg’s suicidal urges

Swedenborg himself had suicidal urges. He wrote: “I wanted to kill myself with a knife. This desire grew so strong that I hid the knife in my desk.” (Spiritual Diary 4530) This feeling was the result of a woman who had hated Swedenborg during her life in this world. She carried that hatred into the spiritual world and there she tried to get revenge by inspiring him to kill himself. Swedenborg also mentions spirits who apparently tried to make him step in front of a moving vehicle or jump off a bridge. (Spiritual Diary 253, 1043) This reminds me of the demon-possessed person who would throw himself into the fire or try to drown himself. (Matthew 17:15)

From this we can see how useless and even hurtful it can be to blame suicide on the individual who kills himself, or on the person’s family or friends. It’s possible that we are at fault for harboring evil desires that draw such evil spirits to us, but it could also be something that is completely out of our control and not at all our fault.

Better to die than to be drawn away from the Lord

I suspect that some people may commit suicide because they see their life headed in a bad direction and feel it would be better to die than to be drawn further along the path to hell. Consider this experience that Swedenborg relates:

When any wish to lead astray the spirits of that earth, and draw them away from faith in the Lord, or from humility toward Him, and from uprightness of life, they say that they wish to die. Then little knives are seen in their hands, by which they seem to wish to pierce their breasts. When they are asked why they do so, they say that they would rather die than be led away from the Lord. Sometimes the spirits of our earth laugh at these things, and infest them with questionings why they do so. But they answer that they know very well that they are not going to kill themselves, and that this is only an appearance proceeding from the will of their mind, showing that they would rather die than be drawn away from the worship of the Lord. (Arcana Coelestia 8950)

These spirits knew they would not kill themselves because they were already in the spiritual world, so they could not die. If they had been alive in the natural world, might they have possibly killed themselves? I don’t know, but I suspect a similar kind of motivation enters into some suicides in this world.

Giving up your life to find life

All of us, in order to come into heaven, must in some sense be willing to voluntarily give up our lives. We must be willing to give up the life of selfishness and materialism, which is the death of our selfish and worldly desires.

He who loves his life shall lose it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to eternal life. (John 12.25)

Whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25, 10.39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33)

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)

And they loved not their soul unto death. (Revelation 12:11) This means they did not love themselves more than the Lord. “Loving their soul” means to love themselves and the world, for the soul means the person’s own life, which everyone has by birth, which is to love himself and the world above all things. Therefore “not loving his soul” means not to love himself and the world more than the Lord and the things which are the Lord’s. “Unto death,” means to be willing to die instead. Consequently it is to love the Lord above all things, and the neighbor as one’s self (Matthew 22:35-39) ; and to be willing to die rather than recede from those two loves. (Apocalypse Revealed 556)

Happy are the dead who die in the Lord … “the dead” mean those who afflicted their soul, crucified their flesh, and suffered temptations; . . . “and that they may rest from their labors,” means that those who are tempted will have peace in the Lord, . . . “Temptations” here mean spiritual temptations, which take place with those who have faith in the Lord and live according to His commandments, when they drive away the evil spirits that are with them, who act as one with their lusts. . . . The reason why they are meant by “the dead” who have afflicted their soul, crucified their flesh, and suffered temptations, is, because thereby they have caused their former life to die, and therefore are become as it were dead before the world. (Apocalypse Revealed 639)

I believe that sometimes suicide may involve letting go of and giving up our excessive interest in ourselves and in worldly things.

The Lord gave up His life voluntarily

Jesus said: “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:18) The Writings say that it was through this the Human was united to the Divine:

It was not in respect to His Divine but in respect to His Human that the Lord suffered, and by this an inmost – thus complete – union was brought about. This may also be illustrated by the fact that when a person suffers physically his soul does not suffer, but only grieves; and after the victory God takes away this grief and wipes it away as one wipes away tears from the eyes. (True Christian Religion 126)

Biblical people who desired death

Besides Judas and Jesus, there are a number of other people in the Bible who expressed a desire to give up their lives. Saul saw that the Philistines were 340 new church life: july/august 2015 about to capture and kill him:

Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. (1 Samuel 31:4)

The Writings say of this that the “uncircumcised” Philistines represent filthy, selfish, materialistic loves. (Arcana Coelestia 1197, 4462) Is it possible that a motive in suicide might be to avoid being captured by such desires?

Just before Samson brought the whole building down, killing the crowd of Philistines who held him captive, he said: “Let my life die with the Philistines.” (Judges 16:30) When Jesus spoke of His own coming death, Peter said: “I will lay down my life for You.” (John 13:37)  Jonah also expressed a desire to die:

“Therefore now, O Lord, I beseech You, take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live . . . “ And it came to pass, when the sun rose, that God prepared a strong east wind. And the sun beat on the head of Jonah, so that he fainted, and wished in himself to die. And he said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3, 8, explained somewhat in Apocalypse Explained 401:36)

Elijah also wished to die when he was despairing about Israel’s rejection of the Lord:

Elijah requested for himself that he might die; and said, “It is enough. Now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Samson, Peter, Jonah and Elijah may have had rather selfish motives for wanting to die. For Samson it may have been revenge; for Peter, glory; for Jonah, self-centeredness. But on a deeper level these stories are all about the fact that temptation is a kind of spiritual death, and the selfishness in us must die in order for us to progress spiritually.

The heroism of giving up one’s life

Every act has its quality from the motivation. Suicide can be a very selfish act which shows complete disregard for other people. Yet giving up one’s own life is a heroic act if the purpose is to protect others. It is the ultimate expression of unselfish love.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

If the country is threatened with ruin from an enemy or any other source, it is noble to die for it, and glorious for a soldier to shed his blood for it. (True Christian Religion 710)

In the other life all goods are immeasurably increased, and the life in the body is such that people can go no further than loving the neighbor as themselves, because they are in the things of the body, but when these are removed, the love becomes purer, and at last angelic, which consists in loving the neighbor more than themselves. The possibility of such love is evident from the married love that exists with some people, who would suffer death rather than let their married partner be injured. It is also evident from the love of parents for their children, in that a mother will endure starvation rather than see her infant hunger, and this is true even among birds and animals. It is likewise evident from true friendship, in that we will undergo perils for our friends. (Arcana Coelestia 548)

Suicide and heroism

When a person commits suicide as an escape, or worse, as a way of causing suffering to others, it is a selfish and cowardly act – just the opposite of heroism. Yet at times the line between heroism and suicide becomes blurred. It is the motive more than the action that makes the difference, and looking at others we see only the apparent motive. We may not know the real reason a person takes his or her own life.

If a person dies in battle, we assume the motives were noble, although the person could have been suicidal. For example, in the opening scene of Dances With Wolves , the soldier is depressed because he is about to have his leg amputated. He recklessly charges into the crossfire hoping to be killed, but other soldiers think he is bravely leading a charge. They follow him, and so his attempted suicide accidentally leads a charge which turns the tide of the battle. He gets decorated as a hero although he had no heroic intentions. In this case, what looked like heroism was actually an attempt at suicide.

It can also happen that a person may have heroic motives when all we see outwardly is an attempt at suicide. When a person commits suicide, we do not know what kind of battles he is going through, and what good reasons he may have for giving up his life. Perhaps what seems to us a selfish act is actually a heroic effort to give up selfishness. We cannot judge.

Broader teachings about death and evil

Some of Swedenborg’s teachings can help us understand suicide better even though they are not directed specifically at suicide. Rather than going into detail, I will very briefly mention a few specific examples:

Every evil is permitted for the sake of salvation. (Divine Providence 275)

Only that which is done from freedom according to the individual’s reason remains with the person. (Divine Providence 78)

The Divine Providence is in the smallest details of a person’s thoughts and affections, even if the person is evil. (Divine Providence 287)

There are evils we do that are not our fault, and ones that are our fault. (Arcana Coelestia 4171, 4172)

The Lord’s providence governs the time of a person’s death. (Spiritual Diary 5002, 5003)

Everyone is protected by angels during the process of death. (Heaven and Hell 449)

Swedenborg wrote so much about life and death that we will find many other teachings that may be helpful and comforting when we face death in any form. Here are just a few:

  • The Lord is infinitely loving, merciful and forgiving.
  • All our thoughts and feelings flow in from the spiritual world, and only the ones we come to love and approve of become a permanent part of our character.
  • Death is not the end of life, but a continuation of life, and we live in the spiritual world a life similar to the life we live here, with the difference that in heaven things are much closer to perfection.
  • The Lord wants everyone to go to heaven, and He always protects our freedom to choose heaven. Only people who genuinely prefer hell will go there.
  • Bad things we do out of ignorance or when we are overpowered by strong emotions are relatively easy to overcome, as long as we recognize that they are wrong.
  • People who are mentally ill are not free and rational, so they are not spiritually responsible for their behavior.
  • Everyone who dies before becoming an adult is taken directly to heaven to be raised by angels.

Each of these ideas could fill a chapter in a book, so there is much more that you can explore, question and grow from if you wish.

Summary

Suicide can leave us feeling that life is extremely confusing, complex and painful. It will often seem to make absolutely no sense at all. The teachings here will not take away all the pain, but they may bring a little clarity and comfort to people who have been faced with suicide. To summarize:

  • A person may take his or her own life for good reasons, bad reasons, or a mixture of both. We cannot judge the inner motivations involved in suicide, only the outward appearances. Sometimes what looks like suicide may have a heroic motive hidden inside.
  • The act of suicide is always wrong and painful. It is an evil which comes from hell, just like war and disease. But this does not mean that a person who commits suicide is evil. The person who commits suicide may be a victim of forces entirely beyond his or her control.
  • Suicide is caused by the influence of evil spirits who love to harm people. These spirits can cause suicidal compulsions and temporary insanity. The individuals involved may or may not be at fault in opening themselves up to evil spirits.
  • Suicide is permitted for the sake of eternal good that can come to those who are affected by it. Committing suicide does not prevent a person from entering heaven, and may in fact help keep a person out of hell. Good can also come from it to loved ones left behind.
  • The quality of our life after death is based more on how we live our life in this world than on how we die. A moment of death-bed repentance will not make an angel of someone who has enjoyed a life of evil. And one act of evil at the end of a person’s life, even committed deliberately, will not destroy all a person’s good loves and intentions.

The Lord is infinitely loving and merciful, both to those who feel that love and to those who feel isolated from it. All the evil that the Lord permits, and all the blessings He provides, come from that infinite mercy which is constantly seeking to lead each one of us to heaven as far as we are willing to go, each on the unique path that is best for us. Suicide can leave us feeling that life is extremely confusing, complex and painful. It will often seem to make absolutely no sense at all. The teachings here will not take away all the pain, but they may bring a little clarity and comfort to people who have been faced with suicide.

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Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth.

THIS diagram presents

The degrees that are composed of spiritual substances, all of which are from the father,

The parts which are organized of material substances and are from the mother,

The taint of hereditary evil from the father and mother respectively, and

The development of the degrees at birth. *

* note: For the name of each degree of the spiritual mind and each of the natural, see Diagram XIII; this applies to all subsequent diagrams.

Concerning what is from the father and what from the mother, we read-

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself and the body which is from the mother is not man in itself but from him and is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [materials].. are of the natural world. but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every 3 man after death lays aside the natural which he carried from his mother, and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain limbus [an envelop] of the purest [substances] of nature around it.”- TCR 103.

“The soul is from the father and the body from the mother; for the soul is in the seed of the father and is clothed with a body in the mother; or, what is the same, all the spiritual [organism] man has is from the father and all the material [organism] he has, from the mother.” TCR 92.

“There is a difference between what man receives from his father and what he receives from his mother. Man receives from his father all that is internal, his very soul or life is from the father; but he receives from his mother, all that is external. In a word, the interior man or the spirit is from the father but the exterior man or the body is from the mother.”-AC 1815.

“That the inmost of life, which is from the father, is continually flowing in and operating upon the external which is from the mother and endeavoring to make this like itself, even in the womb, may be manifest from sons in that they are born with the inclinations of the father, and sometimes grandchildren and great grandchildren with the inclinations of the grandfather, and the great grandfather; this is because the soul which is from the father continually wills to make the external which is from the mother like itself and an image of itself.” AC 6716

“Nothing is provided in the womb of the mother except a body conceived by and derived from the soul.”-TCR 167.

“Man is born spiritual as to his soul, and is clothed with a natural which makes his material body.”-TCR 583.

“The soul of man that lives after death is his spirit and this is in perfect form a man.”-.DLW 394.

“The mind of man is the man himself; for the first rudiments of the human form, or the human form itself with each and everything of it, is from the beginnings continued out of the brain through the nerves. This is the form into which man comes after death, and which is then called a spirit and an angel, and which is in all perfection a man, but spiritual: the material form, which is added and superinduced in the world, is not a human form from itself but from the former.” – DLW 388.

“The life of every man is from the father and only the clothing is put on in the mother, hence it is that every man has his name from the father and not from the mother.”-A.S. (N.Y. Ed., p. 45; London Ed., p. 52.)

“Since man is not life but a recipient of life it follows that the conception of man from his father is not a conception of life but only of’ the first and purest form receptive of life, to which as a stamen or beginning, substances and matters are successively added in the womb in forms adapted to the reception of life in their order and degree.” DLW 6.

Since the fall, man is the subject of hereditary evil. We read, –
“Man’s inmost [or spirit] is from the father, whereas the exteriors, or those parts which clothe that inmost, are from the mother; each, namely, what he derives from the father and the mother,

      is tainted with hereditary evil.”-AC

4963

      . (Also AC

1902

      ,

895

      .)

“All the evils which man derives from his parents, which are called hereditary evils, reside in his natural and sensual man but not in the spiritual.”-AE 543 [b].

“Man is born into evils of every kind from his parents and these reside in his natural man which of itself is diametrically opposed to the spiritual man” – TCR 574; (also AC 1902.)

The inmost A and the natural body E and F are the most developed at birth and are drawn large to indicate this. The spiritual mind B and the natural mind C are drawn small to indicate that at birth they are advanced but slightly beyond their rudimental state as at conception, requiring years for development to be effected by discrete degrees successively.

The extremes which are the inmost and the natural body are at birth very large in comparison with the intermediates B and C.

By the inmost as an active and the natural body as a reactive all the intermediate degrees are formed out and stored with remains during childhood and thus are prepared for reformation and regeneration in after years.

The whole natural body (all that the infant takes on from nature) consists, as said above, of the limbus and the gross body. The limbus is the higher and mental part and is retained after death, the gross body being rejected. (See Diagrams XV and XVI.)

The spiritual mind B is drawn in white to indicate its purity. There is no taint of ancestral evil in this mind of the child, as there was no evil in the spiritual mind of the father. Into this mind, which is in form or image a heaven, evil cannot enter; yet this mind may be closed and rendered almost inoperative by the reaction against it of the natural mind confirmed in evil as is the case with the wicked. (DLW 270, 261, 432; AE 176, 739.)

The natural mind is drawn dark to indicate the taint of hereditary evil from the father. (DLW 432, 270; D. W. in AE III, 4, and IV.)

The spiritual body being derived from the natural mind and as it were one with it, is also tainted with evil from the father and is drawn in dark to indicate this.

That the spiritual mind, the germ of which is from the father, is free from taint of evil and in heavenly form and order and that the natural mind, the germ of which is also from the father, is tainted since the fall, may be seen in Divine Love and Wisdom 432, and in Divine Wisdom (in AE ) III, 4.

The two higher degrees of “the little brain, in the order and form of heaven” (DLW 432) constitute the spiritual mind and are equivalent to the three planes of that mind (B in this diagram), and are the two degrees of the spiritual mind B in the 2nd form, which illustrates the degrees of the mind as presented inDivine Love and Wisdom 432 and DivineWisdom (in AE ) III,4. These numbers describe the rudiments of the spiritual and natural minds; the inmost A is not mentioned in them though its presence is implied. The two interior degrees in the order and form of heaven are the two degrees B in the 2nd form. The exterior degree which was in opposition to the form of heaven is the natural mind C in the 2nd form, and is equivalent to the three degrees of C in the first form. The natural mind like the other parts is variously described in the Writings-in one degree, in two and in three, according to the purpose in different passages.

The subject in Divine Love and Wisdom 432, and Divine Wisdom (in AE ) III, 4, is the primitive of man which is a spiritual substance not visible in natural light but only in spiritual and is the seed from the father by which conception takes place. The exterior degree mentioned therein does not include the limbus which is composed of natural substances but consists only of that part of the natural mind which is composed of spiritual substances. (See Chapter VIII.)

The inmost, the spiritual and the natural mind, and the spiritual body are formed of spiritual substances, as shown above, and in their strictly initial state as at conception are derived directly from the father, at which time the ultimate parts are more rudimental than the internal parts and especially more rudimental than the inmost or soul proper as this is the first form from which the others proceed.

This diagram shows the development reached at birth, not the form of the initial at conception. We have in part shown the quality of the paternal faculties at the period of birth by their quality at conception. During growth in the womb no change occurs in their hereditary quality though they undergo an important development which as to the spiritual body is very great, but as to the mental faculties less. Whatever growth occurs in these paternal faculties A B C D from conception to birth must be from an incorporation of spiritual substances; growth from natural substances occurs only in the parts from the mother which are the limbus and the gross body.

The evil from the mother inheres of course in the organism drawn directly from her, called in the whole the natural body. The inmost of this body consists of those purest substances of nature which compose the merest external of the natural mind (mentioned in DLW 257.) This is illustrated in Diagram XV at E. In this mental part from the mother the evil from her primarily inheres, tainting thence the gross body. This mental part is the limbus E E in this diagram. To indicate this taint of evil E and F are drawn in dark.

We have already shown, -That the natural mind consists of spiritual substance and at the same time of natural substance,That from its spiritual substance arises thought but not from its natural substance,That the spiritual substance is initially from the father and the natural substance at birth from the mother,That the natural substance appertaining to the mind constitutes after death the cutaneous envelop of the spiritual body,That by such envelop the spiritual body subsists, that is, is preserved permanently in form because the natural is the containing element.And that in the part of the natural mind composed of natural substances (the limbus in this diagram) and not in any part of the mind composed of spiritual substances, the taint of maternal evil resides.

To see that evil can inhere in these substances we must reflect that they are organized into a mental form constituting the merest external part of the natural mind conjoined to the spiritual part of it which spiritual part thinks and wills immediately within the natural, so that while this merest external is itself incapable of thought still it is the lowest and active seat of thought during life in the world. The thought is necessarily qualified by the state of this external, and is brought into act by the gross body. That evil does inhere in the part of the natural mind composed of natural substances (the maternal part) as well as in the part composed of spiritual substances, may be seen in Divine Love and Wisdom 270. This external is the seat of the external memory or memory of the body (AE 193[a]) both before and after death, though after death it is quiescent. This memory composed of material substances is usually called natural, exterior, or corporeal (as in HH 461; AC 2469-2494, and AE 569 [a], 832), but in Spiritual Diary 2752, it is called the outmost or material memory. When this memory quiesces after death, the internal memory formed of spiritual substances and appertaining to that part of the mind which is from the father comes into conscious activity.

This external from the mother is the residence of all impressions and knowledge received through the senses whether gained by physical and sensible experience or by instruction in science, morals and religion, and also the residence of all conscious emotions arising from within. In this part only can man by introspection become conscious of his evils and falsities for here only can they be distinctly perceived. This is that ultimate or external in which man is together with the LORD and wherein he must directly cooperate with the LORD; the LORD alone working in the interiors. (DP 119, 120.) What lies further in is not perceptible except by outflow into this plane: only in this outer plane can be clearly seen the light of spiritual truth, and distinctly felt the warmth of celestial love.

In this external part of the natural mind every maternal inclination whether evil or good has its primal abode. Here too reside all mental bias, faculty, disposition and ability, from the mother. These however are subject to more or less modification and even practical nullification from the various conditions of the gross body.

Not only does the body from the mother partake of her quality good or bad but there are always induced upon its interior and often upon its exteriors the quality and likeness of the father also. This is done in the construction of the body from the substances furnished by the mother during gestation. Results produced after birth are not here presented. The infusion of the father’s quality into this maternal structure is in part accomplished by the influence of the soul of the child which was from the father and consequently fully imbued with his quality. This soul sits mistress in the formation of that natural human which it is assuming from the mother and weaves more or less fully the materials furnished by her into its own form and quality. It is according to order that the active, here the spirit, shall form the reactive, here the body, as fully as may he after its own nature and gift it with its own quality that it may perform its intended use. This agrees with Arcana Coelestia AC 10125 where the meaning is not that the body is composed of spiritual substances from the soul but that the soul forms the natural substance from the mother into a body resembling itself (See also AC 6716, 10823; TCR 82, 103; DLW 388.)

According to the above order the spirit of the child first forms those purest substances of nature from the mother into the enveloping part or limbus of the natural mind, that it may use that covering as the lowest seat of its thought and the medium by which it may flow into the gross body; and it also forms this body of grosser and grossest substances of nature and places therein the five senses as organs for sensing the outer world, acquiring knowledge and expressing its own feeling and thought. Although the soul of the child measurably imparts its own quality to that natural external it does not remove the quality of the mother. (TCR 103; AC 6716.

We said the quality of the father is imparted to the body of the child chiefly by the child’s own soul, but the quality of the father is communicated to the body of the child by being first appropriated by the mother and by her transmitted to the child in the substances and forms furnished by her. In some cases (and there will be more as the Church advances) the father’s likeness flows in each globule of the mother’s nervous fluid and his image in every drop of her blood. Something of this exists in most instances if not in all. (Marriage page 9, item 22; Latin Edition, p 7. AE 1004.) Still whatever of paternal quality thus reaches the child’s body is first materialised and imparted as the mother’s also. Conversely, the father may appropriate the sphere of the mother and impart it as his own to the spirit of the child and thence to its body.

Errors Regarding the Child’s Inheritance from the Mother.BECAUSE the external acquired by the first rational is called the maternal rational it has been inferred that the rational as an organic faculty is from the mother. Not so. That faculty before regeneration, and with the LORD before Glorification, is called maternal in consequence of clothing itself with an external acquired by means of the maternal but not from it. Moreover the above inference conflicts with the teaching, “that all the spiritual which man has is from the father” (TCR 92 and 103) and that the maternal rational does not exist at birth but is acquired by instruction and sensuals of various kinds. (AC 1893-1895.)

In regard to the maternal rational (called the first rational and represented by Ishmael) it should be recollected that this rational is formed by truths obscured by appearances which appearances are to be dispersed during regeneration; this is the rejection of the maternal rational. From Arcana Coelestia AC 2654, 3207, 2557, we see that this rational is called maternal only because it is mediately, not directly, from the mother.

Another misconception is that because the child inherits somewhat of inclination and talent from the mother, it derives from her some part of its spiritual organism also. Not so. The child inherits no part of its spiritual organism from the mother. These maternal characteristics inhere in the mental part of the natural derived from the mother. (See Diagram XV.)

That the soul is from the father and the body from the mother rightly understood involves no disparagement of the functions of the mother. That no disparagement is involved appears from the following:

I. The maternal part of the natural mind is the seat of all the mental states inherited from the mother and is the seat of the natural memory (AE 193), and during life is the active seat of all the degrees derived from the father. Although this maternal part of the natural mind becomes quiescent after death it still servestwo great and indispensable uses to eternity. (1) It is an envelop of the spirit holding its structure in form and its state entire, thus preventing its disintegration through the volatility of its spiritual substances. (2) It preserves the state of man after death as determined by his ruling end, changeless to eternity, securing to the enduring heaven and preventing the evil from sinking good an ever into deeper hells.

II. Without the natural furnished by the mother there could be no propagation of the human race, thus no heaven of angels which is the Divine end of creation.

III. Although the spiritual faculties are not from the mother, they must for regeneration acquire an external, from various knowledges and truths, to embody themselves; and these are obtainable only by means of the natural from the mother.

Let no one then undervalue the function of the mother in comparison with that of the father, his impossible without hers, hers eternally conserving the fruit of h

Previous: Chapter XVII. All the Degrees in Trines. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Supplement.

 

 

Chapter XVI. The Limbus Retained After Death

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THIS diagram illustrates the limbus surrounding the whole spirit of man after death and serving as a cutaneous envelop to hold the spirit securely in form to eternity.

F is the gross material body now rejected, the spirit being separated from it and risen into conscious life in the spiritual world.

The natural or external memory of man in the world is seated in the limbus the extreme ultimate of the natural mind. This memory consisting of the states impressed upon the limbus during life in the world, remains after death but is quiescent.

If this diagram be taken to represent the whole angelic heaven, E is their aggregate limbus. Extending the view, E represents the limbus of the spirits of this earth and all earths in the universe regenerate or unregenerate.


Previous: Chapter XV. The Limbus. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XVII. All the Degrees in Trines.

 

Chapter XV. The Limbus.

THIS diagram presents a view of the LIMBUS which man derives from the purest substances of the natural world and which he retains as a cutaneous envelop of his spiritual body after death. This cutaneous envelop is called Limbus in the Latin of True Christian Religion TCR 103 where we read, –

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself, and the body, which is from the mother, is not in itself the man, but from him. The body is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [substances] as are of the natural world; but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every man after death lays aside the natural [body] which he carried from the mother, and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain Limbus of the purest [substances] of nature around it.”

The degrees A B C and D combined, represent the whole of the spiritual part of man, that is, all which is composed of spiritual substances (TCR 103, DLW 388), A representing the supreme degree or soul-proper; B the internal or spiritual mind with all its degrees; C the external or natural mind with its degrees; and D the spiritual body, consisting of the spiritual sensual and spiritual corporeal as shown in Diagram XIII.

The Limbus E and gross body F together constitute the entire natural or material body; the limbus being nearer to the spirit and invisible to the natural eye, the gross body more external and rejected at death. E is drawn in green to distinguish it from the spiritual structures above, F consisting of gross natural substances is drawn in dark.

This Limbus, man does not cast off at death but retains as a permanent cutaneous envelop of his spiritual body. The substances of the limbus are the natural substances meant in Divine Love and Wisdom, where we read-

“The natural mind of man consists of spiritual substances and at the same time of natural substances; from its spiritual substances, thought is produced but not from its natural substances; these [natural] substances recede, [or pass from activity to quiescence] when man dies but not the spiritual substances, wherefore that same natural mind after death when man becomes a spirit or an angel, remains in a form similar to that in which it was in the world. The natural substances of this mind, which as was said recede by death, make the cutaneous envelop of the spiritual body in which spirits and angels are. By such envelop, which is taken from the natural world, their spiritual bodies [permanently] subsist, for the natural is the [fixed] containing ultimate.”- DLW 257.

The limbus is described in the same work as something fixed containing the spiritual organism:

“The material form [or natural body of man] which is added and superinduced [upon his spirit] in the world, is not a human form of itself, but from the human form of the spirit, added to and superinduced [upon the spirit] that man may do uses in the natural world, and also that he may carry with him [after death] from the purer substances of the world, something fixed containing his spirituals, and so continue and perpetuate life.”- DLW 388.

And in Divine Providence, we read, –

“Man by death puts off the grosser [substances] of nature and retains the purer which latter are next to his spiritual, and these are then his containants.”-DP 220.

The necessity of a limbus composed of natural substances to keep the spiritual body in form and order arises from the difference between natural substances and spiritual substances. This difference also necessitates the natural world to contain and preserve the spiritual world. The substances of which the bodies of spirits and angels are composed, being interior and evanescent, not ultimate and fixed like material substances, require an envelop of natural substances to hold them permanently in form. But even this natural cutaneous envelop could not preserve the spiritual body of an angel or spirit, in form, were not the envelop itself contained within and resting upon something firmer and more solid than itself, that is, upon the finer substances and through them upon the grosser substances of the natural body of man. (LJ 9.) The evanescence of spiritual substances may be illustrated by the escapement and diffusion of fluids in the natural world. The whole physical universe is related to the spiritual universe as man’s physical body to his spirit, and the highest or inmost plane of this physical universe is related to the spiritual universe as man’s limbus to his spirit. The inmost plane being the nearest covering of the spiritual universe must be the medium by which the life of the spiritual world flows into and operates upon all lower natural substances which constitute the gross physical body of the universe. (Read attentively D. W. in AE VIII, 4, 5.)

Inasmuch as the bodies of men rest on the earth, and spirits and angels through the limbus rest on men, it follows that angels and spirits rest mediately upon the earth itself as the last foundation. (LJ 9.) Angels and spirits rest on men by means of their limbus because the natural substances composing the limbus are joined with the lowest spiritual substances and are in a sense intermediate between the spiritual and the grosser and palpable natural organisms of men. The limbus must be kept in form by connection with natural substances coarser and firmer than itself in graded structures even down to earthly solids.

When we say the limbus is composed of the purest substances of nature we mean the purest of the human body; the substances of the natural sun and others proximately emanating therefrom are doubtless prior to these.

On the nature of spiritual substance on the one hand and material on the other, on the intermediate nature of the Limbus and its use in giving permanence to the existence of angels and spirits and connecting them with men, we read in Divine Wisdom,

“The angelic mind cannot be procreated, and through procreation be multiplied except in man.

“He who knows the quality of substances in the spiritual world, and the quality respectively of matters in the natural world, can easily see that there is no procreation of angelic minds nor can be, except in those and from those who inhabit the ultimate work of creation, the earth. But because the quality of substances in the spiritual world in relation to matters in the natural world is unknown [it shall now be told]. Substances in the spiritual world appear as if they were material, but they are not; and because they are not material therefore they are not constant. They are correspondences of the affections of the angels, and with the affections or the angels they are permanent, and with them they are separated [that is, on the cessation of the affections, the substances composing the object are dispersed, and the Object vanishes, see D. L. W. 344; TCR 78]. Similar would it have been with the angels, had they been created there. But besides, there is not, nor can be, with the angels any procreation and thence multiplication other than a spiritual one, which is that of wisdom and of love, such as is also of the souls of men who are generated anew or regenerated. But in the natural world there are matters, by which and from which procreations and afterwards formations can take place, thus multiplication of men and thence of angels.

Spirits and angels hence derive substance and life to eternity.

“The reason is that every angel and spirit from having been first born a man in the world derives substance, for he retains with himself from the inmost [substances] of nature a medium between the spiritual and the natural by which he is finited [that is, definitely terminated and fixed in form] so that he may subsist and be permanent; by this medium he has something related to the things which are in nature and also correspondent to them.

“By this also spirits and angels can be adjoined, and conjoined to the human race, for there is conjunction and where there is conjunction there must be a medium.

“That there is such a medium the angels know, but because it is from the inmost [substances] of nature and the words of languages are from the ultimates of nature it cannot be described except by abstract [terms].” –D.W. in AE VIII, 3, 4, 5, (See also DLW 344; 6 to 9.)

In Divine Providence we read, –

“The natural and temporal are the outmosts and ultimates into which man first enters, which he does at birth in order that he may afterwards be introduced into things interior and superior; for outermosts and ultimates are containants, and these are in the natural world. This is why no angel or spirit was created immediately, but why all were first born men and so introduced [into things interior or superior]; hence they have the outermosts and ultimates which in themselves are fixed and established, within which and by which interiors can be held together in connection. But man first puts on the grosser [substances] of nature; his body is from them but by death he puts them off, and retains the purer [substances] of nature which are nearest to spiritual [substances] and these then are his containants. Furthermore in outermosts or ultimates, all things interior or superior are together; wherefore every operation of the LORD is from firsts and ultimates together, thus in fullness. But as the outermosts and ultimates of nature cannot receive the spiritual and eternal things to which the human mind is formed, as these are in themselves, and yet man was born to become spiritual and live forever, therefore man puts off the ultimates, and retains only the natural interiors which meet and accord with the spirituals and celestials and subserve them as containants. This is done by the rejection of temporal and natural ultimates, which is the death of the body.”-.DP 220.

In the above we have the reason of the universal order of creation-the finer in the grosser, the active in the inert, the first in the last, the spiritual in the natural. This difference of substances is necessary, for were there no active, fluid, evanescent substances there would be no life, force, or motion; and were there no solid, inert substances there would he no stability and duration of form.

From the foregoing we see that

Because substances in the spiritual world are evanscent and matters in our world are stable and constant especially in ultimates, the whole spiritual universe acquires organic permanence solely by the natural universe clothing and sustaining it.

And we see that

Inasmuch as the human spirit in its rudimental form as an offshoot from the soul of the father is an organism of spiritual substances evanescent in their nature (DLW 432; TCR 103; CL 220), it must (when begotten) be immediately fixed by taking on the primordial rudimentary form of the material body from the purest elements of nature supplied for the purpose by the mother, thus securing permanence and subsequent growth.

And we further see that

Man does not at death cast off the whole of his material form but only the gross mass and retains the purest part which was nearest his spirit, as a limbus or cutaneous envelop to hold his spirit in endless duration, and as a medium conjoining him with man in the world, thus preserving both; spirits and angels resting on men and men receiving influx from them. Hence man at death, when he becomes a spirit, is not utterly separated from the material world since he does not reject ALL he has taken on from this world but remains (to the extent of his limbus) unconsciously connected with it: all this is to secure the Divine end of creation, an ever increasing and ever enduring heaven of human beings.

There is a difference between the states of the limbus of those who die in infancy and of those who die in adult age. In Heaven and Hell we read:

“They who die adult have and carry with them a plane acquired from the earthly and material world. This plane is their [external or natural] memory, and its bodily, natural affection. This remains fixed, and is then quiescent; but still it serves their thought after death as an ultimate plane, for the thought flows into it. Hence such as that plane is and such as is the correspondence of the rational with the contents of that plane such is the man after death. But those who died infants and were educated in heaven have not such a plane, but a spiritual natural plane: because they derive nothing from the material world and the earthly body they cannot be in so gross affections and hence thoughts; for they derive all from heaven.”- HH 345.

We must not infer from the above that those who die in infancy retain no limbus from nature to preserve their spiritual organism. The meaning is they have not a merely natural memory, that is a memory formed in the plane of the limbus by the use of the natural senses as those have who grow up in this life. But while growing up in the other life, their memory is formed in a spiritual structure just within the plane of the spiritual senses and is called spiritual natural because it is in a spiritual plane resting upon the natural. Should their limbus he insufficient for adult stature, it will necessarily be increased as they advance.

As all living organisms undergo change by a resolution and passing off of their substances and renewal by appropriation of new substances, so must it be with the limbus.

We must not suppose that the limbus is taken into the spiritual world. It is natural and must remain in the natural world. Man as to his spirit being of the spiritual world even from birth and unconsciously an inhabitant there during life in the body, does not go into that world at death but merely awakens to manifest presence there by the opening of his spiritual senses. This is because the spiritual and the natural worlds are not separated by distance but are together and conjoined like soul and body.

How can spirits move from place to place in the spiritual world while clothed with a cutaneous envelop of natural substances? Change of locality in that world is effected by change of state. Swedenborg so traveled there as to his spirit while clothed with the gross body even. (See E.U. 127, HH 192, 195.) A fuller answer to this question is given at the end of Chapter XXIII.

The mental functions of the Limbus will be presented in Chapters XVIII to XXIV.

The meaning of the statement “This limbus with those who come after death into heaven is below and the spiritual above, but with those who come into hell the limbus is above and the spiritual below,” etc., (TCR 103) will be best understood after study of the mental functions of the limbus above referred to. (See Diagram XXIV.)

How to approach death?

There is a cliché which says that there are only two things of which we can be certain in this life, that we are born and that we will die. Yet death is an aspect of life with which it is perhaps difficult to feel at ease. There may be many reasons for that, and I should like to consider some of them here, and at the same time to see if we might have a way of looking at the subject positively.

Fear and Loss
For many people, death is linked with fear, although that fear may have many parts. For example, we may be afraid of illness which leads to death, perhaps loss of strength, mobility, even speech and the ability to communicate in some instances. Death may be connected with loss in various ways in our minds, perhaps because we know that there are many things which we value in this life which we cannot take with us. That may include physical objects, but it may just as easily be relationships with people, hobbies about which we are passionate, treasured pets, abilities which we feel we have and many things which generally make  life worth living. Sometimes it may not be our own death which we fear, but that of those around us, to whom we are close. That may bring up not just a sense of loss in the present, but we may find past memories returning too. It may even be that what we remember are things which we might have said but didn’t, help that we thought about offering but somehow failed to do.

The Final Countdown
All of this can bring us to what I believe to be one of the key features when we contemplate death: because it has such a sense of finality, death forces us to think about opportunities, including lost opportunities. If we believe that there is nothing beyond death, that sense will be sharpened, and it would be surprising not to think then of what might have been. If there is no feeling of what might be beyond death then the tendency will be to focus on what might have been. That may tend to drag us down if we feel that there were opportunities we have made not just to our own lives but the lives of others also.

There is something about death which involves a weighing up of things, and that is perhaps something else which causes fear in us. The threat of death, our own or that of someone close to us, may force us to look at some aspects of ourselves or our relationship with another person which are not necessarily comfortable. That can include our sense of finding it difficult to know how we will cope without someone close to us. Entering into these thoughts offers an opportunity in itself. Many people have no chance to prepare for their own death or someone else’s and it happens suddenly and without warning. Even today, when medical science has achieved great levels of sophistication and progress, this does still occur. Some people advocate living the whole of life aware of our own mortality for this reason. It sharpens our sense of what it is to be alive and we experience life more fully with this awareness.

A Bigger Picture
I have talked little so far about what difference a belief in life continuing after death may make. That may depend greatly on exactly what is believed, but it surely makes a difference not just to how we approach death but to how we live life as a whole. If we believe that something of us lives on after death, it may help to release us somewhat from the burden of finality which we sometimes carry when facing death. If someone close to us dies we may think about our need to release them and to help them in whatever way we can to make the transition between this life and the next. That may not take away the feeling of loss, nor indeed the physical suffering and pain which may be present, but it gives us a larger picture. It is so easy to see death as everything collapsing or shrinking down to a single point like the small dot gradually disappearing after a television set has been switched off. That is what our physical perception sees, especially if we are confronted with this process over a long period.

A spiritual view of death is very different. I have already talked about opportunities, and death is a gateway which leads to many new opportunities. It may be a very narrow gateway, so much so that while we are on this side we cannot see through and even seem to be looking at the proverbial brick wall.

Swedenborg, Death and Angels
Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth-century scientist, wrote at length in the later part of his life about spiritual experiences and insights which he was given. One of these was to have an experience of what dying might be like. One of the things which he says is that when we die we are accompanied by angels. This is said to be true of the whole of our life, but the angels present around the time of death have the special function of easing this transition. For some people, as they near death they seem not only to drift in and out of another world, but they even seem to experience that world as populated by beings with whom they feel comfortable. For others there may not seem to be this unearthly beneficent presence, but it may instead be that they are not consciously aware of it. This may also act as a comfort to us if we experience the approaching death of someone; to focus on what the angels are doing to aid both the person dying and those of us who will be left behind.

Death is a powerful, mysterious and at times bewildering event to witness. It may not always seem to offer us an opportunity for spiritual insight or growth, but it is my belief that in one way or another it will always do.

Copyright 2012 David Lomax

 

The 3rd State of the Life After Death

The 3rd State of the Life After Death

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, Dec. 4, 2011

Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal:  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20,21)

Heaven is our true home. Once we have completed our earthly life, our attachment to the world of nature ends. Our time on this earth, in relation to the time we will spend in the spiritual world, is a mere blink of an eye. Why then do we spend so much of our time laying up earthly treasure for ourselves? Would not our time be far better spent preparing for the eternity which is to follow in the spiritual world? This is the message that the Lord came on earth to bring to us:  that we must not set our hearts on the things of this world, but instead set our sights on the spiritual world, and use our time in this world to prepare wisely for the life to come.

Today’s sermon is the last in a series of three that describe the spiritual journey that takes place when the natural body dies and the spirit is set free. Today we will focus on how new spirits are given instruction and preparation for entering heaven, and how they find their eternal, spiritual home once their questions have been answered.

We know from the Lord’s many parables that the Lord wanted people to know that there was life after death where the good would be rewarded and the evil suffer. He used simple, comforting ideas for simple times and simple people.

We will briefly review the definitions of several important terms used in this series. The “spiritual world” means the whole spiritual universe, including heaven, hell, and the world of spirits. The “world of spirits” always refers to that part of the spiritual world which lies between heaven and hell and which is the place where all people go first when their natural bodies die. The word “spirit” means anyone living anywhere in the spiritual world, although it is most frequently used to refer to someone who is still living in the world of spirits. Finally, an “angel” is a particular kind of spirit, specifically a spirit who has been through all the states of introduction and has chosen heaven.

In the first sermon of this series, we learned that the first state, or state of exteriors, is one of introduction and welcome. It is provided so that each person who enters the spiritual world will have a chance to become accustomed to the fact of the death of the natural body and the eternal life of the spirit. Eventually every spirit feels a desire to find his true spiritual home, and when this happens, he is ready to enter into the second state, the state of his interiors. But since his true spiritual home will be a reflection of his true spiritual state, that internal state must be revealed. In the second sermon of this series we saw how all the external habits and defenses are removed layer by layer until nothing remains but the spirit’s true internal loves, the essential character. The spirit no longer cares what anyone thinks of him, and does exactly as he pleases. For an evil spirit, the second state is his last. Once evil has taken over the heart and mind, there can be no further instruction or preparation.

However, the good spirits rejoice because their good intentions now instantly become acts of kindness. As they find themselves able to do more and more, they become more and more interested in understanding what is happening to them. The evils that do not agree with their ruling love drop away after some effort and pain. As the falsities of life in the world are taken away, new truths are given to take their place, and the heaven-bound spirit enters into the state of preparation, the state where he is led from the world of spirits to his eternal, spiritual home. This final part of the journey is the topic of today’s sermon.

The 3rd state begins when those who are headed for heaven are taken to special places set aside for this use. We are told that the places of instruction are oriented east and west, with the best and the most innocent spirits in the east, for that is nearest to where the Lord dwells.

Children who die as infants are first placed with angel mothers who care tenderly for them.  Once they have grown enough to begin schooling, they are brought to these heavens of instruction near the Lord where they begin their formal education.  As they get older, they move westward and join others who entered the spiritual world as older children and youths, and receive instruction appropriate to their age – even including field trips to various parts of the world of spirits!  Behind them in the western parts are the places where those who died in adult age and who were in the affection of truth from the good of life are instructed.

Further to the west behind these are those who were obedient, moral Mohammedans in the world. These are in heaven because in their life they acknowledged one Divine and the Lord as the true prophet. When these eventually stop venerating the man Mohammed and begin to think of the principles of their Religion they are then able to approach the Lord and worship Him and acknowledge His Divinity. They are then introduced into the Christian religion.

Behind these, tending toward the north, are places of instruction for various peoples from the world who have lived a good life according to their own religion and thereby formed some kind of conscience.

All these people who have tried their best to live a good life in the world, no matter what their civilization or culture, are easily led to acknowledge the Lord because they have lived according to the heartfelt belief that God is not invisible, but that He is in the Human form. We are told that the greater part of heaven is made up of such people who hold a simple, honest faith in God-Man. (HH 514:e).

The Lord is the perfect teacher, and He accommodates all lessons to the particular needs of each of the good spirits. Each spirit is taught by those who are best able to communicate with him.

Children who have grown up in heaven are instructed by angels from the interior heavens. Those who died as adults, and who are in a sphere of simple obedience, are instructed by angels of the lowest heaven. Those who belonged to various religious denominations in the world are instructed by angels who at one time belonged to those denominations. Even the heathen are taught by others of their own kind who have accepted Christianity in heaven.

During the state of preparation, the good spirits are instructed in all kinds of spiritual truths. The wonderful thing is that these truths no longer need to be couched in appearances as they are in the letter of the Word, no longer limited by natural comprehension. They are taught by the angels themselves in such a way as to be perfectly accommodated to the state of the good spirits, and the good spirits in turn learn them with delight and without any effort whatsoever. The truths that the spirits hear are no longer abstractions of limited interest to their life. They hear only things that speak directly to their particular loves and affections in such a way that they enter directly into their life.

Naturally, we are all curious as to what those truths may be. What wondrous secrets are being told! Do we have any hint at all as to the nature of this heavenly wisdom? We are told that all the knowledges about heaven are derived from and can be learned from the Word and from the doctrine of the Church that is drawn from the Word. However, while we are still in the world we cannot receive truth on this level unless the interiors of our mind are open to heaven. We are in heaven as to our interiors when we both acknowledge the Divine and act justly and honestly for the reason that we ought to act so because it is commanded in the Word by the Lord.

If a casual acquaintance comes up at a party and tries to initiate a discussion about the various schools of thought within the development of quantum mechanics, most of us would literally not know what to think. We do not have the tools, the knowledge, to hold up our end of the conversation. Without a knowledge of the principles of quantum mechanics, we cannot think about it or form valid opinions. Therefore it is not surprising that the Heavenly Doctrines should teach that, “without a knowledge of spiritual things, man cannot think spiritually” (HH 512:3). And since angels must think spiritually, it is essential that they be given the tools, the knowledges, to think about their new life in heaven, and to take a useful part in it.  That also means that we’re going to have to wait to get there before we have the tools and thus the ability to understand what the angels are teaching.  If we were allowed to listen to one of these angelic classes, we would hear words, but comprehend nothing because of the limitations imposed on our thinking by the natural body and the need to be connected to the natural world by means of the senses and the sensual degree of the mind.

As we age, most of us suffer from some degree of memory loss.  This may cause some concern when we hear about all the learning about high spiritual stuff that’s ahead of us.  But remember, the problem we have with our memory is related to the aging of the cells in the brain.  In the spiritual world, we’ll be in a spiritual body which will not suffer from these limitations.  We take our complete memory with us into the spiritual world, not the natural organ of memory.

All instruction in heaven is from doctrine drawn from the Word. Knowledges are not committed to memory, but to life. This is because the memory of spirits is in their life, for they receive and gather everything that is in accord with their life. And everything that is gathered into their living memory is taken for the sake of the use which it may perform.

Since the good spirits are no longer hampered by earthly restraints and they love what they are learning, the instruction goes very quickly. The students are interested in every subject because it relates directly to their future use in the spiritual world. The angel teachers have a perception of the states and needs of their students and so are able to adapt their teaching to the needs of the spirits perfectly. The students never tire or get bored, and because the truths are taken directly into the life, there is no need for them to study. We must also remember that they are not being taught in any language of the world, but in the angelic tongue, a language of pure ideas that connects one mind directly to another, and so yet another barrier to understanding is removed.

The subject of when married couples come together in this process is complex and lengthy, better suited to a separate study. But speaking generally we can say that husbands and wives are first reunited in the First State while in the world of spirits. If they find that they can continue together, they then go through the various states together. If they cannot continue together because of a difference in their internal states, they separate (the Writings are silent about how many separate and how many stay together). At some point (which will vary according to the spiritual state of each) as they proceed through the various states they discover a partner with whom they can live to eternity in heaven. They then complete their preparation through the third state together.

It is not long until they know enough to enter a heavenly society and begin their life of use. As a sign of their readiness, they are given angelic garments. These are described as being “glowing white as if made of fine linen” (HH 519). Thereafter they are taken to angelic guides who start them on their way to their own home society. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that there are many paths in the spiritual world, but that the conjugial pair on way to their own society easily find their way, no matter how winding the path, or how many forks, because they are led by their own heart and guided by the Lord.

During journey, they may pass many beautiful societies, but they know in their heart that they are not their true home. Eventually, they come to a place which they recognize as their own, for every aspect the place corresponds with their own affections. The couple hears singing, a song that touches them deeply, and draws them near. As they approach, they begin to sing along and it feels right. They draw nearer, and the song becomes more familiar. Soon they find themselves in the midst of a heavenly choir, sharing in their song, in perfect harmony with their new society, singing a song of welcome, and they know that they have found their true home.

In summary, we can say that only good spirits enter the state of instruction to be prepared for heaven. All instruction in this state is provided by angels, and is perfectly accommodated to the states of the spirit. They are able to learn quickly because they is not limited by an earthly body or by an earthly language but are able to communicate in the spiritual language of ideas. Further, everything that is taught pertains to their own ruling love and the uses that they will perform, and therefore is received with delight.

The death of the natural body is something every one of us must face sooner or later. The purpose of the Lord’s first and second comings has been to give us the information we need to face death without fear. The Lord had tried to show, in many different ways, that everything that happens to a spirit after death is guided by concern and love for him. Everything possible is done to make him comfortable and lead him to a special place in heaven. The Lord Himself came on earth, suffered the temptation of the cross, raised Himself with His own power, and has come again in the spiritual sense of the Word to take away the fear of the grave and to give us ample warning of what we face and what we must do to prepare ourselves while we live in the natural world. The Lord has offered the gift of eternal life in heaven. Now it is up to us to receive His gift, and use it well.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1-4) AMEN.

First Lesson:  MAT 6:19-24

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; {20} but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. {22} The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. {23} But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! {24} No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Amen.

Second Lesson: HH 512:2, 3

THE THIRD STATE OF MAN AFTER DEATH, WHICH IS A STATE OF INSTRUCTION FOR THOSE WHO ENTER HEAVEN.

[2] Good spirits … are led from the second state into the third, which is the state of their preparation for heaven by means of instruction. For one can be prepared for heaven only by means of knowledges of good and truth, that is, only by means of instruction, since one can know what spiritual good and truth are, and what evil and falsity are, which are their opposites, only by being taught. One can learn in the world what civil and moral good and truth are, which are called justice and honesty, because there are civil laws in the world that teach what is just, and there is intercourse with others whereby man learns to live in accordance with moral laws, all of which have relation to what is honest and right. But spiritual good and truth are learned from heaven, not from the world. They can be learned from the Word and from the doctrine of the church that is drawn from the Word and yet unless man in respect to his interiors which belong to his mind is in heaven spiritual good and truth cannot flow into his life; and man is in heaven when he both acknowledges the Divine and acts justly and honestly for the reason that he ought so to act because it is commanded in the Word, This is living justly and honestly for the sake of the Divine, and not for the sake of self and the world, as ends.

[3] But no one can so act until he has been taught, for example, that there is a God, that there is a heaven and a hell, that there is a life after death, that God ought to be loved supremely, and the neighbor as oneself, and that what is taught in the Word, ought to be believed because the Word is Divine. Without a knowledge and acknowledgment of these things man is unable to think spiritually; and if he has no thought about them he does not will them; for what a man does not know he cannot think, and what he does not think he cannot will. So it is when man wills these things that heaven flows into his life, that is, the Lord through heaven, for the Lord flows into the will and through the will into the thought, and through both into the life, and the whole life of man is from these. All this makes clear that spiritual good and truth are learned not from the world but from heaven, and that one can be prepared for heaven only by means of instruction. Amen.