The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 324:1
The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race.”
The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 324:1
“The more we base what we say on sound reasoning and the more we focus on the time we will spend in heaven, the more human we are.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christian Religion 417
The nature of heaven is to provide a place there for all who lead good lives, no matter what their religion may be
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Ten Questions About The Life After Death
A lecture by The Rt. Rev. Philip N. Odhner,
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The knowledge of eternal life is most important to the good of religion with men. The question of whether there is a life after death, and of what quality is that life is one of vital concern to us, not only when we are confronted with the death of those whom we love or with our own death, but also in connection with our consideration of every problem of religion. Without a knowledge of eternal life we cannot possibly understand God’s purpose in creating us, and without this we cannot grasp the nature of His Love, nor the nature of His will with us. Ignorance of the spiritual world may lead men to the doubt and denial of all things spiritual, and thus leave our religion a mere materialistic, worldly thing, without reason and without life.
Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian of the Eighteenth Century, stated that he was permitted by the Lord to be with the angels, and to speak with them as man with man, and that he was commissioned by the Lord to write down and publish the things thus revealed to him for the sake of mankind. To quote from the introduction of his work, “Heaven and Hell,” “The man of the Church at this day knows scarcely anything about heaven and hell, or about his life after death, although all things are set forth and described in the Word; yea, many even who have been born within the Church deny them, saying in their heart, ‘Who has come thence and told us?’ Lest therefore such a spirit of denial, which prevails especially with those who have much worldly wisdom, should also infect and corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith, it has been granted to me to associate with angels and to talk with them as man with man, and also to see the things which are in the heavens, and those which are in the hells, and this for thirteen years; also from what I have thus heard and seen I am now permitted to describe these, in the hope that ignorance may thus be enlightened, and unbelief dissipated.” (Heaven and Hell, no. l)
Because we believe that the wonderful things revealed about heaven and hell through Swedenborg constitute an entirely new basis for the thought of mankind in the understanding of spiritual things, we present here the answers given in his Writings to ten questions commonly asked about the life after death.
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1. Is the spiritual world a real world?
The spiritual world is a real world. By comparison with it, this world is relatively unreal. In the spiritual world there are all things that are in this world, and many more of which we are not conscious while we live here in the body. There are lands, and cities, forests, fields and oceans, as in this world. Everyone there has a body as in this world, with its five senses, and a mind, with its love and thought. The only difference is that the senses are keener after the death of the material body, the thought clearer, and the love more free.
So real is that world that if you were to die at this moment you would come into the consciousness of your spirit without noticing any difference in your surroundings. You would see the same room, the same city with its buildings. You would not realize in any way that you had passed into another world except that you would be surrounded by different people. Swedenborg relates that many men, on coining into the consciousness of the spirit, which takes place shortly after their death, refuse to believe that they are not still in the natural world before they have been instructed and shown by many wonderful experiments that this is indeed the case.
Many at this day think of angels and spirits as ghost-like creatures of no substance and form, as breaths of wind with no feeling or determined thought. This is because of the materialistic thought that prevails in the world, even in the churches, which supposes nothing to be real unless it is material, and unless it can be perceived through the senses of the physical body. Such people say that if there were a spiritual world, they could see it, and that surely by the aid of all our scientific instruments, by which we pierce into the inmost things of nature and by which we see into the farthest corners of the universe, we could detect some evidence of it.
The simplest reflection on the nature of your own spirit should be sufficient to dispel the fantasies of this materialistic thought. Consider for yourself, do you not live? Do you not have loves and thoughts? Are these not real things? The fact is that your love and thought are what direct your whole life, and that they are so real that nothing else can have any reality to you except that which touches or affects your love and thought. Can you mention anything that has any real meaning, apart from those things that enter and affect the love and thought of men? In a very true sense, love and its thought are the only real things to you. And yet has anyone ever seen love or thought with his eyes, or felt it with the hand? Can you measure them with a yardstick, or weigh them on scales? Has any microscope ever revealed any evidence of what they are in themselves? Or has any telescope revealed their presence in the far reaches of the universe? And yet would you say that for this reason they are not real, and that they have no substance and form?
The truth is that man’s spirit and all things of it have nothing in common with nature and the material world, except while the spirit lives in the natural body. It has a spiritual substance and form which are the verimost realities, and yet which are not material and therefore have not the properties of matter. It exists in a spiritual world of its own, apart from the spaces and times of the natural world. Many people ask, Where is heaven? To this the Lord replied, “The “kingdom of heaven is within you.” By this the Lord did not mean inside your body, in any spatial sense, but that the spiritual world is in the realm of your love and thought. These are spaceless, and yet they are within all natural things that have life. The spiritual world is therefore in and around us, as the reality which creates and brings forth all things in the natural world, just as our own spirit forms our body in the womb. When our body dies we come into the consciousness of that inner world. We do not fly off to some star at the end of the universe; we merely come into a consciousness of that which is within and above the material sphere. We then sense spiritual things even as the spirit in the body sensed natural things.
That the spiritual world is more real than the natural world can be seen from this, that in this world men can hide their real thoughts and feelings by means of the natural body and their material surroundings. They can pretend to be that which they are not, using natural things to mask their true character. So much is this so that we often hear people say that the whole world is nothing but a sham, most of the men in it being hypocrites to such an extent that You can’t count on their being what they appear to be. In the spiritual world this is not so. There the love and thought of men appear in their own true form. There is nothing with which to hide that form. Thus in the spiritual world things really are what they appear to be, whereas in this natural world they often are not what they appear to be. In this world a man may appear selfish when he is unselfish. He may appear old when in spirit he is young. He may appear generous when at heart he is a miser, and so on. In the spiritual world this is not so. The body and form of man in that world reflects in every detail the true character of his love and thought.
2. Does our personality survive the death of the body?
After death a man lives on in every respect the same as before except that he is no longer clothed with a material body, but lives in a spiritual body which is the true form of his love. Man retains everything of his love and its affections, every thing of his thought, everything of his memory. The whole of what we call his personality continues without the least change. Indeed the truth is that a man’s character there comes into its own, for there is much in our spirit which we cannot express in this world due to imperfections of the natural body, but the spiritual body is of living spiritual substance and not of dead material substance, and in it the love and thought of man are imaged forth perfectly. The face, the hands, everything of the spiritual body reveal to all the character of the man. Certain changes would be brought about in our external appearance because of this. Those of deformed body in this world would not so appear in the other world, since such deformity is of the material alone, and not of the spirit. Those who are old and worn out with age would appear once again young and beautiful, since age with its decrepitude and wrinkles are of the material body, and not of the spirit. On the other hand, those of a deformed spirit, those who are selfish and avaricious and cruel, would appear in the spiritual world as ugly and monstrous, thus as their true selves, no matter how young and beautiful they may have seemed here.
3. Do we meet again those whom we have known and loved?
Distance in the spiritual world is entirely according to the quality of a man’s love. Those are spiritually far from us whose loves are very different from our own, and those are near to us who have a similar love. From this law of the spiritual world we often speak in this life, saying that those we love are “very near” to us, and that those for whom we have no affection are remote from us. From this law of the spirit we can see that all who love each other meet in the life after death. Husbands and wives, children, parents, friends, all who love each other are re-united, and live together or near each other according to the nearness of their loves.
In heaven, however, only genuine loves survive. If we have loved someone here on a false basis, thinking them to be that which they are not, this is there made known and a consequent separation takes place. There are no natural relationships in the other life, but spiritual relationships, which arc those of love. A man then is not your brother because he had the same natural father and mother, but only if his love is of a similar quality. If there is a spiritual affinity as to love, then a natural brother is also your spiritual brother; if not, then a separation takes place, even as happens in this world between brothers who have nothing in common spiritually.
In a wide sense all in heaven are brothers, or sisters, since they all acknowledge the Lord as their common Father, but they are close or remote according to their loves. From this fact it also follows that the relationship of parents towards their children becomes a brotherly and sisterly relationship, and does not remain that of parents towards their children. This is in accord with the Lord’s words, “Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9.) Still it is a spiritual as well as a natural law that children derive from their parents a similar genius and a similar love. For this reason it would follow that those who have been in this relation on earth would for the most part live near each other in the life after death, if their spiritual development has been similar.
The joy of the reunion in heaven of those who have loved each other on the earth is boundless, and can only be measured by their joy in continuing to live together in the perpetual growth of their love and friendship into eternity.
4. Does marriage continue after death?
The teaching of the Writings of Swedenborg is that the genuine love of one man and one wife is the most blessed and happy that God gives to human beings. This love is called Conjugial Love, and is an inmost union of the two in love and thought and in every word and deed. In all true marriages on earth something of this love is present, and such a marriage continues on into eternity and is the inmost source of all heavenly joy and happiness. Those marriages on earth in which there is nothing of this true love are of themselves dissolved at death, since such marriages have been of the body alone, and not of the spirit. In this case, if the husband and wife are such as can enter into heavenly society, that is, if they are nevertheless unselfish people who have love to God and love towards their neighbors, a suitable partner is found for each of them with whom they can receive Conjugial Love, and with whom they can live in increasing happiness into eternity. Here again the same law holds true, that a similar love unites, and a dissimilar love separates; but in the case of man and wife the love is not only similar, but it is one with them both.
The Lord said, “They who are held worthy to attain to another age and to the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot die anymore.” This has been interpreted to mean that the angels are sexless, and that they do not live in a married state. But reflection will show that this teaching does not refer to the marriage of man and woman, but to the marriage of love and faith in each heart and mind. Otherwise, why should the words be added, “For they cannot die anymore”? It would make no sense to say this in connection with the marriage of man and woman. On the other hand the spiritual marriage of man’s love and faith in a good life is what brings him spiritual life. If this spiritual marriage has not taken place on earth, it cannot take place in heaven; and if it has taken place on earth, nothing can ever bring about its destruction in the life after death. Compare also the teachings in Genesis 5: 1, 2, “In the day that God created man in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them and called their name Adam.” Here it is evident that man and woman together are the likeness of God and His image. They together are as the Lord said, “one flesh,” and to think that they do not remain such after death is contrary to all the perception of those who are blessed with that true love which is called Conjugial.
Swedenborg testifies that all in the heavens live in the married state with that partner who is one with them in love.
5. What is the form of society in the spiritual world?
The teaching is that the angels for the most part live in societies, larger and smaller, corresponding to the cities and towns of this earth. Some also live apart, as it were in rural districts. Each society has its own form of government, just as each country in this world. The form of government is adapted to the genius of the people in those societies. But they are all alike in this, that the government is one of mutual love, and is administered through instruction. There is no necessity of compulsion since all in the heavens are in the love of the common good.
Wealth in heaven is measured only by the reception of wisdom from the Lord. This the angels receive each in accord with the use which he performs to his society. All their necessities, such as their spiritual food, clothing, and shelter, are given to them freely, in accordance with the needs of their functions and offices. There are rich and poor there, in the sense that some receive more of wisdom than others, and some perform more exalted uses than others. There is however no sense of proprietorship, as all acknowledge that what they have is from and of the Lord alone, and each one wills that all that is his should belong to everyone else. According to the teaching in the New Testament, the rulers consider themselves as the servants of all. All contribute to the common good, and receive the requirements of their happiness from the common good.
In this the form of heaven is as the form of the human body, in which each part contributes to the health of the whole, and each receives from the whole that which is necessary for its own good health. In fact the societies of heaven perform functions for each other corresponding in every way with the uses which the different parts of the body perform for each other. The whole of heaven is thus like one Grand Man, and is so seen by the Lord. This Grand Man may be called the Body of the Lord, in which He lives, and in which He rules as the soul of man lives and rules in his body.
6. Do we have occupations and employments there?
Many people entertain the idea that heaven is a place of eternal rest, and by this they understand a place where men do no work, but sit around in eternal idleness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every man was created to be of service to the human race. All joy and happiness which are genuine come to man from the performance of the service for which he was created. Even in this world we can see that a man who does nothing, who contributes nothing to the good of his fellow men, cannot be happy. In heaven everyone performs some function or office in accordance with his genius and abilities, and in the performance of this work lies all heavenly joy for him.
The teaching that heaven is a perpetual Sabbath does not mean that the angels do nothing but attend church services and sing hymns or play on harps. By the perpetual Sabbath is meant rest from the combat against the evils of their self-love. They do indeed glorify God, but this they do in the performance of their daily work. To glorify God means, “to bring forth the fruits of love; that is, faithfully, sincerely, and diligently to do the work of one’s own function, for this is of the love of God and of the love of the neighbor. And this is the bond of society and its good. By this God is glorified, and then by worship at stated times. Have you not read these words of the Lord, Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples?” (Conjugial Love, no.9.)
Every man is judged in the spiritual world according to the quality of his life on this earth for the reason that his love is according to his life, and all judgment in the spiritual world is according to the love. If the love is selfish, its quality is evil. If the love is unselfish, its quality is good. A man’s character takes on a certain fixation in his bodily life in this world, according to his free choice and determination in spiritual things. For this reason the essential quality and order of his loves is not changed by death. Nevertheless no man is to be judged by the external appearances of his quality in this life. It is his ruling love, his ruling motive, that determines a man’s true character, and this is not always seen in this life, but becomes evident in the life after death.
Although man’s essential character and ruling love remains the same after death, this does not mean that he does not progress. Every spirit progresses in the perfection of his life, increasing in knowledge, in wisdom, and in the extension of his .usefulness into eternity. This may be illustrated by the fact that as we progress in age in this world our loves, our essential character, become more and more fixed, but that we never cease to learn, and grow continually in wisdom of life.
8. Does everyone go to Heaven?
Every human being whatsoever that has been born into the world, even if he has lived but for a moment, is an immortal soul, and lives to eternity in the spiritual world. The question as to whether all in that spiritual world are in heaven, or whether some go to hell is clarified by this; that every man lives there in his own love, and if his love is unselfish, a love of God and the neighbor, he is in heaven, since heaven is made by those loves; if his love on the other hand is a selfish love, so that he loves self and the world above all things, then he is in hell, since those loves make hell, and are hell in themselves. The fire and brimstone of hell mentioned in the Bible are nothing more or less than the activity of the evil loves of self and the world and their enjoyments. Hell is then nothing more than a continuation of the life of the loves of self and the world with those who choose to remain in them during this life. It is not a place of torture or eternal punishment, but merely the fatuous life and happiness which are received by those who are ruled by those evil loves.
Every man, no matter what his religion may be, is brought into heaven and is instructed in such a way as to receive the truth according to his genius, if he lives according to his religion, and in some measure combats and overcomes the rule of his self-love.
9. Do we see God in the life after death?
The God of Heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no God beside Him. The minds of Christians have been confused by a misinterpretation of the teachings of the New Testament, to the effect that the Father and the Holy Spirit are different in person from the Lord. The true Christian teaching is that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul said, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.) The Father is the Lord’s soul, which is in Him as the soul is in man. The Son is the Human which the Lord assumed by birth in this world. The Holy Spirit is the Divine which proceeds from Him into the minds of all human beings, regenerating them and raising them to Himself in heaven. There are not three Divines, but one; nor three persons, but one, and that one is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord appears in heaven at certain times before the eyes of the angels, and when He appears He is seen as He was in the world, of a like countenance and stature, His face”shining like the sun in its strength” as described by John in the Apocalypse (Apoc. 1:16.) But it must be known that the Lord is not among the angels as one of them, nor does He rule over them in person as a king of this world over his subjects. The Lord is with the angels as their life, as the Love and Wisdom of their will and understanding. He is thus most truly and intimately present in all their affections and thoughts, since these all are from Him, and are His; yea, it is He Himself in them. The angels also see the Lord represented outside of themselves as the sun of Heaven from which come their spiritual heat and light, which are their love and wisdom. The Lord is thus spiritually omnipresent with the angels as all that is good and true with them. So also He is present with the spirits of men while they live in this world. The angels thus see God in all that is good and true. But on occasion for the sake of special uses they see Him also in His Divine person.
No one can scientifically prove or disprove anything that is said about the spiritual world, because that world lies entirely beyond the realm of merely physical demonstration. But if we believe in God we must also believe that He can give His creatures the ability to see what is true of the spirit, if they will to see it from Him. We believe what has been revealed through Swedenborg about the spiritual world because everything which he has written about it is in agreement with former revelations of the Word of God contained in the Bible. Also what is said in “Heaven and Hell” and in other theological works given to us through Swedenborg has the self evident authority of all that is Divinely true It is such as to bring order and light into our minds on this most vital subject when before there has been nothing but ignorance and confusion. Add to this that what is said is such as to appeal tosound reason with all men, and is in agreement with all rational thought concerning God and His purpose with men.
No man can believe anything unless there is within him an internal dictate that that thing is true, and unless he can see that it agrees with the Word of God or that it is the Word of God. If, in addition, a thing can be confirmed by his reason and by scientific observations that are seen to be in agreement with it, then that thing is not only seen to be true, but is firmly established as such in the mind. We believe that the revelations of the spiritual world given through Swedenborg more than meet all these requirements for full belief. We believe that ignorance and doubt with men can be entirely dispelled through that revelation, and that our life in this world can thus be given a meaning and a guidance that far exceeds anything that has ever been given to the human race before. We therefore urge you all to read and study “Heaven and Hell” and the other works of the Lord given through His Servant Emanuel Swedenborg.
Starting Science From God
What do you do in Heaven?
On earth we live in communities. So we will in heaven. But the heavenly communities will be structured and organised. Each community will have its own specific use and function within the whole.
We will determine our heavenly community and unique role within it by use of our specific skills and talents in this world to love and serve others. Each angel will thus feel comfortable and at home with those around and have a function which suits his or her own abilities and desires. Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that ‘the Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of uses’. Heaven and Hell 387.
Work in heavenly communities will differ from work on earth because its motivation will be different. In heaven housing, clothing and food will be freely given to all angels. The need to work for personal needs is gone. Perhaps it is like choosing how to be busy in early retirement!
People’s prime motivations on earth vary – use to the Lord, to others or to self – so in heaven they will vary too. The parallels in heavenly life might be seen to be: helping people in their spiritual life, civil life or domestic life. In each of these areas there will be work to do for other people, in loving them, caring for them and helping them.
It is possible to think of people who love working in each of the above areas in their life on earth. If it is their true love and skill it will continue into the next life. Thus each angel will be happy in the work which needs to be done. It is perhaps also evident that there will be an infinite variety of occupations to match the infinite variety of the angels. Swedenborg tells us that there are few tasks in the world by comparison. Heaven and Hell 393.
Each angel is busy in activity which benefits the community and, thus the whole, using unique talents given by the Creator. There are fortunate people on earth whose work is like this for them. In heaven this will be achieved by all.
Discovering inner health and transformation
Poets sometimes voice a feeling that even death cannot break the bonds of love. That even after their demise a loving couple meet in heaven.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
(Sonnets from the Portugese XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
But does love really transcend bodily death and do you and your loved one ever meet in heaven or in another form of afterlife for that matter?
The psychic Leslie Flint held seances in which voices could be heard speaking. A recording includes an account by a man named George Wilmot purportedly from beyond the grave. According to this communication, we do meet in heaven again. This man awoke in an afterlife and said he met there a young woman he was sweet on during the war in France before she died together with her family.
Through Flint’s mediumship Queen Victoria was also heard speaking. Of Albert, she said
“We are still very, very concerned and interested in all the things that transpire in your world.”
Flint was involved in thousands of experiences in which people spoke to deceased loved ones and the deceased responded in normal conversations. Their voices did not come through the medium’s mouth or from any one else present. Flint was tested hundreds of times using all manner of controls and never once was found to have produced the voices or had any collaborator produce the voices.
For example he was bound to a chair, his mouth sealed with tape. In other experiments he wore a throat microphone to detect possible vibrations in his vocal organs. He was observed through an infra-red viewer. At no time did sounds come from his mouth. In no tests by qualified, skeptical scientists, was anything found to be fake or deceptive.
Christians have traditionally thought that angels and the spirits of the departed are
sexless beings — neither male nor female. They point to the words of Christ who said
“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:30)
However another interpretation of this passage is that Jesus was referring to the kind of superficial impure marriages the scoffing Sadducees had in mind which are not going to be made in heaven.
Emanuel Swedenborg lived over a century before testing of psychics started. However, he did write about his extraordinary communication with spirits in meticulous and comprehensive detail. His books report on both his own experiences of the spirit world and what spirit communicators had told him about it. He addresses the issue of whether husband and wife meet in heaven.
He reports that people after death are male or female not only as to their
psychological makeup but also as to every detail of their spirit bodies. We are told that all of what one loves and desires stays with one in the next life. This is said to be because what one deeply feels is the inner being of one’s life. And this includes one’s sexual inclination and the person one loves.
Swedenborg claims that most couples meet after death, in a `world of spirits’ before they are ready for heaven, recognize each other, associate, and live together at least for a while. So they do not meet in heaven but meet outside heaven. To the extent they are familiar to each other and have things in common, they remain together and mutually explore each other’s true feelings. They start to see more clearly to what extent they had any real affection for each other.
According to this account those, whose minds are inwardly in a state of agreement and unity, progress and stay together for all time in heaven and are said to experience a deep conviction that they had been born for each other, and have a sense of tender love and joy such as they had never known before.
However, those whose relationship is discovered to consist of an inner disharmony, then sooner or later the individual partners have a growing unease. If there is pleasure in having a partner to blame or at least to foil and outwit, this may break out into open enmity, quarrelling, and even combat.
Other partners unsuited to each other realise it is not good for them to stay living together and so separate no matter how long they have lived together in their former life.
We are told those individuals with a heavenly character who are in unhappy relationships separate and find a new partner with whom union is possible to the point that the new pair do not wish to lead two lives but one. They are indeed kindred spirits.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problem
Posted on17th January 2012
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
16 Spiritual Sources of Health
“Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2
The causes of emotionally induced diseases may be traced from the autonomic nerves to their cortical origins and from the secretions of the endocrine glands to their source in the inmost organic structures which Swedenborg called the “simple cortex.” But here nature gives way to spirit. For the brain-cells absorb their subtle material aliments from earth and atmosphere and produce their complex chemical carriers of life according to the states of a man’s affections.441 And man’s affections are derived from the spirits who are with him.
The only real health is from the Lord. A wicked man may seemingly have a strong and healthy body. But inwardly there is no soundness in him. His “purer blood” or animal spirit is not being purged from those malign substances which attract the influx from the hells. He carries with him the poison of deceit, the seeds of insanity, and the latent causes of disease.
Just as anger and cankering emotions make for illness, love and faith are the fountainhead of health and an important element in cures. It is well known that a patient must have an incentive to recover and a faith in its possibility. But to avert illness a man must at all times keep his mind free from morbid states of self-pity, anger, pessimism, suspicion, impatience and intemperance, and from all other moods or emotions which seem to brood below the level of his thoughts but which actually inflow from evil spirits. He should be courageous in facing adversities, reasonable and prudent in his relation with other men. He should keep busy in some useful work and lead an orderly life. He should defend his own freedom and his own use while respecting the same rights in others. In short, he should be rational and moral. He should cultivate the moral virtues, learn to appreciate them in others, patiently try to see the point of view of those who criticize him, and see himself objectively, as others see him. An inoffensive sense of humor which allows him to smile at irritations and laugh at his own errors, can often prevent a nervous breakdown. Modern doctors prescribe a happy mood as the best medicine.
Moral virtues do not suffice to combat evil spirits. Evils must be shunned as sins against God if the angels are to banish the unclean spirit that would return with seven others to the house of the garnished mind. The protection of heaven comes to the just man who loves mercy and walks humbly before his God. And the promise is, “Unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.”442
Interior happiness comes from a heart made humble by knowing its own weaknesses and strong by putting trust in the Divine providence. The hectic pursuit of worldly fame or personal power or luxury is responsible for much illness. Uses are provided us as a means to forget ourselves, not as a path to selfish pleasures or personal vanity. The true way to happiness and health is to find our place of use in society, to employ our talents with a cheerful heart to mitigate the misfortunes of others, to sustain their good efforts, to contribute of our best illustration to their spiritual welfare. A man who can attract good spirits is of more value to his fellowmen than the inventor of atomic engines or the most brilliant of secular thinkers—if the latter do not first seek the kingdom of God.
Protection in Uses
A most powerful protection against evil and disease is to be found in the love of being useful—the zeal for work from an interest in the needs of others. This love conquers many illnesses and delays the inroads of old age. Indeed even an evil man or spirit is to a certain point protected by society and by heaven so long as he performs a use. The people of Israel were under a Divine protection from pestilences and disasters so long as they were faithful to their covenant, even though their function was one of merely “representing” a church. Muscles never used would weaken and talents not exercised tend to disappear. The Writings urge us to temper our uses with a due amount of rest and proper recreation. But “they who love idleness more than use gather evils into their spirit,” for they turn to things filthy and evil, vain and frivolous, until their mind grows stupid and their body torpid. On the other hand, “while a man is in some study and business or is in a use, his mind is limited and circumscribed as by a circle within which it is coordinated by stages into a form truly human.”443
“Use is to discharge the works of our employment sincerely and industriously.” The love of use and the derivative application prevent the mind from wandering in idle daydreams and from drinking in the allurements of sensual lusts which scatter all thoughts of religion and morality to the winds.444 Hence it is that the delight of heavenly life, as well as its wisdom, revolves about uses to be done. The angels know that to love the Lord as a person and not to love uses, is to love Him from self; but use in itself is Divine, and to do uses is to love the Lord and to be in Him—in the very current of His sustaining life, or in that kingdom of uses which is described as the Grand Man of heaven. And through the ordered uses of the home, society, and the church, this kingdom extends its protection over men on earth also.
Love, the Key to Health
Love is the key to health as well as to happiness. Even the food we eat has a different effect when it is eaten with thankfulness and delight, than when it is gulped in a state of anxiety. Delight aids the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes and “opens the chyle-ducts” so that the nourishment can be rightly absorbed.445 Food and drink nourish the body better and more suitably when a man, at dinner or supper, is cheerful in spirit and is at the same time “in the delight of conversing with others about the things he loves, than when he sits at table alone.”446 Indeed, man shall not live by bread only. Among the proper “diversions of charity” are dinners, suppers, or parties “with those who are in mutual love from a similar faith”; where the conversation turns on various civic and domestic topics, but the chief interest centers on the church. The sphere of love and charity on such occasions exhilarates every mind, softens every voice, and brings festive feelings into all the senses.447 All of which confirms the proverb, “Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”448
It is really love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor which invite the wholesome spheres of heaven. And no love can give a more complete protection against the hells or offer more support to heaven than a love truly conjugial such as exists with two married partners who together look to the Lord in their common uses.449 For marriage was instituted by the Lord to be the norm of human life in which all the needs of soul and mind and body find their fulfilment and through which the Divine uses of creation are to be accomplished. It is to the state of marriage that every human individual must look for the final balance of life’s many uses and delights. And if a true marriage is not achieved on earth, a man or a woman can still live in the sphere of the conjugial union of charity and faith which fosters all the spiritual and natural uses of society and begets the wisdom of life.
The love of propagating and the love of protecting the offspring comes to all men as a sphere out of heaven and as a general influx. In the natural man, as in animals, it is received as a love of the sex. This is a natural instinct, and if it is not tempered by reason or conscience, it becomes the main source of mental stresses and social problems. But it is intended as the womb of conjugial love. And conjugial love can be received only according to the states of the church with man, or according as man, as of himself, orders his life by revealed Doctrine to recognize the purposes of creation. It is given to those who shun their evils as sins, approaching the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and of earth, and who thus can sustain the particular influx of the angelic guardians which come from the celestial heavens with innocence and peace. Under such angelic auspices the conflicts of one’s natural affections are easily resolved and the disturbing undercurrents of fretting emotions are frankly analyzed and their stress weakened.
The states of a truly conjugial life are described as “innocence, tranquillity, inmost friendship, full confidence, a mutual desire of mind and heart to do the other every good; and from all these, blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure; and from the eternal fruition of these, heavenly felicity.”450 This is not a cloudy ideal impossible of fulfilment in our day and age. It is possible wherever men thirst for the water of life and the New Jerusalem can be planted in their hearts.
Heaven comes to earth as a gift from the Lord—bringing the first conditions for happiness and for health—just so far as men shun evils as sins and thus invite good spirits to attend them. It comes “when a man, with his wife whom he loves most tenderly and with his children, lives contented in the Lord. From this he has in the world interior delight, and in the other life heavenly joy.”451
The Heavenly Doctrine was not given in order to restore to men the means of procuring physical health. It extends no hope for miraculous cures by prayer or by faith alone. Yet beside the pure river of water of life which flows crystal clear from the throne of God, there grows the tree of life whose fruits shall be for meat and whose leaves are for medicine—for the healing of the nations.452 These curative leaves signify the rational truths now revealed in the Writings, which can restore sound judgment to those who have been infested by evils and falsities, and may lead them to live becomingly and eventually to receive spiritual truths.453
Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The man who has been alienated from good and truth intends nothing but evil, because he cannot intend good; and what he intends, reigns with him, and therefore is in all his thoughts, and in every least detail of him; for the intention or end is the veriest life of man, the end being his love, and the love being his life. And what is more, a man is exactly such as is the end with him, and such also is his image in the light of heaven; and — this may surprise you — such as is his image in general, such is the image of the least things of his will. Thus the whole man is such as his end is.
From this it is evident that the man who is an evil end cannot possibly be among those who are good ends; thus he who is in hell cannot possibly be in heaven; for the ends conflict, and the good ends prevail, because they are from the Divine. Hence also it is evident that they do not think truly who believe that everyone can be admitted into heaven from mercy alone; for if one who is an evil end comes into heaven, his life labors as with one who lies in the death agony, and he is direfully tortured; besides that in the light of heaven he appears as a devil. Hence it is evident that they who have been alienated from truth and good can think nothing but evil; and that this evil is in the least things of their thought and will is very manifest from the sphere which from afar exhales from such spirits, for their quality is thereby perceived. This sphere is like a spiritual evaporation from every detail of the life.
Have you ever wondered why some days we can wake up feeling bright and able to cope with the day and other times, for no obvious external reasons, we can feel ‘down’ or even depressed?
External events can help create positive and negative states and behaviour in us but they are not the only cause. What makes two patients who have been admitted to hospital with kidney failure react in such different ways? One bewails his bad luck and finds fault with everything and everyone whereas the other is thankful that it is not more serious and that he has such a caring family who will support him in the future.
Our outer mind tends to be focussed on the world around us because our physical senses dominate. So it is natural to fall in with the idea that all there is to life is what we can see, hear and touch, and that we are separate from others. When we believe this and rely solely on our own abilities and ideas we can easily feel overwhelmed and vulnerable to negative states.
The reality is, however, that we are all interconnected at the spiritual level. If we are honest with ourselves we know that we need people and rely on others all the time.
“No man is an island, entire of itself” (John Donne)
This network of interdependence and connectedness involves more people than we are aware of in this world. Emanuel Swedenborg said that all our thoughts and feelings flow into us through unseen spiritual companions. This may sound strange to you if you haven’t thought about it before but it explains how an idea can suddenly pop into our mind. So where is the real ‘me’ in all of this?
We have been given the freedom to choose which thoughts and feelings to identify with and make our own. We are in control of the tuning switch and can choose whether to tune into Radio Heaven or Radio Hell.
The choice is yours – choose to identify with your positive thoughts and feelings today!
A daring work that unifies Science and Theology
by challenging many of the world’s current beliefs about both
Selection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The Lord is the Word, and that all doctrine of the church must be drawn from the Word. Since, then, the Lord is the Word, it follows that the man who is taught from the Word is taught by the Lord alone. But as this is not easily comprehended, it shall be illustrated in the following order:
All conjunction in the spiritual world is effected by means of looking [*by intent regard]. When any one there is thinking about another from a desire to speak with him, the other immediately becomes present, and they see each other face to face. It is the same when any one is thinking about another from an affection of love; but this affection produces conjunction, while the other produces presence only. This is peculiar to the spiritual world, for the reason that all there are spiritual beings; in the natural world, in which all are material beings, it is otherwise.
With men in the natural world the same takes place in the affections and thoughts of their spirit; but inasmuch as there are spaces in the natural world, while in the spiritual world the spaces are merely appearances, that which takes place in the thought of every one’s spirit, in the spiritual world takes place actually.
This has been said to make known how the conjunction of the Lord with angels is effected, and how the apparent reciprocal conjunction of angels with the Lord is effected. For all angels turn their faces to the Lord, and the Lord’s look is upon the forehead, because the forehead corresponds to love and its affections, while angels behold the Lord with the eyes, because the eyes correspond to wisdom and its perceptions. Nevertheless angels do not, from themselves, turn their faces to the Lord, but the Lord turns them to Himself; and He turns them by influx into their life’s love, and through that love enters into the perceptions and thoughts; and thus He turns them about.
Such a circle of love to thoughts and from thoughts to love from love, is in all things of the human mind. This circle may be called the circle of life. About this something may be seen in the work on The Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, as the following:
Angels constantly turn their faces to the Lord as a sun. All the interior things of the angels, both of mind and of body, are likewise turned to the Lord as a sun. Every spirit, of whatever quality, turns himself likewise to his ruling love. Love conjoins itself to wisdom, and causes wisdom to be reciprocally conjoined with it. Angels are in the Lord, and the Lord is in them; and because angels are recipients the Lord alone is heaven.
The Lord’s heaven in the natural world is called the church; and an angel of that heaven is a man of the church who is conjoined with the Lord, and who becomes an angel of the spiritual heaven after he leaves this world. From this it is clear that what has been said of the angelic heaven applies equally to the human heaven that is called the church. That reciprocal conjunction with the Lord which makes heaven in man is revealed by the Lord in these words:-
For anyone who believes in heaven, one question stands above all the others: How can I get there? How can I be saved?
Christianity has offered a variety of answers over the millennia, from early sects that simply followed the example of Jesus to monasticism to the elaborate rites and rituals of medieval catholicism to crusading warfare to the Protestants’ hope in the mercy and blood of Jesus.
For the most part, those concepts have regarded heaven as a paradise, where anyone would be happy no matter what he or she did to get there, and no matter what kind of person he or she is. This actually does not make a lot of sense if you think about it. If the cruel and power-hungry could attain heaven alongside the kind and caring, then surely they would make heaven a hell through their cruelty and desire to rule. And if the cruel and power-hungry were rendered non-cruel and non-power-hungry, would they still be themselves anymore?
Swedenborg’s idea of heaven – and hell – is different. In his theology both are simply spiritual states where we live with others who love the same things we do. If those loves are good and kind it will be a wonderful life of sharing and joy; if those loves are cruel and selfish we will end up in endless contention with others who are cruel and selfish.
Salvation, then, is a matter of letting the Lord change our hearts from the naturally selfish state to a heavenly, loving state. We do this by learning what is right and good, using our minds to lead us in doing those things, and asking the Lord to change our hearts. If we continue and stick to it. He will little by little do that, so that eventually we can reach a state where we love what is good and know what is true.
So is that salvation by faith? Salvation by works? In a way both, and neither. Works are involved, because we have to make ourselves do what we know is good and loving. Faith is involved because we have to invite the Lord into our hearts to make a true change. But neither can get us there without the other, and the ultimate judgment is on what we love, not what we’ve done or what we believe.
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
13 General Influx
“He sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust.” Matthew 5: 45
“Life inflows.” This statement is a postulate which no one can refute. For life, wherever it manifests itself, cannot be proved to be inherent in any natural form or to be identical with it. The death of the body testifies to the truth that life is a gift, an “influx” from a realm beyond our sight. Life is a gift—a loan. Revelation assures us that for men it is a permanent loan which shall not be taken away from us. And the further truth is revealed that the life which unfolds its strange qualities in the tiny organisms, from lichens to men, which flourish so miraculously on the surface of the planets, is derived from the Lord God who is infinitely Man—infinite Love and infinite Wisdom.
The Lord governs the heavens and the galaxies of worlds by the modes of His influx—by laws according to which He gives of His life to all finite recipients, just so far as there is response and reciprocation. The Lord alone is Life. What appears as life with man is only reception—variable and limited states of reception. To receive is the esse of man’s life,313 His body is not his own, but is built for him out of the matters of the earth and the atmospheres. His soul is beyond his control and is eternally under the Lord’s care, being formed from higher spiritual substances as the Lord’s own abode with him.314 His mind is formed from lower spiritual substances, and into it are focussed knowledges and thoughts and spheres of affection from neighboring minds and spirits; for no man either wills or thinks from himself.
Man himself is but a state of reception, a state of response to the rich gifts of life which press in from within and from without—”good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over.” Yet he is the focus, the ultimate upon which all the influxes of life are centered as upon their final object in and through which all the ends of creation are to be fulfilled.315 The faculty of reception is given to man by the Lord’s life acting both immediately and through diverse instrumentalities. The Lord inflows into the interiors of man, or into his rational thought and will, both immediately from Himself and mediately through heaven or the spiritual world. He also inflows into the exteriors of man’s natural, both immediately, and mediately through the spiritual world.316
The Lord’s immediate influx is not only into the will and thought of man “but also at the same time into many things which befall him”—thus ruling apparent accidents, chance and fortune; which (as was shown in a preceding chapter) are called “Providence in the ultimate of order, in which all things are relatively inconstant,” or wherein no order or necessary sequence can be discerned, but which are according to Divine foresight.317
The Lord’s mediate influx, or His mediate government of man’s mind and body is effected through the spiritual world— through the heavens and the hells. We have already stressed the teaching that all man’s states draw their causes from the spirits and angels who attend him. We are creatures of changing moods. But we are usually able, on reflection, to account for the states into which we have imperceptibly drifted, by tracing them to natural causes. To excuse our frailties or our impatience, we complain that we are tired, are unjustly treated, are bored or homesick, etc. We tend to blame our rebellious moods, our moral lapses, or our indulgence in self-pity upon deficient health or other natural circumstances.
Yet common experience tells us that the same apparent natural causes do not always produce the same moods but serve merely as an occasion favorable to their appearance. The Writings convert this vague perception into a clear doctrine which teaches that there would be no conscious life, no realized affections or distinct thought with man, except for the influx of spirits and angels; and that the real meanings which we attach to our sensations and experiences in this world are derived from the moods which spirits instil into us—moods of delight or aversion.
If we are to pursue the subject further, however, we must learn to distinguish between “particular influx” and “general influx”—between two types of influx, both mediated by the spiritual world, but affecting men in different ways.318
General Influx and Particular Influx
“There flows from the Lord through the spiritual world into the subjects of the natural world a general influx and also a particular influx—a general influx into those things which are in order, a particular influx into those which are not in order.”318 Animals are all born into the order of their creation and are ruled by a general influx, without the mediation of any spirits and angels; which is of course obvious, since animals existed before mankind. The first men were also created into the order of their lives. And before the Fall, men, like the animals, were no doubt born into similar instinctive grasp of the knowledge needed for their natural life; but they were also born with a faculty to develop a perception of spiritual wisdom which beasts cannot have. The primitive race would then have been governed, even as to their mind, by no other than a “general influx.”319
But differently from the beasts, man could change the original order of his life—although only with reference to his mental life. With the fall into sin, as hereditary evils began to multiply among men, man’s natural mind became utterly divorced from heaven. The sensual degree of that mind became by heredity so infected and perverted that the Writings declare that every tender babe now born is born in “a state of damnation!”320 For an infant feels anything as good if it favors self. This shocking truth implies first of all that man’s mind cannot any longer be governed by a general influx from heaven. The only general influx that it could receive would be a general influx from hell which would flood his unresisting understanding with fantasies of self-love. All his mental instincts would then be perverse beyond any possibility of change, and he would live like a ravening beast without any restraints of reason.321
It was therefore provided by the Lord that man’s will should be separated from his understanding so that the rational part of his mind could be built up in a certain independence of the native will. Although he might long for evil, he could then still learn about truth and good. He could see truths and reflect upon them, so that a new world could be created within him in which he becomes more or less detached from that which was natural and spontaneous to him from birth. He could then be governed in a new way under the Lord’s auspices—by “particular influx” or by limited influences through a succession of angels and spirits so counterpoised that man might be held in a freedom of choice. Two good spirits and two evil spirits thus become his attendants.
Each spirit could act upon him only by affections aroused one by one and presented as intentions and perceptions in his understanding. Good spirits could approach him through the “remains” of good and truth implanted since infancy; and evil spirits would excite the hidden states of his evil loves.
Under the regime of particular influx man is born into ignorance, not as a prey to his instincts. His responsibility is confined to the states which would be gradually aroused through knowledge and experience. His native will is mere self-love, with animal appetites capable of incredible ferocity. But man does not normally realize the character of these dormant loves, for they are mercifully covered over with apparent goods. The hereditary will is covered over, closed and reserved, lest it should overwhelm the mind with irresistible waves of passion. This is the salvation provided for the “spiritual” race on our earth, and is signified by Noah’s retreat into the ark, the lowest mansion of which was shut up.322
Through particular influx man becomes aware of his evil potentialities by their gradual admission into consciousness, as intentions; which is permitted only so far as the understanding is equipped to analyze, to recognize, and to challenge them. Man has no power to change the general state of his natural mind by any sudden exertion of free choice. But he has the power to act from his understanding and judge as to particular states when they come forth one by one. He cannot shun all his evil tendencies, but he can resist them one by one as they appear while he is in free and rational states. By placing man under the rule of particular influx, the Lord as it were permits man to break the bundle of sticks one by one.
By placing man’s disordered mind under particular influx, the Lord did not abrogate the general influx of heaven wherever such influx could be received. General influx still rules all things which are in order, and thus governs those things in body and soul which man does not control. Man has no command over his inmost soul nor over the secret operations within his body. Particular spirits attend man and rest upon his ideas and stir his various emotions, thus affecting his thought and will. But no individual spirits are appointed over that in man’s life over which he has no real direction. He is free to think, to decide what to do, and to initiate an action. But the will flows into act spontaneously, and thought flows into speech by natural processes according to an order which man does not understand because it occurs by general influx in an instinctive manner. It is done by order itself, and neither man or spirit has any part in it.323 After spending many laborious years trying to understand the subject, Swedenborg concluded that “it is better simply to know” that the will inflows and moves the body than to attempt to trace the operations in their intricate fluxions through the fibres from brain to muscles.324 The order itself is as it were implanted in nerves and muscles. Other bodily functions, like the growth of the embryo during gestation, are performed without man’s real assistance. Similarly, one tastes food and swallows it; but this being done, the digestive canal acts without the help of man in converting the food into blood.
On reflection we may see that man’s own part in life is very small, and it is sometimes said that “Nature” carries out the processes of growth, digestion, etc., with an instinctive intelligence immeasurably wiser than man’s own. But nature has no intelligence. It is the Creator Himself who inflows with life immediately into the human soul—the inmost of the spirit—and operates these miracles. The soul, which is above the ken or control of both angels and men, is created in the image and likeness of God and bears within it the cause, pattern and conatus by which the body is formed and maintained.325
The body, as to its essential form, is therefore also under the Creator’s direct rule, so that man cannot by any mental resolve make a single hair white or black. For it is under a general influx, not needing the mediation of any particular spirit.326
Yet the medium through which the human body is created and maintained by general influx is “the Grand Man, which corresponds in all its minute details to human bodies.”327 “Bodily things are exempt from the particular influx of spirits and angels,” lest men should suffer bodily obsessions.328 But the ordinate flow of the will and the thought into bodily acts is “by means of a general influx according to the correspondences of the Grand Man.”329 The human form of the body is indeed modified by parental and environmental factors, through angels, spirits and men. But this modification is comparatively slight and superficial. For “what is effected through mediate influx … is relatively very little.”330 The image of the whole of the Grand Man dominates every society of heaven, and the more general societies correspond to the organs and viscera of the body, and so regard each other mutually and make a one.331
It is a new truth revealed in the Writings that there is a general influx from each general society of heaven into the corresponding part of the human body.332 Such an influx is necessary to maintain the uses of these organs. Without it, not the smallest part of the body could have any life. We read that “spirits are appointed to every member of speech and every member of action; but these spirits do not know it.”
In fact, they are apparently not appointed as individual spirits, but as societies acting by general influx.333
From all these things the universal law may be seen that from the Lord through the spiritual world there flows a general influx into those things which are of order, and a particular influx into what is not in spontaneous order, and that man’s mind, being now in a contrary order, could not subsist without spirits adjoined to him who agree with his life.334 With the people of the most ancient church the affections, such as joy, fear, reverence or shame, were involuntarily expressed in their faces “by a general natural influx.”335 Animals, whether mild or ferocious, are governed by general influx. Indeed, nature, in whole and in part, is so governed.
But general influx has an even wider range. It may be compared with the pressure of the atmosphere which holds all things in their order. The sphere of Divine good, like an atmosphere, infills the universal heaven and encompasses, guards and preserves it. Inmostly it acts even upon the hells, although it is not openly received there and can rule only as Divine truth.336 Unless order was so imposed both in heaven and in hell, the end of creation could never be fulfilled, for even particular influx through spirits would not be possible. No freedom can exist except on the basis of order; without order there can be no clear distinctions, and thus no choice.337
Swedenborg sensed this general influx as a stream of general affections—an invisible stream of providential guidance which overrules all the conflicting endeavors of spirits and men and unifies them into forms of uses through laws of spiritual necessities. It is like an atmospheric current which holds everything in freedom, yet always within bounds. He likens the sweep of this river of heaven to the general motions of the heart and the lungs which dominate the body yet leave its parts in freedom even to the point of contrariety. He saw in it a picture of the Divine mercy.338
Spheres of Universal Loves
All life would perish unless there proceeded from the Lord certain universal spheres which fill each world, the spiritual and the natural, and sustain it.339 One of these Divine spheres looks to the preservation of the universe by means of the procreation of successive generations, and with men this makes one with the sphere of conjugial love. By a general influx it operates the miracle of propagation in all forms of life—from the simplest fern to the most perfect tree and from the unicellular protozoa to the highest mammalian structure. This sphere causes the cells to multiply and the sexes to unite from a spontaneous impulse.
With men, this sphere descends also through the celestial heaven as a free gift of conjugial love which with its ineffable delight comes to lovers everywhere as a temporary loan, by a general influx. But the feeling of selfless surrender which is instilled by this sphere cannot long remain pure, but vanishes like the manna in the desert, leaving life bleak and meaningless unless the minds of the partners are opened, by their own choice and effort, to the particular influx of celestial angels. For these inspire a resistance to evils as sins against God, and a love of the truth which alone can knit the lives of lovers more and more closely into a union of common uses— uses which make marriage the nursery of the human race and the seminary of heaven.
The second universal influx is the Divine sphere which looks to the preservation of what has been procreated. Even in the ultimates of nature we see a distant reflection of this influx in that gems are found in matrices and seeds in husks. Animals have protective coloration and by instinct build nests for their young, which they feed and defend from an inborn love called “storge.” Such a natural love of offspring is implanted in all creation. It gives the birds and beasts a herding instinct that impels an animal to give up its life for the preservation of its kind; in an unwitting resemblance to mutual love.340 Ferocious beasts and evil parents have this love as part of their love of self. How otherwise could life in its many forms be propagated generation after generation ?
A reason why the young of every species are so protected is that a sphere of innocence inflows into the helpless progeny and thence affects parents. With men, the love of procreating and the love of infants can become spiritual loves when the final end regarded is to enrich heaven with as many angels as there are descendants and when the offspring are loved for their moral virtues and their spiritual intelligence.341 Natural loves are provided as free gifts by the Lord’s general influx, to sustain His creation. But spiritual loves can be received only through the man’s own selection of associate spirits, or by particular influx.
General influx is described in the Arcana as “a continuous endeavor from the Lord through the whole heaven into everything pertaining to the life of man.”342 It presses continually for the maintenance of external order and connection and health, so far as man’s freedom will allow it. Evil spirits also are brought into order, within “generals” which govern their particular forms of spiritual rebellion.343 Indeed, there are no hells which are not opposites or perversions of some general good of heaven. And upon these opposites a certain general form of order is externally superimposed, by general influx.
How the general influx of heaven as a whole—all its provinces and societies—maintains order, is seen illustrated in human society. For in a city or commonwealth “every use derives its life from the general” or from the community. Each use depends on the common good (Char., chap. vi). And the uses spring from the natural loves which are implanted in all men. All rewards of use, all wealth, all knowledge, conies to each man from the community, which is therefore likened to a lake from which each man derives his necessities, utilities, and delights; even as the organs of the body derive their nourishment from the common bloodstream. Because of a general influx into the “common good” there can be order in society in spite of the prevalence of evil and selfishness among individuals. There is a general influx of the whole into all the parts, holding them in form. The social instinct comes from a general influx, like the herding instinct with animals. Particular influx through specific spirits who are ever changing, makes for individuality and freedom for both the evil and the good. But general influx protects the state as a whole and causes the common good to be regarded. It causes a nation to unify in face of common dangers, to harbor common ideals and common delusions and to be moved by prejudices and passions peculiar to itself.
General influx maintains cooperative order. But it does not reform the spirit of man. Only by the repentance and regeneration of its citizens can the spiritual state of a nation be changed for the better. Order and legislation can never regenerate society. They merely facilitate the mutual uses of the people. And by this they furnish a neutral plane in which both good and evil men seek their individual ends. It is a common plane for many individual states and particular attitudes, a plane of automatic procedures which cannot be essentially changed or upset by any single person. Yet there might arise a state of disorder, a break-down of civic responsibility and national consciousness on the part of individuals, a state in which the means for the proper performance of uses are lacking and the sphere of general influx can no longer operate. Such a condition brings disease and sometimes death to the commonwealth. This principle has a tremendously important bearing on national and social issues. Totalitarian government while man is evil means a surrender of that particular influx which gives freedom to repent.
Habit and General Influx
It is the Lord who rules our spirit-associations in correspondence with our states and needs. Yet man can select the spirits who rule him. Doctrine states that there is no physical influx—no influx from men to spirits or from this world into the spiritual world. We can therefore not alter the character of the spirits who are with us. They do indeed adopt our natural memory and along with it our beliefs and ideas; and they are held in these ideas as long as they are with us. But we cannot transfer to them the changes of heart which we may experience. If we from free choice shun an evil, the spirits who induced that evil are simply compelled to retire, and are separated.
Students of the Spiritual Diary have marked with surprise that the world of spirits seemed to show no effect of the strong sphere of spiritual interest and exaltation which is apparently present among Christians on the occasions of festival seasons such as Christmas and Easter. To judge from Swedenborg’s entries on such days, the spiritual world was utterly unaffected by the holiday moods of men. Yet we seem to feel a stronger sphere from the spiritual world on such days; as we also do at church gatherings and at the death of a friend. Such is the relation of the two worlds that what we do on earth—our direction and concentration of thought and affection—does no more than invite an influx from such spirits and angels as are already in the loves and thoughts which we on earth wish to entertain. They enjoy the internal sense of the things which we then read about in the Word, for in such ultimates they find their delight. And we may be allowed to hope that the spirits of evil do at least retreat somewhat when the spirit of Christmas or Easter seizes hold of men.
What men do—their habits and their reflections—invites the corresponding types of spirits. This is indeed how habits are formed. For usually a habit is of the mind before it is of the body. Our states of mind mould our habits; which is the same thing as to say that we make our own habits quite freely, by repeating the same decision again and again, thus acting in the same way under similar circumstances. We thus become less and less conscious of our habit. It becomes “second nature,” and thus almost automatic. We add it to our life, and the control of it is as it were elevated into our subconscious memory. We give up controlling the habit. It controls us.344
Viewed from the spiritual world, the establishment of a certain habit actually means that we have placed ourselves under the rule of a special kind of spirits who delight in that routine. We no longer bother to spend any thought upon it. The question whether it is right or wrong no longer comes up. This is for us a great saving of mental labor and even of physical energy. Human life would be most arduous, if not impossible, if whatever a man learned to do would have to be reasoned out again whenever he wished to repeat it. Man could then never acquire skill or facility in anything. No matter how often he had convinced himself of some truth, he would still have recurrent doubts until he worked it all out in his mind again. Under such conditions there could be no progress. Therefore we are allowed to relegate what we have once approved to the interior or subconscious memory; or what is the same, to the spontaneous working of an accepted influx from the spiritual world. And when after death we enter that world, the roads we will see and wish to travel will correspond in general to the habits of thought which we have established in this world.345
When we exercise our freedom of thought in the course of our earthly life we are, from time to time, making decisions as to what particular spirits we desire to receive; for choice has to do with “particular influx.” As long as we are in the life of the body there will be repeated opportunities for such choice. Yet it seems likely, that when we are being carried along in a confirmed habit, which has established an unconscious plane of order or second nature, individual spirits are not so much in question as whole groups of spirits—a selected group of societies through whom life is channelled into our minds.
A man must therefore take thought and explore his habits of mind and body, before they are confirmed beyond the point of no return. In our habits we can recognize the workings of our self-love, our lack of consideration and charity, our impiety, brutality, conceit, or vanity. Our habits will reveal to us our ruling loves, our besetting sins and temptations. External habits which are in themselves good may because of their obsession over us indicate that we place overmuch value on external things.
We can imagine an evil man, a slave to his passions, without restraints or shame, who by his habits has abandoned himself to the general influx from an infernal society. His love has been fixed to the degree that he no longer desires to exercise his freedom of choice, but has surrendered to evil openly and irrevocably, so that his rational mind no longer resists. His spirit is immersed into the hell of his delight. Particular influx is then renounced, and a general influx from hell takes over the government of his mind.
Yet if this be true of an evil man, it must also be true that a regenerating man—after his work of reformation, with its cultivation of good habits, has been completed—will thereafter be upheld in the spontaneous sphere of a more general influx from heaven.
General States and General Influx
A man has freedom and choice in the particular states of his life. But general states are outside of his control. It is from a “general influx” that infants grow up in an unvarying order of development, year by year. Common ages imply common states, with only slight variations. In later life there is very much more differentiation between individuals of the same ages, because as to particular states, self-chosen, men are quite unlike each other in thought and affection.
Even so, there are general or common states among adults. Those in the same use or profession are also in a common state. We often speak of the illustration of a man’s use, a peculiar attitude, light, inspiration, or wisdom, which dignifies an office. The Writings indicate that this is based on general influx, which is given where there is the order of some use. This general influx is not based on man’s regeneration, but on his devotion to the use. An unregenerate man is of course constantly tending to break down the order of his use through dishonesty or indolence and is thus in danger of losing his professional illustration. But a faithful worker—although moved by selfish interests—is externally associated with societies of that use in the other world, and is restrained by their general influx from injuring his use.
That this is so is clear from the appointed rite of priestly ordination. The use of the priesthood being essential to the welfare of mankind, the entrance into this use must be orderly, and is solemnly marked by the laying on of hands (which represents the communication of the powers of illustration) and by “the promise of the Holy Spirit.” In effect the candidate accepts the order and responsibility which open him to a general influx from societies of the priestly use in the other world. But his own personal and inward repentance and regeneration can alone open his heart to the reception of the Holy Spirit. Such internal reception must come by way of particular influx.
With respect to the general environment in which man’s spirit is, order requires that the spirits normally around a man should be those of his own religious persuasion. Without this order—which implies also a general influx to maintain it— there could be no true freedom or normal progress, but man would become an easy prey to fickle states of doubt and spiritual indecision.
Generals come first, particulars come later. We know that as an infant grows up, he enters first into concepts of most general truths and that particulars are later given to infill them. The generals of childish thought are such that they may be accepted from natural affections which are full of hereditary evils as yet hidden. It is not to be doubted that these basic orders of generals from natural experience and from the natural sense of the Word, are maintained by general influxes from the other world. And even with adults, the literal sense of the Scriptures is delightful because the things therein can be explained to favor their own states and opinions, until these generals are qualified by an understanding of particulars and these by a perception of singulars.346
It is the same with generals of doctrine which are taught in the church. These call forth a general influx—which is very vital for preserving the church. If generals of doctrine are denied or contradicted or called into question, the general influx of heaven fails to hold the thought of the church together, and a temptation arises, the outcome of which depends on the individual choice and illustration of each man of the church; for the battle must be decided in the field of particular influx. The prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” is a prayer for the continuance of general influx whereby men are held in a general sphere of faith and charity, the protecting sphere of heaven and of the church as a whole. We are not to seek temptation, nor introduce temptation to others. Yet it is true that general influx by itself cannot at this day preserve the church. Advance can only come if there is individual study of the doctrine and an interior entrance into truths. Generals of doctrine are protective, and must be maintained as basic. But they may easily become lightly and thoughtlessly accepted—intoned as empty ritual and vain repetition.
The Invitation to the New Church—a work which records the results, in past churches, of relying on the momentum of a merely historical faith—therefore contains the following statement: “Unless the present little work be added to the preceding one [the True Christian Religion], the church cannot be healed. For it would be a merely palliative cure. . . . The doctrine of the New Church indeed furnishes the medicine, but only exteriorly” (Inv. 25). The little work referred to was therefore added; for it contained certain particulars of utmost importance for the establishment and survival of the church.
General Influx into the Mind
The body is held by the Lord under general influx, as an instrument for man’s mind. The externals of human society are also held in order by general influx. But the mind is attended by particular spirits, good and evil, which grant to men freedom of choice in matters of thought and will. Yet even within the mind general influx dominates. It is only in the thin conscious fringes of the mind that man’s own choice is actually operating. In the unplumbed depths of the mind and in the surrounding spiritual world general influxes order all things, and endow man with the power of reasoning, analysis, and logic. General influx must flow into the minds of all men. Thus it is mentioned that “there is a universal influx” into the souls of all men predisposing them to perceive “that there is a God and that He is one.”347 No man is taught by influx; but the gyre and flux imposed upon the mind are especially attuned to accept such truths. There is also a general influx out of heaven as a whole which disposes the minds of men to think of God in terms of the human form, but variously according to their states of perception and provided that there is something of order in the mind by the shunning of evils as sins. The perception of immortality is also mentioned as universal.343 Such general concepts are indeed said to be “implanted” in the mind, or to be “intuitive.” But what is meant is that they come from a general influx.
Indeed, our faculty of thinking could not operate unless certain “generals” were so implanted in our minds that we are not aware of them. Animals, of course, are wholly led by a connate disposition and order which automatically responds to specific general influxes of their predestined natural affections. It is from an ordering by general influx that both men and animals instinctively learn to judge distances and without reflection learn to avoid objects. And man learns to order all that he knows into general categories, arranging his knowledge into series and orders according to general qualities, classing particular ideas under general heads, and thus marking out limits and protective bounds within his thoughts.349
But, finally, general influx is also responsible for that gift which is common with the simple but often lacking among those of the learned who cannot think from general principles. This is “common sense”—thought that is not the product of learned arguments or preconceived logical formulas, but comes from seeing truth in its own light. Common perception is the great preservative of mankind.350 It can in a moment explode the most elaborate structure of fallacy. It spans our practical difficulties. It cuts the Gordian knot of seemingly hopeless dilemmas. It nullifies theological doubts. As a fresh breeze it clears the smoke clouds from the scene of our intellectual battles; and remains usually the sole victor. And upon it rest the blessings of heaven. Yet common sense—alone— cannot regenerate or even reform. It can but preserve the remnants of order in the mind.
Whatever comes from general influx depends on a remnant of order, on the health of the body or the mind. Where evil steps in or disease enters this order is disturbed, and heaven reluctantly withdraws her protective wings somewhat, with the distressing result that individual spirits of hell begin to inflow.
Discovering inner health and transformation
In the post Is there an afterlife? I pointed to a similarity between Swedenborg’s reports of his mystical experiences of life after death and numerous accounts of the near death experience. There are also striking similarities between what various modern psychic mediums have said concerning a realm of spirits with Swedenborg’s writings. These similarities are as follows:
A soul body exists; time means nothing; environment appears created by thought; we gravitate to the shared environment of like-minded spirits; there is a self-evaluation involving how we lived life on earth; one’s inner character does not change because of death; punishment is only part of a purification process; there is no procreation; there are useful occupational and similar interests, albeit at a higher level; there is an upper Astral akin to heaven; there is no pain or alarm during the dying process; and because of a similarity of experience to life, new arrivals do not at first notice they are dead.
Swedenborg reports that after we awake in the spirit realm we may find ourselves in some kind of living environment – often one we have been familiar with on earth. This gradually changes, beginning more and more to reflect the quality of our own thoughts and feelings. It may be a room in a very beautiful house or an untidy shed. This very much sounds like a projection of our inner state so that what one sees in the spiritual world is a reflection of different aspects of one’s own actual character. As we are all different there are many kinds of living accommodation and environment.
As I understand it, the spiritual world forces no one after bodily death to be something that he or she is not. When we are alive in the body on earth, our outer thoughts are busy when we are with other people or engaged in some action. However, our inner thoughts come from what we are really feeling when we are alone at home. The picture we are shown of the next life, is that the values that deep down rule our hearts come to the surface and unrelated feelings, pretences and difficulties become dormant. We each get more in touch with our true selves and all other spirits see the genuine nature of everyone’s character; whether this is selfish and destructive or caring and creative. In other words, our inner feelings and desires determine our destiny. You really are what you choose to be and pretending to be something other than what you really are becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.
I imagine the goodness or otherwise of your character would shine more clearly in the spirit realm than in our material world where people who do not know you well see only your outward persona and where your style of living is more apparent. This illumination is illustrated in near death experiences by the frequently mentioned encounter with a `being of light’ and of a life evaluation.
According to Swedenborg’s notion of a ‘ruling love’, we want one thing more than anything. It colours all our life. It could be for example a love of being useful, of the spiritual ideas we believe to be true, of having power over others, or of being popular and well liked. This is our underlying longing that is the essence of our true character. Many of our desires arise from this basic love. We are most likely to reveal our true selves by our actions when we do not think others are observing us.
“You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” (The Upanishads – Hindu tradition)
Whether or not we believe in life after death, we can all be afraid of death and dying to some extent. Perhaps we fear a lack of control over the process of deterioration that precedes death – whether it will involve pain or loss of dignity. But just as there can be no spring without the cold of winter that comes before it – so the pain of suffering can be seen to precede the triumph of new life.
To my mind, death for me is eternity knocking at the door. Perhaps, an avoidance of thinking of life after death is due to realising that I am not living now, as I would want to live to eternity. The trouble is that often I am unwilling to allow what is bad in me to die. A reminder of the reality of death is a wake up call to discard the trivial and prioritise the significant. Now is the time to overcome estrangement and heal old wounds.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on21st April 2011