“This life continues into the other, and death is simply a transition.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell 493
Copyright 2017, The New Church/General Church of the New Jerusalem. All rights reserved
“This life continues into the other, and death is simply a transition.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell 493
Copyright 2017, The New Church/General Church of the New Jerusalem. All rights reserved
It is honorable to care for our neighbors—even on a global scale. It requires a good heart to be concerned for others. But is ensuring equal rights the same thing as everyone being assured of a roof over their heads, healthcare, and big screen TVs? Is our idea of equal rights the same thing that God thinks it is?
I agree that we should all pitch in to banish human suffering to make each others’ lives better and happier, but it seems that such moral and charitable efforts should not be focused solely on that which can rust, be stolen or eaten by moths.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19)
We do not live forever on this earth, in spite of modern medical advances, improved distribution of food or increased comfort and convenience from modern innovation. These worldly things are important in God’s creation—only as long as they are serviceable towards our living a heaven-bound life.
A government can legislate a level playing field for all its citizens yet not offer any help towards a person’s eternal wellbeing and soul. So in terms of truly living an “upwardly mobile” life, we can have all the creature comforts of this earth and enjoy great physical health but still be counted among the disabled, sick, homeless, oppressed, poor, starved and miserable!
Unlike worldly social justice, heaven is not an entitlement program. According to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the concept of helping the downtrodden and less fortunate was looked at quite differently in more ancient civilizations. Instead, they understood whether a person was less fortunate or not from their spiritual situation. Here is a quote from Swedenborg:
The Ancient Church distinguished into classes the neighbor or neighbors toward whom they were to perform works of charity; and some they called “maimed,” some “lame,” some “blind,” and some “deaf,” meaning those who were spiritually so. Some also they called the “hungry,” the “thirsty,” “strangers,” the “naked,” the “sick,” the “captives;” and some “widows,” “orphans,” the “needy”, the “poor,” and the “miserable;” by whom they meant no other than those who were such as to truth and good, and who were to be suitably instructed, led on their way, and thus provided for as to their souls. (Arcana Coelestia, Vol. 6, n. 4302)
In fact, in order to get individuals re-focused towards spiritual matters and eternal life, God often will make use of misfortune, sorrow and human suffering ( Arcana Coelestia, Vol. 1, n. 8 )
Social justice is a hot topic right now. Tell me what you think.
May 25, 2010
A daring work that unifies Science and Theology
by challenging many of the world’s current beliefs about both
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
The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
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.
We have all heard about so-called communications purportedly from a spirit world through mediums. However, less well known are those where no medium is involved. These have been called ‘after death communications’ (ADCs) and might be seen as evidence of life after death. An ADC is defined as a spiritual experience that occurs when someone is contacted directly and spontaneously by a deceased family member or friend.
For example Marian aged 71 years who lives in Florida was in bed reading one evening. Her father had been dead for 33 years but she suddenly heard his voice urgently telling her to get out of the bed. She walked into the family room and sat down for 3 minutes wondering. She then felt the whole house shuddering with things rattling in cupboards and falling off shelves. Going outside she saw why. A heavy branch from her neighbour’s tree had fallen on her roof; a totally unexpected event as it had been a windless night. In her bedroom she discovered three enormous holes in the ceiling and her bed covered with lumber, plaster, and debris.
Are such reports about what dead loved ones say, just the wish fulfilling fantasies and dreams of grieving people as most professional social care and health workers say, or are they genuine communication from the dead and thus evidence of life after death? It is difficult to argue that Marian was grieving for her late father, given the length of time since her bereavement.
According to research by Bill and Judy Guggenheim, ADCs happen surprisingly often and many first-hand accounts are reported in their book Hello from Heaven.
They point out that, since many religions specifically warn against summoning ‘spirits’, all experiences that involved seances, Ouija boards, crystal balls etc., were excluded from their study. They advertised for first-hand accounts of after death communications and spoke with 2,000 people in North America filling more than 10,000 pages of interview transcripts.
Perhaps it is only in reading these that one can make an informed judgment about their credibility as evidence of life after death. Confidence about this is increased when the receiver is not in a state of grief and when unknown information is received.
Another example is that of Millinda. She and Tom grew up together as next-door neighbours. She lost contact with him after she moved to Texas. Ten years later she woke up one night and saw him standing at the bottom of her bed in a Navy uniform. She had thought he was intending to become a Catholic priest. He said, “Good-bye, Melinda, I’m leaving now.” And he disappeared. After three days she received a letter from her mother saying Tom had been killed in action serving as a chaplain in the Navy. More evidence of life after death?
Most people who have an ADC do so only once. However Emanuel Swedenborg was someone who reported having many ADCs from the spirits of dead people. These were not loved ones for whom he had had any sense of loss or grief.
According to his testimony, he did occasionally experience the after-life in a dream or vision, but nearly always it was in a state of full wakefulness so that he could retain his full freedom and exercise his human judgment. He wrote up these extraordinary experiences in meticulous detail and included reports of these in his theological and philosophical books.
The reason people today who experience an ADC is often specific – to warn them of some danger, to prepare them for the shock of a sudden bereavement, to provide them with needed help, and to reassure them about the well-being of a love one who has died. However in the case of Swedenborg the purpose was to provide a comprehensive description of the after-life.
He describes what he calls ‘the spiritual world’ as similar to the life with which we are familiar. He says, however, it does not follow physical laws but rather reflects human feeling and thought.
For all that, it is just as real as our world and in fact he emphasises the solidity of what is seen there and the individual spirit body of each inhabitant.
“After death, we enjoy every sense, memory, thought, and affection we had in the world: we leave nothing behind except our earthly body. Repeated experience has witnessed to me that when we move from the natural world into the spiritual, which happens when we die, we take with us everything that pertains to our character except our earthly body. In fact, when we enter the spiritual world or our life after death, we are in a body as we were in this world. There seems to be no difference, since we do not feel or see any difference. This body is spiritual, though, so it has been separated or purified from earthly matter. Further, when anything spiritual touches and sees something spiritual, it is just like something natural touching and seeing something natural. So when we have become a spirit, we have no sense that we are not in the body we inhabited in the world, and therefore do not realize that we have died.” (Swedenborg Heaven and Hell section 461)
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on3rd February 2012
Heaven and Hell
You must be joking! ‘Heaven and Hell,’ what images do they conjure up in today’s world. Heaven- cute little cherubs with wings, sitting on fluffy clouds, playing harps or feasting in paradise without ‘Weight watchers’; Hell- mediaeval tortures, spooky red devils with horns and tails, furnaces, fire and brimstone (whatever that is.) Either way count me out!
And yet do you, like me, have a sneaky suspicion that there must be something more to this life. Do you ever wonder whether life carries on in another dimension and if so what it could be like? Do you ever think that there just might be some grain of truth in these out dated concepts of heaven and hell?
We often use words like heaven and hell to describe our own inner feelings. If everything goes wrong at work and the things that we attempt are thwarted and leave us frustrated we might feel that we have had a ‘hell of a day.’ If things go right and we feel pleased and happy we talk about ‘being in heaven.’ We can see from this that there is a relationship between how we feel and heaven and hell. Heaven and hell essentially are states of our mind or inner being and not physical places of either bliss or torment. Our actions and reactions, our thoughts and deeds, our loves and desires build heaven or hell within us.
Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that when our physical body dies the essential person, the spirit or soul passes into the spiritual world. Although the spiritual world may appear insubstantial to us on earth it is ultimate reality.
In the spiritual world there are communities where groups of people live and work together as in this natural world. We ultimately find ourselves living with communities with whom we feel at ‘home’ and who have similar natures to our own. If, whilst on earth, we have tried to think of others before ourselves, have had a belief in an entity greater than ourselves and tried to live according to principles then we should find ourselves living in a heavenly society. We really should be ‘in heaven.’
If, on the other hand, we have spent our lives being awkward, miserable, intolerant, selfish and dare we say plain ‘evil,’ then it is easy to see that being in a community of ‘angelic’ people would be anathema to us. We would be happier being in a company of like- minded people where we could continue to ‘make life hell.’
The choice is ours.
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A daring work that unifies Science and Theology
by challenging many of the world’s current beliefs about both