What Quantum Physics Can Tell Us about the Afterlife

Swedenborg Foundation

Quantum physics is weird. To begin to understand it, you have to set aside everything you thought you knew about space and time and develop complex, abstract models of a universe in which the tiniest divisions of matter exist in constantly changing states and where the normal rules of action at a distance don’t apply . . .

Oh, wait. That’s Emanuel Swedenborg.

Spiritual concepts have nothing to do with space. They have to do solely with state, state being an attribute of love, life, wisdom, desires, and the delights they provide—in general, an attribute of what is good and true. A truly spiritual concept of these realities has nothing in common with space. . . .

However, since angels and spirits see with their eyes the way we do on earth, and since objects can be seen only in space, there does seem to be space in the spiritual world where angels and spirits are, space like ours on earth. Still, it is not space but an appearance of space. It is not fixed and invariant like ours. It can be lengthened, shortened, changed and altered; and since it cannot be defined by measurement, we here cannot grasp it with an earthly concept, but only with a spiritual one. Spiritual concepts are no different when they apply to spatial distances than when they apply to “distances” of what is good and “distances” of what is true, which are agreements and likenesses as to state. (Divine Love and Wisdom §7; see also Heaven and Hell §§154–55)


Swedenborg emphasizes that space in the spiritual world is nothing like ours: he describes angels traveling over huge distances in an instant to reach someone who is thinking about them, communities of angels who are bound together by similarities in their states of love and wisdom, and surroundings that change in response to people’s thoughts and emotions. During the eighteenth century, when Isaac Newton’s laws of physics were still brand new, this must have been hard to imagine. Today, quantum physics is giving us new ways to think about the universe that have interesting parallels to what Swedenborg described.

Take the principle of quantum entanglement, for example:

Entanglement occurs when two quantum particles interact with each other so that their quantum states become interdependent. If the first particle is in state A, say, then the other must be in state B, and vice versa.

Until a measurement is made of one of the particles, its state is undetermined: it can be regarded as being in both states A and B simultaneously, known as a superposition. The act of measuring ‘collapses’ this superposition into just one of the possible states.

But if the particles are entangled, then this measurement also determines the state of the other particle—even if they have become separated by a vast distance. The effect of the measurement is transmitted instantaneously to the other particle, through what Albert Einstein skeptically called ‘spooky action at a distance’. [1]

In other words, if two particles are entangled, they function together as a single system. An action taken to affect one will also affect the other, no matter how far away they are. You could visualize this on a larger scale by imagining a pair of dice: if the dice were entangled in the same way that particles can become entangled, then when rolled simultaneously they would always turn up matching numbers, even if one die was on the opposite side of the planet from the other.

Entanglement between particles can happen as a result of almost any type of interaction, as long as they are close enough to affect each other. The effect can be almost unmeasurably brief (for example, when produced in a lab, as described in the article referenced above) or it could last indefinitely.

Compare this to the way that Swedenborg describes interaction between souls in the afterlife:

All motion in the spiritual world is the effect of changes of inner states, to the point that motion is nothing but change of state. . . .

This being the nature of motion, we can see that drawing near is likeness of inner state and moving away is dissimilarity. This is why the people who are nearby are the ones in a similar state and the ones who are far away are in dissimilar states. It is why space in heaven is nothing but the outward states that correspond to the inner ones.

This is also why in the spiritual world one individual is present to another if only that presence is intensely desired. This is because one person sees another in thought in this way and identifies with that individual’s state. Conversely, one person moves away from another to the extent that there is any sense of reluctance; and since all reluctance comes from an opposition of affections and disagreement of thoughts, there can be many people appearing together in one place as long as they agree, but as soon as they disagree, they vanish. (Heaven and Hell §§192–94)

In Swedenborg’s case, the interaction between two souls is a thought or feeling—an emotional or spiritual state that can either draw individuals closer or drive them apart. This works not only for individuals, as described above, but for communities of angels in heaven, who are bound together by similarities in the things they love (Heaven and Hell §§41–44). And, like quantum particles, two individuals can align either briefly or indefinitely, depending on their internal qualities.

Of course, the similarity isn’t perfect; as far as scientists know today, quantum entanglement can’t be used to move objects or information through space. But the idea of two objects being so aligned that they can affect each other regardless of the distance between them is one that has a powerful resonance in Swedenborg’s thought.

If we use quantum entanglement as a model, we see love as the glue that connects people together. In fact, in many places, Swedenborg observes that love is life itself (for example, the very first sentence of Divine Love and Wisdom). If that’s true, then when people share a common love, they share a common life—a common existence that stretches from this world to the next.

There’s one more very intriguing way in which quantum entanglement parallels Swedenborg’s thought. When building mathematical models of the universe based on quantum theory, researchers have found that entanglement is necessary to the existence of, well, everything:

Mark Van Raamsdonk, a string theorist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, likens the holographic concept [of the structure of the universe] to a two-dimensional computer chip that contains the code for creating the three-dimensional virtual world of a video game. We live within that 3-D game space. . . .

In 2010 Van Raamsdonk proposed a thought experiment to demonstrate the critical role of entanglement in the formation of space-time, pondering what would happen if one cut the memory chip in two and then removed the entanglement between qubits [quantum bits of information] in opposite halves. He found that space-time begins to tear itself apart, in much the same way that stretching a wad of gum by both ends yields a pinched-looking point in the center as the two halves move farther apart. Continuing to split that memory chip into smaller and smaller pieces unravels space-time until only tiny individual fragments remain that have no connection to one another. “If you take away the entanglement, your space-time just falls apart,” said Van Raamsdonk. [2]

Swedenborg says something very similar about the spiritual universe:

If you look at the created universe with an eye to its design, it is so full of wisdom from love that you might say everything taken all together is wisdom itself. There are things without measure in such a pattern, both sequential and simultaneous, that taken all together they constitute a single entity. This is the only reason they can be held together and sustained forever. (Divine Love and Wisdom §29)

Bringing these two ideas together gives us a new way to think about loving others: If there was no love connecting us as individuals, connecting individuals into communities, and connecting communities into a larger and larger whole, then our spiritual universe would fall apart. Loving everybody might seem like a difficult goal, but loving the people closest to you just might be the first step in the process of bringing all of creation a little bit closer together.



For even more parallels between quantum mechanics and Swedenborg’s writings, watch “Spiritual Physics” and “How to Travel in the Afterlife,” two episodes of our weekly webcast Swedenborg and Life on the offTheLeftEye YouTube channel.

You can also download all of Swedenborg’s writings, including the two works mentioned above, from our bookstore.


[1] Philip Ball, “Entangled diamonds vibrate together,” Nature, December 1, 2011, http://www.nature.com/news/entangled-diamonds-vibrate-together-1.9532

[2] Jennifer Ouellette, “How Quantum Pairs Stitch Space-Time,” Quanta Magazine,April 28, 2015, https://www.quantamagazine.org/20150428-how-quantum-pairs-stitch-space-time


The Ultra, Ultra Miracle Of Life

Scientists are truly astonished that the laws of nature are bio-friendly—fine-tuned to allow for the emergence of life. When one considers that life has evolved in complexity to give us the human brain and personal-level experience (consciousness) things get even more astonishing.

While many scientists see an “apparent” intelligent direction in evolution, this direction is not deemed purposeful or designed. Rather, this is all the result of the contingency of random or chance mutations. Life is the result of a cosmic throw of the dice. Ironically, this cosmic crapshoot allows entities to appear with functions that express a mastery of science (which humans and their brains do not possess).

Furthermore, when you take into account that nature seems to display an incessant compulsion for self-organization, one can only assume that the dice are loaded.

In spite of modern science’s reluctance to embrace purposeful design, every organic process and structure serves a distinct purpose. Why is this significant? Well, science knows that anything put into motion seeks out its equilibrium. The miracle of life is that myriads of distinct actions are set in motion, yet all seek a common equilibrium! Every process and organic function must be coordinated and subordinated according to successive and simultaneous order.

This coordinated distribution of action is a bit much to ask of merely gravitating matter. Matter is not smart enough to orchestrate such a cooperative effort, whereby things gain distinction through togetherness.

Now fast-forward to the evolution of the human race. Here, a similar principle seems to apply. Individuals in society gain distinction from their selfless service to the common good of others.


Even quantum physics is offering clues that existence is relationship and that matter is not the fundamental “stuff” of the universe. What is fundamental in nature is now seen by scientists as the “tendency to exist.” This tendency emerges from a non-spatial and non-temporal realm.

Hmmm? What possible non-physical dynamic could be represented by a “disposition” that endeavored to take concrete form through relationship and cooperation?

The answer is LOVE.

The essence of love is to unite. Love is psychical—a disposition of mind—and therefore a non-physical principle of agency.

Love is God.

This is just a small taste of the issues I will be tackling in my upcoming book, Proving God. My strategy is to put naturalism on its head, and show how time and space, plus all law and force in the universe, emerged from love’s dynamical nature.

In God’s universe, Love is not simply a passion or lively enthusiasm. Love is the ultimate science.

Posted on November 13, 2008by thegodguy

Posted in god, love, metaphysics, psychology, Reality, religion, science, spirituality, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Swedenborg to Understand the Quantum World I: Events

Swedenborg Foundation

By Ian Thompson, PhD, Nuclear Physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryFor the last hundred years, physicists have been using the quantum theory about the universe, but they still do not properly understand of what the quantum world is made.


The previous physics (referred to as “classical” and started by Isaac Newton) used ideas of “waves” and “particles” to picture what makes up the physical world. But now we find that every object in the quantum world sometimes behaves as a particle and sometimes behaves as a wave! Which is it? In quantum physics, objects behave most of the time like waves spreading out as they travel along, but sometimes measurements show objects to be particles with a definite location: not spread out at all. Why is that? It is as though their size and location suddenly change in measurement events. This is quite unlike classical physics, where particles exist continuously with the same fixed shape. In quantum physics, by contrast, objects have fixed locations only intermittently, such as when they are observed.  So they only offer us a discrete series of events that can be measured, not a continuous trajectory. Quantum objects, then, are alternately continuous and discontinuous.

Why would we ever expect such a fickle world? Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) has some ideas that might help us. He describes how all physical processes are produced by something mental, or spiritual, and this can be confirmed by reason of the similarity in patterns between the physical processes and their mental causes. In Swedenborg’s words, there are correspondences between the physical and the mental—that they have similar structures and functions, even though mind and matter are quite distinct.

I need to state what correspondence is. The whole natural world is responsive to the spiritual world—the natural world not just in general, but in detail. So whatever arises in the natural world out of the spiritual one is called “something that corresponds.” It needs to be realized that the natural world arises from and is sustained in being by the spiritual world . . . (Heaven and Hell §89)

Although these ideas are not part of present-day science, I still hope to show below that they may have some implications for how science could usefully develop.

Swedenborg’s theory of mind is easy to begin to understand. He talks about how all mental processes have three common elements: desire, thought, and action. The desire is what persists and motivates what will happen. The thought is the exploration of possibilities for actions and the making of an intention. The action is the determined intention, the product of desire and thought that results in an actual physical event.

The [actions] themselves are in the mind’s enjoyments and their thoughts when the delights are of the will and the thoughts are of the understanding therefrom, thus when there is complete agreement in the mind. The [actions] then belong to the spirit, and even if they do not enter into bodily act still they are as if in the act when there is agreement. (Divine Providence §108)

All of the three spiritual elements are essential. Without desire (love), or ends, nothing would be motivated to occur. Without thought, that love would be blind and mostly fail to cause what it wants. Without determined intention, both the love and thought would be frustrated and fruitless, with no effect achieved at all. In everyday life, this intention is commonly called will, but it is always produced by some desire driving everything that happens. Here is the pattern:

      Spiritual                                                                   Natural
Desire + Thought Mental Action (Intention)  Physical Action, or Event, in the World

Swedenborg summarizes the relationship between these elements as follows:

All activities in the universe proceed from ends through causes into effects. These three elements are in themselves indivisible, although they appear as distinct in idea and thought. Still, even then, unless the effect that is intended is seen at the same time, the end is not anything; nor is either of these anything without a cause to sustain, foster and conjoin them. Such a sequence is engraved on every person, in general and in every particular, just as will, intellect, and action is. Every end there has to do with the will, every cause with the intellect, and every effect with action. (Conjugial Love §400:1–2)

Now consider Swedenborg’s theory of correspondences mentioned above. He says that there is a similar pattern between the details of the effects and the details of the causes. ”As above, so below,” others have said. So if mental action produces some effect in the physical world, then, by correspondence, we would expect a similar pattern between that physical effect and each of the three elements common to all mental processes. We would expect something physical like desire, then something physical like thought, and finally something physical like mental action. Do we recognize these patterns in physics? And if so, do we recognize them better in classical physics or in quantum physics?

I claim we do recognize them in physics:

  • We recognize the “something physical like desire” as energy or propensity. These are what persist physically and produce the result, just like desire does in the mind. They are in both classical and quantum physics.
  • We recognize the “something physical like thought” as the wave function in quantum physics. This describes all the possibilities, propensities, and probabilities for physical events, just like thought does in the mind.
  • We recognize the “something physical like mental action” as the actual specific physical outcome, a selection of just one of the possibilities to be made actual. This is a measurement event in quantum physics, the product of energy or propensity and the wave function, just like the product of desire and thought is the mental action.

We will discuss energy and wave functions in later posts, focusing here on the final step of mental actions and physical events. According to Swedenborg’s ideas, the structure of mental processes and the structure of physical events should be similar. So, too, the function of mental processes and the function of physical events should be similar. Can we tell from this whether we should expect a classical world or a quantum world?

One feature of thought and mental action with which we should be familiar is time. That is, we always need time to think! Without any time gap between desiring and intending, we would be acting instinctively and impulsively. Sometimes that works but not always (at least in my experience!). Most often, there has to be some delay, even some procrastination, between having a desire and fulfilling it. That delay gives us time to deliberate and decide on the best action to select. And, most importantly, if it is we who decide when to act, we feel that we act in some freedom. It feels better.

If the physical world corresponds to those mental processes, according to Swedenborg, what hypothesis do we reach about physics? It is that there will be corresponding time gaps between the beginning of some persisting energy or propensity and the selection of physical outcome. Remember that quantum objects are selected and definite only intermittently—when measured, or observed—while classical objects are continuously definite with no gaps. All this leads us to expect that physical events should not be continuous; that is, we should expect a quantum world rather than a classical world.


Continue with Part II: Desire and Energy>

Ian Thompson is also the author of Starting Science from God, as well as Nuclear Reactions in Astrophysics (Univ. of Cambridge Press) and more than two hundred refereed professional articles in nuclear physics.

Visit our Swedenborg Studies bookstore page to explore our series of scholarly titles >

Read more posts from the Scholars on Swedenborg series >

Science and religion

Science and religionBoth religion and science make truth claims about ultimate reality. For that reason there is growing interest among scientists, theologians, and laypeople to ask if science and religion can both answer the same questions about reality and have real points of interaction. I like to think of myself as part of this exciting and stimulating movement. I personally am coming to the last stages of completing the manuscript for my new book that hopefully will offer fresh ideas to this important discussion.

There are of course, landmines everywhere. For instance, in order to unify science and God one has to offer at least some rational evidence (if not empirical evidence) that God indeed exists. Next problem: what theological interpretation of religion and what scientific interpretation of quantum physics do you choose to unite? From my humble point of view, any successful encounter between the two would require that theology offer new insights to solving the perplexing issues of the New Physics, and that these solutions of science lead to a more rational approach to the deepest mysteries of faith. Since this has not happened I fully expect that an upheaval in both science and theology will be required. My book deals with this shake-up.

In the hopes of starting a dialog with open-minded and serious thinkers I would like to share with you reasons for my confidence that such a thing is possible. (Agnostics and atheists are more than welcome to participate.)

Before anyone pooh-poohs the existence of God, it is important to understand exactly where science is hitting a brick wall – its fundamental understanding of reality. Even science based on a strict materialistic philosophy is finding that nature, on her most fundamental level, is radically “weird” and resists a reductionist approach. In the invisible world of the quantum vacuum nothing physical or solid exists, there are only “tendencies to exist.” If God exists it will be in a non-local and non-temporal realm – exactly where science does not have a firm grasp on what is going on.

On the other side of the physics coin, relativity theory and the Big Bang Singularity presents us with another weird problem. Since the universe is expanding scientists assumed that if you turn time backwards the universe will shrink into an ever- decreasing radius and disappear into the void as a zero-dimensional point (essential singularity) where time and space no longer exist. Where there is no spacetime there are no physical laws either. So, if the laws of physics break down in a singularity than physics cannot explain the beginning of the universe.

Both quantum physics and the Big Bang point to a non-physical beginning (even though they do so in different ways). Therefore, the laws of physics must have their origin in an invisible, non-temporal and non-spatial realm. What non-material principles and agency made up the special initial conditions of the universe where time equaled zero (t = 0)?

It is the premise of my forthcoming book that the laws and forces of nature are actually spiritual laws and forces extended into the constraints of time and space. In other words, the various qualities of God’s Divine Love and Wisdom create all the ratios, proportions, and analogies we find in the extensiveness of the physical world.

Most physicists agree that Nature is unified. The essence of love is to unite and the essence of truth is to differentiate. Nature is the perfection of unity through difference. This is why Nature is a mirror image of God’s nature. What do you think?

Reprinted from TheGodGuy

Copyright 2008 Edward F. Sylvia  Read about his book Proving God