Emanuel Swedenborg's Near-Death Experiences
(1688--1772) was born in Stockholm, Sweden,
and was quite renowned in his day for his
contributions in various fields of natural
science. His writings were first oriented
towards anatomy, physiology, and psychology
gained substantial recognition. Later in
his life, he experienced a religious crisis
and began to write of experiences of being
in communication with spiritual entities.
His later spiritual writings abound with
vivid descriptions of what life after death
is like. The parallels between his out-of-body
spiritual experiences and NDEs are quite
remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that
Dr. Raymond Moody's
ground-breaking book on near-death experiences,
Life After Life,
has an entire section devoted these parallels.
In this article you will learn these parallels
and read an excerpt from Swedenborg's most
famous work entitled
Heaven and Hell
which was translated into the book entitled
Awaken From Death.
Dr. Kenneth Ring (www.kenring.org)
also wrote an introduction to the
Swedenborg Foundation's edition of
Our Life after Death: A Firsthand
Account from an 18th-Century Scientist
and Seer which is also published
here. Swedenborg's vision of the
afterlife also corresponds with
St. Teresa of Avila who once said,
"After you die, you wear what you are."
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1. Dr. Ken Ring's Introduction to Emanuel
are of course many paths that lead up to the
Emanuel Swedenborg's sweeping spiritual
vision of the life beyond. In my case, I came to
discover Swedenborg through my research into
near-death experiences (NDEs) -- those
compelling revelations, occurring on the
threshold of apparent imminent death, that
appear to usher individuals into a realm of
transcendent beauty where time dissolves into
eternity and God's light is everywhere. Even
before I came to see the unmistakable parallels
between the world Swedenborg had described for
us more than two centuries ago and that which
contemporary near-death experiencers were being
vaulted into as a result of some kind of
near-death crisis, others had already made this
connection clear. Indeed, the first, and still
in many ways the best, book to be written on the
near-death experience is our own time,
Life After Life, by
Raymond A. Moody, Jr., contained a section
where those parallels were explicitly discussed.
In it, Moody highlighted Swedenborg's teachings
concerning what happens at the moment of death
-- and afterward. My appreciation of Swedenborg,
writings has from the beginning been filtered
through and indeed enhanced by my study of
near-death experiences and my pondering of their
obvious implications both for life after and
is in fact one that, by drawing from Swedenborg,
best-known and enduringly popular work on this
subject, Heaven and Hell, presides an excellent
introduction to Swedenborg's vision and
understanding of the life beyond. As one quickly
learns, this rendering is not one that stems
from theological dogma but is, rather, rooted in
Swedenborg's own personal and extraordinary
sojourns into the spiritual world itself. His
revelations, however, do not derive from the
kind of brief glimpses that near-death
expenencers have often reported to me and other
NDE researchers, but from sustained and
deliberate forays into this domain. As
Swedenborg himself says, he was not merely told
but shown through direct experience what the
dying person encounters, both at the moment of
physical death and afterward, and he was enabled
to have such experiences frequently over the
last third of his lifetime, a period of nearly
three decades. Thus Swedenborg is hardly just a
precursor to today's NDErs; he is a true seer
and, as such, he had already mapped the realm
that NDE research has tried to sketch out with
its own methods.
What is the nature of
this world? Here, Swedenborg makes it plain, we
enter into a domain where the "essence" of
ourselves is disclosed, and where we -- and
others -- see ourselves with razor-sharp
precision for who we really are. Death changes
nothing, but reveals everything about us. This
is just one of the many points of correspondence
between Swedenborg's teachings and the findings
of NDE research, by the way, which indicates
that many persons have a detailed "life review"
in which they are led to see not merely how they
have lived, but the inner meaning and
motivations of their actions, and the effects of
those actions upon others. At death, we enter a
world where, in short, our inner essence becomes
"the environment" in which we find ourselves. In
the end, Swedenborg says "everyone returns after
death to his own life." A person who has lived a
life of self-centered cruelty finds himself
continuing to live that way, far from the light
of God. On the other hand, a person who has
truly lived for others and for whom the
existence of the Divine is at the heart of his
life, is already in heaven, Swedenborg asserts,
and continues to experience directly the Light
of heaven after death and to find himself in the
company of like-minded others. Either way,
according to Swedenborg, everyone "is going to
be an image of his affection, or his love." So
it is, if we follow Swedenborg's teachings, that
we are building our heaven and hell now, and
living in them now, too, depending on the inner
meaning of our actions in the world.
to me, is the great moral lesson in Swedenborg,
vision of the afterlife -- and it is one that
once again coincides with the moral implications
of NDEs: as the beloved
Sufi poet Kabir has it, "what is found now
is found then." Near-death experiencers
emphasize the importance of being involved with
the world, not withdrawing from it; of serving
others and not merely paying lip service to
traditional religious pieties; of knowing, with
certainty, that God exists and that there is a
life after death. For them, it is their NDE that
have made plain the undeniable truth of these
things. Yet Swedenborg was enabled to see all
this, and so much beyond this, through his
incomparable experiences in the spiritual realm.
And because of his remarkable intellect and
powers of expression, his writings, as excerpted
in [his] book, contain a depth of wisdom and
understanding that no modern NDEer could ever
hope to match. Which is why I say the study of
NDEs only leads up to Swedenborg, world -- it
can scarcely begin to suggest its compass.
Yet NDE research is,
I think, for contemporary students of Swedenborg
an important confirmation of his insights into
the afterlife. During Swedenborg's own lifetime,
and certainly afterward, there were many who
dismissed his supposed visions, even while
acknowledging that he had exceptional psychic or
clairvoyant powers. Some, of course, thought him
quite mad. However, in the light of NDEs -- and
literally millions of persons across the globe
have had these experiences -- it is no longer
possible to deny that Swedenborg's visions have
a definite experiential foundation. Too many
people have seen what Swedenborg did -- if not
so far -- and have drawn essentially the same
conclusions as he did, for it to be tenable to
explain away his experiences as merely some kind
of idiosyncratic fancy or morbid hallucination.
It is ironic that while many world-famous
figures have of course long honored Swedenborg
and recognized his greatness, it is the
collective testimony of millions of ordinary men
and women who have desenbed what it is like to
die that is helping to bring his sobering yet
inspiring vision of life after death to many new
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Emanuel Swedenborg and His Out-of-Body Journeys
The following information
comes the section of
Dr. Raymond Moody's book,
Life After Life, on Emanuel Swedenborg.
described what happens when bodily functions such
as respiration and circulation cease. This description
is similar to what people describe when
dying during an NDE.
does not die, but is only separated from
the corporeal part which was of use to him
in the world ... Man, when he dies, only
passes from one world into another."
Swedenborg wrote how he
himself has been through the early stages of death
and had experiences outside of his body. This corresponds
to the out-of-body experience component of the NDE.
"I was brought
into a state of insensibility as to the
bodily sense, thus almost into the state
of the dying; yet the interior life with
thought remaining entire, so that I perceived
and retained in memory the things which
occurred, and which occur to those who are
resuscitated from the dead ... Especially
it was given to perceive ... that there
was a drawing and ... pulling of ... mind,
thus of my spirit, from the body."
During Swedenborg's out-of-body
experiences, he encountered beings whom he identifies
as angels. They ask him, in effect, if he is prepared
to die. This corresponds to NDEs where
spirit guides appear and help the experiencer.
first inquired what my thought was, whether
it was like the thought of those who die,
which is usually about eternal life; and
that they wished to keep my mind in that
The communication which took
place between Swedenborg and the spirits are direct
transfers of thought - a way of communicating in
which there is no possibility of misunderstanding.
This corresponds to people having NDEs who describe
communication as being telepathic.
converse with each other by universal
language ... Every man, immediately after
death, comes into this universal language
... which is proper to his spirit ...
"The speech of an
angel or a spirit with man is heard as sonorously
as the speech of a man with a man; yet it
is not heard by others who stand near, but
by himself alone; the reason is, because
the speech of an angel or spirit flows first
into the man's thought ..."
Swedenborg described how
the newly dead often do not realize they are dead
because they still inhabit a body resembling their
physical body in several respects. This kind phenomenon
appears in many NDE testimonies such as that of
Dr. George Ritchie.
state of man after death is similar to his
state in the world, because then in like
manner he is in externals ... Hence, he
knows no otherwise than the he is still
in the world ... Therefore, after they have
wondered that they are in a body, and in
every sense which they had in the world
... they come into a desire of knowing what
heaven is, and what hell is."
Swedenborg described how
- compared to physical life - the spiritual life
has less limitations. Perception, thought, and memory
are more perfect. Time and space no longer pose
the obstacles they once had in physical life. This
corresponds with NDE testimonies describing how
thought becomes more expansive and how
the afterlife realms exist in a timeless state.
"All the faculties
of spirits ... are in a more perfect state,
as well their sensations as their thoughts
According to Swedenborg,
the dying person may meet with other departed spirits
whom they knew in life. These other spirits are
there to help the dying person in their transition
to life on the Other Side. This corresponds to NDE
testimony involving the experiencer being
welcomed by loved ones in a kind of homecoming.
of man recently departed from the world
is ... recognized by his friends, and by
those whom he had known in the world ...
wherefore they are instructed by their friends
concerning the state of eternal life ..."
Swedenborg wrote how the
departed person may have their entire life shown
to them in a vision. The departed person remembers
every detail of it and there is no possibility lying
or concealing anything. This corresponds to the
life review of NDEs.
memory ... is such that there are inscribed
in it all the particular things ... which
man has at any time thought, spoken, and
done ... from his earliest infancy to extreme
old age. Man has with him the memory of
all these things when he comes into another
life, and is successively brought into all
recollection of them ... All that he had
spoken and done ... are made manifest before
the angels, in a light as clear as day ...
and ... there is nothing so concealed in
the world that it is not manifested after
death ... as if seen in effigy, when the
spirit is viewed in the light of heaven."
Swedenborg also mentioned
the "light of the Lord" which permeates the hereafter.
It is a light of ineffable brightness which Swedenborg
claims to have glimpsed himself. It is a light of
truth and of understanding. This corresponds to
the otherworldly Light seen in many NDEs.
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Insights from Emanuel Swedenborg's Out-of-Body Journeys
provides insights of how Swedenborg's experiences
provide striking parallels to contemporary near-death
During several of Swedenborg's
near-death experiences, he would witness people
dying and see their happenings in the afterlife.
He stated that immediately following death, there
is a period of self-discovery in which the social
masks worn by people on Earth dissolve away and
the true self is revealed. Each person then shapes
their own eternity to correspond with their real
inner nature. Some people become irrational, driven
by fear and greed. Such people are in a spiritual
condition which Swedenborg called "hell."
Hell is a psychological condition corresponding
to the suffering that people experience on Earth
when they allow themselves to be driven by the blind
greed of their own egos. There are
no devils in hell
to inflict punishments because in the hellish spiritual
condition each person acts out their own malice
by tormenting others. This is perfectly described
Howard Storm's NDE of
After death, most people
find within themselves the psychological state Swedenborg
a joyous condition
a state of expanded awareness,
of perceiving more and more of
the grand plan of creation.
The heaven which Swedenborg experienced, corresponds
Therefore, persons from many cultures and religions
the societies of heaven.
Swedenborg often mentioned that these societies
- the "Church of the Lord" as he calls them - are
universal. This Church of the Lord consists of all
those who have lived in the goodness of love according
to their own spiritual life on Earth.
into the afterlife provide us with more than just
a glimpse of the Other Side; they provides us a
very clear picture. The following is an excerpt
Awaken From Death
- an English translation of Swedenborg's classic
Heaven and Hell.
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A Person's Strongest Love Is Revealed at Death
a strongest love which a person keeps after death
and which never changes throughout eternity. Everyone
has a considerable number of loves, but they all
go back to their strongest love which a person makes
one with - or taken all together - comprise
elements of intention that are in harmony with their
strongest love are called desires, because they
are desired. Some of these desires are more
inward, some more outward. There are some desires
that are directly bound; some are nearer, some are
farther away. There are various kinds of subordination.
together, they make up a kind of kingdom. Thus,
a person's desires are organized within themselves
even though they are completely unaware it. To
some extent, however, this is made known to people
in the afterlife where they have an outreach of
thought and affection depending upon this organization. This
becomes an outreach into the heavenly communities
if the strongest love is made up of the desires
of heaven. But this becomes an outreach into hellish
communities if the strongest love is made up of
desires of hell. From this information, we then
can understand the following:
After death, people become their desire
Throughout eternity, people stay the way
they are insofar as their impulses or strongest
love is concerned.
People who have a heavenly and spiritual
desire will enter heaven; while people who
have a physical and worldly desire without
a heavenly and spiritual desire will enter
People do not keep their faith if it does
not come from a heavenly desire.
Desire in action is what lasts; hence this
is the person's true life.
a person is his desire or intention (impulses).
This has been made clear to me by observing experiences
over and over again. The whole of heaven is divided
into communities on the basis of differences in
the good that comes from desire. Every single spirit
who is raised into heaven and becomes an angel is
taken to the community where his or her desire is,
and once there they are where they belong, so to
speak - as though they were at home, where
they were born. An angel senses this and makes close
friends with others like themselves.
leave and go to another community, there is a certain
constant resistance. This is the effect of their
longing to return to those who are like themselves
which means to their own strongest love. This is
how close friendships are formed in heaven. The
same holds true in hell, where people also form
friendships on the basis of desires which are opposed
to heavenly ones.
We may establish
that, after death, people are their desire from
the fact that there is a removal after death, a
kind of carrying away of the elements which are
not consistent with their strongest love. If people
are good, then all the things that are discordant,
or that disagree with their true love, are removed
and, so to speak, are carried away. In this way
they are installed in their own desire. The same
happens with people who are evil (the difference
being that true things are carried away from them),
until finally all individuals become their own true
inner desire. This takes place when a spirit-person
is brought through into the third state described
below. Once this has happened, people constantly
turn their face toward their inner desire, keeping
it always before their eyes wherever they turn.
holds true for people in this world: their own desires
leads them, too, and they are led by others by means
of their own desires. It is all the more true when
they become spirits, because then they are not allowed
to present the semblance of any other desire, or
to pretend a desire that is not really theirs.
associations in a person's life is evidence of the
fact that people's spirits reflect their strongest
love. In fact, whenever anyone acts and talks in
keeping with someone else's desire, that person
seems complete, with a fully expressive, cheerful,
lively face. But whenever anyone acts and talks
contrary to someone else's desire, that person's
face begins to change, to become hazy, and to fade
from view. Eventually the whole person vanishes
as though they had never been there. I have often
been amazed that this is so, since nothing like
it occurs in our world; but I have been told that
something like this does happen to the spirit of
a person which is no longer within another person's
view when it turns away from that other.
times I have been enabled to see how good, simple
folk wanted to educate evil people in matters of
truth and goodness, and how such people ran away
from this education; and when they reached their
own kind, they grasped the false elements that suited
their desire with an intense pleasure. I have also
been enabled to see good spirits talking with each
other about true things, which the good people present
listened to eagerly, while the evil ones who were
also present paid no attention whatever, just as
though they did not hear anything.
visible in the spiritual world. Some lead to heaven,
some to hell; one to one community, one to another. Good
spirits travel only along paths that lead to heaven,
to the community which is involved in the particular
good that comes from their own desire. They do not
see paths leading in other directions. Evil spirits
follow only paths that lead to hell, to the particular
community there which is involved in the evil that
comes from their own desire. They do not see paths
leading in other directions; and even if they do,
they do not want to follow them.
the first and second states have been completed,
these two classes are separated so that they no
longer see or recognize each other. Everyone becomes
their own desire, not only in regard to the more
inward elements of their mind, but also in regard
to the more outward matters that are proper to their
face, body, and speech; for all people become an
image of their desire, even in outward things.
are involved in a physical desire are wholly incapable
of living in heaven's warmth, since heaven's warmth
is heavenly desire. They are however capable
of living in hell's warmth, which is a desire of
cruelty toward other people who do not support them.
The pleasures of this desire are various kinds of
contempt for others, of enmity, hatred, and revenge.
When they are involved in these, they are involved
in their own life, utterly ignorant of what it means
to do something good to others on the basis of and
for the sake of the good act itself - only
of acting on the basis of what is evil and for the
sake of what is evil.
are involved in a physical desire cannot breathe
in heaven. If an evil person is taken there, he
draws each breath like someone hard pressed in a
struggle. But people who are involved in a heavenly
desire breathe more freely and live more fully the
farther into heaven they are.
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The First Stage After Death Involves More Outward
three stages people pass through after their death
before arriving in heaven or hell. The first
stage involves their more outward aspects, the second
stage involves their more inward aspects, and the
third stage is a state of preparation. People pass
through these stages in the world of spirits.
as the first stage is concerned - the stage involving
people's more outward aspects - this is where people
come to immediately after death.
have more inward and outward aspects to their spirit.
A person's more outward aspects are the means by
which they adjust to the their body in the physical
world (especially his face, speech, and manner)
for associating with other people. But the spirit's
more inward aspects are the ones which belong to
the person's intention and resultant thought, which
are seldom evident in the face, speech, or manner.
From infancy, people get used to displaying friendliness,
kindness and sincerity, and hiding their real thoughts
and feelings. So, as a matter of habit, they reflect
a moral and civic life outwardly, no matter what
they are like inwardly.
is the source of people's virtual ignorance of what
lies deeper within them and also of their inattention
to these matters.
first stage after death is very much like their
condition in the physical world, since at that point
they are similarly involved in outward matters.
They have much the same face, speech, and spirit.
Consequently, they have much the same moral and
why they are then quite unaware that they are not
still in the physical world unless they pay attention
to things happening to them and to what they were
told by angels when they were awakened - namely,
that they are now spirits.
So the one
life continues into the other. Death is only a crossing
individuals in the spirit world think about someone
else in the spirit world, they set the person's
face before themselves in their thought, together
with many other things that characterized the person's
life. When they do that, the other person becomes
present as though he had been called and summoned.
of thing happens in the spiritual world because
thoughts are communicated there and because distances
do not have the same attributes as they have in
the natural world. This is why everyone, upon first
arriving in the spirit world, is recognized by friends,
relatives, and acquaintances of one sort or another.
And this is why they communicate with each other
and associate with each other along the lines of
their friendships in the physical world.
are taught by their friends about the state of eternal
life and are taken around to different places -
into different communities. Some are taken to cities,
some to gardens and parks; but most are taken
to splendid places because this sort of place delights
the outward nature they are still involved in. Then
they are intermittently led into thoughts they had
during their physical life about the soul's condition
after death, about heaven and hell, until they come
to resent their former utter ignorance of things
like this, and resent the Church's ignorance of
Note: In the
hellish earthbound realm,
people are able to travel anywhere on Earth as well.
The powers of the mind after death can be first
realized in this earthbound realm where more spiritually
developed souls are able to guide them to higher
realms if they so desire. Swedenborg's description
of the first stage is similar to accounts of near-death
experiences in this earthbound realm.]
of them are eager to know whether they will get
into heaven. Most of them believe they will because
they have led a moral and civic life in the physical
world, without considering that both evil and good
people lead lives that are similar in outward aspects
and do good works for other people in a similar
fashion, attend church, listen to sermons and pray. They
are wholly unaware that outward behavior and outward
worship do not accomplish anything; but rather it
is the inner elements - from which the outward ones
come - that really counts.
out of several thousand people knows what their
own inner elements are, or knows that those inner
elements are where heaven and the church dwell within
people who arrive from the physical world are put
in connection either with a particular community
in heaven or with a particular community in hell;
but this applies only to their more inward elements. These
more inward elements, however, are not visible to
anyone as long as the spirits are involved in more
outward matters, since outward matters are used
to cover and hide inner matters, especially by people
who are involved in something evil on a more inward
level. Later on, when they come into the second
stage, their more inward elements become obvious
because at this point their more inward elements
are opened and their more outward ones recede.
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The Second Stage After Death Involves More Inward
stage after death is called the stage of the more
inward elements, because at that point people are
brought into an involvement in the more inward things
belonging to their mind, or their intention (impulses)
and thought, while the more outward things they
were involved in during their first stage go to
As a result,
when people are in this stage they are involved
in their true selves and in their real lives. Thinking
freely from one's very own affection reflects a
person's real life, and is the real person.
this stage are thinking on the basis of their very
own intention, which means they are thinking from
their very own affection or desire. At this point,
their thinking brings about a unity with their intention
- such a unity in fact - they hardly seem to
be thinking at all and are simply intending. It
is about the same when they communicate; except
they communicate with a certain fear that the things
their intention is thinking about might come out
naked. This is because their fear becomes part of
their intention in the physical world due to the
demands of a civic life.
everyone is directed into this stage after death
because it is the actual state of the spirit. The
earlier stage is the way people were in their spirit
when they were in the company of others which is
not their proper condition.
are in this condition that is proper to their more
inward concerns, it becomes very obvious what kind
of people they were intrinsically in the physical
world. At this point, they are acting on the basis
of what really belongs to them. If they were inwardly
involved in something good while in the physical
world, then they behave rationally and wisely - more
wisely in fact - than they did in the physical world
because they are released from their ties to a physical
body and are therefore free from the things that
darken and, so to speak, cloud things over.
On the other
hand, if they were involved in something evil in
the physical world, then they behave senselessly
and crazily - more crazily in fact - than they did
in the physical world because they are free and
not repressed. When they lived in the world, they
were sane in outward matters because they were using
them to fabricate a rational person. So once these
outward matters are taken away from them, their
madness is unveiled.
who, while living in the physical world, were involved
in what is good and who acted out of conscience
(those who have acknowledged something divine and
loved divine truths, especially those who have applied
them to their lives), it seems to all such people
that when they are brought into the condition proper
to their more inward concerns, it is as though they
have been roused from sleep and come awake or have
come from darkness into light.
thinking on the basis of heaven's light and therefore
out of a deeper wisdom. They are acting on the basis
of what is good and therefore out of a deeper affection.
Heaven is flowing into their thoughts and affections
with something very deeply blessed and pleasant
which they had not known about before.
in communication with heaven's angels. At this time,
they also recognize the Lord and are worshipping
him out of their real life. They are involved in
their very own life when they are in this stage
of their more inward elements as we have just stated.
Furthermore, they are recognizing and worshipping
him from their freedom because their freedom is
part of their deeper affection.
then withdrawing from what is outwardly holy and
are entering into that which is inwardly holy where
true worship takes place.
No one enters
hell until they are engaged in their own evil and
engaged in the false things that are evil. This
is because no one there is allowed to have a divided
mind - to think and say one thing while intending
something else. All who are evil there will think
what is false because of their evil and will speak
out of their evil's falsity. Both their thinking
and their speech will come from their intention
and therefore out of their own proper desire and
its delight and pleasure, in the same way they thought
within themselves in the physical world when they
were thinking from their more inward affection.
arrive at the type of community where their spirits
were in the physical world. In fact, every person
on Earth is bonded to a particular heavenly or hellish
community: the evil person to a hellish one and
a good person to a heavenly one. A person is guided
there step-by-step and eventually gains entrance.
people are involved in the condition of their more
inward elements, they are turned in stages toward
their own community. Eventually they are turned
straight toward their community before their condition
is completed. Once this condition is completed,
they hurl themselves into the hell where there are
people like themselves.
is a very good description of the
experienced in NDEs.
It is where nothing there exists but our own true
inward nature. The purpose for this realm or "stage"
is to reflect and understand who we have become
from the physical life just lived. Seeing ourselves
as we really are can be a paradise if love is found
there. The love within us then draws us out of the
Void and toward the light. But if there exists mostly
"evil" within us, then we may remain in the Void
for some time or return to the
This is hell for those who are bound there; but
it is not eternal damnation. It is God's "time out"
place for people to deal with their problems. And
like all "Prodigal Sons," those in hell will eventually
come to their senses, have a change of heart and
of evil souls from good soul occurs in the course
of this second stage, whereas during the first stage
they were together. The reason for this is that,
as long as people are involved in their outward
concerns, it is the same as when they were in the
physical world. Evil people are together with good
ones and good people are together with evil ones. But
it becomes different when they are brought into
involvement on the basis of their more inward concerns
and left to their own nature or intention.
of good people from evil people occurs in various
ways. Broadly speaking, it occurs when evil people
are taken around to those communities which they
were in contact with through their good thoughts
and affections during their first stage. In this
way, they are taken to those communities where they
were persuaded by their outward appearance that
they were not evil. Normally, they are taken on
an extensive circuit where their true self is continuously
exposed to good souls. Upon seeing the evil souls,
the good souls turn away. As they turn away, the
evil souls also turn away from the good ones and
turn toward the region of hellish communities which
they truly belong.
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The Third Stage After Death is Preparing For Heaven
stage of the soul after death is a state of instruction.
This stage is for people who are entering heaven
and in the process of becoming angels. It is not
for those people entering hell because they cannot
be taught. As a result, the second stage is
also the third stage for those entering hell. It
concludes when they completely turn toward their
own desire and therefore turn toward a hellish community
where its members are involved in similar desires.
When this has been accomplished, they intend and
think from this desire - and since their desire
is hellish - they intend nothing but evil and think
nothing but falsehood. They are delighted in their
intentions and thoughts because they belong to this
hellish desire. Consequently, they spurn anything
that is good and true which they adopted earlier
as it was only a useful tool for their desire.
good people are brought through the second stage
into a third stage - that of preparing for heaven
by means of instruction. No one can be prepared
for heaven except by means of insights into what
is true and good through instruction. This is because
people cannot know what is good and true on a spiritual
level, or what is evil and false, unless they are
taught. In the physical world, it's possible to
know what is good and true on a civic and moral
level and what is called fair and honest. This is
because there are civil laws which teach falsehoods.
There are also social contexts in which a person
learns to live by, such as moral laws, all of which
deal with what is honest and right. But what is
good and true on a spiritual level is not learned
in the physical world, but rather in heaven.
realize and recognize these facts, they cannot think
spiritually. Without thinking about these matters,
they cannot intend them. If one does not know something,
they cannot think about it. If one does not think
about it, they cannot intend it. When a person does
intend these things, then heaven flows in. The Lord's
life flows into the person's life through heaven. The
divine essence flows into intention and through
intention into thought. Then through thought into
life. Intention and thought are the source of a
person's spiritual life.
We can see
from these considerations that there is no learning
what is good and true on a spiritual level from
the physical world; but rather from heaven. And
we see how no one can be prepared for heaven except
by being taught.
brings the good souls who are to be taught to these
places after their second has been completed. However,
this does not apply to everyone because some people
have been taught in the physical world and have
already been prepared for heaven by the Lord. They
are brought into heaven by another route. Some of
these people are brought in immediately after death.
I believe Swedenborg is referring to people who
grew spiritually on Earth and therefore bypass the
and go straight into
have been prepared for heaven though instruction (which
takes only a short time amount of time because the
souls are taught spiritual concepts which include
many elements at the same time), they are dressed
in angelic clothes - most of which are white as
though made of linen. Once dressed, they are brought
to a path that heads up toward heaven and are committed
to angel guardians there. Then they are accepted
by other angels and introduced into communities
where there are many forms of happiness.
description of this third stage agrees with those
NDE experiencers who have entered and left the tunnel
and enter into the light where they are met by loved
ones, religious figures, the Council of Elders,
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The Way to Heaven is Not Hard
people believe it is hard to lead a heaven-bound
life (which is also called a spiritual life) because
they have heard that a person needs to renounce
the world, give up the appetites associated with
the flesh and live like spiritual beings. They believe
to lead a heaven-bound life mean nothing short of
rejecting what is worldly - especially wealth and
prestige - and walk around in constant devout meditation
on God, salvation, and eternal life. They believe
they must pass their time in constant prayer and
in reading the Word and devotional literature. They
believe they must renounce the world and live constantly
by the spirit instead of by the flesh. But an abundance
of experience and discussion with angels has enabled
me to know that leading a heaven-bound life is completely
different from this. In fact, people who renounce
the world and live by the spirit in this fashion
build up a mournful life for themselves - one that
is not receptive of heavenly joy. This is because
everyone's life on Earth stays with them when they
enter the spiritual realm. On the contrary, if people
are to accept a life in heaven, they must by all
means live in the physical world and become involved
in its functions and dealings. Then through
a moral and civic life they will receive a spiritual
life. This is the only way a spiritual life
can be formed in people and their spirit be prepared
inward life and not an outward life at the same
time is like living in a house with no foundation.
It gradually settles, or develops cracks and gaps,
or totters until it collapses.
If we examine
a person's life with rational acuity, we discover
it to be threefold: there is a spiritual life, a
moral life, and a civic life. These lives distinct
from each other. There are people who live a civic
life but not a moral or a spiritual one. Then there
are people who live both a civic life and a moral
life and a spiritual as well. These are the ones
who are leading heaven's life - the others
are leading the world's life separated from heaven's
conclusion to be drawn from this is that a spiritual
life is not separated from a natural one, or from
the world's life. Rather, they are bonded together
like a soul with its body. If they become separated,
it is as previously just mentioned, like living
in a house without a foundation.
about to be presented will make it possible to see
that it is not as hard to lead a heaven-bound life
as some people believe it is.
live a civic and moral life? Everyone is introduced
to it from the cradle on and is acquainted with
it from his life in the world. Everyone, good or
bad, leads it as well, for who does not want to
be called honest and fair?
practices honesty and fairness in outward matters,
even to the point of seeming honest and fair at
heart, or as though they were behaving out of real
honesty and fairness. Spiritual people need to live
the same way which they can do just as easily
as natural people. The only difference is that spiritual
people believe in what is divine and behave honestly
and fairly - not just because it is in keeping with
civil and moral laws, but because it is in keeping
with divine laws.
are thinking about divine matters while they are
active are in touch with the angels of heaven. To
the extent that they are doing this, they are joined
to them and in this way their inner person is opened,
which seen in its own right, is the spiritual person.
are like this, they are adopted and led by the Lord
without realizing it. Then anything honest
and fair that they do as part of their moral and
civic life is done from a spiritual source. Doing
something honest and fair from a spiritual source
is doing it out of what is genuinely honest and
fair, or doing it from the heart.
of a spiritual life, the laws of a civic life, and
the laws of moral life are handed down to us in
the precepts of the Ten Commandments. The laws of
a spiritual life are found first. Then the laws
of civic life are found next. Finally, the laws
of moral life are found last.
are simply natural, live by these precepts in the
same way spiritual people do - in outward form.
They worship the divine in similar fashion, go to
church, listen to sermons, put on a pious face,
do not kill, commit adultery, steal or bear false
witness, and do not cheat their fellows out of their
possessions. But the natural person does this simply
for themselves and for the world, or for appearances.
As for people
who have recognized at heart what is divine, who
have focused on divine laws in the deeds of their
lives, and have lived by the precepts of the Ten
Commandments, things are different for them. When
they are led into their inward aspects, it is like
coming from darkness into light, from ignorance
into wisdom, and from a mournful life into a blessed
one. This is because they are involved in what
is divine, and therefore in heaven.
We can now
see that it is not as hard to lead a heaven-bound
life as many people think. Whenever something gets
in the way which people know is dishonest and unfair,
something their spirit moves toward, it is simply
a matter of thinking they should not do it because
it is against the divine precepts. If people
get used to doing this - and by getting used to
it gain a certain disposition - then little by little
they are joined to heaven. As this takes place,
the higher reaches of their mind are opened. As
their minds are opened, they see what things are
dishonest and unfair. When they see what is dishonest
and unfair, they can break away from them. No evil
can be broken away from until after it is seen.
a stage where people can enter due to their freedom.
And who cannot think this way due to their freedom?
Once this has begun, the Lord works out all good
things for them and arranges things so they not
only see evil elements but dislike them and eventually
turn away from them. This is the meaning of the
Lord's words, "My yoke is easy, and my burden
life is not a life withdrawn from the world but
a life involved in the world. A life of piety without
a life of love (which occurs only in this world)
does not lead to heaven. Rather, it is a life of
love, a life of behaving honestly and fairly in
every task, every transaction, every work, and from
a more inward source which leads to a heavenly one.
This source is present in life when a person behaves
honestly and fairly because it is in keeping with
divine laws. This life is not hard.
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