Some people believe it is hard to lead the heaven-bound life that is called “spiritual” because they have heard that we need to renounce the world and give up the desires attributed to the body and the flesh and “live spiritually.” All they understand by this is spurning worldly interests, especially concerns for money and prestige, going around in constant devout meditation about God, salvation, and eternal life, devoting their lives to prayer, and reading the Word and religious literature. They think this is renouncing the world and living for the spirit and not for the flesh. However, the actual case is quite different, as I have learned from an abundance of experience and conversation with angels. In fact, people who renounce the world and live for the spirit in this fashion take on a mournful life for themselves, a life that is not open to heavenly joy, since our life does remain with us [after death]. No, if we would accept heaven’s life, we need by all means to live in the world and to participate in its duties and affairs. In this way, we accept a spiritual life by means of our moral and civic life; and there is no other way a spiritual life can be formed within us, no other way our spirits can be prepared for heaven. This is because living an inner life and not an outer life at the same time is like living in a house that has no foundation, that gradually either settles or develops gaping cracks or totters until it collapses.
If we look critically at human life with rational insight, it turns out to be threefold—spiritual life, moral life, and civic life. These lives are distinguishable: some people live a civic life but not a moral or spiritual one, some live a moral life but not a spiritual one, and some live a civic and a moral life and a spiritual life as well. These last are the ones who are leading heaven’s life, while the former are leading the world’s life, divorced from heaven’s life.
To begin with, then, we may gather that a spiritual life is not separate from a natural life or the world’s life but is united to it like a soul to its body; and if they were separated, it would be like a house without a foundation, as just stated.
In fact, moral and civic living is what spiritual life does, for intending well is the essence of spiritual life and behaving well is the essence of moral and civic life. If these are separated from each other, spiritual life consists solely of thinking and talking, and the intent ebbs away because it has no support. Yet intent is our actual spiritual substance.
What follows will make it possible to see that it is not all that hard to lead a heaven-bound life.
Who can’t lead a civic and moral life? After all, we are introduced to it in infancy and know it from living in the world. We do in fact lead this kind of life whether we are evil or good, since no one wants to be called dishonest or unfair. Almost everyone practices honesty and fairness outwardly, even to the point of seeming genuinely honest and fair, or seeming to act from genuine honesty and fairness. Spiritual people have to live in much the same way and can do so just as easily as natural people, the difference being that spiritual people believe in the Divine Being and act honestly and fairly not just because it follows civil and moral laws but also because it follows divine laws. In fact, since they are thinking about divine [laws] when they act, they are in touch with heaven’s angels; and to the extent that they are, they are united to them, and their inner person— which is essentially a spiritual person—is opened. When this is our nature, the Lord adopts and leads us without our realizing it, and whatever things we do that are honest and fair—the deeds of our moral and civil life—come from a spiritual source. Doing what is honest and fair from a spiritual source is doing it from genuine honesty and fairness, or doing it from the heart.