We Are Still Human after Death

An excerpt from Heaven and Hell  by Emanuel Swedenborg, section #456

Years and years of daily experience have witnessed to me that after separation from the body the human spirit is a person and is in a similar form. I have seen this thousands of times, I have heard such spirits, and I have talked with them even about the fact that people in the world do not believe that they are what they are, and that scholars think people who do believe are simpletons. Spirits are heartsick over the fact that this kind of ignorance is still common in the world and especially in the church. They say, however, that this belief stems especially from academics who have thought about the soul on the basis of physical sensory reality. The only concept this can yield is one of pure thought, and when this lacks any medium in which and on the basis of which it is examined, it is like some volatile form of pure ether that can only dissipate when the body dies. Since the church believes in the immortality of the soul on the basis of the Word, though, they cannot help but attribute something vital to it, something thought like. However, they do not attribute to it any sensory capacity like ours until it is reunited with its body. Their doctrine of the resurrection is based on this notion, as is their belief that there will be a reunion [of soul and body] when the Last Judgment comes. The result is that when people think about the soul on the basis of both doctrine and speculation, they do not at all grasp the fact that it is the spirit and that it is in human form. There is also the fact that hardly anyone nowadays knows what the spiritual is, let alone that people who are spiritual, as all spirits and angels are, have a human form.

This is why almost all the people who arrive from this world are as astonished as they can be to find that they are alive and that they are just as human as ever, that they are seeing and hearing and talking, that their bodies are still endowed with the sense of touch, and that nothing at all has changed (see #74). Once they get over their amazement, though, then they are amazed that the church does not know anything about this state of ours after death and therefore does not know anything about heaven or hell, even though all the people who have lived in this world are in the other life and are living people. Since they do keep wondering why this has not been made plain to people on earth through visions, inasmuch as it is essential to the faith of the church, they have been told from heaven that such visions could happen whenever it pleased the Lord—nothing could be easier. However, people would not believe even if they were to see, because they have convinced themselves of the opposing false notions. Further, it is dangerous to use visions to convince people of anything if they are immersed in false opinions, because they will believe at first and then deny. In this way they will desecrate the truth itself, since desecration is believing and then denying. People who desecrate truths are forced down into the lowest and direst hell of all.


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