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Nobody loves their daily commute. Even on vacation, we complain about airports or seasickness. When it comes to everyday annoyances, it’s hard to beat the frustration of travel. So does that change in the afterlife?
Just as the natural world has laws that it must follow, the spiritual world has its own unique physics and possibilities. In this episode, host Curtis Childs and featured guests explore what Swedenborg discovered about moving through the spiritual realm—and what it means for life on Earth.
Can I Have Your Exact Location?
An out-of-body experience can be quite disorienting, and many who report them share that it’s very difficult to navigate the spiritual world. However, this episode is not about how to travel to the spiritual world but rather about how to travel within the spiritual world. Swedenborg kicks off the conversation by describing how space and time work there:
I have often talked with spirits about the idea they have of place and distance. “They’re not real,” I tell them, “but only look as though they were. On the contrary, space and distance are just changes in the state of your thoughts and feelings, which make themselves visible this way in the world of spirits. There is no such appearance in heaven, among angels, since they have no concept of space and time, only of state.” (Secrets of Heaven §1376)
The spiritual world appears to have space and time; but it’s an illusion, in much the same way that Earth’s horizon looks like the edge of the world. Our earthly senses deceive us all the time, but we learn to navigate using them. We have to do the same thing if we want to travel spiritually.
Over several spiritual experiences, author Graham Nicholls began to move past his physical preconceptions. Once he let go of his sense of physical space and opened his mind, he was able to travel further into the spiritual realm.
Spirits who have physical and earthly ideas clinging to them . . . believe that the situation really is exactly as they see it. It is almost impossible to lead spirits like this to believe anything but that they are still living in their bodies. They refuse to be convinced that they are spirits. (Secrets of Heaven §1376)
In other words, we can’t be too rigid in our thinking or we’ll limit ourselves spiritually.
Spiritual motion as described by Swedenborg is essentially a change of emotional and mental state. Journeying through heaven, Swedenborg was able to experience this firsthand.
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 is how I have been led by the Lord into the heavens and also to other planets in the universe. This happened to my spirit, while my body remained in the same place. (Heaven and Hell §192)
How you feel about someone or something determines whether you’re moving closer to or further from them. A flashback to an earlier video gives a quick overview of how that works. When someone asks if “you’re close to your father,” they’re not asking about physical distance; they’re talking about emotional states. Spiritual space works the same way.
In the same way that gravity pulls us to Earth, spiritual laws pull compatible people together. In her out-of-body experiences, author Marilynn Hughes found that the simple act of thinking about a loved one in the spiritual world will let you fly to them.
. . . 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 §194)
Swedenborg writes that a path can physically grow long or short depending on the traveler’s desire to reach the destination. This phenomenon is reflected in our perception of time in the physical world—“time flies when you’re having fun!” Or, as the Swedenborg and Life security cam footage shows, time can drag out when you have to do something you dread.
Nicholls shares that spirits are able to practically teleport once they let go of their physical being. These skills might be valuable to somebody who is having spiritual experiences, but what about those of us who are limited to the natural world?
You’re Already Doing It
Many of us experience reality primarily through our vision, but there are many factors that affect our ability to see. Swedenborg writes that the same is true of our spiritual seeing conditions.
In his spiritual experiences, Nicholls observed that his ability to witness and move through the spiritual world could be blocked if he allowed his rational mind to get in the way. The more you focus on higher principles and avoid the clutter, the more clearly you can see this world.
Even if we’re not directly aware of it, we all belong to a spiritual community, one that exists in the spiritual world but also allows us to connect with each other on Earth despite the physical distance between us. We can also work on growing spiritually closer to the people that are nearby and, in doing so, close the distance between the physical and spiritual worlds.
The Weirdness of It All
According to Swedenborg’s understanding of correspondences, everything physical is a reflection of something spiritual. We know that the physical world can get pretty strange, so it stands to reason that the spiritual world would sometimes be hard to follow as well.
I have learned, both by talking with angels and by personal experience, that spirits as spirits are not in the place they appear to be, so far as the organic substances composing the [spiritual] bodies they have are concerned. They can be very far off and still appear in that place. I realize that people who allow illusions to fool them will not believe this, but it is still the fact of the matter. (Secrets of Heaven §1378)
While spirits can appear to be several places at once, the reality is that every spirit has a true location—a “home base.” They can appear to travel from that place, sometimes even appearing in multiple places at once, but in fact they haven’t moved.
All souls and spirits whatsoever, from the beginning of creation, appear in their own position at all times and never change place except when conditions inside them change. As conditions inside them change, their relative location and distance alter too. (Secrets of Heaven §1377)
The spirit’s primary location only moves if the person’s inner state or essential nature changes. Every spirit and therefore every person has a proper position that is relative to the Lord, who is the center of all spiritual space. These positions remain fixed.
Each spirit has a general, governing state, though, and the particular and the highly specific states still relate to the general one. For this reason, all spirits return to their position after such changes. (Secrets of Heaven §1377)
The Reference Point
If we want to navigate the spiritual world, we need to be able to relate to God. But it can be difficult to understand spiritual realities. Nicholls and Swedenborg agree that the most uplifting and profound spiritual experiences occur when you let go and let the Divine guide you.
Our place in relationship to the Lord is largely determined by our actions on Earth—something Hughes saw in action during her own mystical experiences. She perceived negative thoughts and attitudes as a spiritual “weight” that we can shed throughout our lives. But no matter where we are, with God’s help, we can continue upward.
No matter where we are physically, the Divine is present:
People on earth cannot help confusing God’s infinity with infinity of space, and since their only idea of spatial infinity is that it is nothing—which is true—they also fail to believe in the divine infinity. . . A true picture of God’s infinity is instilled into angels by the consideration that they can come into the Lord’s presence in a split second, without any intervening space or time, even if they should be at the ends of the universe. (Secrets of Heaven §1382)
God can reach us anywhere, no matter how low we are. Since God is the central point of the universe, we can always move toward the Divine. As long as we’re moving toward love, we’re moving in the right direction.
In the last segment, Curtis answers these questions from our viewers:
- Can people experience anything good in hell? For example, if a married couple went to hell would they still faithfully love each other or does the atmosphere of hell tarnish any good feelings?
- What happens if several people are thinking of you at once? Where do you go?
- If you love someone, but the other person does not love you, will you still be close to him/her in the afterlife?
- Is the spirit world modern like our world? Cars, planes, phones?
- Can we use spiritual senses on earth in our physical bodies?
- What does a spirit look like?
- At night when I go out under the stars, I feel myself being pulled up to the heavens by my solar plexus. Does Swedenborg speak of that? It started happening after my mom passed. I get a “homesick” feeling.
- Does Swedenborg mention if spirits can also visit the living just by thought?
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About Swedenborg and Life
In a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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