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Each year, NASA spends million exploring outer space in an effort to make the unknown, known. Just as we’d like to know about life on other planets, many of us would like to know about life on the other side. Eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg was—in many ways—a human rover of the spiritual world. Lucky for us, he was also meticulous in documenting what he found during his afterlife expeditions. In this episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs reviews some of Swedenborg’s written accounts about the kinds of angels he encountered in the world of spirits to help us understand what kind of intelligent angelic life is out there!
Does the spiritual world have a hierarchy or order? According to Swedenborg it does, and it functions like a globe.
He says there are three levels of heaven and three levels of hell, and they’re purposely designed with a careful balance so that the highest level of heaven corresponds with and balances the lowest level of hell and so forth. This equilibrium in the spiritual world is essential to human consciousness and the balance of good and evil in the physical world. Many question why God allows evil when he has the power to simply banish it. Swedenborg answers that question in his book Heaven and Hell, which Curtis discusses in this segment on the need for equilibrium between the two spiritual worlds.
Extra credit! Curtis challenges viewers to think about how the levels of heaven apply to the levels of the mind throughout the rest of the show. Since many spiritual leaders, including Jesus Christ, have said that heaven is within us—think about how you’re a microcosm of heaven.
The Three Levels
Curtis starts off this segment with a definition of terms to help guide the rest of the complex conversation, and the definitions come from Swedenborg himself.
“First I need to define “angel” and “spirit.” Immediately after death we come into a world of spirits that is halfway between heaven and hell. There we work through our stretches of time, or our states, and are prepared either for heaven or for hell, depending on the way we have lived. As long as we stay in this world, we are called “spirits.” Anyone who has been brought up from this world into heaven is called an angel, and anyone who has been cast into hell is called a satan or a devil. As long as we are in the world of spirits, people who are being readied for heaven are called angelic spirits, and people who are being readied for hell are called hellish spirits. All the while, angelic spirits are united to heaven and hellish spirits to hell.” —Divine Love and Wisdom 140
Curtis takes a moment to further define that in Swedenborg’s view, all angels used to be people. He then moves on to define the three levels of heaven as described by Swedenborg.
“There are three heavens. The first is where good spirits are, the second where angelic spirits are, and the third where actual angels are. Spirits, angelic spirits, and angels are each as a group divided up into heavenly and spiritual types. The heavenly ones are those whom love has led to receive faith from the lord, as those who were part of the earliest church did. The spiritual ones are those whom religious knowledge has led to receive a feeling of charity from the Lord and then to act on it.” —Secrets of Heaven 459
Swedenborg also calls the angels in the three levels 1) heavenly, 2) spiritual, and 3) natural. Start watching at minute 15:00 for a more detailed clip on the levels of heaven.
Related Swedenborg and Life Video: In The Spiritual History of the Human Race, we talk about Swedenborg’s description of the “earliest church” mentioned in the quote above, also known as the “Most Ancient Church.”
The Two Kingdoms
Swedenborg divides the two main kingdoms of heaven by “heavenly” and “spiritual.” The third level or “natural” level is an outer form of both of those kingdoms. So what are the heavenly and spiritual heavens like according to Swedenborg?
“The differentiation of heaven into two kingdoms, one called the heavenly kingdom and the other the spiritual kingdom, has been presented in its proper chapter above. The heavenly kingdom in general corresponds to the heart and to all the extensions of the heart throughout the body. The spiritual kingdom corresponds to the lungs and to all their extension throughout the body. Further, the heart and the lungs form two kingdoms in us, the heart governing through the arteries and veins and the lungs through the nerve and motor fibers, each involved in every effort and action.” —Heaven and Hell 95
In other words, what the heart does for the human body, angels do for heaven.
Watch starting at minute 25:30 for an animated look at the spiritual and heavenly mindsets of angels and what sets them apart.
Connectors between the levels of heaven can be thought of visually like the human body as touched on in the previous section. So how do the heart and lungs work together like the different types of angels in heaven work together? To help explain, professor of biology and chemistry Dr. Edward Higgins joins the conversation to explain how the heart and lungs work together for good of the whole body. Think about how the heart pumps blood and oxygen to the lungs and out through the body. Similarly, angels pump love and wisdom out through heaven and into us for the good of the whole world.
Watch the rest of the video segment about parallels that connect the spiritual world to the physical world!
Related Swedenborg and Life video: How Angels Affect Our Thoughts
Swedenborg says communication flows from the Divine down through the levels of heaven and into the physical world. It’s only natural then that the angels that occupy each level influence us here and in the afterlife. In the opening of this segment, Curtis calls out a couple of interesting observations Swedenborg had about what angels are able to do in the spiritual world:
Angels help newcomers when they cross over into the afterlife.
Angels walk and talk.
Angels guide visitors like Swedenborg through their communities.
At minute 50:60, Curtis introduces an animated excerpt from Swedenborg’s True Christianity that describes two angels from different levels of heaven communicating with each other.
Four Quarters and a Disclaimer
When Swedenborg talks about direction in heaven, it’s not the same as north, south, east, and west on earth. He describes the directions of heaven as four quarters guided by wisdom and good.
Curtis reviews an excerpt from Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell about the directions of heaven and then an excerpt from Secrets of Heaven about the constantly evolving nature of it.
“The situation in the next life is as follows: Because of the newcomers there the Lord is constantly reordering heaven and its communities, imparting bliss and happiness to them.” —Secrets of Heaven 5798
At the beginning of the show, Curtis challenged each of us to think about how heaven exists within us. He concludes the show with an excerpt from Heaven and Hell:
“It needs to be quite clear that it is the inner nature of angels that determines which heaven they are in. The more the deeper levels have been opened, the more inward the heaven they are in. There are three inner levels of every angel and spirit, and of every person here as well. The people whose third level has been opened are in the central heaven, while the people whose second or first only has been opened are in the intermediate or the outmost heaven. The deeper levels are opened by our acceptance of divine good and divine true gifts. People who are actually affected by divine true gifts and let them directly into their lives—into their intentions and therefore into act—are in the central or third heaven…”—Heaven and Hell 33
Do you see heaven and its angels working inside of you?
Questions from Viewers
In the last segment, Curtis answers these questions from our viewers:
- Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is within us? Where does Swedenborg say it is?
- Will there ever be a war between angels and demons on earth?
- If things are balanced, does that mean that there are as many people in hell as in heaven? I thought that God did not want anyone to perish.
- Is it true that hellish spirits can’t come and live in the heavenly or spiritual realms? I don’t want to get to heaven and Charlie Manson is my neighbor.
- Why do preachers say if you don’t except Jesus you will go to hell. Is that true?
- Does Swedenborg agree with Edgar Cayce about the chakras being the seals of revelation?
- So who gives the angels of these different kingdoms their jobs? Also do angels know straight away how to communicate with other angels? Or do they have to learn?
- What does Swedenborg mean that the last judgment happened in 1757?
- In the earthly realm we live, grow, change and graduate to different levels in our lives. In heaven, are we capable of growing? And when we are reincarnated is that to grow in heaven also?
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About Swedenborg and Life
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 in a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format.
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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 help others look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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