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The concept of auras has been around for a long time. Glowing halos have been depicted around angels, God, and holy people in historical art and religious texts for centuries. Even practitioners of modern spiritual traditions use vibes, colors, and odors to describe their sense of a person’s inner spirit. So what do auras mean to us, then and now? In this episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs guides us through 18th-century spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg’s written records about his explorations of the afterlife to see what they say about auras, and, more specifically, what they reveal and how we can cultivate positive auras within ourselves.
So what are they? Swedenborg says auras are basically an image of ourselves projected outside of us.
“Our aura is like an image of ourselves projected outside us. In fact it is an image of everything inside us. What presents itself to view or to perception in the world of spirits, however, is only a general approximation. In heaven, on the other hand, our character is recognized in a more specific way. No one but the Lord, though, knows what we are like down to the smallest details.”—Secrets of Heaven 1505
How do auras form and what’s their purpose? During this segment, Curtis explains that the way that we think, our moods, and our attitudes are what radiate out of our bodies and into the world as auras. Their purpose is seen more clearly in the spiritual world, where auras are used to immediately, transparently, and honestly help one spirit understand another spirit at the deepest level possible.
The Visible Aura
Glowing halos of color around people are the type of auras most are familiar with. Swedenborg wrote that there are different levels of auras: spiritual, earthly, and bodily. But Swedenborg mostly talks about spiritual auras that can only be seen with spiritual sight or, as described below, in the spiritual world.
“I have also noticed that an aura flows out not only from angels and spirits but also from absolutely everything you see in that world—from trees and their fruits there, for example, from shrubs and their blossoms, from plants and grasses, even from soils and their particles. I could therefore see that this is a universal characteristic of things both living and lifeless, that everything is surrounded by something resembling what lies within it and that this is constantly breathing forth.
The experience of numerous scholars informs us that something like this happens in the physical world. For example, an outgoing wave is constantly flowing from individuals and from every animal, also from trees, fruits, shrubs, and flowers, and even from metals and stones. The physical world gets this from the spiritual world, and the spiritual world gets it from Divinity.”—Divine Love and Wisdom 293
So what Swedenborg is saying is that the physical world reflects things that exist in the spiritual world. This is a very common theme in Swedenborg’s spiritual philosophies. Curtis offers several more quotes from Swedenborg’s writings about auras and also from modern written records of people who can see auras.
What’s That Smell?
Correspondences, a unique teaching from Swedenborg’s philosophies plays a big role in this segment. As Curtis explains, correspondences can be made when things that happen in the spiritual world are echoed in the physical world. Swedenborg said that there is a strong correspondence between odors and spiritual auras. To try and grasp the concept, we interviewed Dr. Edward Higgins, a professor of biology and chemistry, about the science of odor and our sense of smell here in the physical world.
“Auras also present themselves to the senses through odors, which spirits are much more keenly sensitive to than people on earth are. In fact, auras correspond to smells, amazingly enough… These smells cannot be picked up by any earthly person except one whose inner senses have been opened to allow companionship with spirits.”—Secrets of Heaven 1514
Swedenborg got very specific about the odors he perceived in the spiritual world and what the odor corresponded to. During his spiritual explorations, he found a connection between odor and mood or emotion. He learned how attitudes, in the form of spiritual auras, have powerful effects on the interaction between spirits in the afterlife. Curtis points to several studies about smell-mood connection in the physical world to make the concept more tangible.
The Mood Connection
Since there’s a strong connection between the spiritual and physical worlds, it’s easy to see some of Swedenborg’s philosophies happening right here on earth. One interesting connection can be made with bees. Yes, those buzzing little honey-makers! The way that bees communicate physically is a lot like the way auras communicate on a spiritual level. For more on that, we met with beekeeper Wendinne Buss to explain how bees communicate through pheromones. By looking at how bees communicate as a community through scent, we can see how people’s auras communicate with each other.
Example of positive influential aura that Swedenborg experienced:
“There are surrounding auras of spiritual life that emanate from every angel and from every spirit and envelop them. By means of these auras one can recognize even from a distance the quality of the affections of their loves, since these auras flow out from the life of their affection and consequent thought—that is, from the life of their love and consequent faith. The auras that emanate from angels are so full of love that they touch the deepest reaches of life of the people they meet. I have been aware of them a number of times, and they have moved me deeply.”—Heaven and Hell 17
Example of negative influential aura that Swedenborg experienced:
“People who have lived lives of hatred and revenge give off auras of a type that causes fainting and induces vomiting. These auras are essentially poisonous. I am accustomed to examining them for their toxicity and thickness by means of a kind of dusky blue ribbon. As these ribbons evaporate, the aura also shrinks.”—Secrets of Heaven 1512
So what can we do with all of this information? More on that in the next section…
If you’re worried that your aura might have a bad “smell”, don’t fret. You can counteract the offensive smell the same way you can combat body odor. Simply do a little spiritual cleaning up, and then keep up with maintenance as Curtis describes in this segment!
“Repentance becomes effective if we practice it regularly… Afterward, if we abstain from one sin or another that we have discovered in ourselves, this is enough to make our repentance real. When we reach this point, we are on the pathway to heaven, because we then begin to turn from an earthly person into a spiritual person and to be born anew with the help of the Lord.”—True Christianity 530
Questions from Viewers
In the last segment, Curtis answers these questions from our viewers:
- Does Swedenborg say anything about how one can become more perceptible to auras?
- Do believers in Christ have a brighter aura than non-believers?
- Where does Swedenborg talk about how he perceived this or where he started to sense the spiritual?
- Does Swedenborg say there is a purpose for us to learn to see auras while here? Is there “usefulness” to seeing them here?
- Can people who are perceptive pick up on the (spiritual) scent of people in the way spirits can respond either with comfort/attraction or be rather ill to their stomach around others?
- Is it possible for these negative spirits to perceive the effect they have on others, and thus change for the better, or is this only possible in life?
- Did Swedenborg say anything about colors/electromagnetic auras?
- What can we do to help others that are spiritually sleeping and do not want to be awakened? What would Swedenborg do?
- Is there a chemical substance that allows you to access the perception of auras?
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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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