While each episode ends with a Q&A, host Curtis Childs doesn’t always get to every question. In this episode, he and featured guests work to rectify that, using the spiritual writings of eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg as a guide.
The experts responding to questions are:
- Chelsea Odhner, writer for Swedenborg and Life
- Richard Smoley, author of Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History
- Shada Sullivan, MDiv student at the Center for Swedenborgian Studies
- Chara Daum, Latin consultant for the New Century Edition
- Dr. Jonathan Rose, series editor for the New Century Edition
- Karin Childs, writer for Swedenborg and Life
Questions and answers are summarized below, but follow the links for the full discussion.
1. I’m curious as to the views on astrology. Hinduism is quite deep into birth stars/nakshatras. What were Swedenborg’s views on this subject?
Chelsea Odhner notes that while Swedenborg didn’t put much stock in the idea of telling the future, he did find that everything has correspondences and interconnections, so stars could be connected to us in complex ways. However, Swedenborg would caution against the idea that our destiny could be set in stone—free will is paramount, and believing that we don’t have the power to change our life could be damaging spiritually. Another thing worth noting is that some people equate astrology with pure luck or chance, but Swedenborg says that what we call “luck” is actually divine providence at work in the smallest matters.
From the episode: “Spiritual Questions Answered 8”
2. Is there a difference between astral projection and what Swedenborg experienced in the afterlife?
Author Richard Smoley reminds us that spiritual experiences can be as unique and diverse as physical experiences. Astral projection is commonly understood as a state when your consciousness leaves your body and travels through physical or sometimes spiritual realms. Swedenborg’s experiences seemed to have more in common with a mystical experience: an elevation of his awareness so he could perceive spiritual truths.
From the episode: “The Meaning of the Book of Revelation: 7 Churches”
3. Is it possible to stray so far from God’s love that when we realize our error we can’t get the love back? Or can we have that love (closeness) back that we once had?
Shada Sullivan sees the process of repentance, reformation, and regeneration at work in this question. When we recognize and regret our error (repentance), act to correct it (reformation), and move to act out of love rather than regret (regeneration), we can bring ourselves into alignment with God’s love. It’s not possible to lose God’s love, but we may close ourselves off to it by justifying our own evil or harmful behavior rather than seeking to change.
From the episode: “How to Respect Spiritual Boundaries in Relationships”
Chara Daum clarifies that in Swedenborg’s theology, angels aren’t a different race; they’re the spirits of human beings who are so aligned with the love and will of God that after their physical bodies stop working, they go to heaven. So angels are by definition good—that’s what makes them angels.
From the episode: “How to Feel the Presence of Angels”
5. If spiritual struggles help us seek God, is there ever a time in life when we no longer have to struggle against evil and can still seek God? Or would that mean we are done here on Earth?
Jonathan Rose reassures us that there is an end to spiritual struggles—often in the afterlife but not always. It happens for anyone who moves past evil and allows God’s goodness and love to take charge. When that happens, your mind and spirit are in heaven even while your body is still living.
When our evils and falsities have been laid aside, then our spiritual crises are brought to an end; and then joy flows in through heaven from the Lord, and fills our earthly mind. This joy is what is meant by consolations. All those who undergo spiritual crises receive these consolations. I speak from experience. The reason why we feel joy at that point is that afterward we are admitted into heaven; for by crises of the spirit we are joined to heaven and admitted into it. This is why we experience a joy similar to that which the angels have there. (Apocalypse Explained [Revelation Explained] §897:2)
From the episode: “The Day-to-Day Process of Our Salvation”
We take a break for a video made by a fan who was inspired by Swedenborg to stop judging others for what they believe or for what labels they use for themselves and instead to really look at the inner person.
6. Will we have to deal with hellish influences on occasion when we reach heaven, for future spiritual development?
The simple answer is “yes,” Chelsea shares. But it will be different—while on Earth we face hellish energies and outside forces, the evil we’ll face in heaven will be our own. Our sense of self remains in the afterlife, and therefore we can be just as prone to selfishness, which results in distance from God. Sometimes angels are allowed to experience this so that they can learn new spiritual lessons. However, the end result is always a renewed sense of love and closeness to the Divine.
From the episode: “How to Feel the Presence of Angels”
7. What do you think about being too emotional? What about being too loving, that it’s weird in this world?
Love is good, but God is love and wisdom combined. Curtis shares ways that wisdom can help communicate love so it’s better understood and not overwhelming to the receiver. If we love someone, we may want to act on it or affect their life in some way, but it’s important to temper the love with wisdom so that we understand what would help the other person the most or make them the happiest.
From the episode: “Revelation: Vision of a God-Centered Life”
8. When you die, does everyone know your business from while you were on the earth? Are people shamed into hell?
Karin Childs has a simple answer—“no.” Swedenborg describes the afterlife as a place where people are able to perceive who you truly are, and he frequently says that angels know what a person is thinking or feeling just by looking at them. However, the Lord regulates it all, and he doesn’t allow that to happen unless it would serve some useful purpose.
It’s also important to note that only God knows all of our business—we might not remember everything that’s happened in the past or even fully understand our own behavior while still undergoing spiritual growth. Everything that happens in the afterlife comes from God’s love and his desire to help us.
From the episode: “The Heaven Project”
“How Angels Take Care of Us When We Die”
“What Will You Remember in the Afterlife?”
9. In one of your previous videos, Curtis stated that Swedenborg claimed there were humans from other planets in the spiritual world. Did Jesus die for those humans, too? In other words, was Jesus born and crucified simultaneously on many different planets?
Swedenborg wrote that our planet is special in that human beings are good at preserving and spreading information, Jonathan explains. Jesus was born here because the Earth is a place where that knowledge could be preserved across thousands of years. But he did come to save all people, even on other planets. How could the teaching be spread across the vast distance of space? All living souls, regardless of origin, can go to heaven when they die. The people of Earth bring their knowledge and understanding to heaven—where space and time work differently from the physical universe—and then the knowledge spreads to others, who in turn communicate their understanding back to the people still living on their home planets.
From the episode: “How to Understand the Trinity”
“How to Travel in the Afterlife”
“10 Questions: Anger, Aliens, and the Inverted Trinity”(Karin Childs answers a similar question here)
10. How would you respond to someone who says that all Muslims, Buddhists and people from all other religions besides Christians are going to hell?
Chara talks about Swedenborg’s view that people from all religions go to heaven—all they need is to believe in the Divine and to live a good life. We are all born with an image of God within us and are thus predestined for heaven.
It would fly in the face of God’s love and mercy if anyone were born for hell when we are all equally human. (Divine Providence §325:1)
If there are to be all these elements in that heavenly person who is heaven, it cannot be made up of the people of one religion only. It needs people from many religions; so all the people who make these two universal principles of the church central to their lives have a place in that heavenly person, that is, in heaven. They enjoy the happiness that suits their own nature. (Divine Providence §326:9–10)
From the episode:“Spiritual Questions Answered 9”
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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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