Swedenborg and Life Recap: 10 Questions: Guardian Angels, Forgiveness, and Self-Improvement – 8/7/2017

Watch full episode here!


Questions pour in during every episode, but hosts Curtis and Jonathan can only take on one at a time. To cover the rest, our expert panel consults the spiritual writings of eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg.

The expert panel members are:

  • Soni Werner, retired psychology professor and author
  • Chris Dunn, community relations, Swedenborg Foundation
  • Chelsea Odhner, writer for Swedenborg and Life
  • Curtis Childs, host of Swedenborg and Life
  • Karin Childs, writer for Swedenborg and Life
  • Jonathan Rose, series editor, New Century Edition
  • Shada Sullivan of the Swedenborgian Church of North America

Throughout this episode, our experts will work to answer questions from viewers—questions and answers are summarized below, and you can follow the links for the full discussion.


1. Is a poor work/life balance a form of evil?

Dr. Soni Werner notes that we can’t judge someone else’s spirit—while we can encourage healthy behavior, we can’t and shouldn’t define evil in others. That said, anything done in service of love of the Lord and love of other people is done for the right reasons. So if a person is working hard and sacrificing on a personal level because they truly believe that the outcome will be good for others, that can be a positive thing. However, if the motivation for working hard is to get more money or to make themselves look better, that indicates a focus on love of self and love of the world, which can hold them back from progressing spiritually.

From the episode: “The Day-to-Day Process of Our Salvation”


2. What is punishment as defined by Swedenborg?

Chris Dunn starts out with a reading from the Bible (Romans 7:14–25) in which the apostle Paul confesses that he doesn’t want to break God’s law but that his sin inside drives him to do things that he later regrets. This shame or regret one feels after making a mistake or doing evil, Chris finds, can be the most powerful form of punishment. God doesn’t punish evil; it punishes itself.

From the episode: “Spiritual Questions Answered 12”


3. Why did Jewish men have to wear a blue piece of fabric?

Chelsea Odhner sees inner meaning in this commandment from the biblical book of Numbers (15:37–41) through correspondences—the spiritual meaning behind physical things. Garments reflect truth; and the corners, upon which are attached the pieces of fabric, reflect strength and stability. Blue shows an affection for spiritual love, so altogether this instruction is telling us that if we are feeling lost, we should go back to the truths that we get from the Word and live according to those principles.

From the episode: “Spiritual Secrets about Color”


4. Does Swedenborg give any specific exercises or techniques to improve one’s thinking/being?

Curtis Childs has spent a lot of time considering this question. The problem is that while Swedenborg says quite a bit about what to do, he never lays it out as a system. However, in the process of working on the show, we’ve produced episodes that incorporate some of Curtis’s own Swedenborg-based techniques.

Our Spiritual Toolkit series on YouTube addresses specific cures for anxiety, fear, and unwanted thoughts. “3 Simple Ways to Love Everyone” is an episode that provides some excellent habits for better living.

From the episode: “Spiritual Questions Answered 11”


5. Karin Childs takes on a series of three related questions:

  • What about people who have no or limited choices (due to war, hunger, forced indoctrination)?
  • Still can’t understand why some of us have so many privileges while many are so poor that they don’t have the energy for spiritual things.
  • Is God fair?

Karin starts by saying that while God allowing people to have free will seems like a clichéd answer to this question, it’s still an important piece of the puzzle. However, there are other ways to think about these questions.

She explains that from a heavenly perspective, there are three levels: the highest is purpose, which is followed by means and then results. On earth, we can only see results, but heaven has higher purposes that are the true cause of those results. She draws a parallel to a child with an infection. The child only sees the painful result, but an adult knows that the pain is the result of her immune system working to drive out harmful bodies. There’s a purpose to the pain, too—it’s an alert that something is wrong. And just as we don’t always realize how much disease our immune system is preventing, we don’t always realize how much suffering God prevents.

We have to take action with a perspective on higher purposes rather than being defensive—or worse, hopeless—around the symptoms. Things can seem to be more painful when we become aware of them, but a lot of the time that’s because we have a better perspective on what is good. We can look beyond the symptoms to the causes and ask God, “How can I be part of the cure?”

From the episodes:

“Why Doesn’t God Prove That He Exists?”

“Spiritual Questions Answered 11”

“Life Isn’t Fair . . . Or Is It?”

Related episodes:

“Why Bad Things Happen”

“Spiritual Freedom”

“What God Can’t Do”


6. Which of Swedenborg’s books provides the greatest descriptions of his trips to the other side?

Dr. Jonathan Rose notes that Swedenborg talks about his spiritual experiences in different ways. One way is to generalize about something that he saw, which Swedenborg does throughout his writings. But in some works he also includes what are known as “memorable occurrences,” in which he gives the story of an encounter as a standalone narrative, usually at the end of a section or chapter.

Some of Jonathan’s favorite examples of Swedenborg’s memorable occurrences can be found in True ChristianityOther Planets is another great book for spiritual experiences. Spiritual Experiences, however, is full of straight, uncut trips to the other side.

From the episode: “Spiritual Questions Answered 10”


7. Swedenborg speaks about angels, but what does he say specifically about guardian angels and their role in our lives?

Shada Sullivan hasn’t seen records from Swedenborg about what we’d call guardian angels. We don’t have assigned angels that protect us from accidents, but Swedenborg does describe each person as having two associated angelic spirits and two evil spirits, each of whom might influence us in different ways. We have the freedom to choose whose voice we want to follow—the angelic voices of love, trust, and hope, or the evil spirits who try to sow hatred of ourselves and others. So every positive thought we have comes from the angels that are close to us, and they protect us in this way.

From the episode: “Spiritual Questions Answered 10”


8. Evil spirits may have been souls like us, so can we forgive them as Jesus would?

Chris sees living in forgiveness as a way to align ourselves with God’s love. Nothing we do, say, or think is beyond the Lord’s capacity to forgive, so nothing anyone does, says, or thinks should be unforgivable. That said, by embodying God’s love in our lives, we can choose to accept his forgiveness.

What happens, Chris asks, if someone hurts us and we choose not to forgive them? It creates a breeding ground for anger, hatred, vengeance, and a host of other negative emotions that in turn create a breeding ground for hell inside us. Forgiveness has less to do with the person who hurt us and more to do with our own ability to find healing.

From the episode: “How to Deal with Evil Spirits”


9. How can someone gain heavenly rewards?

Soni points to a passage in which Swedenborg describes a progression in doing good works: At first, a person might do good deeds because they hope it will help them get to heaven. Then, they might start doing good for everyone indiscriminately, without any thought for whether those persons will use that help for good or evil. And finally, the person will focus their good deeds so that they are helping where it will do the most possible good. Along the way, the help becomes less and less about personal gain or going to heaven and more and more about doing the right thing for other people. In fact, this is in itself a heavenly reward—working alongside God’s will is a reward because you’re living the life intended for you.

From the episode: “What Will You Remember in the Afterlife?”


10. Was Swedenborg ever self-critical?

Curtis has learned that there are positive and negative forms of self-criticism. Positive self-criticism is driven toward healthy change and comes from heaven, whereas hellish self-criticism drives you down and makes you feel helpless. Swedenborg’s self-criticism was of the first type—to be aware of his flaws and try to be a better person.

From the episode: “Spiritual Questions Answered 11”


Related Swedenborg and Life Videos

Swedenborg and Life 10 Questions Playlist

“Who Was Swedenborg?”


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    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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