Swedenborg and Life Recap: 10 Questions: Negative Self-Talk, Redemption, and the Size of Angels – 3/20/17

Watch full episode here!


When host Curtis Childs doesn’t get to a question by the end of the show, the team sets it aside to be answered later. In this episode, he and featured guests take on ten questions with the aid of the spiritual writings of eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg.

The experts responding to questions are:

  • Chara Daum, Latin consultant for the New Century Edition
  • Chelsea Odhner, writer for Swedenborg and Life
  • Chris Dunn, MDiv at Bryn Athyn College Theological School
  • Karin Childs, writer for Swedenborg and Life

Questions and answers are summarized below, and you can follow the links for the full discussion.


1. What if [during] your last days on earth you caused more pain than [you had in] your lifetime and left your children a legacy of anger and divided a family? How do you just get to go to heaven in a loving community?

Chara Daum notes that we don’t immediately go to heaven after dying, especially if we didn’t live a life of love. Even after death, people must face the effect they’ve had on others and journey to a better world. Only the Lord can judge what was in their spirits. Swedenborg urges us not to make spiritual judgments about people and to trust that nothing happens unless some good can come of it.

From the episode“The Heaven Project”


2. Does Swedenborg talk about the Higher Self?

The term “higher self” can have a lot of meanings depending on where the person is coming from. One common view is that it’s the best version of you, the version that leads you to a better life. Chelsea Odhner notes that there’s a parallel between the higher self and what Swedenborg calls the “inner self,” the part of us that thinks and considers our actions. While Swedenborg does say that the inner self is closer to the spiritual world and could be considered the true self, he also says that the inner self can be connected to both (or either) heaven and hell—whereas the higher self is most often considered to be connected exclusively to higher spiritual levels.

From the episode: “How to Live in Eternity Now”


3. If God is omniscient then why would he allow evil? Why did he just not create anything he knew would be bad? 

Chris Dunn has often asked why God lets bad things happen. It’s a matter of divine providence—God is love itself, which means he gives us the freedom to be who we are. He loves us enough to let us reject his love. This is all managed by a system of permissions that allows evil to exist.

In his work Divine Providence, Swedenborg lays out the rules under which evil is allowed to exist:

(1) We are all involved in evil and need to be led away from it in order to be reformed. (2) Evils cannot be set aside until they come to light. (3) To the extent that our evils are set aside, they are forgiven. (4) So evil is permitted for the purpose of salvation. (Divine Providence §276)

The Lord does not create evil, but he makes sure that it has a purpose.

From the episode“How to Understand the Trinity”


4. How do evil spirits get a second chance at redemption? Reincarnation has been presented as a way for evil spirits to redeem themselves by coming back again and again until they got everything corrected.

To Karin Childs’s understanding, evil spirits will have a clearer path to redemption in the spiritual world than they would in the case of reincarnation on earth. If we were born back into new bodies, we’d still have to deal with our physical and psychological inclinations to do evil, and we could possibly become worse than we were before. However, in the spiritual world, we can never become worse—if people choose to try to become better, there are opportunities to do so, but any spirit that actively tries to engage in some new form of evil is stopped.

From the episode: “Do We Reincarnate?”

Related episodes:

“The Good Thing about Hell”

“Spiritual Fermentation”

“Spiritual Freedom”


5. If you want to live in hell, do you feel your soul or body?

The answer is both yes and no. Chelsea shares that we are still fully human in the afterlife, so we’ll have the five senses we have now—and many more. However, in heaven, the things that angels feel are real. In hell, spirits are allowed, through God’s mercy, to live in the illusion that they are leading the kind of life they enjoy. It’s only when the light of heaven shines into hell that the ugly truth is revealed, causing intense pain to the evil spirits there. So in hell, there is the illusion of having a body and the illusion of feelings and sensations, but it’s nothing compared to the reality of heaven.

From the episode: “Why Does the Bible Say, ‘The Dead Know Nothing’?”


6. So is Swedenborg saying that our thoughts are not our own but they all come from the spirit world?

Curtis and Chris had picked out two very similar questions to answer, and so they tackle both of them together. Curtis grew up with Swedenborg’s ideas, but Chris discovered Swedenborg only recently, so they each bring a different perspective to these questions.


Chris noted that before he’d ever heard of Swedenborg, he had the experience of noticing a thought pop into his head—sometimes a dark thought—and wondering where it came from. It caused him a lot of anxiety because he thought it was him, and it didn’t reflect the type of person he wanted to be. Knowing that those dark thoughts are coming from an outside source was a game changer, because he didn’t have to identify with them.

But it can also be weird to imagine our thoughts (at least some of them) coming from spirits. Even Swedenborg struggled with that idea during his early encounters in the spirit world, but repeated experiences convinced him that it was true.

Which brings us to the next question:


7. I am wondering how ES would speak of free will vs. the effects of spirits both good and evil.

Swedenborg goes so far as to say that all of our thoughts come from the spirit world. But if that’s true, where does free will come in? Curtis and Chris answer together. We are being influenced by the spiritual world, but they aren’t really our thoughts—the influences are the tools that we can use to make our own choices. In other words, free will comes in when we choose which thoughts we own and act upon.

From the episodes:

“Do Spirits Play a Role in Addiction?”
“What Will You Remember in the Afterlife?”


8. My late wife was a loving, kind and very generous lady, but she did not believe in a God. Is she destined to go to hell or will I meet her in heaven?

This is a big question with a clear answer—a loving person will not go to hell. Karin explains that hell is only for unrepentantly selfish people. Since God is love, a kind and loving person is serving God whether they know him by name or not. Nobody is in hell for not believing the “right” thing.

The Lord has mercy on the whole human race. He wants to save everyone in the entire world and to draw all people to himself. The Lord’s mercy is infinite; it does not allow itself to be restricted to the few within the church but reaches out to everyone on the face of the earth. When people are born outside the church and as a result into ignorance about the faith, it is not their fault; besides which, failure to believe in the Lord because of a lack of knowledge about him never condemns anyone. (Secrets of Heaven §1032:2)

Karin also shares that sometimes a lack of belief in God is just a stage in a person’s spiritual journey, or it’s a person reacting in the best way they can to a difficult spiritual environment.

From the episode: “Do We Reincarnate?”


9. What do angels look like? Are they huge?

Chara’s studies of Swedenborg show that angels are people, and that’s just what they look like. Some may experience angels in other ways, especially as they visit physical realms, but in heaven they all appear as normal humans.

From the episode: “How to Feel the Presence of Angels”


10. Hi, I’m a new listener. How do you stop negative self-talk and live in the light?

Curtis has been trying to answer this question for a long time, and he believes we’ll all have to work together to identify the truth. One strategy he recommends is to “take yourself off the market” by not making your self-worth negotiable. He noticed that a lot of his negative self-talk centers around his own insecurities, and his solution was to stop asking what makes him valuable and trust that he is exactly as God wants him to be.

For the second part of that question, living in the light, try doing constructive things just because they’re useful—in other words, think of what those actions do for others rather than for yourself. Also, stay spiritually hydrated—keep immersing yourself in spiritual truths.

From the episode: “Why Does the Bible Say, ‘The Dead Know Nothing’?”


Related Swedenborg and Life Videos:  

Swedenborg and Life 10 Questions Playlist

“Who was Swedenborg? What should I read?”


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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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