Swedenborg and Life Recap: 10 Questions: Soulmates, Eating Animals, and Spiritual Families – 11/28

Watch full episode here!


Our host Curtis Childs encourages viewers to send questions every week, but he doesn’t get to every question that’s asked. In this episode, he and featured guests answer those very questions with the help of the spiritual writings of eighteenth-century philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg.

The expert panel members are:

Throughout this episode, the expert panel works together to answer questions from viewers. Questions and answers are summarized below, but follow the links for the full discussion.


1. Why can you fall asleep and have a 3-minute dream, but it seems like hours?


Dr. Jonathan Rose shares his own experiences with dreams and experiences that seem to exist outside of time and space. In Swedenborg’s work, he often discusses how the spiritual world and the physical world have different rules about time; in fact, Swedenborg writes that there is no time in heaven (Heaven and Hell §168:3). Dreams may give us a hint of what it will be like when we pass into the spiritual world.

From the episode “How to Live in Eternity Now”


2. If my soulmate moved to the next life, will we be together again when I move on the next life?

The short answer is yes, Chara Daum replies. Swedenborg talks a lot about married partners and how they connect after death, but he cautions that spiritual unions are based on a person’s inner state. In the afterlife, there are no secrets; everyone becomes who they truly are inside. If a couple isn’t spiritually compatible—if their feelings aren’t “concordant” and “sympathetic,” as Swedenborg puts it—they will realize it and separate voluntarily.

Because Chara is a Latinist, she took a closer look at what those two terms really mean. Concordant comes from concors, a Latin word made up of “together” and “heart.” Sympathetic comes from sympathica, which comes from roots meaning “together” and “feeling.” In other words, if people’s hearts and feelings are united, then they will remain together in the afterlife.


If two people are truly soulmates, even death cannot separate them.

. . . the two are not actually separated by the death of one; for the spirit of the deceased continues to dwell with the spirit of the one not yet deceased, and this until the death of the other, at which time they come together and are reunited, loving each other even more tenderly than before, because they are in the spiritual world. (Married Love §321:7)

From the episode “How to Live in Eternity Now”


3. What’s the correspondence of a desert?

Curtis has an answer straight from Swedenborg:

. . . a desert signifies where there is no good because no truth. (Apocalypse Explained §280)

But that’s only the negative correspondence, which ties to the lack of water in a desert (water corresponds to truth). In other words, it refers to a state of mind where we don’t have access to accurate concepts about spirituality, and therefore we don’t experience the goodness and love that give life to the spirit.

In a positive light, a desert could be a place for spiritual trial—a place that may be extraordinarily beautiful but can also be difficult or even deadly if you don’t have the right supplies to make it through.

From the episode “Spiritual Insight through Gardening”


4. Do our pets learn like us in the afterlife, as in, their souls continue to learn like we do?

Karin Childs refers back to the episode “Are There Animals in the Afterlife?,” which emphasizes that yes, there are animals in the afterlife and yes, animals have souls. However, Swedenborg describes differences between animals and human beings, because each plays different roles in creation. Animals, for instance, already know all they need to know through instinct so do not need to learn spiritually. Through their actions, they can help inspire us to become better, more loving people.

From the episode “Are There Animals in the Afterlife?”


5. I’ve been reading a lot of [Paul] Tillich lately and find many of his ideas resemble Swedenborg’s to the letter. What other kinds of outside validations for Swedenborg’s ideas and theology are out there?


Swedenborgian minister-in-training Shada Sullivan has also seen these similarities in Paul Tillich, an influential Lutheran theologian from the mid-twentieth century. One similarity is the way that Tillich described Jesus’s incarnation.

For those who are looking for other parallels, theologian Richard Rohr has similar ideas about atonement: in Jesus’s life and his death on the cross, Rohr writes, “Jesus was not changing the Father’s mind about us, he was changing our mind about God.”

Shada also recommends looking into process theology and proponents like Catherine Keller. For example, one of the ways in which this theology is like Swedenborg’s is the emphasis on a dynamic, evolving relationship with God.

From the episode “How to Understand the Trinity”


6. If everybody that loves the same thing is placed together [in heaven], does that mean we will be grouped with family members since everyone in the same family is basically raised the same way?

Swedenborg says that heaven is arranged by societies, families, and households but that the determining factor in where you live is the things you love and not your genetic connection. Chelsea Odhner discusses the kinds of family found in the spiritual world and points out that you may find your own relatives in the afterlife, but you’re just as likely to find other people that feel like family.

From the episode “Are There Animals in the Afterlife?”


7. Does Swedenborg talk about eating animals?

Jonathan Rose explains that Swedenborg mentions the eating of meat several times in his writings, but he doesn’t appear to come down on one side or the other. In one passage, he seems to imply that eating meat is savage (Secrets of Heaven §1002), and this has influenced a number of Swedenborgians to become vegetarian. In another passage (Divine Love and Wisdom §331), though, Swedenborg refers to eating meat as a normal practice, with no reference to his earlier remarks.

What about Swedenborg himself? According to the anecdotes left behind by those who knew him, Swedenborg was primarily a vegetarian who occasionally ate fish, but he would only eat red meat if he was offered it as a guest in someone’s house or at some type of public function.

From the episode “Are There Animals in the Afterlife?”


8. What is the judgment for people who use bombs, etc., to blow up themselves and to kill others?


Swedenborg learned that we are not judged by our actions but by our intentions, which only God can know.

All things to the very least are judged by purpose. It is purpose that forms character, it is purpose according to which they are judged in the other life. Purpose is the all in all of character. (Spiritual Experiences §2450)

Karin Childs points out that anyone can make terrible mistakes, and it sometimes falls to others to keep them from causing harm. If a misguided action has good motivations, the perpetrator will learn in the afterlife of the pain they caused; and if they freely reject their actions, they will be able to go on to help others.

From the episode “The Last Judgment”


9. What is the spiritual significance to the color green? Do colors have meanings?

Curtis has found that green usually refers to vegetation, which is often linked to understanding truth or to knowledge. But Swedenborg also refers to green in other contexts—the color of a person’s clothes, for example—where it again seems to refer to spiritual truth.

From the episode “Spiritual Insight through Gardening”


10. Without suffering, is it possible to be spiritually mature?

The short answer, Chara says, is unfortunately no. Swedenborg explicitly says that nobody can be spiritually reborn (or regenerated) unless they experience suffering. Temptation and trial are the ways that providence tests and grows our spiritual strength. The Lord is more present with us during these trials—these temptations help us loosen our hold on earthly ideas. Think of it as exercise for your spiritual muscles.

From the episode “Spiritual Fermentation”


Related Swedenborg and Life Videos

Who was Swedenborg? What should I read?

Swedenborg and Life “Spiritual Questions Answered” Playlist

Free E-Book Downloads

Apocalypse Explained

Divine Love and Wisdom

Heaven and Hell

Married Love

Secrets of Heaven

Spiritual Experiences

True Christianity


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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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