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In our last episode, we looked at the spiritual networks that fuel our thoughts and actions. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Chelsea Odhner go live to learn more from eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s insights into the spirits around us and how we can protect ourselves against those that are evil.
As far as networking with heaven, Chelsea makes an effort to set aside some time for studying spiritual things and meditating. She doesn’t choose to network with hell, but sometimes it seems as though hell is trying to reach her.
When hell tries to entice Curtis, he has to remember that those thoughts aren’t actually his. Even when he starts to engage in a spiritual practice, his initial instincts seem to be trying to steal him away. But if he’s persistent, he can push through this resistance and reap the benefits of his spiritual pursuits.
When we talked about the spiritual network, we saw that evil spirits make up part of it—but why are they even allowed in? And what keeps them in check?
Think of the protective barriers like a Band-Aid: we need them because germs are everywhere.
If evil spirits could tell they were with us and distinct from us, and if they could influence our bodily activity, they would try to destroy us a thousand ways, because they hate us with a deadly hatred. Since they have seen that I am a person living in my body, they have kept up a continual attempt to destroy not just my body but more especially my soul. After all, destroying a person or a spirit is life’s highest pleasure for everyone in hell. The Lord has constantly protected me, though. This shows how dangerous it is to be in live contact with spirits if you do not have the goodness that comes of faith. (Secrets of Heaven §5863)
So the spirits that are with us are unaware that they are with us. Angels, on the other hand, know that they are with us, because angels are connected to our spirit, not to our body. In this way, then, we have a sort of built-in double protection from evil influence.
For more on how to deal with evil spirits, check out our episode of the same name.
Although the evil spirits we have with us are from the hells, they are not actually in hell while they are with us but are removed from it. The place they then inhabit is midway between hell and heaven and is called the world of spirits. . . . The realm called the world of spirits is inhabited by good spirits too, who also keep us company. . . . When the evil spirits with us are in that world, they are not suffering any hellish torment. No, they are enjoying the pleasures of self-love and materialism, and all the indulgences we ourselves are enjoying, because they are sharing all our thoughts and feelings. When they are sent back to their hell, though, they return to their previous condition.(Secrets of Heaven §5852)
But even if evil spirits can get to us through our negative ways of life, the Lord has put safeguards in place so that we can adjust and learn from those invading germs.
The spirits who come to us enter into the entire contents of our memory, including every bit of knowledge we possess. They make it all their own (so thoroughly that they have no idea it is not theirs). . . . As a result, they think whatever we think, and intend whatever we intend. The reverse is also true; whatever they think, we think, and whatever they intend, we intend. Spirits and people act as one because of their common bond. However, each party considers itself the locus and origin of the thoughts and intents; the spirits do, and the people do. (Secrets of Heaven §5853)
Think of this connection between the spirits and us as a kind of shared pool of thoughts and intentions, but one through which each of us has our own personal perspective. The network consists of underlying elements that we all share, but the thought and feelings are not our own.
The spirits with us also adopt our false convictions, whatever those may be, as has been borne out for me by much experience. They adopt our delusions not only on public and private issues but also on spiritual questions of faith. Plainly, then, when spirits are with people who subscribe to heresies, to fallacies and delusions regarding religious truth, and to outright falsities, the spirits buy into the same bad thinking and do not waver from it a hair’s breadth. The purpose is to leave people in freedom and prevent a spirit’s own ideas from causing them trouble. (Secrets of Heaven §5860)
It may be hard to wrap your head around how this works, but the system is set up to keep us free from directly interacting with spirits. Not unlike scam artists who prey upon people’s vulnerabilities, if spirits were aware of our presence, the situation would be much more dangerous for us.
As many people have experienced in different ways, interactions with spirits can be risky—to learn more about this, check out our episode “Is It Safe to Talk to Spirits?”
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer.
- If we are in a state of equilibrium, why do we tend towards the negative? Is evil stronger than good in us?
- What kind of specific punishments do evil spirits get for violating the rules?
- Does Swedenborg give any ways to strengthen the connection to angels and possibly lessen the connection to evil spirits? Or is it part of the learning experience to be subject to both?
Spiritual World Road Trip
So what’s it like from the spirit’s side of things? What’s their perspective on all these spiritual experiences? Well, it’s just as strange for them as it is for us. One spirit, as Swedenborg relates, reported seeing large gatherings of spirits in a kind of commotion around a person from earth.
In another case, Swedenborg tells of a group of evil spirits who in hearing that spirits are present with people, tried to find those spirits and that person in order to destroy them, but they failed to find them.
At the beginning, we asked when it feels like you’re networking with heaven or hell. Here are some of the answers.
- When something happens that I didn’t expect would happen and it has a very positive result – Mary Richards
- When I was meditating on a bus when I was in college. – Mark Lance
- I feel networked with heaven when I am working on a project and seeing how everyone has a role, including new ideas coming from good spirits. – Jon Childs
- What is it in people that makes some sensitive to spirits and some find these ideas ridiculous? What did Swedenborg think? – King Lear
- When I pray and when I sin… – mtp358
- Going through grief & cancer treatment definitely put me there. – HESTER PRYNN
- When I have feelings of wishing other people harm. – Laurel Harris
- When I take time to list things I appreciate, I feel more like I am networking with heaven but when I let negative thoughts take over, then hell. – Pace Yrself
- Whenever I watch Swedenborg and Life. – Jimmy Jennings
- I feel like I am networking with hell when I pay attention to American politics. – David Higgins
- Everytime I get to help the residents I work with and put a smile on their faces I’m aware that I’m just part of a Heavenly team. It’s a great feeling. – Pete Dawson
- I don’t really feel heaven in the moment, much like divine providence I can see it easier in retrospect. Hell, like you said, hell is in your face. – Sean Smith
- I think I am constantly networking with Hell. Then I become aware and pray or laugh. When I let go and don’t control is when I network with heaven. – Vicky Miller
- I feel in touch with Heaven when I see others being useful and helpful to the less fortunate. It actually brings tears of joy within. – Eternal Spring
- I just tell God that I trust his plans for me when everything is going badly. – Jen Blossom
- I just get these inner desires to do things that will help people. I follow it and then find similar kinds of people that had the same feeling. – Mr. Binkers the cat
- Whenever I give harmful impulses “edges” in my imagination, that lets heaven flow in. Because if they’re there in the picture, they don’t show up elsewhere. Like turning the light on. – Christian Swenson
- Heaven = when I am reading the Word, reading Swedenborg, and watching OTLE. – Matthew Bush
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive 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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