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Why are we here? What are we here for? Do our lives even matter? Well, of course they do! Whether you know it or not, your life is essential—in both mundane and momentous ways.
In this episode, host Curtis Childs and featured guests explore eighteenth-century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg’s spiritual writings to learn how much every human life truly matters.
What Are We?
To know how much we matter, we have to define what “we” are in the first place.
Since the whole heaven is like a single person in the Lord’s sight, heaven is divided into as many inclusive bodies as there are organs, viscera, and members in us; and each larger community is divided into as many less inclusive or specific communities as there are major parts of our viscera and organs. We can see from this what heaven is like. Now, since the Lord is the essential Person and heaven is an image of him, we refer to being in heaven as “being in the Lord.” (Divine Providence §65)
Heaven is organized like a human body, and every human spirit that comes to heaven forms a tiny piece of it. Why is heaven organized like a human body? Because it’s a reflection of the source of all life: God. We are all born to be part of that larger whole—to be part of God. We each embody different elements of God’s feelings and intentions.
According to Swedenborg, your life is constantly shaping you to become the part of God you were always meant to be. Curtis uses a tiny, mysterious object as a visual aid. Why is it that size? Why that shape? All is revealed when the piece is put into place: it’s part of an electrical circuit, a missing link that allows the whole system to function. Like our lives, its purpose isn’t obvious until you see where it’s supposed to go.
Heaven’s perfection increases as the number of its inhabitants increases. This follows from its form, which determines the patterns in which people associate and the ways communication flows there. Heaven’s form is the most perfect form of all; and in the case of the most perfect form, the more people there are, the more there is a shared motion toward oneness among them; and they are therefore joined together more closely and harmoniously. . . . [E]ach new constituent there is placed between two or more others in order to connect them together, and therefore the new element provides strength and connection. Heaven’s form is like the form of the human mind, whose perfection grows as the mind gains more goodness and truth, leading to greater intelligence and wisdom. (Last Judgment §12:1–2)
We are each shaped by our individual journey to fit exactly where we need to be.
The Spiritual Value of Groceries
Each moment in life, however small, is important. Swedenborg tells us that all of our actions and decisions, even the seemingly insignificant ones, contribute toward our sense of goodwill or love for others.
The first step toward goodwill is to remove evils and the second step is to do good, because there is a law that is universal to the spiritual world and also therefore to the physical world: The less evil we intend, the more good we intend. (True Christianity §437)
Swedenborg sees good and evil emerging not in big, dramatic moments of heroism or wrongdoing, but in simple, everyday acts. The more we do good, the easier it becomes to do good again.
- Daily work and interactions, like finishing a report on time
- Acts of kindness, like helping people and encouraging them
- Obligations, like paying bills
- Recreations, like playing video games
There are always opportunities to grow and for work to be done in every life, even when it’s not obvious. Our own emotions can lead the way:
Taking pity [is] a rush of love for one’s neighbor, received from the Lord. When we look with loving eyes on someone in misery . . . compassion rises in us, and because it comes from the Lord, it is an alert. What is more, when people with perception feel compassion, they know they are being advised by the Lord to help. (Secrets of Heaven §6737)
Our Hidden Contribution
There are four reasons why people die as children, adolescents, adults, or old men and women:
- on account of their use to people when in the world;
- on account of their use to spirits and angels when in the world, because a person is with spirits as to his or her inward elements and is there with them as long as he or she is in the world;
- on account of the use to themselves in the world, either so that they may be regenerated, or so that they may be let into their own evils lest they lie as it were asleep and later erupt, which would result in the person’s eternal ruin;
- thus on account of the subsequent usefulness in the other life, after death and to eternity . . .(Spiritual Experiences §5003)
The second of these reasons is one that we don’t often think about: our role on earth can be symbiotic with angels in heaven. Our positive thoughts and feelings help to nourish and empower angels.
We are each unique, and we matter; without us, there’s a piece of heaven that will be missing its light.
[Note: because of a technical glitch, the audio on this part of the video is lagging behind the visuals. If you’re interested in the answer to a particular question, please wait a few seconds and the audio will catch up!]
- Do the evil spirits matter as much as the angels and the good spirits?
- How common or possible is it to see angels without having to have a near-death experience or dying?
- So how do you get help to stop evils from others that come at the innocent? Prayer? What kind? What does Swedenborg say?
- What is Swedenborg’s take on suicide?
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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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