Swedenborg & Life Live Recap: Heaven and Hell — 1/14/19

Watch full episode here!


Continuing a book-by-book exploration of the works of eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose go live to explore Heaven and Hell (1758).


How can you tell the difference between heavenly and hellish influence in your mind?

Jonathan has found that thoughts from hell often appear to be more urgent, while heavenly thoughts take the longer view. Given that heaven is working on a cosmic scale, many of its influences tend to be gentler and more patient. Hellish messages tend to be disengaging and energy-draining, whereas heavenly messages are more hopeful.

Curtis notes that the thoughts can feel very similar, especially in the moment. One of the hints seems to be the gut reaction—does it bring him down or lift him up? Does it address an immediate, earthly urge that has negative effects in the long run, or does it reflect a heavenly truth that makes things better for everyone? Heaven always has love in mind.

Swedenborg Book Club 

Reading through Swedenborg’s works can help you understand the basic nature of everything. This is especially visible in Heaven and Hell, his first-hand experience of the afterlife and its greater cosmic truth.

If you had to summarize this book, the headline would be something like this:

“After death, we go to what and who we love the most.”

But that just starts to scratch the surface. Heaven and Hell goes into detail about how space, time, and even housing work in the afterlife—but it also clarifies that heaven and hell are as much states of mind as they are locations.

It was his first work after Secrets of Heaven, and it was written not only as a reaction to his own spiritual experiences but also as a way of helping to clarify some of the common theological misconceptions of his time.

He had to share the truth as he knew it because he could see others suffering without it.

Three Bites

To get a closer look at what Heaven and Hell has to say, we’ll do a deep dive into three key passages that explore some of its recurring themes. In the first passage, Swedenborg talks about how heaven is in fact a shared culture made up of each person’s unique heaven and state of mind.

The reason each community is a heaven in smaller form and each angel a heaven in smallest form is that the activity of love and faith is what makes heaven. This good activity is in every community of heaven and in every angel of a community. It does not matter that this activity is different and distinctive everywhere, it is still the activity of heaven. . . . For heaven is not outside angels but within them. Their deeper levels, the levels of their minds, are arranged in the form of heaven and therefore are arranged to accept all the elements of heaven that are outside them. These elements they accept according to the quality of the goodness that is within them from the Lord. As a result, an angel is also a heaven. (Heaven and Hell §§51, 53)

The next passage talks about an important part of Swedenborg’s understanding of the spiritual universe—the world of spirits.

The world of spirits is neither heaven nor hell but a place or state between the two. It is where we first arrive after death. The world of spirits is a place halfway between heaven and hell, and it is also our own halfway state after death. . . . [A]s long as we are in it, we are not yet in either heaven or hell. A state of heaven for us is the union of what is good and true within us, and a state of hell is a union of what is evil and false within us. When the good in a spirit-person is united to the true, then that individual arrives in heaven, because as already stated that union is heaven within us. On the other hand, when the evil is united to the false within us, then we arrive in hell, because that union is hell within us. The process of union takes place in the world of spirits because then we are in a halfway state. (Heaven and Hell §422)

Finally, heaven and hell might seem like a lot to take in, but it’s important to know that it’s all in God’s loving hands.

The whole government of the heavens is in the Lord’s hands. Since the relationship of heaven to hell and of hell to heaven is like that of two opposites that act against each other, the action and reaction of which yield the state of equilibrium within which everything exists, in order for absolutely everything to be kept in this balance, it is necessary that the ruler of the one be the ruler of the other as well. That is, unless the same Lord controlled the attacks of the hells and restrained their madness, the balance would be destroyed; and if the balance were destroyed, everything else would go. . . . We may be sure that there is some evil opposite to everything good and some falsity opposite to everything true from the fact that nothing exists without a relationship to its opposite. The opposite enables us to know its actual nature and level. Opposition is the source of all perception and sensation. (Heaven and Hell §§536, 541)

So how does this help us live better lives today? It reveals what you can do to take another step toward heaven. We don’t have to wait for the afterlife to start living in heaven.

Chat Q&A

During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:

Elevator Pitch

In this new segment, Curtis and Jonathan explain Swedenborgian concepts in just one minute or less.


At the beginning, we asked how you can tell if a thought is heavenly or hellish. Here are some of the answers.

  • By how it feels in my heart. – Divine Alchemy Consulting
  • Hellish influences always have fear underpinning them. – Carl Godlove
  • I can’t. That is the reason I watch the show and go to Church. – Tacitus
  • When hell is trying to influence my mind I feel so full of fear and doubt and guilt and feel sick. – Mary Richards
  • The more ‘heavenly’ my mind gets, the more freedom I feel! – Kendall M.​
  • ​One lifts you, the other weighs you down. One leads to good the other to trouble! -Jan M
  • ​How I can tell the difference is, if it is a bad or good thing. Will it hurt anyone, etc. -shelly evans
  • ​I try to look out for the selfish thoughts. I know they are coming from a bad place. -Matthew Bush
  • ​The hellish influence has influence on things which do with earthly (now) things and while heavenly influence has patience. – Eternal Spring
  • Hellish thoughts for me are when a thought is completely not valuable in my relationship with others. – Jen Blossom
  • I can tell a heavenly influence in my mind because the guidance is gentle and loving and patient. A hellish influence wants me to be impatient and harsh and demanding on my mind. – Pete Dawson
  • The thoughts from Hell are judgmental, while the Heavenly thoughts are from a place of unconditional acceptance. – Amber Marie​
  • ​When I feel judgmental and irritated, I suspect hell is sending its influence. When I feel peaceful and full of joy, heaven is coming through. – Maudy Paden
  • ​When I start thinking bad thoughts and choices I know it’s from an evil spirit or demon. When I feel doubtful and negative I know without a doubt a demon is trying to influence my mind. – anna harrington​
  • Hellish influence would be selfish, egotistical worries – while heaven’s influence feels like the bigger picture – wider perspective, it’s selfless to a degree. – Robin Evolved​
  • Hellish influences can sneak up in my emotional reaction to a situation. At those times I find that I have to quiet my mind for (what I hope is) heavenly influence to come to the fore. – Rosie Cross
  • If I let my thoughts go they end up into hell. If I work to not let my thoughts go I can hold on to good feelings. – Jon Childs
  • Hell is when your just plain miserable and your thoughts cannot be at peace. Heaven is all Love and Peace and works for your good. – Angel Shining​
  • I look at if it’s based on love or fear. – Sean Smith


Related Swedenborg & Life Videos

The Good Thing About Hell
Heaven and Hell Promo
Repentance: How to Be in Heaven Now
“What the Afterlife Feels Like”
Who Was Swedenborg?

Free E-Book Downloads

Apocalypse Explained
Apocalypse Revealed
Divine Love and Wisdom
Divine Providence
Heaven and Hell
Last Judgment / Supplements
New Jerusalem
Other Planets
Secrets of Heaven
True Christianity


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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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