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Even though many have encountered spirits, the scientific community has no response to the spirit world—as far as most people are concerned, they don’t exist. So how do people who are having these encounters know whether spirits are safe to talk to or if it’s even worth trying?
In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Dr. Jonathan Rose see if they can answer that question, with the help of eighteenth-century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg’s firsthand spiritual experiences.
They kick off the episode with a basic question: What are spirits? If, as Swedenborg says, spirits are just people who have crossed into the afterlife, then that still raises the question: Is it safe to talk to them?
Here’s the episode’s to-do list:
- Explore the danger
- Study the antidote
- Does the Bible forbid contact?
When you’re in a new city, you can get in trouble if you’re not careful. Think about pickpockets or scammers—there are always people trying to exploit each other. In the case of spirits, they’re not going after your money; they’re going after your mind and your heart.
These spirits were extremely malignant, arousing things that had been delightful, and following closely in their own thought all and the very least details with a mind to finding out how they might ensnare, and destroy me. It was noticeable in every particular that they were paying attention to every detail, with the purpose of doing me harm, of destroying and finishing me. (Spiritual Experiences §3966)
Not all spirit encounters are negative. In fact, in Divine Providence §134, Swedenborg lays out several different types of experiences:
- Divine: Visual representations of divine truth
- Demonic: Visions resulting from events in hell (usually an illusion)
- Imaginary: Illusions of a mind that has lost its bearings
The dangers of spirit communication lie in the second type, and it’s not always obvious which type you’re experiencing. Swedenborg writes that some evil spirits will pretend to be angels or even the Lord—because they can see your thoughts, the evil spirits know exactly what you’re expecting to see and will use that to create a believable fantasy.
It is clear how dangerous it is on this planet, when spirits speak with people, or people listen to spirits operating in them, if they do not have faith in the Lord. If they have faith, it does no harm, for the Lord liberates them; but if they do not have faith . . . they are not only persuaded that it is the holy spirit [speaking], but are also aroused and incited toward wicked acts. For almost the whole world of spirits is wicked, and fanatical, and eager with all their effort to obsess mankind. (Spiritual Experiences §3781)
As frightening as all this sounds, it’s important to remember that heaven and the good spirits who are working their way toward heaven will always be stronger than hell.
Those who do not entertain objections against the higher knowledge of faith are safe from evil spirits. Spirits complained that they could no longer be present. Because I was abiding in the higher knowledge of faith, it was not permitted to entertain objections. They said that then they have nothing by which they can lead—saying also, by which they can mislead—for by their objections they very much mislead mankind. . . . for people are then carried along by their desires, which produce fantasies, and then they willingly allow objections to enter. (Spiritual Experiences §3614)
In other words, if we stick to our faith and our principles, there’s no way that evil spirits can find their way into our mind.
Swedenborg described how resisting the negative thoughts and impulses led him to another kind of experience—divine visions, where everything was clear, and he could perceive the thoughts and intentions of all the beings he saw.
Not only are such positive experiences possible, but Swedenborg writes that we are meant to be in contact with heaven. So why do some religions resist spiritual contact?
There are Old Testament passages that warn against spiritual communication, but New Testament passages encourage finding a distinction between good and evil spirits. What could have changed?
The answer might be obvious: Jesus. Swedenborg says that in the old days, full demonic possession of human bodies was fairly common, but Jesus coming to earth put an end to all of that. Swedenborg adds that while the outward bodily possession no longer happens, evil spirits today still seek internal dominance to act out their desires through the living.
So while talking to evil spirits is dangerous, faith helps to promote contact with angels, and that’s a good thing. Jonathan points out that without angels and other heavenly spirits, about half the Bible wouldn’t have happened.
In the wrap-up, Curtis reminds us that the world of spirits is like our own—full of all kinds of people. But with faith, spiritual interaction can do much to help and heal the human race.
- Is it safe to go to a medium?
- Why do people have different experiences immediately when they pass away? Is this because of what they did on earth?
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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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