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Taking a break from exploring the writings of eighteenth-century spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg, our expert panel comes together to answer viewer questions.
The expert panel members are:
- Curtis Childs, host of Swedenborg & Life
- Karin Childs, writer for Swedenborg & Life
- Dr. Jonathan Rose, series editor for the New Century Edition
- Chelsea Odhner, writer and production manager for Swedenborg & Life
Questions and answers are summarized below and you can follow the links for the full discussion.
1. Are halos and angel wings a real thing?
The depictions of halos and wings that we’re used to seeing actually do come from biblical descriptions of angels, so it’s likely that some angels do appear that way when they are intended to have symbolic meaning. For instance, angels’ wings communicate the idea of being “lifted up” by spiritual truth. According to Swedenborg, angels were once humans on earth and are not different types of beings, so it makes sense that wings appear as representations.
2. Does Swedenborg write of people who were mentally challenged and their transition into heaven?
Everybody has the means for spiritual growth, no matter what barriers they experience on earth. Swedenborg understood people to be defined by what they love, so it makes sense that their inner lives will stay true even when the limitations of the physical world have been removed.
3. Did Swedenborg have any thoughts on pre-existence?
For God and those in the spiritual world, the concept of time doesn’t mean as much. From a cosmic perspective, everything is present all at once; there is no past or future. Swedenborg understood that our individual consciousness begins at birth, so we didn’t have any experiences of ourselves pre-existing. We are each an expression of a particular desire of God, so our “pre-existence,” so to speak, would have been part of the mind of God.
4. Do spirits that are now living in heaven need to eat?
Swedenborg says that there is food in heaven and that it acts as a correspondence of people’s usefulness—the more useful one is, the better the spiritual food. Strangely enough, while all our senses sharpen in heaven, taste improves the least since it is not related to wisdom as much as are the other senses. Spirits do eat and drink, but they’re taking in a diet of truth and love more than of bread and water.
Interlude: Guest interview with Dr. Tatiana Irvin
Dr. Irvin specializes in the interaction between mental health and the spiritual world. She finds that many scientific takes on mental illness disregard the spiritual aspects of our human struggles. When she brings Swedenborg’s perspective into her work, she finds that the ideas are practical and sometimes immediately valuable.
5. If angels need us to exist, what would happen if the earth was destroyed?
As part of the physical world, we do serve as a sort of foundation for angels, but according to Swedenborg, we’re not the only conscious species—if we were all to disappear, angels would be assigned to other planets where there are other communities of people.
6. How do we help those who are suffering understand that dark thoughts don’t come from them, without going too deep into the spiritual realm explanation?
There’s a psychological approach called “Internal Family Systems,” which talks about the voices in our heads as reflections of a family of different roles. One tool to help with this is simply examining your self-talk for love and positivity—after all, why would you attack yourself? Without getting too involved in having to explain the spiritual, we can see that there is a higher perspective from which we are able to take a more objective look at our lower states.
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