Swedenborg and Life Recap: Spiritual Questions Answered 14 – 12/11/2017

Watch full episode here!


Our expert panel may not have the answers, but—with the help of eighteenth-century spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings—they’re more than willing to help with our viewer’s questions.

The expert panel members are:

  • Curtis Childs, host of Swedenborg and Life
  • Chara Daum, Latin consultant for the New Century Edition
  • Dr. Jonathan Rose, series editor for the New Century Edition
  • Chelsea Odhner, writer for Swedenborg and Life

Throughout this episode, the expert panel works together to answer questions from viewers. Questions and answers are summarized below, but follow the links for the full discussion.


1. I am assuming that the spirits that are stuck between the physical and the spiritual are the “ghosts” that are seen. Is that correct? Thanks!

Chelsea points out that although the spirits of people who have passed on do go through a variety of stages, Swedenborg wouldn’t describe them as “stuck between”—it’s more a matter of some spirits being more interested or involved with our world than others. Some of them, as Curtis and Jonathan point out, may be stuck in a mindset that they were in while they were alive that keeps them attached to the physical world.

But in his spiritual journeys, Swedenborg did witness spirits that had some ability to influence the physical world. Many of the paranormal experiences that people report could be explained by the things he describes, which set his system apart from most mainstream religions.


2. How do we know spirit is actually contacting us through dreams or if it’s our imagination?

According to Swedenborg, our imagination and dreams are often influenced by spirits. In the episode “Where Dreams Come From,” Curtis explores the full range of dreams that Swedenborg talks about, from highly prophetic dreams from heaven to dark, nightmarish dreams from hell.

But some dreams are more directly inspired than others. One great indicator for a dream with meaning is simply that you remember it and find it useful—does it teach you something? Does it lead you to some piece of understanding you needed to have?

Sometimes even nightmares can be powerful sources of spiritual insight. Chelsea describes a technique she uses in journaling where she explores the meaning of nightmares by ignoring the details and instead seeking out the meaning behind them. Sometimes, she finds, the terror is just a way of calling attention to something important.


3. Would it be true to Swedenborg’s beliefs that angels and satans live out their heavens and hells by [using] living people’s minds and lives?

Spirits—both angels and demons—rejoice when we do the things they enjoy. Swedenborg describes a close relationship between communities of angels (or evil spirits!) and people on earth, and that relationship goes both ways; we draw our life from the spiritual world, but spirits can also find their expression and purpose through us. Much of spiritual life takes place in ways we can’t understand, but there are more overlaps than we think.


4. When is violence for Christians an OK circumstance if ever? And if spirits are violent with us, are God and angels violent toward that evil?

The Lord, and therefore angels and good spirits, are all about love and protection, even of the people who are doing wrong. Imagine a situation where a parent has two children and one of them punches the other. Of course the parent would discipline the child who did wrong and try to prevent it from happening again, but there would never be that sense of wanting to repay violence with violence. Evil naturally has painful consequences for those who commit it, so angels and God will on occasion allow those consequences to occur—but only to the extent that it is useful.

When considering violence against others, from our human perspective there are times when violence seems to be the right path despite the harm to others. What matters is intent. Do you act with the hope of protecting people, even from themselves; or do you practice violence in order to harm someone? And even if you react in the moment, it also matters how you think about it afterward. Do you enjoy the violence, or do you regret harm to others?

Related episode: “Rediscovering Forgiveness”


5. Does Swedenborg ever describe a correspondence between the different climates of the physical world and how different people experience the Lord more or less intensely? 

In the spiritual world, the climate a person or community lives in directly reflects their spiritual state, but the same isn’t true for the physical world. In our lives, there are all types of reasons for living in a particular type of place that have nothing to do with our spiritual state. That said, our world and the climates and environmental zones within it help to teach us what to expect in the spiritual world. Everything can have a good or evil correspondence, so we can see all sorts of meaning wherever we are.


6. What is the difference between spiritual and religious? Does Swedenborg say anything?

Religion seems to have a lot more baggage than spirituality in modern times, but to Swedenborg, religion was still a good word. Jonathan qualifies that, however, by paraphrasing a quote from Swedenborg: “There’s nothing more beautiful than a good religion, and nothing fouler than a bad one.”

In his writings, Swedenborg distinguishes between religion or religiousness, which to him means the practice of religion, and church, which is a system of thought. He didn’t hesitate to criticize churches that he disagreed with, but he felt that religious practice was incredibly important.

Swedenborg also makes a distinction between internal worship, which is how we put our spiritual convictions into practice, and external worship, which is the act of attending church or taking part in religious rituals. This might be closer to the “spiritual versus religious” distinction that many people make today. In that case, Swedenborg is a bit of both: he emphasizes that religious rituals and attending a place of worship are important, but nothing is more important than acting out of love and wisdom.


7. Do spirits need food and water?

Yes, actually—but not physically, as we do. On the other side, sustenance comes from spiritual sources: truth quenches spiritual thirst and goodness quenches spiritual hunger. Swedenborg describes spirits in hell as being deprived of both because they’ve rejected them, but for angels there is constant abundance. 


Related Swedenborg and Life Videos

Swedenborg and Life “Spiritual Questions Answered” Playlist
“Who Was Swedenborg?”


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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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