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Philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz once asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” According to eighteenth-century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, there’s one simple answer: heaven.
So what is heaven? We’ll find out in this episode, where host Curtis Childs and featured guests explore Swedenborg’s writings to discover the ever-evolving heaven that gives reason to existence.
Heaven is always getting better because heaven is always getting bigger. While the number of living people at a given time may fluctuate, heaven’s numbers only grow.
The idea of an increasingly crowded afterlife may not sound like fun, but each soul in heaven helps it become more complete.
Variety arranged in a heavenly form makes perfection . . . Every community in heaven is growing in numbers daily, and the more it grows, the more perfect it becomes. In this way, not only is the community perfected, but heaven in general is perfected as well, since the communities constitute heaven. . . . So angels long for nothing more than to have new angel guests arrive there. (Heaven and Hell §71)
Another way to think about this statement is that as more people arrive in heaven, they are not expanding it but instead are filling in the empty spaces. There are parallels between this and the phenomenon called “emergence,” where a group gathered together creates something greater than the sum of its parts, like a choir—or a termite colony.
The Personal Infinite Forest
Dr. Jonathan Rose joins us just in time to learn that the human heart is not limited in how much love it can share. In fact, our capacity for love and knowledge can grow to infinity. Swedenborg compares the growth of the human mind to a forest—it’s not a single idea or feeling that grows to a certain point and then stops; rather, each feeling leads to more feelings, and each idea leads to more ideas. That process can continue forever.
It is the nature of the human and angelic mind that it can be enriched more and more to eternity; and as it is enriched, it is perfected . . . so completely that eventually it becomes a heaven in miniature. (Last Judgment §12:3)
Swedenborg takes that idea a step further: not only can we continue growing eternally, but everything that we do, think, and feel in this stage of our life is the egg preparing to hatch the next phase.
When people are being reborn they run through the same stages of life they do upon birth; . . . an earlier stage always serves as a kind of egg in relation to a later stage. We are constantly being conceived and born. This happens not only while we are living in the world but also when we go to the other world, to eternity. Even so, we are never at more than the egg-stage so far as the limitless things to come are concerned. (Secrets of Heaven §4379:2)
This is one way that Swedenborg’s view of heaven is unique. Some spiritual traditions might teach that our experience of the afterlife will forever be the same, while other traditions might say that things get better at a steady rate over time. In Swedenborg’s experience, it’s more like a geometric expansion, where we grow in more ways and directions than we can presently imagine.
All Together Now
Heaven gets better both as it grows and as the people inside it grow. As we grow in love, wisdom, and our ability to put those into practice, there’s a compounding effect that comes from people connecting with each other.
Only love, which is a spiritual bond, makes this sharing of good qualities possible. The universal agent that forms and organizes everything in general and particular is divine goodness born of divine love from the Lord. (Secrets of Heaven §8470:3)
So what does this feel like in practice? Imagine boundless positive feelings shared with everyone.
Got all of that? If not, watch Curtis wrap up the episode with a recap featuring the Universal Dot Human.
Questions (with Jonathan Rose)
- Are people who have passed on privy to what is happening in the lives of their families?
- Having a hard time. My husband passed away in April! Does he know how hard it is for me?
- Since all good spirits and angels go forward, do they change in appearance?
- We’re on this earth to choose between good and evil, so what happens to young children who can’t make that choice and who die? They go directly to heaven? What if they would’ve been evil later in life?
- Is heaven another “plane” or somehow a different “dimension”?
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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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