Watch full episode here!
Life is complicated, but eighteenth-century spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg can help us answer its hardest questions. Our expert panel convenes to respond to viewers.
The panel members are:
- Curtis Childs, host of Swedenborg & Life
- Chara Daum, Latin consultant, New Century Edition
- Chris Dunn, community manager for Swedenborg & Life
- Chelsea Odhner, writer for Swedenborg & Life
Questions and answers are summarized below; please follow the links for the full discussion.
Swedenborg describes some cases where murderers meet their victims in the afterlife. The murderers have the hardest time with this—confronting the reality of what they’ve done is a profound spiritual moment. This is not a punishment, but simply a revelation of the truth. If they suffer because of this, the suffering is ultimately useful and healing. In the afterlife, everyone gets a fair shake, and their experience will be just what it needs to be.
Heaven is not a reward; it’s a spiritual state. You don’t get to heaven because you did some good thing; you get to heaven because it’s the best place for you to be. If you choose to do good things, you’ll find yourself surrounded by other people who do good things. If you just want nice things for yourself, you may very well end up surrounded by other people who just want nice things for themselves. Like attracts like. As Curtis says, “doing something good because you want to go to heaven is way better than doing something bad because you don’t care.”
Jesus is love, and there are many viable representations of love. If you are acting in the interest of love and praying to love, you’re still serving the Lord. We are always surrounded by spirits, many of whom are happy to give us support if they can help us feel a connection to God.
Swedenborg does say exactly that evil and falsity are perverted forms of goodness and truth. For all forms of goodness, there is some form of evil that is its reverse image. Since the Lord is pure love and wisdom, it’s the desire to distance ourselves from him that actually introduces things that aren’t pure love and wisdom. For more on this topic, check out our episode “The Infinite in You.”
5. Swedenborg talks about regeneration but also mentions that aspects of ourselves that exist when we die continue as permanent parts of us that can never be changed. How do we grow and improve in heaven?
Everybody has things that make them special, and these things won’t go away. Who we are won’t change, but the suffering and the stress will be gone. We’ll still have our memories, even our unpleasant ones, but we’ll also have a whole new perspective. These things give us context, but they won’t hurt us.
The Holy Spirit—God’s effect on the world—is in angels and in us, too. Angels are former humans, so God continues to act through them as he works through us.
Yes. The exact details of how it works are unclear, but Swedenborg definitely witnessed people greeted by their loved ones right after they died.
A short clip called “Spiritual Heredity” covers this question in quick detail. Generally, it’s not something we inherit as much as something we might have a tendency toward. Everyone is designed to eventually become an angel, but the work to do so still has to happen.
Memories help to create our identities and our “ruling loves”—the things we care about the most. In a way, they make us who we are. Our earthly memories also lay the groundwork for our understanding of spiritual concepts.
God understands. The long game of divine providence is difficult for us, and God knows that we’re going to go through different spiritual states. God doesn’t hold these feelings against us. It helps to understand God as love itself and to imagine what the most loving way to act might be. Try to be present to how things are, even when they are difficult, because “this too shall pass.”
There are games and competition in the spiritual world. The thing that matters most, though, is what’s truly motivating you. Are you just trying to inflate your sense of self? Or are you trying to challenge yourself and those around you to be better people?
No, that’s not true. Heaven and the afterlife is all about what’s useful and what helps you grow. Eternal repetition just wouldn’t do that. That said, Swedenborg did witness people who had killed themselves continue to struggle with the decision they had made.