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Everybody dies—even famous people. So what happens to them in the afterlife? When eighteenth-century spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg visited the spiritual world, he met one or two big names. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose share how these celebrities are doing after death.
Yes, Newton isn’t a “celebrity” in the sense that we think of them today. But Swedenborg was a fan of Newton, who was in his prime as Swedenborg was studying science. They never met in the physical world, but they did cross paths after Newton died.
Concerning colors, Newton said that in the world he had believed them to arise from substances flowing continually from the solar ocean as differently colored particles of matter and attaching themselves constantly to like particles in objects in the world. (Last Judgment Posthumous §291)
Even in death, Newton continued learning. His interests didn’t change, but his understanding of them grew much deeper with a new spiritual perspective. For more details on color and light, in particular, check out our episodes “Spiritual Secrets About Color” and “Spiritual Light.”
When angels described the spiritual nature of color, they actually seemed to be describing something closer to our modern understanding of it than to anything science at that time understood.
After thinking about the matter more deeply, Newton said, ‘Now I know that colors are modifications of light in objects, in whose forms light is variegated in accordance with the forms of their constituents, giving rise to colors.’ These are Newton’s own words, which he wishes me to communicate. (Last Judgment Posthumous §291)
He even changed his mind on whether a vacuum could exist.
Newton said he knew that Divinity, the One who is, fills everything, and that he was aghast at the notion of a vacuum as nothing because this was a totally destructive notion. (Divine Love and Wisdom §82)
Swedenborg found that Newton was a scientist through and through, which meant that he was open-minded to angelic views.
Swedenborg encountered Aristotle among some other scholarly spirits, and he noticed how Aristotle stood out from the other spirits who just wanted to impress each other.
Next I spoke with [Aristotle] about the science of analysis and was given the opportunity to say that a little child in half an hour could say more in a philosophic, analytic, and logical vein than he could describe in several volumes. This is because all human thought and speech is analytic, and the laws governing it come from the spiritual world. (Secrets of Heaven §4658:3)
And this rang true for Aristotle:
Aristotle agreed with all this, saying that people who learn this way are going about it backward. Those who want to be fools, he added, are welcome to continue in this fashion but they should always be thinking about the purpose, and thinking deeply. (Secrets of Heaven §4658:3)
Aristotle and Swedenborg both felt it was important that scholarship has practical and useful implications. Aristotle’s continued learning and passion for purpose were inspirations to Swedenborg.
Aristotle formed his philosophical system in a natural order. . . . He first obtained a mental image of his thought, and from it formed his philosophical system . . . in order to describe it, and so to speak paint it, for others. But his followers went about it in an upside down order. . . . Because of this they are always casting themselves into stupidity and darkness concerning inward qualities, while Aristotle advances into light. (Spiritual Experiences §4446)
Martin Luther entered the afterlife with a passion for making forceful arguments about belief.
As for Luther, from the moment he arrived in the spiritual world he was an ardent evangelist for and defender of his own theological teachings. As the number of people from earth who agreed and favored his position grew, his impassioned championing of those teachings only increased. (True Christianity §796:1)
He spent a lot of time spreading his theology from his home in the afterlife. Luther became so persuasive that people who listened to him had trouble thinking anything different. In his earthly life, he was intensely pugnacious and argumentative, and he found similar communities of debate in the world of spirits.
There are places where people argue about religious matters. Their arguing sounds, from outside those places, like the gnashing of teeth, and when they are viewed within it appears as though they are tearing each other’s clothes apart. . . . Luther also spoke with me, saying that he likes to be among the kind of people who argue over what is to be believed, because he has with him from the world a persuasive speech and authority as a result of the consent accorded him by many in his own time. (Last Judgment Posthumous §32)
After the Last Judgment in the spiritual world (see our show of the same name), Luther moved to a new community and started to doubt his former convictions. For more on the representative nature of houses in the spiritual world, check out our episode “How to Get a Home in Heaven.”
Luther repented and labored with all his might to free himself from falsities, because he could not enter heaven until he did . . . but as yet without success. He also prayed to the Lord to be able to retreat from his falsities, and received the reply that the ability would be granted if he could accept it. For that reason he was sent from one society to another in which there were people in whom life was joined to faith, but he was nevertheless unable to stay long, because it conflicted with his life’s delight. (Last Judgment Posthumous §37)
His struggle to change was an inner battle between two states of mind. In the end, Luther did make his peace, and he realized why he made his mistake.
“It was all because my goal was to separate from the Roman Catholics, and the notion of faith alone was the only way to pursue and achieve that. Therefore I am not surprised that I wandered off into error. . . . It does surprise me . . . that people . . . did not notice the statements in Sacred Scripture that contradict my teachings, even though such statements are standing there in plain sight.” (True Christianity §796:4)
All three of these influential people found opportunities to learn and grow—sometimes even change completely—in the afterlife. So how will you change when you can compare notes with angels?