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If you took a stroll in heaven, what would you see? It has to be more than just clouds and churches, right? According to eighteenth-century spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg, the spiritual world has libraries, schools, and more. How’d he know? He went for a visit.
In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose explore Swedenborg’s spiritual travel diaries to learn more about where you can go in heaven.
When Swedenborg first encountered a spiritual library, he was following along with a group of newcomers who were curious about where all the books came from. A friendly angel pointed out to them that the spiritual world has substance that’s even more real than what we know on earth.
There is a fullness of all things here. All the things that are here are substantial rather than physical. Physical things actually originate from substantial things. We who are here are spiritual people because we are substantial rather than physical. Therefore all the things that exist in the physical world are present here in their perfection, including books and documents, and much more. (True Christianity §694:5)
They met scribes who were copying down the words of local wise people. These texts were shelved alongside books by the ancients, which were written using correspondences and conveyed the inner meaning of the Word.
These learning repositories catered to people who studied the books and would become learned, intelligent, or wise. Some areas, though, were off limits to those who were attached to external matters.
But libraries weren’t the only kind of places of learning in the spiritual world. One of the wisdom centers that Swedenborg saw was a kind of school for lecture and debate. Learning doesn’t end in the afterlife!
I addressed one of the people going into the building and asked, “What is this place?” “It is a hall,” the person replied, “where young adults are initiated into various issues related to wisdom.” (True Christianity §697:1)
According to Swedenborg, there were five halls “where educated people meet to discuss various deep questions that serve to develop their knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom” (True Christianity §136:1). One of these halls, for example, was hosting a symposium entirely on the nature of goodwill.
In the “Olympic halls,” ancient philosophers gathered to discuss the progress of wisdom on earth. Rational philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, lived in different regions from those who focused more on morality.
Games were another way that people developed wisdom and knowledge. In the “wisdom games,” spirits debated deep spiritual topics and came up with conclusions together.
The competitors were provided with three mysteries of wisdom to talk about and figure out:
- What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God?
- Why are animals born with instincts, but humans are not?
- What is the meaning of the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the eating of the latter’s fruit?
Below these points it said, Connect these three into a single statement, write it on a new sheet of paper, put it on this table, and we will look at it. If on balance your statement seems well considered and accurate, each of you will be given a prize for your wisdom. (True Christianity §48:2)
Another wisdom center isn’t a building at all, but a garden called “Adramandoni,” which means “the delight of conjugial love.”
Here, angels discussed what love in marriage means and what makes it wonderful.
I went in, and behold, I found olive trees, with vines running and hanging down from one tree to another, and with bushes in flower beneath the trees and between them. In the middle of the garden there was a grassy circle, on which husbands and wives and young men and women were sitting, paired off in couples; and at the center of the circle was an elevated piece of ground, where a little fountain of water spurted up into the air owing to the force of its stream. (Conjugial Love §183)
All this makes heaven sound like one big utopian college campus, where people just discuss and learn about what interests them. Angels teach us, and we teach each other. Next week, we’ll talk about what this means for our learning here on earth.
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