Watch full episode here!
Here on earth, our relationships with our bodies can be . . . complicated. We need to take care of them, but keeping them healthy and feeling good in them is a challenge for almost everybody. Will we still have this challenge in the afterlife?
When eighteenth-century spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg visited the afterlife, he learned what will happen to our bodies after we die.
Since we’re talking about bodies, let’s address beauty. In this world, there’s a stereotype that beauty is good, but we know that “attractive” people are not necessarily better people. In the afterlife, though, things are a little different: what we call inner beauty here manifests itself there as physical appearance.
It does need to be known that our human form is lovelier after death to the extent that we have more deeply loved divine truths and have lived by them, since our deeper levels are opened and formed according to both our love of these truths and our life. So the deeper the affection and the more it accords with heaven, the lovelier the face. This is why the angels who are in the inmost heaven are the loveliest—because they are forms of heavenly love. (Heaven and Hell §459)
But this can be hard to believe for those of us on earth.
People from our planet cannot conceive of the idea that we come into the other life immediately after death and then look like people, with faces, bodies, arms, legs, and all our outer and inner senses, let alone that we wear clothes and have houses and homes. The sole reason for this is that most people on our planet base their thinking on their physical senses and therefore do not believe anything exists that they are unable to see our touch. Few of them can be lifted up from their outer senses to their inner ones and thus be raised into the light of heaven, in which we become aware of things like this. As a result, they are incapable of having any concept of their soul or spirit as human, only a concept of something like a formless breeze or air or breath that nevertheless has some life in it. (Other Planets §165:1)
These things will become more evident to us, though, when we become angels.
While angels can be seen as dramatic figures when they’re encountered in the Bible, they always encourage people to treat them as equals. They may be beautiful and otherworldly, but they’re still human.
As Swedenborg tells us, “after death, we are in a complete human form”:
We are human because of our spirit, not because of our body. . . . Our physical form is appended to the spirit in keeping with its form, not the other way around, since a spirit is clothed with a body that suits its form. (Heaven and Hell §453)
Our spirit is who we are, and our physical form is an adaptation to our earthly environment. In the spiritual world, we have a spiritual body that reflects our spirit and therefore who we truly are.
Repeated experience has witnessed to me that when we move from the natural world into the spiritual, which happens when we die, we take with us everything that pertains to our character except our earthly body. In fact, when we enter the spiritual world or our life after death, we are in a body as we were in this world. There seems to be no difference, since we do not feel or see any difference. This body is spiritual, though, so it has been separated or purified from earthly matter. Further, when anything spiritual touches and sees something spiritual, it is just like something natural touching and seeing something natural. So when we have become a spirit, we have no sense that we are not in the body we inhabited in the world, and therefore do not realize that we have died. (Heaven and Hell §461)
With such a transformation, it’s understandable that we might worry about whether we will have any trouble recognizing our loved ones. According to Swedenborg, though, our spirits will be able to recognize each other. In the spiritual world, it’s love that draws us together.
Our spiritual body feels so familiar to us in the beginning that some people don’t even notice there’s been a change—at least not at first. This makes things easier for us, since we could be overwhelmed otherwise.
In our culture, some have the idea that angels or spirits are mist–like or bodiless, but they actually have human forms.
Angels have also told me that people of simple faith and heart are not caught up in this concept of angels, but have an image of them as people in heaven. This is because they have not let erudition snuff out the image implanted in them from heaven and because they do not grasp anything unless it has some form. This is why the angels we see sculpted and painted in churches are invariably represented as human. As for this “image implanted in them from heaven,” angels tell me that it is something divine that flows into people who are intent on goodness of faith and life. (Heaven and Hell §74:3)
In the afterlife, there’s nothing from earth that we will miss—not even our bodies.