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Look at any animal—every creature’s body is a product of its environment. Birds need wings, fish need gills, and humans need opposable thumbs. But what if our environment changed dramatically? What sort of body would we need in order to cope with a different kind of world . . . like the afterlife?
In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Dr. Jonathan Rose reveal what eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg learned about our spiritual bodies.
To accomplish anything the soul must act through the body. (Arcana Coelestia §6344:2)
Many traditions and philosophies hold that we have some kind of spiritual or astral body, but what did Swedenborg have to say about it? Well, he actually identified several bodies beyond our physical form—from the spiritual body to different types of heavenly bodies.
To start with, let’s look at the state we know best—our spiritual body and physical body coexisting. Some of the most complete accounts of near-death experiences seem to provide evidence of this relationship.
We always exist in both our physical and spiritual bodies, but most often we aren’t aware that this is the case. Swedenborg, on the other hand, was able to be conscious in both bodies at the same time. In fact, he was able to interact spiritually with people who were alive in their physical bodies without them having any idea that it had happened.
Our physical bodies change, but what about our spiritual bodies? Well, they grow just like physical bodies do in the womb, and Swedenborg was allowed to watch it happen.
No one can know what our first or primal stage in the womb after conception is like because we cannot see it. Further, it is composed of a spiritual substance that is not visible in physical light. Some people in this world are inclined to focus their minds on our primal stage, the father’s semen that is the agent of conception, and many of them have fallen into the error of thinking that we are complete humans from the very first and then reach completeness simply by getting larger. For this reason, some angels to whom the Lord had revealed it showed me what this first or primal stage of ours is like with respect to its form. Since they had made this a matter of their wisdom and since the delight of that wisdom was to share what they knew with others, they were given permission to present a representation of that initial form of ours to my own eyes in heaven’s light. (Divine Love and Wisdom §432)
This representation took the form of a brain.
To better understand our spiritual growth, we join Dr. Ed Higgins to learn more about our physical bodies and their potential. A lot of it comes down to environmental factors and how we nourish ourselves.
So our physical body is a sort of incubator for our spiritual selves. And in the same way that our physical bodies are made of physical substance, our spiritual bodies are made of spiritual substance. That spiritual substance is love and wisdom.
As we climb through the spiritual world into the different levels of heaven, the love and wisdom become more and more refined. Therefore, the parts of us that are tied to lower realities must die so that we can move inward to the deepest parts of heaven.
Curtis gives us a quick tour of the three levels of heaven: earthly, spiritual, and celestial.
But until this developmental process begins, we need to take good care of ourselves here in the physical world.
We have every obligation to take care of our body, making sure it is nourished, clothed, and indulged with worldly pleasures. The whole point, though, is the soul, not the body. The point is for the soul to function in a healthy body that responds properly, and to have the body as its fully obedient instrument. The soul will then be our final purpose. Except that the soul will not be a final but only an intermediate purpose. We will take care of our soul not for its own sake but for the sake of services we then perform in both worlds. (Secrets of Heaven §5949)
To recap, we have a physical body that works for us here, but we also have a spiritual body that evolves as we ascend through the levels of heaven. These different bodies are what we need in order to get closer and closer to God.
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive 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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