Monday, February 20, 2012

Divine Revelations of Heaven and Hell

The philosopher Aristotle stated that although humans share a base nature with that of animals, what makes humanity different from animals is the rational mind, which can exercise control over base desires. This is what makes us distinctly human. The ability to control base desires is the subject of morality or ethics: thus morality is something distinctly human. Swedenborg goes further than this: morality, the choice between good and evil, has a spiritual origin: we are spiritual beings clothed in flesh, who stand midway between heaven and hell. Inasmuch as we live a good life, our life becomes conjoined with heaven, and inasmuch we live a selfish evil life, our lives are conjoined with spirits from hell. In fact, he went as far to say that we do not experience a single thought which is not at first spiritual in origin. We are either in heaven or hell now, we just don't know it yet. In this life we have a chance to change our destiny through repentance and spiritual growth.

The way I discovered Swedenborg was through a book called "Life After Life" by Moody, which exposed the scientific world and the modern mind to the Near Death Experience: the common experience that people have when they are declared dead, but are revived back by modern medical methods. Before Moody wrote that book, in the 18th century Swedenborg was allowed to experience death, where his breathing stopped: remarkably, his description matches the Near Death Experience: he describes the great Light at the center of heaven, which all encounter after they die, and in the presence of that Light experience a panoramic life review. God judges no one: our own conscience will judge our actions, for God has implanted the truth in each one of us.

Recently I started reading the Bible again, and came across the following passage in Jeremiah 33:3 -

Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

I put it away and almost forgot about that passage, but then I encountered a website almost at random at "Divine Revelations: face to face encounters with Jesus Christ." Its a collection of modern witnesses who were allowed to have a face to face conversation with Jesus Christ, and allowed to see visions of heaven and hell. I was surprised to find this, as Swedenborg gave one of the largest accounts of his journeys or visions of heaven and hell, which he described in a book "Heaven and Hell." I have not had time to go through this entire web site, but I was struck with the particular testimony of a young girl named Angelica Zambrano from Ecuador, who apparently died and was not breathing for a period of 23 hours before she came back and was allowed to recount her experience. Her account is very similar to things seen by Swedenborg. I recommend people to visit that site: there is also a youtube video of her testimony and that of her mother. What struck me with this one is that during a period of fasting and prayer, she focused on the following passage:

Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

This was the exact same passage I had randomly read: so I decided to pick this as my next blog subject. For her, "great and mighty things" were heaven and hell. She prayed, and God answered her. Like Swedenborg, she calls Jesus Jehovah: they are one and the same person! The web site owners probably have no idea who Swedenborg is, and how their testimony is the same. In this modern age, heaven and hell are considered by many as nothing more than superstition and myth. The reality is much different: Swedenborg states that heaven and hell exist where there is no time and space, and it exists in the spiritual world inside all of us. Did not Jesus say the kingdom of God is within us? The emotions, thoughts and feelings within us all have a particular origin: they come from the spiritual being, thus the spiritual world, which resides within us. In death, we only shed our physical bodies: our minds live on. Apparently several revelations have been taking place recently, for the modern world still refuses to acknowledge that there is the possibility that life continues after death, and it is much greater than what we experience now.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Teli, I will read them in detail. From a Christian perspective, there tend to be two main bodies of thought: (1) after death, we will be judged and go to heaven or hell, or (2) we will all fall asleep and await a judgment at a future date. What Swedenborg states is both are true - some are judged immediately, and others have to wait for a while until a final judgment. These final judgments occur in the spiritual world. Swedenborg's explanations of the afterlife are comprehensive, mainly covered in his work "Heaven and Hell." For the last judgment, he explains that more fully in his work "The Final Judgment." While Protestants look down on the Catholic view of purgatory (as did Swedenborg), he does describe an intermediate state between heaven and hell that is similar (but different) than purgatory.

      From a Biblical point of view, descriptions of the afterlife are sparse, and this was because the Jews were not ready to receive spiritual teachings. But yes, one will find experiences of NDEs that may not fit our preconceived view. This is because the truth that the mind can receive has to be adapted to the receiver. Many who have done good and never knew Jesus will have an opportunity to learn of him. In NDEs reincarnation comes up every so often, and Swedenborg stated that there are spirits who firmly believe this - this is because in the other life, memories and thoughts are shared, and one could readily think that another person's memory is one's own leading to the confusion. I see shared collective memory as a more probably explanation for these cases than reincarnation.

      With NDEs, those who survive often have trouble putting them into words, and are but a glimpse. So when they translate it into words that may be the other source of disagreement rather than the experience itself. Long before this phenomenon became well known Swedenborg described in much more comprehensive detail in the 18th century.


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