Heaven and Hell #535

Heaven and Hell (Dole translation)

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535. I have been allowed to talk with some people in the other life who had distanced themselves from the affairs of the world in order to live in devotions and sanctity, and also with some who had mortified themselves in various ways because they thought this was renouncing the world and taming the desires of the flesh. However, most of them had wound up with a gloomy kind of life from this and had distanced themselves from that life of active thoughtfulness that can be led only in the world, so they could not associate with angels. The life of angels is cheerful and blessed. It consists of worthwhile activities that are deeds of thoughtfulness. Particularly, people who have led a life withdrawn from worldly concerns are aflame with a sense of their own worth and constantly crave heaven. They think of heavenly joy as their reward, with no knowledge whatever of what heavenly joy actually is. When they are with angels and are let into that joy - which has no sense of merit and consists of activities and public duties and in bliss at the good that is accomplished through them - they are as bewildered as though they were seeing something totally alien to their faith. Since they are not open to these joys, they move off and associate with people who have led the same kind of life in the world.

[2] There are other people who have lived outwardly devotional lives, constantly in churches and at prayer there. They have mortified their souls while constantly thinking about themselves, how they are worthier and more estimable than others and will be regarded as saints after their death. They are not in heaven in the other life because they have done all this with themselves first in mind. Since they have polluted divine truths by the self-love they immersed them in, some of them are so deranged that they think they are gods. So they are with similar people in hell. Some of them are ingenious and crafty and are in hells for the crafty people who used their skills and wiles to construct outward appearances that would lead the masses to believe them possessed of a divine sanctity.

[3] This includes many of the Catholic saints. I have been allowed to talk with some of them and have had their lives clearly described, both the lives they had led in the world and what they were like afterward.

I have mentioned all this to let it be known that the life that leads to heaven is not one of withdrawal from the world but a life in the world, and that a life of piety apart from a life of thoughtfulness (which is possible only in the world) does not lead to heaven at all. Rather, it is a life of thoughtfulness, a life of behaving honestly and fairly in every duty, every affair, every task, from our deeper nature and therefore from a heavenly source. The source of this life is within us when we act honestly and fairly because doing so is in accord with divine laws. This life is not hard, but a life of piety apart from a life of thoughtfulness is hard. Still, this latter life leads away from heaven as surely as people believe it leads to heaven. 1

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Footnotes:

1. A life of piety apart from a life of thoughtfulness accomplishes nothing, but together they accomplish everything: Arcana Coelestia 8252-8253. Thoughtfulness toward our neighbor is doing what is good, fair, and upright in every task and in every duty: 8120-8122. Thoughtfulness toward our neighbor includes absolutely everything we think, intend, and do: 8124. A life of thoughtfulness is a life by the Lord's commandments: 3249. Living by the Lord's commandments is loving the Lord: 10143, 10153, 10310, 10578, 10648 [10645?]. True thoughtfulness is not for credit because it comes from a deeper affection and a consequent deeper pleasure: 2340 [2380?], 2373 [2371?], 2400, 3887, 6388-6393. Our abiding character after death is determined by the quality of our life of thoughtfulness in the world: 8256. Heavenly bliss flows from the Lord into a life of thoughtfulness: 2363. No one is let into heaven simply by thinking, but by intending and doing together with thinking: 2401, 3459. Unless doing what is good is united to intending what is good and thinking what is good, there is no salvation and no union of our inner person with our outer: 3987.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 552

Divine Providence 307

True Christian Religion 475

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 129


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 121, 195, 227, 324, 391


Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for the permission to use this translation.


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