True Christianity #281

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281. The fifth memorable occurrence. The Lord has allowed me to be in the spiritual world and the physical world at the same time. As a result, I can talk with angels as I do with people, which has allowed me to know the states people go through as they arrive after death in that previously unknown world. I have spoken to all my friends and relatives and also to monarchs and dukes, as well as to scholars who had met their fate. I have done this continually now for twenty-seven years. Therefore from my own life experiences I am able to describe the states people go through after death. I could tell you what they are like for people who have lived good lives and what they are like for people who have lived evil lives. Here I will limit myself to some facts about the states people go through if they used the Word to convince themselves of theological falsities, especially if they did so to support justification by faith alone. The successive states they go through are the following:

(1) When they have died and are spiritually coming back to their own life, which generally happens on the third day after their heart has stopped beating, they seem to themselves to have the same body they had had in the world - so much so that they have no idea they are not still alive in the former world. In fact, they no longer have a physical body; they now have an essential body, which seems to their senses to be physical, but it is not.

[2] (2) After several days they realize they are in a world where various different communities have been established. That world is called the world of spirits. It is midway between heaven and hell. All the communities there, which are beyond number, are arranged in an amazing way according to good or evil earthly desires. The communities that are arranged according to good earthly desires communicate with heaven; the communities arranged according to evil earthly desires communicate with hell.

[3] (3) The new spirits (or people who are no longer physical) are taken around and transferred to various different communities - both good and evil communities - and examined to see whether things that are good and true elicit a response in them, or things that are evil and false, and exactly what that response is.

[4] (4) If they respond to things that are good and true, they are led away from evil communities and brought into good ones, again into various different communities until they come into one that answers to their own earthly desire. There they enjoy the goodness that corresponds to that desire. This process lasts until they take off their earthly desire and put on a spiritual one. At that point they are raised up into heaven.

This is what happens to people who lived a life of goodwill in the world and a resulting life of faith - people who believed in the Lord and abstained from evil because it is sinful.

[5] (5) On the other hand, if people used reasoning to reinforce their own false convictions and beliefs - especially if they used the Word for such reinforcement - and on that basis lived a merely earthly, purely evil life (for falsities go with evils, and evils stick to falsities), they desire evil and falsity but not goodness or truth. Therefore they are led away from good communities and brought into evil communities, again into various different communities until they come to one that answers to their cravings.

[6] (6) Nevertheless, because they had outwardly pretended in the world to have good desires, even though inside they had only evil desires, or cravings, they are alternately put back into, and held in, their outer states.

The people who had been leaders of organizations in the world are given leadership roles in communities in the world of spirits. They are put in charge of larger or smaller areas depending on the breadth of the positions they had previously held. Because these people do not love truth or justice, though, and are incapable of being enlightened to the point of even knowing what truth and justice are, they are dismissed after a few days. I have seen some transferred from one community to another and given administrative responsibilities in each community, but in every case after a short while they are dismissed.

[7] (7) After being repeatedly forced out of office, some are too worn out to run for further offices, and others do not dare to do so because they are afraid of ruining their reputation; so they leave and sit around feeling depressed. Then they are taken out into the wilderness where there are shelters. They enter these shelters and are given work to do. If they do the work they get food. If they do not, they go hungry. But eventually their need for food forces them to work.

(Food there is like the food in our world, except that there it has a spiritual origin. The Lord gives food from heaven to all according to the useful things they do. None is given to idle people, because they are useless.)

[8] (8) After some time they get tired of working, so they leave the shelters. Those of them who were priests get the urge to build something. Immediately there appear heaps of hewn stones, bricks, and boards of various sizes, as well as piles of rushes, reeds, clay, plaster, and tar.

When they catch sight of these materials, they feel a burning desire to begin construction. They start constructing a building by taking a stone, then a piece of wood, then a reed, then some mortar, and they put one thing on top of another in no order, although in their sight it seems orderly. The things they build by day fall down overnight, so the next day they pick materials out of the fallen rubble and start building again. They keep doing this until they get completely tired of building.

(This happens because of a correspondence with the fact that they had piled passages from the Word together to support false beliefs. These false beliefs build the church in exactly the way just described.)

[9] (9) Afterward, feeling bored, they leave and sit idle and alone. Because, as I just mentioned, idle people get no food from heaven, they begin to starve and cannot think about anything else except how they are going to get food and satisfy their hunger.

When they are in this state, people come along, so they beg for a little money from the people. The people say, "Why are you sitting idly like this? Come with us to our homes. We'll give you work to do and we'll feed you. " So they happily get up and go off to the people's homes. There they are given their own jobs to do and are given food in exchange for their work. The problem is that all people who have become adamant about false beliefs are unable to do work that is good and useful. They can only do work that is evil and harmful. They cannot work faithfully; they can work only fraudulently and unwillingly. Therefore they leave their work. The only things they love to do are socializing and talking, walking around, and sleeping. At that point their bosses can no longer induce them to work; therefore they are exiled as useless.

[10] (10) Once they have been exiled, their eyes open and they see a road that heads down to a cave. When they arrive at the cave, a door opens and they go in. They ask whether there is food there. When they receive a positive answer, they ask permission to stay and are told that they may. They are taken in and the door closes behind them.

Then the person in charge of the cave comes and says to them, "You can no longer leave. Look at your companions here. They all labor, and as they labor food is given to them from heaven. I'm telling you this so that you'll know what's going on. "

Others add, "The person in charge of us knows what type of work each of us is well suited to do and orders us to do that daily work. On the days when you do your work, you get food. If you don't do your work, you don't get food or clothing. Anyone who does something evil to someone else is thrown into a corner of the cave onto a bed of accursed dust. There the evildoer is horribly tormented until the person in charge sees some sign of repentance. At that point the evildoer is released and ordered back to work. "

[11] The newcomers are also told that after their work they are each allowed to go for a walk or socialize, and later on to sleep. The newcomers are taken deeper into the cave where there are harlots. Each man is allowed to have one of them and call her his partner, but he is forbidden by law to sleep with other partners.

Hell consists of caves like this that are nothing but eternal workhouses. I have been allowed into some of them to look around for the purpose of reporting on them.

All the people there seemed lower class. They did not know who they had been or what work they had done in the world. The angel who was with me, however, told me, "This one was a servant, this one a soldier, this one a general, this one a priest; this one held a high position; this one had wealth. Yet for all they know now, they were slaves and companions back then as well. This is because they were similar inside, although very different on the outside. It is the inner selves that associate people in the spiritual world. "

[12] To speak more generally about the hells, they consist entirely of caves and workhouses like this; but they are different where there are satans as opposed to devils. The spirits called satans focused on false beliefs and were evil as a result. The spirits called devils focused on evil and had false beliefs as a result. In the light of heaven, satans appear gray like corpses; some look as dark as mummies. In the light of heaven, devils, on the other hand, look as if they are darkly glowing; some look pitch black, as black as soot. All the above have the faces and bodies of monsters. Yet in their own light, which is like the light from glowing coals, they do not look like monsters; they look like people. This has been granted to them so that they can interact.

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