Heaven and Hell, by Emanuel Swedenborg

Do you wonder what happens after we die?

Who doesn’t!?

Here is the most extensive eyewitness account of the spiritual world ever published:

Heaven and Hell
By Emanuel Swedenborg

Heaven and Hell was originally published in Latin in 1758. I recommend the New Century Edition linked here for the most readable and accurate modern translation. It is also available in a deluxe hardcover edition.

From the back cover:

This fresh, vivid, and highly readable translation of a spiritual classic enhances our understanding of life both here and hereafter.

This new translation of Emanuel Swedenborg’s most popular work paints a detailed picture of life in the spiritual realms. Swedenborg, a Swedish Enlightenment scientist of extraordinary accomplishment, underwent a spiritual crisis that led to an unparalleled series of paranormal experiences. He spent his last twenty-seven years in almost daily experience of heaven and hell, recording his observations and conversations, many of which are reported in Heaven and Hell. This sustained and detailed description of the nonphysical realms has left its impression on the minds of many great thinkers, including Goethe, Blake, Coleridge, Emerson, Borges, and Milosz.

George Dole’s translation removes the barriers to understanding imposed by the ponderous translations of the past. It retains the dignity, variety, clarity, and gender-inclusive language of the original Latin, bringing Swedenborg’s thought to life.

An introduction by the eminent historian of religion Bernhard Lang sets Heaven and Hell in its historic and cultural context, while Swedenborgian scholars Dole, Robert H. Kirven, and Jonathan S. Rose annotate and elucidate the text for our time. In its own right, the copious index, with over two thousand individual entries, is a powerful new tool for understanding the work.

Translated by George F. Dole and published in 2000
by the Swedenborg Foundation, West Chester, Pennsylvania

You can purchase print and Kindle editions direct from the publisher, or download free epub and PDF versions, at this link:

Heaven and Hell


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in Books and Literature, The Afterlife
22 comments on “Heaven and Hell, by Emanuel Swedenborg
  1. jahnosecret says:

    Thanks, I might get the edition you refer to as the version I bought is a little heavy going! Peace and blessings.

    • Lee says:

      You won’t regret getting this edition. Swedenborg is brain-bending enough without an archaic translation! Also, this edition has footnotes that help you through some of the rough spots.

      Just to be sure you get the right edition, I’d suggest buying from Amazon itself rather than from a third-party seller. There are many, many editions and translations of Heaven and Hell out there. Third-party sellers won’t necessarily list the one they have under the correct ISBN.

      You can also purchase it direct from the Swedenborg Foundation in the U.S., or the Swedenborg Society in the U.K. If you order by phone, ask for the full paperback New Century Edition, not the “Portable Edition,” which is cheaper, but does not have the very helpful introductions and footnotes.

      If you happen to be independently wealthy, you can also order the deluxe hardcover, which is quite posh! However, the full paperback has everything the hardcover does except for the fancy hardcover binding.

      So there you have it! The inside scoop on buying Heaven and Hell. 😉


      • jahnosecret says:

        I’ve only just checked back on this post – thanks for all the info. Greatly appreciated. Peace and blessings.

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Lee! I’m not sure where the best place on your blog would be to post this comment (so feel free to delete it), but have you ever read “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton? I think you might get a lot out of it. Have a good day!

  3. Minister David says:

    what does judgement day really means.if not in the physical,then what will be its purpose.Thanks

    • Lee says:

      Hi Minister David,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your question.

      One way of looking at judgment is that it is a matter of clearly identifying and separating good from evil, and truth from falsity. God’s judgment shows clearly what is good and true, and what is evil and false, both in us individually and in the whole human community.

      Though there are many judgments that take place in this world, the ultimate judgment is the one that takes place in the spiritual world after death. That is when, in the light of heaven—which is God’s truth—it is clearly seen whether we have devoted our lives to what is good and true or to what is evil and false. The very act of shining the light of God’s truth on our lives makes that judgment. And then, in that clear light, we find our place either in heaven or in hell.

      For more on how this happens for us as individuals after we die, please see the article, “What Happens To Us When We Die?

      At various points in human history there are also general judgments on humanity as a whole that bring one spiritual era to an end, and start a new spiritual era. One of these took place at the time the time of the Lord’s life on earth. And many Christians look forward to another general judgment that they believe is coming soon. For a different view of that, please see my article, “Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

  4. Mustapha Kiazolu says:

    if believing in Jesus is the only way to heaven, where are the people of Moses, Noah etc:

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mustapha Kiazolu,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. On that subject please see this article: “Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?

      Short version: Although, being a Christian, I do believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, I completely disagree with the vast bulk of my Christian brothers and sisters who think this means that only Christians can be saved. Instead, I believe that Jesus Christ, who is God himself come to us in human form, loves and saves people of all religions who believe in God and live a good life according to the teachings of their own religion. And I believe that this is the clear teaching of the Christian Bible as well.

      Here is one other article that might also help with your question: “If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

      If you have any further questions as you read these articles, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  5. lori jordan says:

    I was baptized but not in the church, I don’t belong to any church. my mom believed in god and my dad prayed off and on, but also did not go to church anymore. Someone told me if you are not baptized you go to hell, Iam suffering now thinking that like the catholics do we still go to a good place even if we don’t do all of the stuff the catholic church does.

    • Lee says:

      Hi lori,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      In response to your fears: Nobody goes to hell just because they aren’t baptized. The Bible doesn’t say that anywhere.

      Baptism is not some voodoo ritual that magically staves off the gaping jaws of hell. It is a richly symbolic sacrament that represents our need to be spiritually washed of our wrong, selfish, and sinful ways, and become a new, more thoughtful and loving person instead. For more on this, please see:
      The Meaning and Power of Baptism

      I hope this article will allay your fears, and give you a new depth of understanding of what baptism is really all about. And if you have any questions as you read, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

      • lori jordan says:

        Thank you, I did not think so either, but I was not there when my mom passed, and she was in the hospital nobody got there quick enough before she passed. My husband was raised catholic and his mom passed at home and they did the last rights, so it bothers me that she did not go to a better place, but she was a very sweet women. I saw the priest come and they prayed over my husbands mom and I got scared.

  6. AJ749 says:

    Hi lee what is your opinion of those who say that swedenborgs experience was tailor made for him ?

    So in sense swedenborg only saw what he wanted to see and because he was christian his experiences consisted of a chrisitan based afterlife and is not the same afterlife as everyone else would experience ?

    • Lee says:

      Hi AJ749,

      It’s a fair question. Keep in mind that in order to preserve human freedom, people who have different beliefs have to have a way to reject ideas and teachings that are in conflict with their own. Taking this view of Swedenborg’s deeply Christian teachings is as good a way as any for non-Christians, not to mention traditional Christians, to reject Swedenborg’s teachings.

      However, the reality is that Swedenborg himself had to reject most of what he had been taught in his intensely Lutheran Protestant upbringing in order to accept what he was shown in the spiritual world and taught by the Lord during the last three decades of his life on earth. He saw anything but “what he wanted to see” in the spiritual world based upon his traditional Christian upbringing.

      When Swedenborg’s spiritual eyes were first opened, though he had many groundbreaking discoveries and theories in science and philosophy under his belt, when it came to theology he thought along fairly conventional Lutheran lines. We know this because his first major piece of writing during his theological period is full of traditional Christian ideas, which he only gradually abandoned as the work went on. This was the multi-volume work titled The Word of the Old Testament Explained, written between 1745 and 1747, which he never published. In the course of this eight volume work (in English translation), we can see Swedenborg gradually giving up the old theology he had been taught as a boy, especially by his father, who was a Lutheran minister. What he was experiencing in the spiritual world simply didn’t support the old Christian theology in which he had been brought up.

      In short, the idea that Swedenborg was just shown what he expected to see in the spiritual world has no basis in the facts of what actually happened to him. Quite the contrary: he had to slowly and rather painfully abandon almost everything he had been taught in his traditional Lutheran upbringing in order to accept what he was being shown and taught in the spiritual world.

      The resulting Christian theology was so much at odds with what all of the existing Christian churches taught that they all condemned his writings as heretical and false, and made all sorts of scurrilous and false charges against him, doing their best to sideline his theology by assassinating his character.

      So much for the idea that Swedenborg just “saw what he wanted to see” in the spiritual world.

      However, as far as non-Christians’ experience of the spiritual world, it is true that those who have embraced other religious beliefs and thoroughly confirmed them in their own mind will continue to hold to their beliefs in the spiritual world. Once again, God gives us freedom to believe as we wish to believe, and to live as we wish to live.

      But as for Swedenborg, he had to give up just about everything he had previously believed in order to accept what he was being shown and taught in the spiritual world.

      • AJ749 says:

        Hi lee thanks for the reply , i never k ew that about swedenborg regarding the rejection of what he had been taught about the spirit world,

        Regarding other religeons i know during the third phase in the world of spirits everyone gets taught about what heaven and hell are like, but my question is do people who are Hindus stop being hindus in heaven because of what they are taught ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi AJ749,

          People of all religions and cultures will retain the general stamp of their religion and culture, even in the spiritual world, because it has become a part of their character. However, only those who have made the particular doctrines and beliefs of their church or religion a major part of their mindset will cling to those doctrines and beliefs in the afterlife. Others, who have simply led a good life as they understand it based on their religion and upbringing, will willingly accept the truth in the afterlife even if it differs from what they were taught by their religious leaders.

  7. AJ749 says:

    Hi Lee so based off of what your saying would a devout muslim still live in a devout muslim heaven to enter even the lowest heaven or would they have to give up being muslim and living in a muslim culture with their lovely markets and customs ?

    • Lee says:

      Hi AJ749,

      There is no need for anyone to give up the beauties of their culture and customs in the spiritual world. These things are good, and nothing that is good is taken away from us in heaven. Despite its fundamentalist wing, which gives it a bad name, Islam is a good religion for those who follow it devoutly out of love for God and for their fellow human beings.

      Even Muslims who accept the Lord (Jesus) in the other life will not have to give up their Middle Eastern culture and customs. They can continue to pray five times a day if they wish, and observe their other religious customs. It’s just that their conception of the Divine Being whom they are praying to will have broadened to include the human side of the same God they have worshiped all along.

      • Foster Caldaroni says:

        Swedenborg in one of his books said Muslims and followers of other religions don’t live in the same heaven with Christians. My question is do Christians of different denominations live separately aswell, or is belief in Christ as god allow all followers of Christ to live together?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Foster,

          This depends upon how far people went in their regeneration process, and how tightly they cling to the beliefs and practices of their particular sect.

          In the highest heavens, people of all different backgrounds and religions live happily and harmoniously together. But in the lower heavens, where people live who have not gone so far in their regeneration process, people may still remain organized according to their particular beliefs and cultures. Catholics will likely live with other Catholics, Protestants with other Protestants, and people of different Protestant sects together with one another—especially in the lowest heaven.

          This doesn’t mean they can’t have any connections or interactions with people of other religions and sects, any more than people of different religions and sects can’t interact with one another here on earth. But their primary relationships will be with people who share their particular beliefs and religious culture. Those will be the people who live in their own community, whereas people who have different beliefs and practices will live in other communities, closer to or farther away from one another depending upon how different they are.

          What they won’t have is a sense that they are better than others because they belong to the “right” church and others belong to the “wrong” church. Or if this idea does begin to infect their minds, they will fall out of their place in heaven until they come back to their senses. Everyone in heaven loves their neighbor as themselves. This includes loving and respecting people who hold different beliefs.

          Also, they will give up any major false beliefs they had held to, such as the idea that God is three Persons. What will be left will be the positive aspects of their particular religion or sect.

  8. Foster Caldaroni says:

    Hi, Lee
    I’m currently reading Heaven and hell, and Swedenborg’s description of people in heaven not acting from themselfs, but from god working and acting through them to me sounds like people in heaven are more like robots, and less like human beings with free will.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      It’s a fine distinction, but it’s better to think of it as people in heaven acting from the Lord rather than the Lord acting through them. The Lord acting through us does indeed make it sound like we are mere puppets. But if we are acting from the Lord, then we still have agency and identity, because we are acting from the Lord because of our own freely made choice to do so.

      When we make that choice, the Lord does act through us, but this happens in a way that gives us a greater individuality and sense of self than if we actually did act from ourselves. On this subject, Swedenborg says:

      The more closely we are united to the Lord, the more clearly we seem to have our own identity, and yet the more obvious it is to us that we belong to the Lord. (Divine Providence #158)

      For more detailed explanations of this, please see Divine Providence #42–45, 158; Secrets of Heaven #1387.

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