Can Angels and Spirits Talk to People on Earth?
What About Them Angels?
Angels have become firmly embedded in our popular culture. They appear in countless movies, television shows, books, and websites. But can we really know anything about them? Do we even know for sure that angels exist?
Anyone who doesn’t want to believe in angels can reject them as fantasies and illusions. But for those who are open to the possibility of their existence, there is plenty of information available. Some of the best information is found in Emanuel Swedenborg’s popular book Heaven and Hell, published over 250 years ago.
Swedenborg tells us that angels were originally born as people on earth who lived out their lives here. In heaven, they live in human communities where they have husbands, wives, friends, jobs, homes, hobbies, and everything else we have here on earth . . . only better! Imagine what earth would be like if everyone cared about everyone else, and spent their lives doing good things for other people. That would be heaven!
Can angels talk to people on earth? Yes! But this is something God grants us when God sees that we need it for some reason.
Angels: Aliens or Earthlings?
Who are the angels, and where do they come from?
In traditional Christian lore, angels are higher beings who are separate creations of God, and who have inhabited heaven since it was first created. Based on visions of celestial beings seen by the ancient prophets, they are usually pictured as looking like humans with wings.
In recent centuries that view of angels has begun to fade—in part because of the reports of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) in his most popular book, Heaven and Hell. Swedenborg tells us that angels are not alien beings at all. They are human beings just like you and me who have lived out their lives on earth and then gone on to live in heaven.
Angels are not some higher order of being. Twice in the Bible when the apostle John was about to worship the angel who was speaking to him, the angel forbade him, making himself equal to John, the prophets, and all those who obey God (Revelation 19:10, 22:9). And though there are visions of winged beings in the Bible, they are never identified as angels. In fact, when angels appear in the Bible, they are identified as people. (See, for example, Daniel 9:21; Judges 13:6; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12.) Also, in Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word “angel” simply means “messenger.”
All of this leads to the conclusion that angels are not some higher order of being created separately by God. They are people who have lived loving, thoughtful, and useful lives on earth, and are now living in heaven. The ones God sent to talk to people on earth were called “messengers.” The name stuck, and was brought into English as our word “angels.”
The Scenery of the Spiritual World
If angels are just ordinary people who have gone on to live in heaven, what’s heaven like? Do angels sit on clouds playing harps for all of eternity? Now that would be tedious. Even harpists need a break now and then!
In fact, heaven is not as different from earth as many people think. As poets through the ages have sensed, a tree, a cloud, the sun, the moon, the stars, a deer, a spider all express human states of mind and heart. In other words, they express spiritual realities in a material form. What we see around us on earth is a reflection of what exists in heaven.
Because of this, the scenery in the spiritual world looks very much like the scenery in the material world. There are mountains, hills, streams, lakes, oceans, trees, plants, fish, birds, animals, and yes, towns and cities just as there are here on earth. In short, everything that exists in the material world exists in the spiritual world also.
Angels live in tents, houses, mansions, or palaces, all according to their spiritual state. They can take a walk in the woods, swim in the river, or play a game of tennis at the local tennis courts. They can go to the theater, attend an outdoor concert, or host a party. It is all very familiar from scenes and experiences on earth.
Except . . . it’s different. In heaven, everything is brighter, more colorful, more beautiful, and more alive than the corresponding things here on earth. That’s because spiritual reality responds quickly and fully to the state of the human heart and mind. In heaven, everything we see around us reflects what we are thinking and feeling within us.
Imagine the scenery that would correspond to the spirits of the most warm, loving, thoughtful, and kind people you know, and you will be imagining the scenery of heaven.
Everyday Life in Heaven
Just as the scenery around us in heaven is very familiar, but more beautiful, so is the daily life of the angels. They live in towns and cities, each by their households, each in their neighborhoods. Some live apart in remote areas, while others live surrounded by a sea of humanity in densely populated cities.
Every angel also has an occupation and daily work. That work is just as varied as the different jobs and careers here on earth—in fact, far more so. There are teachers and scholars, greeters and guides for newly arrived people, parents for infants and children who have died and gone to heaven, governors and town officials, spiritual health care workers, and yes, even prison guards to keep evil spirits from breaking out and harming innocent people. There are also artisans, craftspeople, and other types of workers. Every occupation here on earth has a corresponding occupation in heaven.
One difference in heaven, though, is that everyone works because they love their work, not because they have to work. In heaven, all the necessities of life are provided. This is often done through the hands of other angels and spirits. Angels willingly contribute without thinking about their own needs, and those needs are freely fulfilled by everyone around them, and by God.
Of course, angels don’t work all day and all night. That would be just as fatiguing there as it would be here. When angels’ daily work is done, they have plenty of free time for relaxation, recreation, reading, study, or whatever serves to refresh their minds and bodies. One common schedule is to do the daily work in the morning, and have the afternoon and evening free for other activities.
There are also regular meals with delicious food and drink. And what is wonderful, the food is made of God’s love, and the drink is made of God’s wisdom. So angels’ meals refresh both their bodies and their spirits at the same time.
Angels do sleep. After a day full of intense activity, they need that down time for rejuvenation just as we do on earth. It never gets fully dark in heaven, but there is a time of twilight when angels retire to their homes and beds.
These days it is popular for people to “contact their angels.”
Can angels really talk to us? The short answer is yes.
We humans have both physical senses and spiritual senses. Under ordinary circumstances, as long as we are living in our physical body our physical senses are open and our spiritual senses are closed. When we die and leave our physical body behind, we will continue living in our spiritual body (see 1 Corinthians 15:44). Our spiritual senses will then be opened, and we will see the angels and spirits of those who have died before us, as well as all the scenery of the spiritual world.
However, it is possible for our spiritual senses to be opened while we are still living in the physical body.
We can know this from the Bible. Physical eyes cannot see spiritual things. So whenever people in the Bible saw angels or saw visions of heaven, they were seeing them with their spiritual eyes, not their physical eyes. Most of them were not aware of this. But in the book of Revelation John often says that he was “in the spirit” and that “heaven was opened” to him. In other words, what he described in that book, he saw and heard with his spiritual senses.
Now, the people of Bible times were not made any differently than we are today. So if it was possible for them to talk to angels, it is possible for us also. And many people today have had the experience of receiving messages from spiritual beings.
The Veil that Separates
Then why don’t we see and hear angels all the time?
First of all, it would be very distracting! Personally, I need my attention right here in the material world most of the time just to make sure the hammer hits the nail (not my thumb) and the car stays on the road (not in the ditch). If angels were talking to us all the time, we’d never get anything done!
But more seriously, one of the reasons angels and spirits don’t talk to us so much these days is that many people either deny their existence or have serious doubts. And some people simply have no interest in anything beyond this material world with its activities, relationships, and pleasures. To protect our spiritual freedom, God keeps us unaware of the angels and spirits around us if we don’t believe in them or don’t want anything to do with them.
Who’s on the other end?
There is another reason God usually keeps our spiritual senses closed.
It would be nice if angels were the only spiritual beings out there. But as we know from the Bible and from human experience through the ages, if there are angels, there are also devils—otherwise known as evil spirits. And while angels want to help us on our journey toward heaven, evil spirits love nothing more than misleading us, tripping us up, and sending us stumbling down toward hell.
That’s why seeking angel encounters can be a risky business. We don’t have any phone book for heaven. If we “place a call” to the spiritual world, it’s hard to know who will pick up on the other end. We might get lucky and get a real angel. Or we might get an evil spirit pretending to be an angel—which they are perfectly capable of doing (see 2 Corinthians 11:14; Matthew 24:24). Evil spirits will tell us whatever we want to hear—all mixed in with a lot of false and misleading “information” about spiritual reality.
There are hundreds, even thousands of people making statements and writing books based on what angels and spirits have told them. All of them believe they have the real, honest-to-goodness truth. And many of them contradict each other. The fallacy is thinking that just because we’re being contacted by someone in the spiritual world, that means they must know the truth, and are telling the truth.
Spirits are just people who have passed on to the other life. Entering the spiritual world does not automatically fill us with all knowledge. In particular, people who cling to false ideas here will continue to cling to them after they die.
What it amounts to is this: We shouldn’t automatically believe everything that comes from angels and spirits any more than we should uncritically believe everything we hear on the street. No matter where a piece of information comes from, it’s best to use our thinking mind to evaluate it. And if something seems fishy, there’s a good chance that it is fishy—even if an “angel” told us.
Does this mean we should avoid all contact with the spiritual world? Not at all. If God sees fit to send us an angel at some key turning point in our lives, we can accept it with gladness, and let the angel do his or her healing work in our lives.
Further, according to Swedenborg, angels do not wish to teach us things about heaven. Why? Because they don’t want to take away our freedom to think and believe as we wish. So if we have a real angel encounter, it is likely to be an “inspirational video,” not an instructional one. And we can all use a little inspiration from time to time!
Heaven picks up where earth leaves off
Heaven is the human community that we choose and build when we love to do good and useful things for other people. If we love God and our fellow human beings, and devote our lives to serving them in our own unique way using our own unique skills and talents, we are building a life of heaven for ourselves and for those around us even while we are living here on earth. That life of heaven simply continues after we die, only in a nicer neighborhood.
Depending on our life choices here on earth, we will each be sorted into our own place after death. That place will be in a community of people who share similar loves, beliefs, and interests—and we will live the life we love with those people to eternity.
Perhaps you think this might get boring.
But consider the life of a devoted scientist or a dedicated teacher. Does either of them ever run out of new things to discover or new joys in sharing knowledge and understanding with others?
Remember, God is infinite, while we humans are finite. No matter how much spiritual progress we have made, no matter how much we have learned, no matter how deeply we have loved, if our sights are set on God there will always be infinitely more.
Every morning when we wake up in heaven there will be new love, new learning, and new things to accomplish awaiting us. And that will keep us excited and invigorated in the activities and discoveries of each new day forever.
This article is © 2013 by Lee Woofenden
For further reading:
Reblogged this on Triam Press.
I agree that opening up to the sprit world can be a risky business, and the ‘wish fulfilment’ messages so many people crave leave them wide open to manipulation. On the other hand, my own experience is littered with mistakes through naiveté and impure intention and it seemed I had to learn the hard way.
As always, a well constructed and thought-provoking article, thanks for that. Peace.
I’m really looking forward to a new life where I’m not bombarded with worldly distractions that keep me from facing toward The Lord for my love and light. Hopefully my repentance has been sincere enough to deserve the right to serve all of my new peers in the New World. I am dedicated to become totally aware of .his love in my heart and taking His prompts through His angels to live a heavenly life NOW so I can be useful as an angel myself. This is far more exciting than my former belief in reincarnation. It is also Biblical and makes so much sense.
Thanks for stopping by and expressing your good thoughts. I hope this article was helpful to you on your spiritual journey! If you set your heart, mind, and hands to the task of repentance and spiritual rebirth, you will reach your home in heaven.
About rebirth, you may be interested in the article:
What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
I agree with you that this view of human life here and hereafter is far more exciting and satisfying than a belief in reincarnation. For more on that, see the article:
The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation
This article is so interesting and beautiful, as is all of yours I’ve read so far. I hope I can be an angel in a community close to God, and of course I hope my family and friends will be there as well. 🙂 I know this may sound paranoid but I hope what you write is true!
If you live as if it’s true, and strive toward becoming an angel while you are still here on earth, then it is my belief that you will experience it for yourself all in good time! And even if it’s not true, if you live a life of love, caring, and service toward your fellow human beings—which is what makes us into angels—you will have a much better and happier life here on earth, regardless of what, if anything, comes next.
Hello I always have this question in my mind,When my husband pass away it was very painful to me and still missing him very much every day where the angels where whern I was suffering so much?Do you know?Please answer me and thank you.
I’m very sorry to hear about the death of your husband. Losing someone we love is one of the most difficult and painful experiences we go through. Though I do believe the angels are with you, they cannot take away the pain and grief of separation. They can only help you from within to move through it. But you still have to take those difficult steps yourself.
Perhaps it would help to know a little more about what your husband went through after he died, and where he might be now. For more on this, please see the article, What Happens To Us When We Die?
Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with you.
you said that god planned for us to become angels does that mean if we hadn’t fallen and stayed in our ideal state from the beginning we would have eventually become said angels?
It’s a hypothetical question, since we did fall. However, yes, if we humans had remained in the “very good” state in which God originally created us, we would go to heaven, not hell. It is because we chose not to remain in a very good state that hell became an option. And even now, it is only when we actively choose selfishness and greed over love and understanding that we go to heaven rather than hell. The difference is that since the Fall represented by the expulsion from the Garden of Eden in the Bible (brought about by Adam and Eve’s disobedience), we come “pre-loaded” with tendencies toward selfishness and greed, which we must face and overcome. So the choice between good and evil is thrust upon us in a different way than it was faced by the ancient people represented by Adam and Eve before they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Hello Lee, what would you advise people think when facing challenges and tough times? Thank you.
Thanks for your comment and question. That’s a big subject! Different people will face challenges and tough times differently. However, here are some articles that might help:
I have been reading Heaven and Hell myself to gain a deeper understanding. However, I am having trouble understanding the structure of heaven. Well, less the actual structure and more the purpose of it.
Swedenborg had written that Heaven as a whole is divided into the celestial, spiritual and natural part, depending on how deep one perceives the love and wisdom of God. On top of that he wrote that the communities are based on our own good and made up of people who think similarly. He also stated that those with more wisdom are placed in the center of those communities and those communities that have a deeper understanding and perception of good are higher and more central and as such closer to God.
This… strikes me as rather odd. This struture feels limiting and more akin to a prison where people are puppets of God.
First, I thought that Heaven would finally be the place where we reach universal understanding and are unified. This is the case, as Swedenborg mentions that we are all connected through love and remote communication, seeing as something that is not connected would cease its existence.
However, one can not leave their community without feelings of deprivation. As such, one is technically cut off from the vast majority of other being apart from remote communication. In fact, our pool might even be smaller than in this world. Sure, I may not have a perfect understanding with most of them, but even the worst among my friends can bring be joy.
Also, wouldn’t that structure technically mean that God is partial? This can not be, for the Bible states that God has no partiality.
Second, the structure seems like it is structurally enforced. What if you community is based in a landscape you dislike, but you are the only one? You can not leave it, but staying is also a deprivation. Or what if you are the only one in a community who has a certain interest, despite all being very similar in our perception of good?
Will such things as preferences, hobbies and other opinions washed away so that only our perception of good remains? Wouldn’t it be then exactly what God wants to avoid? Having mere lifeless puppets? A lot of things are I do are a huge part of who I am and how I perceive things. Stripping those away would mean to remove ‘me’.
Or do those things become inconsequential because we are filled with the love of God? Wouldn’t that be the equivalent of God pumping morphine into us so we can not focus anymore?
And if those communities in fact reflect interests, wouldn’t the community be very specific with alarmingly few people?
As for the location, what if one wants to go out and explore? Wouldn’t leaving mean a feeling of deprivation? What if one would go to another community to learn? Isn’t learning an eternal process? Yet due to this structure we are limited to staying who we became at the point of death.
I am sure I am missing a whole lot here, but to me Heaven sounds like a labour camp.
Obviously, I know this to be untrue, as a loving God would not limit us, but I have a hard time understanding Swedenborgs description of Heaven as a place of divine love and good where we do not feel limited, regardless of preferred hobbies, activities and interests.
I hope you can help.
Kudos to you for going right to the source!
But my, oh my, you do have a lot of worries! 😛 So the first thing I would say is, Relax! 🙂 Everything in heaven flows according to what we love. There is no coercion there. No one is a puppet. We are free to do the things we want to do, and go to the places we want to go to. Swedenborg traveled to many different parts of the spiritual world, often accompanied by spirits from our earth who were also interested in traveling.
Swedenborg assures us that when we die and leave this world behind, the only thing we leave behind is our physical body, because it is of no further use to us. (We have a much better spiritual body in the spiritual world.) We take with us everything that makes us the person we are: everything we think, love, want, like, dislike, are skilled at, enjoy, know, have learned, and so on, right down to the smallest detail of our personality and character. We are exactly the same person as we were here on earth. What happens in our second stage after death (see “What Happens To Us When We Die?”) is that any external masks we may have put on here on earth that don’t reflect who we truly are inside are stripped away, so that we become both inwardly and outwardly exactly the person we truly are.
That is the person we are in heaven. Nothing is taken away that is a real part of who we are as a person. Not even the smallest little idiosyncratic quirk. In fact, if anything our uniqueness as a person will be enhanced in heaven, because there will be no external confining social forces suppressing the full expression of who we truly are.
That is the person we will live as in heaven. In heaven, the full uniqueness and character of every individual angel adds up to create an almost infinitely complex and beautiful whole.
Your interests and the things you do are an integral part of who you are. And though some of them may be changed into their spiritual equivalents, they are still your particular, idiosyncratic likes, skills, hobbies, enjoyments, and so on. And considering that everyone who lives on this earth eventually goes on to the spiritual world—and many, if not most to heaven—it is assured that if you shared those likes and interests with anyone at all here on earth, there will also be people in heaven who share those likes and interests with you.
Basically, heaven is an awful lot like earth, only better. And heavenly communities consist of just as many people as make up the various sizes of communities here on earth, from small towns to big cities. Depending on your preferences, you’ll live where there are plenty of people around, some of whom you’ll be closer to than others because some of them share more of your loves and interests than others.
Once again, it is our own loves, interests, and character that determine everything about our life in heaven. God doesn’t impose anything on us, nor does God take away from us anything that makes us the person we are. Rather, God provides a community in heaven in which we will feel fully at home because it will reflect who we are, and the types of relationships we have built for ourselves here on earth.
If, as Swedenborg says, most people in heaven don’t travel, it’s not because they aren’t allowed to, but because they enjoy their own communities so much that they have little interest in traveling. But as I said earlier, those who do have an interest in traveling are free to do so.
Further, as Swedenborg describes it, people who travel commonly bring a whole community of people with them on their travels, so that they are traveling as a group. I like to think of it as being like a blood cell traveling through the circulatory system of the body, each blood cell consisting of a whole group of people. So traveling does not necessarily mean leaving our own community behind. It can be like a whole tour group from a particular town visiting another part of the country or of the world together, and sharing the experience with their closest friends.
About the structure of heaven, it’s best not to get too mechanical in our thinking about it. The closest equivalent, Swedenborg says, is the human body—which is a living, organic thing. Similarly, the structure of heaven is not a static, limiting thing but rather a living, organic being in which the unique life of every individual within it adds to the living, dynamic nature of the whole.
As far as our community and surroundings, they will reflect the person we are quite perfectly, because our surroundings in heaven are created by God to reflect our inner self and character, and that of the people around us. There is no possibility that we would be stuck in a community with nobody who shares our loves and interests, because that’s just not how the spiritual world works. We gravitate toward people who do share our loves and interests, and these are the people we live with and interact with each day.
Also, we gravitate toward a position within our community that reflects the type of person we are. Just as organizations here on earth tend to have the most inspired and driven personalities at their center, and less inspired and driven people working more toward the periphery, so it is in the communities in the spiritual world. There’s nothing mechanical about it. It’s all based on exactly the person each one of us is.
I could keep going, but I hope this is enough to assuage some of your concerns. Meanwhile, here are a few more articles that might help:
I thought I would jump in here with a couple of questions….
If, upon death, the afterlife stages strip away “outward” masks to reveal one’s true “inner” self, what happens to those who have blissfully, if not ignorantly, donned outer masks and walked through this life in a facade yet are happy, loving, caring individuals who have developed a successful, fulfilling life on this plane, relationships they cherish, and skills/traits they’ve honed to be used here?
If many of those things are based upon “outer” mask wearing, then what life and enjoyments do they get to look forward to when having those same things removed from their life in the after-world due to them not being consistent representations of their true self? What if those things make up the only life they know and are accustomed to?
Many of us certainly try to live our lives here based upon our :”inner” self, but often times we don “outer” masks to adapt and roll with life’s changes, perhaps acquiesce to lessen the burden of preference upon a given situation or relationship, and try to live up to others’ expectations. And, we often are successful in our attempts. We do these things willingly and, over time, accept our lives as they are and can be truly happy living them. But, even if we are unhappy on the inside at times, it’s the outside life that we have grown accustomed to and appreciate our interaction with.
Yet, if our lives are not truthfully based upon our true self, then what life do we know and could expect to experience after death when everything about our current life, our developed likes/dislikes, our interests, our successes, is merely based upon living a lie, even if unintentionally?
In response, I would say that it’s best not to create in our minds an overly great dichotomy between our inner self and our outer self. If we have adapted ourselves to others outwardly because we actually care about them, love them, and want to serve them and give them happiness, then our very adaptation to their character and needs is driven by, and therefore an expression of, our true inner self.
What happens in the second stage after death is not the stripping away of our entire outer self, but rather any parts of it that are at odds with our inner self. When our outer self is acting at the behest of our inner self in order to carry out its loves and desires, then even if the outer self may express some things that are not what we would express within our own home and with our own husband or wife, family, and closest friends, then our outer self is still reflecting our inner self because it is carrying out the will of our inner self.
In other words, it’s more complicated than our outer self always being a perfect reflection of our inner self. Rather, our outer self is always carrying out what our inner self wishes it to carry out, and therefore always reflects our own motivations and desires rather than the motivations and desires of others. Even in the spiritual world, we do have both an inner self and an outer self.
I know this may sound as if we can dissemble after all, and is perhaps more confusing than helpful. The difference is that in the spiritual world we cannot put on a false front; rather, our external words and actions always reflect our inner thoughts and motivations even if they may be adapted to the particular situation in which we are.
Perhaps a couple of examples might help:
Some angels’ jobs involve being “prison guards” in hell. Their function is to monitor the evil spirits in hell and keep them from getting completely out of control. So if one evil spirit is punishing another evil spirit for something he or she has done, the angel guards prevent the one doing the punishing from punishing beyond what the offense warrants.
Now, in carrying out that job, the angel will sometimes have to exert the spiritual equivalent of force in order to suppress the evil desires of the evil spirits in hell from getting out of bounds. And that force may involve fear and pain inflicted upon evil spirits who are attempting to go beyond allowed limits of malevolence. The fear and pain thus inflicted does not really reflect what that angel desires for the evil spirits he or she is charged with guarding. But since fear and pain are the only things evil spirits understand and respect, it is necessary for the angel guard to inflict them in order to prevent a greater evil from taking place. So although the angel is motivated only by mercy toward the evil spirits he or she is guarding, that mercy may have to express itself in the inflicting of fear and pain on those evil spirits in order to prevent them from damaging one another more than is warranted by the particular evil actions of the evil spirits on the receiving end—and also, of course, to prevent them from breaking out of hell and victimizing good and innocent spirits living outside of hell. The outward actions of the angel guard therefore reflect pragmatically the inner loves and motives of the angel, even if they must be expressed in ways that the angel would prefer not to express them if it were possible to accomplish the necessary goals in any other way.
The angels of the highest heavens go naked in their own communities. This is an expression of their full innocence and openness with the other people in their communities, who share a similar innocence and openness with them.
However, when they travel outside of their own communities, especially to lower heavens, they are clothed along the way in order to adapt themselves to the lower heavens where there is not such full innocence. This happens, among other reasons, because they do love and care about angels of the lower heavens, and do not want to cause any discomfort or offense. So the very act of being clothed, even though it doesn’t perfectly reflect their inner innocence, is also an expression of their compassionate love for other angels who are in a different state of mind and heart. So the act of being clothed reflects their inner self in that it is a matter of love and care for the angels of lower heavens that they are visiting.
Another way of saying all of this is that angels are able to most fully express their inner self outwardly only when they are in their own communities. When they are interacting with angels of other communities, they must put on an outer self that, while not untrue to their inner self, does not fully reflect it, but reflects it only as much as is possible while traveling to a “foreign” community, which does not fully share and reflect their true inner self.
An example of this here on earth would be traveling to a foreign land and politely eating the food and drink offered to us by our hosts even if it really isn’t to our liking. We do so because it is a matter of politeness and love for our hosts, and appreciation for their sincere desire to give us the best food they have to offer, according to their own culture’s accounting of the finest foods and drinks.
So even our experience and ability here on earth of putting on an outer self that is not a full reflection of our inner self still has its usefulness in heaven. Angels, too, are able to adapt their outward demeanor and expression to that of the people they are interacting with, not in order to put on a false front and fool those people into thinking they’re something they are not, but rather as a matter of love and mercy in adapting their words, actions, and even appearance to the people they are interacting with in order to accomplish the inner purposes of their own heart and mind.
But this, also, is why angels prefer to be in their own communities, and always return there whenever their work in “foreign parts” is over. In their own communities, they can feel most fully themselves, and can fully express their true inner self in a way that they can’t when they are traveling abroad. That is where their outer self fully expresses their inner self. And that is why they breathe easiest there, and always return there as to their own home.
Hi Lee. Thank you for taking the time.
I have downloaded the PDF that talks about Swedenborgs view on the afterlife from the Swedenborg Foundation website. I was so eager to learn that I somehow managed to clear it out in a day. It basically said what you have said and it put the majority of my concerns to rest.
In fact, it even gave me insight in some thoughts and feelings I have been having but could not explain. It was a very good read.
However, I want to touch on a particular point. These doubt I gained from misunderstanding, it served a great purpose. Because of it, I gained a great insight of my current way of thinking. I found some traces for fears and selfish thinking that I was unaware of.
But even more, it truly shocked me to find out how much my inner workings have changed ever since I decided to open myself to Divine truth. When I first interpreted it falsely, my immediate reaction was that if Heaven is truly that unjust and limiting, that I wish to have no part in it. Obviously, Heaven can not be unjust, for it is the works of the Lord we are talking about. But this is where I understood just how much unity, equality and community matters to me. A sense of justice and what is wrong and right without having studied it. This realization was momentous.
This goes in line with something I discovered for myself not too long ago, before finding a confirmation in Swedenborgs teachings. Everything material I do, every situation, every single thought always carries a lesson or deeper spiritual meaning, leading to personal growth.
Whether it is a simple game or a situation in life. I search for a Divine and spiritual meaning in everything. Though material things may be temporary, the deeper meaning derived from them is meant for eternity.
I am truly happy that this misunderstanding happened. My doubts have been building up the more I found out, until most of them were crushed in one swift strike. Regardless whether what Swedenborg wrote is true or not, I took away a personal lesson that is irreplaceable.
And yet, there is still a long way to go on this journey, but the way ahead was made clearer than ever and I happy to continue. There is always more to learn.
Thanks again for reading and for maintaining this site, Lee 🙂
You are most welcome. This is what I enjoy doing.
And I do believe that everything in us, even our doubts, fears, and selfish impulses, has a part to play in our journey of spiritual growth and rebirth.
We must start from where we are, not from some theoretical place we wish we were. And where we are at the start of our spiritual journey is usually a rather self-absorbed, doubt-filled, and fearful place once we strip away our learned arsenal of external social politeness and political correctness. Recognizing what is truly driving us inside, regardless of the outward appearances, is a valuable insight. Until we realize where we really are as a person, we cannot travel from there to a better place.
And when we do start that journey, we travel from where we are, and must take one step after another—complete with various false starts, wrong turns, and doublings-back—in order to reach our hoped-for destination. And everywhere along the way, our true current inner self tends to show itself, warts and all, reminding us of the work and the travel we still have ahead of us on this spiritual journey that never ends.
And yet, as you say, those selfish impulses, doubts, and fears also lead us to many new spiritual insights about ourselves and the world (both material and spiritual) in which we live, and often drive us along on our spiritual journey. Along these lines, you might be interested in this article: “Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: ‘The Virtue of Selfishness,’” and the articles linked at the end of it.
Lee, how can we know what our true inner self is I do love and have empathy for Suffering people and pray for them. But I still sin on occasion. I wish I didn’t but I still do. I wish I could love like Christ loved.
None of us is able to love the way Christ did. At least, not to the full extend that Christ did. Jesus gave us the ideal of perfection and the example of his life, but he also recognized that all of us ordinary mortals are sinners who need to repent and be born again—which is not an instantaneous event, but a lifelong process.
About your inner self, consider how you think and feel when you’re all by yourself, with no one else around. Unless you’ve completely deceived yourself about who you are, the way you think and feel at those times is your inner self. Your outer self, on the other hand, is the way you think, feel, speak, and act when you’re around people (not your spouse or your dearest friends) out in the community. That’s often different than how you think and feel and talk to yourself when you’re all alone.
While we’re here on earth, it’s intentional on God’s part that our outer self does not always reflect our inner self. We’re still in the process of being reborn. Sometimes we need to “fake it until we make it,” as the saying goes. We have to train our inner self to be more like what we want it to be. Meanwhile, it’s best if we not “let it all hang out” when our inner self is in a negative state in need of rebirth and reformation.
So don’t worry too much if you look inside yourself and don’t always like what you see. That’s what our lifetime here on earth is for. To see that unflattering picture of ourselves, and do the long, hard work required to make it into a better one.
So, the highest heavens exist along the French Riviera and on the beaches of Negril, Jamaica? Well, no need to worry about lack of clothing where it’s warm and sunny all the time!!:-p
The examples you provided do, indeed, offer circumstances wherein behavioral changes are required to interact with others in various communities due to respect, love and politeness. However, these changes are temporary and necessary to interact properly, not a developed ‘way of life’.
Even the angel prison guards you mention are merely performing daily tasks against their core nature so, unless they are destined to do this unwelcome task 24/7/365, they would still return to the peaceful serenity of their community based upon their own inner self when not working. I don’t see this as quite the same.
My questions related to those whose life circumstances have developed due to their outer masks, and who live their lives accepting, or perhaps even loving, their constant interaction scenarios with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones, not of those who are tasked with unpleasant requirements and thus must wear outer masks different form their true self in order to accommodate.
Wouldn’t those individuals “lose” the life they’ve grown to know and love, having it replaced by a life governed by their core self, and therefore different (albeit, perceivably better)?
If so, isn’t this what Alex was questioning above?
Hey Richard. I recommend you take a look this PDF from the Swedenborg Foundation about Swedenborg’s view on the afterlife: http://www.swedenborg.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/SF_OurLifeAfterDeath.pdf (I hope posting links is allowed)
It settled the concerns I mentioned above. It goes in great detail what losing that ‘outer layer’ would mean, should it really come to pass. I recommend reading it, even if you are not interested in the afterlife, as it offers a great insight into spiritual growth. At least it gave me a great insight 🙂
Thanks for posting the link. If you keep reading in Heaven and Hell, you’ll come to the parts that the SF book Our Life After Death is extracted from. It’s straight out of the book!
Thanks for the link!
I, too, have been reading Heaven and Hell from which Our Life After Death is excerpted and expanded upon. I do see it as an easier read than Heaven and Hell which is a bit rougher at first. I doubt I’ll work my my through OLAD in a day like you did, but I will take time to soak it in.
I thought my questions were along the same lines as, and supported, yours above when referencing what you perceived to be questionable or inconsistent workings of heaven and individual interactions, and how that which defines you as “you” is handled.
I often feel that however long I may have in this world, there will never be enough time to ask all the questions, much less comprehend all the answers!
Yes, the highest angels do live in a very beautiful, warm, and sunny place! 🙂
Of course, those two examples were just examples. But the idea was to show that angels, too, can and do at times present an outward face and appearance that doesn’t fully reflect their inner self—and yet that is still driven by their inner self.
In the case of the angel prison guards, it’s not just an “unwelcome task.” It’s their chosen career. And the very reason they choose such a career that to many people would indeed be an “unwelcome task”—if not a horrifying ordeal—is that their character and personality lends itself to such a job. Not everyone is cut out to be a prison guard. But for some people, it truly is what they’re cut out for, and they take pride and satisfaction in their work. So their work, too, is a reflection of their inner self and character, even if it requires them to put on a work face that is much tougher than the one they wear when they’re relaxing at home with their families and friends.
About the rest, I guess I’m not sure why you think that interacting with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones necessarily means putting on a false mask. We are not islands unto ourselves; we are social creatures. And our life and character is formed in the context of all of our social interactions. Take us out of our social milieu and remove us from our web of relationships, and what, really, is left of our self and our life?
Swedenborg describes how people who think they are islands unto themselves are apprised of the real situation in the spiritual world. They are temporarily cut off from all influence and interaction with others (which happens by internal as well as external routes)—and they instantly collapse in a heap on the ground and practically go into a coma. While they are in this state of being cut off from communication with others, they are unable to think or feel anything at all, beyond an awareness of their own state. This convinces them that we are not the source of our own thoughts and feelings, but rather that our thoughts and feelings exist within the matrix of our relationships with everyone around us, including the angels and spirits who are around us all the time even when we are living here in the material world.
People who love the social whirl are just fine, as long as they actually do care about the people around them rather than just using them for their own pleasure and self-aggrandizement. Heaven itself is a community full of social interactions. It’s not a mere “mask” to engage in these social interactions. It is the pulse of human and angelic life.
Now that I think about it, there is certainly a reason for our outer mask to exist. As you mentioned, Lee, one should not let his inner self hang out while they are in process of being reborn.
Then there are human rules and laws to consider.
The point I want to touch on is that sometimes we need that mask to do the right thing. Just as a lie can save a life or avoid unnecessary trouble, so can a proper use of said mask make a difference. It can help to prevent or defuse a conflict that would arise if one were to speak his mind. One can use it to gain the trust of somebody who you know needs help but would not associate with you otherwise. It might also serve as protection so others would not be able to hurt or exploit you. Those are the examples I can think of right now.
In my eyes, this outer mask is just another tool in our worldly toolbox, much like our body. What matters is how one uses it and to what end. The focus should lie on the inner self though and to never forget who you really are.
And after one is done in this world, they simply will not need it anymore, because conflict or exploit are of no relevance for those entering heaven. There we can let our inner self hang out and be accepted and loved for it.
That is just my view on the matter after letting my mind race on this matter. Take it for what its worth. I hope it helps 🙂
Sounds about right to me! 🙂
It’s not that I think interacting with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones necessarily means putting on a false mask. I was questioning the aspect by which we try to live our lives as others desire of us, and attempt to meet the expectations of others with whom we interact throughout our lives. Though we may feel differently internally, at times, often we stay on course and make due with our “lot” in life, sometimes achieving merriment of the process along the way. Thus, our lives become results of, and are defined by, what our external masks portray.
Let me be clear – I am not saying that this “life” as we know it is simply defined by falsities. For some it may be, but for those who live behind intentional falsehoods I have no problem understanding how the “stripping away” process leaves them with only what they truly are, good or bad. Maye I’m taking things too literally (again!) and that is simply my source of confusion.
I was only questioning how the process would impact those whose lives ‘became’ what they externally portrayed despite what their true self defined, and that was the only life they knew by the time of their death. All relationships, achievements, skills, interests, etc. would potentially be stripped away to leave only what their true self defined, and thus would place them in a completely different and unfamiliar life in heaven.
Sometimes I dwell on things WAY too much….. ;-p
It does depend greatly on whether we do this from a good heart or because we are basically empty and are merely living our lives vicariously through others, without really contributing anything ourselves.
If the latter, there may not be much of our own self left by the time we are finished with our process of sorting out in the world of spirits after death. And it’s likely that we will end out in one of the milder levels of hell. Swedenborg describes such people there as standing stock still until someone else comes along, at which point they reanimate and carry on a conversation with that person, merely parroting or reflecting everything the person says. Or if they are of a worse sort, they use everything the other person says to ingratiate themselves and gain praise, favor, friendship, or whatever else they want from the other person. These people are of a hollow spirit themselves, because they have no interest in loving, caring for, or supporting anyone else, but only want others to come along and give them what they need to feel good.
Those who engage in the social whirl from a good heart, though, are not empty like this. Their life may still be caught up with their friends and social relations, but they engage in that life with the thought to give others love, comfort, support, joy, or whatever they may need. And so they do it from love of the neighbor rather than solely from love of self, as do the ones who end out in hell.
Does that help any?
I should add that not all people are leaders. Many are followers. And that’s not a bad thing. If there were no followers, whom would the leaders have to lead? Living in someone else’s wake is not necessarily a bad thing if our reasons for following that person are that he or she is of good character, inspires us, and guides us on a good path so that we become a better and more loving person ourselves.
Consider, in this life, that there are relatively few CEOs compared to middle management and line workers. Not everyone can be the person supplying the ideas and direction. There must be many people to carry out those ideas. And as long as the people lower down in the company hierarchy believe in the company and its products or services, and focus on doing a good job and adding their own particular skills and talents to the whole, they are good and needed in the company just as the CEO is. After all, the CEO is only one person, and can’t single-handedly do all of the tasks and functions that the company needs done.
So if it’s just a matter of being a follower rather than a leader, that’s no problem. Ultimately we are all followers of God, no matter what our position in human society may be.
So heaven is pretty much the real world but happier?
Does that mean there’s technology/phones/video games/social media/everything computer-related people like in heaven?
Also, you say that we cannot lie in heaven… So, will situations like these happen?
Person 1: Hey, how does my dress look?
Person 2: It looks disgusting 🙂
Sorry, I talk too much and I’m too curious for my own good.. ^-^’
Haha! Good one. 😀
It’s not too likely that anyone in heaven would wear a disgusting dress. Unless they enjoy wearing disgusting dresses—and then they’d take it as a compliment! 😉
But seriously, even in heaven it is possible just not to say anything. What you can’t do is say you think the dress is beautiful when you really don’t think so. And she’ll probably be able to tell from looking at your face that it’s not your cup of tea. But people in heaven are there because they’re less wrapped up in that sort of thing than they are in the quality of their relationships. So they’re not going to get all bent out of shape just because someone doesn’t like what they’re wearing. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.
And there’s no particular reason there wouldn’t be our modern technology in heaven. However, I’ll bet that what they’ve got up there is a lot better than what we’ve got down here. And some of our technology won’t be necessary anymore since, for example, in heaven all you have to do is think about someone and want to get together with them and assuming it’s mutual, you’ll immediately be with that person. So a lot of our technology whose purpose is to communicate with one another over distances, or travel distances to get together with one another, won’t be necessary. Still, for those who enjoy technology and machinery, there’s no reason they can’t go out for a drive in their heavenly Ferrari or even play a game of Qix in the original console version.
Speaking of video games, technology, and spirituality, you might be interested in these articles:
Hi, Lee. Here is another question, although something different. From what I could gather, angelic being like Seraphim were mentioned and described in the Bible, particularly in Isiah 6, for example Isiah 6:2 where they were described as six-winged angels. I do not know, if there were other mentions. While yes, most of the passaged described angels as regular humans and changes are good that they are deceased humans, but all those texts about winged angels does have at least some origin in the Bible it seems.
What is the purpose of those passages then? Could there be another echelon in heaven apart from deceased humans?
Also, are Hebrew angelic beings mentioned in the scripture, be it the Bible or anything older? Or where do beings like Michael, Metatron and so forth come from?
I am not second-guessing your article. Well, I am partially, because I do not like to fall victim to tunnel vision. I hope you can help. Cheers 🙂
It’s a good question, and deserves a more detailed answer than I can give in a comment. However, here are some basics:
First, the Hebrew and Greek words for “angel” simply mean “messenger.” There is no particular warrant for reading the word as meaning any particular race or type of being. And when they appear in the Bible, they are described as being entirely human in form and behavior. For more on this, see: “What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?” So the whole idea that “angels” are a separate race has no real basis in the Bible. The Bible is talking about messengers from God.
Meanwhile, the beings named seraphim and cherubim in the Hebrew Bible are not identified as “angels” in the text of the Bible. That comes from tradition. They are more likely figurative beings, since they are generally seen in prophetic visions rather than in a waking state, or even in a dream state—as the messengers (“angels”) of God are seen in the Bible narrative.
Seraphim comes from a Hebrew word meaning fiery (poisonous) or winged serpents. It probably refers metaphorically to princes of heaven, seen not as literal figures, but as representative, symbolic figures, similar to a king being portrayed as a lion, when he is in fact a human being, not a lion.
Cherubim, another common figure traditionally considered to be a type of angel, comes from a Hebrew word whose root origin and meaning is not entirely clear, but which may be derived from the winged horse motif. It generally functions as a guardian being in the Bible narrative. It, too, seems to be presented as more of a metaphorical, symbolic being than a literal one.
So in general, it is a mistake to identify these other beings with the “angels” that appear in the Bible. Biblically, “angels” are messengers; seraphim are fiery and bright leaders; cherubim are guardians. Their names have to do with their functions and their character, not with their race. And even if they are representations of angels of heaven, they are symbolic, not literal, representations, like the lion as king, or the bear as a representation of Russians. Just as kings are not actually lions, Russians are not actually bears. So if these biblical beings represent actual beings, those beings are simply powerful human beings who have become angels, and whose qualities of character are described symbolically by the various animal body parts (heads, wings, horns, hooves, etc.) ascribed to them.
I hope this helps.
I understand. Those that appeared to others on earth are ‘angels’, messengers for God. Whereas Seraphim and Cherubim are not said messengers but something separate, be they a metaphor or something else. Going witht the theme, that the Bible has so many layers of different meaning, I am certain there is truth to them being a metaphor. I will read up on it and see whether there is more.
However, to come back to the topic. There are a few passages I found that topic that I have some questions to.
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:30)
The ‘as angels’ part could be read in two ways. One would be to say that they are the angels or it could be a translation. Now this does not concern me as much, because if you translate ‘angel’ as messenger, it says that they serve God as messengers. But not all deceased humans were messengers though. What would that passage mean then?
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
The ‘company of angels’ and ‘spirit of just men made perfect’, are they talking about the same, namely deceased humans? Or is there a distinction between both? They are separated by an ‘and’, which might mean that those are separate being. It could also just be another way of saying God and the angels. After all, 22 and 23 are very similar in what they describe.
And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
You mentioned that if one does not find his/her soulmate on earth, we will do so in heaven and marry there. Yet this part says that there will be no marriage after the ressurrection. Am I misunderstanding something?
Also, here again is a comparison to angels: ‘for they are equal unto the angels’. Usually, when you compare something, both are separate things and both exist, be it in reality of fiction. Is this just a translation error and infact it says that they will be angels or is this a comparison between two separate beings?
Those are the passages I could find. There may be more, but I do not know where. At any rate, I will see if I can read on Seraphim and Cherubim. Can we expect an article on this topic, or should I ask if I find something I do not understand?
Though perhaps I could have said it more clearly, my point was not so much that the “angels” (messengers) in the Bible are not angels. Presumably they are angels most of the time. Rather, my point was that “angels” in the Bible is not referring to some separate race of beings. Saying “God sent an angel” is not like saying “God sent a bear.” A bear is a separate type of being, whereas an “angel” is a messenger from God, usually, but not always, what we call an angel.
It is because the messengers of God commonly were angels that the word “messenger” came also to mean “angel,” even in its biblical usage.
But none of this says anything about what type of beings messengers/angels are. And as I covered in the article I linked for you earlier, the most solid conclusion from the various statements in the Bible about them is that they are human beings who lived on earth and then went on to live in the spiritual world as angels. And that is exactly what Swedenborg says they are.
It’s hard to know what conception of spiritual beings the writer of the letter to the Hebrews had. And as I’ve pointed out in various articles here, the literal meaning of the Bible commonly speaks in terms of human conceptions of things rather than in terms of the actual spiritual and divine realities as they exist in themselves. However, I would interpret Hebrews 12:22–23 as employing a common Hebrew poetic and literary device in which the same person, object, or event is referred to two (or more) times using parallel words and phrases. So I would tend to interpret the “innumerable company of angels” as referring to the same thing as “the spirits of just men made perfect.”
About Luke 20:34–36, please see the article, “How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?” It has a section that comments on that passage. In addition to what I said there, Swedenborg seems to interpret Luke 20:34–36 as referring to the act of getting married rather than the state of being married. And I think the wording of the Greek text can support that interpretation. It talks about their “marrying and being given in marriage.” And this, he says, is something that occurs before people find their final home in heaven, even if they get married in the afterlife rather than here. It is a married couple who then “goes to heaven,” meaning goes to their eternal home in heaven.
However, if you want to discuss this more, I’d be happy to do so in the comments section on that article.
FYI, I just posted the first of three planned articles on Jesus’ words about marriage and the resurrection: “Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?” This article digs much more into the nitty-gritty of that passage than the article I previously linked for you on the topic of spiritual marriage and marriage in heaven.
Hi Lee –
Back to these angels again!
Am I to understand that angels were human and lived on this earth and when they died they became spirit and then said angels?
Well, what happened to every angel being it’s own species, every human having an angel guardian, angels never die nor procreate, satan was the #1 fallen angel and 1/3 of the angels fell from heaven aka…fallen angels/demons? What about Michael our great warrior angel….
Humans do not turn into angels and angels are not nor ever were human, they are pure spirit – NO BODY – and we are bodily beings and will have resurrected glorious bodies just like Christ when He returns.
And in one of the readings there was something about being very wary about the spirit/angel that is contacting you because you never know who it is and what lies they may be filling your head with ,well how do we know that this Swedenborg had not been ridiculously deceived and now is deceiving all of us?
I’ve responded to some of this in my response to your previous comment (here).
Yes, it is my belief that human beings become angels (or evil spirits) after they die, and that there is no separately created race of angels. The Bible never speaks of angels as a separate race of beings. Once again, please see:
What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?
On the specific points you mention, my belief is:
Once again, you’ll have to make up your own mind what you want to believe.
Yes, I believe we will have a spiritual body in heaven, and it will be every bit as real, touchable, and huggable as our physical body is here on earth.
About being wary of spirit communications, I presume you’re referring to this article:
What about Spiritualism? Is it a Good Idea to Contact Spirits?
And I do think that spirit communications are not a reliable source of information about the spiritual world or about religious teachings. Swedenborg said that he did not receive the doctrines he taught from any angels or spirits, but from the Lord alone, while he was reading the Bible. As for whether he could have been deceived, and is deceiving us, that, once again, is something you’ll have to make up your own mind about. For more on that very question, please see:
Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
Hi lee i am slightly confused on one aspect, do angels have free will at all because as good as heaven sounds it also sounds like we are forced in to things ?
This question has been popping up a lot lately, and not just from you. It would be a good subject for a future article.
Meanwhile, here’s the short version:
At the point of death, the type of freedom of choice that we have here on earth to radically change our character and direction comes to an end. At that point our basic choice between good and evil, and our choice of the general direction we want to go in life, has been made.
The type of freedom that takes over at that point is the freedom to live the life we have chosen without fear of its being taken away from us, and without fear of our turning back and losing it.
This freedom is limited in the case of people who choose evil and hell because evil is inherently self-limiting and self-punishing. And yet, even the evil spirits in hell have a freedom to engage in their evil desires, thoughts, and actions that they commonly don’t have on earth. The problem is that they also must suffer the painful consequences of their destructive desires and actions.
For people who choose good and heaven, the freedom to live in the way they love to live becomes a far greater freedom than the freedom of choice between good and evil that we have here on earth. Any fear that they might lose their salvation and have to give up their life and their joys is gone. They can now throw themselves fully into the joys of their life, which especially involve the particular ways in which they love and serve their fellow human beings. There is a great sense of freedom in this, because the greatest freedom is the freedom to live according to what we love and believe, without fear of interference and restraint from outside powers.
I have come to believe that people living in the spiritual world, both angels and evil spirits, also do face and make choices that affect their path in life. They aren’t going to choose to go in an entirely different direction than they are now going. But they may choose different pathways that lead to differing outcomes. Whereas I used to think of our eternal life as being an arrow that we shoot here on earth, which then continues on a straight line in that direction to eternity (an idea that could lend itself to our being “forced into things”), I now think of our lifetime here on earth as setting up a “cone of probability” (I like that term better than “cone of uncertainty”) pointing in a general direction, but with some variation in the specific outcome based upon choices that we make along the way not just here on earth, but in the spiritual world as well. (Click here for an earlier and more detailed comment of mine on this subject.)
So although we no longer have a choice between good and evil, nor do we want that choice because we are in the greater freedom of being able to live freely as we love to live, we do, I believe, make choices along the way that affect our future path.
Many thanks for that response lee
Hi Lee, I was curious about your thoughts on the “careers” that we will have in Heaven. That our work will be of great benefit and service to our fellow angels and uniquely suited to our talents is wonderful itself, and Swedenborg says the jobs that angels do are incredibly varied.
There is a clear place for teachers, painters, musicians and scholars, but what about those of us for whom technology is a part of our dream job? Is it possible that there would be computers in Heaven for IT professionals to fix, or gadgets for engineers to work on? As someone who adores film and television as entertainment and fine art, where would my “dream job” as a film editor or director fit in? Would I be left the role of an author, for lack of cameras, computers and theaters? You mentioned before that some jobs in Heaven would be adjusted spiritual “analogs” of real-world careers, but writing a book, while a great endeavor, is nowhere near as fulfilling and inspiring for me as filmmaking.
Closely related is another question I have: does the spiritual world change and “evolve” to include those good and wonderful innovations of humanity and our culture? I must admit it would be marvelous if, in Heaven, we had movie theaters and game consoles alongside the public parks and concert halls. It makes sense to me, in that, since we carry our unique loves and talents with us into the afterlife, then Walt Disney would have carried his visionary skills as an animator, and Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs would have brought their minds for invention and technology (assuming they went to Heaven, of course. I know this is a lot to unpack, but these things have been on my mind for some time now. Thank you very much for your insights, and God Bless!
It’s a good question. In his descriptions of angelic occupations, Swedenborg does indeed focus on jobs that involve the use of the mind. However, keep in mind that Swedenborg himself lived in the upper crust of 18th century European society, among people who made their living primarily with their heads, not with their hands. This may well have skewed his view of heavenly occupations.
There are some hints, however, of people using their hands in the spiritual world. For example, in True Christianity #281:8 he speaks of Christian clergy of the negative sort being seized with a desire to build, whereupon they are supplied heaps of building materials, which they use to build structures that look to them to be orderly and sound, but are in fact so haphazard that they fall down overnight, whereupon the building process starts all over again until they get tired of it. Though this is a negative depiction of building, if evil spirits can build haphazard structures with their hands in the spiritual world, it stands to reason that good spirits can also build sound structures with their hands.
On the traditional female side of the ledger, Marriage Love #207, last paragraph, says, “Some young women came with needlepoint and sewing, their handwork, and gave it to the newcomers.” In other words, people can and do still engage in handcrafts in heaven.
And in general, the picture Swedenborg gives is that any new developments on this earth take place simultaneously, if not earlier, in the spiritual world. This includes technological advancements. Of course, Swedenborg lived in the 18th century, before all of the modern technology you mention existed. However, he mentions carriages, libraries with printed books, architecture, sports equipment (such as rackets) and other products of technology existing in the spiritual world.
In other words, heaven is not Eden, but the Holy City. At least, for people of modern times it is. As you say, we bring with us our minds, our interests, and our skills. And since the spiritual world is a product of the mind, we will there re-create everything that we enjoy thinking about and doing here. Sometimes it seems that the technology is not required to accomplish many of the things we accomplish here. But heaven can also be as hands-on as we want it to be. I see no reason why we won’t have computers, tablets, smartphones, and so on in the spiritual world, if we want them. For those who aren’t interested in such things, however, much of what they do is built into the basic “operating system” of the spiritual world, without the need for all that technology.
For a couple of related articles, please see:
Thank you for such an insightful response, Lee! I did have another question related to this: do angels still conduct “business”, as in the production and exchange of goods and services, in Heaven (assuming that is one of their talents and passions)? I have no doubt it would be very different from earthly business, without all the money, greed and underhandedness. Since Swedenborg mentions handcrafts, it would be most like an artisan-based gift economy, would it not? For those of us who enjoy sharing things of our own mind and make (if money were not a concern, I would love being a floral and interior designer!) with others from a spirit of charity and giving, will we be able to fulfill or continue that opportunity in Heaven? Thanks for your thoughts, and God bless!
Another interesting question. Unfortunately, Swedenborg does not talk a lot about the “economy” of heaven.
My general sense is that in the world of spirits, where people first go after they die, things work fairly similarly to the way they do here on earth because that’s what people are used to and expect, and when people first enter the spiritual world their lives continue much the way they had been on this earth.
In heaven, there is no need for a money economy because people’s needs are all provided for by the Lord and by their fellow angels. Everyone does their job, not for money and survival, but because it is the specific way that they enjoy and are good at loving and serving their neighbor. Because everyone lives primarily to serve others, there is no need for a money economy. Everyone takes care of each other’s needs gratis, and gains great enjoyment in doing so.
In hell, there does seem to be something like a money or barter economy, in which people who don’t work get no food, clothes, or lodgings. There, nobody wants to do anything for anyone else. But they are forced to do so because nobody is allowed to be useless. So they grudgingly work under harsh taskmasters just enough to get the basic necessities of life, and no more.
Thank you for your thoughts, Lee (for some reason, the site doesn’t have a “reply” button under your comment, so I need to reply to my own to continue our discussion). I do feel I should clarify (my apologies for not being clearer in my earlier post): when I alluded to an “economy” in Heaven, I did indeed mean one completely without money. What I was asking was more along the lines of: will some angels have their “handcrafts” as their career, their primary way of loving and serving their neighbors? Not all of us are cut out as scientists or local governors, but some of us can make an incredible apple pie or beautiful gardens, or compose wonderful music.
If the best way we (on a unique, individual level) can love and serve our neighbors happens to be a handcraft or artistic endeavor, would we be able to make our heavenly career out of creating those works to share with and bring happiness to our fellow angels and neighbors?
I really appreciate your insights and thoughts on these matters (and everything relating to the spiritual world!)
Right. And my general response to that question is, “Why not?” It is true that Swedenborg doesn’t talk a lot about people engaging in manual labor and hand-work in heaven. However, if some people here on earth enjoy working with their hands, why wouldn’t they be able to continue doing that in heaven?
It’s true that the Lord could provide every “material” thing we need in heaven, such as food, clothing, housing, and so on, without needing any human help. But the Lord could also provide all of the “non-material” things we need, such as love, learning, knowledge, and concepts, without needing human help. But that’s not how the Lord operates. While the Lord does provide many things to us directly, the Lord’s general modus operandi here on earth is to provide us with what we need through various spiritual and natural channels, including other people and nature itself. Why wouldn’t the Lord continue the same modus operandi in heaven, providing many things, including “physical” things, through the hands of angels and spirits rather than just poofing them into existence, as God would be perfectly capable of doing?
In other words, I see no more reason that there wouldn’t be “physical” jobs in heaven than that there would not be “intellectual” or “emotional” jobs in heaven.
About the lack of a reply button, I have limited comment nesting to four levels to avoid heavy nesting that results in long, skinny comments crammed over to the right side of the screen.
So the celestial level is the highest level right? Which is just more beautiful than the others and you can attain angel status. In your studies, does this match up with what you have read from others?
I have read that Jesus and other figures are there as well as higher masters/Angels. But you can attain that status if you want to over a period of time, or stay at a lower level.
Well . . . it’s not a contest. Everyone settles in the part of heaven that they like most and are most comfortable with. Keep in mind that the highest angels also have the greatest responsibilities. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. How many people really want to be the CEO? Most prefer to put in their day’s work and get their paycheck.
As for Jesus, I know that some non-Christians think that Jesus is an “ascended master” or some such thing. But I’m a Christian. I believe that Jesus is God. And not some “second Person” of God, but God’s own human presence with us. See:
Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
Back to the other point, the idea isn’t to climb higher than everyone else and hang out with the “spiritual elite,” but to serve others in the way we are best able. The highest angels are also the most humble. They think of themselves as nothing, and of God as everything. That is why they are the highest and most powerful angels. The attitude in some New Agey religions that we’re going to “ascend” and be “the highest” is diametrically opposed to how the actual highest angels think. It’s more hubris than spirituality. Many people who think of themselves as the most spiritually enlightened will barely make it in the door of heaven, if they make it in at all. They’re too full of themselves, which leaves no room for God. This is the point of Jesus’ parable in Luke 14:7–11:
The highest angels are the ones who follow this teaching of Jesus:
Good points. Some people have the idea that you have to constantly work and serve. Not sure if you’ve heard of Victor Zammit but he told me specifically in an email that I can’t just sit around and do nothing, that I have to stay busy so I can move up to higher levels. But that doesnt sound like paradise to me! I want to settle in a nice community, with my wife, play basketball etc…I thought we were given free will, and if you are content where you are, then that’s up to you.
Yes, you’ll be able to settle in a nice community with your wife, play basketball, and so on. Everyday life in heaven is not all that different from everyday life here on earth. See:
However, the reason angels are angels in heaven is that they love other people at least as much as they love themselves. Many of them love the neighbor more than they love themselves. And love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. It is an active force that makes us want to do good things for those we love. So although angels do enjoy all of the perks and pleasures of life, they gain their greatest satisfaction and joy from actively serving other people. To put it in earthly terms, every angel has a job, not because they have to work to make money to support themselves, but because they greatly enjoy engaging in useful and practical service that is of benefit to other people.
No, angels don’t work all the time. They have their working day, which generally seems to be shorter than our usual working day here on earth, then plenty of time for leisure activities, including periodic sabbaths and holidays. Anyone who has no desire whatsoever to be of service to others will be in hell, not heaven. Hell is the place for people who are only interested in their own pleasure, possessions, and power. Heaven is the place for people who put God and their fellow human beings first—or at least on an equal level as themselves—according to the two Great Commandments that Jesus gave us:
If you want to spend eternity in heaven, forget about “moving up to higher levels.” Think of how you can love and serve your fellow human beings based on your own knowledge, skills, and abilities. This includes working your job, whatever it may be, with care for the people you are serving, and a desire to do a good job for their benefit. And it includes being a good neighbor, helping out in your community here and there as the opportunity arises, and so on.
You don’t have to “keep busy” and work all the time. That’s not good and healthful. We are commanded to observe the sabbath. We need R&R time to keep our mind and body healthy, and we need to be learning new things to keep our mind and our skills growing. It is best to live a balanced life in which we spend a good chunk of our time working in paid or volunteer work that is of benefit to others, and another good chunk of time enjoying recreational activities, learning new things, and enjoying time with our loved ones and our friends. That’s what we’ll be doing in heaven. Our life on earth is practice and preparation for our life in heaven.
Makes sense. I like helping others or being kind to people whether it’s something small on a day to day basis or something bigger. I dont understand why some people make it seem like the afterlife has to be constant work just to go up and up to higher levels. I’m content being in a comfortable place, helping people and having fun at the same time. 🙂
Sounds good to me! And I believe that’s exactly how heaven works. Yes, people there continue to learn and grow. But they aren’t “climbing up to higher levels.” They have a good life, and they are happy where they are.
Hi Lee. So if I understand it right angels are capable of transmiting thoughts, memories, concepts and other things to other angels quite easily, right? But if I am an angel does that mean that other angels are capable of knowing everything about me just by looking at me or something? And if the answer is yes, wouldn’t that be a violation of privacy? I am a very discrete and private person and there are many feelings, thoughts and memories that I feel no desire to share with anyone, not even with the people who are very close to me, especially but not limited to embarassing or painful memories from my childhood and adolescence; I would rather just leave those things behind and forget about them, not have other people “watch the show”. And when Swedenborg says that angels are united with their spouses as if they were only one mind, does that mean that they know all each other’s memories as well? Again, I think that would be weird and a violation of privacy, even if it is an angel’s soul mate.
By the way, I wish you all blessings in whatever you guys are up to in this new phase of your life together and I look forward to new stuff here! This website has become a part of my life and it’s a place that I keep going back to with a mix of curiosity, comfort and joy. All the best to both of you!
Oh, I just saw that you talked about something similar in your reply to Peter’s comment in a different recent article. Well, still I would appreciate if you could talk about it a little bit more. Thank you.
Thanks for your well-wishes. We will be making an announcement about our next steps within the next week or two.
About our old memories of things we’d rather forget about, in general, our earthly memories go quiescent by the time we reach heaven. There may still be some need of them during our transitional period after death, such as if there are experiences in our past that we have not yet fully faced and dealt with, and must deal with before we can move on. However, for the most part, we will be building new memories in heaven, and there will be no further need of recalling uncomfortable parts of our former life that are no longer who we are. It is therefore unlikely that any angels or spirits would access those memories beyond that first stage, where we may still have to deal with unfinished business. Compare this passage in Ezekiel:
In other words, assuming we choose heaven over hell during our lifetime on earth, that old, bad stuff will fade away into the background. Further, we will be living among angels, who, even if they did gain access to those memories, would view them with love, compassion, and understanding, not from any condemnatory or shaming perspective. Remember, God sees all of our dirty laundry, and continues to love us 100%. In general, God and the angels view past unsavory events and actions in our life as learning experiences, through which we became better people.
My own view is that angels are probably much more interested in the present and the future than the past. The past is in the past. We live life in the present, looking toward the future. Why would they want to dredge up a lot of old stuff that doesn’t have much bearing on what’s happening now? Further, angels are probably more interested in what we know and understand, and less interested in how we came to know and understand it.
As for one’s partner in marriage, that person will also look upon us with love, not with condemnation. Even if your partner did find out about your old dirty laundry, it would be seen as something in the past that was part of how you got to where you are now. Your partner would have had similar moments from the past that they’d just as soon forget about, and you would similarly not consider them to be particularly important except as unfortunate events that they had to pass through to get to being the person they are now—which is the person whom you love with all of your heart and soul. So I wouldn’t worry too much about that. If it does come to pass that they find out about some of your more embarrassing moments, yes, it could be uncomfortable in the moment. However, the end result will be your realizing that they continue to love you anyway. And that can be healing it itself.
But for the most part, I don’t see any particular reason why all that old stuff would have to be dredged up again. You’ll be having plenty of new experiences and making plenty of new memories, as the old ones fade farther and farther into the background.
Hi Lee. I also have to say that I wouldn’t want to know everything about other people as well. It would feel like reading a person’s diary without their consent. But yeah, it’s nice to know that those things won’t really matter much and that angels don’t think that much about the past. As I said, there are many things I would rather just forget about and I like to think more about the present and the future.
Well, thank you for answering!
You’re welcome. There are a number of things I am very much looking forward to forgetting as well! 😀
Reflecting about angels and their soulmates being united as if they were only one mind, I had the thought that maybe Swedenborg didn’t necessarily mean that they are one in the sense of being kinda merged into each other’s mind but rather maybe he meant that they interact as if they were one, with emphasis on interact instead of being. I’m not sure if I’m expressing very well my idea, but I’m thinking of when you have such a close relationship with someone that you finish each other’s sentences, always knows what they are feeling, and can even guess what they want. Like, “hey, wanna go to the park and have some popcorn?” And the other person says “that’s exactly what I was thinking! And later we can go to…” “see a movie?” “Yes!” and so on (it’s just a simple example). You kinda “feel” each other’s thoughts intuitively without actually knowing their thoughts and memories but “feeling their thoughts and enotions”. Many times I’ve had the experience of thinking about something and one second later my brother talks exactly about what I was thinking and expresses out loud what I was feeling, which is another example to try to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. What do you think? Would I be incorrect in thinking that perhaps that is what Swedenborg was talking about? Thanks.
No, a husband’s and wife’s two minds don’t literally merge into one mind. The two are still individuals, each with a distinct sense of self. For one thing, the husband will have a male identity, whereas the wife will have a female identity. It is still two individuals in a relationship with one another.
As for their level of knowledge of each other’s thoughts and feelings moment-to-moment, that will depend greatly on what part of heaven they live in, which is based on their character and their level of spiritual development. For couples in the lower heavens, I think it will be very much like what you are describing. For couples in the higher heavens, there seems to be a more direct perception of what is in each other’s minds and hearts. In some instances this happens by looking at one another’s faces, which express everything the person is thinking and feeling. In other instances there is direct transfer of thoughts and feelings from one mind to another.
This, of course, will be appropriate to the character and personality of the particular people. Whatever level of communication the two have, it will not feel at all uncomfortable or invasive, but rather will feel like a mutually desired and enjoyable sharing of thoughts and feelings with each other. There is no need to hide things from each other because there is no judging or condemnation of one another, but rather a mutual love and affection that excuses any remaining flaws, and looks for the good in each other.
Hi Lee. I forgot that things work in a different way in the different heavens. Thanks for the insights!
Hi Lee. I’m kind of curious as to how, exactly, communities in heaven and hell form. I know that spirits congregate and form communities based on their ruling loves, but how do they find each other? How do leaders and governors emerge from these masses? Is it theoretically possible, in the afterlife, for a spirit to advocate and evangelize for a certain type of community or society and for others to follow, like a nomad or politician inspiring others to follow him into the mountains to form a new town, for example? Putting aside the occasionally dark, sin-tainted history of these kind of happenings, I’ve wondered if I would find a community in heaven to my fitting, where I feel like I truly belonged and feel an even greater sense of “home” than I do in my own country on earth as an immigrant to an existing part of heaven, or if I would end up coming together with other like-minded angels and, so to speak, “planting our flag” as a new, unique heavenly society. I appreciate your thoughts!
It’s a good question. Swedenborg doesn’t go into any detail about how new communities form, though he does say generally that new “heavens,” or heavenly regions and communities, are formed, for example, in the aftermath of the major “Last Judgment” events that take place in the spiritual world at the big transition points in human spiritual history.
Given how human communities form on earth, I think that both of the possibilities you mention, and more, do take place in heaven.
Swedenborg stated that there are vast areas of heaven that are currently empty, waiting for people to fill them. For those areas to be filled, new communities must be formed. And they would be formed when new societies and cultures emerge on earth, spawning people who think and live differently than people in prior ages and cultures. Given the rapid pace of cultural change on our earth in the present age, there must be many new communities forming in heaven out of the people arriving from these new and different cultures that are emerging and developing on earth.
And given that the areas where they are forming will have been previously empty, it is quite conceivable that they might be formed by a charismatic (but good-hearted) leader blazing a trail into the wilderness with a group of spiritual pilgrims, and making the desert burst into bloom.
Meanwhile, as long as there are still people of a culture and ruling love similar to those of already existing communities of heaven being born and living out their lives on earth, such people will find their home by moving into those existing communities of heaven rather than forming new ones.
The process of cell division in the body suggests that some new communities may form by existing communities becoming large enough that the people in them begin to differentiate themselves from one another based on variations in their ruling loves, so that a single community of heaven may become two communities. Just a thought.
Regardless of how your community in heaven forms, whether it is a newly forming one or an already existing one, it will feel so much like home to you that you will not be able to imagine feeling more at home than you do there.
As for how leaders and governors emerge from the masses of people, I presume it happens similarly to the way it does on earth. People who are natural leaders, and who are willing to take the responsibility and do the hard work of leading others, will naturally emerge as leaders, and the people will look to them for guidance and leadership.
This, of course, is how it works in heaven. In hell it is more like a continual revolution as egotistical and power-hungry personalities gather followers around them and assert their dominance and control over others, making slaves out of them and grinding them under their heel until their “subjects,” in turn, rise up and overthrow the current rulers, reducing them to abject slavery, and so on.
But in heaven, it is people’s wisdom and their willingness to serve the people’s needs and guide them on good paths that determines who will be the leaders. There, all people are content with their place, and happily go about their daily tasks. There is no envy of people in power because each person is doing the good work that he or she loves most, together with people who are true spiritual brothers and sisters.
Thank you very much for your thoughts, Lee! As a follow-up to my question, I’m curious about how culture, a society, nation or group’s common traditions, rituals and celebrations, works in the afterlife. Americans have baseball and jazz music in common, the Danish have Hygge (a sense of coziness and in-the-moment togetherness among close friends and family) and their own way of celebrating Christmas, the Swedish celebration of Midsummer’s Day and the mid-day coffee break called Fika, and that’s not even counting the wonderfully diverse habits and quirks among towns, families and groups of friends that, in themselves, constitute “micro-cultures”, you could say. To what extent would you say a person’s ruling love influences their culture in the afterlife, and do groups and communities of angels have their own unique cultures like societies on earth do? For example, a close friend and I are developing our own unique traditions, such as making or buying each other’s favorite drinks when we hang out as an expression of reciprocity and bonding. Activities such as these, which to me demonstrate neighborly love and selflessness, are ones that, in heaven, I would love to spread among my fellow angels and community, such that our community would have our own traditions and practices that exemplify both our unique humanity and outlook on life, as well as how we love and serve our neighbors.
When we humans leave this earthly life and go to the spiritual world, we are exactly the same people we were here on earth. We have the same character, personality, likes, dislikes, feelings, knowledge, and yes, culture as we had on earth. The only thing we leave behind is our physical body, along with any physical ailments we may have suffered here. Instead, we have a spiritual body that perfectly expresses the person we are.
This means that we carry with us all of our different cultural traditions and practices, in all of their uniqueness, and with all of their enjoyment. For example, in Swedenborg’s day a game called “rackets” was all the rage in Europe—and sure enough, Swedenborg saw people playing that game in heaven as well. He also described a banquet in heaven in which the food and drink for the guests was arranged on the table in pyramids—which was a very popular banquet style in upper-class European homes of his day.
In other words, Swedenborg—who, being a European, spent most of his time in the spiritual world in the company of European angels and spirits—saw all the latest European cultural practices going on in heaven as well. Why? Because the people who were dying and going to the spiritual world were bringing their particular culture, tastes, and practices with them.
So yes, in heaven you’ll be able to continue the activities, games, and other cultural practices that you enjoy here, and even develop new ones in your ongoing life there.
Hi Lee. I asked this question at the time out of a feeling of alienation from my own culture, a sense that my values and ruling loves simply do not align with the current zeitgeist. As recent events have unfolded and progressed, this cultural and, you could also say spiritual, disconnect, has only grown wider and wider. I don’t want to point any fingers or bring anything political up, but suffice it to say, many things that have happened over the last year, both those that make headlines and prevailing attitudes among people, have left me wondering, “do my values even really align with the community I’m part of, and do I even want to associate with these people in the afterlife?” I’m sure I’m not the only person feeling this sort of alienation, and I’m sure it’s been rather common throughout all of human history. Do you have any advice for when one feels like they don’t align with or aren’t welcome in their given community, be it on a local or even national level? I know such concerns won’t even be given a second thought when I’m in heaven with a community of angels that share my ruling loves and core values, but it still feels tiring and isolating, for the time being. Sorry for rambling a bit, but you’ve always provided such good, insightful, and Biblical advice, I guess I just need a bit of encouragement and counsel in these trying times.
This situation is more common than you might think, especially among people who have chosen to follow a spiritual path. Jesus spoke of it when he was praying for his disciples in John 17:13–19:
This passage, among others, is behind a popular Christian slogan that we are to be “in the world, but not of the world.” In other words, we are to engage with the world and its people, but not to adopt the worldly attitude and focus of so many people in regular society.
Speaking personally, the last time I ever felt entirely comfortable in my surrounding community was in the neighborhood where my family lived when I was seven to ten years old. The last time I had any community, spiritual or otherwise, in which I felt fully comfortable was ten or twenty years ago. Even within my own church, I have never been part of any of the cliques that inevitably form in any organization. Neither, for that matter, were my parents, or my grandparents, although they devoted their lives to the church.
For those who are able to be part of a community where they feel fully comfortable here on earth, that is a wonderful thing. Others, especially those who have chosen to walk a spiritual path, would do better, I think, to think of themselves as being placed here on earth by the Lord in order to accomplish the Lord’s work in serving the people around them, whether or not they feel entirely “included” or “part of” that community themselves.
If we devote our life to doing some particular good work for which the Lord has given us the love, aptitude, and ability, then we will find our place in the community even if we don’t feel entirely part of it. If there are any others who think similarly to us, we are most likely to connect with them while doing the work that God put us here on earth to do.
Also, according to Swedenborg, although most angels live in communities, not all do:
If we consider some of the great figures of history, who changed the world for the better, they were often “peerless” in the sense that there weren’t any other people around who could match their moral and spiritual character and stature. They may have been surrounded by people, they may have been leaders of the people, but in terms of their character, they “lived alone.” Hence the common experience of “the loneliness of leadership.”
Who does such a person turn to for help and support? Some have spouses that they can turn to. Some have spiritual leaders that they can turn to. Some are very much alone in their position of leadership, and can turn only to God for help and support.
Why does God let us suffer so much grief everytime one of our loved ones die? Some people suffer lifelong death anxiety because they’re worried that after death, there is nothing or that they will forget everyone or that they’ll end up in some fiery inferno known as hell. Others suffer grief for years, maybe even decades, and some become suicidal because of grief. Why would God let us suffer so much if for some people, the experience leads to lifelong inner pain? Why wouldn’t he just tell us that there is an afterlife, especially for the people who want to believe in it but are still skeptics, but who are suffering from immense pain because of the loss of a loved one?
To us here on earth, our lifetime seems very long, especially when most of it is ahead of us, and not behind us. But compared to our eternal life in heaven, our entire lifetime here is a mere blink of an eye. Yes, there is much suffering, pain, and anguish here. But if we keep our feet on a good path through it all, it will lead to rejoicing in the morning, when we wake up in the spiritual world and all of that pain and anguish becomes a fading memory.
Why does God allow so much suffering here on earth? Unfortunately, for many of us, that is the only way to soften our heart, and get us to turn away from our pursuit of worldly and selfish pleasures, and consider the deeper and more important things of life, such as love and compassion for our fellow human beings. On our own, we tend to pursue a life of indulging ourselves and thinking only of our own wealth and pleasure. But when we face struggles and suffering, we may begin to consider that there are things more important than the things of this world.
Further, the pain and suffering of this life prompts many people to seek out spiritual understanding, when otherwise they would simply skate over the surface of life. I have noticed that most people arrive at this blog and read the articles here, not when they are happy and everything is going fine, but when they are confused, struggling, and in pain from setbacks and losses. That is when their mind and heart are searching for spiritual understanding.
As the Lord said, “Seek, and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). The answers are available. Many people simply aren’t looking for them. The struggles of life prompt people to look for those answers, and when they do with all their heart, and with a focused mind, they will find what they are seeking. This is part of God’s mercy and God’s provision for us.
Here are some articles that you might find helpful on these questions:
Is there food and attractions in heaven (such as amusement parks and water parks, etc)?
If so, how do they work without our physical body? And how would we look without our physical body?
Though we leave our physical body behind when we die, we will hardly notice the difference, because we also have a spiritual body. As Paul said, “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44).
Our spiritual body looks and feels exactly like our physical body, only it is made of spiritual substance, not of physical matter. It also has all of the parts and organs, both internal and external, that our physical body has. When we first die, it will even look exactly like our physical body looked when we die. However, if we died when we are old, our physical body will grow younger until it is like the body we had when we were young men and women, and if we are not yet grown to adulthood when we die, we will grow up in the spiritual world.
And yes, all of the healthy sports and attractions that exist here on earth also exist in heaven. In one place Swedenborg describes people in heaven playing a game called “rackets,” sort of like tennis, which was the latest popular game in Europe at the time. He also describes other scenes of young people, especially, playing competitive sports, winning prizes, and so on.
In short, all of the good and healthful parts of our life and culture here on earth continue in heaven. After all, our life here on earth is a preparation for our life in heaven. It would make no sense for God to make life here on earth completely different from life in heaven.
In Heaven, if Angels only focus on their present relationships, does that mean we will forget our parents in heaven? That scares me a lot.
Furthermore, will our parents forget us in heaven?
People forget each other only if they are on very different wavelengths from each other. You are very close to your parents, and you want to continue to have a relationship with them. And you are perfectly free to do so, both here and in the spiritual wold. But many young people don’t get along with their parents at all, and can’t wait until they are adults and can get away from their parents. For them, the idea that they could forget their parents altogether in heaven would come as a welcome relief, not as something scary.
Once again, in heaven we are not forced into or out of any relationships. Rather, we choose our own relationships based on what is in our heart and what is in our mind, and whether other people are compatible with our own heart and mind. If you and your parents continue to be close throughout your life, it is very likely that you will see and know each other in the spiritual world, and continue to have a relationship there. It just won’t be the same relationship that you have with them now, when you are a young person and look to them as your guardians, your providers, and your disciplinarians.
Can we choose to live in the same home with our parents?
I don’t see any reason why people couldn’t live in extended families in heaven. After all, this has been a common way for people in many cultures to live for thousands of years.
Do we have to love our husband more than anything else in the world, or is it ok to love people in this order: 1.Parents, 2/3. Child, 2/3. Husband, 4. Friends?
Or is it okay as long as we give all of them some type of love?
Yes. God does not have a love-o-meter that measures the exact quantity of love that we give to each person in our life, and grades us on the results. Rather, God simply wants us to love the people in our life. When we do, it gives God happiness and joy, because God loves them too, and God wants all of us to be happy.
So it is okay to love our parents more than our husband, right?
Well . . . I’m not sure your husband would think so! 😛
But seriously, once we are married, our primary relationship should be with our husband or wife. That’s why in both the Old Testament and the New Testament it says:
“Leaving father and mother” can mean physically moving out of their home. But it can also mean leaving them psychologically in the sense of no longer having our primary relationship with them, but rather having our primary relationship with our husband or wife. This could be so even if the couple were still living under the roof of his or her parents.
If you are thinking of marrying a man, but your feelings for him are eclipsed by your feelings for your parents, then you might want to think twice about marrying him. Real marriage is a union of minds and hearts between two people, of a sort that cannot exist in any other relationship. I understand that many marriages are more superficial, and are contracted for social or financial reasons. But those are merely external and social marriages, not real, spiritual marriages.
In particular, if you are married to a man, but you give your relationship with your parents precedence over your relationship with your husband, sooner or later it is going to tear the marriage apart. He will realize that he is a second-class person in your mind, and that you are more attached to your parents than you are to him. And he will rightly feel that you are not truly devoted and committed to him and to the marriage.
Once again, I know this may be difficult for you to accept right now. And I am aware that in Asian culture, as in many other traditional cultures, parents play a very strong role in a person’s life, even in their adult life. Still, if you want a real and deep marriage, you will have to put your marriage relationship first, before any other relationship. If you are unable or unwilling to do that, then you have made a decision not to truly be married in heart and soul to another person, but to remain in your parents’ house psychologically, if not physically as well.
But I seriously don’t want to put any relationship before my relationship with my parent’s because they make me who I am and my parents are my world. Will God punish me for putting my relationship with my parents first?
No, God won’t punish you for putting your parents first. But you’ll have a hard time having a good marriage if your parents always trump your husband.
Love is not a mathematical thing. It’s not like dividing up a pie into big pieces for some people, and little pieces for other people. Rather, if it is truly love, and not just self-promotion, when we love the people we are closest to more deeply and more dearly, it makes us more, not less, able to love other people more fully.
We are not God. We are not capable of loving fully and infinitely every being in the universe. We can’t personally love everyone on earth, because it’s not possible for us to know everyone on earth personally. Since we are created, finite humans, and not the infinite God, we are going to love some people more than we love others, and we are going to prioritize our relationships with some people over our relationships with others. If we’re closer to our family members than to anyone else, and closer to our friends than we are to our acquaintances on the job or in the community, that’s not wrong or evil. It’s just part of being created humans, and not God.
The problem comes when we prioritize our own family so much that we don’t even care about anyone else. Husband, wife, parents, children, and other family members should guide and inspire us to care about everyone we meet each day, and to do good wherever we are practically able to do so. Parents, in particular, are entrusted with children by God so that they can raise them up to be good and thoughtful adults. It shouldn’t be “us against the world,” but “us making our unique contribution to the world together as a family.” Family businesses, for example, are an excellent way for a family to be together while serving the wider world.
Hello. What is the meaning of Jude 1:6?
“And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (NRSV)
Who are those angels “in eternal chains in deepest darkness”? Aren’t all angels good and in heaven forever? Also, I suspect that in traditional Christianity people would use that verse to say that angels are a separate race instead of people who once lived in the world.
The book of Jude refers to two or three ancient books that either are not accepted as canonical by most Christians or that have been lost. See Wikipedia -> Epistle of Jude. The canonicity of the book of Jude itself was disputed early in Christian history. Swedenborg did not include it in his biblical canon (see: “Why Isn’t Paul in Swedenborg’s Canon?”). I don’t know how traditional Christians who do include Jude in their cannon view its references to and quotations from books that are not in their canon.
In particular, the statement in Jude 6 about the angels who did not keep their position, and are kept in chains until Judgment Day, does not refer to anything in the generally accepted canon of the Bible. I consider such statements to be more metaphorical than literal. The Bible never says anything about angels being separately created, nor does it ever talk about angels falling from heaven and becoming devils. That idea does occur in other ancient books, but not in the Bible. And I believe there is a reason God did not include those books in the Bible.
Keep in mind also that the word commonly translated “angels” in both Hebrew and Greek literally means “messengers.” In the Old Testament, the same word is sometimes used to refer to human messengers. Here is how Young’s Literal Translation translates Jude 6:
For a related article, please see:
What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?
Hi Lee. Thank you for the insights. Yes, I’m aware that some books were historically disputed by the Church (the so called antilegomena, that is, books that were considered good but not universally accepted). In the New Testament that would include specially Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. Some eastern churches took some time to formally accept those books. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, until the present moment the book of Revelation is not read in liturgy (although it is considered canonical) mostly because many people have a very distorted interpreation of it. In the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther also tackled the issue of the antilegomena and questioned the canonicity of those books (the Apocrypha of the Old Testament + Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation), but he did not completely reject them and said that people should make up their own minds about their validity.
About the way traditional Christian’s view on Jude’s references to non-canonical books: usually they would say “well, Paul makes references to Greek philosophy (Epimenides, Menander and Aratus), but that doesn’t mean that those guys were divinely inspired, so Jude can also quote a non-canonical book to make a point”.
Anyway, it’s nice to have a Swedenborgian view on those verses that have obscure meanings.
I should add that only biblical literalists would insist that everything stated in the Bible must refer to events that literally took place. Even if the Bible did say that angels fell from heaven, that wouldn’t necessarily have to be taken literally, but could be read as a metaphor of enlightened people falling into corruption and evil. It’s similar to Jesus saying that we must be born again, but then making it clear that he is talking about spiritual rebirth, not physical rebirth.
Today while I was reading the New Testament I found something that reminded me of the passage that I quoted above from Jude and I decided to compare different translations. This is from 2 Peter 2:4
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;” (NASB)
Now comparing the NASB (which uses the word “angels”) to Young’s Literal Translation:
“For if God messengers who sinned did not spare, but with chains of thick gloom, having cast [them] down to Tartarus, did deliver [them] to judgment, having been reserved,” etc.
I’m quoting only isolated verses here becuse of the different use of the word “angels”, the full passage is longer. Same goes for verse 11, where we see “angels” in the NASB and “messengers” in Young’s:
“whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” (NASB)
“whereas messengers, in strength and power being greater, do not bear against them before the Lord an evil speaking judgment;” (Young’s Literal Translation)
Yes, there are significant similarities between Jude and 2 Peter. Scholars like to debate whether one of them drew on the other, or both drew on a common source.
My main point was that these statements draw on books that did not make it into our present-day Bible, and I believe God had a reason for not allowing those books to become part of our Bible. The view of angels they contain is traditional, but not correct.
Secondarily, the concept of angels in Bible times was nowhere near as distinct from humans as it is in much of Christianity today. As I mentioned before, the word for “angel” in both Hebrew and Greek simply means “messenger.” And it’s fairly clear from some of the stories of these messengers that the people who saw them thought of them more as some sort of special and powerful human beings sent by God than as a whole different order of being. They are described as fully human, and are even called “men” quite often in the Bible. This is covered much more fully in the article I linked for you in my previous reply.
Even if some people in Bible times did think of angels as being in existence before God created Adam and Eve, their conception of the angels seems to have been of very good and powerful human beings, who carried out God’s will and delivered God’s messages to ordinary humans on earth.
I should add that people in Bible times, and especially in Old Testament times, didn’t have a concept of heaven and hell as a whole different realm of reality. They thought of “heaven” as being in the sky above their heads (both Hebrew and Greek use the same word for both “sky” and “heaven”), and hell as being in pits or caverns in the ground underneath their feet. When people in those days were visited by an “angel” or messenger, they didn’t think of that angel as materializing from the spiritual world, but rather as coming down to earth from their home in the sky, above the clouds. It’s clear that they thought of them as entirely physical beings (the ones who visited Abraham and Sarah sat down and ate a meal Sarah cooked for them).
In other words, people in Bible times didn’t have a very clear or accurate concept of angels. Jews and Christians since those times have built up elaborate systems of angels and archangels based on the rather scanty descriptions of them in the Bible. However, these are castles built upon an infirm foundation of lack of knowledge of spiritual things among the people of Bible times.
Finally, as I said, it is best to take many of these statements metaphorically rather than literally.
Angels as pictured in the Bible are beings of great good. But even beings of great good can, if they become filled with pride and arrogance, or if they give in and give themselves up to mere physical pleasures, fall from their high spiritual state and plunge themselves into a hellish state. That’s what these passages are really about. Not about some ancient race of separately created beings, but about people who attain a high spiritual state only to rush back down into darkness, so that their final state is far worse than before they became spiritual in the first place.
2 Peter speaks of this very thing farther on in the same chapter:
Whenever people take the Bible too literally, they always fall into all kinds of errors and misconceptions. Though much of the material in the Epistles is more plain-spoken and literal in nature than, for example, Jesus’ parables and teachings in the Gospels, the Apostles also made extensive use of metaphor in their teaching, as they had learned to do from the Lord himself. In 2 Peter 2, the Apostle is not giving a history lesson about various figures who fell from grace. Rather, he is saying that people who gain enlightenment, salvation, grace, and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ should beware of falling away from that high spiritual state and plunging back into an even worse darkness and evil than they were in before they accepted Christ.
Hi Lee. Just to be clear, I don’t believe that angels are a separate race, and I agree with everything that you said on the article that you linked. I just thought it was interesting the way the word “angel” can have different meanings. Thank you for the insights!
By the way, I shared some of your articles with some people and they gave a very positive feedback.
Yes, I understand. And I’m glad you’ve been sharing the material here with an appreciative audience! Thanks for that.
Hello. What is the meaning of Psalms 91:11?
“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.” (NASB)
The whole Psalm is about spiritual trials and temptations, and the protection we gain from the Lord and the angels if we trust in the Lord as we go through the inner struggles of life. It does not literally mean that we will not “dash our foot against a stone” (verse 12), but that we will be protected from spiritual harm, meaning harm to our eternal soul, if we trust in the Lord and pray to the Lord in the midst of our struggles. God will then send angels to be with us and protect our spirit even if we may suffer physical and emotional harm.
Thank you. Well, I have always been fascinated by angels. In the past, when people described angels to me as genderless, as a separate race, or even with the appearance of little children, it never really made sense to me. I would think “no, angels are not like that. They are glorious, I know that.” My mom always told me that when we die we become angels (and she is Catholic!) and it’s interesting how Swedenborg says that there are spiritual things that we just know by instinct. We know it is true because it is true. When reading the Bible I always got excited and I still do whenever angels appear in it. It was actually researching about angels that I found out about Swedenborg.
Now just an off-topic: Last night, when I was praying, I started to feel a really intense love for Jesus. I always love him, but I was feeling this love more strongly yesterday. I think I was feeling His love and in that love I could also realize how much I love Him in return. I love this person (who is actually our God) so much and I was feeling so happy that it is possible to keep loving Him and being loved by Him forever, and that this love increases for all eternity, and that there are so many other people that love Him and He loves them too, and He also loves the ones who don’t love Him. I started to feel a strong love for everyone too and I felt this desire of also loving people forever and to be with Jesus forever. I was so happy that this is possible, that this is actually desirable, that this amazingly wonderful thing is real. I remembered that the two great commandments are to love God and to love other people. A tear rolled down my cheek.
On a different occasion a few years ago I was once in the waiting room of a health center, and I was looking at all the other people around, some sick, some were employess, doctors would pass by, and I began to feel such an intense love for those people. I didn’t even know any of them, but that didn’t matter because I was loving all of them in that moment. I had to control myself not to cry there. It reminds me of the lyrics of a song that goes like this: “When your heart’s on fire, you must realise, smoke gets in your eyes.”
Thanks for reading, I just wanted to share this.
It is a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing it. I believe you are having a taste of the state that the angels are in all the time.
Hi Lee. This is related to your response to a question in another article (on what exactly angels and devils “work for” in heaven and hell), but I thought this would be a more on-topic page to post my question. If food is given to people in Heaven and Hell by the Lord, where does it come from? Does it just appear out of thin air, or are some angels chefs, bakers, etc.? As quarantine has gotten me more interested in the culinary arts, I’ve realized three things: I actually have a knack for it, it’s a really fun and rewarding hobby (that I often dream of turning into a job if money were not a concern), and I absolutely love that I can make others happy through cooking and baking. I very much see it as an act of love and useful service, and with my growing abilities, I also envision it as a potential career option in Heaven. I understand why for some people the idea of just receiving food spontaneously as they want it would be appealing, but that leaves little point to there being culinary professionals and workers in the afterlife if the food just magically appears ready to eat. I have little doubt that I’ll personally still be able to enjoy my culinary endeavors in heaven, but half the joy I get from cooking and baking is sharing the results with others and seeing them enjoy it. Will I still be able to share that joy with other angels in heaven?
Good to hear from you again. That is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.
Swedenborg does indeed speak of plants, animals, and even plates of food appearing instantly, presumably created directly by the Lord in response to the thoughts and feelings of the angels in the area. See, for example, Marriage Love #16. And when he describes angels occupations in heaven (for example, in the chapter on that subject in Heaven and Hell, #387–394), the specific jobs he mentions are what we would classify as “service jobs” such as teaching, raising children, providing protection from evil spirits, and so on. Physical tasks don’t seem to factor into it.
However, Swedenborg also mentions people engaged in physical activities such as sports, embroidery, sculpting, and so on. And he does mention people in hell, and perhaps people in the lower heavens also, doing menial labor. See, for example, Secrets of Heaven #1097:2. And in various places he mentions households in heaven where there are servants, who are presumably engaged in the sort of physical tasks that servants usually do.
All of this suggests that not everyone in heaven is engaged in preaching, teaching, and healing. I can hardly imagine that people here on earth who have spent their lives working with their hands, and finding that work satisfying and fulfilling, will suddenly turn into white collar workers in the spiritual world. That sort of intellectual work would be foreign to their character.
I tend to think that Swedenborg, who moved in the upper circles of European society, was more attuned to people who work with their minds, and paid more attention to that in the spiritual world than to people from the working class. But there are hints here and there in his writings that there are people in heaven who work with their hands just as they did on earth. I don’t see why cooking wouldn’t be included. And if an angel cooks something, why wouldn’t people eat it? It would make no sense to cook a nice meal and then throw it away because God has already filled the table with food.
In general, though God could do everything for us, God instead does many, if not most good things for us through other human beings. That’s because there is joy and pleasure in serving one another and doing good deeds for one another—joy and pleasure we would never feel if God did everything for us directly. Based on that principle, I tend to think that if there are people who enjoy cooking, God will provide food through those people wherever they happen to be, rather than creating the food directly. After all, everything we do ultimately comes from God. Just because God provides the food, that doesn’t mean God can’t do it through people. Even here on earth, it is God who makes our food grow before we ever harvest it and transform it into the food we eat.
This is about as far as I’ve gotten in thinking about your question.
So my short answer is: Yes, you will be able to cook food for people in heaven, and serve meals that they will enjoy eating, and be nourished by. And yet, the nourishment will be more than just physical. It will also provide spiritual nourishment, which is love and understanding. That’s how things work in the spiritual world.
Thank you very much for your response, Lee! I find it reassuring and delightful to hear that I will still be able to share one of my favorite hobbies with other people in Heaven, and hopefully even make an occupation out of it. You make an excellent point about white-collar or more intellectual work being foreign to the character of people who’ve joyfully worked with their hands all their lives. Given the nature of Heaven and how God wants to provide us with complete happiness and satisfaction in love for Him and love for our neighbors, I can’t imagine any angel doing a job that would not align with and express their inner self and character.
Hi Lee, hope you and Annette are well! I had a couple of questions, one much more complicated, I’m sure, than the other.
My first question is if more benign aspects of animal agriculture, such as raising livestock for milk and wool, will continue in the spiritual world. Since Swedenborg mentioned some of the other people he encountered in his spiritual travels also having animal agriculture, I was curious.
My second question is whether or not societies and groups in heaven will form as distinct entities, and to what extent and based on what factors? If we don’t lose any of the unique aspects of ourselves in the spiritual world, and we naturally gravitate towards those that are like us (I would assume this would predominantly be based on our ruling loves), then those two things beg the question: will nations, states, separate ideologies, ethnic groups, and the like continue to exist in heaven, and would people not sort themselves based on those factors just as they do on Earth? I would assume that, in heaven, any sense of superiority, inflated pride or nationalism would be a thing of the past (because those nationalists or supremacists who desire to expand, conquer and subjugate would likely be in hell), and if nations and distinct groups of people do still exist in heaven, then it would be in mutual peace and understanding. What I’m curious about is if nation-states and unique groups of people will stil even exist in heaven, and what that would look like.
I understand that this is likely a complicated question, because on one hand, extreme nationalism and “us-vs-them” mentality gave us the World Wars, and humanity itself thousands of years of conflict, but nationalism in its more mild form has also allowed a myriad of different people from unique backgrounds to come together under one identity (the most famous example being the cultural melting pot of the United States, among others).
Good to hear from you again. Annette and I are doing fine thanks—though we’re happy that winter is now over here in the southern hemisphere.
Both of your questions are somewhat tricky to answer. Surprisingly, the first one more so than the second.
On the first one, Swedenborg certainly did see both wild and domesticated animals in the spiritual world. But usually he describes them as appearing as reflections of the thoughts and feelings of the angels or spirits in the area. And he speaks of them appearing and disappearing as those thoughts and feelings change.
Raising livestock, however, requires animals to be born, grow up, and have a steady existence. Swedenborg explicitly states that human babies are not born in heaven. By extension, it would make sense that animal babies wouldn’t be born either, although they can appear just as adult animals do. Lambs, for example, appear when the angels in the area are in a state of innocence, Swedenborg says.
The other side of the coin is that for people whose whole lives have involved animal husbandry, and who enjoy and gain satisfaction from that life, it’s hard to see how they would be happy in heaven without being able to continue raising and caring for animals. And in general, God gives people in heaven the things they love and enjoy.
Unfortunately, it’s surprisingly difficult to get a good handle on the “physical” lives of angels and spirits. They do have (spiritual) bodies, and they do continue to do the usual things we do with our bodies here on earth, such as eating, sleeping, and making love. Swedenborg also talks about sports in heaven. He talks about women doing embroidery, and men creating a sculpture. And yet, it is the spiritual world, not the physical world, and he says that earthly occupations turn into heavenly occupations that “correspond” to them. Exactly what that means, I’m not sure I know.
So . . . I’m just not sure about livestock and animal husbandry. I tend to think it will exist in heaven for people whose lives are tied in with animals. But I don’t really know for sure. There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to finding out about the spiritual world when it comes my time to go there.
I’ll respond to the other question in a separate reply. Meanwhile, here’s a related article you might enjoy:
Is Heaven Physical? Can Angels Play Tennis?
On the second question, this seems to vary depending upon the level (lower or higher) of heaven.
Swedenborg does talk about the people from the European nations he was familiar with living in different areas of the spiritual world, and of heaven. And he speaks of Muslims and Jews having their own areas of heaven. As he tells it, this is based on their differing character (which does involve ruling love), and their differing religious beliefs and practices. All of this makes sense, given that he says that we remain the same people after death that we were before.
But yes, in heaven people get along harmoniously, and don’t try to raise themselves and their religion or nationality up by putting other people’s religion and nationality down. People who have that kind of exclusive pride in themselves and their own people will, as you say, be in hell, not in heaven. But there’s no harm in being proud of one’s own people and culture while respecting and appreciating people of other cultures. I presume this type of healthy pride in one’s own culture continues in heaven as well.
However, for people who dwell in the highest heaven (the “celestial” or “heavenly” heaven), these distinctions of culture, religion, and so on seem to fade away. Swedenborg speaks of people from all different parts of the world, and even people from different planets, all living together harmoniously in the highest heaven. The ruling love of the people in the highest heaven is so broad and inclusive that distinctions of nationality, race, religion, and so on no longer matter to them. They see all people as their beloved brothers and sisters, and live together with anyone, from anywhere, who shares their particular type of love, motivation, and goal in life.
Hi again Lee. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what my career will be in the afterlife, and I’ve started to feel like my career choice may end up being inadequate or “not enough”. As I’ve mentioned before, my dream career path would probably be something to do with cooking and food service, like running a small diner or bakery. The thing is, when Swedenborg discusses the other work that angels do, guiding the newly departed, teaching children, protecting angels from evil spirits, etc., it makes me feel like the work I’d be doing will ultimately be inconsequential, as if I won’t be meaningfully contributing to the lives of my fellow angels like the teachers and priests. This is a source of conflict in me, because I don’t feel like I’m cut out or “destined” for what Swedenborg describes as the “typical” heavenly occupations like teaching, spiritual leadership or being a “prison guard” in hell, for example, so that leaves me with my passion for making other people happy and bringing them together through good food. And what if it ultimately doesn’t mean much in the afterlife’s grand scheme of things? What if my greatest passion and fulfillment in life, the work that I’ll want to do in Heaven because I absolutely love it, ends up being something that doesn’t contribute much to my community in the afterlife? Would I be a freeloader, in that case?
Of course, the example of cooking and food service is just my personal dilemma, but I think this quandary applies well to those of us in general whose dream jobs, or the careers our souls, talents and character are most suited for, don’t seem on their face to make that big of a contribution to Heaven as a whole. For those of us who dearly desire to be of love and service to our fellow angels, how can we know whether our career choice will be “meaningful enough” in Heaven?
This is also an interesting, and tricky, question.
It’s true that most of the jobs Swedenborg describes in heaven are what we might call “service jobs.” There doesn’t seem to be much blue collar work in Swedenborg’s heaven.
This may be because Swedenborg himself moved in the upper echelons of earthly society, where people mostly use their brains rather than their hands to do their work. He was not unaware of manual laborers. In his position on the Swedish Board of Mines, he had occasion to rub elbows with many miners. He also interacted with gardeners, servants, and handcrafters of various kinds. But when he was in heaven he seemed to hobnob with people who would have been very comfortable in the upper echelons of 18th century European society. They had fancy banquets, intellectual colloquiums, and so on, all of which were Swedenborg’s bread and butter on earth. Perhaps Swedenborg just didn’t spend much time with the vast crowd of angels who would have come from the working classes.
However, even Swedenborg’s descriptions of what might be termed “upper class” households in heaven contain hints of the working classes. For example, in Heaven and Hell #219, in a chapter about forms of government in heaven, Swedenborg speaks of households having masters and servants. “The master,” he says, “teaches how to live and says what needs to be done and the servants obey and fulfill their functions.” What “functions” would these be? Presumably the sort of duties that servants usually do. In other words, menial labor of various kinds. Otherwise they wouldn’t be servants, but teachers or preachers. So even Swedenborg’s descriptions of everyday life in heaven suggest that there are people who do physical labor rather than mental work.
Somewhat more intriguing is his statement in Heaven and Hell #485 that “After Death, the Pleasures of Everyone’s Life Are Turned into Things That Correspond.” Under this heading, he goes on to say:
Unfortunately, all of his examples in the chapter are somewhat abstract. But this does suggest that someone who enjoys food preparation would, in the spiritual world, be doing something that corresponds to food preparation.
Food and eating in general correspond to our daily spiritual food of new experiences of good and true things that sustain us each day. To keep our spirit happy and healthy we need new “inputs” each day of human goodness and love that keeps our heart going, and new knowledge and understanding that equips us to do that day’s work.
No matter what job or career we may be in, we must keep learning and growing. Construction workers, for example, commonly face new tasks and challenges that require learning new skills, properties of new materials, and so on. They also must learn to work together with other people on the job cooperatively to get the job done well. The same goes for every other job. All of this new growth in relationships and knowledge is like the food and drink we consume each day that sustains us and keeps us moving forward in life.
What, exactly, food preparation in heaven would look like is hard to say, because for the most part, Swedenborg speaks of food being provided freely by the Lord. And yet, I suspect that people who love to provide that sort of daily spiritual sustenance will be doing something like what food preparation people here on earth do, even if Swedenborg doesn’t take us into the back kitchens of the mansions of heaven.
Maybe God does just pop all of the angels’ food and drink into existence as they need it, as seems to be suggested by Swedenborg’s descriptions of feasts in heaven. But I suspect that even though God provides the food, God still often uses angels to prepare it. After all, God could do everything for us instantaneously, both on earth and in heaven. But God chooses to work through human beings in order to give us the joy of loving and serving one another. I don’t see why this couldn’t apply to angels who loved to work with their hands on earth. Why wouldn’t they carry that same love with them into heaven?
Unfortunately, Swedenborg doesn’t give us a lot to work with on these questions of how, practically speaking, heavenly society and all of its more “ordinary” jobs work. But personally, I hope that in heaven I’ll be able to once again have a workshop where I can turn beautiful items on a wood lathe. As a teenager I enjoyed seeing cups, bowls, and spindles taking shape under the tools in my hands. Whatever those items may correspond to, I hope I’ll once again experience the joy of making them.
Hi Lee. I’ve been really confused on whether or not angels truly have “free will” in the afterlife. As I recall, Swedenborg mentions that if an angel starts thinking they can do anything on their own and without God, they instantly become as weak and helpless as babies. I find this idea very problematic and neglectful of human freedom of thought and action. I can pick a grape from a vine and eat it, and that is an action of my own mind and body, that I do of my own volition and free will. Yes, I understand that God is the sustaining life force of all reality, but if an angel were to create a sculpture and admire the hard work and effort they themselves put into it, would they become weak and frail merely because they did not attribute their own effort to God?
Swedenborg also speaks of angels giving themselves no credit for anything at all, and attributing everything to God. What, then, do they attribute so much as the movement of their hands and fingers to God, which would imply that angels see themselves as nothing but puppets in God’s hands? The whole way Swedenborg speaks of angels, as these almost abnormally-humble beings who do not acknowledge anything whatsoever as their own thought, action or effort, the way he makes them out to be these infantile vessels, is something I find profoundly troubling. To not at the least give myself credit for my own drive and will to make myself a better person, to attribute nothing at all to my own hard work and effort, is utterly illogical and nonsensical to me.Yes, God certainly plays a role in it, but I am not some unthinking clay jar that can do nothing without a potter. I am a human being, with my own capacity for free will, thought, and action. How would you respond to my conundrum?
Your question touches on some of the deepest and most elusive issues about the nature of our existence as human beings. We feel as if we are masters of our own life and destiny. But how can that be possible if God is omnipotent and omniscient? How can there be any room for us as independent human beings if God has all power and all knowledge, and is the source of all things?
Swedenborg discusses these issues under the concept of “as if of self.” We are supposed to think and act as if we are doing these things ourselves, he says, and yet recognize that everything we are, everything we have, and everything we do comes from the Lord.
If we don’t act as if we were acting by ourselves, we will do nothing at all. We will just wait, with our hands hanging down, for the Lord to flow into us. But that will never happen, because the Lord wants a mutual relationship with us. This means we must act from our own will and understanding and willingly seek and accept what the Lord wants to give us. This is why the Lord has given us free will, a rational mind, and a sense of identity. Otherwise we would not be human; we would be mere puppets, as you say.
This is much too big a question to take up in a comment. However, several articles here do take up this issue from various angles. Here are some of them that I recommend you read:
Contrary to what many people might think, says Swedenborg:
This is the opening proposition of Divine Providence #42. Please click the link and read #42–45, where Swedenborg explains this in more detail.
In short, though it might seem to us as if recognizing that everything we think, feel, and do comes from the Lord would erase our individual identity, in reality it is the exact opposite, as the highest angels see and feel most clearly.
I know that’s a lot of reading. But you raise a very big question! If you want to arrive at a satisfactory answer for yourself, you’ll need to spend some time at it. Really, my “reading assignments” for you are a drop in the bucket. Philosophers and theologians have pondered this issue for thousands of years, and have written whole books about it, most of which will leave you more confused than when you started. Swedenborg cuts through all that sound and fury, and gets right to the essence of the question.
The Christmas pictures of feminine angels with wings is not accurate. Where did the concept of feminine angels with wings come from? I don’t suppose they came from non-canonical books, whether it be the gospel of Thomas or other?
Angels in the Bible are always referred to by the masculine gender. The only two named angels, Michael and Gabriel, have male names.
Besides the popular idea that angels have wings, and the likelihood that if there are male angels, there are also female angels, it comes specifically from this verse:
Most people believe that after they die, they end up in front of a golden (or pearly, whatever) gate to heaven, and they enter the gate. Is that an accurate picture of an afterlife for those who lived a good life?
That idea is based on this verse in the book of Revelation, which is part of the description of the New Jerusalem:
However, the visions that John recorded in the book of Revelation were never meant to be taken literally. See:
Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?
I did read one near-death experience in which a traditional Christian saw people streaming through a huge pearly gate in the afterlife. However, this too is a symbolic representation, not how most people who die experience the afterlife. Christians who take the Bible literally may be given this experience right after their death so that they will accept that they have died and gone into the spiritual world, because that’s what they expect to happen. But sooner or later, they will learn from angel instructors that the visions in Revelation are symbolic, not literal. Their ongoing life in the spiritual world will not be literally like what is described in the book of Revelation.
Most people will not experience pearly gates at all after they die. Instead, after they will return to living very similarly to the way they lived in this world. They will then start their process of preparation for heaven or hell as described in this article:
What Happens To Us When We Die?
Isn’t salvation a mystery to angels? See the following: Colossians 1:15-17 Luke 15:10 First Peter 1:12 Hebrews 1:13-14 If angels were deceased humans, would salvation be a mystery to them?
I presume you are referring specifically to “things into which angels long to look!” in 1 Peter 1:12. I don’t think this means that angels can’t see or understand these things, but that they long to see them being learned and lived among people on earth. People on earth form a foundation for the angels in heaven. If no one on earth is learning and following the deeper things of which the prophets prophesied, the angels of heaven pine for better days when the things they love are expressed among people on earth.
And of course, angels are not God, and are not omniscient. They always long to learn and understand more of the deeper meanings of Scripture, and they therefore are continually learning more, to all eternity.