Will We See our Pets Again in Heaven?

A reader named Grace submitted this Spiritual Conundrum to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life:

I lost my 12 year old Lab to brain Cancer last summer. I miss him terribly. Will we see our pets again in heaven?

Thanks for your question, Grace. I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your dog.

Samson - Pets in heaven

Samson

Pets become members of our family—each with a unique personality. However, most pets have shorter lifespans than we humans do. The companionship and joy of sharing our lives with animal friends is tinged with a time of loss and grieving when their lives come to an end.

Death is a natural and inevitable event for all living beings on earth. For our human friends and family, we have the hope and assurance that we will see them again when it comes our time to die (see “What Happens To Us When We Die?”).

Can we have the same hope and assurance of seeing our pets in the afterlife?

Well . . . I have good news, and I have bad news.

First, the bad news: From a Christian perspective, animals do not have eternal souls.

But here’s the good news: That doesn’t mean we won’t see our pets in heaven.

Let’s take a closer look.

Animals do not have eternal souls

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

It would certainly be more popular among animal-lovers to say that animals have eternal souls. However, from a Christian perspective, while animals do have souls, their souls are not eternal, as human souls are.

Animals do have souls. Without souls they could not be alive. Our body is not alive by itself. Rather, it is our soul that lives within our body, and gives life to our body. When we die, what actually happens is that our soul leaves our body. Without the soul to give it life, our body is as dead as a doornail. It’s just a very complex piece of organic matter that soon decomposes and is reabsorbed into the earth.

Animals, too, must have souls in order to be alive. When they die, their souls, too, leave their bodies. However, unlike human souls, they do not go on to a conscious existence in the spiritual world. Instead, they are reabsorbed into the spiritual ecosystem just as their bodies are reabsorbed into the material ecosystem.

Animal souls vs. human souls

Surya - Pets in heaven

Surya

Why the difference between animal souls and human souls?

Animal souls consist only of the lowest level of spiritual reality. This level has to do with taking care of basic physical and psychological needs such as food, water, shelter, reproduction, and the companionship and protection of the group in social animals. Animals need these external, earth-oriented spiritual levels so that they can go about their daily lives seeking and obtaining what they need to continue living and perpetuate their species.

Human souls add the higher, more spiritual and heavenly levels of spiritual reality. These levels give us:

  • The ability to think rationally and consider not only different possible courses of action, but their various moral, ethical, and spiritual implications.
  • The spiritual freedom to make moral, ethical, and spiritual choices, such as whether we will act from love and concern for our fellow human beings or act only for our own advancement and pleasure.
  • The ability to think about God and the spiritual world, and make goals that involve more than satisfying material and social needs. We humans are able to direct our life according to the will of God as we understand it, and to act for the eternal wellbeing of ourselves and our fellow human beings.

These are all things that lower animals simply can’t do.

And these are precisely the things that make human souls eternal. In particular, our ability to form a conscious relationship with God is what makes our soul eternal. Even if we choose to reject our relationship with God, the fact that we have the ability to do so means that a human being’s soul will never cease to exist as a conscious, self-aware being.

Animals do not have spiritual freedom or rationality, and cannot even think about God, let alone form a relationship with God. Their souls are focused on the things of this earth, not on the things of heaven. That’s why their conscious existence is limited to this earth. In a sense, this earth is their heaven.

Of course, there are other points of view. For example, most Eastern religions include the idea of reincarnation. Sound good, pet-lovers? Unfortunately, if reincarnation did happen as popularly believed, and the soul of Tiger or Buster continued on, it would be as a whole different animal. The pet you loved would no longer exist. (About reincarnation, see “The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation.”)

Okay, that’s the bad news. You may not want to hear it, but it’s better to speak the truth as I understand it. Of course, you’re free to make up your own mind what to believe. Nobody’s going to heaven or to hell because of what they believe about pets in heaven!

Now let’s move on to the good news.

Despite what I’ve said so far, things aren’t so bleak for those who have loved and lost pets.

There are animals in heaven

Here is the first piece of good news: Just because animals don’t have eternal souls, that doesn’t mean there are no animals in heaven.

All of the animals we see here on earth also exist in the spiritual world—and many more that don’t even exist here!

  • In heaven, there are all sorts of beautiful and gentle animals, birds, and fish.
  • In hell, there are all sorts of frightful and vicious animals, birds, and fish.
  • In the “world of spirits” between heaven and hell, there is a mix.
Reuben - Pets in heaven

Reuben

However, the animals in the spiritual world are not the souls of animals who have died on earth. Instead, they are reflections and expressions of the thoughts and feelings of the (human) spirits and angels who live in the various areas of the spiritual world.

The reason heaven contains beautiful and gentle animals is that they reflect and express the state of mind of the people there. Different angels and communities of angels will have different animals because angels, like people on earth, are different from one another.

For the same reason, hell contains frightful and vicious animals because they reflect the state of mind of the evil spirits there. In fact, from a distance, evil spirits themselves often look like fierce, predatory animals—because that’s exactly what they are like in character and personality.

In short, the animals in the spiritual world do not come from the material world. Instead, they come into being in the spiritual world based on the thoughts and feelings of the people there.

In heaven we are surrounded by what we love

Here is the second piece of good news: In heaven we will be surrounded by the people, objects, scenery, and everything else that we love.

It’s not that we “create our own reality” as the popular New Age meme has it. What really happens is that God creates surroundings for us that express everything we love and everything we think. In the spiritual world, we inhabit the world of our own mind and heart—and of the minds and hearts of the other people in our community.

  • If you love the big city, you’ll live in a bustling city full of different people and ideas.
  • If you love wide open spaces, you’ll live on an open plain with big horizons.
  • If you love the mountains, there will be plenty of mountains all around.
  • If you love the ocean, you’ll live near, or even on, a vast ocean.

The reason for this is not only to give you happiness and pleasure. It is also that the things we love reflect the type of person we are. Cities, wide open spaces, mountains, oceans . . . these all reflect different human states of mind and heart. And the spiritual world is the world of the human mind and heart.

Will we see our pets again in heaven?

Now perhaps you can answer for yourself the question of whether you will see your pets in heaven.

Rex - Pets in heaven

Rex

Do you love your pet? Does your pet’s personality reflect some of your own thoughts and feelings? Do you feel a kinship with your pet? Have you and your pet shared enjoyable experiences together that you still carry in your heart?

I am confident that those who love their pets dearly will see them again in heaven.

It’s not that your pet has died and gone to heaven. It’s that you hold your pet in your heart, with strong feelings of love and companionship. Everything of your pet’s character is recorded in your mind and heart—and also in the mind and heart of God.

And I believe that in heaven, God will provide us with everything we love, and everything that makes us happy.

However . . . I have put Annette on notice that it will not be okay for all of the dozens of cats and dogs that she has owned and loved in her lifetime to sleep on the bed with us in heaven!

This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.

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About

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

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Posted in The Afterlife
10 comments on “Will We See our Pets Again in Heaven?
  1. mary gold says:

    This opinion is compatible with my Catholic grade school nun’s teaching.
    She told us all things are possible with God so then *heaven will be what you want it to be* Your favorite pets? Sure.
    Reliving a favorite Christmas or birthday, eternal happiness with God . No sorrow, pain, or infirmity.

  2. Susan Smith says:

    I need some clarity on your article. When you say our pets will be a reflection of our thoughts in heaven, are you saying they will only be there as part of our imagination or will they really be there because we want them there? I don’t want a false reality or a copy of my pet, I want the same pet I had while on earth. Please clarify.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your question is a good one, but it’s a little tricky to answer because spiritual reality doesn’t work quite the same way as physical reality.

      First the practical answer: Your pet in heaven will be every bit as real, solid, furry, affectionate, and full of energy and quirks of character as your pet is here on earth. You really won’t be able to tell the difference.

      Whether it will be “the same pet you had while on earth” is a little trickier. That’s because spiritual reality doesn’t have the type of fixed, objective reality that physical reality here on earth does. Everything in the spiritual world is an outward reflection of our inner states. This includes even our own body, our house, and the trees, rivers, mountains, and skies of heaven. Outward things that reflect settled, stable parts of our personality—and of the character of the community that we live in—will remain stable in the spiritual world. People do live in houses that don’t vanish or radically change from day to day, because their houses reflect their own settled character.

      However, plants and animals in heaven do go through changes that reflect our changing thoughts and emotions. So sometimes trees and animals do appear and disappear there because the thoughts and feelings of the people in the area go through major changes.

      As for pets, since most people have a settled, ongoing relationship with their pets that reflects ongoing feelings within themselves, I believe that pets will be among the beings that have a stable existence, and don’t appear and disappear based on fleeting emotional changes.

      Does this make them “real” in the same way our pets are “real” here on earth? Not exactly. They don’t have their own existence separate from our thoughts and feelings. But since they do reflect real thoughts and feelings that are a part of our own personality, they will remain just as solid and real to angels in heaven as our pets are to us here on earth.

      I know this may be hard to wrap your head around. That’s why I said it’s a tricky question to answer. But as I said, spiritual reality works differently than material reality in that it directly reflects the character, thoughts, ideas, and emotions of the angels who live there. This doesn’t make things there less real. In fact, they will be even more real to us because they connect directly to who we are as a person.

      And back to the practical: Your pet will be every bit as real to you there as here.

  3. Jake says:

    Here I see is the problem with Swedenborg… He could have settled for “I don’t know if animals get an afterlife, it doesn’t concern me or my regeneration” but instead he chose “no animals get an afterlife because I didn’t see any while I was up there”. This is almost as unbelievable as his claims that ‘human’ aliens exist on every planet in the universe (it would be more realistic to say that at least non-human life existed on every planet, he ignores animals and has been known to eat eels and other such exotic creatures).

    You might dismiss my opinion since your views are already set (you wouldn’t have written this article if you didn’t firmly believe this) but this only tells me that Swedenborgs rosy view of the hereafter is greatly influenced by Christianity and the science of his time.

    Yes there is an afterlife, we know this and it can’t be disproven. But Swedenborg makes a fatal error by forgetting love does not die. People are the only ones with love. This is something that a child understands but it escapes the wise and well learned such as Swedenborg and theologians. I wouldn’t be suprised if much of Swedenborg’s books are just his own beliefs injected in to seem like it was divinely inspired.

    Swedenborg has lost me, a longtime follower. My only belief is that “you only need to know love” (as said in an NDE that I saw) and that there is an afterlife (the latter belief is necessary to not be caught in atheism/nihilism/pessimism which aren’t the best way to use your life)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jake,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      However, I must admit, I’m a bit confused. As covered in the article, according to Swedenborg there are animals in heaven, and love is the substance and reality of heaven. This makes me wonder if something else happened in your life that has caused you to go sour on Swedenborg. If so, I’m sorry to hear it.

      I agree with you that Swedenborg was mistaken about intelligent, human-type life living on every planet. I think he did meet people from other planets in the spiritual world, but that he was mistaken about what planets they came from. We now know that none of the other planets in our solar system is now or ever was inhabited by advanced, intelligent life. But in Swedenborg’s day, modern science was in his infancy, and very little was known about the conditions on other planets. The science of his day certainly did affect his understanding and expression of the spiritual and divine truth he was (I believe) receiving from God via the spiritual world. For more about life on other planets, please see: “Aliens vs. Advent: Swedenborg’s 1758 Book on Extraterrestrial Life.”

      And about Swedenborg’s writings in general, and the influence on them of the science and general knowledge of his day, please see: “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?” The conservative followers of Swedenborg who think that every single thing he said in his spiritual writings must be absolutely true and divinely revealed—even the scientific, historical, and cultural parts—are very much mistaken. Yes, he delivered an eternal divine message. But it had to be delivered in human, time-bound clothing, or no human being would have been able to understand it.

      Thanks again for stopping by. I hope the linked articles—especially the second one—will be helpful to you.

      Godspeed on your spiritual journey.

  4. Petsareawesome says:

    That we can’t tell the difference between our pets and spiritual image of our pets sounds illusory and negates the concept of a loving God. The loving God need not resort to trickery. When our pets greet us in heaven, they are the same ones that shared their love with us, not our imagination of them.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Petsareawesome,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      My response is that a loving God has given animals their heaven right here on earth. Animals are focused entirely on the joys and pleasures of this material world: seeking out the food they enjoy, mating and rearing their young, engaging in social interaction with others of their kind—and in the case of pets and domesticated animals, with human beings. They have their heaven here on earth because the things they love and enjoy are the things of this earth.

      It is similar to some strands of Judaism, represented in the New Testament by the Sadducees, which hold that there is no afterlife, but that God blesses the good and curses the evil during their lifetimes here on earth, and also in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Though I don’t agree with that view when it comes to human beings, when it comes to animals I do believe that God gives animals their joys and pleasures here on earth, since those are the joys and pleasures that animals seek.

      Humans, however, are able to seek out and enjoy higher things, such as a conscious relationship with God, the joy of ideas and learning, the joy of developing into a morally and spiritually aware being, and of acting toward our fellow human beings from moral and spiritual principles, and so on. These are spiritual joys and pleasures, which animals do not have the capacity to love and enjoy. That’s because humans are designed by God to live in the spiritual world, with only a brief gestation period here on earth, whereas animals are designed to live in the natural world.

      The animals in the spiritual world, then, are reflections of the loves and pleasures of the human beings—angels and spirits—who inhabit that world. They are not merely illusory images, but rather spiritual creations of God, through the lens of the minds and hearts of the inhabitants of the various parts of the spiritual world, reflecting what is in those minds and hearts. So they are not merely our imagination, but are real, solid, spiritual creations. We don’t literally “create our heaven” as some hold. Rather, God creates our heaven for us, including the scenery, plants, and animals that reflect the thoughts of our minds and the joys of our hearts.

      That, at any rate, is my belief. You, of course, are quite free to believe otherwise.

  5. Adam says:

    Oh Lee what a can of worms this topic is. I hope nobody has any pet worms.

    I think for me my heartache is that I do love my pet, always will, and we all feel our pets are a part of our families. Really. Full members. Included in the family photo even. Major emotional ties. Especially if we have them as children.

    Nobody wants to hear Grandma doesn’t exist anymore. To some pet owners that’s kind of along the lines of what they are hearing because it’s such an emotional issue, such a bond created and nurtured. Love is so strong. Raw emotion tied to love can override rationality, even in Swedenborgians. We often see our pets as individuals because they have personalities, and to a deeper degree see them as extensions of our selves. And in some cases, people that cannot have children love their pets so deeply as if they were children. More often than not we cry harder for an animal that died in a movie than we do for the star. To lighten it up for a sec, my dog growing up would run to the hamper and get the dirty socks/underwear of whichever member of the household pulled up into the driveway and then wait by the door to greet them. So cute, right?

    In the comments I make on your blog you may start to notice that I bring up the connection and interaction between the spiritual world and the natural world, earth. That’s because it fascinates me to no end. I’m no expert and that is why I post, so we can all gain more perspectives, knowledge, and understanding.

    So with that preface, I’ve always felt like the spiritual sphere we carry around us and treat our pets with is very much an influence on these pets. Hard to mistreat an animal and have Angels around. Hard to be kind to an animal and not make evil spirits disinterested and leave our presence. (Could that be the key to the power of a therapy animal?)

    It makes me wonder what Angels are around. What are the attributes that these Angels have? Since this is Love that connects us do I share some common loves with the Angels that are present? And if I met these Angels in Heaven would I feel a mysterious kinship with them? Would they know or remember me? Might we even live in the same community?

    And to further upset people reading this blog, I’m so sorry, but members of our family are not always going to live in the same community in Heaven. So who gets the dog? We all do right?

    A dear friends mother passed away recently. She was afraid that her mother would call their family dog up to Heaven because her mother loved that dog more than anyone else did. I could only reassure her that her mother was busy discovering the wonders of Heaven and that she would not call the dog before his time because the family still needed him. True and incorrect, I believe. But I don’t think any real harm done. I guess as soon as her mother thought about that dog he came barreling in licking and wagging… even though he is still here.

    My thoughts progress and this leads me to wonder, once we get to the other world… I’m not sure we will need our pets like we think we might. I myself plan on spending a lot of time finding and being with my soulmate 🙂 I think the love of Use and the love for my fellow Angels will dwarf my love for even my most favorite of favorite pets, which will not diminish at all, no, it’s just I do believe our capacity for love will increase exponentially. Or by ten fold. Or by some number of cubits, however the biblical saying goes. Yes, the more emotional the issue the more my humorous defense mechanisms pop up.

    We are not in Heaven yet. We have to deal with the here and now. So I think it could help to consider that because of how we treated and loved our pet, we have contributed to making the universe a better place, that we have elevated the baseline so to speak, by exposing our pets to love and consequently drawing Angels near. Does that make sense? If not, what is the opposite, what happens if we all were kicking and abusing and shouting nonstop at our pets?

    I struggled with a loss years ago. All dogs don’t go to Heaven? Blasphemy! To cope and to put it in perspective I knew that people truly were more important than animals. But it was hard, my emotion and my ego told me they should be equal. So I tested myself with a mind exercise, Ok make a choice, a car is coming, 80mph… either my beloved pet will be run over, or a strangers child will be run over. I can only save one. Tough pill to swallow even considering that question, but that horrible and offensive exercise brought the rational back to my mind. Tempered my love for my pet, put it in perspective and reminded me that those of us with eternal souls, well, we’re kind of the point, we’re kind of a big deal. And that brought me peace in the idea that the Use that pet provided was to nurture my love and empathy for all things good and small. She made me a better person.

    Sorry to bring up that painful exercise so I hope I brought it around sufficiently, so to speak. The tears are near.

    Tough topic. I can still remember my last walk with Sammie. I knew it was our last. I could sense a peacefulness in her and Angels all around as I scooped her up and carried her the rest of the way. Aww, man, I just made myself cry.

    We are certainly allowed to miss them.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that our pets provide opportunities for us to grow in love and thoughtfulness for other sentient beings just as our fellow humans do. Sometimes we shower more love and affection on our pets than on the people with whom we share our homes, our workplaces, and our communities. It’s all good practice for heaven. Though it would be nice if we could get at least as good at loving our fellow human beings as we are at loving our pets.

      And as for those who abuse animals, I think there is a special place in hell for them, just as there is for those who abuse children, or adults, or any other being, or even the earth. Then again, thankfully, it’s not my job to decide who goes where.

      Personally, I’m not a big pet person, though the pets seem to like me. I do mostly give them affection—along with an occasional swat when they get into something I don’t want them getting into. They are then annoyed with me for about . . . five seconds before coming back for more love.

      Annette is the pet person in this household. She tells me she’s going to have all her pets with her in heaven. And I tell her that in heaven, we are not going to have twenty-five cats and a dog sleeping with us in the bed!

      On many of these things, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens once we get there. We don’t even know where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing five years from now right here on earth. I’m sure there are even more surprises awaiting us in the spiritual world.

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