Coronavirus: Act Sensibly for Everyone’s Good

In The New Jerusalem #100 Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) wrote:

Kindness is doing things sensibly so that good will come from them.

Microscope image of SARS-CoV-2

Microscope image of SARS-CoV-2

As I write this, fear and panic are spreading around the world about the coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Schools, churches, and businesses are closing, either voluntarily or by government decree. People are panic-buying non-perishable items such as toilet paper, resulting in empty shelves at stores. Xenophobia and racism are on the rise, and conspiracy theories are proliferating, as people look for someone to blame.

Our suggestion in the midst of all this:

Step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and engage your thinking mind. No matter what mayhem may be going on all around us, the best results will come from acting based on sound information, from a good heart, to bring about the best possible outcome—even if that means the least bad outcome.

We therefore recommend that you:

  1. Inform yourself about COVID-19 from reliable sources.
  2. Put current events into a wider context.
  3. Take reasonable steps to protect yourself and the people around you.
  4. Act sensibly so that good will come from it.
  5. Put current events into a spiritual context.

First, we need good information

The best antidote to fear and panic is good, sound information. Though people are indeed getting sick, and some are dying, from the coronavirus, the world as we know it is not coming to an end. The better informed we are, the more reasonably we can think, and the more effectively we can act, in the midst of all the fear and panic.

There are many good sources of information out there. Here are a few Wikipedia pages that provide solid information, including references to many medical and scientific articles:

Instead of rushing out to the grocery store to buy more toilet paper, take some time to read these articles, and to follow any references you find interesting and helpful. The better informed you are, the more sensibly you can act, and the better the outcome of your actions will be.

Next, put things into a wider context

We’ve been through all of this before, and we’re still here. Sometimes things got ugly. But life went on. It will be the same with the coronavirus. Fear and panic will make things worse, not better.

Consider that every year, up to 650,000 people die of various strains of flu worldwide. (See Wikipedia -> Influenza -> Epidemic and pandemic spread.) This approaches the number of deaths in events that are declared pandemics. Yet we do not descend into mass hysteria every year.

Consider that recent pandemics have had far fewer deaths, especially as a percentage of the overall population, than the pandemics of earlier centuries. See, for example:

In the pandemics of earlier ages, tens or even hundreds of millions of people died, and those deaths reached as high as 50% of the population of the worst-hit areas, and up to 90% of especially vulnerable groups. More recent pandemics have generally killed 1–4 million people, and the deaths usually amount to less than 1% of the total population.

Are all of these deaths from outbreaks of disease good? Of course not. But if we put our current situation into the context of earlier eras of humanity, we can see that all of our recent advances in hygiene and health knowledge over the past century have greatly diminished the death toll when outbreaks of disease do rear their ugly head.

Reasonable precautions greatly reduce risk

Further, precisely because we do have much better knowledge about hygiene and health than we did in the past, we can take reasonable precautions that will greatly reduce our own risk of getting seriously or fatally ill, and will also reduce the risk for the people we love and care about.

For the basics, see: Wikipedia -> 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic -> Prevention

There you will find recommendations that you:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, not into your hand.
  • Avoid unnecessary closeness or contact with other people.
  • Isolate yourself at home if you think you may be sick, or if you are in a high-risk group.

These and other reasonable precautions will greatly reduce the likelihood that you and the people you come in contact with will become infected and develop a severe case of the virus.

Beyond these specific recommendations, tending to your general health is the best defense against becoming severely or fatally ill. Do all the things you know are good for you: eat good food, not junk food. Get regular and sufficient sleep. Get regular exercise and fresh air. And so on. The healthier you are, the less likely you are to get seriously ill.

In short, we are not helpless in the face of the coronavirus. We can take sensible actions to protect ourselves and the people we love and care about.

Act sensibly for the good of everyone

As in any outbreak of disease, it is the elderly and the sick that are most at risk. Since the coronavirus attacks the lungs, people who have diminished lung function for any reason are especially at risk.

Younger people, and healthy people, are unlikely to experience anything more than a severe flu that may be very uncomfortable for a time, but that will pass without serious repercussions.

However, the best outcomes in life do not come from thinking only of ourselves. Perhaps you yourself are not at great risk of dying from coronavirus. But what about your grandmother or grandfather? What about your brother or sister who has asthma? What about your friend who is already very sick, and can’t handle yet another health issue right now?

You may not think it is necessary to take all the precautions for yourself. But think about all of the people you come in contact with every day, and consider whether your actions, or inaction, might cause one of them to become severely, or even fatally, ill. Then act sensibly for the good of everyone, not just for your own good.

This also includes thinking of people for whom it would be dangerous to go out, and helping them to safely get the food and supplies that they need.

Life is more than life and death

Finally, it is good to put all of this into a spiritual context.

Our life here on earth is about more than our physical life and death. We are here for a greater purpose. That purpose is to grow spiritually and equip ourselves for eternal life in heaven.

Does that mean we are preparing ourselves to sit on clouds playing harps for all eternity?

No. Heaven, like earth at its best, is a community of people who all love and care about each other, and who spend their lives engaging in active love and service for each other. And of course, it is a place where we are continually learning new things and improving our mind and our character.

Acting sensibly so that good will come from it is not just a practical matter of bringing about better outcomes here on earth. It is also a spiritual matter of growing into better and more loving people, both individually and collectively, in preparation for our eternal life in heaven.

And remember, death is not the end. Yes, it is difficult and painful for us here on earth to face our own death, and the death of the people we love and care about. But no matter what the ultimate death toll from coronavirus may be, not a single person has really died. They have simply passed from this world to the next.

There, after a time of transition, they will go on to live eternally the life they have chosen here on earth. And for people who have spent their lives acting sensibly so that good will come from it, that will be a very happy life indeed.

For further reading:

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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34 comments on “Coronavirus: Act Sensibly for Everyone’s Good
  1. Donovan Corzo says:

    It is a tough situation and we are in tough times. But I agree, things will get better and we’ve dealt with pandemics before. I’m being smart, staying clean as always and alert. There is something that is comforting though, we don’t die! I told my wife this last night, I said although I know there is a beautiful afterlife waiting for us, I’m not ready to leave here yet. We are only 31.

  2. Griffin says:

    I saw a tweet the other day, in response to the outrage over an article about teenagers who were still partying despite the health risk for others, that pointed out that that kind of selfish, reckless behavior is what we can expect to see from kids raised in a society that values profit and individual convenience over human life and well-being. This crisis is one that will test not only the competency of our leaders but the moral fiber of us all. I really hope that enough people realize that need to put the common good first, because that’s the only thing we can really hope for at this point. On a personal level, it looks like something I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into may not happen because of social distancing rules, and I’m very sad about that, but if cancelling events like that is how we save who knows how many lives, then we’d better do it. One of the frustrating things about this though is that if all these measures do end up working, it will look like it was all for nothing, like we did all that for something that “only” killed a few thousand people, when in reality it will likely be precisely *because* of those measures that we were able to limit the bloodshed. Sorry this comment has been so rambling, but these are just my thoughts on the situation.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Griffin,

      Sorry to hear that the virus countermeasures are threatening your project. There’s an awful lot of displacement going on right now.

    • Rami says:

      Hi Griffin, Hi Lee,

      Here in the States (I know Lee has since relocated but I’m not sure where you live, Griffin), everyone who’s either not been stricken by this disease or who doesn’t see themselves as high-risk has been wondering when we can go back to life as normal, and it just seems that many of us aren’t willing to accept or confront the reality that ‘normal’ is very much a thing of the past for now, and will be for a very long time.

      We just want to know when we can resume the same professional, personal, and social rhythms we had up until only a few weeks ago, and a lot of us are in denial over the fact that this is simply not going to happen any time soon. We can’t just hunker down at home for two weeks and hope to come back out to the world as it was. It’s a very different place, now. Until there’s a cure or a vaccine, and as long as any one person is stricken with this, the specter of this disease will be continuously looming over us even as cases decline worldwide, which means we’re going to have to maintain these preventative measures- our only real line of defense- until such time that this is no longer a threat. And that’s not gonna happen this year. The way I see it, 2020 is already a bust, so let’s start looking ahead to 2021, but in the meantime, we have a very painful slog ahead of us.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rami,

        Viruses, like everything else, have a life cycle. Even if no cure or vaccine is found, once the bulk of the population has been exposed (which recent studies say has likely already happened in England) people will develop a resistance to it, as they do to other viruses, and the severe cases will subside. I believe the deaths will be fewer, and the length of the outbreak shorter, than is commonly being speculated in the press at this time. Faulty statistical models that assume unchecked exponential growth without taking into account moderating and countervailing factors are being used to predict massive numbers of fatalities. This has put people and governments into panic mode. Certainly it is necessary for at-risk people especially to take precautions, and for others to be mindful of their actions in relation to vulnerable people. But once the cases and the panic subside, we will be able get back to our lives.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee,

          It truly does seem that any (relatively) positive outcome to all of this hinges on and can be attributed to the extreme measures that have been put into place so as to suppress and mitigate the spread of COVID. This was the case with China, who used measures admittedly far more draconian than any of us here would be willing to accept, but even then, it wasn’t too long after they relaxed these measures a bit that they saw a slight increase in cases yet again, though most were imported. Nevertheless this resurgence in cases leads me to believe, as others are predicting, that we’re going to have to go through a rolling series of flare-ups and lock downs over the course of the next year or so, where we loosen restrictions on our movements, until there’s another outbreak of community spread, then hunker down again until it subsides, rinse, repeat.

          As of right now, all eyes are on Italy so as to see if these lockdown measures truly work in curbing the spread, since there’s a two week lag on detected infections. Either way, it’s going to prove a reliable model for what major European and US cities can expect, and New York is being hit hardest in a way that closely resembles Italy two weeks ago, doubling its number every few days.

          Regarding this idea of herd immunity, it’s true, that would be a quick way to be over and done with this virus, but it would also be a truly devastating one, leaving millions dead and health care systems utterly ravaged. Even then, there’s no guarantee that people would develop a reliable immunity to COVID, as the virus could mutate in the same way that influenza does, and millions of people to get exposed to it gives the virus millions of opportunity to mutate, requiring a different vaccine and more vaccinated people each year, and we certainly can’t go through yet another agonizing process of herd immunity each day. Fortunately, the most recent news on the virus itself reports that it is mutating very little, which is good news for vaccine developers. But this process of ‘flattening the curve’- as tricky and as tedious as it is and is going to be- really seems to be the best, most viable strategy there is.

          In the end, it’s possible that *some* of the measures we’ve taken might have proven unnecessary, though the fact that the WHO has, just the other day, determined that the spread continues to accelerate suggests otherwise. I also hope that we’ll be back to life as usual sooner than expected, though everything I’ve read suggests that the best we can hope for is a kind of semi-normalcy where we’re tip-toeing around a potential outbreak again and again until a vaccine is not only developed, but mass produced and made available, which seems well over a year away. Ultimately, it seems like COVID is going to be a regular, seasonal part of life going forward, and until there’s a vaccine, I imagine it would be a very scary, uncomfortable one.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Only time will tell whether the prophets of doom or the voices of moderation are more realistic in their views.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        Thing is, the course of events I outlined above *is* the voice of moderation. The (unrealistically) optimistic hope is that we can shut down and go into hiding for a few short weeks, depriving the virus of its juicy hosts and thus reducing its spread to something (relatively) negligible, and then, voila, we return to life very much as it was. The doom and gloom forecast is that the virus is already far too pervasive to mitigate in any meaningful way, that social distancing is either too late or not stringent enough to work, and this virus will basically burn a hole in the world leaving behind millions upon millions of corpses, costing leaving an utterly ravaged healthcare systems in its wake, and sending the global economy spiraling into a depression.

        The more moderate prediction, as you can imagine, sits somewhere in between, where most countries hit their peak cases within the next couple of months before they start to decline, hopefully aided by the warmer summer weather, from which we then play cat and mouse with this virus as we go through cycles of flareups and lockdowns while we return to *some* degree of normalcy until we reach a point of herd immunity either through a vaccine or mass infection. But even this moderate, and even somewhat optimistic scenario still involves tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths, a global recession (which we may already be in), and an overwhelmed healthcare system that is strained to the very limit (which it already is). Even in a realistically best case scenario, it’s going to be a rough 12-18 months for all of us, with the fear of infection and outbreak hovering over us the whole time.

        To kind of pivot away from the biological reality of this disease, I was wondering if you could talk about its spiritual dimensions. One of the first things I thought of when contemplating that is, of course, correspondence, and I was curious how something like a viral disease fits into the larger scheme of correspondence. Also, and this I know this is something of a much greater stretch, does something like the Gaia Theory have any basis in spiritual reality? Is there a spiritually coherent way to view the Earth as a biological organism unto itself, with its own immune system, natural defenses, and so on? Some would claim that things like deadly viruses are the Earth’s way of fighting back against anything that would compromise its health, in this case, us. This is not my own personal viewpoint, but is there any kind of more basic, general analog to Gaia theory that can be derived from Swedenborg’s writings?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          I don’t agree with your assessment of coronavirus and its likely course, because I have a different view of health and disease than the reigning one in today’s society, and I also have a different view of politics than the reigning one in today’s society.

          However, this is a spiritual blog, not a political blog or a health and wellness blog. I will therefore simply say once again that time will tell whose predictions turn out to be correct. My prediction is that this disease will be nowhere near as bad as the reigning political and medical authorities are saying, and that there will be nowhere near as many fatalities as predicted and feared. And I believe this will be the case throughout the world, including in countries and areas that do not take draconian measures to isolate all people from one another and shut down the economy, causing great damage especially to the poorer segments of society, but that take a more measured approach targeted toward isolating and protecting specific vulnerable segments of society, or even that allow people and institutions to make their own decisions about self-isolating and protecting themselves if they feel it is necessary. Time will tell if I am right or wrong. Until then, it’s just speculation and argumentation.

          Now on to what I will talk about: the spiritual dimensions of the disease.

          First, as another blogger I occasionally read has pointed out, one of the salutary effects of the spread of coronavirus, and of people’s fear and panic about it, is that it is leading many people to consider their own mortality, and to contemplate death.

          There is a massive fear of death in our world, such that most people avoid thinking about death as much as they possibly can. The general attitude seems to be, “I will never die, so there’s no sense thinking about it.” In medical circles, death is viewed as the ultimate catastrophe, to be staved off as long as possible, by every means possible.

          But death is not our enemy. Death is simply the transition from this life to the next. For as long as humanity has existed, the human death rate has been a constant 100%. Every human being is born, lives out a life, and dies. The sooner we face death and think about it rationally and spiritually, the better off we will be. See my reflections on death in the wake of my own parents’ deaths here:

          When Death is a Celebration

          If the coronavirus causes many people to seriously contemplate death, who would otherwise avoid that subject like the plague, then it will have at least one good effect spiritually.

          About the Gaia hypothesis, though I don’t believe that the universe is actually alive, as many of its proponents believe, I do believe that the whole earth biologically acts as a single organism. Just as the human body is made up of trillions of cells, so each living organism, including each individual human being, is a “cell” in the larger whole of this earth’s biosphere.

          This is why diseases such as COVID-19 travel in waves through human society, and are not just isolated instances here and there. We collectively ebb and flow in our biological health just as we collectively ebb and flow in our spiritual health. This doesn’t take away the reality that we are also self-responsible individuals. But we are self-responsible individuals within a web of relationships with the people around us, and ultimately with all of humankind.

          In fact, a major part of our spiritual growth is to cease paying attention only to ourselves, and to devote our life to serving others as well, in accordance with Jesus’ various commandments to love one another, and his specific commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are meant to take responsibility for ourselves first in time, taking care of our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being not just for our own benefit, but to put ourselves into a position in which we can love and serve our fellow human beings.

          This is another benefit of the various natural and human disasters that strike our communities and our world. When disaster strikes, it is an opportunity for many people to get outside of themselves and devote themselves to helping others and alleviating the suffering of others. I don’t believe that God causes any natural or human disasters. But I do believe that God allows them to happen, because God sees that we self-absorbed humans need disasters such as these to get us to start thinking about the well-being of others.

          Economically, it looks like we are making coronavirus into a much bigger destructive force than it needs to be. Here in South Africa, 50 of 58 million people are living in some degree of poverty. Destroying the economy in an effort to stave off the disease will likely lead to more deaths in the long run than the disease itself. But spiritually, if the coronavirus gets us thinking about our fellow human beings, and taking steps to provide for the well-being of others, and not just for our own well-being, then from this present evil God can bring about some good.

          Once again, time, and our decisions and actions over time, will tell whether any of this spiritual benefit actually does come from the human disaster of COVID-19.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee,

          As far as the existence of something like a virus goes, does Correspondence theory bring anything to bear on it? I believe in ‘as above, so below,’ and that would seem to encompass everything from the biggest mammal to the smallest virus. At the same time, there doesn’t appear to be anything heavenly about a virus, so does ‘above’ necessarily mean heavenly, or are there also hellish correspondences that exist from the influx of hell that is allowed into our world?

          With Gaia theory, the distinction between the planet and humans would seem to separate it from the viewpoint you described. Some proponents of Gaia might see this and other viruses as the planet’s way of defending herself against the destructiveness of human activity. We are basically guests in mother Gaia, entrusted with proper stewardship, who will indeed reap what we sew should we fail to live up to our end of the natural bargain. But if the planet is an organism, and we are indeed pieces *of* that organism, then it seems hard to imagine the world fighting against itself. At the same time, the human body *does* behave in defensive ways against itself, like when it rejects an organ transplant, no? Is it possible that the planet is defensively rejecting us?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Like bacteria, viruses have both beneficial and harmful varieties. This ties in with the general principle that everything has both a good correspondence and a bad correspondence, depending upon the particular role it is playing. If it is helpful and beneficial, it has a good correspondence. If it is harmful and destructive, it has an evil correspondence. And the same types of things that can have good effects, and therefore a good correspondence, can also have bad effects, and therefore have a bad correspondence.

          In the human realm, there are good people and evil people, though this is not so black-and-white here on earth, because we’re all still in process. But any individual person can choose either to have the good reign or the evil reign in his or hear heart, mind and life. And good vs. evil people can be conceptualized as good vs. evil bacteria or viruses. The good ones contribute to the health and wellness of human community and society, whereas the evil ones contribute to the malaise and destruction of human community and society.

          Further, harmful bacteria and viruses are much more successful when they attack the organs and cells of a sick and weakened body than when they attack the organs and cells of a healthy and vigorous body. This is why, in communicable viral and bacterial illness, it is the elderly, sick, and weak who are most vulnerable, and who constitute most of the deaths. Or in some instances, children, who have not yet fully developed their physiological structures to be able to resist the influx of harmful viruses and bacteria, are particularly vulnerable. People whose overall health is good are far less likely to succumb to a viral or bacterial attack. Basic hygiene is also critical to foiling the attacks of harmful bacteria and viruses.

          Correspondentially, this relates to the reality that people whose spiritual life is undeveloped, weak, and sick are much more vulnerable to the attacks of evil people, and of evil thoughts and desires. Their resistance is low, and they are vulnerable to being taken over by, or taken advantage of by, evil people and evil spiritual forces. Quite similarly, then, the best defense is to develop a strong and vigorous spiritual life, including a mind well-informed and well-structured in spiritual understanding, and a heart focused on loving God and the neighbor first. When we are actively engaged in love and service to others, we are far less vulnerable to attacks of destructive desires, thoughts, and people than when we are idling away, or serving only our own interests and pleasures. Meanwhile, basic hygiene corresponds to keeping our daily thoughts clean and focused on the good, and flushing out of our mind the sick and destructive thoughts that inevitably dirty our minds as we go about our day.

          As for the planet rejecting us, I would say, rather, that our dirty and destructive ways of living are bringing destruction upon ourselves. If climate change ultimately makes this earth unlivable for humans, it will not be “the planet defending itself.” It will be we humans rendering our own environment toxic to ourselves. If we live in unhealthful and polluting ways, once again, this is not the planet rejecting us; it is we ourselves causing our own disease and death. This is in accordance with the principles of true Christianity, which inform us that it is our own evil and sin, and not God, that brings about our spiritual death and descent into hell.

          As Psalm 34:21 says, “Evil brings death to the wicked.”

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        Like many of the arguments I bring to your table here: I hope you’re right, and my argument about where this pandemic is headed is no exception. Your political and medical views are of course entirely your own, and I have no interest in pressing you for them on your blog, unless, of course, you feel both or either are grounded in something Biblical or in the writings of Swedenborg, in which case I would be very much interested to listen.

        As for everything else, you’re right, if there’s any one thing that people are contemplating right now- besides when they will be allowed to go out dancing again- it’s their own mortality, especially, I imagine, in places where the infection is spreading like wildfire and the morgues are literally overflowing. Everyone of course confronts this in their own way, which we’re often impelled to do on the back of something like this, where we would ordinarily keep it tucked in the back of our brains.

        And when doing so, let’s face it: a lot of people feel a tremendous amount of fear. I know you remark that it’s ultimately nothing to be afraid of, but there is always a basic level of ‘fear of the unknown,’ that pervades the thinking of most. What will I feel? Will it hurt? What will I see? Not everyone- especially in the West- is grounded in a kind of religious or spiritual assurance that keeps them at peace when contemplating death, and even though they may have a feeling of ‘it’s going to be okay,’ it still feels like a leap over a big scary chasm.

        But outside of this more basic fear, there’s a much more profound one: the fear of hell, of eternal damnation. Many of them needlessly carry this fear with them because of what they’ve been taught or told, and that’s truly a shame, but ya know what? Some of them have every right to be afraid, based on the pattern of their lives. I’m not sure if you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, but during the scene when Leonardo DiCaprio’s yacht is caught in a severe storm and death seems imminent, and Jonah Hill’s character turns to him and says: “I’ve done a lot of bad things! I’m going to hell Jordan!”…yeah, a lot of people carry that fear with them, and with good reason. I, myself, have that fear for some of the bad things that I’ve done, despite believing- in my deepest of hopes- that my dominant love is one that is heavenly. Not because I wish to avoid some kind of punishment, but because I truly wish to use my gifts as a productive, functioning member of a heavenly community. I don’t see myself and wish to be among the inhabitants of hell, the same inhabitants who appeared to be present in Howard Storm’s NDE, who violently attacked him in the vilest of ways as part of what as ultimately an initiation ritual.

        In the end (no pun intended), my take has always been: if you can believe in the life you’ve built for yourself, then you can trust in the afterlife that’s waiting for you.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          My political and health-and-wellness beliefs are indeed well-integrated with my biblical and Swedenborgian beliefs. They are based on principles drawn from the Bible and Swedenborg. But like Swedenborgianism, they are also well out of the mainstream. I choose to put my effort into one non-mainstream effort, which I believe is the most crucial one. That is to do my part in ushering the New Jerusalem into this world. People need it.

          And yes, fear of hell goes along with fear of death in many people’s minds, heightening that fear by an order of magnitude. In many people’s minds, dying and then having nothing at all, no afterlife, would be preferable to their fears of hell. Even agnostics and atheists often get gripped by a fear of death and hell when they feel the icy hand of death on their shoulder.

          As you say, some people should fear death and hell, because they have lived selfish, greedy, reckless, and destructive lives. Others are decent people who have had it drilled into their head that they’re going to hell due to activities and beliefs that are in no way deserving of hell. All of this is why the article, “If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First” is consistently near the top of this blog’s “What’s Trending” list. Day after day it averages 50–100 hits. That’s a lot of people who are afraid they’re going to hell!

          As for your situation, the very fact that you hope to be a productive member of heavenly society suggests that you are not on the broad path to destruction.

  3. Lee says:

    Hi Tony,

    Sorry for deleting your comment with the videos, but they’re more political than I want to get into here. I try to keep the blog focused on spiritual issues related to current events rather than getting into straight politics.

  4. K says:

    Speaking of disease, do angels ever get sick in Heaven?

    I sure hope not. I’m sick of getting sick, even minor stuff like a cold.

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      I can’t think of any place where Swedenborg talks about angels getting sick. I suppose it’s possible that some angels in the lower heavens could occasionally have illnesses or injuries if they engage in thoughtless behavior. (Even angels aren’t perfect.) If so, it would be their own actions that brought it on, not some external factors beyond their control.

      • K says:

        Thanks for the reply.

        I hope this “new normal” isn’t retained by habit in Heaven, even if disease is no more. Can you imagine an eternity of face masks, no public gatherings, and “social distancing”? That doesn’t sound much like Heaven…

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          I can assure you that coronavirus won’t be a problem in heaven!

        • K says:

          I’m sure coronavirus isn’t an issue in Heaven, but I’m worried about the possibility that the “New Normal” of face masks and “social distancing” could be carried into Heaven as a habit or custom if this drags on long enough.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          I don’t think that will happen even here on earth, let alone in heaven.

          In heaven, external things such as viruses do not determine relationships or actions. Rather, our outward environment conforms to our inner selves, and the inner state of the community. If people are close to one another in spirit, they will be close to one another in body as well.

  5. Ray says:

    If they mandate a vaccine do you think it is the Mark of the Beast and that we are in the End Times?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ray,

      No. As with the rest of the book of Revelation, the mark of the beast is not meant to be taken literally. The entire book is written in an apocalyptic style, meaning it uses symbols and metaphors that refer to spiritual events. Please see:

      Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

      About the mark of the beast in particular, it symbolizes accepting the false and unbiblical teachings of the present-day Christian church, especially the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. On that doctrine, please see:

      Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

      • Ray says:

        Okay, but whaf if they make it mandatory so you can’t do anything without being vaccinated. That’s eerily similar.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ray,

          The book of Revelation, like the rest of the Bible, uses common imagery, patterns, and events from the material world to speak of spiritual things. It’s not surprising that some events in our earthly social and political life are eerily similar to themes in the Bible. But the Bible is a divine and spiritual book, not a merely human book. Why would such a book need to tell us about things we can figure out for ourselves based on our experience in the world? Rather, it uses that experience to tell a deeper spiritual and divine story that we could never figure out for ourselves without revelation from God.

        • Ray says:

          I thought the purpose was to warn us about the Mark of the Beast and give hope in what seems like a hopeless situation,

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ray,

          Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. However, the book of Revelation was never meant to be taken literally. The mark of the beast is a spiritual mark, not a physical one. For more about the book of Revelation and the end times, please see:

          Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

  6. AJ749 says:

    Hi lee hope you and your family are doing well, i just wanted to ask you something ive been thinking for the last few days.

    Swedenborg witnessed the book of revelation ovcur in the spirit world and thus now as you say we are living in the new Church so to speak.

    Whilst if should be clear to any god believing human that god didnt play a part in this but my question is , like swedenborg said with second coming the evils in this world are now coming out in the open and will be disbanded as the new church becomes stronger on earth so could covid be a symptom of this so to speak ?

    I say this for two reasons

    1.whilst covid is not a positive thing , their have been some positives during it. in terms of the environment, whats important in life amongst more

    2. Doug webber has made a claim in his blog that not all the spiritual prophecy’s were fulfilled during swedenborgs lifetimes and thus more could have happend since then. With them being spiritual in nature, we see a correspondence on earth could covid potentially be along these lines if Doug is correct ?

    • Lee says:

      Hi AJ749,

      To take the last point first, the Bible is “fractal” and “holographic” in its spiritual sense. If you take any part of it, it can apply to any part of our lives, or to any part of the spiritual history of humankind. But if you take it as a whole, it covers the whole of human spiritual history and the whole of an individual person’s regeneration process.

      This means that the book of Revelation can be applied to the one-time events that happened when the first Christian church came to an end spiritually. That is how Swedenborg interprets it in his two commentaries (one of them incomplete and not published by him) on the book of Revelation. But it can also be applied to the ongoing spiritual history of humankind. Our spiritual history doesn’t end with the Last Judgment on the first Christian Church and the (spiritual) Second Coming of the Lord.

      As for COVID-19 having a spiritual significance, I’m sure it does, though I suspect we will come to understand it only in hindsight as we gain some perspective on it. There have been many disasters and epidemics throughout human history. When people are in the middle of them, they often think of them as apocalyptic, and believe that life as we know it is over. But then they come to an end, and the world picks itself up, dusts itself off, and moves on.

      Probably the greatest significance of the various natural and human-created disasters we go through is for the people whose lives are shaken up by such events, and who decide to become more serious and intentional about making good use of their lives. Unfortunately, when life is easy and predictable, many people simply skate along on the surface of things, and don’t think much about the meaning, purpose, and direction of their life here on earth. Death and disaster embitters many people, yes. But for others it has the effect of getting them to think more deeply about the meaning of their life, and motivating them to make conscious and thoughtful decisions about what they want to accomplish with the precious and fragile life they have been given.

      If COVID-19 causes a certain number of people to take stock of their lives and commit themselves to doing something better with their remaining years on earth, then it will not have been a total loss.

      • AJ749 says:

        Hi lee thank you for the reply, just so i understand , so whilst the book of revelation does show certain events occuring at one point in time , it also shows it to be an ongoing event in personal and collective lives?

        Would that explain why people since the dawn of time have had similar dream or visions seeing world destruction with the same themes represented from revelation. As the images within the vision correspond to spiritual truths which is why multiple people see the same base elements?

        Regarding Covid-19 , whilst i know god and the heavens are always working subtly with the world, do you think god is working overtime to rid the world of evils within it ?

        From my point of view the world just seems to be getting worse and worse and worse to the point where certain conspiracy theories are actually making sense to me, with covid, the ongoing major civil unrest in America, global warming and more it just seems like hope is fading, like i said before i know god is always working with us but i worry that god is angry at me because i sometimes i have doubts about how hard god is working to make this world a better place as it just seems its getting worse

        • Lee says:

          Hi AJ749,

          Yes, your first two paragraphs are a good summary of things.

          On your first paragraph, another example is the “Little Apocalypse” in Matthew 24, in which Jesus says that all of the calamities he is speaking of will happen before “this generation” (the one alive at the time) has passed away (verse 34). The destruction of the Temple that he predicted did literally happen within the lifetime of that generation, in 70 AD. Other predictions he made in that chapter did not literally happen, such as “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (verse 30).

          This has led to a division among Christians. Some believe that all of the events that Jesus predicted, and the events in the book of Revelation, did happen metaphorically in the decades following Jesus lifetime. Others believe that they remain unfulfilled, and will happen literally at a future date.

          From a Swedenborgian perspective, these events occurred spiritually in the first century, and also occurred spiritually in the 18th century, when the then-existing Christian world order (in the West) began to break down and come to an end. (See: Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?)

          And yes, these events take place spiritually in individual people’s lives when they go through life-changing crises, either external or internal, that bring about a complete change in their lives. Their old “world” has come to an end, and they are now living in a new “world.”

          On your second paragraph, yes, throughout the ages world-ending disasters have been (and still are) common themes in dreams and visions. Since we live in a materialistic culture and society, many superstitious people seize upon these apocalyptic dreams and visions and fear a literal future time of death and destruction on a worldwide scale. In these people’s minds, every major calamity that gets reported in the news is seen as the beginning of the end. Such people live in constant jittery fear.

          But although there sometimes are large-scale physical and social disasters that upend millions of people’s lives, the real message of these dreams and visions is of spiritual calamities and judgments that end the old social and spiritual order of things, and bring about a new era in human life. This can take place within particular communities, in whole nations, or in the whole world. They may be associated with worldly calamities such as major wars, but the real changes are in the human mind and culture. People are living in a different “world” after these events take place.

          An example of this is the very destruction of the Temple that Jesus predicted, and the dispersal of the Jews from the Holy Land that followed in its wake. These events destroyed ancient Judaism as it had been practiced at that time, and required surviving Jewish leaders to reinvent the religion. It could no longer be a sacrificial priest- and temple-centered religion as it had been before. It became instead a religion of ethics and morals based on stories and commandments in the Hebrew Bible, presided over, not by priests, but by Rabbis (teachers), along with some vestiges of the ritual practices prescribed in the Books of Moses that could still be practiced without a Temple.

          Since the 18th century, Christianity has been going through a similar shift. Its leaders can no longer practice the heavy-handed religion of controlling the people with severe punishments that it did for many centuries leading up to that time. Starting in that time period, which secular historians call “The Enlightenment,” Christianity began losing its position of political power, which was taken over by secular governments in more and more countries around the world. Christianity has therefore been reinventing itself as a religion of moral suasion and spiritual inspiration, though that transition is certainly very partial and patchy.

          Back to your point, these sorts of events are the greater and deeper meaning of dreams and visions of world-ending disasters. Thinking these things are going to happen literally and physically is a materialistic and natural-minded approach to them. And if that scares some people into straightening out their lives, it is achieving its purpose. But as people progress to a higher level of spiritual development, they can begin seeing these dreams and visions in a more symbolic and metaphorical light, and draw deeper meaning from them.

          I’ll cover the rest in a separate comment.

        • Lee says:

          Hi AJ749,

          About things getting worse, not better, please see this article:

          If the Second Coming has Already Happened, When do Things Start Getting Better?

          Also, here is a fascinating statement by Swedenborg in Secrets of Heaven #842:3:

          Before being reduced to order, it is very common for everything to fall into confusion or seeming chaos. This allows things that cling together poorly to separate, and when they have separated, the Lord arranges them in their place.

          Nature offers parallels, since in it too each and every thing first falls into some degree of disorder before being put in order. If the skies did not storm, causing unlike elements to scatter, the air would never clear; destructive forces would amass and wreak havoc.

          The human body displays the same characteristic. Unless all the components of the blood, whether compound or pure, were continuously and cyclically combined and pumped into a single heart first and mingled there, the fluid component would coagulate in a fatal way. The individual elements would never be distributed to perform their proper functions.

          It is the same with a person who is regenerating.

          It is also the same with the spiritual and social development of humanity as a whole. When the old order of things is breaking up, and a new order is beginning, there is an interim period of social upheaval and chaos. When people are in the middle of that time of upheaval and chaos, they commonly think that everything is falling apart, and the world is going to hell in a handbasket. (The link is to an article on that subject, which I invite you to read.)

          But what’s really happening is that the old way of seeing the world, and living in it, is breaking down, and a new way of seeing things, and living, is coming about. Yes, there is lots of upheaval and chaos in the interim. And yes, it is “the end of the world” in the sense that the old ways are coming to an end. But it is not a literal end of the world. It is the “birth pangs” of a new era of humanity (Matthew 24:8).

          I believe this is what we’ve been going through for two or three centuries now. And I believe it is accelerating in our times. But the eventual result will be a better world, not a worse one.

          However, for some people and places, things will get worse. Whole nations will fall out of their position of prominence in the world. This happened for the British after WWII. The British were once rulers of the largest empire in history. Now they are a relatively small country that has a much smaller circle of friendly associated nations around the world. They are no longer masters of the world as they once were. In the aftermath of WWII, that position was taken over by the U.S.

          Though this is not a political blog, my own belief is that the U.S. has now peaked as a world power after its time of being the superpower in the world. The polarization of American society, fomented by the political class and eagerly seized upon by many ordinary Americans, is just one of the signs that the U.S. is fracturing and falling apart, just as all nations and empires in history have done after their times of eminence and splendor. This may not mean a literal breaking up of the U.S. into separate countries. But as Jesus said, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25).

          For Americans, the breaking of the worldwide power of the U.S. that I believe will happen in this century may seem to be the end of the world, and the beginning of a dark period. But like many nations and empires before them, the British have been through it all, and they are still doing just fine. Just because they don’t rule a vast empire anymore, that doesn’t mean they can’t live very good lives. Still, the end of that empire involved massive wars, huge loss of life, and many other scenes of destruction and chaos.

          All of this will pass. And then I believe that Americans will settle down to a less hubristic but still very good life.

          Meanwhile, the rampant conspiracy theories are simply part of the chaos that happens when an existing order of things is coming to an end. People are hurrying and scurrying about all confused and crazy. That is part of the chaos that always comes at times of major transition.

          Don’t fall for it.

          Yes, bad things are going to happen. Some of them very big. But it is not the end of the world. It is only the end of the old culture and society. A new one will follow, and I believe it will be better than the old one.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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