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Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg



Common perception — or the light of common sense — has always been able to see, in every age, that there is a God, that there is a heaven, and that there is a hell. These acknowledgments are also intrinsic parts of the doctrine taught in every Divine revelation, and "without a knowledge and acknowledgment of these things man is unable to think spiritually."1

While all good people are disposed to accept the truth that God rules, and also the truth that a heaven of blessedness is to be the reward of him that overcometh; yet the idea of an eternal hell fills men with dread and dislike. Good men would wish that God could do without a hell in the economy of His universe.

That good should be rewarded is recognized as just and proper by the rational mind. But that evil should be punished is accepted with some hesitancy and reservation. Primarily (we hope) it is because we do not wish to see others suffer that we feel this reluctance to admit the justice of hell's existence. But secondarily, we must admit also to such a hesitation because we fear that our own soul may deserve just such an abode as hell, and we shrink in horror from the fact of its actuality.

In the New Church we are amply instructed about the present necessity and the deplorable causes of hell. We are assured that the Lord condemns no one to hell; that He is not the creator of the evils which lead to hell; that He predestines all to heaven; that His outpouring love extends itself even to the devils; and that He never punishes anyone, but forgives; indeed that He never ceases to avert evils and disasters from all, but separates them from the worse evils, and lifts them up by many modes and hidden ways, from the lowest hell toward which they gravitate! We are even told that angels — who are only distant images of the Divine love — would willingly undergo pain and even endure hell for the salvation of the devils from their hells —if it were possible.2

This is a very different picture from that presented by the pagan, Jewish, and medieval Christian idea of a retaliative, avenging God; and from the Calvinistic idea of a God who personally selects a few for salvation, and consigns the rest to extinction or to a place of eternal torture.

In more refined paganism we find, for instance, the belief in a Tartarus, where the condemned were destined to lack just that for which they had cupidity here on earth, and were fated to be in contact with that which they abhorred! Spite was the law of such retaliation by the gods. Dante, in his Inferno, has exactly the same idea; punishment for the sake of what men had done here on earth; torture like that of Tantalus.

In medieval Christian myths and pictures of hell, angels and saints were often painted as watching, with pitiless and self-righteous abhorrence, the fate of the poor heretics who were being pinched by ferocious and malicious arch-devils in a lake of burning brimstone. At Swedenborg's time, it was still widely regarded as heresy to doubt that hell consisted of material flame and sulphur.

The New Church doctrine has no room for any place of everlasting, never-ending torture in the after-life. There is indeed a hell — and this is eternal. But those who enter hell are kept there actually by their own evil will; and if they can will to rise above hell they are allowed to do so — if their desire is genuine. Swedenborg saw thousands of spirits liberated from the hells. What they are eternally prevented from doing is to rise out of hell and take the hells — or their evils — with them! Therefore we are told that if a devil so much as puts his foot out of his hell, he is grievously punished.

The punishments which are applied in hell are not eternal. They are mainly disciplinary; not retributions for sins committed on earth, but reactions to acts that the evil continue to commit in hell. Thus punishments in hell cease when external order has been restored. In other words, penalties there are not permitted for the sake of retribution, but for the sake of amendment of life and the maintenance of a condition of order and relative justice in a society which is composed of self-seeking rebels and desperate tyrants.

The general truth is that hell and heaven are parts of the same universe and are subject to the same laws of life as apply in a more imperfect way among men.

The Lord rules both by the infinite power of His Divine truth.3But in heaven the angels see and receive the good — the Divine good—which the laws of truth contain and to which truth leads. In hell the Divine truth alone — without Mercy —is seen. It is seen not as Divine truth, but as inexorable necessity, as fact, as what is possible.4 The hells are bound by the laws of possibility, the laws of limits. We are told that the laws of possibility are laws of Divine order.5 And evil always seeks to escape these laws — seeks to make a new universe for itself by phantasy. It is unwilling to admit the facts of reality, and tries to hide from the truth, which always seeks it out in some form or other. Thus the internals seek to retire into logic-proof compartments, where they can, in imagination, defeat the laws of possibility and build new worlds more to their liking than the real world of God, — insane, contorted worlds, in which evil is not evil, where might is right, and impossibility can be circumvented, and sins are not found out, and abuse does not bring diseases and discomforts.

The hells are actually in the same world as the heavens. In all their periods of rational sanity the devils also belong to the orderly form of the Lord's universe — His kingdom — even though they may be "the least" in this kingdom. But when the devils are in their phantasy, they are living in another spiritual world! — opposite to heaven — having only a slight contact with the Lord's kingdom, and therefore appearing in the spiritual world as if far away. Sometimes the hells also appear to be underneath the world of spirits, and the devils seem — in the light of heaven — to walk upside down, like those of the antipodes!

The Origin of Penalties

To inquire into the origin of the penalties of hell, we shall descend into the plane of Moral Philosophy. What we shall say is only illustrative of our New Church doctrine.

Let us reflect that finite life — such as ours, which we sense as "consciousness" — implies freedom within limits.

A child, from the beginning, learns by finding all the limitations of his life and power. He is a living conatus which is constantly frustrated. He feels he cannot budge this; cannot lift that; cannot have the moon — so alluring a toy — to play with; cannot reach his rattle; must avoid bumping against hard objects; must not touch certain things. He finds how much candy he may safely eat. He learns when he must obey — and whom he may safely ignore. He learns what his scope of freedom is! He finds his place, in an already overcrowded world.

These limitations around his life he learns to accept — because, if he extends himself beyond them, he is penalized. We thus learn the limits of our powers by penalties — by bumps and knocks and strains and pains. We learn the subtle differences between a maximum use of our muscles, organs, mind, faculties, and the abuse of these things.

The good man does not resent his limitations or blame them on injustice; but he seeks to make the best use of the opportunities which the Divine providence opens before him. He finds compensation in an internal contentment with what he has been given as his field of life and responsibility. And he knows that if he were a king or possessed the wealth of the world his uses and responsibilities would be magnified while his happiness would still depend on contentment with his lot.6

The good and wise man recognizes the wisdom of the limits and boundaries which have been placed around his developing spirit. He thanks his Maker for the freedom which he has, and for the fact that normally these limits gradually, slowly, widen out. He sees the folly of an impatient ambition which would break down his environment or strain his body beyond its limits, and seeks not to rush in disorderly fashion into premature undertakings. He sees that his body, brain, knowledge, society, are all limitations which must be bent, not broken; must be treated with kindness and order; for then they will grow pliant, give way little by little, as our uses expand. This moral principle seems to be involved in the parable in which the Lord said, "Make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. . . ."7

The evil or unwise man regards these natural, finite limitations of life as unjust impositions! as undeserved penalties! Such men resent the presence of anything that limits their ambition or pleasure; they feel tortured at the thought mat they have an environment which they cannot control. The evil do not feel any obligations towards the Lord. They make no effort to read in the obstacles the intent of Providence, and thus cannot solve the riddle of how to succeed without resorting to destructive measures. They abuse their brain and body. Their finite limits, the walls against which they strain and fret, are so hammered by their ambitions, so pounded by their irrational desires that these walls become harder and harder, and their life — strange to say — becomes narrower and more solidly confined, until veritably confined within dungeon walls. Such is the feeling of those who are in the prisons of hell. They always were — mentally — in a prison, but a prison of their own making.

Penalties thus come from the world of reality, which the evil desire to ignore. They object to the law of limits — the law of order. They resent that they cannot act in an infinite, omniscient way — that they cannot be gods. So evil tends to deny God. But even the egocentric world of phantasy has its limits. Devils must return to the realities of life. They must have food and clothing, even for the upkeep of their phantastic illusions! There must be some grain of reality with them in order to sustain and feed their illusions of greatness or dreams of power, or their phantasy of successful revenge.

So they descend from phantasy and begin to do evil and speak falsity in the actual spiritual world, that is, to their companions. For a while a measure of success is theirs. They feed on the delight of evil in actual deed; they are in their heaven which is the real hell! But soon they begin to encounter opposition. They learn their limits — the fact that they cannot control other people's reactions. They are back in what is to them hell, in disappointment, punishment, misery, labor! This, that is to them hell, is however really the means of bringing them something of refreshment and power of life, something of peace and decency.

The Object of Penalties

In both worlds the only object of punishments is to cause men and spirits to be made aware of the real truth of their environment. When a child, heeding not its mother's warning, touches a red-hot stove, its brain registers the sensation of pain in order to make the mind aware of the environment of its body, so that it may know the truth about its surroundings.

Penalties in hell happen very similarly. They bring the spirits ambitions down within the proper limits. They forcibly reveal actualities. Only so can even the devil continue to exist. Only so can he borrow some power from the ultimates of the spiritual world; for power lies only in realities.

Power comes from ultimates.8 From ultimates we derive our food, which is converted into bodily power. And just as a man needs food and shelter for the sustenance of his natural body — whatever he uses this body for, good or bad, and even if he does nothing at all of use; so also spirits must have spiritual food for their spiritual bodies, even if they use this food for no true use, that is, even if they make their mental life (so far as they are able) to consist of mere phantasies.

Spiritual food is especially a form of knowledge; and it grows from the spiritual ultimates of the soil there — a spiritual soil. That soil is very real. Spirits actually walk on it. Cities are built upon it. It appears sometimes fertile — in heaven, or where good spirits are; sometimes — as with evil spirits — barren.

We must realize that the ultimate of the spiritual world actually coheres with the plane of "material ideas," which is with men and — quiescently — with spirits. The heavens and the hells alike are founded on mankind; they rest on the natural memories of living men. The whole field of human knowledge is open to spirits according to states and associations; and on the basis of that association with men, the Lord is able to give to all the societies of the other world the ultimate sustenance of life.

Food, in the spiritual world, is given to all according to their states; and this means according to their uses.9 This food is spiritual, and given gratis by the Lord. It is seen to appear spontaneously and instantaneously. Yet we are told that the heavenly soil is fertile — that all things of it grow from seed, but seed created rather than sown. The fruit is edible. We understand this to mean that food is created in the same order as on earth; but the process is there hidden, and has no time element in it: it is instantaneous. The reality there clearly appears, that food is created by God, even as was the case with the loaves and fishes multiplied beside the lake of Galilee.

The memory-soil of material ideas which are quiescent with spirits but active with mankind on earth, is the ultimate in which the vegetations of heaven have their roots. Even the devils can carry on their life of phantasy — their delights of evil — only by means of knowledges derived from others, and this means, in the last analysis, from those who are not in phantasy but who are in something of spiritual sight; that is, from those who are still spirits in the world of spirits, or from men on earth.

The devils thus have a certain affection of knowledges, a hunger for knowing the actualities of their environment. Without this their life would wither — their very thoughts stand still.

The first requirement for satisfying their hunger — for drawing in the knowledge so essential to all life — is usefulness, work. It is well known in the world that knowledge is the real source of a man's livelihood; knowledge is necessary for his use. But mere dead book-knowledge is not what brings a blessing. It is the knowledge which comes in the course of a man's labor, study or endeavor to perform uses, that gives experience of the kind which blesses his use and gives him an increment — a livelihood. Even in hell this is the case. Evil spirits must labor for the knowledge that is to sustain them.

That this is the case appears from the following teaching. After describing the evil as being interiorly insane, our quotation states: "There is this sole remedy for their insanity — to be put to work in hell under a judge. So long as they are at work there, they are not insane; for the works with which they are occupied hold the mind, as it were, in prison or bonds, to prevent its wandering into the delirious fancies of their lusts. Their tasks are done for the sake of food, clothing, and a bed, thus unwillingly from necessity, and not freely from affection."10

The second requirement is that evils, when they are indulged in, should bring punishments upon them. These punishments are necessary because through them something of the life of reason is restored. And reason, sufficient to see facts, speak truth, and perform uses, is necessary if spirits are to draw knowledge — or have spiritual food. All punishment is "done for the sake of the amendment" of the spirit.11 "For the penalties are such that they as it were take away the evils, or imbue the faculty of doing what is good; thus, in themselves, all the punishments are vastations, because they devastate evils by the putting on of the faculty of speaking truth and doing good; and this faculty is a something superadded — the gift of the Lord; for if evils were merely taken away, without the donation of faculties of good, nothing of the man would remain, because there is nothing but evil in man."12

In discussing the meaning of penalties in the spiritual world, we have tried to show that they are not of God's will, yet that they are a necessary phase of the life of delights which the evil have chosen; because the evil also have to have contact with the realm of actualities. Further, we have suggested that the life of enforced usefulness, or adjustment to the life of their society, is actually the source of all that even the devils treasure — or of that measure of rest and comfort and delight which they have. By punishments they can learn a certain restraint which amends their outward life, and their lot.13

We also noted certain general principles about the reasons for punishments in the other world; and the origin of those penalties in the effort of the evil to escape from the realities of life, and their refusal to accept the laws of order and the universe as it is constituted.

From this it may be easily seen that even the good may have to undergo penalty so far as they have evils (external faults), and so far as thev have false ideas of life. Certainly this is the case on earth! And life in the world of spirits is much like that in this world, with the marked difference that in the spiritual world justice is wiser and more constructive than on earth.

The penalties of the good are termed vastations, for they have in view the wasting or removal of external evils, falsities, bad habits, misapprehensions, and faults.

This, however, is true with the good: they undergo their vastations with less resistance, less reluctance, and therefore with less pain! Indeed some serve what they believe to be their penance, with a consent on their part; somewhat as we might regard an unpleasant operation! Still, if they should see the full purpose of the vastation, they probably would find the vastation to be over!

Punishments, however, are unwillingly submitted to. They are reserved for the evil, and have the object of instilling into evil spirits a wholesome fear of harming the good, or of attacking their fellow devils while they are in a quiet, harmless, state. Evil is to be so balanced against evil that each is rendered harmless; this is the external social principle on which hell is organized.

Judges are placed over the spirits in the world of spirits and in the hells. In the world of spirits, these judges exercise only civic and moral judgments. They refer to the higher tribunal of heaven and to the providential laws of invisible Order, any questions about spiritual states. When certain evil spirits declared it blasphemy of certain priests to say that adulterers cannot acknowledge God or be received into heaven, the judge in the world of spirits sent the plaintiff to the gateways of heaven and of hell, and the question was soon settled!14

Judges in the hells are evidently sometimes evil spirits. But generally they seem to be good — certainly they must be just. The government of heaven is over them. The issues they decide are merely matters of behavior, and their functions are oftenest to see to the employment of the evil in workhouses and prisons.

Labor for each other, amounting almost to slavery, is the most usual penalty of hell. But besides this, every crime is immediately met by terrifying punishments, which encourage the self-restraint of the criminal. (These penalties have to do with the world of phantasy into which the evil plunge themselves) .

Punishment by Phantasy

As already mentioned, most punishments go hand in hand with the phantasies of evil. The phantasies entertained on earth are totally changed: priests want to build, not dogmas merely, but houses! avarice makes for mice and lice; corporeal cupidities become filth in which they revel; cruelty exaggerates itself into a phantasy of bloodshed and gore, which affects others and makes them feel that such atrocities are actually taking place. Pride of erudition brings phantasies of dwelling in library cells underground: such want to be left to their studies and to escape "life,"— but as they read the candles go out! The lust of glory and fame is cured by the irritating presence of mice and vermin, etc. Others, who practice evil secretly, as the lascivious, also seek to dwell underground.15

The vastations of certain of the learned is described. Thus Melanchthon reads over what he has written by dictation from heaven concerning the goods of charity, and understands not a whit; the writing fades overnight. He is in two states: sometimes he is in a chamber doing things that pertain to his ambition; sometimes he is in a hell, under a judge who is much feared; and doing really useful, but mean, work.16

Certain phantasies are obviously their own punishment. A rather harmless experiment was made on one puffed up with pride on earth; he despised others in comparison with himself, and finally entertained contemptuous ideas about the angels of heaven. His punishment is called inflation. He was as it were puffed up (in phantasy) until he filled the universe and had no space left. Then he looked about and found no place to go, and began to long for his previous size.17 Here is quite a parable: if we think we have already arrived at the goal — we have "no place to go!" Consider the pathetic aimlessness of the man who has achieved his dreams of power or wealth or a surfeit of fame; the roue, who in dissipations has tasted the fruits of every pleasure and has nothing left; the Alexander who has no worlds left to conquer; the "nouveaux riches"; or the retired man of late middle-age who has nothing to do; these face the same vastation.

One type of vastation is that of people who are so opinionated and self-confident that they will not acknowledge interior or more interior truths unless they discover them themselves or are the means of their coming to light. Such a spirit was rolled up like a mummy in a woolen bandage, in which, when he tried to extricate himself, he became more intricately involved; also his hands were detached from him in the air (to make him trust less in his own powers) ,18 Here we note this: that such a one refuses to accept any truths that are not of his own good; he is wrapped up in his own ideas, inextricablyl The wool in which he is wrapped signifies truth of one's own good, and here of natural good.

There is also the torture of spheres.19 This we often experience on earth; we feel the torment of a too artificially pietistic sphere in which we somehow become involved, or of a blasphemous sphere which we are forced to endure. The evil man suffers when in a sphere of truth and penetrating scrutiny. We read of the punishment of a female magical spirit bent on destroying the body of Swedenborg by disease. She was found out, and was made pendulous like a ghost, but evaded capture; that is, she was denied a basis in the natural, and then by a magical method she raised herself into the celestial and spiritual sphere. While thus suspended, she suffered excruciating tortures, for by phantasies her ideas had been directed to the first threshold of the angelic sphere.20

Those who are revengeful and think themselves greater than others, being contemptuous of others in comparison with self, suffer laceration.21 Their face becomes like a round cakel Their arms look like rags on a whirling "scarecrow," and they are lifted up toward heaven, while their character is proclaimed before all and shame invades their very inmosts. Then they are carried to a miry lake near the filthy Jerusalem and rolled in mud. This is repeated until the cupidity of preeminence is taken away! This is normally done in more unostentatious ways; but extreme vanity calls for more humiliating publicity. The hardest thing to overcome on earth is our vanity — about our value to society or to our friends; but we soon find that our place can be quickly filled. Yet the main purpose of the penalty is to teach us to distinguish between our person and our use. The honor of the use is often appropriated by men and ascribed to themselves; the use is then taken away in the spiritual world until the person has been utterly humiliated. In the spiritual world man loses the protection of his use if he ascribes the merit of the use to himself.

A common type of spiritual punishment is that of "discerption," or racking, that is, a tearing apart of the limbs, and a crushing or collision by being violently shaken. In this form of torment resistance is induced to increase the pain!22

Swedenborg, witnessing such a penalty, wondered greatly, because the spirits so punished had been speaking well and confessed sound doctrinals and even preached them. But it soon appeared clearly, that they were the deceitful — who from habit speak one way and think another; who pretend friendship but intend theft or self-advantage, and harbor envy of all they see. As soon as their externals of speech and knowledge are removed, they begin to know themselves as evil, and hence labor to retain by phantasy the external which they had in the world. Evil spirits make this possible by inducing on them "as it were bodies — visible ones — and bodily senses" — thus sensations "almost like those of the body, but much less gross."23 The real bodies of spirits are the actual expressions of their real states. But these "induced" bodies are phantasies — bodies such as they would wish to have in order to deceive. As long as the spirits identify themselves with such imaginary bodies, punishing spirits have power over them — for they have no protection from the laws of truth, or from the Lord of heaven. The torture comes from their own mind, stimulated by punishing spirits! Their false external seems to be torn apart, with infinite pain of spirit and body; and it is the influx of evil that thus makes the good deceptive external so precarious.

Evil spirits, while in an external state and sphere, are permitted to appear good — without such dire punishments. But when their internals once begin to come out, they are not allowed to deceitfully hide themselves by phantasies. If they do so, they become spiritual outlaws, pursued and persecuted, the prey of punishing spirits. The same holds true on earth. When a man has shown himself a hypocrite, his efforts to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of others are vain.

Real Appearances versus Phantasy

The power of truth — especially natural truth! — is so great in the spiritual world that it protects from all the hells. Swedenborg was in communication with two friends, who separately went through a number of the hells; and Swedenborg describes how they were protected from all the phantasies in them, and the terrors and miseries there. One was Sven Lagerberg, a fine Swedish general and senator, a man universally respected. The other was Hjerne, the vice-president of the College of Mines.24

Some spirits, from the fact that phantasies abound in the world of spirits, come into the persuasion that all things whatsoever are mere phantasies.25 This is far from being the case. But unless we reflect deeply, it is hard to picture the completeness of the phantasies produced among the souls even in that region of the world of spirits which is known to us — and was known to the ancients — as "the Lower Earth," also called "Hades," "Sheol," the "Underworld," etc. It is not only the light that is illusive; it is touch and sound and every sense. Phantasy is so real there, that it lays complete siege to all the senses. It is not merely illusion — not merely an image in the air; it is the actual but pervert sensation of a spiritual thing or a spiritual state. Yet it is vastly different from the real appearances sensed by the angels and by good spirits in their normal states. The things seen and sensed in heaven are real, and therefore they are called real appearances, because they actually are substantial creations, visible to all who are in the state of heaven. Inwardly they are forms of truth; while inwardly in the phantastic appearances there is nothing real, for phantasy is an evasion of truth, an apparent evasion of the spiritual law which governs the evil.

Before we can know what the phantasies of the world of spirits are in their essence, we must know what the real appearances of heaven are in their essence, and how they are effected.

The essence of spiritual things is known only from revelation. This is true in respect to the mind of man, and of his soul, and of the life of all animate things, for all these are spiritual; and while men can study the results of life, and the manifestations of the mind, and the operations of the soul in the body, yet what these spiritual things are in their own essence is beyond Science to tell. Even Philosophy — in its whole known history — has been groping in the dark as to the meaning of the two great facts of Mind and Matter. Some have tried to explain mind — or life, or the spiritual — as a form of material activity. This concept is called Materialism, and has led to the denial of God or of anything not seen or determined by the senses. Others have denied that there is such a thing as matter, saying that matter is simply a sensation, a phantasy without real existence outside of man's mind. This is called Idealism, and leads to the notion that all is God, that we are component parts of God's consciousness. And those philosophers who have realized the evident absurdity of both these positions, have tried in various ways to compromise between them, but unsuccessfully, since they could not explain the essence of either mind or matter.

And so, lest the sanity of rational man be utterly destroyed, the Divine Philosophy was revealed in the Doctrines of the New Church. It is there given, as a matter of revelation, that the two different phenomena that are called natural and spiritual are sensations of two discrete kinds of substance, which, in their essence, are entirely unlike. Natural substance, which is called matter, has spatial dimensions, is fixed, is unable to change its state, and if induced to undergo changes of state or place these changes occur according to fixed periods of time. Thus it is dead. Spiritual substance, which is properly called the spiritual-substantial, is living, from the Lord's life. It is not fixed, but utterly plastic; and has not space or time as properties.

The marvelous fact is that despite these wide differences between the two substances of creation, they cannot be told apart by sensual demonstration. Only through the material senses can we see and feel matter; and only the spiritual senses of man can see and feel spiritual substance. And when man's spiritual senses are opened with the death of the body, he sees the things of the spiritual world just as if it were still the natural world which he was beholding. The similarity is so illusive that at first the spirit believes himself still in the world of space and matter. Nor could he, from his senses alone, ever convince himself to the contrary. His reason, if consulted, can tell a difference; for the laws of the other world are of an entirely different order, and cause strange coincidences, sudden changes of environment, keen perceptions of what others are thinking and desiring. But his senses there record the experiences of spiritual life in the same apparent way in which life on earth was recorded — as a life in a body equipped for all corporeal and mental functions, in surroundings of the same kind. And so before him rise up the appearances of time and space and material organizations — yet, these same governed by laws which the reason sees to be laws of a substance discretely above matter and space. For a substance is characterized not by its appearance, but by the laws according to which it acts.

Now it is not to be thought that the things seen in the spiritual world — the appearances in heaven — angels, animals, plants, hills, valleys, rocks, works of human skill, buildings, garments, books — are simply survivals of memories from earth-life. Heaven is not a dream; its appearances do not come from the sensory experiences man had while dwelling on earth amid space and time. They do not exist simply in the minds of the beholding angels; they are not phantasies aroused in angelic minds through some law of correspondence. But these "appearances" are "real substances, and thus essences in form."26 They are substantial even as the angels themselves — and they are called "appearances" simply because they are substances sensed by the angels — appearing before them and outside of them in correspondence with their own states of love and wisdom.

An angel is nothing but a certain love and its wisdom in spiritual form and in spiritual relation. The perception of this spiritual relation is what takes the place of space and time in the spiritual world. The law of all life is that sensation is necessary to see a thing in relation to other things. And whatever you care to call it, that relation will appear on any plane as spatial dimension appears to us — as figure, environment — in the accustomed forms of human life.

What the spiritual eye sees after death, is just such a relation as it saw under spatial dimensions here, before death clarified the vision. It is the spiritual that sees through our material eye, even now. The eye in itself — apart from the mind — is blind and dead. In heaven, the eye of the spirit sees, and his ear and nose and hand sense, apart from any material organ. The appearances there correspond absolutely to the reality and exhibit the true relations among spiritual objects.

The so-called appearances of the spiritual world are, therefore, not phantasies, but are the substantial spiritual things themselves seen and felt and heard. And since all sensation is as to origin spiritual, we sense things under the same mental forms in both worlds, albeit in one world they are spiritual, and in the other natural. They cannot be told apart, because they correspond. Sensation, in each world, is the appearance — the presentation — of the realities of that plane.

Phantasy is something entirely different. It is the "real" appearance of unrealities — of things which in themselves are not such — of false relations. Except in the spheres of phantasy, there are no false relations in the entire spiritual world, for it is governed by the Lord.

Only through phantasy can evil prevail over good or disturb that order which provides a place for every human soul. If we could protect our soul from the power of phantasy, we would be safe from all the hells.

Reference was already made to the phantasies that spring from a person's own cupidities or evil longings. The devils in hell, yearning for the delight of evil, find satisfaction in realistically picturing the evils which they would indulge in; and this is permitted to the point of entire self-deception; without this, life in hell would be unrelieved misery. Their phantasies affect other evil spirits also, whom they choose as victims, for the law exists in the other life that thoughts can even be represented to the life; and therefore phantasies can be induced on a spirit, so that the spirit believes himself to experience — in keenest realism — the horrors which others desire him to feel.

A good spirit is protected against such phantasies which devils seek to induce; and only when a spirit has committed some evil, is the Lord's protection withdrawn.

But one other circumstance may lead even a good spirit into the realm of phantasy. This is when some falsity of religion is adhered to with some degree of confirmation, and strong and impure natural affections prevent his instruction in the truth. Then he is imprisoned in the "Lower Earth," near the hells, and evil spirits inflow to arouse this falsity, producing phantasies of various kinds. Some good spirits then seem to themselves to be cutting unending cords of wood to merit heaven. Others fill overflowing ditches, vainly seeking to acquire spiritual wisdom by self-intelligence. Some again are tortured with the thought that they are in hell — or suffer what seems like bodily pangs or tortures of phantastic nature because they thought that eternal life was impossible apart from the material body. And untold others are the constant prey of sirens and deceivers who turn whatsoever they think into falsity and whatever they do into sin, removing from them the hope of salvation.

These last groups of phantasies serve for vastation and temptation. They are the forcible means of breaking trust in human prudence, and of inducing that despair which precedes the renunciation of evil habits of thought. Such vastation awaits all who in this life regard themselves as rich and in need of nothing, and know not that they are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked."

It is to make unnecessary these phantasies and vastations in the spiritual world, that the Writings now reveal the truth.


1 HH 512:3, AC 5135:3

2 AC 2077

3 AE 726 (2)

4 AC 9049:3, 9534:2, 2258:3, 7273:2

5 AC 8700, 8765e

6 AC 4981, 5051e, 8717e, HH 278:2, DP 250, 254:3, 4

7 Luke 16:9, AE 242:20, 700:17

8 SD 1039

9 See pages 255, 268.

10 Love xv, cp LJ post. 230, AE 122

11 SD 3489:2

12 SD 1039

13 AC 6071:6

14 CL 500:4

15 SD 385

16 SD 5932, TCR 797

17 SD 3113

18 SD 1370-1378 1110-1414, 3298-3300

19 AC 953

20 SD 4468

21 AC 956

22 AC 957

23 AC 959, 969

24 AC 6423, SD min. 4781ff, SD 6036

25 SD 4305

26 AC 2576


The Spiritual World
Spirits and Men
Talks: Spiritual World
10Q: Life After Death


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18. Spiritual Penalties

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