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Returning States

An expectation of punishment after death is often mentioned among religious people. But it should be observed that no one is punished after death for things done in the world. Man enters eternal life with entire forgiveness for the past. His sins are remitted him. Yet such a law of mercy can fully benefit only the good; since "their evils do not return." Indeed, their evils were not committed with any deliberate purpose of opposing the truth "or from any badness of heart other than that which they received by inheritance from their parents, and they were borne into this by a blind delight" when carried off by external circumstances.1

Yet the Apocalypse records that John heard a voice from heaven saying, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them."2 And the spiritual law is that all the active states of thought or deed, which a man has entertained from infancy to old age, "not only remain in the other life, but return exactly as they were while he lived in the world."3 They recur in various ways, if not as repeated acts yet as vivid recollections—"to the life." But "when states of evil and falsity recur . . . they are tempered by the Lord by means of good states"—that is, by "the remains" of innocence and charity.4

Through this return of states from childhood on, the spirit is given the opportunity gradually to judge himself, to re-evaluate his past in the light of his confirmed outlook on life. If well-disposed, he may see and renounce the sins of his youth and his later transgressions, and recognize that from himself he is nothing but an intricate mass of evils from which he now recoils in horror and disavows with aversion. They are judged by himself, in the light of truth.5 Thus "there is granted to every man after death ample means to amend his life, if possible. They are instructed and led by the Lord through angels. And then, because they know that they live after death and that there is a heaven and a hell, they at first admit truths. But those who in the world had not acknowledged God and shunned evils as sins, soon feel weary of truths and withdraw. And those who acknowledged truths with the mouth and not with the heart are like the foolish virgins who had lamps without oil, and who begged oil from others and who went and bought and yet were not admitted to the wedding. 'Lamps' signify truths of faith, and 'oil' signifies the good of charity . . . . " (DP 328:9)

"The Lord has the power to separate and remove from infernal societies, that is, from evils, anyone He may wish; but such a change can continue only for a few hours, after which the evils return. I have frequently seen this done, and seen that an evil one continues evil as before. In the whole spiritual world there is not an instance of any one's having been removed from evils except through combat or resistance as of himself; or of any one doing this except from the Lord alone." (AE 1164e)

With an evil spirit, his deeds and thoughts return, and with such realism that persons whom he had hated are actually presented before him, and his concealed enmity is openly revealed, along with shame and grief and terror. But it is not so with the upright.6They too may have regarded some others with enmity and contempt, but they have not confirmed themselves in either hatred or revenge or deceit, wherefore they are open to reconciliation, since inwardly they will good even to their enemies.7

Thus it may be said that "good spirits, although they have done evils in the world, are never punished, because their evils do not return"—that is, the return is not accompanied with great anguish, for they feel the Lord's forgiveness. Angels minimize the faults of a well-disposed spirit, especially if he is unduly discouraged by his evils, or if he is unaware of them. The states which "return" with an upright spirit are those of friendship and love, and these are recalled with a new delight and a far deeper happiness.8 Similarly, the "states of holiness" which moved his heart during times of worship on earth "are preserved to him by the Lord for the use of eternal life. . . ."9

Remains with the Evil

Evil spirits, like evil men, are not all equally wicked. Each may have some lingering quality that makes them in some way attractive. Even criminals may "draw the line" against some forms of perversion. The Arcana Coelestia reveals the reason for this.

Even the evil were once innocent babes, with whom the Lord insinuated goods and truths. These states were stored up and preserved by the Lord entirely without man's knowledge, in the interiors of his mind, and are withdrawn from the evils and falsities which man later confirmed; and they are therefore called "remains."10 Only through such gift states which temper his evils is it possible for man to become rational.11 In fact, man is human in proportion to the "remains" which have set limits to his evils. With wicked spirits, these remains continue to establish a communication with heaven, sufficient to enable them to reason and act as human beings when they so choose. In general, the truths which an evil spirit has abused or denied, are removed from his active thought by vastations. But since there are still remnants of religious knowledge and moral habit which were not direct obstacles to his particular evils, there may—even in the hells—be some who still retain the idea of a God, whom some of them might blame for all their ills and perhaps think of as an impersonal force of interior nature. And the spirits in some of the hells speak of the Creator of the universe without hatred, from a habit formed in the world. "But all the hells are against the Lord" with bitter hatred. They are unwilling, and indeed unable to express the idea of "the Divine Human," or to utter the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.12 An important spiritual law here applies: "The good and the truth which have not been adjoined to falsities and evils, are not vastated."13 And another such law prescribes that no one shall become worse after death than he was in this world.14

It is true both of the good and the wicked that hereditary evils also remain within man's immortal spirit, and are not exterminated even with the regenerate. Especially the paternal heredity and genius remain to eternity.15 In order that good spirits may learn the truth about themselves, they may if necessary be let down into the hidden life of their connate nature, and its sphere of domineering and lust.16 But this lesson is for those who come into the idea that they are good from themselves. Hereditary inclinations may thus be recalled, but do not "return" in the other life.

"It is from Divine justice that no one should be punished for the evils of his parents, but for his own. Therefore the Lord provides that hereditary evils shall not return after death, but one's own evils; and it is for those that return that a man is then punished."17

The State of Internals

In the "first state" of the World of Spirits, the newcomer is in his externals. By this is meant that he thinks, speaks, and acts— and looks—such as he was in regard to his spirit while in company with others in his earthly life. His speech may therefore still be full of social dissimulations.18

But this condition seldom lasts more than a year.19 For in the other life "no one is allowed to think and will one way and speak and act in another." The spirit must become an image of his own love. His externals must come to correspond to his internals. The spirit therefore unconsciously glides into a state in which he thinks freely and without restraint from his interior will, which he had previously never been able to articulate.20 But there may still linger some fear of expressing this in words before others.21 Yet he seeks a social sphere where he can do so.

Good spirits seem now to pass into a fuller wakefulness—a new day when the light of heaven dawns upon them, and they can worship the Lord in an internal sanctity.22 But spirits who are devoid of conscience begin to appear foolish, as their inward lusts break out, although they seem to themselves wiser than others because of their cunning intrigues. They lose their fear of loss of reputation. Some indeed are sometimes let back into the state of their externals and the contrast then makes them ashamed and angry that they are not permitted to remain permanently in the outward semblance of honesty. Yet the spiritual law forbids this, for "there is nothing covered up that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known." "Every idle word that man shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."23

Delights and Correspondences

One spirit, newly arrived in the world of spirits, was told that heaven was above his head and hell beneath his feet, but was not told what they were like. He now came into a state of anxiety from constant thought about them. Finally he fell on his knees and prayed the Lord to instruct him. An angel then came and raised him up and said, "Inquire and learn what delight is, and you will know what heaven and hell are." Wandering about, the spirit could at first find no answer as to what this meant. But presently he was introduced to some angels who taught him that since man is a man according to the quality of his love, he can be known by that in which he takes delight. In heaven there is a delight in good and truth, in hell a delight in evil and falsity. This was confirmed by some devils who then providentially emerged from their hells and who openly declared that what they delighted in was committing thefts and whoredoms and blasphemies—which others perceived as the putrid odor of excrements, but which they regarded as delicacies. These devils soon returned to their hells. But the spirit, now enlightened, was given a laurel wreath as a token that from childhood he had meditated on heaven and hell. (CL461. Cp. DP340e)

One peculiarity of the spiritual world is that when a spirit enters upon the state of his internals, he forgets many of the natural delights which he had enjoyed in the world. These delights are instead changed into spiritual delights which may appear in quite different forms, according to the law of correspondences.24Evil spirits—meticulously neat and clean in their first state—may reveal a decided preference for unclean places. Although in the world fond of a sophisticated urban life, they might come to crave a life among barren rocks, in caves or on sandy wastes; or, strangely enough, develop a liking for darkness and magical arts. Those who once lived for the palate may turn to the most disgusting fare—for which they would feel very ashamed if let back into their externals. It is their mental predilection for disorder, filth, dishonesty and perversion, or for barren knowledge, that takes these repulsive forms as soon as the spirits recognize the complete satisfaction which is gained by an environment which really corresponds to their interiors.25

By the same laws of correspondence, some of the learned, who loved to construct false and incoherent doctrinal systems, may find a sudden yearning to build houses—although what they build one day may fall down the next!26 Such an occupation they take quite seriously as an intellectual endeavor, not a child's play: for it is really spiritual structures that they labor on.

With good spirits, this metamorphosis of natural delights into the representation of spiritual delights, involves no reversion, but is nonetheless a startling change. Their natural delights fade while their spiritual delights—which on earth had rarely been sensed— are sometimes represented by blessings of beauty and wealth, to correspond to the glories of spiritual usefulness. This beauty shines forth even from the humblest things, and what is Divine is seen concealed therein. "The objects they indeed see with their eyes; but the corresponding Divine things inflow immediately into their minds and fill them with a blessedness by which all their sensations are affected."27

Yet good spirits learn that the wealth, the lovely surroundings, the houses, the heavenly treasures that they may acquire as their interiors are opened, are not rewards, but the provided means by which their spiritual uses may be carried out. In this world it is one's fellow-men who estimate a man's uses and determine his rewards by faulty measures. But in the spiritual world the government of the Lord's justice and wisdom is more obvious, providing the means to carry out uses in an eminent way for those who have the love to do so.

The real means of use are truths. This is what is represented in the rich surroundings of regenerating spirits. But in the world of spirits these things are still not permanent, but signify the truths which they are offered. For as yet these spirits are transients, lacking a stable perspective or fixed point of view. This they will attain only when they reach their spiritual home. But in the meantime they often change societies, and while they may be allowed to visit their final heaven, they cannot stay there unless their preparation is completed.

Spiritual Progressions

The progress of spirits into the state of internals is not sudden. Man's faults and evils are not always easy to put away if they have become habits of thought. In the other life, habits of thought are seen and felt and used as paths or roads over which the spirit likes to roam. Evil habits bring him into all sorts of spiritual dangers, making him vulnerable to the attacks of mischievous, brutal and deceptive spirits.

In the spiritual world, "man's thoughts, which are born from his intentions or will, are represented as roads."28 Contrary to the common saying, it is the road to heaven that is "paved with good intentions." But none can reach heaven unless he actually walks therein.

These individual ways are most complicated and devious, for each spirit walks in ways "according to his truths," ways which no one else sees. But the Lord alone knows all these roads, and He alone can lead the spirit on the paths by which he can reach his heaven.29 For the spirit is attached as if by elastic cords to various societies in the world of spirits, and among these societies he "walks free, although bound." "The Lord as it were leads him by the hand, permitting and withholding so far as the spirit is willing to follow in freedom."30

The novitiate spirit, if he is affected by truths, is introduced to various societies, both good and evil. But after being explored, he is inducted into a society of his own type of natural affection where he can lead an agreeable life. His interiors then begin to open more and more. But salvation (or heaven with its spiritual safety), can be reached only when a spirit has been purged from such false principles and evil habits as had affected him while in the world.

Consequently he must undergo states of vastation or of temptation, by which he puts off his merely natural affections; and, eventually, comes into a state of instruction in which spiritual truths are perceived in new light.31


1 HH 509

2 Rev. 14:13

3 AC 561, 1906, SD 4109

4 AC 561, 2284, 2256

5 HH 487:3

6 AC 823,SD 4109f

7 SD 4384, AC 1079f

8 AC 561, 823

9 AC 1618

10 AC 561, 1906, 1618

11 AC 7556, 7560, 7601; 2284:2, 3: cp 2256

12 Ath. 201, TCR 297, 111, 380:3, 799; cp AC 1798:2, 2049:3

13 AC 7556

14 AC 6559

15 AC 868, 2307, 4564, DP 277a, 79; AC 1414:2, TCR 103

16 HH 342, AC 2307f, cp AE 989e

17 AE989e, AC 966

18 HH 504, DLW 415, 404:3; SD 2775, TCR 147, AC 3993:12

19 HH 498

20 HH 502

21 HH 503

22 HH 506

23 HH 507, Luke 12:2, Matt. 12:36

24 HH 485ff

25 HH 488f, DP end

26 AR 153:8

27 HH 489

28 HH 534:3, LJ 48e, AE 206, DP 60e

29 AE 940, 1153:8, SD 5986, AC 10422, 3477, cp Wis. i.5

30 AE 1174:2

31 AR 153:4


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


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5. Internal States

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