I’m hoping today’s post will be quick. I made the mistake of choosing a couple of “Collected Works Of…” books next on the ol’ Self-Doctorate Reading List, and I’m bogged down reading what amounts to tens of thousands of words of prose, not all of it good. But I did want to top off my tank of Swedenborg before motoring on…
Emanuel Swedenborg experienced some sort of mental crisis around 1744, when he was fifty-six years old. He began hearing voices and having visions, and from that time on began receiving visits from spirits, Angels, and great personages from the Bible. And he put away his scientific work and began interpreting the Bible using his new-found enlightenment. He also began describing the trips he takes to the Spirit World.
At one point, Swedenborg writes of having “double thoughts,” which of course put me in mind of Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind, and makes me wonder if Swedey suffered some stroke that dis-aligned the normally unified workings of the two hemispheres of his brain. Maybe one side of his brain began to hear the other side thinking; or perhaps one hemisphere began to experience the visualizations of the other hemispheres as a spectator, giving the mental visualizations the feeling of being objectively real and “out there.”
Regardless of the root cause of his visions (and who’s to say that the root cause of his visions wasn’t the fact that he was, well, having visions?), Swedenborg began routinely taking trips to other planets. You see, in Swedenborg’s view of things, entities from the Spirit World actually are living right now on the other planets.
Death And Transition
One important thing out of many that Swedenborg discovered during his other-worldly voyages was that the dead do not initially realize that they are dead. He explains this by saying that the continuity of consciousness is so complete and uninterrupted that the fact that body stops breathing doesn’t even show up as a blip on the Soul-dar.
Swedenborg also discovered in his voyages that Angels are not actually beings distinct from human beings, but are more like what author Ernst Benz calls “two distinct phases of the same species, like butterfly and caterpillar.”
As far as I can gather, “Heaven” and the “Spirit World” are either the one and the same for Swedenborg or else possess great overlap. Travelling through the Spirit World, Swedenborg finds that Space is not a concept experienced by the dwellers of that (mostly) Undiscovered Country. “All journeys in the Spiritual World occur by means of changes of state of more inward things.” And he says much the same about the Seasons experienced there (though referring to “there” as “Heaven” in this case): he says that the seasons come and go, not as a change in Time, but as a change of state.
Heaven and Hell work on a sort of magnetic principle. On Earth, Good and Evil are mixed together (tell me about it!). But in the next world, there is separation. I imagine a sort of Oil and Vinegar thing. Swedenborg says that we are translated into our “Inward Forms” after death, and these Inward Forms are naturally drawn toward similar Inward Forms and repelled by unlike Inward Forms. The way it is described, I envisage the good spirits drifting off in one direction (and I can’t help but visualize this as “up,” with the bad spirits drifting “down.” Hell is basically the place where the down boys go, but it’s not a physical place of fire and brimstone. It’s where the congregation of like spirits suffer from the inner-state-weight of their own emotional baggage, baggage they have brought with them over the threshold of death: those bad-vibey feelings like envy, rage, and greed—states of being that are dominated in one way or the other by Ego or selfishness.
Darn it; my blog entry today is going longer than I intended (as they all do). Allow me to briefly state a few more interesting things Swedey discovered during his trips to the Spirit World.
Visiting Mars, he learned that the Martians have such expressive faces that they can carry on deep conversations merely by the extended exchange of glances.
Also (and I think some Science Fiction author borrowed this idea, but I can’t remember his name), Christ appears at some point to every planet’s people. His incarnation varies from world to world, depending on a particular planet’s form of understanding and knowledge.
Spirit World Marriages
Lastly, Swedenborg says that in the next world we find our Soul Mate. It does not matter if we ever found them on Earth or not. It also doesn’t matter if we married a series of people during our Earthly life and loved each one of them—it will all sort itself out in the Spirit World.
Swedenborg says that “in Heaven, a couple are not two, but one Angel,” and that a man-spirit who is still awaiting the arrival of his Soul Mate “is like a divided or half man.” For Swedenborg, the union of the male spirit with the female spirit is the joining of Knowledge with Goodness and of Wisdom with Love. In Swedenborg’s view of the differing gifts that the different genders bring to the table, women would be the ones bringing Goodness and Love, and men would be toting Knowledge and Wisdom.
This last part is intriguing to me not just for what it says about the mindset of Swedenborg’s Age when it comes to gender differences, but what it says about our own Age: for I feel that most people today would find it disparaging toward women to say that the men are bringing the knowledge and wisdom—and yet, isn’t it interesting that we would so readily discount the value of Love and Goodness, as if they are the lesser accomplishments instead of being at least the equals? Is this some sign that we are confused, that we are weighing human accomplishment on a scale that tilts in favor of the fruits of Reason over the flowers of the Heart? Beats me. It’s your alley. I just line up the pins.
Other Hammering Shield articles on Swedenborg: