~The Straight Facts~
are spiritual questions that I have personally asked - or that others
who have corresponded with me. These answers are based upon my understanding of the
writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, which were so instrumental in healing me
of my deep despair and grief at losing so many of my loved ones. I pray
that this will help to heal and comfort you as well. Some links lead to other websites.
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Was it God's will that my loved one died?
It is NEVER God's will that people suffer tragically or that people die "before their time". God initially created a paradise on earth - and this world is for a temporary time - we are made to shed our physical world bodies after years in this life - so that we may enter eternal life. What happens is that sometimes, due to accidents, war, disease and/or inherited conditions, death occurs much faster than what God originally intended.
Why does disease/accidents/inherited conditions/war exist if God never intended them in the first place?
It occurred eons ago - when mankind first turned their backs on God - and by doing so, brought into existence negative spiritual forces which initially attacked the guilty party. Later, over the course of many years, these negative forces mutated into germs, bacteria, viruses and now attack innocent people.
Why did God let it happen? Why didn't He step in and save (heal/protect, etc.) my loved one?
God is orderly - indeed, He is Order itself - and He always operates within the Laws of Order (science) that He created. To operate against those very laws that He created and put into motion would destroy the entire universe. As part of the these Laws of Order, God gave mankind the greatest gift of all - free will. Because of free will, evil can and does exist in our physical world because God permits it - not because He wills it. God did not create evil and it exists solely because of mankind's direct opposition to Divine Love. It is His will that we live only in goodness, but He will never violate a person's free will.
What about miracles - don't they happen?
Yes, miracles of physical healing and spiritual healing happen. Again, these miracles must be according to laws of order - else they cannot take place. Miracles are simply things that we cannot yet explain. The routine medical procedures of the 20th century are the dreamed for miracles of the 19th century. Spiritual miracles of healing within a person are the greatest miracles - for they change us in better ways and impact us for eternity.
Indeed, Swedenborg wrote that the passage of Matthew 17:20 where Jesus tells His disciples that if they had the faith as a grain of mustard seed, they would be able to move mountains actually means spiritual mountains within us. Anyone who has had the experience of God moving the mountains of grief, anger, depression, hatred, jealousy, strife from within our hearts understands this concept - and they are the true miracles!
I know of angels intervening and warning people. Why didn't that happen with my loved one?
First of all, you don't know that an angel didn't warn your loved one - or didn't try to influence a person who could helped your loved one. Before a person can be helped or influenced by Divine authority, they must be first listening to civil and moral authority. For example, a person who is speeding 40 miles above the speed limit is not listening to civil authority - and will be unable to hear divine authority speaking to their heart. This is not to say that your loved one couldn't hear - sometimes what happens is that physically, they cannot help themselves - and so another person is required to step in and help. If this other person is not in a state to listen to civil or moral authority, they will not hear an angel's pleas.
I was told that it was a life and death that my loved one chose. Is that true?
No. Not according to Swedenborg's writings. We are born, both spiritually and physically in this world at the same time. Our dual natures - spirit (inner) and physical (outer) - develop along side of each other. We do not exist in the spirit realm before we are born into this world.
What then does God do?
Jesus said that good is only from God (Luke 18:19) and if we see all the medical discoveries and innovations (as well as anything else that is good in our world) as a gift from God, we can see that He is providing us wonderful and ongoing tools to fight these conditions, and will continue to do so.
Our part in this is to always turn to Him - and to especially turn to Him in times of tragedy. Unbelievably, God can and will bring goodness out of any tragedy, if we only let Him. That's the key, if we only let Him. We hold the power - and God will never violate our free will to turn away from Him. If we but turn just a little bit towards Him and ask for His help, we will always be amazed at what He delivers.
Are we reunited with our loved ones in the spiritual world?
Yes!! It's the bond of love that connects us to our loved ones. If all we have shared with a person is the bond of physical heredity, but there is no love there, then we will not be reunited with them. Anyone who has been hurt by another person need not fear that they will have to be around this person in the spiritual world. Each person in the spiritual world has the power to block contact from another person.
Do our loved ones mourn and miss us the way in which we miss them?
Time, as we know it, doesn't exist for them. In Swedenborg's writings, this concept of time is discussed. He explained it as "spiritual state" - and gave this analogy. With a person who is doing something that they love, time passes "quickly" - they are so absorbed in what they are doing that 4 hours can pass without them knowing it - for it only seems like an hour. Conversely, the same person can be doing something that they don't enjoy and the time passes "slowly" - and they may think that 4 hours have gone by when only an hour has. For more information: Chapter 18 of Heaven and Hell
From my personal experience: I too wondered how they could possibly wait for us - time is such a horrible thing here. Jim told me (before I even found Swedenborg's writings) that time practically doesn't exist for them - and certainly not in the way we know it. For example, he told me that it seemed just like a month since he had crossed over - perhaps he could concede a year. He was jolted when I told him 23 years - yes, I "felt" him as he reacted to that knowledge. He couldn't believe that 23 years had passed - for he had logical knowledge of what that must be like, but he certainly didn't feel it.
What happens to babies and children?
Babies and children of all religions automatically go to Heaven. They will be raised by angels in their homes and they will care tenderly and lovingly for them. When babies cross over, according to Swedenborg, they appear and are similar to how they are here. They will grow, both spiritually and in appearance (yes, our spiritual bodies look very similar to our physical world bodies - just more perfect), very similarly as babies grow here in the physical world.
They will advance in appearance to that of a young adult. According to Swedenborg, they will meet that one special person and will have the opportunity to be married, enjoying all the blessings of marriage that is known in this world.
Many people worry about whether our loved ones will recognize and know us on the other side - especially infants. Swedenborg wrote that he saw one beautiful reunion scene - that of an old man who was reunited with his brother who died in infancy. The younger brother who died as an infant immediately knew his brother - and vice versa. The one who had lived to old age in the physical world cried that he had never known such love as that shown to him by his brother. For more information: What About Babies?
What do we look like when we die?
Our spiritual selves are in a form - and that form is human. In other words, we are in a body - a human body and we are not some vaporous, gaseous being. We resemble ourselves - just more perfect and without any defects - whether that be physical or mental. We retain gender identification - and, one of Swedenborg's most beautiful teachings, there is marriage in heaven for those who want it, with all the blessings of this world. For more information: Marriage in Heaven/Soulmates.
Marriage in heaven? What about gays?
Swedenborg never addressed the issue of homosexuality; however, as I read through his writings (22 volumes to date of 35), I am convinced that gays too will unite with the one of their heart's desire and enjoy marriage. Remember, it is the joining of inner, spiritual bonds that make a true marriage. One branch of the Swedenborgian Church (Convention) has ordained a gay minister. For more in-depth reading: Marriage as the Conjugial Metaphysic of the Divine
Does free will exist in the spiritual world?
Absolutely! God never violates free will in this life or the next, else we would be automatons.
What does the spiritual world look like?
Very similar to this world - again, without the "defects and blemishes" of this world. And yes, Swedenborg wrote that there are animals in the spiritual world. For more information, there is a 6-page meditation section with Swedenborg quotations about the spiritual world and its wonders - it's very beautiful, informative and uplifting! Meditation Section
Is there a heaven and hell? And if so, what are they like?
Yes, according to Swedenborg, heaven and hell exist and they are inner, spiritual states within ourselves - "For, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you" [Luke 17:21], as well as real places in the spiritual world. Hell, according to Swedenborg, is not like we have traditionally been taught. Rather than the fire and brimstone of outer fire, it is the burning hatreds within an individual's heart that makes it hell. For more information: hell.
God is always all-loving and all merciful. He judges no one (John 12:47: And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came, not to judge the world but to save the world.") He casts no one into hell - rather, He wants all to be in heaven - to be eternally blessed. However, there are people that do not want to be in Heaven - they would rather be in hell, unbelievably. We don't have to wait to get to the spiritual world to see this ourselves, but rather, we can see this in people here in this physical world. There are people who willingly choose to live in the hellish nightmare of hatred and uncontrolled, murderous jealousy and lusts towards others. The spiritual world is no different - those who have chosen this kind of life here - willingly continue over there. Hell is simply a place of segregation for those of like mind, so that they cannot hurt the good - and in no way is a place of eternal torment and punishment from God.
Heaven is an individual thing - we simply go to "the country of one's heart." There are many places in heaven - some prefer to live in cities; others prefer to live more simply as people did hundreds of years ago. Whatever is the "country of your heart" is where you will be - happy and blessed for eternity. There is ample opportunity to pursue those things that were not available to us here due to any kind of constraints. For example, a person who is physically disabled might have had the lifelong dream to become a figure skater - this is all possible in the spiritual world. Or another person who desires to be an artist, but could not due to family and financial considerations, will have that opportunity to fulfill their heart's desire. For more information: Death and Beyond
Swedenborg wrote that it was relatively easy to get into heaven: 1) Love God; 2) Love your fellow person and 3) be of use (service). Swedenborg wrote that the first two go hand-in-hand. A person who professes to love God, but acts in hatred of his fellow person, does not love God. Conversely, a person who is very quiet about his belief in God, but acts in love towards his fellow person actually loves God. Swedenborg defined "use" as simply going about our daily life - whatever that is - and performing our responsibilities always out of love - to God and to others.
What about those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol?
Swedenborg wrote extensively that a person has to be in a rational state for his decisions to be a part of his life. Obviously, a person addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is not in a rational state, because only when our minds are rational is when we are truly free to make our choices. When our bodies are addicted, there is no way that we are free - and God always wants our choices to be made in freedom. That's what happens in that middle ground - the Spiritual World. That physical craving for the drugs is not carried over into the Spiritual World. They are led back into a rational state of mind by the angels and allowed to make their choices at that time. Of course, many addicts have a good heart - and many do not - and it's there that they make their choices.
Here is a quotation by a Swedenborgian minister, Brian Kingslake, in his book "Inner Light: Swedenborg Explores the Spiritual Dimension" -
"The second state [of death - after the initial crossing over and could be likened to a life review] can produce some surprises. [There may be] many who, while on earth, appeared to be good and wise and were respected by everybody are now seen to have been motivated by self-love or love of the world. All their respectability now falls away, and they plunge into unrestrained selfishness or acquisitiveness. Another person may have been a drunk or wastrel on earth, scorned by "good" people; or perhaps even a criminal - who knows? Yet in their heart they may have longed for better things; in which case, their good ruling love will now take over, and their disreputable exterior will fall away, leaving them sweet and angelic, as they always wanted to be."
Swedenborg did write that we are not to judge anyone as the Lord indeed instructed in Matthew 7:1. Only God can see into the heart of an individual and know what they truly are. God, who is Infinite Love and Mercy, makes every provision for all that long to be with Him and to live in love in Heaven to do so.
What about those who commit suicide?
Briefly, in and by itself, the act of suicide does NOT put a person in hell. As stated above, a person goes to the "country of their heart". For all of us - when we first cross over, we are in an "in-between" place - Swedenborg called it the Spiritual World (I believe that Spiritualists call it Summerland). It is a beautiful place, and it is where we all go initially. As we cross over, angels of the highest heaven meet everyone and graciously welcome us. The angels love nothing better than to help and counsel those just crossing over. Whatever we didn't get to work on here, we work it out in this middle place before continuing to Heaven. A person who committed suicide will be met by these angels as well - and will have opportunity to work things out - and in no way, are they punished, mistreated or anything else that sounds grossly cruel. Compassionate people would not treat a suicidal person cruelly - how much more true this is of angels and of God! For more information, "What About Suicide?"
For those who read this who may be in a suicidal state, please don't consider suicide as an option. The heartache that you leave for your family and friends is beyond comprehension. There is help - and time will help you deal with your feelings of hopelessness and despair; I know, for I was suicidal for 2-1/2 years myself. I can honestly state that I am glad that I didn't go through with my plans because of the havoc it would have wrecked on everyone within my sphere. For more information: Suicide Education and Information Center and the excellent Metanoia.org
What are angels?
According to Swedenborg, angels are simply good people who have previously lived in this physical world. They are not a separate or superior race of beings. Conversely, demons are simply people who have chosen to live in hatred and cruelty and have previously lived here. For more information: Angels.
Are there levels of heaven?
Who decides what level I get to?
You do. "...depending on [your] acceptance of what is Divinely good and true from the Lord during [your] life on earth." Heaven and Hell, no. 30 by Emanuel Swedenborg
What about the Bible? Doesn't it say in the Old Testament that God is angry?
The Bible was written for each person - regardless of the spiritual state they are in, the time frame that they live, regardless of cultural background. That's a tall order, when you think about it! Initially, when people come to God, there are many things to sort out - like jealousies and hatreds of others. If we knew that God never punished, some people would then feel like it would be okay to kill another person. That's why it says, in the letter of the Bible, that God is angry and will punish us. It's written to impress a person that is not living in love towards another. As we progress spiritually, we look at those passages and wince. Some people walk away from the Bible because of these passages - I know that I did. Two additional articles, which are so insightful: God's Word: The Mirror of Identity and The Bible that was Lost and is Found.
When I read Swedenborg's explanation that there is a hidden, deeper meaning to the Bible that explains "God's anger", I was intrigued. I found out that there are "appearances of truth" in the Bible. For example, an appearance of truth found in the Bible is that the sun rises and sets - when we know the truth: the earth revolves around the sun. It's not a literal fact, but merely a figurative statement. Another appearance of truth is when a three-year old child asks his/her parents why the grass is green - are the parents really going to launch into a discussion of photosynthesis? I think not - they may be inclined to just give a very simple (and perhaps not even a true) explanation and let it go for another day, when the child is developmentally ready for the true answer.
Spiritually, we are not much different. When the Word of God was put into written form (the Bible), people were spiritually less evolved than we are right now. God's love didn't particularly motivate them - rather God's supposed anger did motivate them - to do right out of a fear of punishment.
According to Swedenborg, mankind has evolved spiritually to be told the truth. And the underlying truth under the appearance of "God's anger" is this truth: mankind is angry with God and blames Him - and this displaced anger feels as though God is angry. Much like the criminal who blames the judge for his sentence - the appearance is that the judge is sentencing the criminal to prison when in reality the criminal himself is responsible.
But then why doesn't God just come out and say it?! Because if He did, the risk of spiritually less evolved people who are still being controlled by fear would be released to do evil. When you think about it - the Bible really was written by a genius! God Himself!
But what about all the books that have been deleted/added?
Swedenborg wrote that God directed which books should be included in the Bible. When councils of people meet - and are sincerely wishing to find His direction, He will give it - and He so inspired those councils that decided on the books to be included in the Bible.
But didn't men write the Bible?
According to Swedenborg, God wrote the Bible - through the filter of men's minds. While it is true that that certain passages are not to be taken literally - the inner, deeper, spiritual meaning of the Bible always makes sense and is protected. For more information: Why is the Bible So Hard?
What passages are not to be taken literally? Do you mean the miracles of Jesus?
The passages that God is angry, is vengeful and will destroy the earth - any passage that goes against God being Infinite/Perfect Love and Infinite/Perfect Wisdom are not to be taken literally. An Infinitely Loving and Wise God is above anger, vengeance and is not destructive. These are the passages that are not to be taken literally. The miracles of Jesus did happen - there is a reason for that - and is explained under the question of "Who is Jesus?" below.
What about the end of the world - is that what the Book of Revelation is all about?
No. According to Swedenborg (who wrote 8 volumes on the Book of Revelation), God will NOT destroy the earth. The Bible is a book about our spiritual lives - and about the spiritual world, not the temporal world - and this includes the Book of Revelation. It is NOT a book about the destruction of our physical world. For more information: the very insightful message of the Rev. Dave Sonmor, The Second Advent.
How do I know that Swedenborg's writings are not "false doctrine"?
You will find that Swedenborg backs his statements up with Biblical passages. Granted, we may have never been taught to see them like that, but once pointed out, you can clearly see his points. It is the most spiritually revealing experience that I have ever been through; reading Swedenborg and seeing him point out the fallacies of what we have been taught - and He does this by quoting Biblical passages! Indeed it reminds me of the passage in Luke 24:13-32 - about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and how their spiritual understanding was opened - "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us along the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32) The New Christianity by Rev. Lee Woofenden.
And if you look at the passage regarding the test of false doctrine, you will see that it is by the "fruit" of the individual's life. (Matthew 7:15-20) If you read anything about Swedenborg, you will understand that he was a good man - one who was gifted by God. Not only that, if you look at those who have been deeply influenced by Swedenborg's writings, you will see that they too had the fruit of a good and godly life: Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Bill and Lois Wilson (founders of AA and Al-Anon). For more information: Servant of God.
One way to view the Old Testament, New Testament and Swedenborg’s writings: The Jewish people were given the revelation of the One God and preserved that. Those who believe in the Old Testament have the assurance that God is indeed One. For those who also add the New Testament to their faith, they have the extra revelation that God is Love, and life is eternal from the example of the Lord Jesus’ life and resurrection. For those who also look to Swedenborg’s writings, they have the revelation of what that eternal life is like. By no means is anyone condemned if they don’t accept any of these revelations – rather, their lives are more fully blessed and enriched – because they have understanding and truths that can give them inner joy – both in the here and hereafter.
What exactly is evil?
According to Swedenborg, evil is the opposite of love to God and love to our fellow person. It is the excessive selfishness that puts ourselves ahead of others to their detriment. It is the ego [or to use his term: proprium] out of control.
Who is Jesus?
According to Swedenborg, Jesus is God Himself - Jesus is NOT a separate person from God, but rather is an Essence of God. The Lord Jesus is God. When a person understands that Jesus is God Himself, then it's not much of a stretch to believe in all the miracles that He performed - after all, Jesus is God - and created the universe! Additional information: The Lord From Eternity by Rev. Dave Sonmor and "Was Jesus Man or God?"
Also, many of the "man-made" doctrines that we have all been taught tumble like dominos when you understand that Jesus is God. For example, the twisted doctrine that tells us that an angry, vengeful God that could not tolerate man's sins - so He sent a third party, Jesus to die for our sins. Do you see how the knowledge that God is One - and Jesus is that God dispels this horrible concept of an angry God?
Because mankind was in such a state that it could no longer see the truth - that life must be lived in love to one another and was very near to destroying itself - that's the reason God Himself came into being on this earth - to show us the way to live - to give us the means for salvation and not destruction. God Himself came - because of His Infinite Love for each one. God did not order His own physical body crucifixion - but rather submitted to mankind's wishes - and by doing so, proved His Infinite Love and His respect for the free will of mankind. His own words about why He came into this world: "You say that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37) And what is the truth? That God is Infinite Love and that we will be resurrected into eternal life into the spiritual world.
And the Bible passage of John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me," has new meaning when viewed through the truth that Jesus is God. (John 10:30: "I and my Father are one." Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born... and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father..." and the One whom the apostle John recognized as the Lord Jesus in the Book of Revelation said to John three times in chapter one of that book, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.") You see... all who approach God go through Him (Jesus) whether or not they know Jesus. And that is why the Lord saves all who look to Him regardless of religious dogma.
You mean there are non-Christians in Heaven?
According to Swedenborg, he saw people of all religions in Heaven. Swedenborg wrote that to be in heaven, we must love God and love our neighbor. If a person loves God, but doesn't know that Jesus is God - he still loves God! (And also remember, that even those who do not profess God - if they live in love towards their fellow person, also love God - whether they recognize that or not.) The Golden Rule The Lord makes provisions for those who are not Christians, and yes, the good of all religions are in heaven with the Lord.
Is there reincarnation?
According to Swedenborg's writings - no. He wrote that we are surrounded by spirits - and that sometimes we access their memories and believe them to be our own. This would explain why sometimes more than one person has claimed to be a famous person in a past life. Swedenborg's explanation does not discount the experience - this life was lived - but not by the person claiming more than one life. We have one life - eternal life - and we are ourselves throughout eternity. We retain our personality intact. For more information: Reincarnation?
Does it matter what I believe? What if I choose to believe in reincarnation - what does Swedenborg say about this?
Swedenborg wrote that we are free to believe as we want. It's not our beliefs, but rather how we live our life (and the underlying motivation of our choices) that determines whether we are in heaven or hell. God gives us the freedom to believe whatever we want. The only caution that I make is this: when we believe things that are not true and which do not stand up to the light of examination, we become confused. Untrue beliefs cause confusion, which leads to depression and despair. I know...for I have lived a life of not understanding spiritual truths and experiencing the confusion that results from not having those truths.
What's the Catch?
Yes, there is a "catch" to knowing these things. This knowledge will not stay with you - and will not heal your despair and grief, if you do not do the hard work - the spiritual work in order that you learn and grow. What is meant by doing the hard work? Daily prayer, meditation, reading the Bible and reading Swedenborg. I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's true. It's not the Bible's fault, nor God's fault, that judgmental people have used them to beat people over the head. It's time we move past what hateful people have said about God and the Bible to judge another person. Move beyond that - and see for yourself!
If you don't spiritually "ground yourself" - what you have just read and what has been so comforting will leave you within a short time. For those who have experienced afterdeath communication and/or other spiritual experiences - please don't fall into the trap thinking that these experiences alone will ground you. These are experiences - pleasant and necessary for our emotions and heart, but in and of themselves, they will not heal you. It's the spiritual "grounding" that will heal you.
Dr. Wilma Wake, Ph.D (Education) whose spiritual journey took her from being a New Age channeler and author of these New Age Books: "Beyond the Body" and "Beyond the Mind", to a Swedenborgian minister (ordained in 1990), has written in her new book "Crystals, Crosses and Chakras":
"The New Age movement does not have the grounding and generations of community that allow mysticism to flourish safely and deeply. Because of this, some New Agers become seekers after phenomena and personal acclaim rather than travelers along the road of spiritual growth.
"During my own years as an active participant in the New Age culture, I was confused about the difference between psychic phenomena and spiritual growth. At times, I saw the presence of psychic experiences, such as channeling, as evidence of spiritual advancement. I functioned within communities that saw me as a spiritual leader because of my channeling abilities and frequently urged me to tell people of their "past lives" and futures.
"While such affirmation appealed to one side of me, it also brought me fear and anxiety, for I struggled with how one could assess the validity of channeled material and psychic experiences. I was not utilizing any of the traditional religious mystical paths. If I were, I would have heard that psychic experiences for some are a stage along the spiritual path, that they can be dangerous to the ego, that they should not be sought for their own sake, but rather just accepted with humility when they are present. Nor was I part of a tradition that could have warned me that they can be the first step of a spiritual journey that moves to a steep, rocky pathway, which many have called a dark night of the soul. When I found myself in a classic "dark night", I could find no explanation for why my psychic spirituality had come to an end...
"My own life fell apart under the weight of psychic experiences that had no place to grow and develop, followed by years of wilderness wandering..."
Swedenborg wrote that the inner meaning of the word "prisoners" were those without spiritual truths. Indeed, the Lord said: "If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
And on this spiritual journey that you are on - please inscribe these two Bible passages on your heart:
are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew
Swedenborg wrote that God always makes sense and is never confusing. If you find something confusing, run from it. Conversely, only peace can come from God - no other source. For more information: Swedenborg Information page
One final observation from my life - I have found that truly great answers seem to still the pressing questions that an individual has - and gives peace and joy to the heart. May God's Blessings be upon you always as you travel closer to Him/Her.
If you wish to be
Tributes to Swedenborg
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Philosopher
Helen Keller, Blind, deaf American Author and Lecturer
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish essayist, historian, and moralist
Henry James, Sr., American Philosopher
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Author of The Power of Positive Thinking
Kenneth Ring, Author and Founder of the International Association for Near Death Studies
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President
Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki,
Japanese philosopher and Buddhist scholar