What happens after we die?
Swedenborg’s countless visions of the spiritual world–including life after death–have fascinated and inspired many of his readers, and continue to be a source of comfort and insight. His bestseller by far, Heaven and Hell, includes detailed accounts of his journeys.
Swedenborg believed that he witnessed and underwent the process of transitioning into the afterlife. Swedenborg’s heaven is a place which is “more real” than our earthly state. He describes various communities, living in vast spaces, united by a love of the Divine and their neighbor. Heaven includes people from all religions and backgrounds, in fact there is great diversity of beliefs and practices. He believed that God desires everyone to be in this heavenly state, and we all have the opportunity to do so.
Swedenborg also recorded his experiences in darker spiritual realms, hellish states in which we choose selfishness and pride over love and truth. To him, heaven and hell are not places of reward or punishment, but rather spiritual states which we freely choose to occupy. Upon death, he believed, we have the opportunity to truly realize our spiritual self which we have shaped throughout our life on earth. Each person ends up exactly where they feel most comfortable. Boundaries of space and time become relative, and our surroundings correspond directly to our inner affections and thoughts. Children who die before maturity are gently raised by angelic spirits with the potential of becoming angels themselves, if they choose.
Heaven and Hell are not places which are limited to the “afterlife”. Swedenborg believed that we all, while in our physical bodies, already inhabit these spiritual realms, often without being aware of it. Upon death, we have the opportunity to fully realize our actual self.
Meet Rev. Thom Muller
Rev. Thom is the pastor at Hillside, an Urban Sanctuary and Swedenborgian Church in El Cerrito, California. He is also the editor of Our Daily Bread where you can find a broad array of Swedenborgian sermons, reflections, and more. His passions include the intersection of religion and psychology, interfaith spirituality, comparative Mysticism, and the Western Esoteric Tradition.