Repentance is the Beginning of the Church within Us

The extended community that is known as the church consists of all the people who are the church within them. The church takes hold in us when we are regenerated, and we are all regenerated when we abstain from things that are evil and sinful and run away from them as we would run if we saw hordes of hellish spirits pursuing us with flaming torches, intending to attack us and throw us onto a bonfire.

As we go through the early stages of our lives, there are many things that prepare us for the church and introduce us into it; but acts of repentance are the things that actually produce the church within us. Acts of repentance include any and all actions that result in our not willing, and consequently not doing, evil things that are sins against God.

Before repentance, we stand outside regeneration. In that condition, if any thought of eternal salvation somehow makes its way into us, we at first turn toward it but soon turn away. That thought does not penetrate us any farther than the outer areas where we have ideas; it then goes out into our spoken words and perhaps into a few gestures that go along with those words. When the thought of eternal salvation penetrates our will, however, then it is truly inside us. The will is the real self, because it is where our love dwells; our thoughts are outside us, unless they come from our will, in which case our will and our thought act as one,and together make us who we are. From these points it follows that in order for repentance to be genuine and effective within us, it has to be done both by our will and by thinking that comes from our will. It cannot be done by thought alone. Therefore it has to be a matter of actions, and not of words alone.

from Regeneration, Pages 23, 24


Now that faith, goodwill, and free choice have been treated, the related topic of repentance comes next, because without repentance there can be no true faith and no genuine goodwill, and no one could repent without free choice. Another reason why there is a treatment of repentance at this point is that the topic that follows is regeneration, and none of us can be regenerated before the more serious evils that make us detestable before God have been removed; repentance is what removes them.

What else are unregenerate people by impenitent? And what else are impenitent people but those who are in a drowsy state of apathy? They know nothing about sin and therefore cherish it deep within themselves and make love to it every day the way an adulterous man makes love to a promiscuous woman who shares his bed.

To make known what repentance is and what effect it has, this treatment of it will be divided into separate headings.

from Regeneration, Page 23

Love for Our Neighbor, or Goodwill

First of all, I need to define “neighbor.”  After all, this is the one we are called upon to love and the one toward whom we are to extend our goodwill.  You see, unless we know what “neighbor” means, we may extend goodwill in in basically the same manner indiscriminately–just as much to evil people as good ones, then, so that our goodwill is not really goodwill.  That is, evil people use their generosity to do harm to their neighbor, while good people do good.

Most people nowadays think that everyone is equally their neighbor and that they should be generous to anyone who is in need.  It is a matter of Christian prudence, though, to check carefully what a person’s life is like and to extend goodwill accordingly.  When we are devoted to the inner church we do this discriminatingly and therefore intelligently; but when we are devoted to the out church we act indiscriminately because we are capable of making distinctions like this.

The different kinds of neighbor that church people really should be aware of depend on the good that any particular individual is engaged in.  Since everything good comes from the Lord, the Lord is our neighbor in the highest sense and to the utmost degree, the neighbor as the source (of all good).  It therefore follows that people are neighbors to us to the extent that they have the Lord in themselves; and since no two people accept the Lord (that is, the good that comes from him) in the same way, no two people are our neighbor in the same way.  As to what is good, all the people in the heavens and all good people on earth are different.  It never happens that exactly the same goodness is found in any two individuals.  The goodness deeds to vary so that each kind of goodness can stand on its own.

from Regeneration, Page 9

Misers’ Hell

Of all people, misers are the vilest and think the least about life after death, the soul, and the inner being. They do not even know what heaven is. This is because of all people they do the least to elevate their thinking, which they completely saturate and drench with bodily and earthly preoccupations. The result is that when they enter the other world, for a long time they fail to realize that they are spirits, remaining firmly convinced instead that they are still in the body.

Their thoughts, dragged down to the bodily and earthly level by their greed, turn into dreadful hallucinations. Strange to say, but true, in the next life the grossly avaricious seem to themselves to live in cellars where their money is stored and where they are overrun with rats. Despite the rats, they do not leave until they grow unbearably tired of the situation, at which point they finally emerge from these tombs of theirs.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 938

Summary of Genesis 1

The six days or time periods [of Creation], meaning so many consecutive stages in a person’s regeneration, are these, in outline:

The first stage is preliminary, extending from infancy to just before regeneration, and is called void, emptiness, and darkness. The first stirring, which is the Lord’s mercy, is the Spirit of God in constant motion on the face of the water.

In the second stage, a distinction is drawn between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are our own. The things that are the Lord’s are called a “remnant” in the Word. In this instance the “remnant” refers principally to religious knowledge acquired from early childhood on. This remnant is stored away, not to reappear until we arrive at such a stage.

At present the second stage rarely comes into play without trouble, misfortune, and grief, which enable bodily and worldly concerns—things that are our own—to fade away and in effect die out. The things that belong to the outer self, then, are separated from those that belong to the inner self, the inner self containing the remnant that the Lord has put aside to await this time and this purpose.

The third stage is one of repentance. During this time, at the prompting of the inner self, we speak devoutly and reverently and yield a good harvest (acts of neighborly kindness, for instance). These effects are lifeless nonetheless, since we suppose that they come of our own doing. They are called the tender plant, then the seed-bearing plant, and lastly the fruit tree.

In the fourth stage, love stirs and faith enlightens us. Before this time we may have spoken devoutly and yielded a good harvest, but we did so in a state of trial and anguish, not at the call of faith and kindness. In consequence they are now kindled in our inner self and are called the two lights.

In the fifth stage, we speak with conviction and, in the process, strengthen ourselves in truth and goodness. The things we then produce have life in them and are called the fish of the sea and the birds in the heavens.

In the sixth stage, we act with conviction and therefore with love in speaking truth and doing good. What we then produce is called a living soul and a beast. Because we begin to act as much from love as from conviction, we become spiritual people, who are called [God’s] image.

In regard to our spiritual lives, we now find pleasure and nourishment in religious knowledge and acts of kindness; and these are called our food. In regard to our earthly lives, we still find pleasure and sustenance in things relating to our body and our senses, which cause strife until love takes charge and we develop a heavenly character.

Not everyone who undergoes regeneration reaches this stage. Some (the great majority, these days) arrive only at the first stage, some only at the second, some at the third, fourth, or fifth, very few at the sixth, and almost no one at the seventh, [that of the heavenly person].

from Regeneration, Pages 121, 122

The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery (Continued)

There are women who lived a life of indulgence, focusing their energies on themselves and the world and centering their whole lives and all the pleasure of life on external decorum. As a result polite society valued them more than others. From practice and habit they learned to behave in socially acceptable ways in order to tap into others’desires and sensual pleasures. This they did under a pretense of respectability but with the desire to control. Consequently their lives became a sham and a lie. They attended church just as others did, but for no reason except to appear honorable and devout. Furthermore, they lacked any conscience and were very much drawn to immoral and adulterous conduct, so far as it could be kept hidden.

Their thinking remains the same in the next life. What a conscience is they do not know, and they scoff at people who use the word. They get inside others’feelings, whatever those may be, simulating honesty, piety, mercy, and innocence, and using these as covers for deception. Whenever outward restraints are removed from them, they plunge into the most criminal obscenities.

In the other life, these women become sorceresses or witches, some of whom are called sirens. There they eagerly take up arts unknown in the world. They are like sponges that soak up wicked and cunning methods, for which they have such a talent that they put them directly into practice. The stratagems unknown in this world that they learn there are these:

•They can throw their voices, so that it seems as though the sound were coming from good spirits somewhere else.

•They can seem to be with several people at once, convincing others that they are present almost everywhere.

•They can speak as though they were many people talking simultaneously and in many places at once.

•They can deflect what flows in from good spirits and even from angelic ones and immediately twist it to their own advantage in a variety of ways.

•They can impersonate another by seizing on the person’s patterns of thought and mimicking them.

•They can induce affection for themselves in anyone by worming their way into the actual emotions the person is feeling.

•They can suddenly drop out of sight and turn invisible.

•They can create the appearance of a dazzling white flame—the sign of an angel—around their head, and this in front of a large number of spirits.

•They have different ways of pretending innocence, even causing babies to appear and kissing them.

•And they inspire the people they hate to kill them (since they know they cannot die) and then publicly accuse them of being murderers.

In my case, using consummate skill they dredged up out of my memory everything bad that I had ever thought or done. While I was sleeping, they talked to others exactly as if I were speaking, managing to dupe those spirits; and what they said was false and lewd. They have many other devices as well.

Their nature is so persuasive that not a trace of hesitation can be detected in it. For this reason their ideas are not shared generally, as other spirits’ideas are. Their eyes are like snakes’eyes, as people say, turning their unflinching, conscious gaze in every direction.

These witches or sirens are punished severely, some in Gehenna, some surrounded by snakes in a kind of assembly hall. The punishment of some consists in being torn apart and buffeted in various ways, with the greatest pain and anguish. After a while they are ostracized and turn into seeming skeletons from head to toe.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 831

The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery (Continued)

Some people fool others with great subtlety and craft, presenting a pleasant face and pleasant speech but inwardly concealing poisonous deceit. In this way they captivate others for the purpose of destroying them. Their hell is more forbidding than others’hells, more forbidding even than the one murderers are in. They seem to themselves to live among snakes, and the more hurtful their plots had been, the more dreadful, poisonous, and numerous appear the snakes that surround and torture them. They have no idea that these are not snakes, the pain and torment they feel being the same. Few will believe this, perhaps, and yet it is true.

These are people who premeditate the frauds they practice, and find the highest pleasure of their life in them.

Dissemblers are chastised in several different ways, according to the nature of their deceit. In general, the communities banish such people rather than tolerate them. Whatever a spirit thinks, those nearby immediately know and perceive it, so they can tell if any duplicity is at work and what kind of duplicity it is. In consequence, after being driven away from society, they end up sitting alone. They then appear to have a broad face, equal in width to four or five others’faces. They wear a wide, white straw hat and sit like images of death, racked with pain.

There are others who by nature are given to deception, so that they do not act from forethought or under cover of a false appearance. They are recognized instantly, and their thinking is perceived plainly. They even boast about their dishonesty, as if wanting to appear clever. These people do not have the same kind of hell. But more on charlatans later [§§947, 957–960, 1271, 6197], by the Lord’s divine mercy.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 830

The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery (Continued)

Some during their bodily life think lewdly and turn whatever others say into something indecent, even if the subject is holy, and they continue to do so even into adulthood and old age, when nothing of earthly lust remains to goad them. Neither do they stop thinking and speaking this way in the other world. Since in that world their thoughts are shared generally, and sometimes present themselves in obscene form to the eyes of other spirits, they cause offense.

Their punishment consists in being laid out flat before the spirits they have hurt and spun quickly from left to right like a scroll. Then they are spun crosswise in another position, and then in yet another, stripped naked in the sight of all, or else half-naked (depending on the nature of their debauchery). All the while they suffer shame. Next they are twirled horizontally by their head and feet as if around an axis. Resistance is triggered in them, together with pain, since two forces are acting, one spinning one direction and the other pushing back. So the procedure tears them apart in an agonizing way.

At the end of all this, the individuals have a chance to remove themselves from the gaze of other spirits, and they are filled with shame. Still there are some spirits who test them to see whether they will persist in such behavior. But as long as they continue to feel humiliation and pain, they shy away from it. So they hide, despite the fact that others know just where they are.

This punishment appeared in front, some distance away. There are also boys, adolescents, and young men who in their youthful folly and lust have taken it as a principle (a horrendous one) that a wife—especially one who is young and beautiful—should not belong to her husband but to themselves and others like them. The only role they leave to the husband is as head of household and educator of the children. In the other life they are distinguished by the childish sound of their voices. They are at the back and fairly high up.

The ones who have hardened themselves in these principles and in actually living their lives by them undergo wretched punishment in the other life. They suffer dislocation and rearticulation of their joints, or having their limbs wrenched in one direction and then the other. The spirits who administer the punishment know how to create the illusion of a body and along with it the physical sensation of pain. The back-and-forth motion and the resistance to it induced in them at the same time tear at them so violently that they seem to themselves to be ripped into minute shreds, with excruciating pain. The process repeats until, struck with horror for a life based on such principles, they abandon their former way of thinking.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 829

The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery (Continued)

There are men who like nothing better than deflowering virgins—that is, who take the greatest pleasure in virgins and in robbing them of their virginity without any thought of marriage or children. When they have stolen the bloom of their virginity, they abandon them in disgust or prostitute them.

Men who have lived this kind of life have contravened the order of nature, of the spirit, and of heaven. They violate not only marriage love, a love held very sacred in heaven, but also innocence, which they wound and murder when they take innocent girls, who could have had the love of marriage instilled in them, and introduce them instead to the life of a whore. (People know that the first blossoming of love is what introduces young women to the chaste love in marriage and unites the minds of married partners.)

Because heaven’s holiness is founded on marriage love and innocence, and these men are inward murderers (as described), in the other life they suffer punishment of the most severe kind. They seem to themselves to be riding a frenzied horse that bucks them up into the air, throwing them off, apparently in danger of their lives; such is the terror that strikes them. Later they see themselves under the belly of the maddened horse and soon seem to go up through the horse’s rump into its stomach. Then suddenly it appears to them as if they are in the belly of a woman, a foul slut, who changes into a huge dragon. There they remain hidden and in pain. This punishment recurs many times over hundreds and thousands of years, until the offenders gain a horror for such desires.

I have heard that their children are worse than others, since they inherit this quality from their fathers. Accordingly, when people of this kind engage in sexual intercourse, it rarely produces offspring, and such babies as are born do not live long.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 828