The Lord Governs the Hells

IN the earlier discussion of heaven, it was made clear throughout (particularly in Sections 2–6) that the Lord is the God of heaven and that the whole government of the heavens is in the Lord’s hands. Since the relationship of heaven to hell and of hell to heaven is like that of two opposites that act against each other, with the action and reaction yielding the state of equilibrium within which everything exists, in order for absolutely everything to be kept in this balance, it is necessary that the ruler of the one be the ruler of the other as well. That is, unless the same Lord controlled the attacks of the hells and restrained their madness, the balance would be destroyed; and if the balance were destroyed, everything else would go.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 536


Sections 2-6: Published 6/1/2017-6/3/2017

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

I have been allowed to talk with some people in the other life who had distanced themselves from the affairs of the world in order to live in devotions and sanctity, and also with some who had mortified themselves in various ways because they thought this was renouncing the world and taming the desires of the flesh. However, most of them had wound up with a gloomy kind of life from this and had distanced themselves from that life of active thoughtfulness that can be led only in the world, so they could not associate with angels. The life of angels is cheerful and blessed. It consists of worthwhile activities that are deeds of thoughtfulness. Particularly, people who have led a life withdrawn from worldly concerns are aflame with a sense of their own worth and constantly crave heaven. They think of heavenly joy as their reward, with no knowledge whatever of what heavenly joy actually is. When they are with angels and are let into that joy—which has no sense of merit and consists of activities and public duties and in bliss at the good that is accomplished through them—they are as bewildered as though they were seeing something totally alien to their faith. Since they are not open to these joys, they move off and associate with people who have led the same kind of life in the world.

There are other people who have lived outwardly devotional lives, constantly in churches and at prayer there. They have mortified their souls while constantly thinking about themselves, how they are worthier and more estimable than others and will be regarded as saints after their death. They are not in heaven in the other life because they have done all this with themselves first in mind. Since they have polluted divine truths by the self-love they immersed them in, some of them are so deranged that they think they are gods. So they are with similar people in hell. Some of them are ingenious and crafty and are in hells for the crafty people who used their skills and wiles to construct outward appearances that would lead the masses to believe them possessed of a divine sanctity.

This includes many of the Catholic saints. I have been allowed to talk with some of them and have had their lives clearly described, both the lives they had led in the world and what they were like afterward. I have mentioned all this to let it be known that the life that leads to heaven is not one of withdrawal from the world but a life in the world, and that a life of piety apart from a life of thoughtfulness (which is possible only in the world) does not lead to heaven at all. Rather, it is a life of thoughtfulness, a life of behaving honestly and fairly in every duty, every affair, every task, from our deeper nature and therefore from a heavenly source. The source of this life is within us when we act honestly and fairly because doing so is in accord with divine laws. This life is not hard, but a life of piety apart from a life of thoughtfulness is hard. Still, this latter life leads away from heaven as surely as people believe it leads to heaven.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 535

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

I was once shown the way to heaven and the way to hell. There was a broad path leading off to the left or north. There seemed to be a great many spirits traveling along it. In the distance, though, I could see a fairly large boulder where the broad path ended. Then two paths led off from the boulder, one to the left and the other, on the other side, to the right. The path to the left was narrow and confined, leading around through the west to the south, and therefore into the light of heaven. The path to the right was broad and open, leading obliquely down toward hell.

At first, everyone was clearly following the same path as far as the large boulder at the fork; but at that point they parted company. The good turned to the left and started along the confined path that led to heaven. The evil did not even see the boulder at the fork but fell over it and hurt themselves. When they got up, they rushed along the broad path to the right that led toward hell.

Later, the meaning of all this was explained to me. The first path, the broad one where so many good and evil people were traveling together, chatting with each other like friends with no visible difference between them, pictured people who live similarly honest and fair outward lives, with no visible difference between them. The stone at the fork or corner where the evil people stumbled, from which they rushed along the path to hell, pictured divine truth, which is denied by people who are focusing on hell. In the highest sense this stone meant the Lord’s divine human nature. However, people who acknowledge divine truth and the divine nature of the Lord as well were taken along the path that led to heaven.

This showed me again that both evil and good people live the same life outwardly, or travel the same path, one as readily as the other. Yet the ones who at heart acknowledge the Divine, especially those within the church who acknowledge the Lord’s divine nature, are led to heaven; while those who do not acknowledge it are led to hell.

Paths in the other life picture the thoughts that flow from our aims or intentions. The paths that are presented to view there answer exactly to the thoughts of our aims, and our course follows the thoughts that flow from our aims. This is why you can tell the quality of spirits and of their thoughts from their paths. This also showed me the meaning of the Lord’s words, “Enter through the narrow gate, for broad is the gate and open the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who walk along it; confined is the path and narrow the gate that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14). The way that leads to life is not narrow because it is difficult but because so few people find it, as stated.

The boulder I saw at the corner where the broad, common path ended and the two ways seemed to lead in opposite directions showed me the meaning of the Lord’s words, “Have you not read what is written, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’? Whoever falls over this stone will be shattered” (Luke 20:17–18). The stone means divine truth, and the rock of Israel means the Lord in regard to his divine human nature. The builders are the people of the church. The head of the corner is where the fork is, and to fall and be shattered is to deny and perish.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 534

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

We can now see that it is not so hard to lead the life of heaven as people think, because it is simply a matter of recognizing, when something attractive comes up that we know is dishonest or unfair, that this is not to be done because it is against the divine commandments. If we get used to thinking like this, and from this familiarity form a habit, then we are gradually united to heaven. To the extent that we are united to heaven, the higher levels of our minds are opened, and to the extent that they are opened, we see what is dishonest and unfair; and to the extent that we see this, these qualities can be dispelled. For no evil can be banished until it has been seen. This is a state we can enter because of our freedom, since everyone is free to think in this way. However, once the process has started, the Lord works his wonders within us, and causes us not only to see evils but to refuse them and eventually to turn away from them. This is the meaning of the Lord’s words, “My yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matthew 11:30).

It is important to realize, though, that the difficulty of thinking like this and also of resisting evils increases to the extent that we deliberately do evil things—in fact, to that extent we become used to doing them until ultimately we no longer see them. Then we come to love them and to excuse them to gratify our love and to rationalize them with all kinds of self-deceptions and call them permissible and good. This happens, though, to people who in early adulthood plunge into all kinds of evil without restraint and at the same time at heart reject everything divine.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 533

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

Anyone may recognize that thoughts tend to follow where intentions lead, or to go where we aim them. Thought is actually our inner sight and behaves like our outward sight. It turns and dwells where it is directed and aimed. If our inner sight or thought is turned toward the world and dwells there, it follows that our thought becomes worldly. If it is turned toward self and our prestige, it becomes carnal. However, if it is turned toward heaven, it becomes heavenly. So if it is turned toward heaven, it is raised up; if it is turned toward self, it is pulled away from heaven and immersed in the physical; if it is turned toward the world, it is also turned away from heaven and spread out among whatever items meet our eyes.

It is our love that creates our intentions and that focuses our inner sight or our thought on its objects. So love for ourselves directs our thought toward ourselves and what we claim as our own, love of the world directs it toward worldly matters, and love of heaven directs it toward heavenly matters. This can enable us to know what state the inner reaches of our minds are in once we identify our love. That is, if we love heaven, the inner reaches are raised up toward heaven and open upward. If we love the world and ourselves, our inner reaches are closed upward and open outward. So we may gather that if the higher reaches of our minds are closed to what is above them, we can no longer see the objects that pertain to heaven and the church. These are in darkness for us, and whatever is in darkness we either deny or do not understand. This is why people who love themselves and the world above all, since the higher levels of their minds are closed, deny divine truths at heart; and if they do say anything about them from their memory, they still do not understand it. They have the same attitude toward these matters as toward worldly and physical interests; and since they are like this, they cannot think about anything except what comes in through their physical senses, which are their sole delight. Their sensory experience also includes much that is foul, obscene, irreligious, and criminal. They cannot be distracted from these obsessions because there is no inflow from heaven into their minds, since as already noted their minds are closed to what is above them.

The purpose that focuses our inner sight or thought is our volition, since our intentions determine our aims and our aims determine our thoughts. So if we aim for heaven, we focus our thinking on it, and with our thinking, our whole mind, which is therefore in heaven. This means it looks at the concerns of the world as below itself, like someone on the roof of a house. This is why people in whom the deeper levels of the mind are open can see the evil and false elements in themselves, since these are below their spiritual mind. Conversely, if people’s inner reaches are not open, they cannot see their evil and false elements because they are in them and not above them. We may gather from this where our wisdom comes from and where our insanity comes from, and what we will be like after death when we are left to intend and think and then to act and speak in keeping with our inner nature.

Again, this has been presented to show what we are like inwardly, no matter how much alike we may seem outwardly.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 532

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

The laws of spiritual life, the laws of civil life, and the laws of moral life are handed down to us in the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments contain the laws of spiritual life, the next four the laws of civil life, and the last three the laws of moral life. Outwardly, purely natural people live by these same commandments just the way spiritual people do. They worship the Divine, go to church, listen to sermons, wear devout faces, do not kill or commit adultery or steal or bear false witness, do not cheat their colleagues of their goods. However, they behave this way solely in their own interest, in order to look good in the world. Inwardly, these same people are exactly the opposite of what they seem to be outwardly. Because at heart they deny the Divine, they play the hypocrite in their worship. In their private thinking they scoff at the holy rites of the church, believing that they serve only to restrain the simple masses.

This is why they are wholly cut off from heaven. So since they are not spiritual, they are not moral or civic people either; for even though they do not kill, they hate everyone who gets in their way and burn with vengefulness because of their hatred. So if they were not constrained by civil laws and the outward restraints exercised by their fears, they would kill. Because this is what they crave, it follows that they are constantly killing. Even though they do not commit adultery, still because they believe there is nothing wrong with it they are constantly adulterous, and actually do commit it as much as they can and as often as they have the opportunity. Even though they do not steal, still since they do covet other people’s assets and regard cheating and malicious devices as legally justifiable, they are constantly stealing in their minds. The same applies to the other commandments of moral life—not bearing false witness or coveting the goods of others. All who deny the Divine are like this, all who do not have some conscience based on religion. Their nature shows obviously in similar people in the other life when they are let into their inner nature after their outer nature has been stripped away. Since they are separated from heaven at that point, they act in unison with hell; so they keep company with the people who live there.

It is different for people who at heart have acknowledged the Deity and have attended to divine laws in the deeds of their lives, living both by the first three commandments of the Decalogue and by the others as well. When they are let into their inner nature, after their outer nature is stripped away, they are wiser than they were in the world. Coming into their inner natures is like coming from darkness into light, from ignorance into wisdom, from a sad life into a blissful one, because they are in the Divine and therefore in heaven. I have mentioned this to let it be known what each kind of person is like, though both may lead the same kind of outward life.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 531

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

What follows will make it possible to see that it is not all that hard to lead a heaven-bound life.

Who can’t lead a civic and moral life? After all, we are introduced to it in infancy and know it from living in the world. We do in fact lead this kind of life whether we are evil or good, since no one wants to be called dishonest or unfair. Almost everyone practices honesty and fairness outwardly, even to the point of seeming genuinely honest and fair, or seeming to act from genuine honesty and fairness.

Spiritual people have to live in much the same way and can do so just as easily as natural people, the difference being that spiritual people believe in the Divine Being and act honestly and fairly not just because it follows civil and moral laws but also because it follows divine laws. In fact, since they are thinking about divine [laws] when they act, they are in touch with heaven’s angels; and to the extent that they are, they are united to them, and their inner person—which is essentially a spiritual person—is opened. When this is our nature, the Lord adopts and leads us without our realizing it, and whatever things we do that are honest and fair—the deeds of our moral and civil life—come from a spiritual source. Doing what is honest and fair from a spiritual source is doing it from genuine honesty and fairness, or doing it from the heart.

Outwardly, such honesty and fairness look just like the honesty and fairness of natural people or even evil and hellish people, but inwardly they are totally different. Evil people do what is fair and honest solely for the sake of themselves and the world. If they were not afraid of the law and its penalties, of losing their reputation, their wealth, and their life, they would act with utter dishonesty and unfairness. Since they have no fear of God or of any divine law, they have no inner restraint that keeps them in check; so to the extent that they can, they cheat and rob and plunder others just for the pleasure of it. Their inner nature is especially clear from people like them in the other life, when all people’s outer natures are stripped away and their inner natures disclosed, the natures in which they will go on living to eternity (see above, Sections 499–511). Since they are then acting without external restraints, which are (as just noted) fears of the law and of losing reputation, prestige, profit, and life, they act wildly and scoff at honesty and fairness.

In contrast, people who have lived honestly and fairly because of divine laws act wisely when their outer natures are stripped away and they are left to their inner natures, because they are united to heaven’s angels, who share their wisdom with them.

This enables us to gather initially that spiritual people can behave much the same as natural people in their civil and moral life, provided they are united to the Deity in their inner person, in their intent and thought (see above, Sections 358, 359, 360).

from Heaven and Hell, Section 530


Sections 499-511: Published 8/16/20178/25/2017

Section 358: Published 7/19/2018

Section 359-360: Published 7/20/2018

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is (Continued)

If we look critically at human life with rational insight, it turns out to be threefold—spiritual life, moral life, and civic life. These lives are distinguishable: some people live a civic life but not a moral or spiritual one, some live a moral life but not a spiritual one, and some live a civic and a moral life and a spiritual life as well. These last are the ones who are leading heaven’s life, while the former are leading the world’s life, divorced from heaven’s life.

To begin with, then, we may gather that a spiritual life is not separate from a natural life or the world’s life but is united to it like a soul to its body; and if they were separated, it would be like a house without a foundation, as just stated.

In fact, moral and civic living is what spiritual life does, for intending well is the essence of spiritual life and behaving well is the essence of moral and civic life. If these are separated from each other, spiritual life consists solely of thinking and talking, and the intent ebbs away because it has no support. Yet intent is our actual spiritual substance.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 529

It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is

SOME people believe it is hard to lead the heaven-bound life that is called “spiritual” because they have heard that we need to renounce the world and give up the desires attributed to the body and the flesh and “live spiritually.” All they understand by this is spurning worldly interests, especially concerns for money and prestige, going around in constant devout meditation about God, salvation, and eternal life, devoting their lives to prayer, and reading the Word and religious literature. They think this is renouncing the world and living for the spirit and not for the flesh. However, the actual case is quite different, as I have learned from an abundance of experience and conversation with angels. In fact, people who renounce the world and live for the spirit in this fashion take on a mournful life for themselves, a life that is not open to heavenly joy, since our life does remain with us [after death]. No, if we would accept heaven’s life, we need by all means to live in the world and to participate in its duties and affairs.

In this way, we accept a spiritual life by means of our moral and civic life; and there is no other way a spiritual life can be formed within us, no other way our spirits can be prepared for heaven. This is because living an inner life and not an outer life at the same time is like living in a house that has no foundation, that gradually either settles or develops gaping cracks or totters until it collapses.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 528

After Death, the Pleasures of Everyone’s Life Are Turned into Things That Correspond (Continued)

This enables us to know that after death our pleasures do change into corresponding ones, but that the love itself remains the same forever, especially marriage love, the love of what is fair, honest, good, and true, the love of information and insights, the love of intelligence and wisdom, and the rest. The things that flow from these loves like streams from their spring are pleasures that not only last but are raised to a higher level when they are changed from natural pleasures into spiritual ones.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 490