Afterlife Stages


[1 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Afterlife, stages in" (search under Afterlife/Afterlife, Heaven, Hell)": source "Heaven and Hell": detail "Section 491"
There are three states that man passes through after death before he enters either heaven or hell. The first state is the state of his exteriors, the second state the state of his interiors, and the third his state of preparation. These states man passes through in the world of spirits. There are some, however, that do not pass through them; but immediately after death are either taken up into heaven or cast into hell.

[2 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Hell, Hades" (search under Afterlife/Afterlife, Heaven, Hell)": source "True Christian Religion": detail "Section 281"
As it has been granted me by the Lord to be at one and the same time in the spiritual and in the natural world, and so to converse with angels as with men, and thus to become acquainted with the states of those who after death flock together into that heretofore unknown world (for I have conversed with all my relations and friends, likewise with kings and princes, and men of learning, after their departure out of this life, and this now for twenty-seven years without interruption), therefore I am enabled to describe the states of men after death from lively experience, in relation to both such as have lived good and such as have lived evil lives. At present, however, I will only mention some circumstances relative to the state of those who from the Word [Bible] have confirmed themselves in falses of doctrine, particularly of those who have done so for the sake of defending the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The successive states through which they pass are as follows:
 1. As soon as they are deceased, and revive as to the Spirit, which takes place generally on the third day after the heart has ceased to beat, they appear to themselves in a body similar to the one they had in the world, so that they do not know but that they are still living there; yet it is not a material body, but a substantial one, which to their senses appears like a material one, though it is not so.
 2. After some days they see that they are in a world where there are various societies instituted, which is called THE WORLD OF SPIRITS, and is in the middle between heaven and hell. All the societies there, which are innumerable, are arranged in wonderful order according to natural affections, both good and evil; the societies which are arranged according to good natural affections having communication with heaven, and the societies arranged according to evil affections with hell.
 3. The novitiate spirit, or spiritual man, is led about and translated into various societies, both good and bad; thus he is examined whether he is affected with goods and truths, and in what manner, or whether he is affected with evils and falses, and in what manner.
 4. If he is affected with goods and truths, he is withdrawn from the evil, and introduced into good societies of various kinds, till he comes to a society corresponding with his own natural affection, and there he enjoys good corresponding with such affection, until he puts off the natural affection, and puts on that which is spiritual, and then he is elevated to heaven; but this is the case with those only who have lived in this world a life of charity, and thus a life of faith also, that is, who have believed in the Lord, and have shunned evils as sins.
 5. But those who have confirmed themselves in falses by perverse reasonings, and particularly by misapplications of the Word, and in consequence have lived a merely natural life (that is, an evil life, for falses attend evils, and evils adhere to falses), all such, because they are not affected by goods and truths, but only by evils and falses, are withdrawn from the good, and introduced into evil societies of various kinds, till they come to one that corresponds with the concupiscences of their evil love.
 6. But, as during their former life, they had put on the appearance of good affections in their externals, when nevertheless there was nothing but evil affections or concupiscences in their internals, they are kept by turns in their externals; and such as in their former life had enjoyed power and authority over others are now made rulers of societies in the world of spirits, with a greater or less extent of command, according to the dignity of the offices which they had before enjoyed; but as they have no love for either truth or justice, and are not in a capacity to be enlightened so as to know what truth and justice are, after a few days they are degraded from their authority. I have seen such translated from one society to another, and invested with power in each society, and yet after a short time degraded in all.
 7. After frequent degradations of this sort, some through weariness want the inclination, and some through fear of losing credit want the courage, to seek after any other public offices, therefore they retire from such duties, and sit down in sadness; and then they are removed into a desert, where there are huts scattered about, into which they enter; and there work is given them to do, and in proportion as they do it they receive food, but if they refuse to do it they are kept without food, so that at last necessity compels them to work. Food, in the spiritual world, is like the various kinds of food in our world, but from a spiritual origin, and is given from heaven by the Lord, to everyone according to the uses which he performs; but none is given to the idle, because they perform no uses.
 8. After some time they loathe their work, and then go out of their huts, and in case they have been priests, they are seized with a desire to build themselves houses: then there appear heaps of hewn stone, bricks, beams, and boards, and likewise of reeds and rushes, with abundance of clay, lime, and mortar: at the sight of these the lust of building is kindled, and they begin to construct a house, taking up sometimes a stone, sometimes a piece of timber, sometimes a reed, sometimes mortar, which materials they lay one upon another without any order, though it appears to themselves as if they observed the most exact order; but what they build up in the day-time falls down in the night, so that the next day they have to collect the mixed materials, which they again endeavor to put together; and so they go on till they are tired of building. This happens to them from its correspondence with their former life, in that they had collected passages from the Word, to confirm the falses of their faith, which falses build up the church in no better manner than their building is here represented.
 9. Afterwards they quit their work through wearisomeness, and sit down in solitude and idleness; and since, as was observed above, the idle have no food given them from heaven, they begin to hunger and to think of nothing but how they may get somewhat to eat and satisfy their craving. When they are in this state, they are addressed by certain persons, of whom they ask alms, who say to them, "Why sit ye thus idle? come home with us, and we will find you work, and give you food." Then they get up with joy and go home with them, and each has his work assigned him, and food given him as the reward of his labor: but because all those who have confirmed themselves in falses of faith, cannot perform works of real utility, but only such as are mischievous and evil, and do not execute their tasks faithfully, but fraudulently and unwillingly, therefore they neglect their employment, and mind nothing but company, talking, sauntering about and sleeping; and as they cannot then any longer be engaged to work by their masters, they are dismissed as unprofitable servants.
 10. On their dismissal their eyes are opened, and they perceive a way leading to a certain cavern, and when they arrive there, the door is opened and they enter, and inquire whether any food is to be had there: on their being informed that there is, they desire leave to abide there, and accordingly leave is given them, and they are introduced, and the door is shut after them. Then the governor of the cavern comes and says to them, "You cannot go out of this place any more. Behold your companions, they all work hard, and in proportion to their work they receive food from heaven. I tell you this that you may not plead ignorance." Their companions then also say to them, "Our governor knows for what work every one is best fitted, and enjoins it daily, and on the day that we finish what he gives us to do, we receive food; but if we do not finish it we receive neither food nor clothes; and if any one does mischief to another, he is thrown into a corner of the cavern upon a bed of cursed dust, where he is miserably tormented, until the governor observes in him some sign of penitence, and then he is taken off, and ordered again to his work." The newcomer is also informed that everyone is at liberty to walk, to converse, and afterwards to sleep, when he has done his work. He is then led into an inner part of the cavern, where there are harlots, and he is permitted to take one to himself, and call her his woman; but he is forbidden under severe penalties to indulge in promiscuous connections.
 It is of such caverns as these, which are nothing but eternal workhouses, that hell consists. I have been permitted to enter some of them, and to see their nature, in order that I might make it known. All that were confined there appeared like beggars, and none of them knew who they had been, or what office they had enjoyed in the former world; but the angel who attended me informed me that one had formerly been a servant, one a soldier, one a captain, one a priest, one a person of great dignity, another of great wealth; and yet they none of them knew but that they had constantly lived as companions in a like state of servitude; and the reason of this was, because they had been inwardly alike, although they had differed in externals, and in the spiritual world all are associated according to their interiors.
 With respect to the hells in general, they consist merely of such caverns and workhouses, but with a difference between those inhabited by satans and those inhabited by devils: those are called satans who have lived in falses and in consequent evils, and those are called devils, who have lived in evils and in consequent falses. In the light of heaven satans appear pale and livid, like corpses, and in some cases black like mummies; but devils appear in the same light of a fiery, dusky complexion, and in some cases intensely black like soot. The forms and faces of them all are monstrous; and yet in their own light, which is like that of lighted charcoal, they do not appear as monsters, but as men; which appearance is permitted that they may be capable of consociation.

[3 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Afterlife, stages in" (search under Afterlife/Afterlife, Heaven, Hell)": source "Heaven and Hell": detail "Section 502, 505"
When the first state [after death], which is the state of the exteriors, has been passed through, the man-spirit is let into the state of his interiors, or into the state of his interior will and its thought, in which he had been in the world when left to himself to think freely and without restraint. Into this state he unconsciously glides, just as when in the world he withdraws the thought nearest to his speech, that is, from which he speaks, toward his interior thought and abides in the latter. Therefore in this state of his interiors the man-spirit is in himself and in his very life; for to think freely from his own affection is the very life of man, and is himself.
 When the spirit is in the state of his interiors it becomes clearly evident what the man was in himself when he was in the world, for at such times he acts from what is his own. He that had been in the world interiorly in good then acts rationally and wisely, and even more wisely than in the world, because he is released from connection with the body, and thus from those earthly things that caused obscurity and interposed as it were a cloud. But he that was in evil in the world then acts foolishly and insanely, and even more insanely than in the world, because he is free and under no restraint. For while he lived in the world he was sane in outward appearance, since by means of externals he made himself appear to be a rational man; but when he has been stripped of his externals his insanities are revealed.

[4 of 4] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Afterlife, stages in" (search under Afterlife/Afterlife, Heaven, Hell)": source "Heaven and Hell": detail "Section 512"
The third state of man after death, that is, of his spirit, is a state of instruction. This state is for those who enter heaven and become angels. It is not for those who enter hell, because such are incapable of being taught, and therefore their second state is also their third, ending in this, that they are wholly turned to their own love, thus to that infernal society which is in a like love. When this has been done they will and think from that love; and as that love is infernal they will nothing but what is evil and think nothing but what is false; and in such thinking and willing they find their delights, because these belong to their love; and in consequence of this they reject everything good and true which they had previously adopted as serviceable to their love as means.