Rich and Poor in Heaven (Continued)

We may gather from this that rich people arrive in heaven just as much as poor people do, one as easily as the other. The reason people believe that it is easy for the poor and hard for the rich is that the Word is misunderstood when it talks about the rich and the poor. In the spiritual meaning of the Word, “the rich” means people who are amply supplied with understandings of what is true and good, that is, people in the church where the Word is. “The poor” means people who lack these understandings but who long for them, or people outside the church, where the Word is not found.

The rich person dressed in purple and fine linen who was cast into hell means the Jewish nation. Because they had the Word and were therefore amply supplied with understandings of what is good and true, they are called “rich.” The garments of purple actually mean understandings of what is good, and the fine linen means understandings of what is true. The poor person who was lying in the gateway and who longed to feast on the crumbs that were falling from the rich person’s table, who was carried up into heaven by angels, means the non-Jews who did not have understandings of what is good and true but who still longed for them (Luke 16:19, 31).

The rich who were invited to the great feast but who excused themselves also mean the Jewish nation, and the poor who were brought in to replace them mean the non-Jews who were outside the church (Luke 12:16–24 [14:16–24]).

We need also to explain who are meant by the rich of whom the Lord said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). “The rich person” here means the rich in both senses, natural and spiritual. Rich people in the natural sense are people who have abundant wealth and set their hearts on it, while in a spiritual sense they are people who are amply supplied with insights and knowledge (for these are spiritual wealth) and who want to use them to get themselves into heavenly and ecclesiastical circles by their own intellect. Since this is contrary to the divine design, it says that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. On this level of meaning, a camel means our cognitive and informational level in general, and the eye of a needle means spiritual truth.

Nowadays people do not know that this is the meaning of the camel and the eye of a needle because there has not yet been any access to the knowledge that teaches what is meant spiritually by the things that the Word says literally. There is spiritual meaning in the details of the Word, and natural meaning as well; because the Word was written in pure correspondences of natural realities with spiritual ones in order to effect a union of heaven and the world, or of angels with us, once the direct union had ceased. We can see from this exactly who are meant by the rich in the Word.

We may gather from a number of passages that on the spiritual level “the rich” in the Word refers to people who enjoy insights into what is good and true and that wealth means those insights themselves, which are spiritual riches: see Isaiah 10:12, 13, 14; 30:6, 7; 45:3; Jeremiah 17:3; 47:7 [48:7]; 50:36–37; 51:13; Daniel 5:2–4; Ezekiel 26:7, 12; 27:1–36; Zechariah 9:3–4; Psalms 45:12;229 Hosea 12:9; Revelation 3:17–18; Luke 14:33; and elsewhere. On the poor in the spiritual sense as people who do not have insights into what is good and true but who long for them, see Matthew 11:5; Luke 6:20–21; 14:21; Isaiah 14:30; 29:19; 41:17–18; Zephaniah 3:12, 18 [13]. An explanation of the spiritual meaning of all these passages may be found in Section 10227 of Secrets of Heaven.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 365


Previously Cited: 7/24/2018

Rich and Poor People in Heaven (Continued)

Poor people do not get into heaven because of their poverty but because of their lives. Our lives follow us whether we are rich or poor. There is no special mercy for the one any more than for the other. People who have lived well are accepted; people who have lived badly are rejected.

Poverty can actually seduce people and lead them away from heaven just as much as wealth can. There are many people among the poor who are not content with their lot, who covet much more, and who believe that wealth is a blessing; so when they do not get what they want, they are enraged and harbor evil thoughts about divine providence. They envy other people their assets, and given the chance would just as soon cheat them and live in their own foul pleasures.

It is different, though, for poor people who are content with their lot, are conscientious and careful in their work, prefer work to idleness, behave honestly and reliably, and lead Christian lives. I have sometimes talked with rural and common people who had believed in God while they lived in this world and had behaved honestly and righteously in their jobs. Because they were impelled by a desire to know what was true, they kept asking what thoughtfulness and faith were, since they had heard a lot about faith in this world and were hearing a lot about thoughtfulness in the other life.

So they were told that thoughtfulness is all about living and faith is all about doctrine. This means that thoughtfulness is intending and doing what is fair and right in every task, while faith is thinking what is fair and right; so faith and thoughtfulness go together like doctrine and a life according to it, or like thought and intent. Faith becomes thoughtfulness, then, when we intend and do the fair and right things that we think. When this happens, they are not two but one. They understood this perfectly well and were overjoyed, saying that in the world they had not understood believing to be any different from living.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 364


Previously Cited: 7/23/2018

Rich and Poor people in Heaven (Continued)

After death, our ruling affection or love awaits each one of us. This is never rooted out to eternity because our spirit is exactly like our love; and (what has not been known before) the body of every spirit and angel is an outward form of her or his love that is completely responsive to the inner form that is the character and mind of that spirit or angel. That is why you can recognize the quality of spirits from their faces, their postures, and their speech. That is why our own spirits are recognized in this world if we have not learned how to pretend with our faces and postures and speech. We may gather from this that our own eternal quality is that of our ruling affection or love.

I have been allowed to talk with people who lived more than seventeen centuries ago, people whose lives are known from the literature of their own times; and I have been convinced that the same love they had then is still sustaining them.

We may also gather from this that a love of wealth and the usefulness it affords also remains with us forever, with exactly the quality it acquired in this world. There is this difference, though: for people whose wealth served them as means to useful lives, it is turned into delights in keeping with their usefulness, while for people whose wealth served them as means to evil activities, it is turned into filth—filth that they enjoy just as much as they enjoyed their ill-used wealth in the world. The reason they enjoy the filth is that the foul pleasures and pursuits that were their practices in the world, and their greed (which is a love of wealth with no thought of use), correspond to filth. Spiritual filth is nothing else.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 363


Previously Cited: 7/22/2018

Rich and Poor People in Heaven (Continued)

Broadly speaking, what lies in store for rich people in heaven is this. They live more elegantly than others, some in palaces where everything within gleams like gold and silver. They have everything they need for a useful life. However, they do not set their hearts on such things but on their useful activities. These they see clearly and in full light, while the gold and silver are relatively hazy and shadowy. The reason is that in the world they had loved being useful and had loved gold and silver only as subservient means. This is how useful things gleam in heaven—what works for good like gold, what works for truth like silver. The quality of the useful functions they served in the world determines their wealth, their pleasure, and their happiness.

Good and useful activities include providing the necessities of life for oneself and one’s own, wanting ample resources for the sake of one’s country and one’s neighbor, whom a rich person can benefit in far more ways than a poor person can. [These activities are useful also] because they lead the mind away from an idle life, which is destructive, since in that kind of life our thoughts turn to evil because of our inborn evil nature.

These useful activities are good to the extent that the Divine is within them—that is, to the extent that we focus on the Divine and on heaven and invest ourselves in these as good, investing in wealth only as a subservient means.

What awaits rich people who do not believe in the Divine Being and reject matters of heaven and the church from their minds is quite the opposite. They are in hell, where they find filth and wretchedness and want. When wealth is loved as an end, it turns into things like these, and not only the wealth itself but also what it is used for—the pampered living, the indulgence in pleasures, the wider and freer dedication to amorality, the self-exaltation over people they belittle. Because these riches and these functions have nothing spiritual in them, only earthly qualities, they turn to filth. The spiritual aspect of wealth and its uses is like the soul in a body and like the light of heaven in moist earth. So a body without a soul becomes putrid, as does moist earth without the light of heaven. These are the people whom wealth has seduced and drawn away from heaven.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 361-362


Previously Cited: 7/21/2018

Rich and Poor People in Heaven (Continued)

One person can live like another in outward form. As long as there is an inward acknowledgment of the Deity and an intent to serve our neighbor, we can become rich, dine sumptuously, live and dress as elegantly as befits our station and office, enjoy pleasures and amusement, and meet our worldly obligations for the sake of our position and of our business and of the life of both mind and body. So we can see that it is not as hard to follow the path to heaven as many people believe. The only difficulty is finding the power to resist love for ourselves and love of the world and preventing those loves from taking control, since they are the source of all our evils. The fact that it is not so hard as people believe is what is meant by these words of the Lord: “Learn of me that I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls: for my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matthew 11:29–30). The reason the Lord’s yoke is easy and his burden light is that to the extent that we resist the evils that well up from love for ourselves and the world, we are led by the Lord and not by ourselves. Then the Lord resists those things within us and removes them.

I have talked after their death with some people who during their earthly lives had renounced the world and devoted themselves to a virtually solitary life, wanting to make time for devout meditation by withdrawing their thoughts from worldly matters. They believed that this was the way to follow the path to heaven. In the other life, though, they are gloomy in spirit. They avoid others who are not like themselves and they resent the fact that they are not allotted more happiness than others. They believe they deserve it and do not care about other people, and they avoid the responsibilities of thoughtful behavior that are the means to union with heaven. They covet heaven more than others do; but when they are brought up to where angels are, they cause anxieties that upset the happiness of the angels. So they part company; and once they have parted, they betake themselves to lonely places where they lead the same kind of life
they had led in the world.

The only way we can be formed for heaven is through the world. That is the ultimate goal by which every affection must be defined. Unless affection manifests itself or flows into action, which happens in sizeable communities, it is stifled, ultimately to the point that we no longer focus on our neighbor at all, but only on ourselves. We can see from this that the life of thoughtfulness toward our neighbor—behaving fairly and uprightly in all our deeds and in all our responsibilities—leads to heaven, but not a life of piety apart from this active life. This means that the practice of thoughtfulness and the benefits that ensue from this kind of life can occur only to the extent that we are involved in our occupations, and that they cannot occur to the extent that we withdraw from those occupations.

But let me say something about this from experience. Many people who devoted their energies to business and trade in the world, many who became rich, are in heaven. There are not so many, though, who made a name for themselves and became rich in public office. This is because these latter were led into love for themselves and the world by the profits and the positions they were given because of their administration of justice and morality and of profits and positions. This in turn led them to deflect their thoughts and affections from heaven and direct them toward themselves; for to the extent that we love ourselves and the world and focus on ourselves and the world exclusively, we estrange ourselves from the Divine and move away from heaven.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 359-360


Previously Cited: 7/20/2018

Rich and Poor People in Heaven (Continued)

By way of preface, we may note that it is all right to acquire wealth and accumulate any amount of assets, as long as it is not done by fraud or evil devices. It is all right to eat and drink with elegance, as long as we do not invest our lives in such things. It is all right to be housed as graciously as befits one’s station, to chat with others like ourselves, to go to games, to consult about worldly affairs. There is no need to walk around looking pious with a sad, tearful face and a bowed head. We can be happy and cheerful. There is no need to give to the poor except as the spirit moves us. In short, we can live to all appearances just like worldly people. This is no obstacle to our acceptance into heaven as long as we keep God appropriately in mind and act honestly and fairly toward our neighbors. Our quality is actually that of our affection and thought, or our love and faith. Everything we do outwardly derives its life from these, since acting is intending and speaking is thinking. We act, that is, from our intent, and we speak from our thought. So when it says in the Word that we are judged according to our deeds and rewarded according to our works, it means that we are judged and rewarded according to the thought and affection that give rise to our deeds or that are within our deeds. This is because deeds have no meaning apart from these contents. Their quality is wholly determined by them.

We can see from this that our outer nature accomplishes nothing. It is our inner nature, which gives rise to the outer.

Take for example people who behave honestly and do not cheat others solely out of fear of the law and loss of reputation, leading to loss of respect or profit. If that fear did not restrain them, they would cheat others as often as they could. Their thought and intent are fraudulent, even though their actions look honest in outward form. Because they are dishonest and fraudulent inwardly, they have hell within themselves. But if people behave honestly and do not cheat others because this is against God and against their neighbor, then even if they could cheat someone they would not want to. Their thought and intent are their conscience, and they have heaven within themselves. In outward form, the actions of the two kinds look alike, but inwardly they are totally different.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 358

Rich and Poor People in Heaven

THERE are various opinions about acceptance into heaven. Some people think that the poor are accepted but not the rich; some think that rich and poor alike are accepted; some think that rich people cannot be accepted unless they give up their assets and become like the poor—and all of them support their opinions from the Word. However, as far as heaven is concerned, people who differentiate between the rich and the poor do not understand the Word. At heart, the Word is spiritual, though it is natural in the letter; so if people take the Word only in its literal meaning and not in some spiritual meaning they go astray in all kinds of ways, especially regarding the rich and the poor. They believe that it is as hard for rich people to enter heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle and that it is easy for the poor by reason of their poverty, since it says, “Blessed are the poor, because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens” (Luke 6:20–21).

However, people who know something about the spiritual meaning of the Word think differently. They know that heaven is for everyone who lives a life of faith and love, whether rich or poor. We will explain below who are meant by “the rich” in the Word and by “the poor.”

Out of a great deal of conversation and living with angels, I have been granted sure knowledge that rich people enter heaven just as easily as poor people do, and that no one is shut out of heaven for having abundant possessions or accepted into heaven because of poverty. There are both rich and poor people there, and many of the rich are in greater splendor and happiness than the poor.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 357


Previously Cited: 7/18/2018

The Hells: The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery and Lechery; in Addition, the Hells of Deceivers and Witches (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: The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery and Lechery; in Addition, the Hells of Deceivers and Witches (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 [Sections 947, 957–960, 1271, 6197], by the Lord’s divine mercy.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 830

The Hells: The Hells of Those Who Spent Their Lives in Adultery and Lechery; in Addition, the Hells of Deceivers and Witches (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