Heaven and Heavenly Joy (Continued)

The opinion of some is that a life of leisure and being waited on by others constitutes heaven. To these I said that happiness never consists in seeking satisfaction directly from doing nothing. If it did, we would inevitably want to take others’ happiness for our own, and if everyone did, no one would be happy. Such a life would not be active but idle, resulting in sluggishness—when as anyone can see life holds no joy unless it is active.

Angelic life consists in usefulness and acts of neighborly kindness. Nothing makes angels happier than giving information to spirits newly arrived from the world and teaching them; serving people on earth, making sure that the evil spirits present with them do not go too far, and inspiring them with good; and reviving the dead as they enter eternal life, eventually taking them to heaven, if the condition of their souls allows it.

Angels find more happiness in these activities than could ever be described. In performing them they become images of the Lord. In performing them they love their neighbor more than themselves. This makes heaven. Usefulness (that is, the good that comes of love and charity) is accordingly the substance, the source, and the measure of the angels’ happiness.

When I had finished saying these things, the spirits who thought heavenly joy consisted in relaxing and idly breathing the air of eternal ecstasy were given the opportunity to perceive what such a life would be like. The idea was to embarrass them out of it. They saw that such a life was utterly depressing and that in short order, when inactivity had destroyed all their joy, they would grow sick and tired of it.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 454

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Heaven and Heavenly Joy (Continued)

One man who had been more influential than others during bodily life retained his desire for power in the other life. I told him that he was in another realm—an eternal one—and that the power he had exercised on earth was dead. “Here,” I said, “the only standard by which people are evaluated is the amount of goodness and truth and of the Lord’s mercy they possess.

“The situation in this realm,” I added, “is just like that on earth, where people acquire status only through wealth or through favor with the head of state. Wealth in this kingdom is goodness and truth, and the ruler’s good favor is the Lord’s mercy. If you want any other kind of influence, you’re a rebel, because you are in Another’s realm.”On hearing these things, the man burned with shame.

I spoke with some spirits who thought heaven and heavenly joy consisted in being greatest. But I told them that the greatest in heaven is the one who is least. Whoever wants to be least has the greatest happiness. Since the person with the greatest happiness is the person who is least, it follows that such a person is the greatest. What is being greatest if not being happiest?  Happiness is what the powerful seek in power and what the rich seek in riches.

I added that heaven does not consist in the desire to be least for the purpose of being greatest, because then the hope and longing is to be greatest. Heaven is wishing better for others than for ourselves with all our heart and serving others for the sake of their own happiness, not for any selfish goal but for love.

Some have such a simplistic idea of heaven that they think it is just a matter of being let in. They even picture it as a room with a door. The door will open and the doorkeepers there will announce their arrival.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Sections 451, 452, 453

Heaven and Heavenly Joy

No one yet realizes what heaven and heavenly joy are. Those who have considered either subject have formed such a crude, generalized picture that it is hardly any picture at all.

Spirits who have only recently come into the next life from the world have allowed me to see with perfect clarity what idea of heaven and heavenly joy they had formed. When left to their own devices as if they were still in the world, you see, they think the same way they did there. Let me offer just a few examples.

Some, who in the world had seemed more enlightened concerning the Word than others, had latched onto such a false conception of heaven that they thought they could go to heaven just by going up. They imagined that from their height they would be able to govern everything below, so they thought they would be allowed to bask in self-glorification and in their superiority over others.

In order for them to see the error of their thinking, they were raised up on high—such being their fantasy—and were permitted some governance over things below. But they found to their shame that this heaven was an illusion. They discovered that heaven does not consist in altitude but exists wherever people have love and charity (or the Lord’s kingdom) inside them, and that it does not involve the desire to be superior to others. The wish to be greater than others is not heaven but hell.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Sections 449, 450

Several Examples from Spirits of Opinions (Continued)

I have talked to many people I knew in their bodily life, and our conversations have continued a long time, over months and through a year. Our voices were as clear to each other as voices are among friends in this world, but they were heard internally. Sometimes we also engaged in discussions about the human condition after death. They were astounded that no one who is alive in the body knows or believes that she or he will live on after physical life ends, when the truth is that life continues, and continues in such a way that it passes from darkness into broad daylight. For those who believe in the Lord, life grows clearer and clearer.

These people wanted me to tell their friends [on earth] that they were alive and to send letters describing their current status. They themselves had heard much from me about how those friends were doing. “But,”I said, “if I were to say or write the things you ask, your friends would not believe me. They would accuse me of hallucinating, laugh at me, and demand signs or miracles before believing. So I would be exposed to their ridicule. Few, perhaps, would believe that those things were true, because they deny at heart that spirits exist. Even those who do not deny are completely unwilling to hear that anyone could talk with spirits.”

Such beliefs about spirits never existed in ancient times, only in modern times, when people desire to investigate what the spirit is in a highly intellectual way that relies on skewed logic. With their definitions and theories they deprive spirits of all sensation, and the more erudite they claim to be, the more they do so.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Sections 448

Several Examples from Spirits of Opinions (Continued)

One new spirit who was talking with me heard that I was speaking about the spirit, and he asked, “What is a spirit?” He thought that he was still living on earth.

“Everyone has a spirit inside,” I said. “The living part of us is a spirit, and the body only makes it possible for us to spend time on earth. The body—the flesh and bones—has never possessed life or engaged in thought.” He looked doubtful, so I asked, “Have you ever heard of the soul?”
“What is the soul?” he said. “I don’t know what the soul is.”
“You yourself are now a soul or spirit,” I was allowed to say. “You can tell, because you’re above my head, not standing on the ground. Don’t you realize that?”
He fled in terror shouting, “I’m a spirit! I’m a spirit!”

A certain Jew was also under the firm impression that he was alive in the body. So solid was his belief that he could hardly be persuaded otherwise. When shown that he was a spirit, he continued to insist that he was a person on earth because he could see and hear. That is what people who were body-oriented in the world are like.

I could cite many other instances, but these should suffice to show that it is the spirit within us, not the body, that senses.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 447

Several Examples from Spirits of Opinions (Continued)

I spoke with some spirits about the attitude of people alive on earth today who reject belief in the spirit because they cannot see it with their eyes or grasp it scientifically. They deny not only that a spirit has dimension but also that it has substance, because they argue about what substance even is. And since they deny its dimensionality and argue about its substantiality, they also deny that it exists in a place or, consequently, in a human body. The most simple-thinking people, however, can understand that their soul or spirit has its own body.

When I said these things to the spirits, who happened to be among the more simple-thinking, they expressed their amazement that people today could be so stupid. When they heard the terminology that was being argued over (parts outside of parts, and so on), they called it jarring, absurd, and pretentious. They said that such things should never take up mental space because they block the path to true understanding.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 446

Several Examples from Spirits of Opinions (Continued)

I said further that the erudite fully believe the soul that lives on after death—the spirit—is abstract thought. Obviously, then, they refuse to accept any term that involves dimension or anything implied by dimension. Thought has no extension apart from the person thinking, but the person thinking and the objects of thought do have extension. Moreover, if the objects of thought are not dimensional, people objectify them and make them three-dimensional in order to understand them.

From this it is abundantly clear that intellectuals take the soul or spirit to be nothing but pure thought. The consequence is an unalterable belief that the soul will vanish when they die.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 445

Several Examples from Spirits of Opinions (Continued)

I talked with another individual who during life in the world had not believed the spirit had any extension in space. On this principle, he had refused to accept any word that involved dimension [to describe the spirit]. I asked him, “What do you think now, as a soul or spirit, about the fact that you possess sight, hearing, smell, sensitive touch, desires, and thoughts, so much so that you feel exactly as if you were still in your body?”

Restricted to the picture he had formed when thinking about the subject in the world, he said, “The spirit consists in thought.”

“You once were alive in the world,” I was allowed to reply. “Don’t you know that physical sight cannot occur without the visual organ—the eye? How can thought, which is inner sight, do so? Doesn’t it require an organic substance in order to operate?” He then acknowledged that during the life of the body he had labored under the delusion that spirit is simply thought, without any organic matter or dimension.

“If the soul or spirit was only thought,” I added, “we would have no need for a brain the size we have, since the brain is nothing but an organ for our interior senses. If that were not its function, the skull could be hollow and still provide a place for our thoughts to do the work of the spirit. This alone should have convinced you that the spirit is organic, or made of organic substance. And had you considered what impressive activities result when the soul operates on the muscles, it might also have convinced you.”He confessed his error and wondered how he could have been so foolish.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 444

Several Examples from Spirits of Opinions

In the other life it is easy to tell what opinions others held during bodily life concerning the soul, the spirit, and life after death. When people are kept in a state like the one they had in the body, they think the same way they did then, and their thinking is communicated as clearly as if they were talking out loud.

In the case of one spirit who had departed this world not long before, I perceived–and he admitted–that although he believed he would live on as a spirit, he expected to live a vague kind of life. His thinking, since he located life in the body, was that if physical life were withdrawn, only a vague something-or-other would remain. So his picture of the spirit was like that of a ghost. The observation that brute animals too had life, almost as people do, had confirmed him in his opinion. But now he was amazed to see that spirits and angels live in the greatest possible light and in the greatest possible intelligence, wisdom, and happiness, with such keen perception that it can hardly be described. Far from living a dim kind of life, he discovered, they live a clear and intensely vivid life.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 443

What the Life of Soul or Spirit Like (Continued)

Avoid succumbing to the false opinion that spirits lack the power of sensation, and sensation much keener than they had while living in the body. I know the opposite to be true from thousands and thousands of experiences. If you do not want to believe, because of assumptions you make about the spirit, keep it to yourself when you enter the other life. There actual experience will make a believer out of you.

Spirits have eyesight, since they live in light, and good spirits, angelic spirits, and angels live in such bright light that the world’s noonday light can hardly be compared to it.

Not only that, they also have hearing, and such sensitive hearing that their [former,] physical hearing cannot be measured against it. They have talked with me almost continually for several years now (but more about their speech will also be told later on, with the Lord’s divine mercy).

They have a sense of smell (also dealt with later [Section 1516], with the Lord’s divine mercy).

They have an extremely sensitive sense of touch, from which come the excruciating pangs of hell. All the senses relate to touch, since they are simply different varieties of it.

They have desires and feelings to which, again, the ones they had during physical existence cannot be compared. They think much more clearly and precisely than they did during the life of the body, packing more into a single mental image than they did into a thousand when they engaged in thought during bodily life.

They talk to each other with such great acumen, subtlety, wisdom, and clarity that if we perceived only part of what they said we would be astounded.

In short, they have lost absolutely nothing they need in order to be human—and more perfectly human at that—except flesh and bones, and the accompanying imperfections.

They acknowledge and perceive that during bodily life the spirit was what actually sensed things. Although sensation seemed to take place in their bodies it was not, in fact, physical. Consequently when the body has been laid aside, sensation lives on with much greater acuity and perfection. Life consists in sensation because without it there is no life, and the quality of sensation determines the quality of life, as anyone can recognize.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 322