Our First State after Death

THERE are three states that we pass through after death before we arrive in either heaven or hell. The first state is one of more outward concerns, the second is one of more inward concerns, and the third is one of preparation. We go through these states in the world of spirits.

Some people, however, do not go through these states but are either raised into heaven or cast into hell immediately after their death. The people immediately raised into heaven are ones who have been regenerated and thus prepared for heaven in this world. People who have been regenerated and prepared to this extent need only to slough off their natural uncleanness along with their bodies and are immediately taken into heaven by angels. I have seen people taken up an hour after their death.

On the other hand, people who have been profoundly malicious but have outwardly worn a guise of goodness, people who have therefore filled their malice with guile and used goodness as a means of deception are cast directly into hell. I have seen people like this cast into hell immediately after their death. One of the most deceitful went head first and feet last; for others it is different.

There are also people who are sent off into caves right after their death and in this way are segregated from people in the world of spirits. They are alternately brought out and sent back in. These are people who have treated their neighbors maliciously under the pretext of civic behavior. There are few such people, though, compared to the number of people who are kept in the world of spirits and prepared there for either heaven or hell according to the divine plan.

As to the first state, the state of more outward concerns, we arrive in this immediately after our death. Everyone has more outward and more inward aspects of the spirit. We use the outer aspects of our spirit to adapt our bodies in the world—especially our faces, speech, and behavior—to our interactions with other people. The more inward aspects of our spirit are the ones proper to our intentions and consequent thought, which rarely show in our faces, speech, and behavior. We are trained from infancy to present ourselves as friendly, benevolent, and honest, and to conceal the thoughts of our own intentions. So we acquire a habitual lifestyle that is outwardly moral and civil no matter what we are like inwardly. As a result of this habitual behavior, we scarcely know our own inner natures and pay no attention to them.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 491, 492

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