Our First State after Death (Continued)

Since the life of newly arrived spirits is not unlike their life in the world, and since they do not know anything about life after death, heaven, or hell except what they have learned from the literal meaning of the Word and some sermons drawn from it, once they get over their astonishment at being in a body and enjoying all the senses they had in the world, seeing familiar things around them, they find themselves wanting to know what heaven and hell are like and where they are. Consequently, their friends tell them about the state of eternal life and take them around to various places, into the company of different people. They go to different cities, to gardens and parks, often to gorgeous ones because things like this appeal to the outward concerns they are involved in. Then from time to time they are led into the thoughts they had had during their physical lives about the state of the soul after death and about heaven and hell. This brings them to the point of resentment that they had been so ignorant about such matters, and also that the church had been so ignorant.

Almost all of them want to know whether they will make it into heaven. Many of them think they will because they led moral and civic lives in the world, not reflecting that both evil and good people lead similar outward lives, being similarly helpful to others, going to church, listening to sermons, and praying similarly, utterly unaware that outward behavior and outward worship accomplish nothing whatever; only the inner realities that give rise to these outward ones are effective.

Scarcely one in thousands even knows what the inner realities are or that they are the focal point of heaven and the church for us. Even fewer realize that the quality of our outward actions is determined by the quality of our intentions and thoughts and the love and faith within them, from which our actions arise. Even when they are told, they do not grasp the fact that thinking and intending actually make a difference. They attach importance only to speaking and acting. Many of the people who are coming into the other life from the Christian world are like this nowadays.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 495

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