To illustrate the fact that we are spirits inwardly, I should like to explain from experience what happens when we are taken out of the body and how we are led by the spirit into another place.
The first experience, being taken out of the body, is like this. We are brought into a particular state that is halfway between sleep and waking. When we are in this state, it seems exactly as though we were awake; all our senses are as alert as they are when we are fully awake physically—sight, hearing, and strange to say, touch. These senses are more perfect than they can ever be during physical wakefulness. This is the state in which people have seen spirits and angels most vividly, even hearing them and, strange to say, touching them, with hardly anything physical interfering. It is the state described as being taken out of the body and not knowing whether one is in the body or outside it.
I have been admitted to this state three or four times, simply to let me know what it was like, and also to teach me that spirits and angels enjoy all the senses and that we do too, as to our spirits, when we are taken out of the body.
As for the second kind of experience, being led by the spirit into another place, I have been shown by firsthand experience what happens and how it happens, but only two or three times. I should like to cite just one experience. While I was walking through city streets and through the countryside, absorbed in conversation with spirits, it seemed exactly as though I were just as awake and observant as ever, walking without straying, though all the while I was in visions. I was seeing groves, rivers, mansions, houses, people, and more. After I had been walking for some hours, though, I suddenly found myself back in consciousness of my physical sight and realized that I was somewhere else. I was utterly stunned by this, and realized that I had been in the state of people described as being led by the spirit into another place; for as long as it lasted I was not thinking about my route, even though it might have been many miles, or about the time, though it might have been many hours or even days. I was not conscious of any fatigue, either. This is how we can be led by ways we know nothing of all the way to some predetermined place, without straying.
These two states, though, which are states we have when we are awake to our deeper nature or (which is the same thing) our spirit, are out of the ordinary. They were shown me simply to teach me what they were like because they are known in the church. But talking with spirits, being with them as one of them—this is something I have been granted when I was fully awake physically, and it has been going on now for years.
There is further support of our being spirits inwardly in the material presented in Sections 311–317 above, where I discussed the fact that heaven and hell are from the human race.
Our being spirits inwardly has reference to our capacities for thinking and intending because these are our actual inner natures. They are what make us human, and the quality of our humanity depends on their quality.
from Heaven and Hell, Sections 439-444
Sections 311-317: Published 5/11/2017-5/15/2017