While our outer or natural memory is still part of us after death, still the merely natural things that are in it are not recreated in the other life, only spiritual things that are connected to the natural ones by correspondence. Still, when they are presented visually, they look just the same as they did in the natural world. This is because everything we see in the heavens looks as it did in the world, even though in essence it is not natural but spiritual, as has been explained in the chapter on representations and appearances in heaven (Sections 170–176).
As for our outer or natural memory, though, to the extent that its contents are derived from matter, time, space, and everything else proper to nature, it does not fulfill the same function for the spirit that it fulfilled in the world. This is because in the world, when we thought on the basis of our outer sensitivity and not at the same time on the basis of our inner or intellectual sensitivity, we were thinking on the natural level and not on the spiritual one. However, in the other life, when our spirit is in the spiritual world, we do not think on the natural level but on the spiritual one. Thinking on the spiritual level is thinking intelligently or rationally. This is why our outer or natural memory then goes dormant as far as material things are concerned. The only things that come into play are what we have gained in the world through those material things and have made rational. The reason our outer memory goes dormant as far as material things are concerned is that they cannot be recreated. Spirits and angels actually talk from the affections and consequent thoughts of their minds, so they cannot utter anything that does not square with these, as you may gather from what was said about the language of angels in heaven and their communication with us (Sections 234–257).
This is why we are rational after death to the extent that we have become rational by means of languages and the arts and sciences in this world, and emphatically not to the extent that we have become skilled in them.
I have talked with any number of people who were regarded as learned in the world because of their knowledge of such ancient languages as Hebrew and Greek and Latin, but who had not developed their rational functioning by means of the things that were written in those languages. Some of them seemed as simple as people who did not know anything about those languages; some of them seemed dense, though there still remained a pride, as though they were wiser than other people.
I have talked with some people who had believed in the world that wisdom depends on how much we have in our memory and who had therefore filled their memories to bursting. They talked almost exclusively from these items, which meant that they were not talking for themselves but for others; and they had not developed any rational function by means of these matters of memory. Some of them were dense, some silly, with no grasp of truth whatever, no sense of whether anything was true or not. They seized on every false notion sold as true by people who called themselves scholars. They were actually incapable of seeing anything as it actually was, whether it was true or not, so they could not see anything rationally when they listened to others.
I have talked with some people who had written a great deal in the world, some of them in all kinds of academic fields, people who had therefore gained an international reputation for learning. Some of them could quibble about whether truths were true or not. Some of them understood what was true when they turned toward people who were in the light of truth; but since they still did not want to understand what was true, they denied it when they focused on their own false opinions and were therefore really being themselves. Some of them did not know any more than the illiterate masses. So they varied depending on the way they had developed their rational ability through the treatises they had written or copied. Still, if people had opposed the truths of the church, had based their thinking on the arts and sciences, and had used them to convince themselves of false principles, they had not developed their rational ability but only their skill in argumentation—an ability that is confused with rationality in the world, but is in fact a different ability from rationality. It is an ability to prove anything one pleases, to see false things rather than true ones on the basis of preconceptions and illusions. There is no way people like this can be brought to recognize truths because it is impossible to see truths from false principles, though it is possible from true principles to see what is false.
Our rational faculty is like a garden or flower bed, like newly tilled land. Our memory is the soil, information and experiential learning are the seeds, while heaven’s light and warmth make them productive. There is no germination without these latter. So there is no germination in us unless heaven’s light, which is divine truth, and heaven’s warmth, which is divine love, are let in. They are the only source of rationality.
Angels are profoundly grieved that scholars for the most part keep attributing everything to nature and therefore close the deeper levels of their minds so that they can see no trace of truth from the light of truth, the light of heaven. As a result, in the other life they are deprived of their ability to reason so that they will not use reason to spread false notions among simple people and mislead them. They are dismissed to desert areas.
from Heaven and Hell, Section 464
Sections 170-176: Published 12/12/2016-12/15/2016
Sections 237-245: Published 5/4/2018-5/6/2018
Sections 246-257: Published 2/24/2017-3/3/2017