The Appearance, Location, and Number of the Hells

IN the spiritual world, the world where spirits and angels live, things look much the same as they do in the natural world where we live—so similar that at first glance there seems to be no difference. You see plains there, mountains, hills, and cliffs with valleys between them, you see bodies of water and many other things that we find on earth. However, they all come from a spiritual source, so they are visible to the eyes of spirits and angels but not to our eyes because we are in a natural world. Spiritual people see things that come from a spiritual source, and natural people see things that come from a natural source. This means that there is no way for our eyes to see things in the spiritual world unless we are allowed to be in the spirit, or until we become spirits after death. On the other hand, angels and spirits are utterly incapable of seeing anything in the natural world unless they are with some one of us who has been allowed to talk with them. Our eyes are adapted to receive the light of the natural world, and the eyes of angels and spirits are adapted to receive the light of the spiritual world; yet the two kinds of eyes look exactly alike.

Natural people cannot understand that the spiritual world is like this, and sense-centered people even less so, being people who believe nothing unless they can see it with their physical eyes and touch it with their hands. This means they believe only what they glean through their sight and touch and that they think on this basis; so their thought is material and not spiritual. Because of this resemblance between the spiritual world and the natural world, it is hard for people after death to realize that they are not in the world where they were born, the world they have just left; so they actually call death nothing but a crossing from one world into another like it.

On this kind of resemblance between the two worlds, see the discussion above of representations and appearances in heaven (Sections 170–176).

The heavens there are on the higher ground, the world of spirits there is in the lower areas, and beneath both lie the hells.

The heavens are not visible to spirits in the world of spirits unless their inner sight has been opened. Sometimes they do appear, looking like gleaming white clouds. This is because heaven’s angels are in a more inward state as regards their intelligence and wisdom, so they are beyond the sight of people in the world of spirits.

The spirits who are in the plains and valleys can see each other, though when they are being sorted out (which happens when they are being let into their inner natures), then evil spirits do not see the good ones. The good ones can still see the evil ones, but they turn away from them, and spirits who turn away become hard to see.

The hells themselves, though, are not visible, because they are closed. All one can see are the entrances, called gates, when they open to admit spirits like the ones already there. All the gates into the hells open from the world of spirits, none from heaven.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 582-583

Notes:

Sections 170-176: Published 12/12/2016-12/15/2016

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