Hellfire and Gnashing of Teeth (Continued)

Because hellfire means the urge to do the evils prompted by love for oneself and the world, and because this kind of urge is characteristic of everyone in hell (see the preceding chapter), when the hells are opened one sees the kind of smoky fire you get in conflagrations. An intense fire rises from the hells where love for oneself rules, and a flickering one from the hells where love of the world rules.

When the hells are closed, though, this fire is not visible. Instead, there is something dark, as though made from thickened smoke. Still, that fire is raging inside, as you can tell from the radiating heat. It is like the heat of ruins after a conflagration, or in some instances like the heat of an active furnace, or in others like that of a hot bath. When this heat flows into us it rouses our cravings—hatred and vengefulness in evil people, and dementia in the ill.

This kind of fire or heat is characteristic of people who are engrossed in the aforementioned loves because in spirit they are in touch with these hells even while they are still living in their bodies.

It does need to be known, though, that the people in the hells are not actually in fire. The fire is an appearance. They do not actually feel any burning, only the kind of warmth they knew in the world. The reason there seems to be fire is correspondence, since love corresponds to fire, and everything we see in the spiritual world has its visible form from its correspondence.

We should bear in mind that this hellish fire or heat changes into an intense cold when warmth flows in from heaven. Then the people there shiver as though they had feverish chills and are in inner torment. This is because of their absolute opposition to the Divine; and heaven’s warmth, which is divine love, snuffs out the warmth of hell, which is love for oneself, and along with it the very fire of their life. This is what causes the cold, the shivering, and the pain. It also then brings about darkness there, and folly and confusion. This does not happen very often, though; only when there is need to quell rebellions that are getting out of hand.

Since hellfire means all the craving to do evil that flows from love for oneself, that same fire also means the kind of torment that occurs in the hells. This is because the impulses that arise from that love are urges to wound people who do not offer respect and deference and reverence. To the extent that rage takes charge, and the hatred and vengefulness that come from rage, people are driven to attack others viciously. When this impulse is inherent in everyone in a community where there are no external restraints, no fears of the law or of loss of reputation or position or profit or life, everyone attacks everyone else out of sheer malice. The strong conquer and subject the rest to their tyranny, cheerfully torturing any who do not surrender. This latter delight is integral to the delight in tyranny to the point that they are of equal intensity. This is because sadism is inherent in hostility, envy, hatred, and vengefulness, which as already noted are the evils of a love of cruelty.

All the hells are communities like this, so everyone there cherishes hatred toward others in her or his heart and bursts out in savagery whenever there is the strength to do so.

These acts of savagery and torture are what are meant by hellfire, because they are the results of their obsessions.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 571-573


Hellfire and Gnashing of Teeth (Continued)

Because hellfire is love for oneself and the world, it is also all the craving of those loves, since craving is love reaching out. Whatever we love we constantly crave, and it is our delight, since we feel delight when we get what we love or crave. There is no other source of our heart’s delight. So hellfire is the craving and pleasure that well up from these two loves as its sources. These evils are contempt for others, enmity and hostility toward people who do not support us, envy, hatred, and vengefulness; and savagery and cruelty as a result. In respect to the Divine, they are denial and a consequent contempt, derision, and blasphemy of the sacred values of the church. After death, when we become spirits, these turn into rage and hatred against such values (see above, Section 562).

Further, since these evils are constantly breathing out the death and destruction of everyone we see as the enemy, of everyone who is the target of this blazing hatred and vengefulness, the delight of our lives is the intent to destroy and kill, or to the extent that we cannot do this, to inflict harm, to wound, and to savage.

These are the meanings of fire in the Word when it deals with evil people and the hells. I should like to cite a few passages in support.

Everyone who is hypocritical and malicious, every mouth that utters folly, because it is aflame with malice as with fire, shall eat briars and brambles and kindle the thickets of the forest, and will rise up with the rising of smoke; and the inhabitants have become the food of fire, a man and his brother do not spare each other. (Isaiah 9:17–18 [9:17–19])

I will make great portents in heaven and on earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke; the sun will turn into darkness. (Joel 2:30, 31)

The earth will become burning pitch, night and day it will not be put out, its smoke will rise up forever. (Isaiah 34:9–10)

Behold, the day is coming that will burn like an oven, and all the proud and all that do wickedness will be stubble, and the coming day will burn them up. (Malachi 4:1)311

Babylon has become the dwelling of demons, those who saw the smoke of her burning cried aloud, the smoke rose up forever and ever. (Revelation 18:2, 18; 19:2 [19:3])

He opened the pit of the abyss and smoke came up out of the pit like the smoke of a huge furnace, and the sun was darkened, and the air, by the smoke from the pit. (Revelation 9:2)

From the mouth of the horses came forth fire and smoke and sulfur; and a third part of the people were killed by the fire and the smoke and the sulfur. (Revelation 11:17–18 [9:17–18])

Whoever worships the beast will drink the wine of the wrath of God mixed with myrrh in the cup of his wrath and will be tortured with fire and sulfur. (Revelation 14:9–10)

The fourth angel poured out his vial on the sun, and it was allowed to burn people by fire with its heat, and so it scorched people with intense heat. (Revelation 16:[8–]9)

They were thrown into a swamp burning with fire and sulfur. (Revelation 19:20; 20:14–15, 21:8)

Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9)

The Human-born One will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that gives offense and everyone who does iniquity and consign them to a furnace of fire. (Matthew 13:41–42, 50)

The king will say to those on his left, “Leave me, cursed ones, for the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:4 [25:41])

And they will be sent off into eternal fire, into a Gehenna of fire, where their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched. (Matthew 18:8–9; Mark 9:43–49)

The rich man in hell said to Abraham that he was being tormented in flame. (Luke 16:24)

In these and many other passages fire means the craving of love for oneself and love of the world, and the smoke from the fire means the falsity that comes from this evil.

from Heaven and Hell, Section 570


Section 562: Published 2/10/2019

Hellfire and Gnashing of Teeth (Continued)

For us human beings, spiritual warmth is the warmth of life, because as already noted it is essentially love. This love is what fire means in the Word. Heavenly fire means love for the Lord and love for our neighbor, and hellish fire means love for ourselves and love of the world.

Hellish fire or love has the same source as heavenly fire or love, namely heaven’s sun or the Lord. However, it is changed into hellfire by the people who receive it, for all inflow from the spiritual world varies depending on how it is received or depending on the forms into which it flows. The same thing happens with the warmth and light from the world’s sun. Warmth flowing from this source into woods and flower beds produces vegetation and pleasant, soft aromas. The same warmth flowing into manure or carrion produces decay and foul stenches. Similarly light from the same sun on one object produces lovely, charming colors, while on another it produces ugly and unpleasant ones. It is the same with the warmth and light from heaven’s sun, which is love. When that warmth or love flows into good recipients, like good people and spirits or angels, it makes their goodness fertile; whereas when it flows into evil people it has the opposite effect. Their evils either stifle it or distort it. Similarly, when heaven’s light flows into the true perceptions of good will, it yields intelligence and wisdom; but when it flows into malicious distortions, it changes there into insanity and various kinds of illusion. Everything depends on reception.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 568-569

Hellfire and Gnashing of Teeth

UNTIL now, hardly anyone has known the meaning of the eternal fire and gnashing of teeth ascribed to people in hell in the Word. This is because people think materialistically about statements in the Word, in ignorance of its spiritual meaning. So some of them understand the fire to be material fire, some think it is torment in general, some the pangs of conscience, some that it is just words meant to strike a terror of evil into us. Some understand the gnashing of teeth to be a kind of grinding, some only the kind of shudder we feel when we hear this kind of clash of teeth.

Anyone familiar with the spiritual meaning of the Word, though, can realize what eternal fire and gnashing of teeth are, since there is spiritual meaning in every expression and in the meaning of every expression in the Word. At heart, that is, the Word is spiritual, and spiritual meaning can be expressed to us only in natural terms because we are in a natural world and think on the basis of what we encounter in it.

In the following pages, then, I shall explain what the eternal fire and gnashing of teeth are that evil people find after death, or that their spirits experience once they are in the spiritual world.

There are two sources of warmth. One is the sun of heaven, which is the Lord, and the other is our world’s sun. The warmth that comes from heaven’s sun or the Lord is spiritual warmth, which in its essence is love (see above, Sections 126–140). The warmth that comes from our world’s sun, though, is a natural warmth that in its essence is not love but serves spiritual warmth or love as a vessel. We may gather that love in essence is warmth from the fact that our minds and then our bodies become warmer because of love and according to its intensity and quality. This happens to us just as much in winter as in summer. We may also notice the warming of our blood. As for the fact that natural heat arising from the world’s sun serves spiritual heat as a vessel, this we may gather from the warmth of the body that is stimulated by the warmth of its spirit and abets it. We may look particularly at what the warmth of spring and summer does for all kinds of animals with their annual love cycles.

It is not that the [natural] warmth makes this happen, but that it disposes their bodies to be receptive to the warmth that flows into them as well from the spiritual world. You see, the spiritual world flows into the natural the way a cause flows into its effect. People who believe that natural warmth creates these loves are quite mistaken, since the inflow is of the spiritual world into the natural world and not of the natural world into the spiritual; and all love is spiritual because it is the essence of life itself.

Further, people who believe that anything happens in the natural world apart from the inflow of the spiritual world are also mistaken, since natural phenomena arise and persist only from spiritual ones. Even the members of the vegetable kingdom get their power to sprout from this kind of inflow. The natural warmth of spring and summer simply disposes their seeds into their natural forms by swelling and opening them so that the inflow from the spiritual world can have its causative effect.

I mention all this to make it clear that there are two kinds of warmth, spiritual and natural, and that spiritual warmth comes from heaven’s sun and natural warmth from the world’s sun, and that inflow and cooperation set up the effects that we see before us in the world.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 566-567


Sections 126-140: Published 11/22/2016-12/2/2016

All the People Who Are in the Hells Are Absorbed in Evils and Consequent Falsities Because of Their Love for Themselves and the World (Continued)

There are two ways of being in power. One comes from love for our neighbor and the other from love for ourselves. In essence, these two kinds of power are exact opposites. People who are empowered by love for their neighbor intend the good of everyone and love nothing more than being useful—that is, serving others (serving others means willing well and helping others, whether that is one’s church, country, community, or fellow citizen). This is their love and the delight of their hearts. As such people are raised to high positions they are delighted; but the delight is not because of the honor but because of the constructive things they can now do more abundantly and at a higher level. This is what empowerment is like in the heavens.

In contrast, people whose self-love leads them to take power intend good to no one but themselves. Any services they perform for others are actually for their own esteem and renown, since only this is of any use to them. Helping others is for them simply a means to being waited on and respected and deferred to. They strive for high office not for the good they ought to do for their country and their church but to be prominent and praised and therefore in their heart’s delight.

A love of power does stay with all of us after death. However, people whose authority rested on their love for their neighbor are entrusted with power in the heavens. Actually, it is not they who have power but the services that they love, and when service rules, the Lord is ruling. However, people whose authority rested on their self-love in the world arrive in hell after their life in this world and are miserable slaves there. I have seen powerful people whose authority had rested on their self-love in the world abandoned among the most miserable, some of them living in outhouses.

As for love of the world, it is not so intensely opposed to heavenly love, because there are not so many evils latent in it.

Love of the world is wanting to divert the wealth of others to ourselves by any means available. It is setting our heart on wealth and allowing the world to distract us from the spiritual love that is love for our neighbor and therefore from heaven and the Divine.

This love takes many forms, though. We may love wealth in order to be raised to exalted rank simply because we love exalted rank. We may love exalted rank and high position for the sake of wealth. We may love wealth for the sake of the various pleasures it offers in the world. We may love wealth simply for the sake of wealth, which is avarice, and so on. The purpose of being wealthy is called its use, and purpose or use is what gives a love its quality. That is, the quality of a love is determined by the goal it aims at. Everything else serves it as means.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 564-565

All the People Who Are in the Hells Are Absorbed in Evils and Consequent Falsities Because of Their Love for Themselves and the World (Continued)

In broad terms, the evils characteristic of people focused on love for themselves are contempt for others; envy; enmity toward anyone who is not on their side, and a consequent hostility; various kinds of hatred; vengefulness; craft; deceit; callousness; and cruelty. In religious matters, this extends not only to a contempt for the Divine and for the divine gifts that are the true and good elements of the church; it extends also to anger at such things, an anger that turns into hatred when we become spirits. Then not only can we not stand hearing about these matters, we blaze with hatred against everyone who acknowledges and worships the Divine.

I talked with one man who had been in power in the world and loved himself far too much. When he simply heard the Divine mentioned—especially when he heard the Lord named—he was so struck by angry hatred that he was consumed with thoughts of murder. When the reins of his love were loosened, he even wanted to be the devil himself in order to satisfy his love by ceaseless attacks on heaven. Many individuals of the papal religion feel this desire in the other life when they realize that the Lord has all power and that they have none.

Some spirits appeared to me in the western region, toward the south, who said they had been granted high honor in the world and deserved to be promoted over others and to lord it over them. They were examined by angels to discover what they were like inwardly, and it turned out that in their earthly offices they had paid no attention to service but only to themselves, which meant that they had put themselves before service. Still, since they were aflame with ambition to be promoted, they were allowed to join a group of people who were discussing some rather important matters. You could tell, though, that they were unable to pay any attention to the real issues that were being discussed and could not see the matters in any depth. They did not say anything on the basis of the constructive effects of the discussion, but talked only on the basis of their own self-image.

Their behavior was motivated by a desire to ingratiate themselves; so they were dismissed from the task and left to seek office elsewhere. So they went farther westward, where they were accepted here and there; but in every case they were told that they were not thinking about anything but themselves, that they were not thinking about the business at hand except in terms of themselves. This meant that they were stupid, just like sensual, carnal spirits. Wherever they arrived, then, they were rejected. After a while they were utterly bankrupt and were asking for handouts.

Once more I could see from this that no matter how wisely people may seem to talk in the world from the fire of self-love, still it is just a matter of rote memory and not of any rational light. So in the other life, when they are no longer allowed to retrieve things from their natural memory, they are more stupid than other people because they are cut off from the Divine.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 562-563

All the People Who Are in the Hells Are Absorbed in Evils and Consequent Falsities Because of Their Love for Themselves and the World (Continued)

By nature, self-love runs wild to the extent that its reins are loosened, that is, to the extent that the outward restraints constituted by fears of the law and its penalties, fears of losing reputation, esteem, profit, position, and life are taken away. It runs wild even to the extent of wanting to rule not only over the whole globe but even over all heaven and the Lord himself. It knows no bound or limit. This is latent in everyone who is focused on self-love even though it may not show in the world, where the restraints we have mentioned hold it back.

We cannot fail to see this in people in power and kings who are not held back by any such restraints. They run wild and conquer as many territories and kingdoms as they can and aspire to boundless power and glory. This is even clearer in the modern Babylon, which extends its control into heaven and transfers all the Lord’s divine power to itself and even craves more.

The reader may see in the booklet Last Judgment that people like this are diametrically opposed to the Divine and to heaven and that they favor hell when they arrive in the other life after death.

Picture a community made up of people like this, all totally in love with themselves, not caring about others unless they are allies, and you will see that their love is no different from that of thieves for each other. To the extent that they are acting in concert, they embrace each other and call each other friends; but once they stop cooperating, once anyone resists their control, they attack and butcher each other. If their deeper natures—their minds—are probed, it will be clear that they are full of virulent hatred for each other, that at heart they ridicule anything fair and honest and even ridicule the Deity, tossing it aside as worthless. This comes out even more clearly from their communities in the hells, which will be described below.

The deeper levels of the thoughts and affections of people who love themselves above all are turned toward themselves and the world—and are turned away, therefore, from the Lord and heaven. This is why such people fall prey to all kinds of evil and why the divine nature cannot flow in. It is because the moment it does flow in, it is submerged in thoughts about self and polluted, and is saturated with evils that arise from their self-centeredness. This is why they all look away from the Lord in the other life, toward the gloom that occupies the site of our world’s sun there and is directly across from heaven’s sun, which is the Lord (see Section 123 above). Darkness means evil, and our world’s sun means self-love.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 559-561


Section 123: Published 11/20/2016

All the People Who Are in the Hells Are Absorbed in Evils and Consequent Falsities Because of Their Love for Themselves and the World (Continued)

Further, to the extent that we are engaged in heavenly love—which is loving constructive and worthwhile activities and being moved by heartfelt pleasure when we provide them to our church, our country, the human community, and our fellow citizens—we are being led by the Lord because this is the love he is in and the love that comes from him. However, to the extent that we focus on love for ourselves—doing constructive and worthwhile things for our own sakes—we are leading ourselves; and to the extent that we lead ourselves, we are not being led by the Lord. Again, then, it follows that the more we love ourselves, the more we move away from the Divine and also from heaven.

Being led by self is being led by what we claim as our own, and what we claim as our own is nothing but evil. It is actually our evil heredity, which involves loving ourselves more than God and the world more than heaven.

We are completely absorbed in our self-image and therefore in our hereditary evil whenever we focus on ourselves in anything worthwhile we are doing, for we are focusing on ourselves and away from what is good and not on what is good and away from ourselves. So in the worthwhile activities we set up an image of ourselves and not an image of the Divine. I have been assured of this by experience as well. There are evil spirits who live halfway between the north and the west, underneath the heavens, who are particularly skilled at getting upright spirits involved in their self-image and therefore focused on various kinds of evil. They do this by getting them absorbed in thinking about themselves, either openly by words of praise and esteem or covertly by focusing their feelings exclusively on themselves. To the extent that they succeed, they turn the faces of the upright people away from heaven and also becloud their understanding, calling up evils from their self-concern.

If you look at their origins and essences, you can see that love for oneself and love of one’s neighbor are opposites. In people who are wrapped up in love for themselves, love of their neighbor begins from self. They claim that everyone is her or his own neighbor; and from this as a center they reach out to all who ally with them, with progressively less intensity depending on the love that unites the others with them. They regard people outside this group as worthless, and people who offer opposition to them and their evildoing they regard as enemies. It does not matter what they are actually like, whether they are wise or upright or honest or fair.

A spiritual love of their neighbor, though, begins with the Lord, and spreads out from him as its center to all who are united to him by love and faith. Its spread depends on the quality of their love and faith. We can see from this that a love of our neighbor that begins with ourselves is the opposite of a love of our neighbor that begins with the Lord. The former comes from evil because it comes from what we claim as our own; while the latter comes from what is good because it comes from the Lord, who is good itself. We can also see that a love of our neighbor that comes from us and from our self-image is a physical love, while a love of our neighbor that comes from the Lord is heavenly.

In a word, when we are absorbed in love for ourselves it constitutes our head, and heavenly love constitutes the feet we stand on. If heavenly love does not serve us, we trample it underfoot. This is why people who are being thrown into hell look as though they are diving in headfirst, with their heads down and their feet toward heaven (see above, Section 548).

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 558a-558b,

All the People Who Are in the Hells Are Absorbed in Evils and Consequent Falsities Because of Their Love for Themselves and the World (Continued)

Love for oneself is intending well to oneself alone, not to others except for the sake of oneself—not the church, the country, or any human community. It is helping them solely for the sake of one’s own reputation and rank and glory. Unless these can be seen in the services we offer, we are saying at heart, “What difference does it make? Why should I? What’s in it for me?” So we forget it. We can see from this that people who are absorbed in a love for themselves do not love their church or country or community or any constructive activity. They love only themselves. Their only pleasure lies in self-gratification; and since the pleasure that stems from love constitutes human life, their life is a life of self. A life of self is a life that depends on what we claim as our own, and in its own right what we claim as our own is nothing but evil.

People who love themselves do love their own as well, their own being specifically their children and grandchildren and more broadly all who ally with them, whom they call “their own people.” Loving both the former and the latter is actually loving themselves, because they regard the others as though they were in themselves, and focus on themselves in others. These “others” who are claimed as their own include everyone who praises and reveres and worships them.

We can gather what love for oneself is like by comparing it to heavenly love. Heavenly love is loving constructive activity for its own sake, or loving for their own sake the worthwhile things we do for our church, our country, the human community, and our fellow citizens. This is really loving God and loving our neighbor, since all constructive activities and all worthwhile actions come from God and are the neighbor whom we are to love. In contrast, people who love these activities for the sake of self love them only as slaves who wait on them. It follows that people devoted to a love for themselves want their church, their country, the human community, and their fellow citizens to be their servants rather than wanting to serve them. They station themselves above these neighbors and put them down. So to the extent that people are devoted to a love for themselves, they move themselves away from heaven because they move themselves away from heavenly love.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 556-557

All the People Who Are in the Hells Are Absorbed in Evils and Consequent Falsities Because of Their Love for Themselves and the World (Continued)

Having examined the misshapen forms of spirits in the hells, forms that as noted are all forms of contempt for others, of threats against people who do not respect and revere them, and of hatred and vengeance against people who do not support them, it has become clear to me that in general they are all forms of love for oneself and the world and that the evils that give rise to individual forms can all be traced back to these two loves. I have also been told from heaven, and it has been witnessed to me by an abundance of experience, that these two loves, love for oneself and love of the world, do rule in the hells and actually constitute the hells, and that love for the Lord and love for one’s neighbor rule in the heavens and actually constitute the heavens. I have also learned that the two loves that are hell’s loves and the two loves that are heaven’s loves are absolute opposites.

At first I wondered why love for oneself and love of the world are so diabolic, why people who are absorbed in them look so frightful. After all, in the world we scarcely give love for ourselves a second thought. We focus only on that outward inflation of spirit called pride, which we believe is the only self-love because it is so visible. Not only that, if love for oneself does not express itself in pride, then we in the world think it is the vital fire that rouses us to work for high position and to do constructive things. We believe that if we saw no prospect of esteem and glory in these efforts, our spirits would become sluggish. People ask, “Who would do anything decent or useful or remarkable except to be praised and respected by others, [openly] or in their thoughts; and where does this come from except from the fire of a love for glory and esteem—that is, for the sake of self?” This is why people in the world do not realize that in its own right love for oneself is the love that rules in hell and that makes hell within us.

Since this is in fact the case, I should like first to describe what love for oneself is, and then explain that everything evil and false wells up from this love.

from Heaven and Hell, Sections 554-555