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Chapter 55

It is Not So Difficult To Live the Life That Leads To Heaven As is Believed.

There are some who believe that to live the life that leads to heaven, which is called the spiritual life, is difficult, because they have been told that man must renounce the world, must divest himself of the lusts called the lusts of the body and the flesh, and must live spiritually; and they understand this to mean that they must discard worldly things, which consist chiefly in riches and honors; that they must walk continually in pious meditation on God, salvation, and eternal life; and must spend their life in prayers and in reading the Word and pious books. Such is their idea of renouncing the world, and living in the spirit and not in the flesh. But that this is not at all true it has been given me to know by much experience and from conversation with the angels. I have learned, in fact, that those who renounce the world and live in the spirit in this manner acquire a sorrowful life that is not receptive of heavenly joy, since every one's life continues the same after death. On the contrary, to receive the life of heaven a man must needs live in the world and engage in its business and employments, and by means of a moral and civil life there receive the spiritual life. In no other way can the spiritual life be formed in man, or his spirit prepared for heaven; for to live an internal life and not at the same time an external life is like dwelling in a house that has no foundation, that gradually sinks or becomes cracked and rent asunder, or totters till it falls.

529. When the life of man is scanned and explored by rational insight it is found to be threefold, namely, spiritual, moral, and civil, with these three lives distinct from each other. For there are men who live a civil life and not as yet a moral and spiritual life; and there are men who live a moral life and not as yet a spiritual life; and there are those who live a civil life, a moral life, and a spiritual life at the same time. These live the life of heaven; but the former live the life of the world separated from the life of heaven. This shows, in the first place, that the spiritual life is not a life separated from natural life or the life of the world, but is joined with it as the soul is joined with its body, and if it were separated it would be, as was said, like living in a house that has no foundation. For moral and civil life is the active plane of the spiritual life, since to will well is the province of the spiritual life, and to act well of the moral and civil life, and if the latter is separated from the former the spiritual life consists solely of thought and speech, and the will, left with no support, recedes; and yet the will is the very spiritual part of man.

530. That it is not so difficult as some believe to live the life that leads to heaven will now be shown. Who cannot live a civil and moral life? For every one from his childhood is initiated into that life, and learns what it is by living in the world. Moreover, every one, whether evil or good, lives that life; for who does not wish to be called honest, and who does not wish to be called just? Almost every one practices honesty and justice outwardly, so far as to seem to be honest and just at heart, or to seem to act from real honesty and justice. The spiritual man ought to live in like manner, and can do so as easily as the natural man can, with this difference only, that the spiritual man believes in the Divine, and acts honestly and justly, not solely because to so act is in accord with civil and moral laws, but also because it is in accord with Divine laws. As the spiritual man, in whatever he is doing, thinks about Divine things, he has communication with the angels of heaven; and so far as this takes place he is conjoined with them; and thereby his internal man, which regarded in itself is the spiritual man, is opened. When man comes into this state he is adopted and led by the Lord, although himself unconscious of it, and then whatever be does that is honest and just pertaining to moral and civil life, is done from a spiritual motive; and doing what is honest and just from a spiritual motive is doing it from honesty and justice itself, or doing it from the heart. [2] His justice and honesty appear outwardly precisely the same as the justice and honesty of natural men and even of evil and infernal men; but in inward form they are wholly unlike. For evil men act justly and honestly solely for the sake of themselves and the world; and therefore if they had no fear of laws and penalties, or the loss of reputation, of honor, of gain, and of life, they would act in every respect dishonestly and unjustly, since they neither fear God nor any Divine law, and therefore are not restrained by any internal bond; consequently they would use every opportunity to defraud, plunder, and spoil others, and this from delight. That inwardly they are such can be clearly seen from those of the same character in the other life, while every one's externals are taken away, and his internals in which he at last lives to eternity are opened (see above, n. 499-511). As such then act without external restraints, which are, as just said, fear of the law, of the loss of reputation, of honor, of gain, and of life, they act insanely, and laugh at honesty and justice. [3] But those who have acted honestly and justly from regard to Divine laws, when their externals are taken away and they are left to their internals, act wisely, because they are conjoined to the angels of heaven, from whom wisdom is communicated to them. From all this it can now be seen, in the first place, that when the internal man, that is, the will and thought, are conjoined to the Divine, the civil and moral life of the spiritual man may be wholly like the civil and moral life of the natural man (see above, n. 358-360).

531. Furthermore, the laws of spiritual life, the laws of civil life, and the laws of moral life are set forth in the ten commandments of the Decalogue; in the first three the laws of spiritual life, in the four that follow the laws of civil life, and in the last three the laws of moral life. Outwardly the merely natural man lives in accordance with the same commandments in the same way as the spiritual man does, for in like manner be worships the Divine, goes to church, listens to preachings, and assumes a devout countenance, refrains from committing murder; adultery, and theft, from bearing false witness, and from defrauding his companions of their goods. But all this he does merely for the sake of himself and the world, to keep up appearances; while inwardly such a person is the direct opposite of what he appears outwardly, since in heart he denies the Divine, in worship acts the hypocrite, and when left to himself and his own thoughts laughs at the holy things of the church, believing that they merely serve as a restraint for the simple multitude. [2] Consequently he is wholly disjoined from heaven, and not being a spiritual man he is neither a moral man nor a civil man. For although he refrains from committing murder he hates every one who opposes him, and from his hatred burns with revenge, and would therefore commit murder if he were not restrained by civil laws and external bonds, which he fears; and as he longs to do so it follows that he is continually committing murder. Although he does not commit adultery, yet as he believes it to be allowable he is all the while an adulterer, since he commits adultery to the extent that he has the ability and as often as he has opportunity. Although he does not steal, yet as he covets the goods of others and does not regard fraud and wicked devices as opposed to what is lawful, in intent he is continually acting the thief. The same is true of the commandments relating to moral life, which forbid false witness and coveting the goods of others. Such is every man who denies the Divine, and who has no conscience derived from religion. That he is such is clearly evident from those of like character in the other life when their externals have been removed and they are let into their internals. As they are then separated from heaven they act in unity with hell, and in consequence are affiliated with those who are in hell. [3] It is not so with those who in heart have acknowledged the Divine, and in the actions of their lives have had respect to Divine laws, and have lived as fully in accord with the first three commandments of the Decalogue as they have in accordance with the others. When the externals of such are removed and they are let into their internals they are wiser than they were in the world; for entering into their internals is like entering from darkness into light, from ignorance into wisdom, and from a sorrowful life into a happy life, because they are in the Divine, thus in heaven. This has been said to make known what the one kind of man is and what the other is, although they have both lived the same external life.

532. Every one may know that thoughts are led or tend in accord with the intentions, that is, in the directions that one intends; for thought is man's internal sight, and resembles the external sight in this, that to whatever point it is directed or aimed, thither it turns and there it rests. Therefore when the internal sight or the thought is turned towards the world and rests there, the thought in consequence becomes worldly; when it turns to self and self-honor it becomes corporeal; but when it is turned heavenwards it becomes heavenly. So, too, when turned heavenwards it is elevated; but when turned selfward it is drawn down from heaven and immersed in what is corporeal; and when turned towards the world it is also turned downwards from heaven, and is spent upon those objects that are presented to the natural sight. [2] Man's love is what constitutes his intention and determines his internal sight or thought to its objects; thus the love of self fixes it upon self and its objects, the love of the world upon worldly objects, and the love of heaven upon heavenly objects; and when the love is known the state of the interiors which constitute the mind can be known, that is, the interiors of one who loves heaven are raised towards heaven and are opened above; while the interiors of one who loves the world or who loves himself are closed above and are opened outwardly. From this the conclusion follows that when the higher regions of the mind are closed above, man can no longer see the objects pertaining to heaven and the church, but those objects are in thick darkness to him; and what is in thick darkness is either denied or not understood. And this is why those that love themselves and the world above all things since the higher regions of their minds are closed, in heart deny Divine truths; and if from their memory they say anything about them they nevertheless do not understand them. Moreover, they regard them in the same way as they regard worldly and corporeal things. And being such they are able to direct the mind to those things only that enter through the senses of the body, and in these alone do they find delight. Among these are also many things that are filthy, obscene, profane and wicked; and these cannot be removed, because into the minds of such no influx from heaven is possible, since their minds, as just now said, are closed above. [3] Man's intention, by which his internal sight or thought is determined, is his will; for what a man wills he intends, and what he intends he thinks. Therefore when his intention is heavenward his thought is determined heavenward, and with it his whole mind, which is thus in heaven; and from heaven he beholds the things of the world beneath him like one looking down from the roof of a house. So the man that has the interiors of his mind open can see the evils and falsities that are in him, for these are beneath the spiritual mind. On the other hand, the man whose interiors are not open is unable to see his evils and falsities, because he is not above them but in them. From all this one may conclude whence man has wisdom and whence insanity, also what a man will be after death when he is left to will and think and to act and speak in accordance with his interiors. All this also has been said in order to make clear what constitutes a man's interior character, however he may seem outwardly to resemble others.

533. That it is not so difficult to live the life of heaven as some believe can now be seen from this, that when any thing presents itself to a man that he knows to be dishonest and unjust, but to which his mind is borne, it is simply necessary for him to think that it ought not to be done because it is opposed to the Divine precepts. If a man accustoms himself so to think, and from so doing establishes a habit of so thinking, he is gradually conjoined to heaven; and so far as he is conjoined to heaven the higher regions of his mind are opened; and so far as these are opened he sees whatever is dishonest and unjust, and so far as he sees these evils they can be dispersed, for no evil can be dispersed until it is seen. Into this state man is able to enter because of his freedom, for is not any one able from his freedom to so think? And when man has made a beginning the Lord quickens all that is good in him, and causes him not only to see evils to be evils, but also to refrain from willing them, and finally to turn away from them. This is meant by the Lord's words,

My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. xi. 30). But it must be understood that the difficulty of so thinking and of resisting evils increases so far as man from his will does evils, for in the same measure he becomes accustomed to them until he no longer sees them, and at length loves them and from the delight of his love excuses them, and confirms them by every kind of fallacy, and declares them to he allowable and good. This is the fate of those who in early youth plunge into evils without restraint, and also reject Divine things from the heart.

534. The way that leads to heaven, and the way that leads to hell were once represented to me. There was a broad way tending towards the left or the north, and many spirits were seen going in it; but at a distance a large stone was seen where the broad way came to an end. From that stone two ways branched off, one to the left and one in the opposite direction to the right. The way that went to the left was narrow or straitened, leading through the west to the south, and thus into the light of heaven; the way that went to the right was broad and spacious, leading obliquely downwards towards hell. All at first seemed to be going the same way until they came to the large stone at the head of the two ways. When they reached that point they divided; the good turned to the left and entered the straitened way that led to heaven; while the evil, not seeing the stone at the fork of the ways fell upon it and were hurt; and when they rose up they ran on in the broad way to the right which went towards hell. [2] What all this meant was afterwards explained to me. The first way that was broad, wherein many both good and evil went together and talked with each other as friends, because there was no visible difference between them, represented those who externally live alike honestly and justly, and between whom seemingly there is no difference. The stone at the head of the two ways or at the corner, upon which the evil fell and from which they ran into the way leading to hell, represented the Divine truth, which is rejected by those who look towards hell; and in the highest sense this stone signified the Lord's Divine Human. But those who acknowledged the Divine truth and also the Divine of the Lord went by the way that led to heaven. By this again it was shown that in externals the evil lead the same kind of life as the good, or go the same way, that is, one as readily as the other; and yet those who from the heart acknowledge the Divine, especially those within the church who acknowledge the Divine of the Lord, are led to heaven; while those who do not are led to hell. [3] The thoughts of man that proceed from his intention or will are represented in the other life by ways; and ways are visibly presented there in exact accord with those thoughts of intention; and in accord with his thoughts that proceed from intention every one walks. For this reason the character of spirits and their thoughts are known from their ways. This also makes clear what is meant by the Lord's words:-

Enter ye in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby; for straitened is the way and narrow the gate that leadeth to life, and few be they who find it (Matt. vii. 13, 14).
The way that leads to life is straitened not because it is difficult but because there are few who find it, as is said here. The stone seen at the corner where the broad and common way ended, and from which two ways were seen to lead in opposite directions, illustrated what is signified by these words of the Lord:-
Have ye not read what is written? The stone which the builders rejected was made the head of the corner. Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken (Luke. xx 17, 18).
"Stone" signifies Divine truth, and "the stone of Israel" the Lord in respect to His Divine Human; the "builders" mean those who are of the church; "the head of the corner" is where the two ways are; "to fall" and " to be broken" is to deny and perish [55.1].

535. I have been permitted to talk with some in the other life who had withdrawn from worldly affairs that they might live in a pious and holy manner, also with some who had afflicted themselves in various ways, believing that they were thereby renouncing the world and subduing the lusts of the flesh. But as most of these have thus acquired a sorrowful life and had withdrawn from the life of charity, which life can be lived only in the midst of the world, they are incapable of being affiliated with angels, because the life of angels is a life of joy resulting from a state of blessedness, and consists in performing good deeds, which are works of charity. Moreover, those who have lived a life withdrawn from worldly employments are inflamed with the idea of their own merit, and are continually desiring heaven on that account, and thinking of heavenly joy as a reward, utterly ignorant of what heavenly joy is. When such are admitted into the company of angels and into their joy, which discards merit and consists in active labors and practical services, and in a blessedness resulting from the good thereby accomplished, they are astonished like one who has found out something quite foreign to his belief; and since they Are not receptive of that joy they go away and ally themselves with spirits of their own kind that have lived in the world a life like their own. [2] But those who have lived an outwardly holy life, constantly attending church and praying and afflicting their souls, and at the same time have thought constantly of themselves that they would be esteemed and honored for all this above others, and finally after death would be accounted saints -such in the other life are not in heaven because they have done all this for the sake of themselves. And as they have defiled Divine truths by the self- love in which they have immersed them, some of them are so insane as to think themselves gods; and are consequently in hell among those like themselves. Some are cunning and deceitful, and are in the hells of the deceitful. These are such as by means of cunning arts and devices have maintained such pious conduct as induced the common people to believe that they possessed a Divine sanctity. [3] Of this character are many of the Roman Catholic saints. I have been permitted to talk with some of them, and their life was then plainly disclosed, such as it had been in the world and as it was afterwards. All this has been said to make known that the life that leads to heaven is not a life withdrawn from the world, but a life in the world; and that a life of piety separated from a life of charity, which is possible only in the world, does not lead to heaven; but a life of charity does; and a life of charity consists in acting honestly and justly in every employment, in every business, and in every work, from an interior, that is, from a heavenly, motive; and this motive is in that life whenever man acts honestly and justly because doing so is in accord with the Divine laws. Such a life is not difficult. But a life of piety separate from a life of charity is difficult; and as much as such a life is believed to lead towards heaven so much it leads away from heaven [55.2].

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Footnotes to Chapter 55

[55.1] "Stone" signifies truth (n. 114, 643, 1298, 3720, 6426, 8609, 10376).

For this reason the law was inscribed on tables of stone (n. 10376).
"The stone of Israel" means the Lord in respect to the Divine truth and His Divine Human (n. 6426).

[55.2] A life of piety separated from a life of charity is of no avail, but united with charity it is profitable for all things (n. 8252, 8253).

Charity to the neighbor consists in doing what is good, just, and right in every work and in every employment (n.8120-8122).
Charity to the neighbor takes in all things and each thing that a man thinks, wills, and does (n. 8124).
A life of charity is a life in accordance with the Lord's commandments (n. 3249).
Living in accordance with the Lord's commandments is loving the Lord (n. 10143, 10153, 10310, 10578, 10645).
Genuine charity claims no merit, because it is from interior affection and consequent delight (n. 2371, 2380, 2400, 3816, 3887, 6388-6393).
Man continues to be after death such as was his life of charity in the world (n. 8256).
Heavenly blessedness flows in from the Lord into a life of charity (n. 2363). Mere thinking admits no one into heaven; it must be accompanied by willing and doing good (n. 2401, 3459).
Unless doing good is joined with willing good and thinking good there is no salvation nor any conjunction of the internal man with the external (n. 3987).


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