The 2nd State of Life After Death
A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper
Toronto, Nov. 27, 2011
Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. (Luke16:26)
With these words the Lord taught his disciples and followers about the difference between heaven and hell. The Lord wanted people to know that there was a life after death where the good would be rewarded and the evil suffer. While the Old Testament is essentially silent on the subject of the life to come, the New Testament has many parables about heaven. The Lord told stories using situations familiar to the farmers and shepherds of that time. Simple, comforting ideas for simple times and people. In so doing, He prepared the way to reveal more truths about the spiritual world through the experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg.Today's sermon is the second in a series of three where we learn from Swedenborg’s personal testimony how spirits from the world find their way to their eternal home in heaven or hell, and how their true spiritual qualities are revealed and finally allowed to express themselves freely.
Last week we learned that the first state, or state of exteriors, is one of introduction and welcome. It is provided so that each person who enters the spiritual world will have a chance to get their bearings, and become accustomed to the fact of the death of their natural body and the reality of eternal life. They are kept in surroundings that are as familiar as possible, and encouraged to explore and learn all that they desire for as long as they need to. But eventually every spirit becomes ready to move on, he feels a desire to find his true spiritual home. When this happens, he is ready to enter into the second state, the state of his interiors.
Since their spiritual home will be a reflection of their inmost spiritual character, that character must first be revealed in such a way that the spirits themselves see and acknowledge their own ruling love. When the external trappings of intelligence and honour are laid aside, each spirit passes through their own individual "last judgment" where they are weighed in the balance, and the true nature of their heart and mind are for the first time revealed.
While we are in the natural world, each of us is, to some degree, a hypocrite. We have to be. In order to live in civil harmony we sometimes have to hide our true feelings and try to treat all people with courtesy if not kindness. This difference between what we may feel like doing and what we actually do when we remember that others will be watching and judging us, is an illustration of the false front that we create to hide our true feelings.
While we are in the world, it’s not all a bad thing. From birth, we are all inclined to evils of every kind, but we must not act on them. So, we learn to create an external shell of orderliness while we deal with all the different desires and ideas that roil around in our minds like a boiling pot of soup. Throughout our adult lives the rational mind gradually makes sense of all these thoughts and feelings as we make choices about the course of our life and how we treat other people. If we are making the effort to prepare for the life of heaven, the Lord works in partnership with us to bring order to the mind and in the process of time less and less needs to be hidden. The external shell and the internal character gradually become one.
On the other hand, if one is being led by the loves and self of the world, those loves are not removed but fester within like a disease. Over the course of time the external shell develops to effectively hide what lurks within from others. The shell and the internal character gradually become more and more different.
An angel’s freedom comes from the fact that the things that he wants to do are all good. He doesn’t need to hide any of his desires. A devil’s frustration comes from the fact that nothing that he really wants to do is permitted so in order to get along he had to hide everything. While in the world, we hover between these two conditions. And where we end up is decided on the sum total of our choices.
The 2nd state begins when spirits are let into the state of their interiors, or into the state of their interior will and the thought that comes from it. These interior thoughts are really nothing more than the kinds of things we think about when left to ourselves, that is, they are really our daydreams, our fantasies, our secret desires which we hide behind that external shell mentioned above, our inhibitions.
Now here’s the scary part. As we move into the 2nd state, the Lord gradually removes those inhibitions, the layers of that protective shell, so that spirits gradually stop caring what other people think about what they are doing and so begin to openly and proudly do exactly what they really want to do – thus revealing their true internal state, their ruling loves. After years of hiding these things there is a lot of habitual resistance at first. The spirits are still guarded about what they say and do because they fear ridicule and punishment. But, over time, all is revealed (See HH 502, 503).
Those people who, while in the world, actually make spiritual progress, who have come to love the Lord and act in a charitable way and now that they are in the spiritual world take delight because limitations of the body and the natural world have been removed and they begin to act rationally and wisely — even more wisely than in the world.
He who was evil in the world begins to act foolishly and insanely, and even more insanely than in the world, because he is free and under no longer cares at all what anyone thinks of him. For while he was in the world he made himself appear to be a rational man, but when the externals are removed, the insanities are revealed. (HH 505)
All people who have lived a good life in the world and have acted from conscience, who have acknowledged the Divine and loved Divine truths, and especially those who have applied those truths to life, seem to themselves, when let into the state of their interiors, like those aroused from sleep into full wakefulness.… Heaven flows into their thoughts and affections with an interior blessedness and delight which they had no knowledge of previously. They then acknowledge the Lord and worship Him from their very life.
When those who have not acknowledged the Lord come into the state of their interiors, they appear foolish; for from their evil lusts they burst forth into all sorts of abominations, into contempt of others, ridicule and blasphemy, hatred and revenge; they plot intrigues, some with a cunning and malice that can scarcely be believed to be possible in any man. All the wisdom that they seemed to have has been only in the exteriors of their mind, and while this allowed them to seem wise in the world, when the exteriors are left behind with the natural body, they also leave behind all their apparent wisdom and act from their inner insanity…. (HH 506)
Through this process, spirits become visibly just what they had been interiorly during their life in the world. Things that they had once done and said in secret or in their own imagination now become visibly obvious to all because external things no longer restrain them. They speak openly about whatever they think, and attempt to do whatever they wish, as they are no longer afraid of damaging their reputation. All inhibitions are lost, and angel guards are needed to restrain them from committing acts of actual violence against other spirits. They can no longer restrain themselves from doing exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it, without any regard to the consequences.
Everyone can judge for themselves how they would act if they were left free to do whatever they wanted with no fear of the law and no fear in regard to life, and with no outward restraints, such as fear of injury to one's reputation or of loss of honour and gain and consequent pleasures. This is how the Lord, in His infinite Wisdom, allows each of us to find our own home. From time to time it is useful, and sobering, to think of how we are going to react when our turn comes. Those things that we don't want to be revealed to all in the world of spirits must be shed and left in this world by the process of self examination, repentance, reformation, and regeneration.
It is very important to understand that no one is ever punished in the spiritual world for deeds done during life in the world. Death wipes the slate clean. Evils deeds done from a youthful lack of judgment and that have been seen and rejected by the adult will not come back to haunt them. Spirits are only punished on account of the evils done after they enter the world of spirits. Everyone after death returns to his own life and thus into like evils. Those who are evil at heart continue to express their hatreds and it is these things that are punished and restrained. Good spirits are never punished no matter what they may have done during their life in the world, because their evils do not return because they are not longer a part of their interior (or true) character.
By revealing genuine internals and shedding external appearances, a spirit is led home. Some evil spirits enter and leave hell several times until they are finally ready. By the end of the second state the good and the evil are separated from one another, for the evil at heart have fled from the presence of the angels, while the good at heart seek them out for guidance and instruction.
In summary, we can see that the first state, or the state of exteriors, is a time of familiarization, where people newly from the world can get used to the idea of their eternal life and become comfortable. The second state is where everyone's true spiritual nature is revealed. Layer by layer all the external habits and defences are peeled away until nothing remains but the spirit's ruling loves.
The evil spirit no longer cares what anyone thinks of him, and does exactly as he pleases, as if he were living in a dream. He rejoices as he finds his fantasy world becoming real. He is no longer anxious about the law. He no longer fears being found out. And in his freedom he strikes out at others. But when he is prevented from actually harming anyone, or stealing anything, he becomes enraged, insane, and eventually throws himself into hell to be with others of like loves. For the evil, the second state is the last. Once evil has taken over the heart and mind, there can be no further instruction or preparation.
However, the good rejoice in that they are no longer limited by worldly restraints. Their good intentions now instantly become acts of kindness. Money, busy schedules, household duties, and physical tiredness no longer stand in the way of doing the good and kind things they’ve always wanted to do. As they find themselves able to do more, they become more and more interested in understanding what is happening to them. The evils that do not agree with their ruling love drop away, sometimes with some effort and pain.
When loves that do not belong to the ruling love are removed, it is called a vastation, and it is a necessary preparation for entering heaven, for the angelic mind cannot contain what is evil or false, nor can the devil's mind contain what is good and true. The conflict between good and evil, the true and the false would destroy the mind and thus eternal life, so such a mixture and confusion in not permitted in either heaven or hell.
As the falsities of life in the world are taken away, new truths are given to take their place, and the heaven-bound spirit enters into the state of preparation, the state where he is led from the world of spirits to his eternal, spiritual home.
This spiritual journey, or state of instruction, will be the topic of the sermon next week. AMEN.
503. In this state the spirit thinks from his very will, thus from his very affection, or from his very love; and thought and will then make one, and one in such a manner that he seems scarcely to think but only to will. It is nearly the same when he speaks, yet with the difference that he speaks with a kind of fear that the thoughts of the will may go forth naked, since by his social life in the world this has come to be a part of his will. Amen. Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.