Heaven and Hell/48

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Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg
Chapter XLVIII, After Death Man is Possessed of Every Sense, and of all the Memory, Thought, and Affection, that He Had in the World, leaving Nothing Behind except his Earthly Body

XLVIII
After Death Man is Possessed of Every Sense, and of all the Memory, Thought, and Affection, that He Had in the World, leaving Nothing Behind except his Earthly Body[edit]

461. It has been proved to me by manifold experience that when man passes from the natural world into the spiritual, as he does when he dies, he carries with him all his possessions, that is, everything that belongs to him as a man, except his earthly body. For when man enters the spiritual world or the life after death, he is in a body as he was in the world, with no apparent difference, since he neither sees nor feels any difference. But his body is then spiritual, and thus separated or purified from all that is earthly; and when what is spiritual touches or sees what is spiritual, it is just the same as when what is natural touches or sees what is natural. So when a man has become a spirit he does not know otherwise than that he is in the same body that he had in the world and thus does not know that he has died.

[2] Moreover, a man's spirit enjoys every sense, both outer and inner, that he enjoyed in the world; he sees as before, he hears and speaks as before, smells and tastes, and when touched, he feels the touch as before; he also longs, desires, craves, thinks, reflects, is stirred, loves, wills, as before; and one who takes delight in studies, reads and writes as before. In a word, when a man passes from one life into the other, or from one world into the other, it is like passing from one place into another, carrying with him all things that he had possessed in himself as a man; so that by death, which is only the death of the earthly body, man cannot be said to have lost anything really his own.

[3] Furthermore, he carries with him his natural memory, retaining everything that he has heard, seen, read, learned, or thought, in the world from earliest infancy even to the end of life; although the natural objects that are contained in the memory, since they cannot be reproduced in the spiritual world, are quiescent, just as they are when one is not thinking of them. Nevertheless, they are reproduced when the Lord so wills. But more will be said presently about this memory and its state after death. A sensual man finds it impossible to believe that such is the state of man after death, because he cannot comprehend it; for a sensual man must needs think naturally even about spiritual things; therefore, any thing that does not appeal to his senses, that is, that he does not see with his bodily eyes and touch with his hands (as is said of Thomas, John 20:25, 27, 29) he denies the existence of. (What the sensual man is may be seen above, n. 267 and notes.)


462. [a.] And yet there is a great difference between man's life in the spiritual world and his life in the natural world, in regard both to his outer senses and their affections and his inner senses and their affections. Those that are in heaven have more exquisite senses, that is, a keener sight and hearing, and also think more wisely than when they were in the world; for they see in the light of heaven, which surpasses by many degrees the light of the world (see above, n. 126); and they hear by means of a spiritual atmosphere, which likewise surpasses by many degrees the earthly atmosphere (n. 235). This difference in respect to the outward senses is like the difference between clear sunshine and dark cloudiness in the world, or between noonday light and evening shade. For the light of heaven, since it is Divine truth, enables the eyes of angels to perceive and distinguish most minute things.

[2] Moreover, their outer sight corresponds to their inner sight or understanding; for with angels one sight so flows into the other as to act as one with it; and this gives them their great keenness of vision. In like manner, their hearing corresponds to their perception, which pertains both to the understanding and to the will, and in consequence they perceive in the tone and words of one speaking the most minute things of his affection and thought; in the tone what pertains to his affection, and in the words what pertains to his thought (see above, n. 234-245). But the rest of the senses with the angels are less exquisite than the senses of seeing and hearing, for the reason that seeing and hearing serve their intelligence and wisdom, and the rest do not; and if the other senses were equally exquisite they would detract from the light and joy of their wisdom, and would let in the delight of pleasures pertaining to various appetites and to the body; and so far as these prevail they obscure and weaken the understanding. This takes place in the world, where men become gross and stupid in regard to spiritual truths so far as they indulge the sense of taste and yield to the allurements of the sense of touch.

[3] From what has already been said and shown in the chapter on the wisdom of the angels of heaven (n. 265-275), it can be seen that the inner senses also of the angels of heaven, which pertain to their thought and affection, are more exquisite and perfect than the senses they had in the world. But as regards the state of those that are in hell as compared with the state of those in the world there is also a great difference, for as great as is the perfection and excellence of the outer and inner senses of the angels in heaven, with those who are in hell the imperfection is equally great. But the state of these will be treated of hereafter.


462. [b.] That when a man leaves the world he takes with him all his memory has been shown to me in many ways, and many of the things I have seen and heard are worthy of mention, some of which I will relate in order. There were some who denied their crimes and villainies which they had perpetrated in the world; and in consequence, that they might not be believed innocent, all their deeds were disclosed and reviewed from their memory in order, from their earliest to their latest years; these were chiefly adulteries and whoredoms.

[2] There were some who had deceived others by wicked arts and had committed thefts. The deceits and thefts of these were also enumerated in detail, many of which were known to scarcely any in the world except themselves. These deeds they confessed, because they were plainly set forth, with every thought, intention, pleasure, and fear which occupied their minds at the time.

[3] There were others who had accepted bribes, and had rendered venal judgments, who were similarly explored from their memory and from it everything they had done from the beginning to the end of their office was reviewed. Every detail in regard to what and how much they had received, as well as the time, and their state of mind and intention, were brought to their recollection and made visibly clear to the number of many hundreds. This was done with several and what is wonderful, in some cases their memorandum-books, in which they had recorded these things, were opened and read before them page by page.

[4] Others who had enticed maidens to shame or had violated chastity were called to a like judgment; and the details of their crimes were drawn forth from their memory and reviewed. The very faces of the maidens and women were also exhibited as if present, with the places, words and intentions, and this as suddenly as when a scene is presented to the sight, the exhibitions continuing sometimes for hours.

[5] There was one who had made light of slandering others; and I heard his slanders recounted in order, and his defamations, with the very words, and the persons about whom and before whom they were uttered; all of which were produced and presented to the very life, although while he lived in the world he had most carefully concealed everything.

[6] There was one who had deprived a relative of his inheritance under a fraudulent pretext; and he was in like manner convicted and judged; and what is wonderful, the letters and papers that passed between them were read in my hearing, and it was said that not a word was lacking.

[7] The same person shortly before his death had also secretly poisoned his neighbor. This was disclosed in this way. He appeared to be digging a trench under his feet, from which a man came forth as out of a grave, and cried out to him, "What have you done to me?" Then everything was revealed, how the poisoner had talked with him in a friendly manner, and had held out the cup, also what he thought beforehand, and what happened afterwards. When all this had been disclosed he was sentenced to hell.

[8] In a word, to each evil spirit all his evils, villainies, robberies, artifices, and deceits are made clear, and are brought forth from his very memory, and his guilt is fully established; nor is there any possible room for denial, because all the circumstances are exhibited together. Moreover, I have learned from a man's memory, when it was seen and inspected by angels, what his thoughts had been for a month, one day after another, and this without mistake, the thoughts being recalled just as they arose from day to day.

[9] From these examples it can be seen that man carries with him all of his memory, and that nothing can be so concealed in the world as not to be disclosed after death, which is done in the presence of many, according to the Lord's words:

There is nothing concealed that shall not be uncovered, and nothing secret that shall not be known; therefore what ye have spoken in the dark shall be heard in the light and what ye have spoken in the ear shall be proclaimed on the housetops (Luke 12:2, 3).

463. In disclosing his acts to a man after death, the angels to whom the office of searching is assigned look into his face, and their search extends through the whole body, beginning with the fingers of each hand, and thus proceeding through the whole. As I wondered at this the reason was given, namely, that as all things of the thought and will are inscribed on the brain, for their beginnings are there, so are they likewise inscribed on the whole body, since all things of thought and will extend from their beginnings into all things of the body and there terminate as in their outmosts; and this is why the things that are inscribed on the memory from the will and consequent thought are inscribed not only on the brain, but also upon the whole man, and there exist in order in accordance with the order of the parts of the body. It was thus made clear that man as a whole is such as he is in his will and its thought, even to the extent that an evil man is his own evil, and a good man his own good.[1] This shows what is meant by the book of man's life spoken of in the Word, namely, that all things that he has done and all things that he has thought are inscribed on the whole man, and when they are called forth from the memory they appear as if read in a book, and when the spirit is viewed in the light of heaven, they appear as in an image. To all this I would add something remarkable in regard to the continuance of the memory after death, by which I was assured that not only things in general but also the minutest particulars that have entered the memory remain and are never obliterated. I saw books there containing writings as in the world, and was told that they were from the memory of those who wrote, and that there was not a single word lacking in them that was in a book written by the same person in the world; and thus all the minutest particulars might be drawn from one's memory, even those that he had forgotten in the world. And the reason was given, namely, that man has an external and an internal memory, an external memory belonging to his natural man, and an internal memory belonging to his spiritual man; and that every least thing that a man has thought, willed, spoken, done or even heard and seen, is inscribed on his internal or spiritual memory;[2] and that what is there is never erased, since it is also inscribed on the spirit itself and on the members of its body, as has been said above; and that the spirit is thus formed in accordance with the thoughts and acts of its will. I know that this sounds like a paradox, and is therefore difficult to believe; but still it is true. Let no one believe, then, that there is any thing that a man has ever thought in himself or done in secret that can be concealed after death; but let him believe that all things and each single thing are then laid open as clear as day.


464. Although the external or natural memory remains in man after death, the merely natural things in it are not reproduced in the other life, but only the spiritual things adjoined to the natural by correspondences; but when these are present to the sight they appear in exactly the same form as they had in the natural world; for all things seen in the heavens have just the same appearance as in the world, although in their essence they are not natural but spiritual (as may be seen in the chapter on Representatives and Appearances in Heaven, n. 170-176).

[2] But the external or natural memory in respect to the things in it that are derived from the material, and from time and space, and from other properties of nature, is not serviceable to the spirit in the way that it was serviceable to it in the world, for whenever man thinks in the world from his external sensual, and not at the same time from his internal or intellectual sensual, he thinks naturally and not spiritually; but in the other life when he is a spirit in the spiritual world he does not think naturally but spiritually, and to think spiritually is to think intellectually or rationally. For this reason the external or natural memory in respect to its material contents is then quiescent, and only those things that man has imbibed in the world by means of material things, and has made rational, come into use. The external memory becomes quiescent in respect to material things because these cannot then be brought forth, since spirits and angels speak from those affections and thoughts that are proper to their minds; and are therefore unable to give expression to any thing that is not in accord with their affections and thoughts as can be seen in what is said about the speech of angels in heaven and their speech with man (n. 234-257).

[3] Because of this man after death is rational, not in the degree that he was skilled in languages and sciences in the world, but in the degree in which he became rational by means of these. I have talked with many who were believed in the world to be learned because they were acquainted with ancient languages, such as the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, but had not cultivated their rational faculty by what is written in those languages. Some of them were seen to be just as simple as those who knew nothing of those languages, and some even stupid, and yet they retained the conceit of being wiser than others.

[4] I have talked with some who had believed in the world that man is wise in the measure of the contents of his memory, and who had stored up many things in their memory, speaking almost solely from the memory, and therefore not from themselves but from others, and their rationality had not been at all perfected by means of the things in their memory. Some of these were stupid and some sottish, not in the least comprehending whether a truth is true or not, and seizing upon all falsities that are passed off for truths by those who called themselves learned; for from themselves they are unable to see any thing, whether it be true or not, and consequently are unable to see any thing rationally when listening to others.

[5] I have also talked with some who had written much in the world on scientific subjects of every kind, and had thereby acquired a worldwide reputation for learning. Some of these, indeed, had the ability to reason about truths, whether they are true or not; and some, when they had turned to those who were in the light of truth, had some comprehension that truths are true, but still had no wish to comprehend them, and therefore when they were in their own falsities, and thus in themselves, denied them. Some had no more wisdom than the unlearned common people. Thus each differed from the other according as he had cultivated his rational faculty by means of the knowledges he had written about or collated. But those who were opposed to the truths of the church, and who thought from mere knowledges and confirmed themselves thereby in falsities, did not cultivate their rational faculty, but cultivated only an ability to reason, which in the world is believed to be rationality. But this ability is wholly different from rationality; it is an ability to prove any thing it pleases, and from preconceived principles and from fallacies to see falsities and not truths. Such persons can never be brought to acknowledge truths, since truths cannot be seen from falsities; but falsities may be seen from truths.

[6] The rational faculty of man is like a garden or shrubbery, or like fresh ground; the memory is the soil, truths known and knowledges are the seeds, the light and heat of heaven cause them to grow; without light and heat there is no germination; so is it with the mind when the light of heaven, which is Divine truth, and the heat of heaven, which is Divine love, are not admitted; rationality is solely from these. It is a great grief to the angels that learned men for the most part ascribe all things to nature, and have thereby so closed up the interiors of their minds as to be unable to see any thing of truth from the light of truth, which is the light of heaven. In consequence of this such in the other life are deprived of their ability to reason that they may not disseminate falsities among the simple good and lead them astray; and are sent away into desert places.


465. A certain spirit was indignant because he was unable to remember many things that he knew in the life of the body, grieving over the lost pleasure which he had so much enjoyed, but he was told that he had lost nothing at all, that he still knew each and everything that he had known, although in the world where he now was no one was permitted to call forth such things from the memory, and that he ought to be satisfied that he could now think and speak much better and more perfectly than before, and that his rational was not now immersed as before in gross, obscure, material and corporeal things, which are of no use in the kingdom into which he had now come; also that he now possessed everything conducive to the uses of eternal life, and that this is the only way of becoming blessed and happy; and therefore it is the part of ignorance to believe that in this kingdom intelligence perishes with the removal or quiescence of the material things in the memory; for the real fact is that so far as the mind can be withdrawn from things of sense pertaining to the external man or the body, so far it is elevated to things spiritual and heavenly.


466. What these two memories are is sometimes presented to view in the other life in forms not elsewhere seen; for many things which in man take the form of ideas are there presented as objects of sight. The external memory there presents the appearance of a callus, the internal the appearance of a medullary substance like that in the human brain; and from this what they are can be known. With those that have devoted themselves in the life of the body to the cultivation of the memory alone, and have not cultivated their rational faculty, the callosity appears hard and streaked within as with tendons. With those that have filled the memory with falsities it appears hairy and rough, because of the confused mass of things in it. With those that have cultivated the memory with the love of self and the world as an end it appears glued together and ossified. With those that have wished to penetrate into Divine arcana by means of learning, especially of a philosophical kind, with an unwillingness to believe until convinced by such proofs, the memory appears like a dark substance, of such a nature as to absorb the rays of light and turn them into darkness. With those that have practiced deceit and hypocrisy it appears hard and bony like ebony, which reflects the rays of light. But with those that have been in the good of love and the truths of faith there is no such callous appearance, because their inner memory transmits the rays of light into the outer; and in its objects or ideas as in their basis or their ground, the rays terminate and find delightful receptacles; for the outer memory is the out most of order in which, when goods and truths are there, the spiritual and heavenly things are gently terminated and find their seat.


467. Men living in the world who are in love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor have with them and in them angelic intelligence and wisdom, but it is then stored up in the inmosts of the inner memory; and they are not at all conscious of it until they put off corporeal things. Then the natural memory is laid asleep and they awake into their inner memory, and then gradually into angelic memory itself.


468. How the rational faculty may be cultivated shall also be told in a few words. The genuine rational faculty consists of truths and not of falsities; whatever consists of falsities is not rational. There are three kinds of truths, civil, moral, and spiritual. Civil truths relate to matters of judgment and of government in kingdoms, and in general to what is just and equitable in them. Moral truths pertain to the matters of everyone's life which have regard to companionships and social relations, in general to what is honest and right, and in particular to virtues of every kind. But spiritual truths relate to matters of heaven and of the church, and in general to the good of love and the truth of faith.

[2] In every man there are three degrees of life (see above, n. 267). The rational faculty is opened to the first degree by civil truths, to the second degree by moral truths, and to the third degree by spiritual truths. But it must be understood that the rational faculty that consists of these truths is not formed and opened by man's knowing them, but by his living according to them; and living according to them means loving them from spiritual affection; and to love truths from spiritual affection is to love what is just and equitable because it is just and equitable, what is honest and right because it is honest and right, and what is good and true because it is good and true; while living according to them and loving them from the bodily affection is loving them for the sake of self and for the sake of one's reputation, honor or gain. Consequently, so far as man loves these truths from a bodily affection he fails to become rational, for he loves, not them, but himself; and the truths are made to serve him as servants serve their Lord; and when truths become servants they do not enter the man and open any degree of life in him, not even the first, but merely rest in the memory as knowledges under a material form, and there conjoin themselves with the love of self, which is a bodily love.

[3] All this shows how man becomes rational, namely, that he becomes rational to the third degree by a spiritual love of the good and truth which pertain to heaven and the church; he becomes rational to the second degree by a love of what is honest and right; and to the first degree by a love of what is just and equitable. These two latter loves also become spiritual from a spiritual love of good and truth, because that love flows into them and conjoins itself to them and forms in them as it were its own semblance.


469. Spirits and angels, equally with men, have a memory, whatever they hear, see, think, will and do, remaining with them, and thereby their rational faculty is continually cultivated even to eternity. Thus spirits and angels, equally with men, are perfected in intelligence and wisdom by means of knowledges of truth and good. That spirits and angels have a memory I have been permitted to learn by much experience, having seen everything that they have thought and done, both in public and in private, called forth from their memories when they were with other spirits; and I have seen those that were in some truth from simple good imbued with knowledges, and thereby with intelligence, and afterwards raised up into heaven. But it must be understood that such are not imbued with knowledges and thereby with intelligence beyond the degree of affection for good and for truth that they have attained to while in the world; for such and so much of affection as any spirit or angel had in the world remains with him; and this affection is afterwards perfected by being filled out, which goes on to eternity. For everything is capable of being filled out to eternity, since everything is capable of infinite variation, thus of enrichment by various things, and consequently of multiplication and fructification. To any thing good there is no limit because it is from the Infinite. That spirits and angels are being perfected unceasingly in intelligence and wisdom by means of knowledges of truth and good may be seen above, in the chapters on the wisdom of the angels of heaven (n. 265-275); on the heathen or people outside the church in heaven (n. 318-328); and on little children in heaven (n. 329-345); and that this is done to that degree of affection for good and for truth in which they had been in the world, and not beyond it, may be seen in n. 349.


  1. A good man, spirit, or angel, is his own good and his own truth, that is, he is wholly such as his good and truth are (n. 10298, 10367). This is because good is what makes the will and truth the understanding; and the will and understanding make everything of life in man, spirit, or angel (n. 3332, 3623, 6065). It is the same thing to say that a man, spirit, or angel is his own love (n. 6872, 10177, 10284).
  2. Man has two memories an outer and an inner, or a natural and a spiritual memory (n. 2469-2494). Man does not know that he has an inner memory (n. 2470, 2471). How far the inner memory surpasses the outer (n. 2473). The things contained in the outer memory are in the light of the world, but the things contained in the inner are in the light of heaven (n. 5212). It is from the inner memory that man is able to think and speak intellectually and rationally (n. 9394). All things and each thing that a man has thought, spoken, and done, and that he has seen and heard, are inscribed on the inner memory (n. 2474, 7398). That memory is the book of his life (n. 2474, 9386, 9841, 10505). In the inner memory are the truths that have been made truths of faith, and the goods that have been made goods of love (n. 5212, 8067). Those things that have become matters of habit and have come to be things of the life, and have thus disappeared from the outer memory, are in the inner memory (n. 9394, 9723, 9841). Spirits and angels speak from the inner memory and consequently have a universal language (n. 2472, 2476, 2490, 2493). The languages of the world belong to the outer memory (n. 2472, 2476).