One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Swedenborg's "Heaven and Hell"

Heaven and Hell is the common English title of a book written by Emanuel Swedenborg in Latin, published in 1758. The full title is Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen, or, in Latin: De Caelo et Ejus Mirabilibus et de inferno, ex Auditis et Visis.


This book is a detailed description of the afterlife, how people live after the death of the physical body. The book owes its appeal to that subject matter. Whatever is uncertain in this world, one thing is certain - we all shall die, and there are few who have not, at some time, meditated on this inevitable change.[1]

Some topics are discussed below. For a full listing of the book’s coverage see its Table of Contents[2] An article about Swedenborg[3] includes a list of biographies about him, with a brief analysis of each biographer's point of view.[4] Some of the things he claims to have experienced are that there are Jews, Muslims and people of pre-Christian times ("pagans" such as Romans and Greeks) in Heaven. He says he spoke to married angel couples from the Golden Age who had been happy in heaven for thousands of years.[5] The fundamental issue of life, he says, is that love of self or of the world drives one towards Hell, and love of God and of fellow beings drives one towards Heaven.

The work proved to be influential. It has been translated into a number of languages, including Danish, French, English, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Icelandic, Swedish and Zulu. A variety of important cultural figures, both writers and artists, were influenced by Swedenborg, including Johnny Appleseed, William Blake, Jorge Luis Borges, Daniel Burnham, Arthur Conan Doyle,[6] Ralph Waldo Emerson,[7] John Flaxman, George Inness, Henry James, Sr., Carl Jung,[8] Immanuel Kant, Honoré de Balzac, Helen Keller, Czesław Miłosz, August Strindberg, D. T. Suzuki, and W. B. Yeats. Edgar Allan Poe mentions this book in his work The Fall of the House of Usher.[9] It also plays an important role in Honoré de Balzac's novel Louis Lambert.[10] William Blake referred to and criticized Heaven and Hell and Swedenborg by name several times in his poetical/theological essay The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Swedenborg wrote about Heaven and Hell based on what he said was revelation from God.[11] According to Swedenborg, God is love itself.[12] and intends everyone to go to heaven. That was His purpose for creation.[13] Thus, God is never angry, Swedenborg says, and does not cast anyone into Hell. The appearance of Him being angry at evil-doers was permitted due to the primitive level of understanding of people in Biblical times. Specifically, holy fear was needed to keep the people of those times from sinking irretrievably into the consequences of their evils. The holy fear idea was in keeping with the fundamental truth that even they could understand, that everything comes from Jehovah.[14] In the internal, spiritual sense of the Word, however, revealed in Swedenborg’s works, God can be clearly seen for the loving Person He actually is.[15]

[From Wikipedia:]
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