World of Spirits

THE WORLD OF SPIRITS >> Stomach >> Valleys


The world of spirits is not heaven, nor is it hell, but it is the intermediate place or state between the two; for it is the place that man first enters after death; and from which after a suitable time he is either raised up into heaven or cast down into hell in accord with his life in the world. [HH421]

The world of spirits is an intermediate place between heaven and hell and also an intermediate state of the man after death. It has been shown to me not only that it is an intermediate place, having the hells below it and the heavens above it, but also that it is in an intermediate state, since so long as man is in it he is not yet either in heaven or in hell. The state of heaven in man is the conjunction of good and truth in him; and the state of hell is the conjunction of evil and falsity in him. Whenever good in a man-spirit is conjoined to truth he comes into heaven, because that conjunction, as just said, is heaven in him; but whenever evil in a man-spirit is conjoined with falsity he comes into hell, because that conjunction is hell in him. That conjunction is effected in the world of spirits, man then being in an intermediate state. It is the same thing whether you say the conjunction of the understanding and the will, or the conjunction of good and truth.[HH422]

Let something first be said about the conjunction of the understanding and the will, and its being the same thing as the conjunction of good and truth, that being the conjunction that is effected in the world of spirits. Man has an understanding and a will. The understanding receives truths and is formed out of them, and the will receives goods and is formed out of them; therefore whatever a man understands and thinks from his understanding he calls true, and whatever a man wills and thinks from his will he calls good. From his understanding man can think and thus perceive both what is true and what is good; and yet he thinks what is true and good from the will only when he wills it and does it. When he wills it and from willing does it, it is both in his understanding and in his will, consequently in the man. For neither the understanding alone nor the will alone makes the man, but the understanding and will together; therefore whatever is in both is in the man, and is appropriated to him. That which is in the understanding alone is in man, and yet not really in him; it is only a thing of his memory, or a matter of knowledge in his memory about which he can think when in company with others and outside of himself, but not in himself; that is, about which he can speak and reason, and can simulate affections and gestures that are in accord with it. [HH423]

This ability to think from the understanding and not at the same time from the will is provided that man may be capable of being reformed; for reformation is effected by means of truths, and truths pertain to the understanding, as just said. For in respect to his will man is born into every evil, and therefore of himself wills good to no one but himself; and one who wills good to himself alone delights in the misfortunes that befall another, especially when they tend to his own advantage; for his wish is to divert to himself the goods of all others, whether honors or riches, and so far as he succeeds in this he inwardly rejoices. To the end that this will of man may be corrected and reformed, an ability to understand truths, and an ability to subdue by means of truths the affections of evil that spring from the will, are given to man. This is why man has this ability to think truths with his understanding, and to speak them and do them. But until man is such that he wills truths and does them from himself, that is, from the heart, he is not able to think truths from his will. When he becomes such, whatever he thinks from his understanding belongs to his faith, and whatever he thinks from his will belongs to his love; and in consequence his faith and his love, like his understanding and his will, are conjoined in him. [HH424]

To the extent, therefore, that the truths of the understanding and the goods of the will are conjoined, that is, to the extent that a man wills truths and does them from his will, he has heaven in himself, since the conjunction of good and truth, as just said, is heaven. And on the other hand, just to the extent that the falsities of the understanding and the evils of the will are conjoined man has hell in himself, since the conjunction of falsity and evil is hell. But so long as the truths of the understanding and the goods of the will are not conjoined man is in an intermediate state. At the present time nearly everyone is in such a state that he has some knowledge of truths, and from his knowledge and understanding gives some thought to them, and conforms to them either much or little or not at all, or acts contrary to them from a love of evil and consequent false belief. In order, therefore, that man may have in him either heaven or hell, he is first brought after death into the world of spirits, and there with those who are to be raised up into heaven good and truth are conjoined, and with those who are to be cast down into hell evil and falsity are conjoined. For neither in heaven nor in hell is any one permitted to have a divided mind, that is, to understand one thing and to will another; but everyone must understand what he wills, and will what he understands. Therefore in heaven he who wills good understands truth, while in hell he who wills evil understands falsity. So in the intermediate state the falsities that the good have are put away, and truths that agree and harmonize with their good are given them; while the truths that the evil have are put away, and falsities that agree and harmonize with their evil are given them. This shows what the world of spirits is. [HH425]

In the world of spirits there are vast numbers, because the first meeting of all is there, and all are there explored and prepared. The time of their stay in that world is not fixed; some merely enter it, and are soon either taken into heaven or are cast down into hell; some remain only a few weeks, some several years, but not more than thirty. These differences in the time they remain depend on the correspondence or lack of correspondence of man’s interiors with his exteriors. How man is led in that world from one state into another and prepared shall now be told. [HH426]

As soon as men after death enter the world of spirits the Lord clearly discriminates between them; and the evil are at once attached to the infernal society in which they were, as to their ruling love while in the world; and the good are at once attached to the heavenly society in which they were as to their love, charity and faith while in the world. But although they are thus divided, all that have been friends and acquaintances in the life of the body, especially wives and husbands, and also brothers and sisters, meet and converse together whenever they so desire. I have seen a father talking with six sons, whom he recognized, and have seen many others with their relatives and friends; but having from their life in the world diverse dispositions, after a short time they separate. But those who have passed from the world of spirits into heaven or into hell, unless they have a like disposition from a like love, no longer see or know each other. The reason that they see each other in the world of spirits, but not in heaven or in hell, is that those who are in the world of spirits are brought into one state after another, like those they experienced in the life of the body; but afterwards all are brought into a permanent state in accord with their ruling love, and in that state one recognizes another only by similarity of love; for then similarity joins and dissimilarity disjoins (see above, n. 41-50). [HH427]

As the world of spirits is an intermediate state between heaven and hell with man, so it is an intermediate place with the hells below and the heavens above. All the hells are shut towards that world, being open only through holes and clefts like those in rocks and through wide openings that are so guarded that no one can come out except by permission, which is granted in cases of urgent necessity (of which hereafter). Heaven, too, is enclosed on all sides; and there is no passage open to any heavenly society except by a narrow way, the entrance to which is also guarded. These outlets and entrances are what are called in the Word the gates and doors of hell and of heaven. [HH428]

The world of spirits appears like a valley between mountains and rocks, with windings and elevations here and there. The gates and doors of the heavenly societies are visible to those only who are prepared for heaven; others cannot find them. There is one entrance from the world of spirits to each heavenly society, opening through a single path which branches out in its ascent into several. The gates and doors of the hells also are visible only to those who are about to enter, to whom they are then opened. When these are opened gloomy and seemingly sooty caverns are seen tending obliquely downwards to the abyss, where again there are many doors. Through these caverns nauseous and fetid stenches exhale, which good spirits flee from because they abominate them, but evil spirits seek for them because they delight in them. For as everyone in the world has been delighted with his own evil, so after death he is delighted with the stench to which his evil corresponds. In this respect the evil may be likened to rapacious birds and beasts, like ravens, wolves, and swine, which fly or run to carrion or dunghills when they scent their stench. I heard a certain spirit crying out loudly as if from inward torture when struck by a breath flowing forth from heaven; but he became tranquil and glad as soon as a breath flowing forth from hell reached him. [HH429]

With every man there are two gates; one that leads to hell and that is open to evils and their falsities; while the other leads to heaven and is open to goods and their truths. Those that are in evil and its falsity have the gate to hell opened in them, and only through chinks from above does something of light from heaven flow into them, and by that inflowing they are able to think, to reason, and to speak; but the gate to heaven is opened in those that are in good and its truth. For there are two ways that lead to the rational mind of man; a higher or internal way through which good and truth from the Lord enter, and a lower or external way through which evil and falsity enter from hell. The rational mind itself is at the middle point to which the ways tend. Consequently, so far as light from heaven is admitted man is rational; but so far as it is not admitted he is not rational, however rational he may seem to himself to be. This has been said to make known the nature of the correspondence of man with heaven and with hell. While man’s rational mind is being formed it corresponds to the world of spirits, what is above it corresponding to heaven and what is below to hell. With those preparing for heaven the regions above the rational mind are opened, but those below are closed to the influx of evil and falsity; while with those preparing for hell the parts below it are opened, and the parts above it are closed to the influx of good and truth. Thus the latter can look only to what is below themselves, that is, to hell; while the former can look only to what is above themselves, that is, to heaven. To look above themselves is to look to the Lord, because He is the common center to which all things of heaven look; while to look below themselves is to look backwards from the Lord to the opposite center, to which all things of hell look and tend (see above, n. 123, 124). [HH430]

In the preceding pages whenever spirits are mentioned those that are in the world of spirits are meant; but when angels are mentioned those that are in heaven are meant. [HH431]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)