Out of this world

 from Brian Kingslake, "Out of This World! Lay-bys on the Road to Heaven (James: Evesham Worc.,  England, 1978)

Table of  Contents


Note on Angels and Devils

Many people, new to Swedenborg, find difficulty in reading him because of his unusual terminology. His concepts were so novel that he had to coin new words to express them, or use old ones in a new sense. Take Angels and Devils, for example.

Swedenborg's whole system pre-supposes that man is immortal, that everyone who has ever lived on earth continues to live after death in the spiritual world. The vast majority of human beings are "over there," the present inhabitants of this natural world being only a small proportion of mankind taken as a whole. But what are these others to be called, to distinguish them from us? There is no satisfactory name for them. "Disembodied souls? " They are not disembodied, or they couldn't exist! True, they have discarded their physical bodies, but they now have similar bodies made of spiritual substance. Simply call them "Souls?"  But this is not sufficiently definitive, as we have souls while in this world. "The Saints?" The word saints is already used in a technical sense for outstanding individuals, such as Saint Francis, Saint Teresa. What we need is a general term for the whole of mankind on the other side. Swedenborg uses "Spirits," or, more precisely, "Angels and Devils."

So, when you come across these terms in the Swedenborgian context, please remove from your mind all pre-conceptions of sexless beings with wings and halos (quite unscriptural anyhow!); or, on the other hand, ugly demons with horns and tails. By Angels, we mean graduates from the earth-school, who are now living happy and busy lives in Heaven. Evil Spirits (Devils and Satans) are also ordinary people in the spiritual world: the dropouts, the rebels, those immersed in self-love; and where they live is Hell. Swedenborg was privileged to visit and describe both heaven and hell - "from things heard and seen." One day we shall all be able to experience these things for ourselves; and whether we become angels or devils will depend on our own free choice.

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