At some point, your body will die but the essence of who you are lives on. Death is merely a transition of the spirit between different states of being. When the body stops working, the soul is no longer anchored to the natural world. So where does it go? The soul, that is to say, our true nature beyond our physical form, awakens in the world of spirits and continues the journey that was begun on earth. After death, we find ourselves in a place which looks very similar to earth but is far more beautiful. We are still ourselves, we're reunited with those we love, and we complete our personal development, choosing a home in the location most appropriate within the spiritual world.
The Spiritual World
The spiritual world is made up of three places: heaven, hell, and a transitional place between the two called 'the world of spirits'. The New Church teaches that, besides being places, heaven and hell are essentially states of being. We construct our spiritual states according to the way we live. Leading a life of kindness and goodwill builds heaven in our hearts, whereas doing evil creates hell inside of us. The condition which predominates while we live on earth becomes the foundation for our eternal state.
The world of spirits is where the final choices are made concerning where we will live. In this decision, the key factor is what Swedenborg calls our 'ruling loves'. Our spiritual home is structured according to what we love most — it is also the place where we'll be happiest. If our ruling love is self-serving and hurtful, the most appropriate place for us is in hell. If it's a love which is selfless and good, our home will be located within an area of heaven.
Once in heaven, people become angels. Angels are not a superior race of beings, but rather humans who have developed into their highest selves. Much like a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the earthly state is a preparation for life as an angel in heaven. To become an angel, reject self-centered longings, do what is good, and love God.
When Swedenborg teaches about heaven, it is inseparable from teaching about a community which revolves around useful service. True happiness is not possible unless it is in accordance with being of use to others. In heaven, each angel has a specific function which aligns itself with the whole. Like the human body, heaven is a reflection of the divine form. Once in the spiritual world, we surround ourselves with individuals who share the same priorities. We form societies around a mutual love and thus find our perfect place in heaven. Each heavenly community fulfills a task which serves the whole, much like organs in the body.
"They who dwell in heaven are continually advancing to the springtime of life and to a spring more and more delightful and happy the more thousands of years they live; and this to eternity, with increase according to the progress and degrees of love, charity, and faith... In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young. Those who have lived in love to the Lord and in charity towards the neighbor become of such beautiful form in the other life." (Heaven and Hell 414)
Do you believe in life after death?
The New Church offers a beautiful vision of happiness after death. What's your vision?