What or where is the Spiritual World? Is the Spiritual World somewhere
we reach when we die or are we, perhaps, already a part of the Spiritual
In Emanuel Swedenborg’s most popular book,
Heaven and Hell, he
describes the entirety of the Spiritual World from the highest Heaven to
the lowest Hell. And he simply says - “there is a spiritual world and a
natural world within each of us” – “we are in the spiritual world as
well as in the natural world”. This article is based on what Swedenborg
describes in ‘Heaven and Hell’.
In essence Swedenborg is telling us that we are
living in two worlds
at the same time – a natural world of which we are very much aware and a
deeper inner spiritual world of which we normally have very little
awareness. Whilst we can to some extent get in touch with our inner
spiritual selves it is only when we die and leave behind the natural
world that we truly awake to the reality of the spiritual world
previously hidden within us.
But what is the structure of the Spiritual World – how is it
organised? Well essentially it is divided into three parts – the World
of Spirits, Heaven and Hell.
World of Spirits – an intermediate State
The world of spirits is neither heaven nor hell but a place or state
between the two. It is the region or state of the spiritual world that
lies alongside our natural or physical universe; we are living in it, as
to our spirits, while we are alive in the natural world. And because of
this it is the region of the spiritual world in which we awaken from
death. One of the amazing functions of the world of spirits is to enable
the presence, with every individual in this world, of both good and bad
spirits. The good spirits provide an inflow of good feelings and
thoughts to counteract the inflow of bad feelings and thoughts from bad
spirits. As a result we are kept in a balance between the two and have
the freedom to tune in and respond to either heavenly or hellish
influences. When we awaken from death in the World of Spirits our true
character emerges and we freely enter Heaven or Hell as the result of
choices for good or bad made during our life in the world.
In this world we tend to be one of two types of people. We are either
led by our ‘hearts’ - feelings and affections, or we are led by our
‘heads’ - thoughts and perceptions; and this shows, for example, in the
way in which we make decisions in life. And the same is true of the
spiritual world and Heaven in particular so there is a general division
between the ‘heart kingdom’ and the ‘head kingdom’ of Heaven.
Heaven is also divided into three levels – lowest, intermediate and
highest. Sometimes we tend to think about what is more perfect as being
higher but at other times we think about perfection as being a more
inner state. So the levels of Heaven can also be thought of as three
circles – outer, inner and inmost as this diagram shows.
The lowest level or outer circle is the natural heaven. This is a
heavenly region or state in which people find themselves if they do good
for others, either because they feel the need to obey teachings like the
Golden Rule or because they think and believe doing good for others is
the right thing to do.
The intermediate level or inner circle is the spiritual heaven. This
is a heavenly region or state in which people find themselves if their
focus is on loving others because their thoughts and perceptions lead
them to live that way.
The highest level or inmost circle is the celestial heaven. This is a
heavenly region or state in which people find themselves if their focus
is on loving God because their feelings and affections lead them to live
There is also a general division between the ‘heart kingdom’ and the
‘head kingdom’ of Hell with the difference that, whereas good feelings
and true thoughts lead a person in heaven, bad feelings and false
thoughts lead a person in hell. Hell can therefore be thought of as the
complete opposite of heaven – a mirror inversion.
Because of this there are also three levels in Hell – highest,
intermediate and lowest.
The highest level is the inversion of the lowest or natural level of
heaven and is the natural hell. This is a hellish region or state in
which people find themselves if they fail to do good for others, either
because they don’t feel the need to obey teachings like the Golden Rule
or because they don’t think or believe that doing good for others is
The intermediate level is the inversion of the intermediate or
spiritual level of heaven and is the satanical hell. This is a hellish
region or state in which people find themselves if their focus is on
loving the things of the world above all else because their thoughts and
perceptions lead them to live that way.
The lowest level is the inversion of the highest level of heaven and
is the diabolical hell. This is a hellish region or state in which
people find themselves if their focus is on loving themselves above all
else because their feelings and affections lead them to live that way.
To conclude this summary description of the spiritual world here are
two important quotations from Emanuel Swedenborg:
It is not so hard to lead a heaven-bound life as people think it is.
Heaven and Hell 528
God does not throw
anyone into hell. We throw ourselves in, not only while we are living in
this world but after death as well, when we arrive among spirits.
Heaven and Hell 548
And here is the complete picture of the Spiritual World.
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