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Observations placeholder

Swedenborg, Emanuel - Heaven and Hell – The Process of dying and resurrection



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


''When the body is no longer able to perform its functions in the natural world, corresponding to the thoughts and affections of its spirit which it has from the spiritual world, then man is said to die. This takes place when the respiratory motions of the lungs and the systolic motions of the heart cease; but still man does not die, but is only separated from the corporeal part which was of use to him in the world: for man himself lives. It is said man himself lives, because man is not man from the body, but from the spirit, since the spirit thinks in man, and thought with affection makes man. Hence, it is evident that man when he dies, only passes from one world into another. Hence it is that death, in the word in its internal sense, signifies resurrection and continuation of life.

The inmost communication of the spirit is with the respiration and the motion of the heart; its thought with the respiration, and the affection, which is of love, with the heart; wherefore, when these two motions cease in the body, there is immediately a separation.

Those two motions, namely, the respiratory motion of the lungs, and the systolic motion of the heart, are the very bonds, which being broken the spirit is left to itself, and the body being thus left without the life of its spirit, grows cold and putrefies. That the inmost communication of the spirit of man is with the respiration and with the heart, is because all the vital motions thence depend, not only in general, but also in every part.

The spirit of man after the separation remains a little while in the body, but not longer than till the total cessation of the heart's action, which takes place with variety, according to the state of the disease of which man dies; for the motion of the heart with some continues a long while, and with some not long.

As soon as this motion ceases, the man is resuscitated, but this is done by the Lord alone. By resuscitation is meant the drawing forth of the spirit of man from the body, and its introduction into the spiritual world, which is commonly called resurrection.

The reason why the spirit of man is not separated from the body before the motion of the heart has ceased, is, because the heart corresponds to affection, which is of love, which is the very life of man, for from love everyone has vital heat; wherefore, as long as this conjunction continues, so long there is correspondence, and thence the life of the spirit in the body.

How resuscitation is effected has not only been told me, but also shown by living experience.

The experiment itself was made with me, in order that I might fully know how it was done. I was brought into a state of insensibility as to the bodily senses, thus almost into the state of the dying; yet the interior life, with thought remaining entire, so that I perceived and retained in memory the things which occurred, and which occur to those who are resuscitated from the dead.

I perceived that the respiration of the body was almost taken away; the interior respiration, which is of the spirit, remaining, conjoined with a slight and tacit respiration of the body. Then there was first given communication as to the pulse of the heart with the celestial kingdom, since that kingdom corresponds to the heart with man.

Angels thence were also seen, some at a distance, and two near the head, at which they were seated. Thence all proper affection was taken, but still there remained thought and perception. I was in this state for some hours. The spirits then who were around me removed themselves, supposing that I was dead.

There was also perceived an aromatic odour as of an embalmed corpse, for when the celestial angels are present, then what is cadaverous is perceived as aromatic; and spirits perceive this; they cannot approach. Thus also evil spirits are kept away from the spirit of man, when he is first introduced into eternal life.

The angels who were seated at the head 'were silent, only communicating their thoughts with mine; and when these are received, the angels know that the spirit of man is in such a state that it can be drawn forth from the body. The communication of their thoughts was made by looking into my face, for thus communication of the thoughts is made in heaven. Because thought and perception remained with me, in order that I might know and remember how resuscitation is effected, I perceived that those angels first enquired what my thought was, whether it was like the thought of those who die, which is usually about eternal life; and that they wished to keep my mind in that thought.

It was afterwards said that the spirit of man is held in its last thought when the body expires, until it returns to the thoughts which are from its general or ruling affection in this world. Especially it was given to perceive, and also to feel, that there was a drawing, and, as it were, a pulling out of the interiors of my mind, thus of my spirit, from the body; and it was said that this was from the Lord, and that hence is resurrection.

When the celestial angels are with a resuscitated person, they do not leave him, because they love everyone; but when the spirit is such that he can no longer be in company with the celestial angels, he desires to depart from them; and when this is the case, angels come from the Lord's spiritual kingdom, by whom is given to him the use of light; for before he saw nothing, he only thought.

It was also shown how this is done: those angels seem, as it were, to roll off the coat of the left eye towards the septum of the nose, that the eye might be opened and be enabled to see. The spirit does not perceive otherwise than that it is so done, but it is an appearance.

When the coat seems to have been rolled off, there appears something lucid but obscure, as when a man, on first awakening, looks through the eye-lashes. This obscure lucidity appeared to me of a heavenly colour, but afterwards it was said that this takes place with variety. Afterwards something is felt to be rolled off softly from the face, and when this is done, spiritual thought is induced. That rolling off from the face is likewise an appearance, for by it is represented that he comes from natural thought into spiritual thought.

The angels are extremely cautious lest any idea should come from the resuscitated person but what savours of love. They then tell him that he is a spirit.

The source of the experience

Swedenborg, Emanuel

Concepts, symbols and science items





Science Items

Activities and commonsteps