spi1ritsWhoever duly considers the subject can see that as the body is material it is not the body that thinks, but the soul, which is spiritual. The soul of man, upon the immortality  of which many have written, is his spirit, for this as to everything belonging to it is immortal. This also is what thinks in the body, for it is spiritual, and what is spiritual receives what is spiritual and lives spiritually, which is to think and to will. Therefore, all rational life that appears in the body belongs to the soul, and nothing of it to the body; for the body, as just said, is material, and the material, which is the property of the body, is added to and apparently almost joined to the spirit, in order that the spirit of man may be able to live and perform uses in the natural world, all things of which are material and in themselves devoid of life. And as it is the spiritual only that lives and not the material, it can be seen that whatever lives in man is his spirit, and that the body merely serves it, just as what is instrumental serves a moving living force. An instrument is said indeed to act, to move, or to strike; but to believe that these are acts of the instrument, and not of him who acts, moves, or strikes by means of the instrument, is a fallacy. [HH 432] 

 As everything in the body that lives, and that acts and feels from that life, belongs exclusively to the spirit, and nothing of it to the body, it follows that the spirit is the man himself; or what is the same thing, that a man viewed in himself is a spirit possessing a like form; for whatever lives and feels in man belongs to his spirit and everything in man, from his head to the sole of his foot, lives and feels; and in consequence when the body is separated from its spirit, which is what is called dying, man continues to be a man and to live. I have heard from heaven that some who die, while they are lying upon the bier, before they are resuscitated, continue to think even in their cold body, and do not know that they are not still alive, except that they are unable to move a particle of matter belonging to the body.  [HH 433] 

Unless man were a subject which is a substance that can serve a source and containant he would be unable to think and will. Any thing that is supposed to exist apart from a substantial subject is nothing. This can be seen from the fact that a man is unable to see without an organ which is the subject of his sight, or to hear without an organ which is the subject of his hearing. Apart from these organs, sight and hearing are nothing and have no existence.  The same is true of thought, which is inner sight, and of perception, which is inner hearing; unless these were in substances and from substances which are organic forms and subjects, they would have no existence at all. All this shows that man’s spirit as well as his body is in a form, and that it is in a human form, and enjoys sensories and senses when separated from the body the same as when it was in it, and that all the life of the eye and all the life of the ear, in a word, all the life of sense that man has, belongs not to his body but to his spirit, which dwells in these organs and in their minutest particulars. This is why spirits see, hear, and feel, as well as men. But when the spirit has been loosed from the body, these senses are exercised in the spiritual world, not in the natural world. The natural sensation that the spirit had when it was in the body it had by means of the material part that was added to it; but it then had also spiritual sensations in its thinking and willing. [HH 434]

 All this has been said to convince the rational man that viewed in himself man is a spirit, and that the corporeal part that is added to the spirit to enable it to perform its functions in the natural and material world is not the man, but only an instrument of his spirit. But evidences from experience are preferable, because there are many that fail to comprehend rational deductions; and those that have established themselves in the opposite view turn such deductions into grounds of doubt by means of reasonings from the fallacies of the senses. Those that have established themselves in the opposite view are accustomed to think that beasts likewise have life and sensations and thus have a spiritual part, the same as man has, and yet that part dies with the body. But the spiritual of beasts is not the same as the spiritual of man is; for man has what beasts have not, an inmost, into which the Divine flows, raising man up to Itself, and thereby conjoining man to Itself. Because of this, man, in contrast with beasts, has the ability to think about God and about the Divine things of heaven and the church, and to love God from these and in these, and thus be conjoined to Him; and whatever can be conjoined to the Divine cannot be dissipated, but whatever cannot be conjoined is dissipated. The inmost that man has, in contrast with beasts, has been treated of above (n. 39), and what was there said will here be repeated, since it is important to have the fallacies dispelled that have been engendered in the minds of many who from lack of knowledge and trained intellect are unable to form rational conclusions on the subject. The words are these:  

I will mention a certain arcanum respecting the angels of the three heavens, which has not hitherto come into any one’s mind, because degrees have not been understood. In every angel and in every man there is an inmost or highest degree, or an inmost or highest something, into which the Divine of the Lord first or most directly flows, and from which it disposes the other interiors in him that succeed in accordance with the degrees of order. This inmost or highest degree may be called the entrance of the Lord to the angel or man, and His veriest dwelling-place in them. It is by virtue of this inmost or highest that a man is a man, and distinguished from the animals, which do not have it. From this it is that man, unlike the animals, is capable, in respect to all his interiors which pertain to his mind and disposition, of being raised up by the Lord to Himself, of believing in the Lord, of being moved by love to the Lord, and thereby beholding Him, and of receiving intelligence and wisdom, and speaking from reason. Also it is by virtue of this that he lives to eternity. But what is arranged and provided by the Lord in this inmost does not distinctly fall into the perception of any angel, because it is above his thought and transcends his wisdom.  [HH 435]

That in respect to his interiors man is a spirit I have been permitted to learn from much experience, which, to employ a common saying, would fill volumes if I were to describe it all. I have talked with spirits as a spirit, and I have talked with them as a man in the body; and when I talked with them as a spirit they knew no otherwise than that I myself was a spirit and in a human form as they were. Thus did my interiors appear before them, for when talking with them as a spirit my material body was not seen.  [HH 436]  

That in respect to his interiors man is a spirit can be seen from the fact that after his separation from the body, which takes place when he dies, man goes on living as a man just as before. That I might be convinced of this I have been permitted to talk with nearly everyone I had ever known in their life in the body; with some for hours, with some for weeks and months, and with some for years, and this chiefly that I might be sure of it and might testify to it.  [HH437]  

To this may be added that every man in respect to his spirit, even while he is living in the body, is in some society with spirits, although he does not know it; if a good man he is by means of spirits in some angelic society; if an evil man in some infernal society; and after death he comes into that same society. This has been often told and shown to those who after death have come among spirits. Man, to be sure, does not appear in that society as a spirit while he is living in the world, for the reason that he then thinks naturally; but when one is thinking abstractly from the body, because he is then in the spirit, he sometimes appears in his society; and when seen he is easily distinguished from the spirits there, for he goes about meditating and in silence, not looking at others, and apparently not seeing them; and as soon as any spirit speaks to him he vanishes.   [HH 438]


Every man is in communion, that is, in affiliation either with angels of heaven or with spirits of hell, because he is born to become spiritual, and this would be impossible unless he were born to be in some conjunction with those who are spiritual. It has been shown in the work on Heaven and Hell that as to his mind man is in both worlds, the natural and the spiritual. But neither man nor angel nor spirit knows of this conjunction, for the reason that man while he lives in the world is in a natural state, while angels and spirits are in a spiritual state; and because of the distinction between the natural and the spiritual, one is not visible to the other. The nature of this distinction has been described in the work on Conjugal Love in the Memorable Relation there recorded (n. 326-329). From that it is clear that their conjunction is not one of thoughts but of affections, and scarcely anyone reflects upon his affections, because they are not in the light in which the understanding is, and therefore its thought is; but only in the heat in which the will is and therefore the affection of its love is. The conjunction between men and angels and spirits by means of the affections of love is so close that if it were severed and they were thereby separated, men would instantly fall into a swoon, and if the relation were not restored, and their conjunction renewed, men would die.

[2] It has been said that man becomes spiritual by regeneration, but this does not mean that he becomes spiritual as an angel is in himself, but that he becomes spiritual natural, that is to say, that the spiritual is inwardly in his natural, just as thought is in speech, or as will is in action, for when one ceases the other ceases. In like manner man's spirit is in every least thing that takes place in the body, and it is that which impels the natural to do whatever it does. The natural viewed in itself is passive or is a dead force, but the spiritual is active or is a living force; the passive or a dead force cannot act from itself, but must be impelled by the active, or by a living force.

[3] As man lives continually in communion with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, he is also, when he leaves the natural world, introduced immediately among such as are like those with whom he had been associated in the world. Therefore it is that after death everyone seems to himself to be still living in the world, for he then comes into the company of those who are like him as to their will's affections, and whom he then acknowledges, as kinsmen and relations acknowledge their own in the world; and this is what is meant where it is said in the Word of those who die, that they are brought together and gathered to their own. From all this it can now be seen that a regenerate man is in communion with the angels of heaven, and an unregenerate man with the spirits of hell. [TCR 607]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG  (1688-1772)

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