In these days of social inclusion and non-discrimination, the idea of ‘judgement’ is such a suspect word. It means different things to different people and some of those interpretations can be scary.
According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, the notion of judgement in a next life is the process of sorting out a final and most suitable spiritual home for each individual. It isn’t a tick box system of getting enough points for heaven or sufficient black marks for hell.
For Swedenborg the spiritual world is all about love – love for good in heaven and love for what is selfish and bad in hell. Within each are myriads of different desires and communities of spirit people with similar wishes finding their most happy states in each other’s company. In that sense each person will eventually be in the place they can be happiest – and for some that is a situation where selfishness and greed are the order of the day as the motivations of hell are focused on gratifying ‘me’ and in such a state of mind they are as close to contented and happy as they can be.
I would say God doesn’t condemn to hell in the sense of forcing the unwilling to go there – the sphere of unselfish love in heaven is repulsive to those who don’t share that love and the sphere of hell repels those who are good. In this way the distance between is not physical but spiritual – the closeness and distance between people is entirely down to the love that shapes their life. Neither does God lift those to heaven who think they should go there for some reason – the harmony of heaven is from the love that rules it and some inflated ego with aspirations of being an angel simply doesn’t fit.
Swedenborg reports that what he calls the ‘World of Spirits’ is not only a place for getting used to the idea of the cares of the heart being on display; it is also a time for choices and changes. Each of us has a mixture of qualities, we are not yet fit for our eternal home and there are aspects of our life which we have to revisit and face up to. There are things I’ve said and done which I deeply regret and have done all I can to apologise for and promise not to do again. There are also things I’ve done and said I’m not proud of in that I wouldn’t boast about them – but actually I rather like and find satisfying– a proper guilty pleasure if you like.
I don’t mean chocolate! It is the thinking and feeling level so it’s more about the very naughty enjoyment of hearing about someone I don’t like coming a cropper and this is much close to the mark. You know how it is – you say ‘gosh how dreadful for them’ but inside you think something along the lines of ‘and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather it have happened to’.
Now, being asked to revisit that moment, that train of thought will be uncomfortable as it is something that gave a sort of pleasure – but I recognise it as a bad pleasure and not the sort of thing I wish to fill my life with. Yet, in the case of this situation I can’t be as nice as I know I should be either. Keeping that with me isn’t going to be heavenly, and it isn’t something I want to keep hold of and love either.
Somewhere in the judgement process I need to choose what I really want, to ask my Lord to move the bits that don’t fit with heaven to one side and to lead me a little bit more towards what is angelic. Things are never lost completely – the little nasty bits are as much a part of me as the bits I think are nice but I believe God can move them to the side so they aren’t noticeable any more.
And similarly if my life is full of ‘nasties’ and the more I look at them the more I like them, then God will have to move the ‘good’ bits to the side to enable me to be as happy as I can be in my warped view of things and to enter the hells.
Swedenborg experienced the heavens as populated by men and women who have entered heaven and are known as angels. He says several things about them. They are busy and productive in a world where things are always good, where the individual talents and skills all find a use. There are always new arrivals to welcome, things to learn and teach, the children to care for. The abilities of everyone will find ways of working and enjoying being able to serve others. We know how boring it is to have nothing to do and how time flies when we are occupied doing things we love. Heaven is a place where the things we love are what we do – all within a community of like minded people who also love what they do.
Is being able to have our perfect home in heaven what Christ meant in the words of John chapter 14?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms, many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you.”
Copyright 2014 Christine Bank