Betty and Tom return from the dead!

Betty and Tom were invited on a popular daytime TV talk show to share their experiences of having been declared clinically dead in a hospital emergency room, then miraculously brought back. Betty was dead for 20 minutes but Tom had lost all his vital functions for a longer period.

The host of the television program wanted Betty and Tom to describe to the audience what it was like on the other side. The audience in the studio was totally captivated.

Host: “Betty, what was it like to die?”

Betty: “It was absolutely beautiful. I found myself going through a tunnel and being drawn in by a most wonderful source of light. I am not even sure I can adequately put the quality of that light into words.”

Host: “I don’t understand why you would find it difficult to describe this light. Please try.”

Betty: “I knew I was no longer in my physical body but I not only had retained all my senses, such as hearing and seeing, they had somehow manifested increased capacities.  The world beyond this one was similar to earth yet everything seemed to have a different essence.”

Host: “Can you describe this difference for my viewers?”

Betty: “The light that I saw was much brighter than that of the astronomical sun. It was heavenly. Its unique rays seemed to consist of pure intelligence itself and its warmth bathed me with the feeling of infinite love. This wonderful light seemed to come from the center of the universe—from God.

The audience in the studio let out a gasp.

Host: “So, when we die there’s nothing to fear—we can all expect wonderful things to happen?”

Betty: “Yes! I did not want the experience to end but I was told that I had more things to do back on earth. Suddenly, I was drawn back into my physical body and the emergency room. If I could have kept going into the light, I am sure that I would have continued to experience intensified love and happiness.”

The audience was delighted to hear this and the TV cameramen quickly zoomed in on all their faces that were obviously full of hope.

Host: “How about you Tom?  Did you have a similar experience?”

Tom: “Betty and I must have been declared dead at the same time. I actually saw her in the spiritual world when I was there. I also saw her disappear after a short while. For some reason I was allowed to continue to walk deeper into that divine light source.”

Host: “Did the feeling of love and happiness increase?”

Tom: “No, things got worse as I was drawn deeper into that light. Things became more painful for me.”

Host: “How can being bathed in pure intelligence and the warmth of love cause pain?”

Tom: “It wasn’t a physical pain. It was more like the remorse of conscience. As I moved deeper into this heavenly light, its rays penetrated into the very fabric of my being—somewhat like spiritual x-rays. Instead of revealing bones, it revealed all my negative character traits. It was painful to see myself as I really was compared to what this heavenly light expected of me. It was made clear to me that I could not advance further towards heaven’s beauty and happiness without making changes in my own heart and mind. I was then told to return to earth and work on making those changes. One cannot enjoy heavenly love beyond the love one cultivates in life. I was shown that there is no free lunch in this world or the next.”

The audience suddenly grew silent and contemplative. The several TV cameramen and TV director had no good angles to cut to during this moment of awkward silence.

Host: “I think we need to go to a commercial break.”

About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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18 Responses to Betty and Tom return from the dead!

  1. sks says:

    Wow. This is pretty interesting! We hear so much about the loving, heavenly light and the good feelings, but never really get this more introspective view expressed in your story by Tom. It probably gives us a more “complete” picture of how things really are. Very thought-provoking!

    Even when we think we’re living a pretty good life, your scenario here is kind of a wake-up call to me to think a little more deeply about what’s beyond that initial “afterlife/good-vibes and heavenly light” feeling we hear so much about. I’m going to have to give some serious thought to what all I may be harboring inside that I still am not quite ready to let go of. I may even have forgotten about things that harm me spiritually from long ago. Yikes. It rarely occurs to me that I could need to make “changes” to things that may be really deep-seated like that, especially in my long-ago past.

    My spiritual upbringing (protestant) really didn’t “require” this kind of introspection from me, and it’s undoubtedly something I should do more of. Thanks for the “parable,” GodGuy! It’s a nice gift to us all.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,


    Heaven is neither a retirement destination nor an entitlement program. It is a kingdom of mutual love. Love is a choice.

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Glenn Schoen says:

    And the production guys scurried to find a commercial for this unanticipated break…

    “The one for that new biography of Satchel Paige?” “The book with that famous quote of his on the front, ‘Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.’? Duh!”

    “That old Fram Oil Filter commercial?” “‘You can pay me now, or you can pay me later?’ Whadda ya, nuts or sumthin’? We need something upbeat!”

    “Awrighty then — the Beatles video-clip?” “‘Twist and shout?’ ‘Work it out?‘ Same genre! But it is upbeat, and they’ll never catch on… Okay, do it!”

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    After showing the Beatles video-clip “Work it out” they ran a commercial for eharmony.

    My friend, your clever humor proves Swedenborg’s point that jokes and laughter often contains an element of contempt mixed with truth.

    Most people see Heaven as Betty described it. But most Swedenborgians understand heaven as Tom described it – not very upbeat for those inclined to preserve their worldly self-image.

    Spiritually yours,

  5. Sue says:

    Hi, sks,
    I agree with you – that was an excellent explanation of how we have to look deeper into our lives than just assume that heaven and the afterlife will be perfect. And I think you are right about the Protestant churches – I’ve attended several – they are nice, but sort of ‘Catholicism without so many rules or saints’. They aren’t as into introspection as Swedenborg recommends.

  6. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Swedenborg actually observed that those of the Reformed Church went into a panic in the Spiritual World when angelic spirits informed them of the importance of introspection. Salvation by faith alone is an invitation to bypass responsibility.

    Spiritually yours,

  7. Glenn Schoen says:

    ‘Faith alone’ not infrequently is just that — alone (i.e., unaccompanied by any real change).

    But ES also pointed out that many faith-aloners actually practice real spiritual charity, and he said it’s what they do that counts, not so much the doctrine they adhere to — for it is what a person does that fashions their true doctrine.

  8. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Your response, while noble, is fractured. It does no good to simply talk about spiritual charity when Swedenborg states that introspection, self-examination and removal of sins that one discovers lurking within comes FIRST – or the good things a person does in life will not be from innocence.

    Once again I must apologize for being a Swedenborgian Purist. (Now you know how hard it is to talk about Swedenborgian ideas without leaving out innumerable things!)

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate your “Dr. Feelgood” strategy. That is what church ministers also do – not me!

    Jesus didn’t just come into the world to offer comfort. He startled and challenged everybody – including His disciples!

    Spiritually yours,

  9. Glenn Schoen says:

    The Protestants were getting dumped on. I spoke up on both their behalf — as well as your behalf.

    I spoke up on their behalf, in order that there be a balancing of views.

    And I spoke up on your behalf, so your readers would not leave with the impression that you’re down on Protestants.

    From your remarks, however, there seems little question that you are. The only real question, then, is whether you’re down on them as much as, more or less than you are on ministers.

    If my response is fractured, then so is the guy you wish others to embrace, i.e., Swedenborg:

    o Very different is the case with those who, although they have declared that faith alone saves, have still lived a life of charity; for in their faith there has been charity from the Lord. AC 1077.2

    o In the spiritual world, into which everyone comes after death, the question is not asked what your belief has been or your doctrine, but what your life has been. Was it such or such? For, as is known, such as one’s life is, such is one’s belief, yes, one’s doctrine. For life fashions a doctrine and a belief for itself. DP 101.3


    Disclosure: I’m neither now a Protestant nor a minister, and have never been either.

  10. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    I am spinning my wheels with you. You haven’t addressed my statement concerning self-examination – without which goodness and one’s doctrine of life remains spurious.

    I have dumped on everyone including the angels of the highest heaven! Only God is good!!! Angels are horrified by any thoughts concerning their own goodness. So what is your point?

    The process of self-examination is not a self-esteem booster! When I discover hurtful inclinations within my own heart, I am, in a sense, being dumped on! The process of regeneration is the destruction of the old self! So-o-o, what pleasantries am I failing to communicate?

    When Swedenborg was exploring the spiritual world he said that very few people were being regenerated. Should I then tell my readers that everything is “peaches and cream?”

    I am involved with a group of spiritual seekers who find that attending Sunday Church service is not enough. We gather together to explore the reasons why we are not making proper spiritual advances. We challenge our beliefs – not only of what reality is but the beliefs we maintain and cultivate about ourselves.

    Having been involved at the deepest levels of the Swedenborgian Church (I attended seminary) I can assure you that the “New Church” is NOT on the cutting edge of spiritual transformation. Sorry.

    Spiritually yours,

  11. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    If love is the ultimate science, and the ruling love is important — as you have recently made a point of emphasizing — what is the problem you have with acknowledging that faith-aloners can be in charity from the Lord?

    Sorry for the short response; off to have dinner with my wife.


  12. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    What is the problem YOU have with the idea that the first activity of appropriating true charity from the Lord is self-examination, repentance and the removal of sins? Good try – but I will not let you change the discussion.

    Spiritually yours,

  13. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    What is the problem YOU have with the idea that the first activity of appropriating true charity from the Lord is self-examination, repentance and the removal of sins?

    Tell me — do you still beat your wife?

    This question assumes that you have at one time done so, true. But it is also true that your question likewise assumes that I have the problem that you mention. And while I can only assume (and hope for your sake and her sake) that you have not ever beaten your wife, I do know with a reliable degree of certainty that I have not the problem that you mention, the reality of which, I submit, exists only in your imagination — untempered, it seems evident, by ‘proper thought’.

    I will not let you change the discussion.

    Good idea — let us not change the discussion.

    You said, ” Salvation by faith alone is an invitation to bypass responsibility.”

    This is true. And so I remarked that, “‘Faith alone’ not infrequently is just that — alone (i.e., unaccompanied by any real change).”

    Do you disagree with this? I hope not.

    All would have been fine — apparently — had I not added the additional remark that, “But ES also pointed out that many faith-aloners actually practice real spiritual charity, and he said it’s what they do that counts, not so much the doctrine they adhere to — for it is what a person does that fashions their true doctrine.”

    So, while salvation by faith alone is an invitation to bypass responsibility, according to the man you frequently refer to here on your blog — and whose ideas you seek to make better known through your book — not all faith-aloners succumb to that invitation.

    You say elsewhere that your readers are hungry for info, and suggest above that they will not be satisfied with “peaches and cream” — so why present yourself as one throwing a snit-fit when the truth is mentioned?

    Since you were “involved in the deepest levels of the Swedenborgian Church”, that is, since you “attended seminary”, and since you have attended to Swedenborg’s writings for more than three decades, it’s only natural to presume that you are aware that it is the Reformed, i.e., the faith-aloners, that make up the center of the new heaven formed by the last judgment of which Swedenborg wrote.

    Now, do you suppose that because some people have, and can, ‘faith-alone’ safely, that I’m inclined, likely or tempted to go over to ‘faith-alone’? I would not bet on this if I were you. There is about as much chance of this happening as there is of my becoming a polygamist based on the fact that there are polygamists in heaven (as Swedenborg also took the time and trouble to mention). Which is to say that there is no chance at all. And to paraphrase Milton, I’d rather be a self-examiner (and/or monogamist) in hell, than a faith-aloner (and/or polygamist) in heaven.

    Swedenborg put the matter simply: shunning evils as sins is the Christian religion itself.

    Some people wonder why “as sins” is included. Why not say the less complicated and more straightforward, “shunning evils is the Christian religion itself”? The reason is simple — evils can be shunned for a wide variety of purposes, not all of which have to do with “because they are sins”. For example, they may be shunned not because they are sins but so as to appear to be honest; to maintain one’s reputation; out of regard for merit, reward or gain; fear of the law or loss of employment; and so on. (Which is why motive, intention, and/or the ruling love underlying the shunning is of such vital importance, and makes the difference in whether one’s doing of an act is good or not, regardless of whether the act itself may be good or not.)

    Intended or not, the Betty and Tom story calls attention to the fact that heaven is freely available to all, that no one is kept out of heaven, and that what keeps people out of heaven is a self-recognition that they are not yet suited for it, i.e., they could not bear or endure it’s atmosphere free of non-quiescent impurities. While they are attracted by the peace and love emanating from it, if their house is not clean, and they get to close, they wind up, to put it bluntly, getting fried. So, when there’s a voice saying, “Go back, you are not yet ready, you have more work to do,” they are not being denied entrance to heaven but being protected against experiencing the excruciating pain and torment that would ensue were too much of the peace and love of heaven to make contact with the still as yet non-quiescent impurities.

    Which is why ES was so big on encouraging people to “clean house”.

    You worked in NYC, so you may remember just how true this is: when restaurant slop spills out onto the sidewalk through broken garbage bags, or into the street from the back of sanitation trucks, how bad it smells depends upon whether it’s winter or summer. If winter, it reeks to high heaven. If summer, you wish it were winter. What is the difference? Why should the offensiveness of restaurant slop varying according to season? The variableness lies in the interaction between heat and slop. The more it interacts with heat, the more offensive is the slop. No proper nose functioning normally would disagree with this.

    To put it in a provincial way, people with non-quiescent impurities began to smell themselves the closer they get to heaven’s heat — and since they don’t like the smell, they retreat.

    The good news is that all one need do is clean house. Or, as ES put it, “sweep the house”.

    Here is Dr. Feelgood (aka Swedenborg) laying the simple foundation (1) for all that is required of man, then explaining what that “all that is required” is (2),

    (1) Evils and their falsities are like black clouds which interpose between the sun and the eye, and take away the sunshine and the serenity of its light; although the unceasing endeavor of the sun to dissipate the opposing clouds continues, for it is operating behind them; and in the meantime transmits something of obscure light into the eye of man by various roundabout ways… From this comparison it can be seen that the Lord is unceasingly present with everyone, but that He is received variously.

    (2) Nothing else is required of man than to sweep the house; that is, to reject the cupidities of evil and the derivative persuasions of falsity; for he is then filled with goods, because good is continually flowing in from the Lord — but into “the house,” that is, into the man who is purified from such things as impede the influx, that is, which reflect, or pervert, or suffocate the inflowing good. Hence it was common with the ancients to speak of sweeping or cleaning the house, and of sweeping and preparing the way; and by sweeping the house was meant to purify one’s self from evils, and thereby to prepare one’s self for goods to enter; but by sweeping the way was meant to prepare one’s self so that truths might be received.

    Perhaps at this point you are wondering, “If he sees this and applies it in his life… heck, even if he just sees it… then what the heck was that fractured response of his all about?”

    Well, my “fractured” response was neither my response nor fractured. The response was Swedenborg’s. And he quite clearly addressed the fact and reality that though faith-alone is an invitation to shirk responsibility, not all faith-aloners shirk that responsibility. He must have thought it important that this be known — else why would he have taken the time and gone through the trouble of making sure his readers were aware of it?

    He points out that Christianity is not embraced by the majority of the earth’s population, and that the majority of so-called Christians themselves do not embrace the “Christian religion itself”.

    He also takes the seemingly peculiar stands that: a) all are, that is, each and every human being is, predestined to heaven; and that, b) everyone of whatever religion — “of whatever religion” of definitional necessity including those do not practice the “Christian religion itself” — may be saved (and, no — he does not say, suggest, hint or otherwise intimate that they may be saved only if or provided that they convert to the “Christian religion itself”).

    If love is the ultimate science, as you seek to show in your book, then ES’s stands on these two points must be true — else love is neither the ultimate science nor applies to all, but instead is a partial science applying only to a select few.


    o The withdrawal from evil is effected by the Lord in a thousand ways that are most secret. DP 296.10

    o There are thousands and thousands of arcana, of which scarcely a single one is known to man, whereby a man is led by the Lord out of the life of hell into the life of heaven. AC 9336.3

  14. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Thank you for your well thought response. Somehow we keep misinterpreting each other. Yes, everyone is predestined to heaven but Swedenborg makes it clear that heaven is not everyone’s fate. And I don’t recall saying anywhere that everyone must convert to Christian religion to obtain heaven’s happiness. Post after post, I have stated that heaven is not some place you go to, it is something you become.

    Evil is permitted because it preserves human free will, which is essential to salvation. Free will (good or bad) is a derivative of love.

    Still, I have published most of your remarks. Do I at least get some recognition for that? I have allowed you to tell my readers that my newest book, “Proving God” can only lead to failure. Should you purchase a copy you will be stunned at the scope of the book – which makes it every bit worth its retail price.

    I am a renegade Swedenborgian.

    I belong to no Swedenborgian denomination – so I haven’t drank anyone’s Kool-Aid. I was born Catholic, left the church and became a “Gentile.” Then I came across Swedenborg’s ideas (Swedenborg said the New Jerusalem would consist of Gentiles – not faith-aloners). Most worshipers aren’t hung up on the hair-splitting details of doctrine anyway!

    And although there are thousands of secret ways that the Lord leads man out of hell none of these secret things are done in a person whose Ruling Love would continually oppose such things. In that case, the Lord uses thousands of secret ways to keep a person from descending into a deeper hell.

    I sincerely embrace you as a contributor and as an essence-friend. This blog is an experiment – an adventure in ideas. I am sure some Swedenborgians will be perplexed by my approach. But it is time to try new ways.

    Spiritually yours,

  15. Roger says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    I am a Swedenborgian who still attends the Roman Catholic church of my baptism. Also, I associate with the “Academy” (Bryn Athyn) crowd, although I am not an official member.

    In addition to hell, there is a the world of spirits where we may be taught and purified. Also, the angels in the lower heavens sometimes undergo ‘vastation’ to purify them of their obvious and latent flaws.

    I do think hell is real but only the truly evil and perverted will end up their. No one I know will delight in evil forever.

    Also, Hell is really the evil spirits’ heaven!! The suffering they endure is mutually inflicted by one demon on another, and not by the angels of God.

    My answer to the liberal Swedenborgians who say that everyone should go to heaven is – They do!! Each community in the spiritual world is a self-consistent “heaven” from the perspective of its denizens. Only those who are not an in specific hell do not, looking at its evils from the outside, view it as a heaven.

    Imagine the Nazi concentration camp guards who took delight in torturing and humiliating their prisoners. Imagine that they were perfectly sane (no brain disorder) when they did this on earth. Imagine that they still desire those “delights”. What would their heaven be? Their earthly victims would be gone, but they could still form gangs, fight and overcome each other, torture each other… This would be their heaven, but it would be hell from the perspective of others – including the perspective of hellish communities devoted, for instance, to sexual debauchery.

    (Question to TheGodGuy, because I do not know: I know that angels can progress within one of the three levels of heaven, but can they progress from, say, the natural heaven to the spiritual to the celestial?).


  16. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger.

    I too was born Roman Catholic and am not an official member of any Swedenborgian denomination (one’s actual religion is the quality of one’s heart and mind).

    Thank you for sharing with my readers. See my blog post entitled “Hank tries to bring social justice to heaven.” It shows that after death people follow the path that most reflects their chosen principles of life.

    As to your question the answer is “no.” In heaven a person’s love and wisdom is indeed perfected to eternity – but within the level one cultivated on earth. These levels are discrete and involve angels of a different genus.

    Spiritually yours,

  17. Roger says:

    I have not read Swedenborg to the extent that you have. There are probably answers to my questions in the Writings,but I am not aware of them. Here’s another one:

    Granted that there is no frequent, direct communication between angels at these 3 levels (except via the Lord or via emissaries), how do we meet with and fellowship with our loved ones who might be at a different level? I realize that a husband and wife that are respectively in the celestial and spiritual heavens will separate amicably and find other spouses, but what about other family and friends? Granted that the “vibration level” (to use a New Age term) in these 3 heavens is different enough to cause discomfort, might there be a common “place” where angels from the different heavens might meet if they share a common history? Maybe in the world of spirits?

    Also, the Writings seem to be contradict each other on whether higher angels interact with lower angels and with spirits. Sometimes they say that the higher angels do so to help, and in other places the Writings say that a higher angel can lose his/her wisdom by communicating with lower angels or spirits. My own guess is that such communication has to be with a purpose e.g. for helping, for teaching or for meeting someone with whom one already has a prior bond, even if they happen to be at another level. On the contrary, one may freely travel among the communities in one’s own heaven with the intent, for instance, of satisfying one’s curiosity or for rest and recreation (heavenly “tourism”). Communication with other levels would, on the contrary, would be restricted and purposeful e.g. to meet with a friend or ex-spouse at another level. Distinguishing between free and unfettered communication and restricted communication would resolve the seeming contradiction.


  18. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    Swedenborg suggests that newly arrived spirits can spend a short time with loved ones and friends. Then as the inner qualities of their hearts and minds are opened they naturally gravitate to their appropriate society (in heaven or hell).

    Swedenborg also described events where God allowed for special moments to occur whereby angels from different levels (who were friends on earth) could have a reunion. But spirits and angels have to be specially prepared by the Lord for such a thing to happen – which takes place when the Lord is trying to teach some PURPOSEFUL and special lesson.

    Remember, the difference between a Celestial and Spiritual angel is more like the difference between a prior level and a posterior level. The thoughts and affections of higher angels flow into the thoughts and affections of lower angels (just as a cause flows into an effect).

    Spiritually yours,

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