Hank tries to bring social justice to heaven

Once upon a time there was a man named Hank who had just died. He was a social activist on earth and now he found himself face-to-face with a real live angel.

“Welcome to the spiritual world,” said the angel with a loving smile. “I will be your guide and teacher to help you gain access to God’s heaven.”

“What is there to learn? If God is Infinite love, then heaven is a human right. I am entitled to all the benefits of heaven and I think you and your heavenly government ought to be ministering to my needs,” came Hank’s quick demand.

“Oh, there is indeed a lot to learn here,” said the angel, “This world is different than the world you come from.”

Hank looked around at the trees, ground, sky and distant mountains. “It all looks the same to me.”

“The geographical features you observe are simply representations of the quality of your heart and mind, which is your spirit. This world is not physical, but purely spiritual. It cannot consist of things other than those which are in accordance with the states of your heart and mind and their qualities,” explained the angel. “Because of this fundamental truth, ruling the spiritual “physics” of this non-material realm heaven is not the same for everyone.”

“What kind of religious propaganda are you trying to feed me?” asked Hank with great suspicion towards his angelic guide. “If heaven is different for everyone, then God is prejudiced and playing favorites!”

“There is great diversity among the faiths and worldviews in heaven. It is a person’s genuine goodness that leads to a heavenly life—not one’s race, social status or religious belief. Even atheists can enter heaven. God wishes the heavenly kingdom for all,” said the angel with a warm smile.

“But if heaven is not equally enjoyed or the same for everyone, that is an inequality! Where is social justice in such a scheme? I will only accept a just God!” said Hank with a tone of righteous indignation.

“Both Heaven and hell are made up of societies of people who share similar qualities of affection. God loves everyone equally, however, not everyone receives and gives back that love equally. The fullness of love comes from reciprocation—it is not a one-sided affair. Heaven is not an entitlement program or a vacation destination.

“Hell? That is religious garbage. The idea of sin and evil is bullshit! The idea of Hell was concocted by religion to keep control over people. If you allow people to live in a fair and equally just system, all citizens will thrive equally. No person is better than another. Now then, if you will kindly point me in the direction of heaven I will get there under my own power, thank you,” snipped Hank.

The angel, always being accommodating, raised his arm and pointed in a direction. “The path to heaven is that way.”

Hank looked in the direction that the angel was pointing in and could only see a foggy mist, which obscured his vision. “I see no path where you are pointing to.”

Hearing Hank’s reply, the angel became concerned about the newcomer. The angel knew that Hank’s inability to see the path meant he lacked the understanding to clearly discern the proper steps one must take to reach the heavenly kingdom. “Let me look at your hands,” requested the angel.

Hank held out his hands. The angel studied them, then studied Hank’s face more closely.

“What are you doing?” questioned Hank.

“In the spiritual world we angels can judge the source and principles behind someone’s ability and personal power from looking at their hands. The quality of a person’s spirit finds its outermost expression in the hands. When we look at a person’s face we see the spiritual quality of their heart and mind from their countenance. In this world, the interior qualities of a person become more obvious,” said the worried angel. The angel detected growing signs that Hank’s social activism was only a mediate good and had its source in the desire to obtain worldly recognition and prestige. Hank felt he was an enlightened representative of the human race, and because of his self-importance, was unable to acknowledge that all goodness and truth come from the Lord. This would prevent Hank’s social activism from becoming a genuine, spiritual good.

Growing increasingly impatient with the angel, Hank blurted out, “I think I will find my own way to heaven.” As he looked around, a path suddenly appeared that looked inviting. “I’ll go that way,” said Hank, who now seemed pleased with his decision.

But Hank was taking the wrong direction.

The angel knew he could not stop Hank. Even more horrifying, Hank would never know he was moving in the wrong direction. Since Hank had ignored what the angel tried to teach him about the unique laws and dynamical magnitudes of the spiritual world, he did not understand that the path he had chosen was paved by the ideas of his personal worldview. Hank was merely moving according to the trajectory of his personal belief system—a direction that supported the principles of his spirit—even though they were flawed.

Much later, the angel described in the above encounter was approached by another angel of his particular heavenly society and asked, “Say, did you ever hear what happened to that guy Hank?

A sad look appeared on the first angel’s face. “Yeah, Hank walked directly into Hell and is now stirring things up there among its residents. I last heard that he was painting posters that read TAKE HEAVEN BACK!”



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 http://www.staircasepress.com
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15 Responses to Hank tries to bring social justice to heaven

  1. Sue says:

    I know I’m old fashioned, but I think you should abreviate to B.S.

    Also, is heaven going to be kind of political like here on earth? Where social activists get what’s coming to them? Maybe since Jesus said “My Father’s house has many rooms.” He was implying that there could be a left-leaning heaven and a right-leaning heaven.

    Hank took a little too much of his earthly attitude with him when he died. Which is a good point. I think Swedenborg implies we will do that – the tree that has to lay where it falls.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Thank you for your response.

    If we are to believe Swedenborg, everyone brings their personal views with them into the spiritual world. Worldviews (including political views) are a part of a person’s spiritual reality. That is why angelic spirits and angels play an important role in teaching us novel and more detailed ideas about God and heaven.

    Those who resist such spiritual lessons cannot be incorporated into the various communities of heaven which are analogous to the different bodily organs of the “Grand Human” (the spiritual world serves as an organic embodiment of God’s holy qualities). Instead, they are jettisoned out of the spiritual community which serves the purpose of heaven’s large intestines (I took particular care to be old-fashioned concerning this sensitive matter).

    Those who are left-leaning or right leaning can all still find their rightful place in heaven’s grand bio-organization – just as a human has left and right arms, left and right brain hemispheres.

    Spiritually your,

  3. Kathryn says:

    I love this! All I can say, is this is very, very, well put. I remember often questioning my own father….about what would-or wouldn’t be in heaven….his only reply would be “if that’s important to you, then yes.”…..and now I’m so glad my view of Heaven has changed, many, many times….and I sure hope it continues to change!!!

  4. Glenn Schoen says:

    This is the best one yet.


    “What is there to learn?… I am entitled to all the benefits of heaven and I think you and your heavenly government ought to be ministering to my needs,” came Hank’s quick demand.

    “…Now then, if you will kindly point me in the direction of heaven I will get there under my own power, thank you,” snipped Hank.

    Growing increasingly impatient with the angel, Hank blurted out, “I think I will find my own way to heaven.”

    A sad look appeared on the first angel’s face. “Yeah, Hank walked directly into Hell and is now stirring things up there among its residents. I last heard that he was painting posters that read TAKE HEAVEN BACK!”

    The second angel commiserated. “Well, you know the old saying, ‘You can lead a Hank to heaven, but you can’t make him enjoy it.'”

    And the first angel nodded cheerlessly. “Yeah… and they can’t enjoy it, coz they’re too busy hankering after things that have no value here. And the things that do have value here, they don’t care about.”

    o He who believes that he governs himself is continually disquieted, being borne along into cupidities, and into solicitude respecting future things, and thus into manifold anxieties. AC 2892

    o Those have care for the morrow who are not content with their lot; who do not trust in the Divine, but in themselves; and who have regard for only worldly and earthly things, and not for heavenly things. AC 8478.2

    o To him who is sad at heart, all things that he sees and hears appear sad and sorrowful; but to him who is glad at heart, all things that he hears and sees appear smiling and joyful. AC 920

    o Very different is the case with those who trust in the Divine. These, notwithstanding they have care for the morrow, still have it not, because they do not think of the morrow with solicitude, still less with anxiety. Unruffled is their spirit whether they obtain the objects of their desire, or not; and they do not grieve over the loss of them, being content with their lot. If they become rich, they do not set their hearts on riches; if they are raised to honors, they do not regard themselves as more worthy than others; if they become poor, they are not made sad; if their circumstances are mean, they are not dejected. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time is still conducive thereto. AC 8478.3

  5. thegodguy says:

    Thank you Kathryn and Glenn!

    Spiritually yours,

  6. Sue says:

    You know what I like about Swedenborg? He’s not very preachy. Glenn’s Sw quotes can all be read with true sympathy toward the clueless sinner.

    “He who believes that he governs himself is continually disquieted.” Indeed. True. Been there, done that.

    He is giving wonderful advice, and I don’t see it as scolding advice. It’s not “sin carries its own punishment” in a harsh tone. It’s “sin carries its own punishment” in a just-the-facts tone.

    You portrayed it very well, GG, but I still hope the end of the story is that the angels let Hank stew in his own juices a while and then re-explained it all to him. He’ll get it eventually. TAKE HANK BACK!

  7. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Your empathy towards Hank is admirable. The angels still have sympathy for Hank and God’s love towards Hank is eternal.

    I am not sure anything will change your mind about having faith in the inevitability of Hank’s bright future. So-o-o, why would you think Hank’s mind can be changed?

    Spiritually yours,

  8. Sue says:

    DP 249 … Evils are allowed for the sake of the goal, which is salvation.

    Hank isn’t really all that bad. He’s misguided. But then who isn’t?

    And I really do change my mind often – I’ve always been a waffler when it comes to opinions. But the goal is salvation. So … Hank is going to have to change his mind.

  9. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Actually, to change his mind Hank will have to change his heart and core values. Hank is more than misguided – he operates from a principle of self-love which moves him in the opposite direction of heavenly love.

    In past replies to your rejection that hell is eternal I offered clarifications to your usage of quoting “bits” of Swedenborg. God indeed uses evil for the sake of an eternal goal but this clearly refers to those of us still on earth who need to be kept in equilibrium to preserve free will. (That the hells are used this way doesn’t get anyone out of hell.)

    I also added that during our terrestrial life we create real spiritual bio-structure (a spiritual body) according to the quality of our love and heart. This spiritual organization grows out from the physical body and its corporeal/sensory memory which serve as a foundation or matrix. The physical body and one’s “natural” mind offers resistance to the spiritual mind. This resistance determines the quality of one’s victory over our negative proclivities. After death, there is nothing to resist – since as a spirit we become more perfectly who we are – we become comfortable in our own (spiritual) skin.

    In other words, one’ spiritual wiring becomes hardened in away that is opposed to receiving heavenly truths – even causing pain to an evil spirits ears. Hank would have to do more than change his mind. It would be more like changing the spots on a leopard – which cannot be done without annihilating the leopard (nothing would be left to build from). God cannot break His own laws.

    Spiritually yours,

    In a past reply

  10. Sue says:

    Ok, great answer.
    But, why can’t God break His own laws?

  11. Sue says:

    Hank is a real jerk, but if that’s all it takes to send oneself to hell, I’m in so much trouble! …

    So, maybe since I will surely follow Hank’s footsteps I shouldn’t speculate on what angels will do in heaven, but I will:

    Angels love to perform uses. And each angelic society is different. I suggest forming a heavenly society of angels who will be happy to deal with jerks. Therapy angels. Because, no offense to them, but the angels you’ve described so far are way too complacent about this guy’s obvious problems. (I want to say they are snotty, but I won’t since they are angels and all).

    Real angels would come up with a plan. Because let’s face it, if they can’t deal with the likes of Hank they might as well put a sign up about which way heaven is and go back to the harps.

  12. Glenn Schoen says:


    Yikes. Activists have snuck in through the back door of heaven! And they’re making a poor imitation of a Euclidian circle, while their signs erratically move up and down as they chant, “Bring back Hank! Bring back Hank!”

    Thing is, no one sent Hank away. He left of his own accord, and under his own power — and took his terms with him. He is welcome back any time. The door is always open.

    Chances are, however, that he won’t want to come back unless he can do so on his own terms. But it was his own terms that led him away, so how will that work out?

    When he begins to realize this (if he does), he may go through a period of wanting to come back, but being afraid to, fearful that he’ll be snubbed for his foolishness of the past.

    But it doesn’t work like that.

    If he wants to come back, he’ll see the reason for checking his terms at the door, true. But he won’t be snubbed. Uh-uh. No way.

    He’ll be welcomed with open arms instead.

    And if he wants to come back badly enough, he won’t wait for an invitation — he’ll be pounding on the door, shouting, “You may be able to keep my terms out, but you can’t keep me out!” (And when the racket ceases for a moment, as he pauses to catch his breath, he’ll likely hear a gentle voice saying with mild incredulity, “It isn’t locked. Lift the latch.”)

    All the angels once were Hank-like. The difference between a Hank and an angel is a simple difference — Hanks reject heaven itself, while angels reject the things in themselves that reject heaven. See? Can’t escape it. One way or another, rejection is gonna happen — only question is, what will be rejected?

    If Hank rejects wisely, he’ll eventually get to sit down with the angels. Maybe they’ll have a cup of coffee, and swap and trade stories about the way they used to be, making for one of the few occasions on which laughter can be heard in heaven.

    (Imagine, if you will, Hank bringing up the story about how he once stopped painting posters on lamp posts and building sides, and tried painting them over what appeared to be leopard spots instead, thinking that that might do the trick. Oh, the stories are endless!)

  13. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Your belief that hell is not eternal will not interfere with your spiritual usefulness or your ultimately being taken up into a heavenly society. Your heart cannot bear the thought of it.

    But remember, after answering some of His disciples questions about the coming kingdom the Lord essentially said, “I have more to say but you cannot bear them now.”

    Just keep studying Swedenborg and keep your mind open!

    As to your question in a previous comment God cannot change His laws because He IS his laws. If Divine order is destroyed God is also destroyed.

    Spiritually yours,

  14. Sue says:

    See what a good influence Hank is on us all? Awww. Let’s keep him in heaven like an old grouchy grandpa.

  15. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    The reason why a person can be saved by God is that the human race is gifted with the mental ability to raise their thoughts above their proclivities. In other words, I may want to steal from someone but can bring various reasonings to mind as to why this would not be a good thing to do. Still, if these reasonings don’t lift one’s heart to a higher level then we will continue to harbor the inclination of theft in our heart – regardless of how successful we are at hiding this compulsion from the world.

    After death, we lose this capacity!

    In the spiritually world, the Lord puts us through a process by which our heart and mind find full agreement. Spirits cannot think other than what they believe and LOVE. Therefore, spirits who have contempt for others have no means by which they can come to their senses. They simply will not embrace ideas that are heterogeneous to their affections.

    Unlike on earth, in the spiritual world, grouchy old people can only live with other grouchy old people. This is not crazy talk – it is basic Swedenborgian theology. In the other world, we place ourselves in societies of similar spirits. LIKING someone on earth is not similar to being LIKE that person in spirit.

    Besides, grouchiness is a symptom of self-love because things are not going their way. Hank left the Angel because things were not going HIS way. Adam (and Eve’s) downfall was a result of wanting to have things their way.

    Spiritually yours,

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