Is it easy to get to heaven?

Emanuel Swedenborg, whose theology I fully embrace, makes the claim in his book Heaven and Hell that living a heaven-bound life is not as hard as people believe. However, this statement was made for those who falsely believe that one must reject all worldly wealth, prestige and pleasure in order to live a truly spiritual life.

Swedenborg maintained that in order to properly accept heaven’s life, a person must live in the world and be fully involved in its functions and dealings.

This indeed makes things easier and less doleful. However, to explain where the true difficulty of spiritual evolution lies requires a greater understanding of the human psyche and its idiosyncrasies. Swedenborg wrote on such a wide variety of topics that certain details can be easily overlooked or not sufficiently grasped.

So consider this an advanced course in Swedenborgian studies.

A man or woman is born into many evil inclinations, which are implanted deep within the human will, and this flawed will induces the understanding to agree with it. Spiritual growth and salvation requires that a new will (based on following God’s tenets) replaces the old will that we were born with.

A young child lives in pure volition. As a child grows up in life they learn from parents and teachers what constitutes proper behavior in the world. However, these lessons simply become mere data implanted in the memory function, which over time acts in an automatic way to cause the body and tongue to behave in proper manner—especially around others. Therefore a person learns how to appear “good.”

Swedenborg says that this process causes a real split in the human psyche that produces the external and internal natural man (hidden agendas and hypocrisy require such a split). This is where the real difficulty of spiritual growth emerges.

Unfortunately, a person is conditioned during his or her formative years to believe that by modifying one’s outer actions in life (from data in the memory) one is on a moral and spiritual path. In fact, a person is conditioned to believe that this habitual mind is one’s true consciousness and contains one’s true depth.

Swedenborg likens this false or artificial consciousness to the outer shell of a seed, which encloses the more vital and living kernel deep within. But in humans, the all-important inner kernel is rotting because it represents a flawed will that we’ve learned to keep in a safe place. It is this flawed and rotting will that religion targets and seeks to expose. But God’s message and teachings are intercepted by the outer habitual/corporeal mind, which merely uses this memory-data to mask (persona) one’s inner inclinations and proclivities. So nothing ever changes essentially. (This is why religion can fail to make a real difference.)

An individual can deceive himself (not just others) simply by changing his outward masks. True spiritual growth, however, requires that God’s lessons crack through the habitual mind and make contact with the negative aspects of our inner volitions. This does not happen from mere intellectual thought, but through acceptance from the heart and will to remove the protective and bogus mask of the habitual mind and its artificial consciousness. One must do this from sincere love, rather than for the sake of reputation or worldly gain.  A battle then ensues between one’s outer and inner realities. Swedenborg says that a person is undergoing this spiritual combat when he or she is experiencing real temptations.

This is what is so hard to do in living a heaven-bound life—to go up against oneself and seek out unflattering aspects of ourselves. As someone who has attended seminary, I experienced first-hand that the focus of religion today is on pastoral care and social justice—not on addressing the deeper chronic problem of human self-deception.

There is much more to this important topic (like hypnosis), which I address in my upcoming book “Proving God.”

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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8 Responses to Is it easy to get to heaven?

  1. altonwoods says:

    I believe that helping others to root out the lies which are embedded in their belief systems is crucial to helping people achieve spiritual growth. As you said, this is an area that’s misunderstood or neglected by most clergy.

  2. Sue says:

    This is an advanced course? Well, the price is right. Funny you would say that because I just signed up for an online course in Divine Providence.

    I like your explanation of this. I think you’re right that it’s the secret hidden life that causes our problems.

  3. Roger says:

    I once thought that the following quote at the following General Church web page was just “church teaching”, but later I found text in Swedenborg that said just that. I am not, unfortunately, able to retrieve this text in the Writings at this time – maybe you know where it is.

    Here is the web page I am referring to:

    And here’s the quote:

    “In determining whether or not we have lived well, God leads us to assess the whole of our lives — the highs and lows, causes and effects, the mistakes made and genuinely good things done. If there is any possible way He can lead us into heaven, He will. In other words, it’s pretty difficult to go to hell.”

    Intuitively, I believe this to be true. I think universal salvation is an absurdity, but near-universal salvation is not. There will always be some who are hell-bent and hell-bound and who will delight in evil. The rest of us are curable and desire to be cured, even though this might take eons in the world of spirits and in heaven.

    I will try and find the text in Swedenborg that backs up (almost literally) the Church teaching I pasted above.

    Most of us (even spiritual folks) need to be woken up and your posts are very useful towards this purpose. However, taken literally, your posts seem to indicate that most of us are going to hell except for a very few. I think that in unnecessarily discouraging (to me at least).

    Regarding your last post: Of course, all good comes from the Lord. However, when you factor in the Lord’s grace and our progressive acceptance of it, most of do not have totally corrupt wills. In our “ground state”, we are nothing, we are not self-subsisting and we are, from an ethical perspective, totally corrupt. But we do not, except for a few hell bound souls, live in this “ground state”. God sends grace our way and we actively accept some of it. That is true for folks who know Jesus and for folks who do not know Jesus in his historic manifestation, even though they do know Jesus in another way (like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who did not recognize the risen Lord or the apostles who were fishing in the Lake of Galilee and did not recognize the risen Lord on the shore).


  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Altonwoods,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I am often amused that a church (Swedenborgian) with its superior doctrines tries to act like other churches. Every church can help the poor and the oppressed. But the world’s real poverty and real oppression goes much deeper.

    Unfortunately, addressing these deeper issues does not fill pews!

    Spiritually yours,

  5. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Let me know what you learned in the course on Divine Providence. From that we can continue this “advanced” discourse!

    Spiritually yours,

  6. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    I personally find no difficulty in going to hell (things go downhill faster and easier than they do going uphill).

    Those who are brave enough to be mindful of their thoughts and feelings can and do discover great horrors lurking within.

    The reason why we must approach the Lord for salvation is that evils are attached to other evils. A single individual can not take on the entire hells (as the Lord did on earth). Angels of the highest heaven have dared to look deeper into these horrors than angels of lower heavens. One’s goodness is qualified by the level of evil one discerns and resists (with the Lord’s help of course).

    Humanity is not conditioned to make unflattering discoveries!

    Spiritually yours,

  7. sks says:

    GREAT post, GodGuy! A good explanation of a topic not often discussed in depth. Very nourishing food for thought. Thanks for this!

  8. thegodguy says:

    Dear sks,

    Thanks for your comment. Now go dig up some dirt about yourself!

    Spiritually yours,

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