As long as these two theological terms are not properly distinguished, human salvation becomes more imprecise and less understood. Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg offered the most valuable descriptions of these two important spiritual bio-structures. And, because they are real structures and recipient forms of life, they can be viewed from lawful principles.
Simply put, the “soul” is the primary gift of eternal life that God gives us all. But the “spirit” is what we make of our lives. Swedenborg claimed that the human soul was the first organic structure created by God and that its heavenly influence flowed down into the organic forms of the physical body and brain. The soul and its heavenly activities operate even above the consciousness of angels in the highest heaven.
The soul, being a heavenly form, is responsive to love. During human life, it fashions our minds (heart and intellect) according to our likes and dislikes. This process is fully organic and results in the creation of our spirit, or more precisely, our spiritual bodies. In other words, the spiritual organs of this rarefied body form in a way that is perfectly analogous to the ideas, affections and constituents of our belief systems. It is formed according to who we really are. That is why we can seek and digest information that favors our opinions as a real “food” to maintain our inner lives.
Now then, if we put our scientific hats on, we can easily see how different animals on earth have taken on specialized bodies that allow them to exist in different environments. Fish live in water, birds live in the air and other animals live on land. This organic pattern also holds true for life in the spiritual world, which the human race has special access to after death. The spiritual bodies we have created during our lives, and which are formed by our souls, have become suited to living in various spiritual environments outside of time and space, according to our ruling love and its derivative passions.
At the center of the Spiritual World resides the divine being that we call God and Lord. From this holy center, God’s Love and Wisdom emanates throughout creation. According to how we form our spiritual bodies, they will be more or less perfectly adapted to these divine influences. If God’s tenets have been embraced, we will have successfully formed our spiritual bodies to live closer to the Divine Being, and in a heavenly society. However, if we have rejected God’s tenets of mutual and neighborly love, our spiritual bodies can only exist in an environment far removed from these heavenly influences. We call this self-centered environment Hell.
Every decision you make (from inner freedom) on earth effects the formation of your spiritual body. The consequences are eternal!