Those who follow the ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg accept his claim that the Lord God allowed him to observe the realities of the spiritual world, including heaven and hell, while he still lived on earth.
While the angelic heavens represent a realm of mutual love and usefulness, acts of goodness in the world are not enough to ensure eternal happiness for the individual. This detail about spiritual growth needs to be pondered because it seems anti-intuitive.
Thankfully, Swedenborg was even allowed to view the final fate of at least fifty acquaintances, that he knew on earth. He followed them after they had entered the spiritual realm after their terrestrial deaths. I will mention two of them—Erik Benzelius (pictured left) and Christopher Polhem (right).
Benzelius was the head librarian at Uppsala University and was acquainted with all the newest scientific thinking and theories emerging out of Europe. He was married to Swedenborg’s older sister, Anna, and guided the young and highly religious Swedenborg towards a career in science (Swedenborg’s father was a Lutheran Bishop).
Benzelius even wrote a letter of introduction for Swedenborg to meet the famous French philosopher, Leibnitz (who invented the calculus at the same time as Newton). Later, Benzelius steered his brother-in-law towards the Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem, where he became an assistant.
Christopher Polhem was known as Sweden’s Archimedes. As Polhem’s assistant, Swedenborg was able to apply his knowledge of geometry and mechanics into practical projects rather than remain in mere intellectual theory. These engineering projects improved Sweden’s infrastructure and even helped King Charles XII, undertake his military campaigns.
If I had personally met Erik Benzelius and Christopher Polhem, I would have judged them as decent, hard-working, talented people who were assets to human society, and therefore, shoe-ins as candidates for God’s heaven.
Swedenborg describes observing Benzelius as having difficulty getting into heaven. The main obstacle standing in the way of his brother-in-law obtaining eternal happiness is that his extensive knowledge was a function of his corporeal/sensual memory and did not reach deeper into his spirit (and “remains”) where it could support inner growth. After much suffering and purification, Benzelius finally made it into a heavenly society.
Polhem, however, landed in hell. Swedenborg followed his spiritual fate closely and even allowed Polhem to watch his own funeral take place through Swedenborg’s physical eyes as he attended the event. Polhem wasn’t outwardly evil but considered himself superior to—and more important than—others because of his intellect (which is not angelic behavior). Apparently, Polhem was unable to break away from his self-centeredness.
Swedenborg did not report on these two individuals, or any others, for the purpose of creating gossip, but to share deep insights for our further contemplation and personal introspection. Otherwise, the Lord God would not have permitted it.