Thursday, September 26, 2019

Exploring the afterlife in the space between sleep and awake

Emanuel  Swedenborg (1688–1772) was the son of a Lutheran bishop attached to the Swedish court. Living at the dawn of modern science, he mastered all the sciences of his day. He was driven by a passion for knowledge. He became fluent in nine languages. He made his own telescope and produces designs for a submarine and an airplane. He published a whole library of scientific treatises on subjects ranging from algebra to fossils, from hematology to the brain. In the words of one of his biographers, “he exhausted all the known sciences after founding several of them.”
     Then he brought his towering intellect and his experiential approach to the study of the unseen. He was called to the new work by his dreams. In his fifties, he began keeping a dream journal in which he was wholly frank about erotic dreams as well as spiritual adventures. In twilight states, between sleep and waking, he found himself being drawn into experience of a deeper reality. Surfacing from sleep, he found himself entering “wakeful ecstasies.”

I lay awake, but as if in a vision; I could open my eyes and be awake if I wanted to, but yet I was in the spirit — there was an inward and sensible joy through my whole body.

In the city of Delft, on the night of April 6, 1744, Swedenborg experienced the vision that transformed his life and work. Retiring early, he wrestled with an entity he described as the Tempter. After his struggles, he heard a noise under his bed, which he interpreted as the departure of this dark being.
     He started shivering uncontrollably.  He was at last able to snatch a few hours’ sleep. Then:

I trembled violently from head to foot and there was a great sound as of many storms colliding, which shook me and threw me on my face. In the moment I was thrown down I was fully awake and saw how I was thrown down.

Terrified by this wholly vivid experience of being propelled outside his physical body, Swedenborg prayed for help. As he held up his folded hands — the hands of his subtle body — “a hand came which clasped mine hard.” He found himself in the presence of a radiant being he took to be Christ.

I saw him face-to-face….He spoke to me and asked if I had a certificate of health. I answered, “Lord thou knowest that better than I.” He said, “Well, then act.”

Afterward, Swedenborg found himself traveling far and deep into nonordinary reality in a state that was “neither sleep nor wakefulness.” He conversed and interacted with beings in the spirit would “the same as with my familiars here on earth, and this almost continuously.”He conversed with dead people “of all classes,” including many people he had known during their physical lives. They gave him information he was able to verify and put to use.
    These encounters gave him a firsthand understanding of the conditions of the afterlife. Previously, his religious faith had convinced him that the spirit survives physical death. Now he could begin to study how it survives.
      He gained important insights from encounters with departed people he had known before their deaths. He discovered that dead people are frequently confused about their situation because they cannot distinguish between the physical body and the subtle body. During the funeral of Christopher Polhem, one of his former teachers, Polhem “came through” to Swedenborg, “asking why he was buried when he was still alive.” The dead man was puzzled by the fact that, while the priest sermonized about the resurrection of the dead at the Last Judgment, “he was still alive” and “sensible of being in a body.”
     Swedenborg’s observation of the condition of other spirits in the afterlife led him to formulate the important observation that “when a man dies, his soul does not divest itself of its peculiarities.” He observed the condition of the executed nobleman Eric Brahe and reported that two days after his death “he began to return to his former state of life, which was to love worldly things, and after three days he became just as he was previously in the world.”
     The departed follow the path of their desire and understanding. In his soul journeys, Swedenborg tracked them into many regions in the Otherworld. He encountered an angelic guide who told him that the “other members of his society” were appalled by the “crass ignorance” of the real conditions of the afterlife that prevailed among Westerners even after they took up residence in the spirit world. 
     Swedenborg’s mentor told him that “angels” of his rank are instructed to gather newly arrived spirits, find out their ideas about heavenly joy — and give them what they desire. “You know that everyone that has desired heaven…is introduced after death into those particular joys which he had imagined.”
      For example, there is a heaven for big talkers and another for big eaters. There is a paradise for those who believe the promise that they will rule with Christ forever; they see themselves enthroned as kings and princes. If you think of heaven as a beautiful garden, you get to smell the roses. But in all cases, according to Swedenborg’s mentor, you will be bored to distraction within two days.
    Now that you are ready to move beyond your expectations, the guide assigned to you can begin to instruct you on further possibilities. By one means or another, you will learn that happiness requires “doing something that us useful to ourselves and others.” Swedenborg’s angel explains that heaven is not a fixed environment or program of events, but a state that corresponds to — or is actually created by — the spiritual condition of its inhabitants.
     The local clergy were not enthusiastic about Swedenborg’s road maps, or the fact that his example might encourage others to go exploring for themselves. Inflamed by Swedenborg’s observation that few priests (“that order of which very few are saved”) seemed to prosper on the other side, a Swedish minister plotted to have him judged insane and committed to a lunatic asylum.
      Swedenborg’s geography of the afterlife was the gift of experience, which invited us to go beyond his maps, just as he went beyond the maps of previous explorers. His basic travel techniques will be recognized by active dreamers. They include:

Deep relaxation: He would close his eyes, focus his attention on a single theme or target, and slow his breath. He first practiced this approach, especially breath control, in childhood during morning and evening prayers. He spoke of the “passive potency” of his meditation practice. The heart of it was to “withdraw the mind from terms and ideas that are broken, limited, and material.”

Experiment in the twilight zone: The half-dream state on the cusp between sleep and waking was Swedenborg’s favorite launchpad. He described this state as “the sweetest of all, for heaven then operates into [the] rational mind in the utmost tranquility.” He worked with both spontaneous and familiar photisms. For example, he writes of an “affirming flame” that would appear on his inner screen at the start of a journey or in the midst of a writing binge, reassuring him that conditions were favorable and that he was on the right track.

Soul journeying: Swedenborg developed a fluid ability to shift consciousness and travel beyond the physical plane. “When I am alone my soul as it were out of the body and in the other world; in all respects I am in a visible manner there as I am here.”

Night and day, he lived and worked as an active dreamer. His banker friend Robsahm observed that Swedenborg “worked without much regard to the distinction of day and night. Swedenborg himself noted, “When I am sleepy, I got to bed.” He kept a fire going at all times, drank large quantities of coffee with a huge amount of sugar. His dress at home was a robe in summer, a reindeer coat in winter.
     Across the centuries, his words echo as a clarion call to new generations of explorers who refuse to settle their accounts with possibility and just do it:

I am well aware that many will say that no one can possibly speak with spirits and angels so long as he lives in the body; and many will say that it is all fancy, others that I relate such things in order to gain credence, and others will make other objections. But by all this I am not deterred, for I have seen, I have heard, I have felt.

Among his many scientific discoveries and inventions, Swedenborg designed a flying machine. However, his flights were journeys in consciousness, into a deeper reality that opened to him in the twilight zone between sleep and awake. He practiced a self-generated Western yoga of hypnagogia, and we have much to learn from his practice.

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: Der Wächter des Paradieses by Franz von Stuck (1889)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am and have been, a fan of Swedenborg, since I discovered his biography via the novel " Seraphita" by Balzac, our French genius novelist. And everything he describes in terms of life in between lives is very similar to what I have experienced. I have met my guides in many important situations such as premonitions, inspirations, "es-piritual surgical healings",(confirmed by 3D lab tests), etc etc ...I have visited the levels and realms of the dead in high buildings where groups of different kinds of souls are busy dreaming their lives but are kept within separate rooms. I was able and allowed to watch them but they could not see me. No stalking here; just travelling away into my own territories of knowledge. Last night for instance I was allowed to park my car into the huge parking lot of a very private "chateau" until I realized I was pulling a huge slow, but sturdy "tractor" with my small but powerful small car. I felt a bit ridiculous but priviledged at the same time to be allowed on that VIP parking lot. I woke up wondering what that tractor was doing behind my car , so unpractical for driving. At the same time I still had the vision of a baby girl with me,could be my grand daughter, a very extraordinary but tiny child and I gave her a red lipstick although she had received a few from other people .She put mine on her lips.I did what I had learned from other shrinks and healers and your workshops, and books, Robert, also, -whom I never met or had a conversation with, during these courses and webinars on line ( quite frustrating though … ). Anyway, I asked myself during that semi sleepy wake state whate were the daily circumstances etc .. that had triggered this dream and here are my conclusions : At 72, I still drag a lot of my family load with my "tractor".. This has been a choice in this lifetime to let go of a one minded focused mundane activity and be a mother and a grandmother...The feminine red lips on the creative baby part are still "glowing " somewhere… And I can detach the gross tractor to maneuver as I wish whenever I wish . it is part of my peasant ancestors origins and I can be proud ot them ancestors...I am also aware that during some nights I am working and teaching in other dimensions and I need to rest and sleep like a log to recover from these journeys in far away dimensions . I am open to the tasks that are required and offered to me at my age as if I was still a "Young writer translator teacher healer reporter"...I have met "Jeshua" in quantum Healing sessions in Canada, and since I have felt how his frequency was just a pure delight to my troubled soul. I am at peace with my tractor, it can take me a long way on this planet . We tractors are necessary for the future generations.Hi Swedenborg, we are Neighbors… aren't we ?