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way1p_500_375 The way that leads to heaven, and the way that leads to hell were once represented to me. There was a broad way tending towards the left or the north, and many spirits  were seen going in it; but at a distance a large stone was seen where the broad way came to an end.  From that stone two ways branched off, one to the left and one in the opposite direction to the right. The way that went to the left was narrow or straitened, leading through the west to the south, and thus into the light of heaven; the way that went to the right was broad and spacious, leading obliquely downwards towards hell. All at first seemed to be going the same way until they came to the large stone at the head of the two ways. When they reached that point they divided; the good turned to the left and entered the straitened way that led to heaven; while the evil, not seeing the stone at the fork of the ways fell upon it and were hurt; and when they rose up they ran on in the broad way to the right which went towards hell.

[2] What all this meant was afterwards explained to me. The first way that was broad, wherein many both good and evil went together and talked with each other as friends, because there was no visible difference between them, represented those who externally live alike honestly and justly, and between whom seemingly there is no difference. The stone at the head of the two ways or at the corner, upon which the evil fell and from which they ran into the way leading to hell, represented the Divine truth, which is rejected by those who look towards hell; and in the highest sense this stone signified the Lord’s Divine Human. But those who acknowledged the Divine truth and also the Divine of the Lord went by the way that led to heaven. By this again it was shown that in externals the evil lead the same kind of life as the good, or go the same way, that is, one as readily as the other; and yet those who from the heart acknowledge the Divine, especially those within the church who acknowledge the Divine of the Lord, are led to heaven; while those who do not are led to hell.

[3] The thoughts of man that proceed from his intention or will are represented in the other life by ways; and ways are visibly presented there in exact accord with those thoughts of intention; and in accord with his thoughts that proceed from intention everyone walks. For this reason the character of spirits and their thoughts are known from their ways. This also makes clear what is meant by the Lord’s words:

Enter ye in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby; for straitened is the way and narrow the gate that leadeth to life, and few be they who find it (Matt. 7:13, 14).

The way that leads to life is straitened not because it is difficult but because there are few who find it, as is said here. The stone seen at the corner where the broad and common way ended, and from which two ways were seen to lead in opposite directions, illustrated what is signified by these words of the Lord:  

Have ye not read what is written? The stone which the builders rejected was made the head of the corner.

Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken (Luke. 20:17, 18).  

 “Stone” signifies Divine truth, and “the stone of Israel” the Lord in respect to His Divine Human; the “builders” mean those who are of the church; “the head of the corner” is where the two ways are; “to fall” and “to be broken” is to deny and perish.{1} [HH 534] 

I have been permitted to talk with some in the other life who had withdrawn from worldly affairs that they might live in a pious and holy manner, also with some who had afflicted themselves in various ways, believing that they were thereby renouncing the world and subduing the lusts of the flesh. But as most of these have thus acquired a sorrowful life and had withdrawn from the life of charity, which life can be lived only in the midst of the world, they are incapable of being affiliated with angels, because the life of angels is a life of joy resulting from a state of blessedness, and consists in performing good deeds, which are works of charity. Moreover, those who have lived a life withdrawn from worldly employments are inflamed with the idea of their own merit, and are continually desiring heaven on that account, and thinking of heavenly joy as a reward, utterly ignorant of what heavenly joy is. When such are admitted into the company of angels and into their joy, which discards merit and consists in active labors and practical services, and in a blessedness resulting from the good thereby accomplished, they are astonished like one who has found out something quite foreign to his belief; and since they are not receptive of that joy they go away and ally themselves with spirits of their own kind that have lived in the world a life like their own.

[2] But those who have lived an outwardly holy life, constantly attending church and praying and afflicting their souls, and at the same time have thought constantly of themselves that they would be esteemed and honored for all this above others, and finally after death would be accounted saints— such in the other life are not in heaven because they have done all this for the sake of themselves. And as they have defiled Divine truths by the self-love in which they have immersed them, some of them are so insane as to think themselves gods; and are consequently in hell among those like themselves. Some are cunning and deceitful, and are in the hells of the deceitful. These are such as by means of cunning arts and devices have maintained such pious conduct as induced the common people to believe that they possessed a Divine sanctity.

[3] Of this character are many of the Roman Catholic saints. I have been permitted to talk with some of them, and their life was then plainly disclosed, such as it had been in the world and as it was afterwards. All this has been said to make known that the life that leads to heaven is not a life withdrawn from the world, but a life in the world; and that a life of piety separated from a life of charity, which is possible only in the world, does not lead to heaven; but a life of charity does; and a life of charity consists in acting honestly and justly in every employment, in every business, and in every work, from an interior, that is, from a heavenly, motive; and this motive is in that life whenever man acts honestly and justly because doing so is in accord with the Divine laws. Such a life is not difficult. But a life of piety separate from a life of charity is difficult; and as much as such a life is believed to lead towards heaven so much it leads away from heaven.{1} 

Heavenly blessedness flows in from the Lord into a life of charity (n. 2363). Mere thinking admits no one into heaven; it must be accompanied by willing and doing good (n. 2401, 3459).  Unless doing good is joined with willing good and thinking good there is no salvation nor any conjunction of the internal man with the external (n. 3987). [HH535]

It has been said that there are continual representatives in the heavens, and indeed such as involve the deepest arcana of wisdom. Those which are manifest to man from the literal sense of the Word are relatively as few as are the waters of a small pool as compared with those of the ocean. The nature of representatives in the heavens may be seen from what has been occasionally related above from things seen, and likewise from the following. There were represented before certain spirits, as I myself saw, a broad way and a narrow way such as are described in the Word; a broad way which led to hell, and a narrow way which led to heaven. The broad way was planted with trees, flowers, and the like that in outward form appeared beautiful and delightful, but unseen snakes and serpents of various kinds were hidden there. The narrow way did not seem to be so much adorned with trees and flowers, but appeared sad and dark; and yet there were in it angel infants most beautifully adorned, in delightful paradises and flower-gardens, which the spirits did not see. They were then asked which way they wished to go. They said, The broad way; when suddenly their eyes were opened, and in the broad way they saw the serpents, but in the narrow way the angels. They were then again asked which way they wished to go, whereupon they remained silent; and so far as their sight was opened, they said that they wished to go the narrow way; and so far as their sight was closed, that they wished to go the broad way. [AC 3477]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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