Swedenborg’s “Heaven And Hell” Through A Logopraxis Lens

As with all spiritual material, the work Heaven and Hell deals with mental structures and processes that we experience as states of mind, that is, our states of thinking and feeling. The term “spirit,” when used by Swedenborg in his writing, means the mind. So, by extension the term “spiritual world” refers to the world of the mind, specifically, to the collective world of the human mind. What Swedenborg wrote is a descriptive account of his direct experience of mental realities as he perceived them through his spiritual senses. We find that the content of these descriptions is not too dissimilar to what we experience through our physical senses in the natural world. The difference between a description of the spiritual or mental world and that of the physical world, is that all things in the Spiritual World are spiritual or mental while those of the physical world are material. To the spiritual senses, the spiritual objects display qualities that are as tangible and real as the material qualities of material objects are to the physical senses.

This is such an important concept to grasp to set the frame for working with the Heaven and Hell text using the Logopraxis approach. Our starting point, from a Logopraxis perspective, is that the world being described in Heaven and Hell is the inner world of our mind. The work we do in Logopraxis is a work that looks to affirm the truth of this through experiencing directly what’s described in the Text for ourselves.

Swedenborg entered the inner landscape of the collective human mind through having his spiritual eyes opened. His entry was by way of changes in his own states of consciousness affirming the truth that everyone, as to their spirit or mind, is in the spiritual world while, as to the body, they are in the natural world. In recounting the “things heard and seen” Swedenborg offers us a psycho-spiritual map that can guide us on our own inner journey. Using the Logopraxis approach we can come to appreciate the Heaven and Hell text in a way that opens up profound insights into the evolution of human consciousness and the laws that govern its organisation and development.

Spiritual work, Logopraxis work, is psychological work in the true sense of the word. It invites us to enter the spiritual world, the world of the psyche or soul and to examine the quality of what passes for our mental life. It is reflective work that involves making what is largely unconscious for us, in our normal everyday functioning, conscious. This requires a new way of looking at things. It requires spiritual sight, or ‘in-sight’. This kind of sight isn’t something mystical but is something highly practical. It is the capacity given to all by the Lord to reflect on the quality of their states of mind with a view to shunning evils as sins against Him.

A key aspect for Swedenborg in having his spiritual eyes opened was that this occurred as he read and studied the Word. When he talks about his spiritual eyes being opened, he’s talking about his understanding and its ability to conceptually grasp spiritual realities. The basis for that kind of in-sight is found in being able to think from spiritual principles offered through the Texts of Divine revelation. When these principles are integrated into the mind, they provide the kind of in-sight that penetrates beyond the natural objects, people and scenes found in a literal reading of the text into what these things represent spiritually within us.

Through the practice of spiritual principles or truths we gain an understanding of spiritual concepts. These re-orientate the mind to seeing natural objects as symbolic representations of spiritual or mental realities. But what do we mean by spiritual or mental realities? These are things like: the structures of our thinking, the beliefs we live from, what we hold to be true and false, what we judge to be good and evil, what we believe ‘love’ to be, what we love, where our affections direct our attention etc. All this belongs to the will and understanding or states of consciousness that constitutes the spiritual dimension of life. And all of this has a much greater impact on our quality of life than the conditions of our external environment have. It is the quality of this spiritual dimension of life and the degree to which it aligns with reality at any given moment, that determines whether our mental life with its thoughts and affections, draws its quality from what is hellish or heavenly.

What we see through Logopraxis, is that this ability to enter the spiritual world described by Swedenborg, is now open to all who are willing to engage with the Word with a view to practicing its principles or truths as the basis for their life. Through their practice, spiritual truths or principles begin to give greater definition to the inner landscape of the mind. We find that these truths shine a light on our states of mind and so give us the ability to discriminate between those thoughts and affections that are beneficial to, and those that are destructive of, our spiritual well-being. This light that truths provide is a conceptual light or a new way of seeing and understanding things that comes from assimilating spiritual concepts through their application to the life of the mind, to our states of mind. When this light is active within our minds it provides in-sight into the state or quality of our affections and thoughts. This light is from the Word or Logos and constitutes the spiritual life of all who willingly receive it. The Word or Logos is spiritual light, it is the Lord, it is how He is experienced by human beings. So, when Swedenborg speaks of his spiritual eyes being opened by the Lord, he is speaking of the impact spiritual concepts, principles, truths and ideas drawn from the Texts of Divine revelation have upon a receptive mind.

Swedenborg describes mental or spiritual realities using the language and imagery that is familiar to what people experience in everyday life in the world. But the imagery with its objects and features is not meant to be taken literally, nor is it meant to be thought of materially. What Swedenborg experienced within his perceptive field and subsequently described in the work Heaven and Hell, he perceived through shifts in his own states of consciousness as he engaged with the Word. Swedenborg, being motivated by love for the Lord from the Lord and the spiritual well-being of humanity, delved deeply into the Word which led him beyond its literal meaning into what is called its spiritual sense.

Logopraxis invites us to engage with Texts of Divine revelation to experience their power to open our awareness to our own states of consciousness – to the spiritual world, here and now. This is the remarkable nature of Divine revelation in the form of Sacred Texts. It has the power to open the mind and direct its course on a journey that leads to our rebirth into a whole new sense of self. The Texts themselves provide the materials into which a new sense of our self can be born if we are willing to engage with them to direct our inner life. Without freely choosing to engage with the Texts to examine the quality of our life in the light of their truths, our minds will remain closed to perceiving their deeper inner contents. But when the Texts are engaged with, with a view to self-examination and the amendment of our life, then they open up more and more to support the processes involved in the regeneration of the human mind.

Through working with the Logopraxis approach we discover that the Texts of Divine revelation are psycho-active. What this means is that the processes described within the Text become active within our own experience and field of perception as we look to apply spiritual principles to the life of our mind. We experience the Text coming alive in us, re-forming our beliefs, and opening new affections through the direct experience of its truths or principles working in our minds. As the structure of our thinking is transformed so too are our values and perspectives. We find that spiritual realities start to take priority over the things of natural life. This change in priorities marks a change in our affections. These kinds of changes, leading to the transformation of our sense of self and so our life, are what the Gospel of John refers to as, “being born again” or “born from above.” (John 3:16) This work of the Text, of the Word within the human mind, is what is meant by the Coming of the Lord – for the Word is the Lord.

This one comes to Him by night, and says to Him, “Rabbi, we have seen and thus know that You are a Teacher having come, and are here, from God, for no one is able to constantly be doing these signs which You are constantly doing, unless God would continue being with him”.  Jesus considered, and replies to him, saying, “Certainly it is so, I am saying to you, unless anyone may be born back up again to a higher place he continues having no power to see or perceive God’s reign, sovereign influence/activity, or kingdom.

John 3: 2-3  (Jonathan Mitchell New Testament)


  1. Janna King

    I love the sense of freedom and perspective gained when we view the spiritual world as here and now, and that our mental process are involved and reflective of that world. But maybe we also need to emphasize that the Grand Man is not limited to our own mental processes–it does not exist merely within our minds, either individually or collectively. The Spiritual World exists outside of us. It is an objective place as well as a state. We are present there in a different way after death than we are now.

    • Sarah Walker

      Hi Janna. This article is an abbreviated version that was shortened for journal formats. Ive just added the full version of David’s paper as a link at the end of the post. It speaks to your questions in more depth I think. Let me know if you’d like me to email it to you as well.

  2. Hal Rosner

    I’ve appreciated working with both versions of these articles during the LP break. The supplemental reading would appear to be Consummation of the Age, the Lord’s Second Coming, and the New Church, Having not been familiar with this work prior, I found it a humbling exercise to read about both consummation and abomination. Through the LP lens, to view the work’s outline and listing as mental states was both affirming and perhaps terrifying. I tried to also apply PPT&S principles, so as to diminish the tendency to look out upon the natural world with a ‘tsk tsk’ judgement.

  3. Sarah Walker

    Came across this and seemed to complement what is spoken here so beautifully

    AC 1408… The Word of the Lord is like a body that contains within it a living soul; the things belonging to the soul do not appear while the mind is so fixed in corporeal things that it scarcely believes that there is a soul, still less that it will live after death; but as soon as the mind withdraws from corporeal things, those which are of the soul and life become manifest. And this also is the reason, not only why corporeal things must die before man can be born anew, or be regenerated, but also why the body itself must die so that he may come into heaven and see heavenly things.

    [2] Such also is the case with the Word of the Lord: its corporeal things are those which are of the sense of the letter; and when the mind is kept in these, the internal things are not seen at all; but when the former are as it were dead, then for the first time are the latter presented to view. But still the things of the sense of the letter are similar to those which are with man while in the body, to wit, to the knowledges of the memory that come from the things of sense, and which are general vessels that contain interior or internal things within them. It may be known from this that the vessels are one thing, and the essentials contained in the vessels another. The vessels are natural; the essentials contained in the vessels are spiritual and celestial.

Leave a Comment