The comments from Jim and Laurie, arriving chronologically close together, got me thinking about similarities in the ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg (Swedish scientist and philosopher, 1688-1722) and Carl Jung (Swiss psychologist and philosopher, 1875-1961). Both were strongly influenced by their Christian upbringings, and Swedenborg’s visions and writings were directed toward interpreting the Bible in what he believed to be a more correct way than that offered by tradition. (It’s continually fascinating to me to realize how much one can discover in the process, not of throwing out one’s tradition, but of challenging it at more than the level of adolescent rebellion.)
I wholeheartedly agree with Jim that anyone with an interest in distressing near-death experiences—any NDEs, actually—really ought to read Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell. It is available in online versions, handily divided into paragraph-sized readings; a big plus is that many of today’s writers might wish to write so readably.
The similarities between Swedenborg’s many visions and NDEs are so strong that Raymond Moody devoted a section of Life After Life to them, saying in part:
“Each person…shapes their own eternity to correspond with their real inner nature. Some people become irrational, driven by fear and greed. Such people are in the spiritual condition which Swedenborg called hell…a psychological condition which corresponds to the suffering we experience on Earth when we allow ourselves to be driven by the blind greed of our own egos. There are no devils in hell to inflict punishments because in the hellish spiritual state each person acts out their own malice by tormenting others.”
If it seems that, without devils, Swedenborg’s describes a tame sort of hell, go look at any list of the 50 scariest movies. Or consider the work of any organization dealing with torture. Oh, the kinds of things our minds can generate entirely on their own, no devils required!
This ties neatly but perplexingly with Laurie’s comment about the Jungian Shadow: “It’s the duality of the good we think we are vs. the bad we believe we are NOT—opposites. But it could also go the other way—our Shadow can be something GOOD in us that we are not aware of… Maybe the painful, terrifying NDE is also showing something about us we are not aware of, but need to be. Maybe the positive NDE is too, in some way. Too simplistic or mechanistic a notion perhaps; nevertheless…this experience may not be punishment or reward, but simply a fact of nature.”