Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Divine Revelation of the Three Heavens of the Spiritual World

In the Bible, there is this mysterious passage that very few can explain: the Apostle Paul at some point had a Near Death Experience, perhaps from being stoned by a mob, and had a vision of heaven. He describes this very briefly in the following passage:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)

If anyone is curious about the afterlife, this passage will just about drive one nuts. Here we have a direct experience of heaven, but there is not one heaven - there are three heavens.  Why are there three heavens?  Why offer such a statement, and nowhere else is it explained?  And one hears angels speaking, and not allowed to repeat what they are saying???  This was very frustrating.  When I first read it, it left me with the idea that the Bible was incomplete - or that scripture was hiding something we were not allowed to know. However there are some things that can be derived from it.  The word Paradise appears here and in this passage:

To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7)

And this means the Garden of Eden is symbolic of the time when mankind had direct access to heaven. When the love of self became dominate, from the desire to know things from one's self through the outer senses (the serpent) - the connection between heaven and man was broken. The other time the word Paradise appears is the following passage, which Jesus spoke to one of the thieves on the cross:

And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

And this means that after death, there is a judgment wherein one will enter heaven and hell.  Some Christian churches teach that one enters into a sleep after death, and will eventually literally physically rise from the dead, but this is a false teaching.  Those who teach it have to distort this verse, moving the comma making the word "today" absolutely meaningless in order to maintain their doctrine.  The specific denominations who hold this false teaching are the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses. They do good in teaching people to follow the commandments, but they mislead others in teaching that there is no afterlife.  What is true is that between heaven and hell there is a middle region for certain souls who await judgment after a period of time, and these periodic judgments are known as the "last judgment" which occurs at "the end of the world." Literalists and fundamentalists do not understand this, always expecting a literal judgment in the physical world, always expecting a literal physical appearance for the Second Coming.  And their predictions always fail.


So we are still left to explain the three heavens that the Apostle Paul had when he nearly died.  Those words would remain there, mysteriously unexplained, until medical science began to advance in the 20th century and doctors began reviving people after their hearts had stopped.  Witness after witness began bringing back reports that beyond this material world - beyond these three dimensions - there was another spiritual world, at the center of which was this Supreme Being of Light full of Love.  One of the most well known Near Death Experiences was that of Dr. George Ritchie, which is described in the book, Return from Tomorrow. For those of you who want a summary of his experience, see Dr. George Ritchie's Near-Death Experience. The following video shows Dr. George Ritchie relate a small portion of his experience:

He met with Jesus, and its not about belief, nor about "vicarious atonement" which theologians have invented, bur rather its about overcoming the selfish ego and living a life of love. Love is the answer to everything, and that is why Jesus came to show us that.

One portion of his experience however caught my attention - Ritchie observed that there were three levels or degrees of heaven. However he only mentions this in passing, but it caught my attention, as it reminded me of the saying of the apostle Paul.  While Dr. George Ritchie's experience is perhaps one of the most in depth Near Death Experiences recorded, it just so happens that long before these Near Death Experiences were rediscovered by the medical community it was described in detail in visions by the scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. While living, in a waking state, he was allowed to explore heaven and hell in enormous detail, and this over a period of 27 years.  Those who have had a Near Death Experience just see a glimpse of this reality - imagine having several years to explore it.  His spiritual experiences are scattered throughout this multi-volume work Heavenly Arcana, in which he shows how the Bible symbolically discusses these eternal matters of heaven which was kept hidden from the Jews.  This he summarized in his work, Heaven and Hell.  And what is life all about?  It is about love, for God is Love itself. The Father is Divine Love, the Son is Divine Truth in human form (see The Divine Love and Divine Truth). God is present where there is love. And where does one find happiness? Happiness is found in loving others. A deeper level of love is seeing the love of God in others, and loving God through loving others.  Love is the source of all true happiness.  This is the original message of Christianity, but nowadays people who know little always stress belief or faith, which is a lower form of the truth designed to introduce people to a life of love.

So that lead us to the main point - what are the three heavens? This Swedenborg describes in detail, and when I first read it, my reaction was FINALLY - a revelation concerning what the apostle Paul experienced.  The three levels of heaven are three stages or three levels of spiritual development (see The Three Steps of Spiritual Development for a practical application of this in life).  The heaven we enter after we die will correspond to our internal spiritual state of being.  In reality, while we exist in the body, our spirit is already in heaven or hell, or some stage in between, depending on our spiritual development.  For we are all spirits clothed with a temporary physical body. In the spiritual world, there is no time or space, but only states of being. To sum it up, if you are in the love of self and material desire, you are in the wrong place. If you are experiencing temptation due to sin and resisting it, you are coming out of that and entering the first stage, which is that of servitude to God's commandments - but the selfish ego sees it as a burden.  The second stage is when you start to live by the truth, because you love the truth.  The third and final stage is when you act out of love. When you do things out of love, there is no need to learn the truth, as that would be taking a step backwards. You perceive things from a wisdom of experience of living life, of loving others - of loving others because you see the love of God within them in different degrees.  The more you love, the more you enter into God's presence. Inasmuch as you approach God, He will approach you, and come to live in your heart.

So that is what the three heavens mean in the most simplest form - see them as states of being or stages of spiritual development.  Here is how Swedenborg described them:

"There are three heavens, and these wholly distinct from one another, the inmost or third, the middle or second, and the lowest or first. They follow in order and stand in relation to one another as the highest part of man, or the head, his middle part, or the body, and the lowest, or the feet; and as the upper, the middle, and the lowest stories of a house. In such order also is the Divine which proceeds and descends from the Lord. Hence, from the necessity of order, heaven is threefold.

"The interiors of man, which are of his mind and disposition, are also in like order. He has an inmost, a middle, and an outmost part; for into man, in his creation, all things of Divine order are brought together, so that he is made Divine order in form, and thus heaven in least image. For this reason also man has communication with the heavens as to his interiors, and comes among angels after death; among those of the inmost, middle, or lowest heaven, according to his reception of Divine good and truth from the Lord during his life in the world.

"The Divine which flows in from the Lord and is received in the third or inmost heaven, is called celestial; and hence, the angels there are called celestial angels. The Divine which flows in from the Lord and is received in the second or middle heaven, is called spiritual; and hence the angels there are called spiritual angels. But the Divine which flows in from the Lord and is received in the lowest or first heaven, is called natural." (Heaven and Hell, n. 29-31)

How do you live your life? Is it for the selfish ego?  That is the road downward.  Do you do things to make others happy?  That is the road upward.  Love to others is higher, and higher than that is loving others for the sake of love towards God who created us.


  1. The Spirit World is of a multi-layered structure. It is partitioned into numerous distinctive levels (measurements) as indicated by the state of psyche of the spirits who live there. There are levels in the Spirit World going from the fourth to the ninth measurement. The higher measurements are possessed by spirits who are closer to the brain of God (Buddha). As the spirits climb to the higher measurements, they move further far from common or human qualities, getting to be profoundly free and boundless creatures.
    Meditation on Inner Celestial Light and Sound

    1. Hello Rachael -
      Thanks for sharing that web site concerning the School of Spirituality. Never heard of it until now. Looks like it follows common universal spiritual principles, which I prefer. For all who do good by the truth that they know go to heaven.

      For heaven, all I am aware is that there are three main degrees or levels, and these correspond to three states of spiritual development. All heavenly states correspond to our own psychological states of development. Within each level, there are different societies that correspond to our personalities. So in reality while our body is on earth, our spirit is in the spiritual world, and we experience heaven according to our states of being. So I am not sure what is meant by "fourth to ninth measurement." If you are familiar with Swedenborg, each level or degree should correspond with a state of mind.

      In terms of spiritual progression, the progression is away from the selfish ego towards love, and inasmuch as we love others, or do things for the common good or use, we progress towards God. The less of selfish ego within, the more we can receive the Divine to flow within us. However, we will not become "boundless" or "abstract." Within our physical body there is a corresponding spiritual body, and this higher form is retained in the spiritual world. In the spiritual world there are forms that appear according to our ideas. The human form, in the ultimate sense, is a form that best reflects love and truth. However, as we move away from ego, we will become part of a group soul, and as we share our memories and experiences, it can bring about the appearance of reincarnation or living multiple lives. So in that sense, perhaps we become boundless, because in the spiritual world things are not bound by space and time, it is the abstract which becomes real.


Comments, questions, corrections and opinions welcome...