Arcana Coelestia #10225

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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10225. 'From a son of twenty years and over' means the state in which the understanding of truth and good exists. This is clear from the meaning of the word 'twenty', when it refers to a person's age, as the state in which the understanding of truth and good exists. The reason why 'twenty' means the state in which the understanding of truth and good exists is that when a person attains twenty years he starts to think for himself. For from earliest childhood to extreme old age a person passes inwardly through a number of states, which are those of understanding (or intelligence) and wisdom. The first state lasts from birth to the person's fifth year. It is a state of ignorance and of innocence within ignorance; and it is called early childhood. The second state lasts from the fifth to the twentieth year. This is a state in which instruction is received and knowledge is acquired; and it is called later childhood. The third state lasts from the twentieth to the sixtieth year, which is a state in which understanding exists; and it is called adulthood, maturity, or full manhood. The fourth or last state lasts from the sixtieth year onwards, which is a state of wisdom and of innocence within wisdom.

[2] These consecutive states of a person's life are meant in Moses by the numbers five, twenty, and sixty, used in Moses to describe the following age-groups,

When anyone makes a particular vow, the valuation for a male from a son of twenty years to a son of sixty years shall be fifty shekels of silver; if it is a female the valuation shall be thirty shekels. But from a son of five years to a son of twenty years the valuation shall be, if a male, twenty shekels; if a female, ten shekels. But from the son of a month to a son of five years the valuation of a male shall be five shekels, of a female three shekels. But from a son of sixty years onwards the valuation [of a male] shall be fifteen shekels, of a female ten shekels. Leviticus 27:2-7.

[3] The fact that the first state is a state of ignorance and also of innocence within ignorance is self-evident. While this state exists the inner levels of the mind are being put into shape for the use they will serve, and consequently are not yet opened up. Only the most external levels, those of the senses, are open; and when these alone are open ignorance exists. For a person's understanding and perception of anything at all springs from those inner levels. From this it also becomes clear that the innocence which exists at this time and is called the innocence of young childhood is of a most external nature.

[4] The fact that the second state is one in which instruction is received and knowledge is acquired is also self-evident. This is not yet a state in which understanding exists because the young person does not arrive at any conclusion by himself; neither by himself does he draw any distinction between one truth and another, nor even between truth and falsity, only with the help of others. His thought and speech consist purely of matters contained in his memory, thus solely of acquired knowledge; nor does he see or perceive whether something is true unless he takes it on trust from his teacher, consequently because another says it is.

[5] The third state however is called a state in which understanding exists because the person now thinks for himself, drawing distinctions and arriving at conclusions; and the conclusions are his, not another's. At this time belief begins; for belief is not a person's own until he has confirmed what he believes with ideas that are the product of his own thinking. Till then the belief is not his but another's within him; for till then he trusts in the person, not in the matter of belief. From this it becomes clear that the state in which understanding exists begins with a person when not his teacher's but his own ideas constitute what he thinks, which does not happen until inner levels of the mind are opened towards heaven. It should be remembered that the outer levels of the human mind exist in the world and the inner ones in heaven, and that the amount of light flowing from heaven into ideas derived from the world determines how much understanding and wisdom a person has. This comes about according to how far and in what kind of way the inner levels have been opened; and how far they are open depends on how far the person leads a life looking to heaven and not to the world.

[6] The last state however is one of wisdom and of innocence within wisdom, which exists when a person is no longer concerned just to gain an understanding of truths and forms of good, but is concerned to make them part of his will and life; for then the person has wisdom. And how far that person is able to make them part of his will and life depends on how much innocence he has, that is, on how far he believes that left to himself he has no wisdom at all, but that whatever wisdom he has is derived from the Lord, and also on how far he loves this to be so. So it is that this state is also one of innocence within wisdom.

[7] From the way in which these states follow one another the person possessing wisdom can also see the marvels of Divine Providence, namely these: An earlier state serves as the basis for those following on continuously; and, The opening up or unclosing of inner levels advances in consecutive stages from the outermost right through to the inmost ones, till at length they have been so opened up that what existed initially on outermost levels - that is to say, ignorance and innocence - also exists finally on inmost levels. For anyone who knows that by himself he is ignorant of everything and that whatever he knows is derived from the Lord has the ignorance of wisdom and also the innocence of wisdom within him. All this now makes clear what the state of understanding is, meant by 'twenty' when this number is used in reference to a person's age.

[8] This number is used with a similar meaning elsewhere in the Word, for example in Moses,

Take the sum of all the congregation, from a son of twenty years and over - every [male] going into the army in Israel. Numbers 1:2-3, 18ff.

This refers to the encampment and journeying of the children of Israel according to their tribes, which too means the arrangement in order by the Lord of the truths and forms of the good of faith and love, this arrangement in order being meant by the encampment of them, 4236, 8103 (end), 8130, 8131, 8155, and the forms of good and the truths of faith in their entirety by their tribes, 3858, 3926, 3939, 4060, 6335, 6337, 6397. Consequently 'a son of twenty years and over' is used to mean those who are in the state when understanding exists, because in their case truths and forms of the good of faith and love are able to be arranged and set in order by the Lord. For the Lord flows into their understanding and will, where He arranges and sets those things in order, and also removes and casts aside falsities and evils. This explains why it says 'from a son of twenty years and over, every [male] going into the army; for 'the army' means truths drawn up in order, in such a way that they may have no fear of falsities and evils, but may drive them back if they attack. The fact that such truths are meant in the internal sense by 'the army', see 3448, 7236, 7988, 8019.

[9] But in the case of those who are in the state of early childhood or that of later childhood, thus those who are under twenty years old, truths and forms of good are not so well arranged that they can go into the army and perform military service. They cannot do so because, as has been stated above, they do not as yet draw distinctions or arrive at conclusions by themselves, and cannot therefore as yet use reason to banish any falsity or evil at all; and those who cannot do this are not sent into battle, either. This is why a person is not allowed to undergo temptations, which are spiritual conflicts against falsities and evils, until he has entered the state in which understanding exists, that is, when he can judge things for himself, 3928, 4248, 4249, 8963.

[10] Twenty years of age and over is used with the same meaning elsewhere in Moses,

Jehovah said to Moses and Eleazar, Take the sum of the whole assembly of the children of Israel from a son of twenty years and over - everyone going into military service in Israel. Numbers 26:1, 2.

In the spiritual sense 'going into military service' means going into battles against falsities and evils which come from hell.

[11] Anyone who does not know that 'a son of twenty years and over' means the state in which understanding exists, or those who are in that state, cannot know either why it was declared, when the people grumbled against Jehovah, that all who came up from Egypt, from a son of twenty years and over, would die in the wilderness, Numbers 14:29; 32:10-11. For those who are in the state of understanding, in which they are able to draw distinctions, arrive at conclusions, and make judgements for themselves, are guilty of the wrong they do, but not so those who are not as yet in that state. From this also it is evident that 'twenty years', used in reference to an age, means the state in which understanding or judgement exists. But the number 'twenty' has a different meaning when used in reference to any other subject, see above in 10222.

  
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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.