Arcana Coelestia #1013

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1013. 'For in the image of God He made man' means charity, which is the image of God. This follows as a consequence of what is said above. Immediately above the subject was charity, meant by 'blood'. And the command not to destroy it was meant by the statement that men should not shed blood. The statement that comes next, 'in the image of God He made man', makes it clear that charity is the image of God. What the image of God is, scarcely anybody knows nowadays. People say that the image of God was lost in the first man whom they call Adam; and that in him it was an image of God which, they assert, possessed a certain perfection with which they are not acquainted. Perfection there was indeed, for Adam or Man is used to mean the Most Ancient Church, which was celestial man and had perception such as no subsequent Church was to have. For this reason it was also the likeness of the Lord. The likeness of the Lord means love to Him.

[2] Afterwards in the process of time this Church perished, at which point the Lord created a new one, which was not a celestial Church but a spiritual. This Church was not a likeness but an image of the Lord. An image means spiritual love, that is, love towards the neighbour, which is charity, as also shown already in 50, 51. The fact that this Church was an image of the Lord by virtue of spiritual love, or charity, is clear from the present verse, while the fact that charity itself is the image of the Lord is clear from the consideration that it is said 'for in the image of God He made man', that is to say, charity itself made him. That charity is the image of God is absolutely clear from what is the very essence of love or charity. Nothing but love and charity can make anyone into a likeness or into an image. The essence of love and charity is to make two people so to speak into one. When one person loves another as himself, and more than himself, he sees the other in himself, and himself in the other. This anyone can appreciate if only he will direct his attention to what love is, or to persons who love one another mutually. The will of the one is that of the other; they are as it were inwardly joined together, and are separate from each other in body only.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 50-51)

[3] Love to the Lord makes man one with the Lord, that is, makes a likeness; charity or love towards the neighbour also makes him one with Him, but makes an image. An image is not a likeness but that which approaches a likeness. This oneness that arises from love the Lord Himself describes in John,

I pray that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me. John 17:21-23.

This oneness is that mystical union which some people have in mind, a union which is achieved through love alone. In the same gospel,

Because I live you will live also; in that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and does them, he it is who loves Me. If a man loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:19-21, 27.

From these quotations it is clear that love is what joins together and that the Lord has His home with the person who loves Him and also with him who loves the neighbour, for to love the neighbour is to love the Lord.

[4] This union which makes a likeness and an image cannot be seen very easily in the human race; but it can be seen in heaven where all angels are so to speak one by virtue of their mutual love. Each community, which consists of very many angels, constitutes as it were one person. And all the communities together, that is, the whole of heaven, constitute one human being, also called the Grand Man, see 457, 550. The whole of heaven is a likeness of the Lord, for the Lord is the All in all of those who are there. Each community is a likeness too, and so is each angel. Celestial angels are likenesses, spiritual angels are images. Heaven therefore consists of as many likenesses of the Lord as there are angels, and this is achieved solely by means of mutual love which entails one loving another more than himself, see 548, 549. For the situation is this: For heaven in general, or heaven as a whole, to be a likeness, its parts - which are the individual angels - must be likenesses, or images that approach likenesses. For unless the general whole consists of parts so to speak like itself, it is not something general making one. From these things as from the basic idea, one may see what makes a likeness or an image of God, namely love to the Lord and love towards the neighbour. In consequence every regenerate spiritual person is an image of the Lord by virtue of love or charity, which are from the Lord alone. And whoever is governed by charity from the Lord is in a state of perfection. This perfection will in the Lord's Divine mercy be described later on.

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