Arcana Coelestia #3147

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)

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3147. And water to wash his feet. That this signifies purification there, is evident from the signification of “water for washing,” or of washing with water, as being to purify (concerning which presently); and from the signification of “feet,” as being natural things, or what is the same, the things in the natural man (see n. 2162). In the representative church it was customary to wash the feet with water, and thereby to signify that the unclean things of the natural man were washed away. The unclean things of the natural man are all those things which are of the love of self and of the love of the world; and when these unclean things have been washed away, then goods and truths flow in, for it is solely these unclean things that hinder the influx of good and truth from the Lord.

[2] For good is continually flowing in from the Lord, but when it comes through the internal or spiritual man to his external or natural man, it is there either perverted, turned back, or suffocated. But when the things which are of the love of self and of the love of the world are removed, then good is received there and is made fruitful; for then man practices the works of charity. This is evident from many considerations; as when in misfortune, distress, and sickness, the things that belong to the external or natural man are merely lulled, the man forthwith begins to think piously and to will what is good, and also to practice works of piety insofar as he is able; but when the state is changed, there is a change also in all this.

[3] These things were signified by the washings in the Ancient Church, and the same were represented in the Jewish Church, The reason why they were signified in the Ancient Church, but represented in the Jewish church, was that the man of the Ancient Church regarded the rite as a something external in worship, and did not believe that he was purified by that washing, but by the washing away of the impurities of the natural man, which as before said are the things which are of the love of self and of the world. But the man of the Jewish Church believed that he was purified by that washing; neither knowing nor desiring to know that the purification of the interiors was signified.

[4] That by “washing” is signified a cleansing from the impurities referred to, is evident in Isaiah:

Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil (Isaiah 1:16); where it is evident that to “wash themselves” means to make themselves pure and to put away evils. Again:

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, in the spirit of judgment and in the spirit of expurgation (Isaiah 4:4); where “washing away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purging the blood of Jerusalem,” denotes purifying from evils and falsities.

In Jeremiah:

O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall the thoughts of thine iniquity lodge within thee? (Jeremiah 4:14).

[5] In Ezekiel:

I washed thee with water, and I washed away thy bloods from upon thee, and anointed thee with oil (Jeremiah 16:9 [NCBSW: Ezekiel 16:9]); concerning Jerusalem, by which is there meant the Ancient Church; “washing with waters” denotes purifying from falsities; “washing away bloods” denotes purging from evils; “anointing with oil” denotes filling then with good.

In David:

Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalms 51:2, 7).

Here “being washed” plainly denotes being purified from evils and their falsities.

[6] These are the things that were signified by “washing” in the representative church; and it was commanded for the sake of the representation that when they had become unclean they should wash the skin, the hands, the feet, and also the garments, and should be cleansed; by all which things were signified those which are of the natural man. Lavers also, of brass, were placed outside the temple, namely, the brazen sea and the ten brazen lavers (1 Kings 7:23-39); and a laver of brass at which Aaron and his sons were to wash was placed between the tent of meeting and the altar; and thus outside the tent (Exodus 30:18-19, 21); by which also was signified that only external or natural things were to be purified; for unless these have been purified, that is, unless the things that are of the love of self and of the world have been removed, the internal things which are of love to the Lord and toward the neighbor cannot possibly flow in, as before said.

[7] For the better understanding of how these things are circumstanced, namely, that external things are to be purified, take as an example and illustration good works, or what is the same, the goods of charity which at this day are called the fruits of faith; these are external things, because they are the exercises of charity. Good works are evil works unless those things are removed which are of the love of self and of the world; for when works are done before these have been removed, they indeed appear good outwardly, but are inwardly evil; for they are done either for the sake of reputation, or for gain, or for the sake of one’s honor, or for recompense, thus they are either self-meritorious 1 or hypocritical; for that which is of the love of self and the world causes the works to be such. But when these evils are removed, the works then become good; and they are goods of charity; that is, in them there is not regard to self, to the world, to reputation, to recompense; thus they are neither self-meritorious nor hypocritical; for then celestial love and spiritual love flow in from the Lord into the works and cause them to be love and charity in act; and then the Lord through these loves also purifies the natural or external man, and disposes it into order, so as to receive correspondently the celestial and spiritual things that flow in.

[8] This is clearly evident from what the Lord taught when He washed the feet of the disciples, as we read in John:

Then cometh He to Simon Peter; and Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that hath been washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit; ye are clean already, but not all (John 13:4-17).

“He that hath been washed, needeth not save to wash his feet” signifies that he who has been reformed, has need only to be cleansed as to natural things, that is, has need that evils and falsities should be removed from them; and then all things are disposed into order by the influx of spiritual things from the Lord. Moreover to wash the feet was an office of charity, as meaning not to reflect on the evils of another; and it was also an office of humility, as meaning to cleanse another from evils as from impurities; as also is evident from the Lord’s words in the passage just quoted (verses 12-17; also Luke 7:37-38, 44, 46; John 11:2; 1 Samuel 25:41).

(References: John 13:12-17)


[9] Everybody can see that washing himself does not purify anyone from evils and falsities, but only from the impurities that cling to him; nevertheless, as washing was among the rites commanded in the church, it follows that it involves something special, namely, spiritual washing, that is, purification from the uncleannesses which inwardly adhere to man. Therefore they who knew these things in that church, and thought about the purification of the heart, or the removal of the evils of the love of self and of the love of the world from the natural man, and who endeavored to effect this with all diligence, observed the rite of washing as external worship according to commandment; but those who did not know this and did not desire to know it, but thought that the mere rite of washing their garments, skin, hands, and feet, would purify them, and that provided they did these things they might be allowed to live in avarice, hatreds, revenge, unmercifulness, and cruelties, which are spiritual impurity, practiced this rite as an idolatrous one. Nevertheless they could represent by it, and by representation exhibit something of the church, whereby there might be some conjunction of heaven with man before the Lord’s advent; yet such conjunction as affected the man of the church little or not at all.

[10] The Jews and Israelites were such that they had no thought about the internal man, nor willingness to know anything about it; thus none at all concerning celestial and spiritual things, relating to the life after death. But yet lest all communication with heaven and thus with the Lord should perish, they were bound to external rites, whereby internal things were signified. All their captivities and plagues were in general for the end that external rites might be strictly observed for the sake of the representation.

Hence then it was that Moses washed Aaron and his sons with water at the door of the tent, that they might be sanctified (Exodus 29:4 40:12; Leviticus 8:6); that Aaron and his sons were to wash their hands and feet before they entered into the tent of meeting and came near to the altar to minister, that they might not die; and that this was to be to them a statute forever (Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30-31); that Aaron was to wash his flesh before he put on the garments of ministry (Leviticus 16:4, 24); that the Levites were to be purified by being sprinkled with the water of expiation; and that they were to cause a razor to pass over their flesh, and to wash their garments, and thus should be pure (Numbers 8:6-7); that whoever should eat the carcass even of a clean beast, or one that was torn, should wash his garments, and bathe himself in water; and if he did not wash himself and bathe his flesh, he should bear his iniquity (Leviticus 17:15-16); that whoever touched the bed of one affected with the flux, or who sat upon a vessel on which he had sat, and whoever touched his flesh, should wash his garments, and bathe himself with water, and should be unclean till the evening (Leviticus 15:5-7, 10; 15:10-12); that whoever let go the he-goat, as a scape-goat, should wash his flesh (Leviticus 16:26); that when a leprous person was cleansed, he was to wash his garments, shave off all his hair, and wash himself with water, and he should be clean (Leviticus 14:8-9); nay, that the very vessels which were made unclean by the touch of things unclean, should be passed through water, and should be unclean until evening (Leviticus 11:32). From these things it may be seen that no one was made clean or pure as to internal things by the rite of washing, but only represented one pure or spiritually clean, for the reason given above. That this is so, the Lord teaches plainly in Matthew (15:1-2, 20), and (Matthew 15:20) in Mark (7:1-23).

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Footnotes:

1. The words “merit,” “to merit,” and “meritorious,” are used by Swedenborg in a bad sense, meaning self-merit, etc., except when applied to the Lord. [Reviser.]

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(References: Exodus 40:30-32; Genesis 24:32; Matthew 15:1-20)


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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 3324, 3693, 3721, 3761, 3881, 3986, 4208, 4280, 4302, 4311, 4382, 4515, 4938, 5328, 5508, 5669, 6015, 6372, 6377, 6413, 6463, 6730, 6844, 6947, 7046, 7442, 7729, 7864, 8046, 8106, 8588, 8789, 8886, 8918, 9054, 9223, 9229, 9262, ...

Heaven and Hell 603

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 186, 209, 248, 277


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 69, 71, 130, 163, 176, 240, 279, 365, 376, 405, 433, 443

Other New Christian Commentary

Good Works 1

Feet 1

Washing feet 1

Wash 1

Bloods 1

Resources for parents and teachers

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 Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
In washing the disciples' feet Jesus showed His unconditional love for humankind. His example shows us leadership qualities to strive for.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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


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