Secrets of Heaven #1001

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1001. There is a great deal of evidence for the symbolism of blood as neighborly love. 1 As a result, blood symbolizes a new will that the spiritual person who has been reborn receives from the Lord. This new will is the same thing as neighborly love, because the new will is formed of that love. Charity — love — is the vital essence itself of the will, or the life of the will. The only possible reason for saying we will something is that we favor or love it. We might say we think something, but that is not the same as willing it, unless the will lies behind the thought.

This new will, which is neighborly love, is the blood. The new will is not ours but is the Lord's in us. And since it is the Lord's, it must never be mixed together with the promptings of our own will, which again are quite foul. That is why the representative church had this proscription against eating flesh in its soul, that is, in its blood, meaning that people were not to mix the two together.

[2] Because blood symbolized charity, it symbolized what was holy; and because flesh symbolized human will, it symbolized what was profane. Since the two, being opposites, are separate, people were forbidden to eat blood. The reason was that the eating of flesh together with blood in those days presented to heaven a picture of profanation, or the intermingling of something sacred and something profane. Such a picture could not help striking the angels of the time with horror. In those days, everything that was happening among members of the church was being turned into a corresponding spiritual representation among the angels, in accord with its inner-sense symbolism.

Since meanings always depend on the individual they apply to, so does the symbolism of blood. In relation to a regenerate spiritual person, blood symbolizes charity, or love for one's neighbor. In relation to a regenerate person of heavenly character, it symbolizes love for the Lord. In relation to the Lord, however, it symbolizes his core human essence and therefore Love itself, that is, his mercy toward the human race. Since blood, then, symbolizes love and anything connected with love, in general it symbolizes heavenly traits, which are the Lord's alone. So in relation to humans, it symbolizes heavenly qualities that we receive from the Lord. The heavenly qualities that a regenerate spiritual person receives from the Lord are heavenly-spiritual ones (discussed elsewhere, by the Lord's divine mercy). 2

[3] This fact — that blood symbolizes heavenly qualities and that in the highest sense it symbolized the Lord's core human essence and so love itself, or his mercy toward the human race — can be seen from the holiness that the representative Jewish religion was commanded to accord blood. On that account it was called the blood of the covenant and was spattered on the people. Along with the anointing oil, it was also spattered on Aaron and his sons. 3 And the blood of every burnt offering and sacrifice was spattered on and around the altar. On these subjects, see Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23; 24:6, 8; Leviticus 1:5, 11, 15; 4:6-7, 17-18, 25, 30, 34; 5:9; 16:14-15, 18-19; Numbers 18:17; Deuteronomy 12:27. 4

[4] The reason the eating of blood was so strictly forbidden was that blood was considered this holy and human will is this profane, and the practice represented the profanation of something holy. Moses says, for instance:

It is an eternal statute throughout your generations, everywhere you live: you shall not eat any fat or any blood. (Leviticus 3:17)

Fat stands for heavenly life, and blood (in this verse) for heavenly-spiritual life.

(A heavenly-spiritual entity is something spiritual that develops out of something heavenly. For example, love for the Lord was the heavenly trait belonging to people in the earliest church, because it was planted in their will. Their heavenly-spiritual possession was the faith that grew out of it, as described in §§30-38, 337, 393, 398. With spiritual people, on the other hand, a heavenly attribute is not possible, since love for others is planted in their intellectual side; they can have only a heavenly-spiritual dimension.)

In the same author:

Any from the house of Israel or from among the immigrants residing in your midst who may have eaten any blood — I will set my face 5 against the souls eating blood, and I will cut them off from the midst of their people, because the soul of the flesh is in the blood. And I have given it to you [for use] on the altar, to make atonement over your souls, because the blood itself must atone for the soul. The soul of all flesh is its blood; everyone eating it will be cut off. (Leviticus 17:10-11, 14)

This says explicitly that the soul of flesh is in the blood and that the soul of flesh is the blood — the heavenly aspect, the sacred element, the Lord's possession.

[5] In the same author:

Set yourself firmly against eating blood, because the blood itself is the soul, and you shall not eat the soul with the flesh. (Deuteronomy 12:23, 24, 25)

These verses again show that blood is being called the soul, that is, heavenly life, or a heavenly quality, as represented by the burnt offerings and sacrifices of that religion. The prohibition in Exodus 23:18 and 34:25 against offering the blood of a sacrifice on top of yeast bread 6 also represented a ban on mingling any heavenly aspect, which belongs to the Lord — and only what belongs to him is heavenly and sacred — with any distinctly human aspect, which is profane. Anything containing yeast symbolized what was corrupt and tainted.

(References: Deuteronomy 12:23-25)

[6] The reason blood is called soul and symbolizes the holiness of charity, and the reason it represented the holiness of love in the Jewish religion, is that it constitutes the life of the body. Since blood constitutes the life of the body, it is the body's outermost soul, so that we can call it the physical soul, or the vehicle of our physical life. 7 And since external objects represented inner attributes in the representative churches, blood represented the soul, or heavenly life.


1. Swedenborg has previously identified or discussed biblical support for the symbolic connection of blood with charity (love for one's neighbor) or, in a negative sense, with violence done to charity, in §§330, 373-374, 1005, 1010. [SS]

2. On heavenly-spiritual qualities, see below in subsection 4. See also the sections listed in §9671, including §§1577 and 1824 in the present volume. [LHC]

3. Many Middle Eastern religions included a rite in which sacred objects and persons were anointed with oil, an act that was believed to impart holiness or divinely based authority. For references to the spattering of blood and of anointing oil on Aaron and his sons, see note 4 in §1001 just below. For more on the topic of anointing, see note 1 in §1361. [SS]

4. The first edition lists Leviticus 17:12, 13, 14-15, 18, 19 rather than 16:14-15, 18-19. The third Latin edition (Swedenborg [1749-1756] 1949-1973) emends to 16:12-15, 18-19, but verses 12 and 13 are not closely related. It is possible but unlikely that the intended reference would have included 17:12-14; all three verses mention blood, but they do not bear directly on the subjects listed here (verse 14 being quoted below in subsection 4). For the spattering of blood and of anointing oil on Aaron and his sons, see Exodus 29:21 and Leviticus 8:30. (At least one example of each of the other subjects mentioned in the translation here is included in the verses listed.) [LHC]

5. On the translation "face," which represents a plural in the Latin, and in the Hebrew of which the Latin is a translation, see note 3 in §5. [Editors]

6. "Yeast bread" refers to bread leavened by a portion of active, fermented dough held over from a previous batch (sourdough). Such leavening was often a symbol of corruption, not only in biblical cultures but in the ancient world in general. Mosaic Law thus specified unleavened bread for certain sacred uses; see, for example, Exodus 12:15. For a counterexample in which leavening is used in a positive sense, see Matthew 13:33. [SS]

7. Swedenborg is building on a very long tradition that held that the soul or higher mind controlled or operated the components of the body by means of "spirits," or very fine fluids or vapors, transmitted through the veins and arteries along with the blood. He states the same idea variously in his scientific works as well; see, for example, Dynamics of the Soul's Domain (Swedenborg [1740-1741] 1955), part 2, §§46, 199, 240; Draft on the Fiber (Swedenborg 1976a) §§299, 374; The Soul's Domain (Swedenborg [1744-1745] 1960) §334. [SS]

(References: Genesis 9:4)

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