The Bible

Genesis 1

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

Genesis 2 →

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 2 →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Arcana Coelestia 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, ...

Apocalypse Explained 257

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 402


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 246, 300, 476, 478, 480, 670, 709, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 200, 414

Conjugial Love 132, 156

Divine Love and Wisdom 11, 18, 287, 358

Divine Providence 123, 328

Sacred Scripture 14, 103

Heaven and Hell 137

The Last Judgment 20

True Christian Religion 20, 34, 46, 48, 364, 490


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 229, 294, 401, 513, 526, 527, 555, ...

Canons of the New Church 45

Charity 91

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 23, 25, 28

De Verbo (The Word) 14

Spiritual Experiences 1973, 1974, 5605, 6110

Marriage 20, 34, 46, 48, 71

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 2:3, 7, 16, 19, 5:1, 2, 6:1, 21, 8:17, 9:1, 2, 3, 6, 11:7

Exodus 20:11

Deuteronomy 4:19, 32:4

2 Kings 19:15

2 Chronicles 2:11

Nehemiah 9:6

Job 12:7, 9, 26:8, 38:8

Psalms 8:4, 7, 19:2, 24:2, 33:6, 7, 9, 74:16, 95:5, 104:6, 14, 19, 25, 115:15, 16, 121:2, 136:5, 7, 9, 148:4, 7

Proverbs 8:29

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Isaiah 40:26, 45:7, 61:11

Jeremiah 4:23, 10:12, 31:35

Jonah 1:9

Zechariah 12:1

Matthew 19:4

Mark 4:28, 10:6

Luke 3:38

Acts of the Apostles 4:24, 17:29

1 Corinthians 11:7, 15:38

2 Corinthians 4:6, 6:14

Colossians 3:10

1 Timothy 4:4

Hebrews 6:8, 11:3

James 3:9

2 Peter 5, 6

Revelation 4:11

Word/Phrase Explanations

Beginning
In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

God
The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

created
The creation of heaven and earth in the first chapter of Genesis means the new creation of the celestial church called 'Man'.

heaven
"Heaven" and "heavens" are used many times in the Bible, with a couple of variations of meaning. Sometimes it is relatively literal, including times when...

Earth
"Earth" in the Bible can mean a person or a group of like-minded people as in a church. But it refers specifically to the external...

form
A person who has yet to be regenerated is called 'a void and an empty earth', and also 'ground where no good or truth has...

Void
A 'void', or 'Vacuity' denotes a person's state before regeneration. From Arcana Coelestia 7: "The first state is the state which precedes, both the state...

darkness
"Darkness" is a state without light. "Light" is truth from the Lord, so "darkness" is a state where truth is lacking.

Face of the deep
The face of the deep (Gen. 1:2) signifies the lust of the unregenerate man, and the falsities thence originating.

face
“The eyes are the windows of the soul.” That’s a sentiment with roots somewhere in murky antiquity, but one that has become hopelessly cliché because...

spirit
There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

Spirit of God
'The spirit of God,' as in Genesis 1:2, signifies the divine mercy of the Lord. 'The spirit of God' is His emanation. 'The spirit of...

Face of the waters
The face of the water (Gen. 1:2) signifies the knowledges of good and truth.

waters
Water was obviously of tremendous importance in Biblical times (and every other time). It is the basis of life, the essential ingredient in all drinks,...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

light
Nov. 4, 1879: Thomas Edison filed a patent for a long-burning light bulb. Nov. 5, 1879: The light bulb was universally accepted as the symbol...

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

good
It seems rather circular to say that “good” in the Bible represents good, but in a general sense it’s true! The case is this: The...

called
To call someone or summon someone in the Bible represents a desire for conjunction between higher and lower states of life. For instance, imagine someone...

night
The sun in the Bible represents the Lord, with its heat representing His love and its light representing His wisdom. “Daytime,” then, represents a state...

evening
Since the light and warmth of the sun represent the Lord’s wisdom and love, it makes sense that evening, a time when the light and...

morning
Morning comes with the rising of the sun, and the sun – which gives life to the earth with its warmth and light – represents...

the first
'Resurrection' signifies salvation and eternal life. 'The first,' mentioned in Revelation 20:5, 6, does not mean a first resurrection, but the essence and primary part...

Firmament
The firmament, as in Genesis 1, signifies the internal man. The firmament of heaven is mutual love.

midst
The "midst" of something in the Bible represents the thing that is most central and most important to the spiritual state being described, the motivation...

under
Generally speaking things that are seen as lower physically in the Bible represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases this...

Gathered together
'The waters were gathered together' signifies falsities collected.

one
A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

place
'A room' or 'place' denotes state.

Land
Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

Grass
Grass signifies the scientific principle. Just as green grass serves animals for support, scientific truth serves men for spiritual nourishment. ‘Grass’ is scientific truth, and...

Herb
Every herb in the Word signifies some species of scientifics. 'Herb bearing seed,' as mentioned in Genesis 1:29, signifies every truth which regards use. 'Green...

Seed
'A seed' signifies love, and everyone who has love, as in Genesis 12:7. 8:15, 16. 'A seed' signifies faith grounded in charity. 'A seed' signifies...

fruit
In Zechariah 8:12, 'the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground her increase,' signifies that the spiritual affection of truth produces the good of...

tree
In general, plants in the Bible represent facts, thoughts and ideas – intellectual things. This makes sense: Plants are rooted in place, but can grow...

after
According to Swedenborg, time and space don’t exist in spiritual reality; they are purely natural things that exist only on the physical plane. This means...

third
The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

Third day
'The third day' signifies the end of a state of preparation for reception, and so an end of purification, as in Exodus 19:16. 'The third...

signs
The Bible often speaks of signs and miracles as things that convinced people of the Lord's leading. Swedenborg divides the two, identifying "signs" as things...

days
"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

give
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

two
The number "two" has two different meanings in the Bible. In most cases "two" indicates a joining together or unification. This is easy to see...

Great lights
Great lights, as in luminaries, signify love and faith, and are called in Genesis 1:14-17, the sun, moon, and stars.

stars
'The learned,' or 'wise,' who 'shall shine as the stars,' are people who are in good.

over
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

fourth
'The fourth watch' signifies the first state of the church at break of day, when good begins to act by truth.

life
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

fowl
"Birds" mean rational concepts in the external man and intellectual concepts in the internal man.

Fly
To fly, when spoken of the Lord, signifies to foresee and to provide. To fly, when predicated of the Lord, also signifies omnipresence. To fly...

Open
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

blessed
The Lord is perfect love expressed as perfect wisdom. He created us so that He could love us, could give us love and wisdom of...

Fruitful
To be fruitful is predicated of goodnesses, and to be multiplied, of truths.

multiply
'Spreading themselves on the earth,' as in Genesis 8:17, signifies the internal self operating on the external.

fill
There are two ways something can be filled: It can be filled with something bad against the wishes of its owner, or it can be...

bring
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “bring” is highly dependent on context, but in general it represents an introduction to a new...

cattle
Animals in the Bible generally refer to spiritual activity, the things we actually do on a spiritual level. "Cattle," as typically used in the Bible,...

beast
"Beasts" represent the affection for doing good things, a true desire to do them from the heart. In the negative sense, "beasts" stand for the...

Us
Because people are governed by angels and spirits, in Genesis 1:26 it says 'let us make man into our image.' But because the Lord alone...

Make
'To make,' as in Hosea 8:11, refers to good. In the opposite sense it refers to evil. To make heaven, and earth, and the sea,...

man
The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

Image
'An image' signifies falsities from self-derived intelligence.

Fish
Fish signify sensual affections which are the ultimate affections of the natural man. Also, those who are in common truths, which are also ultimates of...

sea
Water generally represents what Swedenborg calls “natural truth,” or true concepts about day-to-day matters and physical things. Since all water ultimately flows into the seas,...

own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

female
Female signifies good.

Meat
'Meat,' as in Genesis 40:17, signifies celestial good, because 'the meat of the angels' are nothing but the goods of love and charity, which not...

green
The color green is almost exclusively used in connection with plants in the Bible (the exceptions include two stomach-turning references to moldy plagues in Leviticus),...

sixth
Like most numbers in the Bible, "six" can have various meanings depending on context, but has a couple that are primary. When used in relation...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Animals and Plants in Heaven
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Celebrating the Seven Days of Creation
Offers a wide array of ideas for play time, art projects, field trips, and more.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Correspondences of Light
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that talk about light. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Creation Chain
Make a paper chain with the names (or pictures) of the people in your family and other things that the Lord has made. Or make a paper chain that illustrates several things in creation that depend on one another. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Creation Diorama
A great family project to build and display in your home.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Creation Mobile
Assemble this lovely mobile to remind you of all the Lord's precious gifts to us.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Creation Poem with Hand Motions
A lovely poem about creation with hand motions.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Creation | Seas to Trees Pop-up
Color cut-and-fold pop-up project showing dry land rising out of the water and then growing a tree illustrating Genesis 1:9-13. Sample activity from Creation: reflection of God, Level C, ages 11-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Creation Sequencing Cards
Children can color and cut out these cards, then practice putting them in order from day 1-7.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Creation Story (circle book project)
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Creation | The First Day - Level A
Complete lesson with activity choices: light and darkness game and song, separate light and darkness collage, scripted story discussion, coloring page, and a memory verse. Sample lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level A, ages 3-6.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 6

 Creation | The First Day - Level B
Complete lesson with activity choices: light and darkness experiment with accompanying video, let there be light folding paper project, scripted story discussion, coloring page, and a memory verse. Sample lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level B, ages 7-10.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Creation | The First Day - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: living in the dark--group blindfold games, video and discussion on the bible, creation and a can of peaches, scripted story discussion, and an illustrated quotation card. Sample Lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level C.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Family Worship: The Story of Creation
Ideas for reading and discussing the story of creation in Genesis 1. Includes suggestions for extending the experience such as going for a nature walk.
Religion Lesson | Ages 3 - 15

 God Said What? The Creation Story
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Memory Verse: Giving Thanks for Creation
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Life Is Eternal
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Overview of Creation Reflection of God Levels A, B, C for ages 3-14
Overview of Creation: reflection of God, Levels A, B, C for ages 3-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 14

 Prophecies of the Advent
Prophecies of Jesus' advent on earth often use the image of new light dawning in darkness to describe the spiritual impact His birth would have on the world.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Giving Thanks for Creation
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Stars
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Summary of Creation and Thankfulness
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Sun and the Fruit of Creation
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Thankfulness
A Thanksgiving "wreath" to color and display.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Thanking the Lord for Creation
How can your words and actions show the Lord that you appreciate His creation?
Activity | Ages over 15

 The Creation
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Creation: A General View
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Creation: The Fifth and Sixth Days
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Creation: The First Four Days
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Days of Creation Collage Book or Mural
Ideas from an art teacher for making a creation book or mural.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 The Fifth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Fifth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The First Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The First Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Fourth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Fourth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Greatest Gift
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Meaning of the Tree of Life
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Purpose of Creation
Birth brings a person into the natural world, but God's ultimate purpose is that a person be born again into heavenly life, the life of the spirit.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Second Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Second Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Seven Days of Creation
An illustrated story of the seven days of creation.
Story | Ages 3 - 7

 The Sixth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Sixth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Story of Creation
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Story of Creation: Family Worship Ideas
Detailed notes on the seven days of creation.
Article | Ages over 18

 The Third Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Third Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Universe
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Word Made Flesh
Like Genesis, the Gospel of John begins with creation. While Genesis describes the creation of natural light, John describes a second creation into spiritual light.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Two Great Lights
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Using the Lord’s Creation
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Where Did Everything Come From?
Grandpa explains to Annika and Peter where everything came from.
Story | Ages 4 - 6

 Why Are We Here?
Lesson and activities to explore why we were created - what God intends for us.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

From Swedenborg's Works

True Christian Religion #48

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)

Study this Passage

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48. At this point I shall insert the following account of an experience. 1

Once I had a talk with two angels, one from the eastern and one from the southern heaven. When they perceived that I was pondering the mysteries of wisdom on the subject of love, they said: 'Don't you know anything about the contests of wisdom in our world?' 'Not yet,' I replied.

'There are many of them,' they said, adding that those who love truths with a spiritual affection, that is, love them because they are truths and are the way to wisdom, meet when the signal is given, to discuss matters requiring profound understanding and form conclusions about them.

They then took me by the hand saying, 'Come with us, and you will see and hear. The signal has been given for a meeting to-day.'

I was taken across a plain to a hill, at the foot of which there was an avenue of palm trees extending all the way to the top. We went into it and climbed the hill. On the top or summit of the hill we saw a wood, among the trees of which a rise in the ground formed a sort of theatre. Inside this was a flat space paved with pebbles of different colours, and around this were ranged seats in a square; these were occupied by the lovers of wisdom. In the middle of the theatre was a table, and a document secured with a seal lay on it.

[2] Those who were sitting on the seats invited us to occupy some which were still vacant, but I replied: 'I have been brought here by two angels to see and listen, not to take part in the session.'

Then the two angels went up to the table in the middle of the arena and broke the seal on the document; they then read out to the meeting the mysteries of wisdom written in the document, which they were to discuss and expound. It had been written by angels of the third heaven, and sent down to lie on the table. There were three mysteries: the first, 'What is the image of God and the likeness of God in which man was created?', the second, 'Why is man born without knowledge of what he should love, yet animals and birds, the highest as well as the lowest, are born knowing all their loves require?'; the third, 'What is the meaning of "the tree of life," "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and "eating of them"?'

Underneath was written: 'Link these three subjects into a single statement of opinion, and write it on a fresh sheet of paper; then replace it on this table, and we shall look at it. If the opinion appears well-balanced and fair, each of you will be awarded a prize for wisdom.' After reading this out the two angels went away and rose up into their own heavens.

Then those taking part in the session began to discuss and expound the mysteries set before them. They spoke in turn, beginning with those who sat on the north side, then those who sat on the west, then the south and finally the east. They took up the first subject for discussion, which was: 'What is the image of God and what is the likeness of God in which man was created?' First of all the following passages were read aloud from the Book of Creation:

God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and God created man in His own image, to be an image 2 of God He made him, Genesis 1:26-27.

On the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God, Genesis 5:1.

[3] Those who sat on the north side were the first to speak. They said that the image and the likeness of God are the two lives breathed into man by God, the life of the will and the life of the understanding. 'For we read,' they said,

Jehovah God breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of lives 3 , and man became a living soul, Genesis 2:7.

This seems to mean that the will to do good and the perception of truth was breathed into him, which could be called the breath of lives. And because life was breathed into him by God, image and likeness mean his uprightness arising from love and wisdom, and from righteousness and the powers of judgment present in him.'

Those who sat on the west side supported this view, with, however, this addition, that the state of uprightness breathed into Adam by God, is constantly breathed into every person after Adam; but it is present in man as it were in a receiver, and a person is an image and likeness of God in accordance with his effectiveness as a receiver.

[4] Then the third group, who sat on the south side, said: 'The image of God and the likeness of God are two separate things, but in man they are combined from his creation. Some kind of inward illumination shows us that the image of God can be destroyed by man, but not His likeness. This is visible as it were through a screen from the fact that

Adam retained the likeness of God, after he had lost the image of God. For we read after his cursing:

See, man is as one of us, knowing good and evil, Genesis 3:22.

and afterwards he is called a likeness of God, but not an image of God (Genesis 5:1). But we would leave our colleagues on the east, who are therefore in better illumination, to say what the image of God and the likeness of God properly are.'

[5] Then, when there was silence, those who sat on the east side rose from their seats and looked up to the Lord. Then they sat down again and said that an image of God was a receiver of God, and since God is Love itself and Wisdom itself, the image of God is the receiving of love and wisdom from God in the man; but the likeness of God was the perfect likeness and complete appearance of love and wisdom being present in man and of belonging to him. 'For man does not know but that he loves and is wise of himself, or that he wills good and understands truth of himself. In fact not a whit is of himself, but from God. It is only God who loves of Himself and is wise of Himself, because God is Love itself and Wisdom itself. The likeness or appearance that love and wisdom, or good and truth, are present in man as if they belonged to him is what makes a man human, and thus able to be linked to God and so to live for ever. The consequence of this is that man's humanity is the result of his ability to will good and understand truth exactly as if he did so of himself, while at the same time knowing and believing that he does so from God. For to the extent that he knows and believes this, God places His image in man; it would be otherwise if he believed it was of himself and not from God.'

[6] After saying this, their love of truth made zeal overcome them and this led them to say: 'How can a person receive any love and wisdom, keep it and reproduce it, unless he feels that it is his own? And how can he be linked with God by love and wisdom, unless he is granted some reciprocal function to permit linking? No linking is possible without reciprocation, and the reciprocal function is man's loving God and doing His will, as if he acted of himself, yet believing that these things come from God. Again, how can a man live for ever, unless he is linked to the everlasting God? So how can a person be human, without that likeness in him?'

[7] All applauded this speech and asked for a conclusion to be drawn from what had been said. The following statement was adopted: 'Man is a receiver of God, and a receiver of God is an image of God. Because God is Love itself and Wisdom itself, man is a receiver of both of these. The receiver becomes an image of God to the extent that he receives them. Man is a likeness of God by virtue of the fact that he feels in himself that what he receives from God is his as if it belonged to him. But still that likeness makes him an image of God to the extent that he acknowledges that the love and wisdom, or good and truth, in him are not his, and do not come from him, but are present only in God and therefore come from Him.

[8] They then took up the next subject for discussion, 'Why is man born without knowledge of what he should love, yet animals and birds, the highest as well as the lowest, are born knowing all their loves require?'

First they established the truth of the proposition by various observations. For instance that man is born without any knowledge, not even knowing about conjugial love. 4 They made enquiry and heard from researchers that a baby does not even know its mother's breast from birth, but learns about it by having it repeatedly offered by its mother or nurse; it only knows how to suck, and that is because it has learnt this by continually sucking in its mother's womb. Later on, it does not know how to walk, or to adapt the sounds it makes to form any human word, not even how to express its emotions by sounds as animals do. Moreover, it does not know what food is suitable for it, as animals do, but grabs anything it finds, whether clean or dirty, and puts it in its mouth. The researchers reported that without instruction man knows nothing of the manner of sexual intercourse, and not even young men and women know about this without being told by others. In short, a man is born a mere bodily being like a worm, and bodily he remains unless he learns from others to know, understand and be wise.

[9] They then established that both the higher and lower animals, such as land animals, the birds of the air, reptiles, fish and insects, are born knowing all their loves require in order to live; for instance, everything they need to know about feeding, about where to live, how to copulate and produce young, and about how to bring up their young. They established these facts by remarkable observations which they recalled to mind from what they had seen, heard and read during their previous life in the natural world, where the animals that exist are not representative but real. When they had fully approved the truth of the proposition, they turned their minds to seeking and finding the reasons which would allow them to explain and elucidate this mystery. They all asserted that it must inevitably be due to the Divine Wisdom, that a man is a man and an animal an animal, and thus the imperfection in the birth of man becomes his perfection, and the perfection in the birth of an animal is its imperfection.

[10] The northerners then began to state their opinion. They said that man is born without knowledge, so that he can receive all kinds of knowledge. But if he acquired these by birth, he could never receive any others than those he acquired by birth, and then neither could he make any his own. They illustrated this by a simile. Man at birth is like soil in which no seeds have been planted, but which can receive every kind of seed, grow them and bring them to fruiting. But an animal is like soil which has already been sown, filled with grass and plants, and unable to receive any seeds other than those implanted. If others were sown, it would choke them. That is the reason why it takes man many years to grow up, a period long enough to allow him to be cultivated like the soil, and to bring forth, so to speak, all kinds of crops, flowers and trees. An animal, however, takes only a few years, because it does not need time to be cultivated to produce anything but what it possesses from birth.

[11] The westerners spoke next. They said that man has by birth, not knowledge like an animal, but ability and inclination, the ability to know and the inclination to love. He has by birth not only the ability [to know, but also to understand and to be wise. Also he is born with the most perfect inclination not only] 5 to love what is his own and worldly, but also what is God's and heavenly. As a result man is born an organ which lives with difficulty and dimly by its external senses, and he has by birth no internal senses, so that he may by stages acquire life and become first a natural man, then a rational and finally a spiritual man. This would not happen, if he were endowed by birth with knowledge and loves, like animals. For inborn knowledge and affections of love limit that progress, but mere abilities and inclinations can be inborn without limiting it. Consequently man is capable of becoming more perfect in knowledge, intelligence and wisdom for ever.

[12] The Southerners followed on with their statement. They said that it is impossible for man to acquire any knowledge from himself, but he must do so from others, since he has no inborn knowledge. 'Since he cannot acquire any knowledge from himself, neither can he acquire any love, since where there is no knowledge, there is no love. Knowledge and love are inseparable companions, and can no more be divided than will and understanding, or affection and thought, indeed no more than essence and form. Therefore as a person acquires knowledge from others, so love attaches itself to him as his companion. The universal love which attaches itself is the love of knowing, and later on the loves of understanding and being wise. Only man has these loves, animals have none; they flow in from God.

[13] 'We agree with our colleagues on the west that man has by birth no love and consequently no knowledge, but only the inclination to love, and consequently the ability to receive knowledge, not from himself, but from others, that is, by way of others. We say "by way of others," because neither have they received anything from themselves, but in origin all knowledge is from God. We also agree with our colleagues on the north that man immediately at birth is like soil in which no seeds have been planted, but where fine as well as worthless seeds can be planted. That is why man (homo) is so called from soil (humus), and is called Adam from adama, which means soil. 6 We would add that animals have by birth natural loves, and consequently the kinds of knowledge that correspond to them, yet this knowledge does not enable them to know, think, understand and be wise, but they are guided to this knowledge by their loves, almost like blind people being guided through the streets by dogs. As far as their understanding is concerned, they are blind, or rather, like sleepwalkers who do what they do by blind knowledge while the understanding is asleep.'

[14] The last to speak were the easterners. 'We are in agreement,' they said, 'with what our brothers have said, that man knows nothing from himself, but only from others and by way of others, so that he may recognise and acknowledge that all he knows, understands and is wise about he owes to God. Man could not in any other way be born and be created by God, and become His image and likeness. For he becomes an image of God by his acknowledgment and belief that he has received and continues to receive all the good of love and charity and all the truth of wisdom and faith from God, and not a whit from himself. He is a likeness of God by his feeling these things in himself as if from himself. He has this feeling because he has no knowledge from birth, but receives different kinds of knowledge, and it seems to him as if he received them from himself. Man is permitted by God to have this feeling so that he should be a man and not an animal, since by willing, thinking, loving, knowing, understanding and being wise as if from himself he receives different kinds of knowledge and sublimates them into intelligence, and by using them into wisdom. Thus God links man to Himself, and man links himself to God.

These things could not happen if God had not provided that man was born in a state of complete ignorance.'

[15] After this statement there was a general move to draw a conclusion from the matters discussed, and the following was adopted. 'Man is born without any knowledge so that he can acquire knowledge of all kinds and advance to intelligence and through this to wisdom. He is born without any loves so that he can acquire all kinds of loves, by putting to use his knowledge derived from his intelligence, and acquire love to God by means of love towards the neighbour. Thus he may be linked with God and so become fully man and live forever.'

[16] Then they took up the document again and read out the third subject for discussion. This was: 'What is the meaning of "the tree of life," "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and "eating of them"?' They all begged those on the east to expound this mystery, since it required a more profound understanding, and those who are from the east enjoy a flame-like light, that is, the wisdom of love. This wisdom is what is meant by "the Garden of Eden," in which those two trees were placed.

'We will tell you.' they replied, 'but since man gets nothing from himself, but from God, we shall draw our statement from God, but still speak as if it were we ourselves who were speaking. "A tree,' they went on to say, "Means man, and its fruit the good of life. So "the tree of life" means a man who has life from God. And since love and wisdom, charity and faith, or good and truth make up life from God in man, "the tree of life" means the man who has these qualities from God, and thus everlasting life. "The tree of life" from which people will be given to eat (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14) has a similar meaning.

[17] "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil" means a man who believes that he has life from himself, and not from God; and so, that love and wisdom, charity and faith, that is, good and truth in him are his and not God's. He believes this because in what he thinks and wills, says and does, he seems and appears to behave exactly as if he did so of himself. So since he goes so far as to persuade himself that he is God, the serpent said:

God knows that on the day you eat of the fruit of that tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil, Genesis 3:5.

[18] "Eating" from those trees means receiving and making one's own. "Eating of the tree of life" means receiving everlasting life; "eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" means receiving damnation. "The serpent" means the devil, a personification of self-love and pride in one's own intelligence. Self-love is the owner of that tree, and people who are proud of that love are those trees. It is therefore a huge error if people believe that Adam was wise and did good of himself, and this was his uncorrupted state, when in fact Adam himself was cursed for holding that belief. For this is the meaning of "eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." He therefore fell from his uncorrupted state, which he had by virtue of his belief that he was wise and did good entirely from God and in no respect of himself; for this is what "eating of the tree of life" means. Only the Lord, during His life on earth, had wisdom from Himself and did good of Himself, because the Divine itself was in Him and was His from birth. Therefore by His own power He became the Redeemer and Saviour.'

[19] From both these points they reached the following conclusion: "The tree of life" and "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" and "eating of them" mean that life for a person is having God in him, and then he enjoys heaven and everlasting life; and that it is death for a person to be persuaded and believe that life for a man is not God but himself, for thus he finds hell and everlasting death, in other words, damnation.'

[20] Then they looked at the document the angels had left on the table and read the words written at the bottom: 'Link these subjects into a single opinion.' Then they brought the three subjects together and saw that they hung together in a single series. This series or opinion was as follows: 'Man has been created so that he may receive love and wisdom from God, yet it appears exactly as if he did so from himself, which is to allow him to receive them and so be linked; therefore man is born without any love or any knowledge, without even the ability to love and be wise of himself; therefore if he attributes all the good of love and all the truth of wisdom to God he becomes a living man, but if he attributes them to himself he becomes a dead man.'

They wrote these words on a fresh sheet of paper and laid it on the table. Suddenly the angels appeared in a shining cloud and carried the document off to heaven. When it had been read there, those who sat on the seats heard the words, Well done, well done, well done. At once there appeared one as it were flying; he had two wings at his feet and two more at his temples. He brought as prizes gowns, hats and laurel-wreaths. He came down and gave those who sat on the north gowns of iridescent colour; to those on the west gowns of scarlet; to those on the south hats decorated at the rim with bands of gold and pearls, and on the raised left side with diamonds cut into the shape of flowers. To those on the east he gave laurel-wreaths decorated with rubies and sapphires. All who had taken part in the contest of wisdom went cheerfully home resplendent in their prizes.

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Footnotes:

1. This is repeated from Conjugial Love 132-136.
2. The Latin has 'likeness', but the author's copy has this corrected to 'image' in keeping with the Hebrew, cf. Conjugial Love 132.
3. The Latin follows the Hebrew in using the plural 'lives' here.
4. Or marriage love.
5. These words are missing in the original, but are supplied from Conjugial Love 133 where this account was first printed.

6. This Latin etymology is supported by expert opinion; the Hebrew word for 'soil' or 'ground' is adama.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

True Christian Religion 85, 335, 469, 692


   Parallel Passages:

Conjugial Love 132, 133, 134, 135, 136


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


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