The Bible

 

Genesis 1

English: King James Version         

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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.

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   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 Christianity 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

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:




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

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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

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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

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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
Heavens are celestial and spiritual things. Consequently, they are inmost things, both of the Lord's kingdom in heaven the and in the earth. This also...

earth
'Lands' of different nations are used in the Word to signify the different kinds of love prevalent in the inhabitants.

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...

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 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
'Waters,' 'rivers,' and 'depths,' as in Psalm 78:15-16, signify truths from the Lord.

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...

saw
To look,' as in Genesis 18:22, signifies thinking, because seeing denotes understanding. Look not back behind thee,' as in Genesis 19:17, means that Lot, who...

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 proclaim' signifies exploration from influx of the Lord.

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...

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

midst
'Middle' denotes what is primary, principal, or inmost.

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.

seas
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,...

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
'Trees,' in general, signify the perceptions when discussing the celestial self, but when related to the spiritual church, they signify knowledges. A person in the...

third
'Three' denotes fullness, and 'a third,' not full.

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
'A token,' as in Genesis 9:12, 13, 17, signifies causing it to be.

days
The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

light
'The two luminaries' denote love and faith in the internal self.

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
The word "great" is used in the Bible to represent a state with a strong degree of love and affection, of the desire for good;...

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

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...

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

fowl
Fowl signify spiritual truth; a bird, natural truth; and a winged thing, sensual truth. Fowl signify intellectual things. Fowl signify thoughts, and all that creeps...

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.

whales
'A whale,' as in Jeremiah 51:34, signifies people who possess the universal aspects of the knowledges of faith, as known, and apply them to evil...

living
'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

winged
'Wings' signify spiritual truths. 'Wings,' when related to the Lord, signify the divine spiritual. In the opposite sense, 'wings' relate to falsities and rationalizations from...

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
'To satiate' relates to the extent of a person's will, for good or evil.

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
Angels do give us guidance, but they are mere helpers; the Lord alone governs us, through angels and spirits. Since angels have their assisting role,...

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

sea
'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

air
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

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
Because of their understanding of spiritual marriage, the people of the Most Ancient church perceived 'male and female' as two faculties in the spiritual self:...

a
A help-meet for him,' or 'a help as before him,' as mentioned in Genesis 2:18, signifies proprium, or what is one's own. However, whereas the...

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...

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here: swedenborg.com.


Does God Want us to Dominate Nature? - Swedenborg Minute

Is there a religious call to exploit nature? Here, Swedenborg tackles a bit of text that has led some people to believe just that.

Swedenborg 101: The Basic Nature of Everything - Swedenborg and Life

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

 Qualities of the Lord
Look at colored pictures of stories from the Word. Using a word bank, identify the quality of the Lord shown in each picture.
Project | Ages 9 - 14

 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 Christianity #48

True Christianity (Rose translation)      

Study this Passage

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48. To these points I will add the following memorable occurrence.

Once I had a conversation with two angels, one of whom came from a heaven in the east and the other from a heaven in the south. When these angels realized that I was meditating on secrets of wisdom having to do with love, they said, "Are you not aware of the wisdom games that take place in our world?"

"Not yet," I said.

"There are lots of them," they said. They explained that spirits who love truth in a spiritual way (loving it because it is true and because it leads to wisdom) gather together on receiving a sign; these spirits then debate issues that require deep understanding, and draw conclusions.

The angels took me by the hand, saying to me, "Come with us and you will see and hear. We received the sign that a gathering is happening today. "

They led me across a large flat area of land to a hill. I was surprised to see here a covered walkway or colonnade formed entirely of living palm trees. It began at the bottom of the hill and continued to the top. We went into it and made our way up the hill. At the hills highest point a stand of trees came into view. Within this stand of trees, earth had been built up in such a way as to form an arena. In the arena there was a level area paved with pebbles of different colors. Around the paved part, on all four sides, there were chairs set up on which the lovers of wisdom were sitting. At the center of the whole arena there was a table. On it lay a document sealed with a signet ring.

[2] The people sitting on the chairs invited us to take some unoccupied seats, but I replied, "I was brought here by these two angels not to sit, but to watch and to listen. "

Then the two angels went to the table in the middle of the paved area and broke the seal on the document. To the seated participants they read what was written in the document - mysteries of wisdom that the crowd was to discuss and unfold. These mysteries had been written by angels of the third heaven and sent down to that table.

There were three mysteries. First, human beings were created in the image and the likeness of God [Genesis 1:26]; what is that image and what is that likeness? Second, animals and birds, whether noble or not, are born with knowledge that relates to every drive or love they have; why then are human beings born without any knowledge that relates to any drive or love they have? Third, what does the tree of life mean, what does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mean, and what does eating from them mean [Genesis 2:9, 16-17; 3:6]? Below these points it said, Connect these three into a single statement, write it on a new sheet of paper, put it on this table, and we will look at it. If on balance your statement seems well considered and accurate, each of you will be given a prize for your wisdom.

After they had read this aloud the two angels walked away and were lifted up into their respective heavens. Then the people on the chairs began to discuss the mysteries set before them and to unravel them. They took turns speaking. Those sitting on the north side went first, then those sitting on the west side, then those sitting on the south side, and finally those sitting on the east side.

The group took up the first topic for discussion: Human beings were created in the image and the likeness of God; what is that image and what is that likeness? First the following verses from the Book of Creation were read before the whole group:

God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, according to our likeness. " And God created human beings in his own image; in the likeness of God he made them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

On the day that God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1)

[3] Those sitting on the north side spoke first. They said, "The image of God and the likeness of God are the two kinds of life that God has breathed into us all: the life in our will and the life in our intellect. We read, 'Jehovah God breathed a soul of lives into Adams nostrils, and the human being turned into a living soul' (Genesis 2:7). We believe this means that willing what is good and perceiving what is true were breathed into Adam - this is how he received 'a soul of lives. ' Because the life breathed into Adam came from God, the image and the likeness mean a purity of love and wisdom, and of justice and judgment, in Adam. "

Those sitting on the west side agreed, but added that the pure state God breathed into Adam is something God has been continually breathing into everyone else ever since. That pure state, then, is present in human beings inasmuch as they are vessels that receive it. Their capacity as receiving vessels makes human beings images and likenesses of God.

[4] Those sitting on the south side were the third to take a turn. They said, "The image of God and the likeness of God are two different things, although they have been united in human beings ever since creation. From some kind of inner light we see that we all have the power to destroy the image of God in ourselves, but not the likeness of God. We can glimpse this as though through a veil from the fact that Adam kept the likeness of God after he lost the image of God. After the curse it says, 'See how this human being knows good and evil, like one of us' (Genesis 3:22); and later on, Adam is called the likeness of God, but not the image of God (Genesis 5:1). We will leave it, however, to our friends sitting on the east side, who therefore have better light, to say what the image of God and the likeness of God really are. "

[5] When it had grown quiet, those sitting on the east side rose from their chairs and looked up toward the Lord. Then they sat back down and said, An image of God is a vessel for God. God is love itself and wisdom itself; therefore the image of God is our openness to love and wisdom from God. The likeness of God, on the other hand, is the perfect likeness and the full appearance that love and wisdom are in us as if they were completely our own. We all utterly feel as if we have love and wisdom on our own, as if we intend what is good and understand what is true by ourselves. In reality, though, not a bit of it comes from us; it is from God. God alone has love and wisdom on his own, because God is love itself and wisdom itself. The likeness or the appearance that love and wisdom or goodness and truth are in us as our very own makes us human and enables us to have a partnership with God and therefore to live to eternity. It flows from this that what makes us human is our ability on the one hand to intend what is good and understand what is true completely as if we were on our own, and our capacity on the other hand for knowing and believing that we are doing this with God's help. As we come to know and believe that we are getting help from God, God puts his image in us. God does not put his image in us, however, if we believe that we are doing it on our own without God's help.

[6] When they had said this, a passion from their love for truth came over them, which led them to say the following: "How could any of us receive, retain, or pass on any love or wisdom if we did not experience it as our own? How could we have a partnership with God through love and wisdom if we had no way of doing our part to form that partnership? There is no such thing as a partnership without mutuality. What makes the partnership mutual is that we love God and we act on what we receive from God, doing so as if we were on our own but trusting that we have God's help. How could we live to eternity if we had no partnership with the eternal God? How then would we be human if that likeness were not in us?"

[7] All agreed with this and said, "We need to draw a conclusion from all this. " They came to the following: "We are vessels to receive God. A vessel to receive God is an image of God. Because God is love itself and wisdom itself, we are vessels to receive love and wisdom; our vessel becomes an image of God as we actually do receive love and wisdom. We are a likeness of God because we experience things from God in ourselves as if they were our own. We go from being a likeness to being an image of God to the extent that we acknowledge that the love and wisdom or goodness and truth in us are not ours and did not originate in us; they exist solely in God and they come exclusively from God.

[8] Next the group took up the second topic for discussion: "Animals and birds, whether noble or not, are born with knowledge that relates to every drive or love they have; why then are human beings born without any knowledge that relates to any drive or love they have?"

The participants began by verifying the truth of the premise in various ways, particularly the notion that human beings have no innate knowledge or instinct, not even in relation to marriage love. They made inquiries and heard from researchers that newborns lack even an innate knowledge or instinct for recognizing their mother's breast; newborns learn to nurse only when their mother or whoever is nursing them gives them her breast. Newborns know only how to suck, an instinct they gained from sucking all the time while in their mother's womb. Shortly after birth, they do not know how to walk or how to shape sound into any human word, or even how to use different sounds to express their love and emotions the way animals do. Unlike animals, they have no idea what food would be good for them - they seize anything at hand, clean or dirty, and put it in their mouths. The researchers also said that without instruction people have absolutely no idea how to make love to the opposite sex. Not even young men and women know how without learning about it from others. In a nutshell, we are born as mindlessly physical as a worm and remain that way unless we learn from others how to know, understand, and grow wise.

[9] Next the participants verified that animals, whether noble or not, are born with all the knowledge related to the various drives or loves that affect their lives. This is true of land animals, birds that fly in the sky, reptiles, fish, and even the little creatures known as insects. They all know everything that is good for them to eat, everything about how to make a home for themselves, and everything about how to mate and how to produce and raise their offspring. The participants verified these facts by recalling the astounding things they had seen, heard, and read in the physical world where they used to live, in which animals are real rather than symbolic.

Once the truth of the premise was proven in this way, the participants turned their minds to hunting for and finding a means of unfolding and uncovering this mystery. They all said that these phenomena must come about as a result of divine wisdom intentionally making humans human and animals animal, and creating the circumstance that our imperfection at birth becomes our perfection, while an animals perfection at birth becomes its imperfection.

[10] Then the people on the north side went first in giving their opinion. They said, "We are born without knowledge so that we can be open to all knowledge. If we had been born with knowledge, we would not have been open to any concepts except those we were born with; nor would we have been capable of acquiring any further knowledge. "

They illustrated this with an analogy: "When first born we are like ground in which no seeds have been planted, but which has the capacity to take in any and all seeds and help them grow and bear fruit. An animal is like ground that is already sown and is full of grasses and small plants. The seeds already sown in that ground fill it to capacity. If more seeds are planted, they are choked out. This is why we take so many years to grow up. In our growing years we are like ground that can be cultivated to yield crops, flowers, and trees of all kinds. Animals grow up in just a few years, and in their growing years they cannot be cultivated beyond their innate potential. "

[11] The people on the west side spoke next. They said, "It is true that unlike animals we are born without knowledge. We are, however, born with a capacity and a tendency - a capacity for knowing and a tendency to love. We have an inborn ability to love not only things that have to do with ourselves and the world but also things that have to do with God and heaven. At birth our physical senses are scarcely alive except in a dim way and our inner senses are not alive at all - a situation that allows us progressively to come to life and become human. First we become earthly, and then rational, and finally spiritual. This would not happen if we were born like animals with various types of knowledge and love already in place. Knowledge and feelings of love that are inborn limit the progression; but capacities and tendencies that are inborn do not limit it at all. Human beings are therefore capable of being perfected in knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom to eternity. "

[12] The people on the south side then took their turn in giving their opinion. They said, "It is impossible for human beings to learn anything from themselves. Since they have no innate knowledge, they have to learn it all from others. Because they cannot acquire any knowledge from themselves, they cannot acquire any love from themselves either, since where there is no knowledge there is no love. Knowledge and love are partners that are no more separable than the will and the intellect or feelings and thoughts, or essence and form for that matter. Therefore as we pick up knowledge from others, love accompanies it. The universal love that attaches to knowledge is love for knowing, and later it becomes love for understanding and growing wise. These types of love are found only in human beings, never in animals; they flow in from God.

[13] "We stand in agreement with our colleagues on the west side on the point that we are all born without love and therefore without knowledge; we are born only with a tendency to love and a resulting capacity for acquiring knowledge. We acquire knowledge from others, not from ourselves. Actually this happens through others, in the sense that they did not receive the knowledge from themselves either - it all comes originally from God.

"We also agree with our colleagues on the north side on the point that when first born we are all like ground in which no seeds have yet been planted, but in which all seeds, whether noble or not, can be planted. This is why human is related to 'humus,' and 'Adam' to adama, or 'soil. ' We would like to add to these points that animals are born with earthly loves and with the knowledge that goes with these loves. Nevertheless the knowledge animals possess does not lead them to know, think, understand, or be wise about anything. Their loves lead them to knowledge much the way guide dogs lead the blind through streets. Animals are blind in intellect. Or better yet, they are like sleepwalkers who do what they do from blind knowledge while their intellect sleeps. "

[14] The last to speak were the people on the east side. They said, "We agree with what our friends have said. We humans learn from and through others, not from ourselves. Therefore we need to recognize and acknowledge that everything we know, understand, and have wisdom about comes from God. There is no other way for us to be born or generated by God and become an image and a likeness of him. An image of God is what we become by acknowledging and believing that all the goodness of love and goodwill and all the truth of wisdom and faith that we have received and are still receiving come from God, and none comes from ourselves. A likeness of God is what we are as a result of experiencing these things in ourselves as if they were our own. We experience them in this way because rather than being born with knowledge, we acquire it as we go along. Our acquiring of knowledge seems to us to be something we do ourselves. God grants us this experience so that we may be human rather than animal. Our seeming autonomy in intending, thinking, loving, knowing, understanding, and becoming wise allows us to acquire knowledge, elevate it to an understanding, and turn it into wisdom as we put it to use. This is how God unites us to himself, and how we unite ourselves to God. None of this could take place unless God had provided for us to be born in total ignorance. "

[15] After this statement the whole group wanted to form a conclusion from their discussion. Their conclusion was, "We are born without any knowledge so that we can come into all knowledge, make progress in understanding, and move onward into wisdom. We are born without any love so that by intelligently applying what we learn we can come into all love, can come to love God through loving our neighbor, and can thereby develop a partnership with God that makes us truly human and allows us to live forever. "

[16] Then the participants picked up the document and read the third topic for discussion: "What does the tree of life mean, what does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mean, and what does eating from them mean?"

They all asked the group on the east side to unravel this mystery, "since," they said, "it is a matter of deeper understanding and you who are from the east have a blazing light, meaning that you have a wisdom that comes from love. This kind of wisdom is in fact what the garden of Eden means, where the two trees were situated. "

The people on the east side replied, "We will give an answer, yet because human beings receive everything from God and nothing from themselves, we will give an answer from him, although we will still give it as if it were our own.

"A tree means a human being," they said. "Its fruit means the good done by that human beings life. Therefore the tree of life means someone who lives from God. Because love and wisdom, along with goodwill and faith - or rather, goodness and truth - are God - life in us, the tree of life means people who have those things from God and who have eternal life as a result. Much the same thing is meant by the tree of life from which people were allowed to eat (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14).

[17] "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil means those who believe that they live on their own rather than from God - that the love and wisdom and the goodwill and faith - or again, the goodness and truth - that are in them are their own and not God's. They believe this because the likeness and appearance of their thinking, intending, speaking, and acting on their own is completely convincing. Because they use this appearance to convince themselves that they are in fact God, therefore the serpent said, 'God knows that on the day you eat some 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 accepting and internalizing. Eating from the tree of life means accepting eternal life. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means accepting damnation. The serpent means the Devil, which is loving ourselves and having pride in our own intelligence. Love for ourselves owns the latter tree. If we have pride because we love ourselves, we are trees of the knowledge of good and evil.

"It is horrendously wrong, then, to believe that Adam was wise and did what was good on his own, and that this was what was pure about his state. Adam himself was in fact cursed because of that very belief. That is what it means to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that is why Adam fell at that time. His earlier state had been pure because then he believed he was wise and was doing what was good with God's help and in absolutely no respect on his own. This is what it means to eat from the tree of life. The only person who ever became wise on his own and did what was good on his own was the Lord while he was in the world, because divinity itself was in him and was his from birth. That is how he became the Redeemer and Savior by his own power. "

[19] From these points the participants drew the following conclusion: "The meaning of the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and eating from those trees is as follows: Our life is God in us. With God in us we have heaven and eternal life. Our death, on the other hand, is the conviction and belief that our life is we ourselves and not God. This attitude brings us hell and eternal death, meaning damnation. "

[20] After this they checked over the document that the angels had left on the table. They saw written at the bottom, "Connect these three into a single statement. "

They brought them together and found that the three connected to form a single chain. The chain, their statement, was this: "We human beings have been created to receive love and wisdom from God and yet to experience them completely as if they came from ourselves, for the sake of our receiving them and forming a partnership with God. For this reason we are not born with any love, any knowledge, or any capability whatever for loving or becoming wise on our own. If we attribute all the goodness of love and all the truth of wisdom to God, we become living human beings. If we attribute them to ourselves, we become dead human beings. "

They wrote this on a new sheet of paper and placed it on the table. Suddenly angels were present in a shining white cloud. They took the document to heaven. After it was read there, the people sitting on the chairs heard voices from heaven saying, "Good! . . . Good! . . . Good!"

Immediately someone came into view, flying down from above. He had two wings attached to his ankles and two more attached to his temples. He was carrying prizes - robes, hats, and laurel wreaths. He landed on the ground, then gave opalescent robes to the people sitting on the north side. To the people sitting on the west side he gave scarlet robes. To the people sitting on the south side he gave hats whose rims were decorated with bands of gold and bands of pearls, and whose raised left sides were decorated with diamonds cut in the shape of flowers. To the people sitting on the east side, however, he gave laurel wreaths with rubies and sapphires in them. Decorated with these prizes from their wisdom games, they all went joyfully home.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

True Christianity 85, 335, 469, 692


   Parallel Passages:

Conjugial Love 132, 133, 134, 135, 136


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

Commentary

 

Token      

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'A token,' as in Genesis 9:12, 13, 17, signifies causing it to be.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1039, Genesis 9:12, 9:13, 9:17)


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