From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #251

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)      

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251. The reason why the “serpent” means all evil in general, and specifically the love of self, is that all evil has had its rise from that sensuous part of the mind, and also from that memory-knowledge [scientifico], which at first were signified by the “serpent;” and therefore it here denotes evil of every kind, and specifically the love of self, or hatred against the neighbor and the Lord, which is the same thing. As this evil or hatred was various, consisting of numerous genera and still more numerous species, it is described in the Word by various kinds of serpents, as “snakes” “cockatrices” “asps” “adders” “fiery serpents” “serpents that fly” and “that creep” and “vipers” according to the differences of the poison, which is hatred. Thus we read in Isaiah:

Rejoice not thou, whole Philistia, because the rod which smiteth thee is broken, for out of the serpent’s root shall go forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a flying fire-serpent (Isaiah 14:29).The “serpent’s root” denotes that part of the mind, or that principle, which is connected with the senses and with memory-knowledge [est sensuale et scientificum]; the “cockatrice” denotes evil originating in the falsity thence derived; and the “flying fire-serpent” the cupidity that comes from the love of self. By the same Prophet also similar things are elsewhere thus described:

They hatch cockatrice’s eggs, and weave the spider’s web; he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and when it is crushed there cometh out a viper (Isaiah 59:5).

The serpent described here in Genesis is called in the Revelation the “great and red dragon” and the “old serpent” and also the “devil and satan” that “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:3, 9; 20:2), where, and also in other places, by the “devil” is not meant any particular devil who is prince over the others, but the whole crew of evil spirits, and evil itself.

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Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 6398, 6949

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

The Bible


Revelation 12:3

King James Version         

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3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Apocalypse Revealed 536, 537, 538, 539, 540

Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 251, 257, 2584, 2832, 3300, 5268, 10071, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 10, 101, 270, 305, 438, 473, 532

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 76

Conjugial Love 79

Divine Providence 310

The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Regarding the Sacred Scripture 44

Doctrine of Life 61

Doctrine of Faith 58

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 316, 364, 555, 559, 577, 675, 706, ...

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 32

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

Bible Word Meanings

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

Seven heads
'The seven heads of the dragon, and of the beast rising out of the sea,' as mentioned in Revelation 12:3, and 8:3, signify insanity arising...

Most places in Swedenborg identify “ten” as representing “all,” or in some cases “many” or “much.” The Ten Commandments represent all the guidance we get...

'Over' or 'upon' in the Word, signifies being within, because the highest part in successive order becomes inmost in simultaneous order. This is why the...

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.

 A Great Wonder in Heaven
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angels War with the Dragon
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Banner: Michael Fighting the Dragon
Make this banner as a New Church Day decoration for your home.
Project | Ages 11 - 17

 Behold, the Great Red Dragon! (sheet music)
Song | Ages 4 - 14

 Behold the Great Red Dragon Song with Hand Motions
Song | Ages 3 - 10

 Celebrating New Church Day
The story of the woman clothed with the sun pictures the birth of the New Church into the world.
Story | Ages 2 - 7

 Correspondences of Color
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that mention colors. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Costume Suggestions for Dramatizing Revelation 12
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Crown of Stars
Suggests several ways to make a crown of stars.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Crown of Twelve Stars Snowflake Pattern
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Dramatize the Woman Clothed with the Sun
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Egg Carton Dragon Puppets
Younger children might enjoy making one of the dragon's heads from an egg carton. 
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Given Two Wings of a Great Eagle
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 How to Make a Dragon Piñata
Make a dragon piñata and fill it with small wrapped candies and/or little toys. Let children of all ages take turns "fighting" the dragon, using a wooden sword (or heavy stick). 
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Make a Dragon with Wooden Beads
Use pipe cleaners and wooden beads to make a red dragon with 7 heads. 
Project | Ages 6 - 10

 Make a Sun Cake
Serve this special cake to your family at a New Church Day celebration! 
Project | Ages over 4

 Memory Verse: Visions in Heaven
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Michael and His Angels Fight the Dragon
Color picture of Revelation 12.
Picture | Ages up to 14

 Michael Fights the Dragon
Color picture of the great red dragon and Michael from Revelation 12.
Picture | All Ages

 Michael Fights the Dragon
Color, cut out and assemble this complex project showing Michael protecting the woman clothed with sun from the dragon.
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Michael's Army Faces the Dragon's Army
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Michael's Shield
Make a shield that can represent Michael fighting against evil and false ideas. A smaller shield could also be worn as a badge.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Michael Striking the Dragon
A dramatic image of Michael fighting the great red dragon.
Coloring Page | Ages 6 - 12

 Michael—The Great Prince
The name Michael is actually a question, meaning, literally, “Who is like God?” The answer to this question can help us fight against the dragon.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 New Church Day
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 New Church Day Felt Puppets
Make finger puppets such as the ones pictured here as a gift for young children.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 New Church Day Representation
Suggests ways to use a doll to make a display of picture the woman clothed with the sun
Project | Ages 4 - 17

 Picture the Woman Clothed with the Sun
Use crayons and watercolors (wax resist method) to show the woman clothed with the sun.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Quotes: Visions in Heaven
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Spiritual Warfare
Article | Ages over 15

Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Beauty of the New Church
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Birth of the New Church
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Coming of the New Church
Prophecies helped prepare people for the Lord’s birth on earth, and prophecies would also help prepare the way for His second coming. The Lord called His disciple, John, to serve as a revelator, opening his spiritual eyes and telling him: “Write the things which you have seen...and the things which will take place after this” (Revelation 1:17-19). Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 6, for ages 11-12.
Religion Lesson | Ages 11 - 12

 The Great Red Dragon
Color picture of the great red dragon sweeping the stars from the sky with his tail.
Picture | Ages up to 14

 The Great Red Dragon
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Meaning of the Woman Clothed with the Sun
Of all the books of the Word, the book of Revelation is perhaps the least understood. The Heavenly Doctrine, revealed through Emanuel Swedenborg provides the key to unlock Revelation.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Number Seven in the Word Crossword Puzzle
Discover stories that include the number seven in the Word.
Activity | Ages 9 - 13

 The Number Twelve in the Word Crossword Puzzle
Discover times when the number twelve appears throughout the Word.
Activity | Ages 9 - 13

 The Woman and the Dragon
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 Woman and the Dragon (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Woman and the Dragon (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Woman and the Dragon (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun and Her Baby
Have you ever seen a newborn baby? When they first come into the world they are helpless. Someone older and wiser must watch over them and feed them.
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun and Her Child
Color picture of the woman surrounded by the sun, standing on the moon and holding her child up to God.
Picture | All Ages

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun and Her Child
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun is Given Eagles' Wings
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Woman Clothed with the Sun, Michael and the Dragon
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Woman Flees into the Wilderness
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Woman, Michael, and the Dragon Stained Glass Window
Instructions for making a "stained glass window" with waxed paper, glue, and colored tissue paper.
Project | Ages 4 - 17

 The Woman with Her Son
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Woman with Sun, Moon and Stars
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Vision of Woman Clothed with the Sun
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Visions of Heaven
While the disciple John was on the isle of Patmos, he saw special visions that showed him how a New Church—a new kind of Christianity—would begin.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 When Am I Like…?
An activity to help us think about when we are like the woman, Michael, or the dragon.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Wings of an Eagle
Explore ways that we can develop a spiritual perspective on what is good and true - the wings of an eagle.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Woman Clothed with Sun Stained Glass Window
Beautiful "stained glass" window of the woman clothed with the sun, to color and display.
Project | Ages 4 - 17

 Woman Clothed with the Sun
The Woman would not have been able to fight against the dragon by herself, but the Lord was ready to help. He sent His guardian angels to protect the Woman and her precious Baby. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 1, for ages 6-7.
Religion Lesson | Ages 6 - 7

 Woman Clothed with the Sun Candle Holder
Make a beautiful stand to put in front of a candle or on a window sill so that the woman clothed with the sun is lit up from behind.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Yes, There Are Dragons
Article | Ages 15 - 17

From Swedenborg's Works


Conjugial Love #79

Conjugial Love (Rogers translation)      

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79. The fifth account:

The same angel as before, who had been my guide and companion to the ancient peoples who had lived in the four ages called golden, silver, copper and iron - the same angel appeared again and said to me, "You would like to see the age that followed those ancient ages, to find out what it was like, and what it is still like today. Follow me, then, and you will see. These are the people of whom Daniel prophesied when he said:

(A kingdom will arise after those other four, in which iron will be mixed with miry clay.) They will mingle together through the seed of man, but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. (Daniel 2:41-43)"

The angel added, "The seed of man, through which iron will be mingled with clay, and yet without their adhering together - this seed means the truth of the Word falsified."

[2] After these words I followed him, and on the way he told me this. "They live," he said, "in the border region between the south and the west, but at a great distance beyond those who lived in the previous four ages, and also deeper down."

So we continued through the south to a region bordering on the west, and we passed through a dreadful forest. For we found pools of water there from which crocodiles raised their heads, gaping at us with jaws open wide and showing their teeth. And between the pools we saw horrible dogs, some of them with three heads like Cerberus, some of them with two heads, all of them with hideous mouths and watching us with savage eyes as we passed by. Entering the western part of this area, we also saw dragons and leopards, like the ones described in the book of Revelation,chapters 12:3 and 13:2.

[3] Then the angel said to me, "All these wild beasts you have seen are not beasts but correspondent and thus representative forms of the lusts that motivate the inhabitants we are going to visit. Those hideous dogs represent the lusts themselves; the crocodiles, their deceits and deceptions; the dragons and leopards, their falsities and corrupt feelings towards things that have to do with worship.

"The inhabitants thus represented, however, do not live just the other side of the forest, but beyond a great desert that lies between, to keep them completely away and separate from the inhabitants of the preceding ages. Moreover, they are altogether alien - totally different from those other people. Indeed, they have heads above their breasts, breasts above their loins, and loins above their feet, like the earliest people. But there is not a bit of gold in their heads, or of silver in their breasts, or of bronze in their loins. In fact, there is not a bit of just plain iron in their feet. Instead, they have iron mixed with clay in their heads, both of these mixed with bronze in their breasts, both of these also mixed with silver in their loins, and these mixed with gold in their feet.

"By this inversion they have been transformed from human beings into caricatures of human beings, in which nothing inwardly holds together. For what had been uppermost has become lowermost, so that what was the head has become the heel, and vice versa. Viewed from heaven, they look to us like play-actors who turn their bodies upside down, support themselves on their elbows and thus move about. Or they look like animals that lie upside down on their backs, raise their feet in the air, and, digging their heads into the ground, from that position look up at the sky."

[4] We passed through the forest and proceeded into the desert, which was no less horrible. It consisted of piles of rocks, with pits in between, out of which crept poisonous snakes and vipers and from which flew fiery serpents.

This whole desert kept sloping downward, and we descended by a long decline, until at last we came to a valley inhabited by the people of that region and age. We saw huts here and there, which finally appeared to come together and be joined into the form of a city.

We went into the city, and behold, the houses were constructed out of charred tree branches mortared together with clay. The roofs were made of black tiles. The streets were irregular, all narrow at first, but widening as they went, becoming finally quite broad and terminating in squares. Consequently there were as many squares as there were streets.

Darkness fell as we entered the city, because the sky was not visible. We looked up, therefore, and we were given light by which to see.

I then asked the people I encountered, "Can you see, since the sky does not appear above you?"

And they replied, "What sort of question is this? We see clearly. We walk in full light."

Hearing this the angel said to me, "Darkness to them is light, and light to them is darkness, as it is for nocturnal birds. For they look downwards instead of upwards."

[5] We went into some of the shacks here and there, and in each we saw a man with his woman. And we asked whether all of them here lived each in his own house with only one wife.

But they replied to this with a hiss, "What do you mean, with only one wife? Why not ask whether we live with only one harlot? What is a wife but a harlot?

"According to our laws we are not allowed to commit whoredom with more than just one woman, but still it is not dishonorable or shameful for us to do so with more than one, provided we do it away from the house. We boast about it with each other! In this way we enjoy license and its pleasure more than polygamists do.

"Why is having more than one wife denied to us, when it has been permitted in the past and is permitted today in the whole world around us? What is life with just one woman but captivity and imprisonment?

"But here we break open the bar of this prison and so rescue ourselves from slavery and set ourselves free. Who is angry with a prisoner if he liberates himself when he can?"

[6] To this we replied, "You speak, my friend, like one devoid of religion. What person endowed with any power of reason does not know that adulterous affairs are profane and hellish, and that marriages are sacred and heavenly? Are not adulterous relationships found among devils in hell, and marriages among angels in heaven? Have you not read the sixth commandment in the Decalogue? And in Paul, that adulterers can by no means come into heaven? 1 "

At this our host laughed heartily, and he looked on me as a simpleton - almost, even, as insane.

But at that very moment a messenger came running from the headman of the city and said, "Bring the two strangers to the city square, and if they will not come voluntarily, drag them there! We saw them under the dark cover of daylight. They have come here in secret. They are spies!"

The angel then said to me, "The reason we seemed to be under dark cover is that we were in the light of heaven, and the light of heaven to them is darkness, while the darkness of hell to them is light. This is because they regard nothing as sinful, not even adultery, and consequently they see falsity altogether as truth. Falsity shines with light in hell, in the eyes of satanic spirits, while truth darkens their eyes like the gloom of night."

[7] Then we said to the messenger, "We will not be forced, still less dragged to the city square, but we will go with you voluntarily."

So we went, and behold, we found a great crowd there. From it came some lawyers who whispered in our ear, "Take care that you do not say anything against religion, against our form of government, or contrary to good manners."

But we kept answering, "We will only speak in favor of them and in accordance with them."

Then we asked, "What is your religion in regard to marriage?"

At this the crowd began to murmur, and they said, "What concern do you have here with marriage? Marriages are marriages."

So we asked a second time, "What is your religion in regard to licentious relationships?"

At this the crowd began to murmur again, saying, "What concern do you have here with licentious relationships? Illicit affairs are illicit affairs. He who is without guilt, let him throw the first stone. 2 "

So we asked a third time, "Does your religion teach regarding marriages that they are sacred and heavenly, and regarding adulterous affairs that they are profane and hellish?"

In response to this many in the crowd guffawed, mocked, and jeered, saying, "Ask our priests about matters of religion, not us. We accept without comment whatever they say, since nothing of religion falls within the ability of the understanding to judge. Have you not heard that the understanding is devoid of reason in the mysteries on which the whole of religion is based?

"Besides, what do our actions have to do with religion? Is it not the pious murmurings of the heart that makes souls blessed - murmurings about expiation, satisfaction and imputation - and not works?"

[8] But then some of the so-called wise men of the city came over and said, "Get away from here. The crowd is becoming inflamed. There will be a riot in a minute. Let us talk about this by ourselves. There is an alley behind the courthouse. Let us go back there. Come with us."

So we followed. And then they asked us where we came from and what our business was there.

We said, "We have come to be instructed about marriage, to find out whether or not marriages among you are sacred unions as they were among the ancient peoples who lived in the golden, silver and copper ages."

But they replied, "What do you mean, sacred unions? Are they not deeds of the flesh and the night?"

Then we began to answer, "Are they not also deeds of the spirit? And what the flesh does impelled by the spirit, is that not spiritual? Moreover, everything that the spirit does, it does from a marriage of goodness and truth. Is it not this spiritual marriage which enters into the natural marriage that exists between husband and wife?"

To this the so-called wise men replied, "You probe and refine the matter too much. You leap over rational considerations to spiritual ones. Who can begin there, then descend and thus form a judgment about anything?" To which they added sarcastically, "Perhaps you have the wings of an eagle and can soar to the uppermost regions of the sky and look down on such matters. But we cannot."

[9] So we then asked them to tell us, from the height or region to which the ideas of their minds flew aloft, whether they knew or were able to know that such a thing exists as the conjugial love of one man with one wife, into which have been gathered all the blessings, felicities, delights, gratifications and pleasures of heaven. Moreover, that this love comes from the Lord according to people's reception of goodness and truth from Him, thus according to the state of the church.

[10] Hearing this they turned away and said, "These men are crazy. They go into outer space with their rational faculties, form empty conjectures and shower us with nutty speculations."

Afterwards they turned around to us and said, "We will give a straight answer to your airy conjectures and dreams."

Then they said, "What does conjugial love have in common with religion and with being inspired by God?

"Does that love not exist in everyone according to the condition of his sexual powers? Is it not found among people who are outside the church as well as among people who are in the church? Among gentiles as well as among Christians? In fact, among impious people as well as among pious ones?

"Does the vigor of that love in everyone not come either from heredity, or from good health, or from temperance of life, or from the warmth of the climate? And can it not also be strengthened and stimulated by drugs?

"Is the same love not found in animals, especially in birds which mate in pairs? Is that love not a matter of the flesh? What does a matter of the flesh have to do with the spiritual state of the church?

"Does that love with a wife in its ultimate expression differ one bit from love with a harlot in its ultimate expression? Is the lust not the same, and the delight the same?

"It is harmful, therefore, to trace the origin of conjugial love from the sacred things of the church."

[11] When we heard this we said to them, "You are reasoning from the heat of lasciviousness and not from conjugial love. You do not know at all what conjugial love is because among you that love is cold. We are convinced by what you have said that you come from the age that is named after and consists of iron and clay, which do not cohere, according to the prophecy in Daniel 2:43. For you make conjugial love and licentious love the same thing. Can these two cohere any more than iron and clay? People believe you are wise and call you wise, yet you are anything but wise!"

Inflamed with anger at these words, they began to cry out and call the crowd to throw us out. But then, by a power given us by the Lord, we stretched out our hands, and suddenly fiery serpents, vipers and poisonous snakes came from the desert, and dragons, too, and they invaded and filled the city, so that the inhabitants became frightened and fled away.

And the angel said to me, "New people keep coming from earth to this region every day, and the previous inhabitants are by turns removed and cast down into chasms in the west, which at a distance look like lakes of fire and brimstone. The people there are all adulterers, both spiritually and naturally."


1. See 1 Corinthians 6:9.

2. Cf. John 8:7.


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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Conjugial Love 240

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 37

   Swedenborg Research Tools

Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation. The full title of this translation is "DELIGHTS OF WISDOM RELATING TO CONJUGIAL LOVE".