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Arcana Coelestia, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1749-56], tr. by John F. Potts [1905-10], at

Arcana Coelestia


Seeing therefore that such a genius as that of the most ancient people anterior to the flood is not found and does not exist at the present day, it is no easy matter to explain intelligibly what the words of this passage in their genuine sense imply. They are, however, perfectly understood in heaven, for the angels and angelic spirits who are called celestial are of the same genius as the most ancient people who were regenerate before the flood; while the angels and angelic spirits who are termed spiritual are of a similar genius to the regenerate after the flood, although in both cases with indefinite variety.


The Most Ancient Church, which was a celestial man, was of such a character as not only to abstain from "eating of the tree of knowledge" that is, from learning what belongs to faith from sensuous things and memory-knowledges [scientifica], but was not even allowed to touch that tree, that is, to think of anything that is a matter of faith from sensuous things and memory-knowledges, lest they should sink down from celestial life into spiritual life, and so on downward. Such also is the life of the celestial angels, the more interiorly celestial of whom do not even suffer faith to be named, nor anything whatever that partakes of what is spiritual; and if it is spoken of by others, instead of faith they have a perception of love, with a difference known only to themselves; thus whatever is of faith they derive from love and charity. Still less can they endure listening to any reasoning about faith, and least of all to anything of memory-knowledge [scientificum] respecting it; for, through love, they have a perception from the Lord of what is good and true; and from this perception they know instantly whether a thing is so, or is not so. Therefore when anything is said about faith, they answer simply that it is so, or that it is not so, because they perceive it from the Lord. This is what is signified by the Lord's words in Matthew: Let your communication be Yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil (Matt. 5:37). This then is what was meant by their not being allowed to touch the fruit of the tree of knowledge; for if they touched it, they would be in evil, that is, they would in consequence "die." Nevertheless the celestial angels converse together on various subjects like the other angels, but in a celestial language, which is formed and derived from love, and is more ineffable than that of the spiritual angels.


The spiritual angels, however, converse about faith, and even confirm the things of faith by those of the intellect, of the reason, and of the memory [per intellectualia, rationalia, et scientifica], but they never form their conclusions concerning matters of faith on such grounds: those who do this are in evil. They are also endowed by the Lord with a perception of all the truths of faith, although not with such a perception as is that of the celestial angels. The perception of the spiritual angels is a kind of conscience which is vivified by the Lord and which indeed appears like celestial perception, yet is not so, but is only spiritual perception.


Verses 4, 5. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. Their "eyes being opened by eating of the fruit of the tree" signifies that if they were to examine the things of faith from what is of sense and knowledge [ex sensuali et scientifico], that is, from themselves, they would plainly see those things as if erroneous. And that they would be "as God, knowing good and evil" denotes that if they did so from themselves, they would be as God, and could guide themselves.


Every verse contains a particular state, or change of state, in the church: the preceding verses, that although thus inclined they nevertheless perceived it to be unlawful; these verses, an incipient doubt whether it might not be lawful for them, since they would thus see whether the things they had heard from their forefathers were true, and so their eyes would be opened; at length, in consequence of the ascendancy of self-love, they began to think that they could lead themselves, and thus be like the Lord; for such is the nature of the love of self that it is unwilling to submit to the Lord's leading, and prefers to be self-guided, and being self-guided to consult the things of sense and of memory-knowledge as to what is to be believed.


Who have a stronger belief that their eyes are open, and that as God they know what is good and evil, than those who love themselves, and at the same time excel in worldly learning? And yet who are more blind? Only question them, and it will be seen that they do not even know, much less believe in, the existence of spirit; with the nature of spiritual and celestial life they are utterly unacquainted; they do not acknowledge an eternal life; for they believe themselves to be like the brutes which perish; neither do they acknowledge the Lord, but worship only themselves and nature. Those among them who wish to be guarded in their expressions, say that a certain Supreme Existence [Ens] of the nature of which they are ignorant, rules all things. These are the principles in which they confirm themselves in many ways by things of sense and of memory-knowledge, and if they dared, they would do the same before all the universe. Although such persons desire to be regarded as gods, or as the wisest of men, if they were asked whether they know what it is not to have anything of their own, they would answer that it is to have no existence, and that if they were deprived of everything that is their own, they would be nothing. If they are asked what it is to live from the Lord, they think it a phantasy. If asked whether they know what conscience is, they would say it is a mere creature of the imagination, which may be of service in keeping the vulgar under restraint. If asked whether they know what perception is, they would merely laugh at it and call it enthusiastic rubbish. Such is their wisdom, such "open eyes" have they, and such "gods" are they. Principles like these, which they think clearer than the day, they make their starting-point, and so continue on, and in this way reason about the mysteries of faith; and what can be the result but an abyss of darkness? These above all others are the "serpents" who seduce the world. But this posterity of the Most Ancient Church was not as yet of such a character. That which became such is treated of from verse 14 to verse 19 of this chapter.


Verse 6. And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to give intelligence, and she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and she gave also to her husband [vir] with her, and he did eat. "Good for food" signifies cupidity; "pleasant to the eyes" phantasy; and" desirable to give intelligence" pleasure: these are of the Own, or "woman:" by the "husband eating" is signified the consent of the rational (n. 265).


This was the fourth posterity of the Most Ancient Church, who suffered themselves to be seduced by self-love [amore proprio] and were unwilling to believe what was revealed, unless they saw it confirmed by the things of sense and of memory-knowledge.


The expressions here employed, as that "the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and desirable for giving intelligence" are such as were adapted to the genius of those who lived in that most ancient time, having especial reference to the will, because their evils streamed out from the will. Where the Word treats of the people who lived after the flood, such expressions are used as relate not so much to the will as to the understanding; for the most ancient people had truth from good, but those who lived after the flood had good from truth.


What man's Own is may be stated in this way. Man's Own is all the evil and falsity that springs from the love of self and of the world, and from not believing in the Lord or the Word but in self, and from supposing that what cannot be apprehended sensuously and by means of memory-knowledge [sensualiter et scientifice] is nothing. In this way men become mere evil and falsity, and therefore regard all things pervertedly; things that are evil they see as good, and things that are good as evil; things that are false they see as true, and things that are true as false; things that really exist they suppose to be nothing, and things that are nothing they suppose to be everything. They call hatred love, darkness light, death life, and the converse. In the Word, such men are called the "lame" and the "blind." Such then is the Own of man, which in itself is infernal and accursed.


Verse 7. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. Their "eyes being opened" signifies their knowing and acknowledging, from an interior dictate, that they were "naked" that is, no longer in innocence, as before, but in evil.


That by having the "eyes opened" is signified an interior dictate, is evident from similar expressions in the Word, as from what Balaam says of himself, who in consequence of having visions calls himself the "man whose eyes are opened" (Num. 24:3). And from Jonathan, who when he tasted of the honeycomb and had a dictate from within that it was evil, said that his "eyes saw" that is, were enlightened, so that he saw what he knew not (1 Sam. 14:29). Moreover in the Word, the "eyes" are often used to denote the understanding, and thus an interior dictate therefrom, as in David: Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death (Ps. 13:3), where "eyes" denote the understanding. So in Ezekiel, speaking of those who are not willing to understand, who "have eyes to see, and see not" (Ezek. 12:2). In Isaiah: Shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes (Isa. 6:10), denotes that they should be made blind, lest they should understand. So Moses said to the people, Jehovah hath not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear (Deut. 29:4), where "heart" denotes the will, and "eyes" denote the understanding. In Isaiah it is said of the Lord, that "He should open the blind eyes" (Isa. 42:7). And in the same Prophet: "The eyes of the blind shall see out of thick darkness and out of darkness" (Isa. 29:18).


By "knowing that they were naked" is signified their knowing and acknowledging themselves to be no longer in innocence as before, but in evil, as is evident from the last verse of the preceding chapter, where it is said, "and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed" and where it may be seen that "not to be ashamed because they were naked" signifies to be innocent. The contrary is signified by their "being ashamed" as in this verse, where it is said that they "sewed fig-leaves together, and hid themselves;" for where there is no innocence, nakedness is a scandal and disgrace, because it is attended with a consciousness of thinking evil. For this reason "nakedness" is used in the Word as a type of disgrace and evil, and is predicated of a perverted church, as in Ezekiel: Thou wast naked and bare, and trampled on in thy blood (Ezek. 16:22). Again: They shall leave her naked and bare, and the nakedness shall be uncovered (Ezek. 23:29). In John: I counsel thee to buy of Me white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear (Rev. 3:18). And concerning the last day: Blessed is he who watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame (Rev. 16:15). In Deuteronomy: If a man hath found some nakedness in his wife, let him write her a bill of divorcement (Deut. 24:1). For the same reason Aaron and his sons were commanded to have linen breeches when they came to the altar, and to minister, to "cover the flesh of their nakedness, lest they should bear iniquity, and die" (Exod. 28:42-43).


They are called "naked" because left to their Own; for they who are left to their Own, that is, to themselves, have no longer anything of intelligence and wisdom, or of faith, and consequently are "naked" as to truth and good, and are therefore in evil.


That man's Own is nothing but evil and falsity has been made evident to me from the fact that whatever spirits have at any time said from themselves has been so evil and false that whenever it was made known to me that they spoke from themselves I at once knew that it was false, even though while speaking they were themselves so thoroughly persuaded of the truth of what they said as to have no doubt about it. The case is the same with men who speak from themselves. And in the same way, whenever any persons have begun to reason concerning the things of spiritual and celestial life, or those of faith, I could perceive that they doubted, and even denied, for to reason concerning faith is to doubt and deny. And as it is all from self or their Own, they sink into mere falsities, consequently into an abyss of thick darkness, that is, of falsities, and when they are in this abyss the smallest objection prevails over a thousand truths, just as a minute particle of dust in contact with the pupil of the eye shuts out the universe and everything it contains. Of such persons the Lord says in Isaiah: Woe unto those who are wise in their own eyes, and intelligent before their own faces (Isa. 5:21). And again: Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath turned thee away, and thou hast said in thine heart, I, and none else besides me; and evil shall come upon thee, thou shalt not know from whence it riseth, and mischief shall fall upon thee, which thou shalt not be able to expiate, and vastation shall come upon thee suddenly, of which thou art not aware (Isa. 47:10-11). In Jeremiah: Every man is made stupid by knowledge [scientia], every founder is confounded by the graven image, for his molten image is falsehood, neither is there breath in them (Jer. 51:17). A "graven image" is the falsity, and a "molten image" the evil, of man's Own.


And they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles. To "sew leaves together" is to excuse themselves; the "fig-tree" is natural good; and to "make themselves girdles" is to be affected with shame. Thus spoke the most ancient people, and thus they described this posterity of the church, signifying that instead of the innocence they had formerly enjoyed, they possessed only natural good, by which their evil was concealed; and being in natural good, they were affected with shame.


That the "vine" is used in the Word to signify spiritual good, and the "fig-tree" natural good, is at this day utterly unknown, because the internal sense of the Word has been lost; nevertheless, wherever these expressions occur, they signify or involve this meaning; as also in what the Lord spoke in parables concerning a "vineyard" and a "fig-tree;" as in Matthew: Jesus seeing a fig-tree in the way, came to it, but found nothing thereon save leaves only, and He said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever; and presently the fig-tree withered away (Matt. 21:19), by which is meant, that no good, not even natural good, was to be found upon the earth. Similar is the meaning of the "vine" and "fig-tree" in Jeremiah: Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, and they knew not how to blush; therefore I will surely gather them, saith Jehovah; there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf hath fallen (Jer. 8:12-13), by which is signified that all good, both spiritual and natural, had perished, since they were so depraved as to have lost even the sense of shame, like those at the present day who are in evil, and who, so far from blushing for their wickedness, make it their boast. In Hosea: I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree in the beginning (Hos. 9:10). And in Joel: Be not afraid, ye beasts of My fields, for the tree shall bear its fruit, the fig-tree and the vine shall yield their strength (Joel 2:22). The "vine" here denotes spiritual good, and the "fig-tree" natural good.


Verse 8. And they heard the voice of Jehovah God going to itself in the garden in the air of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the face of Jehovah God in the midst the tree of the garden. By the "voice of Jehovah God going to itself in the garden" is signified an internal dictate which caused them to feel afraid, this dictate being the residue of the perception which they had possessed; by the "air" or "breath" of the "day" is denoted a period when the church still possessed some residue of perception; to "hide themselves from the face of Jehovah God" is to fear the dictate, as is wont to be the case with those who are conscious of evil; by the "midst of the tree of the garden" in which they hid themselves, is signified natural good; that which is inmost is called the "midst;" the "tree" denotes perception as before; but because there was little perception remaining, the tree is spoken of in the singular number, as if there were only one remaining.


That by the "voice of Jehovah God going to itself in the garden" is meant an internal dictate of which they were afraid, is evident from the signification of "voice" in the Word, where the "voice of Jehovah" is used to designate the Word itself, the doctrine of faith, conscience or a taking notice inwardly, and also every reproof thence resulting; whence it is that thunders are called the "voices of Jehovah" as in John: The angel cried with a loud voice, as a lion roareth, and when he had cried seven thunders uttered their voices (Rev. 10:3), denoting that there was then a voice both external and internal. Again: In the days of the voice of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be consummated (Rev. 10:7). In David: Sing unto God, sing praises unto the Lord, who rideth upon the heavens of heavens which were of old; lo, He shall send out His voice, a voice of strength (Ps. 78:32, 33). The "heavens of heavens which were of old" denote the wisdom of the Most Ancient Church; "voice" revelation, and also an internal dictate. Again: The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters; the voice of Jehovah is in power; the voice of Jehovah is in glory; the voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars; the voice of Jehovah divideth the games of fire; the voice of Jehovah maketh the wilderness to shake; the voice of Jehovah maketh the hinds to calve, and uncovereth the forests (Ps. 29:3-5 and 7-9). And in Isaiah: Jehovah shall cause the excellency of His voice to be heard, for through the voice of Jehovah shall Asshur be beaten down (Isa. 30:30, 31).


By the "voice going to itself" is meant that there was but little perception remaining, and that alone as it were by itself and unheard, as is manifest also from the following verse where it is said, "Jehovah called to the man." So in Isaiah: The voice of one crying in the wilderness; the voice said, Cry (Isa. 40:3 and 6). The "wilderness" is a church where there is no faith; the "voice of one crying" is the annunciation of the Lord's advent, and in general every announcement of His coming, as with the regenerate, with whom there is an internal dictate.


That by the "air" or "breath" "of the day" is signified a period when the church had still somewhat of perception remaining, is evident from the signification of "day" and of "night." The most ancient people compared the states of the church to the times of the day and of the night, to the times of the day when the church was still in light, wherefore this state is compared to the breath or air "of the day" because there was still some remnant of perception by which they knew that they were fallen. The Lord also calls the state of faith "day" and that of no faith "night;" as in John: I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work (John 9:4). The states of the regeneration of man were for the same reason called "days" in chapter 1.


That to "hide themselves from the face of Jehovah" means to be afraid of the dictate, as is wont to be the case with those who are conscious of evil, is evident from the reply (verse 10): "I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked." The "face of Jehovah" or of the Lord, is mercy, peace, and every good, as is clearly evident from the benediction: Jehovah make His faces to shine upon thee, and be merciful unto thee; Jehovah lift up His faces upon thee, and give thee peace (Num. 6:25, 26). And in David: God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause His faces to shine upon us (Ps. 67:1). And in another place: There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Jehovah, lift Thou up the light of Thy faces upon us (Ps. 4:6). The mercy of the Lord is therefore called the "angel of faces" in Isaiah: I will make mention of the mercies of Jehovah; He hath requited them according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His mercies and He became their Saviour. In all their affliction He was acted, and the angel of His faces saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them (Isa. 63:7-9).


As the "face of the Lord" is mercy, peace, and every good, it is evident that He regards all from mercy, and never averts His countenance from any; but that it is man, when in evil, who turns away his face, as is said by the Lord in Isaiah: Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you (Isa. 59:2); and here, "they hid themselves from the face of Jehovah, because they were naked."


Mercy, peace, and every good, or the "faces of Jehovah" are the cause of the dictate with those who have perception, and also, although in a different manner, with those who have conscience, and they always operate mercifully, but are received according to the state in which the man is. The state of this man, that is, of this posterity of the Most Ancient Church, was one of natural good; and they who are in natural good are of such a character that they hide themselves through fear and shame because they are naked: while such as are destitute of natural good do not hide themselves, because they are insusceptible of shame; concerning whom, in Jeremiah 8:12-13. (See above, n. 217.)


That the "midst of the tree of the garden" signifies natural good, in which there is some perception which is called a "tree" is also evident from the "garden" in which the celestial man dwelt; for everything good and true is called a "garden" with a difference according to the man who cultivates it. Good is not good unless its inmost is celestial, from which, or through which, from the Lord, comes perception. This inmost is here called the "midst" as also elsewhere in the Word.


Verses 9, 10. And Jehovah God cried unto the man, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. The meaning of "crying" of the "voice in the garden" of their "being afraid because they were naked" and of "hiding themselves" has been previously explained. It is common in the Word for man to be first asked where he is and what he is doing, although the Lord previously knew all things; but the reason for asking is that man may acknowledge and confess.


As it is desirable that the origin of perception, internal dictate, and conscience, should be known, and as at the present day it is altogether unknown, I may relate something on the subject. It is a great truth that man is governed by the Lord by means of spirits and angels. When evil spirits begin to rule, the angels labor to avert evils and falsities, and hence arises a combat. It is this combat of which the man is rendered sensible by perception, dictate, and conscience. By these, and also by temptations, a man might clearly see that spirits and angels are with him, were he not so deeply immersed in corporeal things as to believe nothing that is said about spirits and angels. Such persons, even if they were to feel these combats hundreds of times, would still say that they are imaginary, and the effect of a disordered mind. I have been permitted to feel such combats, and to have a vivid sense of them, thousands and thousands of times, and this almost constantly for several years, as well as to know who, what, and where they were that caused them, when they came, and when they departed; and I have conversed with them.


It is impossible to describe the exquisite perception whereby the angels discover whether anything gains admission that is contrary to the truth of faith and the good of love. They perceive the quality of what enters, and when it enters, a thousand times more perfectly than the man himself, who scarcely knows anything about it. The least of thought in a man is more fully perceived by the angels than the greatest is by himself. This is indeed incredible, yet is most true.


Verses 11-13. And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And Jehovah God said unto the woman, Why hast thou done this? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. The signification of these words is evident from what has been explained before, namely, that the rational of man suffered itself to be deceived by its Own, because this was dear to him (that is, by the love of self), so that he believed nothing but what he could see and feel. Everyone can see that Jehovah God did not speak to a serpent, and indeed that there was no serpent, neither did He address the sensuous part that is signified by the "serpent;" but that these words involve a different meaning, namely, that they perceived themselves to be deluded by the senses, and yet, in consequence of self-love, were desirous of ascertaining the truth of what they had heard concerning the Lord, and concerning faith in Him, before they believed it.


The ruling evil of this posterity was the love of self, without their having at the same time so much of the love of the world as exists at the present day; for they dwelt within their own households and families, and had no desire to accumulate wealth.


The evil of the Most Ancient Church which existed before the flood, as well as that of the Ancient Church after the flood, and also that of the Jewish Church, and subsequently the evil of the new church, or church of the Gentiles, after the coming of the Lord, and also that of the church of the present day, was and is that they do not believe the Lord or the Word, but themselves and their own senses. Hence there is no faith, and where there is no faith there is no love of the neighbor, consequently all is false and evil.


At this day, however, it is much worse than in former times, because men can now confirm the incredulity of the senses by memory-knowledges [scientifica] unknown to the ancients, and this has given birth to an indescribable degree of darkness. If men knew how great is the darkness from this cause they would be astounded.


To explore the mysteries of faith by means of memory-knowledges [scientifica] is as impossible as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, or for a rib to govern the finest fibrils of the chest and of the heart. So gross, yea, much more so, is that which pertains to our senses and memory-knowledge [sensale et scientificum] relatively to what is spiritual and celestial. He who would investigate the hidden things of nature, which are innumerable, discovers scarcely one, and while investigating them falls into errors, as is well known. How much more likely is this to be the case while investigating the hidden truths of spiritual and celestial life, where myriads of mysteries exist for one that is invisible in nature! [2] As an illustration take this single example: Of himself man cannot but do what is evil, and turn away from the Lord. Yet man does not do these things, but the evil spirits who are with him. Nor do these evil spirits do them, but the evil itself which they have made their own. Nevertheless man does evil and turns himself away from the Lord, and is in fault; and yet he lives only from the Lord. So on the other hand, of himself man cannot possibly do what is good, and turn to the Lord, but this is done by the angels. Nor can the angels do it, but the Lord alone. And yet man is able as of himself to do what is good, and to turn himself to the Lord. These facts can never be apprehended by our senses, memory-knowledge, and philosophy, but if these are consulted will be denied in spite of their truth. And it is the same all through. [3] From what has been said it is evident that those who consult sensuous things and memory-knowledges [sensualia et scientifica] in matters of belief, plunge themselves not only into doubt, but also into denial, that is, into thick darkness, and consequently into all cupidities. For as they believe what is false, they also do what is false. And as they believe that what is spiritual and celestial has no existence, so they believe that there is nothing else but what is of the body and the world. And so they love all that belongs to self and the world, and in this way do cupidities and evils spring from what is false. Genesis 3, verses 14-19 14. And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above every beast, and above every wild animal of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. 15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall trample upon thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel. 16. And unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth sons, and thine obedience shall be to thy man [vir], and he shall rule over thee. 17. And unto the man He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in great sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. 18. And the thorn and the thistle shall it bring forth unto thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. 19. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.


THE CONTENTS. The subsequent state of the church down to the flood is here described; and as at that time the church utterly destroyed itself, it is foretold that the Lord would come into the world and save the human race.


Being unwilling to believe anything that could not be apprehended by the senses, the sensuous part which is the "serpent" cursed itself, and became infernal (verse 14).


Therefore to prevent all mankind from rushing into hell, the Lord promised that He would come into the world (verse 15).


The church is further described by the "woman" which so loved self or the Own as to be no longer capable of apprehending truth, although a rational was given them that should "rule" (verse 16).


The quality of the rational is then described, in that it consented, and thus cursed itself, and became infernal, so that reason no longer remained, but ratiocination (verse 17).


The curse and vastation are described, and also their ferine nature (verse 18).


Next, their aversion to everything of faith and love; and that thus from being man they became not men (verse 19).


THE INTERNAL SENSE The most ancient people, being celestial men, were so constituted that every object they beheld in the world or upon the face of the earth, they indeed saw, but they thought about the heavenly and Divine things the objects signified or represented. Their sight was merely an instrumental agency, and so consequently was their speech. Anyone may know how this was from his own experience, for if he attends closely to the meaning of a speaker's words, he does indeed hear the words, but is as if he did not hear them, taking in only the sense; and one who thinks more deeply does not attend even to the sense of the words, but to a more universal sense. But the posterities that are here treated of were not like their fathers, for when they beheld the objects in the world and on the face of the earth, as they loved them, their minds cleaved to them, and they thought about them, and from them about things heavenly and Divine. Thus with them what is sensuous began to be the principal, and not as with their fathers the instrumental. And when that which is of the world and of the earth becomes the principal, then men reason from this about the things of heaven, and so blind themselves. How this is may also be known by anyone from his own experience; for he who attends to the words of a speaker, and not to the sense of the words, takes in but little of the sense, and still less of the universal import of the sense, and sometimes judges of all that a man says from a single word, or even from a grammatical peculiarity.


Verse 14. And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above every beast, and above every wild animal of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. By "Jehovah God said unto the serpent" is signified that they perceived their sensuous part to be the cause [of their fall]. "The serpent cursed above every beast and above every wild animal of the field" signifies that their sensuous part averted itself from that which is heavenly, and turned itself to that which is of the body, and thus cursed itself; the "beast" and the "wild animal of the field" here signify affections, as before. The "serpent going upon its belly" signifies that their sensuous part could no longer look upward to the things of heaven, but only downward, to those of the body and the earth. Its "eating dust all the days of its life" signifies that their sensuous part became such that it could not live from anything but that which is of the body and the earth, that is to say, it became infernal.


In the most ancient celestial men the sensuous things of the body were of such a character as to be compliant and subservient to their internal man, and beyond this they did not care for them. But after they had begun to love themselves, they set the things of sense before the internal man, and therefore those things were separated, became corporeal, and so were condemned.


Having before shown that by "Jehovah God speaking to the serpent" is signified their perceiving the sensuous part to be the cause of their fall, no more need be said in regard to these words.


That "He said to the serpent, Thou art cursed above every beast, and above every wild animal of the field" signifies that the sensuous part averted itself from that which is heavenly, turned itself to that which is of the body, and thus cursed itself, may be clearly shown from the internal sense of the Word. Jehovah God or the Lord never curses anyone. He is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, never punishes anyone, and still less does He curse anyone. All this is done by the infernal crew, for such things can never proceed from the Fountain of mercy, peace, and goodness. The reason of its being said, both here and in other parts of the Word, that Jehovah God not only turns away His face, is angry, punishes, and tempts, but also kills and even curses, is that men may believe that the Lord governs and disposes all and everything in the universe, even evil itself, punishments, and temptations; and when they have received this most general idea, may afterwards learn how He governs and disposes all things by turning the evil of punishment and of temptation into good. In teaching and learning the Word, the most general truths must come first; and therefore the literal sense is full of such things.


That the "beast and the wild animal of the field" signify affections, is evident from what was previously said concerning them (n. 45 and 46), to which it is permitted to add the following passage from David: Thou, O God, dost send the rain of Thy kindnesses; Thou confirmest Thy laboring inheritance; Thy wild animal shall dwell therein (Ps. 68:9-10), where also "wild animal" denotes the affection of good, because it is said that it shall "dwell in the inheritance of God." The reason why here, and also in chapter 2:19-20, the "beast and the wild animal of the field" are mentioned, while in chapter 1:24-25, the "beast and the wild animal of the earth" are named, is that the present passage treats of the church or regenerated man, whereas the first chapter related to what was as yet not a church, or to man about to become regenerate; for the word "field" is applied to the church, or to the regenerate.


That the "serpent going on his belly" denotes that their sensuous part could no longer look upward to the things of heaven, but only downward to those of the body and the earth, is evident from the fact that in ancient times by the "belly" such things are signified as are nearest to the earth; by the "chest" such as are above the earth; and by the "head" what is highest. It is here said that the sensuous part, which in itself is the lowest part of man's nature, "went upon its belly" because it turned to what is earthly. The depression of the belly even to the earth, and the sprinkling of dust on the head, had a similar signification in the Jewish Church. Thus we read in David: Wherefore hidest Thou Thy faces, and forgettest our misery and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust, and our belly cleaveth to the earth. Arise, a help for us, and redeem us for Thy mercy's sake (Ps. 44:24-26), where also it is evident that when man averts himself from the face of Jehovah, he "cleaves by his belly to the dust and to the earth." In Jonah likewise, by the "belly" of the great fish, into which he was cast, are signified the lower parts of the earth, as is evident from his prophecy: Out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice (Jonah 2:2), where "hell" denotes the lower earth.


And therefore when man had regard to heavenly things, he was said to "walk erect" and to "look upward" or "forward" which means the same; but when he had regard to corporeal and earthly things, he was said to be "bowed to the earth" and to "look downward" or "backward." As in Leviticus: I am Jehovah your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bonds of your yoke, and made you to go erect (Lev. 26:13). In Micah: Ye shall not thence remove your necks, neither shall ye go erect (Micah 2:3). In Jeremiah: Jerusalem hath sinned a sin, therefore they despise her, because they have seen her nakedness; yea, she groaned and hath turned backward. From on high hath He sent fire into my bones, and hath made me to return backward; He hath made me desolate (Lam. 1:8, 13). And in Isaiah: Jehovah thy Redeemer, that turneth wise men backward, and maketh foolish their knowledge (Isa. 44:24-25).


That to "eat dust all the days of its life" signifies that their sensuous part became such that it could not live from anything except that which is of the body and the earth, that is to say, that it became infernal, is evident also from the signification of "dust" in the Word; as in Micah: Feed thy people as in the days of eternity. The nations shall see and shall blush at all their might; they shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall be shaken out of their holds like creeping things [serpentes] of the earth (Micah 7:14, 16-17). "The "days of eternity" mean the Most Ancient Church; the "nations" those who trust in their Own, of whom it is predicated that "they shall lick the dust like a serpent." In David: Barbarians shall bow themselves before God, and His enemies shall lick the dust (Ps. 72:9). "Barbarians" and "enemies" are those who regard only earthly and worldly things. In Isaiah: Dust shall be the serpent's bread (Isa. 65:25). As "dust" signifies those who do not regard spiritual and celestial things, but only what is corporeal and earthly, therefore the Lord enjoined His disciples that if the city or house into which they entered was not worthy, they should "shake off the dust of their feet" (Matt. 10:14). (That "dust" signifies what is condemned and infernal, will be further shown at verse 19.)


Verse 15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall trample upon thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel. Everyone is aware that this is the first prophecy of the Lord's advent into the world; it appears indeed clearly from the words themselves, and therefore from them and from the prophets even the Jews knew that a Messiah was to come. Hitherto however no one has understood what is specifically meant by the "serpent" the "woman" the "serpent's seed" the "woman's seed" the "head of the serpent which was to be trodden upon" and the "heel which the serpent should bruise." They must therefore be explained. By the "serpent" is here meant all evil in general, and specifically the love of self; by the "woman" is meant the church; by the "seed of the serpent" all infidelity; by the "seed of the woman" faith in the Lord; by "He" the Lord Himself; by the "head of the serpent" the dominion of evil in general, and specifically that of the love of self; by to "trample upon" depression, so that it should "go upon the belly and eat dust;" and by the "heel" the lowest natural (as the corporeal), which the serpent should "bruise."

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