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Spiritual Life and the Word of God Emanuel Swedenborg

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Spiritual Life and the Word of God

by Emanuel Swedenborg

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V. The Three Senses in the Word

As there is a trine, one within another, in every last particular of the Word, and this trine is like that of effect, cause, and end, it follows that there are three senses in the Word, one within another, namely, a natural, a spiritual, and a celestial; a natural for the world, a spiritual for the heavens of the Lord's spiritual kingdom, and a celestial for the heavens of His celestial kingdom. (That the entire heavens are divided into two kingdoms, the spiritual and the celestial, may be seen in Heaven and Hell, n. 20-28.) Now as there is one sense within another, a first which is the sense of the letter for the natural world, a second which is the internal sense for the spiritual kingdom, and a third which is the inmost for the celestial kingdom, it follows that a natural man draws from it his sense, a spiritual angel his sense, and a celestial angel his sense, thus everyone what is analogous to and in agreement with his own essence and nature. This takes place whenever a man who is led by the Lord is reading the Word.

But let this be illustrated by examples. When this commandment of the Decalogue is read, "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother," a man in the world understands by "father and mother" a father and mother on the earth, and also all who are or may be in the place of father or mother; and by "honoring" he understands to hold such in honor. But an angel of the spiritual kingdom understands by "father" the Divine good, and by "mother" the Divine truth, and by "honoring" loving; while an angel of the celestial kingdom understands by "father" the Lord, and by "mother" heaven and the church, and by "honoring" doing.

When the fifth commandment of the Decalogue, "Thou shalt not steal," is read, by "stealing" a man understands stealing, defrauding, and taking away under any pretense his neighbor's goods. But an angel of the spiritual kingdom by "stealing" understands depriving another of his truths and goods by means of falsities and evils, while an angel of the celestial kingdom by "not to steal" understands not to attribute to himself the things that are the Lord's, as the good of love and the truth of faith; for thereby good becomes not good, and truth not truth, because they are from men.

When the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," is read, a man by "committing adultery" understands committing adultery and whoredom, also thinking filthy thoughts, speaking lasciviously, and doing obscene things. But an angel of the spiritual kingdom by "committing adultery" understands falsifying the truths of the Word and adulterating its goods; while an angel of the celestial kingdom by "committing adultery" understands blaspheming against the Lord, heaven, and the church.

When the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," is read, by "killing" a man understands hating and desiring revenge, even to murder. But an angel of the spiritual kingdom by "killing" understands the killing of a man's soul by stumbling blocks to the life and by reasonings, whereby a man is led into spiritual death, while an angel of the celestial kingdom by "killing" understands seducing a man into believing that there is no God and no heaven and no hell, for thus man's eternal life is destroyed.

When the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," is read, a man by "false witness" understands lying and defamation. But an angel of the spiritual kingdom by "false witness" understands asserting, proving, and persuading that falsity is truth and evil is good, or on the other hand that truth is falsity and good is evil, while an angel of the celestial kingdom by "false witness" understands every falsity against the Lord, and against heaven in favor of hell.

All this makes clear how a man draws and calls forth from the Word in the letter a natural sense, a spiritual angel a spiritual sense, and a celestial angel a celestial sense, much as the wood of a tree draws its sap, the leaf its sap, and the fruit its sap, from the same soil. And what is wonderful, this is done instantly, without the angel's knowing what the man thinks, or the man what the angel thinks, and yet their thoughts are one by correspondences, as end, cause, and effect are one. Moreover, ends are actually in the celestial kingdom, causes in the spiritual kingdom, causes in the spiritual kingdom, and effects in the natural world. (A.E., n. 1083.) New Thought Music is music from the soul

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