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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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Divine Singles are the ones we keep

VII. The Sense of the Letter

As there are three senses in the Word, a natural, a spiritual, and a celestial, and as its natural sense, which is the sense of the letter, is a containment of the two senses, the spiritual and celestial, it follows that the sense of the letter of the Word is the basis of those senses. And as the angels of the three heavens receive their wisdom from the Lord through the Word that they have, and as their Words make one with our Word by correspondences, it also follows that the sense of the letter of our Word is the basis, support, and foundation of the wisdom of the angels of heaven. For the heavens rest upon the human race as a house rests upon its foundation; so the wisdom of the angels of heaven rests in like manner upon the knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom of men from the sense of the letter of the Word; for, as has been said above, communication and conjunction with the heavens are effected through the sense of the letter of the Word. For this reason, as a result of the Lord's Divine providence, there has been no mutilation of the sense of the letter of the Word from its first revelation, not even in a word or letter in the original text; for each word, and in some measure each letter, is a support.

From all this it is clear what a profanation it is to falsify the truths and adulterate the goods of the Word, and how infernal it is to deny or to weaken its holiness. As soon as that is done, for that man of the church heaven is closed. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which cannot be forgiven, is the blasphemy of the Word by those who deny its holiness. Since the Word is the basis of the heavens, and since the Word was wholly falsified and adulterated by the Jewish nation by traditions and adaptation of the sense of the letter to favor their evil loves, lest the heavens should be endangered and the wisdom of the angels there should become foolishness it pleased the Lord to come down from heaven and to put on the Human and to become the Word (as is evident from John i. 14), and thus to restore the state of heaven. (A.E., n. 1085.)

There is a successive order and there is a simultaneous order. In successive order things pure and perfect appear above, and those less pure and perfect appear below. The three heavens are in successive order, one above another; and in the higher heavens all things are pure and perfect, while in the lower they are less pure and perfect. Simultaneous order exists in lower things, and fully in the lowest; for higher things let themselves down and place themselves in the order that is called simultaneous, in which the pure and perfect things, which were the higher, are in the middle or center, and the less pure and perfect, which were the lower, are in the circumferences. Therefore all things that have come forth in successive order are together in outmosts in their order.

As all higher things place themselves in what is lowest in simultaneous order, it follows that in the outmosts of the Word, which constitute the sense of its letter, are all things of Divine truth and of Divine good, even from their firsts. And as all things of Divine truth and Divine good are together in their outmost, which is the sense of the letter of the Word, there evidently is the power of Divine truth, yea, the omnipotence of the Lord in saving man. For when the Lord operates He operates not from first things through mediates into outmosts, but from first things through outmosts and thus into mediates. This is why the Lord is called in the Word the First and the Last; and this is why the Lord assumed the Human, which in the world was Divine truth or the Word, and glorified it even to outmosts, which are the bones and flesh, in order that He might operate from first things through outmosts, and not as before from man, but from Himself.

This power in outmosts was represented by the hair with the Nazirites, as with Samson, for the hair with the Nazirites, as with Samson, for the hair corresponds to the outmosts of Divine truth. And for this reason, to produce baldness was regarded in ancient times as disgraceful.

The boys who called Elisha "bald head" were torn in pieces by bears, because Elisha and Elijah represented the Word; and the Word without the sense of the letter, which is like a head without hair, is destitute of all power, and thus is no longer the Word. "Bears" signify those that have strength from the outmost of truth.

The power of the Word in the sense of the letter is the power to open heaven, whereby communication and conjunction are effected, and also the power to fight against falsities and evils, thus against the hells. A man who is in genuine truths from the sense of the letter of the Word can disperse and scatter the whole diabolical crew and their devices in which they place their power, which are innumerable, and this in a moment, merely by careful thought and an effort of the will. In brief, in the spiritual world nothing can resist genuine truths confirmed by the sense of the letter of the Word (A.E., n. 1086.)

Now since all interior things, that is, the spiritual and celestial things that are in the Words of the three heavens, are together in the outmost sense of the Word, which is called the sense of the letter (for in its inmosts there are the things that are in the Word that the angels of the third heaven have, and in its middle parts the things that are in the Words belonging to the angels of the lower heavens, and these are encompassed by such things as exist in the nature of our world and are included in these), so the sense of the letter of our Word is from all these. From this it can be seen that Divine truth is in its fullness in the sense of the letter of our Word. That is said to be full which contains in itself all things prior, even from the first, or all things higher even from the highest; the last is what includes these. The fullness of the Word is like a general vessel of marble, in which are countless lesser vessels of crystal, and in these still more numerous vessels of precious stones, in and about which are the most delightful things of heaven which are for those who perform noble uses according to the Word.

That the Word is such is not evident to man while he is in the world; but it is evident to him when he becomes an angel. Because the Word is such in outmosts it follows that it is not the Word until it is in that outmost, that is, until it is in the sense of the letter. The Word not in that outmost would be like a temple in the air and not on the earth, or like a man having flesh but without bones.

As Divine truth is in its fullness and also in its power in its outmost, for when it is in that it is in all things at once, so the Lord never works except from first things through outmosts, and thus in fullness. For He reforms and regenerates man only through truths in outmosts, which are natural. And this is why a man remains after his departure out of the world to eternity such as he has been in the world. For the same reason heaven and hell are from the human race, and angels are not created immediately such; for in the world a man is in his fullness, consequently he can there be conceived and born, and afterward be imbued with knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom, and become an angel. To create angels in any other way is impossible.

Because the Lord works all things from things first through outmosts, and is in His power and in His fullness in outmosts, so it pleased the Lord to take upon Him the Human and to become Divine truth, that is, the Word, and thus from Himself to reduce to order all things of heaven and all things of hell, that is, to execute a last judgment. This the Lord could accomplish from the Divine in Himself, which was in things first, through His Human which was in outmosts, and not, as before, from His presence or abode in the men of the church; for these had wholly forsaken the truths and goods of the Word, in which the Lord had previously had His dwelling-place with men. This was the chief reason for the Lord's coming into the world, also for making His Human Divine; for He thus put Himself into possession of a power to hold all things of heaven and all things of hell in order for ever. This is meant by

"Sitting at the right hand of God" (Mark xvi. 19).

"The right hand of God" means Divine omnipotence, and "to sit at the right hand of God" means to be in that omnipotence through the Human. That the Lord ascended into heaven with His Human glorified even to outmosts He testifies in Luke:

Jesus said to the disciples, "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye behold Me having" (xxiv. 39).

This the Lord said just after His resurrection. "Flesh and bones" are the outmosts of the human body, on which its strength depends. (A.E., n. 1087.)

Divine truth is what is called holy, but only when it is in its outmost, and its outmost is the Word in the sense of the letter; therefore the Divine truth there is holy, and may be called a holy place, and for the reason that that sense contains and encloses all the holy things of heaven and the church. The appearance is that Divine truths in the heavens, which are called spiritual and celestial, are more holy than the Divine truths in the sense of the letter of the Word, which are natural; but the Divine truths in the heavens, which are called spiritual and celestial, are comparatively like the lungs and heart in man, which form the chest only when they are encompassed by ribs, and enclosed in the pleura and diaphragm; for without these integuments, and even unless connected with them by bonds, they could not perform their vital functions. The spiritual things of the Word are like the breathing of the lungs, its celestial things are like the systole and diastole of the heart, and its natural things are like the pleura, the diaphragm, and the ribs, with the moving fibers attached, by which the motions are made reciprocal.

Again, the spiritual and celestial things of the Word are comparatively like the holy things of the tabernacle, which consisted of the table upon which was the shew bread, the golden altar upon which was the incense, the perfumes and the censor, also the lampstand with the lamps, and still further within, the cherubim, the mercy seat, and the ark. All these were the holy things of the Jewish and Israelitish church; nevertheless they could not be called holy and a sanctuary until they had been covered by curtains and veils, for without those coverings they would have stood under the naked sky, exposed to showers and storms, to the birds of heaven and the wild beasts of the earth, and also to robbers that would violate, plunder, and scatter them. So would it be with the Divine truths in the heavens, which are called spiritual and celestial, unless they were enclosed in natural truths, like the truths of the sense of the letter of the Word.

Natural truths, which are the truths of the sense of the letter of the Word, are not the very truths of heaven, but are appearances of them; and appearances of truth encompass, enclose and contain the truths of heaven, which are genuine truths, and cause them to be in connection and order and to act together, like the cardiac and pulmonary organs with their coverings and ribs, as has been said above; and when these truths are held in connection and in order they are holy, and not till then. This the sense of the letter of our Word does by means of the appearances of truth of which its outmost consists; and this is why that sense is the holy Divine itself and a sanctuary.

But he is greatly mistaken who separates appearances of truth from genuine truths and calls these appearances holy by themselves and of themselves, and not the sense of the letter holy by these and from these, and together with these. He separates these who sees only the sense of the letter and does not explore its meaning, as those do who do not read the Word from doctrine. The "cherubim" mean in the Word guard and protection that the holy things of heaven be not violated, and that the Lord be approached only through love; consequently these signify the sense of the letter of the Word, because that is what guards and protects. It guards and protects in this manner that man can think and speak according to appearances of truth so long as he is well-disposed, simple, and as it were a child; but he must take heed not to so confirm appearances as to destroy the genuine truths in the heavens. (A.E., n. 1088.)

It is an invariable truth that no one can understand the Word without doctrine; for he may be led away into any errors to which he may be inclined from some love, or to which he may be drawn from some principle, whereby his mind becomes unsettled and uncertain, and at length as it were destitute of truth. But he who reads the Word from doctrine sees all things that confirm it, and many things that are hidden from the eyes of others, and does not permit himself to be drawn away into strange things; and thus his mind becomes so settled as to see with certainty.

Again, unless the Word is read from doctrine it may be drawn away to confirm heresies, for the reason that the sense of its letter consists of mere correspondences, and these are in great part appearances of truth, and in part genuine truths, and unless there be doctrine for a lamp these cannot be seen and cannot be distinguished from each other.

And yet only from the Word can doctrine be acquired, and it can be acquired only by those who are in enlightenment from the Lord. Those are in enlightenment who love truths because they are truths and make them to be of their life. Moreover, all things of doctrine must be confirmed by the sense of the letter of the Word, because Divine truth is in its fullness and in its power in that sense, and through it man is in conjunction with the Lord and in consociation with the angels. In brief, he who loves truth because it is truth can inquire of the Lord, as it were, in doubtful matters of faith, and can receive answers from Him, but nowhere except in the Word for the reason that the Lord is the Word. (A.E., n. 1089.) Affirmations cards support us to have better days and nights

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