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Doctrine of Sacred Scriptures, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1763], tr. by John F. Potts [1904] at

Doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures


XII BEFORE THE WORD THAT IS NOW IN THE WORLD THERE WAS A WORD WHICH IS LOST From what is related in the books of Moses it is evident that worship by means of sacrifices was known, and that men prophesied from the mouth of Jehovah, before the Word was given to the Israelitish nation through Moses and the prophets. That worship by means of sacrifices was known is evident from these facts: The sons of Israel were commanded to overturn the altars of the nations, break in pieces their images, and cut down their groves (Exod. 34:13; Deut. 7:5; 12:3). In Shittim Israel began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab; they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods; and Israel joined himself especially to Baal-peor, and on that account the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel (Num. 25:1-3). Balaam, who was from Syria, caused altars to be built, and sacrificed oxen and sheep (Num. 22:40; 23:1, 2, 14, 29, 30). [2] That men prophesied from the mouth of Jehovah, is evident from the prophecies of Balaam (Num. 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:3-9, 16-24). He also prophesied concerning the Lord that a star should arise out of Jacob, and a scepter out of Israel (Num. 24:17). And he prophesied from the mouth of Jehovah (Num. 22:13, 18; 23:3, 5, 8, 16, 26; 24:1, 13). From these facts it is evident that there existed among the nations a Divine worship similar to that instituted through Moses among the Israelitish nation. [3] That it existed even before the time of Abram is in some measure apparent from the words in Moses (Deut. 32:7, 8), but more evidently from what is said of Melchizedek king of Salem: That he brought forth bread and wine, and blessed Abram, and that Abram gave him tithes of all (Gen. 14:18-20); and that Melchizedek represented the Lord, for he is called Priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18); and it is said in David concerning the Lord: Thou art a priest to eternity, after the manner of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). Hence it was that Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine as holy things of the church, even as they are holy things in the sacrament of the supper; and that Melchizedek could bless Abram, and that Abram gave him tithes of all.


I have been told by angels of heaven that there was among the ancients a Word written entirely by correspondences, but that it had been lost, and they said that it is still preserved, and is in use in that heaven where those ancient people dwell who had possessed it in this world. The ancients who still use that Word in heaven came partly from the land of Canaan and the neighboring countries, such as Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Chaldea, Assyria, and Egypt, and also from Sidon, Tyre, and Nineveh. The inhabitants of all these kingdoms were in representative worship, and consequently in the knowledge of correspondences. The wisdom of that time was derived from this knowledge, and by its means they had an interior perception, and a communication with the heavens. Those who had an interior acquaintance with the correspondences of that Word were called wise and intelligent, and later, diviners and magi. But as that Word was full of correspondences which only in a remote way signified celestial and spiritual things, and consequently began to be falsified by many, of the Lord's Divine Providence it disappeared in course of time, and at length was utterly lost, and another Word, written by correspondences less remote than the other, was given by means of prophets among the sons of Israel. Yet many names of places in the land of Canaan and in the surrounding countries were retained in this Word with significations like those they had in the Ancient Word. It was for this reason that Abram was commanded to go into that land, and that his descendants, from Jacob, were brought into it.


That there was a Word among the ancients is evident from Moses, who mentions it, and who took some things from it (Num. 21:14, 15, 27-30); the historical parts of that Word being called Wars of Jehovah, and its prophetical parts Enunciations. From the historical parts of that Word Moses took the following: Wherefore it is said in the book of the Wars of Jehovah, At Vaheb in Suphah, and the rivers of Arnon; and the watercourse of the rivers that inclineth toward the dwelling of Ar, and betaketh itself to the border of Moab (Num. 21:14, 15). In that Word, as in ours, the "Wars of Jehovah" meant and described the Lord's combats with hell and his victories over it at the time when He should come into the world. The same combats are meant, and are described, in many passages of the historical parts of our Word, such as the wars of Joshua with the nations of the land of Canaan, and those of the judges and kings of Israel. [2] From the prophetical parts of that Word Moses took the following: Wherefore the Enunciators say, Come ye to Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and strengthened; for a fire is gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon, it hath devoured Ar of Moab, the possessors of the high places of Arnon. Woe to thee, Moab! Thou hast perished, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons as fugitives, and his daughters into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites. With darts have we destroyed them. Heshbon hath perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba (Num. 21:27-30). The translators say "They that speak in Proverbs," but the rendering should be "Enunciators," or "Prophetic Enunciations," as is evident from the meaning of the word m'shalim in the Hebrew tongue, which is not merely proverbs, but also prophetic enunciations, as in Num. 23:7, 18; 24:3, 15, where it is said that Balaam uttered "his enunciation" which was prophetic, and which also was about the Lord. His enunciation is called mashal, in the singular. Consider also that the things taken from them by Moses are not proverbs, but prophecies. [3] That the Ancient Word, like ours, was Divine or Divinely inspired, is evident from Jeremiah, where almost the same words occur: A fire is gone forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, that hath devoured the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the sons of clamor. Woe unto thee, O Moab! The people of Chemosh is undone, for thy sons have been carried off into captivity, and thy daughters into captivity (Jer. 48:45-46). Besides these books, a prophetic book of the Ancient Word called the Book of Jashar, or the Book of the Upright, is mentioned by David and by Joshua. By David: David lamented over Saul and over Jonathan, and wrote, To teach the sons of Judah the bow. Behold it is written in the Book of Jashar (2 Sam. 1:17, 18). And by Joshua: Joshua said, Sun, be silent in Gibeon, and thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon. Is not this written in the Book of Jashar? (Josh. 10:12, 13). Furthermore: I have been told that the first seven chapters of Genesis appear in that Ancient Word complete to the slightest expression.


XIII THE PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH WHO ARE NOT IN POSSESSION OF THE WORD HAVE LIGHT BY ITS MEANS There can be no conjunction with heaven unless somewhere on earth there is a church where the Word is, and where by it the Lord is known; for the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and apart from Him there is no salvation. It is sufficient that there be a church where the Word is, even if it consists of comparatively few, for even in that case the Lord is present by its means in the whole world, for by its means heaven is conjoined with the human race. That there is conjunction by means of the Word may be seen above (n. 62-69).


But in what way the presence and conjunction of the Lord and heaven exist in all lands by means of the Word shall now be told. Before the Lord the universal heaven is like one man, and so is the church. And that they actually appear as a man may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 59-86). In this man, the church where the Word is read and the Lord thereby known, is as the heart and lungs; the celestial kingdom as the heart, and the spiritual kingdom as the lungs. [2] As all the other members and viscera subsist and live from these two fountains of life of the human body, so also do all those in the whole earth who have some sort of religion, worship one God, and live aright, and who are thereby in that man and correspond to its members and viscera outside the chest which contains the heart and lungs - subsist and live from the conjunction of the Lord and heaven with the church by means of the Word. For the Word in the church, although existing with comparatively few, is life to all the rest, from the Lord through heaven, just as there is life for the members and viscera of the whole body from the heart and lungs, and there is a similar communication. [3] This is why those Christians among whom the Word is read constitute the breast of that man. They are the midmost of all; round about them are the Papists; around these again are those Mohammedans who acknowledge the Lord as the greatest Prophet and as the Son of God; beyond these are the Africans; while the nations and people of Asia and the Indies constitute the furthest compass. Concerning this ranking of them something may be seen in Last Judgment (n. 48). Moreover all who are in that man look toward the middle region where the Christians are.


The greatest light is in this middle region where are the Christians who possess the Word; for light in the heavens is Divine truth that proceeds from the Lord as the sun there; and as the Word is this Divine truth, the light is greatest where dwell those who possess the Word. From this region as from its proper center, the light propagates itself from one compass to another even to the uttermost of them; and in this way comes the enlightening, by means of the Word, of all the nations and peoples that are outside the church. That the light in the heavens is Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord, and that this light confers intelligence not only on angels but also on men, may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 126-140).


That this is the case in the universal heaven may be inferred from the similar conditions that prevail in each of the heavenly societies; for every society of heaven is a heaven in a smaller form, and is also like a man. That such is the case may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 41-87). In each society of heaven also, those in the center correspond to the heart and lungs, and they possess the greatest light. This light, and the consequent perception of truth, propagates itself from that center toward the successive circuits in every direction, thus to all in the society, and it makes their spiritual life. It has been shown that when those in the center who constituted the province of the heart and lungs and possessed the greatest light, were taken away, those around them came into shadow, and into a perception of truth so scanty as to be almost none; but as soon as the others came back, the light reappeared, and they had perception of truth the same as before.


The same thing may be illustrated by the following experience. African spirits from Abyssinia were present with me. On a certain occasion their ears were opened so that they heard the singing of a Psalm of David in some place of worship in this world, which affected them with such delight that they too sang along with that congregation. Presently their ears were closed so that they heard nothing of the singing, but they were then affected with a delight which was still greater, because spiritual, and they were at the same time filled with intelligence, because that Psalm treated of the Lord and of redemption. The cause of this increase of delight was that there was opened to them a communication with that society in heaven which was in conjunction with those in this world who were singing that Psalm. From this and many other such experiences it has become evident to me that communication with the universal heaven is effected by means of the Word. And for this reason there exists of the Lord's Divine Providence a universal commercial exchange of the kingdoms of Europe - and chiefly of those where the Word is read - with the nations outside the church.


In this respect a comparison may be made with the heat and light from the sun of this world, which causes vegetation in trees and shrubs even when they are out of its direct rays and under a clouded sky, provided the sun has risen and shown itself in the world. It is the same with the light and heat of heaven from the Lord as the sun, this light being Divine truth, the source of all intelligence and wisdom to angels and men. It is therefore said of the Word: That it was with God, and was God; that it enlightens every man that comes into the world (John 1:1, 9); and also that that light appears in the darkness (John 1:5).


From all this it is evident that the Word which exists in the Church of the Reformed enlightens all nations and peoples by a spiritual communication; and also that it is provided by the Lord that there shall always be a church on earth where the Word is read, and where consequently the Lord is known. It was for this reason that when the Word had been almost completely rejected by the Papists, of the Lord's Divine Providence the Reformation was brought about, whereby the Word was again received, as also that the Word is accounted holy by a notable nation among the Papists.


As without the Word there is no knowledge of the Lord, and therefore no salvation, it pleased the Lord that when the Word had been wholly falsified and adulterated among the Jewish nation and thus as it were brought to nothingness, that He should descend from heaven and come into the world, and fulfill the Word, and thereby repair and restore it, and again give light to the earth's inhabitants, in accordance with His declaration: The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light; and to those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up (Matt. 4:16; Isa. 9:2).


As it had been foretold that darkness would arise at the end of the present church in consequence of the lack of knowledge and acknowledgment of the Lord as being the God of heaven and earth, and also in consequence of the separation of faith from charity, therefore in order that by reason of this a genuine understanding of the Word might not perish, it has pleased the Lord at this present time to reveal the spiritual sense of the Word and make it plain that the Word in this sense, and from this in the natural sense, treats of the Lord and the church, and indeed of these alone, and to discover many other things besides, by means of which the light of truth from the Word, now almost extinguished, may be restored. That the light of truth would be almost extinguished at the end of the present church is foretold in many places in Revelation, and is also what is meant by the following words of the Lord in Matthew: Immediately after the affliction of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with glory and power (Matt. 24:29-30) The "sun" here means the Lord in respect to love; the "moon," the Lord in respect to faith; the "stars," the Lord in respect to the knowledges of good and truth; the "Son of man," the Lord in respect to the Word; a "cloud," the sense of the letter of the Word; and "glory," its spiritual sense and the shining through of this in the sense of the letter.


It has been given me to know by much experience that by means of the Word man has communication with heaven. While I read the Word through from the first chapter of Isaiah to the last of Malachi, and the Psalms of David, I was permitted clearly to perceive that each verse communicated with some society of heaven, and thus the whole Word with the universal heaven.


XIV WITHOUT THE WORD NO ONE WOULD HAVE A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, OF HEAVEN AND HELL, OF A LIFE AFTER DEATH, AND STILL LESS OF THE LORD This follows as a general conclusion from what has been already said and shown; as that the Word is Divine truth itself (n. 1-4); that it is a medium of conjunction with the angels of heaven (n. 62-69); that everywhere in it there is a marriage of the Lord and the church, and a consequent marriage of good and truth (n. 80-89); that the quality of the church is such as is its understanding of the Word (n. 76-79); that the Word exists in the heavens also, and the angels have their wisdom from it (n. 70-75); that the nations and peoples outside the church also have spiritual light by means of the Word (n. 104-113); and much more besides. From all this it can be concluded that without the Word no one would possess spiritual intelligence, which consists in having knowledge of a God, of heaven and hell, and of a life after death; nor would know anything whatever about the Lord, about faith in him and love to him, nor anything about redemption, by means of which nevertheless comes salvation. As the Lord also says to His disciples: Without Me ye can do nothing (John 15:5); and John: A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven (John 3:27).


But as there are those who maintain, and have confirmed themselves in the opinion, that without a Word it is possible for a man to know of the existence of God, and of heaven and hell, and of all the other things taught by the Word, and as they thereby weaken the authority and holiness of the Word, if not with the lips, yet in the heart, therefore it is not practicable to deal with them from the Word, but only from rational light, for they do not believe in the Word, but in themselves. Investigate the matter from rational light, and you will find that in man there are two faculties of life called the understanding and the will, and that the understanding is subject to the will, but not the will to the understanding, for the understanding merely teaches and shows the way. Make further investigation, and you will find that man's will is what is his own [proprium], and that this, regarded in itself, is nothing but evil, and that from this springs what is false in the understanding. [2] Having discovered these facts you will see that from himself a man does not desire to understand anything but that which comes from the own of his will, and also that it is not possible for him to do so unless there is some other source from which he may know it. From the own of his will a man does not desire to understand anything except that which relates to himself and to the world; everything above this is to him in thick darkness. So that when he sees the sun, the moon, the stars, and chances to think about their origin, how is it possible for him to think otherwise than that they exist of themselves? Can he raise his thoughts higher than do many of the learned in the world who acknowledge only nature, in spite of the fact that from the Word they know of the creation of all things by God? What then would these same have thought if they had known nothing from the Word? [3] Do you believe that the wise men of old, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and others, who wrote about God and the immortality of the soul, got this from themselves [proprio]? Not so, but from others who had it by tradition from those who first knew it from the [Ancient] Word. Neither do the writers on natural theology get any such matters from themselves. They merely confirm by rational arguments what they have already become acquainted with from the church in which is the Word; and there may be some among them who confirm without believing it.


I have been permitted to see peoples who had been born in [remote] islands, who were rational in respect to civil matters, but had known nothing whatever about God. In the spiritual world such appear like apes, and their life is very similar to that of apes. But having been born men, and consequently being endowed with a capacity to receive spiritual life, they are instructed by angels and are made spiritually alive by means of knowledges about God as a man. What man is, of himself, is very evident from the character of those who are in hell, among whom are to be found leading and learned men who are unwilling even to hear of God, and therefore cannot utter His name. I have seen such and have conversed with them. I have conversed also with some who burned with angry passion when they heard anyone speak of God. Such being the character of some who have heard about God, who have written about God, and have preached about God (and there are many such from among the Jesuits), consider what a man would be who had never even heard of Him. It is from the will, which is evil, that these are of such a character; for, as before said, the will leads the understanding, and takes away from it the truth that is in it from the Word. If man had been able of himself to know that there is a God and a life after death, why has he not known that after death a man is still a man? Why does he believe that his soul or spirit is like a breath of air, or like the ether, and that it has no eyes with which to see, nor ears with which to hear, nor mouth with which to speak, until it shall have been conjoined and combined with its carcass and with its skeleton? Assume then the existence of a doctrine of worship that has been hatched solely from rational light, and will not that doctrine be that a man's own self is to be worshiped? For ages this is what has been done, and is done at the present day by some who know from the Word that God alone ought to be worshiped. From what is man's own, any other kind of worship, even that of the sun and moon, is impossible.


That from the most ancient times there has been religion, and that everywhere the inhabitants of the world have had knowledge of God, and have known something about a life after death, has not originated in themselves or their own penetration, but from the Ancient Word (spoken of above, n. 101-103), and, at a later period, from the Israelitish Word. From these two Words the things of religion have spread into the Indies and their islands, and through Egypt and Ethiopia into the kingdoms of Africa, and from the maritime parts of Asia into Greece, and from thence into Italy. But as the Word could not be written in any other way than by means of representatives, which are such things in this world as correspond to heavenly things, and therefore signify them, the things of religion among many of the nations were turned into idolatry, and in Greece into fables, and the Divine attributes and predicates into so many gods, over whom they set one supreme, whom they called "Jove" 117-1 from "Jehovah." It is known that they had knowledge of paradise, of the flood, of the sacred fire, and of the four ages, from the first or golden age to the last or iron age, by which are meant the four states of the church (as in Daniel 2:31-35). It is also known that the Mohammedan religion, which came later and destroyed the former religions of many nations, was taken from the Word of both Testaments.


Lastly, I will state of what character those become after death who ascribe all things to their own intelligence, and little or nothing to the Word. They first become as if inebriated, then as if silly, and finally stupid, and they sit in darkness. Of such insanity, therefore, let all beware.


117-1 Perhaps; see True Christian Religion, n. 275. [Translator]