The Primitive of Man
by Rev. George deCharms
What Begins at Conception?
Of course, what actually begins at the moment of conception is the formation of an embryo which, when it is matured, is born into the world as an infant, a new human being. The soul of the infant is from the father. This is explicitly taught in the Writings where we read that "Every man's soul is from the father." (DP 277a: 3) This is confirmed by the following:
From these teachings the fact that in some sense human life in every offspring begins at conception, and that it is derived from the soul of the father, is beyond dispute. Nevertheless, conception is not the first beginning of individuated human life.
Man is not formed in the womb by the seed of the father. This is only an appearance, not the reality. He is actually created by the Lord before conception.
From this it is clear that although the soul of the offspring is from the father; and although this "soul is the man himself," yet the offspring is not merely "a graft or offshoot from the father's soul." (TCR 103) As we understand the matter, this offshoot includes everything which is transmitted into the offspring from the father. It is from "the father's reigning love, together with its nearest derivatives." (DP 277:3) For this reason there is in the soul of the offspring, not only an hereditary tendency to evil which has accumulated through countless previous generations, but also those goods which are inherited from racial, national, tribal, and family ancestors. Of these it is said that "they make the infant loveable." (DP 277: 4) Nevertheless, the father does not form the embryo in the womb. This is done by the Lord Himself, and He does it by means of vessels created before conception. What the Lord does through those vessels transcends all paternal heredity, overrules it, and produces in the offspring an individual altogether distinct from the father.
Where and How Is Human Seed Created?
Concerning this we read: "Man's semen is conceived interiorly in the understanding [of the adult human male] and is given form in the will. It is transferred therefrom to the testicles where it clothes itself with a natural covering, and is thus conducted into the womb and enters the world." (TCR 584) We note especially that the seed "is conceived interiorly in the understanding" of the father, and "is given form in his will." Thus the first creation takes place in the brain. How it is "transferred therefrom to the testicles" we are not told. But only after this transfer is accomplished is it said that "it clothes itself with a natural covering."
Human seeds are thus created in great abundance because "The seeds [of truth] are innumerable because they are of faith, thus of all spiritual and celestial things. But the universal and only seed, in which the rest are arranged in their order and subordination is this-that the Lord alone governs the universe, and that He is the All in all things of truth and good; and that man, spirit, and angel, regarded in themselves, are nothing." (SD 1440) Elsewhere we read that "they who constitute the province of the seminal vessels, where the good semen is collected together with serum with which it is combined, that it may be suited for emission, and afterwards resolved in the neck of the womb," intensely desire to come into heaven. This is because "the seminal vessels contain such a substance as [corresponds] to the desire of entering heaven, indicating that it desires regeneration, or to enter into the womb that it may be born anew . . . . Such a desire also exists in those particles which are the seminal vessels." (SD 875; cf. AC 5056)
It is evident that there is something here which does not come from the father. Obviously, the inmost of the seed is a Divine creation. It is not life itself, but is a finite receptacle of life.
Concerning the First Creation of Human Beings
"The Lord created with man, and afterwards forms with him, a receptacle of love which is his will; and He adjoins to this a receptacle of wisdom which is his understanding." (Wis. II) We would note that the receptacle of love is the man's will, and the receptacle of wisdom is the man's understanding. The number continues:
We would note here that the receptacle of love is called the "will" of the offspring, and the receptacle of wisdom is called his "understanding". We take this to mean the inmost will of the future man, and the inmost understanding of the future man. This will, and this understanding are not from the father. They are from the Lord alone. They transcend all hereditary effects from the father's love and life, and for this reason we have called them a Divine endowment. They are not life in itself, but life conditioned, and determined to a specific end, by the spiritual vessels into which, and through which it acts. This is according to the universal law that "reception is according to the form of the receiving vessel." (HH 569 and elsewhere) These inmost receptacles of life are elsewhere called the "dwellingplace of the Lord with man." This dwellingplace is not in the least affected by the paternal heredity, nor indeed by the life of the offspring. It remains with man to eternity, altogether unchanged, because it is above man's consciousness. Yet by means of it the Lord is immediately present with every man, spirit, and angel-with those in hell as with those in heaven. Reference is made to it in Psalm 139, verse 8: "If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there." These inmost receptacles of life are minutely individual, as we read: "Life which is Divine love is in a form." "That form is a form of use in its whole complex." "In such a form is man individually." (Love III-V) Every man therefore is an individual form of use. We understand this teaching to mean that every offspring from a human father is not merely an "offshoot from the father's soul" but is an individual by virtue of these inmost vessels receptive of love and wisdom which are created by the Lord in the brain of the male adult human being. As these are clothed in the testicles and there supplied with a serum in which they float, they are known as seeds or spermatozoa. They are created in unimaginable numbers, and millions of them are present in every coition of husband and wife. Yet only one sperm penetrates the ovum to begin the formation of an embryo. Frequently even this does not occur. Nevertheless each of these spermatozoa is a finite creation, an inmost form of use, so determined by the Lord Himself in His providence which constantly looks to the perfection of a heaven from the human race. Each one is a potential human soul, receptive of love and wisdom. These are rendered finite by the limitations of the created vessel into which, and through which the Divine life flows.
According to our understanding, each of these spermatozoa, when spiritually viewed, is representatively pictured in number 432 of the Divine Love and Wisdom. There it is called "the initiament of man as it is by conception." It was seen to be of three discrete degrees which together appeared as a type of the brain in least form, being divided into two hemispheres.
What Is This Primitive of Man?
We believe that, as seen by Swedenborg, it was a spiritual representation of the sperm which penetrates the ovum and initiates the process of conception. According to my understanding, the "two interior degrees" were a representation of that "inmost vessel receptive of life" which is said to be created by the Lord in the brain of the adult human male. This "is in the order and the form of heaven." The third degree, however, contains the paternal heredity, including the tendency to evil together with traits and characteristics derived from a long chain of ancestors. This, in our view, is what may be identified with what is called "an offshoot from the soul of the father." (TCR 103)
The teaching therefore is beyond question that "the primitive of man" is not merely inflowing Divine life. It is inflowing life conditioned by the form of the vessel into which, and through which it flows. Thus it is individuated. The Divine love so received produces the inmost love of the future man, and the Divine wisdom so received produces the inmost wisdom of the future man. Because, as we are taught, no two things in the created universe are exactly alike or identical, therefore no two "primitives of man" are identical, nor can they be to eternity. Therefore the love received in each one and the wisdom received in each one are both unique. Neither of these is derived from the father, but they are an immediate gift of the Lord. The love received contains in potency all the love from the Lord which a man can receive to all eternity; and the same is true of the wisdom received. Therefore these two together are the very man as to his inmost being. By them he is distinguished and set apart from all other human beings. By them also he is endowed with a use that is his very own, one that he alone can perform. This use is nothing but a particular form of love which, together with its wisdom, makes him an individual, capable of performing a use to society, and indeed to the whole of heaven, which no one else can perform. This he does by sharing with the neighbor these unique Divine gifts of love and wisdom.
The means whereby one shares these gifts may be extremely various. They may be chosen by the man, as if from himself, in accord with his native bent and inherited talents, and also in accord with the opportunities for service which may be presented to him in the providence of the Lord. His choice is in no way restricted unless it be by some physical or mental disability acquired through heredity or through illness or accident, or, perchance, through the lack of an opportunity to acquire the necessary education. The use however is not the kind of work he does, but rather the love from which he thinks and acts in whatever he does. The use determines the way he acts, not the deed itself. This is evident from the fact, which is well known, that although a hundred or a thousand persons may be engaged in the same profession or occupation, each one will perform a different use. For this reason no one can "step into the shoes of another" and perform any service in exactly the same way as it was performed by the other. Thus the stamp of the individual will be apparent, not only in his finger-prints, or in the tone of his voice, or in the expression of his face, but also in whatever work he may perform. We read in Conjugial Love:
It should not be imagined that the spermatozoa which do not enter the ovum to initiate the process of conception are souls vainly waiting to become human beings. They also have their appointed uses which are innumerable, all of which contribute to the supreme end of Divine creation, namely the perfection of a heaven from the human race. Just how this is the case remains concealed in the secret recesses of the Lord's Divine providence which lies beyond the reach of finite man's understanding. Nevertheless, that such uses exist the Writings plainly state, and something concerning them can be known from Divine revelation.
"In every seed," we read, "there is the idea of the infinite and the eternal; for there is in seeds an effort to multiply and to fructify themselves to infinity, and to eternity." (DLW 60)
There is, therefore, in the multitudinous production of seeds a Divine purpose other than procreation. Thus there are uses reserved for seeds that do not germinate, yet contribute to the Divine end of creation. It is of the Divine providence that germinations are limited, and this is essential to the preservation of the human race. So we are told that:
It is clear therefore that the end of creation is not frustrated, but is rather promoted by the fact that innumerable seeds do not germinate, but instead are deflected to other uses, all of which look to the same Divine end. The same number continues:
All the uses Divinely provided for seeds that do not germinate are beyond human comprehension. But one such use is plainly evident, namely, that by this means there may be presented an idea of the Lord's infinity which may be grasped by men. Further reasons for limiting germination may be seen in the provision that animals, fish, and insects live by acquiring food from one another. (TCR 32) But there is a most vital use performed by the human protozoa which enter the vagina of the wife, but do not penetrate the ovum. So we read:
From all this it is evident that the end of creation is present even in seeds that do not germinate, as well as in seeds that do. Nevertheless, the conclusion is inescapable, that a potential human soul is present in every human seed, for in it is the Divine love of perfecting a heaven from the human race, and every human seed contributes to the accomplishment of that supreme purpose of the Divine in all creation, and this in innumerable ways beyond all imagination.
- New Church Life 1975;95:475-482