Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


Human Beings - The End of Creation

"And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." - Genesis 1:27

"The end of the creation of the universe is people, in order that from people there may be an angelic heaven."[241] For so there may be "an eternal conjunction of the Creator with the created universe," which is not possible without subjects which are recipients of the Divine, so that they can - as of themselves - reciprocate His love.[242] All things created by the Lord are uses only "in that order, degree, and respect in which they look to man, and through man to the Lord."[243] All things "have been created for the use, for the benefit, and for the delight of men, some things more directly, some more remotely." And in serving people, they are of service to life itself, which is the Lord.[244]

When creation had proceeded from inmosts to ultimates, and the terraqueous globe had been endowed with vegetation and animal life, people were therefore created last of all, "and into them were collated all things of Divine order from firsts to lasts."[245] Their internal was a heaven in least form, and their external a world in least form, or a microcosm.[246] All the degrees of creation, spiritual and natural, contributed to their formation. They were created a recipient of all the three degrees of the natural world and of all the three degrees of the spiritual world.[247] From first creation, therefore, people contained within their make-up every substantial degree of created things, from that of the spiritual Sun to that of lowest matter. In their bodies were represented the uses of all things; the mineral deposits were effigied in their bone-structures, the vegetative functions in their hair and cell-growth, the animal passions in their natural constitution. In their rational mind, the degrees of all the heavens were present as planes of possible development.

In this they were different from the animals, in whose bodies not even all the natural degrees are substantially represented and whose souls derive their origin only from the "ultimate spiritual degree."[248]

This fundamental inner difference is important to note, in view of the fact that as to their body people may be called "animal," and as such may be classed as belonging on the "highest" peak of the animal kingdom.[249] In a sense, " For the human being is born an animal, but becomes human, "[250] which no brute animal can ever become. And the root of the difference lies in the personís soul which is present in the paternal seed. It is the soul which determines the powers, the faculties, for progress and development.[251] The soul gives "essence."[252] And thus - whatever superficial likeness there may be between the life of people and beasts - the whole of a person is such as his or her sou1.[253] "The soul clothes itself with a body as a person garbs themselves with raiment."[254] "It as it were creates or effigies a body in the image of itself . . . and is consequently the all in the body."[255] "Everything of the body is produced from the soul, thus to a resemblance of it."[256] Indeed, "a person begins from the soul which is the very essence of the seed and thus not only initiates, but also produces in their order the things of the body."[257] The soul in the seed continually "aspires" to the human form, from the conatus of its own substance."' It is generally known that sex is determined by the male sperm and that every cell of a male body is male in its actual structure, while every cell of woman is female. "The material form that is added and superinduced in the world, is not a human form from itself," but from the soul, or spiritual. And it is added to the spiritual "so that a person might do uses in the natural world, and also draw to themselves out of the purer substances of the world a certain fixed containant of spiritual things, and thus continue and perpetuate life."[259]

Before we inquire into the creation of people, it is well to have a somewhat fuller idea of a personís soul. Little, if anything, is known of the soul except what is taught in the Writings. "People have become so external as to be unwilling to acknowledge anything except the natural ... It has become distasteful to them to elevate their thought above the natural to something spiritual separate from the natural; therefore, in accord with their natural love and its delights, they can think of the spiritual only as of a purer natural . . . Yea, the merely natural man cannot think of anything separate from the natural; any such thing to him is nothing."[260] Some of the learned thus "believe that the soul is a particle or drop of ether, some that it is a ball or spark of heat and light, some that it is some entity which hides itself in the brain. But whichever to them is the soul, they indeed call it spiritual, yet by spiritual they understand a purer natural . . . wherefore they remain within the sphere of nature, and in it ascend and descend . . ."[261]

Over against these fallacies we have the doctrine of the Writings that the soul - using the term in a general sense - is a vessel receptive of life, and is the same as the spirit or the mind, which is the after-death person. It also is finite, created from "the spiritual substances which are in the spiritual world."[262] It is "the inmost person," and is therefore "fully and perfectly the human form,"[263] as indeed is seen in the spiritual world. It is not only the inmost of the head, but is in the whole and in every part of the body, and indeed intimately adjoined to every fibril.[264]

The soul is thus to be regarded as a "spiritual substance which has not extension."[265] And as so defined it embraces all that is spiritual in people. As such it can propagate itself in the seed, retaining all the conatus of the spiritual, all the confirmed qualities of the mind of the father.[266] "The entire soul forms itself, and clothes itself, and becomes seed."[265]

In this wider sense, the "soul" embraces the three degrees of the spiritual world, present as to quality and conatus. Therefore we read that "in every person from their birth there are three degrees of height . . . one above or within the other"; and also, that "there are in people a natural, a spiritual, and a celestial will and understanding, in potency from birth, and in actuality when they are opened."[267] We take this to mean that the substantial basis - the spiritual substances - of these degrees are involved and present from the first in the soul: as a basis for developing a natural mind, a spiritual mind, and a celestial mind,[268] all for the conscious use of man in this life and in the spiritual world; the natural mind in this life, the others after death.

Yet when human beings - as a soul - enters the other life, they possess not only these three mental degrees; but, as a spirit, they are complete people, and have a body, albeit a spiritual one, a mind, which answers for all purposes to the natural mind they consciously used on earth, and an inmost which "lacks a name" since it is beyond their ken or control.[269] This unconscious inmost - the first vessel by which they receive life, and which is the abiding place of the Lord with them[270] - is sometimes separated in idea from the mind, and is then, by itself, called "the soul." The inmost, or soul, is thus distinguished as "a superior spiritual substance" which "receives influx immediately from God"; while the mind, because it is "a lower spiritual substance," receives influx from God mediately through the spiritual world.[271] Of the supreme soul it is said that it belongs to the Lord alone. "The very heaven that is nearest the Lord is composed of these human internals; but this is above even the inmost angelic heaven."[272]

It is this "inmost" of the spirit which makes people human, and makes their minds different from the beasts; so that people can enjoy a spiritual mind which can receive celestial and spiritual things from the Lord; and so can have - as a gift from the Lord - the faculties of rationality and spiritual freedom. And because of it human beings are also enabled - in their natural mind - to think analytically and look into their own natural affections and rule them. For people are "given dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" - i.e., their own earth, the natural mind; and this in order that they may "multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it." By doing this they becomes human.

* * * * *

The spiritual cause and formative principle in the creation of people upon earth, was the soul, a soul embracing all the spiritual degrees. Yet the soul does not create, but the Lord alone creates both soul and body.

A body, formed dust of the ground, is also necessary. A person or angel cannot be created immediately into the spiritual world, but must be born on an earth. The reasons are many, but the chief reason is that spiritual substances are not in themselves constant, but vanish when their active cause ceases: "it would have been similar with the angels if they had been created there" - that is, in the spiritual world.[273] Therefore the earth had to be formed, and furnished from the lower kingdoms with the matters from which the body of human beings could be built, before the "first person" could be created. The body was to be the means by which the human soul could act in the various degrees of the material universe. The soul borrows, from nature, the matters whereby to express and infill its own form. And nature - in whole and in every part - was created such that it might perform this use. It is therefore no contradiction to say that a personís body is created to conform to the natural world, or, in particular, that the senses of a personís body are formed "in correspondence to the elements" of nature; since the atmospheres are such as they are, to the end that they should form the senses.[274] The ear is formed to the nature of the air and its modifications of sound, the eye to the modifications of the ether of light; and the interior organics of the brain are formed to the highest ether, which enables the natural mind to develop.[275] Nor could anything of the body be held together except by the pressure of these atmospheres; the higher atmospheres hold the inmosts of the body in their forms.[276]

Yet this is not sufficient. The atmospheres do not have any power to create a human body; although it is "an essential of atmosphere" to promote the clothing of form.[277] The form itself of the body must have its cause; and while this may be said to be the soul, yet the soul is a vessel not only acting from the life of God within, but also formed by its unison with spiritual forces external to itself. We therefore find the teaching that "the human body is entirely formed from the Greatest Human."[278]

This is explained to mean that peoplesí bodies, and every organ, tissue, and function of them, correspond to the Greatest Human of the heavens, and could neither subsist nor operate except by continual influxes of life from the Lord mediately by the Greatest Human and its various provinces.[279] For all human uses represented in the heavens must as it were modify the form of the human body, and contribute to its perfect balance.[280] Thus the body of man must be formed, and "exist," "from something general or universal, thus from the Greatest Human."[281]

But granting that the body of man is thus formed and sustained by influxes through that "Greatest Body" of the angelic heavens, and that it is the endeavors of that universal body of uses that express themselves - when power and occasion are offered - into the active forces that build the body of each person; how then could the first person have come into being, before there was such a Greatest Human? Swedenborg confides that this tender scruple occurred to him. He was given an answer by a "spiritual idea." This was, that the Lord is the final source of all those endeavors which arise in the single things of the Greatest Human: the human race was of Him from the beginning, wherefore He has all care for them. "The first person, and those born at first, have not been led by any other than the Lord alone." And it was explained, that "human beings, as to all their degrees, existed before his nativity as after it."[282] All of human life thus was involved in the spiritual degrees, from the beginning.

* * * * *

The actual mode of human beingsí creation is not taught in the Writings. And indeed, it seems unwise to explore with too irreverent a curiosity into all the secrets of the Lord's workshop. Man was formed, dust of the ground, and into his nostrils the Lord God breathed the breath of lives, and man became a living soul. The letter of Genesis thus conveys the picture of an instantaneous creation by a Divine fiat. But before his final call, Swedenborg, in his prose-poem The Worship and Love of God, suggests that the Lord's omnipotence is in no way impugned by the possibility that He might have used means and methods in creating the kingdoms of organic life.[283] The vegetable kingdom might thus have been the means of gathering the rich products of the soil that were needed for the creation of animals, and the first of each animal species might have been born as the first-fruit of a corresponding plant. And if so - since peoplesí bodies are of similar nature as that of an animal - could not the first Adam and Eve have been born as the fruit of a "tree of life," in a literal sense?[284]

The Writings seem nowhere to sustain this picture. Yet there are universal truths which suggest that man is indeed the crowning fruit of a "tree of life" - not necessarily vegetable nor indeed animal - but a genetic tree which was human from the start and which developed during untold ages from a human seed and a human soul, to form eventually a body which could cradle a mind conscious of God as its Maker and able to assume the responsibilities of immortality. Whether the doctrinal concept of the "preadamite" ancestor of man should be extended into the concept of such an evolving form is in the realm of speculation. Yet howsoever mankind arose, it must have had its own history, long or short, even as every individual child has a hidden fetal development from conception to birth. The laws of this first creation could not be contradictory to the laws revealed concerning the gestation and birth of every person.

Certain things said in the doctrine seem however to indicate the general state of those human beings who are first referred to in the story of the spiritual development of mankind, as recorded in the book of Creation. The idea that Adam and his wife were the first individual people - and were created perfect, is rejected in the Writings. ĎAdam' was not an individual but the personification of a most ancient primitive church of celestial type. And there were "Preadamites," whose spiritual development is what is described in the internal historical sense of the Ďsix days' of creation. These people at first "lived like wild animals (ferae) but at length became spiritual."[285] Their mind, as it was at first, is described as an earth, void and empty, shrouded in thick darkness, an abyss of waters over which hovered the spirit of God's mercy. The creation which followed was a spiritual creation, a gradual awakening of peopleís faculties, a revelation of some of the countless possibilities and powers for use and delight that are hidden in the soul and in the substances of his spiritual degrees, from their origin in the spiritual Sun! It was a creation of spiritual things which people accept freely from the Lord and which contain interior possibilities, ever fresh, of which they never dreamt. Only by the aid of sensation and knowledge coming through nature, could human beings ever become aware of these spiritual things. Even after death, when the senses of the natural body have been closed and removed, and the natural memory with its concepts of space and time has been laid to sleep, a person still has his mental life - their reception of wisdom and love from the Lord - based, directly or indirectly, on the material ideas of living people, which are indeed the common basis for all the heavens;286 although only spiritual ideas are entertained by the angels.

Another phase of this same truth - that the spiritual takes form in the natural - is also important.

The general teaching is that "man is born spiritual as to the soul, and is clothed with a natural which constitutes his material body; wherefore, when this is put off, his soul, clothed with a spiritual body, comes into a world where all things are spiritual." "The spiritual body is to be formed in the material body, and is formed through the truths and goods which flow in from the spiritual world and are received by man inwardly in such things of him as are from the natural world, which are called civil and moral."[287]

Everyone therefore "has their soul from the life of the body formed by themselves";[288] which means, of course, that a personís natural mind is so formed. The order of his or her ruling love, as they have formed it, is indelibly inscribed in all the twists and connections of their corporeal memory; and this - in turn - is held unchangeable by the inmost or purest things of nature, which are organized as a fixed containant called a "limbus," or "medium."[289]

What is seen in the spiritual world as an angel or spirit, is the spiritual body, which is in the actual form of the ruling love. This body, and within it the mind, is the spiritual as he formed it within the natural. It is the character of a person, the spirit, organized - as you note[290] - not from anything physical, but through truths and goods which had inflowed from the spiritual world with his consent. It is indeed a spiritual creation, but permanent as to all essentials, because formed in the natural and having "a relativity (relativum) to those things which are in nature, and also a correspondence to them."[291]

The spiritual body is permanent, and a form of the ruling love. From examining the body of a spirit, exploring angels can reconstruct his past life![292] Yet a spirit or an angel undergoes changes of state; some flow from the development of their own love; others arise when they determines their mind to uses of various kinds and degrees; still others are occasioned by contacts with other spirits, or with people with whom these spirits are associated.[293] These changes of state are principally those of thoughts and affections, and pertain to his mind. But every spiritual thing is in the conatus to act, to create, to form! And as the substance of the other world is spiritual, all effects there are spiritual: each new state of mind is a new manifestation of the Lord's creative power out of the living substance of that world, and a new realization on the part of an angel or spirit of spiritual productions. This is the sole origin of the productions or creations which occur around the angels, and angels well know that nothing about them is material, but that everything is an expression or mirror-image of a human state! and this as a new creation from the human and living substance of that world.

* * * * *

Concerning such spiritual creations - houses as well as paradises - Swedenborg testifies:

"Like other men, I wondered that such things exist in the other world, since it is contrary to the [common] conception of the life of spirits. . . . Everything which exists in the other life is not, as some suppose, empty and void, but is the substantial itself which is the origin of all the substantial things in nature; a living substantial is there, or a purest ethereal. This is formed by the Lord into such things as are so marvelous that they can hardly be described. It is enough that I have seen them, and frequently; I have been there; I have spoken with [the angels]; and they have said that those things are real while the things on earth are comparatively dead things, which they disdain. 1749, June 2."[294]

As shown above, the Writings repeatedly testify that "as to internal face" (or as to essence) the two worlds are altogether dissimilar.[295] The phenomena in each are the same, but they follow different laws. Thus "it should be known that in external appearance the spiritual world is exactly similar to the natural world. Lands appear there, and mountains, hills, valleys, plains, fields, lakes, rivers, springs of water - just as in the natural world; thus all things belonging to the mineral kingdom. There appear also paradises, gardens, groves, woods, and in them trees and shrubs of every kind with fruits and seeds; as well as plants, flowers, herbs, and grasses; thus all things of the vegetable kingdom. There appear animals, birds, and fishes of every kind; thus all things which are of the animal kingdom. Human beings are there as angels or spirits. This is premised that it may be known that the whole of the spiritual world is altogether similar to the whole of the natural world, with this sole difference that the things which are there are not fixed and set as those in the natural world, because in the spiritual world nothing is natural but everything is spiritual.

"That the whole of that world represents human beings in an image can be clearly manifest from this, that all the things just mentioned . . . appear to the life and have existence about an angel and about angelic societies as if produced or created from them: they remain around them and do not recede. That they are as if produced or created from them is shown from this that when the angel goes away or when a society moves elsewhere, they no longer appear; as also, when other angels come to their place, that the appearance of all things about them is altered. In the parks the trees and fruits are changed, in the flower gardens the flowers and seeds, in the fields the herbs and grasses, and even the kinds of animals and birds are changed. Such things have existence and are so changed because all these things have come into existence according to the affections and thence the thoughts of the angels; for they are correspondences. And because things which correspond make one with that to which they correspond, they are a representative image of it. This image is not seen when all these things are viewed in respect to their forms, but they are seen when they are viewed as to their uses. It was given me to see that the angels, when their eyes were opened by the Lord, and they saw these things from the correspondence of the uses, recognized and saw themselves in them."[296]

We are given direct instruction as to the production of objective creations in the other life. The immaterial sphere which wells forth spontaneously from the life's love of an angel is directed by his interior memory, which is his conscious and rational plane of life.[297] This sphere calls forth the appearances corresponding to its state.[298] Indeed, a spirit's sphere is even said to be changed into the representative creation outside of him. Yet the sphere by itself could not effect this. For the common spiritual ultimates - or the lands on which all the spirits of his society live - are needed as the womb out of which the representatives arise. "Nothing of the vegetation of that world comes from seed sown but only from seed created" - for it is produced from the ultimates there instantaneously, and of course without the assistance of nature.[299]

Before there were any angels to populate the heavens, the spiritual world was complete as to all substances and degrees. It had a spiritual Sun and three atmospheres as well as the substantial spiritual ultimates of each of these atmospheres. Potentially, these atmospheres (by which the Divine of use is represented) contained all the unborn uses and unseen creations which the angels of the unending future were to participate in consciously and experience objectively.

But the creative power of the Lord could not produce any spiritual objects, except by the spheres of spirits and angels. For the visible spiritual world is a world of reception. None of its original substances or progressive degrees, from the spiritual Sun down to its ultimate, can be thought of as fixed or constant, since, being spiritual, they are beyond the concept of time. The human mind - even while picturing them in natural fashion - must admit them to be the perpetual outflow of the Divine love and wisdom in accommodated finite forms. Only by reception in the minds of human beings can they reveal themselves to spiritual sight, or be apprehended as to their quality, or become constant forms of uses. Only through reception in terms of the ultimate order of the natural creation can there be formed states which are constant relative to each other - states which enable our spirits to live eternally upon secure spiritual foundations which are more real than those we leave behind at death. The spiritual creations which surround the angels reveal more and more the countless varieties and unending propagations of which the spiritual, proceeding from the Lord, is capable.

But the Lord alone is infinite. He alone sees in the heavens, in the Greatest Human of spiritual uses, an infinite end. His glorified Human is the pattern of an infinite heaven.[300] For every angelic use is but a tiny bit of the pattern, and every representative creation of heaven is but a partial unfolding of His purpose. Yet in His view the end of His creation stands forth as "an infinite and eternal creation.[301]

It is through human beings that uses ascend, through discrete degrees, and return to God. Yet, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). Only in the Lord, who assumed flesh for our salvation, could the inmost and infinite end in creation as it were ascend back to the infinite source. In the Lord incarnate the infinite meaning and use of all creation, natural and spiritual, was realized and embodied. His Divine, which makes heaven, is now revealed in His glorified Human as the infinite Soul of all the forms of created life. In the threefold Word of Law, Gospel, and Doctrine His qualities of provident wisdom and mercy are revealed and accommodated to each degree of the human mind, so that we may, in every state, be able to see His features and His laws in the universe which He has made, and by conjunction with Him, allow the end of creation to be fulfilled in human life.

to Footnotes


Crown of Revelations
Rebirth, Reincarnation
The Holy Center
Salvation in the Gospels
Psychology of Marriage
Precious Stones
The Human Mind
The Moral Life
Saul, David & Solomon
Bible Lost & Found
The Human Soul
Genesis and Exodus
City of God
Swedenborg Cosmology
Ultimate Reality
The Pattern of Time
Means of Salvation
NC: Sex and Marriage
Book with Seven Seals
My Lord and My God
Philosopher, Metaphysician
Inspiration of Genesis
Words In Swedenborg
Book Expo
Missionary Talks
Tabernacle of Israel
A Brief View of the Heavenly Doctrines
Ancient Mythology
Odhner: Creation
Ten Commandments
Christ and The Trinity
Discrete Degrees
Body Correspondences
Language of Parable
The Ten Blessings
Creation in Genesis
The Third Source
Noble's "Appeal"
Life After Death


• Back • Home • Up • Next •

Human Beings

Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com