Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


Previous: The Creation Of Heaven and Earth. Up: Testimony of Genesis to the Inspiration of the Bible Next: The Creation of Grass, Herbs, and Fruit Trees.

The Creation of the Firmament.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. Gen. i. 6-8.

Our last lecture attempted to set forth the fact that the early chapters of Genesis, down to the call of Abraham, were the Divine Word of the Lord to an ancient people and Church; that they were written in the style of pure correspondences using natural terms and in the form of apparent natural history, but so arranged as to describe with the exactitude of absolute Divine wisdom the process by which the primitive people before the fall were developed from ignorance to wisdom, and from natural to spiritual and celestial men and women ; that the same process is now necessary for the regeneration of men, and that the wisdom taught in these ancient records to these primitive people, coming from our infinite Father and theirs, is of universal application, and is as profitable to us and to people of all ages as it was to them.

It was also shown that the days named as indicating the progress of the creation refer to the regeneration or spiritual creation of man, and that each day there named means, as it does throughout the Word, a full state in the progress of this transforming work.

The subject of our present lecture being the work of the second day, the same principles of explanation are applicable to it as to the first, for each is but a step in the same great work. We must therefore still look inward to the minds of men, and not outward to the starry heavens and the things of the natural earth, for a true and rational explanation.

If we could become imbued with the great truth that there are two worlds,-one natural, where all things are material, temporary, transient, in perpetual change, and tending to decay and death, and the other spiritual, where all things are immaterial, incorruptible, and immortal; that man is fitted for both these worlds; that his abode in the natural is as temporary as the things that surround him, while the spiritual is to be his eternal home, it would not require arguments to prove that his paramount interests centre in that other land to which he will be so soon transferred, and which is to be the scene of his eternal activities. And if these truths were clearly perceived, it would be as apparent as intuition itself that a revelation from God to man to be in accordance with the fitness of things would be addressed as to its essential purpose to his spiritual nature and his immortal interests. Mans observation, experience, and progress in the study of the natural things that surround him and with which he comes in contact are sufficient to guide him in the necessary affairs of his mere physical life while sojourning here. But as he is to pass out of this mode of life so very soon into another that will never end, and as the senses cannot apprehend that other mode of life, it seems but rational to suppose that his heavenly Father, if giving him a revelation at all, would not make it to consist of a brief, imperfect, and utterly unsatisfactory account of the original creation of natural things, but would speak in it of his higher nature, of his immortal life, and of the laws and conditions under which he would be when transferred to his permanent home.

The fact is in perfect accordance with this rational inference. The Divine Word, from its beginning to its close, has primary reference to man as a spiritual and immortal being; to spiritual and eternal verities ; to good ; to heaven; to the life and conditions of the immortal state. Keeping in mind then that it is mans spiritual and eternal interests that are treated of in the Divine Word, let us see what instruction we can draw from the record of the creation of this second day. The record itself is very brief.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

The creation of the visible firmament and the separation of material waters are here described rather according to the appearance than with scientific truth. But the record, as we have seen, was never given to teach the facts of natural science or to describe the natural creation, but to teach by correspondences spiritual lessons of infinite wisdom and importance to man.

Let us then turn our mental eyes inward and see if we cannot there behold, by the light of correspondences, the firmament and the waters which it divides, and see how the one is made and the other divided, and why it is the work of the second day. And happy will it be for us if we find in ourselves that the first days work has been completed, and that of the second is in progress.

We saw in our lecture on the first day” that heaven there, and consequently throughout the Word, means the internal of man, and earth his external; that water means truths, or their perversions by man, which perversions he still calls truths, and that the deep, or sea, means his general memory where all his truths and falses are alike collected as all natural waters are collected in the sea; that the spirit of God, moving upon this deep” or sea, quickens into life, or calls to the recollection the smallest remains of good and truth therein; and that the perception and acknowledgment by the man in this state that he is in evils and falses is the light that was then created and separated from the darkness, or false persuasion in which he before was, that whatever he delighted in was to him good; and that this light or first clear perception and acknowledgment of this truth was the morning which succeeded his former dark or evening state, and constituted the first day or stage in the work of regeneration, which we showed from the Word of the prophets is everywhere called a creation.

And now the Divine work of this creation proceeds to another state, or to the second day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. Man, while wholly occupied about worldly things, and until his attention is directed from them to spiritual things, scarcely perceives any difference between them if he has, in fact, any perception at all beyond the natural. All the waters, or the truths and falses, are alike to him until he sees the difference in the light of the first day. When this light is created in the mind, then, and not until then, can the Lord say Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters to divide the waters from the waters. This dividing firmament God called heaven. But what is heaven ? Our Lord says the kingdom of heaven is within. And this kingdom of heaven that is within, consists primarily of goods and truths in the mind as it can consist of nothing material. But in our common speech, as well as in the Word, the vessel, or thing containing, is put for the thing contained in it, as when the Lord took the cup and gave it with His blessing to the disciples, the cup is put for and means what was contained in it. Thus, because the goods and truths within the mind constitute heaven within, therefore the mind that contains them is called heaven. But these things are in the internal man; and therefore by the term heaven here is meant the internal man. For a similar reason, because the external of man is filled with or contains earthly knowledges, or the knowledge of earthly things, it is called earth. And further, as we have seen, all that rests in mans memory as truth, whether really true or false, is called water. If man had never fallen, and was wholly imbued with the good and the true, there would still be the need of separation by clear discernment between natural things and spiritual. But now man has partaken of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; he is no longer in that state of innocence, but his natural mind is filled with evils and falses. The need is the more apparent of distinguishing between the perverted natural and the spiritual; of dividing the waters from the waters. This can only be effected by the firmament which God called heaven, and heaven, as we have seen, means the internal man; for it is only the internal that can perceive spiritual things; as the apostle declares, the natural man cannot discern the things of the spirit because they are spiritually discerned.

Thus far it only reads that God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. But now we read that God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. These words are not a repetition of those which preceded, nor are they as they seem merely a statement of the accomplishment of that which was before determined to be done. They describe the further development of the work of regeneration, or spiritualization of man.

We must divest ourselves of the gross idea that God was talking to or counselling with Himself, or some other equal being, as to what they would do, or that He was working like a mechanic in the making of material things. Such an idea is consistent only with the strange and irrational doctrine of a tripersonal God which was invented to satisfy the sensuous ideas that men drew from the Word in the absence of any perception of its spirituality, and to perfect what they call a scheme of salvation.

The New Church sees in Gods works only a Divine emanation from Himself, and that in a Divine order. It sees salvation to consist not in an arbitrary pardon from hell, but in the purification of the affections and the elevation of the thought, until man sees the truth and loves the good and finds his happiness and his heaven in the activity of all his faculties for unselfish purposes; and the New Church can offer no scheme, but to follow the Lord in the regeneration, which is as orderly a work as is the growth of a tree or of the human body, with the only difference that the one is spiritual and the other natural. We do not understand therefore, when we read of Gods saying Let us make a firmament, that He was talking or consulting with other Divine persons, or that He was talking to man with an audible voice. It is that still small voice that comes by spiritual influx and is heard in calmer and serener states of the soul as intuitive impulses to, and perceptions of, what is true and good. And His making the firmament and other things named which are pronounced good, is the orderly growth in the mind of the heavenly principles to which the firmament and other created things correspond.

The waters we have seen are things of the memory, whether true or false, spiritual or natural; and until he has the light of the first day or state, man does not see or distinguish between them. But when this light” breaks in upon him, he reasons and reflects occasionally, and finds that there are two forces operating within him. He feels an impulse to do certain things, and at the same time an opposite impulse to refrain from doing them. Or, as the apostle expresses it, when he would do good evil is present with him. When he tries to think of something pure and good, or of the better states of his past life, immediately other and evil thoughts and the recollection of evil states come from the reservoir of his memory. He perceives that all his states, good and evil, all truth and falsehood, all of his knowledge of spiritual and natural, or religious and worldly, things are as a deep or sea, an indistinguishable mass of water. But the light has enabled him to see that there is a difference, and he resolves to look a little closer to his conduct. This is Gods voice within him saying, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. As yet there is no firmament. And until man co-operates God cannot make one, for man must work out his own salvation, while God works in him of His own good pleasure. With mans consent God can now, as He could not before, make the firmament, and with it He can divide the waters that are below from those which are above it.

Above and below are terms equivalent to internal and external, and these again to spiritual and natural. That which is above rests upon that which is below as a basis, as that which is internal is enveloped and embraced in that which is external, like a centre in its circumference, and as that which is spiritual infills the natural as its life or soul. But it is impossible to give or to receive a perfectly clear perception of this relation with its application to our subject, spiritual growth, or regeneration, without some understanding of the doctrine of degrees and orders, which is far too profound to be compressed into the limits of a lecture.

If I had fully mastered this most profound philosophy, I could only impart the most general idea of it to others, and must refer you to the work on the Divine Love and Wisdom, by Swedenborg, where you may learn just so much of it as you have the desire to receive. But, happily, it is not necessary to our every-day life and duty that we should study and understand astronomy, or to our spiritual progress and well-being that we should study and be able to grasp in all its magnitude the profound philosophy of degrees and orders as the mind of Swedenborg could comprehend it. Enough of both can easily be comprehended for all practical need. It is sufficient for the present purpose to say that in every created thing there are three degrees, originating in and corresponding to the trinity of love, wisdom, and power in the Divine Creator. We would not presume, even with utmost reverence, to analyze the infinite Creator, but we may, without presumption, turn to His finite image and likeness, which is to be found in His creatures and especially in man, and there we find these degrees and these orders. Man has an inmost or celestial degree, which, when developed, is the recipient of the Divine love, and is his will faculty, or sphere of purposes or motives. He has also an internal or spiritual degree which, when developed, is a recipient of the Divine wisdom, and is the faculty of the understanding or intellect, and is the sphere of means in man. And he has the external or natural degree which takes cognizance of the Divine power. It lies next to mans natural senses, and is the sphere of effects. The Divine order is first that which is natural and afterwards that which is spiritual, according to the declaration of the apostle, as well as according to the law of development. The external or natural degree of mans life is opened and developed by the exercise of the senses and natural science, so that he may become a highly cultivated natural man without having his internal or spiritual degree of life opened at all, thus without having any perception of spiritual things. In this state he acts wholly with reference to self or to some personal interest. The internal or spiritual degree is opened by the exercise of the faculties of that degree upon spiritual things. In this case the spiritual and natural act in harmony as one, and he is a spiritual man acting not wholly from worldly motives but from a sense of duty and obedience to the truth as he sees it. The inmost or celestial degree is opened by the exercise of the faculties of that degree. Then the celestial, spiritual, and natural degrees, or the inmost, internal, and external act together in harmony as one, impelled by affection or love. In the natural state a man acts from selfish views, and is a slave to his senses. In the spiritual state he acts from motives of duty, and is the Lords servant under obedience to the truth. In the celestial state he acts from the pure impulse of love for the good and the true, in which case the Lord says that He no longer calls him a servant but a friend.

The first or natural degree is necessarily opened in all men, and it is in this plane of effects that the natural life in this world is spent. But it is the purpose of all revelation and all religion by regeneration to open within this natural life the spiritual and celestial life. With some the first degree only is active; with some the second degree is opened within, and with some the third, in this life, and each will find in the many mansions of the Fathers house in the life to come a home precisely suited to his state.

I am aware of the obscurity that must accompany my imperfect presentation of this subject. But reflection will reveal its order and beauty and confirm its truth to those minds which have a desire to find the path that they may walk in it. Because it is the order of mans creation, as well as of regeneration, it is repeated in the infinite forms of all things below him, and of all things that proceed from him. Perhaps I may make the subject a little clearer by an illustration from nature.

Go into the garden and observe the swelling bud upon the tree. You see nothing but the external bud which is really a leaf, and may be compared to the natural degree in man, and it is really so called in the Word. But observe it in its orderly development, and presently the internal of the leafy bud unfolds into the beauty and fragrance of a flower, which may be compared to the opening of the spiritual degree in man, and is so called in the language of correspondences in the Word. Again observe it, and in the embrace of the flower and as the inmost of the bud behold the developing germ of the fruit, which corresponds to the celestial degree in man, and is so called in the correspondences of the Word. Our Lord says the kingdom of heaven is as if a man should sow seed in his field, and as it grows there appears first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Thus it is throughout all nature, and it is so because everything in nature corresponds to and in some measure is an image of man if we would but see it, as man is an image of his own and natures Divine Creator.

The same idea may possibly be made plainer to those to whom it is wholly new by a further illustration taken from mans own work. Take, for instance, a telescope, or even the case of a common pocket pencil in three sliding sections. When these sections are closed you see but one, which is external But you know that simultaneously the second section is in the first as an internal, and the third section in the second as its inmost, just as the flower is in the leafy bud as its internal, and the fruit within the flower as its inmost; and as the spiritual is in the natural as the internal, and the celestial in the spiritual as the inmost in man. In all these cases the degrees are within each other simultaneously, which is called simultaneous order;” but we take the closed pencil to represent the condition in which only the external is developed into active existence. Now, if you draw out the second section of the case it will come into view or be developed, and what was the external section in which the others were enclosed now becomes the lowest, or the base upon which what was before internal now rests. This second section, which was the internal of the first in simultaneous order, is now the middle or higher in this successive order, which is the developing of one thing from another successively. Just so the flower, which was the internal of the bud in simultaneous order, is the middle or higher in successive order, and as the spiritual which was the internal of man in simultaneous order becomes the middle or higher degree in successive order, and rests upon the natural as its base. Again, if you draw out the third section of the case it, which was the inmost in simultaneous order, is now the highest in successive order, resting upon the second, as that does upon the first, as its base. Again, it is analogous to the fruit which in simultaneous order was the inmost of the bud, but which becomes the highest in successive order, and to the celestial degree in man which is his inmost in simultaneous order, but which, as it is developed by regeneration as the fruit is by growth, becomes his highest degree of life in successive order.

I have used the word development, and it is perhaps necessary to explain that it is not used in the sense in which materialists use it, who hold that men are merely developed animals, as the animals are but developments of still lower forms of life, down to the lowest of all. It will be seen from our illustrations that the external of the pencil-case was not developed into the internal or the inmost, but that the internal and inmost were developed from the external, leaving it as perfect as it was before and quite as useful. And so, too, the leafy bud did not develop into the flower and fruit, but the flower and fruit were successively developed from within the bud. And as God always works in perfect consistency, it is so with the regeneration of man. The natural degree may be highly developed, but it can never be developed into that which is spiritual. But the spiritual degree may be so developed from within the natural as to rise above it as the flower from the bud. And so with the celestial degree, in which case that which was the inmost becomes the highest, and that which was internal becomes the middle or higher, while that which was external is the lowest, upon which the others rest.

The heavens, like the individual, are so arranged. Paul tells us that he was once caught up to the third heaven, and there heard things that were unutterable. And each one will be in that heaven hereafter which corresponds to the degree of life that has been opened in him, for the Lord says the kingdom of heaven is within.

The Divine Word is in very truth the Lords infinite wisdom for the use of men on the earth and of those who have become angels in the heavens. It is therefore written in perfect accordance with the nature of men on the earth and of angels in the heavens. It therefore has a natural or literal sense adapted to mans natural degree of life. And as man in this degree acts only from natural motives, or with a view either nearer or remoter to his self-interest, therefore, the Word in the literal sense appeals almost wholly to the natural hopes and fears of the natural man. Throughout the Old Testament there is but little said in the letter about the future life, because those to whom it was first given—the Jews—were an extremely natural people, and could only be restrained from gross idolatry and other enormities by the fear of external evil and the hope of external good. Hence all the promises and threats to them were of a temporal nature. They were to be blessed with fruitful fields and prolific hocks, with plenty of corn and wine, with success over their enemies in war, with long life and abounding health and honored old age if they would obey the commandments, while fearful curses threatened, of rain withheld, and parched fields, and famishing cattle, of blighted figs and blasted grapes and mildewed harvests, of war, pestilence, and famine, of slaughter by their enemies in battle, of captivity and slavery in heathen lands, and all imaginable calamities if they were not obedient. And as it was good for men in their state to be so restrained, and as they could not comprehend anything higher, this literal sense was adapted to their wants. But he is a Jew, the apostle tells us, who is one inwardly, that is, who is like a Jew, and not alone the descendants of Jacob. Therefore that sense is adapted to the wants and needs of all natural men. It is good for them to pray even for rain and fruitful seasons and other mere temporal blessings, as in doing so they acknowledge the Lord in His omnipotence and feel some dependence upon Him.

But as man by creation has an internal or spiritual degree of life that may be opened and developed out of the natural, therefore the Word was written wholly in correspondences that it might have an internal or spiritual sense suited to the wants of this internal degree of mans life when he should come into it. He comes into this degree by ceasing to do evil and learning to do well,beginning even from natural or selfish motives, which were all that could influence him. And this is as orderly a process as the opening of the blossom from the bud. When he comes into this state, and perceives this internal sense within the letter, he thrills with its infinite beauty as if he were in the Garden of Eden itself, inhaling the fragrance of a world in bloom; and he now sees the Lord in it not only as a being of omnipotence, but also of infinite wisdom. And this higher state leads again, by the like orderly process, to the highest or celestial state, when the Word opens its celestial or inmost meaning, in which the omnipotence of the natural and the infinite wisdom of the spiritual are transfigured and glorified in the Divine love of the celestial sense. It is this Divine love, wisdom, and power, called in the Word the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, incarnated in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and revealed in His Divine Word, that the New Church worships.

If I have at all succeeded in my effort to convey the idea as it is in my own mind, you will hardly fail to see that when the Divine Word speaks of heaven, the earth, the waters, the firmament, and the dividing of the waters from the waters by the firmament, it does not refer primarily to the natural things named, but to the mental world in man, and the spiritual things of the mind to which these natural things correspond. And you will see not only the fact, but in some measure the reason that when the terms above and below” are mentioned here, as well as elsewhere in the Word, they refer to the degrees of mans life in successive order, meaning the same as the terms internal and external in simultaneous order. Both classes of terms refer to mans mental constitution and the process of his development from natural to spiritual, or to his regeneration through these orders and degrees.

It is the opening of the internal or second degree of mans life, therefore, or his reception of some truths from the Lord, through His Word, with the emotions of charity or good resulting from a regard to these truths, that constitutes the firmament, or heaven in him, or which makes his internal to be a firmament or heaven. With this firmament, or knowledge of the good and true, he is able to distinguish the fallacies of the senses and lusts of the lower degree of the mind from the rational truths and better affections of the higher degree. It is thus that the waters which are under the firmament are divided from the waters which are above the firmament.

And it was so. Yes! it was so with the people of the ancient church, it was so with the Jewish Church, it was so with the Christian Church, it is so with us to-day, and will be most distinctly so with the Church of the New Jerusalem, and with all men and women, in all times and forever. For Gods love and wisdom and power, which will thus divide the waters from the waters, are within the reach of men in His Divine Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the world was made by Him [the Word] and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. But alas! the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

And the evening and the morning were the second day. Here, as at the close of the first days creation, evening signifies that state of mental obscurity and doubt that is always in the mind on the first presentation to it of new and higher truths, which it is not yet prepared to receive ; the morning dawns when the mind is able to receive them. The state of obscurity and doubt must remain until it is removed by the reception of the higher truths; therefore it requires both the evening and the following morning to constitute a full state, which is called Day.

Previous: The Creation Of Heaven and Earth. Up: Testimony of Genesis to the Inspiration of the Bible Next: The Creation of Grass, Herbs, and Fruit Trees.


Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com