There is an infinite depth of meaning in the Bible, yet Swedenborg learned how real truth hides itself unless we live from love for others. We explore the power and universality of the Word right now in the NCE Spotlight - your home for fresh insights from the ongoing translation of the New Century Edition of Swedenborg’s Theological Works.
Featured quotations from Emanuel Swedenborg's Secrets of Heaven:
A spirit came to me not long after he had left his body. (This I could tell from the fact that he did not yet realize he was in the other life but believed he was still living in the world.) I sensed that he had devoted his time to intellectual pursuits, which I discussed with him, but then to my amazement he suddenly soared into the air. I decided he was the type of person whose ambitions had been lofty (since people like this usually rise into the air) or that he thought heaven was high in the sky. (This kind of person too is usually raised aloft, in order to learn that heaven is not up high but deep within.) I soon perceived, though, that he had been lifted up to a group of angelic spirits positioned a little out in front and to the right, on the first threshold of heaven. He then spoke to me from there, saying that he was seeing sights grander than the human mind could ever conceive. While this was happening, I was reading in the first chapter of Deuteronomy about the Jewish people, specifically the ones sent to scout out the land of Canaan and all that it held. As I was reading it, he said that he caught none of the literal meaning but only the contents of the spiritual meaning, which were too astounding to describe. This occurred on the very threshold of the angelic spirits’ heaven. What would it be like in their heaven proper, or in the heaven of true angels?
And Isaac went from there means that the Lord abandoned deeper truth. . . .
That the Lord abandons deep truth means that he does not reveal it to people. Inward truth is present throughout the Word, but we do not even see it when we read the Word if we are the type that knows religious concepts without living by them. This becomes clear from the fact that people who consider faith the key to salvation do not notice what the Lord repeatedly said about love and charity. Any who do notice call [good deeds] the fruits of faith, distinguishing and even separating them from charity, whose nature they do not know. So they see the Word from the back, not the front; in other words, they see its surface, not what is inside it. To see the back, or the outside, without the front, or the inside, is not to see anything divine in it.
That is what it means to say that the Lord abandoned deep truth, symbolized by Isaac’s going from there. Not that the Lord abandons it, but that people remove themselves from the Lord, because they remove themselves from anything that affects their life.
Readers who stick to the literal meaning believe that when the Word mentions Jacob, it means the whole people descended from Jacob. In consequence, they attribute to that people everything the Word says about Jacob, whether as narrative or as prophecy. The Word is divine, though—mainly because everything in it relates not to one nation or one people but to the entire human race as it is, as it was, and as it will be.