In the Bible, we read that man was created in the image and likeness of God. This would mean that God should resemble a human being. Now, most people today scoff and laugh at anthropomorphism. They ridicule those who believe that God is an old man sitting in Heaven. But this is the opposite of what the Bible says. Anthropomorphism is man creating God in his own image. This is why some people erroneously believe that God is jealous, angry and revengeful like some human beings. This is not what the Bible is saying. It is saying that man was created as a reflected image of God.
Human beings possess WILL, UNDERSTANDING and FUNCTION because GOD is LOVE, WISDOM and POWER. But there is an unfathomable difference between us and God: God is infinite while we are finite. God is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent while our human self is an empty receptacle that is able to receive Love, Wisdom and Power from God. In fact, by our own self, we are selfish (evil), ignorant and powerless. Without God, we are destitute.
The early humans of the Adamic race were “in the image of God” because they loved God innocently, they had direct access to spiritual knowledge through their innocent mind, and they acted in a sincere, useful and loving manner. When we observe human nature today, we know that this is no longer the case. We are in self-love, love of the world and love of abuses. We are a very distorted “image of God.” This is because our ancestors turned their backs to God in order to exercise their freewill. This is like what happens when we become a teenager. We are no longer an innocent child who is completely dependent upon his parents and obeys them instinctively. We need to break away from our parents in order to develop our own identity. But this does not mean that we should reject and hate our parents. In fact, when we become more mature, create our own family and have our own children, we realize how much our parents love us. We then no longer love them out of dependence and necessity but freely and genuinely.
God gave us the freewill to reject Him and created us in His own image in the hope that we would eventually love Him in return. But, if this love is to be real, true and genuine, we needed to have the option to reject Him. How do we now begin to love God freely and willingly? We must understand why and how God created the universe from His own substance (Love). We should then realize that self-love, love of the world and love of abuses will only lead us into the hellish spiral of lust, addiction and suffering. Even if we possessed the wealth, glory and power of the whole world, we would still be miserable.
Today, due to our spiritual degradation, many people erroneously believe that it is very important to love yourself. But Swedenborg discovered that self-love is not really love because, if that were truly the case, God would not need to create the universe and other beings; He would simply love Himself and would have no need for us. Real love must be directed at another outside of our own self and be reciprocated. In order to restore “the image of God,” we must transform love of abuse into love of use, love of the world into love of neighbor and love of self into love of God. Our self is distinct and separate from God. But we can freely love God in return and be spiritually conjoined with God and others. Love is spiritual conjunction. God created us “in His own image and likeness” in order that we may have the freedom and power to understand Truth, reciprocate Love and do what is Just.
At first I wondered how it is that love of self and love of the world could be so diabolical, and how those who are in these loves could be such monsters in appearance; for in the world not much thought is given to love of self, but only to that elated state of mind in external matters which is called haughtiness, and that alone, being so apparent to the sight, is regarded as love of self. Furthermore, love of self, when it is not so displayed, is believed in the world to be the very fire of life by which man is stimulated to seek employment and to perform uses, and if he found no honor or glory in these his mind would grow torpid. It is asked, Who has ever done any worthy, useful, and distinguished deed except for the sake of being praised and honored by others, or regarded with esteem and honor by others? And can this be from any other source than the fire of love for glory and honor, consequently for self. For this reason, it is unknown in the world that love of self, regarded in itself, is the love that rules in hell and constitutes hell in man. This being so I will first describe what the love of self is, and then will show that all evils and their falsities spring from that love as their fountain.
The love of self is wishing well to oneself alone, and to others only for the sake of self, even to the church, one’s country, or any human society. It consists also in doing good to all these solely for the sake of one’s own reputation, honor, and glory; and unless these are seen in the uses he performs in behalf of others he says in his heart, How does it concern me? Why should I do this? What shall I get from it? and therefore he does not do it. Evidently, then, he who is in the love of self does not love the church or his country or society, nor any use, but himself alone. His delight is solely the delight of the love of self; and as the delight that comes forth from his love is what constitutes the life of man, his life is a life of self; and a life of self is a life from what is man’s own, and what is man’s own, regarded in itself, is nothing but evil. He who loves himself loves also those who belong to him, that is, in particular, his children and grandchildren, and in general, all who are at one with him, whom he calls his. To love these is to love himself, for he regards them as it were in himself, and himself in them. Among those whom he calls his are also all who commend, honor, and pay their court to him. [HH 555-556] Emanuel Swedenborg
The Divine in heaven which makes heaven is love, because love is spiritual conjunction. It conjoins angels to the Lord and conjoins them to one another, so conjoining them that in the Lord’s sight they are all as one. Moreover, love is the very being [esse] of everyone’s life; consequently from love both angels and men have life. Everyone who reflects can know that the inmost vitality of man is from love, since he grows warm from the presence of love and cold from its absence, and when deprived of it he dies. But it is to be remembered that the quality of his love is what determines the quality of each one’s life. [HH 14] Emanuel Swedenborg