The Pit


In the lower earth, under the feet and the soles of the feet, are also those who have placed merit in good deeds and in works. Some of them appear to themselves to cut wood. The place where they are is rather cold, and they seem to themselves to acquire warmth by their labor. With these also I conversed, and it was given me to ask them whether they wished to come out of that place. They replied that they had not yet merited it by their labor. But when this state has been passed through, they are taken out thence. These also are natural, because the desire to merit salvation is not spiritual; and moreover, they regard themselves as superior to others, and some of them even despise others. If such persons do not receive more joy than others in the other life, they are indignant against the Lord; and therefore when they cut wood there sometimes appears as it were somewhat of the Lord under the wood, and this from their indignation. But as they have led a pious life, and have acted in this way from ignorance, in which there was something of innocence, therefore angels are occasionally sent to them who console them. And sometimes there appears to them from above on the left as it were a sheep, at the sight of which they also receive consolation. [AC 4943]

And cast him into one of the pits. That this signifies among falsities, is evident from the signification of “pits,” as being falsities. That “pits” are falsities, is because men who have been in principles of falsity are after death kept awhile under the lower earth, until falsities have been removed from them, and as it were rejected to the sides. These places are called “pits,” and those who go into them are such as must be in vastation (n. 1106-1113, 2699, 2701, 2704). It is for this reason that by “pits” in the abstract sense, are signified falsities. The lower earth is next under the feet and the region round about for a short distance. Here are most persons after death, before they are taken up into heaven. This earth is also frequently mentioned in the Word. Beneath it are the places of vastation, which are called “pits,” and below them and round about for a considerable extent, are hells.

[2] From this it is in some measure plain what is meant by “hell,” what by the “lower earth,” and what by a “pit,” when mentioned in the Word, as in Isaiah:

Thou hast been brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Thou hast been cast forth out of thy grave like an abominable shoot, the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with the sword, that go down to the stones of the pit (Isa. 14:15, 19);

speaking of the king of Babylon, by whom is represented the profanation of truth; for a “king” is truth (n. 1672, 2015, 2069, 3009, 4581), and “Babylon” profanation (n. 1182, 1326). “Hell” is where the damned are, and their damnation is compared to an abominable shoot, and to the raiment of those that are slain and thrust through with the sword, that go down to the stones of the pit. The “raiment of those that are slain” is truth profaned; “those thrust through with the sword” are they in whom truth has been extinguished; the “pit” is falsity which must be vastated; “stones” are the borders, whence also they are called the “sides,” for round about the pits are hells. (That “raiment” is truth, see above, n. 2576; that the “raiment of those that are slain” is truth profaned, for the “blood” by which it is stained is what is profane, n. 1003; and that “those thrust through with a sword” are they in whom truth has been extinguished, n. 4503). From this it is also plain that without the internal sense it could not possibly be known what is here meant.

[3] So too in Ezekiel:

When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, to the people of an age, and shall make thee to dwell in the earth of the lower regions, in desolations from an age, that thou dwell not with them that go down into the pit; then will I set adornment in the land of the living (Ezek. 26:20);

“they that descend into the pit” denote those who are sent into vastation; “not to dwell with them that go down into the pit” means to be delivered from falsities.

[4] Again:
That none of all the trees of the waters exalt themselves for their stature, neither send their branch among the tangled boughs, nor stand over them for their height, all that drink water; they shall all be delivered unto death, to the lower earth in the midst of the sons of men, to them that go down into the pit. I will make the nations to shake at the sound of his ruin, when I make him go down into hell with them that go down into the pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and chief of Lebanon, all that drink waters, shall be comforted in the lower earth (Ezek. 31:14, 16);

this is said of Egypt, by which is signified the knowledge that of itself enters into the mysteries of faith, that is, those who so enter (n. 1164, 1165, 1186). From what has been said above it is clear what is signified by “hell,” by the “pit,” and by the “lower earth,” which are here mentioned by the prophet; nor does it appear except from the internal sense what is signified by the “trees of the waters,” the “trees of Eden,” the “branch sent among the tangled boughs,” the “choice and chief of Lebanon,” and “all that drink waters.”
[5] Again:
Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cause her to go down, even her, and the daughters of the august nations, unto the earth of the lower regions, with them that go down into the pit. Asshur is there, whose graves are set in the sides of the pit, all slain by the sword (Ezek. 32:18, 22-23);
the signification of which may be seen from what has been explained above. In David:
O Jehovah, Thou hast brought up my soul from hell; Thou hast kept me alive, from among them that go down into the pit (Ps. 30:3).


I am accounted with them that go down into the pit; I am accounted as a man that hath no strength. Thou hast set me in a pit of the lower regions, in darkness, in the depths (Ps. 88:4, 6).

In Jonah:

I went down to the cuttings off of the mountains; the bars of the earth were upon me forever; yet hast Thou brought up my life from the pit (Jonah 2:6);

where the subject treated of is the Lord’s temptations, and deliverance from them. The “cuttings off of the mountains” are where the most damned are, the dark clouds which appear about them being the “mountains.”

[6] That a “pit” is the vastation of falsity, and in the abstract sense falsity, is still more evident in Isaiah:

They shall be gathered with a gathering as the bound to the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; yet after a multitude of days shall they be visited (Isa. 24:22).


Where is the anger of him that causeth straitness? He that leadeth forth shall hasten to open; and he shall not die at the pit, neither shall bread fail (Isa. 51:13-14).

In Ezekiel:

Behold I bring strangers upon thee, the violent of the nations, who shall draw their swords upon the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall profane thy brightness. They shall bring thee down into the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are pierced in the heart of the seas (Ezek. 28:7-8);

speaking of the prince of Tyre, by whom are signified those who are in principles of falsity.

[7] In Zechariah:

Exult greatly, O daughter of Zion; sound, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, wretched, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of she-asses. By the blood of thy covenant I will send forth thy bound out of the pit wherein is no water (Zech. 9:9, 11);
where the “pit wherein is no water” denotes falsity in which there is nothing true; as also in what follows it is said that they cast Joseph into the pit, and the pit was empty, there was no water in it (Gen. 37:24). In David:
Unto thee O Jehovah will I cry, my Rock be not Thou silent unto me, lest if Thou be silent unto me I seem like them that go down into the pit (Ps. 28:1).


Jehovah brought me up also out of a pit of vastation, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock (Ps. 40:2).

Let not the billow of waters overwhelm me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me (Ps. 69:15).

[8] Again:

He sent His word, and healed them, and rescued them from their pits (Ps. 107:20);

“from their pits” denoting from falsities. Again:

Make haste, answer me, O Jehovah; my spirit is consumed, hide not Thy faces from me, lest I become like them that go down into the pit (Ps. 143:7).

As a “pit” signifies falsity, and the “blind” signify those who are in falsities (n. 2383), the Lord therefore says,
Let them alone; they are blind leaders of the blind, for if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into a pit (Matt. 15:14; Luke 6:39).

Something similar to what was represented by Joseph was also represented by Jeremiah the prophet, concerning which he says:

They took Jeremiah, and cast him into the pit that was in the court of the guard; and they let down Jeremiah with cords, into the pit where was no water (Jer. 38:6);

that is, they rejected Divine truths among falsities in which was nothing of truth. [AC 4728]


I have wondered how the thousands, and perhaps myriads, who were raised by God Messiah from the pit, or the lower parts of the earth, could all be allotted their own places in the heavens. At length I learnt today that the greater part of them seem to themselves as though they are conveyed in chariots or carriages and carried around to various places, to try whether this or that place is suitable, that is, whether there is agreement with the souls who are there. If there is not, as for the most part is the case, they are carried on until at length they find agreement and thus quiet, that is to say, until they are with souls who are in agreement with their nature. Nor is any soul ever raised up by God Messiah who does not find his own quiet, and thus companionship with others in conformity with his own nature. This transference may continue for a long time with some, but there is no anxiety. In the meanwhile they are also being rendered more adaptable and perfect, so that they may be able to be within a heavenly society.[SE 297]

And they said unto Pharaoh. That this signifies exhortation to those who are against the truths of the church, is evident from the signification of “saying,” because it was by Moses and Aaron from Divine command, as being exhortation (see n. 7033); and from the representation of Pharaoh, as being memory-knowledge that is against the truths of the church (n. 6651, 6673, 6683), thus those who are of such a character. Here and in what follows are treated of those of the spiritual church who were saved by the coming of the Lord into the world, and who before His coming were detained in the lower earth, and there agitated by falsities, that is, by the infernals who are in falsities from evil. That earth is beneath the soles of the feet, surrounded by the hells; in front by those who have falsified truths and adulterated goods; on the right by those who pervert Divine order, and from this study to acquire to themselves power; at the back by evil genii, who from the love of self have secretly plotted evil against the neighbor; deep under these are they who have utterly spurned the Divine, and have worshiped nature, and consequently have put away from them everything spiritual. With such are they surrounded who are in the lower earth, where before the coming of the Lord they who were of the spiritual church were reserved, and were there infested; nevertheless they were protected by the Lord, and were carried up into heaven with the Lord when He rose again (about this see what has been said and shown above, n. 6854, 6855, 6914, 6945, 7035).

[2] The lower earth, where were reserved those who were of the spiritual church till the Lord’s coming, is sometimes mentioned in the Word, as in Isaiah:

Sing, ye heavens, for Jehovah hath done it; shout ye lower parts of the earth; resound with singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein; because Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob, and hath rendered Himself glorious in Israel (Isa. 44:23);

speaking of those who are in the lower earth, that they were saved by the Lord; “Jacob” and “Israel” are the spiritual church, “Jacob” the external church, “Israel” the internal (see n. 3305, 4286, 6426). In Ezekiel:

I will make thee come down with them that descend into the pit, to the people of eternity, and I will make thee dwell in the earth of lower things, in the desolations (Ezek. 26:20).


To the earth of lower things, in the midst of the sons of man, to them that go down to the pit; whence all the trees of Eden shall be comforted in the lower earth, the choice and the chief of Lebanon, all that drink water (Ezek. 31:14, 16);

here the “lower earth” is where were those who had been of the spiritual church.

[3] At this day also, they who are of the church and have filled their ideas with worldly and also with earthly things, and have caused the truths of faith to be joined to such things, are let down to the lower earth, and are also in combats there; and this until these worldly and earthly things have been separated from the truths of faith, and such things have been implanted as will prevent their being further joined together. When this is over, they are lifted up from thence into heaven; for until such things have been removed, they cannot possibly be with the angels, because these worldly and earthly things are darkness and defilements, which do not accord with the light and purity of heaven. These worldly and earthly things cannot be separated and removed except by means of combats against falsities. These combats take place in this way: they who are in the lower earth are infested by the fallacies and derivative falsities which are sent forth from the infernals round about, but are refuted by the Lord through heaven; and at the same time truths are instilled, and these truths appear as if they were in those who are in the combats.

[4] Hence it is that the spiritual church is to be called “militant.” But at this day it is rarely a militant church with anyone in the world, for while the man of the church lives in the world he cannot endure combat, because of the crowd of evil ones in the midst of whom he is; and because of the flesh in which he is, which is weak. In the other life a man can be kept firmly in the bonds of conscience, but not so in the world; for if in the world he is brought into anything of despair, as those are wont to be who are in combats, he forthwith bursts these bonds; and if he bursts them, he then yields; and if he so yields, it is all over with his salvation. Hence it is that few within the church at this day are admitted by the Lord into combats for truths against falsities. These combats are spiritual temptations. (See also what has been before shown concerning the lower earth and vastations there, n. 4728, 4940-4951, 6854.) [AC 7090]

And they brought him hastily out of the pit. That this signifies a speedy rejection of such things as from the state of temptation were a hindrance; and thereby a change, is evident from the signification of a “pit,” as being a state of vastation and also of temptation (see n. 4728, 4744, 5038); and from the signification of “bringing him hastily out of it,” as being a speedy rejection of such things as are from it, that is, from a state of temptation. For when a “pit” denotes a state of temptation, “to bring anyone hastily out of it” denotes to remove such things as are from that state, and consequently to reject them, as is plain also from what follows; for he rejected what was of the pit, inasmuch as he shaved himself and changed his garments.

[2] A state of temptation in respect to the state after it is also like the condition of a pit or prison-squalid and unclean; for when man is being tempted, unclean spirits are near him, and surround him, and excite the evils and falsities with him, and also hold him in them and exaggerate them, even to despair. Hence it is that the man is then in squalor and uncleanness. Moreover when this state is presented to view in the other life (for all spiritual states can there be presented to the sight) it appears like a thick mist exhaled from unclean places, and a stench from it is also perceived. Such is the appearance of the sphere that encompasses one who is in temptation, and also in vastation, that is, who is in a pit in the lower earth (see n. 4728).

[3] But when the state of temptation ceases, the mist is dispersed, and the sky clears. The reason of this is that by means of temptation the falsities and evils with man are laid open and removed; when they are laid open that mist appears, but when they are removed the clear sky appears. The change of this state is also signified by Joseph’s “shaving himself and changing his garments.”

[4] Moreover, a state of temptation may be compared to the state of a man when among robbers; on escaping from which his hair is disheveled, his countenance wild, and his clothing torn. If he yields in temptation, he remains in a state like this; but if he conquers in temptation, then after he has composed his face, combed his hair, and changed his clothing, he comes into a cheerful and serene state. Moreover, there are infernal spirits and genii, who like robbers surround and attack the man at these times, and bring on the temptations. From this it is now plain that by their “bringing him hastily out of the pit” is signified a speedy rejection of such things as from the state of temptation were a hindrance, and thereby a change. [AC 5246]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)