The Bible baffles most human beings because its literal meaning makes no sense. Nevertheless, some choose to foolishly believe its literal sense. For example, they believe that the universe was created in six earthly days, that Adam and Eve were the first two human beings and that Eve was tempted by a serpent who was able to speak and tell her some secrets. Other human beings believe that the Bible consists of silly stories invented by the clergy to scare human beings into obedience and submission. Thus, they begin to read a few chapters and eventually decide to ignore it and use their own moral compass. Finally, some believe it is an allegory and they try to interpret its symbolic meaning using the resources of their own human mind. Hence, many of these people use the Bible to justify their selfish behavior and actions.
If the Bible did descend from Heaven and was inspired by God, its inner meanings cannot be arbitrary or haphazard; they must be consistent, accurate and precise because they correspond to spiritual realities. Spiritual Truth cannot be a matter of opinion or personal belief; it must be universal, rational, objective, impartial and consistent because it corresponds to the Divine proportions or forms of Heaven. And, in fact, Swedenborg discovered that the words in the Bible have a consistent meaning throughout all its books because these books were written by means of the science of correspondences. In the Arcana Coelestia (Mysteries of Heaven), he demonstrates how these meanings are precise and consistent throughout Genesis and Exodus. Thus, every preacher cannot have his own interpretation of the Bible. If Truth is an emanation of Reality, we must all agree as to what the Bible is communicating.
For example, the Garden of Eden corresponds EXACTLY to the state of mind of the primitive Adamic race (Most Ancient Church). The mind of these early humans was filled with Heavenly knowledge (beautiful plants, trees, flowers, fruits) because they were in a state of innocence (nakedness). And the animals that were around them were gentle and non-threatening because their heart was filled with Heavenly Love. However, since these primitive people were earthly or physical, there were also non-poisonous serpents roaming around.
By using spiritual correspondences, we are able to decipher EXACTLY what the Bible is trying to communicate by the story of Eve and the serpent. If all animals correspond to affections and a serpent corresponds to affection for what is sensual, these people were in fact tempted by their sensual mind. And what did the serpent (sensual mind) say:
And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:1-5
When we believe in spiritual Truth (tree of life) and live by spiritual Love, we live in reality and the ONE and ONLY God (YHVH) of the universe is the ruler of our inner world. But, when we believe our own opinions or lies and live from self-love and self-derived intelligence, our own self becomes the god of our inner world. The problem is that when we become our own god, we also create our own hell. Thus, unlike Heaven, which is a kingdom ruled by the ONE and ONLY God (YHVH) of the universe, hell is filled with many gods or devils who attempt to rule each other through threat, fear and punishment. The lands in hell are also uncultivated, the cities are devastated and populated with fierce and unclean animals and birds because these things correspond to the devils’ unfulfilled passions and false thoughts.
What the serpent said was partly true but he intentionally forgot a few important details because he was cunning. And, today, due to the fall of humanity, many people are still deceived by their sensual mind. They believe that their intelligence is self-derived and that they are masters of their own life. The real Truth is that our human self is only an empty or dead recipient that can only be revived when it is filled with Divine Love and Wisdom.
The hell of those who were from the Most Ancient Church, is more atrocious than all other hells. It consists of those who in the world believed themselves to be as God, according to the deceitful utterance of the serpent (Gen. 3:5); and those are deeper in that hell who, from the fantasy that God had transfused His Divinity into men, persuaded themselves that they altogether were gods, and so that there was no longer a God in the universe. In consequence of that direful persuasion, a stinking smoke is exhaled from that hell, which infects the adjacent places with so baleful a contagion, that when anyone approaches, he is at first seized with such a mad delirium, that presently, after some convulsive struggles, he seems to himself to be in the agonies of death. I saw a certain one, in the vicinity of that place, lying as it were dead; but, on being removed thence, he revived. That hell lies in the middle region at the south, surrounded with ramparts, and on which stand some who shout out in a loud stentorian voice, “Approach no nearer.” I have heard from the angels who are in the heaven above that hell, that the evil demons there appear like serpents twisted into inextricable folds, which is a consequence of their vain devices and incantations, by which they deluded the simple into admitting that they are gods, and that there is no God beside them. The ancients, who wove all things into fables, meant these by the “giants,” who besieged the camp of the gods, and whom Jupiter cast down by his thunderbolts and thrust under the fiery mountain Etna, and who were called “Cyclopses.” They also called the hells of these, “Tartarus,” and the “pools of Acheron;” and the deeps there, “Styx,” and those who dwelt there, “Lernaean Hydras,” and so forth. Emanuel Swedenborg [Coronis 8]
Painting Credit: The Fall of Man, Izaak van Oosten (1613–1661)