Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 3:2-5
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AC 198. Verses 2, 3. And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the tree 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. The "fruit of the tree of the garden," is the good and truth revealed to them from the Most Ancient Church; the "fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, of which they were not to eat," is the good and truth of faith, which they were not to learn from themselves; "not to touch it," is a prohibition against thinking of the good and truth of faith from themselves, or from what is of sense and memory-knowledge (sensuali et scientifico) "lest ye die," is because thus faith, or all wisdom and intelligence, would perish.

AC 199. That the "fruit of the tree of which they might eat," signifies the good and truth of faith revealed to them from the Most Ancient Church, or the knowledges (cognitiones) of faith, is evident from the fact that it is said to be the "fruit of the tree of the garden of which they might eat," and not the "tree of the garden," as before when treating of the celestial man, or the Most Ancient Church (Gen. 2:16). The "tree of the garden," as it is there called, is the perception of what is good and true; which good and truth, because they are from that source, are here called "fruit," and are also frequently signified by "fruit" in the Word.

AC 200. The reason why the "tree of knowledge" is here spoken of as being "in the midst of the garden," although previously (Gen. 2:9), the tree of lives was said to be in the midst of the garden, and not the tree of knowledge, is that the "midst" of the garden signifies the inmost; and the inmost of the celestial man, or of the Most Ancient Church, was the "tree of lives," which is love and the faith thence derived; whereas with this man, who may be called a celestial spiritual man, or with this posterity, faith was the "midst" of the garden, or the inmost. It is impossible more fully to describe the quality of the men who lived in that most ancient time, because at the present day it is utterly unknown, their genius being altogether different from what is ever found with any one now. For the purpose however of conveying some idea of their genius, it may be mentioned that from good they knew truth, or from love they knew what is of faith. But when that generation expired, another succeeded of a totally different genius, for instead of discerning the true from the good, or what is of faith from love, they acquired the knowledge of what is good by means of truth, or what is of love from the knowledges of faith, and with very many among them there was scarcely anything but knowledge (quod scirent). Such was the change made after the flood to prevent the destruction of the world.

AC 201. Seeing therefore that such a genius as that of the most ancient people anterior to the flood is not found and does not exist at the present day, it is no easy matter to explain intelligibly what the words of this passage in their genuine sense imply. They are however perfectly understood in heaven, for the angels and angelic spirits who are called celestial are of the same genius as the most ancient people who were regenerate before the flood; while the angels and angelic spirits who are termed spiritual are of a similar genius to the regenerate after the flood, although in both cases with indefinite variety.

AC 202. The Most Ancient Church, which was a celestial man, was of such a character as not only to abstain from "eating of the tree of knowledge," that is, from learning what belongs to faith from sensuous things and memory-knowledges (scientifica), but was not even allowed to touch that tree, that is, to think of anything that is a matter of faith from sensuous things and memory-knowledges, lest they should sink down from celestial life into spiritual life, and so on downward. Such also is the life of the celestial angels, the more interiorly celestial of whom do not even suffer faith to be named, nor anything whatever that partakes of what is spiritual; and if it is spoken of by others, instead of faith they have a perception of love, with a difference known only to themselves; thus whatever is of faith they derive from love and charity. Still less can they endure listening to any reasoning about faith, and least of all to anything of memory-knowledge (scientificum) respecting it; for, through love, they have a perception from the Lord of what is good and true; and from this perception they know instantly whether a thing is so, or is not so. Therefore when anything is said about faith, they answer simply that it is so, or that it is not so, because they perceive it from the Lord. This is what is signified by the Lord’s words in Matthew:--

Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil (Matthew 5:37).

This then is what was meant by their not being allowed to touch the fruit of the tree of knowledge; for if they touched it, they would be in evil, that is, they would in consequence "die." Nevertheless the celestial angels converse together on various subjects like the other angels, but in a celestial language, which is formed and derived from love, and is more ineffable than that of the spiritual angels.

AC 203. The spiritual angels, however, converse about faith, and even confirm the things of faith by those of the intellect, of the reason, and of the memory (per intellectualia, rationalia, et scientifica), but they never form their conclusions concerning matters of faith on such grounds: those who do this are in evil. They are also endowed by the Lord with a perception of all the truths of faith, although not with such a perception as is that of the celestial angels. The perception of the spiritual angels is a kind of conscience which is vivified of the Lord and which indeed appears like celestial perception, yet is not so, but is only spiritual perception.

AC 204. Verses 4, 5. 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 God, knowing good and evil. Their "eyes being opened by eating of the fruit of the tree," signifies that if they were to examine the things of faith from what is of sense and knowledge (ex sensuali et scientifico), that is, from themselves, they would plainly see those things as if erroneous. And that they would be "as God, knowing good and evil," denotes that if they did so from themselves, they would be as God, and could guide themselves.

AC 205. Every verse contains a particular state, or change of state, in the church: the preceding verses, that although thus inclined they nevertheless perceived it to be unlawful; these verses, an incipient doubt whether it might not be lawful for them, since they would thus see whether the things they had heard from their forefathers were true, and so their eyes would be opened. At length, in consequence of the ascendancy of self-love, they began to think that they could lead themselves, and thus be like the Lord; for such is the nature of the love of self that it is unwilling to submit to the Lord‘s leading, and prefers to be self-guided, and being self-guided to consult the things of sense and of memory-knowledge as to what is to be believed.

AC 206. Who have a stronger belief that their eyes are open, and that as God they know what is good and evil, than those who love themselves, and at the same time excel in worldly learning? And yet who are more blind? Only question them, and it will be seen that they do not even know, much less believe in, the existence of spirit; with the nature of spiritual and celestial life they are utterly unacquainted; they do not acknowledge an eternal life; for they believe themselves to be like the brutes which perish; neither do they acknowledge the Lord, but worship only themselves and nature. Those among them who wish to be guarded in their expressions, say that a certain Supreme Existence (Ens) of the nature of which they are ignorant, rules all things. These are the principles in which they confirm themselves in many ways by things of sense and of memory-knowledge, and if they dared, they would do the same before all the universe. Although such persons desire to be regarded as gods, or as the wisest of men, if they were asked whether they know what it is not to have anything of their own, they would answer that it is to have no existence, and that if they were deprived of everything that is their own, they would be nothing. If they are asked what it is to live from the Lord, they think it a phantasy. If asked whether they know what conscience is, they would say it is a mere creature of the imagination, which may be of service in keeping the vulgar under restraint. If asked whether they know what perception is, they would merely laugh at it and call it enthusiastic rubbish. Such is their wisdom, such "open eyes" have they, and such "gods" are they. Principles like these, which they think clearer than the day, they make their starting-point, and so continue on, and in this way reason about the mysteries of faith; and what can be the result but an abyss of darkness? These above all others are the "serpents" who seduce the world. But this posterity of the Most Ancient Church was not as yet of such a character. That which became such is treated of from (verse 14-19) of this chapter.

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info