Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 3:23-24
AC 305. Verse 23. Therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. To be "cast out of the garden of Eden," is to be deprived of all intelligence and wisdom; and to "till the ground from which he was taken," is to become corporeal, as he was previous to regeneration. That to be "cast out of the garden of Eden" is to be deprived of all intelligence and wisdom, is evident from the signification of a "garden," and of "Eden," as above; for a "garden" signifies intelligence, or the understanding of truth; and "Eden," being significative of love, signifies wisdom, or the will of good. That to "till the ground from which he was taken" signifies to become corporeal, such as he was before regeneration, has been shown above (verse 19), where similar words occur.
AC 306. Verse 24. And He cast out the man; and He made to dwell from the east toward the garden of Eden cherubim, and the flame of a sword turning itself to keep the way of the tree of lives. To "cast out the man," is to entirely deprive him of all the will of good and understanding of truth, insomuch that he is separated from them, and is no longer man. To "make cherubim from the east to dwell," is to provide against his entering into any secret thing of faith; for the "east toward the garden of Eden," is the celestial, from which is intelligence; and by "cherubim" is signified the providence of the Lord in preventing such a man from entering into the things of faith. By the "flame of a sword turning itself," is signified self-love (amor proprius) with its insane desires and consequent persuasions, which are such that he indeed wishes to enter, but is carried away to corporeal and earthly things, and this for the purpose of "keeping the way of the tree of lives," that is, of preventing the profanation of holy things.
AC 307. It here treats of the sixth and seventh posterities, which perished by the flood, and were altogether "cast out of the garden of Eden," that is, from all understanding of truth, and became as it were not men, being left to their insane cupidities and persuasions.
AC 308. As the signification of the "east" and of the "garden of Eden" were given above, it is needless to dwell longer on them; but that " cherubim" denote the providence of the Lord lest man should insanely enter into the mysteries of faith from his Own, and from what is of the senses and of memory-knowledge (sensuali et scientifico), and should thus profane them, and destroy himself, is evident from all the passages in the Word where mention is made of "cherubim." As the Jews were of such a quality that if they had possessed any clear knowledge concerning the Lord‘s coming, concerning the representatives or types of the church as being significative of Him, concerning the life after death, concerning the interior man and the internal sense of the Word, they would have profaned it, and would have perished eternally; therefore this was represented by the " cherubim" on the mercy-seat over the ark, upon the curtains of the tabernacle, upon the vail, and also in the temple; and it was signified that the Lord had them in keeping (Exod. 25:18-21; 26:1, 31; 1 Kings 6:23-29, 32). For the ark, in which was the testimony, signified the same as the tree of lives in this passage, namely, the Lord and the celestial things which belong solely to Him. Hence also the Lord is so often called the "God of Israel sitting on the cherubim," and hence He spake with Moses and Aaron "between the cherubim" (Exod. 25:22; Num. 7:89). This is plainly described in Ezekiel, where it is said:--
The glory of the God of Israel was uplifted from upon the cherub whereon He was, to the threshold of the house. And He called to the man clothed with linen, and said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who groan and sigh for all the abominations done in the midst thereof. And to the others He said, Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity; slay to blotting out the old man, and the young man, and the virgin, the infant, and the women; defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain (Ezekiel 9:3-7).
He said to the man clothed in linen, Go in between the wheel to beneath the cherub, and fill thy palms with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city; the cherub put forth his hand from between the cherubim unto the fire which was between the cherubim, and took thereof, and put it into the palms of him that was clothed in linen, who took it and went out (Ezekiel 10:2, 7).
From these passages it is evident that the providence of the Lord in preventing men from entering into the mysteries of faith is signified by the "cherubim;" and that therefore they were left to their insane cupidities, here also signified by the "fire that was to be scattered over the city," and that "none should be spared."
AC 309. That by the "flame of a sword turning itself," is signified self-love (amor proprius) with its insane cupidities and persuasions, which are such that they desire to enter (into the mysteries of faith), but are carried away to corporeal and earthly things, might be confirmed by so many passages from the Word as would fill pages; but we will cite only these from Ezekiel:--
Prophesy and say, Thus saith Jehovah, Say a sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also burnished to make a sore slaughter; it is sharpened that it may be as lightning. Let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of his slain; the sword of a great slaughter, which entereth into their bed-chambers, that their heart may melt, and their offenses be multiplied, I have set the terror of the sword in all their gates. Alas! it is made as lightning (Ezekiel 21:9, 10, 14, 15).
A "sword" here signifies the desolation of man such that he sees nothing that is good and true, but mere falsities and things contrary, denoted by "multiplying offenses." It is also said in Nahum, of those who desire to enter into the mysteries of faith, "The horseman mounting, and the flame of the sword, and the flash of the spear, and a multitude of the slain" (Nahum 3:3).
AC 310. Each particular expression in this verse involves so many arcana of deepest import (applicable to the genius of this people who perished by the flood, a genius totally different from that of those who lived subsequent to the flood), that it is impossible to set them forth. We will briefly observe that their first parents, who constituted the Most Ancient Church, were celestial men, and consequently had celestial seeds implanted in them; whence their descendants had seed in them from a celestial origin. Seed from a celestial origin is such that love rules the whole mind and makes it a one. For the human mind consists of two parts, the will and the understanding. Love or good belongs to the will, faith or truth to the understanding; and from love or good those most ancient people perceived what belongs to faith or truth, so that their mind was a one. With the posterity of such a race, seed of the same celestial origin necessarily remains, so that any falling away from truth and good on their part is most perilous, since their whole mind becomes so perverted as to render a restoration in the other life scarcely possible. It is otherwise with those who do not possess celestial but only spiritual seed, as did the people after the flood, and as also do the people of the present day. There is no love in these, consequently no will of good, but still there is a capability of faith, or understanding of truth, by means of which they can be brought to some degree of charity, although by a different way, namely, by the insinuation of conscience from the Lord grounded in the knowledges of truth and the derivative good. Their state is therefore quite different from that of the antediluvians, concerning which state, of the Lord’s Divine mercy hereafter. These are arcana with which the present generation are utterly unacquainted, for at the present day none know what the celestial man is nor even what the spiritual man is, and still less what is the quality of the human mind and life thence resulting, and the consequent state after death.
AC 311. In the other life, the state of those who perished by the flood is such that they cannot be in the world of spirits, or with other spirits, but are in a hell separated from the hells of others, and as it were under a certain mountain. This appears as an intervening mountain in consequence of their direful phantasies and persuasions. Their phantasies and persuasions are such as to produce so profound a stupor in other spirits that they do not know whether they are alive or dead, for they deprive them of all understanding of truth, so that they perceive nothing. Such also was their persuasive power during their abode in the world; and because it was foreseen that in the other life they would be incapable of associating with other spirits without inducing on them a kind of death, they all became extinct, and the Lord of His Divine mercy induced other states on those who lived after the flood.
AC 312. In this verse, the state of these antediluvians is fully described, in that they were "cast out," or separated from celestial good, and in that "cherubim were placed from the east toward the garden of Eden." This expression, "from the east toward the garden of Eden," is applicable only to them, and could not be used in relation to those who lived afterwards, of whom it would have been said, "from the garden of Eden toward the east." In like manner, had the words "the flame of a sword turning itself" been applied to the people of the present day, they would have been "the sword of a flame turning itself." Nor would it have been said the "tree of lives,", but the "tree of life;" not to mention other things in the series that cannot possibly be explained, being understood only by the angels, to whom the Lord reveals them; for every state contains infinite arcana, not even one of which is known to men.
AC 313. From what is here said of the first man, it is evident that all the hereditary evil existing at the present day did not come from him, as is falsely supposed. For it is the Most Ancient Church that is here treated of under the name of "man;" and when it is called "Adam," it signifies that man was from the ground, or that from being non-man he became man by regeneration from the Lord. This is the origin and signification of the name. But as to hereditary evil, the case is this. Every one who commits actual sin thereby induces on himself a nature, and the evil from it is implanted in his children, and becomes hereditary. It thus descends from every parent, from the father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and their ancestors in succession, and is thus multiplied and augmented in each descending posterity, remaining with each person, and being increased in each by his actual sins, and never being dissipated so as to become harmless except in those who are being regenerated by the Lord. Every attentive observer may see evidence of this truth in the fact that the evil inclinations of parents remain visibly in their children, so that one family, and even an entire race, may be thereby distinguished from every other.