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The signification of being carried off by theft is to be alienated by evil; for to steal is to alienate, and theft is the evil which alienates, and also the evil which claims the celestial things that are in the natural. Theft signifies alienation in respect to the abode of which it takes possession, and from which it casts out goods and truths, and which it fills with evils and falsities; theft also signifies the claiming of what belongs to others when it attributes to itself and makes its own the goods and truths which are in that abode, and also when it applies them to evils and falsities. That it may be known what theft is in the spiritual sense, it is necessary to state how the case is with evils and falsities when they enter and take possession of the abode, and also when they claim the goods and truths which are there.

[2] From infancy until childhood, and sometimes till early manhood, by instruction from his parents and teachers a man is imbued with goods and truths; for he then learns them with avidity, and believes them in simplicity. The state of innocence favors them and adapts them to the memory, but places them only at the first threshold; for the innocence of infancy and childhood is not internal innocence which affects the rational, but is external innocence which affects only the exterior natural (AC 2306, 3183, 3494, 4563, 4797). But when the man grows older and begins to think from himself, and not as before from parents and teachers, he then takes up again and as it were ruminates the things which he had before learned and believed, and either confirms them, or doubts about them, or denies them. If he confirms them, it is a sign that he is in good; if he denies them, it is a sign that he is in evil; but if he doubts about them, it is a sign that in succeeding years he will accede either to the affirmative or to the negative.

[3] The things which man as a little child in its first age learns eagerly or believes, and which he afterward either confirms, or doubts about, or denies, are especially these: that there is a God, and that He is one; that He has created all things; that He rewards those who do well, and punishes those who do evil; that there is a life after death, in which the evil go to hell and the good to heaven, thus that there in a hell and a heaven, and that the life after death is eternal; also that he ought to pray daily, and this with humility; that the Sabbath day is to be kept holy; that parents are to be honored; and that no one must commit adultery, murder, or theft; with other like things. These things man imbibes and is imbued with from early childhood; but when he begins to think from himself and to lead himself, if he confirms such things in himself, and adds to them things which are still more interior, and lives according to them, then it is well with him; but if he begins to infringe these things, and at last to deny them, however much for the sake of civil laws and for the sake of society he may live in externals according to them, he is then in evil.

[4] This evil is what is signified by theft, in so far as like a thief it takes possession of the abode in which good has been before, and in so far as with many it takes away the goods and truths which had been there before, and applies them to confirm evils and falsities. The Lord in so far as possible then removes from that abode the goods and truths of early childhood, and withdrawing them toward the interiors stores them up in the interior natural for use. These goods and truths stored up in the interior natural are signified in the Word by remains (AC 468, 530, 560, 561, 660, 661, 1050, 1738, 1906, 2284). But if evil steals the goods and truths there, and applies them to confirm evils and falsities, especially if it does this from deceit, then it consumes these remains; for it then mingles evils with goods and falsities with truths till they cannot be separated, and then it is all over with the man.

[5] That such things are signified by theft, may be seen from the mere application of theft to the things of spiritual life. In spiritual life there are no other riches than the knowledges of good and truth, and no other possessions and inheritances than the felicities of life arising from goods and their truths As before said, to steal these things is theft in the spiritual sense; and therefore by thefts, in the Word, nothing else is signified in the internal sense; as in Zechariah:--

I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, when behold a flying roll. Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth upon the faces of the whole earth; for everyone that stealeth hence, like it is innocent; and everyone that sweareth, like it is innocent. I have cast it forth that it may enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth by My name for lying; and it shall pass the night in his house, and shall consume it and the wood thereof and the stones thereof (Zech. 5:1, 3, 4);

the evil which takes away the remains of good is signified by him that stealeth, and by the house of the thief; and the falsity which takes away the remains of truth is signified by him that sweareth, and by the house of him that sweareth for lying; the faces of the whole earth denote the universal church; therefore it is said that the curse shall consume the house and the wood thereof and the stones thereof. The house is the natural mind or man as to this mind (AC 3128, 3538, 4973, 5023); wood is the goods therein (AC 2784, 2812, 3720, 4943); and the stones are truths (AC 643, 1298, 3720).

[6] Profanation and hence the taking away of good and truth are signified in the spiritual sense by the deed of Achan, who took of the accursed things a mantle of Shinar, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold, and hid them in the earth in the midst of his tent, and who therefore was stoned, and all the things were burned; as is related in Joshua:--

Jehovah said unto Joshua, Israel hath sinned, they have transgressed My covenant which I commanded them; and they have taken of the accursed thing, and have stolen, lied, and have put it among their vessels (Joshua 7:10, 11, 21, 25);

by accursed things were meant falsities and evils, which were in no wise to be mixed up with holy things; the mantle of Shinar, shekels of silver, and wedge of gold are in the spiritual sense species of falsity; hiding them under the earth in the midst of the tent signified a commixture with holy things. A tent denotes what is holy, (AC 414, 1102, 1566, 2145, 2152, 3312, 4128, 4391, 4599). These things were signified by Israel's stealing, lying, and putting it among their vessels; for vessels are holy truths (AC 3068, 3079, 3316, 3318).

[7] In Jeremiah:--

I will bring the issue of Esau upon him, the time that I shall visit him. If grape-gatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grape-gleanings? if thieves by night, would they not destroy a sufficiency? I will strip Esau, I will uncover his secret things, and he shall not be able to hide, his seed is devastated, and his brethren, and his neighbors, and he is not (Jer. 49:8-10);

where Esau denotes the evil of the love of self to which falsities are adjoined (AC 3322). That this evil consumes the remains of good and truth is signified by thieves in the night destroying a sufficiency; and by his seed, his brethren, and his neighbors being devastated, and he is not. Seed denotes the truths which are of faith from charity (AC 1025, 1447, 1610, 1940, 2848, 3038, 3310, 3373); brethren denote the goods which are of charity (AC 367, 2360, 2508, 2524, 3160, 3303, 3459, 3815, 4121, 4191); "neighbors' denote the adjoined and related truths and goods which belong to him.

[8] Something similar is said of Esau in Obadiah:--

If thieves come to thee, if overthrowers by night how wilt thou be cut off!) will they not steal till they have enough? if grape-gatherers come to thee, will they not leave some clusters? (Obadiah 1:5);

grape-gatherers denote falsities which are not from evil; by these falsities the goods and truths stored up by the Lord in man's interior natural (that is, remains) are not consumed, but by falsities derived from evils, which steal truths and goods and also by wrong applications employ them to confirm evils and falsities.

[9] In Joel:--

A great people and mighty, they shall run like heroes; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march everyone in his ways; they shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run on the wall; they shall climb up into the houses; they shall enter in through the windows like a thief (Joel 2:2, 7, 9);

a great people and mighty denotes falsities fighting against truths (AC 1259, 1260); and because they fight mightily in destroying truths, they are said to be like heroes and men of war; the city through which they are said to run to and fro denotes the doctrinals of truth (AC 402, 2268, 2449, 2712, 2943, 3216); the houses into which they shall climb denote the goods which they destroy (AC 710, 1708, 2048, 2233, 3128, 3652, 3720, 4982); the windows through which they shall enter in denote things intellectual and the derivative reasonings (AC 655, 658, 3391); hence they are compared to a thief, because they take possession of the abode previously occupied by truths and goods.

[10] In David:--

As thou hatest discipline, and castest My words behind thee; if thou seest a thief thou runnest with him, and thy part is with adulterers. Thou openest thy mouth for evil, and with thy tongue thou weavest deceit (Ps. 50:17-19);

speaking of a wicked person, to run with a thief denotes to alienate truth from himself by means of falsity.

[11] In the Revelation:--

They repented not of their murders, nor of their enchantments, nor of their whoredoms, nor of their thefts (Rev. 9:21);

murders denote evils which destroy goods; enchantments, falsities therefrom which destroy truths; whoredoms, truths falsified; thefts, goods thus alienated.

[12] In John:--

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not through the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. I am the door; through Me if anyone enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture. The thief cometh not but to steal, and to murder, and to destroy (John 10:1, 2, 9, 10);

here again a thief denotes the evil of merit; for he who takes away from the Lord what is His, and claims it for himself, is called a thief. As this evil closes the way and prevents good and truth from the Lord from flowing in, it is said to murder and to destroy. The same is signified by the commandment in the Decalogue:--

Thou shalt not steal (Deut. 5:19);

(AC 4174). From all this it is evident what is signified by the laws enacted in the Jewish Church in regard to thefts (Exod. 21:16; 22:1-4; Deut. 24:7), for as all the laws in that church originated in the spiritual world, they correspond to the laws of order which are in heaven.

from AC 5135

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