Spiritual Meaning of

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That in the external sense to see signifies sight, is evident without explication; and that in the interior sense to see signifies understanding, may also be evident, for the sight of the internal man is nothing else than understanding, and therefore in common discourse understanding is called internal sight, and light is predicated of it, as of external sight, and is called intellectual light. That in the internal sense to see denotes faith from the Lord, is evident from the fact that the interior understanding has no other objects than those which are of truth and good, for these are the objects of faith. This interior understanding, or internal sight, which has for its objects the truths which are of faith, does not manifest itself so much as does the understanding which has for its objects the truths of civic and moral life, for the reason that it is within the latter, and is in the light of heaven, which light is in obscurity so long as man is in the light of the world. Nevertheless with those who have been regenerated, it reveals itself, especially by conscience. That in the supreme sense to see is foresight, must be evident, for the intelligence which is predicated of the Lord is infinite intelligence, which is nothing else than foresight.

[5] That seeing, from which Reuben was named, in the internal sense signifies faith from the Lord, is manifest from very many passages in the Word, of which the following may be adduced:--

Jehovah said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard and it shall come to pass that everyone that is bitten, and shall see it, shall live. Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon a standard and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, and he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived again (Num. 21:8, 9).

That the brazen serpent represented the Lord as to the external sensuous or natural, may be seen above (AC 197); and that brass signifies the natural (AC 425, 1551). That faith in Him was represented by the living again of those who saw, or looked upon it, the Lord Himself teaches in John:--

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the So" of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life (John 3:14, 15).

[6] In Isaiah:--

The Lord said, Go and say unto this people, Hearing hear ye, but do not understand; and seeing see ye, and do not know; make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and their heart should understand (Isa. 6:9, 10).

That seeing and not knowing here signifies understanding what is true and yet not acknowledging it, is manifest; and that blinding the eyes, lest they should see with their eyes signifies depriving them of the understanding of truth; and that seeing here signifies faith in the Lord, is evident from the Lord's words in (Matthew 13:13, 14; John 12:36, 37, 39, 40).

[7] In Ezekiel:--

Son of man thou dwellest in the midst of the house of rebellion, who have eyes to see, but see not; who have ears to hear, and hear not (Ezek. 12:2);

having eyes to see but not seeing signifies that they were able to understand the truths of faith, but were not willing, and this because of evils (which are the house of rebellion) inducing a deceptive light on falsities, and darkness on truths, according to these words in Isaiah:--

This is a people of rebellion, lying sons, sons that would not hear the law of Jehovah who have said to the seers, See not; and to them that have vision, See not for us right things, speak to us smooth things, see illusions (Isa. 30:9, 10).


The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (Isa. 9:2);

where seeing a great light signifies receiving and believing the truths which are of faith. On those who are in faith heavenly light is said to shine, for the light which is in heaven is Divine truth from Divine good.

[8] Again:--

Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes the prophets and your heads, the seers hath He covered (Isa. 29:10);

to close the eyes denotes to close the understanding of truth. The eye denotes the understanding, (AC 2701); covering the seers denotes to cover those who know and teach the truths of faith. Seers were formerly called prophets, and prophets denote those who teach, and also the truths of doctrine, (AC 2534). Again:--

The priest and the prophet err through strong drink; they err among the seers; they stumble in judgment (Isa. 28:7);

where the sense is the same; that the judgment wherein they stumble is the truth of faith may be seen above (AC 2235). Again:--

The eyes of them that see shall not be closed, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken (Isa. 32:3).

[9] Again:--

Thine eyes shall behold the king In his beauty, they shall see the land of far distances (Isa. 33:17);

to behold the king in beauty denotes the truths of faith which are from the Lord, which are called beautiful from good; to see the land of far distances denotes the good of love. A king is the truth of faith, (AC 1672, 2015, 2069, 3009, 3670); beautiful is predicated from good, (AC 553, 3080, 3821); and land is the good of love, (AC 620, 636, 3368, 3379). In Matthew:--

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8);

where it is manifest that to see God is to believe in Him, thus to see Him by faith; for they who are in faith, from faith see God, because God is in faith, and is that in faith which constitutes true faith.

[10] Again:--

If thine eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out for it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the gehenna of fire (Matthew 18:9);

that in this passage the eye does not mean the eye, and that it is not to be plucked out, is manifest, for this does not cause to stumble; but the understanding of truth, which is here meant by the eye (AC 2701). That it is better not to know and apprehend the truths of faith, than to know and apprehend them and yet live a life of evil, is signified by its being better to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the gehenna of fire.

[11] In the same:--

Blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears, for they hear. Verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye see, but did not see them (Matthew 13:16, 17; John 12:40);

seeing here denotes knowing and understanding the things which are of faith in the Lord, thus faith; for they were not blessed because they saw the Lord, and saw His miracles, but because they believed; as may be seen from these words in John:--

I said unto you, that ye also have seen Me, and believe not. This is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, should have eternal life. Not that anyone hath seen the Father, save He that is with the Father, He hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath eternal life (John 6:36, 40, 46, 47);

seeing and not believing denotes knowing the truths of faith and not receiving them; seeing and believing denotes knowing and receiving them; no one having seen the Father save He that is with the Father denotes that Divine good cannot be acknowledged except by means of Divine truth. The Father is Divine good, and the Son Divine truth, (AC 3704). Hence the internal sense is that no one can have celestial good unless He acknowledges the Lord.

[12] In like manner in the same Evangelist:--

No one hath seen God at any time the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18).

And again:--

Jesus said, He that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in Me should not abide in darkness (John 12:45, 46);

where it is said plainly that to see is to believe, or to have faith. Again:--

Jesus said, If ye had known Me, ye would have known My Father also; and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him. He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father (John 14:7, 9).


The Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him I will not leave you orphans; I come unto you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more but ye see Me because I live ye shall live also (John 14:17-19);

where seeing signifies having faith, for the Lord is seen only by faith, because faith is the eye of love, the Lord being seen by love through faith, and love being the life of faith; wherefore it is said, Ye see Me; because I live, ye shall live also.

[13] Again:--

Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not may see and that they who see may be made blind. The Pharisees said, Are we also blind I Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye would not have sin; but now ye say, We see therefore your sin remaineth (John 9:39-41);

here they who see denote those who imagine themselves to be more intelligent than others, concerning whom it is said that they should be made blind, that is, should not receive faith. Not to see, or to be blind, is predicated of those who are in falsities, and also of those who are in ignorance, (AC 2383). In Luke:--

Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not hear (Luke 8:10).


I say unto you, There be some standing here who shall not taste of death, until they see the kingdom of God (Luke 9:27; Mark 9:1);

to see the kingdom of God denotes to believe. Again:--

Jesus said unto His disciples, The days shall come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, but ye shall not see (Luke 17:22);

where the consummation of the age, or last time of the church, is treated of, when there is no longer any faith.

[14] Again:--

It came to pass when Jesus sat down with them, that He took the bread, and blessed, and breaking, gave to them; and their eyes were opened, and they knew Him (Luke 24:30, 31);

by which was signified that the Lord appears by good, but not by truth without good, for bread is the good of love (AC 276, 680, 2165, 2177, 3478, 3735, 3813). From these and other passages it is evident that seeing, in the internal sense, signifies faith from the Lord, for there is no other faith which is faith than that which comes from the Lord. This also enables man to see, that is, to believe; but faith from self, or from what is man's own, is not faith, for it causes him to see falsities as truths, and truths as falsities; and if he sees truths as truths, still he does not see, because he does not believe, for he sees himself in them, and not the Lord.

[15] That to see is to have faith in the Lord, is very plain from what has been frequently said above concerning the light of heaven, namely, that being from the Lord, it is attended with intelligence and wisdom, consequently with faith in Him; for faith in the Lord is inwardly within intelligence and wisdom; wherefore to see from that light, as angels do, can signify nothing else than faith in the Lord. The Lord Himself also is in that light, because it proceeds from Him. It is that light also which shines within the conscience of those who have faith in the Lord, although while he lives in the body the man is unaware of the fact, for it is then obscured by the light of the world.

from AC 3863

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