Spiritual Meaning of

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The signification of deceit, is malice from the will with forethought or premeditation, thus from set purpose. Evils are done either from enmity, or from hatred, or from revenge, and either with deceit or without it. But evils done with deceit are the worst, because deceit is like a poison which infects and destroys with infernal venom, for it goes through the whole mind even to its interiors. The reason is that he who is in deceit meditates evil, and feeds his understanding with it, and takes delight in it, and thus destroys everything therein that belongs to man, that is, which belongs to life from the good of faith and of charity.

[2] They who in the world have ensnared the neighbor with deceit in respect to worldly and earthly things, in the other life ensnare the neighbor with deceit in respect to spiritual and heavenly things; and because they do this in secret, they are dispatched to the hells behind the back, deep down according to the malignity and hurtfulness of the deceit, and in this way are separated from those who are in front; the latter being called spirits, but the former, genii (AC 5035, 5977, 8593, 8622, 8625). Genii are not admitted to men as spirits are, because they flow into the affections of the will, by acting against the good of love and charity so secretly that it cannot possibly be perceived; and in this way they destroy the truth of faith. In their own hell they render themselves invisible before their companions; for they who have acted secretly in the world can render themselves in visible in the other life; but when they appear, they appear among themselves like men; whereas when they are looked at by the angels they appear like serpents, for they have the nature of serpents, and that which goes forth from them is lie poison, and indeed is spiritual poison.

[3] Wherefore in the Word poison signifies deceit, and poisonous serpents, such as asps, cockatrices, and vipers, signify the deceitful; as in the following passages:--

In heart ye work perversities, their poison is like the poison of a serpent; like that of the deaf asp (Ps. 58:2, 4).

They cogitate evils in the heart, they sharpen their tongue like a serpent; the poison of the asp is under their lips (Ps. 140:2, 3).

They lay eggs of the asp, and weave the spider's webs, he that eateth of their eggs dieth (Isa. 59:5).

He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper's tongue shall slay him (Job 20:16).

Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel gall of asps (Deut. 32:33).

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of Gehenna (Matt. 22:29, 33).

[4] Deceit is called hypocrisy when there is piety in the mouth, and impiety in the heart; or when there is charity in the mouth, but hatred in the heart; or when there is innocence in the face and gesture, but cruelty in the soul and breast; consequently when they deceive by a show of innocence, charity, and piety. Such are serpents and vipers in the internal sense, because, as before said, when such are looked at by the angels in the light of heaven, they appear like serpents and like vipers, who hide evils under truths; that is, who deceitfully bend truths to the doing of evils; for such hide poison as it were under the teeth, and thus kill.

[5] But they who are in the faith of truth and in the life of good from the Lord, cannot be injured by the poisons of such, for they are in light from the Lord, in which the deceitful appear like serpents, and their deceits like poisons. That these are kept in safety by the Lord is meant by His words to the disciples:--

Behold I give unto you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19).

These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not harm them (Mark 16:17, 18).

The suckling shall play on the hole of the viper (Isa. 11:8).

[6] Those who have been interiorly infected with spiritual deceit, that is, with hypocrisy, are they who are meant by those who speak against the Holy Spirit, for whom there is no forgiveness, in Matthew:--

I say unto you, All sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy of the spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. Nay, if anyone shall say a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come. Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad and its fruit bad. O offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak what is good (Matt. 12:31-34);

by saying a word against the Holy Spirit is meant to speak well and think evil, and to do well and will evil, respecting those things which are of the Lord, of His kingdom, and of His church, also which are of the Word; for thus falsity lies inwardly hidden in the truths which they speak; and evil, which is hidden poison, in the goods which they do; consequently they are called an offspring of vipers.

[7] In the other life an evil person is allowed to speak evil and also falsity; but not good and truth, because there all are compelled to speak from the heart, and are not allowed to be of a divided mind. They who do otherwise are separated from the rest, and are hidden in hells from which they cannot possibly go forth. That such are they who are meant by those who say a word against the Holy Spirit is evident from the above words of the Lord, Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; how can ye, being evil, speak what is good? The Holy Spirit denotes the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, thus the Holy Divine Itself, which is thereby interiorly blasphemed and profaned.

[8] That it will not be forgiven them is because hypocrisy or deceit in connection with Holy Divine things infects the interiors of man, and destroys everything of spiritual life in him, as was said above, insomuch that at last there is nothing sound in any part of him. For the forgiveness of sins is the separation of evil from good, and the rejection of evil to the sides (AC 8393), which cannot be done with him in whom all good has been destroyed. Therefore it is said It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in that which is to come. Of this character also are those who are meant by him that had not on a wedding garment, who was bound hand and foot and cast out into outer darkness (Matt. 22:11-13), (AC 2132).

[9] That deceit in the Word denotes hypocrisy is evident from the following passages:--

Beware ye every man of his companion, and put ye not your trust upon any brother; for every brother supplanteth. They mock, a man with his companion, and speak not the truth; they have taught their tone to speak a lie. Thy dwelling is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they have refused to know Me, said Jehovah (Jer. 9:4-6).

Thou shalt destroy them that speak a lie; Jehovah abhorreth the man of bloods and deceit (Ps. 5:6).

Blessed is the man unto whom Jehovah imputeth not iniquity, provided in his spirit there is no deceit (Ps. 32:2).

Deliver my soul from the lip of a lie, from a tone of deceit (Ps. 120:2).

In like manner (Ps. 52:4; 109:2).

from AC 9013

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