You may have tried reading Bible stories only to find them out of date and irrelevant to today. Even if you have struggled to understand any meaning, you may have given up on them as mythical nonsense. However, according to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, what makes the Bible worth reading is a deeper meaning in the words it uses and the stories it tells. This deeper meaning does not predict the future by some mysterious code but rather it is about each of us as we are on the inside.
Bible and dreams
The Bible appears to work in the same way as our dreams. People who study dreams tell us that everything in the dream is about something inside us. If you dream about your dog, it is not really your dog but something dog-like in you; devotion perhaps.
Battles in the Bible
In the Bible many battles are mentioned. But do we not have battles inside us? There can be a conflict for example between what you would naturally want and what your conscience is saying you should be doing. We read that the people always won their battles when they obeyed God. We might think of God as the deepest truth we can know. When we choose to go with this truth instead of doing things out of self-interest, then it is suggested that what is being revealed is the idea that we will always win our inner battle.
Meaning of creation story in the Bible
According to the book of Genesis, God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. This is in the opening chapter of the whole Bible. According to Swedenborg this story is a symbolic outline of each of our spiritual journeys, by stages, from chaos to humanity.
So on the first day of creation, our mind is chaotic and without direction; not understanding anything deeply true. God (that highest truth) commands there to be light. At this point, there is only light and dark, a first essential distinction for us. Can we now begin to see a focus, an alternative way, some options?
On the second day, God commands waters above and below to divide. In fact, separations happen on each of the first three days before life begins. We are offered the idea that the two waters represent our discovery that there are two levels to our life; an inner spiritual level of love and purpose, and an outer level of use and activity that serves the higher one.
On the third day dry ground emerges. A solid base that we can depend on is beginning to form in our mind. Our inner life can now begin to show itself in the very first plants, deeper ideas growing in our minds that begin to take root.
On the fourth day the light that was general is now identified as we look up and see the source of light: of what is deeply true. The sun in the sky is what the Bible calls God, that highest truth which is the source of all life and activity. There is also the moon, which reflects sunlight at time of nights in our mind when we cannot otherwise see, and need to be reminded.
On the fifth and six days of creation living creatures appear: fish and birds in sea and sky, then animals that roamed the earth. These are said to symbolise the fact that we are created as free spirits with independent thoughts and feelings that motivate and fill us. Now it can be said: ‘Let us make human beings in our image and likeness’. Being human means using our free-will and our rationality, knowing it comes from the highest source, from God who is truth.
Re-creation of the individual
Each day is a distinct stage therefore in the process of becoming a spiritual person. This can be readily understood as a creation story of how each of us is personally transformed i.e. re-created.
All this is just one example according to Swedenborg of a deeper more personal level of meaning to the Bible, a book that for many people is synonymous with religion, and with what is sacred. This deeper meaning can begin to shine through what is often confusing on the surface. It doesn’t replace the beauty and power of the stories but in-fills and transforms them.
Based on Leaflet ‘The Bible’s Deeper Meaning’ (author unknown)
Edited by Stephen Russell-Lacy Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
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