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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
On the Internal Sense of the Word
By Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772)
From ‘The Doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures’

IT is on every one’s lips that the Word is from God, is Divinely inspired, and consequently holy; but still it has not hitherto been known where, in the Word, the Divine is. For in the letter the Word appears like an ordinary writing, in a foreign style, neither sublime nor lucid, as the writings of the present age apparently are. Owing to this, a person who worships nature instead of God, or more than God, and who therefore thinks from himself and his proprium, and not from heaven and from the Lord, may easily fall into error respecting the Word, and into contempt for it, saying within himself when he is reading it, “What is this? What is that? Is this Divine? Can God who has infinite wisdom speak so? Where is its holiness? and whence, unless from some religious system and persuasion from it?”  1
  But he who thinks in this manner does not consider that Jehovah himself, who is the God of heaven and earth, spake the Word through Moses and the prophets, and that it must therefore be the Divine Truth itself; for that which Jehovah himself speaks can be nothing else. Nor does he consider that the Lord, who is the same as Jehovah, spake the Word written by the Evangelists, many things from his own mouth, and the rest from the breath of his mouth, which is the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that he says that in his words there is life, and that he himself is the Light which enlightens, and is the Truth.  2
  But still the natural man cannot from these considerations be persuaded that the Word is the Divine Truth itself, in which are Divine Wisdom and Divine Life; for he looks at it from its style, in which he does not see those things. Yet the style of the Word is the Divine style itself, with which no other can be compared, however sublime and excellent it may seem; for any other is like thick darkness, in comparison with light. The style of the Word is such that holiness is in every sentence, and in every word; yes, in some places in the very letters: hence the Word conjoins man with the Lord, and opens heaven. There are two things which proceed from the Lord,—Divine Love and Divine Wisdom; or, which is the same, Divine Good and Divine Truth. The Word in its essence is both of these; and because it conjoins man with the Lord and opens heaven, as was said, therefore the Word fills the man who reads it from the Lord and not from himself alone, with the good of love and truths of wisdom; his will with the good of love, and his understanding with truths of wisdom. Hence man has life through the Word.  3
  Lest therefore man should be in doubt whether the Word is such, its internal sense has been revealed to me by the Lord, which in its essence is spiritual, and is within the external sense—which is natural—as the soul is in the body. That sense is the spirit which gives life to the letter; it can therefore bear witness to the Divinity and sanctity of the Word, and can convince even the natural man, if he is willing to be convinced.  4
  The Divine, proceeding from the Lord to its lowest extreme, descends by three degrees, and is named Celestial, Spiritual, and Natural. The Divine which descends from the Lord to human beings descends through these three degrees; and when it has descended, it contains those three degrees in itself. Such is the case with everything Divine; therefore when it is in its lowest degree, it is in its fullness. Such is the Word: in its lowest sense it is natural, in its interior sense it is spiritual, and in the inmost it is celestial; and in every sense it is Divine. That the Word is such, is not apparent in the sense of its letter, which is natural, for the reason that man in the world has heretofore known nothing concerning the heavens, and so has not known what the spiritual is, nor what the celestial; and consequently he has not known the difference between them and the natural.  5
  Nor can the difference of these degrees from one another be known without a knowledge of correspondence: for the three degrees are wholly distinct from each other, just as the end, the cause, and the effect are; or as the prior, the posterior, and the postreme: but they make a one by correspondence; for the natural corresponds to the spiritual, and also to the celestial. What correspondence is, may be seen in the work on ‘Heaven and Hell,’ where the ‘Correspondence of all things in Heaven with all things of Man’ is treated of (n. 87–102), and the ‘Correspondence of Heaven with all things of the Earth’ (n. 103–115). It will also be seen from examples to be adduced below, from the Word.  6
  Whereas the Word interiorly is spiritual and celestial, it is therefore written by mere correspondences; and that which is written by mere correspondences, in its ultimate sense is written in such a style as is found in the Prophets and in its Gospels. And although this sense appears common, still it stores up within itself Divine Wisdom and all Angelic Wisdom.  7

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