Originally published in the Swedenborg Foundation’s newsletter, Logos, in the summer of 2002.
Translated by Stuart Shotwell, Managing Editor of the New Century Edition
One of the forthcoming titles in the New Century Edition series is the transitional work Worship and Love of God. In rich and colorful Latin that virtually revels in haunting symbolism, this long-neglected prose poem describes the creation of the world and the upbringing of Adam and Eve. Composed in a few months in 1745, it bridges the two main periods in Swedenborg’s life: his career as a scientist and his many years of experiencing the spiritual world on a daily basis. Thus, it touches both on the topics that fascinated him as a scientist and the themes of love and wisdom that illumine his theological works.
In the following excerpt from §§29–30, Swedenborg in his role as poet explains the state of the world after the plants and animals had been created, but before the creation of Adam. He looks forward to the creation of the first human in terms that express not only the promise of that first individual, but the divine promise given each of us. We can, if we live a spiritually aware life, “look upon the paradise of heaven from the paradise of earth, and from heaven in turn upon the earthly paradise, and thus with a kind of inner vision embrace and measure both simultaneously.”
Worship and Love of God §29
§30 Worship and Love of God
“The earth, now rich in its living creatures, and well supplied and beautified with fruitful pleasures, had progressed, ranging through its stages, until it finally reached the midpoint of its spring season, at which point the temperature was mildest. It had given birth to its utmost capacity—and now it overflowed with every benefit. The milk dropping from the branches, which were still fertile despite their recent pregnancy, ran out heavily now that the infant creatures of the wild had been weaned, flowing back to the roots of the mothering foliage through new veins. The grassy sleeping dens were packed and sticky with honey that dripped from the combs of countless colonies of bees. Silkworms spun their allotted thread and strewed the filaments fastened to their bobbins across the face of the earth like humble goods for sale. All animals were busied with the tasks that suited their own natures. . . .
Now the world was in its ultimate state. Each sense had all it needed to exalt life and replenish joy in the soul itself. For the touch, there was the gratifying warmth of this spring, mingled with an earthy moisture, which stole agreeably into every fiber. For the sense of smell, there were fragrances exhaling from every pore of every leaf; and because the air was saturated with these odors, the inner netlike structures of the lungs and their air sacs, and so the chest itself, expanded beyond their usual. For the sense of taste, there were fruits of the most exquisite flavor, and clusters of grapes hanging down from the leafy vine to the ground. . . . For the sense of hearing, there was the harmony of countless birds and their enthralling songs, which resounded so tunefully in the meadows that the innermost recesses of the brain trembled concordantly as they overwhelmed it. For the sight, there was the entire vista of heaven and earth, whose greatest visible objects had been beautifully set off by the smallest. . . .
Yet there still was missing any being to judge these pleasures of the senses by referring them to its own mind, or to personal awareness and perception; a being to assess with the faculty of intellect the beauty arising from all these harmonies; then to feel joy from such beauty; from this joy as it proceeded from its true origin, to form conclusions concerning goodness; and finally from this goodness to understand happiness. There was missing, I say, that child of earth—a mind in human form that could look upon the paradise of heaven from the paradise of earth, and from heaven in turn upon the earthly paradise, and thus with a kind of inner vision embrace and measure both simultaneously; who would know pleasure itself to the full at the two realms joined as one; who would then, from a genuine source of gladness and love, venerate and worship foremost the Giver and Creator of all things.”
The New Century Edition logo is based on the design chosen by Swedenborg to appear as the ornament on the title page of the first edition of Heaven and Hell. It shows a heart cradled in a pattern of leaves and scrolls that suggests the outline of a crown. Not only does the design have affinities with the sacred heart motif common in Christian iconography, but it has a special resonance in Swedenborg’s theology and in his description of his spiritual experiences. In True Christianity, he mentions the crown as a symbol of the new church he has foretold; and in his Journal of Dreams, he writes: “I saw in a vision a heart full of blood; it was love.”