Swedenborg and Life Recap: The Spiritual Meaning of Water – 4/3/2017

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According to the spiritual writings of eighteenth-century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, everything on earth has a spiritual meaning, or correspondence. With water making up so much up of our planet and our bodies, it makes sense that it would correspond to truth itself.

But what does that mean for us? In this episode, host Curtis Childs explores what Swedenborg learned about water and the many ways its dynamics can teach us about our own spiritual lives.


Every form of water has its own specific correspondence, so we start with water’s solid state or, more specifically, snow. Its physical characteristics can tell us something about its spiritual meaning. For example, snowflakes are complex and beautiful, reflecting the depth and variety of truth as it unfolds in our thoughts and is understood by many different types of people. Snow can also protect living things, as it does for hibernating animals and plant shoots coming up from the ground.

It just so happens that protection is truth’s spiritual role:

Goodness without truth lacks protection, for it is truth that protects goodness. (Apocalypse Revealed §764:2)

How can truth protect goodness? Think of times in your life when your emotional support is gone. In those moments, holding on to what you know to be spiritually true, even if you don’t feel it, can help carry you through.

However, nothing can grow in the safety of snow, as Curtis demonstrates using a special delivery. For growth, you need the warmth of love. In its negative correspondence, it can reveal spiritual communities who have faith without love.

Chelsea Odhner joins to share a bonus correspondence: how salt’s ability to melt ice corresponds to its own spiritual truth.


To follow liquid water’s correspondences, we’re going to travel from rain to river to ocean while looking at positive and negative correspondences for each. We start the water cycle with rain.

Rain specifically [represents] the divine truth flowing in out of heaven, from which all things of the church and heaven with [a person] are born, grow, and are brought forth. (Apocalypse Explained §376:9)

Rain can help things grow, but it can also lead to flooding and damage. Swedenborg says that rain can symbolize either a blessing or a curse. When it’s a blessing, it represents the influence of faith in our lives and the good things that result. When it’s a curse, it represents false ideas that threaten to drown out the goodness within.

Rivers form when rain is so thick that the ground can’t absorb all the water, so rivers correspond to abundance.

Rivers symbolize truths in abundance, because waters symbolize truths . . . In an opposite sense, however, rivers symbolize falsities in abundance . . . Rivers also symbolize temptations or trials, because temptations or trials are inundations of falsities. (Apocalypse Revealed §409:1, 3)

Rivers can also represent the flow of divine providence, which is how God leads us to love and peace. However, sometimes the flow of divine providence bring us to periods of necessary struggle and difficulty, as Curtis demonstrates when he gets soaked for the sake of spiritual growth.

Water’s journey ends in the ocean, where all knowledge resides.

To find waters symbolizing religious and secular knowledge, and seas symbolizing a body of such knowledge, is quite common in the Word. (Secrets of Heaven §28)

Oceans represent a vast accumulation of truth, which can be a wonderfully calming and positive thing, or they can represent overwhelming falsities. In every one of its phases water offers the hope of rebirth, as illustrated by this quote from Isaiah.


If water is truth and warmth is love, then steam must be love and truth in tandem. Just as the water cycle goes through a pattern of warming and cooling as water evaporates into the air and then condenses to become rain, we follow a cycle of love in the spiritual world. When we are full of love (= warmth), our spirits rise toward heaven; but when we go through periods when we aren’t as loving, we fall back down again. The good news is that we can always rise again.

In a couple of different passages, Swedenborg describes the “clouds” in our mind as the truths that we’ve absorbed, and their changes in shape and color reveal our spiritual state:

By these “clouds,” I mean spiritual clouds. These are thoughts that are in harmony with divine wisdom if they are based on true perceptions and that disagree if they consist of false ones. So when they are represented visually in the spiritual world, thoughts based on true perceptions look like bright clouds and thoughts based on false perceptions look like black clouds. (Divine Love and Wisdom §147)

In the spiritual world, inner truths are visible and tangible, and the presence of clouds represents those truths. There, what we know as natural occurrences are all symbols and correspondences with greater meaning.

In the wrap-up, Curtis reviews all the different forms of water and the correspondences of each. We learned that water is at its best when it’s full of heat, just as we are all at our best when we’re full of love. And if we really let that love in, we can take to the sky and shine.


Related Swedenborg and Life Videos

“Conscience: How to Build Heaven in Your Mind”
“Do We Reincarnate?”
“What Light and Heat Can Tell You about God”
“Who was Swedenborg? What should I read?”

Free E-Book Downloads

Apocalypse Explained
Apocalypse Revealed
Divine Love and Wisdom 
Secrets of Heaven


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  • About Swedenborg and Life


    In a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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