What are the stories in Genesis about?
Was the world really created in six days, or is there some deeper meaning?
What about Adam and Eve? Noah and the Ark?
How can we believe these stories in the first few chapters of Genesis when science tells us that the universe is billions of years old, humans evolved from lower animals, and there isn’t anywhere near enough water on earth to cover all the mountains in a worldwide flood? Is the Bible just plain wrong? Or is science itself an illusion, as many Christian fundamentalists claim?
If these questions trouble you, I recommend Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, by Emanuel Swedenborg. This volume, the first of fifteen volumes covering the books of Genesis and Exodus, sets the stage and provides the opening acts for a revolutionary new way of understanding the Bible—especially the early, mythical stories in the first few chapters of Genesis.
For example, the Creation story in Genesis chapter one is revealed not as a mere literal account of how people thousands of years ago thought God created the world, but as a divinely inspired story of our spiritual rebirth as new creations in the image and likeness of God.
In Secrets of Heaven, Swedenborg looks at the stories in Genesis and Exodus chapter by chapter and verse by verse, explaining the deeper, spiritual meanings in the Word of God. These meanings provide new and deeper light on our own spiritual journeys, and on the inner life of Jesus Christ when he lived among us here on earth.
Secrets of Heaven
By Emanuel Swedenborg
Secrets of Heaven was originally published in London, 1749-1756, in eight Latin volumes. I recommend the New Century Edition linked here for the most readable and accurate modern translation.
To purchase Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1 on Amazon, click the cover image above, or any of the title links. To purchase direct from the publisher in various formats, or to download a free PDF or epub version (without the scholarly introduction and notes), click this link.
Review from the Publisher’s Website:
Secrets of Heaven is a verse-by-verse exposition of Genesis and Exodus, showing the correspondences (connections through symbol between the material and spiritual world) in which, according to Swedenborg’s analysis, the Bible is written. Each chapter includes embedded sections describing Swedenborg’s spiritual experiences and expounding his theological views.
This book series is Swedenborg’s largest and in many ways most challenging title, but it contains abundant points of interest to reward the adventurous reader. In addition to a deep exploration of biblical inner meaning, it presents Swedenborg’s transcendent visions of heaven and correspondingly horrific views of hell; his reports on the process of dying and entering life after death; his spiritual anthropology (specifically, his descriptions of the spiritual state of the earliest people); and his views on many other topics, including the correspondences of the organs and systems of the human body, the theory of a higher and more perfect level of memory above our conscious memory, the existence and nature of human life on other planets, the dual nature of visions and dreams, and the nature of the human mind and its developmental stages.
Volume 1 covers Genesis 1–8, in which Swedenborg describes the inner meaning of the creation story, the fall of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s deliverance from the flood. He understands the days of creation as an image of the stages of human spiritual transformation; Adam and Eve as symbols for the earliest ancient “church,” a people who eventually fell away from God; and Noah as a symbol of the good individuals who were spared from the evil thinking that flooded human minds during that decline. Interspersed with Swedenborg’s explorations of these narratives are his accounts of stages in the transition to the afterlife. He also describes the nature of the soul after death and the joy experienced in heaven, before concluding with descriptions of hell.
The New Century Edition is a modern translation that incorporates the latest scholarship about Swedenborg and his times.
Translated by Lisa Hyatt and published in 2006
by the Swedenborg Foundation, West Chester, Pennsylvania