We believe that each person, in nearly every situation has the means, through their understanding, intention, and motivation, to live a life that supports their spiritual growth.
The Bible is the basis of our understanding. In light of Swedenborg’s work, we’re able to fully appreciate its teachings. Swedenborg wrote that the Bible, with books often written long after the events it relates, by numerous authors in different places, is indeed the word of God and written in what he called “correspondences”.
Here’s how that works, taking a story familiar to most people: Noah and the Ark, from Genesis chapter 6.
In preceding chapters, Adam and Eve have eaten fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and were evicted from the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life was also in the garden and they had permission from God to eat from that tree but not the other. However, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil looked good to them so they ate from it, or incorporated, made part of themselves this knowledge. It represents the human desire to be self-ruled, our own supreme being so to speak. It was the beginning of evil in the world. From then on people could also choose to think and act exclusively on their own without understanding themselves to be dependent on God.
When we get to the story of Noah, people had become so far removed from the old ways of being that the world was full of people each believing they were the center of the universe and behaving accordingly. Almost everything was selfishness rationalized and justified. It followed that few people could choose to live as was done before the fall, who would teach them how? There were no examples to follow. Evil and selfishness had become so much the norm, no one could freely choose to the live life symbolized by the Garden of Eden. The flood that consumed everything was not a flood of water but a flood of all the falsehood and evil that comes from unrelenting selfishness which, when you think about it is easily the root of all the suffering people everywhere endure today. Only a few people who recognized the need for connection to God remained. Noah represents all of them. He was able to build the ark by obeying divine command. The tar in the story used to cover the inside and outside of the ark, represents our natural selfishness, a trait that God nevertheless uses it to keep us from doing many things that are wrong.
The ark is a symbol of the character Noah and his family formed by obeying the Lord, it had three stories, representing the three levels of our intellect: the things we know, our ability to reason and what we’re able to understand.
There was a door in the side of the ark, representing our coming and going in obedience to the Lord’s commandments. The window in the roof represents our willingness to receive guidance or light from the Lord. The animals of every kind represent our thoughts and affections also of every kind.
The ark had rooms referring to people’s will and understanding being separated in this “character” developing inside the ark being tossed through a flood of evil and falsity. At this juncture, a person becomes able to to keep their thoughts and desires separate so that even when they wanted to do something wrong, their minds could be shown the truth and they would obey it and eventually come to love it.
From: Bible Study Notes vol.1 by Anita S. Dole
This is but a small example of the layers of meaning within one Bible story. Understanding it this way does away with the need to figure out how the entire world was flooded and where that water went once it receded.