Most people are fascinated by ancient things. We love antiques. We like the connection with our ancestors. We wonder what life and culture were like in ancient times. However, we find much that is strange. Literature from the ancient past includes many fables and shows the people of that time to be superstitious. Their mythology is strange and sometimes difficult to understand. Every nation seemed to have a multitude of gods and goddesses. What are we to make of this?
The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg shed some light on the beliefs of the earliest people. Swedenborg describes their belief in the Divine Spirit that flows through heaven into all living things. It was revealed to him through heaven that this is a reality. The inflowing Spirit of God is God’s way of communicating with us and this comes in many forms but, most importantly, through the Word which, before it became a written document, was spoken directly to the earliest people and heard by an inner knowing. God also spoke to them by means of the angels as well as through signs in nature, which they interpreted through the symbolism of each created thing. Swedenborg reveals that the natural world is a theatre representative of spiritual realities. For example, water corresponds to truth. Just as water cleanses, refreshes us and quenches our thirst, so truth is cleansing, refreshing and quenches our thirst for knowledge of what is true. That is just one example to illustrate the ancient science known to the earliest people, which Swedenborg terms the “science of correspondences.”
According to the writings of Swedenborg, the original state of mankind in the world was one of far greater perfection spiritually than we enjoy today. The first men and women had an instinctive knowledge of God, whom they worshipped and loved. They thought of God as a caring, loving Being, who provided all things necessary for their spiritual and natural needs. In innocence, the most ancient people communed with God and were in the order of their creation, just as all animals are, knowing instinctively how to live their lives.
Because innocent love and trust in God reigned with these people, they dwelt in a Golden Age, a time of simplicity and acceptance of God’s will, without thought of rebellion or evil. There was genuine worship and simple spiritual thought. This continued for some ages, but during this time mankind gradually changed. His natural life became more important to him and he began to think more of personal comfort and sensual pleasures and to forget about the ways of the spirit and God’s guidance.
This fall is represented in the Bible by Eve’s desire for the forbidden fruit. This is a story that has been passed down from the ancient people by word of mouth and later written down using the science of correspondences, each character in the story representing a characteristic within each one of us. It is a parable which illustrates how mankind became more and more reliant on their own reasoning and less and less reliant on God’s guidance. They lost the ability to hear God speaking to them and began to worship idols. These idols were the pictures and images that the early people had made in order to illustrate the different attributes of the one God. Worshipping these as separate gods is how polytheism crept in.
We now know from God’s Word, or Sacred Scripture, the truth about the one God, whose many attributes make up the one Divine Being. We can think of God as a heavenly Parent in whom is the Divine trinity of soul, body and outflowing Spirit (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We can think of God as the Creator, the Provider for all of our needs, as the Divine Physician who heals us, as the Redeemer and Saviour, as the Source of all wisdom and love. But however we think of God, let us think clearly of a God who loves everyone no matter where they are born or to which religion they adhere. Besides giving us all a way of knowing our heavenly Parent, each religion has given its adherents the rules for a happy life and the way to heaven. There is not just one right way, but many ways for people to reach their heavenly home. This is pictured in the Book of Revelation by the golden city with its many gates (see one of our earliest blogs). To think that we have the only right way is to feel superior to others. But God’s universal sheepfold is made up of people of all races, creeds and cultures, who believe in a Higher Power and live their lives according to what they believe is true. As Jesus (whom Christians believe to be the embodiment of God) said, “There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them, too; they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).
It is time for the world to be united. We can be united in spirit as we allow others to think of God according to each one’s own understanding, knowing that we are worshipping the same God of heaven and earth even if known by different names.