And Jacob arose, and lifted his sons and his women upon the camels. And he carried away all his acquisitions, and all his substance which he had gathered, the acquisitions of his purchase, which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan. (Genesis 31:17, 18)
Even though most of us probably aren’t planning a family trip to the land of Canaan, this biblical verse can still be relevant to our lives in the modern world.
According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, God’s Holy Word contains higher levels of meaning by which an elevated human mind can gain deeper spiritual wisdom. Angelic beings can easily grasp these higher meanings, and since humans are inwardly spirits, they have the cognitive potential to attain this level of understanding Sacred Scripture as well.
In Swedenborg’s great theological work Arcana Coelestia (Secrets of Heaven), he offers the reader a taste of what it is like to think like an angelic being. Let me use the Bible passage above as an example of how God’s Infinite Wisdom can be incorporated into a story, which on the surface, seems only to communicate a historical event.
This passage (as well as all passages in Holy Scripture) deals solely with the issue of salvation (God has no other concerns). It describes the orderly process of how humans ought to get their act together from spiritual principles.
In Scripture, Jacob obviously represents a generative sequence that started with Abraham and followed with his son Isaac, who was Jacob’s father. According to Swedenborg this sequence has a higher, spiritual meaning. It represents the top-down order by which the human heavenly mind generates the human rational mind, which finally generates or gives birth to the human natural or worldly mind of the senses. These minds are all the “progeny” of the human spirit or soul.
In the spiritual evolution and salvation of an individual, this process is reversed when one’s worldly mind begins to perceive and favor the more noble operations of its higher minds. This requires that one’s normal cognitive functions (habitual mind) become elevated.
And Jacob arose—angels interpret the words of Holy Scripture always from the higher vantage point of the orderly process by which the Lord God engineers human salvation. “Jacob arose” signifies a change in one’s mental world and attitude—an elevation of the mind towards spiritual values.
And lifted his sons and his women upon camels—Sons and women represent the ideas of one’s belief system and women symbolize the love which brought forth those ideas into the world (our spiritual “loved ones”). Putting these ideas of the mind and affections of the heart on camels symbolizes arranging one’s inner reality into a new order because camels are a means of traveling—just as arranging one’s ideas and feelings are the necessary means to reach a new spiritual place within us. In other words, we need to get our act together to make this spiritual journey.
And he carried away all his acquisition, and all his substance which he had gathered—Angels understand this to mean that when a person elevates his or her mind, he or she will take all their life’s experiences with them. One’s spiritual acquisitions in life are the knowledge we’ve accumulated and one’s substance consists of all the things we love and cherish.
The acquisitions of his purchase—To “purchase” means, spiritually, the efforts or dues paid by an individual who acquires knowledge and a certain quality of the heart.
Which he gathered in Paddan-aram—“Padden-aram” represents the place we are coming from in our heart and mind, and Canaan is the place or spiritual level we wish to arrive at.
To go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan—This symbolizes a person’s inner or spiritual journey by which one seeks to conjoin the lower or natural mind to a higher, spiritually rational mind. Since the higher spiritual mind “fathers” the lower corporeal/sensual mind in humans, a return back to the father represents the wish to return to the father’s rule (and higher standards).
I have only scratched the surface and veneer that the historical narratives of the Holy Word portray. The Sacred Word represents God’s revealed wisdom to the human race. However, God’s Wisdom is Infinite! And the Word is God! Those who study the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg can get unique glimpse at the true depth of what the Lord God intends to reveal to us.