What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God?

This topic requires several layers of exposition. For instance, someone inclined to think of this topic from a corporeal/sensual level, that is, from things learned in the physical world, may simply conclude that God has ten fingers and toes like we do and stands upright.

Going deeper, scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg stated that the human will (heart) and understanding (intellect) represent the image and likeness of God’s Love and Wisdom. For without the capacity to feel and think freely we would not be human. Therefore, we get our very humanness from God’s essential character.

Going deeper still, one can also find even more insights within Swedenborg’s theological writings. After all, if a person has a depraved will and distorted intellect how can they be considered a mirror image of the Most Holy Being?

More precisely, if there is nothing for God’s Love and Wisdom to flow into and sustain a person’s vital functions—that is, nothing representative of heavenly Love and Truth within a person’s heart and mind—how does God keep the connection alive?  (All energy, spiritual or physical, must flow into its proper form through similitude.)

According to Swedenborg, God’s life-sustaining influence must also flow into a person according to correspondence—how closely one’s inner makeup reflects spiritual and noble values. To ensure this connection and correspondence is maintained, the Lord God actually devised a new strategy after the “Fall” of humankind.

God carefully stores away innocent feelings and ideas into the human subconscious mind, where they are kept safe from the vanities and allurements of the world and provide an important foundation (matrix) for heavenly love and truth to continue to flow into the lives of men and women. Swedenborg called this matrix the “remains” and it serves as a plane for spiritual conscience to grow and evolve within our being-experience.

Conscience is a representative mirror of God in our lives. And because this “image and likeness” is kept safe in the subconscious, it keeps the Lord’s mercy operative even within the evil-minded. It is there to re-order our thoughts and feelings so that we may become better people.

But we can probe even more deeply into what conscience is. More precisely, it is an actual representation within us of God’s grieving. Mercy is love grieving. For when conscience is activated, and we perceive some disparity between our actions and knowledge, we grieve and implore God’s mercy. In this way we literally take part in some of the Lord’s suffering (who must act on an imperfect world). By engaging in this process of spiritual rebirth we remove a small burden of God’s suffering.

That certainly adds a new twist to our cosmic responsibility.


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at http://www.staircasepress.com
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2 Responses to What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God?

  1. Adri says:

    Great and little understood subject (afterall there are three Gods, so..?).
    One important point, I think, is that inflow is according to outflow. As you mentioned “All energy, spiritual or physical, must flow into its proper form through similitude” but it also can only flow in that proper form if there is energy flowing out. That is, if we are doing our ‘job’ of spending energy by loving others. Any bucket will only hold so much..

  2. thegodguy says:

    You are correct, Adri. I was concentrating on the topic of conscience and did not specify “form” as a “form of uses.” All influx indeed flows into uses! But I did mention that God’s influx of love and truth flowed into men’s and women’s lives (activities). Thanks for the additional input!

    Spiritually yours,

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