A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg/18 The First, or Most Ancient Church


This church above all the churches on the whole globe was from the Divine; for it was in the good of love to the Lord. Their voluntary and intellectual part made one, thus one mind. They therefore had a perception of truth from good; for the Lord flowed in through an internal way into the good of their will, and through this into the good of the understanding or truth. Hence it is that that church in preference to the others was called Man[1] (Adam), and also a likeness of God. (A. C. n. 4454.)

The Most Ancient church had immediate revelation from the Lord through their fellowship with spirits and angels; and also by means of visions and dreams,—from which it was given them, in a general way, to know what was good and true. And when they knew generally, then by means of perceptions they confirmed these general goods and truths as principles, by innumerable other things, which were the particulars or single things of the generals to which they related. General [perceptions] were thus daily confirmed as principles. Whatever was not in agreement with general principles they perceived was not true, and whatever was accordant with them they perceived to be true. Such also is the state of the celestial angels. In the Most Ancient church the generals which were as principles were celestial and eternal verities; as, that the Lord governs the universe; that all good and truth are from the Lord; that all life is from the Lord; that man's proprium is nothing but evil; and that in itself it is dead; with other like things. They received from the Lord a perception of innumerable things confirming, and harmonizing with them. Love, with them, was the principal of faith; and through love it was given them of the Lord to perceive whatever was of faith; and therefore faith with them was love, as was said before, (ib. n. 597.)

The Word in the Most Ancient church, which was before the flood, was not a written Word, but was revealed to every one who was of the church; for they were celestial men, and so were in the perception of good and truth, like the angels, with whom also they had fellowship. They thus had the Word inscribed on their hearts, (ih, n. 2896.)

The Worship of the Most Ancient Church.

The man of the Most Ancient church had no other than internal worship, such as there is in heaven; for with them heaven so communicated with man that they made one. This communication was the perception of which so much has been said above. And being thus angelic they were internal men; sensible indeed of the external things relating to their bodies and the world, but not caring for them; perceiving in all objects of sense something Divine and heavenly. Thus, for example, when they saw any high mountain, they did not receive the idea of a mountain, but of height, and from height they had a perception of heaven and of the Lord. Hence it came to pass that the Lord was said to dwell on high; and that He Himself was called the Highest, and the Most Exalted; and that the worship of the Lord was afterwards offered up on mountains. And so in other things. Thus, when they perceived the morning, they did not perceive the morning itself of the day, but the heavenly state which was like the morning and day-dawn in their minds. Hence the Lord was called the Morning, the East (Oriens), and the Day-Spring. So when they beheld a tree, and its fruit and leaves, their attention was not occupied with these, but they saw in them as it were man represented,—in the fruit, love and charity; in the leaves, faith. Hence too the man of the church was not only compared to a tree and so to a paradise, and what was in him to fruit and leaves, but they were even so called. Such are they who are in heavenly and angelic ideas. Every one can recognise the fact that the general idea governs all particulars,—thus, all the objects of sense, both those that they see and those that they hear; and even so that they pay no attention to the objects, except in so far as they flow in with one's general idea. Thus, to him who is of joyful mind all things that he sees and hears appear as it were smiling and joyful; and to him who is of sorrowful mind, all things that he sees and hears appear as if sad and sorrowful. So with all other things. For the general affection is in the particular things, and makes one see and hear particular things in the general affection. Otherwise they do not even appear, but are as if they were absent, or as nothing. Thus it was with the man of the Most Ancient church; whatever he saw with his eyes was to him heavenly; and thus with him each and all things were as if alive. From this it is evident what the nature of his Divine worship was; that it was internal, and in no respect external. (A. C. n. 920.)

The Most Ancients performed Holy Worship in Tents.

The reason why a tent is taken in the Word to represent the celestial and holy things of love is, that in ancient times they performed holy worship in their tents. But when they began to profane tents by unholy worship the tabernacle was built, and afterwards the temple; and therefore what the tabernacle and afterwards the temple represented was also signified by tents. For the same reason a holy man was called a tent, and a tabernacle, and also a temple of the Lord. That a tent, a tabernacle, and a temple have the same signification is evident in David: "One thing have I desired of Jehovah, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Jehovah, and to inquire in His temple; for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His tabernacle; in the secret of His tent shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices of shouting" (Psalm xxvii. 4-6). In the highest sense the Lord as to His Human essence is the tent, the tabernacle, and the temple. Hence every celestial man is so called; and everything celestial and holy. And because the Most Ancient church was more beloved of the Lord than any which succeeded, and they then lived apart or in their own families, and celebrated so holy worship in their tents, therefore tents were accounted more holy than the temple which was profaned. In remembrance thereof the feast of tabernacles was instituted, when they gathered the increase of the land; during which they dwelt in tabernacles, like the most ancients (Levit. xxiii 39-44; Deut. xvi. 13; Hosea xii. 9). (A. C. n. 414.)

The Most Ancient Church was composed of several Different Churches.

By the names which follow, as Seth, Enos, Canaan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah, so many churches are meant, of which the first and principal was the one called Man.[2] Of these churches the chief characteristic was perception; and therefore the differences of the churches of that time were chiefly differences of perception. Concerning perception it may here be mentioned that in the universal heaven there prevails only perception of good and truth; and it is such that it cannot be described,—with innumerable differences, so that one society has not the same perception as another. There are genera and species of perceptions there, and the genera are innumerable, and the species of each genus are likewise innumerable; of which by the Divine mercy of the Lord hereafter. Since there are innumerable genera, and innumerable species of each genus, and still more innumerable varieties in each species, it can be seen how little,—almost nothing,—the world knows at this day about spiritual and celestial things, when it does not even know what perception is, and if told does not believe that it exists. And so with other things. The Most Ancient church represented the celestial kingdom of the Lord, even as to the generic and specific differences of perception. But as what perception is, in its most general character, is at this day utterly unknown, if the genera and species of the perceptions of these churches were described, nothing but strange and unaccountable things would be told. They were for that reason distinguished into houses, families, and tribes, and contracted marriages within the houses and families,—in order that genera and species of perceptions might exist, and be derived no otherwise than according to propagations of native qualities from parents. Those who were of the Most Ancient church therefore dwell together also in heaven. (A. C. n. 483.)

These three churches, Man, Seth, and Enos, constitute the Most Ancient church; yet with a difference of perfection as to their perceptions. The perceptive faculty of the first church here and there diminished in the succeeding churches, and became more general. Perfection consists in the faculty of perceiving distinctly; which is diminished when the perception becomes not so distinct and more general. Then in place of the clearer perception an obscurer succeeds; and so it begins to pass away. (ib. n. 502.)

Enos, as was said, is the third church,—one of the Most Ancient, but less celestial and consequently less perceptive than the church Seth; and this was not so celestial and perceptive as the parent church called Man. These three, which constitute the Most Ancient church, relatively to those that follow, are as it were the kernel of the fruits or seeds; and the following compare, relatively, to their investing membrane. {ib. n. 505.)

Perception in the Most Ancient Church.

With the man of the Most Ancient church there was ground in his will, in which the Lord inseminated goods; in consequence of which he was enabled to know and perceive what was true, or Page:A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.djvu/428 Page:A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.djvu/429

  1. The word Adam אָדָם‬‎ is the Hebrew generic word for man; corresponding with the Latin homo, and with our word man in the sense of mankind.
  2. See note p. 328. For a full account of the successive propagations of the Most Ancient church, indicated by the various names in Genesis, from Adam to Lamech, or to near the time of the deluge, see A. C. 468-536. F.