from Robert H. Kirven, "A Concise Overview of  Swedenborg's Theology, (Appleseed & Co. MA 2003)

Table of  Contents


Chapter 6


Righteousness (Ten Commandments); Faith and Charity; Marriage Love

THE WORD "RIGHTEOUSNESS" DOES NOT APPEAR often in most translations of Swedenborg and is absent in others. Most frequently, the Latin justum is translated as "justice." But "justice" has legal implications that are not appropriate here and often seem to mean what is fair more than what is right. The Hebrew word, which Swedenborg renders as justum in translating the Old Testament, is commonly translated into English as "righteousness" in some contexts, and occasionally "justice" in others. But in the key biblical reference in which Abram "believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6), "righteousness" is both familiar and clear.

Righteousness is described in Secrets of Heaven 1813 (commenting on Genesis 15:6) as a state of being that is achieved by the Lord alone. Secrets of Heaven  8123 in this chapter's reading, however, equates it with "good from the Lord"—so that while only the Lord is righteousness, righteousness is something a person can do.

What to do, to do righteousness, is summed up in the Decalogue. The literal sense of the Ten Commandments is an adequate definition of righteousness, if the right motivation is assumed, that is, if they are done for the sake of righteousness. A more complete definition, more easily applied to the range of decisions faced in our lives, is found in the full scope of literal, spiritual, and celestial senses.

Depending on where or how you first learned the Ten Commandments, Swedenborg's numbering of them may, or may not, cause a little confusion. Some traditions make two Commandments out of what Swedenborg calls the First, since he regards the prohibition against idols as part of the command to "have no other God." Swedenborg's Second through Eighth Commandments are the Third through Ninth in the more common numbering, which makes one Tenth Commandment out of what Swedenborg counts as the Ninth and Tenth. Although Swedenborg divides the two prohibitions against coveting, he notes that their meanings are similar and discusses them pretty much as one. Since Swedenborg does recognize two meanings in the literal sense of the First Commandment, and basically one spiritual sense for the Ninth and Tenth, the discrepancy in numbering is only a superficial inconvenience.

The layers of meanings that Swedenborg points out in his explication of the Decalogue do not need further explanation here, but they should be studied with some care—both as concrete guides to right living and also as a key example for the next chapter's discussion of the Word and its Senses.

Another definition of "doing righteousness" is what Swedenborg calls the life that is charity when charity is founded on faith and thus conjoined with the Lord. The definitions given for "faith" and for "charity," both in Secrets of Heaven and in True Christianity, should be noted particularly. Faith should be distinguished especially from belief. Faith is a dynamic and open-ended desire for what is true, whereas belief is a static and uncritical acceptance of data. Furthermore, faith involves such complete integration of what is true in one's personality that it virtually becomes one's intention, while belief is a much more intellectual and superficial phenomenon. The distinction is graphically dramatized by a saying that I have heard attributed to Alan Watts: "Faith sees the finger pointing into the darkness, and bravely follows where it points without being able to see the way; but belief fearfully holds onto the finger, turning it around and sucking on it for comfort!"

The charity that Swedenborg describes is to be distinguished from the popular misconception that limits charity to making pledges to United Way and dropping spare change into blind men's cups and Salvation Army kettles. Charity is a kind of life, a way of living that draws direction from faith, and power from the Lord. Like faith, charity is a dynamic concept: it includes, but goes beyond, particular commandments and prohibitions. The life that is called charity is the human form of the heavenly life of angels.

Righteousness as the dynamic conjunction of faith and charity is also pictured for us by Swedenborg in the image of marriage love. Another note on translations is needed here. The word "conjugial" was taken from Swedenborg's Latin without translation, because it was thought to be a technical term that was somehow to be distinguished from the more common Latin word, conjugal (without an "i"), that normally is translated "marital," i.e., related to marriage. But William Wunsch, one translator of the work, has argued persuasively that Swedenborg was familiar with the works of Ovid (who used the four-syllable word because it fit his meters better than conjugal) and adopted Ovid's term to suggest the beauty and the totality of the kind of love he wished to describe. The point is not conclusive, however, and does not alter the meaning except in subtle ways; since both words appear in published translations, the reason for my preference of "marriage love" needs to be noted.

I said that marriage love is an image of true righteousness or faith-conjoined-with-charity. It is important to think of it in this way, rather than seeing it primarily as some kind of a marriage manual. There are four levels of conjunction in perfect reality, each parallel to the others and each serving as illuminating illustrations of the others. At the most particular level, there is the conjunction of intention and discernment (will and understanding) in an individual, the product of regeneration. Next, there is the conjunction of a man and a woman in marriage, which potentially or ideally can be so complete that they become one instead of two, without either of them losing their individuality. On a larger scale, there is the conjunction between the church and the Lord (the "church" both corporately and individually, since each person in whom the church exists is a church). Supremely, there is the conjunction of what is good with what is true in the Lord; that is, the conjunction of divine love and divine wisdom that is God.

Swedenborg uses human marriage as a model for the supreme conjunction, but the image illuminates the other levels as well. The image includes not only the intimate interdependence of life, but also the pinnacle of physical delight, as a model of the interdependence and joy of human life that is bonded to heaven in the marriage between the church and the Lord.

Insofar as marriage love presents an image that illustrates higher "marriages," it does refer specifically to the marriage relationship that unites a man and a woman. The nouns, man (Latin vir), and woman (mulier), appear much less often in the work than the substantive adjectives, "male" and "female," and "masculine" and "feminine." Substantive adjectives, as has been pointed out before, are adjectives that do not modify any stated noun, but are used in place of a noun that the reader must assume. The importance of this can be seen in the complex pattern of multiple imagery that the work involves. If the adjectives are read as modifying "persons," they refer to men and women. But if they refer to "aspects," "qualities," or something of the kind, then they refer to dichotomous characteristics within each individual, i.e., within each man and each woman. It should be noted especially that Marriage Love 32-33 in this chapter's reading defines what is inmost (another substantive adjective), and what clothes what is inmost, in the male and in the female. The nouns "man" and "woman" each occur only once in the two paragraphs, and that is in the reference to the quotation from Genesis—a passage Swedenborg describes in Secrets of Heaven 147-159 as defining the origin of the human proprium, not that woman was formed out of the rib of man (Secrets of Heaven 152).

In broad generalities, and especially when speaking symbolically, it can be said that "man" is the same as what is masculine, and "woman" is what is feminine. But both exist within each man and each woman, just as much as they exist in partners in a marriage, and in the Lord and his church, as well as in divine love and divine wisdom. The full implications of this interaction of imagery is as much beyond the scope of this summary as the book Marriage Love goes beyond the two paragraphs just cited. But this much discussion should help to warn against easy oversimplifications of a beautiful but complex treatment.

Although no assignments are made in the second half of the book, its presence should be noted. The first part describes the perfect marriage that reflects the perfect bond between divine love and divine wisdom in the Lord, and the second part describes the range of male-female relationships that is less perfect than that. William Wunsch observed that this is Swedenborg's largest consecutive treatment of ethics: it breaks down the distinction between good and evil into multiple distinctions between "shades of gray" and graphically demonstrates how one option can be "good" if it is better than its alternative, but "evil" if it is compared to a still better alternative; ad infinitum in both directions.

Marriage Love has been a source of intense controversy. It is interesting in many ways and extremely beautiful in places. The brief assignment in it is merely to illustrate its place in Swedenborg's system from the perspective of this course.


Read the following passages from Swedenborg. For further reading in other published versions, see the passages listed just below:

Secrets of Heaven 147-159, 1813, 8022-8037, 8120-8124, 8152-8157, 8859 Marriage Love 32-33, 41, 60-67
True Christianity 291-330, 336, Chapters 6 and 7


Righteousness (Ten Commandments); Faith and Charity; Marriage Love

SH 896

To see what is true is one thing, to recognize it as true is another, and having faith is something else again. Seeing is the first step in regeneration, recognizing is the second, and having faith is the third. The difference between seeing, recognizing and having faith can be seen in this: the worst of us can see what is true without recognizing its truth. This is the case with ... people who endeavor to demolish matters of doctrine with brilliant arguments. Some of us can recognize [the truth in what we see] as well, and sometimes even preach, support, and persuade with zeal, but not have faith. [2] However, those of us who have faith see what is true, recognize its truth, and believe it—and so have faith and conscience. Faith cannot be attributed to us (we cannot be said to "have faith") unless we are like this.

This is what it means to be regenerating. Merely being aware of something belonging to faith is an act of memory, not involving assent by our rational faculty. Recognizing it is indeed rational assent for some purpose or other. But having faith is an activity of our conscience (that is, the Lord's activity working through our conscience). These distinctions become clearest by looking at the next life. Many of those who are merely aware of what is true are in hell. Many of those who recognize the truth are there also, for their recognition in this life was confined to certain states, as just mentioned.... On the other hand, those who have had faith are in heaven.

SH 8033

This is what charity and faith are in human experience: charity [or compassion] is an internal inclination which takes shape as a heartfelt desire to do what is good for one's neighbor, doing it without reward, and being happier doing that than anything else in life.

SH 8034

Faith, on the other hand, is an internal inclination which takes shape in a heartfelt desire to know what is true and what is good, and doing so not for the sake of teaching, but for the sake of living. This inclination links itself to the one called charity because it involves the desire to act according to what is true—therefore, to do what in itself is true.

People who naturally follow their inclinations of charity and faith believe that none of their desire to do good and none of their understanding of what is true is their own desire and understanding, but that their intention to do what is good, and their discernment of what is true, are theirs from the Lord.

SH 8036

That's what charity and faith are like. Those who have them have the Lord's reign and heaven within them. They also have the church within them. They are the ones who have been regenerated by the Lord and have received new intentionality and new intelligence from him.

SH 8037

People whose goal consists of loving themselves and the world cannot possibly have any charity or faith in them. People who are ruled by those loves do not even know what charity is or what faith is. They cannot comprehend how heaven within a person can consist of desiring a neighbor's good without thought of reward, or that the inclination to do so brings happiness like the indescribable happiness of the angels. They think that if they were deprived of the joy they get from prestige and wealth, there would be no joy at all. However, that is just the point at which heavenly joy begins, and that joy infinitely transcends the joy they know.

SH 8120

People think that "charity toward the neighbor" means giving to the poor, helping the needy, and doing good to everyone. But real charity is acting prudently to achieve a good result. Whenever you help a poor or needy person who is doing something wrong, that help does harm to your neighbor: being helped encourages malefactors in their bad habits and supports their bad actions against others. It is different when you help someone who is doing something good.

SH 8121

Caring about your neighbor involves a lot more than just helping the poor and the needy. Charity toward your neighbor is doing whatever you do well, and doing all you are supposed to do in any job. Judges who make fair judgments, punishing the guilty and acquitting the innocent, exercise charity by showing concern for the individuals being judged, the community, and also for the Lord's reign. Their care for the Lord's reign is seen in their administration of justice for the sake of justice, their care for individuals is seen in acquittal of those who are innocent, and their care for their community appears in the punishment of the guilty. Priests are exercising charity when they teach what is true and lead people to live good lives for the sake of what is true and good. But priests who do the same things for selfish and worldly reasons are not exercising charity, because they do not care about their neighbor but only themselves.

SH 8122

The same applies to all of us, both on the job and privately. It applies to how children treat parents and parents treat children, how workers treat employers and employers treat workers, how citizens act toward their government, and how governments deal with citizens. All of these who do what they should because they should, and do what is right because it is right, are exercising charity.

SH 8152

The principles and lifestyles of people who are in the spiritual church are governed by faith bonded to charity. Good actions that come out of faith— that is, charity—are essential and primary with those who belong to the inherently spiritual church. But there are others, with whom what is true that comes out of faith—that is, faith—is essential and primary. They are not part of the innately spiritual church because the church is constituted by life, and not by teachings (except as they become life). You can see from this that the Lord's church is not in this or that place; it is found wherever people live according to principles of charity—both within and outside nations where the church exists. Indeed, the Lord's church is spread throughout the world and is not many churches, but one. When the church is a way of life—as opposed to a theology separated from life—then there is one church; but if the church consists of a doctrinal system, there are many churches.

ML 32

Human beings live as humans after death. Since humans are male and female and there is a difference between masculinity and femininity—enough difference that one cannot be changed into the other—it follows that males live as males and females live as females, each being a human spirit. It's plain enough that males cannot be changed into females, nor females into males, and that therefore after death, males are males and females are females. Since no one knows what essentially constitutes masculinity and femininity, more needs to be said here.

The distinction between them essentially rests in this: love is the essential core of masculinity, and this love is clothed in wisdom; masculinity is love concealed by wisdom. On the other hand, that same wisdom—the wisdom at the heart of masculinity—is the essential core of femininity. Its clothing is love from the same source, but this love is feminine love and it is given to wives by the Lord through their husbands' wisdom. The love at the core of masculinity, on the other hand, is love of learning. It is given by the Lord to husbands according to their reception of wisdom. This is why males are love's wisdom and females are that wisdom's love. Because of this interdependence, a love of uniting-into-one was instilled into everyone from is seen in these words from Genesis: Jehovah God took one of the man's ribs and closed up the flesh over its place; and he shaped the rib (which he had taken from the human) into a wife; and he brought her to the human, and said, "Here is bone from your bone, and flesh of your flesh, and she shall be called woman [Hebrew: ishah] because she was taken from a man [Hebrew: ish] (Genesis 2:21-23).

What "rib" and "flesh" mean is explained elsewhere.[8. Notes]

ML 33

From birth, male qualities involve intellect and female ones involve intentions (a design flowing from this [biblical] origin). In other words, males are born with a desire to know, understand, and be wise; and females are born with a love of uniting with that desire in a male. Inner qualities form outer ones to resemble themselves, and the masculine form is intellect-centered and the feminine form is centered in loving the intellect, so males have a different look, sound, and physique than females. Males have a tougher appearance, a harsher voice, and a stronger body—and (on top of everything else) a beard, and a generally less beautiful form than females. Males and females even differ in behavior and manners. In short, nothing whatever is the same about the two, yet they both have a tendency to come together in every respect.

Indeed, masculinity is in the male in every part; even the smallest part of his body, even every idea of his thinking and every ounce of his feeling. Femininity is the same in females. One cannot be converted into the other; so it follows that after death, males are male and females are female.

ML 41

Jesus said, "Children of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who shall be held worthy to attain the second age, and the resurrection of the dead, shall neither marry nor be given in marriage. Neither can they die any more, for they are like angels and are sons of God, together with the sons of the resurrection. Moreover, Moses showed at the bush that the dead rise again, calling the Lord 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'
For truly he is not a God of the dead but of the living, for all live to him." (excerpted from Luke 20:27-38; Matthew 22:22-31; Mark 12:18-27).

The Lord taught two things by this: one, that people rise again after death; and two, that people in heaven are not given in marriage....

[2] By saying, "those who shall be held worthy to attain the second age shall neither marry nor be given in marriage," he taught that people are not given in marriage. The only kind of marriage he meant is spiritual weddings, as can be seen from his next words, that they cannot die any more, for they are like angels and are sons of God, together with the sons of the resurrection. Spiritual weddings mean union with the Lord. This happens on earth, and when it has happened here it has happened in heaven too; so people are not married and given in marriage again in heaven....

[3] The following passages also show that "to have a wedding" is to be joined to the Lord, and "to enter into marriage" is to be received in heaven by the Lord: The reign of heaven is like someone, a king, who celebrated a marriage for his son and sent out...servants and invited [people] to the wedding (Matthew 22:1-14).

The reign of heaven is like ten virgins who...went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them, who were ready, went in to the wedding (Matthew 25:1, ff.).

The Lord meant himself, as can be seen in the following verse: Pay attention, for you don't know the day or hour when the Son of Man is coming (Matthew 25:13).

Again, from the Book of Revelation: The time has come for the Lamb's marriage, and his bride has prepared herself.... Those who are invited to the Lamb's marriage will be happy (Revelation 19:7, 9).

ML 60

... Real marriage love originates in marriage between what is good and what is true. Every intelligent person recognizes—for it is universally true—that everything in the universe has some relation to what is good and what is true. In fact, you cannot keep from realizing—for it is indeed universally true and coherent with the first universal—that something good is united with something true (as well as the true being united with the good) in everything and in each thing in the universe. The reason for this—everything being related to something good and something true (what is good being united with what is true and vice-versa)—is that everything good and everything true both grow out of the Lord, and merge from him as a single whole. They emanate from the Lord as love and wisdom, because these are what he is—and what everything coming from him is. All things relating to love are called good, and all things relating to wisdom are called true. Because these two grow out of the Lord as creator, it follows that both are in all that is created. This can be illustrated by the heat and light which emanate from the sun: everything on earth comes from them, germinating when they are present at the same time. Natural heat corresponds to spiritual heat, which is love; and natural light corresponds to spiritual light, which is wisdom.

ML 61

... Real marriage love is heavenly, spiritual and holy because it originates from a heavenly, spiritual, and holy source. You need to see that the origin of marriage love is part of the marriage of what is good and what is true, and a brief abstract of that subject may be useful.

I just said that a marriage of what is good and what is true exists in each and every created thing. Married union does not occur without reciprocity, for union on one side and not on the other dissolves on its own. Now, because there is a union between what is good and what is true and it is reciprocal, it follows that there is a marriage between what is true among what is good (or grows out of what is good) and what is good among what is true (or grows out of what is true).

What is true among (or stemming from) what is good exists in males and is masculinity itself; and what is good among (or growing out of) what is true exists in females and is femininity itself; and there is a marital union between the two.

ML 62

There is a correspondence between real marriage love and the marriage of the Lord and the church. That is, the Lord loves the church and wants the church to love him, just as a husband and wife love each other mutually. The existence of this correspondence between the two relationships is known in the Christian world, but its nature is unknown.... Marriage love is heavenly, spiritual, and holy, because it corresponds to the heavenly, spiritual, and holy marriage of the Lord and the church. This correspondence is derived from the marriage of what is good and what is true (as discussed in the preceding section). This is because the church in us is a marriage of the good and the true, as is the marriage between charity and faith (for charity concerns good, and what is true is a matter of faith). You cannot avoid recognizing that this marriage makes the church (for it is universally true, and everyone recognizes on first hearing whatever is universally true). This happens because of the Lord's influx, and because of heavenly affirmation. Now, since the church belongs to the Lord, being from him, and since marriage love corresponds to the marriage of the Lord and the church, it follows that marriage love comes from the Lord.

ML 63

The Lord forms the church with a man, and forms it with a wife through the man; and when it has been formed in the two together the church is fully formed. Then there is a complete marriage between what is good and what is true, and such a marriage is the church.. .. The inclination to join together (which is marriage love) exists to the same degree as the marriage of what is good and what is true (for that marriage is the church).

ML 65

Real marriage love is the foundation of all heavenly and spiritual loves, and consequently all natural loves. Marriage love, regarded in its essence, is the foundation of all loves in heaven and the church, because its origin arises from the marriage of what is good and what is true, and all the loves which make up heaven and the church in human experience spring from this marriage. What is good in this marriage produces love, and what is true in it produces wisdom; and when love approaches or marries wisdom, it becomes true love. Also, when wisdom in turn approaches love, and joins together with it, it becomes true wisdom. Real marriage love is nothing else but a marriage of love and wisdom. Two married partners possessing this love between them and in them at the same time are reflections and images of it. Indeed, in heaven—where the expression on everyone's face is a faithful representation of the affection of their love—everyone is a likeness of marriage love.

ML 66

Males were created to become forms of wisdom from their love of growing wise, and females were created to become forms of love for a man on account of—and thus in agreement with—his wisdom. From this it can be seen that two marriage partners are real forms and images of the marriage between love and wisdom, or between what is good and what is true.

You should know that nothing good or true exists that is not in some actual thing as a representation of it. There are no abstract "goods" and "trues," for they have no foundation (nor can they even appear as fleeting images). Abstractions have a virtual reality which reason fancies it can think about abstractly but which it cannot consider except as extrapolations of specific things. Every idea you have, however extrapolated, is related to some concrete thing; every idea has a concrete foundation.

Further, you should know that no concrete thing exists without having a form. An unformed substance is not anything, for nothing can be said about it, and subjects without predicates are only figments of the mind.

I have added these philosophical considerations to show that a married couple who are in real marriage love are actual forms of the marriage between what is good and what is true—or between love and wisdom.

The first commandment: There will not be another god before my face.

TC 291

These are the words of the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7. The plainest meaning, in the natural or literal sense, is that idols are not to be worshipped, for it continues: You are not to make for yourself a carving or any likeness of anything in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth. You are not to bow down before them or worship them, for I, Jehovah your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5).

The plainest meaning of this commandment is that idols are not to be worshipped; because before this time (and afterwards, down to the Lord's Coming), much of Asia practiced idolatrous worship. All churches before the time of the Lord were representative and symbolic. Their symbols and representations presented ideas about God in the form of various images and carvings, and common people began to worship these as gods when their original meanings had become lost. The golden calf, which the people of Israel worshipped in the desert instead of Jehovah,[9. Notes] shows that even they had this kind of worship when they were in Egypt. Many passages in the historical and prophetic books of the Word reveal that, even later, they were no strangers to this kind of worship.

TC 292

The natural sense of this commandment, "There will not be another God before my face," also means that no human being, alive or dead, is to be worshipped as a god, another practice found in Asia and various surrounding countries. Baal, Ashtaroth, Chemosh, Milkom, Beelzebub and other such gods in Athens and Rome, like Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Apollo, Pallas, etc., were first worshipped as saints, later as divine beings, and finally as gods. Darius the Mede's edict—that for thirty days no one should ask for anything from God, but only from the king (Daniel 6:8–end)—demonstrates that they also worshipped human beings as gods.

TC 293

The natural or literal sense of this commandment also means that nothing whatever is to be loved more than God and that nothing should be loved more than what comes from God. Anyone or anything that you love more than anything else becomes divine, becomes your God. For instance, if you love yourself or the world more than anything else, then you—or the world becomes God to you. That is why people like that do not admit in their heart that there is a God, so they are linked with like-minded people in hell (where all are gathered who loved themselves or the world more than anything else).

TC 294

The spiritual sense of this commandment is: No other God is to be worshipped except the Lord Jesus Christ, because he is Jehovah who came into the world and carried out the redemption—without which no human being nor any angel could have been saved....

TC 295

The heavenly sense of this commandment is: the Lord Jehovah is infinite, measureless, and eternal; all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end; the one who was, who is, and who will be. He is love itself and wisdom itself; he is the standard of what is good, the standard of what is true, and so the standard of what is alive. He is the sole source of everything.

TC 296

Everyone who recognizes and worships any God other than the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—who is Jehovah God in human form—sins against this first commandment. Similarly, so do those who persuade themselves that three divine persons actually exist from eternity. The more they convince themselves of this error, the more natural they become—the more immersed in bodily concerns—until they are unable to grasp any interior divine truth, even if they hear one and say they believe it.

The second commandment: You will not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain, for Jehovah will not hold anyone guiltless who takes his name in vain.

TC 297

In the natural or literal sense, this commandment forbids misusing the name itself in any kind of conversation—especially speaking falsely or lying, swearing for no reason, to avoid blame, or evil intentions (which are curses), or in witchcraft or spells. However, at coronations, ordinations into the priesthood, or inaugurations into offices of trust, swearing by God, his holiness, the Word and the Gospel, is not taking the name of God in vain (unless you take the oath and then later reject your promises as worthless).

Indeed, the name of God (which is holiness itself) should be used without fail in the sacred business of the church—as in prayers, hymns, and all services of worship, as well as in preaching and in writing on religious subjects. This is because in everything related to religion, God is present when his name is properly invoked; and when summoned, he hears. In these ways, the name of God is hallowed.

[2] The sanctity of the name of Jehovah can be established by the fact that the Jews, after their earliest period—even including the Evangelists and the Apostles—did not dare to utter "the Name" (and still do not).[10. Notes] The name of Jesus also is holy, because the Apostles said that every knee in the heavens and on earth bows (and should bow) to that name, nor can it be uttered by any devil in hell. There are many names of God which are not to be taken in vain, such as Jehovah, Jehovah God, Jehovah Sebaoth [Jehovah of Hosts], the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

TC 298

In the spiritual sense, the name of God means the whole of the church's teaching taken from the Word, the teaching through which the Lord is invoked and worshipped. All of this is included in the name of God. Therefore, "taking the name of God in vain" means using anything like this in idle talk, false statements, lies, curses, witchcraft, and spells. This, too, is denouncing and blaspheming against God and his name....

TC 299

In the heavenly sense, taking the name of God in vain means what the Lord said to the Pharisees: "A person shall be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31, 32). ... This is the meaning, too, in the heavenly sense of "hallowed be your name" in the Lord's Prayer ... and the reason that "for Jehovah will not hold anyone guiltless who takes his name in vain" is added to this commandment....

The third commandment: Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy; for in six days you are to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath for Jehovah your God.

TC 302

In the spiritual sense, this commandment refers to our reformation and regeneration by the Lord. "Six days of work" means the fight against the flesh and its lusts and at the same time against the evil motives and false ideas which are implanted in us by hell.

TC 303

In the heavenly sense this commandment means being linked with the Lord, leading to peace as the result of protection from hell. The sabbath means rest, and (in its highest sense) peace....

The fourth commandment: Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long and you may prosper upon earth.

TC 306

In the spiritual sense, honoring your father and mother means treating God and the church with respect and love. In this sense, "father" means God (who is the father of all), and "mother" means the church. Children and angels in the heavens know of no other father or mother since they are born anew through the church, by the Lord....

TC 306

In the heavenly sense, "father" means our Lord, Jesus Christ, and "mother" means the community of saints scattered throughout the world (that is, his church)....

TC 308

You need to keep in mind that a divine aura of heavenly love continually flows from the Lord toward everyone who embraces the teachings of his church, and who obeys him (as children of the world obey their father and mother), attaches themselves to him, and seeks food (that is, instruction) from him. This heavenly aura is the origin of the natural aura of love toward infants and children, a completely universal aura affecting not only human beings but also birds and beasts, even down to snakes, and even inanimate objects as well as creatures with souls....

The fifth commandment: You will not commit murder.[11.Notes]

TC 309

In the natural sense, this commandment, "You will not commit murder," means that killing a human being or inflicting a fatal wound is prohibited, as is mutilating a corpse. It also means not doing any drastic harm to anyone's name or reputation, since for many people these are more precious than life. In a wider natural sense, murder includes murderously intense feelings of hostility, hatred, and revenge....

TC 310

In the spiritual sense, murder means all kinds of killing and destroying human souls. There are many ways of doing this, such as turning them away from God, religion, and divine worship; making these things the subject of scandal; and persuading people of things which lead to hatred and rejection of them....

TC 311

In the heavenly sense, murdering means being unjustifiably angry with the Lord, hating the Lord, and wanting to blot out his name, like the people who are said to crucify him—and who would if they could.

The sixth commandment: You will not commit adultery.

TC 313

In the natural sense, this commandment prohibits not only committing adultery, but also having obscene thoughts and carrying them out—therefore it prohibits lascivious thinking and speaking [ See Matthew 5:27, 28].... The reason for this is that lust is like a deed when it enters the will. Enticement only enters the intellect, but intention is in the will, and a lustful intention is a deed.

TC 314

In the spiritual sense, committing adultery means adulterating what is good in the Word, and falsifying its truths....

TC 315

In the heavenly sense, committing adultery means denying the holiness of the Word and profaning it.

The seventh commandment: You will not steal.

TC 317

In the natural sense, this commandment means, literally, not to steal, rob, or engage in piracy in peacetime, and generally to not deprive anyone of their goods secretly or by any pretext. Also, it covers all deceit and unlawful gain, usury, and extortion, as well as fraud in payment of dues and taxes and repayment of debts. Lax and deceitful workers also offend against this commandment; so do merchants who cheat over their wares, weights, measures, and arithmetic; also officers who withhold their troops' pay, and judges who are influenced by friendship, bribery, nepotism, or whatever—perverting laws and legal processes, and depriving people of lawful possession of their goods.

TC 318

In the spiritual sense, stealing means depriving others of what is true in their faith (this is the effect of falsities and heresies). Priests whose ministry is conducted solely on account of profit or a search for prestige, and who teach what is not true when they see (or could see) from the Word that it is not, are spiritual thieves: they take away people's means of salvation (that is, what is true in their faith).

TC 319

In the heavenly sense, thieves mean those who steal the Lord's divine power from him and those who claim his merit and righteousness for themselves. However much such people may worship God, still they don't trust him but themselves, and they don't believe in him either, only in themselves.

TC 320

People who teach false and heretical doctrines, persuading common folk that what they teach is true and orthodox (although they read the Word and can know from it what is true and false), and who support false religious teachings by untruths that lead people astray, can be compared with imposters and deceivers....

The eighth commandment: You will not bear false witness against your neighbor.

TC 321

In the natural sense, testifying falsely or giving false evidence against your neighbor means not being a false witness before a judge or in front of others outside of court against someone who is wrongly accused of some crime— and doing so by swearing in God's name or something else that is holy, or even swearing by yourself or by whatever affects the reputation of your name. In a wider natural sense, this commandment forbids any kind of public lying or hypocrisy with evil intent .... In the widest natural sense, it prohibits all trickery, guile, and deliberate wrong-doing....

TC 322

In the spiritual sense, bearing false witness means persuading anyone that false ideas of faith are true and that evil ways are good...deliberately and not out of ignorance....

TC 323

In the heavenly sense, bearing false witness means speaking blasphemy against the Lord and the Word, and so chasing what is true out of the church....

The ninth and tenth commandments: You will not covet your neighbor's house, you will not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant nor his maid-servant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's.

TC 325

In the [Catholic and Protestant] catechisms in use today [i.e., around 1770], this one commandment is separated into two: the ninth, "You will not covet your neighbor's house," and the tenth, "You will not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant nor his maid-servant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's." These two commandments make a single whole and occupy one verse (Exodus 20:17, and Deuteronomy 5:21), so I have chosen to treat them together...[but number them in the usual way] since they are called the "Ten Commandments." 

TC 326

These two commandments refer back to all the preceding ones, teaching and commanding that we should not do bad things nor even wish we could....

TC 327

In the spiritual sense, these commandments forbid all longings which go against the spirit—that is, all which oppose the spirituality of the church, particularly in regard to faith and charity. If these longings were not tamed, our flesh left to its own devices would rush into every crime.


Secrets of Heaven 8032-8037, 8120-8124, 8552-8557, 8859;
Marriage Love 32-33, 41, 60-67;
True Christianity 291-330, 336, Chapters 6 and  7.


If the literal sense of the Ten Commandments can be summarized as commandments governing each person's relationship to God and to other people, how would you describe the spiritual sense with equal brevity? The celestial sense?

Suppose you have just read Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan: what would be the response of faith, and what would be the response of charity?

How would you interpret the description of the male and female "inmost" and "inmost's clothing" in the framework of an individual's (woman's or man's) regeneration?

What questions or issues does the lesson raise for you?


To Chapter 7