The Seventh Commandment

[This is taken from Emanuel Swedenborg's Spiritual Life and the Word of God.]


In what now follows something shall be said about the seventh commandment, which is, “Thou shalt not kill.”  In all the commandments of the Decalogue, as in all things of the Word, two internal senses are involved (besides the highest which is a third), one that is next to the letter and is called the spiritual moral sense, another that is more remote and is called the spiritual celestial sense.

The nearest sense of this commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” which is the spiritual moral sense, is that one must not hate his brother or neighbor, and thus not defame or slander him; for thus he would injure or kill his reputation and honor, which is the source of his life among his brethren, which is called his civil life, and afterward he would live in society as one dead, for he would be numbered among the vile and wicked, with whom no one would associate. When this is done from enmity, from hatred, or from revenge, it is murder.

Moreover, by many in the world this life is counted and esteemed in equal measure with the life of the body.  And before the angels in the heavens he that destroys this life is held to be as guilty as if he had destroyed the bodily life of his brother.  For enmity, hatred, and revenge breathe murder and will it; but they are restrained and curbed by fear of the law, of resistance and of loss of reputation.  And yet these three are endeavors toward murder; and every endeavor is an act, for it goes forth into act when fear is removed.  This is what the Lord teaches in Matthew:

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be liable to the judgment.  But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to the judgment; whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be liable to the hell of fire.” (v. 21-26)

But the more remote sense of this commandment, Thou shalt not kill, which is called the celestial spiritual sense, is that one shall not take away from man the faith and love of God, and thus his spiritual life.  This is murder itself, because from this life man is a man, the life of the body serving this life as the instrumental cause serves its principal cause.  Moreover, from this spiritual murder moral murder is derived; consequently he who is in the one is also in the other; for he who wills to take away a man’s spiritual life is in hatred against him if he cannot take it away, for he hates the faith and love in him, and thus the man himself.  These three, namely, spiritual murder, which pertains to faith and love, moral murder, which pertains to reputation and honor, and natural murder, which pertains to the body, follow in a series one from the other, like cause and effect.  (A.E., n. 1012.)

As all who are in hell are in hatred against the Lord, and thus in hatred against heaven, for they are against goods and truths, so hell is the essential murderer or the source of essential murder.  It is the source of essential murder because man is man from the Lord through the reception of good and truth; consequently destruction of good and truth is destruction of the human itself, thus the killing of man.

That those who are in hell are such has not yet been known in the world, because in those who belong to hell and therefore after death come into hell no hatred against good and truth, or against heaven, or still less against the Lord, is evident.  For everyone while he lives in the world is in externals; and these externals are taught and trained from infancy to counterfeit such things as are honest and decorous, right and equitable, and good and true. Nevertheless, hatred lies concealed in their spirit, and this in equal degree with the evil of their life.  And as hatred is in the spirit it breaks forth when the externals are laid aside, as is the case after death.

This infernal hatred against all who are in good is deadly hatred because it is hatred against the Lord.  This can be seen particularly in their delight in doing evil, which is such as to exceed in degree every other delight, for it is a fire that burns with a lust for destroying souls.  Moreover, it has been ascertained that this delight is not from hatred against those whom they attempt to destroy, but from hatred against the Lord Himself.  And since man is a man from the Lord, and the human which is from the Lord is good and truth, and since those who are in hell are, from hatred against the Lord, eager to kill the human, which is good and truth, it follows that hell is the source of murder itself. (A.E., n. 1013.)

From what has been said above it can be seen that all who are in evils in respect to life, and in the falsities therefrom, are murderers; for they are enemies and haters of good and truth, since evil hates good and falsity hates truth.  The evil man does not know he is in such hatred until he becomes a spirit; then hatred is the very delight of his life.  Consequently from hell, where all the evil are, there constantly breathes forth a delight in doing evil from hatred; while from heaven, where all the good are, there constantly breathes forth a delight in doing good from love.  Therefore two opposite spheres meet each other in the middle region between heaven and hell, and engage in reciprocal combat.  While man lives in the world he is in this middle region.  If he is then in evil and in falsities therefrom he passes over to the side of hell, and thus comes into a delight in doing evil from hatred.  But if he is in good and in truths therefrom, he passes over to the side of heaven, and thus comes into a delight in doing good from love.

The delight in doing evil from hatred, which breathes forth from hell, is a delight in killing.  But as they cannot kill the body they wish to kill the spirit; and to kill the spirit is to take away spiritual life, which is the life of heaven.  This makes clear that the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” involves also thou shalt not hate thy neighbor, also thou shalt not hate the good of the church and its truth; for if one hates good and truth he hates the neighbor; and to hate is to wish to kill.  This is why the devil, by whom hell in the whole complex is meant, is called by the Lord, “A murderer from the beginning” (John viii, 44).

Since hatred, which is a desire to kill, is the opposite of love to the Lord and also of love toward the neighbor, and since these loves are what make heaven in man, it is evident that hatred, being thus opposite, is what makes hell in him.  Nor is infernal fire anything else than hatred; and in consequence the hells appear to be in a fire with a dusky glow according to the quality and quantity of the hatred, and in a fire with a dusky flame according to the quantity and quality of the revenge from hatred.

Since hatred and love are direct opposites, and since hatred in consequence constitutes hell in man, just as love constitutes heaven in him, so the Lord teaches,

“If thou shalt offer thy gift upon the altar, and shalt there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go; first be reconciled to they brother, and then coming offer thy gift. Be well disposed toward thine adversary whiles thou art in the way with him; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily, I say unto thee, Thou shalt not come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Matt. v. 23-26).

To be delivered to the judge, and by the judge to the officer, and by him to be cast into prison, depicts the state of the man who is in hatred after death from his having been in hatred against his brother in the world, “prison” meaning hell, and “paying the uttermost farthing” signifying the punishment that is called the fire everlasting.  (A.E., n. 1015.)

Since hatred is infernal fire it is clear that it must be put away before love, which is heavenly fire, can flow in, and by light from itself give life to man; and this infernal fire can in no wise be put away unless man knows whence hatred is and what it is, and afterward turns away from it and shuns it.  There is in every man by inheritance a hatred against the neighbor; for every man is born into a love of self and of the world, and in consequence conceives hatred, and from it is inflamed against all who do not make one with him and favor his love, especially against those who oppose his lusts.  For no one can love himself above all things and love the Lord at the same time; neither can anyone love the world above all things and love the neighbor at the same time; since no one can serve two masters at the same time without despising and hating the one while he honors and loves the other.  Hatred is especially in those who are in a love of ruling over all; with others it is unfriendliness.

It shall be told what hatred is.  Hatred has in itself a fire which is an endeavor to kill man.  That fire is manifested in anger.  There is a seeming hatred and consequent anger in the good against evil; but this is not hatred, but an aversion to evil; neither is it anger, but a zeal for good in which heavenly fire inwardly lies concealed.  For the good turn away from what is evil, and are seemingly angry at the neighbor, in order that they may remove the evil; and thus they have regard to the neighbor’s good.  (A.E., n. 1016.)

When a man abstains from hatred and turns away from it and shuns it as devilish, love, charity, mercy, clemency flow in through heaven from the Lord, and then for the first time the works that he does are works of love and charity; while the works he had done before, however good might be their appearance in the external form, were all works of love of self and of the world, in which hatred lurked whenever they were not rewarded.  So long as hatred is not put away so long man is merely natural; and the merely natural man remains in all his inherited evil, nor can he become spiritual until hatred, with its root, which is love of ruling over all, is put away; for the fire of heaven, which is spiritual love, cannot flow in so long as the fire of hell, which is hatred, stands in the way and shuts it out.  (A.E., n. 1017.)





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