Are humans unique?

The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.Genesis 2:7

Dear members & friends,

When I was a child, sometimes I would spend hours and days in a public library finding and reading all the stories of myths and legends. The most fascinating story among all, of course, was how we humans came into being. Each myth is slightly different from the other, but overall most myths seem to agree that humans were made by gods (or supernatural powers) for various reasons. One commonality in all the stories I read was that humans are described as the most special and powerful creatures on earth, but also the most wicked and destructive.

Living in the 21st century, most of us share some common understanding regarding the similarities and differences between humans and other creatures. Though defining what makes humans unique is a subject of much debate, something no one can disagree on is that humans are the major contributor to the well being or destruction of our one and only planet, Earth. But what enabled humans to become so powerful? There are many theories and explanations for this question.

According to Emanuel Swedenborg, humans are powerful beings due to their inner self which resembles the Creator. In order to create beings who are capable of voluntarily acknowledging, understanding, and loving their maker, the Creator had to bestow humans with a divine essence, described as “the breath of life” in Genesis 2. Notably, the Creator breathed life into the nostrils of the man, who symbolizes the rational mind. In a way, this capacity to be rational is what makes humans unique from all other creatures. In order to be rational, according to Swedenborg, one needs two things: 1. A higher intelligence; 2. A capacity to view oneself objectively. A higher intelligence is not I.Q., but the result of acquiring and understanding of knowledge. And the capacity to view oneself objectively requires a persistent practice of self-examination. In other words, what Swedenborg is suggesting is that no one is born human, but only becomes human through a lifelong process of learning and self-examination. Conversely, if we are more focused on our emotional or instinctive mind, then we are moving farther away from becoming a human.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee