Our Spirit, Our Humanity

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Dear members and friends,

One question that has been troubling all self-conscious and intelligent people since the very beginning is, “What does it mean to be a human?” One way of answering this question was to identify how humans are different from other creatures. Thus, our ancestors tried very hard to explain how and why they were separate from other animals. In other words, there has been a conscious and intentional effort to seek an identity ways in which we are more than the sum of our social relationships and physical bodies. Interestingly, in modern days science reveals that humans are not very much different other animals, especially apes. According to most recent DNA research, there is only about 1.2% difference between human DNA and chimpanzee DNA. However, this small difference might have been the reason that humans built and developed civilizations that are advanced enough to build a space station, while chimpanzees are still living the same way as their ancestors did. Another possible reason could be that the difference was not caused by physical changes, but by something more subtle and essential.

One thing that was notably common among ancient people throughout the world was that they all claimed that their gods share almost exactly the same shape, image, likeness and even characteristics as them. According to these ancient people, the only difference between gods and humans was that humans are mortal while gods are immortal. Thus, there are countless stories throughout the world regarding how a certain mortals tried to achieve immortality, but failed for one reason or another. Swedenborg’s explanation for this is that initially, humans were created with the capacity to be aware of and connect with beings in the spiritual realm. However, when they lost this inner ability, the spiritual reality was no longer available to their mind except through spiritual cultivation. In other words, in the beginning humans were born conscious of their spiritual existence and thus their immortal existence in spirit, but later humans were born without this consciousness, thus at birth their minds are attached to the physical reality wholly and fully.

Swedenborg strongly emphasizes that being created in the image of God is not about what constitutes our body, but our mind. Consequently, humans are not born in the image of God, but should become an image of God by means of a life that is aligned with the qualities taught by God. Arguably, no one is born human, but only with the potential to become a human by choosing a life in accordance with higher truth.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee