The Reptilian Brain

Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. -Genesis 3:14

Dear members & friends,

Snakes are generally feared and avoided by people. A big reason that the snake is perceived as negative in Western peoples’ imagination is because of its role in the Bible. In Genesis 3, the serpent deceived Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. For the past 2,000 years or so, many Christian artists portrayed the serpent as the personification of the Devil or the agent of the Devil. However, according to Swedenborg, the serpent in Genesis symbolizes the instinctive human mind.

Genesis 3:14-15 describes the curse upon the serpent by God. If you were to take the story literally, you may be confused because a loving God is cursing and punishing the creature forever. Yet, if you were to read the story through the lens of Swedenborg’s correspondences, you would find an entirely different version. The story by Swedenborg is not at all about the creature the snake, but about the instinctive human mind. While the instinctive mind is essential to human survival and livelihood on earth, if it becomes the central guiding force, it can eventually disable the most important feature of the human mind: rationale. After all, the rational mind is modeled after the image and likeness of God. In other words, we become more God-like by living a life led by the rational mind, and eventually become one with God.

The curse on the serpent in Genesis 3 is symbolically about the permanent corruption of the instinctive mind because it will never work according to the heavenly truth. In other words, following the instinctive mind takes us away from the path to heaven. At the same time, taking control of the instinctive mind is the hardest challenge to all humans. So, the key to enter heaven may be found in our efforts to manage and control the forces arising from the instinctive mind.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee