Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil


[1 of 2] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Tree, of knowledge of good and evil" (search under Outer Life/Doctrine, Rites, Scriptures)": source "Conjugial Love": detail "Section 135"
A tree signifies a man, and the fruit thereof the good of life; hence the tree of life signifies a man living from God, or God living in man; and since love and wisdom, and charity and faith, or good and truth, constitute the life of God in man, therefore these are signified by the tree of life, and hence man has eternal life. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil signifies a man believing that he lives from himself and not from God; thus that in man love and wisdom, charity and faith, that is, good and truth, are his and not God's; believing this, because he thinks and wills, and speaks and acts to all appearance, as from himself: and as a man from this faith persuades himself, that God has implanted himself, or infused his divine into him, therefore the serpent said, "God doth know, in the day that ye eat of the fruit of that tree, your eyes will be opened, and ye will be as God, knowing good and evil" [Gen. iii. 5]. Eating of those trees signifies reception and appropriation; eating of the tree of life, the reception of life eternal, and eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the reception of damnation; therefore also both Adam and his wife, together with the serpent, were cursed: the serpent means the devil as to self-love and the conceit of his own intelligence. This love is the possessor of that tree; and the men who are in conceit, grounded in that love, are those trees.
 Those persons, therefore, are grievously mistaken who believe that Adam was wise and did good from himself, and that this was his state of integrity; when yet Adam himself was cursed by reason of that belief; for this is signified by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; therefore he then fell from the state of integrity in which he had been, in consequence of believing that he was wise and did good from God and not at all from himself; for this is meant by eating of the tree of life. The Lord alone, when he was in the worlds was wise and did good from himself; because the essential divine from birth was in him and was his; therefore also from his own ability he was made the Redeemer and Saviour. That by the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and eating thereof, is signified that life for man is God in him, and that in this case he has heaven and eternal life; but that death for man is the persuasion and belief, that life for him is not God but self; whence he has hell and eternal death, which is condemnation.

[2 of 2] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Tree, of knowledge of good and evil" (search under Outer Life/Doctrine, Rites, Scriptures)": source "Spiritual Experiences, vol.4": detail "Section 5944"
Few know what is meant by their having sinned against God by eating from the tree of knowledge, and this is something those who are spiritual cannot know, but only those know who are heavenly. This may be illustrated by the following:
 1) Just as anyone is capable of thinking well from the analytical faculty implanted in every person and from its rules, which are numberless, and then wants to think from rules of metaphysics and logic, constantly thinking about them in thinking and then thinking from them, when anyone does this his first mentioned faculty perishes.
 2) Similarly, when someone can conduct himself in a well-mannered fashion so that nothing is lacking, if he afterwards learns the rules of manners from a set of rules and conducts himself on the basis of these, his native faculty then perishes, and he regulates his self by pretense.
 3) The case is the same if a dancer who is already accomplished then wants to learn steps and dance from these, and more so if he wants to do so from a knowledge of the muscles.
 4) In a word, to the extent that a person wants to think and act from knowledge in the memory, then to that extent he acts from his cerebral self, but to the extent he acts from affection, to the same extent he acts from a different source. As regards truth and goodness, to the extent he thinks, wills, and does these from awareness of them in his memory, thus from obedience alone, then to that extent he acts from his own understanding, thus from what is evil. What is a person's own is evil.
 5) From this is evident that to the extent a person is led by the Lord, to the same extent he is led from affection within himself, and by uncountable laws, almost all of which are unknown. If he then wants to act from knowledge, then the previous state, which was produced from a Divine inflow of the Lord, perishes, and a state arises from what is his own self, which stems from evil.
 6) This is what is to be understood by the Lord's words, "Your speech must be Yes or No, what goes beyond is from evil" [Matt 5:37].