The True Meaning of the 7 Days of Creation: Spiritual Rebirth
The early chapters of Genesis
It is objected by skeptics that the early chapters of Genesis contain false science and imaginary history, while they present an unworthy idea of God as an unjust, resentful and arbitrary being. In the spiritual sense, however, as expounded by Swedenborg, the difficulties disappear and criticism is disarmed. Instead of treating the first chapter of Genesis as a historical and scientific account of the beginning of created things, Swedenborg takes us into spiritual regions, and interprets the narrative as descriptive of the new creation or regeneration of man. The unregenerate state, when man was immersed in things of sense and of self, and oblivious of his better nature, is typified, according to Swedenborg, by the dark and formless void over which brooded the spirit of God to bring out of it order and life. The purpose of the spiritual creation, as of the physical, is the production of man in the image and likeness of God. The attainment of such a state requires that the human soul should pass through various stages of development, which process is represented by the six days of creation.
The six stages of man's regeneration
The first is a condition of darkness and vacuity; for man is born in total ignorance of all that belongs to his spiritual life. Even in this state, however, divine influences are brought to bear and the child, or the unregenerate soul, receives impressions which are stored up for future use. According to Swedenborg in his Arcana Coelestia the creation of light from darkness represents the first dawn of spiritual knowledge and the recognition of the difference between the worldly and the heavenly life
The second state is when a division takes place between those things which are of the Lord and such as are proper to man. Now, in other words, the things which belong to the external person are separated from those belonging to the internal. According to Swedenborg the term "earth" throughout the Bible has reference to the external person, or degree of development reached in one's physical life, and the term "heaven" to the internal person, or spiritual degree of development.
The third state is that of repentance, in which the regenerating subject, speaking and acting from the internal, begins to discourse piously and devoutly and to do good actions, like works of charity, which nevertheless are as yet inanimate because they are thought to originate in the person. These good acts are called in Genesis tender grass and the herb yielding seed and afterward the tree bearing fruit. The gathering together of the waters represents the storing up of spiritual knowledge, water in its various forms being an apt symbol of truth. The sea or ocean, the great reservoir of the waters of the earth, stands for the memory, which is the omnivorous receptacle of knowledge of all kinds, a storehouse upon which the intellectual faculties constantly draw to stimulate the growth of ideas, which with the practical uses that result from them are the spiritual counterparts of the various forms of vegetable life.
In the fourth stage (corresponding to the fourth day of creation in Genesis) of a person's development, life is ruled by the great principles of love and faith represented by the sun and the moon. The stars are particular glimpses of spiritual truth which serve to guide the life when the greater lights are obscured. In this stage of regenerating the soul—the soul in process of regeneration—the indefinite ideas of the earlier states have given place to clear and distinct conceptions of truth and duty. It seemed to Swedenborg that the correspondence of the heavenly bodies to the guiding principles of the higher life is almost self-evident. He pointed out that the sun is constantly used in the Bible as a type of the Lord, especially as the divine love, and it is employed by poets as a symbol of any powerful controlling influence. On the other hand, the moon, receiving its light from the sun and shining on the earth when the rays of the greater luminary are withdrawn, appeared to Swedenborg a fitting representative of faith, which cheers and illuminates the night time of the soul. The stars in their turn, although they give but little light, serve nevertheless by their fixity of position to guide the mariner or wayfarer. Swedenborg thought that we have guiding stars to direct us to our heavenward road as well.
It is well known that in Genesis the fifth day of creation was marked by the production of fish and birds while the creation of the higher mammals is assigned to the sixth. How are these phenomena interpreted? Swedenborg says that after the great luminaries are kindled and placed in the internal person, and the external nature, expressed in word and deed, receives light from them, then for the first time the regenerating person begins truly to live. Previously he can scarcely be said to have lived inasmuch as the good which he did was supposed by the person to have been done of self, and the truth which he spoke to have been spoken of self. Since man in and of himself, however, is dead, and there is nothing inherent but what is evil and false, it follows that whatever he produces by self is not really alive—in consequence of his inability to do good which is good in itself. But after he is vivified by love and faith, and believes that the Lord is the real author of all the good which a person may do and all the truth which he may speak, such a person is compared by Swedenborg to the "creeping things of the water" and to the "fowls which fly above the earth," and also to "beasts," which are all animate things, and are called "living souls." Fish and birds represent a comparatively low grade of spiritual life in which faith is the predominating element; the higher animals typify the life in which love is more active. Man, the crown and epitome of the whole creation, stands for the regenerated soul perfect in its degree, as reflecting the image and likeness of the creator, and exercising dominion over its own powers and capacities (the lower animals) by God-given strength and authority.
We are told that the task of creation finished, God rested on the seventh day. To accept the statement literally is to detract from the omnipotence of God. According to Swedenborg God is said to rest when man's life has been brought into harmony with the divine life. Then there is no longer opposition or conflict.
from Doctrinal Patterns in Arcana Coelestia by William Ross Woofenden