My name is Solomon Keal. I am a minister for the General Church of the New Jerusalem, which is a Swedenborgian Christian denomination. These are some of my thoughts about the Lord, the symbolic meanings in the Bible, life after death, faith, charity, usefulness, loving the Lord and one's neighbor, the 2nd Coming, Swedenborg's Writings, and other theological stuff.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I just read a really fascinating number in Swedenborg's book Divine Love and Wisdom. The end of the number says, “Since we have been created to be recipients, then, and since we are recipients to the extent that we love God and are wise because of our love for God (that is, the extent to which we are moved by what comes from God and think as a result of that feeling), it therefore follows that the divine essence, the Creatress, is divine love and wisdom.” (DLW 33)
This is from the Dole translation, the New Century Edition of the Writings of Swedenborg. There is a footnote that follows the word 'Creatress.' In the note the translator says, "Swedenborg's use here of the feminine noun Creatrix, 'Creatress,' is striking. While it may be prompted by the fact that Essentia, 'essence,' is a feminine noun, there is no grammatical necessity for a noun to agree in gender with a noun with which it is in apposition. This feminine noun occurs again in [DLW] 262 and in True Christianity 178, in both instances in apposition with natura, 'nature'; in these instances, it is quite possible that 'nature' was visualized in female form."
In DLW 262, the translator translates the word as 'creatress,' but in that number it is obviously referring to the concept of 'mother nature' or nature as the source of everything in the universe as an appearance of truth or a false belief (similarly in TCR 178), while in DLW 33, the word 'Creatress' seems to be referring to the Lord, the Divine Love and Wisdom!
Most of the other translations of DLW 33 translate the Latin word Creatrix as "Creator." One translates Creatrix as "the creative cause." But there are other Latin words for "Creator": creator, genitor, conditor, plastes, aedificator, all of which are masculine words. But the Latin word creatrix, is a feminine word and according to William Whitaker's Words is properly translated as: "mother, she who brings forth; creator (of the world); authoress, creatress." So in many ways this NCE translation, while being perhaps a little controversial and confusing, is the most accurate translation of this particular portion of this passage. And I appreciate that.
However, as the footnote said, this is "striking." We are used to masculine language used in reference to the Lord. This is mostly because of the masculine image of Jehovah and Jesus presented in the Bible. But it does seem somehow fitting that in the book Divine Love and Wisdom, a discussion of the more philosophical side of what the Lord is, it would remind us that God is the source of both masculinity and femininity, with this striking reference to the "Creatress."
In a previous footnote in Divine Love and Wisdom, translator Jonathan Rose states that "The Latin original of this passage [DLW 18, a discussion of the fact that God is Human] contains no hint of God's being either male or female. Although the identification of Jesus in his transformed state as God is central to Swedenborg's theology, as is the related concept of God's humanity, Swedenborg seems stringently to avoid any indication of masculine or feminine gender in God. He consistently uses the neutral term homo, "a human," rather than a gendered term for God's humanity; and where he uses adjectives in the role of nouns as terms for God, such as "the Infinite," "the Divine," "the Divine Human," and "the Human," he casts them as neuter rather than feminine or masculine. (A possible exception to this rule is the use of Creatrix, a feminine noun for the creator; see note 31 below.) The present edition uses the pronoun "he" for God even though it introduces gender implications that are not present in the original, because (a) the text's strong emphasis on the oneness of God contraindicates the use of plural pronouns; (b) the English language has no established gender-neutral singular third-person pronoun; (c) the text's strong emphasis on the humanness of God contraindicates the use of "it"; and (d) the identification of Jesus with God would make any pronoun but "he" awkward." In other words, the complications of using the words "Them," "It," or "She," in reference to God, outweigh the complications of using the word "He."
I suppose one way of looking at this passage is that it is trying to point out that what most people think of as Mother Nature is actually the Lord. I think a liberal translation of this passage could be: “... it therefore follows that the divine essence, which is considered to be Mother Nature, is divine love and wisdom.” But that’s adding a lot of additional vocabulary that isn’t there in the Latin. The original Latin simply says: "sequitur, quod Divina Essentia, quae Creatrix, sit Divinus Amor et Divina Sapientia."
When it comes down to it, I like how this translation really shakes up the false assumption that we often aren’t careful enough with, which is that the Lord is somehow male. Jesus was male. But the Lord (The Divine Love and Wisdom, the Creator of Heaven and Earth) is not male. The Lord is the source of both masculinity and femininity. Both men and women are created in His image. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27)