Naming the Animals

From Rev. Solomon Keal, BACS Pastor
March 12, 2019

In Genesis chapter one, God created the animals, and then said that humanity should “have dominion” over them (Genesis 1:24-28). In Genesis chapter two, Adam gave names to all the animals. And then right after that is the story of the creation of Eve (see Genesis 2:18-24). The Writings say that animals represent our feelings or our emotions (see Arcana Coelestia 142, 143). This is true, not only in the stories in the Word, but also in our general cultural awareness; probably going back to the knowledge of correspondences. We say that we feel as busy as a “bee,” or as timid as a “mouse,” or as stubborn as a “donkey,” or as sly as a “fox,” or as prickly as a “porcupine.” The image of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand represents feelings of fear or shame. The symbolism of the tortoise winning the race against the hare could represent feelings of persistence or patience. A dog could represent friendliness or loyalty. A sloth might symbolize feeling tired or content. A growling tiger could represent feelings of anger. There are millions of different species of animals on our planet, which could represent the fact that we can experience millions of different emotions! The story of Adam naming the animals symbolizes “the ability to recognize the nature of those feelings.” (Arcana Coelestia 142) Nowadays this is known as “emotional intelligence.” An important piece of emotional intelligence is recognizing that we are not our feelings. This is called non-identification. This is like seeing and naming a tiger, and saying “I see your anger.” Sometimes it can feel like our emotions control us. But the Lord has given us the ability to have a certain amount of control over our emotions by naming them, and practicing non-identification. We can’t control how we feel, but we can name our feelings. I think this is what is represented by Adam and Eve “having dominion” over the animals. There is a Native American story in which a grandparent is telling their grandchild about two “wolves” that are fighting within us. One “wolf” is our good feelings, like love and kindness. The other “wolf” symbolizes negative feelings like anger, revenge, and arrogance. The grandchild asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandparent says, “The one you feed.” The choices we make can impact the way we interact with and experience our emotions. But in practicing non-identification with our emotions we might sometimes wonder, “If my feelings are not me, then what is me?” This is like Adam not finding a comparable helper among the animals. And so then we have the creation of Eve. Eve “symbolizes a sense of self brought to life by the Lord.” (Arcana Coelestia 151) Eve is our true sense of “identity or independence” (Arcana Coelestia 148) created in the image of God. Unlike the more lifeless proprium represented by the rib, Eve is “the part of our identity that is alive.” (Arcana Coelestia 147) And our true sense of self comes from our ruling loves when they are connected to love, charity and usefulness. “When the Lord gives life to our intrinsic characteristics, they look lovely and beautiful.” (Arcana Coelestia 154) “When the Lord brings it to life, our sense of self gives us the ability to perceive all the good desired by love and all the truth taught by faith. So it holds within it all wisdom and understanding, joined to an indescribable happiness.” (Arcana Coelestia 155) “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)


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