What is the true spiritual meaning of the passage Let us make man in our image (Gen. 1:26)? In traditional Christianity, this passage is used as one of the proof texts for the concept of a trinity of three persons, a doctrine that was invented in the 4th century A.D. to combat Arianism. The doctrine came from men, and has no support from scripture as the doctrine is utterly foreign to the monotheism of scripture, except if one takes passages from the New Testament in a very literal manner, ignoring the numerous passages where God is described as not only one personal Being, but as Being itself:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”1 And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)The phrase "I AM" is a title of Divinity, and Jesus claimed this title for Himself (John 8:58) as He is Jehovah incarnate in human form. The name Jehovah comes from a Hebrew word that means "He is." Thus God is one personal being, and beside Him there is no other god:
Thus says Jehovah, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isa. 44:6).Jesus also claims the title of first and last (Rev. 1:17, 2:8). The concept of a trinity of three persons is thus foreign to scripture. As for Gen. 1:26, the ancient Jewish interpretation is that this refers to God among His congregation of angels in heaven. It in no way indicates a plurality of persons in the Godhead, for such a belief is none other than polytheism.
THE SPIRITUAL INTERACTION BETWEEN ANGELS AND MAN
The Jewish interpreation that the plurality of Gen. 1:26 refers to God and his angels is confirmed in the revelations received by Emanuel Swedenborg, who takes the concept further. Our lives are dependent on the influx of spiritual life, which flows into us through angels and spirits:
"Man does not know at all that he is governed of the Lord by means of angels and spirits; and that with every man there are at least two spirits, and two angels. Through spirits communication of man with the world of spirits is effected, and through angels with heaven. Without communication through spirits with the world of spirits, and through angels with heaven, and so through heaven with the Lord, man can by no means live. His life entirely depends on that conjunction. If the spirits and angels should withdraw, he would perish in a moment." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 50)This spiritual psychology of the human soul goes against the modern concept of the individual self, that it is the self alone that is the origin of our being and thought. To make man in our image, means God's influence over man through angels to regenerate us into a spiritual being:
"While man is unregenerate, he is governed quite otherwise than when regenerated. While unregenerate there are evil spirits with him, who so domineer over him that the angels, though present, are scarcely able to do any thing more than just to guide him so that he may not plunge into the lowest evil, and bend him to some good — in fact to bend him by means of his own desires to good, and through the fallacies of the senses to truth. He then has communication with the world of spirits, through the spirits who are with him, but not so much with heaven, because evil spirits rule, and angels only avert their rule.In ancient times the spiritual communication was more direct, but it was cut off due to our separation due to the love of self and ruling over others. Thus man is merely natural, and spiritual communication is opened through the Lord who appeared in human form, as well as through scripture which is the Divine truth in written form. There are occasions when this is opened up, often through dreams, and for one personal experience see the blog posts A Clairvoyant Dream of an Angel and a Celtic Fairy Tale as well as An Angelic Visitation at Death and a Funeral.
"But when man is regenerated, angels rule, and inspire him with all goods and truths, and with fear and horror of evils and falsities. The angels indeed lead, but only as ministers, for it is the Lord alone who governs man by angels and spirits. And because it is done through the ministry of angels it is here first said, in the plural number, Let us make man in our image; and yet, because the Lord alone governs and disposes, it is said in the following verse, in the singular number, God created him in His own image." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 50.2-3)
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF IMAGE AND LIKENESS?
In the literal sense the meaning of image and likeness is that God is anthropomorphic. This is partly true: in the New Church revelation God is Man, and we are but his images, for in order to be understood God has revealed Himself in human form. But in more spiritual sense, a human becomes an image or likeness of God inasmuch as does what is good according to the truth, for Good and Truth are the two primary aspects of the Divine:
"And God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him. The word image is twice used here, because faith, which is of the understanding, is called His own image; and love, which is of the will — and which in the spiritual man comes after, but in the celestial man precedes — is called the image of God." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 53)To give God glory is to acknowledge that the good we do and the truth we think is not from our self, but from God alone, for the selfish ego is the source of nothing but evil:
"By giving to the Lord glory and honor nothing else is meant in the Word but to acknowledge and confess that all truth and all good are from Him, and thus that He is the only God; for He has glory from the Divine truth and honor from the Divine good" (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 249; see also the work The Symbolism of the Psalms)Thus the purpose of the worship of God, giving Him glory, is not for the sake of God, but for the sake of ourselves and our salvation, for in honoring and worshiping God we withdraw from the self-glorification of our own ego. And inasmuch as we withdraw from the selfish ego, that is as far as we will become an image and likeness of God in good and truth in a life of usefulness.