The serpent became more subtle than any wild animal of the field, which Jehovah God had made. He said to the woman, Yea, wherefore hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And when the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the tree we may eat; only of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die the serpent said, Ye shall not die for God doth know that in the day wherein ye shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. The woman therefore saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and to be desired to give understanding; therefore she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat and she gave to her husband with her, and he did eat. (Genesis 1-6)
The decline from light to the shade of evening, that is, the falling away from wisdom and integrity, consequently, the state of vastation of this church, is described by these words, because man was made a “likeness of God” (by which is signified, in the entire appearance that he thinks those things which are of wisdom, and wills those things that are of love, from himself, as God does, … he believed the serpent’s words, that if he should eat of that tree he would become as God, and thus also be God in knowing good and evil. By this “tree” is signified the natural man separated from the spiritual, which, when left to itself, does not believe otherwise.
Every man has a natural mind and a spiritual mind, distinct from each other like two stories of one house connected by stairs; in the upper story of which dwell the master and mistress with their children, but in the lower the men-servants and maid-servants, with other helpers. The spiritual mind in man from birth even to early childhood is closed, but after that first age it is opened step by step; for there is given to every man from birth the faculty, and afterwards the power, of procuring for himself steps by which he may ascend and speak with the master and mistress, and afterwards descend and execute their commands. This power is given him through the endowment of free will in spiritual things. Nevertheless no one can ascend to the upper story, by which is meant the spiritual mind, unless he eat of the trees of life in the garden of God. For by eating of these a man is enlightened and made whole, and conceives faith; and through the nourishment of their fruits he acquires the conviction that all good is from the Lord, who is the tree of life, and not the smallest portion from man; and yet by abiding together and operating together, hence by the Lord’s being in him and he in the Lord, he must do good of himself, but still be in the belief and confidence that it is not from himself but from the Lord.
If a man believe otherwise, he does what appears like good, in which there is evil inwardly, because there is merit; and this is eating of the trees of the knowledge of good and evil, among which dwells the serpent, in the dreadful persuasion that he is as God, or else that there is no God, but that nature is what is called God, and that he is composed of the elements thereof. Furthermore, those eat of the trees of the knowledge of good and evil who love themselves and the world above all things; but those eat of the trees of life who love God above all things and the neighbor as themselves. Those also eat of the trees of the knowledge of good and evil who hatch out canons for the church from their own intelligence, and afterwards confirm them by the Word; but on the other hand those who procure for themselves canons for the church by means of the Word, and afterwards confirm them by intelligence, eat of the trees of life. Those also who teach truths from the Word and live wickedly eat of the trees of the knowledge of good and evil; but those eat of the trees of life who live well and teach from the Word. Universally speaking, all eat of the trees of the knowledge of good and evil who deny the Divinity of the Lord and the holiness of the Word, inasmuch as the Lord is the Tree of Life and the Word, from whom the church is a “garden in Eden at the east.”