Last school year as a high school junior at the Kempton New Church School, the final assignment in my Anatomy and Physiology course was to choose a topic related to the human body and connect it to teachings from the Heavenly Doctrines. The following article is a portion of the paper I wrote on the Spiritual and Natural Growth, Development, and Birth of an Infant. If you have further interest and would like to read the full anatomy portion of the paper and/or my sources, click here: Full Paper (PDF).
Like every other system and growth in the body, the development of an unborn child is caused by the spiritual growth and development that needs a natural foundation. There are many things happening spiritually when a baby is formed and developed in the womb and then born into the world. The spiritual growth most intimately corresponding to the newly forming human being, is the development of the will and the understanding. These are the vessels that receive love and wisdom from the Lord seated in the brain and nervous system that will serve a person after his first breath (Divine Wisdom 3.2). Another correspondence in a larger sense, is the connection between the stages and processes of pregnancy, and the stages and processes of regeneration (Divine Wisdom 4).
In every human being there is the marriage of love and wisdom to some degree, which allows a person to function and act from his will and understanding as an individual (Divine Love and Wisdom 401.3). This marriage can be illustrated by the heart and lungs, and how they function together. In the adult circulatory system the heart pumps blood that has been oxygenated by the lungs out to the body. In the fetal circulatory system, however, the lungs are not yet functioning, so only the heart is beating. This fact is the physical effect of the Lord’s Divine love pouring into the body of an unborn child. It causes the heart to beat, but does not yet open the lungs, because the marriage of love and wisdom has not yet occurred (Divine Love and Wisdom 401.3).
The Lord is with an unborn child from the moment of conception, and at that moment, life begins in that single cell and will develop into a new human being in the image and likeness of God. Life itself is the Lord with us, the influx of the Divine, and without this we would not exist (Divine Wisdom 2.1). An infant in this state, lives from the Lord’s life, not yet from life that seems to be his own, and thus he is unable to think or act from himself, only respond to stimulus (Divine Wisdom 3.3).
Since the unborn infant does not have his own life separate from Lord, he therefore does not receive Divine love and wisdom as of himself, but is formed by the Lord’s Divine love directly (Divine Wisdom 3.6). Once the baby is fully formed and ready to be brought into the world, the ‘first of the effect’ or influx, is initiated by the Lord (Arcana Coelestia 3298). This means that the baby acts, as if of himself, to come into the world to fill his lungs and breathe, which then opens his will and understanding to the influx from the Lord independent from his mother. With this first breath a new life begins, separate from the Lord, who can now think and act of himself and therefore be led to heaven (Arcana Coelestia 3298).
This is the direct spiritual action that takes place with each individual during the process of conception, development, and birth. Another correspondence of pregnancy, which is less directly grounded in this process, is the stages of the regeneration of man, or the process of being born again in the light of heaven.
It is known that the soul of man commences in the ovum of the mother, and is afterwards perfected in her womb, and is there encompassed with a tender body, and this of such a nature that through it the soul may be able to act in a manner suited to the world into which it is born. The case is the same when man is born again, that is, when he is being regenerated. (Arcana Coelestia 3570.4)
This passage from the work of the Heavenly Doctrine, Arcana Coelestia, draws the connection of the physical growth and development of an unborn child, to man’s regeneration, or the process of being born again. The only difference between the development of the physical body, or pregnancy, and the spiritual body, regeneration, is that for a person to regenerate and be born again he needs to have use of his will and understanding, so he may choose, as if of himself, to be regenerated and led to heaven. However, if he is truly being regenerated, he will realize that all life is from the Lord, and he isn’t really doing anything from himself, but asking the Lord do it for him (Divine Wisdom 4).
The three trimesters of pregnancy can be compared to our own lives as we hopefully progress through the regeneration process. The first trimester comprises of the formation of the basic structures of an unborn child in the womb. This can be compared to our childhood, where we store up remains and basic knowledges of the Lord’s truth. In the second trimester the unborn child begins to move and respond to stimulus. This can be compared to young adulthood, where a person becomes rational and starts to make decisions for himself on how he wants to live his life, hopefully according to the Lord’s commandments. The third trimester is the completion period, where final development occurs, preparing the unborn child for life outside of the womb. This can be compared to adulthood and old age. At the end of this state a person is finishing life on this earth and starting to look towards the next life.
Throughout the whole gestation period, an unborn infant does not breathe on his own, but takes his first breath once he is born. In relation to the regeneration process, this could correspond to when a person is regenerated by the Lord and receives a new will, and is then prepared for heaven after a full life on earth.
While these two states, that of an unborn infant and an adult in the world, seem to be different, they really converge into the same state, because although we may believe that we act from ourselves, the Lord is really giving us life continually. If a person regenerates he will see that he can do nothing from himself and is entirely dependant on the Lord. The physical state of the unborn child, who has not yet been born into the realizations of the will and understanding, is the most natural, visible form of our dependence on the Lord and His Love. In the case of rebirth, we all should wish to receive a new will and understanding so that we can raise our minds in a new way and recognize the Lord as our Heavenly Father and Creator (Divine Wisdom 4.2).
The Lord is constantly giving every single person who was ever born life so that he may continue to exist and hopefully be useful. To be able to live a useful life on earth and then later in heaven, we need to first be born as an infant, and then work towards and be a part of the regenerative gestation period. Then, we can be born again into the light of heaven and receive a new will and understanding from the Lord.