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Correspondences:
The Key to Ancient Wisdom

by Christopher Hasler

I expect that first the plausibility, and then hopefully the reality of the Spiritual World, as recorded in Heaven and Hell, are initially the most striking of Swedenborg's messages to the contemporary world. But of equal, if not even greater, importance is his rediscovery of Correspondences. The link between the spiritual and natural planes.

Those who study ancient sacred literature are usually impressed with the integrity of the people who left us such a remarkable heritage of their wisdom. They comprehended the unity of the universe and their own place in it.

They had a close relationship with the sun, moon and stars and even the heavens. They responded with good grace to the cycles of nature and understood the healing power of plants. They appreciated the distinctive characteristics of animals, and often assumed their names so as to embody their strength, cunning and grace.

This living relationship with the world around them is the theme of all ancient myths religious rituals, and Egyptian hieroglyphs; it is also enshrined in Eastern mandalas, Aztec sculptures and sacred texts.

Do we live in a different world today, or are we simply not guided to recognise the signs all around us? Are we too rationalistic to believe that the outer world in some ways corresponds to the inner character within it?

Two worlds

If the inner world of our desires and imagination is driven by selfishness and the profit motive alone, the outer world will eventually become polluted, impoverished in many parts, and out of bounds to the majority.

If the inner levels however, are motivated by love and respect for others - who are seen as fellow creatures - the outer world will be at peace and will be pure and free for all to enjoy.

The evidence of this can be recognised in our families, the cleanliness of our streets, and the state of the rain forests and the seas. What exists in the inner world will eventually manifest itself in the outer which will become its reflection. From this we can begin to see how the two distinct levels are related, and how all creative energy flows from the inner to the outer, according to the theosophical dictum, 'As above, so below'. But how wonderful it is to discover that we have this awesome creative energy within us.

Swedenborg suggests that every human being, even if unaware of it, lives on two levels. There is that invisible part which is the real core of our personality where feelings are felt, love burns with Divine energy, and ideas are formed and examined. This is the inner Self. The other level is the external, visible and tangible part in which the spirit is expressing its desires and realising its purposes.

Correspondences in human life

The spoken word corresponds to the thought which germinated it. A genuine smile corresponds to the happiness and the lightness of freedom which gave it conception and birth. We could go through every human expression on the face, every gesture of the hands and discover the mystery which occurs whenever we take some action. The two worlds of our consciousness are bridged and we do not know how. But an explanation is now available.

The creative energy within us which wells up from completely hidden depths has the power to change and act upon the physical body - first upon the brains then nerves and finally muscles. It happens through the law of correspondences. It enables us to see the causes behind the actions we so often take for granted

A key to ancient wisdom

An understanding of the law of correspondences also opens up a vast insight into ancient sacred literature, and into nature all around us, because there we can begin to see the mind and the purposes of the Creator. The laws of the natural world which science helps us to understand can become a guide to our own spiritual conception, birth, education and fruitfulness. it also reveals the inevitable decay and laying aside of the outer layers, so that the spirit, mature and enlightened, may be raised to a higher level of consciousness.

Even a simple grasp of the flow of creative energy which the knowledge of correspondences reveals opens a new understanding of ancient myths and above all, of the Bible. These works were carefully composed, or inspired, so as to contain the spiritual symbolism or correspondences; that is, to teach us that the life of the mind can be retold in simple earth-images. Here we are dealing with something far more profound than some contrived code. We are delving into the very causes of everything around us and within us.

The parables of Jesus

The Gospels tell us that whenever Jesus spoke, he always spoke in parables. It is easy to mistake these for simple similes, or anecdotal examples. But they are based on the law of correspondences which shows that all things in creation are related to the originating love of the Creator. Here is one of the simplest and best known parables:

A sower went to sow his seed, some fell along a path and were trodden down. Some fell on rocky ground, grew for a while but withered away for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns where they were choked. Some fell in good soil and produced a rich harvest.

There is not a great deal to be gained from the story as it stands, but when the disciples of Jesus asked him what was its real meaning he explained that it was about the way the human mind reacts to the truth, the spiritual seed. Some truth is not received at all; some is accepted with shallow enthusiasm which soon evaporates; some is accepted for a while, but worldly cares and wealth push it out and choke it; but some truth is received into life and it begins to bear a harvest of goodness.

The parables of Jesus are more than a narrators story to get attention. The seeds of truth really behave in that way when they enter our minds and memories. This is an illustration of living principles and laws as they operate in our mind. A person whose life is cluttered up with worldly thoughts and values is, in a sense, a ground full of weeds. Why else do we talk about 'cultivating' the mind?

Swedenborg was enlightened to perceive and explain this ancient knowledge, and to lift our consciousness from the materialism into which purely physical science could lead us. He was able to show that science is itself an outward expression of higher spiritual laws. These flow from the Creator through the higher levels of vibration to terminate in the physical universe. The knowledge of correspondences can help us to recognise how closely we are related to that inner world and indeed to the Creator who is present in all things.

Christopher Hasler, was born in The Czech Republic and served as a New Church Minister in Britain until his recent retirement.

Adapted from the Swedenborg Movement leaflet

Republished in Things Heard and Seen, the Newsletter of the Swedenborg Society, London, No. 2 (Summer 2000) pp. 16-17.

 

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Key to Ancient Wisdom

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