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
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
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
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:
and produced a rich harvest.
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
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
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
Things Heard and Seen, the Newsletter of the Swedenborg Society, London,
No. 2 (Summer 2000) pp. 16-17.