Seeing from Correspondence
by Rev. David R. Simon
The human mind was created to see God. It is an instrument capable of sensing life itself, of seeing truth and perceiving love with ever greater clarity and fullness. The sight of truth and the perception of love can increase to eternity. And these do increase when man allows the Lord to lead him forth abroad to look heavenward, to see the numberless truths of His infinite wisdom. It is because the human mind can be elevated above the world of external sensations - above measurable light and sound and substance - to the world of spiritual ideas and spiritual affections that it can see and be conjoined with God and thus live forever.
If man will but learn and follow the teachings of Divine revelation, if he will look toward heaven, the Lord will show him the truth and lead him to life eternal. In the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem the Lord literally "leads man forth abroad." In the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg He reveals the things of heaven before the rational mind. The way has now been opened for mankind to see all things in the light of a spiritual faith. For now that the inner truth about the Word and about the world of nature has been unfolded, men may think even as the angels. Mankind need no longer wonder what forces operate behind the scenes to hold the world in its order and its beauty. The inner driving forces of the universe, its purpose and the modes by which these forces act, are now disclosed, so that the human spirit, shackled to its native materialistic ideas of the world, may be set free, may be led forth abroad to look towards heaven.
The Writings reveal that the Lord created the natural world for the sake of the spiritual; that He, as the infinite giver, has fashioned nature for the sake of uses; that is, for the sake of human beings, who, in freedom, can receive and return His love to all eternity. When man knows this, when he is conscious of the truth that the external world was created for the sake of the internal or spiritual world, then for the first time he can see nature in a different light. He can see in all the objects which surround him the purpose, the wisdom and will of the Creator, so that nature becomes for him the bottom rung. of a ladder reaching to the world above nature - the world of spiritual ideas and spiritual affections, the world of human truth and human good which has its source in the Divinely Human God. When we know that the natural world, like the natural body, is the product of a spiritual soul - is caused by spiritual forces which form and fashion the things of nature to correspond to themselves - then our minds can be "led forth abroad." We can look at the natural from the spiritual. From the eye of spiritual truth we can see within and behind the objects of our environment to the realities of heaven. This is spiritual sight, of which we read: "Whenever a man sees anything with his eyes, and sees the things that he looks upon as if he saw them not, but from them sees or thinks of the things which are of the church or of heaven, then his interior sight or that of his spirit or soul is `led forth abroad'" (AC 1006).
For what is the eye but an organ of the soul and mind? What is the eye but a window whereby the mind may gather in sensations from the world for its own use? The Writings tell us: "The eye itself is properly nothing but the sight of the spirit ‘led forth abroad,' and this especially to the end that it may see internal things from external; that is, that [the mind] may from the objects in the world, reflect continually upon those objects which are in the other life; for this is the life for the sake of which [man] lives in the world" (AC 1806).
Herein lies the fundamental difference between animals and men. An animal sees, remembers, and reacts in a natural manner to what it sees. But man alone can be "led forth abroad." The human mind alone can be elevated to see qualities of human wisdom and human affection in its environment. Man alone can see God! "Such was the sight of the most ancients, and such is the sight of the angels" (AC 1806).
The most ancient people on our earth saw in everything of nature something spiritual and heavenly. Their minds were so ordered and enlightened by the Lord that the natural world reflected throughout the qualities of heaven. The men of the Most Ancient Church were in a spiritual paradise, a true Garden of Eden. "The objects of the external senses . . . were nothing to them; nor had they any delight in them, but only in what they signified and represented; and therefore when they looked at earthly objects, they did not think about them at all, but only about the things which they signified and represented, which were most delightful to them; for they were such things as are in heaven, from which they see the Lord Himself" (AC 1122). When such men died, they but passed from one paradise to another. For the angels live in an environment, the surface of which appears "precisely" like the one which surrounds men on earth. In heaven there are lands, waters and open skies; there are fields and gardens, trees, shrubs and flowers. Yet these things are wholly spiritual. They are the direct product of spiritual forces, the same forces which order and pattern the things of nature. Nevertheless, although all these things are "precisely" like their counterparts on earth, and although, as the angels told Swedenborg, "Such things and numberless others, still more perfect, are set forth before their eyes by the Lord . . . still, these things are more pleasing to their minds than to their eyes, because in every one of them they see a correspondence and through correspondences what is Divine" (HH 186).
Correspondence is the relation between what is internal and what is external. The face corresponds to the mind; consequently, the joy of the mind, which is internal, is reflected in the face, which is external. The joy of the spirit is reflected in the corresponding form of the face. The Writings reveal that in heaven "all things both inside and outside of [the angels] correspond to the interior things which they have from the Lord, [Their homes] in general corresponding to their good. The particular things inside of the house to the various things of which their good is composed. The things outside to truths derived from good and also to their perceptions and knowledges. [All these spiritual qualities] are what the angels perceive when they behold what is around them and thus their minds are more delighted and moved by them than their eyes" (HH 186).
Throughout the ages men have looked to nature in their search for God. Originally, when their minds were in order, the Lord could lead men through nature to a complete vision of Himself. By direct revelations to the individual man the Lord unfolded His qualities before him: Thus nature was the very Word of God for the men of the Most Ancient Church. But when men became external, when they fell away from the order into which they were created, the Word could no longer be given from within, but had to be given through successive written revelations from without. The direct approach to the things of heaven through enlightenment and perception was no longer possible. The spontaneous perceptive view of spiritual things in natural things ceased, and men had to be "led forth abroad" in a new way.
Yet men never gave up the search. Ever since most ancient times men have striven to enter the mysteries of faith through concentration on the things of nature. And they have sought to unlock the secrets of life by scientific methods. By silent contemplation of mighty mountains, thundering winds and waves, the solitude of night, and the vastness of the starry heavens, men have sought to get into harmony with nature herself and in tune with nature's God. The huge, the spectacular, the unexplainable, the miraculous - these wonders of nature have ever inspired awe and a sense of man's own insignificance; and such thoughts have, all too often, been mistaken for a true belief in the Almighty God. Yet such meditation from the senses can bring no genuine spiritual light. The worship of the invisible God of nature is spiritually useless. The teaching is that "faith in an invisible God is actually blind, since the human mind fails to see it's God . . . consequently it seeks God in the universe; and when it does not find Him there, it believes the nature of the universe to be God. This is the origin of the prevailing naturalism of the day" (TCR 339). To try to learn about God from any other source than the Divine Word is to enter the sheepfold by the way of the "thief and the robber" (John 10: 1). "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit" (John 3 : 6).
The human mind is all too easily intoxicated and led astray by its own discoveries. The immensity of space, the pent up powers of nature; these things, far from opening the mind to spiritual truth, have led it to deny God and to confirm its own materialism. Nature and the theology which man devises from nature can only lead to error and falsity. "From natural theology man can discover nothing at all about the Divine, heaven or hell, or the life after death, or about faith, unless he has previously known these things from Revelation. For that which a man knows can be confirmed. . . . Wherefore, they who have faith from Revelation can confirm [this faith] . . . by things in nature. . . . But they who do not believe in the Word . . . [and] who imagine that natural theology will illuminate the mind and will cause it to believe . . . [are] much deceived" (SD 4758).
How the unenlightened natural mind thinks is clearly exposed in the Writings. The "worldly and corporeal man says in his heart, `If I am not instructed concerning faith . . . by means of the things of sense, so that I may see, or by means of science, so that I may understand, I will not believe'; and he confirms himself in this by the consideration that natural things cannot be contrary to spiritual. Thus he desires to be instructed from things of sense about things that are celestial and Divine; which is as impossible as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. For the more he desires to grow wise by this means, the more he blinds himself, till at length he believes nothing, not even that there is anything spiritual. . . . But he who would be wise from the Lord and not from the world says in his heart, `The Lord must be believed, that is, the things which the Lord has spoken in the Word, because they are truths . . .' [and] he confirms himself by things of reason, of knowledge, of the senses, and of the things of nature and those things that are not confirmatory he casts aside" (AC 128, 129). "The angels said [that] . . . no one from natural theology can enter into spiritual theology, but everyone from spiritual theology can enter into natural theology [and this] because the latter entrance is [according to] Divine order" (Verbo vi: 4). It is only when the Lord in His Word is permitted to lead man "forth abroad"; it is only when the Lord Himself teaches us to look heavenward, that we can be shown the stars of spiritual truth "without number." New Church men, from the Heavenly Doctrine can learn to think from correspondences. We can learn to see external things from internal. From spiritual truth we are permitted to see above and beyond the confines of our natural surroundings to the things of heaven. And such sight need not be labored, artificial or out of keeping with our habits in other walks of life. Like any new way of thinking, any new outlook, such thought may be acquired by patient effort and application of what we know to life. The truth is that what we know, and particularly what we love, cannot but color our sight. For our loves direct our eyes. That which delights and satisfies we spontaneously look for, and even superimpose on our environment; so that in the natural world, as in the spiritual, we are in a sense surrounded with symbols which are in harmony with our inner selves. When we learn the truth, and especially when we come to love it, then, like the ancients whose love of heaven transformed the world of nature into a spiritual paradise, we, too, will come to see the Lord and His kingdom in the things of the world around us.
Our thinking must begin with the symbols of nature. "Man always has a natural idea [even] about all heavenly things. . . . [Indeed] without some [such] idea there is no comprehension, no memory, yea, no faith in anything whatever. . . . Wherefore, if such things as belong to faith are confirmed by natural truths . . . faith is strengthened" (SD 4758). For our "human minds are so constituted that they better acknowledge spiritual things [from natural]. . . . For no one can have any idea of purely spiritual things save by the things in the world. . . . For the Lord, who is truth itself, leads and inflows, and thus . . . illuminates the mind by confirmations" (SD 2301).
The spiritual truths of the Heavenly Doctrine are the Lord Jesus Christ with us, leading us "forth abroad." They are the Lord in His second coming providing a spiritual faith - truths without number - on which the life of heaven may be founded. All who hear His voice, all who open their minds to His truth, are privileged to see even the things of this world in a new light, so that in the dawning of a new day the arising of all things from the Lord and the progression into the day of wisdom will be seen; so that in trees and flowers, the variety and beauty of human states of intelligence and affection will stand forth; so that the starry heavens, and the vast immensity of the universe will proclaim to our minds the immeasurable and infinite power of the Lord: power to enlighten our minds with His truth; power to save us from our own evils; and power to elevate us into conjunction with Himself, so that we may inherit His kingdom in the heavens forever.
-New Church Life 1958;78:128-132