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Chapter V. The Seas and Lakes of Canaan.

46. The Mediterranean Sea. "The Sea," meaning the Mediterranean Sea,—the Sea "in the midst of the lands,"—also called "the Great Sea," "the Sea of the Philistines," in the Hebrew is synonymous with "the West," or "the going down of the Sun," and signifies in general good and truth in a state of relative obscurity,(AC 3693, 9633; A. R. 238), and thus the boundary or ultimate of Heaven and the Church.

This correspondence of "the Sea" is from the appearances of actual conditions in the spiritual world. In that world "seas appear in various places, especially near the ultimate boundaries, where are the terminations of the spiritual societies or of Heaven; and this is because in the boundaries of Heaven, and outside them, are those who have been merely natural men, who also appear there in the depths where their abodes are. But in those [seas] are the natural who are not evil, whereas those who are evil natural are in the hells. The quality of those who are in such seas is evident from the color of the water,—varying either to obscurity or to clearness;—if to obscurity, sensual spirits are therein, who are the lowest natural ones; if to clearness, interior natural spirits are therein. But the waters of the seas which are over the hells are dense, black, and sometimes red; and the infernal crews therein appear like snakes and serpents, and like monsters such as are in the seas." (AE 5113.)

"The earth and the sea," signify, respectively, natural good and natural truth,(AC 2162), and "heaven, earth, and sea" refer respectively to the three heavens, the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural. (AE 609.)

Water, it should be remembered, is nothing but an atmosphere, the lowest and densest of the discrete atmospheres of the natural world which correspond to the successive degrees of good and truth emanating from the Sun of the spiritual world in accommodation to the successive four degrees of organic life-forms: the celestial, the spiritual, the natural, and the sensual. All these are said to be "accommodations," that is, veilings more and more dense, woven by the more and more thickly interlaced appearances of truth. Thus the quick and living perceptions of those who live in the celestial aura, by combination and compression form an ether of spiritual ideas, and these, again, by the same process, produce an air of natural thoughts, which finally ultimate or express themselves to the external senses in the form of words. And hence the Sea, as the greatest collection of waters, corresponds most universally to the Word of God in the letter, which is the most ultimate containant of the Divine Truth, or the Water of Life itself.

Again, if we consider the various forms in which water is collected on the earth, we find the three degrees of fountains, rivers, and lakes. Of these, fountains and wells correspond to the inmost perceptions of truth, bubbling forth immediately from the living affection; rivers correspond to leading doctrines or principles of truth; and lakes,—especially the greatest of all lakes, the universal ocean,—correspond to the infinite containant of all Truth, that from which all our truths are derived, and to which all our truths return, the all-embracing Word of God, as it exists in the natural world.

Waters signify truths, especially natural truths, which are cognitions from the Word. (AR 50.)

The Seas signify the cognitions and scientifics which are in the ultimates of the Church, in special the cognitions of truth and good, such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word. (AE 518.)

The Sea signifies Divine Truth in ultimates, thus the Word in the letter. (AE 876.)

When, with these teachings in mind, we stand on the shore of the limitless ocean, we are impressed with awe at the majesty, the all-embracing infinity, the immeasurable profundity, the irresistible Divine power and force of that for which the ocean stands as a mighty symbol. And so also, when opening the Word of God, we find ourselves in the immediate presence of the Infinite and the Eternal. We perceive arcana within arcana, depths beneath depths. We cannot fathom the fulness of its meaning, but everywhere we hear the voice of the Creator reaching our perception like the gentle murmur of the waves or the breaking of unceasing billows. "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. The God of Glory thundereth, the Lord is upon many waters." (Ps. 29:3.)

As we are able to see only the surface of the ocean, so in this world we generally can grasp only the surface-meaning of the Word, - —that is, the literal sense. But as the surface of the sea is broken by the waves which reveal its nearest depths, so our understanding of the sense of the dead letter is vivified by the genuine truths which continually appear even in the natural sense. On the other hand, as the sea also lends itself to destructive storms as well as to quiet navigation, so the appearances in the literal sense of the Word, when moved by the influx of evil affections with the reader, may easily lead to false reasonings, doubts, and spiritual controversies, in which faith will perish unless its doctrinal ship be built of the stout, safe beams of rational truths. "The tumult of the seas and of the waves," (Ps. 65:7, signify the disputings and ratiocinations of those who are beneath the heavens, and who are natural and sensual. (AE 706.) "The seas and billows shall roar," (Luke 21:25), signifies the uproar of heresies and controversies. (AC 2120).

The Church, indeed, must be founded upon the Word of God in its literal form: "Upon the seas hath He founded it, and upon the rivers hath He established it." (Ps. 24:2.) But, being the most external, general, and ultimate form of the Divine Truth, the letter of the Word is in itself obscure and dead, and hence it is that the great sea, as the representative of the letter of the Word, in the Hebrew is synonymous with the west, or the setting of the sun, that is, a state of obscurity, the state of those whose ideas of Religion are confined to the narrow horizon of their own sensual observations in the letter. This state of obscurity finds its correspondence in the common expression "to be at sea" on any subject, that is, to be at a loss what to understand.

And those who refuse to see in the Word any living spiritual Truth, but confine themselves exclusively to the letter and confirm thereby the false persuasions of the sensual man, such may be said to have sunk beneath the waves of the Sea. They are spiritually drowned in the "letter which killeth," and the Sea in this connection signifies "damnation and Hell." (AE 355.) From them has come the inundation of literalism and sensualism in which the old Christian Church has perished, and it was against this infernal ocean of falsity that the Lord in His human battled single-handed but victorious. (TCR 123.) The final result of this Divine victory over the Hells appeared at the time of the Last Judgment, when "the Sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them," (Rev. 20:13), by which is signified the liberation of the simple good from the dominion of the imaginary heavens, and at the same time our own liberation from the false dogmas of the Old Church, formed from the merely literal sense of the Word. For, by the revelation of the internal sense of the Word, the "former heaven and the first earth" were judged and swept away, and "there is no more sea,"—we need no longer be "at sea" as to the true meaning of the Word of God. The "sea," indeed, is still with us; we still possess and worship the letter of the Word, but it is now "a sea of glass, like unto a crystal," for it is now translucent and glorified by the perception of the genuine spiritual truth that sparkles within.

The coast of the Mediterranean sea everywhere represents the memory which first receives and retains the knowledges of truth from the letter of the Word. Lowest down, towards the south, there is the seaboard of Egypt, by which is signified the science of the sensual man,—that is. the lowest things in the human memory which receives by sensual sight and hearing the first knowledges from the Word. Travelling northward, we come to the "coasts of the Philistines," by which is signified "the science of cognitions,"—that is, the knowledges of good and truth from the Word reduced to a systematic science—but still only in the external memory, and thus still only a matter of faith alone. And further to the north we have the coasts of Sidon and Tyre, the land of the Phoenicians, by which is signified the "cognitions of good and truth,"—that is, the knowledges of the more interior and spiritual goods and truths from the Word, the highest things of human knowledge, but still only in the external memory, still only on the coast or outskirts of the spiritual understanding.

47. The Sea of Galilee. This beautiful lake in the north of Canaan is also known, in the New Testament, as "the Sea of Tiberias," (John 6:1), and the "Lake of Gennesaret," (Luke 5:1), the latter name being derived from its Old Testament designation,—Yam Kinnereth, (Numb. 34:11; Josh. 11:2), the name being probably derived from Kinnor, a lyre,—from the general resemblance of the outlines of the lake to those of this musical instrument.

The Sea of Galilee is twelve and a half miles long, and seven miles broad at its widest extent. It is nowhere more than two hundred feet in depth. Its waters are of a deep, rich blue color, and still, as in the time of the Lord, are noted for their abundance and variety of fish, though nowadays a fisherman is seldom seen upon the lake. Among the fish are found some species which cannot be found anywhere else, except in the Mediterranean Sea,—a fact which points to a prehistoric connection between the Lake and the Sea. The general aspect of the region is now forlorn and desolate,—on the east a chain of mountains two thousand feet high, red and brown masses strewn with rocks of lava and pumice stone; on the west the rounded hills of Galilee gradually sloping towards the lake. The eastern shore was always a wilderness, but the western was in ancient times unsurpassed for beauty and fertility, and was covered with gardens, villages and cities. Here, still, are Tiberias and Magdala, once flourishing towns but now miserable villages. Here, in the time of the Lord, were Gennesaret and Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, cities of from ten to fifteen thousand inhabitants but now heaps of unidentifiable ruins.

It was in this region that the Lord spent the greater portion of the three years of His public ministry. Here He preached, and healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and performed most of His miracles. The reason He chose this region was, we conceive, because Galilee represents the natural degree of the Church; it was the "Galilee of the Gentiles" as it is called in Matthew 4:5; because here, far from Jerusalem, far from the center of the corrupt Jewish Church, were still to be found "the remnant" the simple fisher-folk, who alone were willing to receive the Lord in His Advent. Hence most of the twelve apostles and the seventy disciples came from the region round about the Lake of Galilee, and hence this lake, in a good sense, signifies "the cognitions of truth and good in the whole complex." (AE 514.)

It was on the waters of this sea that Jesus walked in the midst of the tempest, by which is signified the Lord's "presence and influx into the ultimate of Heaven and the Church, and the derivative life from the Divine for those who are in the ultimates of Heaven. That their faith is obscure and vacillating, was represented by Peter beginning to sink when walking upon the sea, but, being caught by the Lord, he was saved. That meanwhile the sea was in a state of commotion with the wind, and that the Lord assuaged it, signifies the natural state of life which precedes [salvation], which state is unpeaceful and tempestuous." (AE 51421.)

On the other hand, in an opposite sense, the lake signifies the abyss of Hell, as in the night when the disciples were about to perish in the storm, and when Jesus "rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm." (Matth. 8:26.) This represented, in one act, the Lord's universal work of Redemption by subjugating the hells into obedience to His Word. The same is signified by the Lord casting out the devils from the two men who were possessed, and "the devils went into a herd of swine, and the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters." (Matth. 8:32.)

48. The Dead Sea. As the great Sea of the West represents the Word of God, thus the Divine Truth itself, so the Dead Sea represents falsity itself. Even thus the Church in this world is set in the midst between truth and falsity,—between Heaven on the one hand and Hell on the other.

The Dead Sea is mentioned but a few times in the Word, but is then referred to as "the Sea of Salt," as in Genesis 14, where it is spoken of as "the Vale of Siddim, which is the Sea of Salt." This Vale is described as being "full of pits of bitumen," by which are signified "the filthy and unclean things of lusts." That this is their signification may be evident to every one.

This is also actually manifest in the other life, for such spirits desire nothing better than to dwell in miry, boggy, and excrementitious places, so that their nature carries such things with it. Such unclean things exhale from them even to the sense when they approach the sphere of good spirits, especially when they desire to infest the good, that is, to congre- gate to fight against them. From these things it is manifest what is signified by the Vale of Siddim. That the Sea of Salt signifies the vile things of falsities thence,... is because the Sea of Salt signifies the falsities which break forth from lusts, for there is never any lust but what produces falsities.(AC 1666.)

The salt of this Sea is produced chiefly by the extraordinary evaporation of the water, which, constantly inflowing from the Jordan, has no other outlet. The heat in this depression is tremendous, and the escaping waters have for ages left behind the salt which is contained in all water. The accumulation of salt is such as to render this lake the saltiest water on earth, and the saltness is further increased by the proximity of the Jebel Usdum (mountain of Sodom), a solid mountain of rock salt at the southern end of the Sea. From its slimy depths there arise also masses of bitumen or asphalt,—the combination of this inflammable material with the salt presenting, in the analysis of spiritual chemistry, the true representative of "falsities breaking forth from lusts."

The lake as a whole is the very picture of Hell. To begin with, it is the deepest hole on earth, even as it is the hottest. The level of the lake is 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and its own greatest depth is another abyss of 1,300 feet. Along its western shore the bleak and rugged rocks of Judaea rise to a height of 2,000 feet, and on the eastern shore the table-land of Moab is raised 4,000 feet above the level of the Dead Sea.

Shut up in this abysmal caldron,—46 miles long and from 5 to 9 miles wide,—is a collection of waters that have no natural outlet, even as there is no outlet to Hell. "He that enters here, let him forsake all hope." Thus the lake is like that love of self which greedily receives all things but gives nothing in return. And as Hell lives exclusively from the influx of Divine Good and Truth, but immediately turns all inflowing life into bitter falsity and fiery, filthy evils, so the Dead Sea exists entirely from the influx of the waters of Jordan which immediately are defiled by the salty deposit of the lake and the sulphurous and bituminous substances which are constantly arising from its bottom.

The scenery around this earthly Inferno is wild, dreary, and desolate in the extreme. The low shores at the foot of the bare and dirty cliffs are covered with a peculiarly offensive slimy, black mud, smeared over with a white and salty incrustation. No vegetation can flourish here, but over the universal desolation there hangs a heavy, shimmering atmosphere, filled with the poisonous exhalations from the filthy waters, and the heat which reigns in this hell-hole is seldom relieved by a gust of wind.

The density of the water is so great that the human body cannot sink in it. No birds are seen flying over it, and no fish can live in the lake. The fishes that are occasionally washed down from the Jordan, die immediately on arriving in the lake. A few poverty-stricken fellahin live at the northern and southern ends of the Dead Sea, but they are weak and sickly in mind and body, and are said to be the most immoral and degraded of all the modern inhabitants of Canaan.

The whole region is of volcanic nature, and science has abundantly confirmed the Old Testament story of the terrible cataclysms which in the time of Abraham destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, at the southern end of the lake. When Lot looked down upon this region from the heights of Bethel, "he beheld all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah." (Gen. 13:10.) But not long afterwards "the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from out of heaven;" and Abraham, from the mountain ridges above, "looked toward Sodom, and toward all the land of the plain, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace." (Gen. 19:24.)

Sodom and Gomorrah were at one time rich and populous centers of a Hamitic population,—the original Canaanites,— which, in the last days of the Ancient Church, had become utterly degraded in religion and in moral life. The destruction of these cities was one of the incidents of the Last Judgment upon the Ancient Church. Such of the inhabitants as escaped are said to have fled to the sea-coast where they founded Sidon and became the ancestors of the wealthy but cruel and corrupt Phoenician nation.

49. The Red Sea, or the Sea Suph. (Suph = reeds, rushes, sea-weed; probably from the Egyptian word twfi = reeds.) It has been supposed by some of the learned that "the Sea Suph" was the name only of the Bitter Lakes in the desert between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Suez, but not only do the Septuagint and the Vulgate translate the "Sea Suph" by the Red Sea, but the Writings of the New Church clearly establish their identity. We read there of the Egyptians being immersed "in the Red Sea," ( (AC 4601), and of the east wind which dried up the "Red Sea." (S. D. 5078.) The letter of the Word also speaks of "the shore of the Sea Suph in the land of Edom," (1 Kings 9:26), which shows that it was a general name applicable not only to the Gulf of Suez, but also to the Gulf of Akaba, which was the southern boundary of the land of Edom.

The Sea Suph, or the Red Sea, being on the one hand the eastern border of the land of Egypt, and on the other hand the western and southern boundary of the land of Canaan, (regarded in its widest extent), signifies "truth sensual and scientific," (AC 9340), and at the same time "the ultimates of the Church, which are the scientifics which comprehend the cognitions of truth and good." (AE 514.) That this sea was regarded as one of the boundaries of Canaan is evident from Exodus 23:31, where it is said, "I will set thy bounds from the Sea Suph even unto the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river," by which is signified "the Church in all its extension." (AE 701.)

When viewed as the abyss in which Pharaoh and his host were engulfed, the Sea Suph represents the sensual and scientific falsities which destroyed the Ancient Church in Egypt, and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea represents the Last Judgment upon the Ancient Church in that region, (AC 6589, 6907), and thus the hell and damnation into which the imaginary heavens of that vastated Church were finally cast down. (AC 7704, 8099; AE 503.) But the Red Sea being divided to let the Israelites pass through, represents the dissipation of those sensual and scientific falsities at the time of the Last Judgment, and thus the liberation of the captive spirits in the lower earth.(AC 8184.)

In the spiritual world there is still a Sea Suph, or Red Sea, which is a hell in front, deep under the hells of the adulterers, extending considerably towards the left. [The Gulf of Suez!] "It is separated from the other hells by waters like those of a sea." Those who are being delivered from infestations are led towards the left, through the midst of this hell, and come out at the left, where there is as it were a desert. While they are passing through they are so protected by the Lord that not the least of evil can reach them; for they are encompassed with a column of angels with whom the Lord is present. This was represented by the passing of the sons of Israel through the Sea Suph. (AC 8099.)

Previous: Chapter IV. The Mountains and Plains of Canaan. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter VI. The Rivers of Canaan.

Crown of Revelations
Rebirth, Reincarnation
The Holy Center
Salvation in the Gospels
Psychology of Marriage
Precious Stones
The Human Mind
The Moral Life
Saul, David & Solomon
Bible Lost & Found
The Human Soul
Genesis and Exodus
City of God
Swedenborg Cosmology
Ultimate Reality
The Pattern of Time
Means of Salvation
NC: Sex and Marriage
Book with Seven Seals
My Lord and My God
Philosopher, Metaphysician
Inspiration of Genesis
Words In Swedenborg
Book Expo
Missionary Talks
Tabernacle of Israel
A Brief View of the Heavenly Doctrines
Ancient Mythology
Odhner: Creation
Ten Commandments
Christ and The Trinity
Discrete Degrees
Body Correspondences
Language of Parable
The Ten Blessings
Creation in Genesis
The Third Source
Noble's "Appeal"
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Seas and Lakes

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