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Phoebus Apollo

Divine Manhood,—this is the central idea in the manifold yet ever harmonious characteristics of the Greek sun-god, the god of light, beauty and joy,—the god of wisdom, intelligence and science.—the noblest, purest and finest of all the male divinities of Hellas, Phoebus Apollo, who "to a form of ideal beauty, combining youthful grace and vigor with the fullest perfection of manly strength, added unerring wisdom, complete insight into futurity, an unstained life, the magic power of song, ability to save and to heal." (Rawlinson.)

The worship of Apollo, like the etymology of his name, is clearly of oriental origin. Until of late years, it has been the custom to derive the name from apollymi, to destroy, but this is manifestly unsatisfactory as it describes but one of the offices of the god, and that only an incidental one. Knowing, as we do, that the Greeks received most of their religion, as they did their letters, from Asia and Egypt, through the Phoenicians, it becomes evident that in Apollo we have simply a purified and glorified Hellenic reappearance of the Assyro-Babylonian Bel, and the Syrian Baal,—"ha-Baal,"—"the lord,"—who, like Apollo, was distinctly the god of the sun. In fact, among the earliest Greek representations of Apollo, we find him depicted simply under the appearance of a human face, surrounded by the rays of the sun,—the exact reproduction of the most common Phoenician representation of Baal. Moreover, we can trace the westward progress of the worship of Baal, through the Cretan Abelios and the ancient Doric Apellon, to the Ionic Apollo, which finally become the fixed and generally accepted form of the name.

As the god of the sun, Apollo was known as Phoebus, in order to distinguish him from the earlier sun-god, Hellios, the Titan son of Ouranos and Gaea, whose office of driving the horses and chariot of the sun was inherited by Apollo, just as Neptune inherited the watery kingdom of his uncle, Oceanos. Helios, (whose name is clearly derived from the Semitic El or "ha-El," "the god," just as Apollo is derived from "ha-Baal"), stood for the idea of God as a man in the sun of the spiritual world, in the waning days of the Most Ancient Church, just as Apollo stands for the same idea in the decline of the Ancient Church, —Phoebus Apollo among the Grseco-Romans, the Horus of the Egyptians, the Krishna of India, or the Balder of the Northmen. Under the name of Helios he was especially worshiped on the summits of certain high mountains which hence became known as Mounts of Helios,—later on Christianized in various places as "Mt. Saint Elias!"

Apollo, as the sun-god, signifies in general the supreme love of the spiritual Church, that is, Charity, even as his twin-sister, Diana, the goddess of the moon, everywhere is the representative of Faith. The story of their birth on the island of Delos is the story of the birth of spiritual charity and faith among the Hellenic Gentiles, who lived remote from the corrupt nations in Asia where the Ancient Church had once flourished.

According to all accounts, Apollo and Diana were the offspring of Zeus and Latona, or Leto, whose name means "darkness," (comp. lateo, to hide, and Lethe, oblivion), which fitly describes the state of spiritual darkness originally prevailing with the primitive Greeks, among whom a new Church was now about to be established. Juno, on discovering her husband's alliance with Latona, immediately outlawed her rival, at the same time threatening with dire vengeance any person or place that should extend aid or shelter to the poor exile,—all of which typifies the hatred of the Old Church towards the simple gentiles who now were to receive a new and purer form of the Lord's Church.

Among the many adventures of the suffering outcast, the following significant legend is told by Ovid. "While wandering one day under a burning sun, Latona came upon a lake of limpid water. Kneeling down to quench her thirst, she was set upon by some Lydian laborers who were gathering sedges and rushes by the shore; they harshly forbade her to touch the water, and even began to jump about in the mud in order to render the water undrinkable, whereupon Latona cried out, "May you live forever in that pool." Zeus heard her wish, and the churls were at once changed into croaking frogs. The lake here seems to represent the Word of God, to which the inquiring soul comes for the water of life. But the laborers,—the priesthood of the perverted Church,—forbid the search for truth, and make the Word muddy and unintelligible by their false and clumsy interpretations ; the result, however, is worse for them than for the truth-seeker, for they become spiritual frogs, croaking ratio-cinators, forever dwelling in filthy falsities and jumping at false conclusions. (A. C. 7351 ; A. E. 1000.) The comedy,—or perhaps we should say, tragedy,—is repeated at the end of every Church.

The whole world refused to give shelter to Latona, until she happened to see a small, barren island floating about in the Aegean sea; it "trembled with joy" on hearing her appealing voice, received her gladly, and was forthwith chained down with adamantine pillars and received the name Delos, forever blessed by the whole Hellenic world. And here, amid great sufferings, Latona gave birth to her divine children. The myth is filled with light when we learn that by "islands are signified those who live mutually together in charity, but still in ignorance, not knowing anything about the Lord or the doctrinal things of the Church," (A. C. 1158), in other words "the Gentiles with whom there has been only the appearance of truth, but not as yet genuine truths," {A. E. 1024). Delos thus signifies the same in the Ancient Church as was represented by the neighboring isle of Patmos, where the Apocalypse was given to the Christian Church.

The reason the revelation was made to John in Patmos, was that it was an island in Greece, not far from the land of Canaan, and between Asia and Europe; and by islands are signified the nations more remote from the worship of God, but who will nevertheless accede to it, because they can be illustrated; in like manner by Greece; but the Church itself by the land of Canaan; by Asia those belonging to the Church who are in the light of truth from the Word; and by Europe those to whom the Word will come. (A. R. 34.)

An island signifies a nation remote from true worship, but which still longs to be enlightened and which will receive the truths of Doctrine. Moreover, the isle of Patmos is in an archipelago where there are many other islands; and hence, too, it is, that by "Greece," in the Word, such nations are signified. (A. E. 50.)

It was through the isles of Greece, and especially through Delos, that the light of the Ancient Word passed over from Asia to Europe, and it was similarly through Greece and her islands that the light of the Christian Gospel first spread among the European gentiles. In the Church of the New Jerusalem, also, an island kingdom has figured as the first place to receive the Heavenly Doctrine,—we refer to the British Isles,—and to us it appears very probable that the islands of Japan will in the future serve as the means of introducing the New Church to the gentile nations of the Orient. But we must now return to Apollo.

Apollo, it is said, was born on the seventh of May, and hence the seventh day of every month was sacred to him. At his birth, a heavenly radiance flooded the island of Delos, and a flock of swans flew seven times around the island, while, growing between a palm and an olive tree, the sacred laurel sprang up from the ground. Having been washed and swathed by the attendant goddesses, Apollo was fed with Nectar and Ambrosia. Suddenly attaining full stature, he called for a lyre and a bow, and, announced that he intended to found an oracle and to declare to men the will of his Divine Father.

Setting forth to accomplish this sacred purpose, he arrived at Delphi, at the foot of Mount Parnassus, where, from a chasm in the rocks, there issued a monstrous serpent, the Python, which had been born out of the slime and stagnant waters which remained after the Deluge had subsided. Him Apollo vanquished and chained in the chasm, and placed over it a tripod and built around it a temple which became the most famous oracle of all antiquity. Out of the chasm there exhaled a gas which threw into hypnotic trance the priestess,— known as the Pythia,—who was seated on the tripod above it, and who, when in this condition, gave utterance to muttered oracles which were caught by the listening priests and formulated by them according to the requirements of the occasion.

According to ancient custom the conqueror assumed as one of his surnames the name of his vanquished foe, and thus Apollo was frequently worshiped under the name of Pytheus, or the Pythean. Hence, in English, we have the word "Pythonism" as a generic term for all kinds of magic and spiritism, and it is only by a knowledge of this connection between the Python, (also called "Leviathan"), and Apollo, that we can understand the allusion in the True Christian Religion, n. 182, where certain spirits, who were teachers of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, were compared by Swedenborg to the "Abaddons" and "Apollyons," mentioned in the Apocalypse, (9:11). To this they replied, "we are not Apollyons, but Apollos." Whereupon Swedenborg said, indignant; "If you are Apollos you are also Leviathans, whom God shall visit with His hard and great sword." Elsewhere in the Writings of the New Church Apollo is always given a good signification.

Having vanquished the Python and erected a temple at Delphi, Apollo next boarded a ship of Phoenician traders, whom he carried away to Delphi to serve as his priests there. This origin of his priesthood again points to the Phoenician origin of his worship.

In antique art, Apollo is always represented as a glorious figure, combining the beauty of eternal youth with the strength and dignity of Divine manhood,—a naked, athletic, beardless figure, with a countenance radiant and genial, his long, curling hair hanging loose or bound in a large knot above his forehead.

His broad, intellectual brow is nearly always crowned with a wreath of his favorite laurel, and in his hands he bears the dreaded bow and the inspiring lyre.

Several famous representations show him in the act of killing an enormous lizard which is crawling up the trunk of a tree, (Apollo Saurokmos). As leader of the Muses he is known as Apollo Musagetes, and is then represented as fully garbed in long, ample robes, unarmed, and playing upon the lyre. Among the most famous statues of Apollo was the Colossus of Rhodes, 105 feet high, bestriding the narrow entrance to the harbor of Rhodes, the little ships of antiquity sailing easily between his feet. But the most beautiful statue of Apollo that has been preserved from classic times, is the far-famed Apollo Belvidere, which was discovered at the end of the fifteenth century, when it was purchased by Pope Julius II., and at the direction of Michael Angelo, placed in the Belvidere gallery of the Vatican. It represents him in the act of slaying the Python, and is remarkable for its air of moral grandeur and certainty of victory.

As was said before, Apollo, more than any other of the Greek gods, embodies the ideal of Divine Manhood, or the idea of the Divine under a most perfect human form, and he represents especially the Human Divine, such as it was revealed to the Ancients, before the coming of the Lord Himself in the flesh. And since this idea of God as a Man was then the medium of conjunction and communication of God with man, so Apollo like Mercury, was the medium by which Zeus communicated with the human race. Like Mercury, therefore, Apollo represents the Divine Proceeding which is this medium of conjunction and communication, but while Mercury represents the Divine Proceeding in its office of Communication, Apollo represents it more particularly in its office of Divine Operation, or as Divine energy and power. If, now, we know that the first manifestation of the Divine Proceeding is the Sun of the Spiritual world, in which the Lord reveals His Divine Human form, and if we know at the same time that the Lord also reveals Himself as a Man outside the spiritual sun, we shall be able to understand and reconcile the three different and hitherto unharmonized types of Apollo, viz. : 1, as Helios, the Sun; 2, as the god of light and wisdom, and 3, as an individual deity, or God revealed in a personal human form.

1. Apollo, as representing the Sun of the spiritual world, is known as Phoebus, "the shining one," and in the later mythology of the Greeks he occupies the same position as the earlier sun-god, Helios. As the god of the sun,—or, as Byron expresses it, "the Sun in human limbs arrayed,"—he dwells in a golden palace far in the east, where he sits enthroned in ineffable glory, surrounded by a brilliant court made up of the Hours, the Days, the Months, the Seasons, the Years, and the Ages. Hence, every morning, preceded by ''rosy-fingered Aurora,'' he proceeds on his daily journey around the earth, seated in his radiant chariot and drawn by four fire-breathing, ambrosia-fed horses. Concerning these we learn that

the signification of a horse, as meaning the intellectual, was derived from the Ancient Church to the wise round about, even into Greece. Hence it was that in describing the Sun, they placed therein the god of their wisdom and intelligence, and attributed to him a chariot and four fiery horses, . . . the food of which they called ambrosia, and their drink nectar. For they knew that the sun signifies celestial love; horses, the intellectual things thence derived; meats, celestial things; and drinks, spiritual things. (A. C. 2762, 4966.)

It is highly significant that Phoebus Apollo, the sun-god, was also the god of the art of healing, and as such was the father of AEsculapius, the god of medicine, who, in turn, was the father of Hygea, the goddess of health. The meaning of this whole genealogy becomes apparent when we remember that the Lord, the Savior of mankind, is described in the Word, as "the Sun of Righteousness," who "shall arise with healing in His wings."

2. As the Sun-god, Apollo represents celestial love and wisdom, but he also personifies that which proceeds from the sun, viz., heat and light, and as such he represents spiritual love and wisdom, that is, charity and intelligence. He represents charity especially as the brother of Diana, the maiden-huntress, who clearly typifies faith. The ancients delighted in ascribing to Apollo a character of exalted morality and justice,—a deity who was never offended without righteous cause, never moved by caprice like so many of the other Divinities, but forgiving and compassionate as mercy itself, and hence he became par excellence the god of expiation, to whom repentant sinners fled for redemption and protection against the Furies.

But since true charity means justice, and justice involves the punishment of unrepentant evil-doers in order that the good may be protected, Apollo was also regarded as the distributor of just retribution, who with his fiery darts promptly punished deliberate sin, arrogance, and blasphemy against the gods. He thus pierced with his arrows the children of the boasting Niobe, flayed the impudent Marsyas, and put ass's ears upon foolish Midas,—not to avenge his own honor, but to impress upon men the inevitable consequences of self-confidence, pride, and impiety ; and he showed a Divine impartiality in bringing pestilence and death upon his beloved Achaeans when these, on the expedition against Troy, had offered violence to Chryseis, the daughter of his priest.

As the god of intelligence he is armed with a silver bow, the beautiful emblem of the Doctrine of spiritual truth. Silver signifies what is spiritual, even as gold signifies the celestial. And a bow always signifies Doctrine; the round shaft signifies the good of the doctrine, its aim and purpose; and the straight string signifies the understanding which, when strained or made tense by the purpose, sends forth the truths which carry the point.

3. As an individual or personal deity, apart from the sun, Apollo again represents the idea of God as a Man, or the Divine Human such as it was before the Incarnation of the Lord. From the beginning God had revealed Himself to men as a Divine Man, but before the Incarnation this revelation was effected by means of angels and spirits of whom God took possession, and whom He filled with His own Divine Spirit to such an extent and in so complete a manner that these media could, for the time being, serve to make God visible and audible to other angels and spirits. And by means of the human form thus as it were borrowed from a spirit, God could then reveal Himself to men on earth,—the prophets and seers and wise men of old,—and through these men make His Divine Word known on the earth.

This revelation of God as a Man,—before the Incarnation,— was typified in Apollo and is to be clearly distinguished from the prophecy of the Messiah who was to come in the flesh, for this prophecy also existed among the Greeks in various forms, as in

the legends of Perseus, Theseus, Achilles, but especially in the story of Hercules. By confounding these two distinct ideas, many Christian mythologists, swayed by the idea of three persons in the Godhead, have seen in Apollo a character analogous to the "Second Person in the Trinity," while Zeus is supposed to answer to the "Father" and Pallas Athene to "the Holy Ghost." Mr. Gladstone in his Homer and the Homeric Age, (vol. II, p. 132), sees in Apollo a representative of the "legendary anticipations of a person to come, in whom should be combined all the great offices in which God the Son is now made known to man, as the Light of our paths, the Physician of our diseases, the Judge of our misdeeds, and the Conqueror and Disarmer, but not yet abolisher of Death." And the devout Miss S. A. Scull, (in her Greek Mythology Systematized, p. 146), when treating of Apollo, speaks of him as "one who was so glorious and yet so grandly self-giving, that he typified Him in whom the world finds the way, the truth, and the life." Max Muller, however, condemns all such speculations as "unscientific," and to him '' it seems a blasphemy to consider the fables of the heathen world as corrupted and misinterpreted fragments of a Divine Revelation once granted to the whole of mankind.'' (Chips from a German Workshop, vol. 11, p. 13.)

The learned author of the "Chips" had not the wings of a Gladstonian mind. Mr. Gladstone, and others of his school, were indeed mistaken in regarding Apollo as a prophetic representative of the Messiah, but nevertheless they had a correct perception of his character as a type of the Divine in the Human, the God-man. Apollo, standing for this idea, represents also the "spirit of Prophecy" or of Divine Revelation, and it is in this character that he presided over the most famous Oracles of antiquity. These oracles, such as those in Dodona and Delphi, were originally actual means of communicating with the Divine and of receiving answers from God, but in later times, by perversions of correspondences, they became means of communicating with the magical hells of the fallen Ancient Church. Nevertheless in the purer times, the Oracles were the means of perceiving the Divine Word in a literal sense, and, like the sense of the letter, the oracles were always of a more or less enigmatical and doubtful meaning, extending from opposites to opposites. The tripod, also, or altar of Apollo, with its three iron legs, seems to us a fitting symbol of the natural truth of the literal sense, in which the three interior senses are simultaneously present.

Since, now, all wisdom, intelligence, and science are based upon and derived from Divine Revelation, or the Word of God, we can readily see how Apollo became the special God and inspiring patron of all wisdom, intelligence, science and art. From him came the gift of prophecy,—in the case of Cassandra a fateful gift. From him all bards and musicians received their inspiration. And from him, through his handmaidens, the Muses, came light and progress in every field of science, art, culture, and accomplishment.

Hence, when the ancient Greeks described the birth of the sciences from the intellectual, they feigned a flying horse, [Pegasus], who with his hoofs burst open a fountain, [the Pierian spring], whence sprang the virgins who were the Sciences, [the Muses], (A. C. 2762.)

Again, we are taught that

the Greeks placed Helicon on a mountain, and by it understood Heaven! they placed Parnassus on a hill, below, and by it they understood scientifics; they said that a flying horse, called Pegasus, had there broken open a fountain with his hoof; they called the sciences virgins and so on. For they knew from correspondences and representatives that a mountain was Heaven; that the hill was that heaven which is below or which is among men; that a horse was the intellectual; that the wings by which he flew were spiritual things; that the hoof was the natural; that the fountain was intelligence; that the three virgins who were called the Graces, were the affections of good; and that the virgins who were called the Heliconian and Parnassian maidens, were the affections of truth. (A. C. 4966.)

As the spirited snow-white, winged horse was the favorite mount of Apollo, so the fragrant, aromatic laurel, (Laurea Apollinaris), was his favorite tree, by which, we conceive, the perception of spiritual truth was signified. Himself always crowned with the laurel, a wreath of bay leaves was bestowed upon the winners in poetic and athletic contests, and was carried also by persons performing self-imposed penance, as a sign, perhaps, that the perception of truth concerning one's evils is the surest road to victory.


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Phoebus Apollo

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