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Idolatry

This, then, leads us to the consideration of Idolatry, or the worship of images, which, as we shall see, arose from the following causes:

I. From the habit of representing by external objects the various things of the Church; thus not only Divine Qualities and Attributes, but also the various affections, faculties, virtues, and sciences of man.

II. From the open communication with the Spiritual World which many of the Ancient Church still retained. When the love of the Ancient Church turned from love of the neighbor to love of self and the world, communication was given with evil spirits, who inflowed into the minds of the men. Hence arose first a perversion of the Doctrine of Correspondences and Representatives—that is, the magi or wise of the Ancient Church perverted the correspondences and turned them, for the sake of selfish ends, into such magic arts as to gain power over the minds of men. From this perversion arose, also, a gradual obliteration or forgetting of the true science of Correspondences, while, on account of the great reverence which the ancients had for everything which was old or from their fathers, the representative images and rituals still were considered holy, and at last were worshiped as in themselves Divine. Hence, "those whose mental sight depended upon the senses of the body, and who still wished to see God, formed for themselves, as idols, images of gold, silver, stone, and wood, that under these, as objects of sight, they might worship God, while others, who rejected artificial images from their religion, formed for themselves ideal images of God in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and in various things upon the earth" (T. C. R. 11).

Hence then came the worship of the planetary bodies, which we find in all the Ancient Mythologies, as well as the grosser forms of idolatry, such as the worship of images of beasts, birds, fishes, serpents, and trees.

A very complete historical view of this gradual rise of the worship of idols and statues is found in Arcana Caelestia, n. 4580.

"The statues that were erected in ancient times were either for a sign or for a witness or for worship; those which were for worship were anointed, and thence they were considered holy, and by them also they had their worship. Thus, in temples, in groves, in woods, under trees, and in other places. This ritual derived its representation from this, that in most ancient times stones were erected on the boundaries between the families of the nations, so that no one should pass over them to do any evil. And because stones were there on the boundaries, the most ancients, who in the single things which were in this earth saw corresponding spiritual and celestial things, when they saw these stones in the boundaries, thought concerning the truths which are the ultimates of order; but their posterity, who beheld less of the spiritual and celestial and more of the worldly, began to think in a holy manner concerning these only from the veneration from the ancient time, and at last the posterity of the Most-Ancients, who lived immediately before the flood, and who did not any more see anything spiritual and celestial in terrestrial and mundane things, as in objects, began to sanctify these stones, by pouring libations upon them, and anointing them with oil; and then they were called statues and retained for worship. This remained after the flood, in the Ancient Church, which was representative, but with this difference, that the statues served them as means for reaching internal worship; for infants and children were instructed by their parents what these things represented, and thus they were led to know holy things, and to be affected by those things which they represented. Thence it was that the statues with the ancients, in their temples, groves, and woods, and upon hills and mountains, were for worship. But when internal things altogether perished, together with the Ancient Church, and when they began to hold external things holy and Divine, and thus to worship them idolatrously, then they erected statues for their separate gods."

Thus far, then, as to Polytheism and Idolatry. But Mythology includes also the knowledge of the various theological doctrinals which were held by the ancient gentile nations, and these also ought to be included in the study of mythology, for without a knowledge of them the Pantheon of the ancients will be found lifeless and unmeaning. And to these doctrinals the New Church alone possesses the key in the knowledge that is given it concerning the ancient Word, from which the ancient theology was derived; and, further, in the knowledge of the Correspondences, according to which the Ancient Word was written.

 


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Crown of Revelations
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Psychology of Marriage
Precious Stones
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Bible Lost & Found
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City of God
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Ultimate Reality
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Tabernacle of Israel
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A Brief View of the Heavenly Doctrines
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Odhner: Creation
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Language of Parable
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Creation in Genesis
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Idolatry

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