At the commencement of our undertaking it will first of all be necessary for us to define what is to be understood by the Spiritual Sense of the Holy Scripture, that we may know with clearness and exactitude in what respect it differs from the literal sense. Without a clear definition before us, it is indeed more than probable that we shall, in some instances, mistake the one for the other, and at times think we had got at the internal meaning, when we had obtained nothing more than a refined natural sense, by an ingenious explanation of some eastern allegory or metaphor.
The spiritual sense of the Word of God we must ever remember does not in the least relate to any event or circumstance in this natural world; it has no relation whatever to the condition of man as a natural being, nor to any of the properties which belong to the objects of our senses. Seeing, from this part of our definition, what the spiritual sense is not, if, in any future explanations, either by ourselves or others, we should detect anything which relates to the personal condition of man, to outward events, or to any of the properties of nature, we may be sure that we have not arrived at a dear conception of the limits of the two senses, but have been confounding them together.
The spiritual sense is exclusively confined to man's spiritual condition, embracing within its circuit every possible state of the human mind, both in that arrangement and subordination of its powers to the Divine Will which are to fit man for the kingdom of heaven, and in that disarrangement and insubordination of the mind by the love of evil, which are the sure and only sources of his eternal misery. The spiritual sense of the Holy Scripture is a history of the indefinitely various states of the human mind ; consisting of a series of truths, universal, as all truths are, which are abstracted from space and time, and therefore applicable to all mankind in all ages of the world. These conditions of the mind, that is of the will and the intellect, are called the states of the church, or of the kingdom of God, in man.
In the course of our present work we shall have occasion to extend our inquiries into the grounds or reason of the relationship between the spiritual and ' natural senses; for the present we must proceed in the study of these correspondencies in the same way as by experience it has been found best in the acquirement of any other branch of knowledge : first, let us see, and be convinced of its practical utility in eliciting a 'beautiful and harmonious sense of the highest value, which we may do by a thoughtful reading of any portion of the "Word spiritually explained by the application of correspondencies, as for instance are the Psalms; appended to the present volume; and let us afterwards, examine the reason of the correspondency between spirit and nature, which is said to be grounded in the very constitution of created things. We shall thus be better prepared for the inquiry, and be able more correctly and fully to understand the explanation.
Our first step however must be to have it well impressed upon our minds, that the natural sense relates, generally speaking, to the circumstances,, conditions, and duties of man externally, or in nature,, and also to the different forms, properties, and relations which belong to the objects of nature; and that the spiritual sense relates to the various states of man's spirit, that is, of his will in the quality of the love which animates it, and of his intellect in the quality of its knowledge.
On account of the relation which the Science of Correspondencies bears to the Divine Word as the key by which we may unlock its spiritual or internal meaning, and disclose the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem, it is more useful for us to first .investigate that science rather than any other of the doctrines however important contained in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg; and to make ourselves intimately acquainted with the many advantages which may result from a knowledge of this science, both in respect to its principles and practical application.
It is indeed impossible for any doctrines to surpass in purity and excellence those contained in the writings mentioned above. In all that concerns the distinct and clear knowledge which man should possess of the One Divine Object of his worship,and without a knowledge of Him and His holy attributes He can neither be really loved nor rightly served;in the full and satisfactory revelation which they contain of our future state of existence, and of our close connexion with that spiritual world, to which this life is the preparatory stage; in the profound and yet clear exposition which they give of the human mind, its origin, its various powers, with their distinct uses; in their pure and elevated system of morale; and, as respects the author "himself, in the deep reverence which he constantly : shows for the Divine origin of all truth, by keeping himself almost entirely from the reader's sight, and .directing him to the Lord God as the only source of all instruction; in . these, and in much more, the writings of the New Church stand pre-eminent. But these heavenly doctrines are themselves the Word of God in its spiritual sense, which can be drawn or extracted from its literal sense in no other way than by the science of correspondencies. To see therefore clearly, and to be convinced of their truth, it is necessary, as we have already said, to investigate the science by which they have been unfolded and on which they depend.
But not only does this science serve to unloose the seals of the holy volume, and to discover the universal truths of its spiritual sense, but it is equally applicable to the book of nature, which to most men is as much a sealed book as the Word of God itself. For who among philosophers, or men of science at the present day, is able, or even attempts, to connect natural effects with their spiritual causes ? Or rather, how few are there that attribute a spiritual cause to any natural effect, and who do not exclusively search in matter, and not in mind, for the causes of all natural phenomena? And yet nature, with the various objects of its three kingdoms and their connection, is nothing else from beginning to end but a scries of effects from spiritual causes. It is true that, at times, the simple-minded catch some glimpses of a connection between the two worlds, but then it is as if it were seen through the minute fissures of a closed door; the wonderful reality can burst upon the sight in its glory, only when that door is thrown open, and the humble searcher after truth, by the science of correspondencies, can' perceive and acknowledge the Divine inspiration of the Holy Book; and, in the creation and preservation of all nature, a continuation of the same law, the law of correspondency between the spiritual and the natural worlds. Indeed, there can be no termination to the discoveries of truth, both in the "Word of God and in the book of nature, to be made by means of this Divine science and yet every step we take in it will but convince us more and more of the necessity of improving our lives by the interior truths which it unfolds, and of submitting ourselves in all things humbly to the Divine Will. So universally does the law of correspondencies prevail throughout creation, that there is not a single event, nor any connected series of events, which can occur to any one - of us, that is not the representative form of some spiritual cause within us, although, from the obscurity and darkness in which the human mind is plunged, the correspondency between them cannot easily be detected. With respect both to the Word of God and to natural phenomena, Swedenborg has gone as far in disclosing their internal or spiritual sense as appears to be necessary for the present wants of mankind; and yet we have every reason to believe, from the universality of correspondencies, that we are but on the threshold of the science, and that, as men become better, by giving up their own selfish wills, both in intention and practice, to the Lord's will, and His will is, that, for our own sakes and for our everlasting happiness, we love Him above all things and our neighbour as ourselves, we have good reason to believe that truths will be revealed of a kind which would be utterly incomprehensible to us in our present state of ignorance.
But, as a foundation for spiritual truth, natural knowledge is absolutely indispensable. An accurate acquaintance with the- general arrangement, and specific forms, functions, and uses of the various objects of nature, is the basis on which the superstructure of all spiritual truth must rest. We have therefore the noblest and most powerful inducement to interest us in every branch of natural knowledge. For instead of being confined to the mere detail of facts, which but too frequently indispose the mind to the truths of religion, the science of correspondencies will enable us to link together the natural effect, which, disconnected, is but the appearance of truth, with its spiritual cause, so that it may be in reality a truth ; and at last to connect all with the Divine Truth; from which they are produced. So far is the science from dispensing with natural knowledge, such knowledge is in fact quite as indispensable for the right comprehension of spiritual truth, as are the words of language for the communication of our thoughts.
The science of correspondencies further teaches us to distinguish between that which is really true and that which only appears to be so, or between the spiritual and the natural senses of the Holy Scripture. Not but that the imperfect form of the literal sense is highly useful, and indeed necessary; for we must be instructed by the appearances of truth before we are in a condition to comprehend the truth itself, and also because, when we are sufficiently prepared, the very discordances of the letter will be as stumbling- blocks, to awaken our attention, and dispose us to receive an explanation which reconciles all difficulties, at the same time that it satisfies the utmost requirements of human reason. This is shown in the petition of the Lord's prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," when spiritually explained. But nature itself, or more correctly speaking, a merely natural view of this world, presents nothing else but the appearances of truth, although it is considered by most persons actually to be such as it appears to be, and as the very cause and origin of all the emotions of the will and the thoughts of the intellect.
The common opinions concerning insanity might be here adduced as striking examples of such false conclusions. For the cause of madness is generally conceived to be some bodily disorder, which produces its effects by its action on the mind. Such indeed Goodness is manifested ; and even in the prayer itself, not a separate consciousness, nor anything like. a separate consciousness or division of identity, but the representative form of such a separation of the Divine Goodness from the Divine Truth at the consummation of the Church, that the latter could no longer bring the Divine Goodness or the Divine Love forth to view, and was consequently rejected and destroyed. This spiritual rejection and destruction of the Divine Truth was represented and signified by the rejection of the Son of Man and His crucifixion. In this way does the science of correspondencies explain to us the reason for the apparent distinction between the Father and the Son, at the same time that it reveals to us the perfect unity of the Divine Being in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who was the Divine Truth in its ultimate or natural form.
But when the grounds, of correspondencies are unfolded, it will serve at the same time to explain the doctrine of influx; for the influx of the Divine Life, through the discriminated degrees of which the human mind is composed, is the same thing as correspondency. This correspondency begins where first the ratio or relationship commences between God and man. But there can be no ratio between two beings so unlike in kind, that one of the two, namely man, can form no conception: of, and therefore cannot rationally perceive, the other,that other being the Infinite God, or Jehovah such as He is in Himself. The correspondency therefore commences where the infinite is in conception so far finited as to become a Divine Object, who can be perceived, loved, and worshipped. This Infinite finited, in contradistinction to the Infinite as it is in itself, is called by Swedenborg the Lord's Divine-Human Essence, and in relationship to man in nature is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of the order of influx, in connexion with the doctrine and degrees of correspondency, it may be remarked, that each spiritual plane is as a mirror, in which the state of the plane immediately above it, is represented, while all are represented in the last plane, which is the external human form and the other objects of the natural world. Nature, whether considered in its most extended sense, as applicable to all natural forms and their respective uses, or limited to the human body, which is a little world in the connexion and uses of its various parts, is the mirror in which are represented both the Lord's kingdom of love and truth within man, and also the contrary kingdom of spiritual darkness and death.
Again, the intellect, in its thoughts, is a mirror which represents the state of the will, and according to the state of the will and intellect, such will be the mirror in which the Lord, with His Divine Love and Wisdom, is represented, or such will He be in relation to man. This generally is the order of discriminated degrees, or the influx of the Divine Life into man according to reception.
How necessary is it then for our future improvement in this Divine science, that we guard against the admission of that which we do not clearly understand. Our reason was given to us in order that, being enlightened by the Lord, we might admit of no other authority but the rational perception of truth, which nothing else but His living presence in us can communicate. That faith, the reason of which we cannot clearly perceive, Swedenborg rightly calls the persuasive faith of authority, under the influence of which we are more likely to wander into the paths of error than to reach the temple of truth.
As to the difference between the two kinds of degrees which Swedenborg calls "continuous" and "discriminated or discrete," it is to be observed that all differences in the forms which belong to the same degree, whether spiritual or natural, arc called continuous, and the connection between them a connection by continuity; whereas the forms which belong to different degrees, are called discriminated or discrete, and their connection, a connection by correspondency. We have even known those who are in some measure acquainted with the Writings of the New Church, to mistake the analogy or likeness which exists between the different orders of the three kingdoms of nature for the discriminated degrees of correspondency; but this arose from their not having accurately examined and comprehended the explanations of the author. The analogy, which can be traced through the various forms of nature, is a display of the harmony which reigns throughout its continuous degrees; but the correspondency of discriminated degrees is the relationship subsisting between the spiritual efficient cause and its natural effect. The following passages from Swedenborg will show that this relationship is a real correspondency between the cause and its effect.
"Throughout nature there is not a single thing which can exist unless it have a correspondency with the spiritual world, for without it, it would want a cause for its existence, and consequently for its subsistence also. For .all things in nature are nothing else but effects, the causes of which are in the spiritual world, and the causes of these, which are ends, in the interior heaven. The effect cannot subsist unless the cause be continually in it, for the cause ceasing, the effect must cease also. The effect, considered in itself, is nothing else but the cause, but so extrinsically clothed as to be subservient to the cause by enabling it to act in a lower sphere. What is here said of the effect in relation to its cause is equally true of the cause in relation to its end. For a cause is nothing unless it exist from its cause, which is the end; for without an end, it is a cause devoid of order, and without order nothing can be effected" (Ibid. n. 5711).
To be convinced therefore of the reality of the science of correspondencies, it will be necessary to understand the grounds or reason on which it rests; for without a perception of the mode in which these efficient causes, which are purely spiritual, can produce, by an influx of the Divine Life, the forms of nature, correspondency might be mistaken for; an arbitrary system of symbols or metaphors. But when the grounds of the system are discovered, then the reason of man is satisfied, and the science of correspondencies is hailed as a revelation, from the Lord Himself, of the order and constitution of His universe.
In the consideration of this subject, it may be urged that physical causes, however, cannot be altogether excluded. The frequent production of insanity by cerebral disease, and the varied state of the disorder, arising, it would seem, from physical causes, appear to point to a different conclusion from the one we have already advanced. But we contend that it is nothing more than a fallacy to suppose the events in nature to be anything else but a series of effects from the spiritual causes which they represent; although the mind by an inverted view may consider many of them, and even the whole of them, to be causes. If it be asked, To what are we to attribute the order and connexion of circumstances in the theatre of this world, which look so like the relations of cause and effect? The answer is, that, in these effects, the harmony and connexion displayed, which most people mistake for a series of causes and effects, are consequences of the order, connexion, and succession of their spiritual causes, and of the Divine order reigning throughout the whole.
With this view we shall be enabled to see all things in the beauty of their spiritual connexion with the Supreme Cause, and not as disconnected from ourselves, but as effects depending upon our own condition, and as real outbirths of the Divine Life within us. In this consists the reality of correspondencies, or the relationship subsisting between a spiritual cause and its natural effect. Philosophers, however, are not only indisposed to admit of a spiritual cause to any natural phenomenon, but, generally speaking, reverse the true order, by attributing the operations of the mind to the functions of the brain, and in some instances considering mind itself to be nothing more than a physical secretion. On the other hand it may be urged, that, for the production of an echo a physical cause is necessary; but we answer, that the echo, and all the phenomena that accompany its production, are effects, depending, for their continuity and connexion, upon causes discriminated from them in their characteristic properties, but actually necessary to their existence. If there be a real correspondentas there is between the two worlds of spirit and of matter, it must be universal, and admit of no exception, nor contradiction in its laws. Correspondency does not consist in the arbitrary affixing of certain meanings to certain objects, nor in the tracing a metaphorical resemblance between a certain state of the mind, and any .event or events in nature; but it is the link which connects the internal or spiritual plane with the natural, according to which the states of the human will and understanding are represented in the sensible appearances of space and time. To deny this, the connexion of cause and effect between mind and matter, is to deny the reality of the latter, and to disconnect it from the One Divine Cause of all, who is pre-eminently and essentially real, and who, not being in space and time, creates them both, by the medium of the spiritual world, or through man.
Correspondency, we have said, exists between different, or discriminated, degrees or planes, that is, between the natural degree or plane, and the spiritual. In the one degree or plane are intellectual objects, which are either truths or the perversions of truth ; and in the other, the various objects of the senses. But the former, namely, the truths or fallacies of the intellect, have their causes also, which are called causes of causes or ends, consisting of the good, or the evil, affections of the will. This is the order that prevails throughout creation, and is in no instance whatever actually reversed, although it may appear to the natural man, who thinks in the fallacies of effects, and not from the truth of causes, to be so.
We must not suffer the unreal semblance of physical causes to obscure our mental sight; for from physical causes there is but one step to the belief in accidental causes, or in the existence of a cause without an end. But he, whose eye is spiritually enlightened, will see that, from the universality of the Divine Providence operating from ends through causes in effects, there can be no such thing as accidents; for those events which are falsely considered accidental, with all their consequences, have their causes as much in the spiritual world of state, as the words of language have their causes in the thoughts which they indicate ; or as the expression of the countenance is an effect which unfolds, and represents, the state of the affections. But we are unfortunately too much accustomed to reverse the true order of things, and relying upon our senses, not only for information, but for instruction also, we are continually making the most serious mistakes, setting our natural knowledge at variance with our religion, instead of connecting them, as the two worlds are connected in creation. The first step towards removing the film, that obscures the vision of the natural man, will be to abstain from confirming those fallacious appearances which belong to the literal or the natural sense of things : for by confirming these, the fair form of truth will be buried in the dust, and in that situation we shall but blind ourselves the more, the more we strive to discover her lifeless form.