Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


Previous: Chapter Fifth Up: The Science of Correspondency Next: Chapter Seventh

Chapter Sixth

Every object of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, or nature considered as a whole, is actually produced by the medium of the human will and intellect, and varies according to the changes in the state of human affections and thoughts, that is, according to the state of the church universally and particularly; and therefore it is called a theatre in which the Lord's kingdom of love and light, or the opposite kingdom of wickedness and folly, is represented. The objects of the senses have no existence separate from the human mind, or otherwise an effect could exist separate from the cause of its existence. The world of space, and its successive changes, are outbirths of our worlds of affection and of thought, and they are so intimately connected, that the former could neither have existed before the latter, nor without it; and therefore Swedenborg most truly says, that all things are created through man, the percipient being. It is not, however, enough to be persuaded of this, we must be convinced of it by actual perception, before we can be said really to comprehend the science of correspondency. The enquiring mind cannot rest satisfied with the mere persuasion that there is a correspondency between the objects of nature and the states of the human mind; the mode must be shown in which the one produces the other, and this can only be done by investigating the grounds of the relationship between mind and matter. It is a truth of the highest order, that nature does not exist independent of man; and to trace the connection between the external and the internal worlds constitutes, in part, the intellectual exercise of angels. Thus, in the effects which are sensibly presented to any heavenly society, they are enabled to read the causes in which they originate, or the collected form of their minds, and every individual of the society, in the effects which are sensibly presented to him, sees the representative forms of his individual state. The majesty and beauty of these objects are, for the most part, beyond description, because scarcely any conception can be formed of the unity of life which reigns among them, and which is their cause; or of the pure and exalted wisdom which flows as a consequence from their mutual love. But this perception of correspondency which they enjoy, was also enjoyed, to a great extent, in the primitive ages of the world, and then there was an outward paradise corresponding as an effect with the paradise of heavenly love and wisdom within them. But in succeeding ages mankind, by preferring knowledge to the life of love and charity, lost the perception of this, and at length so completely as to reverse, in their false conceptions, the order of creative influx, and to attribute mind itself to the organization of matter, and not all the changes of matter to the living operations of the mind. To restore this perception, we must begin by restoring the Lord's likeness in ourselves ; and this can only be done by ceasing to love ourselves, and in our actions ceasing to prefer ourselves to others. When this heavenly course becomes the very staple of our lives, as well as our chief delight, then may the church expect to be restored to its garden of Eden, and with it to the full and intimate perception of the causes of all outward events, and of every object which can strike the senses.

When any place is mentioned in the Holy Scripture, that state to which the place corresponds must be substituted in the mind. It is said that in the secret places doth he murder the innocent, to denote the exceeding subtlety of those wicked spirits with whom man is naturally associated, and who, by various hidden ways, excite his evil passions and propensities, in order that they may be able to suffocate and destroy that innocence of spirit which he has received from the Lord. The secret places, taken literally, seem to refer to those dens or caverns which abounded in different parts of the land of Canaan, and which were, at the time of the Lord's manifestation, the resort of thieves and murderers. There are many of these caverns in the dreary pass which leads from Jerusalem to Jericho, and on that account it was the scene of the Lord's parable of the good Samaritan. Caves also formed the habitations of those barbarous tribes that are called Nomadic, and they were so, because they were the representative forms of their unsocial and uncivilized state. But in the progress of. civilization, still depending upon the gradual improvement of their minds, they formed themselves into societies, and, for mutual benefit and protection, built cities, and towns, and villages; and these, when collected under one government, were called a nation, or a kingdom. But the very government was a government of the Divine Truth in human minds, displayed, in a more or less perfect form, according to the measure of their mutual love, wisdom, intelligence, and science.

Each distinct place in the land of Canaan had its distinct signification in relation to the human mind and this is not only true of that land, but of every city, town, village, and house in every part of the world; for it is not only the land of Canaan which was a theatre representative of the Lord's kingdom in man, but all nature at all times, because it is, equally with that land, an effect flowing from spiritual causes, and therefore representing the Lord's kingdom, or its opposite. To know the science of correspondencies, something more is required than a mere acquaintance with the general signification of the land of Canaan ; every place, however seemingly insignificant, and its connexion with the events that are recorded in the Holy Scripture, must be traced to its internal source, and the human mind, with its various powers, and the different states of those powers accurately investigated. In this way, and above all by the practice of those exalted truths, to which the mind will be led in the course of its regeneration, the natural man will be brought into a heavenly order, and in proportion to this the Divine Influx will descend with greater power, opening a world of spiritual, rational, and natural truths, of which at present we have not the slightest knowledge. All this will hereafter be effected by the purifying and the ordinating of the natural plane, by which it will become fitted for the gradually increasing display of the Divine Influx. This interior act of purifying the natural mind is meant by the Lord's washing the disciples' feet; and when He cleanses the natural mind, of which the fact of His washing their feet was the representative image, then is man "clean every whit." Not that the natural thoughts, desires, and delights of the senses are to be destroyed, any more than the feet are to be cut off, but they are to be spiritually washed by an influx of that Divine Truth which, in its descent from the heaven that was opened within His disciples, appeared in a bodily form washing their feet; and teaching them by the example, to wash one another's feet. This purifying of the natural mind, by making it minister to spiritual uses, is described in the first chapter of Genesis by God's seeing everything that He had made on the sixth day, and " behold it was very good." When man can see and perceive all these interior changes in their correspondent natural forms, then is he really acquainted with the science of correspondencies, and the Word of the Most High is to him a truly living Word.

In the lowest faculties of the natural mind, that is, in the exercise of the senses, begins the consciousness of infant life. This is accompanied by its representative effect, the action of the lungs, and the purification of the blood by its passage through them ; before this the infant is unconscious, and its life is automatic. After the development of sensual power as a basis for the Divine Influx, the plane of science, or of the properties and relations of natural objects to one another, is formed; from this the plane in which the universal truths of reason are unfolded; and from this again the still higher plane which unfolds the heaven of love and charity, of love to that supreme Lord, who is the Beginning and the Ending, the Alpha and the Omega, of all our holy affections and thoughts, and of that disinterested charity towards others, which is but the effect of the Lord's love in us. When this love is reflected in every plane, even to the lowest, then the Lord's kingdom is established, and the man is regenerated or born again.

And in order to bring about this entire consecration of the human being, it is indispensable for us that we should have the Mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ, although not in the ordinary sense attached to that term. For, strictly speaking, and in Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ is not a distinct or different Being from the Lord Jehovah, and He does not mediate with the Father in the sense of one person interceding with another; but He is called the Mediator because He was the Divine Truth in its ultimate or representative form, and it is this which mediates between man, in this sensual condition, and that Divine Goodness which it brings forth to view in a manner adequate to man's natural comprehension. The Divine Truth in its representative form introduces us to the Divine Goodness, according to the state of our recipiency ; and therefore the Lord calls Himself " the Way, the Truth, and the Life and in this sense He is to be called the Mediator.

Such is the progress of the human mind that, in its conceptions of a Mediator in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, it begins by supposingand it is right it should so begin, for the literal sense of the Holy Scripture leads naturally to this conclusionthat the mediation is that of a distinct being from the Father, with whom He intercedes. Thus, the Father and the Son arc conceived to be two beings, and not one, and to have no other unity than a unity of purpose. In this first condition of the human mind, the Son is in a state of humiliation, and is not glorified, or does not manifest, or bring the Father forth to view. Therefore, as such was the condition of the Jews generally when the Word became flesh, or when the Divine Truth was displayed as an object of the senses, whenever the Lord attempted to reveal to them the unity of the Divine Being in that form, which came down from the heaven, not of place, but of state within man, they stoned, reviled, persecuted, and finally crucified Him; and preferred Barabbas, who, from the qualities of his mind, represented the falsehood which flowed from evil, to Him who, being the Divine Truth, exhibited, in its ultimate form, that Divine Goodness which is Himself and Jehovah. In the literal sense there is a distinction made between the Father and the Son, and this apparent distinction was grounded in their interior rejection of the Divine Truth, "the light" that came forth from their inner to their outer world, and which they separated from the Divine Goodness, or rejected from, their hearts, "because their deeds were evil." And yet it is said of the only begotten Son, even at the time when, in the outward representative form, He was to the Jews as a distinct being, that He was actually in the bosom of the Father, to denote the unity of the Divine Goodness with that form by which it was brought forth to view in the plane of nature, or as an object of the senses to the natural and sensual man. If, according to this, the spiritual view of the Holy Scripture, we consider the Lord Jesus Christ as the Divine Truth, revealing, under a natural form, that Divine Love or Goodness which, except under a form adequate to man's comprehension, is unapproachable and incomprehensible, and which by such a form spiritually conducts us to the Divine Goodness, we shall no longer be puzzled with the unintelligible mystery of the Divine and human natures being united in one person, which Divine and human natures are supposed, before their union, to have been so distinct, the one from the other, as to have been, in their separate consciousness, two beings, and not one. For there can be no unity of being where there is a double or divided consciousness. But "these are difficulties inherent in every natural view of the Lord and Saviour, and of His Word, which are wholly dispersed, like the shadows of the night, so soon as ever we know, and are able rationally to perceive, that the form under which the Lord Jehovah was presented to man in nature, came down from heaven, and was therefore in exact correspondence with the states of the church ; that the combats which He waged against the hells were spiritual combats carried on by means of the Divine Truth in man, and that the interior changes, produced by His omnipresence in their states of mind, were figured forth, or represented in all the circumstances connected with the Lord in space and time which are recorded in the Gospels. For only finite beings are susceptible of changes in space and time, and not the infinite Jehovah, and these embody forth the interior changes that belong to the human will and intellect; and hence the Infinity of the Lord, though in itself spaceless, must be presented by space, to those who think in space, and His Eternity, though devoid of progression, must be presented by time to those who think in time. At the first advent of the Lord, the church among the Jews,and there was not even the representative form of a church existing among any other people, had arrived at its close, that is, there was no longer any faith, nor any perceptive knowledge of truth, because there was no true charity remaining, and hence all their thoughts and desires were of a merely natural and sensual kind. This being the case, they had no spiritual perception of the One Divine Object of worship, for they had no interior communication with heaven, by which such a spiritual perception might have been mediately presented to their minds, and therefore it became necessary for the preservation of the human race, which, without either a mediate or immediate presentation of the Lord by receptivity on their parts, must have ceased to exist, that the Lord, or the Word, that is, the Divine Truth in the heavens, should become flesh, or manifest Himself in the lower sphere of the senses by all the conditions that belong to man in nature,of birth, increase in stature and in wisdom, and of death,and thus in a way suited to the sensual state of the human mind. This was done that He, the one only Lord God, might raise His creatures from their fallen condition, by means of that which at first was a very imperfect sensual conception of Him as the Son of the Universal Father, but in some mysterious manner participating in His Divinity, and therefore in some sort God; but now at His second advent, in the spiritual perception of the Divine Truth, as the very Father Himself, but who appeared as a distinct being, in consequence of the degraded" condition of man, who could not embrace a higher manifestation. Though the appearance of the Lord Jehovah in nature was an effect flowing from spiritual causes, it was not a deception or a fallacy of the senses, but a real presence in time and space corresponding with His Omnipresence in every individual of the church. For to separate in thought a natural effect, which is the representative form, from its spiritual essence, is, in any ordinary event, to make it a mere illusion; and this is pre-eminently the case, if we separate the Lord Jesus Christ, as an object of the senses, who was seen, and heard, and touched, from the Divine Essence in the heavens, or that Truth by which the Divine Goodness is exhibited to the angels. To suppose Him to have been actually distinct from the Father in the heavens, because He was so presented to the sensual man, is in fact to consider that presentation as unreal, that His words and actions contain no spiritual sense, and His miraculous cures involve no interior changes of mind, by the conquest of some specific evil to which the disease corresponded. But it is a property of the unenlightened natural mind, to attribute progressions, by changes of life, to the Divine Being, and therefore the Lord, who invariably presents Himself, to angels as well as men, according to the state of him to whom He manifests Himself, for in no other way can He become apparent, became an object of the senses to the sensual man; while all that He said, and did, and suffered was by the law of correspondency representative of the church at that time as well as now. It is true, we have no longer His presence in space and time, because man, by the knowledge of Christian Doctrine, has had an interior sight of Him ; but he has, at the present day, what is of far higher importance, the capacity for seeing the Lord come to him in the glory of His Father, or as revealing to his rational sight, by the spiritual truths of the Holy Scripture, not only that He is God, but that He is the only God of heaven and earth. To His disciples at that time this revelation of Himself could not be so full and perfect; but now, by the opening of the inner world of truth, which, by the extinction of the warmth of charity and the light of faith among Christians, has hitherto, like a chrysalis, remained torpid within the letter, he is enabled to perceive the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Lord Jehovah, and that His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection and ascension involve a wonderful series of heavenly arcana, which reveal the state of the church in its relation to the Divine Truth. Thus the natural birth of the Lord is seen, in the internal sense, to have been the representative effect of the spiritual birth of the Divine Truth; the natural miracles were the representative effects of spiritual miracles; the doctrines which He taught are, in their essence, spiritual and Divine; His crucifixion and death were the representative effects of the rejection and extinction of the Divine Truth in all but His true disciples, who lamented that death, and to whom therefore, but not to those who rejoice in it, He rose again, and ascended into heaven.

It is evident, from this view, how different is the doctrine of the New Church, in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, from that of the ancient sect of Manicheans, who denied the reality of His natural appearance, and treated it altogether as a fiction, or a delusion of the senses. We, on the contrary, hold that He was to the full as much an object of all the senses as ourselves, and that there is no more reason to doubt the testimony of those who saw, and heard, and touched Him, than we have to doubt their testimony that they beheld one another. But then it is necessary to understand and bear in mind, that the Lord must first be thought of from state, in order to comprehend His natural presence. By so doing, we see Him in His Omnipresence as Jehovah, manifesting Himself as the Divine Truth, first in the spiritual region of causes, and thence in the natural region of effects, or in accordance with man's natural comprehension. But in proportion as the disciples, by the progressive changes of their interior states, could see Him, not in His infirm human form, but glorified, and raised above the condition of the natural man, then He appeared in the midst of them, when they were assembled together and the door was shut. That the changes in the appearance of the Lord depended upon the interior condition of those who beheld Him, is evident, for He was transfigured only to Peter, James, and John, and that when they together followed Him up to the top of the mountain. At that time, in consequence of the spiritual changes wrought in them, of which these were the representative effects, He appeared outwardly as an object of the senses in His glory, His face did shine as the sun, and His garment was white as the light ; but when they descended into the plain, which was also an effect from a spiritual cause, He became again like an ordinary man, or appeared in His infirm human form to the Jews, as well as to the three disciples who, on the mount, had beheld Him in His glory; and yet in Himself, or essentially, there was no change whatever. The only rational explanation of these remarkable phenomena is, that all changes in the appearance of Him who is pre-eminently the Unchangeable, are referable to the changes wrought in those to whom His external, was a consequence of His internal presence ; and that, as He can in no other way appear to each individual than according to the state of each, to the sensual and natural man He can only appear after a sensual and natural manner, or in an infirm human form, as the son of Mary, and even of Joseph; but to the spiritually-rational man, He appears in His glorified human form, as the Son of God, and finally as Jehovah, the only God of earth as well as heaven, of the natural as well as of the spiritual man. This the spiritual sense of the Word clearly teaches ; for in that sense there is not a trace to be found of the relationship of Father and Son, or of a Human Principle having a distinct consciousness from the Divine Principle. In that sense we can discover nothing more than the separation or the union of the Divine Truth and the Divine Goodness, and the reasons for the appearance of distinct personality in the plane of nature. When these are separated, then is the Lord in His state of humiliation ; but as He conquers the hells in man. they are progressively united, and then the Divine Truth exhibits, or brings forth to view, the Divine Love or Goodness, and the Lord is seen in His glory. By the separation of the Divine Truth from the Divine Love, He is accused, condemned, is crucified, and dies; and these are the representative effects of that interior separation, and therefore they are said to signify it. But to this, the consummation of one church, another, of a higher and a purer kind, succeeds; and to those who constitute this church, and to them only, He rises again, and He rises again in consequence of their regeneration.

How much more beautiful as well as satisfactory is he mental light which is given by a spiritual comprehension of this Divine doctrine, over a merely natural and fallacious view of the subject; and how grateful should we be to the one Source of all intelligence, for revealing to us the mysteries of His heavenly kingdom, and for preserving entire that natural form of truth, on which, as on a foundation, all our spiritual perceptions rest. These two senses, though connected by correspondency, should be kept entirely distinct in the conceptions of the mind, and not be mixed together; for by so doing we shall induce over the doctrines a host of mysterious difficulties, with which we shall not be able successfully to contend ; and besides this we shall bring great discredit on the spiritual sense of the Holy Scripture, from our inability to point out to others that superior clearness and consistency which otherwise might be justly claimed for it. It is written in Genesis, that the waters above the firmament or expanse were divided, or rather distinguished from the waters beneath it; and this, in its spiritual sense, relates to the distinction which is made in the course of man's regeneration between the eternal and external conceptions of truth, or between the spiritual and the natural senses of the Word of God. To mix these two senses together, one of which consists almost exclusively of the appearances of truth, brought down to the level of him who thinks in space and time, and whose conclusions are all drawn from the properties and relations of nature, while the other has nothing in common with the fallacies of time and space, is to bring down the pure dews of heaven to mingle them with the smoke and impure exhalations of the earth. By such a mixture our mental eye will be darkened to the perception of spiritual truth, until at length we shall not know what the spirit of man is, nor in what other way it is distinguishable from his natural body, except as being something composed of more pure and perfect materials. But it should never be forgotten, for the right understanding of this, and many other subjects of a similar kind, that the literal sense, which presents the distinction of Persons, is nothing more than an appearance of truth ; the reason for which can only be known from the universal truths of the spiritual sense, all of which relate to the condition of the mind, or, as it is usually termed, the state of the church. It is indeed difficult always to have this distinction before us; and, in this respect, our condition is not unlike that of a person whose sight has become enfeebled by being continually in some dark cave, and to whom the splendour of day is actually painful; who would rather turn his back to the light and see the shadows of the objects without, dimly figured on the walls of his habitation, than gradually accustom his eye to behold the forms themselves in their living beauty and distinctness. To accomplish this nothing more is necessary than to have an earnest and sincere desire to know the truth, not from any selfish or worldly motives, but that, by purifying our hearts from all base passions and propensities, it may conduct us into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, in whose sight and under whose secure protection we may live for evermore.

Previous: Chapter Fifth Up: The Science of Correspondency Next: Chapter Seventh


Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com