Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


Previous: Chapter Sixth Up: The Science of Correspondency Next: Chapter Eighth

Chapter Seventh

Every part of the land of Canaan, both in relation to the different nations which occupied it previous to its conquest by the Israelites, and to the tribes that replaced them in their several positions, had its distinct signification. This signification was given it, not arbitrarily, or symbolically, but by its real correspondency, as a phenomenon, with the state of those to whom it was presented and through whom it was produced. Thus, in the division of the land on the other side of the river Jordan, the southern portion was given to Reuben, the middle to Gad, and the northern to one half of the tribe of Manasseh. These replaced the Moabites, and Ammonites, and the Amorites. But they replaced them for no natural reasons or from no natural causes, but because the country beyond the Jordan, as to all the external objects that belonged to it and the productions which distinguished it from other countries, were outbirths from their spiritual states. Hence it was that, when the children of Reuben and of Gad, who had a great multitude of cattle, saw that the land on the other side of the Jordan, which had been conquered by the Israelites, was well fitted for the pasturing of their flocks and herds, they requested of Moses that they might have it in possession, and not be obliged to settle within the boundaries of the river. Now he who thinks of this narrative after a natural manner, and not spiritually, who thinks in the time and space of nature, and not above them; in other words, he who thinks that the course and connection of natural events are a series of causes and effects, and not that they are all of them nothing more, as phenomena of the senses, than effects, depending for their existence and subsistence upon their respective spiritual causes, which causes are neither extraneous to man, nor independent of him, but are actually within him, such a person will conclude that the cause of their request was the outward aspect of the country, and not that the rich appearance of pasture land and their delight in pastoral employments were effects of their interior states, which determined them to a permanence in the place which represented the state. The grounds of correspondencies are briefly included in this position, that space and time, with every object of the natural world, are the perpetual creations of the Lord, who is Himself devoid of space and time, by the imperfect medium of man's natural mind; for they are effects of the Divine Influx, which correspond to the states of the church in man, because they exist and subsist from the spiritual world, which is not a world of space, but of state, the state, namely, of the human will and intellect. "For every man," as our author shows, "has both his spiritual and his natural world. His internal man is his spiritual world, and his external man, his natural world. Those states, which inflow from his spiritual world, and are exhibited in his natural world, are, taken generally, representatives, and, So far as they agree together, correspondencies" (Arcana Coelestia, n. 2890), for it is nothing more than "the states of the thought which give birth to spaces and times" (Ibid. n. 9581). Well, therefore, has it been said, in explaining the origin and constitution of this world of natural objects, and events, which appear to the unenlightened mind so distinct, and indeed so disconnected from ourselves, " that the whole of nature is a theatre which represents the Lord's kingdom, and it is a theatre which does so represent, because the natural world becomes extant, and perpetually exists, that is, subsists, through the spiritual world " and the spiritual world is not a world of space, but of the state of the will and intellect"from the Divine Essence" (Ibid. n. 10196, 6948, 8325).

Let us now endeavour to apply these truths, which give us some insight into the constitution of the natural world, to the division of the conquered land, on the other side of the river Jordan, among the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. For this purpose we must consider what these tribes signified, and also what we mean by the word to signify. We will begin with the meaning of the word itself. When we say that any object in nature, or which, being extant to the senses, is recognized by the conditions which belong to space, and undergoes those successive changes, which are called its time, when we say that such a natural object signifies such a state of the mind, we mean that it is its representative sign. But the representative sign is the effect of that which it represents; for their relationship is neither accidental, nor arbitrary, but is a necessary relationship subsisting between the cause and its effect; and therefore we mean by its signifying, that it owes its birth to the peculiar mental condition of those to whom it is presented . as an object of their senses. Having thus defined our meaning of the word to signify, and guarded against the application of it in the sense of standing for such a condition of the mind, as a fanciful, or even a metaphorical symbol, by showing that it implies a real and intimate relationship, so real and so intimate that the very progressions which bring a variety of natural objects into our view, are nothing else, in their origin, but interior changes in the states of the mind, we will now turn our attention to the signification of Reuben and Simeon and the half tribe of Manasseh. The tribe of Reuben signified, or was the representative sign of faith in the understanding, or the truth of doctrine, by which there is a possibility of man's attaining to purity of life. The tribe of Simeon signified that disposition of the will to be obedient to the truth, which is the medium for the production of charity towards our neighbour. And the tribe of Manasseh, as their allotment was both within the land of Canaan, properly so called, as well as out of it, signified that state which formed the connecting link between the internal or spiritual man, which was represented by the tribes on this side of the river, and the external or natural man, represented by the tribes on the other side of the river. The portion of Manasseh which was on the other side of the river signified a new or spiritual will in the natural mind, consisting not like the old will of the evils which spring from self-love and the love of the world, but of charity, or love towards our neighbour. The tribes of Reuben, and Simeon, and the half tribe of Manasseh signified, because they represented in the external form, these conditions of their minds, and in every one, in whom the interior states, which were represented by their natural condition, were opened and formed, they corresponded to those states; but in all those, who had no heavenly state opened within them, they represented opposite states of the mind. Thus Reuben represented an understanding receptive of the darkness of falsehood, and not the light of truth, without which light there is no possibility of attaining to purity of life; Simeon a state of the will not obedient to the truth, from which disobedience a legion of evil lusts and passions arise to obsess man; and Manasseh the evil itself of the natural will before man is regenerated or born again of the Lord.

They who look not beyond the surface of things are not aware of any other connection, which associates men together, than that which, they suppose, results from natural consanguinity, or affinity, personal love and friendship, or interest. But this is an apparent, and not a real truth. There is an interior ground of association, which, in every instance, is the cause of the apparent natural connexion or relationship. Human minds are associated together by harmony of form, and the form of the mind is the fitness of its powers for the accomplishment of specific uses. This interior ground of association is seen represented in various natural effects. It is seen in that general similitude which is commonly called the national character; it is seen in family likeness, and in the successive production of the members of the same family; for these are nothing more than the representative effects of the spiritual consanguinities of human minds and the mode of their production ; and it is seen also in the similar presentation of outward phenomena to different individuals in the same representative places, and in the succession of similar events, as objects of the senses. But man, in the common current of his thoughts, is a natural being, that is, his thought is determined to the objects of his senses; he thinks in them, and is but rarely elevated to the causes of those objects ; and so thinking, he cannot see the spiritual sense of any natural occurrence. To him nature is everything ; and instead of being, as it truly is, an effect depending for its existence upon the interior consanguinities and affinities of human minds in their natural state, it is considered to be the very cause and origin of every thought, and, by reaction, of all the emotions and propensities of the will. It is this natural mode of thinking and feeling which distinguishes natural men from heavenly beings, whose thoughts are raised above mere sensuous phenomena, into the region of their causes, and it is this, connected with the state of the will, and its affections, which constitutes the difference between the two states of life commonly called the spiritual and the natural worlds, a difference which interposes a thick veil between their respective objects of the senses; so that we, in our ordinary con- dition, cannot behold angelic beings, nor they us, except by the abstraction of our minds from space and time.

Recurring then to the settlement of the two tribes of Reuben and Simeon and the half tribe of Manasseh on the other side of the Jordan, we must bear in mind that they replaced the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Amorites, because the first two, from their interior states, signified the utter profanation of truth and goodness by the natural man, and the last the evils which are included in the love of self and of the world. To these, when there were no longer any remains of a church among them, even in its external form, succeeded those tribes which, by obedience to the literal or natural sense of the Divine Law, could be, though not a church in its strict sense, the outward or representative form of a church. Therefore they conquered those nations, and therefore also similar outward phenomena of pasture ground and vast forests of oak were presented to them, and they were delighted with both, because they agreed with their interior states, being actually effects of those states.

In this way are those sensuous qualities, which collectively are called nature, to be connected with our minds, that is, with the states of our natural wills and intellects. Thus, will the science of correspondency be rescued from the condition of a mere art, learnt by rote, without any perception of its reason, and raised to its regal dignity of queen and mistress of all natural sciences, whose authority begins when their power ends. For the science of correspondency, by explaining the manner in which all natural things are brought forth into existence, actually does that which no natura1 science could ever accomplish. Natural science can conduct us to a certain point in the chain, as it is erroneously called, of causes and effects, where it stops, and substitutes words for things. Thus, in the motion of the heavenly bodies, it conducts us not to the ultimate causes of their motions, but to a few words, which explain nothing, although they are supposed to mean a great deal, and these are the centripetal and centrifugal forces. To account for the phenomena in the chemical combination and separation of the supposed invisible atoms of matter, we are again presented with the two words attraction and repulsion, which mean nothing more than that bodies are seen to be attracted and repelled. Pursue any combination of matter until you think you have got it in its simplest or primitive form, and you are still, though in the midst of pure oxygen, hydrogen, or nitrogen, as far off as ever from their spiritual causes ; for nature, in however subtle a form it may appear, does not pass by continuity into spirit, but is as much discriminated from that mental " truth which is its spiritual cause " (Arcana Coelestia, n. 2993) as any of the grosser phenomena of the senses.

Previous: Chapter Sixth Up: The Science of Correspondency Next: Chapter Eighth


Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com