XIII. The Lampstand
The Tabernacle of Israel, by George de Charms, 1969
The second article of furniture which was made for the holy place is that which is called in the Authorized Version the candlestick. It was not, in fact, a candlestick at all, for candles were not known in the time of Moses. It was rather a lampstand on which rested seven lamps, such as were used in ancient times for the burning of olive oil. It was made of pure gold, of beaten work, and was said to contain a talent of the metal, which is estimated as representing a value of approximately $29000.1
It consisted of the base, the shaft, six branches and seven lamps. The character of the base is not specifically described, and that which has been adopted in the model has been designed, in general, in accord with the illustration of the lampstand found upon the arch of Titus. In the absence of any direct instruction from the Sacred Scripture this is regarded as the most authentic historical evidence in our possession. However, certain modifications have been made in that description, which was evidently not an exact copy of the original, but was merely the artist's idea of it, possibly executed from memory.2 The form of the base that has been adopted for the model is hexagonal. It is three steps in height. Out of this base arose a central shaft to a height slightly greater than that of a man. From either side of this shaft proceeded three hollow golden tubes called "reeds," each describing an arc and terminating at the same height as the shaft in a little cuplike depression. Upon these seven branches and resting in the cups at the top were placed the lamps, each consisting of a shallow bowl of gold, with a handle at one side, and a lip at the other through which a wick was passed. These lamps were entirely separate from the stand and could be removed singly by the priest in order to be cleaned, trimmed, and replenished with oil. On each reed or branch there was a series of decorations in gold. The design of each decoration consisted of an almond-shaped bowl in which was set a pomegranate from which proceeded a flower. This design was repeated three times on each branch and four times on the central shaft. The lampstand was placed against the south wall of the holy place, opposite the table of shewbread.
As the table of shewbread represented the new will formed in the regenerating mind, so the lampstand represented the new understanding. We have noted above how fallible are the conclusions of man's unaided reason, and how on this account the traditional theories and beliefs concerning spiritual things have been largely discredited in modern thought on the plea that they are lacking any dependable foundation. Their existence and their quality must be attested by demonstrable experience before we can be sure that they are more than a figment of the imagination. They have no basis in physical sensation, and the existence of a distinct spiritual sensation, comparable to that of the bodily senses, is unknown. All men recognize that natural reason is reliable only if it is accurately based on factual evidence. It is not so well known, however, that spiritual reason is dependable only so far as it is founded upon a true understanding of the Word. Such an understanding is possible solely to those who are in love to the Lord; from this comes all spiritual enlightenment. From love to the Lord man receives direct touch with reality, an internal and spiritual sensation comparable to the touch of the physical senses with material objects. From this sensation man derives a fixed point, a bench mark, from which all reliable thinking must start. Every one is gifted with this love by means of "remains" and can become consciously aware of spiritual sensation, by means of regeneration. This has been demonstrated in a previous chapter.
By means of a materialistic philosophy men can deny the existence of any such internal sensation. In opposite ways this has been done by both the pragmatists and the idealists. Pragmatists regard physical sensation as the only basis of assured knowledge. Idealists deny the existence of matter and hold that the cause of sensation lies in the mind itself. When this idea is carried to its logical conclusion it ends in solipsism; it ends by questioning the existence of anything except one's self. Yet everyone experiences what is known as "common sense." This, in the last analysis is derived from the acknowledgment as an axiomatic truth that there is a God. The Writings state that this truth is impressed upon the human mind from creation as an inmost dictate; it is spontaneously recognized as soon as it is presented. The Word openly teaches that God is infinite, and yet, that He is Human and can reveal Himself to men. If these premises are followed to their logical conclusion, they will lead to a true interpretation of life, both natural and spiritual. Such spiritual understanding is represented by the light of the lampstand in the holy place, and every minute particular of its construction, as described in Exodus, is designed to illustrate how spiritual understanding is produced in the human mind. We can attempt no more than a very general explanation of what they mean.
It is to be noted that the lampstand represents, not that which a man understands intellectually from instruction by others, but that which he has come to understand for himself by Divine guidance from within. In this respect the representation of the candlestick is distinguished from that of the protecting curtains. These represent truths derived from others, things seen and heard, things read and learned, things inflowing from association with men and spirits. Our mind is indeed surrounded and affected by many things that we receive from others. Only from such information can an individual understanding arise. This individual understanding lies deep within man's consciousness, and he does not realize its presence except at times when he is withdrawn from the world, in a state of meditation. Nothing that is communicated from one man to another can be received and interiorly understood in the same form in which it was given. It must be digested, assimilated, and made over into a form that is characteristic of the learner's mind. After this process has taken place, then first does man see spiritual truth for himself, in his own way, immediately from the Lord. This is his light the light of the Lord in him. It is the secret of his individuality, his personality; and this individual understanding is what is represented by the lampstand.
The Divine purpose is that such an understanding should be formed in every man, in order that he may receive immediately from the Lord an individual gift of love and wisdom. By this means each one is endowed with something of eternal value which is new, different, and personal. This he can impart to others in exchange for similar gifts which they have received front the Lord.
This ability to impart to others something from the Lord which could not otherwise be received by them constitutes man's spiritual use to his neighbor. It is this use which he is intended to go on performing with increasing delight in heaven forever. The Divine, in itself, is infinite. Its qualities can be grasped only in the most minute degree by any single finite mind, even though that mind may increase in knowledge and wisdom to eternity. But by creating indefinite varieties of human minds, each receiving some distinct gift from the Divine and giving it living expression, the perception of the Divine is immensely increased and exalted. This is the purpose of that heavenly human society which is called the "Grand Man." In heaven untold myriads of angels are intimately associated in mutual services, which consist of the continual exchange of such gifts. In the performance of this use, all heavenly happiness consists.
Even in the natural world, the functions and the occupations of society are only a medium through which each one gives something of himself for the benefit of others. He gives of his skill, his understanding, and his love. Let us make here a clear distinction. The value of this new thing does not lie in the fact that it is peculiar to the man. It lies rather in the fact that it is not only individual but also true, and therefore brings something of the Lord to others which could not be imparted in any other way. It is not merely because it is his own imagined and perhaps mistaken idea, but because it is truth revealed or made manifest in a particular way through him that such a truth has surpassing value. Much is said at the present day, particularly in speaking of art and literature, concerning the importance of self-expression. Value is placed upon anything that is individual, original, different from that which others possess, but the value is measured by its originality rather than its intrinsic quality. This point of view represents a revolt from the medieval Christian concept that goodness was an absolute standard to be passively accepted, and that he who most perfectly adopted this standard became thereby the highest type of man. Yet all known standards of goodness are human, faulty, inadequate. They differ among various races and nations. They change radically with the passage of time. Who, then, shall say what good is to be sought? Does not he make the greatest contribution to posterity who presents a new and original conception of what is good? If this reasoning is correct, then supreme value is to be placed on the expression of what is different, whether or not it be true according to accepted standards. Such is the philosophy of self-expression. Its falsity lies in the supposition that man of himself can produce anything of permanent worth. On this the teaching of the Church is clear, namely: that only is of real value which, being original, at the same time has its origin in the Lord. It must be truth from the Lord, made manifest in a new form and under a new aspect. Then can it impart some-tiling of value, and if it is not this, then what it imparts is but something of the man's proprium, in which are nothing but evil and falsity. The lampstand represents man's personal understanding from the Word, through which light from the Lord shines out, first in his own mind and thence in the world of men and angels, so that by virtue of it he may become an angel, that is, a messenger, or one sent to bring something new from the Lord to men.
Every new idea of spiritual truth that is genuine must spring from a perception or internal sensation of reality. And this perception must be derived from the actual presence of the Lord, inmostly perceived and acknowledged by man. This is the reason why the table of shewbread must be constructed first before the lampstand can be made. But beginning with this perception, man, by the power of spiritual rationality, has the ability to see truly in spiritual light. He has the ability to reason correctly, and to arrive at dependable conclusions from the facts of spiritual experience. Such reasoning is under the guidance of the Lord. By it man can be led to confirm and illustrate what is true from the Lord's Word. The love to the Lord which is the guiding power in the formation of this spiritual understanding is represented by the gold of which the lampstand was made. It is not a passing love that is here meant such as may be produced by a temporary emotional response in states of worship, in times of suffering or danger, or when the successful achievement of our worldly ambitions is threatened. It is rather a deep, internal, never-ceasing desire to know the truth, because in this is seen the face of the Lord. The desire to know the Lord by means of His truth bears the mind along as a hidden current bears a ship. Love to the Lord turns the mind to the contemplation of heavenly truth and disposes it spiritually to understand. Such a love is represented by the pure gold prescribed for the making of the lampstand. Yet in its essential quality it is a love that is different with each man and each angel. In the Writings this is called man's ruling love. From this he thinks, and by its light he is led toward heaven; that is, toward the ever more perfect worship of the Lord. Thought prompted by any other love will not lead to truth. It may indeed be individual, it may be stamped by that form of mind which is peculiarly the man's own, but everything it produces will be twisted and distorted. Such thinking leads not to intelligence, but to spiritual insanity. This is necessarily so because man has no source of truth in himself; for this reason he has no means of seeing truth from himself. The Lord is the only light, and from Him must come all spiritual light to men.
All understanding must begin from generals, and advance gradually into particulars. Generals of truth are represented by the base of the lampstand. Out of this proceed the stem and the branches, with their ornaments, representing more and more particular distinctions of truth. The generals first seen, and represented by the base, are abstract doctrines or premises, from which logical deductions may be drawn. The stem and its branches represent deeper and more particular concepts of truth such as result from experience in applying the doctrine to life. This is the character of wisdom as compared with intelligence. Such wisdom is represented by the shaft, the reeds and the cups at the top of the reeds upon which the lamps were to rest. They may be compared to the arms, the hands and the fingers, by which the will and the understanding exert their power. They represent the extension of spiritual sight into the natural world where spiritual things may be seen in application to human needs, and so may become ultimately effective. It is by this application of spiritual principles to actual uses that man acquires wisdom through accumulating experience. This is represented by the lampstand with its branches holding the lamps aloft that they might fill the holy place with light.
The central shaft represents a main progression, a focusing of the thought in a specific direction prompted by the central desire or love. By this direction of the mind, men are disposed to develop the knowledge and the intelligence belonging to a specific use. Within this use there are more and more particular specializations represented by the branches. That there were six of these, three on each side, represents an extension of the understanding to see all the truths related to that central use. Some of these are nearer and some more remote according as they directly or indirectly contribute to the supreme end. Though a man may specialize, he needs to investigate all those truths by which he may attain a broad and well-rounded understanding. Yet the quality of a man's thinking, his point of view, will depend upon his individual love and use. Thus, such as is the central light of the lampstand, such will be the other lights that are upheld by the branches proceeding from the main shaft.
Finally, the development of this understanding must advance by regular steps and stages along its branches to come at last to the light at the end of each. These steps are represented by the design of the decorations, the almond bowls, pomegranates, and flowers. These in their order and series show how man may progress to genuine truth and the acquisition of wisdom. The order seems at first to be reversed. It would appear as if the almond, which is a seed, should come first, then the flower, and lastly the pomegranate or fruit. The Writings in expounding the meaning of these things speak first of the flower, then of the fruit, and lastly of the seed in the fruit. The reason will appear on closer examination. When a man perceives something as good or desirable, he seeks to acquire the truths or knowledges by which he may attain it. This perception of an end of good with its truths is represented by the almond bowl. But in attempting to work out any ideal through actual experience we are all familiar with the fact that the ideal itself is modified. Man's understanding of what is good or desirable is found to have been faulty, and only after experience does he learn wherein he has erred. This is the fruit of his experience, and is represented by the pomegranate. And when this order has been attained, at once there is opened a new vision of truth, a higher truth, broader in its application, truer to the facts of life. It is seen first as a thing of beauty giving delight to the mind, and is therefore compared to a flower. From the flower comes then a new seed, the perception of a still higher good or end, that begins another series of progression through the almond to the pomegranate, and at last to another flower. So does the mind increase in wisdom. All truth that is genuine is the result of life's experience whereby man constantly rises to new heights of understanding and perception. After a full progression, represented by the three ornaments on each branch, man comes at last to see the Lord's purpose, the Lord's end. This is the true light and is represented by the flame of the lamp. That which burns in the lamp is the oil of love; love raised, as it were, to incandescence by intensive activity until it becomes a flame. From this flame there proceeds light. The lamp which holds the oil is separate from the lampstand, although when it is in place, it appears as part of it, and indeed as a crown to the rest. Yet that the lamp should be separate is deeply significant, for the light of wisdom can never really be man's own. It is the Lord's with him. But it is given to him as his own and comes, in all appearance, as a result of his striving, as the last fruit of his life's experience. This in a sense it is, since without the striving, without the experience and the consequent progression represented by the almond, the pomegranate, and the flower in triple series, wisdom could not be given because the mind would not be prepared to receive it. Still, the fact remains that after all this has been done, we have merely prepared the mind to receive a Divine gift of intelligence and wisdom from the Lord who is the Light of the world. We have prepared the mind so that it can, as it were, catch and reflect something of that light. The light itself is not our own, although it shines forth from us, and by means of us takes on a distinct quality and use. Yet having undergone all the struggle and conflict that is necessary to attain to wisdom, if we know the truth we must acknowledge that that wisdom is not our own but is the Lord's with us. Much is here involved relative to man's intellectual development which cannot be briefly expressed. Some further particulars will be found in Appendix II. (See also Exodus 25:31-40, and A.C. 9548-9577.)