X. Onyx Stones and Stones of Fillings
The Tabernacle of Israel, by George de Charms, 1969
New loves, inflowing from the Lord out of heaven, were represented by the olive oil; and new perceptions of truth were represented by the spices. These latter must be remembered if they are to be of permanent use to man. The last two materials on the list we have been considering, represent the memory. The onyx stones specifically represent the internal memory, where all the spiritual treasures of man's life are stored up and preserved for use, even to eternity. This is what is called "the book of life." The record of all man's thoughts and loves is indelibly written upon it, and retained in perfect order. The "stones of fillings" represent the external memory, from which past experiences may be recalled at will by conscious reflection. On this memory depends the ability to think, to form judgments, and to determine the direction of one's life. By recalling the teaching of the Word with affection, religious conscience is formed. This memory, therefore, is the medium by which man receives practical illustration and guidance from the Lord. If we are to understand the spiritual representation of the onyx stones and the stones of fillings, we must first acquire a correct understanding of the internal and the external memories. We must know how they are related to one another, and how they are to be used. This is illustrated by the part these stones played in the vestments of the high priest.
They were worn as part of his official vestment, being attached to the garment which is called the ephod. This was a garment without sleeves, made in two pieces that fell from the shoulders, one covering the front, and the other covering the back to a point a little below the waist. It was made of fine linen, similar in color and design to the veil, being a rainbow weave of blue, purple, scarlet, and white, with a gold design inwrought. The opening at the neck was square and large enough to allow the inner robe over which it was worn to appear. The two pieces of the ephod were joined together at the shoulders by means of gold settings in which the onyx stones were placed.1 The garment was bound close to the body by a girdle of similar multicolored material, On the two onyx stones were engraved the names of the twelve sons of Israel in the order of their birth. On the right shoulder six names: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan and Naphthali. On the left shoulder the remaining six names: Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin.2
The stones were set in gold and from each setting was hung a chain of spun gold wire, each link of the chain being made of interlacing wires. By means of this chain the shoulderpieces were joined to the upper corners of the breastplate. The breastplate itself was made of multicolored linen like the ephod. It was 1/2 cubit wide and 1 cubit long (9 by 18 inches), but it was folded in the middle so as to form a square, the fold coming at the top. Two rings were inserted in each upper corner, one in either fold. The ring in the fold nearest the body was bound by a ribbon of blue lace to a single gold ring fastened to the breastplate. The ring in the outer fold received the gold chain that bound the breastplate to the shoulderpieces. By a similar device of rings the two lower corners were bound to the ephod and the girdle. On the breastplate itself was a plate of gold on which were set twelve stones arranged in four vertical rows of three stones each. On each of these stones was engraved the name of one of the sons of Israel, in the following order:
A Ruby, a Topaz, and a Carbuncle, said to be stones of a red color.
Row 2 A Chrysoprase, a Sapphire, and a Diamond, said to be blue from red.
Row 3A Cyanus, an Agate, and an Amethyst, said to be blue from white.
Row 4A Tarshish, an Onyx, and a Jasper, said to be white from blue.3
A further study of these stones, their arrangement and signification, will be included in our consideration of the priestly garments in a later chapter. Here it need only be said that, according to the statement in the Word Explained, they represented the tribes in the same order as they were engraved upon the onyx stones. The first two rows contained the six names on the right shoulder, and the last two rows the names on the left shoulder. This was called the "Breastplate of Judgment." It was the means by which the Lord gave answers to the questions of the high priest, when he appeared before the veil to seek Divine guidance.
Wearing this breastplate the priest would enter the holy place. He would stand at the altar of incense, his eyes fixed upon the stones of the breastplate, and as he saw them glow with a supernatural light in a different series or order, he understood the answers to his questions. However, he did not understand the meaning of these flashing lights, but they were followed immediately either by an audible voice or a tacit perception giving in words the Divine answer, which he was then to communicate to the people. It will be noticed that the onyx stones on the shoulders were not within the line of vision of the priest thus inquiring of the Lord, though they were joined to the breastplate with a chain of fine-wrought gold. And this fact is deeply significant. Indeed, we are here given a wonderful picture of the way in which the Lord leads men, the way in which He gives them illustration, enlightenment and guidance from Himself out of heaven. This is always done by means of the Divine Word. There could be no enlightenment, accumulating and producing wisdom, if there were no memory. Only because sensations, experiences, and states of life can be retained and recalled can there be progression and development of the human mind.
Man has two memories, one external and the other internal. These two memories are entirely distinct, and the difference between them must be clearly understood. The external memory is made up of sense impressions and material ideas drawn from the world of nature. It is partly conscious, but in far larger part unconscious. Impressions that are at the time unconscious may later be consciously recalled. The conscious mind itself is made up of only those things to which we pay attention. They represent a narrow selected thread running through our life's experiences, a thread determined by our interests, that is, by our loves, for it is these that fix our attention and determine this thread. However, many things are sensed unconsciously and these, too, remain and are like a fabric into which the thread is woven. These impressions, of which we are not conscious, nonetheless exercise a marked influence upon the thread of consciousness. All things that we have been taught or that we have learned as facts are impressed upon this external memory, and this includes the knowledges both of spiritual and of natural things; for the knowledges of spiritual things as the truths of the Word and of the Church are received in the same way as all other knowledges, namely, through the senses, particularly those of hearing and of sight, and they enter by the same gate as do the images of material objects.
On the other hand, the internal memory contains every impression that comes from within through the soul or from our spiritual environment. It accompanies every external sensation; for we cannot feel anything in one world alone. All things have a double being, and they make upon the mind a double impression. Those .things which we receive unconsciously are also impressed as to the spiritual sensations that accompany them, upon the internal memory, and therefore may become conscious even when we are quite unaware of the ultimate natural basis for them. For this reason, the internal memory forms a complete and unbroken record of our life's experiences from beginning to end, so far as their spiritual content is concerned. Not one least thing is lost. Not one least thing enters that cannot be recollected in the other world if the Lord permits. So long as we live on earth, our whole mental life centers in the external memory.
This also is retained after death, but there it is active only for a short time. Later, the center of our mental activity is shifted to the internal memory, so that in that memory all our consciousness resides. The material visual images are not recalled from the external memory except as a modifying, clothing, enriching background for the ideas of our thought, so that when the external memory is no longer active we can have not a least idea of any material object or sense impression as such, unless by Divine permission we are remitted into our former state. This can be done, and is frequently described in the Writings. However, that which is in constant use in the spiritual world is the internal memory, the recollection of spiritual states of life, affections and perceptions which were on earth but vaguely sensed as something contained within the material objects. It is a universal experience by which human beings are distinguished from animals, that every sense impression affects the spirit at the same time as it affects the body. This is what makes our sensation human. And external things are valued not for what they are in themselves, but for what we call their human associations. Indeed, an object, a place, or any bodily experience may be delightful or undelightful in the extreme, not because of anything inherent in the sensation, but because of the human emotions which are associated with it. These human emotions are spiritual sensations, and these are what are retained and later recalled in the internal memory.
Therefore, when a man dies -- after a brief space during which, for purposes of transition, the external memory remains active -- he comes into a conscious perception of this internal memory with its complete record of his inner life. The spiritual things which belong to that memory become the objects of his thought. They are seen about him, making up his external environment, forming indeed that spiritual world in which he then lives. If this be understood, and if we realize what these internal sensations are, we can understand in a living and human sense many things said in the Writings about the spiritual world which otherwise would seem strange and unbelievable. It is said that all things are impressed upon the internal memory whether we have been conscious of them, whether we have reflected upon them, or not. From this fact we derive what may be called rich overtones of thought and perception, quite inexpressible but of tremendous importance in determining our attitudes and our actions. It is this that the psychologists have in some vague way discovered by experiments as lying below the conscious acts of the human mind, and curiously dominating them. Even in the internal memory there must be a thread of stronger consciousness composed of those spiritual impressions derived from the things to which we have given conscious attention in the body. This thread which is determined by our ruling love and by the form of mind with which we were gifted at birth becomes what may be called the axis of our life to eternity. It determines our place in the Grand Man. It determines our use in heaven. It determines our relation to the Lord and to angels. It gives us our individual point of view, and from its center we look upon all else, seeing clearly those things which are most nearly associated with it, and more indistinctly things at a distance from it. No two human minds can have the same love. No two can have the same center of life. No two, therefore, will draw from the world of nature a like thread of conscious experience, nor form for themselves a like thread of spiritual interest.
This fact constitutes for every individual a new creation and assures him an individual place and function in the Grand Man, forseen and provided by the Lord. And yet these individual minds, each receiving something of Divine love and wisdom that is different from the gifts imparted to others, are mutually dependent and so closely bound together in affection and in use as to form a single man in the sight of God.
We have noted that the truths of the Word and of the Church are received at first from the outer world into the external memory. If they do not there excite interest if by application to them we have not stirred spiritual affection then in the other world they will be taken away from us when the external memory becomes quiescent, for our real life will be centered elsewhere. But if we learn on earth to love these things, reflect upon them for ourselves, and weave them into the fabric of our conscious mind by applying them to life, then do they become part of our spirit. They are built into us in spiritual form and substance. They are impressed upon that internal memory in which we will live after death. The process of regeneration by which man's inner character is formed and moulded is that whereby the truth of the Word, having been inscribed upon the external memory, is drawn thence in adult life by living experience, and is engraved upon the internal memory; and this must be effected by use alone. To this enrichment of the internal memory may be attributed man's spiritual development. It is this internal memory that is represented by the onyx stones on which were inscribed the names of the twelve sons of Israel, in the order of their birth. That is, on the internal memory is impressed every spiritual state of life, every perception of Divine and heavenly things, and this in the actual order of man's growth -- the order of his reformation and regeneration. This internal memory is unconscious to man while he is in the world, even as the onyx stones were outside the range of vision of the priest who wore them upon his shoulders. And yet it is the source of all power, as is represented by the shoulders upon which the stones were worn. The golden chain by which it was connected with the breastplate represents the spiritual connection, influx and operation of this internal memory into the conscious mind. On the other hand, the breastplate represents the actively thinking mind where truth stands forth to rational view. This mind is a replica of heaven so far as it is formed from the Word. For this reason the breastplate is said to represent heaven. The three horizontal rows of stones represent the three heavens, celestial, spiritual, and natural, in their order. The two vertical rows on the right side represent the celestial kingdom with its internal and external, respectively. The two rows on the left side represent the spiritual kingdom, also with its internal and its external.
The precious stones themselves represent the good and truth of the Word received into the mind by instruction and study. They derive their spiritual representation from their color. The first row of red stones represents truths of a celestial origin, truths of the inmost sense of the Word, especially concerning the Lord and things relative to His incarnation, His redemption, and His glorification. They are red in color because they are perceptions from love to the Lord. The second row of stones, blue from red, represents truths from mutual love, truths of the internal sense of the Word, having reference to the regeneration and salvation of men. They are truths of wisdom from the Divine love of saving human souls. The third row of stones, blue from white, represents truths from charity toward the neighbor. They are not so deeply perceptive, but rather rational things that we see from reason and logic according to a spiritual philosophy. They have more direct bearing upon what is worldly and temporal, and they are what are called in the Writings the internal historical sense of the Word. The last row of stones, white from blue, are the truths of faith, truths in the memory received in a state of holiness, but not yet understood. They are doctrinal statements from which a moral and ethical conscience is formed in the light of religious principles. They are seen in the literal sense of the Word, when that sense is illumined from the Sun of heaven. All of these together are what are called in the Word "the glory in the cloud," the internal understanding of truth imparted to man by means of the letter of the Word. The names of the sons of Israel engraved upon these stones represent the societies of heaven in their order, from which influx and enlightenment are received when the Word is read in a holy state; and this influx is what was represented by the flashing of the lights seen by the priest. When we reflect upon the teaching of the Word, and its imagery is brought vividly into our mind, the heavens inflow according to our state at the time, that is, according to the love which actuates us. And this influx is the source of spiritual light by which we are given to understand and perceive truth. Thus it is the means of receiving answers, of reaching conclusions, of forming judgments, which as to their internal sense are a revealing of the Lord's own teaching in the Word.
It is a notable fact that light is given in the study of the Word by comparison of passages. By this means things otherwise separated are brought together and perceived in series and in mutual relation. Compare this with what is said of the flashing of light in various series on the breastplate of Aaron. It is to be noted that the degree and the amount of truth that we see in the Word is limited: first, by the knowledge that we possess, both spiritual and natural; second, by the background of spiritual sensations that have previously been stored in the internal memory; and last, by the end and purpose which actuates our thinking. By these three things our place among spirits and our extension into the societies in the other world are fixed. As we grow in knowledge, and in spiritual experience, we acquire an increasing depth of insight and breadth of view. This we do by means of the internal memory, where a thousand particulars are stored up above our consciousness, to be drawn out and to give illustration in filling and perfecting our ideas as we advance in regeneration.
Answers were given by the "Urim and Thummim" (by which words are meant lights and perfections) when the priest entered the holy place and stood before the veil to inquire of the Lord. This represents how we receive enlightenment and instruction from the Lord by means of the Word when we read the Sacred Scripture in worship, and when, in a holy state we reflect upon its teaching with prayer for guidance. This is the way of all spiritual enlightenment, and herein lies the importance of reading the Word continually, that we may receive therefrom our daily bread. In the Word there is a compendium of all Divine wisdom and the Divinely provided means by which the Lord may speak to man and lead him in the way of life.4