XVII. The Veils
The Tabernacle of Israel, by George de Charms, 1969
There were two kinds of protective covers in the tabernacle: the curtains and the veils. The curtains were primarily for protection, forming walls and ceiling; the veils were also for entrance and exit.
There were three of these, marking the three divisions of the tabernacle. The inmost divided between the holy of holies and the holy place. This was specifically called the veil, and is always the one referred to by that term if there is no qualification. The middle one divided between the holy place and the court. It is called the "door of the tent." It was hung upon pillars two cubits within the east end of the wall, so that it was protected by a sort of porch or vestibule.1 The outmost veil divided between the court and the camp of Israel. It was called the "gate of the court."
All three of these veils were made of linen woven in the four colors: blue, purple, scarlet, and white. They were varied in the degree of their excellence and their workmanship. They differed from the linen curtain of the tabernacle in that the color white is mentioned last instead of first, and this is significant of their correspondence. They were not made as was the linen curtain, in strips sewed together, but were apparently in one piece, 10 cubits square, according to the inside measurements of the tabernacle itself. This applies to the first two veils, the gate of the court being 5 cubits high and 20 cubits in length. The veil proper was hung from four pillars of shittim wood covered with gold, 10 cubits high with a cap or fillet of gold, a golden hook at the top, and a base of silver similar to those used for the boards of the wall. These pillars were placed 10 cubits from the west wall. The distance between them allowed the ark to pass through. The veil was fastened also to the S-shaped hooks of gold which joined the two halves of the linen curtain. This veil is said to be "the work of a thinker," as was the linen curtain, having the design of golden cherubim inwoven like a tapestry.2
The hanging for the door of the tent was of the same dimensions as the veil itself. However, it was not fastened to the covering of the ceiling. It was supported on 5 pillars so placed that the ark might pass between them. These pillars also were covered with gold, but their bases were of copper. This hanging differed from the veil in that the cherubim were not inwoven on the loom, but were embroidered upon it in gold thread.3
The hanging for the gate of the court was placed in the center of the east wall of the court. There were assigned to it 4 pillars, which it was specified should be 5 cubits apart. Of course 4 pillars, 5 cubits apart, would cover a space of only 15 cubits. A hanging of 20 cubits requires five pillars so placed. But only four were counted as belonging to the gate of the court, while one was counted as belonging to the wing of the wall. (See Chapter XVIII.) This enumeration is part of the general problem we will speak of in another chapter. These court pillars are 5 cubits high, made of shittim wood, not covered with gold. Their fillets and hooks are of silver and their bases of copper. The gate of the court, like the hanging for the door, was the work of an embroiderer, but the design of the embroidery is nowhere mentioned. Scholars generally consider it to have been folioform.
Each veil served as a door or gate of entrance and exit, and also as a protecting wall. Doors and gates may be opened or they may be closed. They may be opened to some, and closed against others. Thus they are both a means of defense or protection, and a means of approach or conjunction. Such doors may be interior or exterior. To the outer door of a house or to the outer gate of a palace any stranger may come, but through it only friends are admitted. Only such friends, then, come to the inner door where they may or may not be admitted. Only well-known friends are invited within. Past the doors leading into the inmost rooms of the house, only members and very intimate friends of the family are permitted to go.
This gives some idea of entrance into the human mind through successive gates and doors. These are loves which act as sieves to select what shall enter and what shall not. In man, in addition to the three here mentioned there is an outmost gate. It is the gate of the senses. The organs of sense can perceive unaided only a few of the objects and the forces of the material world. Nevertheless they admit into the memory many things that are as strangers to man's higher faculties. These five senses may be compared to the entrance of the camp of Israel, the gates of which are frequently mentioned in the Word. The whole nation of Israel represented the outmost or external mind, and this is where sense impressions are stored in the memory. But out of this memory a man calls forth such things as he is interested in more deeply. These he examines more closely, that he may understand them and adapt them to serve the ends he has in view. This selection is made by means of the imagination, wherein a man pictures to himself any goal toward which he would strive. He not only admits here certain sense impressions and rejects others, but those which are admitted are put together in a new order that they may form an ideal. Such selection is made according to the love that is active, and the interest such a love arouses. The things here admitted are like friends. They are welcomed, protected, and preserved for future use. But they are natural or worldly ambitions, the pleasures of the body, or the delights of the external mind.
Man has a higher imagination which may be compared to the court of the tabernacle. Here spiritual ends take form by means of abstract thought and analytical reason. By means of this higher mental activity man seeks to visualize, not the outer form, but the inner essence of things. His attention is focussed upon the discovery, and the enjoyment of things that give delight to the spirit. These are more enduring, and far more satisfying than the pleasures of the body. These also must be reordered and prepared for use. This inner mind is what is represented by the holy place. In a similar way, out of these more abstract visualizations there can arise still higher concepts which are not described as thought, but rather as perceptions. They are called celestial. They arise from a touch and realization of the soul of things, which gives, as it were, in a flash, in a single complex, a panoramic view of all their qualities and attributes. A single perception involves more than can be expressed in a thousand thoughts or a million imaginations.
These are the steps or degrees in the human mind leading up from earth to heaven like the ladder of Jacob, of which he said, "This is the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."4 That man may ascend this ladder is the Divine end in his creation. He is born sensual, and at first he can be aware only of physical touch with material things. By growth and education he becomes natural, using the imaginative faculty to picture before his mind worldly pleasures as goals to be sought. By regeneration he becomes spiritual, living for higher ends that are abstracted from things of the world. These are delights of the spirit that may be increased to eternity. To visualize these delights and to understand how they may be enjoyed is the function of the truly rational mind. If man is regenerated to the celestial degree he can be blessed with an inmost perception yielding a happiness far surpassing all the rest.
Each degree or plane of the mind is surrounded by a protecting wall, and there is access to it only through a gate or door. Until this door is opened, that plane of the mind remains unformed in the man. He remains unconscious of its existence, and if it is never opened, he continues in this unconsciousness forever. A man's development, both spiritual and natural, may be arrested at any stage. He may become natural, or spiritual, or celestial, and the degree of his ascent determines his life and the quality of his happiness in the spiritual world. Heaven is, after all, the mind of the racial man, and with this every man has communication as the successive degrees of his mind are opened and formed. The natural heaven consists of those with whom the natural degree of the mind has been opened. The spiritual heaven consists of those with whom an interior degree has been opened, and the celestial heavens consist of those with whom the inmost degree has been opened. Wherefore the Lord says, "The kingdom of God is within you."5 The gates or doors to those heavens are in every man the gates or doors to his own inner mind and consciousness.6
Here, then, we have the human and living representation of the veils of the tabernacle. But what is it that constitutes these doors of the mind? By what means can there be effected a deeper and deeper introduction into the conscious realization of truth? How can man attain a successively more intimate touch with the spirit, and the soul of the Lord's creation? What is it that keeps one man out and allows another to enter, so that one becomes wiser, more perceptive than another, and at last lives upon a different plane of human consciousness? What is it that sifts, selects, and chooses out of a lower degree those things that are to be admitted into a higher degree of the mind?
The Lord refers to these veils when He says: "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me."7 The Lord comes to the door of a man's mind and knocks upon it by means of the Word." In the Word the Lord speaks to men. What He says contains infinite depths of wisdom. By it He reveals the true nature of God, and because God is the Creator and Preserver of the universe, He reveals the Divine end or purpose for which all things were made. To understand this purpose is to see in all things the presence of God, and His merciful providence. This is the real reason why the Word is called a Divine revelation. It reveals the uses that give eternal joy and happiness to the angels. At this day the Word is the only means provided by which men may learn the truth concerning heaven and the life after death. This truth lies at the heart of all material tilings. It is the only source of human intelligence and wisdom. A man may develop his mental faculties, his knowledge, his understanding, and his reason, purely from worldly experience. But this merely perfects the outmost plane or degree of his mind. It does not introduce him more deeply into the secrets of the universe. Only by means of the Word can man even begin to progress toward the perception of interior things. This is the reason why the Lord says again, "I am the door. By Me if any man enter in, he shall go in and out and find pasture."9 And elsewhere, "He that climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."10 The Word is the door. It is the door that admits some and docs not admit others. There is a password required at that door without which none is allowed to enter. That password is not a formula of religious faith. It is not a dogma stamped on the memory by learning or repetition. It is a tiling of the life. It is a state of mind that results from the sincere effort to shun evils as sins and at the same time to learn of God the way of life.
This effort produces an attitude that opens the inner thought to the Word, rouses interest in the Divine commandments, and stirs in the heart a desire to understand the deeper meaning of the Sacred Scripture. This kindles a light within that opens the mind to the perception and consciousness of higher things. He who draws near to the letter of the Word, believing in his heart that the Lord is present there, and asking for His help and guidance, will find there ways opening to his mind new vistas of spiritual understanding. By means of the Word the Lord knocks upon the door of man's mind, ever ready to enter and sup with him, if only man responds with affection.
Men have been taught to regard the Word as holy, but they understand very little of its meaning. It is to them as a book that is sealed. Its obscurity, its seeming contradictions, its apparent irrelevance to the practical problems of natural life, seem to turn men's minds away from it. It is like the gate of the court upon which the children of Israel looked from without, and through which they were forbidden to pass. Why, we ask ourselves, was not the Word written plainly, so that he who runs might read? Then surely all would enter into the many treasures there concealed. They would indeed enter in, but only "to steal, to kill, and to destroy"; because before regeneration, the loves which are active in men's minds are not of heaven but of the world. A change of heart is needed. There must be an elevation of love to the Lord before anyone can safely be introduced into the church, or into heaven. Nor can anyone truly love the Lord who does not shun evils as sins against Him. The shunning of evil is possible only by means of victory in temptation. This was represented by the fact that the sons of Israel were not admitted into the court of the tabernacle except when they came with a repentant heart to offer a sacrifice of atonement for sin. Even then they were allowed to enter only as far as the altar of burnt offering, and to remain no longer than was necessary for the priest to offer the sacrifice.
Such is the general law of man's progression toward interior things; but there are three degrees of love to the Lord, and three corresponding degrees of resistance to evil. Each degree opens the door to a higher plane of spiritual life.
The general difference in representation between the veils and the curtains of the tabernacle would seem to be based on their use. The curtains were for protection, while the veils were for entrance. The curtains therefore must represent truths both held in the memory and established in actual life; while the veils would represent new truths constantly being learned from the Word in states of worship, and of reflection. By means of the first, man's religious conscience is formed as a perpetual warning against evil, and an ever-present guard in times of stress. On the other hand, by the second, man is introduced to new perceptions of truth. This difference in use is suggested by the order in which the colors are mentioned. Whenever the curtains are spoken of they are said to be of "blue, purple, scarlet, and white"; but the veils are described as "white, blue, purple, and scarlet." "Blue," when mentioned first, represents the spiritual love of truth, and "white" the intelligence thence derived. When "white" is mentioned first it represents enlightenment from the Lord through the Word, and when "scarlet" is mentioned last, it represents the wisdom of life which results only from a life according to the teaching of the Word.