The Law of Correspondences II
It is revealed in the Writings that creation proceeds from God by what is called discrete degrees. Swedenborg illustrates the difference between discrete degrees and continuous degrees by the difference between the ether which you cannot hear, touch, smell, taste or feel, and the air by which you can hear when it impinges on your ears. There is a discrete degree between the ether and the air.
A continuous degree, on the other hand, is one that just merges right into the next degree. For instance, my voice just fades away; if you are far enough away you cannot hear it, and it gets louder as you come nearer the source of its activity. Similarly with the light of a candle it fades away by continuous degrees. The thermometer indicates continuous degrees of hear.
Creation was made by discrete degrees. The Divine love is the infinite substance itself of God, and that substance exists in Divine wisdom which is the form of God's substance. The first thing that was created by God was the sun of the spiritual world which is the correspondent of the Lord's love and, therefore, sends forth love to all humanity, both angels and men. And this Divine sun radiates light which is wisdom.
Between the spiritual world, which is ruled by this spiritual sun with its heat of love and its light of wisdom, and the natural sun is a discrete degree. Between the spiritual world and the natural world, there is an absolute answering of part to part through what Swedenborg calls correspondences. Correspondences join planes or realms which are a discrete degree apart. They join the natural world of time and space with the spiritual world of eternity.
God created man in His own image and in His own likeness, but between God and man there are many discrete degrees. Man is created out of substances originally derived from God. We do not believe, as is taught in some of the churches, that God created the universe out of nothing. There was nothing but God in the beginning and everything was created out of substance which He put off from Himself. We can think of that in a finite way as every child who is created in this world is created through substances put off from the mother and given to the child by the mother, although there is always a discrete degree between the mother and the child. For example, the heart-beat of the mother never enters into the child, but the child's heart-beat, from the very beginning, is its own, and until its own heart commences to beat, there is no pulsation in the child. There is a complete separation. of the child from the mother, and this is in order that each generation may be free.
Man is in the image and likeness of God. He is the image of God because he has an understanding, and the understanding can receive the Divine truths from God and enable man to think rationally. Man thinks rationally, but he thinks finitely, that is, his thoughts are limited, whereas God's thoughts are omniscient. He knows everything, but, because man is God's image, man knows something, and man has the ability to think and the ability to be self-conscious and he can know he is alive and have the feeling of his own self-direction. That is because he is the image of God.
But God did not leave man with just one faculty. He created him also in the likeness of God. The likeness of God is represented by man's will. God commanded and it stood fast. He said, Let there be light and there was light." God's will is complete and perfect, and all He has to do is to say, "Let there be," and it takes place; but man, because he is the likeness of God, also can exercise his will and in a finite way, in a limited way, because he occupies only a little space he is only one of millions of creatures but nevertheless he has also the likeness, he can say, "I will do this." or "I will not do this." He has the power of self- direction and all the responsibility that goes with it. In contrasting the Creator with man whom He has created, we see that there is a correspondence between man's finite understanding and God's wisdom, and man's finite and limited will and God's omnipotent will. Man's will and understanding are spiritual and they live to eternity. They are not part of the body that is laid aside in the grave when we die. They are the immortal part of man. They contain man's love and affection, his thoughts and ambitions, and everything that he knows; and all of that he carries into the spiritual world with him. But, in order that this marvellous machine of his understanding and his will, which are formed of actual substances highly organized in order that they may flow into our body which was given us for life in this world, it was necessary that the body correspond on its plane to the discrete degree above it which is the mind. To illustrate: the lungs in the body correspond to the understanding in the mind. This can be seen from the fact that the babe in the womb is unconscious until after the lungs begin to function. The Word says, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) It is the breath of life, the filling of the lungs that gives the child consciousness, and this because they correspond to the understanding.
Similarly, the will-power which contains our loves corresponds to the heart, and that is the reason why, when we say we are in love, we feel the sensation in our heart. All of man's blood is poured through his lungs, and returning to the heart is pumped throughout the whole body. This corresponds to the way that every one of man's volitions has to pass through his understanding, there to be modified by the truths which he knows, or polluted by the falsities which he embraces. It is because of this interaction between the will and the understanding that we believe that daily family worship, daily reading of the Word, is like breathing pure clean air for it fills the understanding with truths. So complete is the correspondence between the will and the understanding and the heart and the lungs that Swedenborg says that all that will ever be known of psychology and the interaction between understanding and will can be traced out in the physical relationship between the heart and the lungs. I shall give one example of this. The lungs are not fed by the blood that they purify. They are fed from without by the bronchial artery. No more is man's understanding fed by the impulses of the will which it purifies. It is fed by that inner will which rises above the natural will and forms the basis for regeneration. To understand the manner in which the spiritual sense of the Word was given, we have to comprehend the correspondence between the various planes of life. A correspondence between the mineral and the vegetable, between the vegetable and the animal, between animals and men, and lastly between man and God.
The doctrine which explains the spiritual sense of the Word is that since there is this correspondence between the various planes of life, in the inmost sense the Word might be talking about the wisdom and love of God, in a lower sense about the sun of the spiritual world, and in a still more external sense about man's regeneration, and all this could be described by the actions of men in this world. Since the universe has been created by means of discrete degrees, then it is quite conceivable that a Word could be written by the Divine mind through human instruments which would talk about earthly things, but which would conceal in its bosom sense after sense that could be opened so that the Lord Himself would finally be seen, standing, as it were, at the head of Jacob's ladder. That is exactly what the Writings claim for it. They claim that the Word has been written in natural language by the pen of men, but it was inspired by the wisdom of God. They point out that since it is God's Word, it must treat of deeper things than the Israelites, or Moses, or any other earthly history. It must treat inmostly of the most sublime truths that can possibly exist otherwise it could not be called the Word of God. Since this is the case, the Writings are able to disclose a law by means of which the Word can be interpreted. This is the Law of Correspondence, and it is stated in the simplest terms, thus: The spiritual thing will do for the mind what the natural thing to which it corresponds will do for the body.
Let me further illustrate the law of correspondences by a consideration of the spiritual meaning of garments. We are not left to guess about the meaning of garments there is a whole chapter in Heaven and Hell on the subject of garments, the garments with which angels are clothed. Garments correspond to intelligence, so that everything that a garment does for one's body, intelligence does for one's mind.
The chapter on garments in Heaven and Hell first describes the beautiful white garments of those who have gone into the spiritual world and have passed successively through the first two states in the world of spirits. When their interiors are seen to be heavenly then they are instructed in the way to heaven and they are given white and shining garments. These garments correspond to the truths they understand. In these new garments, they are then led into heaven; and introduced into the society there where they belong.
Each angel, the Writings say, has many garments, nor do they disappear and appear erratically; but the angels have garments that they take off and garments that they lay aside and garments that they take care of when they are off. With this there is a wonderful correspondence to the state of wisdom in which they are; and so Swedenborg says that their garments, although they are the appearances to other angels of their intelligence, nevertheless are real because when their intelligence is seen objectively in the spiritual world, it appears like a garment.
That the angels are clothed in garments, Swedenborg says, is evident from every angel who was ever seen by anybody in this world. For example, when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of the Lord and the other Mary came out to the sepulchre, they saw two angels, it says, clothed in shining garments beside the head and the feet where the body of Jesus had lain; and John, when he saw angels in the spiritual world, said that he saw them in fine linen, clean and white. He said they had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb represents Divine truth, and their robes represented their intelligence which had been cleansed by the Divine truth. If we take that passage literally, we behold an impossibility. We could not wash a robe white in blood. To see its real meaning, we must look at it spiritually. There is a great variety in the garments which angels wear because there is a great variety in their personalities. Some people in the spiritual world have simple garments and some have very rich and beautiful garments, and that is all due to the difference in people's understanding which they have in the spiritual world. There are the rich and the poor in heaven, the wise and the simple all the varieties which we have in this world.
To further illustrate the doctrine of correspondences as seen in garments, let us consider the garments that are mentioned as clothing the Lord because they correspond to Divine truth. The descriptions of His garments in the letter of the Word tell us how men saw Divine truths.
On the night that the Lord was born, the first sign given to men that the Lord had been born, was the message of the angels to the shepherds; "And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12) Swaddling clothes are just one piece of linen, a plain cloth in which the Babe was wrapped. Swaddling clothes are the simplest possible garment that you can imagine. And they represent the way the Lord first comes to us. He is wrapped in the simplest of truths the truths that we teach a little child.
On another occasion the Lord wanted to show His disciples that He was God Himself, not just a man, not just a son of Mary, but that He was a Divine Man. He took them up into a mountain apart Peter, James, and John, who represented Faith, Love, and Charityand before these three disciples He was transfigured. "And His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light, (Matt. 17:2) Those garments that shone were the truths of the Word, illuminated by the Divine internal sense, shining through them and irradiating and making them brilliant before the eyes of the disciples.
On returning from Nazareth, the Lord had been asked by Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, to come and heal his little daughter. She was twelve years old and was dying of a fever. The Master set out for the home of Jairus, followed by a great crowd of curiosity seekers who wanted to see what would happen.
"And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched His garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned Him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And His disciples said unto Him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest Thou, who touched Me? And He looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done in her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him all the truth. And He said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." (Mark 5:25-34) This woman had had an issue of blood for twelve years, and she said, "If I may but touch His clothes." When she did so, the Lord said, "Who touched Me?" He knew that virtue had gone forth from Him. Today many men read the Word and they are not touched by it in the least. They are like the crowd that jostled the Lord on His way to Jairus' house. But when this woman reached forward and touched His garment on purpose, virtue went forth, instantly healing her. We are like her if we can take up the Word, read it, and get a spiritual message out of it, realizing that it is the Divine Word of God. When we can do this, we can touch the Lord's garment, and be healed of our spiritual diseases.
On the morrow, the soldiers "crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." (Matt. 27:35) We know how that outer garment was made, like Joseph's coat of many colors. It consisted of many pieces of cloth sewed together to make one outer garment. It was a fit representative of the letter of the Word which is made up of many different books written over a long period of time, from 1500 years before Christ, when Moses wrote, down to the Book of Revelation, written between sixty and ninety years after the Lord's Advent.
But there was also the inner garment woven from top to bottom. This could not be divided, therefore the soldiers cast lots for it. This continuous inner garment, woven without seam from top to bottom, represented the spiritual sense of the Word present in the letter through the laws of correspondence. Here is a garment of truth which inmostly tells the story of the Lord's glorification, and by analogy the story of man's regeneration.
The science of correspondences is the Divine method by which the Word was written, and since the Bible or Word is Divine, we must learn to know wherein that Divinity lies. Swedenborg's Writings show that because it is the Word of God, whatever may seem trivial in the letter must of necessity contain some deeper meaning. It must be possible to open up the letter of the Word and see in it ever deeper and more far- reaching meanings until at length we stand in the very presence of the Lord Himself.