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Previous: 10. Childhood, Youth and Old Age Up: The Language of Parable Next: 12. Sheep and Goats

11. Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral

the subjects which we have last considered have been wholly within ourselves. We have studied some member or some condition of the physical body, and then have looked more deeply, to discover the corresponding spiritual faculty or condition. Now we look out into the world, and see it filled with objects which, though not a part of us, still have some relation to us, either useful or hurtful. The human quality of natural objects is so evident that we instinctively feel sympathy with them. In fact, they present in visible form affections and thoughts which exist within ourselves. Thus they interpret our hearts to us; they help us to know ourselves.

How could it be otherwise? for natural objects all are works of the Lord, and must therefore every one embody something of His love and wisdom, the same which He gives to men. The world around us is from the same source as the world within us; it shows the same forces brought down to a lower plane. (D. L. W. 319-326.)

Some one may ask how it is, if natural things are embodiments of the Lord's love and wisdom, that there are cruel and evil things in nature. Where, as the forces of life descend from the Lord to the plane of nature where do they become perverted? Men pervert them, indulging hatred instead of love, and false thoughts instead of truth. And the Lord permits these perverse feelings and thoughts also to appear in nature, producing evil animals and plants, and all vile and cruel things. When men were good and innocent, nature was all good, reflecting their innocent life; but when evil life increased on earth and in hell, then it was said, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake. . . . Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." (Gen. iii. 17, 18; T. C. R. 78; D. L. W. 336-342; A. E. 1201.)

And why does the Lord permit the creative power to flow into nature through the channels of human life, through heaven and through hell, producing many evil and un-heavenly forms to mar the world about us? He does it that nature may teach us truly of our own character; that nature may serve as a mirror showing us both the beauty of innocence and the hatefulness of evil passions. The world around us is both an inspiration and a warning. It is important to learn to read the book of nature, seeing to what thing in ourselves each object of nature corresponds.

As we study the correspondence between the objects of nature and the spiritual things within ourselves, we are helped much by common speech, which often uses the name of an animal to describe a human quality, or borrows a term descriptive of a plant or mineral to apply to some spiritual possession. Thus a man is called a "lion," a "fox," a "bear," with the perception that his courag;, or cunning, or roughness is accurately pictured in the animal whose name is chosen to describe him. We say that an idea "grows" and "bears fruit," recognizing that its development is like that of a plant. But with such a general use of natural terms to describe spiritual things, common speech is content. If we would learn more accurately to what thing in the world within us each object in the natural world corresponds, we must examine the natural object, note its qualities, and especially its use. Then we must turn to the inner world and see what fills the corresponding place.

In this study of the correspondence of natural objects, it is necessary at the outset to establish some general principles, some plan of classification and arrangement, so that each particular may find its place without confusion. For instance, if we could learn in general the great dividing lines which group the objects of our mental world into classes answering to the three kingdoms of nature, it would be one great step towards giving each thing its right place. As in a game of "twenty questions" we ask, Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? and then leave out of consideration all but the one class concerned, so, if we know the three classes of spiritual things, when a certain natural object is given us to determine its correspondence, we assign it at once to its proper kingdom, and then gradually, by noting more special qualities, come as closely as may be to its exact spiritual meaning.

Let us compare the three kingdoms of nature, noting the distinguishing characteristics of each, and let us see whether the objects of the inner world fall into corresponding groups. Animals as a class are warm, active, sensitive. They feel both pleasure and pain. Plants, too, are living: they grow, but they are not conscious of suffering or of pleasure. The mineral kingdom is fixed and hard; it makes the basis from which plants grow and on which animals stand.

Is there in the mind a class of objects which is sensitive to pleasure or pain? Can I hurt you without touching your body? What do I hurt? Your feelings? Are these same feelings capable of enjoyment? Are they warm? Are they active? The feelings, or affections, are the animals of the mind. (H. H. 110; A. C. 3218, 5198; A. E. 650.)

Besides these feelings, are there still other things in the mind which are alive and grow, but which are not sensitive? How about knowledge or thought on one subject or another? It certainly grows from day to day. It is often most beautiful, and if it relates to some useful work, in time it bears fruit. Such plants of knowledge, growing in abundance, and filling the mind with beauty and fruitfulness, form the mind's vegetable kingdom. (H. H. 111, 176, 489; A. C. 3220, 1443; A. E. 730.)

Animals, as a rule, move easily from place to place, but plants are rooted in the ground. There is a like difference between our affections and our knowledge. Suppose I have grown up among certain circumstances, and have enjoyed my use and become intelligent and skilful in doing it. I move to a new place and find the circumstances changed. My affection for being useful goes with me, like an animal it moves easily to new surroundings; but my knowledge of how to be useful was rooted in the old circumstances and conditions and is with difficulty transplanted to new.

The foundation from which our mental plants spring, is the ground of the mind. The facts which are accepted as fixed and unchanging are its rocks; the store of experience in thinking and doing, which deepens with each day we live, is its fertile mould. When we share with others the same knowledge and like experience we stand on "common ground." (H. H. 488; A. C. 1940.)

The animals of the mind are its warm, sensitive affections; the plants are its growing intelligence on many subjects; the ground is the fixed basis of fact and experience.

Let us give a little closer thought to the animals and to the corresponding affections. How various the forms of animal life are! The elephant and the little humming insect! The fierce tiger and the gentle lamb! The soaring eagle and the serpent on the ground! The affections in our hearts are no less various. There are affections good and bad, gentle and cruel, useful and harmful, noble and base. Before we study particular animals and discover the affections to which they correspond, recall a few verses from the Bible to see how even this general thought that animals correspond to human affections will help us to understand the spiritual Chapters of the Word.

It is said of man, "Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." (Ps. viii. 6-8.) It means that the Lord is king over all, and that He makes man king over the little world of his own heart. Especially it means that He has given him control over his affections; they are not to be his masters, but his servants. The beasts of the field, or of the earth, do not stand necessarily for evil affections, but for the more natural and external ones, including physical desires and appetites. If one lives only to indulge natural affections he is a "beast," and he is truly a man as he exercises his human right by the Lord's help to control them. (A. E. 650; A. C. 10610; see also gen. i. 25, 26; A. C. 52.) A life given merely to the indulgence of worldly affections is described in the forty-ninth Psalm, closing with the words, "Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish." These affections have no place in heaven. In Genesis we read: "The lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them. . . . And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field." (gen. ii. 19, 20.) It means that the Lord permitted the early men on earth to know the quality of all the natural affections and appetites, that they might give them their right place and have dominion over them. (A. E. 650; A. C. 143, 146.) Later on in the story we read of the preservation of animals, clean and not clean, in the ark. "Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of everything that creepeth upon the earth, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark." (Gen. vii. 8, 9.) It tells of the transmission of affections and appetites, both good and not good, from the people of the first church to their descendants who formed the second church. (A. E. 650; A. C. 714, 715, 719.) "And Noah builded an altar unto the lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." (Gen. viii. 20; lev. i.) The animals brought for sacrifice represent the pure and earnest affections which we should bring before the Lord, acknowledging that they are His, and asking Him to use and to bless them in us. "Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? . . . He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth the lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah vi. 7, 8.) "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Ps. li. 16, 17; A. C. 922.)

We can understand also why clean animals were permitted to the Israelites for food, and unclean beasts were forbidden. "Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean." (Lev. xx. 25; xi.) Plainly the Lord desires our souls to grow strong with good, noble affections, but not to be defiled by evil ones. (A. E. 650.)

We see now the sad warning contained in the many passages which tell of destruction by wild beasts. "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it." (Ps. lxxx. 13.) "The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth." (Ps. lxxix. 2.) Such words are a warning that evil passions and appetites arising from selfish and worldly love, if indulged, destroy all spiritual life. (A. E. 650; A. C. 9335.) We see also the meaning of the joyful prediction: "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon. It shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there." (Isa. xxxv. 9; A. E. 650; A. C. 9335.)

Perhaps we can now see the spiritual reason why the Israelites were often commanded to destroy animals belonging to wicked nations. "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 sam. xv. 3.) As the infant and suckling here mean the beginnings of evil, so the animals represent the evil affections which their owners indulged. These were not to be adopted, but destroyed. (A. E. 650.)

"I will not drive them [the nations of Canaan] out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out." (Exod. xxiii. 29, 30; deut. vii. 22.) This shows us that regeneration must be a gradual work, and that in mercy the Lord permits many imperfect motives regard for appearance, hope of reward, external necessity to restrain the animal nature till more worthy motives can grow strong. (A. E. 650; A. C. 9335.) What do we learn of the temptations which our Lord endured, from the statement that "He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts"? (mark i. 13.) The wild beasts were the fierce evil passions inspired from hell, which the Lord resisted and overcame. (A. E. 650 end.)

Do not let us dwell too long on the passages which speak of evil beasts. Read in the Psalm: "He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. . . . He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man. . . . Thou makest darkness and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth," etc. (Ps. civ. 10-30.) The Lord provides food for the beasts, He also satisfies good affections of every kind with instruction from His Word. (A. E. 650, 483, 278; A. C. 2702.)

Finally, as a remarkable and perhaps unexpected example of the meaning of animals in the Holy Word, read in the Revelation: "In the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts. . . . And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." (Rev. iv. 6-9.) They are a symbol of the affection of the angels; especially of the celestial heaven, the heaven of affection, nearest to the Lord. (A. E. 322, 462.)

We postpone the study of passages which mention plants and minerals, to think first of individual members of the animal kingdom and to discover the special affections to which they correspond.


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11. Animal & Vegetable

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