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Previous: 13. Oxen Up: The Language of Parable Next: 15. Swine

14. Horse and Ass

For what are horses and asses useful? What do they do better than all other animals? They carry people and loads on their backs and in wagons. They are wonderfully adapted for this work, and when wisely and kindly cared for they enjoy doing it. A good horse enters into the spirit of a morning canter or even of a race quite as heartily as his rider does. The sheep and goats are valuable for what they are and for what they give us of themselves; oxen, both for what they are and what they do; but the horse and ass are useful chiefly for what they do. One class corresponds to our love of being innocent or being useful; the other corresponds to our enjoyment in doing mental work.

And what mental work can I do? Can I sit at the table without moving a finger and still be hard at work? Suppose I am working out a problem in geometry or reasoning out some question connected with business, or a question of right and wrong; am I not doing real work? The mental work is thinking or reasoning. If it goes well, there is a real enjoyment in it; it is quite exhilarating. In many ways we can see the likeness between the animals which do physical labor, and this enjoyment in thinking and reasoning. We speak of "advancing " in our reasoning "step by step," and of being "led" to such and such conclusions.

Have you noticed how ready a horse is to go in a familiar road, and to turn his head towards home? In passing over a road a second time, a horse knows the way perfectly, and wants to make each turn and stop for water and rest exactly as he did before. Do not our minds run over familiar lines of thought more easily than over new ones? Do we not find ourselves saying and, thinking the same things in the same old ways? going over the same line of reasoning and reaching the same conclusion?

The mental labor also has uses corresponding to those which the animals perform in carrying their riders, and in carrying burdens. Carrying a rider swiftly from place to place is like the service of the understanding in enabling one to see things comprehensively in their right relations and proportions. And as beasts of burden carry things from where they are produced to where they are wanted, so the thought picks up a fact 'here and a. bit of experience there and brings them together into useful relations. These animals that enjoy work represent our affection for intellectual labor, for thinking, understanding, reasoning. (AC 2781, 2761, 2762)

So far the horse and ass are alike; let us now notice the differences between them, and between the kinds of thinking to which they correspond. The horse is larger than the ass and stronger. He is at the same time more delicate and sensitive, needing better food and better care. The ass is more surefooted on a rough-path, and more enduring. Perhaps the most important difference is that the horse gives all attention to his rider or driver, listening for the slightest sound of his voice, and easily trained to obey the least touch upon the neck. This quality of attention to the .master's will is wonderfully shown in our crowded city streets. It is still more beautifully shown in countries where men almost live in the saddle, and the horse becomes almost a part of his master. The ass on the contrary pays little attention to his rider. His attention is given almost wholly to the road, and not a stone escapes his notice. He makes his own plan where he will step and if his master's wish differs from his, he is very reluctant to change. In a word, the horse looks up to his master for guidance; the ass looks down to the ground.

Are there some kinds of thought and reasoning which are nobler than others? I may follow step by step the reasoning of a problem in geometry; I may carefully consider and decide in some matter of business. Or I may delight to think about the Lord, and to understand His message to us in His Word, and to think of all natural things in their relation to our spiritual life. The affection for this spiritual understanding or thought is represented by the noblest of all animals of work, the horse. (White Horse 1-5; AC 2761, 2762; AE 355, 364) The natural understanding, which is absorbed in things of this world, is represented by the ass. (AC 2781)

It will be remembered that many passages which mention the ox, join with him the ass. We now see more clearly that it is because the ass is a symbol of the natural understanding, which is the companion of the natural affection represented by the ox. For example: "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him." (Exod. xxiii. 4, 5; AC 2781) "Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again." (Deut. xxii. 4; AC 2781) "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

(Exod. xx. 17; AC 8912) "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? " (Luke xiv. 5) The ass or the ox fallen into a pit represents the natural understanding or affection fallen into falsity or evil. They are to be drawn out especially by the instruction of the Sabbath day given by the Lord. (AC 9086; AE 537)

In the old time it was the custom for judges and their sons to ride on asses, and for kings and their sons to ride on mules. (Judges V. 10, x. 3, 4, xii. 14; I Kings i. 33 45; 2 Sam. xiii. 29) The custom came from very ancient days, when the correspondence of the ass was known. For it was a judge's or a king's duty to listen to the details of natural questions and to decide them wisely. We remember also the prophecy concerning the Lord: "Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (Matt. xxi. 5; Zech. ix. 9) And we remember how the prophecy was fulfilled when the disciples "brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon." (Matt. xxi. 7) It was a sign that the Lord had come down to meet men on the plane of the natural understanding; to loose that faculty from its bondage to falsity, and to teach men true natural precepts. (AC 2781)

Read the story of Balaam's ass. The angel said to Balaam, "And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive." (Numb. xxii. 22-35) The story teaches us how the Lord enlightens our understanding, that we may know and acknowledge what is right, and so may be turned from evil. (AE 140) The Psalm says: "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." (Ps. civ. 10, 11) The springs represent the Lord's gift of truth from His Word; and the wild asses quenching their thirst represent the instruction of those in the church who have an intellectual interest in truth. (AE 483; AC 1949)

The wild ass is a distinct species from the domestic ass, and cannot be tamed. It often stands in the Word for the first natural reason, which has no regard to use, but is critical and perverse. Of Ishmael, who represents this first-developed intellectual power, it is said: "He shall be a wild-ass man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him." (Gen. xvi. 12; AC 1949)

The horse, we remember, corresponds to the spiritual understanding, or to the affection for thinking and reasoning clearly on spiritual subjects. It is the faculty which understands and enjoys the spiritual meaning of the Word. In the Revelation we read of horses: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True: . . and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses." (Rev. xix. 11-14, vi. 2) It is the Lord, coming not now to teach natural truth, "meek and riding upon an ass," but to open men's spiritual understanding to the spiritual truth of the Word. Therefore He was seen riding upon a white horse, and His name was called the Word of God. (AE 355; AR 298; White Horse 1-5) As we read on in the sixth chapter, as successive seals were opened, there were seen horses of different colors "Behold a red horse"; "Behold a black horse," and "a pale horse." We can easily see that this tells of the exploration, in turn, of different classes of persons in the spiritual world, and the disclosure of the kind of understanding of the Word and spiritual truth which was found in each. (AE 355, 364, 372, 381; AR 298, 305, 312, 320; see Chapter 34)

"When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven . . . there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." (2 Kings ii. 11, 12) Again, when encompassed by the Syrians, "Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings vi. 17) The prophets Elijah and Elisha spoke the Divine truth of right and wrong, they were representatives of the Word in its stern, literal form. If we could accompany this Word into heaven - or, indeed, if we take it with us when we die - as in the ascent of Elijah, its rude cloke drops from it, and it appears glorious in spiritual truth. Also it is this spiritual truth within the Word which gives the letter power, filling the mountain with unseen horses and chariots of fire round about us. (AC 2762, 5321)

In these and many other passages, chariots are mentioned with the horses. They make the horses more effective in fighting; and carriages and wagons serve a like use in traveling, and exchanging goods. As the horses correspond to the spiritual understanding, the carriages represent principles or "doctrines " concerning the need of communication and the useful ways of effecting it, which facilitate the exchange of intellectual treasures, and help to bring the truth to bear where it is needed. (AC 82115; AE 355; AR 437)

Noble as the faculty of understanding is, should we ever trust to our intelligence and think that we do not need to depend upon the Lord? "A horse is a vain thing for safety, neither shall he deliver any by his great strength." (Ps. xxxiii. 17) The Lord "delighteth not in the strength of the horse; he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man." (Ps. cxlvii. io) "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." (Ps. xx. 7; AR 298; AE 355; AC 2826)

We see that while in the best sense the horse stands for a true spiritual understanding of the Word, horses and chariots in the armies of Israel's enemies must stand for the false reasonings and doctrines with which evil of various kinds attempts to overpower good. So the horses of Egypt, and of Assyria, and of Babylon. (AC 8146, 5321; AE 355; see Chapter 38)

The ancients, who delighted to perceive the correspondence of natural objects with spiritual, accepted the horse as a symbol of intelligence. Many traces of this ancient wisdom are preserved in Greek mythology. They told of a winged horse, Pegasus, which struck the rock, and the fountain of the Muses broke forth. In this fable they pictured the birth of the sciences from the application of spiritual intelligence to the facts of nature. (AC 2762, 4966, 7729; White Horse 4; TCR 693) The story of the wooden horse by which Troy was taken, is also a fable, meaning that the Greeks prevailed by greater intelligence and craft. (AC 2762; White Horse 4)


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14. Horse & Ass

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