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Previous: 30. Sun, Moon and Stars Up: The Language of Parable Next: 32. Numbers

31. The Quarters

The four quarters, north, south, east, and west, are often mentioned in the Bible, and sometimes in a way to show that they have an important spiritual meaning. Notice, for example, the importance given to the quarters in the arrangement of the tabernacle, in the order of march and encampment of the Israelites, in descriptions of the land of Canaan, and in the description of the holy city. (AC 3708) With many ancient people the quarters were regarded as significant in religious ceremonies. The east was believed to be the most sacred, and they turned to that quarter in worship. A relic of this ancient practice still remains in the custom of building churches so that the worshippers shall face the east. (DLW 123; AC 9642)

The association of spiritual qualities with the quarters, like the knowledge of the significance of all natural things, dates from the days when men had frequent communication with angels and learned in heaven the relation of all outward things to states of human life. In heaven all the angels' desires and thoughts turn towards the Lord; they keep Him and His will in view in all they do. And as all outward things about the angels. are an expression of what is within them, as they look up they see the Lord before their eyes, clothed with the glory of the sun of heaven. He appears before them at a middle altitude, and where He is seen, is the angels' east. Men also turn their thoughts and affections towards the Lord in worship, and it was delightful to the wise ancients at the same time to turn their faces to the east where the rising sun was a reminder to them of the Lord ever present before the angels. (HH 141-153; DLW 119-123; AE 422; AC 3708) The east in heaven is where the Lord appears as the heavenly sun before the angels; the west is therefore at their back, the south at their right, and the north at their left. They also associate with each quarter certain states and qualities; for persons of certain character have their homes in each quarter, according to their relation to the Lord. In the east are those who are nearest to the Lord and most open to receive His love; among them are the angels who take care of little children in heaven. In the west are those more remote from the Lord, who receive His love in more external ways. In the south are those who are in clear light of intelligence. In the north are those who receive the light of intelligence more obscurely. (HH 148-150, 332; AE 417, 422; AR 901; CL 3, 132)

We in this world speak of the different quarters, meaning not simply the points of compass, but the people who live in those quarters, with their peculiar traits of character. We say "the East," meaning Asia and its peoples. In the United States we speak of the South and the North, of the East and the West, with little thought of direction, but rather of people and states of human thought and feeling. This helps us to understand how the quarters mean to angels the qualities of those who dwell in the several quarters of heaven. The ancients, also, knew this heavenly meaning of the quarters. We must learn to understand them so when we read in the Bible of east and west and north and south. East will suggest nearness to the Lord, and interior heavenly affections. West will suggest remoteness from the Lord, and more external good affections; or even sometimes evil affections. South means the clear light of intelligence, and north, obscure light. (DLW 121; AE 422; AC 37o8)

We can now see a deeper meaning in passages like these: "I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back." (Isa. xliii. 5, 6) "And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." (Luke xiii. 29; Matt. Viii. 11) The verses tell us that the Lord receives into His church and into heaven not those only who have much of heavenly affection and intelligence, but also those who have little good affection and whose intelligence is obscure. The words show also the Lord's care to preserve for the eternal life all that there is in any soul of heavenly affection and intelligence, even the least. (AE 724, 239, 422; AC 3708; HH 324) The holy city shown to John had "on the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates." (Rev. xxi. 13) This also shows that the Lord's church and heaven are open to good affection and intelligence of every kind and degree. (AR 901, 906; AE 1310)

Other passages emphasize even more the mercy of the Lord in leading to His kingdom those in states of obscure understanding and feeble affection. "Behold, these shall come from far: and lo, these from the north and from the west." (Isa. xlix. 12; AC 3708; AE 1133; PP) So also the Psalm which begins, "O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south." (Ps. cvii. 1-3; AC 3708; AE 422)

"The LORD said unto Abram, . . . Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever." (Gen. xiii. 14, 15) And to Jacob in his vision the Lord said, "Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Gen. xxviii. 14) These promises are not for the Jews as a family or nation, but for the Lord's church. They tell of the infinite varieties of good affection and of intelligence which the Lord has brought within the reach of men. They assure us that men will receive them from Him, and find blessedness in them. (AC 1605, 3708; AE 340)

If we remember now the instructions given to the Israelites for their marching and their camping, and for the building of the tabernacle and the placing of its furniture, we see new meaning in the arrangement of all things according to the quarters. Notice especially that the tabernacle opened towards the east; reminding us that angels look to the Lord in that quarter, and that innocent affection, the quality associated with the east, is what keeps heaven or any single heart open to the Lord. (AC 101, 3708, 9668) In Ezekiel's vision of the temple we read: "Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. . . . And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east." (Ezek. xliii. 1-4) How beautifully this tells of the entrance of the Lord into the hearts of men and angels, as they draw near to Him in affection for all that is innocent and good! (AC 101; AE 179, 422)

In the Revelation we read: "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice, . . . Hurt not, . . . till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." (Rev. vii. 2, 3) And as we read on in the chapter we find that the sealing means the bringing out of heavenly character and separation from the evil. The angel ascending from the east and crying with a loud voice, represents the Lord's Divine love protecting, and saving all who are willing to be saved. (AE 422; AR 344) "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. xxiv. 27) Enlightenment of the understanding is promised. It comes from the Lord and His Divine love, whose presence is the angels' east; and it is received by those who love what is good, according to the quality and degree of their affection. (AC 9807; AE 422)

Remembering that the east in heaven is the quarter of childlike innocence and of openness to the Lord's Divine love, what beauty there is in this simple statement about the first church on earth! "The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed." (Gen. ii. 8) What does it tell us of the character of those early people? And remember that a garden of fruitful and lovely trees represents intelligence of all heavenly kinds, developing under the Lord's loving care. (AC 98-101; AE 739)

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matt. ii. r, 2) Wise men from the east, mean spiritually those whose love for goodness keeps their minds open to heavenly truths. The wise men who came to worship the Lord were remnants of an early race whose innocence was the means of preserving to them some heavenly wisdom. They retained, chief of all, the knowledge that the Lord should come, which was especially represented by the guiding star. The wise men from the east represent all innocent souls who suffer their knowledge of Divine and heavenly things to lead them to the Lord. (AC 3762; AE 422) What does the statement mean, that "Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt "? (1 Kings iv. 30) It means that heavenly wisdom excels all external knowledge, which is meant by Egypt, and all the interior perceptions of an innocent heart, to which men attain, which are meant by the children of the east country. (AC 3762; AE 654; Chapter 38)

Abram came "unto a mountain on the east of Bethel. . . . And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south." (Gen. xii. 8, 9) This seems a trifling incident to be a part of the Lord's Word, but it becomes important when we know that Abram's story tells, as in a parable, the history of a regenerating life in its beginning, and in the highest sense of the Lord's own inner life as a child. This camp upon the mountain eastward, tells of a state of interior openness to the Divine love. The journeying on toward the south, tells of progress into states of intelligence. (AC 1449-1458) We are taught that as children grow to the age of knowledge and understanding, they are withdrawn from the influence of the loving angels of the east in which they were in infancy, and come under the influence of wise angels of the southern quarter. (TCR 476; HH 295)

In a beautiful Psalm of forgiveness we read, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Ps. ciii. 12) The words contrast the Lord's infinitely tender love with our state so remote from Him; and they teach us that transgressions are removed in proportion as we do right and receive the love for goodness, from the Lord. (PP)


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31. The Quarters

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