11 Three Degrees of Life


Edward Madeley



WE have seen, in the former chapter, that the will and understanding of man are the two primary constituent powers of the human mind. Yet man is not a complete image of his Creator until he brings forth the ends of his will and the causes of his understanding into their proper effects, namely, words and works ; these, therefore, form a third essential constituent of his nature. By virtue of possessing and exercising this power, fixity and identity are imparted to all the interior principles of the mind and life. Now, the three corresponding principles of the Divine Mind are, the infinite will of God, comprising divine ends, the infinite understanding of God, comprising divine causes, and the eternal activity of these two principles, in perfect union, comprising all divine effects. In the Sacred Scriptures the all-begetting principle of love, proceeding from the divine will, is designated ” the Father ;” the all-producing principle of Wisdom, proceeding from the divine understanding, or ” the Word made flesh,” is denominated ” the Son ;” and the eternal energy and activity of these two principles, now proceeding from the Lord s glorified Human in perfect union, are called “the Holy Spirit.”

Thus divine love from eternity willed, and divine wisdom, as a cause, operated the work of creation, and came forth in time as the wisdom, or Word incarnate, in the person of Jesus Christ, and accomplished the work of redemption and the glorification of the assumed humanity ; and the Holy Spirit is continually striving to go forth in ” the spirit and power ” of the Word, to effect human regeneration and salvation.

Swedenborg, treating on this momentous subject, clearly and beautifully unfolds it as follows :” In every divine work there is a first, a middle, and a last, and the first passes through the middle to the last, and thereby exists and subsists ; hence the last is the basis. The first, also, is in the middle, and, by means of the middle, in the last ; and thus the last is the containant. And because the last is the containant and basis, it is also the firmament. The learned reader will be able to comprehend the propriety of calling these three, end, cause, and effect, and also esse (to be), fieri (to become), and existere (to exist). He who comprehends this reasoning will comprehend, also, that every divine work is complete and perfect in the last ; and likewise that in the last is contained the whole, because the prior things are contained together in it. From this ground it is, that by the number three, in the Word, in its spiritual sense, is signified what is complete and perfect ; and also, the all or whole together. Because this is the signification of that number, therefore it is so frequently applied in the Word, when that signification is intended to be expressed, as in the following places : Isa. xx. 3 ; 1 Sam. iii. 1-8, xx. 5, 12-42; 1 Kings xvii. 21, xvii. 34; Matt. xiii. 33, xxvi. 34; John xxi. 15-17 ; Jonah i. 17 ; John ii. 19 ; Matt. xxvi. 39-44 ; Luke xxiv. 21 ; besides many other passages where the number three is mentioned. It is mentioned where a work finished and perfect is the subject treated of, because such a work is signified by that number.” S. S. 27-29.

And again : ” From the Lord proceed these principles, the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural, one after another. Whatsoever proceeds from his divine love is called celestial, and is divine good ; whatsoever proceeds from his divine wisdom is called spiritual, and is divine truth ; the natural partakes of both, and is their complex in ultimate. The divine principle proceeding from the Lord, in its progress to ultimates, descends through three degrees, and is termed celestial, spiritual, and natural. The divine principle which proceeds from the Lord and descends to men, descends through those three degrees, and when it has descended, it contains those three degrees in itself. Such is the nature of every divine principle proceeding from the Lord ; wherefore, when it is in its last degree, it is in its fulness. Such is the nature and quality of the Word ; in its last [or lowest] sense it is natural, in its interior sense it is spiritual, and in its inmost sense it is celestial ; and in each sense it is divine.

The distinction between these degrees cannot be known, except by the knowledge of correspondence ; for these three degrees are altogether distinct from each other, like end, cause, and effect, or like what is prior, posterior, and postreme, but yet make one by correspondence ; for the natural degree or principle corresponds with the spiritual, and also with the celestial.” S. S. 6, 7. He who does not know the regulations of divine order with respect to degrees cannot comprehend in what manner the heavens are distinct from each other, nor even what is meant by the internal and external man. Most persons in the world have no other idea of things interior and exterior, or superior and inferior, than as of something continuous, or cohering by continuity, from a purer state to a grosser ; whereas things interior and exterior are not continuous with respect to each other, but discrete.

Degrees are of two kinds, there being continuous degrees and degrees not continuous. Continuous degrees are like the degrees of light, decreasing as it recedes from flame, which is its source, till it is lost in obscurity ; or like the degrees of visual clearness, decreasing as the light passes from the objects in the light to those in the shade ; or like the degrees of the purity of the atmosphere from its base to its summit, these degrees being determined by the respective distances. But degrees that are not continuous, but discrete, differ from each other like what is prior and what is posterior, like cause and effect, and like that which produces and that which is produced. Whosoever investigates this subject will find that in all the objects of creation, both general and particular, there are such degrees of production and composition, and that from one thing proceeds another, and from that a third, and so on. He that has not acquired a clear apprehension of these degrees cannot be acquainted with the difference between the various heavens, and be tween the interior and the exterior faculties of man ; nor can he be acquainted with the difference between the spiritual world and the natural, nor between the spirit of man and his body; nor, consequently, can he understand what correspondences and representations are, and their origin, nor what is the nature of influx. Sensual men cannot comprehend these distinctions, for they suppose increase and decrease, even with respect to these degrees, to be continuous; on which account they can form no other conception of what is spiritual than as something more purely natural. Thus they stand, as it were, without the gate, far removed from all that constitutes intelligence.” H. H. 38.

” The essential Divine [principle] is in the supreme sense of the Word, because therein is the Lord ; the Divine [principle] is also in the internal sense, because therein is the Lord’s kingdom in the heavens, hence this sense is called celestial and spiritual ; the Divine [principle] is also in the literal sense of the Word, because therein is the Lord s kingdom in the earths, hence this sense is called the external, and likewise the natural sense, for in it are cross appearances more remote from the Divine [principle] ; nevertheless all and singular things therein are Divine.”

” The case, with respect to these three senses, is as it was with the tabernacle : its inmost, or what was within the veil, where the ark was, containing the testimony, was most holy, or the holy of holies ; but its internal, or what was immediately without the veil, where was the golden table and candlestick, was holy ; the external, also, where the court was, was also holy.” A. C. 3439.

In further elucidation of the subject of degrees, the same enlightened author elsewhere says : ” It is discovered by means of the investigation of causes from effects, that degrees are of two kinds, one in which are things prior and posterior, and another in which are things greater and less. The degrees which distinguish things prior and posterior are to be called degrees of altitude, or discrete degrees ; but the degrees by which things greater or less are distinguished from each other are to be called degrees of latitude, and also continuous degrees. Degrees of altitude, or discrete degrees, are like the generations and compositions of one thing from another ; as, for example, they are like the generation and composition of any nerve from its fibres, or of any fibre from its fibrillse ; or of any piece of wood, stone, or metal, from its parts, and of any part from its particles. But degrees of latitude, or continuous degrees, are like the increments and decrements of the same degree of altitude with respect to breadth, length, height, and depth ; and as of large and small masses of wood, stone, or metal.” I. S. B., n. 16.

” The science of geometry teaches that nothing can be complete, or perfect, except it be a trine, or a compound of three ; for a geometric line is nothing unless it becomes an area, and an area is nothing unless it becomes a solid ; therefore the one must be multiplied into the other in order to give them existence, and in the third they coexist. As it is in this instance, so it is likewise in the case of all and every created thing, they have their limit and termination in a third. Hence we see why the number THREE in the Word signifies what is complete and perfect.” T. C. R., n. 387.

There are, then, three degrees of life in every man, constituting man in the image, and enabling him to attain the likeness, of his Maker. These degrees are discrete or distinct, and are appropriately represented in the well-known ancient and expressive triad of the heart, the head, and the hand. The first end is of the will or love ; the mediate end, or instrumental cause, is of the understanding or wisdom ; and the ultimate end, or effect, has respect to use in the life.

These degrees, though they are discretely distinct, and exhibit three distinct classes of phenomena, are, under the influence of reason and conscience, unanimous in their activities and conjoined by correspondence. Each of these degrees, however, is capable of endless mutations in itself, which are called continuous degrees. These are the variations of intensity and density, or a greater or less degree of remoteness of state, as progressions from light to shade, from heat to cold, from soft to hard. But discrete degrees are distinct, as the spiritual world is distinct from the natural world, or the soul from the body, or a cause from the effect, or the producer from the thing produced; and it is only between this latter kind of degrees that correspondence exists.

All things, however infinitely varied, manifest in their end and essence the divine love, in their form and cause of existence the divine wisdom, and in their operation and use the divine power, or the united effect and energy of both love and wisdom. In the Lord these three essentials of deity ” are distinctly one.” That some true idea of this doctrine was explicitly held in the earlier periods of Christianity, we have the most direct testimony in the first epistle of John, where it is written, ” There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost : and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood : and these three agree in one ” (v. 7, 8).

Now there is nothing that exists throughout the three kingdoms of nature but what, even as to its particulars, bears witness to this trinity in God, and this triple life in the soul as God s image. It is revealed to us that in the spiritual world there are three heavens, which being discretely distinct correspond to each other ; and there must likewise be three hells as their opposites.

All outward nature is threefold, and this is derived from correspondence. There is the great universal trine of aeriform fluids, liquids, and solids, or atmospheres, waters, and earths. The imponderable agents are three, heat, light, and electricity ; and the latter is again a trine, comprising electricity, galvanism, and magnetism. The atmosphere is threefold, consisting of aura, ether, and air. The objects of the world are divided in general into three kingdoms, the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral.

Animals, again, subdivide themselves into three grand orders, beasts or terrestrial animals, birds or aerial animals, and fishes or aquatic animals, in reference to the three elements which they traverse. Again, terrestrial animals are divided into three classes, cattle, wild beasts, and reptiles ; aerial animals are distinguished into birds of the air, water-fowl, and land-birds. Clean animals are described in the Mosaic law by three characteristics, as parting the hoof, clovenfooted, and chewing the cud. Clean fishes, with fins and scales, are divided into three kinds, those inhabiting waters or oceans, seas or lakes, and rivers. (Lev. xi. 3, 9.) Aquatic animals are divided into three kinds, animalcule, amphibice, and fishes.

Vegetables, or the productions of the earth, are also divided in the Scriptures into three classes, grass, herbage, and trees. If we select a tree as a further illustration, in regard to its general form we have the root, the trunk, and the branches, and in reference to its products we have leaves, blossoms, and fruit. Even the animal kingdom comprehends, as we said, in general, a ternary arrangement of gaseous, liquid, and solid bodies ; and the latter, again, into earths, stones, and metals.

All motion has been resolved into a trine. In the mineral kingdom it is the angular, as seen in the crystal ; in the animal kingdom it is the circular, as seen in the organization of the body and the circulation of its fluids ; and in the mental world it is the spiral, “the type of the spirit itself,” ascending in true order, and an eternal system of gyrations, towards perfection.

Throughout animated life, and even among vegetable forms, there are the masculine principle, the feminine principle, and their offspring. The varieties of races among men are threefold the Caucasian, the Mongolian, and the Ethiopian. The Ethiopian, again, presents three perfectly distinct species, viz., the African, the Malay, and the American.

Like as the mind is discriminated, in general, into three degrees of life, natural, spiritual, and celestial, so the faculty of the understanding, in particular, comprises what is scientific, rational, and intellectual, and the will what is of pleasure, affection, and love.

The duties of life are also threefold, civil, moral, and religious. The human body is the outward form of the mind, and, from the constitution of the latter, we should at once conclude that multitudes of trinal forms exist in the former. And so it is. In its general form the body is a trine, composed of the head, the trunk, and the extremities. The senses are threefold, sight, hearing, and feeling ; the latter, again, is a trine, including smell, taste, and touch.

Speaking of the interior constitution of the body, its viscera, etc., Swedenborg thus writes: “No series can be complete or effective without involving at least a trine, that is, a first, a middle, and a last. These three must be so ordered that the first term disposes the second, and disposes the ultimate both mediately and immediately. Thus there is a trine that purifies the blood, namely, the spleen, the pancreas, and the liver. A trine that secretes the blood and serum, namely, the pancreas, the omentum, and the liver. A trine that circulates the secretions, namely, the pancreatic, the hepatic, and the cystic ducts. A trine that prepares the chyle, namely, the stomach, the small intestines, and the large intestines. A trine also that secretes and excretes the worthless parts of the serum, namely, the kidneys, the ureters, and the bladder. . . . Nothing can be bounded, completed, or perfect that is not a trine. Sometimes even a quadrine is necessary, or a still more multiple series or sequence, exactly according to the ratio between the first and the last term, that is, to their distance from each other and the nearness or remoteness of their relationship. Meanwhile, whatever be the relation, there must be at least a trine to procure harmony, otherwise no termination or conclusion is possible. To instance only geometry, arithmetic, physics, rationals, and logic. In geometry, two linear extensions alone take in nothing and conclude nothing ; a third thing is respected as the concluding agent, and therewith as the conclusion, whether in a triangle, a body of trine dimension, an algebraic equation, or any other thing of this class. In arithmetic, two numbers form only a ratio, but when a third term is added, or generated by the two first, we have then an analogy, either conterminous, or harmonic, or of always likewise respect some third, whereby an effect is produced, and in this a fourth, or fifth, and so on. In rationals, nothing which deserves to be called a judgment, such as ought to exist in all the conclusions and determinations of the will, can possibly be formed from two reasons, there must always necessarily be some third. In logic, two premises are requisite to constitute a full syllogistic form, or a full argument ; more than two in a sorites. What is at last concluded from two becomes the property of the conclusion itself, but this it derives from the premises. So in every science and art, the binary is ever the imperfect ; hence some third thing is always involved, either tacitly or openly. This is universally the case in the anatomy of the body, which is the mirror, prototype, and complex of all arts and sciences.” An. Kingdom, vol. i., p. 315, n. 229, and note.

And this threefold discrimination, could we extend our inquiries, might be traced, or demonstrated to exist, throughout the indefinite particulars of which the universe is composed. Thus every object of human thought appears under the type of a trinity, emanating from the very fundamental laws of all existence, and constituting all finite forms, more or less remote, of the infinite source of infinite goodness or love, unerring wisdom or truth, and almighty power. The Divine Word itself is, as we have seen, adapted by a threefold characteristic, both as to its inward sense and outward letter, to communicate nutriment of goodness and truth in endless variety to the three great classes of the human family, both in heaven and upon earth ; viz., those who are more distinguished in their mental character for the predominance of affection, those who are preeminent in their intellectual endowments, and such as are remarkable for their simple and child-like obedience ; and also to the three discrete degrees of life in every man, as they are successively opened and brought into activity by the influences of heaven. The prohibitory injunctions of the Word enforce a threefold shunning of evils as sins against God, evils of conduct, evils of thought, and evils of will ; so the religion which is further taught therein requires three essentials to constitute it genuine in its quality and saving in its efficacy, which, again, exactly correspond to man s threefold capacity of reception. With man, the inmost of all things is love in the will ; love clothes itself with wisdom and power in the understanding ; and both determine to deeds and words, as the outward form of their existence. In order, therefore that man may insure his eternal salvation, it is not only necessary for him to receive a principle of love in his heart, and of truth or faith in his intellect, but these principles must become fixed in the soul by being brought forth and made manifest in a holy and righteous life.

Hence it is never taught that man will be judged according to his faith or his love, but in accordance with his deeds, for in these only have faith and love any permanent existence within us. (Rev. xxii. 12; Rom. ii. 6.) A man may, indeed, appear to possess them, but they are not appropriated not incorporated into his nature as his own, and in the judgment they are dissipated, agreeably to the Lord’s own declaration, where He says ” Whosoever hath, to him shall be given ; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have ” (Luke viii. 18).

This great doctrine, when applied to the Divine Word, will enable us clearly to understand a large portion of its sacred contents. Wheresoever triplicate expressions occur, they have an almost invariable reference, either in a good or evil sense, to this trine of discrete degrees. Thus, the three essentials requisite to the existence of every solid body, length, breadth, and thickness, precisely correspond to the threefold union of love, truth, and their active powers, which are always requisite to the existence of any spiritual object. Hence, of the Lord s church as being one complete whole, deriving a threefold life of wisdom, love, and use from the Lord, it is said, ” the length, and the breadth, and the height ” of the Holy City, described as being a cube of three equal dimensions, ” were equal “(Rev. xxi. 16). The ark, which, as the apostle Peter says, was a type of baptism (1 Epis., iii. 21) or regeneration, to represent the triple constitution of the human mind as being an image of the Divine Mind, was constructed with lower, second, and third stories (Gen. vi. 16) ; and the temple at Jerusalem, for a like reason, had an outer court, an inner court or holy place, and the inmost chamber or holy of holies, with appropriate fittings and furniture, and separated from the inner court by a veil, which none but the high-priest lifted and passed, and he only once a year, with ceremonies and incense, wras the immediate dwellingplace of the Shekinah, or the Divine presence. From this the Lord’s humanity is denominated the temple of his body (John ii. 21). And as the Lord in his divine humanity was the ” Word made flesh,” so the temple represented in a subordinate sense the Word of God, constituted, as we have shown it to be, of an outer, inner, and inmost sense.

The abnegation or renunciation of self, in prudence, self-intelligence or conceit, and in its threefold form of self-reasoning or self-righteousness or vainglory, is strikingly so in the divine parable of the Lord, designed to represent the threefold process of man’s regeneration, in which divine truth is first received into the memory and understanding, in the next place is elevated into the affections or will, and then brings forth the fruit of well-doing in the life and conduct ; and, further, that this is to be done by man with the same earnestness as though he did it of himself as though, “working out his salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. ii. 12), all depended on his own energies; yet with the inmost acknowledgment that all power and glory come from the Lord to whom alone they belong, it is said, ” The earth [the human mind, or church] bringeth forth fruit of itself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear ” (Mark iv. 28). The Lord has not only revealed Himself to man as a triune Deity, but his thrice-holy name, JEHOVAH (Isa. vi.), is a trinal compound, expressive of the character of Him ” who is, who was, and who is to come “(Rev. i. 8). His infinite operations are threefold. He is the Creator from eternity, the Redeemer in time, and the Regenerator forevermore ; and He has assumed a threefold series of double terms, descriptive of the infinity of his divine love, wisdom, and power, where He proclaims himself ” the Alpha and Omega ; the beginning and the end ; the first and the last” (Rev. xxii. 13).

The Lord’s glorification of his humanity, as by temptations and victories He removed from Himself all the hereditary tendencies, voluntary and intellectual, which were entailed upon Him by being ” made of a woman, made under the law ” (Rom. i. 3, viii. 3 ; Gal. iv. 4; Heb. ii. 9-16), was a threefold, divine process, by which He forever united the indwelling Divinity with his humanity ; and this, in every particular, was representative of the threefold work of human regeneration. Both these works are treated of in the Word at the same time and under the same imagery. Thus, ” Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (Luke xiii. 32). To cast out devils signifies, in reference to man s regeneration, to expel evil affections and false persuasions from the mind by the power of divine truth ; to do cures to-day and to-morrow signifies to liberate man from the infestations of hell, thus the restoration of the whole mind from a state of spiritual disease to a state of spiritual health ; and the crowning perfection of this work of the Lord in the soul is described as that of the third day, and signifies an eternal confirmation in goodness and truth, and an everlasting state of conjunction with the Lord himself, as the result and reward of outward conformity to the inward dictates of charity and faith.

That the gradual process by which the Lord obtained victory over hell and made his humanity divine was in all respects similar in kind to that of man s regeneration, He himself testifies where He says, ” To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set dowrn with my Father in his throne” (Rev. iii. 21); with this amazing difference, however, in degree, that in the Lord the work was infinite, in man it is finite. He was indeed “tempted like as we are tempted” (Heb. ii. 18 ; iv. 15), but unlike us in this, that no man could convict Him of sin (John viii. 46). He, by his own power, perfectly glorified his human nature (John xiv. 30) ; and if we perpetually depend upon his restraining and upholding mercy, He will perfect our regeneration by a corresponding process.

The Lord’s divine purpose in this threefold work of man’s regeneration is to secure the eternal happiness of his creatures by an entire renewal and renovation of the heart, the understanding, and the life, and this change is called in the Scriptures a new creation or new birth ; for “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Matt. iii. 4). It is sometimes described by three terms, which, unless they have a discriminated meaning, bear the appearance of useless repetitions, as in the following text : ” Every one,” saith the Lord, ” that is called by my name, I have created for my glory ; I have formed him ; yea, I have made him ” (Isa. xliii. 7).

All such are again described negatively, where it is written that they are ” born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John i. 13). Again, sincere desires and earnest efforts, first for the descent of principles of heavenly goodness from the Lord into the will, with their reception and appropriation ; secondly, that principles of spiritual wisdom may be imparted to the understanding, with their acceptance and adoption ; and thirdly, that the conjunction and united operation of such holy desires and heavenly thoughts as are thus communicated and excited, may determine to a life of obedience, which, under the united influence of patience, perseverance, and watchfulness, never fails of success, but sooner or later opens up an ever blessed state of conjunction with the Lord and association with the angels of his kingdom, is thus impressively taught by the Lord himself in the language of correspondence, where He says, “Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you : for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened ” (Matt. vii. 7, 8). Here to ask and receive has respect to the will or the affections and goodness ; to seek and find has reference to the understanding or the thoughts and to truth ; and to knock and have opened has relation to the conjunction of goodness in the will with truth in the understanding, and to their activity in the life and conduct, or words and works.

The divine marriage song recorded in Psalm xlv. treats, in the inward sense, of the subjugation of all the enemies of the Lord’s church, and the complete and eternal union between Himself and his people, resulting from the outflowings of his infinite mercy and compassion. In a more specific sense it treats of the marriage-union of love and wisdom, or goodness and truth, in every faithful mind, together with the endless and ineffable delights which are the result of the removal of every obstacle to its completion. The threefold duties of the nuptial covenant of the church towards her true Lord and husband, on which, with each member of the church in particular, the union of love and wisdom in the soul and the possession and enjoyment of such beatitudes depend, are thus described : ” Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear ; forget also thine own people and thy father s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty ; for He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him” (10, 11). To hearken to the Lord is, in the spiritual sense, to give attention to divine instruction from the Word ; to consider is to digest such counsel in the mind, so as to perceive its reasonableness and truth ; and to incline the ear is to obey its injunctions without reserve. Thus we are taught that to learn, to perceive, and to do the truth, or, in other words, to understand it from enlightened thought, to perceive it from heavenly affection, and faithfully to perform the duties which it makes obligatory upon us, are the means of attaining a state of eternal conjunction with the Lord, and as a consequence everlasting blessedness. Then, indeed, may it be truly said that, forgetting our ” own people ” and our ” father s house “–dissolving and disowning all connection with our inherited evil and sin, and relinquishing all association with falsity and folly, the hereditary tendencies, inclinations and persuasions of the natural mind no longer prevent the marriage-union of goodness and truth from being consummated in the soul. When this work is accomplished, then man puts on that spiritual beauty or comeliness of spirit which the King is said ” greatly to desire ;” and in reference to the full acknowledgment of the Lord as the only true God, in his glorified Humanity, it is added, ” for He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him.”

The same threefold connection of ideas occurs in other forms of expression of similar import, as where the Lord says, ” Take ye heed, watch and pray” (Mark xiii. 33); and again, at the conclusion of the parable of the sower, He added, ” He that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the Word, and understandeth it : whoalso beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt. xiii. 23). The sower is the Lord himself; the good ground is the prepared mind ; the seed is the divine truth of the Word ; to ” hear the Word ” is to attend to its divine teach ing, to ” understand it” is to discern its truths and doctrines, and to ” bear fruit ” is to regulate accordingly the external mind and outward conduct under the combined influence of internal principles of love and wisdom ; in which case man is enabled to effectuate all kinds and degrees of good works by the Lord s presence and power in the soul, the completeness of which is represented by the ” hundredfold, the sixty, and the thirty.”

The motions and positions of the human body are significant when assumed as representations of conditions and emotions of the mind ; but when they agree with the inward thoughts and affections which prompt them, they are then the corresponding images of mental states, either progressive or fixed. Wherever they are associated in a trine, like other triads, they refer to the above degrees of the mind and life. Thus in the Psalms it is written, ” Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful ” (i. 1), where walking denotes the activity or progression of thought grounded in intention ; standing has relation to the life of intention grounded in the will and its stability ; and sitting, which is a position of rest, signifies a conformable and determinate state of the inmost mind and life. Hence it may at once be seen what is distinctly signified by ” the counsel of the ungodly,” ” the way of sinners,” and ” the seat of the scornful,” namely, a confirmed state of error and evil, in thought, intention, and will, thus a confirmed state of hatred against goodness and truth ; and that true blessedness consists in nothing less than bringing all the active powers of the understanding, the will, and their united energies, into subordination to the sacred influences of wisdom, superinducing an abhorrence of wickedness and folly, and a supreme love of goodness and truth. Again, when the Lord would teach us how they that wait on Him, by worshipping Him, and by obeying his commands, thus consecrating their whole souls to his service, should renew their strength, receive continually from Him fresh accessions of power to elevate the understanding towards heaven and Himself, to enable the affections to make unwearied progress in the paths of goodness, and to give a mighty and unshrinking energy to all the lower faculties of the soul, He says, ” They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength ; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run, and not be weary ; and they shall walk,
and not faint ” (Isa. xl. 31).

The faithful Christian receives from the Lord three degrees or kinds of goodness, as the precious gifts of his unspeakable love. These are, celestial, spiritual, and natural, and are grounded in love to Him, in charity towards the neighbor, and in the love of moral and civil use fulness and excellence. These degrees are above, or rather within, each other, like causes and their effects, and make one by correspondence. Though by birth every one possesses the capacity of receiving these living and life-giving principles of goodness, still, man must advance in the regenerate life, by successive states of illumination, repentance, and obedience, before he is prepared to receive them. When these principles of heavenly goodness, with the sacred truths which they inspire from the Word, vivify all the affections, thoughts, and activities of the mind and life, then man is replenished and enriched with every possible satisfaction and delight, and is introduced into the encircling spheres of heaven. These spheres, in which the fullest and freest confession is made that such ineffable blessings can come from the Lord alone, are typified by the sweet fragrance of incense and the ascending odors of sacrifices, which God is represented as perceiving, and with which He is said to be well pleased (Gen. viii. 21; Ex. xxx. 34, 35; Phil. iv. 18). Hence this humble, devout, and truly just acknowledgment is present in all heartfelt supplication for divine mercies, and in Rev. v. 8 is called ” the golden vial full of odors, which,” it is added, ” are the prayers of saints.” When, therefore, the Magi, or WISE MEN from the East, led by a star, 95 instructed by the light of heavenly knowledge, derived from ancient revelation, of which that star was a true figure, went to Bethlehem for the purpose of worshipping the new-born Saviour, we read that they brought and opened and presented to Him three kinds of costly gifts,”gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. ii. II).

This homage and these gifts represented the adoration and free-will worship which the truly wise and humble Christian presents to the Lord when, so to speak, He is spiritually born and makes Himself divinely manifest in the regenerating soul, prepared to receive Him in sincerity and acknowledge Him in truth. He comes in lowly guise as the Word, or Son of Man, shrouded in the appearances of the literal sense. He discloses Himself to the interior natural affections, in that state represented by Bethlehem. The bright star of heavenly knowledge precedes and betokens His presence. The pure and precious gold, more ductile and less susceptible of corrosion than the other ordinary metals, the odorous and costly frankincense, from the earliest ages dedicated to spontaneous worship, and the fragrant myrrh, used in the process of embalming, and distinguished for its antiseptic and preservative qualities, represent the free-will offerings of the heart and mind from the good principles of holy love and charity, signified by gold (Rev. iii. 1 8) ; from a living and enlightened faith in the instructions of the Word, signified by frankincense (Rev. v. 8) ; and from both love and faith preserved in the adoration of grateful worship and devout external obedience in the life, signified by myrrh (Psalm xlv. 8). The perfumes exhaled from these aromatic gums (Mai. i. 1 1 ) denote the acceptableness of such worship, because they correspond to the heavenly spheres emanating from such blessed principles; and which, like the odor of Mary s precious ointment of spikenard, fill or pervade the whole house or mind where the Lord is present, affecting with inmost joy and gladness all in heaven or on earth who are within their exhilarating influence (John xii. 3). On account of this signification of gold and spices, it is recorded that the Queen of Sheba also presented them to Solomon, when she came from a far Gentile country to hear his wisdom and behold his glory, because, in a good representative character, Solomon was an eminent type of the Lord Himself (1 Kings x. 2).

Sometimes (as above, Psalm i. 1) a trinal connection of ideas occurs in an opposite sense and application, in reference to the perverted will, understanding, and life of the unregenerate man. Thus, three degrees of malignity against our neighbor, and abstractedly from persons, all degrees of opposition to the heavenly principles of charity, or brotherly love, signified, in a good sense, by neighbor, may be described as hatred from corrupt thought, from evil intention, and from a confirmed state of depravity in the will. These three degrees of hatred are said to be followed by three corresponding degrees of chastisement, for, according to the unchangeable law of eternal order, every evil bears its own punishment : ” But I say unto you,” saith the Lord, “that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment : and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council : but whoso ever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. v. 22).

Again, the threefold effects or states of inward tribulation and distress, arising from the deprivation of truth in each of the three degrees of the mind and life, are described by the three distinct expressions of “lamentation, and mourning, and woe” (Matt. ii. 18), where, if these terms were to be regarded as mere repetitions of the same idea, and of no further use than to increase its intensity, they would be utterly unworthy of a place in a divinely inspired book. Wherever, therefore, the names of persons and places, nations and countries, occur in the historical portions of the divine Word, they are not mentioned in reference only to individual men or specifications, or particular localities on the earth, but in respect of their spiritual signification, and hence, also, they are often associated in triple order.

Thus, though the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were real persons, whose posterity constituted the Jewish church, yet they, as well as all other persons and things spoken of in relation to that people, bore a representative character, varying according to the circumstances predicated, but having constant relation to the church on earth and in heaven, yea, to the Lord Himself. For this reason are these patriarchs so often mentioned in the Word, and even among his most splendid appellations the Lord assumes the significative title of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” In the inmost sense these names relate to the Lord Himself, as to the assumption and glorification of his Humanity, the degrees of life received from Him in the heavens, and his threefold operation for our redemption and salvation : Abraham signifying his supreme or essential divine principle ; Isaac, his divine rational principle ; and Jacob, the divine natural, or, so to speak, the last and lowest principle of his divine Humanity. This may be confirmed by the literal meaning of the names, and by reference to the numerous passages of the Word in which they are mentioned. In a respective sense, these three patriarchs signify what is celestial, spiritual, and natural, in regard to man, thus they represent the Lord s church on earth ; and, in a particular sense, all those who are receptive of his divine love in their hearts, of his divine wisdom to enlighten their reason, and who permit the united influences of both to descend into and regulate the lowest principles of their minds and lives. These, as to their externals, their internals, and their inmost principles, are the true followers of the Lamb, who is the Lord Jesus Christ in his glorified Humanity, or, in other words, they have attained his likeness. They are grounded in the love of obedience to his truth, in the love of their neighbor, and in the love of Him above all things. It is consequently said of them that they are ” with Him, and are the called, and the chosen and faithful ” (Rev. xvii. 14).

The Lord’s covenant, or everlasting state of conjunction with all such faithful believers, and its irreversible confirmation, is therefore signified by the covenant of an oath, which he declared to have ” sworn with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” That the angelic heavens in general, as well as the regenerate human mind in particular, together with the infinite and unutterable joys and delights derived immediately from the presence of the Lord, are also represented by those three distinguished personages, is evident from the Lord’s words, where He calls heaven ” Abraham’s bosom ” (Luke xvi. 22) ; and still further where He says that ” Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God” (Matt. viii. 11) ; and in Luke it is said that ” 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” (xiii. 28, 29). These divine forms of expression serve to designate and comprehend all the sacred principles of goodness, wisdom, and intelligence, with their perceptions, delights, and joys, which constitute the felicity of the angels, and of consequence universally prevail throughout the three orders of life into which the heavens are arranged. In their inmost sense these patriarchs signify the Lord Himself, from whom alone, as their divine source, all degrees, of blessedness and satisfaction proceed. The four cardinal points of the heavens, or the quarters of the world, from whence those are said to come who are prepared to enter into the kingdom of God, signify, in a good sense, the various states of spiritual life. The cast, being that portion of the heavens in which the sun appears to rise, signifies the highest degree of celestial love and wisdom, in which the Lord reveals his glorious presence to the inmost perceptions of the soul, and, in its supreme sense, the Lord Jesus Christ, as to the primary operations of his love and wisdom on the mind, for the promotion of man s salvation. Thus in Ezekiel’s magnificent vision of the temple in heaven, we read that ” the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east ” (xliii. 2) ; and hence arose the ancient significative practice of worshipping with the face towards the cast, which was even continued under the Christian dispensation.

The west, being the extreme point of the heavens over against the east, where the sun appears to set, signifies the inferior state of charity and faith. The south, in which quarter the sun attains his meridian power and splendor, signifies the highest state of intelligence ; and the north, which is over against it, a state of obscure knowledge, a feeble state of heavenly life. In the inward sense of these passages, therefore, we are mercifully taught that all who are in any degree principled in love and wisdom, or charity and faith, will be admitted into the kingdom of God. To sit down there with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, denotes a blessed state of confirmation, an eternal conjunction with the Lord, an everlasting association with ” the spirits of the just made perfect,” an endless condition of rest, and peace, and joy.

To represent the fulness and perfection of such beatitudes as are the invariable results of a righteous life, and to signify the free access thereto through the pearly gates of spiritual knowledge and obedience adapted to all, and which all are invited to enter, the Holy City, New Jerusalem, which signifies heaven and the church, is described as having ” on the east three gates ; on the north three gates ; on the south three gates ; and on the west three gates. And the gates of it,” it is said, ” shall not be shut at all by day : for there shall be no night there” (Rev. xxi. 13, 25). In the opposite sense, by the east will be denoted the love of self, which is opposed to the love of God ; by the west, the love of the world ; by the south, selfderived intelligence ; and by the north, a state of falsity and evil (Isa. ii. 6 ; Ezek. viii. 6 ; Psalm lxxv. 6 ; Hos. xi. 10; Jer. i. 14, vi. 1).

It was on account of the above spiritual signification of persons that the Lord, while He sojourned on the earth, selected as his more immediate and constant followers the three disciples, Peter, James, and John. At the time of his transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Matt. xvii. 1-8), in his agonizing visit to the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. xxvi. 37), and when He entered into the house of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, to raise his daughter from the dead (Mark v. 37 ; Luke viii. 51), ” He suffered no man to follow Him, save Peter, and James, and John.” If we exclude the idea that this selection was grounded in the representative character of those distinguished apostles, no satisfactory reason can possibly be assigned for it, and the evident signification of the act, deduced from its frequent occurrence, is entirely lost. The twelve apostles, like the twelve patriarchs of the preceding dispensation, represented and signified all the heavenly principles constituent of the Lord s church, both universal and particular, and sometimes their contraries, and each apostle in particular represented and signified some specific grace, or its perverted opposite. Thus, Peter is a Greek word for a rock or stone ; he was also called Cephas, or Kephas, which is a Syriac word with the same meaning, and Simon, or Simeon, which is a Hebrew word for hearing, and is always first mentioned when the names of the apostles are given. From these particulars it may be gathered that Peter signifies the Lord as to divine truth, and abstractly a principle of faith ; faith alone, or separated from the Lord and from charity which is a perverted faith, when he tempted and denied his Lord and Saviour ; but on the contrary, faith springing from love, and conjoining him to the Lord, when he confessed his divinity, and accompanied Him with James and John. Of a perverted and delusive faith, which enlightens the understanding, but leaves the heart unchanged, the Lord spake when He addressed Peter, and said unto him, ” Get thee behind me, Satan ; for thou art an offence unto me” (Matt. xvi. 23; Mark viii. 23; Luke iv. 8).

To a sincere and devout faith in the Lord, and confidence in his Word, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” are always given (Matt. xvi. 1 9) ; that is, power to open the soul to an influx of the principles and life of heaven. On the confession of this glorious faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the church is erected as upon a rock, and defies the omnipotent boasts of her angry assailants.

James and John were brothers, the sons of Zebedee. Like Peter, who sometimes represents faith alone, and a boasting self-confidence, so these two disciples are at times spoken of in a low sense, as representative of mistaken zeal, and its claims to undue authority; or external charity and good works, with the arrogation of self-merit, proceeding from the promptings of self-love (Matt. xx. 20-28 ; Luke ix. 53, 54). In a good sense, however, James was a type of the Lord’s love, or, abstractly, of the principle of charity, or faith grounded in affection ; and John was a type of the Lord’ s operation, or the works of charity, or faith deriving ardor and activity from the pure love of God, and made manifest in humility, gentleness, benevolence, and all kinds of good and useful deeds and words.

The specific signification of the apostle John may be abundantly proved from his personal history, as recorded in the Scriptures. He had the privilege of leaning on the Lord’s bosom at the institution of the Holy Supper (John xiii.23) ; he was pre-eminently distinguished as ” that disciple whom Jesus loved” (John xix. 26 ; xx. 2 ; xxi. 7, 20, 24) ; and to him, more than to others, revelations were vouchsafed respecting the church in heaven and upon earth. These remarkable circumstances and characteristics serve to confirm the signification given as genuine, for all such as manifest their faith and affection by a good life, are truly the beloved of the Lord. James, his brother, therefore, must be a type of spiritual charity, or of faith received in the heart. In the regeneration, this principle supplants and expels all selfish feeling. Faith in the heart and faith in the life, or charity and good works, are brethren ; they spring from the same divine origin. The selection, then, of these three apostles by our blessed Lord, on such frequent and memorable occasions, teaches us, in the internal sense, most edifying, invaluable lessons of divine wisdom ; for these disciples represented the perfect union of divine love, wisdom, and their resulting life, in the Lord Jesus Christ thus that He was God in human form. They also represented every regenerating man, and teach us that, unless the essential principles of the regenerate life, represented by Peter, James, and John, are present in the soul, and accompany the divine energies, we can receive no spiritual blessing. Faith must be imparted to the understanding, faith must be implanted in the will, and faith must become active in a good and obedient life ; or, in other words, faith, charity, and good works, the three constituents of heaven and religion, must be engrafted in the soul and manifested in the life and conduct, or the Lord can do few or none of those mighty works in our behalf; on the accomplishment of which our eternal salvation depends (Matt. xiii. 58 ; Mark vi. 5). Moreover, to represent to us the energy and zeal of truth, when it proceeds from a principle of celestial charity, and is grounded in goodness of life, James and John were surnamed by the Lord, “Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder” (Mark iii. 17).

I have already remarked, that the human understanding, when individually considered, is found to be discriminated, like the other faculties of the soul, into three degrees of intellectual power and excellence. The lowest of these is the scientific principle, or the power of acquiring and retaining worldly knowledge ; the next above is the rational principle, or the power of discernment and discrimination, as between various kinds of truth, and between truth and error ; and the highest degree of intellectual power is that which enables man to receive spiritual intelligence, or wisdom and its perceptions. These three degrees succeed each other, or are successively opened, by an orderly arrangement in the work of regeneration ; for man is first natural, then he becomes rational, and afterwards spiritual.

Without this trinal intellectual capacity, man could not be elevated above the science of the world. Hence, speaking of the church and of each regenerating member, in order to portray the threefold blessings which would attend such a union and subordination of the intellectual faculties as would prepare man to receive the light of heaven, to irradiate the whole mind, the Lord says by the mouth of his prophet, ” In that day there shall be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land ; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance ” (Isa. xix. 23-25). By Egypt, that land of mysterious wisdom, where knowledge was so extensively cultivated that it was frequented by the sages of all nations for the acquisition of science, is signified the scientific principle itself, together with all external or natural truths. Egypt has either a good or a bad signification in the Word, as such knowledge is said to have been applied to useful ends, or perverted to idolatrous and magical purposes. Assyria, from its relative position to Egypt, and from the tendency of its inhabitants to metaphysical speculation, denotes the rational principle, the reasonings of which are either true or false, as the reason is enlightened from heaven, or draws its subtle conclusions from the fallacies of the world and the senses ; for the reason is an intermediate and conjunctive principle between what is natural and spiritual, and, according to man s state, partakes of the quality of both. By Israel in the midst is signified the spiritual principle, or the internal of the understanding, gifted with genuine intelligence and wisdom ; and in an opposite sense, the profanation of the intellectual faculties, and the truths they receive, to the vile objects of self-derived prudence, commingling them with the deceitful and lurid glimmerings of self-love.

In the passage I have quoted these terms are all used in a good sense, and by a highway, which serves to connect distant countries and places, is signified the orderly arrangement and subordination which unites by correspondence every degree of intellectual excellence. Thus the mind is gradually prepared for the reception of those celestial and spiritual influences which illustrate and govern the perceptions, reasonings, and thoughts, and make man the work and inheritance of Jehovah Zebaoth, the Lord of Hosts.

In an opposite sense, by Egypt is signified sensual knowledge, and by Assyria carnal reasoning. These give birth to false principles in extremes, which, like flies, spring from the river s corrupting filth, and become a tormenting plague ; and also to false reasonings thence derived, which, like bees, when spoken of in a bad sense, suck their stores, indeed, from rich and favorite flowers, and find sensual pleasure therein, denoted by their honey-stores, but carry with them venom and a sting. When these principles are permitted to insinuate them selves into the church or the human mind, they bring with them certain desolation and inevitable misery. They are the result of the falsification and profanation of truth and knowledge in the soul, and the abuse or perversion of the intellectual and rational faculties.

Hence, to describe such an awful state, and the complete and grievous desolation which necessarily succeeds, the Lord says, ” It shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes” (Isa. vii. 18, 19).

The vast importance of this distinction of degrees will be at once perceived, if we consider that the erroneous assumption that all beings and things have proceeded forth continuously, or by degrees of continuity, from the centre to the circumference of all creation ; thus, that the soul and the body, God and man, spirit and matter, are but various gradations, and that God is an all-extended substance existing throughout space, has given birth, both in ancient and modern times, to every heterogeneous system of pantheism, materialism, and secularism which infidel philosophy and an erroneous theology have invented. In order, therefore, further to assist the earnest and intelligent inquirer in his research after truth, and to enable him more clearly to comprehend this great doctrine of triple degrees, which is indispensable to a just view of the Divine character and existence, to a correct idea of the nature of the human mind, and to an accurate knowledge of the science of correspondences, and thus to a true interpretation of the Word of God, a few additional extracts are given in the APPENDIX, from the invaluable writings of Swedenborg, who has so amply and so clearly unfolded this grand subject, on which, indeed, the laws of correspondence may be said to rest, and also a few of the innumerable confirmations and illustrations from other sources.