Precious Stones

PRECIOUS STONES >> Truths transparent from Good
>> Ultimate Sense of the Word

There are common stones, of no special beauty, but useful in building; and there are precious stones. These have lovely colors. Many of them are exceedingly hard, taking a brilliant polish. They are also transparent to the sunlight and refract it to our eyes with rainbow tints.

Are there also among our mental stones of fixed, unchanging fact, both common and precious ones? The fact that Columbus discovered America in 1492; is it a precious or a common stone? It is sure and hard, but it has no special beauty. The fact that “the LORD is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works;” this is a fact even surer than the other; it is a crystal too (Chapter 33) , and it is transparent to the heavenly sunshine; it reveals to us something of the Lord’s love and wisdom. Hard, literal facts from the Lord’s Word, which transmit the love and wisdom of heaven, are the precious stones; they are to the dull, opaque stones of common fact as the rainbow to the dark cloud. (AE 717; AC 9407) “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations of sapphires. And I will make thy windows of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isa. liv. 11-13) Taught of the Lord! Truths from Him which reveal the beauty of His love, and on which we build and find peace from affliction and tempest; these holy truths are the precious stones. (AE 717; PP; AC 9407, 9873, 655, 1298) Other equally beautiful passages come to mind; but let us first notice that the colors of the gems are an indication of the kind of holy truth which each represents. Can anyone tell the color of the precious stone used as our first example: “The LORD is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works”? It is a warm color, you say, perhaps red; for it is glowing with the Divine love which it reveals. (AC 9865) Or that stone on which the Lord builds His church, for that is a holy truth, “a tried precious stone”: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is certainly a cooler stone, but hard and brilliant. (AC 9872)

Swedenborg tells us many beautiful things about colors and their various blendings. All colors are derived from red and white, some times with black. Blue is a blending of white with black. If you have used the blow-pipe you know the brilliant blue made by a white sublimate on the black charcoal. Whitish smoke against a dark background looks blue; and it is probable that the blue of the sky is chiefly due to the fact that we look through the lighted air to the black beyond. Yellow is white warmed with red, the two inseparably blended. Yellow cannot, it is true, be made by mixing red and white, but it certainly contains the white, and also a touch of fire. With these colors given, we know how red blending with yellow passes into orange, or blending with blue, passes into purple. Blue with yellow gives us green in all its shades.

You may have been taught to regard red, yellow, and blue as the colors from which all others are made. You need not reject that idea, but think that yellow is itself composed of red and white, and blue of white and black.

Thinking now of the meaning of these colors: red, warm and fiery, always speaks to us of love; white, with its cool brightness, is the clear light of wisdom; while black is the humble sense of our own ignorance and nothingness. All the lovely colors of the rainbow and of the precious stones, if our eyes were open to read their message, would speak to us of the Lord’s love and wisdom in their infinite combinations. Blue tells of infinite wisdom made more lovely by the sense of our own ignorance. Blue is the color which arches over us as we look up to heaven and the Lord. Yellow tells of love and wisdom inseparably blended, as they are in useful works. How beautiful that yellow is the color of ripened harvests! Green, which is blue blending with yellow, suggests intelligence leading to use. How could the grass and foliage, which correspond to intelligent thoughts preparing for useful works, have any other color! (Chapter 21) And so with the infinite variety of colors and shades. (AC 9467, 9865; AE 364, 1324; AR 231, 915)

We shall not attempt here to learn the correspondence of particular gems, and partly for the reason that the names by which the precious stones are called in the Bible are in many cases uncertain, and often we do not surely know what stone is meant. But so much we can know, that the ruby and other fiery stones represent holy truths revealing to us the Lord’s Divine love (AC 9865; AE 401); a white, transparent stone, and the blue sapphire, with their cooler beauty are holy truths revealing the Divine wisdom (AC 9407, 9868, 9873; AR 897); the emerald is a holy truth revealing wisdom in a humbler form, but applicable to use. (AE 269; AR 232)

In the Proverbs we find evidence that the wise ancients knew that precious stones are emblems of holy truths. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies.” (Prov. iii. 13, 15) “There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.” (Prov. xx. 15) And in job: “Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of ophir, with the precious onyx and sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls; for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?” (Job xxviii. 12, 15-20; AE 717; AC 9873, 9865)

How beautiful are these words addressed to the king of Tyre, when we know that Tyre with its commerce in a good sense represents the understanding searching the realms of knowledge for things serviceable to the spiritual life! (Chapter 38) “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the ruby, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold.” (Ezek. xxviii. 12, 13) The holy truths from the Word, which these gems represent, transparent with colors of love and wisdom, are what the unperverted understanding prizes; they make up its sum of wisdom. (AE 717; P. P; AC 9863, 9407; TCR 219; SS 45, 97) This promise is made to the church in Pergamos, by which are meant “those who place the all of the church in good works, and not any thing in truths of doctrine “: “To him that overcometh will I give . . . a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Rev. ii. 17) It is a promise to the faithful that they shall receive what they now lack, a conviction of Divine truths, which though it may not outwardly change their lives, gives life a new meaning and blessedness to them. (AR 121-123; AE 147, 148) Among the sacred things made by Divine commandment for use in the representative Jewish worship, was the breastplate to be worn by Aaron, the high priest, when he went in to inquire of the Lord. “And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work. . . . And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones the first row shall be a ruby, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a lazure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel.” (Exod. xxviii. 15-21) We are taught that responses were given from the Lord by variegations of color flashing from the gems of the breastplate, which were interpreted to the priest either by a voice or by an internal perception. (AC 6640, 9905; TCR 218; AE 431) Aaron was the medium of communicating the messages of Divine love to the people. All his holy vestments were representative of the lovely forms of truth in which the Lord’s love finds expression. Especially the twelve gems of the breastplate in which the message flashed with heavenly colors; they stand for all the literal Divine truths of the Lord’s Word glowing with the Divine love and wisdom which they transmit. In these gems of holy truth answers from the Lord flash for us in varied tints of love and wisdom. (AC 9856-9909; AE 717; TCR 218; AR 540; SS 44)

Turn now to the Revelation and read of the wall of the holy city. “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.” (Rev. xxi. 18-20) Surely it is a renewal of the ancient prophecy, “Behold I will lay thy stones with fair colors, . . . and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD.” (Isa. liv. 11-13) It is a vision of a church or of an individual life built upon the rock of Divine truth which no storm can shake; against which hell cannot prevail. The foundations and the walls of the holy city are the sure, eternal truths of doctrine from the letter of the Word, on which the Lord’s New Church in the world and in every soul must be founded, and by which it is defended. And they are no common facts, but holy truths, transparent to the Lord and heaven, alive within with the colors of Divine love and wisdom. (AR 914, 915; AE 1320-1324, 717; SS 43; TCR 217; AC 9407, 9863)

Author: WILLIAM WORCESTER 1897

This is the reason why precious stones, in the Word, signify such things as are of the truth of wisdom, or of the good of love, and that a jasper, because it is white, signifies the things which are of the truth of wisdom, and a sardine stone, because it is red, the things which are of the good of love. These stones signify the appearance of the divine wisdom and the divine love in ultimates, because all precious stones in heaven derive their origin from the ultimates of the Word, and their transparency from the spiritual sense within those ultimates: that this is the case, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture, n. 44, 45. The ultimates of the Word are the truths and goods of its literal sense. That this is the origin of precious stones in heaven is difficult to be believed by any one in our world, because he does not know that all the things which exist in the spiritual world are correspondences, and that from thence all the things which exist in the natural world derive their spiritual origin. That this is the origin of precious stones in heaven has been permitted me to know from discourse with angels, and also to see it with my eyes, but the formation of them is from the Lord alone. [AR231]

(1) The truths of the sense of the letter of the Word are meant by the precious stones of which the foundations of the New Jerusalem consisted (Rev. 21:17-21). It has been mentioned above (n. 209) that precious stones exist in the spiritual world, as well as in the natural world, and that their spiritual origin is the truths of the sense of the letter of the Word. This seems incredible and yet it is true. And this is why precious stones are so frequently mentioned in the Word; and why in the spiritual sense they mean truths. From this it follows that the “precious stones” of which the foundations of the wall around the city New Jerusalem are said to have been built signify the truths of doctrine of the New Church, because “the New Jerusalem” means the New Church in respect to doctrine from the Word; and therefore its “wall” and foundations” of the wall, can mean nothing else than the external of the Word, which is the sense of the letter; for it is from this sense that doctrine exists, and the church by means of doctrine; while the external of the Word is like a wall with its foundations, which encloses and protects a city. Of the New Jerusalem and its foundations we read in the Apocalypse:

An angel measured the wall of the city Jerusalem, an hundred and forty and four cubits, which was the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. And the wall had twelve foundations adorned with every precious stone. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third a chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst (21:14, 17-20). The wall had twelve foundations formed of as many precious stones, because the number “twelve” signified all things of truth from good; so here all things of doctrine. But this and what precedes and follows in this chapter, may be seen explained in detail and confirmed by parallel passages from the prophetic Word, in our Apocalypse Revealed. [TCR217]

And thou shalt fill it with a filling of stone. That this signifies the truths themselves in their order from one good, is evident from the signification of “the breastplate,” which is what was to be filled, as being Divine truth shining forth from the Divine good of the Lord (see n. 9823); and from the signification of “a filling of stone,” as being truths in their order; for the breastplate was filled with stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; and by “stones” in a general sense are signified truths in the ultimate of order (n. 114, 643, 1298, 3720, 6426, 8609); and by “precious stones,” such as were in the breastplate, are signified truths shining from good (n. 9476). It is said “from one good,” because there is one good from which are all truths. This good is the good of love within the Lord, thus the Lord Himself; and consequently it is the good of love from the Lord, which is the good of love within the Lord; for the good which flows in from the Lord into man, spirit, or angel, appears as if it were theirs; consequently love within the Lord is love from the Lord. This good is the one only good from which are all truths, and from which is the order among truths, for truths are forms of good.

[2] That the precious stones which were in the breastplate signified Divine truths from Divine good, is evident from the passages in the Word where precious stones are mentioned; as with John in Revelation:

The foundations of the wall of the city New Jerusalem were adorned with every precious stone. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst (Rev. 21:19, 20).

That these precious stones signify the truths of the church, which are truths Divine, is evident from the signification of “the city New Jerusalem,” of its “wall,” and “the foundations of the wall.” “The New Jerusalem” signifies the New Church which will succeed our present church; for the book of Revelation treats of the state of the church as it is now, even to its end; and then of the New Church, which is the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven; its “walls” denote the truths of faith which defend; and its “foundations” denote truths from good; these truths themselves in their order are designated by the precious stones there named. Everyone can see that Jerusalem is not to come down out of heaven, and that the rest of what is said about it will not happen as described; but that in each particular of the description such things are signified as pertain to the church. That the truths of faith are meant by “the foundations of its wall,” is evident from the fact that these truths are what protect the church from every attack, even as walls protect a city. (That “Jerusalem” denotes the church, see n. 2117, 9166; and that “walls” denote the truths of faith that protect the church, n. 6419; and that “foundations” denote truths from good, n. 9643.)

[3] In Ezekiel:

Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus said the Lord Jehovih, Thou art full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond, the tarshish [beryl], the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the chrysoprase, and the carbuncle, and gold. Thou hast been in the mountain of holiness of God; thou hast walked in the midst of the stones of fire (Ezek. 28:12-14).

Here also by “the precious stones” are signified truths from good; for in the internal representative sense “Tyre” denotes one who is in intelligence and wisdom from the knowledges of good and truth (n. 1201) therefore it is said of its king that he is “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty,” “wisdom” being predicated of good, and “beauty” of truth; for all the wisdom in the heavens is from good, and all the beauty there is from the truths thence derived. “Eden the garden” signifies intelligence from good (n. 100); “the garden,” intelligence itself (n. 100, 108, 2702). From this it is evident that by the “stones” there mentioned are signified truths from good.

[4] But what truths from good are signified by each of the stones in the breastplate, will be seen from what follows. That all truths and goods in the complex are signified, is evident from the fact that there were twelve stones, and that on them were inscribed the names of the sons of Israel, that is, of the tribes; for by “the twelve tribes” are signified the goods and truths of heaven and of the church in the whole complex (n. 3858, 3926, 3939, 4060, 6335, 6337, 6397); and that from this they signified heaven with all the societies there (n. 7836, 7891, 7996, 7997); also that they signified various things according to the order in which they are mentioned in the Word (n. 3862, 3926, 3939, 4603, 6337, 6640); and that “twelve” denotes all things (n. 3272, 3858, 7973). [AC9863]

And He that sat was in appearance like a jasper and sardius stone signifies the appearance of the Lord’s Divine wisdom and Divine love in ultimates. “A stone,” in the Word, signifies truth in ultimates, and “a precious stone,” truth transparent from good (n. 915). There are two colors fundamental of the rest in the spiritual world, the color white and the color red, the color white derives its origin from the light of the sun in heaven, thus from spiritual light, which is shining white; and the color red derives its origin from the fire of the sun there, thus from celestial light, which is flaming. The spiritual angels, because they are in truths of wisdom from the Lord, are in that shining white light, therefore they are clothed in white; and the celestial angels, because they are in the good of love from the Lord, are in that flaming light, therefore they are clothed in red; thence those two colors also are in the precious stones in heaven, where they are in great abundance. This is the reason why precious stones, in the Word, signify such things as are of the truth of wisdom, or of the good of love, and that “the jasper,” because it is shining white, signifies the things which are of the truth of wisdom; and “the sardius,” because it is red, the things which are of the good of love. These stones signify the appearance of the Divine wisdom and the Divine love in ultimates, because all precious stones in heaven derive their origin from the ultimates of the Word, and their transparency from the spiritual sense of the ultimates. That this is the case, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture (n. 44, 45). The ultimates of the Word are the truths and goods of the sense of the letter. That this is the origin of precious stones in heaven can scarcely be believed by anyone in our world, because he does not know that all the things which exist in the spiritual world are correspondences, and that from thence all the things which exist in the natural world derive their spiritual origin. That this is the origin of precious stones in heaven has been granted me to know from speech with angels, and also to see it with my eyes, but the formation of them is from the Lord alone. But black colors, which are also two in number, derive their origin from hell; one in opposition to white, this blackness being with those who have falsified the truths of the Word; the other in opposition to red, this blackness being with those who have adulterated the goods of the Word; the latter blackness is diabolical, but the former satanic. The signification of “the jasper” and “the sardius” may be seen in the explanation of chap. 21:11, 18-20. [AR231]

The Word in the letter is like a casket, where precious stones, pearls, and diadems lie in order. The thoughts of a man’s mind, who regards the Word as holy, and who reads it for the sake of the uses of life, may be compared to one holding such a casket in his hand, and throwing it toward heaven; and the casket opening in its ascent, the precious things in it are disclosed to the angels, who are deeply delighted in seeing and examining them. This delight of the angels is communicated to the man, and effects an affiliation and a sharing of perceptions. For the sake of this affiliation with angels, and at the same time conjunction with the Lord, the Holy Supper was instituted, the bread of which in heaven becomes Divine good, and the wine Divine truth, each from the Lord. Such correspondence exists by creation, to the end that the angelic heaven may make one with the church on earth, and in general the spiritual world may make one with the natural world, and the Lord may conjoin Himself with both at once. [TCR238]

Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)