THE LAW OF SCRIPTURE COMPOSITION
by Edward Craig Mitchell
Now, this law of correspondences, or natural and spiritual counterparts, is the law according to which the letter of the Sacred Scriptures was written. In the literal sense, natural things are spoken of, but, in the inward meaning, which is always spiritual, there are truths expressed about those spiritual things of which the things of the letter are correspondences, or counterparts. The literal sense of the Bible is addressed to the senses of the natural man ; but the spiritual meaning is addressed to man’s inward and rational thought, his ability to see and to know spiritual things. The literal sense is read in the light of the natural senses, but the inward meaning is read in the light of the spirit. The literal sense is largely in the language of appearances of truth, before the natural senses, but the spiritual sense is in the language of realities. And, in accommodating the Scriptures to the minds of men, the same plan is followed by the Lord, as that followed by men, themselves, in gaining a knowledge of spiritual things by means of their knowledge of natural things. And so our Lord teaches us, by using, in His Scriptures, the terms and ideas common to our natural thought, and yet by giving them an inner meaning, which is figurative, and yet well-defined and exact, because it is in correspondence with the outer meaning, as the inward soul is in correspondence with its outward body.
When you say, of a sermon, that you find “food” in it, you mean, of course, food for your mind ; and yet you use the term, “food,” which is drawn from your knowledge of bodily things. And, such being the constitution and habit of the human mind, everywhere in the inhabited universe, therefore, in giving the Sacred Scriptures, the Lord composed them according to this law of correspondences.
Thus, when, in the Scriptures, He speaks of giving spiritual things to those who desire them. He uses familiar terms, and says, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” But this is not all : wherever, in the letter of the Scriptures, the Lord speaks of natural food and drink, there is, within the letter, as a soul in its body, an inward spiritual meaning, teaching us about the spiritual food which supports our souls. And when He speaks of “water” for the thirst of the body. He speaks, in the inner sense, of the water of truth, which quenches the thirst of the soul. And when the Lord says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” (John vi. 53), He uses the familiar ideas and terms of bodily life, but He teaches, therein, spiritual truths, about spiritual life, and spiritual eating and drinking, and spiritual flesh and blood.
But there are many other texts, in which it does not so plainly appear that there must be an inner meaning; and yet, in every such case, and, in fact, in every text in the Scriptures, there is an inner meaning, relating to man’s inward life. For instance ; when, in the book of Lamentations, the Jews are made to say, “We have drunk our water for money, and our wood is sold unto us,” (v. 4), while these words depict the actual physical condition of the Jews, they also, in the inner meaning, reveal, by correspondences, the spiritual condition of the wicked and rebellious Jews, and also the spiritual condition of all others, in all times and places, who are in the love and practice of similar evils ; and who have to labor very hard to attain any good, or any truth.
And in the early chapters of Genesis, where the text apparently treats of the creation of the physical earth, the language is purely figurative and correspondential, using familiar ideas and terms, to convey to minds prepared for such knowledge, an exact account of the spiritual creation, and the re-creation, or regeneration, of the human mind.
You say of a man, that his reason is “lame,” his thoughts are “blind,” his feelings are “dead.” But you use the terms of bodily life. And so, in the Bible, when the “lame,” the “blind” and the “dead” are spoken of, the spiritual sense treats of the corresponding conditions of the soul. And, in fact, at the same time that our Lord, Jesus Christ, was healing men of bodily diseases. He was also healing them of their spiritual infirmities. While He opened the eyes of their bodies, and restored their bodily strength, He opened the eyes of their minds, also, and restored their spiritual strength.
REASON FOR THE LAW.
And there is good reason why this mode of writing by correspondences should have been used in the Word of the Lord. By this means, the Scriptures could be adapted to all kinds of men. The letter of the Scriptures could give, to natural-minded men, a literal idea, while the inner meaning could give, to spiritual-minded men, the corresponding spiritual idea. Every man can thus learn truths, according to his present condition and capacities. And the idea which reaches each man,’ is that phase of the truth which, at the present moment, is best adapted to his state of mind, and best adapted to help him to shun evil, and to progress in goodness.
It is not, then, a misfortune that the Bible is understood in many ways, but it is necessary that it should be so, as long as men are in many different states of mind. Even in heaven, there will be different grades’ and conditions of life, suitable to different mental conditions. “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” Though there is a heavenly mansion for every one who will love the Lord and the neighbor, and who will keep the Lord’s commandments, yet the happiness of all, and of each, will be increased by having “many mansions,” suitable to men in many different spiritual conditions. Things which are adapted to one man, are not adapted to another. And so, to reach all, the Divine Word contains truth so divinely expressed that it is adapted to every mind. And this fact, alone, is satisfactory evidence of the Divine character of the Sacred Scriptures. No other book contains both inner and outer meanings; in full correspondence.
In His public ministry, on earth, our Lord taught the multitudes in parables, figures of speech, in which truth was given by the law of correspondences. He did not give the holy things of spiritual truth unto human dogs, nor did He cast spiritual pearls before human swine. He gave the truth in such a form that each mind could comprehend that truth in the way best fitted for the present progress of that mind.
In our instructions to children, we use the law of correspondences. Wishing to teach a child the principles of human life, we read to him Aesop’s Fables. Each fable makes a deep impression upon the opening mind of the child. And afterwards he will see the counterparts of such teachings, in the life of his own mind. While he is a little child, he will receive a little child’s idea of the principle illustrated. In his little thought he sees the animals spoken of in the fables. Take, for instance, the fable of the dog in the manger, the dog which could not eat the hay, but would not allow the cattle to eat it. Now, the child readily sees that the dog was mean and selfish. Facts are thus stored up in his memory, which will afterwards serve as a basis for the application of the same principle to his own daily life. The literal idea serves as a ground-work for the spiritual idea.
And so our Lord teaches His truth to us, as but children of a larger growth. He gives us the literal sense of the Bible, to allow us to receive a natural idea ; and this will form a basis, upon which, in our more advanced and spiritual states of mind, He can build the corresponding spiritual ideas, which belong to our inward life? For instance : the history of the journey of Israel, like the fables told to the children, presents certain natural ideas, and embodies certain principles. But, within all this literal history, there is an inner meaning, the deeper history of every human soul, in its journey from selfishness to regeneration. And those whose minds are prepared to receive this inward history, see it within all the things of the literal history, as we, today, in the fables of Aesop, see the principles which apply to our human life.
And, in the knowledge of the spiritual sense of the Bible, we rise above all those phases of the letter which appear to be childish. In the fables, the little children are not troubled about the scientific inaccuracies, such as the talking of the animals. To the little children, these things present no question of impossibility, because their little minds are not yet trained to think scientifically. And, to the infant mind, everything seems full of life and of power. And so, in untrained and unreasoning conditions of mind, even fully-grown men pass over many things in the letter of the Scriptures, which, to rationally-thinking men, are manifestly not intended to be statements of actual physical facts. But, in the inner sense of the Scriptures, as in the inner sense of the fable, we pass out of the realm of merely outward facts, and see the principles illustrated by the fictitious facts.
And, in the inner meaning of the Scriptures, all the apparent harshness of the letter disappears. Where, in the letter, God appears to be angry and partial, and His commands seem to be vindictive and savage, we see, in the spiritual meaning of these pictures, the real truth, that these angry passions are in the hearts and lives of evil men, and that God is no more chargeable with anger, than the sun is chargeable with corruption, because the dead body of a beast decays under its ardent rays, the same genial rays which give fife to the living beast. And so the truths of the spiritual sense reconcile all the apparent inconsistencies and discrepancies of the literal sense of the Scriptures.
GOD AND MAN.
Throughout all the Scriptures, there are, in the inner meaning, references to the coming, the work and the glorification of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Even in the literal sense, there are prophecies of His coming, and the records of His coming, and of His doings. And while, in the literal sense, we may, like the child with the fable, see only the life and doings of a man, yet, in the spiritual sense, we see, within the man, the life of the in-dwelling God, filling, enlightening and moving the outward man of Christ. And, here, in the spiritual sense, we have the most abundant proofs of the grandest doctrine of the Scriptures, the doctrine of the Divinity of the Humanity of Jesus Christ. In the inward meaning, there are always two themes, the glorification of the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ, and the regeneration of men.
These correspondences of the Scriptures, divinely adapted to the human mind, carry with them a power which no merely human writing can ever exert. For the sincere mind has an intuitive perception that there is a fixed relation between the outward letter and some hidden truths, some inner sense. And in this lies the great power of the Bible, felt rather than understood.
Correspondences bring to us the laws of our two-fold life, toward which the poets have dreamed, and the philosophers have speculated, but which our Lord of infinite love has now restored to us, in revelations addressed to our rational understanding, and which we can receive in spiritual freedom. Correspondences link the poetry of life with the actual facts of life ; and they pour into our open minds the treasures of beauty, without robbing us of life’s realities. They fulfill, to our souls, the promise of our Lord, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house; and prove Me, now, herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi iii. 10.)
NOT POETRY ALONE, BUT SCIENCE, ALSO.
The law of correspondences is no mere poetry, or fancy ; it is an exact science, as demonstrable as mathematics, and as clear as the sun-light, to him who hath eyes to see. Nor is a correspondence merely a comparison ; it is much more than a comparison. A comparison is merely a human perception of a similarity, in certain circumstances. But correspondence is the Divine law of unalterable relation between the souls of things, and the bodies of those souls. Correspondence is founded on the constitution and nature of the things of creation, and on their relation to their Creator. We readily recognize that man, with his inward life, is in certain fixed relations to nature’s outward life; for, in one sense, while man was created in the “image of God, nature was created in the image of man. For man is an epitome of all nature. And in his life he unites the natural and the spiritual.
And when we leave this natural world, and enter fully into the life of the spiritual world, we shall still find the law of correspondences ; for there, more than here, all our outward surroundings will be in full correspondence with our inward states. And all the inhabitants of the spiritual world understand the language of correspondences. It is the one language of human nature, because it is grounded in those things which are common to all human life. Though lost to mankind, in the confusion of the Babel-building of man’s sensuous nature, it is restored to him in the world of spiritual realities.
Even on earth, when strangers meet, who do not understand each other in spoken language, signs must take the place of words. And these signs are readily understood, because they are correspondences. They give outward expression to that inner language of the mind, of which every man has some intuitive perception. And this is the language of correspondences. And, in the early days, men wrote, not by words, but by signs and pictures, which were correspondences. Correspondences are the materials of the Divine language in speaking to men. They were the things of the language in which men were versed, in the early days, when “the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” (Gen. xi. i.)
Correspondence is the language which shall be restored to men, in these days of the Lord’s second coming, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one consent.” (Zeph. iii. 9.)
REPRESENTATIVES AND SIGNS.
But correspondences must be carefully distinguished from representatives and signs. Correspondence is a relation between an inward cause and its outward effect, between the soul and its body. It is a relation at once complete, certain and unchangeable. For instance, we read, “By the Word [Truth] of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Ps. xxxiii. 6.) Physical land, or earth, is the outbirth and ultimation of the principle of good ; and water is the outbirth and ultimation of the principle of truth. And as, in the mind, we have the two great general principles, good and truth, so, in the physical world, we have the two great divisions, land and water. And there is a correspondence of land with good, and of water with truth.
But a representative bears a different relation to the thing which it represents. For instance, the king of a country, as its official head, represents the Lord ; i. e., he stands before the people, as the Lord’s representative in civil government, to administer the laws. But the king does not correspond to the Lord. The relation is not personal, but official. It is not merely the man, but the royalty, which represents the Lord. So, in the Jewish dispensation, the priest officially represented the Lord. So, among the apostles of Jesus Christ, John officially represented love and its works, and Peter represented faith. But they did not correspond to these principles. In one sense, everything that corresponds also represents ; but many things merely represent, and do not correspond. In representatives, an individual man may be considered personally, or as representing his whole house, or his nation ; as with Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. And the representative meaning varies, according to the way in which the person is taken.
There are also signs, or things which indicate, or witness, or confirm, something else. And these things, while they are signs of some particular event, are also correspondences, or representatives, of the principles embodied, or illustrated, in and by that event. For instance : a heavy, dark cloud is a sign of a storm ; and it is also a correspondence of that dark state of mind which precedes a stormy outburst of temper.
CORRESPONDENCES IN NATURE.
The principles of correspondences are demonstrated in the phenomena of physical nature. What gives to each beast a form adapted to its kind of life? Why is there a close relation between the beast’s form, and its character, and its habits? There is a correspondence between its outward form and its inward life. We cannot reasonably say that a beast desires to do certain things, because it has a form adapted to such things; but influence operates the other way, from within, outward, and -the beast is given such a form because that form is adapted to the beast’s inward form of life. And then the beast knows what to do, by. instinct, that is, by knowledge within. Instinct is the inflowing of the spiritual world of causes into the outward world of effects, and according to the capacity of the beast to receive life. Instinct is a mode in which correspondence acts, when the indwelling life shapes and impels the external form.
Correspondence is not merely with the form, or substance, of a thing, but rather with its use ; as, for instance, the heart, because of its use with the blood, corresponds to the will, with its loves.
ORIGIN OF CORRESPONDENCES
Correspondences originated in the Lord, in the relation of His qualities, to the spiritual world, created by Him, from Himself. And. such correspondences were extended from the spiritual world into the material world; and, thus the material universe was created by means of correspondences.
And the Word of God in its letter was formed by means of correspondences. The Bible was written according to the law of correspondences, because that is the law by which the Divine Man speaks to finite man. And it is the law by which the human mind speaks in the world of the body. It is a law which is the same in all ages, and among all peoples, but differently seen and understood by different men, each on his own mental level.
Correspondences serve to conjoin the church on earth with the Lord, because the men of the church are in the understanding of truths in the letter of the Scriptures, and these truths are the external receptacles of spiritual truths and of Divine truths ; and thus, by means of correspondences, the men of the church may be enlightened to know spiritual truths, and may have their hearts opened to love the Lord, and thus to come into closer relations with Him.
In correspondences we have a relation between a spiritual thing and its natural equivalent, the natural thing in which the spiritual thing is brought out into the material world ; that is, in which the spiritual thing is materialized. Love is materialized in a smile, and anger in a frown. And so, in the material creation, water is one kind of truth, materialized. It is not enough to understand correspondences to mean that water is like truth ; but it should be seen that truth, which is spiritual, comes into the material world, in the form of water. Water is as much a material embodiment of truth, as your smile is a material embodiment of your love.
And so the manna, given to Israel in the wilderness, was spiritual food ultimated, materialized, by the Divine Power, and adapted to the necessities of the case. And so the tables of stone, on which the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God, were of spiritual substances, materialized in the form of stone, by the power of the Lord, operating more rapidly than in ordinary creation of stone. And we can see that the original creation of the material universe must have been by materializing spiritual substances. The material universe was not made out of nothing, as the grasp of our hand was not made out of nothing ; it was made out of love, materialized. The word “materialized” is here used in its scientific and philosophic sense, and not in the special sense employed in some of the modern cults.
The Bible is the Word of God, holy in every word and syllable of those books which are properly included in the Scriptures. It is plenarily inspired, in every jot and tittle, as it was dictated to the inward ears of the writers, by the Spirit of God. The Word of God is -a revelation from the spiritual world.; and, as such, it reaches downward and outward into the material world, and it forms a mental highway, by which men may spiritually journey to the spiritual world. How do you know what is operating in a man’s spirit, but by its corresponding action in his body? And so, in reading the Bible, we -must expect to understand its spiritual meaning through the correspondences exhibited in the literal sense.
But the Bible is not like a treatise on mathematics, in which you can take any separate statement, and see it to be a scientific fact. The Bible is not natural science, nor is it formulated doctrine; just as physical nature is not science, nor doctrine; but it is the source whence true doctrine is to be drawn, in the light of intelligent knowledge. The Divine character of the Bible is not merely in the fact that it was revealed by the Lord, nor in the fact that it is true ; but it is in the fact that it was written in the Divine way, by correspondences. An absolutely accurate literal history of America, even if dictated by the Lord, would not be a Word of God. The true test, as to which are the genuine and canonical books of the Bible, is not to be found in the votes of councils, but in the fact of whether such books were written in the Divine way, with an internal meaning, according to correspondences: The fact is, if we are to receive any real satisfaction from the Bible, it must be read as a record of man’s spiritual experience.
In interpreting correspondences, we must remember that, when we pass into the spiritual sense, the scene is always laid in the mind ; and that all natural ideas of quantity, then pass into spiritual ideas of quality. As to the many wonderful things said, in the Bible, about human life, what are they? Are they merely loose figures of speech, without any definite system, or meaning ? Are they merely idealistic, and not intended to convey any definite principles, applicable to life ? Or are they symbolic and correspondential, and expressed according to general and known laws of human thought, and yielding,’ to the open-minded reader, a profound inward and spiritual meaning, applicable to all men, each on his mental level? If these things are indefinite, they exert little influence. If they are merely fanciful, they are not worth our serious attention. But if the letter of the Bible speaks to our natural thought in language which carries within it a spiritual meaning, which speaks to our spirit, then it carries to us a profound message from our Divine Father; and we have every reason to make an effort to understand it, and to appreciate its meaning.
ANCIENTS KNEW CORRESPONDENCES.
The most ancient peoples perceived the spiritual counterparts of all material things. But the ancient peoples of a later age, and of less interior genius, knew such things from tradition, and from collected materials handed down to them. And among more degenerate men, in later ages, correspondences were changed into fables, as in Greece, and into magic in Asia; and finally they were lost.
It is known that the ancients were in the habit of writing their secular stories and histories in the form of allegory ; as, for instance, the story of the twelve labors of Hercules, one of which was the cleansing of the enormous Augean stables, in one day, which he accomplished by turning the course of a river to flow through the stables. Hercules, or Herakles, “the strong man,” represented the sun. And his twelve labors were the works of nature in the twelve months of the year. The stable of Augeus was the earth, especially its northern part. The three thousand oxen in the stable were the clouds,- the cattle which Apollo cared for, in the “sky-meadow.” Hercules, cleansing the great stables, by using the river, represented the sun, in spring, clearing of: the accumulated winter’s snow and ice, by turning upon them the great stream of the sun’s heat.
But, in the Divine allegories of the Scriptures, natural things represent spiritual counterparts, and not merely other natural things.
Correspondences account for many things, which otherwise would be regarded as mysteries ; as for instance, the teachings of heathen mythology, which, in fact, are the corrupted remains of correspondences, perverted in transmission through ages of degenerating human conditions. The theory of Transmigration of Souls, by which men are said to become certain beasts, in the future world, is the corrupted form of the ancient doctrine that certain beasts correspond to men of certain qualities of character. When our Lord said of Herod, “Go ye, and tell that fox,” (Luke xiii. 32,) He spoke by correspondence, as Herod was exercising the cunning quality which characterizes the fox. The centaur, part man and part horse ; the satyr, part man and part goat;- and the sphynx, part woman and part lioness, all symbolize man, in his double nature, part distinctively human, and part in common with the beasts.
The law of correspondences explains the action of intuition in man, and of instinct in beasts. In each case, the inward desire impels the person,- or the beast, to do the thing which corresponds with the desire ; the difference being that, in man, as a rational being, intuition is intelligent, while, with the beast, instinct is a blind impulse.
Even in the letter of the Scriptures there are references to the use of correspondences. In Psalm Ixxxviii. 2, 3, it is said: “I will open my mouth in a parable : I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” Also in Hosea, xii. 9, 10; ‘T, Jehovah, thy God, have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.” Reference is made to correspondences, and to the representative character of the letter of the Scriptures, when, in Isaiah xxviii. 2, it is said, “With stammering lips, and another tongue, will He speak to this people.”
Our Lord said, “The words that I speak unto you are spirit and are life,” (John vi. 63.) And, as this cannot cannot be said of the merely literal words, there must be some other meaning- in them, some inward sense which applies to spiritual things, and to man’s experience as a spiritual being.
The spiritual sense is not merely a meaning which relates to spiritual things, but it is truth of a spiritual quality, about all things. It is a message spoken from a spiritual standpoint, and addressed to man’s spiritual consciousness. The natural-minded man thinks about spiritual things ; but he does not think in spiritual truths, because he is not open to truth on the spiritual plane. Spiritual thoughts are formed in the light of the spirit. When the spiritual-minded man reads the Scriptures, his mind does not dwell in the mere letter, but he sees the spirit through the letter, comparatively as we understand each other, not merely according to the words used, but rather to our knowledge of their meaning. For instance, if one calls another a lamb, we do not think of the mere animal, but of the quality of innocence which the lamb represents, and to which it corresponds.
In Revelation xi. 8, it is said, “the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Here is a recognition of the difference between natural and spiritual meanings; for, literally, that great city was called Jerusalem, as is evident from the statement that it was “where also our Lord was crucified.” But, spiritually, Jerusalem was called Sodom and Egypt, because the character of its people was like the character of the Sodomites and the Egyptians.
And Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, recognizes the double meaning of the Scriptures, when he says: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bond-woman, was born after the flesh ; but he of the free woman was by promise ; which things are an allegory ; for these are the two covenants ; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar [Hagar]. For this Agar [Hagar] is Mount Sinai, in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. iv. 21-26.)
Many Christian writers have acknowledged that, in a large part of the Scriptures, the language is figurative and symbolic. And many have suggested figurative interpretations of certain parts of the Bible text. But they have applied the figurative meaning to other material things, thus failing to grasp the great fact that the figurative language of the Bible always refers to spiritual things, to mental conditions and phenomena, as the corresponding counterparts; for correspondence is a’ relation existing between an interior and spiritual thing and its outward counterpart in natural things.
And so there has been no general system of interpretation suggested, until the principles and facts were made plain to the opened mind of Swedenborg, in order that he might publish them to the world. And this system brings symbolism into the form of an exact science, applicable to all parts of the Scriptures ; and also, in fact, applicable to all the phenomena of the natural world. But, outside of the teachings of the New Jerusalem Church, every interpreter of Bible prophecies offers his own notions of the meaning, without any principle of interpretation, and without agreement among interpreters.
BIBLE NOT GENERALLY UNDERSTOOD.
The church claims that the Bible is the Word of God ; and yet there are few who have any satisfactory understanding of the Bible. “And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is learned, saying. Read this, I pray thee : and he saith, I can not, for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying. Read this, I pray thee : and he saith, I am not learned.” (Isaiah xxxix. ii, 12.) And these are the conditions in the general church today. Many men and women do not expect to understand the Bible. Many declare that a large part of the Bible relates to ancient things and conditions, and is not applicable to our modern life. Others assert that the teachings of the Old Testament are “sealed” in ancient Orientalisms, which no one now can interpret practically.
Intelligence is the capacity to distinguish differences. And intelligence differs, not only in quantity but also in quality. There are differences in kind, between natural intelligence and spiritual intelligence. Natural intelligence distinguishes the qualities and quantities of things belonging to our natural life. But spiritual intelligence distinguishes the principles and the phenomena of our spiritual life. The merely natural-minded man does not believe that there is any difference between natural and spiritual things, because he fails to distinguish any such difference.
Paul, the apostle, recognized the fact that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth] all things.” (I Cor. ii. 14, 15.) To the spiritual-minded man, spiritual things are matters of experience. And no sane man will deny the existence of a world in which he has consciously lived. And when his mental eyes are opened to spiritual things, he says, as did the blind man whose eyes Jesus opened, “Whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John ix. 25.) But the natural man, on earth, lives, unconsciously in the spiritual world, as the blind man lives unconsciously in the world of light, and the deaf man in the world of sound; and the color-blind man recognizes no beauty in the rainbow, or in the sunset, or in the gay birds and gorgeous flowers ; and the music-deaf man hears no charm in the harmonies and melodies of the world of music.
THE BIBLE SPEAKING PLAINLY.
Superficial minds have demanded that the Bible should speak plainly, and say exactly what it means, before it could properly claim Divine character. They say, “If God should speak, He would speak so that every one could understand Him, plainly. If you have to search for the meaning of anything, it cannot be from God.” But there are several facts for such persons to remember : first, that God does speak plainly, in the Bible, when He gives man rules of conduct. The Ten Commandments are plain enough, even in their literal sense. Second, that spiritual truths are expressed in imagery, so that those men who can not profit by seeing spiritual truths, shall not see them plainly, and sin against them, and thus increase their condemnation. It is merciful, in the Lord, to hide the spiritual truth from those who are not yet able to use it without abuse. Third, nothing is plain, except to the one who is prepared to understand it. To the unscientific savage, the earth is a flat plain, and the sun revolves around the earth. He thinks that these facts are plain, and that any sane man must see and believe them.
But the scientific white man knows that the earth is a globe, and that it rotates on its own axis, and also revolves about the sun. And these facts are plain to him, after he has learned them. If the Lord, as a Spirit, wishes to speak to men, He will speak to them in the same way in which they speak to each other, when they speak as spiritual beings. And when you read what our Lord says to men, you are to interpret His sayings by the same laws which you must use in interpreting the inward meaning of what men say to each other.
Although there is a spiritual sense in the Scriptures, we are not to lose sight of. their literal sense, because the letter is the body of the Scriptures, and it contains the laws of conduct, which apply to” the actions of man’s body, which should be in correspondence with his regenerate affections and thoughts.
GENERAL LAWS AND CLASSIFICATIONS.
In this Science of Correspondences, there are general laws and classifications, as there are in natural sciences. And for the laws of correspondences we must look to the constitution of the human mind. God is a Divine Man : in Him are Divine Love, Divine Wisdom and Divine Power; or we may say, Divine Good, Divine Truth and Divine Activity. For Love is Goodness, and Wisdom is Truth, and Power is activity. Love, or Good, is the inmost principle of the Divine Life. And Wisdom, or Truth, is the expression of Love, as light is the expression of heat. And Power, or Activity, is the operation of Love, by means of Wisdom, or Truth. All things in the created universe are the products and emanations of the Divine Love, operating by means of the Divine Wisdom.
Therefore, all things in the outward universe of matter, and in the inward universe of mind, refer to the two great principles of the Divine Life which created them. And man, the highest of creation, is the nearest to the Creator, being made in the image of his Maker; That is, man has a will, receptive of love, or good, from the Divine Love, and an intellect, receptive of Wisdom, or Truth, from the Divine Wisdom.
TWO-FOLD ; LOVE AND WISDOM.
Hence, the most general division of all correspondences is into two great classes, those relating to love, or goodness, and those relating to wisdom, or truth. In the human body, the heart corresponds to the will, with its good, or love; and the lungs correspond to the understanding, with its truth, or wisdom. And the right side of the body refers to the things of love, while the left side refers to the things of wisdom. And so, in the body of the earth, the land corresponds to love, or good, and the water corresponds to truth, or wisdom. Land and water are the two great divisions of the earth, as love and wisdom are the two great elements in the human mind. Where solids and fluids are contrasted, solids refer to love, or good, and fluids relate to wisdom, or truth. So, in the animals of the earth, the beasts correspond to our affections ; and the birds correspond to our thoughts, our intellectual life. So, in the dimensions of objects, the length represents the measure as to the goodness, and the width represents the measure as to the truth, of the spiritual thing treated of in the inward meaning. For instance, “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days” (Ps. iv. 23), means that the life of the wicked man has no spiritual extension to fulness, but is dwarfed and cramped.
Here we have the means of arranging all things under the two general divisions, relating respectively to good, or love, and to truth, or wisdom. We are thus able to see which department of our spiritual life, the affectional, or the intellectual, is treated of in the spiritual meaning, or correspondence.
And so we find the phrases of the Scriptures are very often two-fold ; and, in such cases, one phrase relates to the life of man’s will, or heart, and the other relates to the life of his understanding, or intellect. For instance, in Psalm (xix. 7-9), “The law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul ; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart : the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of Jehovah are truth ; they are righteous altogether.” Here, in each case, two things are said of each of the objects, or qualities, mentioned. And, in the inward meaning, one assertion, in each case, refers to man’s will, or heart, and its affectional life, and the other refers to man’s understanding and its intellectual life. For instance, this is very clearly seen to be the case in the phrase, “The commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes,” for purity clearly relates to the state of man’s heart, and enlightenment relates to the state of his intellect. And this is the case in thousands of texts in the Scriptures, where the differences are not so plainly shown on the surface, but where study soon displays them, by the law of correspondences.
SPIRITUAL AND NATURAL.
Secondly. There is another general division of ail things into inward and outward, or spiritual and natural. In man, we have the spirit, as the inward, or spiritual part, and the physical body, as the outward, or natural part. And, in the mind, we have the spiritual mind and the natural mind. And, in the body, those organs which are inward correspond to the inward principles of man’s mind. And, as in the mind, so in the body, the inward organs and parts are the most vital and important. Thus, the heart and lungs, and the brain, are much more vital than the skin. And, in vegetable life, the same rule applies. The inward parts of the fruit are more vital than the outward parts, the skin, the husks, etc. And the inward parts correspond to inward things, in man, while the outward parts correspond to outward things. We all recognize this principle, in common conversation, when we say of a thing that is fraudulent, that it is merely an “empty shell,” or that it is mere “chaff,” that is, an outside without an inside. And thus we have another method of arranging correspondences, that is, according to their conditions and relations, as outward things or inward things, relating to outward or inward life. And this distinction runs throughout the Scriptures, in their inward meaning.
THREE-FOLD. NATURAL, SPIRITUAL, CELESTIAL.
And thirdly, there is another general division of correspondences into a three-fold arrangement. The Lord is Love, Wisdom and Power, or Good, Truth and Activity, which are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So, in everything, there are three principles, the end, the cause and the effect. In man’s mental life, love, or good, is the inmost end, from which all thought and action proceed. Wisdom, or truth, is the cause, the middle or intermediate, between the inmost end and the outward effect, or result. As there is, in the Lord, a divine trinity of principles, infinite Love, Wisdom and Power, so, in man, there is a human trinity of principles, finite love, wisdom and power, received from the Lord. In man’s inward life, these three principles, love, wisdom and power, or good, truth and activity, bear to each other the relation of end, cause and effect. When our affections are interested, our intellect becomes active. Thus there are, in man’s life three degrees, three kinds of life ; viz. : the life of love, the life of thought, and the life of outward action ; or we may say, the life of good, the life bf truth, and the life of application, or obedience to law.
These three degrees of life are called celestial, spiritual and natural. Every man begins his life upon the natural plane, or in the natural degree. He does not comprehend the inmost ends of human life, which are in the will, nor the inward causes, which are in the intellect ; but he understands only the life of action, which is the life of effects, or results. He does right because he is commanded to do so ; and he regards it as right to obey. As to spiritual things, his mind is in a state of simplicity. He lives in the outward degree of human life, the natural degree.
But another degree of life may be opened within his mind, the degree of truth, in which a man loves truth as truth, and does right because he sees and knows it to be true in principle. He compels himself to do what he knows is true, and should be done. This is a great step beyond the outward degree of life ; for he who loves truth, and works from truth, and for truth, reaches beyond mere natural effects, or results, and comprehends the intermediate things, the causes, on the spiritual plane or degree of life. In his mind, everything is seen from the standpoint of truth.
But even this is not the highest, or inmost, degree of human life. Those who, by a highly regenerate life, are prepared for still higher progress, may have the third, the highest, the inmost conscious degree, the celestial degree, opened within their minds. This is the degree of goodness, or of love, as distinguished from truth, or wisdom. In this degree of life, a man rises even beyond the knowledge of- causes, and comprehends the inmost ends of human life, the loves which prompt all his desires, and the desires which lead his mind to spiritual plans, and to outward application of his plans. In this degree, or on this plane, of life, a man regards everything from the standpoint of good, rather than from that of truth. And good, as a principle, is higher, more interior, than truth. These three degrees are called the discrete degrees; because they are different, or discrete, from each other, in kind, that is, in quality, and not merely in quantity. Things which differ from each other in quantity are in continuous degrees, degrees which grow into each other, by increase, or shrink, by decrease;, as, for instance, light and shade, and heat and cold.
It is readily seen that these three discrete degrees of human life are very different in their experiences. Each degree forms a mental world of its own. The higher degrees include the lower, but the lower does not comprehend the higher; as the man includes the boy, but the boy fails to comprehend the life of the man. The characteristic principle which governs men who are in the celestial degree, the inmost or highest degree, is a supreme love to the Lord, as the Divine Love, or Divine Good. The celestial man loves the principle of good, as the highest principle. He loves to be good, and to do good.
But, coming a step downward and outward, the characteristic love of the spiritual man, the man who is in the middle, or spiritual degree of life, is charity, or love to the neighbor. He knows the Lord as the Divine Truth. He sees God through his fellow men. He loves the principle of truth, as the highest principle. He loves to be true, and to do what is true. And he compels himself to do so, against his outward inclinations to the contrary.
But the man who is in the lowest, or outmost, degree of human life, the natural degree, sees God as Divine Power, the Almighty ; and he obeys God from a desire to obey what is commanded, without comprehending the celestial ends, or the spiritual causes, of things. His characteristic love is a love of simple obedience.
Each man understands the truth which is on his level. God flows into all degrees of man, beginning at the inmost, arid flowing outward, because the inmost is nearest to God, and must first receive His influence. But each man first recognizes the truth when it reaches the plane on which his mind is open and conscious.
This is the third way of dividing correspondences, i. e., according to discrete degrees, celestial, spiritual and natural. In the human mind, we have the three degrees of good, truth and obedience ; or love, wisdom and activity ; or end, cause and effect. And, in the human body, we have the corresponding parts, in the head, the trunk, or main body, and the extremities. In correspondences, the head relates to celestial things, the principle of love, or inmost good ; the trunk, or main body, relates to spiritual things, the principle of truth, or wisdom; and the extremities, the arms and lower limbs, relate to natural things, the principle of obedience, the application of good and truth to the conduct.
These distinctions of discrete degrees run throughout the Scriptures. See, for instance, the image of a man, seen by Nebuchadnezzar, mentioned in Daniel ii. 31-35, and in which different metals are mentioned, because these metals correspond to the different principles in human life. Gold corresponds to the highest or inmost principle, that of celestial love, or good. Silver corresponds to the principle of truth, in the spiritual degree. Brass, iron, and other base metals, correspond to the things of the natural, or outmost, degree. And so, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the head, or highest part, of the image, was of gold ; the middle part was of silver ; and lower parts of brass and iron. And, on the surface of the earth, high points, mountains,, represent the celestial things of love ; hills represent the spiritual things of truth; and plains and valleys represent the natural things of the mind.
And, going up to the vegetable world, we find correspondences arranging themselves into the discrete degrees. The three plants most frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, especially in connection with each other, are the olive, the grape-vine, and the fig tree. And these are representative trees. The olive, from its nature, and from its fruit and its warm oil, corresponds to the celestial things of love. The grape-vine and its fruit correspond to the spiritual things of truth. The fig and its fruit correspond to the natural things of obedience in outward life.
And, in the animal creation, the various living things arrange themselves, as correspondences, under the various classes, according to their character. The higher and warm-blooded animals correspond to the higher principles, and the lower and cold-blooded animals correspond to the lower and outward things of human life. Good and bad animals correspond to good and bad qualities in men. For instance, the Lord called some men sheep, some goats, some dogs, and some swine. And, to any careful reader, even without a knowledge of the science of correspondences, it is not difficult to gather a general idea of the meaning of these things. The difference between sheep and swine is very evident, and it leads us to recognize the difference between our own mental sheep and swine. All the animals and birds used in the Jewish sacrifices corresponded to particular principles, in the human mind. And for that reason, the Lord gave many minute directions as to what animals should be used, and how, and when they should be prepared. All these things are arranged under the doctrine of discrete degrees, the three different planes of human life. When the things of the thr’ee great kingdoms of nature, the animals, vegetables and minerals are contrasted, as to their fulness of life, they represent the things of the three discrete degrees, the celestial, the spiritual and the natural.
THREE-FOLD STATEMENTS IN SCRIPTURES.
In the Scriptures, we often find three assertions, or statements, coupled together. In this case, they relate to these three discrete degrees of man’s life. For instance, in Psalm xv. 1-3, “Jehovah, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that back-biteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor bringeth reproach upon his neighbor.” In the first verse, there are two parts, relating to man’s heart and to his intellect. And, in each of the second and third verses, there are three parts, one relating to good in the heart, one to truth in the intellect, and one to purity in the life. Again, in Psalm lxxxvi. 16, “Have mercy upon me ; give Thy strength unto Thy servant ; and save the son of Thine handmaid.” In Psalm c, there are several. cases of three parts: “Make a joyful noise unto Jehovah, all ye lands. Serve Jehovah with gladness : come before His presence with singing.” (Verses i, 2.)
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving.
Into His courts with praise.
Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” (4)
“For Jehovah is good;
His mercy is everlasting;
And His truth endureth to all generations.” (5)
And, in Psalm Ixxvii. 19, “Thy way is in the sea;
Thy path in the great waters ; and Thy footsteps are
not known.” In Isaiah Ixi. 1-3, it is said:
“He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.
To proclaim liberty to the captives.
And the opening of the prison to them that are bound ;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion;
To give unto them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning.”
The same distinctions occur in representatives. We
read, in Isaiah xlviii. I :
“Hear ye this, O house of Jacob,
That are called by the name of Israel,
And art come forth out of the waters of Judah.”
Judah and Zion always represent the things of the celestial degree : Israel and Jerusalem represent the things of the spiritual degree ; and Jacob represents the things of the natural degree. In their good feelings, thoughts and actions, they represent these inward things in their order and true life ; but, in their evil feelings, false thoughts, and wicked actions, they represent the perversion of these inward things.
For this is another general point in correspondences, that nearly everything has two sides, good and bad; and its correspondence changes, according to character. While every useful thing, in its order and life, relates either to goodness, or to truth, the two grand attributes of life from the Lord ; so, in its abuse, or its perversion, or its deadness, everything changes its correspondence to the opposite quality. Good, abused and corrupted, becomes evil ; and truth abused and perverted, becomes falsity. Therefore, the same thing, at one time, and when, in order, and uncorrupted, may be the correspondent of good, and yet, when disorderly and corrupted, it will be the correspondent of evil. As a man may be either good or evil, true or false, according to his mental condition, so everything in the life and surroundings of a man may be, in correspondences, either good or evil, true or false.
APPEARANCES AND REALITIES.
Some persons have objected to the idea that the Bible does not always mean what it says, in its most obvious sense. And they infer that, in suggesting further interpretation, we are assigning to the Scriptures a peculiar and objectionable character. But, in fact, the Bible does not, in this, differ from other things. For instance, physical nature does not mean what she seems to say, in her most obvious statements. To our natural senses, Nature appears to state, plainly, that the earth is a level plain, and stationary, and that the sun revolves around the earth. But intelligent study reveals the facts of the earth’s globular form, and its rotation, and its revolution around the sun. This is the inward story of nature, when read intelligently. Nature is not natural science, formulated, but it is the aggregate of phenomena from which natural science can be drawn by competent inquirers. And so, a large part of the letter of the Bible is not formulated doctrine, but it is a statement of phenomena from which doctrine can be drawn by competent minds, which “have ears to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
And, in fact, much of our own language, used in our common intercourse, needs interpreting beyond its most obvious and literal sense. The Bible does not present an exceptional case of abrupt departure from the ordinary methods of human communication. On the contrary, in the Bible the Lord speaks to men in accordance with the most profound laws of human life ; laws which are at the very centre of man’s being ; laws which control man in all his doings ; laws which are his hidden mainsprings, giving force and direction to all His activities, and operating within all his mere superficial mental machinery, employed in his outward life.
While the unimaginative, matter-of-fact European, and the white American, are regarding the ancients as very odd, because of their love of symbols and representatives, the great fact is plain to him who has eyes to see, that the man of symbols is the man who knows many things which the literalist does not know : and that the odd man is not the symbolist, but the ignorant literalist, who does not understand the methods of Divine revelation ; and who, therefore, is an anomaly in humanity. Look over the field of human literature, and you will find many of the very best and highest things have come to men in the way of imagery, symbols and representatives. It was so with the words of Jesus : “And with many such parables spake He the Word unto them, [the multitude] , as they were able to hear. But without a parable spake He not unto them; and when they were alone He expounded all things to His disciples.” (Mk. iv. 33, 34.) The spiritual sense of the Scriptures is what Jesus taught to the two disciples, on the way to Emmaus, after His resurrection: “And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself.” (Lk. xxiv. 27.)
CORRESPONDENCES IN PARTICULAR—HEAVEN AND EARTH.
Heaven and earth are terms which have a wellknown literal meaning, and which do not show on the surface, that they have any other meaning than the literal one; and, therefore, they well illustrate the development of the inner meaning of the Scriptures, even where the literal meaning is clear. The first verse of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, reads thus : “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Here, in the literal sense, the apparent subject is the creation of the material universe, the outward heavens and the outward earth. But, if this first chapter of Genesis is merely an account of the geology and physics of the material creation, what bearing has it upon the life of man’s soul? And how can its words be “spirit and life?” Mere records of material facts do not teach us spiritual truths. But, remembering that the holy Word of the holy God always inwardly treats of holy things, we shall expect to find, within all these literal statements, certain corresponding spiritual facts and principles, adapted to the life of our inward spirit.
As, in the material creation, there are two great divisions, the heavens and the earth, the higher and the lower, so, in the world of man’s mind, there are two great divisions, the higher mind and the lower mind, the spiritual mind and the natural mind, the inner mind and the outer mind. Or, we may describe them as the two parts of the mind, the inward or spiritual part, which regards the inward things of spiritual life, and the outward or natural part, which looks to the outward things of natural life. In correspondences the heavens denote the spiritual mind, that part of man’s mind which regards heavenly things; and the earth corresponds to the natural mind, that part which regards earthly things. The inward, or spiritual mind of man is his mental heaven, and the outward or natural mind is his mental earth. And with these inward meanings, the terms heaven, or heavens, and earth, as applied to man, are always used in the letter of the- Scriptures. And see what a flood of light this knowledge lets in upon the mind. See how much additional meaning we find in the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis : “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” God’s greatest creation is man, who is the epitome of all the creation, the microcosm, or little world, the counterpart of the macrocosm, or great world, of the universe. In the beginning of the spiritual creation of every man, God creates the spiritual heaven, the inward and spiritual man, or mind, and the spiritual earth, the outward man, or mind. God creates man as a two-fold being, having both inward life and outward life, a life in the heaven of his spiritual mind, and a life in the earth of his natural mind.
And also, in full correspondence with these truths, there is an additional spiritual meaning in this first verse of Genesis, a meaning which relate-s to the recreation, the regeneration, of man, when, by the Divine power, he is lifted out of the deadness of sin. In this sense, the creation of the heaven is the re-generation of the inward mind of man ; and the creation of the earth is the regeneration of his outward mind. In the deadness of evil and sin, it is spiritually true that “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (Genesis i. 2.) That is, the natural mind, the mental earth, the earthly part of man’s mind, when in sin, is without regenerate form and fulness : it is not spiritually formed ; and it is empty of good and truth ; it is in the darkness of ignorance.
THE LORD’S PRAYER.
And in the Lord’s Prayer, see how the inward sense adds fulness of meaning to the phrase, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also upon the earth.” Literally, these words suggest that the will of the Lord should be done, by those persons who remain on earth, as, or in like manner as, it is done by those who are in heaven; that is, fully and cheerfully. But, a profounder meaning- is added to this, when we remember that every man has his individual mental heaven and earth, his inward mind and his outward mind. In his inward mind, he learns and sees the will of the Lord, and knows how to apply it to his life. Then, the prayer teaches him that, as, inwardly he loves and understands the will of the Lord, and does it in his inward affections and thoughts, his mental heaven, so he must do it in his mental earth, his outward, natural mind and life. He must bring down, and out, the holy feelings and thoughts of his spirit, and make them control and mould his every-day practical feelings, thoughts and doings, even in the earth of his outward mind and life. And this additional meaning adds great force to the prayer. Practically it shows us how to carry out our prayers. It teaches us to pray, not merely in words, but also in practical life.
The relation between the material heavens and the earth, is an exact parallel, and is in exact correspondence with the relation between man’s spiritual mind and his natural mind. The life of the physical earth comes down from the sun, in the heavens, whose heat and light produce vegetation, and induce the falling of the rain and the dew, and the action of the atmosphere. But all actual fruitfulness of life takes place on the earth, but from the sources of material life which are in and from the heavens. So, in man’s mind, all life comes from the spiritual and inward side, from the love and wisdom which are the spiritual heat and light of the Lord’s spiritual sun, His Divine love. And yet, although all life comes to man from within and above, by what the Lord pours into a man’s spirit, his mental heaven, yet all the actual fruitfulness and progress in man’s life must be produced in the earth of his natural mind and life. For, in his outward life are summed up, and embodied, all the principles of his life; and, hence, our Lord teaches us that men are known by their fruits.
TEXTS NOT LITERAL.
In reading the Scriptures, we find many things said about the heavens and the earth, which cannot be meant to apply literally to the material heavens and earth, but which can be clearly seen to apply to the inward heavens and earth of man’s mind. “The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped.” (Judg. v. 4.) “The earth is utterly broken down ; the earth is clean dissolved ; the earth moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage ; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it ; and it shall fall and not rise again.” (Isaiah xxiv. 19, 20.) The material earth does not do these things, but the earth of man’s natural mind spiritually does these things.. The earth does not transgress, but the natural mind of man does transgress.
And see how the meaning is shown by the connection: “My people is foolish, they have not known Me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void ; and the heavens, and they had no light.” (Jer. iv. 23.) Here the subject is the condition of man’s natural mind and life. While in sin, man’s natural life is “without form, and void ;” that is, not formed by good, nor filled with truth. And, when the regenerate state of the natural mind is referred to, it is said, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.” (Isai, xi. 9.) “They know not, neither will they understand ; they walk on in darkness : all the foundations of the earth are out of course.” (Ps. Ixxxii. 5.) Here, too, the words evidently refer to men’s minds. The earth is often called upon to hear the words of the Lord. (See Deut. xxxii. i; Isa. i. 2.) And, in Hosea ii, 21, 22, we read, “I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth ; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil ; and they shall hear Jezreel.” So,
the earth is commanded to “be joyful,” (Isa. xlix. 13), to “be glad” (Ps. xcvi. 11) ; and the heavens are commanded to “rejoice” (Rev. xii. 12) ; to “praise” the Lord (Ps. Ixix. 39); to “sing,” etc., (Isa. xlix. 13; Rev. xviii. 20).
All the destructive storms of lightning, thunder,” floods and so forth, which come upon the earth, appear to come down from the heavens ; and yet they are the results of the earth’s own conditions. The atmosphere is a part of the earth. So, in the natural mind, all the mental storms which seem to come down to it, are emanations and results of its own disorderly conditions. So, for instance, when, in Gen. vi. 12, it is said,” And God looked upon the earth, and, behold it was corrupt ; for all flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth,” we see the direct application. It was not merely the material earth that was corrupt, but it was the natural mind of man which had corrupted, or perverted, God’s way, upon the earth. And when, in Genesis iii. 17, we read that God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake,” we see that man’s inward earth, his natural mind, was cursed by its own evils and falsities. And yet, as the material earth is in correspondence with man’s natural mind, the evils of men react upon the material earth ; and, in one sense, they curse the earth.
These correspondences show us, also, that many things, in the letter of the Scriptures, about the destruction of the earth, are not intended to be understood as literal facts in natural history, but that they refer to the life of the natural mind of man. When we read, in Matt. xxiv. 35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away,” and, in Rev. xxi. I, ”And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ;” it appears that the material heavens and earth shall be destroyed. But,’ on the other hand, we read, in Ps. Ixxviii. 69, “He built His sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth, which He hath established for ever;” and in Ps. cxxv. i, “They that trust in Jehovah shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever;” and in Ps. civ. i, 5, “Bless Jehovah, O my soul, . . . who laid the foundation of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.” Here we are met with apparent contradictions. But, in the light of correspondences, these contradictions disappear. These words of the Lord are correspondential, not literal ; they do not apply to the material earth and heavens, but to the inward earth and heavens of man’s mind. In one sense, these shall be destroyed, or changed, by regeneration, when the old states, the unregenerate conditions, of the inward and outward mind pass away, and man’s mind is made new in regeneration. Then he receives a new heaven and a new earth, a new condition of his inward, or heavenly mind, and of his outward or natural mind.
And yet, in another sense, the inward and outward minds of man are established forever ; their conditions change, their character undergoes an entire change, but they remain. And, in another sense, they abide forever, when they are regenerated, for whatever is regenerate is in the reception of eternal life from the Lord, and it can not die.
Some texts can be applied to the heavens and the earth, both literally and spiritually, but others can be applied to man’s inward and mental heaven and earth, only. The earth of which it ig said, in Ps. lxxxv. 2, “Truth shall spring out of the earth,” is not the material earth, but the natural mind of man, when regenerate. The heaven of which the Lord said to Nathaniel, “Hereafter, ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John i. 51), is the heaven of man’s regenerate spiritual mind, open to the Lord, and to the ministering angels, and. also open to heavenly truths, which are mental angels, descending from heaven, upon men. The heaven in which the Lord counsels us to lay up treasure (Matt. vi. 19), is the heaven of the regenerate spiritual mind, whose treasures are spiritual and eternal goodness and truth. And the earth on which He counsels us not to lay up our treasure, is the merely natural mind, whose treasures of knowledge are often corrupted by the moth of natural evil, and the rust of natural falsity, and are stolen away by the thief of selfishness. The unprofitable servant, who received one talent, and “went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord’s money,” represents, very vividly, the man who, having the knowledge of truth, without the love of truth, the one talent without any other, digs down into the sensuous things of his natural mind and memory, and hides away the Lord’s truth, and prevents it from growing and increasing in his mind by application to practical life. (Matt. xxv. 18, 24-30.) When the Lord says, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth ; I came not to send peace, but a sword,” (Matt. X. 34), He teaches us that He came, not to bring a sensuous peace to the evil natural mind of man, in sin, but to bring the sword of truth against man’s natural evils and falsities, and thus to conquer a peace for man’s soul. Our Lord says to us, “I have put My words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou are My people” (Isa. li. i6) ; that is, the Lord will build up our spiritual and natural minds.
When the word “heaven” is used as applying to the Lord, rather than to man, it relates, in the inward meaning, to the heavenly principles, the Divine Good and Truth of the Lord. And, as men become regenerate by the reception of good and truth from the Lord, so the two ways of interpreting the word “heaven” are one, but their application is two-fold, that is, to God, or to men.
The earth is sometimes named in the Scriptures, to represent the natural mind as to the church on earth, which is built up in the natural mind ; for the state of any man’s natural mind, at any time, is the state of the church in his mind. In Genesis ix. 19, it is said, concerning Shem, Ham and Japheth, “These are the three sons of Noah ; and of them was the whole earth overspread.” These three sons represent three general doctrines, or systems of doctrine, in the Ancient Church, from which all the particular doctrines in men’s minds were derived.
LAND AND WATER.
The earth, which corresponds to our natural mind, or the natural part of our mind, presents two. grand divisions, land and water. And, in our natural minds, there are two grand principles, goodness and truth. Land, in general, corresponds to natural goodness, and water. corresponds to natural truth. Therefore, when, in the letter of the Scriptures, land is mentioned as good, or as in order, or as useful and productive, it corresponds to natural good, or goodness ; good in the natural mind and life, in harmony with inward good in the soul. But, when land is mentioned as bad land, or in disorder, or abused, or barren, and so forth, it corresponds to natural good when abused and corrupted into evil; that is, it corresponds to natural evil.
And when water is mentioned as pure, clear, living, useful, refreshing or cleansing, it corresponds to natural truth. But when water is mentioned as filthy, or stagnant, or destructive, it corresponds to truth perverted into falsity ; that is, it denotes natural falsity. In -each case, in reading the inward meaning of the text, we are to regard all the circumstances, conditions and relations, and thus to gather the exact meaning. The land may be in any place, or m any position ; and it may be high, as in mountains, or lower^ as in hills, or level as in plains, or below the level, as in deep valleys ; and yet its meaning is always some form of the principle of good, or of its perversion into evil. And water may be in small or large quantities, in any location, or in the form of rain, or dew, or snow, or hail, or other ice; and yet it always corresponds to some form of truth, or of its perversion into falsity.
To understand the correspondences of land and water, it will be well to view some of their distinctive characteristics. Land and water are entirely distinct and different things. And neither of them can be changed into the other. And yet each is needed by the other. And so, correspondingly, there is an entire and eternal difference between good and truth ; they are distinctly different things ; and one cannot be changed into the other. And they should not be confused, in our minds. In physical nature, land is solid and water is fluid. Land upholds water, as its base. So goodness is the base which upholds truth. Truth, like water, cannot stand alone, but must be based on good, and upheld by good. Yet the land needs the influence of water, especially as rain. So good needs the refreshing influence of truth. Without truth, the good would become hard, dry and unproductive.
Both land and water support life in its three kingdoms, animal, vegetable and mineral. So, natural good is the base, the support, the feeding-ground of the higher forms of good, the spiritual and celestial, the good of inward truth, and the good of inmost love. And so natural truth is the means of support, the feeding- ground, of all forms of truth, scientific, rational, spiritual and celestial. In order that any inward principle may be made our own, we must have it brought down and out, and fixed in the corresponding feelings and thoughts of our natural minds, and in the corresponding deeds and words of our natural life. This is doing our Lord’s will, on the earth of our natural mind and life, as we love it, see it, and do it, in the heaven of our spiritual mind.
Men live on the land ; and they make journeys over the water, for purposes of communication and traffic. So, natural good is that principle in which men live, on which they build their mental homes ; and truth is also a means of mental communication, and of traffic in the necessities and enjoyments of the mind. Good, like the land, is firm and fixed ; while truth, like water, is fluid, easily adapting itself to every position and condition of feeling, thought and action. The things which grow on the land, and in the water, and are used for human food, correspond to the things of good, which feed our heart, or will, with its affections, and the things of truth, which feed our intellect, or understanding, with its thoughts. On the surface of our earth, water covers about three-fourths of the space, and the land covers one-fourth. And yet, everywhere, the water is upheld by land, at the bottom. And so, contrary to the outward appearance, there is much more land than water. So, before the natural senses of the mind, truth seems to be more abundant, and more far-reaching, than good ; and yet this is an appearance, only ; for, at the bottom of all truth, there is good, holding and upholding the truth. As the water is mainly used for transporting the products of the land, so the chief use of truth is to carry good, so that we may use it in all its forms, and in all our different mental conditions and positions. Water cleanses, purifies, and nourishes. Water, by means of its fluid form, penetrates between particles, and carries off the uncleanness. So truth enters the mind, and, by its adaptability to all states of mind, it penetrates the mind, and cleanses it.
CLEANSING AND NOURISHING.
And, as water cleanses, so it is used in baptism, because the baptism of the body represents the cleansing of the mind and life. To be “born of water” is to be mentally reborn, regenerated, by means of the truth. And to be “born of the spirit” is to be reborn spiritually, as to the spirit which we put into our life. The Lord’s commandments and precepts of life are the waters which cleanse our natural minds and lives.
Water nourishes animal and vegetable life, by entering into objects, and forming a part of them, and refreshing them. So truth, when we mentally drink it, enters into the composition of our minds, and refreshes and nourishes them. “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness ; for they shall be filled.” (Matt. v. 6.) Every good affection needs to he kept supplied with the refreshing moisture of its corresponding truth.
Water, in its clean state, is transparent, disclosing the forms and colors of the things which are in it. So, natural truth does not possess, in itself, great distinctness of character, but it adapts itself to, and surrounds, the things and circumstances of our life. Water is not organized in form. So, natural truth comes to us in the distinct and individual facts of mental life, adapting itself to all our states or conditions, and fitting in, whenever there is an opening.
As scenery is most beautiful when it combines both land and water, and thus gives completeness and harmony in variety, so our mental life-pictures are most beautiful, when, in them, good and truth are harmoniously blended, giving activity to both the heart and the intellect.
In the Scriptures, land and water are very frequently mentioned in their various forms. Land is spoken of as good, or bad, fruitful or barren, a garden or a wilderness ; and as high, or low, and so forth. Water is spoken of as pure, or filthy, flowing or stagnant, useful or destructive, peaceful or in floods; and in rain, dew, snow, or ice and hail ; and as fountains, springs, streams, brooks, rivers, lakes and seas ; or in wells, cisterns, pools, and so forth. The water which our Lord counselled the woman of Samaria to procure, is the water of truth, from the Word of the Lord, “springing up into everlasting life.” Wells, or reservoirs, where water is collected, and held for use, correspond to doctrines, in which truth is collected, and held for use. And when we read of the numerous quarrels which the Israelites had with other nations, over their wells, these quarrels strikingly picture to us the theological disputes of the churches over the doctrines which they zealously guard.
When water is warmed by the sun, and is moved by the winds, it is taken up into the air. And, in proper conditions, it cleanses the atmosphere, giving it greater clearness and beauty. And, from water in the atmosphere, clouds are formed. So, natural truth, when warmed by love, is absorbed into our mental heavens, the inward mind, and is there applied to our life, from the higher standpoint of spiritual insight. It there clears our mental atmosphere, and gives us purer and better ideas of our relations to spiritual things, and of our duties in practical life. It clearly shows us the difference between spiritual things and natural things; it spiritually divides “the waters which [are] under the firmament, from the waters which [are] above the firmament.” (Gen. i. 7.)
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell from Scripture Symbolism (1904)