(SS) - Teachings for the New Jerusalem on Sacred Scripture

SS 23

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23. The reason why, in ancient times, the idolatries of the nations originated from the knowledge of correspondences, was that all things visible on the earth have a correspondence; not only trees, but also beasts and birds of every kind, and likewise fishes, and all other things. The ancients, possessing a knowledge of correspondences, made for themselves images that corresponded to heavenly things, and delighted in them because they signified things such as belong to heaven, and therefore to the church. They therefore set them not only in their temples, but also in their houses, not to be worshiped, but to call to remembrance the heavenly things they signified. Consequently in Egypt and elsewhere there were images of calves, oxen, serpents, also of children, old men, maidens; because calves and oxen signified affections and powers of the natural man; serpents, the sagacity of the sensuous man; children, innocence and charity; old men, wisdom; and maidens, affections of truth; and so on. When the knowledge of correspondences had been blotted out of remembrance, their descendants began to worship as holy, and at last as deities, the images and emblems set up by the ancients, because they stood in and about their temples.
[2] So with other nations; as, with the Philistines at Ashdod, Dagon (concerning whom see 1 Sam. 5:1 to end), whose upper part was like a man, and his lower like a fish. This image was so devised because a man signifies intelligence, and a fish knowledge, which make a one. It was also because they possessed a knowledge of correspondences that the ancients worshiped in gardens and groves, in accordance with the kinds of trees in them; and also upon mountains and hills. For gardens and groves signified wisdom and intelligence, and each particular tree something relating thereto; as the olive, the good of love; the vine, truth from that good; the cedar, rational good and truth. A mountain signified the highest heaven; and a hill, the heaven under it.
[3] The knowledge of correspondences survived among a number of the orientals, even until the Lord's advent, as is evident from the wise men of the east who came to the Lord at his birth; and this was why a star went before them, and why they brought with them as gifts gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:1-2, 9-11). For the "star that went before them" signified knowledge [cognitio] from heaven; "gold," celestial good; "frankincense," spiritual good; and "myrrh," natural good; from which three is all worship.
[4] Nevertheless there was no knowledge of correspondences whatever among the Israelitish and Jewish nation, although everything in their worship, and all the judgments and ordinances delivered them through Moses, and all things of the Word, were nothing but correspondences. The reason was that at heart they were idolaters, and of such a character that they were not even willing to know that anything of their worship signified what is celestial and spiritual; for they desired that all those things should be holy in themselves and in connection with them; so that if celestial and spiritual things had been disclosed to them, they would not only have rejected but would have profaned them. Therefore heaven was so closed toward them that they scarcely knew that there is a life eternal. That this was the case is clearly evident from the fact that they did not acknowledge the Lord, although universal holy Scripture prophesied concerning Him, and foretold His advent; and they rejected Him for this sole reason - that He taught of a heavenly and not an earthly kingdom; for they wanted a Messiah who would exalt them above every other nation in the world, and not a Messiah who cared for their eternal salvation. For the rest, they affirm that the Word contains within it many arcana that are called mystical; but are unwilling to learn that these refer to the Lord; they however are quite willing to learn when it is said that the reference is to gold.


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