« PreviousContinue »
states of mind and of life, is an important truth which enables us to understand many things in Scripture in a most profitable manner. That the human mind, especially in its higher activities and meditations, rises above the conditions of time, and disdains its periods and restraints, is known to all men. The electric telegraph is a means devised by the mind to disembarrass itself from the shackles of Time. The steam-ship that speeds its way over the Atlantic in the quickest time is most admired, because it enables us to transcend more completely the periods of time. In short, the mind loves to be delivered from time, and to rise above its restraints. The mind in pleasant and peaceful states thinks little of time, but in unpleasant and anxious states it thinks much of time. Time, then, bears a certain relation to the mind, and signifies something in respect to its states. Time and its periods of months, days, &c. has a relation to the intellectual states of the mind, and describes its states of perception and affection for Truth, whereas Space bas a relation to the states of the will, and describes its relation as to Love.
The year, which is one of the most common divisions of time, is often employed in the Word to denote a completion and fulness of state, either of the church itself, or of the individual mind. This fulness or completion of state arises, in a good sense, when the Truth which a man has received from the Lord through His Word is not only united with Good, but is the form of Good, springing from it, and actuated by it in every respect, as the body is actuated by the soul. Thus the “ faith which worketh by love" (Gal. v. 6.) is a complete or perfect Faith, because Love is all in all in its composition. Faith is then in its fulness, and like the full-orbed splendour of the moon, reflects, as fully as possible, the light of the sun. But when this full state of Truth or of Faith has, during the process of regeneration, arrived, we must by no means conclude that the entire work of regeneration and salvation is accomplished. A new moon commences,-a new state of Faith is opened, which, like the moon at the autumnal equinox, rises to a higher altitude in the heavens, and sheds a longer and a more brilliant light over the dark and wintry states of man's natural mind.
We read of the "acceptable year of the Lord," and also of the day of vengeance of our God;” (Isaiah lxi. 2.) because the " acceptable year" signifies the state when the regenerate can, at the period of judgment, be separated from the wicked and raised up into heaven. And the “day of vengeance" is that state when the wicked have filled up their measure of wickedness, and of their own accord betake themselves to their dark abodes. (Rev. vi. 15, 16.) Thus the “acceptable year" and the “ day
of vengeance," do not imply any specific times, but a state of the church, and of the individual member of the church at the time of the Lord's coming to judgment, and especially when He came in the flesh.
The month Abib was the. first month of the year with the Jews, because on the tenth day of this month they were commanded to institute the Passover, (Exodus xii. 2, 3.) which commemorated their deliverance from Egypt. Hence it is, that the first year of the church is the year of its Redemption, and the first year of the regenerate mind is the time of its conversion and the commencement of its regeneration. The inauguration of this year is commemorated by the sacrifice of a lamb, “ in every house;" this lamb was to be sacrificed as a perpetual token of remembrance of the state thus represented. This lamb typified the Lord as the “ Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Hence as to His Humanity He is called the Pascal Lamb, (1 Cor. v. 7.) because it is by the Lord in His Humanity that all redemption and regeneration are accomplished. The lamb signifies the good of innocence from the Lord, which is that which delivers us from all sin. Thus the new year in time, cannot be better inaugurated by us, than by considering the new year of Redemption, in which we can, through the Lord's mercy, enter upon a new state of regeneration, and thus commence a new and an acceptable year to the Lord.” The particulars as to the sacrifice of the lamb, and of the manner in which it should be cooked and eaten, will teach us, if “spiritually discerned,” what our duty is as to the inauguration of a new year, as commemorative of the period of our Redemption and Regeneration.
First,—The “ Lamb was to be without blemish,” to teach us that we must enter upon this new state in sincerity of purpose, without mingling our acts of worship or our duties of life with any selfish or worldly object. It was solemnly commanded that the sacrifices should be all without spot or blemish, and especially the lamb of the Passover. All these solemn duties should be performed from considerations which originate in the internal or spiritual mind only; for in the degree that the motive or object in the doing of these things partakes of the selfish and worldly states of the natural man, the sacrifice will have a blemish —will be unfit as an offering to the Lord—and will consequently by no means serve to deliver us from states of sin and bondage.
Secondly,—It should be “a male of the first year," to teach us that it should be a state of Truth entirely derived from Good. This blessed state arises when the mind is governed only by the spiritual affection of Truth. " It was to be taken from the sheep and from the goats," to
siguify, that the good of innocence from the Lord should be both in the internal and external man.
Thirdly,—“ They were to eat it roast with fire, and unleavened bread and with bitter herbs;" that is, they were to appropriate it in states imbued with love, and in states of pure truth unmixed with any thing false or evil; but as this cannot be done without exertion and temptations, hence they were to eat it with “ bitter herbs,” which denote a state of temptations; the “ bearing of the cross,” and “the striving to enter in through the strait gate,” have a similar signification as denoting temptations.
From this, then, we learn how we ought to commence the year with an endeavour to improve our mental and spiritual states. Seeing, as we have shown above, the importance of our time-life, we shall, if we look to our spiritual interests in the first place, strive, as the principal object of our life here, “ to work out our salvation ;" and to this end we shall “ number our days—examine our states of life,—and apply our hearts unto wisdom."
ON DISCRETE AND CONTINUOUS DEGREES, AND ON
THE SUBSTANTIAL REALITIES OF THE SPIRITUAL
(Now first translated from the Spiritual Diary of Swedenborg.)
1. There is a natural kingdom, a spiritual kingdom, and a celestial kingdom
2. In the natural kingdom are men whilst they live in the world. In the spiritual kingdom are spiritual angels; in the celestial kingdom are celestial angels; for there are three universals, the Natural, the Spiritual, and the Celestial.
3. In each kingdom there are two degrees, in the natural two, in the spiritual two, and in the celestial two; thus in the three kingdoms there are six. All these degrees are discrete, or discontinuous, and are called degrees of altitude.
Discrete degrees are in the same relation to each other as the thought to the speech, or as the affection to the gesture, or as the affection of the mind to the countenance expressed in the face; and in the material world as the ether to the air, or as a nerve and the fibres of which it is composed. All compositions in the universal natural world and in the universal spiritual world are of this character, and they consist either of
two or of three degrees of this kind in their order. These degrees are called prior and posterior, superior and inferior, interior and exterior; and, in general, they are as cause and effect, or as a substance and a substantiate, or as the thing formed of the substance, or as a principle and the principiate, or the thing formed from principles.
There are also continuous or coherent degrees; each discrete degree has its continuous degree. The continuous degree of each discrete degree is as light verging to shade, or to the obscurity of night; and also as the rational thought which is in light to sensual and, as it were, at length to corporeal thought, which is in a dense shade according as it descends into the body. In such a degree continually decreasing are human minds. In a similar, but inferior degree, are the senses of man, as his sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch; in like manner his speech and his singing; for man has a tone like the tone of a lyre, and like the sound of a drum. It is also similar with harmonies and beauties; for they proceed by continuous degrees from the highest harmony and beauty, to the least. These degrees are of the cause in itself and of the effect in itself; they are distinguished from the former degrees, on account of the cause and of the effect amongst (or between, inter) themselves. Continuous degrees are thus said to be purer or grosser. An idea of these degrees can be had chiefly from light and shade, and also from the aërial atmosphere in its lower and higher regions; for in the lower region it is grosser, denser, and more compressed, and in the higher region it is purer, rarer, and less compressed.
Importance of these Degrees. Unless a knowledge of these two kinds of degrees be acquired, it will not be possible to form an idea of the interior and exterior things of man, thus neither of the soul and the body, nor indeed of causes and effects. Nor can any idea be had of the distinction between the heavens, nor of the wisdom of the angels in the heavens; nor can we have any idea of correspondences, of representatives, of influx, of order, thus no idea can be formed of those things which are of order, both in the natural and the spiritual worlds. Hence without a knowledge of these degrees, scarcely any just idea can be formed of any thing whatever.
Few hitherto have had any other idea of degrees than of continuous degrees, which is, as was said, from what is pure to what is gross, from which it follows that only one kind of degrees has been known, and that, consequently, the erroneous idea has been formed that the only difference between what is natural and what is spiritual, is that of what is pure and gross; in like manner the difference between the heavens, and also in the wisdom of the angels. Whereas, the difference is according to discrete degrees, of which we shall presently speak from experience.
There are, therefore, as stated above, six discrete degrees,—two in the natural kingdom, two in the spiritual kingdom, and two in the celestial kingdom; but it is these degrees in which men and angels are, as to their thoughts, their affections, and their wisdom. In this manner degrees must be considered. Below these six degrees of life, there are similar (discrete) degrees, and also material, even to the ultimate, and above these there are six degrees ascending even to the Divine and the Infinite. For the Divine Itself cannot flow into any angel or man from Itself but by discrete degrees; for if It flowed in immediately, or by a continuous degree, both angel and man, from the ardour of the divine love, and from the light of the divine wisdom, would be entirely consumed. This would be as though the sun of the world, from its fire, were to flow immediately into the objects of the earth, and not mediately by the atmospheres according to discrete degrees.
There are three natural atmospheres arising from the sun of the world, and there are three spiritual atmospheres arising from the Sun of heaven, which is the Lord. The three natural atmospheres arising from the sun of the world are the purer ether, which is universal, from which is all gravitation (gravitas); the middle ether, which forms the vortex around the planets, in which are the moon and the satellites, &c., from which magnetism for the magnetic sphere) proceeds; and, lastly, there is the common atmosphere, or air. By these three atmospheres all corporeal and material things of the earth are held together, which are so composed as to be applicable to those three degrees. The three spiritual atmospheres arising from the Sun of heaven, are those in which are the angels of the three heavens. In the two superior atmospheres are the angels of the Lord's celestial kingdom, and in the inferior atmospheres are the angels of the Lord's spiritual kingdom, and in the ultimate or natural atmospheres are men whilst in the natural world.
But it should be known, that the atmospheres arising from the Sun of heaven, which is the Lord, are, properly speaking, not three, but six,—there are three above the sun of the world, and there are three below it. The three below the sun of the world constantly accompany the three natural atmospheres, and give a man in the natural world the ability to think and to feel. For the atmospheres arising from the sun of the world bave not life in themselves, because they originate from a sun which is pure fire; but the atmospheres arising from the Sun of heaven, which is the Lord, have life in themselves, because they
Enl. Series.—No. 25, vol. iii.]