THE ELEPHANT >> Love of Justice
TUSKS >> Knowledge of what is Just

EP837_500_332 Elephants are sometimes employed to carry burdens, not for great distances, but when great force is required, or great sagacity under trying circumstances. Perhaps no other animal, not even a dog, is so quick in comprehending a difficult situation, and so ready in removing the difficulties.  This quickness of perception seems to arise from an underlying love and sense of justice, which is sensitive to injustice and false pretenses, and therefore quick to perceive the real state of a case. 

The following characteristic anecdotes illustrate these qualities in the elephant. The first is quoted by Mr. Wood from Sir Emerson Tennent’s work on Ceylon:

One evening, while riding in the vicinity of Kandy, . . . my horse evinced some excitement at a noise which approached us in the thick jungle, and which consisted of a repetition of the ejaculation, urmph! urmph! in a hoarse and dissatisfied tone. A turn in the forest explained the mystery, by bringing me face to face with a tame elephant, unaccompanied by any attendant. He was laboring painfully to carry a heavy beam of timber, which he balanced across his tusks, but the pathway being narrow, he was forced to bend his head to one side to permit it to pass endways; and the exertion and inconvenience combined led him to utter the dissatisfied sounds which disturbed the composure of my horse.

On seeing us halt, the elephant raised his head, reconnoitered us for a moment, then flung down the timber, and forced himself backwards among the brushwood, so as to leave a passage, of which he expected us to avail ourselves. My horse still hesitated; the elephant observed, and impatiently thrust himself still deeper into the jungle, repeating his cry of urmph! but in a voice evidently meant to encourage us to come on. Still the horse trembled; and, anxious to observe the instinct of the two sagacious creatures, I forbore any interference.  Again the elephant wedged himself farther in amongst the trees, and waited impatiently for us to pass him; and after the horse had done so, tremblingly and timidly, I saw the wise creature stoop and take up his heavy burden; turn and balance it on his tusks, and resume his route, hoarsely snorting, as before, his discontented remonstrance.

The sense of injustice and sagacity in exposing sham are conspicuous in the next two anecdotes:

A gentleman in India had a favorite elephant, and was wont always to be present at the time his keeper was feeding him. Business, however, demanded his absence for many weeks, and he gave the charge of feeding him to his servant.  This man, however, was greedy and avaricious, and gave the poor animal only half the food to which he had been accustomed, so that he became very lean, and by the time his owner returned, looked as if ready to drop down. The faithless servant declared he could not imagine what was the reason of the animal’s falling away, as he had been well fed. At the next feeding time, however, his master was present, and a full portion, of course, was placed before the animal, who, dividing it into two portions, ate one eagerly, and, after first touching the other with his trunk, pointed to the servant in such a manner that the gentleman at once guessed the cause of his favorite’s appearance.

Another elephant which was growing unaccountably thin was visited by its owner near the close of a meal. Its keeper protesting that it received full supplies, and that there was no known cause for the emaciation, the elephant seized him, and shook out from the folds of his garments the pilfered grain which he was carrying away.


ele523Even when guilty of a sham himself, he shows a remarkable consciousness of the fact that it is a sham. An elephant in Ceylon: 

. . . was employed in laying stones under the supervision of an overseer. Whenever he completed one course, he signaled to the overseer, who came and inspected his work; and after ascertaining that the task was properly performed, gave the signal to lay another course. On one occasion the elephant placed himself against a portion of the wall, and refused to move from the spot when the overseer came to the part of the wall which his body concealed. The overseer, however, insisted on the animal’s moving aside, and the elephant seeing that his ruse had failed, immediately set hard to work at pulling down the wall which he had just built, and which was defective in the spot which he had been attempting to conceal from the inspector’s eye. 

The following story illustrates the sensibility of elephants both to injury and to kindness: 

An elephant refused to pass over a slight bridge which had been erected in a theatre, deeming it unsafe. There stood the animal, with downcast eyes and flapping ears, meekly submitting to blow after blow from a sharp iron goad, which his keeper was driving ferociously into the fleshy part of his neck, at the root of the ear. The floor on which he stood was converted into a pool of blood. One of the proprietors, impatient at what he regarded as senseless obstinacy, kept urging the driver to proceed to still severer extremities, when Charles Young, who was a great lover of animals, expostulated with him, went up to the poor, patient sufferer, and patted and caressed him; and when the driver was about to wield his instrument again with even greater vigor, he caught him by the wrist as in a vice, and stayed his hand from further violence. While an angry altercation was going on between Young and the man of color, who was the driver, Captain Hay, of the Ashel, who had brought over “Chung” in his ship, and had petted him greatly on the voyage, came in and begged to know what was the matter. Before a word of explanation could be given, the much wronged creature spoke for himself; for, as soon as he perceived the entrance of his patron, he waddled up to him, and, with a look of gentle appeal, caught hold of his hand with his proboscis, plunged it into his bleeding wound, and then thrust it before his eyes. . . . The hearts of the hardest present were sensibly touched by what they saw, and among them that of the gentleman who had been so energetic in promoting its harsh treatment. It was under a far better impulse that he ran out into the street, purchased a few apples at a stall, and offered them to him. Chung eyed him askance, took them, threw them beneath his feet, and when he had crushed them to pulp, spurned them from him. Young, 60 ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE who had gone into Covent Garden on the same errand, . . . shortly after returned, and also held out to him some fruit, when, to the astonishment of the bystanders, the elephant ate every morsel, and after he had done so, twined his trunk with studied gentleness around Young’s waist. 

Very many anecdotes are related of elephants, and they all seem more or less to illustrate and confirm the idea that a sense of natural justice is their essential characteristic. An apparent exception exists in the willingness with which the domesticated females aid in the capture of wild males; but even this may come from their appreciation of the kindness which they themselves have received, and their notion that the captive males will appreciate it after they are accustomed to it. The first feeling of the males, when they discover that they are bound, is one of fierce resentment at the apparent treachery; but it would be satisfactory to know if they forgive it, when kindness makes their captivity pleasant to them. 

The most striking peculiarities of the elephant’s form—the trunk and the tusks—appear to sustain this view of his character. The nose, by its sense of smell, detects the essential quality of a thing, and ferrets out a deception which the eye would never discover. This is the peculiar talent of those in the province of the nose in the other world; whence Swedenborg says that the nose corresponds to perception. But in the elephant it is the nose that is developed into the trunk. Its sense of smell is keen, probably residing chiefly in the highest part of the cavity, as in other animals, and its extension becomes the means of examining and taking up every article of food and drink, and conveying it to the mouth. Such a development of the nose can hardly fail to represent a corresponding development of the perception of fairness or of shams. 

The elephant is not mentioned in the Bible; but Solomon “made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold” (1 Kings 10:18).  Ivory also was brought by the ships of Tharshish (1 Kings 10:22), and was among the treasures of the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 27:6, 15). And ivory is from the tusks of elephants, and has the same signification. The tusks, which are used to uproot small trees, to break off the branches, and strip off the bark, as well as for weapons of offense and defense, are enormous developments of teeth. 

And teeth, which are stationed as guards at the entrance to the mouth, have for their common function to break open and expose the interior quality of every morsel of food that seeks entrance to the body. Their correspondence is with the kind of truth by which such exploration is effected. The tusks of the elephant, with their peculiar development and use, correspond to truth of natural justice by which all external appearances are stripped off, and hidden motives and actions are brought to light; and their ivory, in its perfect elasticity, its whiteness and hardness, is a representative of knowledge of what is perfectly fair, sincere, and just, which is the means of compelling justice—the suitable material for the throne of Solomon. 

The love of justice is probably the strongest and most vehement of our natural feelings, as the elephant is the largest and strongest of the land animals. This affection is easily chafed and irritated; and when its resentment is thoroughly aroused, it is the most furious and vehement of all affections. And we are told that, in perfect parallelism with this, the elephant, unwieldy as he is, is so liable to chafing of the skin, and tenderness of the feet, that with the best of care he can be used only about four days in the week;and that occasionally an elephant, in a chronicstate of ill humor and exasperation—in whichcondition he is called a “rogue elephant”—breaks loose from all restraint, and roams the woods and the fields, venting his indignation everywhere, dreaded and shunned both by his former companions and by his more recent masters.  Swedenborg mentions elephants, together with horses, asses, camels, lions, and some other animals, among the animals seen by him, not in Heaven nor in Hell, but in the World of Spirits, where the interior quality of all is explored, and where the separation of the good from the evil is effected.1 Certainly the mental faculty which they represent is here especially useful. It is also in harmony with the nature of this faculty, that elephants are among the very few animals that have been trained to efficient service in war. (Apocalypse explained #1200)


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