FISH AND FISHERMEN
As water corresponds to natural truth, and as truth belongs to the intellectual side of our nature, we must expect that, as fish live in water, they must correspond to something relating to truth, something belonging to the intellectual side of our nature, or to our affection for intellectual things. And, in agreement with this idea, analogy shows us that fish correspond to our life in its lower and outward form, the life which we lead in the knowledge of outward truth, truth seen by the senses, science. In the order of life, fish are lower than beasts and birds, and so they correspond to a lower department of human life. And, in agreement with this truth, we find fish to be cold-blooded, while beasts and birds are warm-blooded. And, as fire and heat correspond to love, and affection, so the cold-blooded animals correspond to our lower human life, the life which, being outward, and further from the centre, has less of life in it, because it has less of the fire of love. This outward life is the life of the senses.
If we apply the correspondence of fish to persons, we see that fish represent natural-minded men, men who live in the life of the senses, but who are not developed in the higher life of celestial and spiritual things. They live and think on the outside, or surface, of human life. They have such knowledge as belongs to the life of the senses. They have information and science, such as can be gathered by the senses. Such men may be either good or bad. Although undeveloped in the higher departments of human life, they may be sincere and well-disposed in their own kind of life. They are ignorant of the inward experiences of spirits and life. If they can be led to see spiritual things, they may accept them, and may become open to spiritual truths. Or, these spiritual fish may be bad men, men who have no desire for spiritual things, but who prefer the lower life of the senses. In the Scriptures, when such men are mentioned, the text and context will indicate which kind of men are intended in the inward meaning.
But, when we apply the correspondence of fish to principles, and to the things of life, abstractly, and apart from persons, fish represent the life of the senses, the affection for natural thought, and the truths which appear to the senses, "scientifics," things of science, knowledges, matters of information, as distinguished from the truths of actual life, by which we live, from love. These scientifics, or matters of information, may be held in the good mind, for use ; or they may be held in the evil mind, merely as knowledge, to lie unused, or to be abused, by putting them to selfish purposes.
Fish, then, as living things, correspond to our natural affection for the things of our sensuous life, the life of our senses, the outside life, and also to the . knowledge, itself, on which the natural mind places its affection, or which it stores up in the memory.
We notice that the form, or organism, of the fish is ruder, and less intricate, than that of the beast, or that of the bird. And, as everything uses its capacities in and by means of its form, or organism, so the ruder form always implies ruder and fewer capacities. And, in outward nature, the ruder forms and more limited capacities correspond to ruder mental forms, and more limited and lower mental capacities. As the beast is distinguished by front legs, or arms, and the bird by wings, so the fish is distinguished by fins, instead of arms. And these fins, like arms and wings, being used for action, represent the power which they apply, as well as the corresponding power of the mind. The fins of the fish represent the power of the senses, in their thought, as employed in the waters of natural truth. Natural truth is truth seen from the standpoint of the natural mind, the outward mind. In this truth swims the spiritual fish, the life of the senses.
The eye of the fish is dull, representing the comparative dullness of the natural and sensuous understanding. And the ear of the fish is rude in form, and limited to very simple capacity. And so the life of the senses, and the scientifics, or matters of mere knowledge, are dull of hearing, when the voices of higher things speak to them. The scales, or clothing, of the fish, represent the merely outward facts, which, put together in order, protect and guard the knowledge which we gather by the senses. These facts, as scales in the natural thought, are held together by love of knowledge.
We read in Leviticus xi. 9-12, "These shall ye eat, of all that are in the waters ; whatsoever hath fins and scales, in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers. them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales, in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of and living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you ; . . . ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination." And this distinction was made because of the correspondence. Fish correspond to the affections for thinking from the senses, and to the knowledge thus acquired. Such affection and knowledge are not suitable for our mental food, unless they have some power to think in an orderly way, and to progress by thought ; or unless they have a clothing of actual facts, held together by love of facts. Fish without scales represent a mere knowledge of things, without any love for the use and order of facts. And also they represent those persons in whose minds such a state of things is predominant.
In the water there are some animals which are not fish, but water beasts ; as the whale, which breathes through lungs, and breathes the upper air, instead of breathing the air in the water, through gills ; and which is hot-blooded, like beasts; and which brings forth its young alive, and nurses them, as the beasts do. The whale roams over the oceans ; and it consumes a great number of small fish. The whale corresponds to a warm affection for a great, general knowledge of truths and facts, taking in multitudes of the little fish of scientific facts and affections, while breathing the upper air of higher truth. Such are the "great whales" which are mentioned in Gen. i. 21, as created on the fifth day of creation ; that is, the fifth state of development in mental life, when such mental creations are produced in our minds. In the waters of natural truth all these fishes of scientific affection and thought delight to live, and to bring forth after their kind, in the love of knowledge, and of its increase.
When used in a bad sense, fish correspond to the same things, but corrupted in quality. In a good sense, fish have their place in the order of being ; and the corresponding life of the senses, in the affection for thinking in natural truth and science, has its proper place in our minds. But, when we abuse these things, and allow our sensuous affection for facts and science to run astray, and to mislead us, and to induce us to believe in falsities instead of actual facts, so that we become opposed to inward and spiritual things, then our love of falsities corresponds to fish, in a bad sense, and to fish without scales and fins, as well as to other fierce and ugly things which live in the waters. And, as there are in our minds many different sorts of feelings and thoughts, relating to the intellectual life, in the lower plane of the senses, so, in the waters of the earth, there are myriads of different forms of natural life, of many different kinds and varieties.
FISHING AND FISHERMEN.
From the meaning of fish, in correspondences, the meaning of fishing, and of fishers, or fishermen, can be seen. Catching fish, for food, for the support of natural life, corresponds to procuring affection for the things of natural science, and to instructing the mind in the facts of science, the scientifics or knowledges of the senses, of the outer plane of the mind and life. We take the fish out of their native and lower element, and apply them for food, in our own life. So. we teach the truth to others, and help them to procure affection for natural truth, by lifting them out of their lower plane of the senses, and giving them knowledge of the things which belong to the higher and inward planes of life. In the spiritual sense, fishermen are those who instruct men in the truths of faith, giving them food for the mind, and elevating them out of a merely natural- minded and sensuous state, , and into a spiritual state of mind.
As each variety of fish corresponds to some distinct kind and variety of our affection for the intellectual things of truth, as seen by the senses, and to such sensuous truths and facts, so, catching these different kinds of fish, for use, corresponds to instructing the mind in these various truths, and thereby cultivating an affection for such truths.
In our common conversation, we recognize this correspondence of fishing and of fishermen. For instance when we are trying to teach truths to a person of superficial mind, others say of us, that we are "fishing in shallow waters," and need not expect to have much success.
FISHERMEN AND APOSTLES.
And now, from the signification of fish, and of fishermen, we can see why the Lord, at the beginning of His ministry on earth, chose fishermen for His first apostles. The record reads thus, in Matthew iv. 18-22, "And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea ; for they were fishers. And He saith unto them. Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on, from thence. He saw other two brethren, James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, in a ship, with Zebedee, their father, mend ing their nets ; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him." The Lord chose fishermen, as apostles, because there is an analogy between fishing for fish, and instructing men in the truth. And so the Lord said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." And He did so, by making them instructors of men, to lift men out of the lower mental waters of merely natural and sensuous truth, and into the upper air of higher truths of life.
And, in His second coming, already accomplished, a coming in a new dispensation of life and light, a spiritual coming to the minds of men, the Lord chose, as His apostle, and as an instructor of men, one whose occupation was that which corresponds to fishing for fish. He chose Emanuel Swedenborg, a most learned and excellent man, and a great teacher of natural science. And He took Swedenborg from his work of teaching natural science in the waters of natural truth, and opened his mind, prepared him, and sent him forth to teach the grand spiritual truths of the spiritual or
inward meaning of the holy Word of the Lord. From being a fisher of men, in teaching accurate natural science, the Lord took Swedenborg to be a fisher of men in the greater work of teaching accurate spiritual science, that, in the providence of the Lord, he might be a means of lifting men out of a carnal and superficial theology, and of giving them a clear, thorough, rational, comprehensive spiritual theology, in which the deepest affections of the heart are developed and ennobled, and in which the highest aspirations of the regenerate intellect are satisfied; in which, in the highest sense, men are gathered into the kingdom of the Lord.
FISH vs. SERPENT.
We must carefully distinguish between the correspondence of the fish and that of the serpent. The serpent corresponds to the sensuous principle in man, the life of senses. But the serpent corresponds to the life of the senses as it is in the will, or heart, and in the affections ; and as it concerns sensuous good, or evil. But the fish corresponds to the sensuous life more especially as it relates to the intellectual life, in sensuous truth, or falsity. The serpent lives on the land, which corresponds to good, and the fish lives in the water, which corresponds to truth.
In Hosea iv. i, 3, we read, "Hear. ye the Word of Jehovah, ye children of Israel ; for Jehovah hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God, in the land. . . Therefore shall the land mourn, and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of the heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea, also, shall be taken away." These fishes are of the mental sea ; they are the things of knowledge, which die out of the unregenerate mind. In Jer. xvi. 16, 17, "Behold I will send for many fishers, saith Jehovah, and they shall fish them; and, after, will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them, from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For Mine eyes are upon all their ways ; they are not hid from My face, neither is their iniquity hid from Mine eyes." Fishers are those who shall collect the back-sliders, and instruct them in truths; and the hunters are those who shall supply them with the solid meat of good principles, by developing their affections. In Ezek. xlvii. 8-10, it is said, "These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea : and, brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live : and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither : for they shall be healed : and everything shall live, whither the river Cometh. And it shall come to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it, from En-gedi, even unto Eneglaim ; they shall be a place to spread forth nets ; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many." This vision of Ezekiel, in which he saw waters issuing out under the Lord's house, represents the coming of the truth of the Lord's Word, flowing into man's mind, and developing it in its higher forms. And, truly, wherever those living waters of truth come, everything good in the mind,"shall live." And the fish shall be exceeding many, and of different kinds, i. e., the knowledge of outward truths, the truths of the senses, and the affection for accurate truths, shall abound, and shall be filled with life from the Lord.
But, on the other hand, the regenerating mind, in its efforts to come up out of Egyptian darkness of mind, and while in its earlier stages of progress, often, like the Israelites, grows tired of the spiritual manna which comes to it from the Lord; and it lusts after the outward and sensuous things of its unregenerate states, the fish of outward and sensuous life, and the other lower things represented by the cucumbers, leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt : "And the mixed multitude that was among them, fell to lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, who shall give us flesh to eat ? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt, freely; the cucumbers, and melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic : but now our soul is dried away ; there is nothing at all besides this manna before our eyes." And again they said, "Our soul loatheth this light bread." (Numbers xxi. 5.) Here fish is used in a bad sense, representing the unregenerate affection for the things of sensuous knowledge and science, an affection which causes the mind to loathe the "light bread" of spiritual things, which is not so gross and heavy; and t6 lust after the grosser things, in the "flesh-pots of Egypt." In such a state, as we read in Isaiah xix. 8, 10, "The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish. . . . And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish." "Surely, in that day, there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at My presence." (Ezek. xxxviii. 19, 20.) These fish, and other living things, all represent the affections and thoughts of men's minds.
JONAH AND THE GREAT FISH.
And the "great fish" which swallowed Jonah, and which is used in the bad sense, represents that great mental fish, which swallows up every man who, like Jonah, flees from the presence of the Lord. That great mental fish is mere outward science, leading to Skepticism, the monster which is the creature of man's natural senses, when he depends upon his own senses, and their superficial intelligence, and rejects the in- ward and spiritual truth, that higher truth, which, rising to a higher standpoint, yields a broader scope of vision, and gives spiritual insight instead of sensuous reasonings. And every such mind must finally learn, like Jonah, that there is no peace nor prosperity for it, until it ceases to resist the Lord, and turns to Him a willing ear, a willing heart, and willing hands.
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell From Scripture Symbolism 1904