Among the rocks we find metals; the most noble of them, as gold and silver, especially among crystalline rocks. Metals differ from stone in that they can be bent, beaten out, and molded; they also melt easily, and can be cast into every desired shape. They are opaque, but when pure they reflect light brilliantly, and if polished may be used as mirrors. Of them are made coins, ornaments, plate, and tools of every kind—agricultural, domestic, mechanical, and warlike.As stones are definite and certain truth which cannot readily yield or change, metals are truth as firm and indestructible, but taking definite form from circumstances. For instance, it is a truth, as unchangeable as rock, that fire is hot and burning. That rock naturally gives rise to the truth that if you put any combustible thing into the fire it will be burned; which truth may be molded into various forms, as that you must not bring precious things near the fire, or they will be burned; that the fire must be carefully confined, or it will endanger the house; and these necessary forms of a stern natural law are exactly embodied in fenders and stoves and fire utensils of iron.
But this law is of a comparatively low kind. It is a nobler law that the good of a community, and the real good of individuals, can be obtained only by the yielding of individual selfish preferences. It is a law nobler still, that genuine happiness is found in serving others, never in serving oneself. And it is a more precious law than all these that the Lord expressed in the words, “If a man love Me, he will keep my words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
Laws of life of all these kinds, natural, moral, spiritual, and heavenly, correspond to the metals. They in some degree resemble water, in that their form may be changed to fit the subject treated of. But when they are applied to any given subject, they are inflexible and durable as the stones themselves. The law that you must not put your unprotected hand into the fire, or it will be burned, is just as unchangeable as the crystalline truth that fire is hot and burning; but the substance of the law could be remolded and applied to any other combustible thing, just as well as to your hand.
In molten form the metals, like water, apply themselves to the conditions at hand, saying that under those conditions one may do thus. But as they cool, they harden into fixed usages. The kinds of truth which correspond respectively to the most important metals, and the peculiar characteristics of each, are fully illustrated by Swedenborg’s description of the angels from the ages called golden, silver, copper, and iron; so called because such was the character of their principles of life. In visiting them, he inquired particularly concerning their marriages; and as are the principles of marriage, so are all the principles of life.
An experience among the angels of the earliest people upon our earth—a people whose innocent communion with God is remembered in the traditions of all races:
I looked by turns, on the husband and wife, and observed as it were the unity of their souls in their faces; and I said, “You are one.”
And the man answered, “We are one; her life is in me, and mine in her; we are two bodies, but one soul; the union between us is like that of the . . . heart and the lungs; she is my heart, and I am her lungs; but as by heart we here understand love, and by lungs wisdom, she is the love of my wisdom, and I am the wisdom of her love; wherefore her love from without veils my wisdom, and my wisdom from within is interiorly in her love; hence, as you said, there is an appearance of the unity of our souls in our faces.” . . . After this I looked around, and I saw their tent as overlaid with gold, and I asked, “Whence is this?”
He replied, “It is from a flaming light, which glitters like gold, irradiates and tinges the curGOLD 245 tains of our tent, whilst we are in discourse concerning conjugial love; for the heat from our sun, which in its essence is love, then bares itself, and tinges the light, which in its essence is wisdom, with its own color, which is golden; and this takes place because conjugial love, in its origin, is the sport of wisdom and love, for the man was born to be wisdom, and the woman to be the love of the man’s wisdom; thence are the delights of that sport in conjugial love and from it, between us and our wives. We have here seen clearly for thousands of years, that those delights as to quantity, degree, and virtue, are excellent and eminent according to the worship of the Lord Jehovah with us, from Whom that heavenly union, or that heavenly marriage, which is of love and wisdom flows in.”
As he spoke these words, I saw a great light upon the hill in the midst among the tents, and I asked, “Whence is that light?”
And he said, “It is from the sanctuary of the tent of our worship.”
And I asked whether it was permitted to approach. And he said that it was permitted; and I approached, and saw the tent without and within, altogether according to the description of the tabernacle which was built for the sons; of Israel in the desert, the form whereof was shown to Moses upon Mount Sinai. And I asked, “What is within in that sanctuary, whence there is so great a light?”
And he replied, “It is a tablet with this inscription, The Covenant between Jehovah and the Heavens.” He said no more. (Conjugial Love #75)
“The Covenant between Jehovah and the heavens” is the light of their sanctuary and the light of their lives. Their principle of marriage is that its delights are excellent according as they lay down their own lives and live from the Lord, from whom true marriage comes. A golden principle, truly! Soft from love, and colored with the light of love; pure and bright, and less liable to corruption than principles of any other kind. The streets of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, are such golden ways of useful life from the Lord—ways of which we know little as yet, but which nevertheless are before us, waiting for us to walk in them. “If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” is the golden substance of these heavenly ways.A practical knowledge of the goodness of the Lord in our uses done from Him is golden coin, stamped with the image of our King; and acknowledgments of His goodness and of our love and duty to Him are ornaments of gold, which we delight to use in His honor.
The angels of the Silver Age said of themselves: We were from a people in Asia, and the study of our age was the study of truths, by which we had intelligence; this study was the study of our souls and minds; but the study of our bodily senses was the representations of truths in forms; and a knowledge of correspondences conjoined the sensuals of our bodies with the perceptions of our minds, and gained for us intelligence.
In relation to their marriages, they said:
There is a correspondence between spiritual marriage, which is of truth with good, and natural marriage, which is of a man with one wife; and, as we have studied correspondences, we have seen that the Church, with its truths and goods, can by no means be given but with those who live in love truly conjugial with one wife; for the marriage of good and truth is the Church with man; wherefore all here say, that the husband is truth and his wife is good, and that good cannot love any truth but its own, neither can truth in return love any good but its own; if any other were loved, internal marriage, which makes the 248 PLANTS OF THE BIBLE Church, would perish, and there would be only external marriage, to which idolatry, and not the Church corresponds; therefore marriage with one wife we call sacredness; whereas, if it should take place with more than one among us, we should call it sacrilege. (Conjugial Love #76)
And then they showed various images and devices, representative of spiritual qualities; and there was presented to them a rainbow which by its flowing colors exhibited the interchange of love and wisdom between husband and wife, all of which things they delighted in, and explained most intelligently.
The principles of spiritual life which are learned through the correspondences of the good things in nature, and especially of the functions in the human body, principles which teach in perfection the duties of charity or neighborly love, are represented by silver. Both harder than gold and whiter, it corresponds to the laws of intelligent spiritual life, a life of spiritual uses to the neighbor. Coins of silver and ornaments are the practical knowledge and acknowledgment of the goodness of such principles, which they have who, by living them, make them their own.
The angels from the next age, which was named from copper, related:
We possess, preserved among us, precepts concerning marriages, from the primeval or most ancient people, who were in love truly conjugial. . . while in the world, and are now in a most blessed state in their own heaven, which is in the east. We are their posterity, and they, as fathers, have given us, as their sons, canons of life, among which is this concerning marriages:
“Sons, if you wish to love God and your neighbor, and if you wish to grow wise and be happy to eternity, we counsel you to live married to one wife; if you recede from this precept, every heavenly love will fly from you, and therewith internal wisdom, and you will be exterminated.” This precept of our fathers we have obeyed as sons, and have perceived its truth, which is, that so far as anyone loves his consort alone, he becomes heavenly and internal; and that so far as anyone does not love his consort alone, he becomes natural and external; and this man loves nothing but himself and the images of his own mind, and is 250 PLANTS OF THE BIBLE mad and foolish. From these things it is that we all, in this heaven, live married to one wife. (Conjugial Love #77)
And afterward they exhibited the collections of precepts from the most ancient people, by which they were guided in all their duties. It will be observed that these precepts were given by the people of the Golden Age, among whom they were golden precepts. Received by those who live them not intelligently, or from the perception of love, but obediently, from a desire for the promised reward, they become copper. Much of the light is left out; a keen scent detects in them the odor of selfishness, unperceived by their possessors, who are not in interior perception; and because of the lack of interior humility and purity in which the Lord can dwell immediately, they are sadly liable to corrosion by the allurements of what seems pleasant and good. (See the Note on the Copper and Iron Ages at the end of the volume.)
Again we descend to principles of a still lower kind, and are instructed by those who are in them concerning their marriages:
We do not live with one wife, but some with two and three, and some with more, because variety, obedience, and honor, as of majesty, delight us; and these we have from our wives, if they are many; with one wife there would be no pleasure from variety, but disgust from sameness; nor flattering courteousness from obedience, but disquietude from equality; nor satisfaction from dominion and honor thence, but vexation from disputes concerning superiority. And what is a woman? Is she not born subject to the will of the man? To serve and not to rule? Wherefore here every husband in his own house has, as it were, royal majesty; and because this is of our love, it is also the blessedness of our life.
After some reproofs by Swedenborg for the selfishness of their love:
There appeared through the gate, as it were, lightning; and I asked, “What is this?”
He said, “Such lightning is to us a sign that there will come the Ancient one from the East, who teaches us concerning God, that He is one, alone; Omnipotent, Who is the first and the last; He also admonishes us not to worship idols, but only to look at them as images representative of the virtues proceeding from the one God, which together form His worship. This Ancient one is our angel, whom we revere, and to whom we hearken; he comes to us, and raises us up, when we are falling into obscure worship of God, from fantasy respecting images.” (Conjugial Love #78)
As the knowledge of the Lord’s love became with the men of the Copper Age mere precepts of natural good, so the intelligent love of spiritual truth and of representative forms in the Silver Age becomes with these last mere worship of idols, and obedience to iron laws which forbid evil, and prescribe penalties for disobedience. The kindly softness, the brightness, and the resistance to corruption of the Silver Age are gone. We have left only the truth that is essential to existence, necessarily hard, inflexible, and peremptory, because beyond that is destruction.
Low as it is, compared with silver and gold, it is truth which the Christian world has mixed with the clay of artificial and arbitrary teachings of goodness and truth. But it is again asserting itself, breaking off the weak clay, and laying a foundation, at least genuine and natural, for better principles. It is moral, civil, and natural law, by which the community is protected from injury; it is law that compels everyone to be fair in his dealings, truthful, honest, faithful, and orderly, if from no better motive, from fear of evil consequences to himself. The penal laws of society are applications of such principles. And whenever, from change of circumstances or states, a form of law becomes unsuitable, the principle of the law can be recast in another form.
An important element in the air and the earth is carbonic acid, the carbon of which, separated from the oxygen by plant life, constitutes the main part of the substance of wood, and hence, also, of coal. It is the solid element in starch, sugar, and fat, and furnishes the fat-making and heat-giving food for the body. Carbon is found, also, in the form of plumbago, or black lead, and in that of diamonds. Carbon does not contain heat in itself, and is not in itself a source of heat; but during the process of separating the carbon from the carbonic acid absorbed in the sap of the plant, so that it may be deposited in fruit or grain or woody fiber, a portion of the sun’s heat is absorbed and expended, equal to the heat again evolved by the reuniting of oxygen with the carbon, in combustion either by fire or by the slow processes of animal life or of decay.
No work or effort either of thought or of production is possible but under the stimulus of some affection, and all affection comes eitherdirectly or indirectly from the Lord, Who is the
only Source of affection. And in the same way, no growth or production is possible in plants, but under the stimulus of heat, which comes either directly or indirectly from the sun.
The deposit of carbon is the chief result of this stimulus in plants, and seems to correspond to the experience or the fact of the reception and enjoyment of affection from the Lord during the human processes of thinking and working which correspond to the growth and fruitfulness of plants.
The practical religious life of mankind, in ages when the Lord is known and loved, is composed mostly of such experience; and this is laid up as habits and traditions of trust in God, and belief in life from God, which sustain some degree of spiritual life and activity in times and ages when there is no direct knowledge of God and reception from Him. They are like deposits of wood from the summer to be used in the winter, and deposits of coal in the youthful days of the world, to be drawn upon during the slow process of coming into a rational understanding of the Lord and full relations of manly love to Him.
The religious life of today is sustained by such habits and traditions from the early Christian Church, and from still earlier Churches, though there is almost no sense of spiritual
warmth and enlightenment directly from the Lord; and a truly rational knowledge of the Lord is only in its first beginning. And this is parallel to the dependence of the world upon the deposits of coal from the days of the youth of the world, which now furnishes the working power for their machinery (which is a sort of material rationality), while they are learning to obtain a full supply of energy directly from the sun.
Plumbago, which is a non-combustible mineral deposit of the same material, seems to represent a historical knowledge of natural benefits from the Lord, such as appears in the story of the Jews. It is interesting that it should be combined with clay (which stands for the current knowledge of natural fact) to make lead pencils, for record of current impressions; and also that it is used for the blacking of stoves, and other iron implements used for the control of fire—as if to add to the natural laws by which such control is exercised, a recognition of the source of the activity that is controlled, and of the power that controls it.
The diamond, the hardest and most brilliant of precious stones, stands for the spiritual fact that all love, or life, is from the Lord. No other gem so perfectly reflects the light of the sun; and no other truth so absolutely ascribes all to the Lord, retaining so little to self.
Sulphur occurs as a common mineral in volcanic countries, also in combination with other minerals as sulphides and sulphates everywhere. It is an essential element of albumen, and. of albuminous, or muscle-making articles of food; also of all tissues of the body. Though a mineral, it is extremely combustible, burning with a blue flame which gives little light but great heat. The products of the combustion are sulphurous and sulphuric acids, both intensely corrosive destroyers of plant and animal tissues. All minerals correspond to fact or law; and this apparently mineral substance, yet so combustible and volatile, seems to have its correspondence with what we may be permitted to call the fact of man’s voluntary proprium; that is, the fact that man’s life is his own, and that he himself determines the activities of his life. This seems like a fact, and all the fire of self-love is bound up in it, and burns hotly and angrily when the real truth of the apparent fact is exposed. The real truth is that man has no life of his own, but lives from the Lord, and that the Lord gives to man the consciousness of living of himself, that he may as of himself do the good things which the Lord commands, and enjoy the Lord’s love of doing them. Yet the apparent fact is essential to man’s freedom, and to his existence as man; just as essential as sulphur is to all the tissues of his body. But when the apparent fact is confirmed as the real truth, and man determines not to live as of himself in doing the Lord’s will, but to live absolutely of himself according to what seems good to him, then this apparent fact becomes the basis of the love of self, and all the evil lusts of self-love come forth from it. The effect of thought from self-love in destroying the happiness of others, as described in Heaven and Hell #399, is much like that of the fumes of sulphur in suffocating all living beings and corroding their tissues. They also quickly tarnish and corrode all metals but the noblest. On this account fire and brimstone are used in the Word to typify the heat and lustfulness of the wicked in hell; and “the lusts of evil” is the meaning given by Swedenborg. Yet in its necessary presence in the composition of the body, and its occurrence in the earth in stony form, we see a correspondence with the necessary apparent fact that man lives of himself; from the confirmation of which the lusts of evil spring forth.
A substance very similar to sulphur in some respects is phosphorus. It too is a mineral, but so very inflammable that it never occurs in an uncombined mineral form. It burns with an intense white flame. It is necessary and abundant in animal tissues, especially those of the brain and nerves, and of the bones. Our supply of phosphorus as a mineral is obtained from bones. The similarity of this substance to sulphur, together with its necessary presence in the brain, and the bright light with which it burns, suggests its correspondence with what we may call the fact of the intellectual proprium of man; that is, the apparent truth that we think and reason and discern of ourselves. Perhaps this is not thought of as a fact because it never is called in question. That we think of ourselves is no more questioned, or thought of, than that we are. “I think; therefore I am,” is the basis of modern philosophy.
And yet the truth is that the Lord gives both the faculty and the light by which we think and discern; and the appearance, also, that the faculty is our own, in order that we may as of ourselves think the truth which He loves to think, and which is the guide to all goodness. We cannot think at all without this appearance; it is necessary to any mental activity; yet if we confirm it as the truth, we surrender ourselves to the guidance of every will-o’-the-wisp which our brains may send forth of themselves.
The bones, also, are depositories of phosphorus, because bones are correspondences of the truths formulated and fixed in the memory and the life, which give form and support to all thought and action; and the formulating and fixing of such truths is done as of ourselves, by our own intellectual choice and act.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875