OWL >> Gross and Dense Falsities
>> a Mind quick and keen in its powers of Thinking,
yet hating the Light of Truth, and active only in False and delusive Light

owl-jw There are few groups of birds which are so decidedly marked as the owls, and so easy of recognition.  The round, puffy head, the little hooked beak just appearing from the  downy plumage with which it is surrounded, the large, soft, blinking eyes, and the curious disk of feathers which radiate from the eye and form a funnel-shaped depression, are such characteristic distinctions, that an owl, even of the least owl-like aspect, can at once be detected and referred to its proper place in the animal kingdom. There is a singular resemblance between the face of an owl and that of a cat, which is the more notable as both these creatures have much the same kind of habits, live on the same prey, and are evidently representatives of the same idea in their different classes.

The owl, in fact, is a winged cat, just as the cat is a furred owl. These birds are, almost without an exception, nocturnal in their habits, and are fitted for their peculiar life by a most wonderfully adapted form and structure. The eyes are made so as to take in every ray of light, and are so sensitive to its influence that they are unable to endure the glare of daylight, being formed expressly for the dim light of evening or earliest dawn. An ordinary owl of almost any species, when brought into the full light of day, becomes quite bewildered with the unwonted glare, and sits blinking uncomfortably, in a pitiable manner, seemingly as distressed as a human being on whose undefended eyes the meridian sun is shining.  (Wood’s Natural History)

The common food of owls consists of mice, bats, other small animals, and insects. There are many species of owls, some not larger than jays, and others appearing in full plumage as large as eagles.

Mr. Wilson states that the great owls not infrequently engage in combat with the eagle himself, and that they often come off victorious. These powerful and voracious birds . . . occasionally kill the fawns of the stag, roebuck, and reindeer.  (Quoted in Natural History)

Mr. Wood quotes from “a correspondent” the following account of a horned owlet:
The horned owlet has a peculiarly catlike expression of face; and this, I think, was the chief attraction possessed by a downy, grayish white ball, that was thrust into my lap by one of my boy friends, who at the same time announced its name and nature.

With great delight I proceeded to introduce him to my other bird pets, but the intense excitement caused by his presence compelled me to remove him with all speed. The small birds were all afraid of him; but the jackdaw and magpie both charged poor “Blinker” at once. It then struck me that the catlike face and nocturnal mousing habits of the creature indicated the deep secret of its nature, and, if so, that it would have more sympathy with the feline establishment than with that of the birds. Acting upon this impression, I at once conveyed him to pussy’s closet, and introduced him to its occupants; namely, Mrs. Fanny and her blind kitten. Pussy regarded him at first with very suspicious looks; but the poor bird, feeling pleased with the dim light and pussy’s soft, warm coat, soon nestled up to her. This act of confidence on Blinker’s part appeared to affect Fanny favorably, and she at once purred him a welcome. From this time they were fast friends, and many mice did she good-naturedly provide for Blinker in common with her own kitten.

The barn owl, he writes:

. . . is a terrible foe to mice, especially to the common field mouse, great numbers of which are killed daily by a single pair of owls when they are bringing up their young family. . . . One of these owls, belonging to a friend, . . . was a confirmed murderer of bats and small birds, as well as mice. . . . Six to eight small birds were often counted when its hole was explored in the early morning, and once the owl had poked fourteen bats into it. . . . So fiercely does this bird strike, that I knew an instance where a dog was blinded by the stroke of a barn owl’s claws. The owl was a tame one, and the dog—a stranger—went up to inspect the bird. As the dog approached the owl, the bird rolled quietly over on its back, and when the dog put his head to the prostrate bird, it struck so sharply with its claws that it destroyed both the eyes of the poor animal, which had to be killed on account of the injury.

Of the great owl, Mr. Tristram writes:

It is a large and noble looking bird, nearly two feet long. . . . It inhabits ruins and caves all over the Holy Land. We found it in tombs in Carmel, in the robbers’ caves near Gennesaret, in the hermit caves above Jericho, among the ruined cities of southern Judah, and in the desert wadys near Beersheba, among the temples of Rabbath-Ammon; in fact, everywhere where man has been and is not. (Natural History of the Bible)

This fierce, darkness-loving bird represents a mind quick and keen in its powers of thinking, yet hating the light of truth, and active only in false and delusive light. Swedenborg says:

They who have confirmed themselves in faith separated from charity . . . are not in possession of any truths, but merely of falsities. But the falsities of their faith do not indeed appear before them as darkness, that is, as falsities, but they appear to them as if they were lucid, that is, as if they were truths, after they have confirmed themselves in them; but nevertheless, while they are viewed from the light of heaven, which discovers all things, they appear dark; for which reason, when the light of heaven flows into their dens in hell, the darkness is such that they cannot see one another; on which account every hell is closed so as not to leave a crevice open, and then they are in their own light; the reason that they do not appear to themselves to be in darkness, but in the light, although they are in falsities, is because their falsities after confirmation appear to them as truths; hence comes their light, but it is the light of infatuation, such as is the light of the confirmation of what is false. This light corresponds to that to which owls and bats owe their sight, to whom darkness is light, and light darkness; yea, to whom the sun itself is thick darkness; eyes like these have they after death, who, during their abode in the world, confirmed themselves in falsities to such a degree as to see falsity as truth and truth as falsity. (Apocalypse Revealed #695; see also Apocalypse Revealed #566, Arcana Coelestia #4967, 866)

The desolate places and ruins which owls love to inhabit represent states from which the life of charity has disappeared. The Christian Church, at its end, was a ruined city, deserted by every good spiritual affection. The light of truth also was gone from it; for in both the Catholic and the Protestant Churches the Lord was denied.  Catholic leaders taught that He had given all power to Peter, and through him to the popes, reserving none to Himself; and Protestants that He was one of three Gods; that the Father alone was to be worshipped; and that salvation was given to all who believed in the sacrifice of the Son as atonement for their sins. When men who have confirmed such doctrines are told that the Lord is the only God; that He removes the desire for evil from those who repent and do His commandments, and then gives them His own love for good; when they are thus led into clear heavenly sunlight, they can only blink, and hurry as fast as possible into the dark, talking about the penalty of the violation of law, the Lord as bearing the penalty for us all, and making it possible for a just God to forgive all who believe in that vicarious atonement. In this dark light they are sharp, quick, and eager for prey, and some are really powerful. The mice which they especially hunt for and easily capture are the loves for sly, selfish indulgence, which are afraid to show themselves openly, but are readily caught by the idea that the quality of the life makes no difference—faith alone, or the Pope alone, being necessary to salvation.

The bats, which seem to be equally desired for prey, are similar to mice, except that they are winged. They correspond to loves for thinking similar false principles, with delight in the evil pleasures to which they lead. Having wings and powers of flight, they are somewhat like birds, and represent quick thought and confirmations of falsity; but their real heart is love for the evil pleasures taught or excused by the falsity.  Since the representation of owls is as has been described, when the psalmist says, “I am like an owl of the desert” (Psalm 102:6), he describes a state of inability to see the truth, or in which falsity appears as truth. The prophet Isaiah says of a church from which truth and charity have departed, “The owl also and the raven shall dwell in it. . . . There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow” (Isaiah 34:11, 15).

The same prophet, speaking of the coming of the Lord, says, “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats” (Isaiah 2:20); because the idols of silver and gold represent the fictitious good, or the pleasant evil of false principles, in which spiritual moles and bats delight.


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