BONES >> External Truths, Natural, Corporeal Truths, as Facts in Fixed Forms

SKTL1 The least living parts of the body are the bones, which are composed largely of earthy material, and seem to have a use like that of the rocks in nature; that is, they serve as a basis and fulcrum for the softer parts, keeping them extended and in their right places, and serving also for protection to the organs that specially need protection. The rocks, and likewise the bones, correspond to the fixed facts upon which all other elements of mental life depend; and, in the Greatest Man, the provinces of the bones are occupied by those who have little other life than that of holding firmly to certain facts of experience which serve for support and protection to those who live more active lives. They serve to preserve the proportions and relations of the parts of the man — not exerting any force themselves except that of stolid resistance when their facts are in question.

“The societies of spirits to which the cartilages and bones correspond are very many; but they are such as have very little spiritual life in them, as there is very little life in the bones relatively to the soft parts which they enclose; as, for example, there is in the skull and the bones of the head compared with either brain and the medulla oblongata, and the sensitive substances there; and also as there is in the vertebrae and ribs in comparison with the heart and lungs; and so on. It was shown how little spiritual life they have who have relation to the bones; other spirits speak by them, and they themselves know little of what they say; but still they speak, having delight in this alone. Into such a state are they reduced who have led an evil life, and still had some remains of good; these remains make that little spiritual life, after the vastations of many ages.... They who come out of vastations, and serve the uses of bones, have not any determinate thought, but general, almost indeterminate; they are like those who are called distraught, as if not in the body; they are slow, heavy, stupid, sluggish about everything. Yet sometimes they are not untranquil, because cares do not penetrate, but are dissipated in their general obscurity.” (AC 5560-5562)

He explains that the lack of spiritual life is lack of spiritual intelligence and charity, not necessarily, lack of natural intelligence. Therefore, in the “Diary,” he says, —

“They correspond to bones, in the other life, who have studied various sciences and have made no use of them, as they who have studied mathematics only to find the rules, and have not regarded any use; or physics and chemistry only for the sake of experiment, and for no other use; also philosophy to find its rules and terms, only for the sake of the terms and for no other use; and likewise other things. They who become bones also, when they reason, hardly discuss anything else than whether it is or is not. Hence it is evident that the greatest part of the learned within the church become bones. They are those who are finally sensual the church also is in this state to-day; hence is its end.” (SE 5141)


The societies of spirits to which the cartilages and bones correspond are very many; but they are such as have little spiritual life in them, just as there is little life in the  bones as compared with the soft parts which they enclose-as for example in the skull and the bones of the head compared with either brain and the medulla oblongata and the sensitive substances there; and also as in the vertebrae and ribs in comparison with the heart and lungs; and so on. [AC5560]

Man's regeneration is described in Ezekiel by the "dry bones" which were clothed with sinews, then with flesh and skin, and at last had spirit breathed into them, whereby they lived again (37:1-14). That regeneration was represented by those things, is evident from what is there said:

These bones are the whole house of Israel (Ezek. 37:11).

A comparison is also there made with graves, for it is written,

That Jehovah would open their graves, and cause the bones to come up out of their graves, and put spirit in them, and bring them together into the land of Israel (Ezek. 37:12-14).

  "The land of Israel" there and elsewhere means the church. Regeneration was here represented by bones and graves, because the unregenerate man is called dead, and the regenerate alive; for in the latter there is spiritual life, but in the former spiritual death. [TCR594]

Inasmuch as "bone of bones and flesh of flesh" signified the Own of the external man in which was the internal, therefore in ancient times all those were called "bone of bones and flesh of flesh" who could be called their own [proprii], and were of one house, or of one family, or in any degree of relationship. Thus Laban said of Jacob,

Surely thou art my bone and my flesh (Gen. 29:14).

And Abimelech said of his mother's brethren, and of the family of the house of his mother's father,

Remember that I am your bone and your flesh (Judges 9:2).

The tribes of Israel also said of themselves to David,

Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh (2 Sam. 5:1). [AC157]

And ye shall make my bones go up from hence. That this signifies that there shall be the representative of a church, but not a church, which must be in the internal also, is evident from the representation of Joseph, as being the internal of the church (see n. 6587); and as by him is represented the internal of the church, by his "bones" is signified that which is most external, or the ultimate of the church, thus the representative thereof. For the representatives that had been in the Ancient Church, and were also instituted with the descendants of Jacob, were the ultimates of the church; but what they signified and represented were the internals of the church. These internals are signified by "flesh in which is spirit," but the ultimates by "bones." Hence it is evident what is the quality of the church when it is only in externals without internals, namely, that it is like the bony structure of a man without flesh. (That with the Israelitish and Jewish people there was no church, but only the representative of a church, see n. 4281, 4288, 4307, 4500, 4680, 4844, 4847, 4903, 6304; and that the representative of a church was not instituted with them until after they had been completely vastated as to the internal; and that otherwise they would have profaned holy things, n. 4289.) [AC6592]

There was a spirit who spoke with me at my left auricle at its hinder part where are its elevator muscles. He told me that he was sent to inform me that he does not reflect at all upon the things which others are speaking, but merely takes them in with his ears. When he was speaking he as it were belched out his words, and also said that this was his manner of speaking. From this it was given to know that there was nothing interior in his speech, thus little of life; and that this was the reason of the belching. It was said that those who attend little to the sense of a thing are those who belong to the cartilaginous and bony part of the external ear. [AC4656]

 In the Word also, man's Own is signified by "bones" and indeed an Own vivified by the Lord, as in Isaiah:

Jehovah shall satisfy thy soul in droughts, and make thy bones alert, and thou shalt be like a watered garden (Isa. 58:11).


Then shall ye see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall sprout as the blade (Isa. 66:14).

In David:

All my bones shall say, Jehovah, who is like unto Thee? (Ps. 35:10).

This is still more evident from Ezekiel, where he speaks of bones receiving flesh, and having spirit put into them:

The hand of Jehovah set me in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones; and He said to me, prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah; thus saith the Lord Jehovih to these bones, Behold, I bring breath [spiritus] into you, and ye shall live, and I will lay sinews upon you, and will make flesh come upon you, and cover you with skin, and I will put breath [spiritus] in you, and ye shall live, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah (Ezek. 37:1, 4-6).

[2] The Own of man, when viewed from heaven, appears like a something that is wholly bony, inanimate, and very ugly, consequently as being in itself dead, but when vivified by the Lord it looks like flesh. For man's Own is a mere dead thing, although to him it appears as something, indeed as everything. Whatever lives in him is from the Lord's life, and if this were withdrawn he would fall down as dead as a stone; for man is only an organ of life, and such as is the organ, such is the life's affection. The Lord alone has what is His Own; by this Own He redeemed man, and by this Own He saves him. The Lord's Own is Life, and from His Own, man's Own, which in itself is dead, is made alive. The Lord's Own is also signified by the Lord's words in Luke:

A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have (Luke 24:39).
It was also meant by not a bone of the paschal lamb being broken (Exod. 12:46).149.

And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. That this signifies conjoined in respect to truths and to goods, is evident from the signification of the words, "thou art my bone and my flesh," as being conjunction. The ancients had this form of speaking concerning those who were of one house, or of one family, or in some relationship-"my bone and my flesh" (see n. 157); and hence by these words is signified conjunction. The reason why it signifies as to truths and as to goods, is that all spiritual conjunction is effected by these, and all natural conjunction has relation to the same. Moreover, by "bone and flesh" is signified what is man's own; by "bone," the own of his understanding, and by "flesh" the own of his will; thus by "bone" is signified what is his own in respect to truth, for this is of the understanding; and by "flesh" is signified what is his own in respect to good, for this is of the will (n. 148, 149).

[2] As regards man's own in general it is of two kinds, one infernal and the other heavenly; that which is infernal is received by man from hell, and that which is heavenly from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord; for all evil, as well as all the derivative falsity, flows in from hell; and all good, and the derivative truth, from the Lord. This is known to men from the doctrine of faith, but scarcely one in ten thousand believes it. For this reason man appropriates to himself or makes his own the evil which flows in from hell, and the good which flows in from the Lord does not affect him, consequently is not imputed to him. The reason why man does not believe that evil flows in from hell, and good from the Lord, is that he is in the love of self, which love carries this with it, insomuch that it is exceedingly indignant when it is said that everything inflows. This therefore is the reason why all that is man's own is nothing but evil (see n. 210, 215, 694, 731, 874-876, 987, 1023, 1044, 1047). But that man believes that evil is from hell and good from the Lord comes from the fact that he is not in the love of self, but in love toward his neighbor and in love to the Lord, for this love is attended with such a belief. Thus it is that man receives from the Lord a heavenly own (concerning which see above n. 155, 164, 731, 1023, 1044, 1937, 1947, 2882, 2883, 2891).

[3] In both senses this own is signified by "bone and flesh;" and consequently by "bones" in the Word is signified truth, and in the opposite sense falsity, and by "flesh" good, and in the opposite sense evil. That this is the signification of "bones," may be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:
Jehovah shall lead thee continually, and shall satisfy thy soul in droughts, and shall make strong thy bones; that thou mayest be like a watered garden (Isa. 58:11);

where "making strong the bones" signifies to make alive the own of the understanding, that is, to enlighten it with intelligence; whence it is said, "that thou mayest be like a watered garden." (That a "garden" signifies intelligence, may be seen above, n. 100, 108, 1588.) Again:

Then ye shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like the grass (Isa. 66:14);

where by "bones flourishing like the grass," the like is signified as above.

[4] In Jeremiah:

Her Nazirites were whiter than snow, they were fairer than milk; their bones were more ruddy than gems, a sapphire was their polishing; their form is darker than blackness, they are not known in the streets; their skin cleaveth to their bone, it is withered, it is become like wood (Lam. 4:7-8);
the "Nazirite" denotes the celestial man (n. 3301); "whiter than snow and fairer than milk" denotes to be in celestial truth; and because this truth is from the love of good, it is said that "their bones were more ruddy than gems." ("Whiteness" and "fairness" are predicated of truth, n. 3301; "ruddiness," of good, n. 3300; "gems," of truths which are from good, n. 114.) By "their skin cleaving to their bone" is described a changed state as to the celestial things of love, namely, that there was no flesh on the bones, that is, no longer any good; for then all truth becomes like skin which cleaves to the bone; it is "withered and become like wood."

[5] In Ezekiel:

Utter a parable against the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovih, Set on the caldron, set it on, and also pour waters into it; gathering the pieces thereof into it, every good piece, the thigh and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones; taking the choice of the flock; and let there be also a hearth of bones under it; let the bones also be boiled in the midst of it (Ezek. 24:3-5, 10);

where a "caldron" signifies violence offered to good and truth, wherefore it is called a "city of bloods" (verse 6); the "pieces, the good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder gathered into it" are flesh, by which are meant goods; the "choice bones" with which the caldron was filled denote truths a "hearth of bones," the affection of truth; the "bones being boiled in the midst of it," violence offered to truths. Everyone can see that Divine arcana are stored within this parable; and also that these arcana can in no wise be known unless it is known what is signified in the internal sense by a "caldron" or "pot," by "pieces," by "thigh and shoulder," by "choice bones," by a "hearth of bones," and by "boiling." In Micah:

Is it for you to know judgment, who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; who have eaten the flesh of My people, and have flayed their skin from off them; and have broken their bones, and have divided them as into the pot, and as flesh in the midst of the caldron? (Micah 3:1-3);

where the signification is the same.

[6] In Ezekiel:

He brought me out in the spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley, which was full of bones. And He said unto me, Shall these bones live? He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones hear the word of Jehovah; thus saith the Lord Jehovih unto these bones, Behold I will cause breath to enter into you that ye may live; I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come up upon you, and will cover you with skin, and put breath in you that ye may live. I prophesied, and the bones came together, bone to its bone; and I held and lo there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; and there was no breath in them and breath came into them, and they revived, and stood upon their feet (Ezek. 37:1, 3-8, 10).

The subject here treated of in general is the setting up again of the church among the Gentiles; and in particular, the regeneration of man: "dry bones" denote the own of the understanding, which is inanimate before it receives the life of good from the lord, but is thereby animated or made alive; the "flesh which the Lord causes to come up upon the bones" is the own of the will, which is called the heavenly or celestial own, and thus signifies good; "breath" is the Lord's life, and when this inflows into that good of the man which he seems to himself to will and do from his own, the good is then vivified, and from the good the truth, and out of the dry bones there is made a man.

[7] In David:

All My bones are unloosed, My heart is become like wax, I can number all My bones. They have parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture have they cast a lot (Ps. 22:14, 17-18);

where the subject is the Lord's temptations as to Divine truths, which were the Lord's own, and hence are called "My bones;" and as to Divine good, which was the Lord's own, and hence is called "My heart." (That the "heart" signifies good, may be seen above, n. 3313, 3635.) And because "bones" signify these truths, the numbering of which denotes to desire to dissipate them through reasonings and falsities, therefore there immediately follow the words, "they parted My garments, and cast a lot upon My vesture;" for "garments" also signify truths, but exterior ones (n. 297, 1073, 2576); "dividing them and casting a lot upon the vesture," involves the like-as also in Matthew

:35. Again:

My soul exulteth in Jehovah; it shall be glad in His salvation. All my bones shall say, Who is like unto Thee? (Ps. 35:9-10);

where it is evident that in the spiritual sense "bones" denote the own of the understanding. Again:

Thou shalt cause me to hear joy and gladness; the bones which Thou hast bruised shall exult (Ps. 51:8);

where the "exulting of the bones which were bruised" signifies re-creation through truths after temptations.

[8] As "bone" signified the own of the understanding, that is, the own as to truth, and in the supreme sense the Divine truth which was the Lord's own, it was for this reason ordained as a statute of the passover that they should not break a bone of the paschal lamb; concerning which we read in Moses:
In one house shall it be eaten; thou shall not carry forth of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof (Exod. 12:46).
And in another place:

They shall not leave of it until the morning, nor break a bone thereof (Num. 9:12);

"not to break a bone," in the supreme sense signifies not to do violence to truth Divine; and in the representative sense, not to do violence to the truth of any good whatever; for the quality of good and the form of good are from truths, and truth is the support of good, as bones are of flesh.

[9] That the Word, which is Divine truth itself, vivifies the dead, was represented by the man reviving and standing upon his feet who, when cast into the sepulcher of Elisha, touched his bones (2 Kings 13:21). (That Elisha represented the Lord as to truth Divine, or the Word, may be seen above, n. 2762.) That in the opposite sense "bones" signify the falsity which is from man's own, is manifest from the following passages. In Jeremiah:

In that time they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their sepulchers; and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the army of the heavens, which they had loved, and which they had served (Jer. 8:1-2).

In Ezekiel:

I will lay the carcasses of the sons of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones round about your altars (Ezek. 6:5).

In Moses:

God who brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of a unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and shall destroy their arrows (Num. 24:8).

In the second book of Kings:

Josiah the king brake in pieces the pillars, and cut down the groves, and filled their place with the bones of man; he took the bones out of the sepulchers, and burned them upon the altar that he might defile it; he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them (2 Kings 23:14, 16, 20).

In Moses:

The soul that hath touched upon the surface of the field one that is slain with the sword, or one dead, or the bone of a man, or a sepulcher, shall be unclean seven days (Num. 19:16, 18).

[10] As "bones" signify falsities, and "sepulchers" the evils in which they are, and as hypocrisy is evil appearing outwardly as good, but is inwardly defiled with things false and profane, therefore the Lord says in Matthew:

Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye make yourselves like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness; even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matt. 23:27-28).

From these passages it is now evident that by "bones" is signified the own of the understanding, both as to truth and as to falsity. [AC3812]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG  (1688-1772)

site search by freefind advanced


Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.