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CEDAR >> Rational intelligence which attains to a perception of Innocence

cedar1_500_375 It was the grandest tree known to Solomon; for he “spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall” (1 Kings  4:33). It was both tall and wide-spreading; for Isaiah speaks of “the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up” (Isaiah 2:13); and Ezekiel says, “Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and thickness of shadowing, and of a high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs. The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running about his plants. . . .  Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters. . . . All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations” (Ezekiel 31:3–6).

The cedars now known upon Lebanon do not attain so magnificent proportions as this description would imply; but it is probable that the finest parts of the Lebanon forest are gone, and that the scanty groves now remaining, though giving us the general character of the trees, do not present their finest development. The cedars of the Himalaya, regarded as a variety of the same species, are said to attain a height of two hundred and fifty feet, and a circumference of thirtynine feet. Of the Lebanon cedars, Mr. Grindon writes: “What is wanting in stature is compensated by the girth of the trunk, the noble proportions and the prodigious size and expansion of the principal boughs, which, in fine examples, are themselves equal to the whole of many a forest tree. These huge limbs spread to so great a distance that when a cedar stands isolated upon the sward, a space is overshadowed which in area considerably exceeds the vertical measure.  They strike out, moreover, in distinct horizontal stages, causing the tree to appear stratified.”

This last-mentioned characteristic is strongly marked in the photographs of the cedars, and is mentioned by many observers. Mr. Thompson says: “The branches are thrown out horizontally from the parent trunk. These again part into limbs which preserve the same horizontal direction, and so on down to the minutest twigs, and even the arrangement of the clustered leaves has the same general tendency. Climb into one, and you are delighted with a succession of verdant floors spread around the trunk, and gradually narrowing as you ascend. The beautiful cones seem to stand upon, or rise out of, this green flooring” (The Land and the Book, i. 297). The writer in Baedeker’s Guide-Book compares these successive strata of foliage to “small patches of meadow,” out of which the cones grow.  The leaves of the tree grow in clusters like those of the larch, but grow so thick upon the numerous twigs as to make a solid mat of foliage, casting a dense shadow. Unlike the larch, they are evergreen. Of the resinous quality of the tree, Mr. Thompson says: “The wood, bark, cones, and even leaves of the cedar, are saturated, so to speak, with resin. The heart has the red cedar color, but the exterior is whitish. It is certainly a very durable wood, but is not finegrained nor sufficiently compact to take a high polish; for ordinary architectural purposes, however, it is perhaps the best there is in the country” (p. 297).

The rapidly grown wood of the English specimens is described as worthless for building purposes. But there is much evidence that the wood of the mountains is durable, pleasing in color, and fragrant. Mr. Tristram testifies that “the wood of the mountain-grown cedar of Lebanon is much closer in grain and darker in color than that of trees grown in England” (Natural History of the Bible, 343). A small piece in my possession closely resembles in color, fragrance, and texture the wood of our American Arbor VitŠ (Thuya Occidentalis), the “white cedar” of Maine, which, though not a tough wood, is noted for durability.

In looking for the mental correlative of this noble tree, the point of attention must be the representation of those successive platforms of verdure, mounting higher and higher into the heavens, which are the most striking characteristics of the tree. The spiritual tree also must extend its branches, put forth leaves, and mature its fruit on successively interior planes of the mind. It must be acquainted with both natural and spiritual things, and recognize their distinctness as well as their unity. We need not look farther to recognize the truth of Swedenborg’s explanation: “By Ashur, the cedar in Lebanon, is signified the rational mind, which is formed from natural knowledge on the one part, and from the influx of spiritual truth on the other” (Apocalypse Explained #650). 

The cedar of the mind extends its branches of knowledge widely and compactly over the domain of natural life, and another series of branches, with almost equal comprehensiveness, among the things of spiritual life; it knows the nature of spiritual love, and distinguishes clearly between the affections which are of God, and those which are natural to men; and its top reaches even to that inmost conscious plane of the mind in which the presence of the Lord Himself, with its infinite variety, is the holy and beautiful object of knowledge. In Swedenborg’s journey to the heaven of the Golden Age, the heaven nearest the Lord and most filled with His influence, he came at length to a grove of tall cedars, with some eagles upon their branches; upon seeing which, the angel guide said, “We are now upon the mountain, not far from the top”; “and,” Swedenborg adds, “we went on, and behold, behind the grove was a circular plain, where lambs were pasturing, which were forms representative of the state of innocence and peace of the inhabitants of the mountain” (Conjugial Love #75).  

The cedars reached to that inmost heaven; and they were representatives of the rational intelligence which attains to a perception of its innocent quality. This is not the wisdom of that heaven, which is only exquisite perceptions of the Lord’s love; but it is the wisdom of the next, or the Noahtic heaven, which touches upon it.  “A spiritual rational Church,” Swedenborg says the cedars represent, “such as was the Church among the ancients after the flood” (Apocalypse Explained #1100). “The study of our age,” these ancients told him, “was the study of truths by which we had intelligence; this 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 sensations of our bodies with the perceptions of our minds, and procured for us intelligence” (Conjugial Love #76).  A similar spiritual state is represented by Solomon’s temple, which was lined throughout with cedar of Lebanon. For a house is a natural representative of a state of life; if a dwelling house, it represents a state of living; if a temple, a state of worship. The lining of Solomon’s temple with cedar, therefore, signifies that the state of worship represented by the temple is interiorly a state of spiritual rationality, which discriminates between spiritual and natural, understands the spiritual truth taught by the natural representatives of the Word and of Nature, and loves it for the sake of good spiritual life.

In Ezekiel it is promised by the Lord that such intelligence shall again take root in the earth in a Church which shall interiorly love the Lord and live in charity, and that its branches shall extend through the several planes of the mind, and give homes to all who delight in intelligent spiritual thought. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon a high mountain and eminent: in the mountains of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing: in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell” (Ezekiel 17:22, 23).

The promise has not yet been fulfilled, it is true; but the branch is set, and we wait only for its development. Upon a certain occasion, in the spiritual world, Swedenborg says, “I saw a cedar table, upon which was a book, under a green olive tree, whose trunk was entwined with a vine. I looked, and behold it was a book written by me, called Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, and also Concerning the Divine Providence; and I said [to the good spirits with whom he was talking] that it was fully shown in that book that man is an organ recipient of life, and not life” (Apocalypse Revealed 875). 

The olive tree is the growing perception of the Lord’s love; the vine is the perception of His wisdom of life; both of which are abundant in the heavenly states to which Swedenborg leads us. And, under these, just such angelic philosophy as a living cedar represents is contained in the very book which Swedenborg saw appropriately borne upon the wood of a cedar tree.  The fragrance of the cedar should not be passed without mention, though the general subject of fragrant materials will receive more attention presently. By odors we perceive the interior quality of a substance, whether it be sweet or foul, and recognize its agreement with our life; therefore it is said of sacrifices which had a good representation, that Jehovah smelled a sweet savor from them. The sweet odors of flowers and fruits show the agreement of their life with pleasant life in us, and thus are expressions to us of the sweetness and gladness of their life. The fragrance of the cedar wood, therefore, represents the delightfulness of such knowledge as is signified by the cedar; for there are differences in the delightfulness of knowledge.

The fragrance of wood depends chiefly uponthe essential oil and the resin it contains. Some wood has much of these, and some scarcely any.  There are trees beautiful to the sight, but with watery sap and no fragrance, which evidently represent knowledge which is intellectually beautiful and satisfactory, but which stirs no deep affections. But the trees whose sap is composed of fragrant resins and oils represent knowledge that appeals to the heart rather than to the understanding—knowledge that is good and delightful to the life, as distinguished from that which is true and right. As for the cedar, we shall find woods more remarkable for their sweet oils and resins; yet the tree that adequately represents the delightfulness of spiritual rationality, the spiritual joy of the mind which discerns between spiritual and natural, and perceives intelligently the correspondence between them, certainly cannot be lacking in fragrance.

Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875

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