CLOUDS >> Obscurity of Truth >> Literal Sense of the Word
WHITE CLOUDS >> Thoughts from Truths
BLACK CLOUDS >> Thoughts from Falsities
The same water which makes the streams and seas, also forms the clouds of the sky. Sometimes the clouds are dark, shutting out the sunshine; at other times they are piles of snowy whiteness, multiplying the light; and again they reflect the morning and evening sunbeams, and glow with tints of red and gold. Clouds are the source of rain, and they also temper for us the sun"s heat and light.
We have already read: " My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." (Deut. xxxii. 2) "As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, . . . so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth." (Isa.lv. 10, 11) Water on the earth is like truth about life in the world; water in the sky is like truth about the Lord and heaven, and about our own thoughts and feelings which form the heaven of our little world. The truths about the Lord and heaven, and the universal principles of life as they come to us in the letter of the Word, are like clouds; and these clouds descend as rain when we receive the truths and apply them to our life in the world. "Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving: . . . who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains." (Ps. cxlvii. 7, 8) It is an expression of gratitude to the Lord for His mercy in revealing Divine and heavenly truths in the letter of His Word, in such simple forms that we can receive them and apply them to our life in the world. The grass which grows upon the mountains, means the intelligence of a humble kind which is given us as we rise to a pure and noble life. (AE 405, 594, 507, 650)
Does the letter of the Word serve another use, corresponding to the use of clouds in shielding us from the heat and brightness of the sun' Plainly the simple truths of the Word in regard to heaven and the Lord are such a protection from the heat of evil passions; and this is evidently meant in the prophet where we read: "Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat. . . . Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud." (Isa. xxv. 4, 5; AE 481; AR 382)
But in another way the simple truths of the Word in regard to heaven and the Lord are like sheltering clouds which transmit the heat and light of the sun to us, but accommodated to our feeble eyes. The simple truths reveal the glory of the Lord, not in its infinite brightness, but as we are able to receive it; and sometimes they are so dark as wholly to conceal the Lord and heaven which are within them. The Lord spake the word unto the disciples as they were able to receive it, and His parables and simple precepts are a cloud revealing and yet concealing His Divine love and wisdom. (AC 10431; AR 24, 642; AE 594)
When the commandments were given to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai, we read: "It came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled." (Exod. xix. 16) What does the thick cloud show in regard to the openness of the people to the Lord, and their ability to receive His truth' It shows that their knowledge of Him was very obscure, and that His truth could be received only as stern, literal commandments which inspired fear and wholly concealed from them the Lord's tender love. (AC8814; AE 594) Remember also that as the people journeyed "the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light; to go by day and by night." (Exod. xiii. 21) The cloud and fire represented the presence of the Lord with His wisdom and His love, but only obscurely perceived. So the truth that we receive from the letter of the Word is as a cloud, which, though it is obscure, still enlightens our dark states and leads us in the way to heaven. (AC 8106; AE 594)
We read in the Gospel that the apostles were "sore afraid " on account of the glory of the Lord on the mountain of transfiguration. "And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son hear him. And suddenly when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves." (Mark ix. 7, 8) The Lord's face shining as the sun, and His raiment white as the light, revealed something of the glory of His Divine love and wisdom, more than the disciples were able to bear. The cloud - a bright cloud, it is called in Matthew - represented the simple forms of truth in which the Lord accommodated His love and wisdom to their feeble comprehension. (AC 8106; AE 64, 594; SS 48) In the Revelation we read: "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: . . . and his face was as it were the sun." (Rev. x. 1) It was the Lord who so appeared in angel form, and the cloud represents the means by which He accommodates His Divine presence to men, especially the letter of His Word. (AR 466; AE 594)
"Bless the LORD . . . who maketh the clouds his chariot." (Ps. civ. 1, 3) The Lord uses such simple truths about Himself and heaven as we are able to receive, as means of coming with His blessing into our hearts and lives. "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man." (Rev. xiv. 14) And again: "Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud." (Isa. xix. 1) Such verses tell us that the Lord Himself comes to us in the simple, literal truths of His Word. (AE 36, 594; AR 24)
And now you do not need to be told the meaning of the Lord's prediction, "They shall see the Son of man corning in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. xxiv. 30; xxvi. 64) ; nor of these words in the Revelation: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him." (Rev. i. 7) The clouds are those of the letter of the Word which have brought the Lord to men, but very obscurely. These clouds are opened as the spiritual sense of the Word is revealed, everywhere teaching us truly and plainly of the Lord. (AC 4060, 10574; SS 112; TCR 271; EU 171)
In a glorious chapter predicting the Lord's coming we read: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come. . . . And Gentiles shall come to thy light. . . . Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows' Surely the isles shall wait for thee, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far." (Isa. lx. 1-9) The natural picture is of the fleets of white sails bringing people from distant lands to serve the Lord. Spiritually the distant peoples are those in ignorant and Gentile states, among whom there were many at the Lord's first coming, and there are many today, who hear Him gladly. These are compared to doves and to a cloud; what is the meaning' They are as doves flying to their windows because of their gentle innocence of heart which turns to the Lord as to its home. They are as a cloud because they accept His truth about heavenly life, but only in obscure and simple forms adapted to their natural state. (PP; AE 406, 282)
"And God said, I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh." (Gen. ix. 14, 15) The rainbow with its lovely colors is made by the shining of the sunlight through falling rain, seen usually against dark clouds. The clouds of our mental sky are the obscure truths we hold in regard to the Lord and heaven; sometimes only appearances of truth, and sometimes falsities. There are many such clouds in all our minds. Yet if we are trying to do right, our obscure and imperfect thoughts are made by the Lord a means of bringing to us a sense of His presence; of revealing to us His love and wisdom, not in their fullness and perfection, but in such modified and partial ways as we are able to enjoy. This is the rainbow in the cloud. If our knowledge of heavenly things serves thus to unite us with the Lord, its obscurity and its errors will not endanger our spiritual life. (AC 1042-1051; AR 466; AE 595, 269) This gives us another beautiful thought in connection with those appearances of the Lord with clouds, where it is added that a rainbow was about His head or about His throne. The cloud represents the natural truth in which the Lord is accommodated to men; the rainbow is the token that through this simple truth His love and wisdom reach to men and unite them with Him. (Rev. iv. 3, x. 1; Ezek. i. 28)
Author: WILLIAM WORCESTER 1897
It has been shown above that God is not in space, and that He is thereby omnipresent; also that the Divine is the same everywhere, but that there is an apparent variety of it in angels and men from variety of reception. Now since the proceeding Divine from the Lord as a sun is in light and heat, and light and heat flow first into universal recipients, which in the world are called atmospheres, and these are the recipients of clouds, it can be seen that according as the interiors pertaining to the understanding of man or angel are veiled by such clouds, is he a receptacle of the proceeding Divine. By clouds are meant spiritual clouds, which are thoughts. These, if from truths, are in accordance, but if from falsities, are at variance with Divine Wisdom; consequently, in the spiritual world thoughts from truths, when presented to the sight, appear as shining white clouds, but thoughts from falsities as black clouds. From all this it can be seen that the proceeding Divine is indeed in every man, but is variously veiled by each. [DLW147]
By day in a pillar of cloud. That this signifies that when there was a state of enlightenment it was tempered by obscurity of truth, is evident from the signification of "by day," or "in the day," as being in a state of enlightenment; for the times of day, as morning, noon, evening, and night, correspond to the various degrees of enlightenment which belong to intelligence and wisdom in the other life (n. 5672, 5962, 6110); whence "day" denotes a state of enlightenment or clear perception, and "night" a state of no enlightenment, or of obscure perception (n. 7680); and from the signification of "cloud," as being obscurity of truth, because a cloud takes away the brightness of light from the sun, and also tempers it.
 In the Word throughout it is said that Jehovah appeared "in a cloud," and that He was "girded with a cloud," also that "beneath His feet was a cloud;" in which passages by "cloud" is meant obscurity of truth, specifically, the literal sense of the Word, for relatively to the internal sense this sense is obscurity of truth (n. 2135a, 4391, 5922, 6343, 6752). This was signified by the "cloud" when the Lord was seen by Peter, James, and John in glory (Luke 9:34); when from Mount Sinai by the people; and when by Moses upon his entering to Him there (Exod. 19:9; 20:18; 24:15-18; 34:5); and also by the circumstance that the Lord so often said that He "would come in the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 24:30; 26:63, 64; Mark 13:26;14:61, 62; Luke 21:27).
 The literal sense of the Word is called a "cloud," because the internal sense, which is called "glory," cannot be comprehended by man, except one who is regenerated, and is also enlightened. If the internal sense of the Word, or truth Divine in its glory, were to appear before a man who is not regenerated, it would be like thick darkness, in which he would see nothing at all, and by which he would also be blinded, that is, would believe nothing. From all this it can be seen what is signified by a "cloud by day," namely, obscurity of truth; and when the Word is treated of, the literal sense.
 It is said "in a pillar of cloud and of fire," because by "a pillar" is signified a prop which supports (Jer. 1:18; Ps. 75:3; Rev. 3:12; Job 9:6); and it is predicated of the natural, because the natural is like a prop or base to the spiritual; for the spiritual closes in the natural, and there rests. Hence it is that the feet of the angel descending from heaven appeared "as pillars of fire" (Rev. 10, 1); for by "feet" is signified the natural (n. 2162, 3147, 3761, 3986, 4280, 4938-4952, 5327, 5328). [AC 8106]
I have set My bow in the cloud. This signifies the state of the regenerated spiritual man, which is like a rainbow. Any one may wonder that the "bow in the cloud," or the rainbow, is taken in the Word for a token of the covenant, seeing that the rainbow is nothing but an appearance arising from the modification of the rays of sunlight in raindrops, and thus only something natural, unlike other signs of the covenant in the church, mentioned just above. And that the "bow in the cloud" represents regeneration, and signifies the state of the regenerated spiritual man, cannot be known to any one unless it be given him to see and hence to know how the case is. Spiritual angels, who have all been regenerated men of the spiritual church, when presented to sight as such in the other life, appear with as it were a rainbow about the head. But the rainbows seen are in accordance with their state, and thus from them their quality is known in heaven and in the world of spirits. The reason that the appearance of a rainbow is seen is that their natural things corresponding to their spiritual present such an appearance. It is a modification of spiritual light from the Lord in their natural things. These angels are those who are said to be regenerated "of water and the spirit," but the celestial angels are said to be regenerated "with fire."
 As regards natural colors, the existence of color requires something both dark and light, or black and white. When rays of sunlight fall on this, according to the varied tempering of the dark and the light, or of the black and the white, from the modification of the inflowing rays of light colors are produced, some of which partake more and some less of the dark and black, and some more and some less of the light and white; and hence is their diversity. To speak comparatively, it is the same in spiritual things. The darkness in this case is the Own of man‘s intellectual part, or falsity; and the blackness is the Own of his will part, or evil; which absorb and extinguish the rays of light. But the lightness and whiteness is the truth and good that the man supposes he does of himself, which reflects and throws back from itself the rays of light. The rays of light that fall upon these, and as it were modify them, are from the Lord, as from the Sun of wisdom and intelligence; for rays of spiritual light are no other and from no other source. It is because natural things correspond to spiritual that when what is about a regenerate spiritual man is presented to view in the other life, it appears like the bow in the cloud, this bow being the representation of his spiritual things in his natural things There is in the regenerate spiritual man an Own of the understanding into which the Lord insinuates innocence, charity and mercy. According to the reception of these gifts by the man is the appearance of his rainbow when presented to view-beautiful in proportion to the degree in which the Own of his will is removed, subdued, and reduced to obedience.
 By the prophets also, when they were in the vision of God, there was seen a bow as in a cloud. As by Ezekiel:--
Above the expanse that was over the head of the cherubs was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone and upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a Man upon it above and I saw as the appearance of burning coal, as the appearance of fire within it round about, from the appearance of His loins and upward and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness round about Him as the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about this was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah (Ezekiel 1:26-28).
It must be evident to every one that it is the Lord who was thus seen, and also that by Him was represented heaven, for He is heaven, that is, He is the all in all things of heaven. He is the "Man" here spoken of; the "throne" is heaven; the "burning coal as the appearance of fire from the loins and upward" is the celestial of live; the "brightness as of fire round about from the loins downward, as the bow in the cloud," is the celestial spiritual. Thus the celestial heaven, or the heaven of the celestial angels, is represented from the loins upward, and the spiritual heaven, or the heaven of the spiritual angels, is represented from the loins downward. For in the Grand Man what is below, from the loins down through the feet to the soles, signifies what is natural. Hence also it is evident that the natural things of man thus illuminated by spiritual light from the Lord, appear as the bow in the cloud. The like was seen also by John (Rev. 4:2, 3; 10:1).[AC 1042]
That the "cloud" signifies the obscure light in which is the spiritual man as compared with the celestial man, is evident from what has just been said about the "bow;" for the bow, or the color of the bow, has no existence except in the cloud. As before said, it is the darkness of the cloud, through which the sun’s rays shine, that is turned into colors; and thus the color is such as is the darkness which is touched by the brightness of the rays. The case is the same with the spiritual man. With him, the darkness which is here called a "cloud," is falsity, which is the same as the Own of his understanding. When innocence, charity, and mercy are insinuated into this Own by the Lord, then this cloud appears no longer as falsity, but as an appearance of truth, together with truth from the Lord. Hence there is the likeness of a colored bow. There is a certain spiritual modification which can by no means be described, and unless it be perceived by man by means of colors and their origin, I do not know how it can be set forth to his apprehension.
 The nature of this " cloud" with the regenerate man may be seen from his state before regeneration. Man is regenerated through what he supposes to be truths of faith. Every one supposes his own dogma to be true, and from this he acquires a conscience, for which reason after he has acquired a conscience, to act contrary to what has been impressed upon him as truths of faith, is to him contrary to conscience. Such is every regenerated man. For many are regenerated by the Lord in every dogma, and when they have been regenerated they do not receive any immediate revelation, but only what is insinuated into them through the Word and the preaching of the Word. But because they receive charity, the Lord works through charity upon their cloud, from which there springs light, as when the sun strikes a cloud, which then becomes more luminous and is variegated with colors. Thus also there arises in the cloud the likeness of a bow. The thinner the cloud, that is, the more numerous are the intermingled truths of faith of which it consists, the more beautiful is the bow. But the denser the cloud, that is, the fewer the truths of faith of which it consists, the less beautiful is the bow. Innocence adds much to its beauty, giving as it were a living brightness to the colors.
 All appearances of truth are clouds in which man is when he is in the sense of the letter of the Word, for the language of the Word is according to appearances. But when he believes the Word with simplicity, and has charity, even though he remains in appearances, this cloud is comparatively thin. It is in this cloud that conscience is formed by the Lord with a man who is within the church. All ignorances of truth are also clouds, in which man is when he does not know what the truth of faith is; in general, when he does not know what the Word is, and still more when he has not heard about the Lord. In this cloud conscience is formed by the Lord with a man who is outside the church; for in his very ignorance there may be innocence, and thus charity. All falsities also are clouds; but these clouds are darkness, and are either with those who have a false conscience described elsewhere-or with those who have none. These are, in general, the qualities of clouds. As regards their mass, there are with man clouds so great and so dense that if he knew of them, he would wonder that rays of light could ever shine through from the Lord, and that man could be regenerated. He who supposes himself to have the least cloud, has sometimes a very great one; and he who believes that he has very much cloud, has less.
 There are such clouds with the spiritual man, but not so great with the celestial, because he has love to the Lord implanted in his will part, and therefore receives from the Lord, not conscience, as does the spiritual man, but perception of good and thence of truth. When man‘s will part is such that it can receive the rays of celestial Same, then his intellectual part is enlightened thereby, and from love he knows and perceives all things that are truths of faith. His will part is then like a little sun, from which rays shine into his intellectual part. Such was the man of the Most Ancient Church. But when man’s will part is wholly corrupt and infernal, and therefore a new will, which is conscience, is formed in his intellectual part (as was the case with the man of the Ancient Church, and is so with every regenerated man of the spiritual church), then his cloud is dense, for he needs to learn what is good and true, and has no perception whether it is so. Then also falsity continually flows in (which is the darkness of cloud) from his black will part, that is, through it from hell. This is the reason why the intellectual part can never be enlightened in the spiritual man as it is in the celestial. Hence it is that the "cloud" here signifies the obscure light in which the spiritual man is in comparison with the celestial. [AC 1043]
Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)
What one loves supremely, or worships as the highest good, is to him his god. Under its influence he forms his ideas of the spiritual nature of man, and of the eternal state of the spirit, selecting for that purpose from his general knowledge of human life, as the sun raises water from the seas and the earth into the air. It is written in Genesis that God made an “expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse, and it was so. And God called the expanse heaven.”
The waters under the expanse are the knowledge of life in this world; the waters above the expanse are the knowledge of the life of the spirit and of eternity. The truth of life in the Scriptures, regarded as relating to actions in this world, is water under the expanse; but, looked upon as a revelation from God concerning the life of the spirit here and hereafter, it rests above the firmament towards the heaven of our mind, like clouds in the sky. To the Scriptures, thus regarded, we go for the things which belong to heaven, and which help us into a heavenly state. We find there the light in which the God of heaven sees, and by which He enlightens the minds of men; and thence also we obtain positive ideas of a future life and of the utterly different states of the good and the evil in it. But the Scriptures, regarded spiritually, are not merely a revelation of another world; they relate also to the state of the spirit in this world. The truth of right and useful life is as applicable to the mind as to the body; for what it is wrong to do, it is wrong to think of doing, or to desire to do. The same truth cleanses both works and thoughts. To love it, think it, and apply it to the thoughts makes our spiritual atmosphere cleaner and brighter, and removes from it the obscurities between us and the Lord. When we read the Scriptures for the sake of learning to live better, and to be better throughout, the truth which shows us what it is right to do and think falls gently into the mind, cleansing its thought and encouraging every principle of life, like fertilizing showers upon the earth. And when our desire is satisfied, as the rain ceases, and we go on thinking the truth, the cloud dissolves, and becomes a part of the air we breathe, and through the pure, blue heaven comes the glad sunshine of the Lord’s immediate presence.
It is in this way that our Lord is coming in the clouds of heaven; for all the precepts and instructions in the Word, when opened interiorly by means of correspondences, are pure, spiritual truth concerning good life in relation to the Lord, and to the spiritual states of men; we have only to love it for the sake of thoroughly good life, and the letter disappears, while the spirit is to us as the breath of heaven.
At the time of His first coming, the disciples were not able to think spiritually; they were simple, natural men, who could receive instruction in regard to their natural duties, but must have their spiritual truth clothed in parables and proverbs, or they could not receive it. The Lord showed Himself to three of the disciples in the mount, His face shining as the sun, and His raiment white as the light; but they could not spiritually awake to see Him; they were heavy with sleep; nor did they recover their powers of thought until after a cloud overshadowed them. Centuries before, when the previous revelation of the Lord was made to their ancestors, so gross and material were their ideas of Him and His kingdom that the mountain between Him and them smoked like a furnace, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
And to go back one step more, to the days when the men of the earliest Church turned wholly away from the Lord, and believed themselves to be gods, the dire falseness of their ideas of their spiritual nature and future life, from which came the most abominable works and principles, was represented by the heavens from whose windows come the waters of the flood which swept them all away.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875