FRUITS >> Good Works

fruit1_500_334 In regard to the correspondence of other fruits than those which have been mentioned, we have very little instruction from Swedenborg. The following sketches claim no  authority but that of reasonableness, so far as they are reasonable.  Oranges are more entirely composed of juice than any of the other fruits except grapes. They are a coarser fruit than grapes, less digestible, more perishable. They yield no spirited wine; but contain some of the same acid as apples (Lindley). They are produced in tropical countries; but are used all over the civilized world. Lindley says:    

The productiveness of the common orange is enormous. A single tree at St. Michael’s has been known to produce twenty thousand oranges fit for packing, exclusive of the damaged fruit and the waste, which may be calculated at one third more. (Vegetable Kingdom, p. 458)    

It is also to be noticed that it is evergreen, and is bearing fruit the whole year round, new blossoms appearing as the former fruit matures. Evidently oranges are representatives of wisdom of a widely useful and perennially interesting kind. A clue to their exact meaning we find incidentally in Swedenborg. He relates that two angels from the third heaven were sent down to him to show him the form of conjugial love.  After some discourse upon the subject, they were recalled, and “were carried along a paved way, through fields of flowers, from which sprung up olives, and trees laden with oranges” (Conjugial Love #42). By the olives is meant mutual love received from the Lord; here the inmost mutual love, which is marriage love; and by the trees laden with oranges must be meant wisdom concerning marriage; for this only would be appropriate to the occasion. Orange blossoms, likewise, are everywhere regarded as the appropriate ornaments of weddings. There is a marriage of red and white in the color of the orange. Its immense and perennial fruitfulness represents very fairly the interest with which wisdom on this subject is acquired and imparted.  The leaves of the tree are jointed, like the leaves of the rosebush and many other plants, seeming thereby to represent perceptions of complex relations. But the orange develops only one leaflet; perhaps because the friendship to which it relates is limited to one. 

The cultivation of oranges seems to have been introduced into Europe since the Christian Era began; and it is at least a coincidence that the idea of the union of minds in marriage is one of the later growths of Christianity. When the Lord explained to the disciples the wrong of divorce for idle causes, the disciples replied, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry” (Matthew 19:10). Paul also taught that celibacy is really preferable to marriage (1 Corinthians 7).  

It will be observed that many fruits are of two kinds: sweet and sour. There are sweet and sour apples, and apricots, sweet and bitter almonds, oranges of every shade of sweetness, sourness, and bitterness, but in general sweet, and contrasted with the sourness of lemons and limes.  Sweet fruits represent pleasant encouragement of good; and tart fruits a sharper and more stimulating wisdom of the duty and necessity of good life—the most acrid representing a critical censoriousness that is discouraging. Lemons and limes therefore appear to represent wisdom that teaches the spiritual necessity of pure and good marriage life. 

The common fruit trees throughout the temperate regions of the earth are apples, pears, quinces, which form a group by themselves; and peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries, which form another group.    

It is uncertain what fruit is meant by the “apple” mentioned in the Canticles, and also in Joel 1:12. Tristram thinks it cannot be the proper apple, since that fruit “barely exists in the country.” The apricot, he thinks, is probably the fruit; as it is most abundant throughout the land, is not mentioned otherwise in the Bible, and meets all the requirements of the context. It is possible that the name is a general one for fragrant, edible fruits, including all that are mentioned above; and also lemons and oranges, and perhaps some others. Gesenius says that the name in Arabic means properly apples, but includes also lemons, peaches, apricots, etc. The Latin word malum has a similar general significance, standing for “any tree fruit fleshy on the outside, and having a kernel within; hence [besides apples] used also of quinces, pomegranates, peaches, oranges, lemons, etc.” (Andrews Latin Lexicon).  All these are juicy fruits, not oil-yielding, and on this account, like grapes, they represent some pleasant truth matured by thoughtful experience; though no one of them bears so generously nor produces so noble wine as the vine.    

A marked division among them appears upon slight attention. The apples, pears, and quinces are many-seeded fruits, with firm flesh composed of the thickened calyx and stem. Peaches, apricots, and others of their family, have each a single hard stone, enclosed in a more tender and juicy pulp, which is formed from the pistil itself.  Oranges, lemons, and limes differ from both in having a thick, leathery rind, in which, as in the leaves, there is a considerable quantity of oil; and, while they have many seeds, they have no core, but are pulpy throughout, like berries; in this particular resembling grapes.  

In regard to the meaning of the apple, Mythology gives us a curious and valuable suggestion.  According to Mr. Murray, Nemesis was the goddess of punishment:

A mysterious power, watching over the propriety of life, she was conceived as shaping the demeanor of men in their times of prosperity, punishing crime, taking luck from the unworthy, tracking every wrong to its doer, and keeping society in equipoise. . . . Among her several attributes were a wheel, to indicate the speed of her punishments, a balance, a bridle, a yoke, a rudder, a lash, a sword and an apple branch. (Manual of Mythology, p. 217) 

The wisdom of the proprieties of life, or of morals and manners, seems to answer well to the characteristics of the apple. Its goodness is superficial, as the flesh of the apple is the thickened stem and casing. Its sharp or kindly criticism forms as large a part of social communications as the flesh and juice of the apple do of daily food. And not sooner does the juice of the apple turn to vinegar than critical thoughts once expressed turn to sharp censure.  In the freshness of the occasion that called them forth they may be only bright and stimulating; but it is remarkable how little repetition or thinking over they will bear before all the kindliness is gone out of them, and only sharp censure is left. If pure and true, this may still be useful in moderate quantity. 

The vinegar of the Bible is the vinegar of grapes, and represents truth of life loved not from charity and sweet affection, but from a censorious spirit; it may be from a love of chastening evil, or from a desire to condemn others for the sake of exalting oneself. The Lord taught pure truth from love for the goodness and happiness to which it leads. His followers, in countries called Christian, have turned the truth into censures and threats, by which they oppress and rule over men. It was the perception of the coming perversion of His teachings that was represented by His tasting of the vinegar upon the cross (Apocalypse Explained #386). 

The pear is a more luscious and tender fruit than the apple, of the same kind. It seems to represent the wisdom of polite and elegant manners.  The thorniness of the ungrafted tree may represent the exclusiveness of an unregenerate love of polite manners. 

Quinces grow on bushes, not trees, and are not eatable till cooked and much sweetened.  Their growth, upon low, straggling stems, shows their correspondence with something without elevation or unity—to rules of society, rather than to intelligently understood general principles of conduct. Such knowledge of rules—unbearable if applied crudely—held pleasantly, with great kindness, makes a somewhat elegant and stimulating entertainment. 

These three, in their many seeds, their bright, sharp juice, and their construction out of the stem and thickened calyx, are forms of truth applied in their several ways to the morals and manners of the community. The softer, sweeter, single-seeded group, are forms of sweeter, kinder manners from a principle of charity. The fruits of the apple kind represent a knowledge of what is true and right and reasonable in natural life; but these of the peach family represent a knowledge of what makes a good home, a good neighborhood, a pleasant school, springing from a single-hearted enjoyment in goodness. The rules and principles of social life are many, like apple seeds; its goodness, with the perception thereof, is single, like the stone of a peach.    

The general necessity for moral goodness forms a stony wall about its seed; but no such absolute certainty encompasses the particular principles. The wooliness of most peaches is a curious confirmation of their correspondence with a knowledge of kind and affectionate manners.  Nectarines are only a smooth variety of peach. Apricots and plums are perhaps related to peaches somewhat as pears are to apples. Cherries are sometimes grouped with plums, and sometimes in a distinct genus; and from their small size, early ripening, and clustered arrangement, appear to relate to the pleasures of childhood’s social life.    


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