LEOPARD >> Reasonings which are Discordant and yet Appear to be True
>> Separation of Faith from Good Works
Of the leopard we read in the Bible Animals:
Its color is tawny, variegated with rich black spots, and it is a fierce and voracious animal, almost equally dreaded by man and beast. . . . To deer and antelopes it is a terrible enemy; and, in spite of their active limbs, seldom fails in obtaining its prey. Swift as is the leopard, and wonderful its spring, it has not the enduring speed of the deer or antelope. . . . Instinctively knowing its inferiority in the race, the leopard supplies by cunning the want of enduring speed. It conceals itself in some spot whence it can see far around without being seen, and thence surveys the country. A tree is the usual spot selected for this purpose, and the leopard, after climbing the trunk by means of its curved talons, settles itself in the fork of the branches, so that its body is hidden by the boughs, and only its head is shown between them. With such scrupulous care does it conceal itself, that none but a practiced hunter can discover it, while anyone who is unaccustomed to the woods cannot see the animal even when the tree is pointed out to him.
As soon as the leopard sees the deer feeding at a distance, he slips down the tree, and stealthily glides off in their direction. He has many difficulties to overcome, because the deer are among the most watchful of animals, and if the leopard were to approach to the windward, they would scent him while he was yet a mile away from them. If he were to show himself but for one moment in the open ground, he would be seen, and if he were but to shake a branch or snap a dry twig, he would be heard. So he is obliged to approach them against the wind, to keep himself under cover, and yet to glide so carefully along that the heavy foliage of the underwood shall not be shaken, and the dry sticks and leaves, which strew the ground, shall not be broken. He has also to escape the observation of certain birds and beasts which inhabit the woods, and which would certainly set up their alarm cry as soon as they saw him, and so give warning to the wary deer, which can perfectly understand a cry of alarm, from whatever animal it may happen to proceed.
Still, he proceeds steadily on his course, gliding from one covert to another, and often expending several hours before he can proceed for a mile. By degrees he contrives to come tolerably close to them, and generally manages to conceal himself in some spot towards which the deer are gradually feeding their way. As soon as 114 ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE they are near enough he collects himself for a spring, just as a cat does when she leaps on a bird, and dashes towards the deer in a series of mighty bounds. For a moment or two they are startled and paralyzed with fear at the sudden appearance of their enemy, and thus give him time to get among them. Singling out some particular animal, he leaps upon it, strikes it down with one blow of his paw, and then, couching on the fallen animal, he tears open its throat, and laps the flowing blood. . . .
As an instance of the cunning which seems innate in the leopard, I may mention that whenever it takes up its abode near a village, it does not meddle with the flocks and herds of its neighbors, but prefers to go to some other village at a distance for food, thus remaining unsuspected almost at the very doors of the houses.
In general, it does not willingly attack mankind, and at all events seems rather to fear the presence of a full-grown man. But when wounded or irritated, all sense of fear is lost in an overpowering rush of fury, and it then becomes as terrible a foe as the lion himself. It is not so large nor so strong, but it is more agile and quicker in its movements; and when it is seized with one of these paroxysms of anger, the eye can scarcely follow it as it darts here and there, striking with lightning rapidity, and dashing at any foe within reach. Its whole shape seems to be transformed, and absolutely to swell with anger; its eyes flash with fiery luster, its ears are thrown back on the head, and it continually utters alternate snarls and yells of rage. It is hardly possible to recognize the graceful, lithe, glossy creature, whose walk is so noiseless, and whose every movement is so easy, in the furious, passions wollen animal that flies at every foe with blind fury, and pours out sounds so fierce and menacing that few men, however well armed, will care to face it.
As is the case with most of the cat tribe, the leopard is an excellent climber, and can ascend trees and traverse their boughs without the least difficulty. It is so fond of trees, that it is seldom to be seen except in a well-wooded district. Its favorite residence is a forest where there is plenty of underwood, at least six or seven feet in height, among which trees are sparingly interspersed. When crouched in this cover it is practically invisible, even though its body may be within arm’s length of a passenger. The spotted body harmonizes so perfectly with the broken lights and deep shadows of the foliage, that even a practiced hunter will not enter a covert in search of a leopard unless he is accompanied by dogs. The instinct which teaches the leopard to choose such localities is truly wonderful, and may be compared with that of the tiger, which cares little for underwood, but haunts the grass jungles, where the long, narrow blades harmonize with the stripes which decorate its body.
In regard to the passage, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6), Mr. Wood remarks:
Herein the Prophet speaks as from accurate knowledge of the habits of the three predaceous animals. The wolf, as a rule, devastates the sheepfolds; the leopard will steal upon and carry off the straggling goat or kid, because it can follow them upon the precipices where no wolf would dare to tread; while the lion, being the strongest and most daring of the three, attacks the herds, and carries away to its lair the oxen which neither leopard nor wolf could move.
One other observation by Captain Drayson is worthy to be quoted; in speaking of a leopard that had been caught in a trap, he says:
I visited him the morning after his capture, and was received with the most villainous grins and looks. He could not endure being stared at, and tried every plan to hide his eyes so that he need not see his persecutor. When every other plan failed, he would pretend to be looking at some distant object, as though he did not notice his enemy close to him. When I gazed steadily at him, he could not keep up this acting for longer than a minute, when he would suddenly turn and rush at me, until he dashed himself against the bars, and found that he was powerless to revenge himself. (Wood’s Natural History)
The fierce lust of appropriating to oneself, which is thus represented, does not obtain its ends by vehement strength which crushes opposition, like a spiritual lion, nor by open, clumsy, forcible literalness, like a bear, nor yet by combined attack, as does the wolf; but by deceitful appearances and sudden attack of quick reasonings. The leopard loves to see, but not to be seen.
He wishes to appear to be only the natural lights and shadows of the forest, and not an animal at all, until its prey is within certain reach. By the mingled play of light and shadow, the beauty of the light appears by contrast; and so, in the mind, the beauty of spiritual light appears by contrast with obscurity. But the black spots which the leopard scatters in his sunshine are not the chance obscurities of ignorance, but maliciously interspersed falsities, which yet pass with its victims for mere obscurity—for things not well explained and distinctly seen, but still innocent— they are also made inconspicuous by the brightness of the truth connected with it. It is the purpose of the leopard that no animal should appear to be under the spotted skin, that is, spiritually, that not a trace of evil desire should be suspected under those falsities, until its end is gained. Nothing could enrage it more than to be distinctly seen.
That such deceivers appear in society we know. In regard to their work in the Church, Swedenborg says:
A leopard signifies reasonings which are discordant, and yet appear to be true, because a leopard is distinguished by its skin being variegated with spots, from which variegation it appears not unbeautiful; but whereas it is a fierce and insidious animal, and above all others swift to seize its prey, and whereas they also are such who are skilful in reasoning expertly to confirm the dogma concerning the separation of faith from good works, and this by reasonings from the natural man, which, notwithstanding their discordance with truths, they make to appear as if they cohered therewith, therefore, ‘the Beast’ [which signified such reasonings] appeared as to its body like a leopard. . . . But this shall be illustrated by an example: Who may not be brought to believe that faith alone is the one only means of salvation, when it is grounded in the argument that man cannot of himself do good which is good in itself? For it appears to everyone at first sight as a necessary consequence, and thus as cohering with truth; and in this case it is not perceived to be reasoning from the natural man confirming the separation of faith from good works [and really springing from the lust of doing evil], while the person who is persuaded by this reasoning begins to think that he has no need to attend to his life, because he has faith. (Apocalypse Explained #780)
Such falsities appearing as truth in obscurity, are the means of deception to such lusts, and they can no more give them up than a leopard can change his spots; which is meant by the words, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good who have been taught to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). The multiplication and destructiveness of such deceitful lusts at the end of the Church is thus described: “The lion out of the forest has smitten the great ones of Jerusalem, the wolf of the plains shall devastate them; the leopard is watching against their cities; everyone who goes out shall be torn in pieces” (Jeremiah 5:6).
And, on the other hand, the perfect safety of innocent desire for truth, in the light of the Lord’s Presence, at His Coming, is signified by “The leopard shall lie down with the kid” (Isaiah 11:6). ( See also Apocalypse Revealed #572, Conjugial Love #78, 79.) Author: