MOST ANCIENT CHURCH
I. There have been four churches on this earth from the day of the creation: the First, which is to be called the Adamic; the Second, the Noachian; the Third, the Israelitish; and the Fourth, the Christian.
II. There have been four periods, or successive states, of each church, which in the Word are meant by “morning,” “day,” “evening,” and “night.”
III. In each church there have been four successive changes of states; the first of which was the appearing of the Lord Jehovih and redemption, and then its morning or rise; the second was its instruction and then its mid-day or progression; the fourth was its end, and then its night, or consummation. After its end or consummation the Lord Jehovih appears and executes a judgment on the men of the former church, and separates the good from the evil, and elevates the good to Himself into heaven, and removes the evil from Himself into hell. After these things, from good elevated to Himself, He founds a new heaven, and from the evil removed from Himself, a new hell; and in both He establishes order, so that they may stand under His auspices and under obedience to Him to eternity; and then through this new heaven He successively inaugurates and establishes a new church on earth. From this new heaven, the Lord Jehovih derives and produces a new church on earth; which is effected by a revelation from His mouth, or from His Word, and by inspiration.
IV. These periodical changes of state, which occurred in succession in the first or Most Ancient Church, which was the Adamic, are described by Moses in the first chapters of Genesis; but by heavenly representatives, and by other things, belonging to the world, to which spiritual things correspond.
V. The periodical changes of state, which occurred in succession in the second or Ancient Church, which was the Noachian, area also described in Genesis, and here and there in the four remaining books of Moses.
VI. The periodical changes of state which occurred in the succession in the third church, which was the Israelitish, are also described in Moses, and afterwards in Joshua, in the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and also in the Prophets.
VII. The periodical changes which occurred in succession in the fourth church, which is the Christian, are described in the Word of both Testaments; its rise, or morning, in particular, in the Evangelists, and in the Acts and Writings of the Apostles; its progression toward noon-day, in the ecclesiastical histories of the first three centuries; its decline, or evening, by the histories of the centuries immediately following; and its vastation even to consummation, which is its night, in the Apocalypse.
VIII. After these four churches, a new one is to arise, which will be truly Christian foretold in Daniel and in the Apocalypse, and by the Lord Himself in the Evangelists, and expected by the Apostles.
IX. The church successively declines from the truths of faith and goods of charity, and it declines in the same proportion also from the spiritual understanding and genuine sense of the Word.
X. Consequently, the church departs in the same proportion from the Lord and removes Him from itself.
XI. In proportion as this is effected, it approaches its end.
XII. The end of the church is when there no longer remains any truth of faith and genuine good of charity. CORONIS summary
By "Noah" is signified a new church, which is to be called the Ancient Church, for the sake of distinction between the Most Ancient Church, which was before the flood, and that which was after the flood. The states of these two churches were entirely different. The state of the Most Ancient Church was such that they had from the Lord a perception of good and the derivative truth. The state of the Ancient Church, or "Noah" became such that they had a conscience of good and truth. Such as is the difference between having perception and having conscience, such was the difference of state of the Most Ancient and the Ancient Churches. Perception is not conscience: the celestial have perception; the spiritual have conscience. The Most Ancient Church was celestial, the Ancient was spiritual.
 The Most Ancient Church had immediate revelation from the Lord by consort with spirits and angels, as also by visions and dreams; whereby it was given them to have a general knowledge of what was good and true; and after they had acquired a general knowledge, these general leading principles, as we may call them, were confirmed by things innumerable, by means of perceptions; and these innumerable things were the particulars or individual things of the general principles to which they related. Thus were the general leading principles corroborated day by day; whatever was not in agreement with the general principles they perceived not to be so; and whatever was in agreement with them they perceived to be so. Such also is the state of the celestial angels.  The general principles of the Most Ancient Church were heavenly and eternal truths-as that the Lord governs the universe, that all good and truth is from the Lord, that all life is from the Lord, that man's Own is nothing but evil, and in itself is dead; with many others of similar character. And they received from the Lord a perception of countless things that confirmed and supported these truths. With them love was the principal of faith. By love it was given them of the Lord to perceive whatever was of faith, and hence with them faith was love, as was said before. But the Ancient Church became entirely different, concerning which of the Lord's Divine mercy hereafter. [AC597]
Will they not be ours? That this signifies that these were alike and of one form, is evident from the series, which is to the effect that the goods and truths of the Most Ancient Church still in part remaining among Hamor and Shechem and their families, would agree with the goods and truths of the Ancient Church among the descendants of Jacob; for the rituals instituted among the descendants of Jacob were merely external things that represented and signified the internal things of the Most Ancient Church. Hence by "will they not be ours," or belong to them, is signified that they were alike and of one form.
 To illustrate this by an example. The altar on which they sacrificed was the chief representative of the Lord (n. 921, 2777, 2811); and therefore it was a fundamental of worship in the Ancient Church called "Hebrew;" consequently all things in general and in particular of which the altar was constructed were representative-its dimensions, height, breadth, and length, its stones, its network of brass, its horns, also the fire that was to be kept perpetually burning on it, besides the sacrifices and burnt-offerings. What these represented were the truths and goods which are of the Lord and from the Lord, and these were the internal things of worship, which being represented in that external, were alike and of one form with the truths and goods of the Most Ancient Church. The dimensions, namely, the height, breadth, and length, signified in general good, truth, and the holy thence derived (see n. 650, 1613, 3433, 3434, 4482); the stones specifically signified lower truths (n. 1298, 3720); the brass of which the network around the altar was made signified natural good (n. 425, 1551); the horns signified the power of truth from good (n. 2832); the fire upon the altar signified love (n. 934); the sacrifices and burnt-offerings signified celestial and spiritual things according to their various species (n. 922, 1823, 2180, 2805, 2807, 2830, 3519). Hence it is evident that internal things were contained within these external ones, and that in respect to the internal things the two churches were alike; and the case is the same in regard to all the other rituals.
 But the men of the Most Ancient Church cared not for these external things, because they were internal men, and the Lord flowed in with them by an internal way, and taught them what is good. The varieties and differences of good were to them truths, and hence they knew what each and all things in the world represented in the Lord's kingdom; for the whole world, or universal nature, is a theater representative of the Lord's kingdom (n. 2758, 3483). But the men of the Ancient Church were not internal but external men; and therefore the Lord could not flow in with them by an internal, but by an external way, to teach them what is good, and this first by such things as were representative and significative (whence arose the representative church), and afterwards by the doctrinal things of good and truth which were represented and signified (whence arose the Christian Church). In respect to its internal form the Christian Church is essentially the same as the representative church; but the representatives and significatives of this church were abrogated after the Lord came into the world, because all and each of them represented Him and consequently the things of His kingdom, for these are from Him, and are so to speak Himself.
 But the difference between the Most Ancient Church and the Christian Church is like that between the light of the sun by day, and the light of the moon and stars by night; for to see goods by the internal or prior way is like seeing in the day by the light of the sun; but to see by the external or posterior way is like seeing in the night by the light of the moon or the stars. Nearly the same was the difference between the Most Ancient Church and the Ancient Church, except that the men of the Christian Church were able to be in fuller light if they would have acknowledged internal things, or would have believed and done the truths and goods which the Lord taught. The good itself is the same in both, but the difference consists in seeing it in clearness or in obscurity. They who see it in clearness, see innumerable arcana, almost as do the angels in heaven, and are also affected by what they see; but they who see it in obscurity, see scarcely anything free from doubt, and the things they see are mingled with the shades of night (that is, with falsities) and cannot inwardly affect anyone. Now as the good is the same in both churches, consequently also the truth, by the words, "will they not be ours" is signified that the goods and truths were alike and of one form; for as before said Hamor and Shechem were of the remains of the Most Ancient Church, and the posterity of Jacob was of the Ancient Church that was called "Hebrew," but only in its externals. But that Hamor and Shechem his son committed an enormous sin in receiving circumcision will be seen in what follows (n. 4493). [AC4489]
And they circumcised every male, all that went out of the gate of his city. That this signifies accession to external things, is evident from the signification of "circumcising every male," as being to be initiated thereby into the representatives and significatives of the descendants of Jacob in respect to the external alone (see n. 4486); and from the signification of "going out of the gate of the city," as being to recede from the doctrine of the Church among the Ancients, concerning which just above (n. 4492). And because recession from their own doctrine and accession to externals are both signified, it is therefore twice said, "all that went out of the gate of his city." But it is not at the same time said also, as elsewhere, "they that go into it," because by "going in" is signified accession to doctrine, and recession from externals, whereas here the contrary is signified.
 It is necessary to say how the case herein is. The men of the Most Ancient Church, of the remains of which were Hamor and Shechem with their families, were of a totally different genius and native quality from the men of the Ancient Church; for the men of the Most Ancient Church had a will in which there was soundness, but not so the men of the Ancient Church. Therefore with the men of the Most Ancient Church the Lord could inflow through the will, thus by an internal way; but not so with the men of the Ancient Church, in whom the will had been destroyed; but with these He inflowed into the understanding, thus not by an internal way, but by an external way, as before said (n. 4489). To inflow through the will is to inflow through the good of love, for all good is of the will part; but to inflow through the understanding is to inflow through the truth of faith, for all truth is of the intellectual part. When the Lord regenerated the men of the Ancient Church He formed a new will in their intellectual part.
(That goods and truths were implanted in the will part of the men of the Most Ancient Church, may be seen, n. 895, 927: But in the intellectual part of the men of the Ancient Church, n. 863, 875, 895, 927, 2124, 2256, 4328: That a new will is formed in the intellectual part, n. 928, 1023, 1043, 1044, 4328: That there is a parallelism between the Lord and the good that is with man, but not between the Lord and the truth with man, n. 1831, 1832, 2718, 3514: That hence the men of the Ancient Church were in comparative obscurity, n. 2708, 2715, 2935, 2937, 3246, 3833.) From all this it is evident that the men of the Most Ancient Church were of a totally different genius and native quality from the men of the Ancient Church.
 It was for this reason that the men of the Most Ancient Church were internal men and had no externals of worship, and that the men of the Ancient Church were external men and had externals of worship; for the former saw external things through internal ones as in the light of the sun by day, and the latter saw internal things through external ones as in the light of the moon and stars by night. Therefore also in heaven the Lord appears to the former as a sun, but to the latter as a moon (n. 1521, 1529-1531, 2441, 2495, 4060). In these explications the former are they who are called "celestial," but the latter "spiritual."
 To illustrate the difference let us take an example: If a man of the Most Ancient Church had read the historic or prophetic Word, he would have seen its internal sense without any previous instruction or explication, and this so fully that the celestial and spiritual things of this sense would have at once occurred to him, and scarcely anything in the sense of the letter; thus the internal sense would have been in clearness to him, but the sense of the letter in obscurity. He would be like one who hears another speaking and gets the meaning without attending to the words. But if a man of the Ancient Church had read the Word he could not have seen its internal sense without previous instruction or explication; thus the internal sense would have been in obscurity to him, but the sense of the letter in clearness. He would be like one who hears another speaking and is intent upon the words while not attending to the meaning, which is thus lost to him. But when a man of the Jewish Church reads the Word, he apprehends nothing beyond the sense of the letter, he is not aware that there is any internal sense, and also denies it; and at the present day the case is the same with a man of the Christian Church.
 All this shows what was the difference between those represented by Hamor and Shechem (who being of the remains of the Most Ancient Church were in internals and not in externals), and those signified by the sons of Jacob (who were in externals and not in internals); and it shows further that Hamor and Shechem could not accede to externals and accept those among the sons of Jacob without their internals being closed; thus causing their eternal destruction.
 This is the secret reason why Hamor and Shechem with their families were slain, which otherwise would not have been permitted. But this does not exculpate the sons of Jacob from having committed an enormous crime. They knew nothing of this secret reason, and it was not the end they had in view. Everyone is judged according to his end or intention, and that their intention was fraudulent is plainly stated in the thirteenth verse; and when any such crime is permitted by the Lord, it is evil men and their infernal instigators who are the authors of it. Nevertheless all the evil which the evil intend and do to the good is turned by the Lord into good, as in the present instance, in that Hamor and Shechem with their families were saved. [AC 4493]
I have been instructed that the men of the Most Ancient Church (the church before the flood) were of a genius so heavenly that they spoke with angels of heaven, and that they were able to speak with them by means of correspondences. From this the state of their wisdom was rendered such that whatever they saw in this world they thought about not only in a natural way, but spiritually also at the same time, so that they thought unitedly with angels. I have been instructed besides that Enoch (of whom mention is made in Genesis 5:21-24) together with his associates, collected correspondences from the lips of those men of the Most Ancient Church, and transmitted the knowledge of them to posterity, and that in consequence of this the science of correspondences was not only known but was also much cultivated in many kingdoms of Asia, especially in the land of Canaan, in Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, Syria, Arabia, and also in Tyre, Sidon, and Nineveh; and that it was carried over from places on the seacoast there into Greece; but there it was turned into fabulous stories, as is evident from the earliest writers of that country. [DSS21]
And the serpent was more subtle than any wild animal of the field which Jehovah God had made; and he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? By the "serpent" is here meant the sensuous part of man in which he trusts; by the "wild animal of the field" here, as before, every affection of the external man; by the "woman" man's Own; by the serpent's saying, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree?" that they began to doubt. The subject here treated of is the third posterity of the Most Ancient Church, which began not to believe in things revealed unless they saw and felt that they were so. Their first state, that it was one of doubt, is described in this and in the next following verse. [AC 194]
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the tree of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. The "fruit of the tree of the garden" is the good and truth revealed to them from the Most Ancient Church; the "fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, of which they were not to eat" is the good and truth of faith, which they were not to learn from themselves; "not to touch it" is a prohibition against thinking of the good and truth of faith from themselves, or from what is of sense and "memory-knowledge [sensuali et scientifico]; "lest ye die" is because thus faith, or all wisdom and intelligence, would perish. [AC 198]
That the "fruit of the tree of which they might eat" signifies the good and truth of faith revealed to them from the Most Ancient Church, or the knowledges [cognitiones] of faith, is evident from the fact that it is said to be the "fruit of the tree of the garden of which they might eat" and not the "tree of the garden" as before when treating of the celestial man, or the Most Ancient Church (Gen. 2:16). The "tree of the garden" as it is there called, is the perception of what is good and true; which good and truth, because they are from that source, are here called "fruit" and are also frequently signified by "fruit" in the Word. [AC 199]
The reason why the "tree of knowledge" is here spoken of as being "in the midst of the garden" although previously (Gen. 2:9), the tree of lives was said to be in the midst of the garden, and not the tree of knowledge, is that the "midst" of the garden signifies the inmost; and the inmost of the celestial man, or of the Most Ancient Church, was the "tree of lives" which is love and the faith thence derived; whereas with this man, who may be called a celestial spiritual man, or with this posterity, faith was the "midst" of the garden, or the inmost. It is impossible more fully to describe the quality of the men who lived in that most ancient time, because at the present day it is utterly unknown, their genius being altogether different from what is ever found with anyone now. For the purpose however of conveying some idea of their genius, it may be mentioned that from good they knew truth, or from love they knew what is of faith. But when that generation expired, another succeeded of a totally different genius, for instead of discerning the true from the good, or what is of faith from love, they acquired the knowledge of what is good by means of truth, or what is of love from the knowledges of faith, and with very many among them there was scarcely anything but knowledge [quod scirent]. Such was the change made after the flood to prevent the destruction of the world. [AC 200]
The Most Ancient Church, which was a celestial man, was of such a character as not only to abstain from "eating of the tree of knowledge" that is, from learning what belongs to faith from sensuous things and memory-knowledges [scientifica], but was not even allowed to touch that tree, that is, to think of anything that is a matter of faith from sensuous things and memory-knowledges, lest they should sink down from celestial life into spiritual life, and so on downward. Such also is the life of the celestial angels, the more interiorly celestial of whom do not even suffer faith to be named, nor anything whatever that partakes of what is spiritual; and if it is spoken of by others, instead of faith they have a perception of love, with a difference known only to themselves; thus whatever is of faith they derive from love and charity. Still less can they endure listening to any reasoning about faith, and least of all to anything of memory-knowledge [scientificum] respecting it; for, through love, they have a perception from the Lord of what is good and true; and from this perception they know instantly whether a thing is so, or is not so. Therefore when anything is said about faith, they answer simply that it is so, or that it is not so, because they perceive it from the Lord. This is what is signified by the Lord's words in Matthew:
Let your communication be Yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil (Matt. 5:37).
This then is what was meant by their not being allowed to touch the fruit of the tree of knowledge; for if they touched it, they would be in evil, that is, they would in consequence "die." Nevertheless the celestial angels converse together on various subjects like the other angels, but in a celestial language, which is formed and derived from love, and is more ineffable than that of the spiritual angels. [AC 202]
The spiritual angels, however, converse about faith, and even confirm the things of faith by those of the intellect, of the reason, and of the memory [per intellectualia, rationalia, et scientifica], but they never form their conclusions concerning matters of faith on such grounds: those who do this are in evil. They are also endowed by the Lord with a perception of all the truths of faith, although not with such a perception as is that of the celestial angels. The perception of the spiritual angels is a kind of conscience which is vivified by the Lord and which indeed appears like celestial perception, yet is not so, but is only spiritual perception. [AC 203]
And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to give intelligence, and she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and she gave also to her husband [vir] with her, and he did eat. "Good for food" signifies cupidity; "pleasant to the eyes" phantasy; and" desirable to give intelligence" pleasure: these are of the Own, or "woman:" by the "husband eating" is signified the consent of the rational (n. 265). [AC 207]
This was the fourth posterity of the Most Ancient Church, who suffered themselves to be seduced by self-love [amore proprio] and were unwilling to believe what was revealed, unless they saw it confirmed by the things of sense and of memory-knoledge. [AC 208]
What man's Own is may be stated in this way. Man's Own is all the evil and falsity that springs from the love of self and of the world, and from not believing in the Lord or the Word but in self, and from supposing that what cannot be apprehended sensuously and by means of memory-knowledge [sensualiter et scientifice] is nothing. In this way men become mere evil and falsity, and therefore regard all things pervertedly; things that are evil they see as good, and things that are good as evil; things that are false they see as true, and things that are true as false; things that really exist they suppose to be nothing, and things that are nothing they suppose to be everything. They call hatred love, darkness light, death life, and the converse. In the Word, such men are called the "lame" and the "blind." Such then is the Own of man, which in itself is infernal and accursed. [AC 210]
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. Their "eyes being opened" signifies their knowing and acknowledging, from an interior dictate, that they were "naked" that is, no longer in innocence, as before, but in evil. [AC 211]
They are called "naked" because left to their Own; for they who are left to their Own, that is, to themselves, have no longer anything of intelligence and wisdom, or of faith, and consequently are "naked" as to truth and good, and are therefore in evil. [AC 214]
And they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles. To "sew leaves together" is to excuse themselves; the "fig-tree" is natural good; and to "make themselves girdles" is to be affected with shame. Thus spoke the most ancient people, and thus they described this posterity of the church, signifying that instead of the innocence they had formerly enjoyed, they possessed only natural good, by which their evil was concealed; and being in natural good, they were affected with shame. [AC 216]
The evil of the Most Ancient Church which existed before the flood, as well as that of the Ancient Church after the flood, and also that of the Jewish Church, and subsequently the evil of the new church, or church of the Gentiles, after the coming of the Lord, and also that of the church of the present day, was and is that they do not believe the Lord or the Word, but themselves and their own senses. Hence there is no faith, and where there is no faith there is no love of the neighbor, consequently all is false and evil. [AC 231]
At this day, however, it is much worse than in former times, because men can now confirm the incredulity of the senses by memory-knowledges [scientifica] unknown to the ancients, and this has given birth to an indescribable degree of darkness. If men knew how great is the darkness from this cause they would be astounded. [AC 232]
THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD. CORRESPONDENCES.
Each and all things which are in nature, correspond to spiritual things; similarly each and all things which are in the human body, as may be seen in two articles in the work on Heaven and Hell. But it is not known at this day what correspondence is, but in the most ancient times the science of correspondences was the science of sciences, thus the universal science, so that the most ancient people wrote all their manuscripts and books by correspondences. The fables of the most ancient times and the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians are nothing else: the book of Job, which is a book of the Ancient Church, is full of correspondences.
 All the ancient churches were churches representative of heavenly things; all their rites and also their statutes, according to which their worship was instituted, consisted of nothing but correspondences. Similarly the church with the sons of Jacob; the burnt offerings and sacrifices with all their particulars, were correspondences; likewise the tabernacle with the single things therein, as also their feasts, such as the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of tabernacles, and the feast of first fruits, and also all their statutes and judgments; and because correspondences are such things as exist in the ultimates of nature, and because all things of nature correspond, and the things which correspond also signify, therefore the sense of the letter of the Word consists of nothing but correspondences. The Lord also, because He spoke from His Divine, and spoke the Word, spoke therefore also by correspondences. What is from the Divine, and in itself is Divine, in the ultimate falls into such things as correspond to Divine, celestial and spiritual things, thus such as in their bosom conceal and signify celestial and spiritual things. What, further, correspondences are, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia, in which the correspondences which are in Genesis and in Exodus are explained. And again a collection of citations from that work concerning correspondences, may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem and in the treatise on Heaven and Hell. The spiritual or internal sense of the Word is nothing else than the sense of the letter unfolded according to correspondences; for it teaches the spiritual which is perceived by angels in the heavens, while man in the world is thinking in a natural way of that which he reads in the Word.
 I have heard and perceived from heaven that the men of the Most Ancient Church, who are those meant in the spiritual sense of the first chapters of Genesis by Adam and Eve, were so consociated with the angels of heaven, that they could speak with them by correspondences, and hence the state of their wisdom was such that whatever they saw on earth, they perceived at the same time spiritually, thus conjointly with the angels. It was told me that Enoch, of whom mention is made in Genesis (Chap. 5:21-24), with his associates, collected correspondences from the mouth of those people, and transmitted the knowledge of them to posterity. From this it came to pass, that the science of correspondences not only was known, but was also cultivated, in many kingdoms of Asia, and especially in Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and also in Canaan. From thence it was carried over to Greece, but was there turned into fables, as may be sufficiently evident from what is told of Olympus, Helicon and Pindus near Athens, and also of the winged horse called Pegasus, as, that with the hoof he broke open a fountain, by which the nine virgins [the Muses], established their seats. For a mountain, and thus Helicon, from correspondence signifies the higher heaven; the hill under the mountain, which was Pindus, signifies the heaven below it; the winged horse, or Pegasus, signifies the understanding enlightened by the spiritual; the fountain signifies intelligence and learning, and the nine virgins signify the knowledges of truth and the sciences. Similar were the rest of the things which are called fabulous, which were written by the most ancient writers in Greece, and which were collected together and described by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.
 But when the representatives of the church in the course of time were turned into idolatries, then by the Divine Providence of the Lord that science was successively obliterated, and with the Israelitish and Jewish nation it was altogether destroyed and extinguished. The worship of that nation was indeed altogether representative, but still they did not know what any representative thing signified. For they were altogether natural men, and hence they were neither able nor willing to know anything about the spiritual man and about his faith and love, consequently nothing about correspondences.
 That the idolatries of the nations in ancient times derived their origin from the science of correspondences amongst them, was because all things that appear upon the earth have a correspondence, as not only trees, but also cattle and birds of every kind, as well as fishes, and the rest. The ancients, who were in the science of correspondences, made themselves images, which corresponded to spiritual things, and they were delighted with those things, because they signified such things as are of heaven and thence of the church, they therefore not only placed them in their temples, but also in their houses, not for the purpose of adoration, but for the recollection of the heavenly thing that was signified, thence in Egypt there were set up calves, oxen, serpents, boys, old men, virgins, and many other things. For a calf signified the innocence of the natural man, oxen affections of the natural man, serpents the prudence of the sensual man, a boy innocence, old men wisdom, virgins affections for truth, and so on. After the science of correspondences was there lost, their posterity, who were ignorant what the images and likenesses set up by the ancients signified, began to worship them as holy, and finally as deities, because they were placed in and near the temples. The Egyptian hieroglyphics are from the same origin. So was it also with other nations, as with the Philistines in Ashdod, where was Dagon, formed like a man above and like a fish below, which image was so contrived because a man signifies rational intelligence, and a fish natural knowledge. From similar origin was the worship of the ancients in gardens and groves according to the kinds of trees, as also their sacred worship upon mountains; for gardens and groves signified spiritual intelligence, and each tree something thereof, as the olive its good of love, the vine its truth of the doctrine of faith, the cedar its rational, and so on. A mountain signified heaven, and therefore the worship of the most ancient people was upon mountains. That the science of correspondences remained with many oriental nations until the coming of the Lord, may be evident from the wise men from the East, who came to the Lord when He was born. Therefore a star went before them, and they brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It was also said to the shepherds, in order that they might know that it was the Lord Himself, that it should be a sign unto them, that they should see Him in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, because there was no place in the inn. "The star" which went before the wise men signified knowledge from heaven, for stars in the Word signify knowledges. "The gold" signified celestial good, "frankincense" spiritual good, and "myrrh" natural good; all worship being from these three. "The manger" in which the infant Lord was found by the shepherds, signifies spiritual nourishment, because horses, which are fed from a manger, signify intellectual things. "The inn" where there was no place signified the Jewish Church, in which at that time there was no spiritual nourishment, because everything of the Word and thence everything of worship with them, had then been adulterated and perverted. Hence it is said that this would be for a sign to them that it was the Lord (Luke 2:12). Nevertheless, the science of correspondences was altogether none with the Israelitish and Jewish nation, although all things of their worship, and all the statutes and judgments given to them, and all things of the Word, were pure correspondences. The reason was that that nation was idolatrous in heart, and such that it did not even wish to know that anything of their worship signified anything celestial and spiritual. For they wished that all these things should be holy from themselves and with them in externals. Wherefore if spiritual and celestial things had been disclosed to them, they would not only have rejected, but would also have profaned them. For this reason heaven was closed to them so that they scarcely knew that they were to live after death. That this is so, is manifestly evident. They do not acknowledge the Lord, although the whole Sacred Scripture prophesied concerning Him, and predicted Him they rejected Him for this sole reason, that He taught them of the heavenly kingdom, and not concerning an earthly kingdom, for they wanted a Messiah who would exalt them above all nations in the whole world, and they did not wish any Messiah who would provide for their eternal salvation. Moreover, they say the Word contains in itself many arcana, which are called mystical, but they do not wish to know that these treat of the Lord and His Kingdom; but they do wish to know when it is said that they are concerning gold and alchemy.
 That this science was not disclosed after those times, was because the Christians in the primitive church were very simple, that it could not be disclosed to them, for if disclosed, it would have been of no use to them, nor would it have been comprehended. After those times darkness arose over the entire Christian world, on account of the Papacy, which at length became Babylon, and they who are of Babel, and have confirmed themselves in its falsities, are for the most part natural, sensual men, and these are neither able nor willing to apprehend what is spiritual, thus what is the correspondence of natural things with spiritual.* But after the Reformation, because they began to make a distinction between faith and charity, and to worship one God under three Persons, the three Gods, whom they only named one, heavenly truths were then concealed from them, lest if revealed they should falsify them and bend them to faith alone, and none of them to charity and love. If therefore the spiritual sense of the Word had then been revealed, they would have shut heaven to themselves even by the falsification of its truths.
 For everyone is allowed to understand the sense of the letter of the Word in simplicity, provided he does not confirm the appearances of truth which are there, so far as to destroy genuine truth; for to interpret the Word as to its spiritual sense from falsities of doctrine, closes heaven, and does not open it; but to interpret the spiritual sense from truths of doctrine, opens heaven, because that is the sense in which the angels are, and so man by means of it thinks together with angels, and thus conjoins them to himself in his intellectual mind.But if a man is in falsities of doctrine and wishes to explore the spiritual sense from some knowledge of correspondences, he falsifies it. It is otherwise if man is already in genuine truths; that sense agrees with truths and appears from them, because that sense is in the light of heaven. Cloud on the other hand agrees with falsities, and if anything of this truth should appear, instead of the light of heaven thick darkness would arise, for angels turn themselves away from him, and so close heaven to him. The spiritual sense of the Word is meant by the inner garment of the Lord, which was without seam, and which the soldiers were not permitted to divide; but the natural sense of the Word, which is the sense of its letter, is meant by His outer garments, which the soldiers divided. Garments in the Word signify truths, and the Lord's garments Divine truth, wherefore also the garments of the Lord, when He was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, appeared shining white, like light.
 At this day the spiritual sense of the Word has been revealed from the Lord, because the doctrine of genuine truth has now been revealed, which doctrine is partly contained in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, and now in the small works, which are being given to the public;** and because that doctrine, and no other, agrees with the spiritual sense of the Word, therefore that sense, together with the science of correspondences, has now for the first time been disclosed. That sense is also signified by the Lord's appearing in the clouds of heaven with glory and power (Matt. 24:30, 31), in which chapter it treats of the consummation of the age, by which is meant the last time of the church. By the cloud of heaven, there and elsewhere in the Word, is signified the Word in the letter, which there, in respect to the spiritual sense, is as a cloud. But by the glory there, as also elsewhere in the Word, is signified the Word in the spiritual sense, which also is the Divine truth in light; and by the power is signified its power in the Word. The revelation of the Word as to the spiritual sense was also promised in Revelation, where that sense is meant by the "White Horse" (Chapter 19:11 to 14), and by the great supper of God, to which all were invited and gathered together (Rev. 19:17). By many that sense will not be acknowledged for a long time. Those alone who are in the falsities of doctrine, especially in regard to the Lord, and who do not admit truths, will not acknowledge this is meant by the beast and by the kings of the earth, who make war with the one sitting upon the white horse (Rev. 19:19). By "the beast" are meant the Roman Catholics, as in Rev. 17:3, and by "the kings of the earth" are meant the Reformed who are in falsities of doctrine. The mystical things which some seek in the Word, are nothing else than the spiritual and celestial senses. [DV7]
Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)