UNICORN/AUROCH >> Obstinate Natural Mental Activity

Au145_500_463 There is one other animal mentioned in the Scriptures which should be noticed here; and that is the “Unicorn.” The name “unicorn” is a translator’s mistake. The Bible says   that the animal has “horns,” not one horn (Deuteronomy 33:17, Hebrew); and further, that it was fit for sacrifice (Isaiah 34:7)—consequently having divided hoofs and chewing the cud; that it was an animal of great size and strength, but too wild to plough or harrow (Job 39:9–12). In two places also it is used as a poetic parallel to a bullock or calf: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of an unicorn” (Deuteronomy 33:17); “He maketh them also to skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn” (Psalm 29:6).

These facts seem entirely to justify the unanimous conclusion of modern Bible scholars that the animal belonged to the ox family, and probably to that branch of it which was formerly common in northern Europe under the name of Auerochs, or yore ox (ancient ox), abbreviated by the Romans to Urus; which is said still to exist in the Caucasus mountains; whose form is sculptured upon the monuments of Nimroud as a wild animal of the chase; whose bones, six and a half feet in height and twelve in length, with bony horn cores more than three feet long, are found in Switzerland; and whose teeth Tristram asserts that he found in Palestine.

If all this is to be trusted, as I think it is, we are prepared to see that the “Reem” represents the vehement power of a love for merely external good things, not subordinated to spiritual love, to urge and insist upon its principles, whether true or false. (Tristram’s Natural History of the Bible; Art. “Unicorn”; Bible Dictionary; and Wood’s Bible Animals. Apocalypse Explained #316; Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture #18 )

The general distinction as to uses between the class of animals used for food and sacrifices—sheep, goats, and cattle—and those which labor in carrying burdens, is that the former give their own substance, their milk and wool, their skins and flesh, for beneficent purposes; but the latter give their power of action.

There is a similar distinction between the mental faculties to which they correspond. If we share with one another our love for the Lord and for the neighbor, showing mutual sympathy and kindness, and communicating helpful knowledge of good ways of life, in the effort to communicate ourselves to others we exercise the affections represented by sheep, goats, and kine.  But if there be a subject which we wish to understand, and we set our minds to work upon it, in the delight of understanding we are exercising the intellectual faculties represented by the animals which serve for transportation.

There are many varieties of mental activity in persons of different qualities and at different stages of life. Some are slow and plodding, and others quick and frisky; some are minute, others broad and comprehensive; some are uncertain, unexpectedly shying and starting, and requiring constant watching to make any progress, and others are strong, steady, and well sustained.  Some, again, are set and obstinate, utterly unwilling and mentally unable to vary their gait, and almost equally averse to changing their direction; while others are free and generous, yielding easily and gracefully to the varying emotions of the will and demands of the occasion.

In these characteristics of the mental powers we cannot fail to see in a general view the likeness of our traveling animals; and the likeness becomes more distinct as we examine more closely the working of our minds. Observe, for instance, the tendency of the mind to run in familiar channels, how disposed it is to think over and say over the things it has thought and said before; and when we have started it in pursuit of some remote object, see how it takes advantage of every relaxation of the reins to turn back towards home, and go over the easy, familiar ways of thought. Notice how freely and confidently it steps where it is sure of its facts, and its own experiences are abundant to sustain it;

and again, how lamely it moves where its experience is deficient, or it is morbidly sensitive to the facts of the case.

Literature and common speech show that this likeness is not unfamiliar. The ancient Greeks—who made the top of their highest mountain, Olympus, the home of the gods, established the abode of Heavenly wisdom upon the lower mountain, Heliconĉum, and that of the wisdom of men upon Parnassus—described the flights of the understanding, in its effort to attain spiritual truth, as a winged horse called Pegasus, who, as he swiftly ascended the slopes of Heliconĉum, burst open with a stroke of his hoof the fountain of the Muses; by which they understood the birth of the sciences from the influence of spiritual intelligence upon natural knowledge.1 We moderns preserve the figure of the winged horse as descriptive of a poet’s power of seeing the real life of events through their outward forms.  More familiarly yet, we speak of a man of magnificent ideas as riding a high-stepping horse; and, with too much impatience, we call an obstinate man, who is impenetrable by new ideas, an ass or a donkey.

(Arcana Coelestia #4966, 7729, 2762; Conjugial Love #182; White Horse.)  

 Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875

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