WHEAT, SPELT, RYE AND BARLEY
The most nutritious and wholesome of all the grains is wheat. It has been used from the earliest times, and in all countries. In thoroughly tilled, rich soil, it yields abundantly; but in rough, stony, weedy land it produces almost nothing. Its seeds possess great vitality, and will germinate after many years, or after exposure to cold and wet that kills the other grains. So valuable is it as food for man, that it is rarely given to animals or distilled for drink. It is used generally in the form of bread; which is so much the most important article of food, that, in the Bible as well as in common speech, it stands for food of every kind. The noblest of the grains must represent the principles of the noblest work—that is, work done from the Lord. The Lord’s example in serving is our seed; the plan for doing like it is our plant; the Lord’s love for the use, and His wise thought perceived in us, are the sap which deposits all its goodness in the fruit.
Of such goodness and such wisdom of use are made the bread which is the best of all nourishment for human souls. In the tabernacle of the congregation, upon the golden table before the face of the Lord, were set always cakes of bread made of fine wheaten flour; because the Lord always gives to those who seek His face the support of His pure love of serving.
Therefore, when the Lord came into the world, and lived from that love Infinitely and Divinely in His own Humanity, bringing it forth clearly, that men might know it and receive it from Him, He said, “I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread, he shall live forever” (John 6:51). The same is meant also by the Bread of the Holy Supper—namely, the Lord’s own love of doing good.
If we would have harvests of heavenly wheat, our hearts must be deeply, thoroughly tilled. No weeds of selfish thinking must be left, no stony objections, no obstinate indifference. We must be thoroughly yielding and willing, full of desire to do the Lord’s will and nothing else. Such soil will do good works from the Lord plentifully. Their seeds will live in it, patiently awaiting their opportunity, through discouragements that would destroy less noble principles, and will bear fruit that may go on increasing forever in heaven.
Spelt is a species of wheat which will grow upon rougher land. It is distinguished from wheat chiefly by its closely investing wraps of chaff. In an ear of spelt each kernel is wrapped in two overlapping paleŠ, and each cluster or spikelet of two to five kernels is held so firmly by a pair of stiff glumes that considerable force is required to liberate the grain. The stalk, or rachis, is so brittle that these spikelets easily break off, to the great inconvenience of the farmer. The correspondence of spelt would seem to be with works done for the Lord’s sake, yet not so much in the freedom of His Spirit as in literal adherence to His teachings, which are loved for their own sake, and not merely to introduce good life. “The wheat and the spelt were not smitten” by the hail in Egypt; “for they were not grown up”; but “the flax and the barley were smitten.” The wheat and the spelt Swedenborg here interprets as meaning the good of interior life and its truth, which are undeveloped in those here meant by the Egyptians; but the things of external religious life are practiced by them and can be destroyed.
Botanically akin to wheat, and next to it among the grains for nutriment, is Rye. Like wheat, it is used to make bread, but it is also distilled for intoxicating drink. Its heads are thinner than those of wheat, having only two rows and two flowers in the place of four; the individual grains, too, though of equal length with those of wheat, are less round and full. It excels the wheat only in the length of its straw. It will grow profitably, also, where wheat will not, on sandy soil, with little care.
That the grain is so similar to wheat, means that the works to which it corresponds are similar. They grow, however, from a mind less tender, less humble, and less full of desire for good. They are more elaborate in their theory, but less full in their accomplishment. They seem to be works that are done rather from love for the truth than for the goodness of the Lord; and to have more of the conceit of wisdom than the works represented by wheat; for these, more full of love, are also more humble and undemonstrative.
Another grain, a little further removed from wheat botanically, and still less nutritious than rye, is Barley. It is easily produced in every climate that is habitable by man, and in some countries is extensively used for bread for the poor. It is malted for beer, and is given for provender to horses and cattle.
The good which it represents, Swedenborg says, is exterior natural good, as that represented by wheat is interior natural. It is good that is pleasant to the natural, social, and animal affections. To be hospitable, and to make others comfortable and happy, in imitation of the Lord’s works, but of ourselves, and without the interior humility which perceives the Lord’s influence in the works, is to produce harvests of barley. It is the good that is most generally taught and practiced in the Christian world; for our Lord has not yet been fully known. The most precious good that He would give has not yet been widely received; but with five barley loaves have the whole Christian multitude been filled.
That rye and barley are so freely used in the preparation of intoxicating drink may be because principles of the kinds represented by them are stored in the mind, not for use, but to intoxicate him who possesses them. The whiskey made from rye seems to answer well to an intoxicating pride of wisdom; and the malt liquors made from barley to the mild intoxication of pride in good nature.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875