Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 1756

Previous Number Next Number Next Translation See Latin 

1756. All these matters presented above are those which in general are embodied in the internal sense of this chapter; but the whole train of thought, and its beauty, cannot be seen when every single thing is explained according to the meaning of the words, as they would be if they were comprehended in a single idea. When all are comprehended in a single idea those things which hitherto have lain scattered now appear beautifully joined and linked together. The situation is as with someone who listens to another speaking but pays attention solely to the words he uses. In this case he does not grasp the speaker's idea nearly so well as he would if he paid no attention to the words and their particular shades of meaning; for the internal sense of the Word in relation to the external or literal sense is very similar to speech in relation to the actual words used when these are scarcely listened to, still less paid attention to, as when the mind is intent on the sense alone of the things meant by the words used by the speaker.

[2] The most ancient manner of writing represented real things by the use of persons and of expressions which they employed to mean things entirely different from those persons or expressions. Secular authors of those times compiled their historical narratives in this way, including those things which had to do with public life and private life. Indeed they compiled them in such a way that nothing at all was to be taken literally as written, but something other was to be understood beneath the literal narrative. They even went so far as to present affections of every kind as gods and goddesses, to whom the heathen subsequently offered up divine worship, as every well-educated person may know, for ancient books of that kind are still extant. This manner of writing they derived from the most ancient people who lived before the Flood, who used to represent heavenly and Divine things to themselves by means of visible objects on earth and in the world, and in so doing filled their minds and souls with joys and delights when they beheld the objects in the universe, especially those that were beautiful on account of their form and order. This is why all the books of the Church in those times were written in the same style. Job is one such book; and Solomon's Song of Songs is an imitation of them too. Both the books mentioned by Moses in Num 21:14, 27, were of this nature, in addition to many that have perished.

[3] Because it had come down from antiquity this style was later venerated both among the gentiles and among the descendants of Jacob, so much so that whatever was not written in this style was not venerated as Divine. This is why when they were moved by the prophetic spirit- as were Jacob, Gen 49:3-27; Moses, Exod 15:1-21; Deut. 33:2-end; Balaam, who was one of the sons of the east in Syria, where the Ancient Church continued to exist, Num 23:7-10, 19 24; 24:5-9, 17-24; Deborah and Barak, Judg 5:2-end; Hannah, 1 Sam 2:2-10; and many others - they spoke in that same manner, and for many hidden reasons. And although, with very few exceptions, they neither understood nor knew that their utterances meant the heavenly things of the Lord's kingdom and Church, they were nevertheless struck and filled with awe and wonder, and sensed that those utterances carried what was Divine and Holy within them.

[4] But that the historical narratives of the Word are of a similar nature, that is to say, that the particular names and particular expressions used represent and mean the celestial and spiritual things of the Lord's kingdom, the learned world has not yet come to know, except that the Word is inspired right down to the tiniest jot, and that every single detail has heavenly arcana within it.

This page is part of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

© 2000-2001 The Academy of the New Church