Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 4966

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4966. 'The chief of the attendants' means which facts come first and foremost in explanations. This is clear from the meaning of 'the chief of the attendants' as the facts which come first and foremost in explanations, dealt with in 4790. Ones which come first and foremost in explanations are those which are pre-eminently suitable for explaining the Word, and so for coming to understand teachings drawn from the Word about love to God and charity towards the neighbour. It should be recognized that the factual knowledge of the people of old was entirely different from that existing at the present day. As stated above, the factual knowledge of the people of old had to do with the correspondences of things in the natural world with realities in the spiritual world. Knowledge which at the present day is called philosophical knowledge, such as Aristotelian systems and their like, did not exist among them. This is also evident from the books written by ancient authors, most of which consisted of descriptions of such things as were signs of, represented, and corresponded to more internal realities, as may be seen from the following evidence, and ignoring all else.

[2] They envisaged Helicon on a mountain and took it to mean heaven, and Parnassus on a hill below that, and took it to mean factual knowledge. They spoke of a flying horse, called Pegasus by them, which broke open a fountain there with its hoof; they called branches of knowledge virgins; and so on. For with the help of correspondences and representatives they knew that 'a mountain' meant heaven, 'a hill' the heaven beneath this, which is heaven as it exists among men, a horse' the power of understanding, 'its wings with which it flew' spiritual things, 'its hoof' that which was natural, 'a fountain' intelligence, while three virgins called 'the Graces' meant affections for good, and virgins who were named 'the Heliconians and 'the Parnassians' meant affections for truth. To the sun they likewise allotted horses, whose food they called ambrosia and whose drink they called nectar; for they knew that 'the sun' meant heavenly love, 'horses' powers of the understanding which sprang from that love, while 'food' meant celestial things and 'drink' spiritual ones.

[3] The Ancients are also the originators of customs that are still followed when kings are crowned. The king has to sit on a silver throne, wear a purple robe, and be anointed with oil. He has to wear a crown on his head, while holding in his hands a sceptre, a sword, and keys. He has to ride in regal splendour on a white horse shed with horseshoes made of silver; and he has to be waited on at table by the chief nobles of the kingdom. And many other customs are followed besides these. The Ancients knew that 'a king' represented Divine Truth that is rooted in Divine Good, and from this they knew what was meant by a silver throne, a purple robe, anointing oil, crown, sceptre, sword, keys, white horse, horseshoes made of silver, and what was meant by being waited on at table by the chief nobles. Who at the present day knows the meaning of any of these customs, or where the information exists to show him their meaning? People refer to them as symbols, but they know nothing at all about correspondence or representation. All this evidence shows what the factual knowledge possessed by the Ancients was like, and that this knowledge gave them a discernment of spiritual and heavenly realities, which at the present day are scarcely known to exist.

[4] The factual knowledge that has replaced that of the Ancients, and which strictly speaking is called philosophical knowledge, tends to draw the mind away from knowing such things because such knowledge can also be employed to substantiate false ideas. Furthermore, even when used to substantiate true ones it introduces darkness into the mind, because for the most part mere terms are used to substantiate them, which few people can understand and which the few who do understand them argue about. From this it may be seen how far the human race has departed from the learning of the Ancients, which led to wisdom. Gentiles received their factual knowledge from the Ancient Church, whose external worship consisted in representatives and meaningful signs and whose internal worship consisted in the realities represented and meant by these. This was the kind of factual knowledge that is meant in the genuine sense by 'Egypt'.

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