Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 920

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920. In this verse the worship of the Ancient Church in general is described, that is, by 'the altar and its burnt offerings', which were the chief features of all representative worship. First of all however the nature of the worship of the Most Ancient Church must be mentioned, and from that how worship of the Lord by means of representatives arose. For the member of the Most Ancient Church there was no other worship than internal such as is offered in heaven, for among those people heaven so communicated with man that they made one. That communication was perception, which has been frequently spoken of already. Thus, being angelic people, they were internal men. They did indeed apprehend with their senses the external things that belonged to the body and to the world, but they paid no attention to them. In each object apprehended by the senses they used to perceive something Divine and heavenly. For example, when they saw any high mountain they did not perceive the idea of a mountain but that of height, and from height they perceived heaven and the Lord. That is how it came about that the Lord was said to 'live in the highest', and was called 'the Most High and Lofty One', and how worship of the Lord came at a later time to be celebrated on mountains. The same applies to all other objects. For example, when they perceived the morning they did not perceive morning time itself that starts the day but that which is heavenly and is a likeness of the morning and of the dawn in people's minds. This was why the Lord was called the Morning, the East, and the Dawn. Similarly when they perceived a tree and its fruit and leaves they paid no attention to these objects themselves but so to speak saw man represented in them. In the fruit they saw love and charity, and in the leaves faith. Consequently the member of the Church was not only compared to a tree, and also to a tree-garden, and what resided with him to fruit and leaves, but was even called such.

[2] Such is the character of people whose ideas are heavenly and angelic. Everyone may know that a general idea governs all the particular aspects, and this applies to all objects apprehended by the senses, both those which people see and those they hear. Indeed they pay no attention to such objects except insofar as these enter into the general idea a person has. Take the person who has a cheerful disposition; everything he hears and sees seems to him to contain joy and laughter. But for one who has a sad disposition everything he sees and hears seems to be sad and dismal. The same applies to every other kind of person, for their general affection is present within each individual part and causes each individual part to be seen and heard in the general affection. Other features do not even show themselves but are so to speak absent or insignificant. This was so with the member of the Most Ancient Church. Whatever he saw with his eyes was for him heavenly, and so with him every single thing was so to speak alive.

[3] From this the nature of that Church's Divine worship becomes clear, namely that it was internal and not at all external. When however the Church went into decline, as it did among its descendants, and that perception, or communication with heaven, began to die out, a different situation started to emerge. In objects apprehended by the senses they no longer perceived, as they had done previously, that which is heavenly, but that which is worldly. And the more they perceived that which is worldly the less perception remained with them. At length among their final descendants, who came immediately before the Flood, they apprehended nothing at all in such objects except that which was worldly, bodily, and earthly. Thus heaven became separated from mankind and communicated with it in none but an extremely remote way. Man's communication now changed to a communication with hell, and from there he obtained his general idea from which, as has been stated, stem the ideas belonging to every individual part. In this situation, when any heavenly idea came to them, it had no value for them. At length they were not even willing to acknowledge the existence of anything spiritual or celestial. Thus man's state came to be altered and turned upside down.

[4] Because the Lord foresaw that the state of mankind was to become such as this, He also provided for the preservation of doctrinal matters concerning faith so that from them people might know what was celestial and what was spiritual. These matters of doctrine were gathered together from the members of the Most Ancient Church by the people dealt with already called Cain and those called Enoch. This is why it is said of Cain that a sign was placed upon him to prevent anyone killing him, and of Enoch that he was taken by God. Concerning these two, see Chapter 4:15 - in 393, 394 - and 5:24. These matters of doctrine consisted exclusively in things that were meaningful signs and so things of a seemingly enigmatic nature. That is to say, they consisted in earthly objects which carried spiritual meanings, such as mountains, which meant heavenly things and the Lord; the morning and the east, which also meant heavenly things and the Lord; various kinds of trees and their fruits, which meant man and the heavenly things that are his; and so on. These were the things that their matters of doctrine consisted in, which had been gathered together from the meaningful signs of the Most Ancient Church. Their writings too were consequently of this nature. Now because they wondered at, and to themselves seemed to detect, that which was Divine and heavenly in such matters of doctrine, and also because of the antiquity of these, they began and were allowed to make such things the basis of their worship. This was the origin of their worship on mountains, in groves, and among trees, also of their pillars in the open air, and later on of altars and burnt offerings which ended up as the chief features of all worship. Such worship was begun by the Ancient Church, and from there spread to their descendants and to all the nations round about. These and many other matters as well will in the Lord's Divine mercy be dealt with later on.

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