The Word And Its Senses
the Reverend Norman E. Riley
I have chosen this subject because I think it is useful, from time to time, to re-examine what we consider to be our basic beliefs.
There is however only one place from which any enquiry can commence. That is from the Lord, Who is the sole origin and source of all things Spiritual and Natural.
In this respect we have chosen this passage from True Christian Religion number 224.
“That the Universe was created by the Divine True is openly stated in John, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and God was the Word, all things were made by the Word, and the wor1d was made by Him,’ chapter 1 verses 1,3 & 10. And in David, ‘by the Word of Jehovah were the Heavens made’ Psalm 33:6.”
By the Word in both these passages is meant the Divine True. As the Universe was created by it, so also is it preserved by it, for just as subsistence is perpetual existence, so preservation is perpetual creation. Man was made by the Divine True, because all things in him have relation to Will and Understanding, the Understanding is the receptacle of the Divine True and the Will of the Divine Good, therefore the human mind, which consists of these two principles is nothing but a form of the Divine True and the Divine Good, spiritually and naturally organized.
Since God is Order itself, all that He does is in and according to His own order. We may see this when we consider the following:
1) in the evolutionary process, from Him, towards the end that there might be a being capable of responding, in freedom and according to reason, to the life from the Creator.
2) In the developing ages of such a being, from conception to Adult life, in the Natural world.
3) In what is presented to us in the successive Ages or Churches, preceding the Second Coming.
4) This is seen reflected in the States of regeneration of the being created, that he may become, not just Natural but also Spiritual, according to the Human Form.
Each state had its beginning and end, in order that out of it the new state might come into existence. This is easily seen in the progressive states or ages from Infancy, through Childhood, into Adolescence, terminating in the Adult, as far as the natural development is concerned.
The same also applied to the four Churches, in respect to the Spiritual. The end of each Church was not on account of what those in each age had done, it was not destructive of the use, but a fulfillment of it. This may he seen from what is said in True Christian Religion number 762,
“That four churches have existed on this earth since the creation of the world is
according to Divine order.”
He who wills an end also provides the means. For this reason we read in Nova Hierosolyma and Its Heavenly Doctrine, number 249, ‘Without a Revelation from the Divine a man cannot know anything concerning eternal life, or even concerning God; still less can he know anything concerning love and faith in Him …’
Before proceeding further we should note that by eternal life, is meant the purpose of life.
Number 948 of Apocalypse Explained states that in each Age there has been a Revelation serviceable to the use of the Age in which it was given. Each Revelation presented interior truths, and that truths still more interior would be presented to the Church which was to follow the Christian Church, which, we read elsewhere, was Christian only in name.
With regard to the Church which would be the Crown of all those Churches, by means of the Second Coming of the Lord, we read in True Christian Religion number 776, “This Second Coming of the Lord is not in Person, but in the Word, which is from Him, and is Himself.”
From a careful reading, it is evident that the Revelation given by means of Swedenborg, is this Word, and that the Letter of the Word is that which was penned by him in the world.
It is interesting to note, even if not pleasing, that at the First Advent when the Lord came in Person, that it was not long after, in the Church of that Advent, that the Doctrine of three persons in the Godhead was formulated. Since that time, whenever people read about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament, they read into those passages that false Doctrine.
A similar thing took place at the Second Advent, when the Lord came in the Word that was from Him and is Himself. In the early days of the organisation of the New Church, a doctrine was formulated, which stated that the Old and New Testaments were the Word in the Letter, while the Revelation of the Second Advent was the Doctrine drawn from them.
Since that time, when people read about the Letter of the Word or the sense of the Letter, in the Revelation of the Second Advent, they read into those passages from the doctrine which had been formulated by man. Later it was also taught by some, that while the Old and New Testaments are the Word in the Letter, the Revelation of the Second Advent is the Spiritual sense now made known.
That neither of these positions can he true, may he seen from what is said in he Letter of the Word of the Second Advent.
With regard to the first, we have the instruction in True Christian Religion number 229, that “Doctrine ought to be drawn from the sense of the Letter of the Word, and he confirmed by it.” Why would we be so instructed if the Lord had already done it? And further, why do we have to confirm one thing which is from the Lord by another that is also from the Lord? Does not the question arise, how can I believe that by which it has to be drawn and confirmed?
If the Revelation of the Second Advent is the Spiritual sense itself, then this would render our regeneration impossible, since by reading it we would he in a state of profanation. We read in Apocalypse Explained number 778, “A word against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but he that speaks against the Holy Spirit it cannot be forgiven... By the Holy Spirit is meant the Lord as to the Divine True, such as it is in heaven, which is the spiritual sense ... by the Son of Man is meant the Divine Truth such as it is in the earth, which is the Natural sense.”
In seeking to understand the Word one will make mistakes. These however can he rectified from other passages. If what we are reading is the Spiritual sense itself, and we misinterpret, this cannot he changed. Fortunately, however even with those who think it is the spiritual sense, it is still the Letter which has been misunderstood.
The two worlds only make one by correspondence. What Swedenborg received by means of his spiritual senses, when brought down into the Natural, became knowledge about the Spiritual.
How are we aware of the world in which our physical body is said to live? We say by means of the impact of that world on our bodily senses.
Regeneration is said to be analogous to the manner in which a person is conceived, carried in the womb, born and educated (TCR 683). This new birth is actual, it takes place by means of the Truth of the Word, which has been received, and by means of which there has been a shunning of evils as sins, that is, because they are contrary to the Lord.
“He who thinks nothing but the truth” we read in True Christian Religion number 263. “becomes that truth, and he who wills nothing but Good, becomes that good.”
And further from Arcana Coelestia number 10,594, “The spirit of man in the other life is seen in the human form precisely as in the world. He also has the power to see, hear, speak and feel as in the world ...”
According, therefore, to the manner in which the senses of the spiritual body are being formed, will depend on what is received by them in the spiritual world, as it is with the bodily senses in the Natural world.
Let us therefore consider what is said about spiritual sight in True Christian Religion number 346, as the existence of faith in the person. In number 343 we read, “A person acquires faith, by approaching the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living according to them.”
As the organ of sight of the physical body has many parts, so also is it with spiritual sight. We therefore read in number 349, “A number of truths which cohere as one whole, exalts and perfects faith.” Do we not also read that faith is the eye of Love?
These things are not just for some future time, they are for now, since as to our essential self we are spiritual beings. What then is the sight of our Spiritual senses? In connection with this read True Christian Religion number 346, which presents the correspondence between the spiritual and natural sight.
The Spiritual sense is therefore the persons spiritual understanding formed by the true and thereby the means of receiving what belongs to the spiritual. It is what belongs to their life.
This is what the Lord was speaking about when He said to Nicodemus, “Except one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” and further, “Except one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” By water is meant the spiritual true and by Spirit the life of that true which is celestial good. To enter into, means to live according to heavenly principles of life.
While a person is in the Natural world, what is received by means of his Spiritual senses, will descend into the Natural as knowledge about Spiritual things. the Natural is nothing iiiote than the plane of knowledge, since it is the degree of effects and not causes.
This is what is involved in the Lord’s statement, that each person is his own good and his own truth, even if not from himself, since each person has been created for no other end than to become a form receptive of the Divine. Whether we come into that life will depend on our response to the Lord’s calling to us in His Word.
What then is the thrust of this paper? That the Revelation of the Second Advcnt, in the Natural world, is the Letter of the Word serviceable for this Age. This is the new wineskin for the new wine, even as the New Testament was such for the First Advent, the old wine of that Age being the truth of the old Testament, according to what is stated in Apocalypse Revealed number 316, in respect to the Lord’s words at His First Advent. As the Lord also said, that He had not come to destroy, but fulfill, so likewise is it now, at His Second Advent. As the Letter of the Word the former Testaments have served their use, they are now in the Word of the Second Coming as part of its Letter. This does not mean we do not read them, or teach them to our children, since we would not understand what is referred to in the Letter of the Word now given. It is nonetheless important for our spiritual well-being that we see that it is from the Letter of the Word of the Second Corning that our doctrine has to be drawn, that we might come into an understanding of it for our life.
It is well known that the mind needs to be revitalized from time to time. If the revelation of the Second Coming is thought to be just an explanation of the Former Testaments, then the mind becomes locked in a dead Letter. The person then has to seek new things for the mind’s renewal. These too being of the Natural cannot rise any higher, since it belongs to the realm of effects and not causes. The danger is that the person is gradually led further and further away from the Word.
If, however, the same Revelation is seen as the Word, and doctrine is drawn from its Letter for the sake of an understanding of it, the mind is raised into its spirit and life. The Word of the Second Corning alone has within it the power to raise the mind into the realm of causes, which is the Spiritual. The person is, by this means, led gradually away from what is of self to what is of the Lord, and to the things of eternal life, and thereby to a love and faith in the Lord from the Lord.