a close similarity, connection, or equivalence. synonyms include: correlation, agreement, consistency, compatibility, consonance, conformity, similarity, resemblance, parallel, comparability, accord, concurrence, coincidence.
One of the most unique, and for me truly fascinating, aspects of Emanuel Swedenborg's theology is the idea of correspondences. The Swedenborg Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the translation, promotion + distribution of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, describes correspondences like this, "all of creation has a divinely established order that starts at the very top (the Lord) and extends down through the heavens and the world of spirits until it reaches the natural world, which is the level at which things have physical existence." *
THE SUN, LOVE + WISDOM
The most common example, and easiest correspondence for me to grasp, is that of the sun. The sun in the natural world radiates light + heat. We step outside into the light of day and view the world and feel the heat of the sun on our skin. But in the spiritual world, the sun corresponds to the "omnipresent radiance of the Lord's Divinity." In other words, His "divine love that permeates the universe is like the heat of the sun," and His "divine wisdom that provides order to everything in the universe is equivalent to the light of the sun." *
The natural sun is a lesser version of its spiritual counterpart - a less perfect version. This is true of all things in the natural world. In fact, the spiritual is absolutely necessary in order for the natural to exist. If the spiritual were to be removed from its lesser counterpart, the lesser would become lifeless or dead. Like us - a spirit or soul contained within a physical body. It is our spirit that breathes life into our physical body. Without a spirit, we are a lifeless blob of flesh, organs, bones, and blood. But the appearance is that our body seems to be alive and functioning on its own. The same is true with the sun. The natural sun only appears to give life and is really nothing but a giant fireball in space. Swedenborg writes,
The activity of our physical sun is not autonomous but stems from a living force that emanates from the spiritual world's sun.
Divine Love + Wisdom §157
What this means is that life doesn't actually come from the natural sun, although it appears to. In reality it comes from the spiritual sun. It is the spirit which gives life. The Word provides us with several verses that tell us this very thing.
The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
2 Corinthians 3:6
WATER + TRUTH
Another easily understood correspondence is that of water. I love this correspondence because water can take several forms, such as liquid, solid, or vapor, and each form has its own correspondence. Basically, water, in its liquid, flowing form = truth.
But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean.
He gives rain on the earth, And sends waters on the fields.
Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Why are correspondences important? They're important because everything in the natural world has a spiritual correlation, including the Bible. What this means is that there is a natural meaning to the Word, as well as a spiritual, or inner (deeper) meaning. Most Christians are very familiar with the natural letter of the word. We grew up reading Bible stories and memorizing verses. But only now have we been given access to the spirit of the Word, the life-giving meaning behind the letter.
Since the Word is inwardly spiritual and heavenly, it was written using nothing but correspondences; and when something is written by means of nothing but correspondences, its outermost written sense takes on the kind of style we find in the prophets and in the Gospels, a style that has divine wisdom and everything angelic hidden within it, even though it seems to be commonplace.
Sacred Scriptures §8
I think we can agree that most people recognize that the Word is full of symbolism, but no one has even an inkling as to the spiritual sense of the Word. Until now, no one understood that the spiritual sense is what breathes life into the Word, like our soul gives life to our body. Swedenborg, however, had his spiritual eyes opened and was permitted, in fact chosen by the Lord, to bring this revelation to us at last.
Why are we just now receiving this revelation of the spiritual meaning of the Word? Why has it taken so long? Well, in short, we had to be ready to receive it.
SWEDENBORG + LIFE VIDEOS ON CORRESPONDENCES
The following videos are from Off the Left Eye, a weekly YouTube video series produced by the Swedenborg Foundation that offers an in-depth look at how Swedenborg's theological Writings apply to our day-to-day life.
In my next post, I will address the Ancient Word, and how the inner meaning of the Ancient Word relates to our regeneration process. In the meantime, check out the sources below for more detailed information about correspondences. Please feel free to share your impressions of correspondences, and how they have opened the deeper meaning of the Lord's Word for you. If you wish to ask a question privately, please contact me here.
- Dictionary of Correspondences, by George Nicholson
- Dictionary of Bible Imagery, by Alice Spiers Sechrist
- Divine Love + Wisdom, by Emanuel Swedenborg
- Sacred Scriptures, by Emanuel Swedenborg