February 6, 2016

The Joining Together of the Church's Truths and Its Factual Knowledge

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The joining together of the Church's truths
and its factual knowledge
but one needs to know in what way they should become joined
The joining together must not start with factual knowledge which is then used to look into the truths of faith; for a person's factual knowledge comes from sensory impressions, thus from the world, the source of countless illusions. It must start with the truths of faith; that is to say, one should proceed in the following way. First of all one should get to know what the Church teaches; then one should discover from the Word whether such teaching is the truth. For things are true not because they are what leaders of the Church have so declared and their followers uphold. If that were so one would have to say that the teachings of any Church or religion were the truth simply because they are those of a person's native soil and are those into which he was born. Thus not only the teachings of Papists or Quakers would be true but also those of Jews and of Mohammedans too since their Church leaders have so declared and their followers uphold it. From all this it is evident that one should search the Word and there see whether what the Church teaches is the truth. When an affection for truth motivates the search a person receives light from the Lord so that he may discern, though unaware of the source of his enlightenment, what the truth is and may be assured of it in the measure that he is governed by good. But if the truths discerned by him are at variance with the teachings of the Church, let him beware of creating a disturbance in the Church.

Once he has become assured and so affirms from the Word that the Church's teachings are truths of faith, let him then employ any fact he knows, whatever the name or nature of it, to corroborate them. For now that he is thoroughly affirmative in his attitude towards the truth, he welcomes facts that accord with them and casts away those which because of the misconceptions present within them do not accord. The facts are used in support of his faith. No one therefore should be forbidden to search the Scriptures if motivated by a desire to know whether the teachings of the Church in which he was born are true; for in no other way can he ever become enlightened. Nor should he be forbidden after that to use factual knowledge to support his beliefs; but let him not do so before that. This and no other is the way in which the truths of faith should be joined to factual knowledge - not only the facts known to the Church but also any other kinds of facts. But very few at the present day proceed in this way, for the majority of people who read the Word are not motivated by a desire for truth when they read it but by a desire to endorse the teachings of the Church in which they were born, no matter what those teachings may be like.

The Word contains a description of the Lord's kingdom in which the spiritual domain, the domain of reason, and the domain of factual knowledge exist joined together; but in that description names that serve to mean those domains are used - Israel, Asshur, and Egypt.  'Israel' describes the spiritual domain'Asshur' the domain of reason, and 'Egypt' that of factual knowledge, in the following words in Isaiah,

On that day there will be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to Jehovah at its border; and it will be for a sign and a witness to Jehovah Zebaoth in the land of Egypt, for they will cry out to Jehovah because of the oppressors, and He will send a saviour and prince to them, and he will deliver them.

And Jehovah will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know Jehovah on that day and will offer sacrifice and oblation, and will make a vow to Jehovah and perform it.

On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Asshur, and Asshur will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Asshur, and Egypt will serve Asshur.*

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Asshur, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom Jehovah Zebaoth will bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Asshur the work of My hands, and Israel My heritage. (Isa. 19:18-25.)
Anyone may see that in this quotation the country Egypt is not meant, or Asshur, or even Israel, but that some other thing is meant by each of them.
  • 'Israel' is used to mean the spiritual domain of the Church, ...
  • 'Asshur' to mean the domain of reason, ...
  • 'Egypt' to mean the domain of factual knowledge, ...
The existence of the three joined together in the member of the Church is described in the prophet by the words 'there will be a highway from Egypt to Asshur, and Asshur will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Asshur, and Egypt will serve Asshur. On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Asshur, a blessing in the midst of the earth'.
For to be a member of the Church a person must of necessity be a spiritual person, and also a rational one whom factual knowledge will serve.
From all this it may now be evident that factual knowledge should not on any account be cast aside from the truths of faith but should be joined to them. But one should go the primary way, that is, the way that begins with faith, not the secondary way, that is, the one that begins with factual knowledge....
* The Hebrew of this text in Isaiah may be read in two different ways - serve Asshur or serve with Asshur. Most English versions of Isaiah prefer the second of these.
(Arcana Coelestia 6047)