July 28, 2017

Gaining a Right Interpretation of the Literal Sense of the Word

Selection from Arcana Cœlestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be throughly healed.   Exodus 21:18-19    KJV.

And healing he shall heal him. That this signifies restoration, namely, by means of interpretation, is evident.  For if the things which are in the literal sense of the Word are looked at interiorly, they all agree together. This is circumstanced like that which is said in the Word about the sun, that it rises and sets, when yet it does not rise or set; but such an appearance is presented to the inhabitants of the earth, because the earth rotates every day around its axis. This natural truth lies hidden in the former, which is according to the appearance to the external sight.  If it had been said in the Word contrary to this appearance, the common people would not apprehend it, and what the common people do not apprehend they do not believe.

The case is similar with the Sun of heaven, which is the Lord, concerning which it is also said that it "rises," but in hearts, when man is being regenerated; and also when he is in the good of love and faith; and that it "sets" when man is in evil and in the consequent falsity. And yet the Lord is continually in His rising, from which also He is called the "Sunrise," or "East," and He is never in any setting; nor does He turn Himself away from man, but man turns himself away from Him.  From this arises the appearance that the Lord turns away His face and also brings evil; and therefore it is also so said in the Word. This likewise is the truth, but apparent truth, thus it is not in conflict with the former. From all this it can now be seen what is meant in the internal sense by healing he shall heal,  namely, the restoration of spiritual truth, which is effected by means of a right interpretation of the memory-truth, or that of the literal sense of the Word.

The case is similar with every truth of the literal sense, for in the natural light, which is that of the sensuous man, this appears just as it is expressed in the Word, because the literal sense is natural, and is for the sensuous man.  But when the same is presented in the light of heaven, it then appears according to the internal sense; for this sense is spiritual, and is for the heavenly man, because those things which are of natural light vanish away in the light of heaven; for natural light is like shade or cloud, and heavenly light is like the glory and the brightness when the cloud is taken away. And therefore also the literal sense of the Word is called "a cloud," and the internal sense "glory."

By healing he shall heal is signified in the spiritual sense to restore, because disease and sickness signify the infirmity of the internal man, which infirmity exists when he is sick in respect to his life, which is the spiritual life; thus when he turns aside from truth to falsity, and from good to evil.  When this is the case, the spiritual life sickens; and when he wholly turns himself away from truth and good, it dies; but this death is called "spiritual death," which is damnation.  As this is the case with the life of the internal man, therefore such things as relate to diseases and death in the natural world are said in the Word of the diseases of the spiritual life, and of its death. So also the cures of diseases, or healings, as in Isaiah:

Jehovah smiteth Egypt, smiting and healing; whence he turneth himself unto Jehovah, and He shall be entreated for them, and shall heal them (Isa. 19:22).

Surely He was pierced for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and in His wound we are healed (Isa. 53:5);

speaking of the Lord.

In Jeremiah:

Return, ye perverse sons, I will heal your backslidings (Jer. 3:22).

Behold, I will cause to come up to it cure and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them abundance of peace and truth (Jer. 33:6).

Go up to Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt; in vain hast thou multiplied medicines; there is no healing for thee (Jer. 46:11).

And in Ezekiel:

By the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that, cometh up the tree for food, whose leaf falleth not, neither is the fruit consumed; it springeth up again in its months, because the waters thereof go forth out of the sanctuary; therefore the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for medicines (Ezek. 47:12).

"The fruit which shall be for food" denotes the good of love and charity which is for the nourishment of the spiritual life; "the leaf which shall be for medicine" denotes the truths of faith which are for the refreshment and restoration of that life. ...

As diseases and sicknesses, and also healings and medicines, are not said in the Word of the natural life, but of another life which is distinct from the natural life; it is therefore plain to him who gives some consideration to the matter, that man has another life, which is that of his internal man. They who have gross thoughts with respect to the life of man, believe that he has no other life than that of the body, which is the life of the external or natural man. They wonder what the life of the internal man may be, and even what the internal man is.  If they are told that that life is the life of faith and charity, and that the internal man is man's spirit, which lives after death, and which is essentially the man himself, they wonder still more.  And such of them as live only for the body, and not for the soul, thus who are merely natural men, have no apprehension whatever of what is said about the life of faith and charity, and about the internal man, because their thought is merely from natural light, and not at all from spiritual light.  Wherefore also after death they remain gross in respect to thought, and live in the shadow of death, that is, in falsities from evil; and they are wholly in thick darkness, and blind to the light of heaven.

(Arcana Cœlestia 9031)