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“ Basis," in the Dictionaries of Beyer and Nicholson, might have informed him.
The second objection rests upon the quotation from Swedenborg's letter to Dr. Beyer, in which he says, “ It was necessary for me first to learn the Hebrew language, as well as the correspondences of which all the language of the Bible is composed." It is evident to me that according to order Swedenborg had to learn to read the literal sense of the Word before he could comprehend its spiritual sense. On this point your correspondent makes me say what is in direct opposition to what I plainly wrote. I never understood that Swedenborg acquired a knowledge of the spiritual sense by means of the Hebrew; since in the beginning of the article objected to, I say, " that it is impossible to penetrate into the language of correspondences by human science.” I will only add, that it was indispensable for Swedenborg to be able to read the Book, the understanding of which the Lord was about to reveal to him. An intimate acquaintance with the literal sense cannot be obtained from translations. Who will maintain that it can ? This second objection then recoils on Mr. Knight.
My opponent adds, “ The writer considers the accusation of arbitrary’ destroyed by that which he alleges to be fact; namely, that each different signification (of a word in the internal sense, I suppose) corresponds to a separate word in the Hebrew; and that a still more convincing proof of evidence results from the circumstance that the science of correspondence rests, at least in a great measure, upon the double signification of the Hebrew words.' These two sentences appear to me opposed to each other; one stating that each signification has a distinct word in the Hebrew, and the other that Hebrew words have a double signification, and therefore I do not see how they can stand together as shewing the accusation of arbitrary to be unfounded,” &c., &c.
Thus, according to Mr. Knight, the existence of synonymous is incompatible with that of homonymous expressions. It seems to me that without having recourse to the Hebrew, your correspondent might have convinced himself that in the English language the rule for synonymes does not exclude that of homonymes. As the present is a favourable opportunity for making known my idea upon this point, I will briefly explain it.
In Hebrew the names of the objects of nature and of their qualities are very often double, or expressed by two synonymous words, which in the literal sense and in translations have the same identical signification. This double denomination of things and of ideas forms one of the rules of the science of correspondences, which Swedenborg gives thus :-" In the Word, and especially in the prophetical Word, there are two expressions for a single thing; the one of these expressions relating to good, and the other to truth, which are thereby conjoined."* I beg the reader who wishes to understand the subject to read the whole of the passage just quoted, and to turn to the numerous passages in the Arcana referred to by Swedenborg. I will add, that I do not rely merely upon the synonymes, but that I also shew that the varieties of the spiritual sense correspond to the varieties of the words in the literal sense, and that these shades of difference cannot be rendered by translations.
The rule for homonymes is the inverse of that for synonymes. It shews that a word may have several significations. Let us again hear what Swedenborg says: “ The interior significations of words, for the most part, derive their origin from the interior man, who is with spirits and angels :" "and as he is in society with them, he is also with them in the universal language, and thus in the origins of words; hence it happens that words contain several significations, which in the external form appear incongruous, and yet in the internal form are congruous.” Swedenborg here speaks only of the Hebrew language, and he applies his remarks immediately, by adding, “as in the present instance, where words signify things. The case is similar in very many other expressions, as in that of the understanding being called internal sight, and light being attributed to it; and in that of observation and obedience being called hearing and hearkening."
Mr. Knight makes it appear that these two systems of synonymes and of homonymes, contradict each other. As a member of the New Jerusalem I have but one argument to oppose to him, -Swedenborg: I beg to refer him, as a scholar, to the article in the French Magazine, which he appears not to have read.
Our opponent is surprized that we hope to remove the accusation of arbitrariness by pursuing the path pointed out by Swedenborg. On this point I will only ask him a single question, which I trust he will
Does he believe that the spiritual signification of the expressions the Word, intelligence, hearing, can at all incur the charge of arbitrariness, when Swedenborg repels such charge by the single material fact of the double sense of Hebrew expressions ? Now if Mr. Knight, as a Hebraist and a member of the New Jerusalem, acknowledges the accuracy and the necessity of this fact, where will he take *H. D. 265.
+ A. C. 5075.
his stand in presence of facts of the same nature, and which all declare the truth of the spiritual signification given by Swedenborg? Will he say that Swedenborg does not unfold to us all the consequences of this system, but that the object of his mission was to teach us Hebrew ? He makes us acquainted with a fact: it is our business to understand it and to apply it.
Your correspondent, continuing his attack, says, “If the statement that each signification corresponds to a separate word in Hebrew,' is advanced as a general rule, my experience, from continued research, extending through several years, and the early part of the time directed to this very inquiry, enables me to say there is no such rule, and that no such rule extends even to the divine names, 7777? (Jehovah), ok (Eloah), bring (Elohim), &c., &c., and where; if any where, it would be reasonable to expect to find its presence.”
Either I do not understand this passage, or else Mr. Knight has been unfortunate in the choice of his example; for the names of God which he cites, as well as all the others, have each a different signification both in Hebrew and in the language of correspondences.
According to Swedenborg, Jehovah, in Hebrew, signifies esse, or the essence of every thing that is; while God, El, Eloah, or Elohim, signifies power and might; wherefore the name Jehovah is used in the Word when good and the will are treated of, and Eloah or Elohim when the truth and the understanding are treated of; for good has relation to the essence of a thing, and the truth to its power.* Doubtless Mr. Knight will observe that El, Eloah, and Elohim are three different names; in fact, they have three distinct significations in Hebrew and in the language of correspondences. It would detain us too long to enter into all these details here; the members of the New Church will find them fully explained in the Arcana Cælestia, n. 4402. We will only add, that even if Mr. Knight's example had been better chosen, still would not at all have shaken our system.
easy, by carrying it beyond its legitimate bounds, to make a system appear absurd. To affirm that every spiritual signification should necessarily have a corresponding Hebrew word, is to make the science of correspondences altogether subservient to the Hebrew, or to circumscribe the infinite within the limits of the finite. This is what we should discountenance to the utmost of our power; but to believe and to say, that a system founded upon indisputable and undisputed facts, is inadmissible, simply because it does not appear applicable to every possible case, and in an unlimited manner, would be inconsistent with the simplest requirements of logic; and we cannot imagine that your correspondent had any such intention.
* A. C. 300, 709, 3910; A. R. 13, &c.
At length, as a concluding proof that our researches are of no value, Mr. Knight adds, that if it is true that Swedenborg occasionally refers to Hebrew words, he also equally refers to Syriac, Arabic, and Greek words; and certainly no one would say that the science of correspondences is based upon those languages.” Here again I cannot admit that the example is any better chosen. Mr. Knight imagines that Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic are different languages. To this I have only to reply, that I equally make use of Syriac and Arabic roots, from the well known fact that all the Semitic languages are connected in their roots. Thus, on the supposition that the Hebrew is the basis of the science of correspondences, we are forced partly to grant the same honour to the Chaldee, the Syriac, the Ethiopian, and probably to the sacred language of Egypt, as I have endeavoured to prove elsewhere. Moreover when Swedenborg rests an explanation upon the Greek, he shews us that, in order to arrive at the understanding of the spiritual sense, it is useful to be acquainted with the original language of the New Testament, as, in order to thoroughly understand Swedenborg, it appears to us to be indispensable to be acquainted with Latin. By quoting a Greek word to explain the literal sense, it seems to us that the modern apostle has not destroyed the specific character which he assigns to the Hebrew in the before cited passages.
I now come to Mr. Knight's system. He knows of no other rule for removing all reproach of arbitrariness from the language of correspondences, than the context and the subject to which the word relates. This rule exists in all languages; but previously to applying it, it is indispensable first to fix the absolute meaning of the words, and the different acceptations resulting therefrom, which are liable to vary according to the context and the subject. Now, the only means of attaining this end, is a knowledge of the original language. Swedenborg himself followed the rules we have here laid down. If he sometimes refers to the context, at least, he everywhere exhibits a profound knowledge of the Hebrew, and fixes the absolute meaning of the words, by referring to numerous passages in the Arcana where the context varies, and where the same words always preserve inviolably the same significations. We acknowledge, that Swedenborg lays down a general principle, when he says, that in the spiritual
sense, the words follow their subjects* ; but this principle is equally applicable to the literal sense. Now does Mr. Knight imagine, that the reproach of arbitrariness which some scholars have brought against the Hebrew, has been refuted by the general signification of the context and of the subject under discussion? Does he not know that that method has been rejected as supremely arbitrary, and that the sense of the Hebrew words has been established only by the agreement of the roots of the other Semitic languages ? Does he attach no value to the important labours of modern philology ?
In science there cannot be two contradictory methods. If you would prove to the world, and irrespective of our creed, that the science of correspondences is not arbitrary, proceed like science, proceed like Swedenborg ; follow that path of induction and analysis, the only true one, the only rational one, the only one that can lead to an end that is useful for the members of the New Church, and especially useful for those who have not yet received the heavenly doctrines.
To sum up we would say:
1st. That Mr. Knight has taken shelter in generalities that are inapplicable to our article.
2nd. That he has not discussed any philological fact laid down by us.
3rd. That, moreover, his attack is a pure negation unsupported by proofs, and founded on erroneous data.
4th. That the method we have pursued, is that which Swedenborg himself used, and therefore cannot be rejected by the members of the New Jerusalem.
We now solicit free and honest discussion ; and in inviting Mr. Knight to publish his system, which we hoped to have been acquainted with before writing this letter, we beg him to believe that we shall be happy to discover that he has found some new proofs of the exactness of the science of correspondences, and that we shall hasten to lay them before the readers of “ La Nouvelle Jérusalem.”+
Accept, gentlemen, the assurance of my sentiments of esteem and brotherly love;
Your devoted servant, Paris, Dec. 2, 1841.
* A. C. 4502. H. D. 265.
+ An error in the original article, page 365, line 6, of the French magazine, (qui émanent du bien, instead of qui produisent le bien,) has been translated so as to lead to an error in page 365, line 5, of our last volume. lostead of which proceed from good, it should be which produce good.