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DOCUMENTS CONCERNING SWEDENBORG. LETTER FROM SWEDEN BORG TO THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
AT STOCKHOLM, ON THE HIEROGLYPHICS OF EGYPT.
We present to our readers the conclusion of a letter from Swedenborg, on the hieroglyphics of Egypt, which Dr. Tafel has published in the Documents concerning E. S., lately sent to him from Sweden.
The extract is as follows:
Since the science of correspondences was to the ancients the science of sciences, and hence their wisdom, it is of importance, that some person of your Academy, should devote himself to the study of this science ;
if it should be commenced, it might be done from the correspondences discovered in the Apocalypse Revealed, and demonstrated from the Word ; if it should be wished, I am willing to explain and publish the Egyptian hieroglyphics, which are nothing else but correspondences, which could not be done by any other person.*
We will also adduce an extract from a letter addressed by Swedenborg to the Rev. Mr. Hartley, and called “ an Appendix to the Treatise on the White Horse,” which has also lately been published by the London Printing Society, as an appendix to that small treatise. The extract is as follows :
It is commonly known, that in Egypt, there were hieroglyphics, and that they were inscrlbed on the columns and walls of the temples and other buildings; it is acknowledged, however, that at this day, no one is able to determine their signification. Those hieroglyphics were no other than the correspondences between the spiritual and the natural, to which science, the Egyptians more than any people of Asia, applied themselves, and according to which, the very early nations of Greece formed their fables ; for this, and this only, was the most ancient style of composition; to which I can add the new information, that every object seen by spirits and angels in the spiritual world, is a mere correspondence ; and the Holy Scripture, is on this account, written by correspondences, that so it might be the medium of conjunction between the men of the church and the angels of heaven. But as the Egyptians, and along with them the people of the kingdoms of Asia, began to convert these correspondences into idolatry, to which the children of Israel were prone, these latter were forbidden to make any use of them. This is evident, from the first commandment of the de. calogue, which says,
• Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness (of any thing) that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth. Thou shall not bow down thyself to them,
* Quoniam scientia illa correspondentiarum fuerat antiquis scientia scientiarum et inde sapientia, interest ut aliquis e vestra Academia isti scientiæ operam impendat
si inchoari, quod fieri imprimis potest ex correspondentiis in Apocalypsi Revelata detectis, et ex Verbo demonstratis ; hoc si ex optato est, volo hieroglyphica Ægypitaca, quæ non aliud sunt quam correspondentiæ, evolvere et in publicum dare, quod nec fieri potest ab aliquo alio.
nor serve them, for 1, Jehovah thy God, am a jealous God” (Deut. chap. 5, verses 8, 9). Besides this, there are in other parts, many passages to the same purport. From that time, the science of correspondences became extinct, and successively to such an extent, that at this day, it is scarcely known that the science ever existed, and that it is an object of importance. But the Lord being now about to establish a New Church, which will have its foundation in the Word, and which church is meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse, it has pleased Him to reveal this science, and thus to disclose what the Word is in its bosom or spiritual sense. This I have done in the works entitled Arcana Cælestia, published in London, and Apoca lypse Revealed, published at Amsterdam. As the science of correspondences was esteemed by the ancients, the science of sciences, and constituted their wisdom, it would surely be of importance for some one of your society to devote his attention to it, and for this purpose, he may begin, if it be agreeable, with the correspondences disclosed in the Apocalypse Revealed. Should it be desired, I am willing to unfold the meaning of the Egyptian bieroglyphics, which are nothing else but correspondences; these being discovered and proved from the Word, in the Apocalypse Revealed, and to publish their explications, a work which no other person could accomplish.
Swedenborg also refers to the hieroglyphics of Egypt in A. C. n. 6692, 7097, and in other parts of his writings.
The decyphering of the hieroglyphics of Egypt, has of late years, much engaged the attention and the ingenuity of the learned. The discoveries of Champollion and of Young have, no doubt, tended to throw considerable light on the hieroglyphics, viewed in their relation to natural things and events. The discovery of a phonetic alphabet among the hieroglyphics, has enabled these distinguished men to decypher many series of these extraordinary characters, and to shew that they possess a sense which has relation to historical and natural events. However true this may be, we are inclined to think, that originally, these hieroglyphics were intended to convey a spiritual sense only, and that they were images or symbols, such as are seen in the world of spirits, representative of the moral and spiritual ideas, affections, sentiments, passions, &c. of the human mind, of which the science of correspondences is the only interpreter. This knowledge and the practice of it constituted the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians, and of the people of Asia, long anterior to the times of Moses. The soul was then more thought of than the body, and the life of the soul, and its states of spiritual improvement and happiness, were paramount to every other consideration. As the minds of men became more and more external, they began to feel a disinclination to contemplate purely spiritual states and things; hence the hieroglyphic language, which in its most ancient form was the language of correspondences, became gradually obscured, and, at length, as a science, entirely lost. We well know, that in proportion as mien become earthly minded, they take delight solely in the consideration and acquisition of earthly things, and are destitute of all spiritual perceptions concerning interior things, and their relation to the human soul, to heaven and to hell. The knowledge of these subjects, indeed, becomes any thing but delightful to men who are only delighted with things of the body and the world. It is a law of our nature, that in proportion as we cease to take an interest in any object, and to allow it to engage our affections, that object will gradually become obscured, and finally lost to our perceptions. Hence the science of correspondences, the great key to all ancient wisdom, the only interpreter of ancient mythology, and the decypherer of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the golden key of unfolding the spiritual treasures of divine revelation, was lost, together with the decline and loss of spiritual intelligence and heavenly wisdom amongst men. It was lost as a science, although many vestiges of it still remain, especially in the East, in the languages, customs, and institutions of modern times ; and it was of divine Providence that the science of correspondences should be lost, as the human race became externally and carnally minded, since, if it had been preserved, it would have been employed as an instrument to pervert and profane all spiritual knowledge by prostituting it to merely selfish and earthly purposes. For this reason also, the science of correspondences was entirely unknown to the Jews, who otherwise would have profaned the interior treasures of the Word, and of their representative worship, and thus have rendered their states far. more sinful and infernal than they could otherwise have been.
Herodotus informs us, that in his time, there were two kinds of wri. ting in Egypt, the hieratic and the demotic, or the sacred and the popular. The hieratic, no doubt, arose after hieroglyphics had declined, and had ceased to be understood as a system of emblems corresponding to moral and spiritual things. At this period too, it is probable, that the hieroglyphics were changed into phonetic characters; that is, certain hieroglyphics were assumed to represent alphabetic sounds : hence the origin of alphabetic characters, which, at the commencement, were pictures of external objects, such as a bull, house, camel, &c. Thus the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet, X, , ), are derived from pictures which originally represented a bull, or a bull's head, a house, and a camel *; but have been changed into their present forms, in which the original pictures
* See Ewald's Hebrero Grammar, translated by Dr. Nicholson, p. 52 ; also Ge.. senius' Lehrgebaude, p. 7.
can scarcely be traced. In the Chinese alphabet, which appears to have undergone the least change or modification of any known language, these pictures are still retained.
Clemens of Alexandria, who flourished about the end of the second century, informs us in his Stromata, or miscellaneous writings, that the Egyptians had three kinds of writing ; first, the hieroglyphic or symbolical; second, the hieratic, or sacred; and third, the enchorial, or epistolary; from which we conclude, that the hieratic was a distinct kind of writing from the hieroglyphic, and probably, as observed above, consisted in a phonetic and alphabetic language, in which the dying embers of the ancient wisdom contained in the hieroglyphics, were intended to be preserved ; especially that portion of it, which related to the rituals of their representative worship : hence it was called the sacred, or priestly language.
As to the manner in which the hieroglyphics were understood by the very ancient Egyptians, we are informed in the writings of Swedenborg, that the subjects about which the angels converse are exhibited representatively in the world of spirits, see A. C. n. 3213—3226; and that angelic spirits readily understand by intuition, that is, by influx from heaven, what the angels converse about. tatives, he states, are, for the most part, similar to objects upon earth; thus when the angelic discourse is concerning good affections, all kinds of tame and useful animals are exhibited; viz., lambs, sheep, &c., such as were used in the sacrificial worship of the Jewish Church ; but when their discourse is concerning evil affections, all kinds of ferocious and venomous beasts are exhibited to view. Now this gives us a clew to the proper method of understanding the hieroglyphics. Suppose the hieroglyphic group of characters we are considering, were to consist of a wolf lying down with a lamb, and a leopard with a kid, and a lion with a calf, and a little child standing before them, or leading them (see Isa. chap. 1, ver. 6). This group of hieroglyphics, of which there are some not dissimilar on the ancient monuments of Egypt, would present to the minds of the ancient Egyptians, a most beautiful picture of the regenerate, heavenly, and peaceful state of the human soul, when all the natural affections, represented by the wolf, the leopard, and the lion, which in the unregenerate state are rebellious and ferocious, are subdued and rendered perfectly harmless by the ascendancy of the celestial and spiritual affections, denoted by the lamb, the kid, and the calf; and the little child leading them, would beautifully portray the great tru that all this celestial and happy state of things, is effected solely by innocence from the Lord. Now this group of hiero
N. S. No. 36.-VOL. 3.
glyphics would present to the elevated perceptions of the ancient Egyptians, as also to the spiritually minded man of the present day, who is well instructed in the science of correspondences, a lesson of wisdom, compared with which, all the moral philosophy and all the sermons of the present age, sink into absolute insignificance. Again, suppose the hieroglyphics to consist of a man leaning with his hand against the wall, and a serpent in the act of biting him, (Amos. chap. 5, ver. 19,) this, in like manner, would convey to the Egyptian who understood the science of correspondences, according to which the hieroglyphics were pictured, a lesson of most practical wisdom. In the wall he would behold the correspondence of the lowest, or most external degree of man's life, called the sensual and corporeal degree; by leaning with his hand against the wall, he would perceive the inclination of all man's powers to acquire merely sensual and earthly good, and to place his dependence upon it, as the only source of gratification and delight, such as is the case with those who are a prey to avarice and sensuality: and a serpent in the act of biting him, would depict the dreadful evils and miseries which are sure to follow such a course of life. We can easily imagine, how eminently useful such hieroglyphics were in sustaining the elevated perceptions of the spiritual and rational mind, and in strenghtening the resolutions to avoid the evils of a merely sensual and carnal life; and it is our opinion, that the ancient Egyptians instructed their children chiefly by these symbolic hieroglyphics, in the necessity of leading a good life, and in acquiring spiritual views and conceptions of heavenly things. The art of painting, which is brought to so great a perfection at the present day, will not have obtained its perfection as to use, until it be devoted to the hieroglyphic representation of moral and spiritual things; so that instead of adorning the walls of our apartments, or of our public halls with our own portraits, and with those of desolating conquerors, and corrupt statesmen, (which portraits are, in most cases, only so many propagations and emblems of our own selfishness and corrupt love of dominion,) we substitute hieroglyphic pictures, both as a means of keeping our own perceptions elevated to what is truly noble, patriotic, spiritual, and heavenly, and also as a powerful auxiliary of instructing our children in the same noble virtues and graces which exalt and adorn the human character. Every one knows how ready a child is to look at a picture, and with what delight it listens to the explanation of what it represents; how easy and delightful it would be by exhibiting the hieroglyphic groups mentioned above, to teach the child that the wolf, the leopard, and the serpent, are repre