THE NATURAL BASIS
Norman J. Berridge
With Anatomical Drawings
Linda Simonetti Odhner
Swedenborg Scientific Association
Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania
The Library of Congress has previously cataloged this title as follows:
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Berridge, Norman J., 1916-
ISBN: 0-915221-69-1The natural basis of spiritual reality / by Norman Berridge
In the first place, it is my pleasure to thank my wife Olga for her typing and constructive criticism during the writing of the early versions of several chapters which were published in The New Philosophy.
Mr. Charles Cole Jr., President of the Swedenborg Scientific Association, played the leading role in the production of this book. It was he who actually invited me to write it although Mr. Lennart Alfelt, the late editor of The New Philosophy, had previously mentioned the possibility. He also warned me that some rewriting might be necessary and I would have to submit to a certain amount of editing. I greatly enjoyed the rewriting and I took the opportunity to include more material as well as to attempt an improved presentation of what had already been published. It turned out that the editorial discipline was encouragement of an almost intoxicating quality, administered by Professor Cole himself with great generosity of time and travel during his brief visits to this country. He also organized the production of the figures which, we hope, will do much to widen the use of the work. I ask him to accept my warmest thanks.
I am grateful also to the Rev. Willard L. D. Heinrichs, for a careful and detailed criticism of chapter VII which enabled me to improve it considerably. I also record my gratitude to the Editorial Board of The New Philosophy for their work on my contributions, and to Mrs. Kirsten Gyllenhaal and Mr. Alan Laidlaw for their development of the Swedenborg Scientific Association's desktop publishing capability, of which this book is the first test-case result.
Mrs. Linda Simonetti Odhner deserves special thanks for her painstaking drawings of most of the illustrations, as does Rev. T. S. Rose for figures 5 and 13, the latter modified by the editor using Alan Laidlaw's skills at computer graphics. I also thank Richard Morris of Oxford University Press for preparing figures 2 and 7 from my drawings. In addition to the above there are many New Church people who have helped by their kind interest and approval. My work would have been much less joyful without them.
Throughout this work I have used a mental microscope. I have selected a few promising fields and studied them in detail. The number of such fields is very great and much greater than at first appears. As an example, take the eye (chapter XIV). While that chapter was being written, several papers on "Sight, the Visual Process, and Doctrine" were published by Dr. Aubrey Alien in The New Philosophy (Vol. 84 and 85; see also Vol. 83). Dr. Alien and I had a similar aim, namely to show the spiritual reality within the natural phenomena, yet we scarcely overlap. Such is the spaciousness of the subject. His treatment complements my own, and I am delighted that he has given permission to include his papers as an appendix in this book. Some other New Church writers have adopted a similar approach. The attitudes we have in common include the trust that when all the available trustworthy knowledge on any particular subject is illuminated by the truths of the Writings, then those knowledges enable the mind to see even the Writings themselves more clearly. How much more clearly obviously depends on many factors, including the availability of knowledge. Often the knowledge is scarce and particular beliefs must look to the future.
That trust began with me as an attitude of mind--a sort of faith in the Writings. I felt that such a learned, detailed, marvelous opening of the sacred scripture (which had been closed to me) must be fundamentally right. I felt that it must all be true in some way. I do not know how that faith began but it was strongly confirmed when I read AC 9300:3. It was not my first reading of that passage. I am quite sure that the first reading was as most first readings of the Arcana are: scarcely understood! As the years went by correspondences became more and more a habitual way of thought. When the writing was needed this passage became incandescent.
AC 9300:3 teaches us how to view nature. It also teaches us how to look at the Word in all its forms. It can especially be applied to the Writings themselves. Sometimes it even seems as though correspondences are being used in the Writings in their spiritual meanings, for example lungs to mean the understanding. This same passage gives us courage to attempt the kind of work shown in this book. The task is not easy. I have had periods when I could not see how to proceed, but then something has fallen into place, and stumbling blocks have become stepping stones. One pretends to oneself that one's faith is firm, but temptations (and even some fermentations as in DP 25) are accompanied by doubts about the outcome, and, as we know, the doubt and sorrow are changed into joy when they are dissipated. For the most part I have written the following chapters in an impersonal, academic, detached style. But the experience was quite different. Often it was even a matter of surprise, as well as delight, that modern science could agree so well with the Writings, but now I expect that everything will fall into place in the Lord's good time. At present, of course, it is sometimes difficult. How, you may ask, can an account of spirits from the moon fall into place in view of what we know now? It has been suggested that perhaps the people live underground for they are said to be "in" the moon. But there is another way of looking at the problem. AC 9300:3 is one of the most strongly worded passages of the Writings. It warns us (suggests) that unless we think from correspondences we shall inevitably go wrong. Applying that to the case in point: we know what the moon signifies and what people are like who dwell in it. We have met some! There is also the cold, the light without heat and the absence of wind. It also seems not really to matter where such spirits lived when in the body. It is their minds which are in the moon.
Something similar may actually apply to spirits from planets other than ours. A great deal of careful study of this aspect of the Writings is needed. A cursory reading suggests that the location of the planet has no relevance to the spiritual wisdom that is to be imparted or exemplified. Since the names of the planets go back to mythology they might be important.
Any improvement in our delight in, or understanding of, the Word (whether we include the Writings themselves in the Word or not) is of greatest importance. Studies like these in the following chapters do contribute to such a delight or understanding for some people. If they do not do it for you, dear reader, you will hardly have got this far. Most of this book is not for you and there are other ways of thinking from correspondences, as I have shown (no. 44, chapter III). The Word has internal senses that open upwards, even to the Lord. Practically speaking it often doesn't matter whether you think this applies to the Writings themselves or to the older Word opened by their means. The important thing is to be led nearer to the Lord. Our need for a growing detail and an increasing understanding is always with us because the Word always transcends our appreciation. The Lord allows us--leads us--to understand enough to rouse our interest and love, but much remains hidden by falsities that take a lifetime to dissipate. They are hidden even more by false attitudes: the residues of old doctrines, hereditary opinions and evils; things that might be called "anti-remains." Perhaps it is because of our merely spiritual quality, as contrasted with celestial perception, that we need the reflection from natural knowledges to help us in our appreciation of spiritual verities. If we had the celestial mentality we would see unlimited glory in the Word at once. But even then we might enjoy the detail of natural correspondences better if we also had the detail of natural knowledges. What a vista this reveals! Instead of merely seeing men as trees walking (Mark 8: 23-25), we can see how their spiritual activities are related to the physiology of plants as well as to their general appearance and use. Even celestial angels are instructed by spiritual ones and it is therefore clear that the celestial transcends, without including, the spiritual and natural but still it can be enriched by them.
The body of man is the natural object corresponding most closely to heaven and having the greatest relevance to the truly human form. Hence it is that human anatomy and physiology facilitate our understanding of the doctrine of the Grand Man. How delightful it is to think about the beauty and wonder of the bodily structure and function and at the same time to realize that it is the product of the Lord's Love and Wisdom descended by degrees through heaven, even to the minerals; to the stones, water and air of the lowest level of creation. One may easily be lost in wonder and praise. Yet this joyful experience is only a small trace of what it could be if more study, more time and more people were devoted to building temples of wisdom on the foundations of nature. In Swedenborg's time even the angels were interested in what was going on in this planet, and since the whole of nature is a theatre representative of the Lord's kingdom, there is nothing in nature which cannot be instructive once its representation is adequately understood.
The study required for this work has shown me that every time one reads the Writings, especially Arcana Coelestia and The Apocalypse Explained, some additional meaning appears. Other people, including my editor himself, have confirmed this. These experiences suggest that the voluminous and sometimes apparently contradictory nature of the Writings may enable us to absorb spiritual matters which are too subtle and complex to take in in a complete and concise form. What looks like a repetition may be an increase in detail or a different aspect of the same truth but still seen from a similar point of view. If seen from a different point of view it can look like a contradiction. It looks different but it is still the truth. The image in a plane mirror is correct, and also true in some respects. It can even bring out facts which might not otherwise be clear.
When I remember these things and realize that the Writings were given by the Lord through a man--whom He had specially prepared -I wonder how I dare to take the Writings to bits, quoting a sentence here, a few words there. How can any pastiche formed in such a way retain any part of the glory now to be seen in the clouds of the Word? I am glad to say that sometimes I have been allowed to quote long passages; such as were irresistible. I hope that you will be dissatisfied with the shorter quotations and will take delight and instruction by reading (again?) the whole numbers. Almost always it gives a different "feel" and an enhanced perception of the truth.
It is also the only way to avoid being led astray by a merely human writer!
Note: All numbers refer to paragraphs, not to the Writings, unless preceded by the above abbreviations.
End of Prepages