Arcana Coelestia #9723

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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9723. 'And you shall make [its] pans to take away [its] ashes' means the removers of things which have served their purpose. This is clear from the meaning of 'pans to take away the ashes' as the removers of things which have served their purpose; for 'ashes' means the kinds of things which remain in a person's natural or external memory after they have served their purpose and which must be removed lest they get in the way of other things which come later to serve further purposes. The kinds of things which serve to effect such a removal are meant by 'pans', since ashes were taken away by means of them. To enable people to know what is meant by the ashes remaining on the altar after a burnt offering or sacrifice, the nature of things remaining in a person after they have served their purpose must be stated first. From early childhood right through to the end of his life in the world a person is being perfected in intelligence and wisdom, and if all is to go well for him, in faith and love. Items of factual knowledge contribute primarily to this end and purpose. These items of knowledge are absorbed through hearing, seeing, and reading, and are deposited in the external or natural memory; they serve inward sight or that of the understanding as a whole field of objects from which to choose and draw forth such as will help to make the person wiser. For interior sight or that of the understanding uses its own light, which comes from heaven, to see down into that field, that is, into the external memory which lies below it. From the many different items there it chooses and draws forth such as are suited to its own love; it summons them from there and deposits them in its own memory, which is the internal memory, regarding which, see 2469-2494. This is how the life of the internal man develops, along with its intelligence and wisdom. The situation is similar with those things that constitute spiritual intelligence and wisdom, namely matters of faith and love. Those which have to be implanted in the internal man are in like manner served by items of factual knowledge, but ones drawn from the Word or from what the Church teaches, which are called cognitions of truth and good. These cognitions deposited in the memory of the external man serve, in a similar way, as objects seen by the internal man. The internal man sees them in the light of heaven, then chooses and draws forth such as are suited to its love; the internal man sees no others within the external man. For what a person loves he sees in light; but what he does not love he sees in shade. He rejects the latter and chooses the former.

[2] All this goes to show what the situation is with the truths of faith and forms of the good of love present with a person who is being regenerated. It shows that the good which belongs to love chooses for itself truths of faith that are suited to it and perfects itself by means of them, and that for this reason the good of love occupies the first place and the truth of faith the second, as has been abundantly shown before, in 3325, 3494, 3539, 3548, 3556, 3563, 3570, 3576, 3603, 3701, 4925, 4977, 6256, 6269, 6272, 6273. After the items of knowledge or the cognitions of good and truth in the external man's memory have served that purpose they disappear so to speak from that memory. They are like the things taught to a person which have served since early childhood as the means to perfect his private life and his public life. After those things have served that informative purpose and the person has begun to live as they direct, they fade from view in the memory; only the practice of them remains. In this way a person learns to speak, learns to think, learns to discriminate and form opinions, learns to be honourable in dealings with others and to behave politely. In short, he acquires languages, good manners, intelligence, and wisdom.

[3] Items of knowledge which have served those purposes are meant by ashes which need to be removed; and cognitions of truth and good by means of which spiritual life is brought to a person, after they have served their purpose, that is, imparted that life, are meant by the ashes of the altar, which too need to be removed. But when they are removed they are first deposited at the side of the altar, then later on are carried outside the camp to a clean place, the fire on the altar all the while being kept alight to serve a new burnt offering or sacrifice, in accord with the process described by Moses in Leviticus,

The priest must see to it that the burnt offering burns 1 on the hearth upon the altar all night until dawn. After this he shall put on his linen robe and linen breeches, and take up the ashes into which the fire has burned the burnt offering on the altar and place them at the side of the altar. Afterwards he shall take off his own garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. But the fire on the altar shall go on burning and not be put out. The priest shall kindle pieces of wood on it at every dawn, and lay the burnt offering on it, and burn on it the fat of the sacrifices. Fire shall burn unceasingly on the altar and not be put out. Leviticus 6:8-13.

All the details here hold the arcana of heaven within them and have as their meaning the Divine things that belong to worship of the Lord springing from the good of love. What is therefore meant by 'ashes' has been stated above. The fact that something heavenly is meant by 'the ashes of the altar' - for instance in the requirement that when the priest took the ashes off the altar he had to put on a linen robe and linen breeches, and after that wear other garments to carry them outside the camp and deposit them in a clean place - may be recognized by anyone who stops to consider the matter. Nothing mentioned in the Word is devoid of meaning, not a single word, nor thus any step in this whole process.

[4] All this shows pretty clearly what is meant by the ashes from the red cow that had been burned, by means of which the water of separation and of cleansing was prepared, referred to in Numbers 19:2-11, 17, and what is meant in the contrary sense by 'the ashes', namely the harm which has been done and remains after consumption by the fire of self-love. This harm is meant by the ashes which people bore on their head and in which they rolled in grief because of their sins, Jeremiah 6:26; Ezekiel 27:30; Jonah 3:6.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.