Arcana Coelestia #4585

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4585. 'They travelled on from Bethel, and there was still a stretch of land to go to Ephrath' means the spiritual of the celestial at this point. This is clear from the meaning of 'travelling on from Bethel' as a continuation of the progress of the Divine from the Divine Natural - 'travelling on' meaning a continuation, see 4554, and here in the highest sense a continuation of the progress made by the Divine, while 'Bethel' means the Divine Natural, 4559, 4560; from the meaning of 'a stretch of land to go' as that which exists in between, dealt with below; and from the meaning of 'Ephrath' as the spiritual of the celestial within the initial state, dealt with below where Bethlehem is the subject. 1 'Bethlehem' means the spiritual of the celestial within the new state, and this is why the phrase 'Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem' is used in verse 19 below.

[2] In these verses progress made by the Lord's Divine towards aspects more interior is the subject, for when the Lord made His Human Divine His progress involved a similar order to that employed by Him when He makes man new through regeneration. That is to say, it was a progression from external things to more interior ones, and so from truth as this exists in the ultimate degree of order to good which is more interior and is called spiritual good, and from this to celestial good. But ideas about these things do not come within the mental grasp of anyone unless he knows what the external man is and what the internal man is, and that the former is distinct and separate from the latter, though the two seem to be one and the same while a person lives in the body. Nor do those ideas come within his grasp unless he knows that the natural constitutes the external man, and the rational the internal man, and above all unless he knows what the spiritual is, and what the celestial is.

[3] These matters, it is true, have been explained several times already. Even so, those who have not previously had any idea concerning them - for the reason that they have not had any desire to know the things which belong to eternal life - are incapable of having any such idea. These people say, 'What is the internal man? How can it be anything different from the external man?' They also say, 'What is the natural, or the rational? Are these not one and the same thing?' Then they ask, 'What is the spiritual and the celestial? Isn't this some new distinction? We've heard about the spiritual, but not that the celestial is something different'. But the fact of the matter is that these are people who have not previously acquired any idea of these matters. They have failed to do so either because the cares of the world and of the body occupy their whole thought and take away all desire to know anything else, or because they suppose that no one needs to know anything beyond what the common people are taught and that there is nothing to be gained if their thought goes any further. For these say, 'The world we see, but the next life we do not see. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn't'. People like these push those ideas away from themselves, for at heart they reject them the moment they see them.

[4] All the same, because such ideas are contained in the internal sense of the Word, though they cannot be explained without suitable terms to depict them, and as no terms more suitable exist than 'natural' to express exterior things and 'rational' to express interior, or 'spiritual' to express matters of truth and 'celestial' masters of good, the use of words like these is unavoidable. For without the right words nothing can be described. Therefore so that some idea may be formed by those who have a desire to know what the spiritual of the celestial is, which 'Benjamin' represents and which 'Bethlehem' means, a brief reference to it must be made here. The subject so far in the highest sense has been the glorification of the Lord's Natural, and in the relative sense the regeneration of man's natural. It was shown above, in 4286, that 'Jacob' represented the external man of one who belongs to the Church, and 'Israel' his internal man, thus that 'Jacob' represented the exterior aspect of the natural and 'Israel' the interior aspect; for the spiritual man develops out of the natural, but the celestial man out of the rational. It was also shown that the Lord's glorification advanced, even as the regeneration of man advances, from external things to more interior ones, and that for the sake of such a representation Jacob received the name Israel.

[5] But now the subject is further progress towards aspects more interior still, that is, towards the rational, for as stated immediately above, the rational constitutes the internal man. The part which exists between the internal of the natural and the external of the rational is what the term 'the spiritual of the celestial' - meant by 'Ephrath' and 'Bethlehem', and represented by 'Benjamin' - is used to denote. This intermediate part is derived to some extent from the internal of the natural, meant by 'Israel', and to some extent from the external of the rational, meant by 'Joseph'; for that intermediate part must be derived to some extent from each one, or else it cannot serve as an intermediary. So that anyone who is already spiritual can be made celestial he must of necessity make progress by means of this intermediate part. Without it no advance to higher things is possible.

[6] The nature of the progress made therefore by means of this intermediate part is described here in the internal sense by the statements that Jacob went to Ephrath, and that Rachel gave birth to Benjamin there. From this it is evident that 'they travelled on from Bethel, and there was still a stretch of land to go to Ephrath' means a continuation of the progress of the Lord's Divine from the Divine Natural to the spiritual of the celestial, meant by 'Ephrath' and 'Bethlehem', and represented by 'Benjamin'. The spiritual of the celestial is the intermediate part about which something is said above; it is spiritual insofar as it is derived from the spiritual man, which regarded in itself is the interior natural man, and it is [celestial] insofar as it is derived from the celestial man, which regarded in itself is the rational man. 'Joseph' is the exterior rational man, and therefore he is spoken of as the celestial of the spiritual derived from the rational.

Footnotes:

1. i.e. in 4594

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