Correspondence means that everything in the natural world is the result of its counterpart in the spiritual world; the object in the spiritual world being the first cause of what is in the natural world. Everything in nature that is connected to its counterpart in the spiritual world, yet separated by a discreet degree, is said to correspond. A discreet degree can most readily be understood by our experience of the separation between the earthly world and the spiritual world. For the most part we cannot see, hear, or touch across this divide, but we can at times sense, feel, or intuit across. A tree in the natural world is subject to the natural laws of time and space, while the spiritual tree exists from the meaning it portrays from the love in the soul of angels or spirits. It is more real than a tree here because it is composed of spiritual substance and derived from love and wisdom from the Lord. The very colors of flowers and homes, the plants and animals that appear in a garden, are manifestations of what is in the soul of the angel or angles present in that place. In heaven the objects are of a beauty and light that surpasses what is on earth many times over. A tree there is more real than a tree on earth because it is the internal of a tree. If one grasps the implications of this one can see that all things that exist, exist in relationship to human beings; the human form being the highest of all forms. The same is true of things in nature on earth, but they are more remotely reflected and less clear to our perception.
For instance, contemplate for a moment hiking up a wild and rugged mountain. The mountain itself is a challenge, and an experience of beauty and danger. To reach the top a person must persevere. The higher one goes up the mountain the more one can see of the landscape around. There is, in seeing an expansive view, a natural delight and exhilaration that anyone who makes the effort feels. This natural delight corresponds to the spiritual joy of gaining higher perception of life. Mountains correspond to heaven. The delight of gaining an elevated view on a mountain is the reflection (correspondence) of spiritually gaining wisdom in one’s soul. Correspondence is an essential operation in the universe, and the above is an example of how it operates in our immediate life and experience. The ground gained to reach a view on a mountain is not given up easily, but when it is it becomes one’s own achievement. Similarly, internal perception requires attention and effort and it results in real effect or change in the soul, whereas mere knowledge does not.
As another example, I will share an early personal experience. I remember after graduating from high school and getting ready to go to college, I reflected on all the friends I hung out with and came to know well. I saw that in spite of all of our shortcomings, it was through my interactions with them that I came to know myself. This thought was a beginning of regeneration. It was a beginning of being able to accept others and myself with all of our frailties, and there was a kind of beauty in this perception because it was real, and there was not a stagnant feeling that this growth could happen only with them. I had this epiphany as I looked at a rainbow in the sky, and at the same time inwardly saw the comparison between my thought and the rainbow. In a rainbow the beauty of light is revealed as it refracts through little particles of water in the air, and thus the inner qualities of light are made visible, and real to our perception. Swedenborg writes that rainbows symbolize something very like this: “The reason that the appearance of a rainbow is seen is that the natural things corresponding to their spiritual present such an appearance. It is a modification of spiritual light from the Lord in their natural things” (AC 1042). In a person this means that the spiritual and natural must grow together, to grow at all. The spiritual becomes one’s own when there is accord between the love we see and feel, and our actions in life.
Correspondences happen in three realms of life, the Word, the human form, and in nature. In each case a perception of them is a sound way of gaining understanding. Perception is the moment when the internal and external come into concordance in a person. It is very significant to realize that perception involves the whole soul, and is a deeper way of knowing. Perception is reception in the soul of truths from the Lord. In this short article I will focus on providing an opportunity of perceiving correspondences between the Sun, the earth, and the Lord.
The principle of correspondence is a universal principle through which we can confidently gain knowledge about the nature of the spiritual world and the earthly world. It is, if we apply it thoughtfully, a readily accessible resource that can be read forward or backward, that is, from heaven to earth, and visa versa. We can gain insight into the dynamics of the spiritual world by the scientific processes we observe in the natural world. This is the basic principle I am using in this essay. It is at one and the same time, a spiritual and intellectual practice. By making the effort to meditate into correspondence I have often felt light coming into my heart and mind; it is a most comforting feeling anyone can feel.
The prime example of correspondence is between the sun in the sky and the sun in the spiritual world. The heat and light of the natural sun corresponds to love and wisdom from the spiritual sun. We know the sun provides heat and light without which nothing could live. Suns are the source of all energy and raw material for the entire natural world. All the suns throughout the universe are the source of heat and light for their respective solar systems, and beyond. In the spiritual world there is only one sun and it is the one source of all life. It is the origin of life, and creates the substance of life; the fundamental substance of life being love and wisdom from the Lord in the midst of the spiritual sun.
The natural suns are made of matter, are in time and space, and are innumerable, whereas there is only one spiritual sun. This one sun is the one source of everything. The reality that there is one spiritual sun and infinite natural suns in the universe is a function of correspondence, in that the natural sun cannot possibly reflect the infinite presence of the spiritual sun by size, so it corresponds by infinity of numbers. The reason for this is that in the natural world there is time and space, while in the spiritual world everything is based on state of being, or quality of love.
Science’s ability to penetrate some of the secrets of physics that occur in the sun offers the opportunity to look deep into potential correspondences. Science shows that everything that happens on earth occurs by a process, and correspondingly Swedenborg demonstrates that everything that occurs in the spiritual world occurs by a process. It is very important to grasp this concept, and we can only do so by practicing on particular examples. Humans have an ingrained habit of ‘magical thinking’ when it comes to the spiritual world, meaning we tend to think that things just happen there, that God makes them by the wave of the hand. But we know everything with humans is a matter of gradual growth, and accomplished reciprocally; and that everything in nature requires a process. It is the same in heaven: in heaven people don’t just sit on a cloud and bask in God’s light, but experience fulfillment through being useful in all the same type of occupations we have here. Everything is relational in both worlds. Only in heaven people love each other more than themselves.
Lets look at the example of the sun again. Einstein discovered that the source of the sun’s power is nuclear fusion. The sun’s mass is so enormous its gravity causes unfathomable pressure and heat in its core. The pressure and heat cause the atoms to accelerate to incredible speeds at close proximity. Hydrogen atoms normally repel each other, but the heat and pressure at the core is so enormous it causes the Hydrogen atoms to smash together and split, forming a new element – helium. In the process they release heat, and light as photons, and the massive power of the explosion seeks to expand to the surface of the sun. This is nuclear fusion, the engine in the suns core. The sun is anything but static; within the sun there is a constant tension, a raging battle between gravities crushing inward force, and nuclear fusion’s immense expansive fire. But the two forces settle into an equilibrium that lasts for billions of years, and together provide all the elements in the universe, and the heat and light that sustain life.
It is a universal principle that that which is created by the source has in it the inclination to repeat the form of the source. The master example of this is that humans are made in the image of God. The equilibrium between the forces of gravity and nuclear fusion in the sun defines the form of the sun, and because the sun is the source, the form of equilibrium is repeated in everything that exists. For anything to exist it has to have a form, and anything that has form has some kind of equilibrium that is the cause for that form. Based on this principle Swedenborg writes that just as there is an infinite largeness there is also an infinite minuteness. There is nothing so minute that there is not something smaller that is the substance within it. For instance an atom is a form that has within it electrons, neutrons and protons spinning around. As science keeps discovering, even the protons and neutrons have smaller things that compose them, and there are smaller things yet which compose these, and so on. It is beyond our ability to comprehend infinite minuteness, but based on the principle of form, substance and equilibrium we can see it must be true.
Equilibrium is in everything we see. The human body and every organ in it has a certain equilibrium between the inside forces of blood pressure and muscle tension, and the outside forces of gravity and atmospheric pressure. A leaf on a tree has equilibrium in a similar way. Anything we might look at is in a state of equilibrium, a chair, a light bulb, a cell, a fiber, anything, because they have a form, and substance inside it. The equations of Newton and Einstein work within equilibrium. The state of equilibrium can always change, for instance if a bottle is broken, but its pieces settle into another state of equilibrium. Swedenborg writes:
For any thing to have existence there must be an equilibrium of all things. Without equilibrium there is no action and reaction; for equilibrium is between two forces, one acting and the other reacting, and the state of rest resulting from like action and reaction is called equilibrium. In the natural world there is an equilibrium in all things and in each thing. It exists in a general way even in the atmosphere, wherein the lower parts react and resist in proportion as the higher parts act and press down. Again, in the natural world there is an equilibrium between heat and cold, between light and shade, and between dryness and moisture, the middle condition being the equilibrium. There is also an equilibrium in all the subjects of the three kingdoms of nature, the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal; for without equilibrium in them nothing can come forth and have permanent existence (Heaven and Hell, 589).
Another correspondence we can see in the sun has to do with the fact that the divine contains infinite variety, and is the source of life. From the divine human in the spiritual sun manifests the infinite variety and continual abundance of life, similarly, there is nothing that exists in nature that is exactly the same as anything else. For instance, science shows that snowflakes can be very similar, but never exactly the same. It is the same with everything. There are no two human beings that are the same, or ever will be.
To see how suns are the source of all things in nature, and the cause of variety, lets look more deeply at what happens in the sun. Scientists teach that the nuclear fusion taking place in the sun is the cause of all the elements of the universe. A sun like ours is only big enough to produce helium, but stars bigger produce such massive gravity that they have enough heat and pressure to create heavier elements such as sulfur and iron. These heavier elements are only created in supernovas. The elements are made by the incredible heat and energy released when the supernova explodes. Scientists report that the heaviest of elements, such as Gold, are made by the even more enormous explosions that occur when two neutron stars collide. This is why the heavier Elements are more rare. These incredible explosions send the elements out into the universe. And from these elements and their infinite combinations, all the things in the universe originate – planets, galaxies, new stars, and all living things. Scientists describe supernovas as the mother of all substances and objects in the universe. From this information we get an idea of the essential correspondence between God as the source of all things and their infinite variety, and the sun as the source of the abundance and variety in nature.
In my experience correspondence never fails; we simply have to dig into understanding them. Below is another interesting correspondence. In this correspondence we can compare the dynamics between; one, the divine in the spiritual sun and the reception of Him where angels live; and, two, the natural sun and the dynamics of how humans on earth receive light and heat from the sun. Swedenborg writes:
Divine love in the spiritual world appears to the sight of angels like the sun, as far distant from them as the sun of our world is from men. If therefore God, who is in the midst of that sun, were to come close to angels, they would perish just as men would if the sun of the world came close to them, for it is equally burning. For this reason there are constant controls which modify and moderate the burning heat of that love, so that its radiation should not reach heaven undiluted, since this would consume the angels. When therefore the Lord makes His presence more immediately felt in heaven, the irreligious beneath heaven begin to complain, suffering torture and fainting, so that they take refuge in caves and fissures in the mountains (TCR, 691).
This corresponds to the fact that where there is life on a planet there must be the right distance from the sun, and also, a certain delicate balance of characteristics on the planet that protect the life there. Earth being at the perfect distance from the sun is a clear correspondence, but there are many more subtle comparisons to be made. For instance scientist have discovered how essential the magnetic field of the earth is to protecting life against the power of solar flares and radiation. (When solar flares are too big people on earth complain that they take out our electrical systems.) The motion of molten magma inside the earth causes a rather weak magnetic field around earth, but this magnetic field is strong enough to form a barrier around the earth that deflects harmful solar radiation. Also, just the right tilt of the earth’s axis creates the seasons around the globe, which is important for many things, especially maintaining moderate temperatures, a variety of climates for life, and especially a stable atmosphere. These factors, plus just the right amount of water on earth, produce a healthy atmosphere that provides essential protection from the sun’s radiation. The moon provides essential protection for earth by stabilizing its rotation on its axis; without this life would be thrown into dramatic cycles of destruction, mostly due to sudden huge temperature changes, and loss of a stable atmosphere. All of these factors, and many more, work together to maintain a delicate balance; they correspond to the ‘constant controls which modify and moderate’ the burning heat and light of the spiritual sun from harming angels. I am not a physicist, but we can see these correspondences readily enough on the level of principle. The more detailed one’s knowledge of science the deeper the correspondences that can be seen.
Now we look to the ultimate source of equilibrium that makes it a universal correspondence, and demonstrates the connectedness of all things. Inside the spiritual sun there is also an infinite, dynamic marriage that is the source of life. This is the Holy marriage between the Lord’s divine essence and his divine human. This is the Holy of Holies. From this marriage radiates Holy fire, which is the cause of the spiritual sun’s light and heat (wisdom and love). The powerful forces we described inside the natural sun give us a glimpse, by correspondences, of the unfathomably powerful union inside the spiritual son. The equilibrium in the natural sun corresponds to the Holy marriage in the spiritual sun; except, of course, the forces inside the natural son are not alive; they are material and energy based, but in the spiritual sun life comes from the source itself, the divine human, Jesus Christ. This is the mother of all correspondences.
In the Sun there, which is from Himself, is Divine fire, which is the Divine good of the Divine love. From that Sun is Divine light, which is Divine truth from Divine good. (AC 8644).
That the union in the spiritual sun is holy, and in its interiors most holy, is very evident from the fact that in every detail of it there is the heavenly marriage, that is, the marriage of good and truth, thus heaven; and that in every detail of the inmost sense there is the marriage of the Lord’s Divine Human with His kingdom and church; nay, in the supreme sense there is the union of the Divine Itself and the Divine Human in the Lord (AC 6343).
It is as if His body (Jesus) is the candle and his essence (God) the wick, and the marriage of them produces the Holy fire from which radiates infinite love and wisdom. This bond, or marriage, and resulting Holy fire, causes the form of the spiritual sun. The Holy bond between Jesus and God was forged (in all wonder, pain, joy, and beauty) in the glorification process while Jesus was on earth. In the resurrection the Lords body was made divine, and merged with the divine essence. What radiates from the spiritual sun around the Lord is the universal spiritual substance of life, – love and wisdom – just as heat and light radiate from the natural sun. Love and wisdom are spiritual in nature; indeed they are the indivisible spiritual substance of life, not abstractions.
This idea bears repeating in another way so that it might penetrate our understanding. The source of life and creation is the Holy marriage within the Lord, and this core reality descends by correspondences from the divine to the physical. The equilibrium that constitutes the form of all things in nature originates from the nature of the physical sun, and more essentially from the spiritual sun. The implications of this are limitless, but we can begin by saying that spiritually the divine of the Lord is intrinsic in our life and in nature, and thus, if we are receptive to Him, can be seen or experienced through all things such as a rainbow or climbing a mountain.