Series and Correspondences
Discrete Degrees of End, Cause and Effect
We saw in the previous section
that the spiritual, mental and physical worlds are successive products
of the Divine Life, and are related to each other as cause and effect. More
accurately, the three levels are end, cause and effect
. The spiritual world relates to ends, the mental world relates
to causes, and the physical world relates to effects,
and they all participate in some way in every event that happens. Swedenborg
has a very simple way of showing this (The Divine Wisdom, § 130):
That there is an end, a cause, and an effect in each and all things can
be tested by anything whatever. as, for instance, when a man is doing
something, he will either say to himself or to someone else, or some one
else will say to him,
1. Why are you doing that? that is, what is your "end" (or "purpose"),
2. How do you do that? that is, by what "cause" (or "means"), and
3. What are you doing? that is, what is the "effect".
Thus when a person talking to you, for example, his end is to convey information,
his means are the thoughts and ideas of sentences, and his effect is to produce
vibrations in air. A love of conveying information causes him to
think how to talk, and this causes his mouth to move and the air to
Between ends and causes, and between causes and effects we have what Swedenborg
calls correspondences. It is these which connect all successive stages,
so these are something we ought to know about.
The successive levels are limited products of the Divine Life, and
Swedenborg describes how they therefore operate in a way that corresponds
to the characteristic operation of Divine Love. Correspondences
mean 'As above, so below' with respect to structure and function.
For example: Love is like a physical potentiality or energy
or vibration, but is not identical to anything physical. Instead,
love corresponds to potentialities and energy, as they behave
in the same manner and have the same relative functions in their own
Thus our loves cannot be determined just by looking ourselves, but
may be determined by seeing how we react in all possible situations (including
all unusual situations, even tempting ones). In this respect, they correspond
to physical causal powers: they are both 'invisible'. Similarly, when
we look at physical objects, we see only their spatial shapes, not their
powers. This corresponds to when we 'look' into our own minds: we 'see' only
our thoughts, and not our loves. The only way to know powers and loves is
by their results, that is by their fruits.
Another example is that given earlier, of a friend's feelings and
his facial expressions. Unless he is masking his feelings, then there will
be a good correspondence between the feelings and what appears on
his face. Because of the correspondence, we can infer his feelings from looking
at his face, and we can also imagine how his face would look if we heard
of his feelings.
We have many metaphors and analogies (see below
) between the spiritual and the physical, that arise from the fact of
correspondences. In fact, this whole symposium is about correspondences.
We will discuss later
about what corresponds spiritually with the human body.
Note that correspondences are not merely metaphors or analogies.
The true correspondent of any natural object is, strictly, that, spiritual
entity by means of which God created and sustains the object in the physical
The ultimate effects have a very important role to play in the
whole scheme They are the 'bottom fine' in the whole arrangement as they
provide something permanent and fixed- by means of which all the other levels
become permanent and fixed. They provide a 'law of karma' that relates future,
loves and affections to what has actually been done in the past. This is like
the way a river deepens its own course depending on the way it has chosen
to go in the past. The options for future flow will be limited according to
where it digs its channel now. It is because physical effects an important
in this way that we have to live on earth.
As we actually do things in the physical world, we are
building up and making permanent the loves which lead to these actions.
How Correspondences Work
From the previous section on discrete degrees
, we have the following universal principles:
The last step is most important: from the Divine characteristic that loves
on the effects already achieved, we derive the Law of Correspondence
, which is that the created universe receives all its powers and capacities
to the exact extent that each created thing in its degree has the same f
unctional form as that of the prior degree. For only if the subsequent
degree follows a certain sequence of events is the prior degree able to
continually sustain its influx, as only then is the prior degree able to
continually have 'satisfaction' in achieving its purpose and use. That is
the the prior and subsequent degrees are functionally isomorphic.
- Love, anticipating delights of Use, entertains purposes
of producing these Uses. Love, having adopted a specific purpose or end,
takes the form of Wisdom.
- Wisdom, being Love with a particular purpose, entertains the
means for achieving those ends. Love and Wisdom together
decide on a course of action.
- Use, being produced by Love acting by means of Wisdom, is
the ultimate effect. In this action, Love finds its satisfaction and
delight with the results.
- This delight returns to Love, and further manifestations of
Loves are conditional on the effects already achieved
The sequence of processes within the prior degree depends on those
degrees still more prior, so the result of correspondences is that
the subsequent degrees have a simultaneous aggregation of structures
that reflects the successive sequence of prior degrees. We must not
of course confuse the simultaneous microscopic structures in an organism
with its prior degrees, but the microscopic structures portray the causal
degrees in a kind of image (one of the postulates of theistic science).
Note that the very terminology of causal degrees as 'internal'
or 'interior' is based on these kinds of correspondences. They are also
responsible for the commonly held view that the mind is the 'systems view'
of an organism. Strictly speaking, the systems structure is what corresponds
to the prior mental and spiritual degrees. The systemic structure is the
image, not the cause.
Examples of Correspondences
Examples of correspondences already used on this web site:
The result of correspondences is that very many features of the living
world and of our psychological life are not random, but are the results of
spiritual loves and intentions. Of course, they are not merely the
results of those intentions (we do not make our world arbitrarily, even God
does not do that), because of historical constraints of what is already actual.
- Between minds and quantum processes
: energy, propensity fields and actual events are functionally isomorphic
with love, mental ideas and actions. (Hence the widespread identification
of spiritual substance as (a kind of) energy). See also the
- Between the ennead of physical processes
and a doubly-nested triad of love/wisdom/use acting in the natural degrees,
as explained in the pages on discrete
- Between the ennead of psychological
& layered cognitive nets
and a doubly-nested triad of love/wisdom/use, as explained in the
pages on discrete degrees.
a sun and the Lord as the Source, and between the 'reception' of life
according to actual form and the consumption of food and drink by living
The fundamental correspondences are therefore those which constitute
the essential operations of human beings, both internally and in relation
to their ecological environments. I now list the most important of the
basic correspondences, before discussing the detailed reasons. (It is important
to remember that loves/affections and wisdom/thoughts can be received independently,
though they always act together).
There are correspondences between:
Natural and Spiritual Correspondences
In fact, theistic science claims that everything in the human body,
and in nature, exists, and only exists, because it corresponds to some prior
spiritual cause. More description of some of these correspondences are
, but there is clearly an enormous amount of work to be done to elucidate
('see with light'!) the individual details in each case. There are
already discussions about
photosynthesis etc at the
Correspondence of .. & ..
Function in the Natural
Function in the Spiritual
|Animals & forms of affections in the will.
||Animals are warm-blooded.
||Affections in the will provide spiritual energy.
|Plants & forms of thoughts in the understanding.
||Plant life is a partial image of Man.
||Fixed 'tree' structures in the understanding
receive illumination by Wisdom, which is part of the Divine Life.
|Energy in food & reception of love from
the divine source.
||Animals consume food.
||The will appropriates loves, as retained spiritual
energy to be stored and reused as desired.
|Light from the sun & Wisdom from God
||Light is reflected from all objects to the
||Wisdom is the 'clear light' by means of which
we perceive 'external' ideas by reflections into the understanding.
|Oxygen released into the air & reception
||Oxygen in produced in plants from light by
photosynthesis, and enters the local atmosphere.
||Rational truth is produced in the understanding
from Divine Wisdom, and gives a local 'spiritual context'
|Metabolism & the conjunction of love and
wisdom in use
||Metabolism unites for use oxygen and digested
||The conjunction of appropriated love and rational wisdom is the
source of action in use.
|Lungs/throat & our own understanding
||Our lungs receive oxygen from the air into
||Our individual understanding receives rational
truth from the 'spiritual atmosphere' into affections for action.
|The heart & our own will.
||Heart receives food in the blood and distributes
it as useful.
||Our will receives spiritual energy in the affections
for action and distributes it as useful.
|The mouth & the initial reception of good
||The mouth receives food initially.
||Retained loves when initially received are tasted
for their quality (good or otherwise)
|The eyes & the explicit perception of truth.
||The eyes see all things, by means of light,
in their relations.
||The understanding perceives all things, by
means of 'clear' wisdom, in their relations.
|The nose & the implicit perception of truth.
||The nose discriminates immediate properties
of the air.
||We discriminate immediate properties about the
rationality of the ideas we receive.
|The ears & obedience to love and conscience.
||We respond more immediately to spoken words,
compared to written words seen by the eye.
||We respond more immediately in the will to
modulations of rational truth than to variations of truth received in the understanding.
|The stomach & the assimilation of spiritual
||Stomach and intestines digest the food and
assimilate it into the blood.
||Received ideas and affections are analysed
and assimilated into affections for action.
|Spoken words & thoughts.
||Spoken words are vibratory forms in the air,
generated by the lungs and throat.
||Thoughts are local modulations in the atmosphere
of rational truth, caused by variations in the local (re)articulation..
|Feet & natural power.
||We rest on our feet, and they are the means
of changing place.
||We depend on our physical effects, as they
determine our spiritual place.
|Skin & outer natural degree.
||The skin holds everything together from the
||The natural physical degree holds everything
together by its ultimate effects.
|Hair & outermost natural effects.
||The hair is produced via the skin, and is dead.
||The utmost actual events are produced via the
physical, and are inert.
|Bones & general principles.
||The skeleton holds everything together from
||Our general principles hold everything together
by their fundamental premises.
|Hands/arms & power of action.
||We do most of our work with our hands and arms.
||Coordinated spiritual actions are performed
|Kidneys & spiritual purification.
||Kidneys purify the blood.
||'Spiritual kidneys' purify the affections (especially
|Brains & reception of loves.
||We are governed by our brains, the general
first source of all actions.
||We are governed by our loves received in first
principles, the general source of all actions.
|Nervous system & derivative affections
||The nervous system extends the influence of
||The spiritual body extends the influence of
the primary loves.
|and many, many more.
Moreover, all the above correspondences point to functional structures
in the spiritual degree which are isomorphic to the human form as we know
it. This isomorphic internal form in the spiritual in fact is the
essential human form; the material body is the outer containant for the 'internal
human', corresponding to our own skin.
Furthermore, this internal spiritual human form (that set of interrelated
spiritual functions) is itself an image or likeness of the Divine. That is,
the Divine Source has itself isomorphic functional forms. For that reason
he is a Man, whom we call the Lord. It is one of the central postulates
of theism that these particular arguments from analogy are grounded in reality.