A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. –Genesis 2:10
Dear members and friends,
In the past, rivers were essential to all living creatures on earth, and especially to human in building civilization. All four significant ancient civilizations (Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese) were built alongside rivers. In addition, most of the ancient capitals were also built either near or around a river. Thus, rivers were essential features in ancient myths, legends and symbolism. Daoism emphasizes the way of water as the highest virtue that we can find in the nature with its three characteristics: 1. Humility – it flows from high to low; 2. Flexibility – it does not insist on one or two rigid forms, but is willing to fit in whatever form given; 3. Nourishment – it nurtures all living beings on its way without ask anything in return. Rivers are the largest form of flowing water on earth. Thus, a river symbolizes in Daoism the way of the nature, which is Dao.
The Bible takes the meaning of rivers (or fresh and flowing water) very serious as well. In Genesis, we read about a river from Eden watering the Garden of Eden and then the rest of the earth. In Leviticus, we read that the final stage of the cleaning ritual is to wash oneself in flowing water. In Gospels, we learn that Jesus was baptized in flowing water. In Revelation, we read about a river of life flowing from the throne of God in the New Jerusalem. Flowing water in the Bible seems to have two significant symbolic meanings: 1. As a provider of life; 2. As a powerful cleanser. For Swedenborg, water in general symbolizes truth, because the effect of truth to our spirit is equivalent to the effect of water on our body: nurturing and purifying. Thus, receiving water symbolizes the gift of life and intelligence from God. According to Swedenborg, being intelligent means not only being able to understand the truth, but also being willing to apply truth in one’s life. The quality of human life depends not just on how much truth one has gained, but essentially on how much truth one has implemented in one’s life. Swedenborg emphasizes this highly because the inner and spiritual fulfillment, which is the source of our inner joy, stems from the application of learned truth in one’s life.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee