What are correspondences?

Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, because of the violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they have shed innocent blood.

-Joel 3:19 

Dear members and friends,

Reading the Bible is not as easy as we wish it to be. The reason is often not because the Bible is written in an intellectually-sophisticated way, but because the Bible is written in a way that is very much human. This challenges our wishful belief that the Bible is the written words of a loving God and the reality that the Bible can be very cruel, violent, and vengeful, which is more human than God. If God were loving, God would not have spoken with or enacted violence and vengeance. Or, if God were to be violent and vengeful, then definitely God could not be love itself. 

For Emanuel Swedenborg, easing people away from this dichotomy was his God-given mission. Swedenborg did not believe that the Bible is a historical book based on or inspired by facts at all, but an illustration of our spiritual cultivation and journey written in a symbolic language which he calls correspondences. In a very simple way, correspondences may be defined as the interconnected codependence of the spiritual reality and the physical reality. Reading the Bible by means of correspondences, the story of Exodus describes our spiritual journey of liberating ourselves from what has been enslaving us: addiction, bad habits, materialism, selfishness, etc. 

According to Swedenborg, Egypt symbolizes the entirety of what has been real to us – the state in which we were enslaved – while the Pharaoh symbolizes the governing principle in such a reality. And wandering in the wilderness for 40 years symbolizes the entire process of spiritual temptation through which we make our spiritual growth. Spiritual liberation is very important in the Swedenborgian belief because without such liberation, we would continue to live in and accept a material reality as true while rejecting what is spiritual as illusion or human invention.  Thus, our spiritual journey begins with learning truth, and proceeds into understanding the truth, and completes in living the truth that has been understood, which always accompanies a spiritual temptation. Jesus confirms this in John 8, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (31) 

My brothers and sisters in God, being religious means believing in a reality that is not limited and bound by physical reality and materialism. If we truly believe that we are spirits wearing physical bodies like clothing, let us live our lives in such a way.   

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee