Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

enter into their celestial societies; we become one with them and they with us ; we eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink; in short, we are admitted to an everlasting fellowship and communion with them in whatsoever is wise, good, and happy.

Who, then, cannot hence plainly discern, that the singing of holy songs out of a devout heart has a direct tendency to introduce us to such heavenly consociation ? For who cannot discern, agreeably to what has been observed, that as all holy singing is derived from pure and holy affections, thoughts, and purposes, so it tends to cherish, extend, and confirm the same? consequently, it tends to cherish, extend, and confirm our association with the inhabitants of that angelic world which consists of all pure affections, thoughts, and purposes? Thus, as we sing out of pious and devout hearts, our song passes to the habitations of the blessed in the kingdom of heaven, and, as it were, moves the heavenly host to be delighted with what they hear, since we know from the gospel that angels rejoice when men perform the duties of repentance and praise. I do not mean that they hear and are delighted with the sound of our voices, for this cannot enter the heavenly abodes ; but what they hear, and are delighted with, is the grateful affection of thanksgiving and adoration which gives our voices their proper tone and elevation; it is this affection, therefore, by which we are conjoined to them, and they to us, whensoever we rightly fulfil the divine precept of singing a new and holy song unto the Lord.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF PLATO.

In a former paper* of our Periodical, some of the leading principles of the philosophy of Socrates were explained. In the present article some of the principal features of the Platonic philosophy shall be exhibited. It is useful to bring under one point of view the most distinguished philosophy of ancient times, -a philosophy which has exercised a great sway over the human mind, even to the present time, and which, in the primitive times of Christianity, seemed to form the principal plane in which the truths of the Gospel could be intellectually received. To have some idea of the intellectual form of this great power, is of importance in the history of human knowledge. This idea, if correct, will enable us to see what our present position is in relation to the past, and to know, and in some measure to appreciate, the inestimable advantages the members of the New Church enjoy, or may enjoy, by possessing such works as the “ Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and Wisdom, and concerning the Divine Providence;”. works in which is developed that philosophy which Plato and other sages aimed at, but of which they fell infinitely short. Nor could it, indeed, be expected that they could have attained to the highest degree of philosophical wisdom, unless, by especial illumination, the mind had been opened to see the nature of things as they exist in a higher sphere,the world of causes, that spiritual world of which the natural is but the mere type and shadow. That world is the world of mind; and to become acquainted with the mind, so as to possess a true philosophy of its nature, degrees, and states, without a previous knowledge of the spiritual or intellectual world, its laws - and phenomena, is an impos-sibility. Without this knowledge we can only remain in shadows, hypotheses, suppositions, conjectures, and doubts, all which are as clouds of more or less density to the light of genuine truth and wisdom. Although the ancients had some knowledge of the existence of that world, and although Plato says, that it is enlightened by a sun of intellectual light, yet this knowledge amounted only to the quod sit, and not to the quale sit ;-it only consisted in the affirmative that there is a spiritual world, and not in an explanation of what it consists,-its nature, laws, phenomena, relations to the natural world, and specifically to the mind of man. The doctrine of influx by the activities of the substances of the spiritual into the material passivities of the natural world, by the laws of correspondence, was not even dreamed of. And yet this doctrine is a key which unlocks one of the portals to the temple of wisdom. At the time we now speak of, the “Science of Correspondences” was entirely lost, as a medium of perception and knowledge concerning spiritual things. Metaphysics had taken its place; which is only an attempt of the natural mind to see things prior from things posterior ; that is, to see things which to its vision are out of sight, to attempt which is an absurdity. The law of order is, that the spiritual must descend into the natural, the rational into the sensual, in order that the lower degrees may be actuated by the higher, and enlightened by perception and knowledge, devoid of those appearances and fallacies with which these lower regions of the mind abound. The doctrine of order, shewing how things are constituted in subordination to, and in co-ordination with each other, and how influx, or the activities of things interior actuate things exterior, even to the extreme, is one of the most prominent features of a genuine philosophy. Let us, however, not be so discursive, but confine our attention to Plato.

* See Intellectual Repository for February.

This philosopher was eight years a pupil of Socrates, or one of those who regularly attended his conversations. By the advice of Socrates he devoted himself to the study of philosophy, and travelled especially in Italy and Sicily. He became well versed in the philosophy of Pythagoras and of his school, and he cultivated his great talents in a most diligent manner. He formed an academy which became the most celebrated school of philosophy in Greece. Very many from different nations resorted thither to imbibe the principles of wisdom which he taught, in reference both to intellectual and to moral philosophy,—to the understanding and the heart. This academy was for many years a nursery of virtuous men and profound thinkers. Cicero sojourned there, and laid the foundation of that philosophical knowledge which he afterwards expanded in his various works. Thither he sent his son Marcus, to whom he addressed a philosophical treatise on the duties of life; the principles of which are evidently derived from the philosophy of Socrates and Plato.

The works of Plato are, for the most part, in the form of dialogues, from which the principles of his philosophy must be gathered. His writings are very voluminous, but it is stated, that not all the doctrines he held were delivered by him in writing; there being some unwritten doctrines (aypapa doyuara) which were not communicated except to those who were initiated into the interior arcana of his philosophy; for, in ancient times all systems of philosophy and religion had their interior, or esoteric, or reserved, and their exterior, or exoteric, or open, philosophy. The former was not written and opened to the public at large, as the latter. Thus the Egyptians had their hieroglyphics, the signification of which was known only to a few, and those of the priestly order. The multitude at large were kept away from this interior, reserved, or hidden knowledge; they were too profane to be admitted into the interior arcana of wisdon. The Greeks had their Eleusynian mysteries; the Jews had their Cabbala ; the Christians have had their mystics, and even at the present time, the doctrine of Reserve* is brought forward as expedient and necessary.

The cause of this reserve originated, no doubt, in wise precautions, in order to prevent the dreadful sin of profanation. In ancient times it. was known, as it is now in the New Church, that if the mind is initiated into a knowledge of interior things, which it will not reduce to practice, the guilt of sin becomes greatly aggravated, and the spirit hereafter sinks into a deeper gulf of wretchedness and misery, than it would if it had remained in ignor

* One of the Oxford Tracts is on this subject.

ance.

Now ye say, we see, your sin remaineth.” (John ix. 41.) " The servant that knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, &c., shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke xii. 47.) And, on this account, the Jews were never initiated into a knowledge of the interior arcana of their religion,----lest they should profane them. Those who were initiated into the Eleusynian mysteries were considered to be more under the protection of the Deity, more bound to lead a pure and virtuous life, and more secure from evil than others; and after death, they were admitted into the first places of the Elysian fields, while others were doomed to wallow in mire, and to suffer the severest hardships and penalties. These mysteries were guarded by the strictest laws; those who divulged them, and those who were unworthily initiated into them, were punished with death. But although the cause of this hidden or reserved knowledge originated in wise precautions, yet the persons

who had the command of this reserve,-the priests of Egypt, the guardians of the mysteries of Eleusis, the pontifices of Rome, and the druids of Britain, employed their privilege as an engine of establishing a dominion grounded on selfishness, and as a means of oppressing the ignorant, and of exacting the first and choicest fruits of their labor as the reward of priestcraft. And we know that since the establishment of the Christian religion, the same means have been employed to build up the walls of Babylon It may, I think, be stated as a faet, that the things involved in these ancient mysteries, related chiefly to man's life hereafter in the spiritual world.* This knowledge was considered to be of a most holy and important nature, and, on account of its eminent uses, infinitely more valuable than any other kind of intelligence. What few remains were still left of the “Science of Correspondences” might, it is probable, have been preserved in these mysteries. Now, if the above supposition be correct, it may further be stated, that the work by Swedenborg on “Heaven and Hell" contains a disclosure of those ancient mysteries, together with innumerable particulars besides, relating to man's life and state in the spiritual world, which those mysteries did not involve. How ought we to prize such a work! What knowledge ought to be more desirable to an immortal being, who is destined to inhabit the spiritual world for ever? This knowledge, however, brings with it great responsibilities; as an immense amount of good and happiness may, by its proper use and application, be realized, so by its abuse, when once received and acknowledged, an opposite amount of evil and degradation may result. The doctrine of action and reaction

* See a learned Dissertation on these mysteries by Bishop Warburton, in his “ Divine Legation."

is as true in spiritual as in natural things; in proportion to the action of light upon the mind, will be the reaction either for good or for evil.

The above remarks on the subject of reserve in the ancient systems of theology, mythology, and philosophy, may probably be considered as a digression from our immediate subject, but should they tend to explain the ground of the esoterio, or reserved system of Plato and others, they will not be regarded as useless and out of place.

Plato considered that theoretical and practical philosophy forms essential parts of the same entire system of knowledge and wisdom. The one is not complete without the other, both must be combined to make a perfect whole. Socrates directed his instruction more immediately to the will, or the heart and the life, taking the principle of common sense as the plane on which all truth should be implanted. Plato endeavoured to extend this plane, and to raise upon it a mansion of intelligence called intellectual philosophy. Thus whilst Socrates was, in an eminent sense, a moral, Plato was distinguished as an intellectual philosopher. But notwithstanding the intellectual sagacity and insight which have been attributed to Plato, it will be seen from the analysis here presented of the leading features of his system, how much obscurity still brooded over the mind and philosophy of Plato, and how necessary it has been that a greater philosopher, enlightened by superior intelligence, should arise to dispel the darkness in which all things below the mere surface, and the mere senses, have been involved. In relation to Plato's moral philosophy, he has exhibited an ideal republic, in which he has supposed his own principles to prevail. Amongst other things which he shews to be necessary to the existence of a perfect and happy republic, or state of human society, is a communion of goods, in which is involved a communion of wives !! This admission of Plato shews how totally destitute his mind was of a knowledge of the fundamental principles of all moral order, which are mainly based on the proper relation of the sexes to each other, and on the sacred laws which guard and govern the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. Thus Swedenborg, in his "Spiritual Diary," says, that “the doctrine of a communion of goods is founded in heavenly order, because to communicate and to do good is

very life of charity; but when thereby is also understood a communion of wives, that heavenly doctrine is entirely perverted." It is singular that various sects of Christians, such as the Anabaptists in Germany, and others, who have advocated a communion of goods, have also fallen into the enormous falsity that a communion of wives is thereby also intended. It was probably this fact which led Swedenborg

N. S. NO. 64.-VOL. VI.

the

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »