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Chapter VI.—The Mystic Meaning of the Tabernacle and Its Furniture.
It were tedious to go over all the Prophets and the Law, specifying what is spoken in enigmas; for almost the whole Scripture gives its utterances in this way. It may suffice, I think, for any one possessed of intelligence, for the proof of the point in hand, to select a few examples.
Now concealment is evinced in the reference of the seven circuits around the temple, which are made mention of among the Hebrews; and the equipment on the robe, indicating by the various symbols, which had reference to visible objects, the agreement which from heaven reaches down to earth. And the covering and the veil were variegated with blue, and purple, and scarlet, and linen. And so it was suggested that the nature of the elements contained the revelation of God. For purple is from water, linen from the earth; blue, being dark, is like the air, as scarlet is like fire.
In the midst of the covering and veil, where the priests were allowed to enter, was situated the altar of incense, the symbol of the earth placed in the middle of this universe; and from it came the fumes of incense. And that place intermediate between the inner veil, where the high priest alone, on prescribed days, was permitted to enter, and the external court which surrounded it—free to all the Hebrews—was, they say, the middlemost point of heaven and earth. But others say it was the symbol of the intellectual world, and that of sense. The covering, then, the barrier of popular unbelief, was stretched in front of the five pillars, keeping back those in the surrounding space.
So very mystically the five loaves are broken by the Saviour, and fill the crowd of the listeners. For great is the crowd that keep to the things of sense, as if they were the only things in existence. “Cast your eyes round, and see,” says Plato, “that none of the uninitiated listen.” Such are they who think that nothing else exists, but what they can hold tight with their hands; but do not admit as in the department of existence, actions and processes of generation, and the whole of the unseen. For such are those who keep by the five senses. But the knowledge of God is a thing inaccessible to the ears and like organs of this kind of people. Hence the Son is said to be the Father’s face, being the revealer of the Father’s character to the five senses by clothing Himself with flesh. “But if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”3021
Now the Lord, having come alone into the intellectual world, enters by His sufferings, introduced into the knowledge of the Ineffable, ascending above every name which is known by sound. The lamp, too, was placed to the south of the altar of incense; and by it were shown the motions of the seven planets, that perform their revolutions towards the south. For three branches rose on either side of the lamp, and lights on them; since also the sun, like the lamp, set in the midst of all the planets, dispenses with a kind of divine music the light to those above and to those below.
North of the altar of incense was placed a table, on which there was “the exhibition of the loaves;” for the most nourishing of the winds are those of the north. And thus are signified certain seats of churches conspiring so as to form one body and one assemblage.3026
And those golden figures, each of them with six wings, signify either the two bears, as some will have it, or rather the two hemispheres. And the name cherubim meant “much knowledge.” But both together have twelve wings, and by the zodiac and time, which moves on it, point out the world of sense. It is of them, I think, that Tragedy, discoursing of Nature, says:—
Now the high priest’s robe is the symbol of the world of sense. The seven planets are represented by the five stones and the two carbuncles, for Saturn and the Moon. The former is southern, and moist, and earthy, and heavy; the latter aerial, whence she is called by some Artemis, as if Ærotomos (cutting the air); and the air is cloudy. And cooperating as they did in the production of things here below, those that by Divine Providence are set over the planets are rightly represented as placed on the breast and shoulders; and by them was the work of creation, the first week. And the breast is the seat of the heart and soul.
Differently, the stones might be the various phases of salvation; some occupying the upper, some the lower parts of the entire body saved. The three hundred and sixty bells, suspended from the robe, is the space of a year, “the acceptable year of the Lord,” proclaiming and resounding the stupendous manifestation of the Saviour. Further, the broad gold mitre indicates the regal power of the Lord, “since the Head of the Church” is the Savour.3030
The twelve stones, set in four rows on the breast, describe for us the circle of the zodiac, in the four changes of the year. It was otherwise requisite that the law and the prophets should be placed beneath the Lord’s head, because in both Testaments mention is made of the righteous. For were we to say that the apostles were at once prophets and righteous, we should say well, “since one and the self-same Holy Spirit works in all.”3033
And they say that the robe prophesied the ministry in the flesh, by which He was seen in closer relation to the world. So the high priest, putting off his consecrated robe (the universe, and the creation in the universe, were consecrated by Him assenting that, what was made, was good), washes himself, and puts on the other tunic—a holy-of-holies one, so to speak—which is to accompany him into the adytum; exhibiting, as seems to me, the Levite and Gnostic, as the chief of other priests (those bathed in water, and clothed in faith alone, and expecting their own individual abode), himself distinguishing the objects of the intellect from the things of sense, rising above other priests, hasting to the entrance to the world of ideas, to wash himself from the things here below, not in water, as formerly one was cleansed on being enrolled in the tribe of Levi. But purified already by the gnostic Word in his whole heart, and thoroughly regulated, and having improved that mode of life received from the priest to the highest pitch, being quite sanctified both in word and life, and having put on the bright array of glory, and received the ineffable inheritance of that spiritual and perfect man, “which eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, and it hath not entered into the heart of man;” and having become son and friend, he is now replenished with insatiable contemplation face to face. For there is nothing like hearing the Word Himself, who by means of the Scripture inspires fuller intelligence. For so it is said, “And he shall put off the linen robe, which he had put on when he entered into the holy place; and shall lay it aside there, and wash his body in water in the holy place, and put on his robe.”3035