THE SYMBOLISM OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
Towards the end of the book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse, the apostle John sees a huge city descend out of heaven, which is called the New Jerusalem. In the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg, he was shown that this is a prophecy of a New Church which would succeed the older Christian churches. A "city", especially Jerusalem, signifies a doctrine, and this city which comes down out of heaven signifies heavenly doctrines. There are two main doctrines which distinguish the New Church from all the Christian churches which preceded it:
1. Acknowledgment of only one God, in one person, who is Jesus Christ.
2. That one must turn away from one's sins and live by God's commandments.
Most consider Jesus to be just a good teacher or prophet, but those who hold this view ignore the many claims He made about Himself in the gospels. The first doctrine, that Jesus Christ is Jehovah in human form, is signified by the light at the center of the city:
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. (Rev. 21:22-23)
The "Lord God Almighty" is God Himself, which no man or angel can approach or see directly. The "Lamb" is the Divine in human form, which resides in the Divine Human as the soul resides in the body of every person. The "light" is the Divine Proceeding, the Holy Spirit, which enlightens us all spiritually. The Divine itself, the Divine in the human, and the Divine proceeding, is one trine in One Person, Jesus Christ. This trine exists in every person as the soul, body and spirit. Other churches which do not profess a belief in one God in one person do not belong to the New Jerusalem. These are the ones which profess a belief in a trinity of three persons, and are signified by the following passage in the book of Revelation:
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (Rev. 16:13-14)
The false doctrine of a trinity which opposes an idea of one God in one person is signified by the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet in the book of Revelation. Those who support such a doctrine will oppose the church of the New Jerusalem. Such a spiritual conflict is known as the battle of Armageddon. The book of Revelation should not be interpreted literally: it does not concern the kingdoms of this world, it concerns the doctrines and spiritual states of the Christian Church. Whereas a "devil" spiritually means that which influences one to do evil, a "demon" is that which influences people to believe in something false. Thus it is symbolically shown as frogs coming out of the mouth, for the mouth is what teaches others. Most are ignorant of the falsehood, as most do not question the belief-system they grew up with.
The second doctrine, that one must live by God's commandments, is indicated by this passage:
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Rev. 22:14-15)
Those who falsely interpret the apostle Paul, and express a belief in a theology of "faith alone", or belief only, will be the ones who are typically opposed to this second doctrine. You cannot have a faith, and live contrary to it. What survives after death is the true desire of your will. You will go where your desire takes you. This is why the act of repentance, an acknowledgment and
THE GEMSTONES OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
One thing that will make the new Church stronger than the churches that preceded it is that it will be able to see the inner spiritual meaning of scripture. The doctrines rest on a strong foundation, and the high walls signify the truths which defend it against what is false. In the foundation of the city there are a variety of special gemstones, which all reflect light in a different manner. This signifies the abundant knowledge which is available to those who wish to know the spiritual meaning of the literal sense of scripture, beyond a superficial understanding. Here is the passage:
The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Rev. 21:18-21)
Gemstones reflect light in different ways. Likewise, everyone who reads scripture, will see a different aspect of the truth in a different light. Unfortunately, Swedenborg didn't bother to explain the meaning of each gemstone, and assumed they had a similar spiritual meaning to the 12 tribes of Israel explained earlier in his explanation of the Apocalypse, and to similar stones named for the breastplate of Aaron. I decided to take a look at the gemstones in more detail, to see if there was any pattern to the stones. What I thought was going to be easy quickly got complicated. Lets review each stone, and then towards the end I will examine any possible patterns. What I found was hard to see at first, but it took me by surprise.
1. JASPER (QUARTZ)
Jasper, a form of chalcedony, is an opaque, impure variety of silica (SiO2
), usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. In modern times Jasper refers to a variety of opaque quartz, but in ancient times it had significant translucency. So although there are a variety of Jasper stones, the one intended in scripture seems to be the translucent variety, since it is described as "clear glass." If that is the case, it the ancient gemstone of jasper is not the modern jasper, but quartz (SiO2
There are actually many varieties of gemstones that are actually varieties of quartz but with impurities that give them color.
Sapphire, meaning "blue stone" is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide (Al2O3
). Some sapphires form a six pointed star in their stone due to inclusions in their crystal structure, these are known as "star sapphires". One famous one is the 182 carat Star of Bombay:
Chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline form of silica (SiO2
), composed of very fine intergrowths of the minerals quartz and moganite. Chalcedony has a waxy luster, and may be semitransparent or translucent. Like jasper, it can assume a wide range of colors, but those most commonly seen are white to gray, grayish-blue or a shade of brown ranging from pale to nearly black. The name "chalcedony" first appears in Pliny the Elder's Natural History
of the first century A.D. as a term for a translucid kind of Jasper. The name is probably derived from the town Chalcedon in Asia Minor. A little later the word appears in the Book of Revelation, and unfortunately the word is found nowhere else, so the exact identity of this stone is a bit uncertain.
Emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl (Be3Al2(SiO3)6
) colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. The similarity of emerald to beryl was suspected by Pliny the Elder in his work Natural History
of the first century A.D., but that fact was not confirmed until the 19th century. The fact that Chalcedony also appears in that work and was used by the apostle John indicates he may have even read that work. This also happens to be a clue as to why the gems are ordered in the way they are.
Onyx is formed of bands of chalcedony in alternating colors. Its bands are parallel to one another. Sardonyx is a variant in which the colored bands are sard (shades of red) rather than black. Black onyx is perhaps the most famous variety, but is not as common as onyx with colored bands.
6. SARDIUS (CARNELIAN)
The Sardius gemstone is now known as carnelian or sard, which is brownish-red. Both are varieties of the silica mineral chalcedony colored by impurities of iron oxide (Fe2O3). The color can vary greatly, ranging from pale orange to an intense almost-black coloration. According to Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, the stone sardius is derived from the city Sardis in Asia Minor, but it is probably from the Persian word sered meaning brownish red.
7. CHRYSOLITE (CHRYSOBERYL)
The gemstone chrysoberyl is an aluminate of beryllium with the formula BeAl2O4
. The Greek word means "gold-white spar".
Beryl is composed of beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate (Be3Al2(SiO3)6
). The hexagonal crystals of beryl may be very small or range to several meters in size.
Topaz is a silicate mineral of Aluminium and Fluorine with the chemical formula Al2SiO4(F,OH)2
. Topaz crystallizes in the orthorhombic system. Pure topaz is colorless and transparent but is usually tinted by impurities; typical topaz is wine, yellow, pale gray, reddish-orange, or blue brown. It can also be made white, pale green, blue, gold, pink (rare), reddish-yellow or opaque to transparent/translucent.
Chrysoprase, chrysophrase or chrysoprasus is a gemstone variety of chalcedony that contains small quantities of nickel. Its color is normally apple-green, but varies to deep green.
Jacinth is a red transparent variety of zircon (ZrSiO4).
Amethyst is a purple variety of quartz (SiO2
) and owes its violet color to irradiation, iron impurities (in some cases in conjunction with transition element impurities), and the presence of trace elements.
A CLUE TO THE SYMBOLIC PATTERN OF THE GEMSTONES
So, those are the twelve gemstones that appear in the foundation of the New Jerusalem in the vision of the book of Revelation or Apocalypse. So when I first looked at it, I could see no pattern in it. The order and selection of gemstones is completely different than the twelve gemstones listed for the breastplate of Aaron. As with the twelve tribes of Israel, the different listings can signify different things depending on context. There does not seem to be a superficial pattern based on color, and even that is complicated by the fact that some of the stones can have different colors. I stared at the information and almost gave up on this.
The clue to the pattern comes from Pliny the Elder's work entitled Natural History
. First, he makes use of the word Chalcedony for a gemstone, and the only other writer to have used that word for a gemstone is the Apostle John in the book of Revelation who was his near contemporary. In the same work, Pliny the Elder noted how the emerald was similar to beryl. This casual observation was scientifically verified in the 19th century, when it was discovered that emerald had the exact same chemical formula as beryl, it just had an impurity from chromium. Here is some history on emerald and beryl from Wikipedia:
Mineralogist René Just Haüy
discovered that both crystals are geometrically identical, and he asked chemist Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin
for a chemical analysis. In a 1798 paper read before the Institut de France
, Vauquelin reported that he found a new "earth" by dissolving aluminium hydroxide
from emerald and beryl in an additional alkali
. The editors of the journal Annales de Chimie et de Physique
named the new earth "glucine" for the sweet taste of some of its compounds. Klaproth preferred the name "beryllia" due to fact that yttria
also formed sweet salts. Friedrich Wöhler
and Antoine Bussy
independently isolated beryllium in 1828.
The other thing to note is that in the book of Revelation each gemstone is given a number. Emerald is #4. Beryl is #8. Eight is a multiple of four. It was then I got a hint about the pattern. When discussing the symbolism of numbers, throughout Swedenborg that numbers that are multiples of other numbers often signify the same thing:
...numbers produced by division signify the like as their multiples — for instance five as ten, and as twenty, and also as one hundred and one thousand, and so on (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5708)
...compound numbers signify the same as the simple numbers of which they are composed, and therefore the simple numbers the same as their compounds (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9716)
Half and double in the Word involve the like with the numbers to which they are applied — as twenty the like with ten, four the like with two, six with three, twenty-four with twelve, and so on; so also numbers still further multiplied involve the like, as a hundred and also a thousand the like with ten, seventy-two and also a hundred and forty-four the like with twelve. What therefore compound numbers involve, can be known from the simple numbers from which and with which they are multiplied; also, what the more simple numbers involve, can be known from the whole numbers, as, what five is can be known from ten, and what two and a half is from five, and so on. In general it is to be known that numbers multiplied involve the like with simple numbers, but what is more full; and that numbers divided involve the same, but what is not so full. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5291)
...numbers that are multiples of a similar number have a like signification as the simple numbers of which they are multiples (Apocalypse Explained, n. 336a)
THE SYMBOLIC PATTERN OF THE GEMSTONES
So, knowing that a multiple of a number has a similar spiritual symbolism, and seeing that beryl (#8) was a multiple of emerald (#4), combined with the fact
that emerald and beryl were discovered to have the same chemical composition in the 19th century - that could hardly be a coincidence. Its evidence that a higher intelligence
was taking the information in the apostle John's head and ordering it in a logical pattern. So, lets take note of the following pattern of doubling in the list of gemstones for the foundation of the New Jerusalem:
3, 6: Gemstone #3 (Chalcedony) and #6 (Sardius): both are forms of Chalcedony. Both happen to be named after cities in Asia Minor.
4, 8: Gemstone #4 (Emerald) and #8 (Beryl): both have the same chemical composition. Despite being a brighter green, Emerald is the impure version of Beryl.
5, 10: Gemstone #5 (Sardonyx) and #10 (Chrysoprase): both are forms of Chalcedony.
6, 12: Gemstone #6 (Sardius) and #12 (Amethyst): both are forms of Chalcedony. Both contain the impurity of Iron Oxide (Fe2O3).
The sixth and twelfth gemstones contain Iron Oxide:
And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations --- 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' --- as I also have received from My Father (Rev. 2:26-27)
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. (Rev. 12:5)
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. (Rev. 19:15)
Swedenborg states, "by the rod of iron with which the nations should be smitten, are signified truths from the literal sense of the Word confirmed by rational arguments from the natural man" (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 828.) As the gemstones in general signify truths from the literal sense of the Word, it is fitting that the sixth and the twelfth gemstones happen to have iron in them.
We have seen a doubling pattern for gemstones from #3 to #6. Beyond that we cannot double. But what about gemstones #1 (Jasper or Quartz) and #2 (Sapphire)? It would seem that gemstones #1, #2 and #4 form what I call a "base series" - gemstones #1, #2 and #4 represent the common base elements that can be found in all the other gemstones:
Gemstone #1 (Jasper or Quartz) is composed of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2
). All forms of Chalcedony are also composed of Silicon Dioxide. Silicon has a tetrahedral formation of SiO4
but the other oxygens combine with other silicon atoms to form the final composition of SiO2
: the following shows Silicon surrounded by four oxygen atoms, each forming a vertex of a tetrahedron:
Gemstone #2 (Sapphire) is an aluminium oxide (Al2O3
). Each Aluminum atom has an octahedral geometry:
A tetrahedron has four faces. An octahedron has 8 faces. Again, a doubling. Note that the tetrahedron and octahedron are among the five Platonic solids:
We see forms of the tetrahedron and the octahedron in the chemical geometry of the gemstones. The cube, of course, is the shape of the city of the New Jerusalem. The city has twelve "gates". Note that the Icosahedron has 12 vertices, and the Dodecahedron has 12 faces (they are duals of each other). The number 12 appears prominently in the symbolism of the New Jerusalem - more on the meaning of the number 12 later.
Now from gemstones #1 and #2, if we double again, gemstone #4 (Emerald) contains silicon, aluminum, and beryllium. Those are the three base elements from which all the gemstones are formed. Their variety comes from trace elements caught in their formation. The base elements can be found in the following gemstones:
Silicon Dioxide (SiO2): 7 gemstones (1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12)
Aluminum: 4 gemstones (2, 7, 8, 9)
Beryllium: 3 gemstones (4, 7, 8)
Also recall that in an earlier blog entry I divided the periodic table of the elements into seven main groups, as follows:
1. Alkali metals
2. Alkaline earth metals
3. Transition metals
4. Post transition metals and Metalloids
7. Noble gases
Beryllium belongs to group 2. Aluminum and Silicon belong to group 4. Again, a "doubling."
So why this pattern of doubling? This is because the number two signifies marriage love, the conjunction between good and truth. It symbolizes the union between God and His church. Thus the city of the New Jerusalem is first described as the "Lamb's wife":
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." (Rev. 21:9)
THE CITIES OF CHALCEDON AND SARDIS
I want to focus on another kind of symbolism in the names of the gemstones, which I think is not accidental. Note that Chalcedony (gemstone #3) is probably named after the city of Chalcedon in Asia Minor. Its "double" is Sardius (gemstone #6) which is named after the city of Sardis in Asia Minor. Sardis is well known to those who have read the book of Revelation: the church of Sardis is mentioned at the beginning, as the fifth church out of the seven churches. In the letter to Sardis Jesus said:
You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments (Rev. 3:4-5)
Sardis is the fifth church. If we look at the fifth gemstone, it is Sardonyx, which is basically sard mixed with Onyx stone. You can see white bands mixed with red. In the sixth gemstone, that which was sard in the onyx stone is separated to become Sardius. This could symbolize the "cleansing" of the white garments. Sardius thus does not exactly represent Sardis, but rather what comes after Sardis, which was practically a dead church. Thus Sardius is the sixth gemstone, which comes after the fifth. And we see that is the case in the following passage:
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)
White is a symbol of truth. Red is a symbol of love - or in the opposite sense, evil sin. Before white and red were mixed in Sardonyx, which gets purified in righteous deeds (Sardius). Now, if the gemstone Sardius represents what comes after Sardis, then the gemstone Chalcedony represents what comes after Chalcedon. So, why would the city Chalcedon be marked as a significant city, when this city does not even appear among the seven churches of Asia Minor earlier in the book of Revelation? At that time, Chalcedon was not important. But it just so happens that the city of Chalcedon plays a very important role in the Christian Church. So important, you can call it foundational - and its yet another item that shows that the book of Revelation is a prophetic work.
It just so happens, that the last major ecumenical council took place in the city of Chalcedon in the fifth century A.D. It is known as the "Council of Chalcedon":
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from October 8 to November 1, AD 451, at Chalcedon (a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor), on the Asian side of the Bosporus, known in modern times as Istanbul. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. It is the last council which many Anglicans and most Protestants consider ecumenical. ...The Council of Chalcedon issued the 'Chalcedonian Definition,' which repudiated the notion of a single nature in Christ, and defined that he has two natures in one person and hypostasis; it also insisted on the completeness of his two natures: Godhead and manhood.
Most modern churches - Catholic and Protestant - are Chalcedonian in their theological views.The problem is, not only is this doctrine foundational for these churches, it happens to be false. The doctrine in itself, like the trinity, is again not exactly logically coherent (of the illogical mathematical variety of not 2 but 1, and not 1 but 2), so there will be an endless variety of opinion on what it is and what is isn't. Swedenborg was shown in a vision that the purpose of this council was not to arrive at the truth, but rather to divide the nature of Christ into a perpetual dual Divine and human nature. The reason for this theological distinction was so that the Popes of the Catholic Church could claim the title of "vicar of Christ" - that is, one who stands in the place of Christ as head of the church. In this way the Catholic Church consolidated its authority, thus the council found strong support from Pope Leo the Great. Those who held that Jesus had one nature - Divine - then became known as "Monophysites". Who were the Monophysites? The original Christians of the Middle East! It took another century for the Byzantine Empire to suppress them as heretics. Sick and tired of persecution, the Monophysites eventually joined forces with Islam to get rid of the Byzantine Empire. And so began the gradual decline of the Christian Church, as it became a tool for political power.
The church of the New Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven, is NOT Chalcedonian. It is what comes after
the false doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon, just as the gemstone Sardius represents what comes after the dead church of Sardis. And that is the hidden meaning of that obscure stone of Chalcedony which was mentioned only by John and Pliny the Elder in ancient times. The truth of the matter is, although born as a human, through a process of sanctification Jesus made His Human Divine. This was a process that took His entire human lifetime, until the mere human body he inherited from his mother Mary was transformed into the Divine Human: one nature, Divine, as the Monophysites originally declared. This is why He rose from the dead: His body was a Divine reflection of the Divine soul from within Him. And that is why He lives forever now. This is known in the New Church as the doctrine of the Divine Human, and is a foundational belief for those who wish to become sanctified in their own lives. It is a foundational doctrine of the New Jerusalem.