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VII. Wool, and the Skins of Rams and of Kids
The Tabernacle of Israel, by George de Charms, 1969
As has been pointed out, the first four materials mentioned in the list of those that were offered for the building of the tabernacle represent the delights of remains stored up by the Lord during infancy and childhood. There is, however, another kind of preparation necessary to the establishment of the Church with man, and this is represented by the next four materials in the list.
For the most part remains lie above the region of man's consciousness. They can be felt only when angels are present, and angelic presence is possible only when the mind is in a state of external order. When evil loves are active, the hells inflow, and the influence of the angels is withdrawn. It is most important, therefore, that external order be established and induced upon the mind by habit until it becomes as it were instinctive. This must be done by means of instruction, education, and training. So far as orderly habits of thought and life are formed, the way is opened for influx from heaven that inspires good loves, and from them instills into the mind a conscience of justice, and mercy, and reverence for the Word. These orderly habits are represented by the gifts of wool, rams' skins dyed red, badgers' skins, and shittim wood.
The first three of these were to be used as coverings to protect the tabernacle and its furniture. They were made into curtains and placed over the tabernacle on top of the linen covering. The wool curtain was placed next to the linen. Over this was spread the curtain of rams' skins, and above this the final covering of badgers' skins. All three were needed to provide an adequate protection for the holy things contained in the tabernacle. So also, orderly habits of affection and thought are needed to protect the interiors of the human mind, where spiritual faith and love abide. Every one appears before the world by his speech and action. He must be adjusted to the demands of society by learning to observe the forms of politeness, decorum, and consideration for others. Some of these forms are but gestures of the body, while others are deeper, having to do with attitudes of the mind; but all together cover over and protect man's deeper feelings from intrusion by others.
Without some measure of privacy man would have no freedom. Indeed, the power to conceal our inner thoughts and feelings is necessary at the present day for our protection, in order that we may be able to combat the hereditary tendencies to evil into which we have been born, and not be condemned on account of them before we have had an opportunity to fight against them. Without this protection regeneration would be impossible. Indeed if this protection were not given society could not exist because evils of every kind would burst forth like a destroying fire. Such external bonds, therefore, are absolutely necessary.
However, many at the present day make the mistake of supposing that these modes of behavior are the final end and goal of education. Training by means of which children learn to act instinctively according to the requirements of the civil and the moral law, is what is meant by that "adjustment of the individual to his environment" about which so much is written by modern educators. It is true, of course, that from earliest childhood every one is subjected to the pressure of public opinion. We all seek to do those things that will gain for us the approval of others, and we naturally avoid those things that bring about disapproval and punishment. We must learn to adjust ourselves to these pressures of our environment; but to make this adjustment the final end of education is a serious mistake. It does not build character, but only induces on man's behavior the external appearance of character. To do this is necessary and useful, but it will not change man's internal nature. Habits of civil and moral order do play a necessary part in the development of character, but only because they provide the external conditions under which character may be formed. They are not the end, but only the means that looks to the achievement of a higher goal.
There is truth in the motto adopted by one of the colleges of Oxford: "Manners Maketh Man." Yet all the forms of politeness and consideration for others may be observed solely to conceal inner feelings of pride, ill-will, and enmity toward others. When this is the case, the outer forms are hypocritical, and they provide the basis of influx from hell rather than from heaven.
What is specifically meant by the three curtains of the tabernacle above referred to, is not man's physical behavior so much as his attitude of mind. By observation and imitation everyone learns from others how to think, and how to act. Children derive their opinions from parents and teachers; but affections are aroused by spirits and angels. Influences from both worlds are intimately associated. They are perceived as the pressure of family customs, and of local and national traditions, all of which combine to form the growing mind. Thence arise national characteristics of thought, of speech, and of life, which are passed down from generation to generation. With the passage of time they acquire increasing sanctity, and exercise an ever greater power over the minds of men. The reason is that those who have been deeply affected by these things during their life on earth, continue to love them after death, and inflow with affection when they are observed by men. Because of this, long established traditions can become very binding, not only with children, but also with adults. Nevertheless, a man can rebel against these influences, and break their power over him. The ability to do this is essential to human freedom, and for this reason every generation tends to oppose what parents and ancestors seek to impose upon them, and to establish modes of life which they feel to be their own. It is vital to human progress that this should be so. Nevertheless, each generation exerts an influence upon the next that is quite unavoidable. External forms are temporary, and may be replaced; but there are attitudes of mind which are of permanent value. These have to do with religion, with the acknowledgment of God, with reverence for the Word, with a deep respect for law and justice. Such attitudes as these are most effectively imparted to the young when they are natural and spontaneous attitudes with parents and teachers. The most important of these mental attitudes is represented by the curtain of wool. It is an attitude of trust and confidence that arises from a deep sense of the Lord's presence, and of His protecting providence over all things of life. It is an inner sense of security that makes one willing to listen, to learn, and to obey. It is called in the Writings the "good of innocence."
In Exodus chapter 26, verse 7, this curtain is said to be made of "goats," thread from the hair of goats being implied. In the Writings (A.C. 3519) "kids" or young goats are said to represent "the innocence of the external or natural man." In the Word Explained it is said that the wool of sheep was used.1 Why this is we do not know, but the signification given is the same in both cases.
What is specifically meant by the good of innocence?2 The Lord said to the young man in the Gospel, "Why callest thou Me good; there is none good but the one God." (Matthew 19:17) Only the Lord is truly innocent. Any innocence that exists with men is derived from Him. The good of innocence is the delight of acknowledging the Lord and of exercising charity toward the neighbor, such as exists with the angels of heaven.3 It is the love of obeying the Lord's will, that is, of living according to the truth of the Word. This is what opens the mind toward heaven, that spiritual light or understanding may be received.
Natural truth derived from the facts of nature is not revealed in the Sacred Scripture, but is discovered by observation and experience. The Word of God treats throughout of what is heavenly and Divine. The Word and nature are called in the Writings "the two foundations of truth."4 Yet between these two there can be perfect accord, for there is but one truth, and in order to see this men must acquire an understanding, even of natural things, from the light of heaven. Between spiritual and natural truth there must be an intermediate which coordinates the two, and this is what is called philosophy. Man is permitted, as it were, from himself, by his own investigation and rational analysis, to discover the truth of philosophy. And yet he can so discover it only if he thinks from the Lord, from the Word, from the acknowledgment of the Lord's immediate presence and operation in nature. If, therefore, a true philosophy of life is to be built up that will bridge the seeming gap between spiritual and natural things, showing how spiritual truth, which is to us abstract, may be applied to the world as we know it from experience, then must there be impressed upon the mind from earliest childhood that attitude which here is meant by "goats," that is, the good of innocence. Indeed, it is against this attitude that all the training and education of the day is arrayed. By a natural process of adjustment one who is well educated in a school of our time absorbs an attitude of mind which is opposed to any real recognition of the Lord's immediate presence in nature, or the operation of His providence in the external affairs of life. And this is a serious stumbling block in the way of building a spiritual church in adult life. It is one of the essential reasons why there must be a new kind of education, designed to prepare the mind for the reception of spiritual truth in adult age. This is the function of a true philosophy. Philosophy forms a covering over the spiritual truths of religion, even as the wool formed a cover to protect the tabernacle. It clothes spiritual truth with forms that are tangible to man's thought, and brings it down to the plane of worldly affairs that it may be of practical use and value.
The second attitude of mind which is a necessary offering for the building of the spiritual church is represented by the "rams' skins dyed red." This may be called a habit not only of acting but also of thinking from a regard for the neighbor. Thus it is an attitude of mind affirmative to moral and ethical ideals. It is an adjustment of the thought to principles of justice and honor. All power to influence others depends upon the ability to appear just and honorable. This is the only basis of mutual confidence. The term "ram" in the original Hebrew is derived from the root meaning "power," from which we see the origin of its signification. Such an attitude may indeed have a selfish motive, and at first it does so with all men. But if a child is associated with men who are sincere, upright, honorable and just from a spiritual motive, that association will impress upon the child's mind a form of order which can be a basis of influx from heaven. Such ethical and moral principles of life form a more external covering over the mind, by which a man is seen and known. A man's philosophy of life may not be known to others, but his principles of action will in some degree be sensed as the "spirit of the man," by all who have more than a passing acquaintance with him. That which appears as his spirit to others covers over and protects those deeper things which are of the essence of his religion. And for this reason a curtain of rams' skins was laid over the curtain of wool, almost completely covering it, though at one point the wool could be seen from the court, as will be described later.
The third attitude of mind is that which is represented by the outmost covering of kids' skins. It is called in the Writings "external good itself"5 or that outward thing which obviously appears before others as the man. In its social aspect it is to be understood as the habits of decorum, politeness, etc., by which he is known, and it produces that indefinable quality that we call "presence." But in its more essential meaning it has reference to the external love of truth. This love inspires man to search out and discover facts and to demand historic or experimental proof for his beliefs. It is commonly referred to as "the scientific attitude of mind." Because the facts of experience are seemingly opposed to the truth of revelation, and indeed are actually opposed to the doctrines which are considered orthodox by the churches, this attitude of mind has been widely condemned. Yet it has been the means of setting free the minds of men from the external force of dogma, especially from the idea that they must keep their understanding under obedience to a blind faith. As a result of the conflict between science and religion, this attitude of mind has come to be associated with materialistic or atheistic thought. Such, however, is by no means necessarily the case, for both a true religion and a true philosophy will be found to be in perfect agreement with the facts of experience. There is a scientific attitude of mind which it is essential that we should acquire and should instill in our children. It is an attitude of intense curiosity which arises from a love of truth. It is an attitude which will cause everyone of adult age to insist upon testing opinions received from others in the light of his own observation and experience. This attitude applies to spiritual things as well as to natural things. It applies to truth derived from the Word, as well as to that discovered from nature. Both the Word and nature are Divine creations. Through both of them the Lord speaks directly to man. From Him must be received all the truths of which the tabernacle is formed in the mind of man.
These attitudes of mind are imparted to children, not so much by obvious teaching, as by insinuation through the sphere of parents and teachers with whom they have become matters of the life; for in that sphere angels will be present and the delight of those attitudes will be felt as the child's own delight, to which he will freely return when he begins to formulate his own principles of conduct and of thought in adult age. They will then become, in the youth, materials out of which an embodiment of spiritual religion can be built by the Lord, and will serve as a protecting guard for the things of heaven and the Church.6