Correspondences of the Bible: The Animals
Author : John Worcester
Format : Paperback, 224 pages
Release date : 2009
Correspondences of the Bible: The Animals covers both the familiar and the exotic, from farmyards to remote jungles. Starting with the animals that feature most prominently in the Bible - sheep, goats, and oxen, the animals used for sacrifice - Worcester goes on to discuss beasts of burden. Other animals are grouped by function and by similarities in their correspondences, and Worcester describes how certain character traits can overlap by species, sometimes manifesting in a positive way in one animal and negatively in another.
This book addresses the animal kingdom in its broadest sense, including birds, snakes, insects, and fish. Each creature is judged, not only on its Biblical associations, but on its own behavior and characteristics, holding the mirror of the natural world up to our own flaws and virtues.
Rev. John Worcester (1834-1900) was born in Boston and lived in Massachusetts for most of his life. The son of a minister, he was trained by his father in theology and studied physiology and related subjects at the Lawrence Scientific School, which later became part of Harvard University. He was pastor to the Newtonville New Church Society in Massachusetts for forty-two years, and taught at the New Church Theological School for many years, serving as the school's president from 1881 to 1894. In addition to his books on correspondences, he published a number of volumes with his sermons and lessons on Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, and the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
This was a very difficult book to review because my feeling that the author's very traditional approach to snakes representing the sensual; apes representing mimicry; and lambs innocence; and so forth, at first, overshadowed the positive contributions of this very unique work. On reflection, there was much to admire.
Worcester's description of the elephants having a quickness of perception, an underlying love, and sense of justice is backed with several wonderful stories illustrating this point.
According to John Worcester, we learn about the spiritual by studying its correspondence in the physical world. In other words, the natural objects of the world, such as animals, are images or manifestations of spiritual things in human minds. To him, there is hardly a word used to describe natural objects or phenomena, which does not figuratively apply to spiritual things. If things in our world bore no relationship to the spiritual, then this life would not be a preparation for the spiritual life -- a core belief of all spiritual traditions.
The idea of correspondences actually goes back to ancient Israel and the interwoven triangle which is the sign of the Star of David that means, "as above, so below." - Reviewed by Helene Vachet, New Perspectives, Milestone Issue 2010