Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. We welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments or even your own article. —Editor
Swedenborg writes that salt is a symbol for longing (Arcana Coelestia 10300). Salt is all over the place in the Bible. In the Old Testament, priests were ordered to season the offerings with “the salt of the covenant of your God” (Leviticus 2:13). All the offerings were called a “covenant of salt forever” (Numbers 18:19). Associating salt with a covenant points to how salt on a spiritual level of meaning plays a part in the coming together of things or the longing for certain things to come together in covenant. The chemistry of salts suggests this spiritual meaning as well—they are ionic compounds that are always “longing” to be electrically neutral (apologies to any chemists out there who might be cringing at my amateur and anthropomorphized description). Personally, I just have to think of salt and my mouth starts watering.
Longing is central to our life. Ezekiel 16:4 makes reference to babies being rubbed with salt when born—a beautiful image of the way we are saturated with longing from birth. Swedenborg explains how the “salt” in us can be a longing of truth for goodness (or a longing to conjoin truth with goodness) or it can be the opposite of this when it “loses its flavor” (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34)—then it is “longing from some other love than genuine love” or a longing to control and posses from the love of self turned away from God (Arcana Coelestia 10300). To say that truth longs for goodness points to how truth is never really separate from love in the first place. And equally so, falsity is never separate from evil. So truth is anchored in love or has love deep within it. And the same is true when it is a longing from “some other love than genuine love;” in this case, falsity is experiencing longing and has evil deeply within it. The union and the longing for union are both constant, similar in my mind to how Swedenborg describes love and wisdom to be “distinguishably one” (Divine Love and Wisdom 34).
With these two “flavors” of longing available to us, albeit with infinite variety in each, it seems it can be very useful to get in the habit of examining the active longing in myself. In meditation, I reflect on the different longings within myself to notice the flavor. I can recognize longing from genuine love—longing for kindness, goodness, God’s perspective and will. And I can draw up the flavor of longing from the love of self for reputation and personal gain. I notice this longing has an inflated or exacerbated kind of graspingness and neediness at the cost of others’ freedom and wellbeing. Which longing will I identify with and let flow through me into my choices and actions? It is not surprising to me now after contemplating this that several of the Bible passages which have the word salt in them are about battles going on in “the Valley of Salt.” Which longing in me is going to win out in this moment?
Swedenborg explains that salt is used in the Bible sometimes in reference only to heavenly longing—in these instances the salt is used for healing because this longing unites truth with love; in others the salt is singly a reference to hellish longing, in which case it makes the earth barren when sown in the soil because this longing unites evil and falsity, which is at once the uncoupling of truth and love. From these considerations, I place the prayer from Colossians 4:6 in my heart, calling on heavenly longing to lead me in my life: “Let my speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that I may know how I ought to answer everyone.”
Chelsea is a writer of poetry and prose, songs and social commentary, with over thirty years of experience in existing; a few of her pieces can be watched here and several can be read here. She is fascinated especially by embodied spiritual life—how we support and engage the life of the spirit through our life and experience in the physical body and world. This interest has led her through a career in massage therapy, training in and ongoing study of yoga practice and philosophy, a degree in English and Biology from Bryn Athyn College, and it sustains in her a ceaseless appetite for studying the works of Emanuel Swedenborg and the sacred texts of the world’s religions, particularly those of Christianity and Hinduism. She works part time as a social media moderator for the Swedenborg Foundation and as a freelance editor. She lives with her husband and three children in Willow Grove, PA.