Loss of the Knowledge of Correspondences, and Origin of Idolatry.
Because the representative rites of the church, which were correspondences, in process of time began to be converted into things idolatrous and also magical, then that knowledge, by the Divine providence of the Lord, was gradually lost, and among the Israelitish and Jewish people entirely forgotten. The worship of that people consisted indeed of correspondences, and was consequently representative of heavenly things; but yet they did not know what anything signified; for they were merely natural men, and therefore had neither inclination nor ability to know anything of spiritual and heavenly things, nor consequently anything of correspondences; for correspondences are representations of spiritual and heavenly things in natural.
That the idolatries of the nations in ancient times derived their origin from the knowledge of correspondences, was because all things that appear on the earth correspond; thus not only trees and plants, but also beasts and birds of every kind, as well as fishes and all other things. The ancients who were in the knowledge of correspondences made themselves images which corresponded to heavenly things, and took delight in them, because they signified such things as pertained to heaven and the church; and for this reason they not only placed them in their temples, but also in their houses; not to worship them, but to call to mind the heavenly things which they signified. Hence in Egypt and elsewhere there were images of calves, oxen, serpents, and of children, old men, and virgins; becanse calves and oxen signified the affections and powers of the natural man; serpents, the prudence and also the subtlety of the sensual man; children, innocence and charity; old men, wisdom; and virgins, affections of truth; and so on. Their posterity, when the knowledge of correspondences was forgotten, began to worship as holy, and at length as deities, the images and emblems set up by the ancients, because they found them in and about their temples. Hence with the ancients worship was also in gardens and in groves, according to the kinds of trees in them, and also on mountains and hills; for the gardens and groves signified wisdom and intelligence, and every tree something thereof,—as the olive, the good of love; the vine, truth from that good; the cedar, rational good and truth; a mountain, the highest heaven; a hill, the heaven below it. That the knowledge of correspondences remained with many orientals even to the coming of the Lord, is evident from the wise men of the east who visited the Lord when He was born; wherefore a star went before them, and they brought with them gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. ii. 1, 2, 9-11); for the