A recent article on the Popular Science website describes a problem that’s been plaguing the White House for years, through many presidential administrations: infestations of flies (among other pesky insects). While the article includes speculation from entomologists on what types of flies they might be and how to best get rid of them, we wondered what Swedenborg would have to say about the spiritual significance of a house infested by flies.
In Secrets of Heaven §7441, Swedenborg comments on Exodus 8:17: “Behold I send against thee, and against thy servants, and against thy people, and into thy houses, the noisome fly.” The “noisome fly” here, he says, represents false ideas, and where the flies enter a house, it means that those false ideas have penetrated the deepest levels of a person’s mind and taken up residence. It’s important not to take that idea of correspondence too literally: if you suddenly have an infestation of flies in your house, that doesn’t mean that you’re full of bad ideas. But if we think about negative ideas as being similar to those pesky flying insects, then it might give us some ideas about how to get rid of them.
As he continues his discussion on correspondences, Swedenborg adds that not all flying insects are bad news:
Be it known that all the flying things mentioned in the Word signify things of the intellect, and consequently truths, and in the opposite sense falsities; but flying things of the lowest sort, which are insects, signify truths, and in the opposite sense falsities, which are more ignoble and obscure in proportion as they belong to the sensuous. (Secrets of Heaven §7441:2)
It makes sense that anything that flies corresponds to thoughts—we’ve all had the experience of fleeting thoughts passing through our head and out again. And any of those thoughts could be good or bad or somewhere in between. Insects, however, represent the even more fleeting impressions of the senses—all the little ways that our eyes and ears and nose can mislead us or give us a wrong first impression. The key to getting rid of these minor “bad ideas,” Swedenborg adds, is a liberal dose of the exact opposite: divine love and truth.
For more about the spiritual correspondence of different types of animals, check out our video “Are There Animals in the Afterlife?” If you’re interested in the question of how we accept some ideas and reject others, you might like our video “Why Are Spiritual Things Hard to Believe?” You can also explore the metaphor of the mind as a house (and how to deal with negative thoughts infesting it!) in our book The Joy of Spiritual Living by Frank Rose and Bob Maginel.