205. The reason why the idolatrous practices of the gentiles in antiquity originated from the science of correspondences was that everything to be seen on earth has a corresponding meaning; this is true not only of trees, but also animals and birds of every kind, as well as fish and other things. The ancient people who possessed the science of correspondences made themselves images to correspond to heavenly ideas; and they took pleasure in them because they stood for such things as concern heaven and the church. They placed these images therefore not only in their temples, but also in their houses, not so as to worship them, but to call to mind the heavenly ideas they stood for. Hence it was that in Egypt and elsewhere they used images of calves, oxen and snakes, not to mention children, old men and young women. Calves and oxen meant the affections and powers of the natural man, snakes the prudence and craftiness of the man who relies upon his senses. Children meant innocence and charity, old men wisdom, young women affections for truth, and so on. Once the knowledge of correspondences had been wiped out, their descendants started to worship as holy, and finally as deities, the images and statues their ancestors had erected, because they were in or near temples. This too was the reason why the ancients worshipped in gardens and plantations, depending on the species of tree, as well as on mountains and hills. Gardens and plantations meant wisdom and intelligence, and each tree meant some particular detail of them. For instance, the olive meant the good of love, the vine truth coming from that good, the cedar rational good and truth; a mountain meant the highest heaven and a hill the heaven below this.
 The fact that the science of correspondences was preserved among a number of eastern peoples right down to the Lord's coming can be established by the wise men from the east, who came to visit the Lord at the time of His birth; therefore the star went before them, and they brought gifts with them, gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:1, 2, 9-11). The star which went before them meant knowledge learned from heaven, gold celestial good, frankincense spiritual good, and myrrh natural good; it is these three kinds of good which are the source of all worship. Nonetheless correspondences were totally unknown to the Israelite and Jewish people, even though all the details of their worship, all their laws and judgments given them by Moses, and everything in the Word were nothing but correspondences. The reason was that they were at heart idolatrous, and therefore of such a character that they did not even want to know that anything in their worship had a celestial or spiritual meaning, since they believed that these things were all in themselves holy. If therefore the celestial and spiritual meanings had been revealed to them, they would not only have rejected them, but also profaned them. On account of this heaven was so closed to them that they scarcely knew that there was an everlasting life. The truth of this is perfectly plain from the fact that they failed to acknowledge the Lord, even though the whole of Sacred Scripture was a prophecy about Him and foretold His coming. The only reason why they rejected Him was that He taught them about a kingdom in heaven, not one on earth. For they wanted a Messiah who would make them superior to all peoples throughout the world, not one who would provide for their eternal salvation.