Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lecter series - unified analysis - part 23: Swedenborg on Samson


So far, the Swedenborgian analysis of the Lecter series of movies has focused almost exclusively on Manhunter. In this post, we will see how Swedenborg can be used to interpret something from Hannibal. What we are going to look at is the (forged) letter from Hannibal Lecter to Clarice Starling (Agent Paul Krendler uses this letter to get Agent Starling suspended). The contents of the letter are as follows:

"Did you ever think, Clarice, why the Philistines don't understand you? It's because you're the answer to Samson's riddle: You are the honey in the lion."

Philistinism is a derogatory term used to describe a particular attitude or set of values. A person called a Philistine (in the relevant sense) is said to despise or undervalue art, beauty, intellectual content, or spiritual values.[a] For the purposes of this post, however, 'Philistines' is to be considered as being used in the biblical-historical sense (that is, as a reference to the people who occupied the southern coast of Canaan); and ultimately, it is to be taken in the sense of the correspondence which Swedenborg assigned to it, as will be seen below.

Samson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Children of Israel mentioned in the Tanakh (the Hebrew bible), and the Talmud. He is described in the book of Judges chapters 13 to 16. Samson is a Herculean figure, who is granted tremendous strength by God to combat his enemies and perform heroic feats unachievable by ordinary humans. Samson's activity takes place during a time when God was punishing the Israelites, by giving them "into the hand of the Philistines forty years." [Judges 13:1, King James Version]

When he becomes a young adult, Samson leaves the hills of his people to see the cities of the Philistines. While there, Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman from Timnah that, overcoming the objections of his parents who do not know that "it is of the Lord", he decides to marry. The intended marriage is actually part of God's plan to strike at the Philistines. On the way to ask for the woman's hand in marriage, Samson is attacked by an Asiatic Lion and simply grabs it and rips it apart, as the spirit of God moves upon him, divinely empowering him. This so profoundly affects Samson that he just keeps it to himself as a secret. He continues on to the Philistine's house, winning her hand in marriage. On his way to the wedding, Samson notices that bees have nested in the carcass of the lion and have made honey. He eats a handful of the honey and gives some to his parents. At the wedding-feast, Samson proposes that he tell a riddle to his thirty groomsmen (all Philistines); if they can solve it, he will give them thirty pieces of fine linen and garments. The riddle ("Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet") is a veiled account of his second encounter with the lion (at which only he was present).[b]

Now let's look at the Swedenborgian correspondence. From Arcana Coelestia:

That: When Samson had rent the young lion he found in its carcass a swarm of bees and honey, when he was about to take a wife from the Philistine nation (Judges 14:8); signified the dissipation of faith separated from charity, which the Philistine nation represented; for this reason the Philistines were called "uncircumcised," and this term signified that they were without spiritual love and charity and only in natural love, which is the love of self and of the world. Because such a faith destroys the good of charity it was represented by a young lion that attacked Samson with intent to tear him in pieces, but as Samson was a Nazirite, and by his Naziriteship represented the Lord in respect to His ultimate natural, he rent the lion, and afterwards found in its carcass "a swarm of bees and honey," and this signifies that when such faith has been dissipated, the good of charity succeeds in its place. The other things related of Samson in the book of Judges have a like signification; for there is nothing written in the Word that does not represent and signify such things as belong to heaven and the church, and these can be known only by a knowledge of correspondences, and thus from the spiritual sense of the Word. (--from A.C. n. 619.)

Putting all this together, it seems that when Mason Verger forges the note to Clarice, he assumes that Lecter would believe her to represent the good of charity, since this is precisely what would not be understood by the Philistines.

a. Wikipedia, 'Philistinism'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Samson'. Web, n.d. URL =

This concludes the Swedenborgian analysis of the Hannibal Lecter movies. You may use the buttons below to continue navigating the unified analysis.

The works of Emanuel Swedenborg from the Internet Sacred Texts Archive
Arcana Coelestia, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1749-56], tr. by John F. Potts [1905-10], at Web. 21 Jul. 2010.


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