“The symbolism of a leaf as truth is established by numerous passages in the Word comparing us to, or actually calling us, trees. In those places, fruit symbolizes the good espoused by charity and a leaf the truth to which it leads (and charity and truth also function the same way fruit and leaves do). In Ezekiel, for example: ‘Beside the river, on its bank, on this side and that, grows every food tree, whose leaf does not fall and whose fruit is not used up; month by month it is reborn, because its waters are going out from the sanctuary. And its fruit will serve as food, and its leaf, as medicine’ (Ezekiel 47:12; Revelation 22:2). The tree stands for the people of a church that embodies the Lord’s kingdom. The fruit stands for the good that results from love and charity, and the leaf, for the truth that develops out of it. That truth is used for the instruction and regeneration of the human race, which is why the leaf is said to serve as medicine.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 885)Truths serve to bring healing to our spiritual wounds. Green leaves represent truths that are alive for us in that healing way (see Swedenborg's book: Apocalypse Revealed 401; and Jeremiah 17:8), because the Lord’s life flowing into our natural world takes on a green color (see Revelation 4:3, and Apocalypse Revealed 232).
I think it’s important to remember the distinction between our lives represented by trees, and the Lord’s life represented by the Tree of Life. The Lord’s life will never die, fail or change. But our lives change all the time, and our understanding of the Lord’s truth is one of those things that changes. “Rational truths are truths which most readily welcome spiritual truths, for a person's rational mind is the first receptacle of spiritual truths” (Apocalypse Revealed 936.3), just like leaves are the first receptacles for the light from the sun. But our own rational truths are simply what our mind is capable of producing and sustaining. They are finite compared with the Lord’s spiritual truths. And so our understanding of the truth changes, the leaves fall, we grow new ones in response to the
Light of the Lord’s Word, and the cycle continues.
I think there is a special kind of beauty in coming to the humble realization that everything we think we know to be true is nothing compared to the Lord’s unchanging Divine Truth. Our leaves wither and die, but the Lord’s leaves are always green. Our leaves turning gold and red represent the death of those leaves, but the colors gold and red also represent higher forms of goodness and wisdom (Apocalypse Revealed 167, 232, 912), so there’s a special and good autumn beauty in that wise humility. As we come to the beautiful and humble realization that we know nothing compared to the Lord, we take on a special glow, we gently lay down our old concepts, and humbly acknowledge our need for the Lord’s light and heat. And then we can begin to form new concepts which bud in the Spring of our new spiritual life.