There is something of love in the correspondences of the spleen

225. The spleen is the subject to be considered immediately after the previous chapter because of its close connection with the lymphatics. As will become apparent, much of what has been said about the lymphatic system applies also to the spleen, but there are additional functions to be taken into account.

226. The spleen contains a red pulp which is rich in red blood corpuscles (i.e., erythrocytes) and a white pulp in which lymphocytes predominate. This mixture of colours suggests a correspondence with more of love than is the case with the lymphatic system.

The spleen stores, processes, and produces several different kinds of cells for the blood

227. The spleen is a remarkable organ because the blood therein is not entirely confined to arteries, capillaries, and veins as in many other organs. There is a spongy network of fibres through which the small arteries run, but when they have divided into capillaries they expand again into little capsules formed from special cells which can move apart enough to allow the erythrocytes (or red cells) to spread between them. This is quite exceptional, for, as mentioned above (No. 224), the erythrocytes are much too large to leak out of capillaries in the ordinary way, and the haemoglobin (see No. 223) they contain is kept safely in the blood. It is not known whether the system in the spleen is quite open, i.e., whether the erythrocytes get out because the blood as a whole is allowed out, or because the linings of the little capsules allow erythrocytes only to pass through them. But whatever the mechanism, the production and storage of many of the different kinds of cells that circulate in the blood is well established. It is clear that the spleen is like a giant lymph node, but with the addition of the special blood system and means of storing red cells that have been described. See Figure 11.


The Spleen
A: Diagram of a small particle of splenic tissue showing the pathway of blood through the spleen, starting with the trabecular artery and proceeding to the artery ensheathed in white pulp,* the splenic nodule, and the red pulp, ending in the venous sinuses which send the blood to the trabecular vein.
B: The visceral surface of the spleen showing the main blood vessels, and indicating where it contacts various digestive organs.
* A collection of white lymphatic cells massed around the artery—a result of erythro-cytes being allowed to escape from the blood system by means of the special capsules of stave cells. The supporting network is not shown.
Sources: A: Modified from Ham, A. W., Histology, 7th ed., J. B. Lippincott, Phila., 1974;
Clemente, Gray's Anatomy, fig. 10-45.
B: Ibid., fig. 10-41; Anthony and Kolthoff, Textbook of Anatomy and Physiology, fig. 13-43.


228. Although, in the embryo, the spleen produces erythrocytes, in the adult it seems only to store them and to break down some of them. This is done by the white cells, i.e., phagocytes or macrophages, which appear to be of the same group that fights infections. It would seem that from the point of view of a phagocyte, some of the erythrocytes are foreign material, to be swallowed up as part of the normal cleaning operations.

The destructive activities of the spleen are a necessary part of the body's economy

229. It is the digestion of red cells that is a particularly striking function of the spleen (although the liver also has this as one of its many activities). To destroy such important and precious components of the blood seems a dreadful action. Bad qualities also appear in the reference to the spleen in the Spiritual Diary, where we read that those who pertain to the province of the spleen commit the abomination of mixing holy things with profane (SD 1005). No good thing is subsequently said of them,[12] in spite of the fact that the spleen itself has its uses, as is also pointed out (SD 1007). These things are considered in more detail below (Nos. 248-250). The digestion of erythrocytes by the spleen can be put into perspective by a glance at the life history of the erythrocytes. These corpuscles are the remains of the cells in which the haemoglobin is made. The haemoglobin is retained in them, and they become thin and delicate so that they pass easily through the finest capillaries of the blood system. Being delicate they do not last long. After about 100 days they begin to wear out, their surface changes, and they must be replaced.
(One can imagine the serious consequences of permanent adhesion between erythrocytes or between them and the walls of the blood vessels.) New erythrocytes are being made continually in the bone marrow, and the old ones must be reprocessed to obviate toxic decomposition and to avoid wastage of the materials, especially the iron, that went into them during their growth. (Perhaps not every reader will know that iron is an essential part of haemoglobin and that the body's economy is arranged as though iron were scarce.) The short life of the erythrocytes, their destruction, and the continued production of new ones leads us to wonder what can possibly be the correspondence of these minute organs.

The functions of erythrocytes are like those of good thoughts

230. The purpose of erythrocytes is to convey oxygen and it was assumed earlier that air, and therefore oxygen also, correspond to the Divine Spirit or Truth. This supposition is further examined below (Nos. 245-247). Nothing loves truth more than good or love, so the affinity of haemoglobin for oxygen, as well as its red colour, indicates a correspondence to love. Now, as we have seen, haemoglobin is contained in very many minute, discrete vessels which, however, are not themselves red. (They form colourless "ghosts" if they lose their haemoglobin.) So the correspondence of the envelopes is probably not love, but could well be a form of truth other than that which corresponds to air.

231. If we liken the corpuscles to truths which may contain good, we look next for forms of truth which are very small and numerous. One such form is that of words. Although the possible number of words is unlimited, the number in use for one man is much less than the number of erythrocytes in one man, and it seems unnecessary to imagine that one word might correspond to one corpuscle. So, although smallness and number have provided a hint, they cannot be used as logical points in an argument. In order to see whether words could correspond to erythrocytes, we need to think about them one at a time to see whether they could:

a. contain love which could mediate truth,
b. be raised to an internal level of understanding to absorb truth,
c. convey such truth for use elsewhere, and
d. become worn out or useless and be discarded.
Clearly a word as printed or spoken is too low or ultimate. Possibly the idea a word produces may meet these criteria.

232. The first ideas produced from words are usually simple matters of knowledge which reside in the external memory. We will call them Knowledges of the External Memory or KEM, but in the Writings they are called scientifics (Swedenborg Society translation). Although KEM are matters of the external or natural memory, they can become of the internal or spiritual memory when they are about doctrine and life and are put into practice. They can therefore contain either truth or good, but if they contain truth, the truth should also contain good. This means that both kinds of KEM are really vessels which should contain good. If they do not contain it they are useless (except as potential containers). These things however are explained more clearly in AC 9918 and 9922, from which the following are taken:

233. From AC 9918:

Scientifics of good and truth are doctrinals from the Word in the external memory. When man lives according to them they enter the memory ofthe internal or spiritual man. Then the doctrinals which concern the truth become matters of faith and those which concern good become subjects of charity. When this is the case they almost vanish out of the external memory and appear as if they were inborn, like things which have become natural as it were by daily use. Matters of knowledge remain underneath intelligence and wisdom until they have become subjects of faith and charity in the internal man. Then they ascend, i.e., enter into the life.
And from AC 9922, scientifics are,
the recipients and as it were the vessels of truth and of good…All things of the external, that is, the natural memory, are called scientifics; for there is the external memory, which is that of objects in the natural world, and there is the internal memory, which is that of the objects in the spiritual world…The things which are inscribed on the internal memory are not called scientifics, because they are subjects of a man's life; but they are called truths…and goods…These are the things which ought to be interiorly in the scientifics…there are scientifics of good and scientifics of truth, and…the truths in them are again vessels receptive of good, for the truths of faith are vessels of the good of love.
234. It is, perhaps, not profitable to attempt to see which anatomical objects correspond to KEM of good and which to KEM of truth, for so many of the bodily organelles are structures within structures. We are already concerned with at least two kinds of vessels, the blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, veins) and the corpuscles (erythrocytes); good is never very far from genuine truth, for they are always striving to come together. So it is probably sufficient for the present to notice several ways in which erythrocytes are like KEM of good (but see also Nos. 238 et. seq.).

235. The erythrocytes (KEM) contain haemoglobin which is red (good or love). They can enter into the lungs (understanding) and receive oxygen (Divine Truth) which they convey to other parts of the body (the Truth is made use of in daily life). They eventually wear out (KEM are no longer useful when their good becomes habitual), and are replaced by new erythrocytes (fresh KEM are learned).

236. If our assumption of a correspondence between KEM and erythrocytes is correct, we obtain an impression that KEM are continually of use. Although erythrocytes become worn out and disappear, fresh ones are continually provided. Similarly, particular KEM may be retained and obeyed until they become habitual and disappear from the external memory, but fresh KEM are continually being learned. Thus there are always plenty of KEM as there are always plenty of erythrocytes. The process by which Divine Truth is relayed to all parts of the personality is not interrupted.

237. With regard to the destruction of erythrocytes, it is clear that if the old ones were not destroyed, new ones which are more useful could not take their place. So it is with KEM. Even with the Lord there was grief "that the scientifics which He had learned with pleasure and delight should be thus destroyed" (AC 1492).

238. It must now be admitted that a limitation begins to be apparent, for the vanishing of KEM out of the external memory when they are put into practice indicates progress. Fresh KEM are learned to prepare for further progress, and every KEM is different from the next, whereas the erythrocytes are all the same until they begin to wear out. We must therefore examine the question from a slightly different point of view.

239. KEM are related to bones (AC 8005) and to muscles (AC 9394:5). The latter reference points out ways in which a muscle is like KEM but without actually saying they correspond. The point of interest is that KEM are general objects, each one of which contains particulars and singulars as a muscle contains fibres, blood vessels, nerves, etc.. Thus although it is not actually spelled out, it is highly probable that muscles and KEM correspond in some way. The reason why it is not a simple correspondence (and hence is not stated to be such) is found in the following: "All things which are learned and stored up in the memory, and which can be called forth from it for the use of the sight of the mind, are called scientifics" (KEM) (AC 9394:1). This statement and the expansion of it which follows in the same number makes it clear that in the Writings the term "scientifics" covers a vast range of different things. The correspondences must therefore also be various. We cannot say that erythrocytes do not correspond because they are not muscles; rather that they correspond because they serve muscles (as well as other
organs). As they are simple things compared with other cells (though far more than mere envelopes containing haemoglobin), and much simpler than muscles, we may think of their correspondence as something like, but less than KEM, such as certain kinds of thoughts. For, there are innumerable thoughts that play an essential part in the activities of KEM by conveying life from the Lord down to that particular level where those KEM are, transforming them from mere records in the ultimate brain to living spiritual entities. But we already have some instruction concerning thoughts.

240. The minute alveoli of the lungs correspond to thoughts because they act in conjunction with the thought by correspondence (DLW 413). Their function is to facilitate the transfer of oxygen to haemoglobin of the blood. What then can the haemoglobin correspond to but the next link in the chain? We can deduce from correspondences that there is at least some kind of chain that is agreeable to what the Writings teach.

241. Air corresponds to the life of Divine Truth accommodated to man (see Nos. 245-247). To the uninitiated, the breathing of air is a simple necessity of life. To the physiologist it is the first link in a long chain of transactions which enable the oxygen to perform its energy-releasing function in every part of the body. To us, uninitiated as we are in spiritual things, the reception of Divine Truth is a simple necessity of spiritual life, but we can see from the correspondences that many links must be connected in due order if we are to receive the intended benefit of that life. We may not as yet be able to define each link, but the Writings provide us with several words which might be arranged as a series. We have, for example, ruling love, affections, perception, conscience, internal dictate, doctrine, doctrinals, scientifics, spiritual truth, rational truth, natural truth, scientific truth, and sensual truth. But this may not be the right order. Sometimes some of these terms seem like synonyms, but the choice of words in the Writings was the Lord's and no word is used in place of another except in accommodation to the reader's  limitations.

242. Many of the things indicated by the terms above have thoughts composing them, causing them, or being caused by them. Therefore thoughts are of many different kinds. Some, like alveoli, are expandable to take in the Divine Breath or Spirit. Some, like erythrocytes, can absorb their own quota of this Spirit and convey it to every other part of the mind, returning over and over again to the source of inspiration, but eventually being replaced by newer, better, more serviceable thoughts. Such thoughts might well correspond to the red cells of the blood.

243. This concept suggests that in order to be active and useful, the KEM in our minds need the services of innumerable thoughts which must all be full of the love of Divine Truth as the erythrocytes are full of haemoglobin.

There is a correspondence between the air and the life that flows from the Lord

244. Much of the discussion above has been based on an assumption that life from the Divine corresponds to oxygen or air. This belief was dealt with briefly above (see footnote 9) and it is now desirable to confirm it.

245. In AC 9987:1 we read that the breath of the mouth of Jehovah is life from the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord. AE 419 shows that wind in reference to the Lord denotes the proceeding Divine, and that wind and breath in reference to man signify the life of truth because respiration corresponds to that life. But, since wind is air in motion, and exhaled breath is air modified in the lungs, further confirmation is welcome if we wish to appreciate the correspondence between ordinary air and life from the Divine. An interesting suggestion for a different approach is found in AE 419. In an explanation about winds in the spiritual world it is said that separations of the good from the evil and castings out of the evil are effected by modifications of the Divine which proceeds from the Lord as a Sun, as though that proceeding Divine were itself the wind, or caused the wind. It is therefore interesting to study the Divine Sun and its connection with spiritual air.

246. We begin with TCR 39 where the following words occur:

From the Sun of the spiritual world proceeds heat, which in its essence is love, and light, which in its essence is wisdom;…and with men they enter into the will and understanding which were created to be the receptacles of this influx, the will to be the receptacle of love and the understanding to be the receptacle of wisdom.
Something similar is found in TCR 641 where we also read that the Lord adapts the light and heat "to the capacity and nature of every recipient angel and man." The same is found in more detail in the following beautiful passage from AC 7270:
As the truth which proceeds immediately from the Lord is from the Infinite Divine itself, it cannot possibly be received by any living substance which is finite, thus not by any angel; wherefore the Lord created successive [degrees or substances], through which as media the Divine Truth proceeding immediately might be  communicated. But the first successive [substance] from this is still too full of the Divine to be received by
any living substance which is finite, thus by any angel; wherefore the Lord created another successive [degree or substance], through which the Divine Truth proceeding immediately might be capable of being received as to some portion: this successive [degree] is the truth Divine which is in heaven. The first two [degrees] are above the heavens, and are as it were radiant belts from a flaming [substance], and encompass the Sun, which is the Lord. Such is the successive order even to the heaven nearest to the Lord, which is the third heaven, where are those who are innocent and wise. From this they are continued successively even to the last heaven, and from the last heaven to the sensual and corporeal [degree] of man, which receives the influx last. From these considerations it appears that there are continual successions from the First, that is, from the Lord, even to the last things which are with man, yea, to the last things which are in nature. The last things which are with man, as well as those in nature, are relatively inert, and thus cold, and they are relatively general, and thus obscure. From this it is also evident,
that by means of those successions there is a continuous nexus of all things with the First Esse. Influx is circumstanced according to those successions, for the Divine Truth which proceeds immediately from the Divine Good flows in successively; and in the way, or around each new successive [degree], it becomes more general, and thus grosser and more obscure, and it becomes slower, and thus more inert, and colder. From these considerations it appears what is the character of the Divine order of successive [degrees], and consequently of influxes. But it must be well borne in mind that the Truth Divine, which inflows into the third heaven that is nearest the Lord, at the same time flows in, without any successive formation, into the ultimates of order, and there also governs and provides all things in general and in particular immediately from the First.
    We find that air is linked with the spiritual Sun by mention or implication in several places. First, in TCR 641 (quoted in part above) the adaptations are said to take place "by means of spiritual airs or atmospheres," and in TCR 661 near the beginning, it is said that the heat (which in its essence is love) and the light (which in its essence is wisdom) "are breathed into" those who are being instructed. A connection between spiritual light and spiritual air is mentioned in AC 1621 which states, "the atmospheres in which the blessed live…are of the light because from that light…" It is not actually said that such spiritual airs correspond to the air of the earth, but the suggestion is there. It is, however, the implication of the whole that encourages one to believe that air corresponds to Divine Truth. For, as we have just seen, spiritual light, which in its essence is wisdom, enters the understanding which is the receptacle of wisdom. We have also seen in great detail that the lungs correspond to the understanding (Chap V), and as the lungs are receptacles for the air which flows in, the air must correspond to the wisdom (or to the essential activating part of it).

247. The above argument leaves out natural light and the natural eye, which also correspond, and it is an interesting exercise to fit them into the scheme. A few comments on the similarity between the correspondence of the eyes and the lungs were made in an earlier essay (Berridge, 1980 C, p. 119). For the present it seems that the air cannot but correspond to one of the ways the Lord's life is available to be drawn into our understandings, and to be conveyed thence even to the most external limits of the soul. In this same way, oxygen penetrates to the furthest extremities of the body by means of the haemoglobin (affection) in the erythrocytes (thoughts), which are swept along by the beating of the heart (love, or the will).

The abominations of certain spirits in the province of the spleen may correspond to useful activities

248. Of the few references to the spleen in the Writings, one in SD is most puzzling for it seems to contradict itself. It reads as follows: "The spirits of the spleen are those who commingle profane with holy things and separate them" (SD 1011). Earlier numbers (SD 1005, 1006) enlarge on the mingling but ignore the separation.

249. Since there are always plenty of bad kinds of people in the spiritual world awaiting their own particular judgement, it may be enough tothink that there are wicked spirits of the spleen who mingle profane with holy things and good spirits who separate them. But the corresponding things of the body suggest that the matter is much less simple than that. Some of the most important functions of the spleen are carried out by the lymphocytes and phagocytes which it produces and retains in large numbers (for at least a part of their lives). These cells account for the activities of the spleen that are mentioned in SD 1005-1011. As we have seen above, the phagocytes avidly seize any foreign particles they meet and destroy them if they can. In this way they purify the blood. In the language of SD 1007 the spleen "twists and tears asunder the filthy blood--not the serum--and delivers it thus sundered to the veins…In this way it also relieves the liver." It is doubtful whether this could have been confirmed in Swedenborg's time but it is easy to understand and confirm it now. "The filthy blood--not the serum" can
only mean foreign particles in the blood, for the serum is the whole of the fluid part in which are suspended the many kinds of cells and particles that go to make up clean whole blood and that are not attacked by the phagocytes. "Twists and tears asunder" is a lively expression for the molecular disruption we usually call digestion, whether it goes on in the stomach of a whole animal or in the cell of a microscopic phagocyte. "It relieves the liver" refers to a fact of physiology, now confirmed by countless studies, namely that the liver is the chief organ by which poisonous substances are modified to render them harmless and to enable them to be excreted. (Many substances that are more or less poisonous but not usually lethal, may get into the blood--for example, alcohol. They are dealt with by the liver, which, indeed, sometimes suffers harm in the process.) Those that are seized and degraded by the phagocytes of the spleen will obviously not have to be de-toxified by the liver. Both organs also process effete erythrocytes, so that in this also the spleen relieves the liver.

250. Returning now to correspondences and to the question of mixing profane and holy things, it would seem that the avidity with which the phagocytes seize foreign materials could correspond to a love of evil things--things that are foreign to the Grand Man. The holy things with which they are mingled could correspond to the genuine substances of the phagocyte which is as truly a part of the body as any cell in other tissues. But as the digestion which ensues takes place within the phagocyte rather than outside it by the secretion of enzymes as in the stomach and intestines, the digestion in the phagocyte might be considered as a commingling.[13] When the phagocyte has digested the foreign material, the resulting harmless products can be allowed to leak out into the serum. Hence, after commingling, there is again a separation of the holy things. The profane things no longer exist. 

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12 Concerning the frequency with which Swedenborg encountered evil spirits, John Worcester makes the following interesting comment: "It seems strange to think of spirits so perverse as having access to so interior a province of the heavens. Probably it would be impossible now; but before the Last Judgment there were many evil persons penetrating even to the higher parts of the Christian heaven, and causing much disturbance. In the higher heavens, and probably in the Christian heaven now, instead of such evil spirits we might find angels who have some morbidness or sluggishness to get rid of, and are there subjected to some purifying processes corresponding to those by which evil spirits were separated" (Worcester, 1889, p. 405).

13 The difference is that digestion in the stomach and intestines is due to enzymes which are active but dead, and which are secreted by the living cells of those organs. Hence digestion takes place outside the living tissues of the body. In digestion by phagocytes the particles are taken into the living cell itself.