THE NATURAL BASIS
PERCEPTIONS, DELIGHTS, ODOURS AND THE SENSE OF SMELL
Delights correspond to odours, and the perception of them corresponds to the sense of smell
Every particular delight corresponds to an odour, and in the spiritual world can be converted into it, and then the general delight in heaven is sensibly perceived as the odour of a garden, with variety according to the fragrances there from the flowers and fruits. (DP 304)The correspondences extend, of course, to the organ and sense of smell and to their part in the Grand Man. (The subject is dealt with in AC 4622-4633, and to avoid unduly lengthy quotations, familiarity with these passages is assumed.) The particulars about affection begin with No. 4624 where it is said that those persons who are in general perception belong to the province of the nostrils in the Grand Man. The sense of smell and its organ correspond to these persons who may therefore be called perceptions. The subsequent numbers continue the theme of the correspondence between the sense or organ of smell and perception, so that it seems necessary to begin by studying perception.
394. The word "perception" is used in the Writings with a range of meanings from mere mental awareness to the Lord's experience of Divine influx during His life on earth.
395. The lowest perception is what every man has, for
there is with every man a capacity of perceiving whether a thing is so or is not so. The capacity of drawing a conclusion within himself, or in his own mind, causes a thing to be perceived. This capacity is quite impossible unless there is influx from the spiritual world…the perception which exists with every man is of worldly things but not at the present day with any one of spiritual things. (AC 5937)Even the perception of those who belong to the spiritual church is only of this lower kind, for we read:
all the good with those who are of the spiritual church is acquired by means of truth, since without truth which is of faith they do not know what spiritual truth is, nor what spiritual good is. They are capable indeed of knowing civil truth, also moral truth, and their goods, because these harmonize with things which are in the world, from which also they have their perception. (AC 7977) (emphasis added)We also read that the perception of what is honorable, just, and fair in moral and civil life is possessed by those who are rational, although they have no perception of the good and truth of faith (AC 2831). In TCR 603 this level of perception is called "an interior thought" such as that of a judge who decides the merits of a case in his higher mind and then descends to a lower level to give details and pronounce sentence.
396. In the next life, even the evil have perception through communication with heaven by means of cognitions of truth and good, but only until these knowledges have been taken away by the processes of vastation.
397.Although lacking the higher forms of perception, spiritual men are not devoid of assistance, for they have conscience (AC 104):
which is also a kind of perception…but not from the good which flows in but from the truth which, according to the holy quality of man's worship, has been implanted in the Rational from infancy, and afterwards confirmed; this alone in such a case they suppose to be good. Hence conscience is a species of perception, but…arising from truth of such a nature. (AC 2144)With the spiritual it is through conscience that good and truth are dictated by the Lord (AC 2515). It is of course in the next life that perception is fully enjoyed, and men who become angels have perception even while they remain spiritual rather than celestial; for we find "spiritual angels who likewise have perception although not such as the celestial have" (AC 1384).
398. The perception of celestial people was of an entirely different nature from the conscience that exists with the spiritual. It is difficult for us to understand celestial perception because it perished from this world when the Most Ancient Church was consummated. However, the Lord clearly expects us to know something about it, for many passages in the Writings comment upon it. Perhaps one of the most useful for our present purposes is AC 521 where we read:
To those who learn by perception the Lord grants to know what is good and true by an inward way; but to those who learn from doctrine, knowledge is given by an external way, or that of the bodily senses; and the difference is like that between light and darkness. Consider also that the perceptions of the celestial man are such as to admit of no description, for they enter into the most minute and particular things, with all variety according to states and circumstances.Of this perception it is said that it "is the very Celestial itself given by the Lord to those who are in the faith of love" (AC 536). This is especially the case with celestial angels, "for through love they have a perception from the Lord of what is good and true" (AC 202). This extends to the source and quality of their thoughts, words, and actions when these are from themselves. They also perceive what is from the Lord and what from self (AC 1383). The Writings sometimes refer to perception as if the only real perception is celestial perception. Other ways of becoming aware of things are described in different words. This appears clearly in AE 307 as follows:
The angels of the third or inmost heaven have perception; the angels of the second and the ultimate heaven have enlightenment of the understanding: they are distinguished by this, that perception is full confirmation from influx from the Lord, but enlightenment of the understanding is spiritual sight. Those have the latter who are in charity towards the neighbor and thence in faith; but those have perception who are in love to the Lord. (What perception is may be further seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 135-140.)There is another kind of perception that belongs to all in the spiritual world
399. Three kinds of awareness, which could be called three kinds of perception, have been noted. These are only the most general kinds, for the varieties in heaven are innumerable. In the next life there is yet another kind that belongs to all, "to angels in the highest perfection, and to spirits according to their respective qualities" (AC 1383, see also AC 1388). This form of perception is the ability to know the quality of another on his first approach. It is a result of the particular and characteristic sphere which emanates from each spirit or angel. The ability to become aware of and to assess this sphere enables one to know the quality of another who is approaching. The presence of spheres makes this kind of perception not only possible, but perhaps even inevitable, making spheres an important part of future life. AC 1504 shows that information about spheres may be deduced from the occurrence of this form of perception. It is explained as follows:
It has already been said that it is known in the other life what another is on his first approach, even though he does not speak. From this it may be known that a man's interiors are in a kind of unconscious activity, and that from this the quality of the spirit is perceived. That it is so has been evidenced by the fact that this sphere of the activity not only extends itself to a distance, but that sometimes also, when the Lord permits, it is in various ways made perceptible to the senses.We note: (1) that the quality of the spirit is said to be "perceived," (2) that the product of the unconscious activity is called "this sphere," (3) that it is sometimes made perceptible to the senses "in various ways."
400. Having been informed about the generation of personal spheres by
spirits and angels we learn next that such spheres are "made susceptible
to sense by odours, which spirits smell," for "odours correspond to spheres"
(AC 1514). When it pleases the Lord (which is often (AC 5621)), the spheres
of approaching spirits are turned into odours (AC 4626). Even the way the
references are listed in this number shows the relationship between spheres,
perceptions and odours, for we have the sequence "concerning spheres…concerning
perception…and concerning the consequent odours." This indicates that odours
are the result of the perception of the spheres of approaching spirits.
However, it is probably wise not to subscribe too exclusively to this view,
for although it is said very definitely that the sense of smell corresponds
to perception, it does not appear to be stated categorically that it corresponds
only to the perception of personal spheres, rather than to the other kind,
namely, angelic perception. The general delight in heaven referred to above
(No. 393; DP 304) may correspond to fragrance produced by the harmonious
spheres of the angels, but it can also be a perception of blessings flowing
in from the Lord. Indeed, when we read that fragrance corresponds to a
pleasing perception like that of truth from good (AC 4748:2), we realize
that there may be factors common to both kinds of perception. For example,
when the ability to recognize genuine truth is the result of being turned
towards the Lord and loving Him. The angel with this ability will surely
be keenly aware of the truth "reflected" by another and he will know the
extent to which such truth is joined with good (as well as many other details).
These considerations, however, do not diminish the distinction between
the two kinds of perception, and it is clear that there is often considerable
difference between the two. It is thus with spirits who have the second
but not the first of the two kinds of
401. We have just seen that spheres are turned into odours when it pleases
the Lord. This seems, at first, like an interference in the normal processes
by which spheres manifest themselves, for one tends to imagine that the
sphere would have an appropriate odour all the time. We often think in
this way about earthly odours, confusing our own sensation with the objective
reality. The objective things which I have been rash enough to call reality
are various molecules floating about in the air. They can be recognized
and measured by chemical and/or physical tests and instruments that give
reproducible results which are independent of the sensitivity of the human
who observes the instrument. But it cannot be said that there is an odour
unless someone can smell it. Thus odour is the response of the living subject.
This concept is explained particularly clearly in DLW 41. These ideas make
it easy to understand how spheres can be changed into odours without the
sphere itself being changed. It
402. The dependence of the perception of natural odours on the state of the individual extends even to the effect on the ambient level of the odours. Everyone can confirm for himself that his sense of smell very quickly becomes exhausted, or accustomed to the prevailing level; providing irritation is not also present and providing the level is not being changed by the movement of the air. How long can you continue to sniff a rose and enjoy its scent? When you come home to a house that has been closed you can probably notice an odour if you think about it at the time, but your awareness of it will vanish probably in a few seconds. Thus it is easy to accept that evil spirits are not sensibly aware of the foul odours corresponding to their evil delights until a change due to the approach of a heavenly sphere is noticed. Even those in heaven are not aware of the odours corresponding to their delights, as we read in DP 304:
These delights, because they constitute the life of every one in particular, and of all in general, are not sensibly perceived by those who are in them, but their opposites are sensibly perceived when they come near, especially when they are turned into odours, for every particular delight corresponds to an odour, and in the spiritual world can be converted into it; and then the general delight in heaven is sensibly perceived as the odour of a garden, with variety according to the fragrances there from the flowers and fruits.This seems to mean that the angels are not aware of the odour, being, as it were, in it all the time. When the Lord pleases, the delight in heaven is perceived in the spiritual below as an odour. We may conclude that, in the spiritual world, as in the natural, it is changes in odour that are observed rather than any particular level.
403. We are now in a position to consider what would earlier have appeared
as an anomaly: Having read that the organ of the sense of smell corresponds
to perception, we next remember that "the branches of the bronchia of the
lungs [correspond] to perceptions and thoughts" (DLW 405). Nasal passages
and bronchia both belong to the same continuous air ducts and may therefore
be regarded as belonging to the same general province. But the perception
of an odour is a very different matter from merely inhaling air. The latter
is the more essential for the continuance of bodily life. We may therefore
think the bronchia correspond to the first, i.e., celestial, type of perception,
or to conscience, or to the residues that serve as conscience with the
natural man, for these are all means whereby life is received from the
Lord. Some details of how the bronchia could be related to perception or
conscience or the inflow of life from the Lord were presented above (Nos.
139-141). In these numbers, it was suggested that this kind of perception
is the drawing-in of Divine Truth or life from the Lord as the atmosphere
is drawn into
404. Such an interpretation leaves us with the nose
as corresponding to the perception of the quality of other spirits and
angels. This does not exclude a perception of general or composite spheres
from many spirits together, nor does it exclude the perception by scent
of blessings flowing from the Lord. We may think either of the similarity
of breathing and smelling, since it is not too easy to separate them, or
of the difference, since they have such different functions. Looking at
the question from one point of view and then from the other helps one to
appreciate the variety of perceptions (AC 483) and confirms the link between
them. The odour of the sphere of a spirit may then be thought of as due
to the contamination by the proprium of the inflowing life from the Lord.
(A contamination is more or less objectionable as the spirit is less or
more regenerated, and not objectionable at all in the case of angels, but
still a contamination in the strict sense of the addition of something
405. Those who belong to the province of the sense of smell and of the nostrils are in general perception (AC 4624). "General" can mean "obscure," for in another place we find "conscience is a kind of general dictate, and thus an obscure one" (AC 1919). This suggests that the spirits in question had only an obscure perception. This would agree with their being in the province of the olfactory organ itself which, of course, cannot smell without interpretation by the brain above it. Although these persons relate to the exteriors of the nostrils (AC 4627), the relationship cannot be limited to the skins and cartilage of the nose, for "to these [people] correspond the sense of smell and its organ" (AC 4624). This organ, strictly speaking, is the olfactory mucosa in the nose. See Figure 23. It is interior with respect to the visible nose but it is clearly excluded from "the interiors of the nostrils" treated of in AC 4627:1 and 4627:4.
A sagittal section
through the nose just to the right of the median plane and showing the
right wall of the right side of the nasal cavity. The superior, middle,
and inferior conchae are elevations or protrusions covered with mucous
membrane. The conchae are arranged in such a way that the inspired air
of breath passes under, over, and between them. The olfactory part of the
mucous membrane extends only as far as the superior concha and the opposing
surface of the (central) nasal septum. The right olfactory bulb (which
is part of the brain, see Figure 16), sends its fibres to the regions just
mentioned, and the left bulb to the corresponding structures on its own
side. The ethmoid bone is part of the base of the skull, and the plate
is called "cribriform" because of its perforations through which the bundles
of nerves pass as shown. However, there are about twenty bundles each containing
many nerve fibres. They join and re-divide as shown, and it is supposed
that interactions can occur. Each bundle is surrounded by extensions of
the brain meninges and cerebrospinal fluid.
Sources: Redrawn from Gardner, Fundamentals of Neurology, fig. 12-5; Clemente, Gray's Anatomy, (CCE) fig. 439; Gardner, Gray and O'Rahilly, Anatomy: A Regional Study of Human Structure, fig. 63-4.
Those however who relate to the interiors of the nostrils are in a more perfect state of perception than those…who relate to their exteriors. Concerning the former I may give the following account. I saw as it were a bath, with long seats or benches, and from it heat exhaled. A woman appeared there who soon vanished into a blackish cloud; and I heard little children saying that they did not desire to be there. Soon afterwards, I observed some angelic choirs, who were sent to me for the purpose of averting the endeavors of certain evil spirits; and then, suddenly, above the front there appeared little apertures, greater or less, through which a beautiful yellow light was shining; and in this light within the apertures I saw some women in a snowy radiance. There afterwards appeared little apertures in a different arrangement, through which the women within were looking out; and again other little apertures through which the light did not so freely pass. (AC 4627)In this number, those who relate to the "interiors of the nostrils" are contrasted with those who relate to the "sense of smell and its organ." Hence there must be another meaning for "interiors."
407. In searching for another meaning for "interiors" we turn again to AC 4627. The female angels were accompanied by little children. Thus three things show that those who related to the interior things of the nostrils were in heaven: (1) a more perfect perception, (2) they were angels and (3) there were little children with them (HH 329, 332). As, therefore, the province of the interior nostrils is in heaven, and as there is a specially close correspondence between heaven and the brain (see Nos. 273-277), we expect correlations between the heavenly province of the interior nostrils and certain parts of the brain.
408. The correspondences of most beauty and interest
were not seen until the endeavors of evil spirits had been frustrated.
Then little apertures appeared (AC 4627). They remind one irresistibly
of the little apertures in the ethmoid bone at the base of the skull. This
bone is pierced in about twenty places for the passage of nerve bundles
from the olfactory epithelium of the nose. Through them, the brain becomes
aware of whatever spheres of odour are drawn into the nostrils. See Figure
24 in which these structures are shown on a much larger scale than in Figure
23. This is like the women looking out of the apertures. However, one cannot
be certain of their interpretation, for several other sets of apertures
appeared and they are said to be representative rather than correspondential.
An aperture is a place where the substance of a wall or partition has been
removed to allow something to go through. Hence an aperture may represent
communication; the partition, separation and protection. The female angels
referred to in this section are accompanied by little children and remind
us of the angels who care for little
Schema of olfactory mucosa (on a much larger scale than Figure 23), together with simplified nerve connections in the olfactory bulb. The olfactory receptors are parts of neurons; their axons pass through the perforations in the ethmoid bone as shown on a different scale in the previous figure. Since the axon bundles are each surrounded by the several maters of the brain (see Figure 15), it is easy to understand how the cerebrospi-nal fluid can reach the tissue spaces of the nasal mucosa. Only two axons are shown in each perforation but they represent bundles containing a large number of axons. Of the several neuron types present in the olfactory lobe, only the mitral cells are shown. All the nerve tissues are in color. The glomerulus is a region mainly of synapses, as indicated in the drawing. Above the olfactory bulbs are the frontal lobes of the cerebrum (not shown).
Source: Gardner, op. cit., figs. 12-24, Anatomy Coloring Book, plate 142.
409. If we think that the representative apertures mean communication, we have a possible interpretation. The nerves from the nose pass through the ethmoid bone, as already mentioned, to end in the olfactory lobe which lies just above. Here the incoming nerve impulses are modified and relayed in a complex way before passing along a band of nerves, the olfactory tract, towards higher centres in the brain (see No. 426). We have three additional sets of apertures to account for and it so happens that the olfactory tract splits into three bands just before making connection with other structures. If a single nerve could correspond with the communication represented by an aperture then an arrangement of apertures could relate to a band of nerves. In the natural brain, the different bands are unequal. One of them is sometimes indistinguishable and sometimes seen as fine striae. This could be the set of apertures through which the light did not so freely pass. Figure 25 shows the olfactory lobes and the associated nerve tissue.
Anterior parts of the base of the brain (compare Figure 15). They are viewed from below and are drawn to show the olfactory bulbs and tracts in color and to emphasize the olfactory trigone and its striae. The latter are not easily seen in photographs of intact brains, being mere surface marks or slight furrows, but it has been shown that the nerves of the olfactory tract do indeed split into medial and lateral bands. (The band in the center, ie. the intermediate stria, is less clear, although shown plainly in the diagram; perhaps it varies.) On the other hand, the anterior perforated substance, (APS), can easily be seen. It contains neurons which make synaptic connections with those fibres from the olfactory bulb which reach the APS through the lateral stria. The medial stria leads to other parts. The APS is hence part of the primary olfactory cortex which, in turn, is part of the limbic system. (See paragraph 406 and 425 end.)
Sources: Gardner, Fundamentals of Neurology, fig. 7-8; Clemente, Gray's Anatomy (CCE), fig. 350.
411. We have been shown representatives that can be related to anatomical structures, probably in order that we may know that everything human, even down to the body, lives through correspondence with the Grand Man. The system of correspondences is so well ordered that the causes of the representatives can also be deduced. These causes are the spiritual matters that produced the representatives. Although it is but little that we can see, the impression persists that there would be much more if we had a little more wisdom. The representatives we now wish to interpret are seen from AC 4627 quoted above (n. 406).
412. We cannot help wondering why such strange things were seen (AC 4627) before the correspondences of the interiors of the nostrils were revealed, but a view of the collected significances leads to a possible explanation. The blackish cloud signifies falsities of evil; the little children (signifying innocence) are unwilling to remain; and there is a need for an angelic choir to avert endeavors of evil spirits. All of these things indicate that we are looking for significances of the evil and false in those cases where a heavenly or an opposite meaning would each be possible.
413. A bath from which heat exhaled is mentioned in TCR 834 in respect to some Mohammedans, the heat of whose polygamous love was like the heat in baths after bathing. In CL 344 it is said to be "like the foul heat of a bath."
414. The meaning of seats or benches can be deduced from the meaning of sitting, which pertains to the life of the will or love (AE 687:6). The woman vanishing into a blackish cloud (as we are told later (AC 4627:3)) signified "female ensnarers" who relate to the mucus "which infests the nostrils." She can only correspond to an evil affection such as the lust of falsity from evil (AE 555:17). Black(ness) indicates what is not true (AE 372:1) (or falsity of evil; AE 412:30) and dense and dark clouds, falsities of evil (AE 594:19). Children signify innocence and this meaning is given to "little ones" in AE 624:6 and AC 5608.
415. These meanings suggest the following interpretation. The disorderly conjunction of affections with falsities led to a state of will or love in which the lust of falsity from evil drove away innocence so that perception from heaven could no more occur than a nose blocked with mucus from disease can smell. This vision may well have been given as an indication of the state of mankind at that time. It seems, from many other signs, that Swedenborg himself suffered from the sphere of spirits in that state. Because of this, he could not see the angelic spirits corresponding to the sense of smell and to the interiors of the nostrils until angelic choirs had been sent to disperse the evil spirits. This sad state of affairs leads us to an even more dreary consideration, namely, the possibility that thick mucus of the nose could be derived from the brain. Anatomically this seems to be almost possible, but the subject is presented in some detail below.
416. The continuity of fluid spaces between the brain and the olfactory epithelium, as well as the possibility of leakage from brain cavities into the nose, has been discussed in a former chapter (Nos. 295-298). In the present context some statements from the Spiritual Diary and Arcana Coelestia should be quoted. In the Diary we read:
There are spirits who relate to the phlegmy or viscous excretions, namely those which are excreted from the brain through the meninges and the fasciculated fibres into the nostrils, as well as through the little glands of the nostrils. (SD 1267)And under the heading "Concerning those who Constitute the Nasal Mucus in the Brain" we find:
I was instructed that these are they who constitute the pituitary mucus of the brain which is wont to obstruct…whence arise dullnesses and similar insanities. (SD 1793)417. As explained more briefly above (No. 298), these ideas are closely related to the anatomy of the nose and brain. As Swedenborg's note suggests, the meninges are extended to provide sheaths for the whole length of the nerves connecting the olfactory organ to the brain. The outer membrane of the brain, which is the dura mater, descends into the nose and is continued into the periosteum which is the membrane that covers and helps to nourish the bones. The inner membrane, which is the pia-arachnoid, contains the cerebrospinal fluid in which the brain "floats." This membrane and its fluid descend also round the nerves into the nose and make connection with the tissue spaces of the mucous membrane, as show the brain into the nose, however microscopic, must allow fluid to escape. However, a connection with tissue spaces does not imply a leak to the
surface. Most tissues have spaces between some of the cells and these spaces are filled with a watery lymph. Some of this fluid is collected by the lymphatic system and returned to the blood from which it originally came (No. 201). Although the membranes of the nose are delicate, they will not leak fluid to the surface any more than any other membrane unless they are injured. Nevertheless the direct connection with the brain has been thought by some to permit access by organisms that cause meningitis. (The evidence for this is not free of doubt.) An additional point to note is that the nasal mucus has a different chemical composition from that of the cerebrospinal fluid which bathes the brain. For these reasons one is loth to believe that any part of the nasal mucus is normally derived from the brain.
418. The reference to pituitary mucus needs separate
consideration. In the Arcana Index "phlegm" is given for "pituita," and
the reference is AC 5386, the subject being the correspondence of the pituitary
glands of the brain. However, there is no mention of what we now call the
pituitary gland or hypophysis cerebri, and it would seem a fair supposition
from the subject matter of AC 5386 that in those days pituitary meant merely
excretory, or producing phlegm. Although mention is made of phlegmy substances
being removed from the brain (in AC 5386), when viscid matters are referred
to as being present (AC 5717, 5718 and 5724), the corresponding spirits
have relation to disease or anxieties and as we have seen (in SD 1793),
"pituitary mucus" in the brain causes "dullness and similar insanities."
The natural evidence for this may well have been derived from anatomists
of the time who may have found thickened cerebrospinal fluid when they
examined diseased brains. A
419. Even the evil have their uses, and this is illustrated by the functions of mucus. The evil spirits mentioned above (411-414) were presumably those who were cast down and who related to the mucus of the nostrils (AC 4627:3). Mucus itself is merely a secretion, and as such is dead. However, it is here said to "infest" the nostrils. This indicates a disease such as a cold, in which mucus production is increased and many harmful microorganisms are entrapped in the mucus. Such germ-laden mucus would fittingly represent dull and stupid spirits who were also devoid of conscience. As is well known, in a healthy individual the mucus is a useful secretion which serves to moisten the inhaled air, to trap dust, and to keep the linings of the air passages and sinuses moist and healthy. Without it the organs of smell would become parched and useless, hence mucus is essential to the body's economy. In the days before bacteriology it may have been difficult to distinguish between mucus, phlegm, and pus. It may well be that any of the terms used in those days would cover the whole range of secretions from the gentle, bland moisture to the acrid, foul, irritating, germ laden product of dying tissues. If so, the correspondences of mucus could be equally varied, and might include many spirits who, not knowing what conscience is, are nevertheless harmless. At the other extreme would be those who ensnare for evil purposes. The ability to ensnare (AC 4627:3) relates obviously to the properties of mucus in entrapping and removing all kinds of particulate matter, especially dust and germs. How can this function relate to spiritual health? Consider how refreshed one sometimes feels after engaging in some perfectly useless activity that has no connection with conscience. Are not many unhealthy impulses such as aggression or self-pity tangled up with such activities and neutralized, eventually to be removed? Recreation has a similar effect, though different in many respects; it is limited to certain times, for example, whereas protection by mucus is continuous. The unbalanced states corresponding to excessive production or inadequate production consequent upon various diseases might deserve further discussion but need not now detain us.
420. Phlegm in the brain seems to represent the lowest state of man's decline. (It would also be the death of his body.) But from this nadir we may at last begin to ascend, starting again with the strange relationship between the olfactory epithelium and the brain. The continuity of fluid spaces already mentioned (No. 416) is especially interesting because the olfactory nerves do not grow down from the brain, but begin in their own place in the embryo and send their filaments towards the brain. What guides them is not known, but the tiny spaces in their sheaths must become continuous with those of the brain during this development. What can it mean correspondentially?
421. In many animals the sense of smell is much more important than it is in man, so that the ability to smell reminds one of man's animal nature. The growth of the nerves from the nasal organ towards the brain suggests the Lord's power of drawing this animal upwards towards Himself. The subsequent connection of the spaces with those of the brain suggests the subsequent descent of Divine influence. We are reminded that ascent came first in the dream of Jacob's ladder.
422. There is another descent from the higher parts of the brain in the form of nerves which control the olfactory lobe, but this type of control happens with other (all other perhaps) organs too so that the nose is not unique in this respect.
423. We have implied that smelling is closer to our
animal nature than (say) seeing. We also know that "to smell" corresponds
to "to perceive," and that perception was the characteristic of the Most
Ancient Church. Dare we follow the argument as far as to suggest that the
men of the MAC were more like animals than we are? Perhaps we dare, for
the Writings often point out that animals live in the order in which they
were created, whereas man has destroyed the order of his life. Moreover,
the permission of the fall cannot have been forced on the Lord by man,
and the Lord's coming cannot have been a mere rescue operation to remedy
a desperate and unforeseen situation. It was all hidden in the Divine Wisdom
for the sake of an end more glorious than the beginning. Thus the wisdom
and understanding (sight) of the men of the future church may become more
blessed than the perception (smell) of the men of the MAC; for the indications
of our present study suggest that
424. We have seen the consanguinity there is between perception and
celestial qualities (No. 398), and hence the dependence of perception upon
love. There is also the relationship between understanding and wisdom.
Now since love and wisdom ought to be united as in a marriage, so perception
(related to love) should be joined with understanding (related to wisdom).
Correspondences give a clear indication of such a joining, for not only
does sight not preclude scent, but it lends it more meaning. When we notice
a perfume we usually look for the source. The desire to see suggests that
perception leads to a desire to understand. Indeed the perception of the
angels relating to olfaction has a close connection with sight, for the
apertures that were seen in the world of spirits represented the clearsightedness
of the angels who relate to the interiors of
425. Celestial angels who are in perception are averse
to discussing matters of faith. There is so much in the Writings about
this that it may come as a surprise to realize the close connection between
perception and understanding. We are often told that perception is superior
to knowledge derived by an external way. The latter is often called faith,
and faith is of the understanding. Thus arises the notion that perception
has no need of understanding. However, there are innumerable varieties
of perception, and possibly some are more closely related to understanding
than others. It may be said that there are some that need very little of
the understanding. Some aspects of these subjects elude the natural mind.
Many things relating to the celestial are of this class and so appear either
incomprehensible or contradictory. The fourth posterity of the MAC (AC
283), for example, had become celestial and thus wise and intelligent (AC
298). Nevertheless, they were not allowed to be instructed in the mysteries
of faith. Such apparently contradictory matters can sometimes be resolved
with the help of correspondences
426. The anatomy of the limbic system is helpful since it gives a physical basis for many human peculiarities, including the constant struggle to behave as human rather than as animal. The region of the brain that gives the name "limbic" to this system was so called because it forms a sort of border (limbus) to the cerebral cortex where this overlies the brain stem in the region of the temporal lobes. The limbic lobe merges with the cerebral cortex in such a way that it is difficult to define it precisely. There are close links with other brain structures of comparatively primitive type, to produce the limbic system as a whole. Altogether the system has a wide range of responsibilities for maintaining the functions of the body that we usually think of as automatic. These include many movements and bodily responses to fear and anger and pleasure and even possibly something of the emotions themselves. (This need not surprise us because in AC 4947 we find a reference to desire being of the body; it is called "external desire.") The nerves of the olfactory tract (called mammillary processes in earlier times, see No. 296) lead into this border region, which is therefore the part of the brain most closely concerned with the sense of smell, and it forms part of the higher centres mentioned above (No. 408).
427. The limbic system is complicated and its actions are only partly understood. It is closely associated with the cerebral cortex but not entirely dependent upon it, so that experimental animals that have been deprived of the cortex continue many of their instinctive activities by means of the limbic system. From this we may be able to understand in a slight degree how it may be possible to live and feel, and perhaps be conscious with very little activity of the understanding. Perhaps this region predominated with the primitive men "who lived like wild creatures but at length became spiritual men" (AC 286), and with, for example, the fourth posterity of the MAC who were on their way back to the ground from which they were taken.
428. The union between the limbic system and the
cortex depends upon whether dendrites from certain groups of neurons make
contact with groups in the cortex, and to what degree their activities
are enhanced or inhibited. The union is therefore flexible, and capable
of being modified. If we accept the usual view that the limbic system is
more primitive than the cerebral cortex, and note its great importance
in the life of animals, we can imagine that in primitive man it may well
have been more important than it is to us. The emotional predominance resulting
from activities of the limbic system may not then have been subject to
so much cerebral (or intellectual) control as it is in man today. In a
state of innocence the emotions would have been of love and joy; with fear
and hatred of natural hazards and suffering playing their protective part.
As ages passed, the influx from the growing cerebrum (memories and imagination)
would arouse intense desires that it might hope to control, but if the
429. Such a process could have occurred as a result of the fall of the Most Ancient Church, and looking at these ultimates helps us to understand those unhappy beings. For it is astounding that they declined from such a blessed state when they knew the quality of the celestial with them (AC 146). As has been pointed out earlier, these changes were not unforeseen, and there can be no doubt that the Lord intended harmony between the limbic system and the cerebrum. In their freedom, men destroyed the harmony and themselves, but Noah was saved in spite of it all.
430. These changes are relatively recent and even today the situation is not all that different. There are often occasions when the limbic system is powerful, though not necessarily disorderly. These occur for example when certain odours arouse tender memories, delightful emotions, or powerful disgust; the last often in spite of knowing that the odour itself is perfectly harmless. In the last case the understanding (sight) often remains in abeyance, and the feelings (smell) drive one to avoidance. Similar neural mechanisms operate with the opposite result in the attraction of the sexes. These kinds of behavior, which correspond to perception having little relation to understanding, have their counterpart in brain structures which were mentioned above. Thus the correspondences help us to understand a little about the quality of celestial man as well as to recognize the vestiges of that quality remaining in us by heredity.