The correspondences of eating and digestion teach many things about the spiritual progress of man

445. Eating is often mentioned in the Hebrew Word, and the Lord Himself said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." When the Jews heard this they were puzzled (John 6, 51, 52). Since that time Christians have been happy to treat these sayings as metaphorical and to enjoy the benefit of the truth they enshrine. In the New Church the doctrine of correspondences enables this truth to be perceived more clearly; it opens the way to an infinite series of truths relating to our life in the Lord, and the Lord dwelling in us.

446. The significance of eating is not, however, restricted to the holy supper. Students of New Church doctrine know that the signification of eating is appropriating, that is, making something one's own. Thus they will understand how the reception of newly arrived spirits in the other life can be represented by eating. The better ones among novitiates are taken into heaven, made heaven's own, and become part of that wonderful organization which is in such harmony that it is really one man.

447. However, many of those who will eventually reach heaven need first to be liberated from contaminating evils and falsities. Such spirits are said to be agitated and purified, like food in the stomach. Such agitation can be slight or severe, according to necessity (AC 5174). A study of digestion in the body gives hints as to how severe such agitation may be. It is clear, however, that those whose ruling loves are fixedly evil cannot be changed into their opposites by any degree of agitation. They are excreted into hell.

448. These general statements (AC 5174, 5175) will be sufficient for many, but the Writings always encourage us to think further if we can. It will be a useful exercise to try and discover a little more about what is involved in the correspondence of the digestive system with the Grand Man. Much that is now known about what happens to food during digestion was unknown in Swedenborg's time. By means of this more recent knowledge, together with correspondences and doctrines, we can form opinions about the preparation of souls for heaven. Such a study can be of practical value for, as death is a continuation of life, so the processes occurring after death have their beginning in this life.

Digestion corresponds to the preparation of souls for entrance into heaven or hell

449. Digestion corresponds to the preparation of souls in the other life, hopefully, for entrance into heaven. We read, "For when a man dies and enters the other life, his life resembles food which is…passed…into the stomach." (AC 5175). A reading of AC 5174 conveys the impression that not only acquired beliefs, habits and ideas are subjected to "digestion" in the spiritual world, but the man himself. Concerning this, we read:

food in the stomach is agitated in many ways in order that its inner elements may be extracted…it is further agitated in the intestines. Such agitations are represented by the first agitations of spirits…therefore it may be said of souls or spirits that, shortly after death or release from the body they come first as it were into the region of the stomach…They in whom evils have gained the ascendancy…are conveyed…into the intestines…the colon and rectum, and…into the privy, that is, into hell. But they in whom goods have had the ascendancy…become chyle and pass into the blood…so long as spirits are in a state resembling food in the stomach, so long they are not in the Grand Man but are being introduced into it; but when they are representatively in the blood, then they are in the Grand Man. (AC 5176) (No. 197 above explains "Grand Man.")
450. We note the use of "resembles" (AC 5175) and "as it were" (AC 5174), and think perhaps this case is one of similarity and not of actual correspondence. But against this idea we find "the correcting and purifying of the…food in the stomach correspond to such things in the spiritual world" (i.e., to spirits undergoing "very many methods of agitation" (AC 5173:1)). The same number continues to explain that unless there were "an inward active force from the spiritual world…nothing whatever in the natural world could act as cause and effect, and consequently nothing could be produced." We conclude that none of the ideas about the correspondences of digestion that we find in the Writings can be dismissed as mere metaphor or simile. Nor are they in the same category as the representations of things good and true by persons evil and false in the Jewish Church.

451. As, therefore, the digestive system is in genuine correspondence with the Grand Man, it is worth attempting to see in more details how it corresponds.

As in the body, the end of digestion is resynthesis, but in heaven there is endless variety within each tissue

452. Before digestion is described in AC 5173:1, mention is made of "agitations," and it is highly significant that the first mention of "agitations" is closely linked with "initiation into gyres." We learn later that the agitations correspond to digestion, and as digestion is a breaking down, so initiation into gyres must correspond to a building up or resynthesis. Most of the food by which the body grows or is renewed is first broken down by digestion, and after absorption via the blood, it is resynthesized into bodily tissues. This means that a study only of digestion provides no picture of reality. Such a study gives the oils, the pigments, the canvas. The real picture comes only with the synthesis. When re-synthesis occurs, the individual food constituents are not re-created. It follows that reformed souls in the next life are not reborn into their original imperfection. Thus, the Grand Man is not to be thought of as suffering limitations like those of the natural body. No particular new tissue in the body retains any trace of a link with any particular food (excluding isotope labelling for the moment); whereas in the spiritual world some residue of the proprium (duly modified) is retained. Therefore, any particular organ or tiny part of an organ must include a much greater variety than the corresponding tissue in the body. This is merely spiritual common sense, but we read also, "There are more things contained within a single idea of [spirits'] thought than in a thousand of the ideas they had possessed in this world" (AC 322).

453. The natural variations to which the variety in the Grand Man could possibly correspond include variations in the proportions of different isotopes of the elements present. Providing the isotopes are stable, such variations make no practical difference, but they are detectable by physics. If all the theoretically possible variations in the proportions of different isotopes were included, an enormous number of permutations could be imagined. However, this seems rather artificial. Carbon thirteen is still carbon. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind the presence of isotopes as a natural phenomenon with a spiritual cause that we do not know about, and it could certainly correspond to a kind of individuality. This is clearly an avenue which ought not to be neglected, but for the time being we will see where we can get to with the aid of biochemistry alone. We reiterate, then, that the smallest part of a tissue in the Grand Man must contain indefinitely more variety than the corresponding tissue in the natural body (and this may well still be true if isotopic variations in the natural body are included).

454. Further consideration of the re-synthesis of digested food into bodily tissues is too great a subject for the present, and we must limit ourselves to thinking of digestion. But it is of the greatest importance to bear in mind throughout that the purpose of digestion is constantly that re-synthesis may follow. In a similar way, the purpose of Providence is to bring good out of all the evil that is permitted, for digestion sometimes appears like a permission of evil. We proceed, then, to discuss the breaking down of food, which is digestion, and the agitation of spirits, which is their last judgement; from this we hope to see how the complete digestion of food can correspond with a judgement that is not totally destructive. This problem, however, scarcely arises with the first class of foods which consists of those which need little or no digestion.

Foods needing little or no digestion correspond to people who enter heaven easily

455. Examples of food constituents that require no digestion were given in Chapter XVII (Nos. 434, 442). Concerning these we read, "Food that is soft and contains what is sweet, oily, and spirituous is at once absorbed by the veins, and carried into the circulation" (AC 5175). We can be more precise about this category now. It appears that "spirituous" means substances like alcohol and the aromatic esters in fruit. Alcohol can be absorbed from the mouth as can also the esters given to relieve angina pectoris, for example. It seems that the food substances that can be so absorbed are relatively few. For the rest, we must interpret "at once" to mean without going through any preparatory stages of breakdown. We make this interpretation because the sweet and oily substances are absorbed, like the products of digestion, from the intestines, but without requiring digestion first.

456. It is interesting that some sweet substances like grape sugar (glucose) and fruit sugar (fructose) and some of the oils or fats are not only absorbed without digestion, but go through the digestive tract without being affected. In the section on natural digestion, the severe effect of hydrochloric acid in the stomach (and of pepsin) has been described, especially how the acid is able to kill many bacteria and destroy the native configuration of many proteins (No. 438); yet these sugars (presumably meant by "food juices" in AC 5174) are quite unaffected by it.

457. Turning now to people to whom these sweet and oily juices correspond, we note two classes who pass through the world of spirits, or stomach of the Grand Man, without significant change: (1) those who are so confirmed in evil that they cannot be purified, and (2) those who have already been sufficiently purified. This also agrees with experience in this life, for we know that there are wilfully evil men who will not repent however much they suffer. There are also good and patient people who seem to bear their trials as though they do not suffer, although they pass through vicissitudes of life that are very distressing to most of us. Thus in their entry into the Grand Man, these souls are not agitated like the rest, although they pass through the same spiritual environment.

458. As shown earlier, we include in this group of foods the minerals and vitamins, which are not mentioned in the Writings but which, as is now well known, are essential for the maintenance of the life of the body. They include, of course, water, a mineral corresponding to truth; without which all that is truly human expires. What special spiritual qualities do other minerals and vitamins correspond to? We can speculate about them from their known functions. Sight depends on vitamin A, and we know what sight corresponds to. Calcium and vitamin D are important in the growth of bones, the correspondence of which is also known. These are merely examples quoted in passing, this not being the place to enter into detail.

459. In regard to digestion, these foods have no interest. In regard to preparation for heaven, the corresponding people do not at present stimulate our interest either. This is odd because they are clearly the best and most useful. We conclude that the spheres where they are interesting are elsewhere, actually within the Grand Man. This agrees with biochemistry. The study of vitamins and their functions forms a major field in this discipline, and the minerals are no less important.

Foods needing digestion correspond to people whose mental associations must be loosened

460. It is here that we face the problem of relating the complete digestion of food to a judgement which does not destroy the individual.

461. It is tolerable to imagine a similarity between digestion and the fate of men in the next life, as long as one thinks that digestion is merely a liberation of the essential goodness of the food and forgets that even in the act of chewing much food is crushed out of recognition. One may think that the correspondence is with the essential goodness in a nutritional sense and that what corresponds to crushing will not affect those who correspond to such goodness. This seems satisfactory until one remembers that to get into heaven, i.e., the Grand Man, spirits must be "representatively in the blood" (AC 5176). This would relate spirits to those molecules which can pass into the blood, and this gives rise to some queries, for the digestion of the proteins and carbohydrates abolishes their individuality. Glucose from starch in, e.g., bread, is indistinguishable from glucose of honey which did not require any digestion at all (the bees having done it). It is similar with the amino acids. We have seen above that digestion destroys the characteristics of every digestible protein in the food and produces the same amino acids from
all of them. (Notable differences in proportion remain only between special kinds of diet which we would probably regard as unbalanced.) Thus, the idea of relating novitiate souls to molecules on the basis of one person to one molecule would seem to be too restrictive.

462. Another reason why it does not seem possible to relate individual spirits to the units remaining after digestion is that some spirits seem to correspond to particular kinds of food. For example, "food that is still harder, more disagreeable, and non nutritious is thrust down into the intestines, and at last into the rectum, where first is hell…It is similar with the life of man after death" (AC 5175).

463. The problem may be expressed by saying that, as an understanding of chemical breakdown and recombination had scarcely begun in Swedenborg's time, nothing about the correspondence of it could be taught. We are left to deduce what we can. Clearly, the chemical, i.e., digestive, breakdown of foods which correspond to people in the next life cannot relate to the destruction of persons or loss of individuality (though this has gained credence in some religions). Although the destruction of food constituents is not "complete," or down to atoms, but an ordered taking to pieces, it still means a loss of individuality to any particular food. The apparent discrepancy indicates a more complex representation than appears at first sight, and therefore a more detailed examination is necessary.

464. We ask first whether an individual can be broken down spiritually, and if so, to what extent. First, in general terms, we have the well known quotation: "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit" (Ps. 34: 18). We know that the Lord does not break but bends a man's loves. Nevertheless, hearts get "broken," and if they rely on the Lord, the experience can be turned to good effect. But a more particular examination of the question may be facilitated by introducing the well known psychological concepts of association of ideas and formation of complexes. These may also be likened to items of food that may be more or less resistant to being broken down by digestion.

Revelation and current psychology both indicate that mental complexes have a life of their own which is often a mixture of good and evil

465. It is in agreement with the doctrines, with experience, and with the correspondence to food that each of us is a mixture of good and bad. Many of the souls which will be received into the next life will have goods and truths that will not be much affected by the agitations. These goods and truths are acceptable to the Grand Man as they are, and correspond to simple sugars, vitamins, minerals and water which are present in many foods and do not need digestion. In any individual there may well be other goods and truths the Lord has provided. But during his life on earth the man may have also imbibed falsities and evils and may have affixed some of them to these goods and truths (though not united them as in profanation). Thus the man has produced for himself ideas, opinions, beliefs, and convictions, clustering round various affections linked in various ways to his ruling love. Some of these things form associations which need to be loosened by the agitations. The Writings, in their references to the internal memory, to ruling loves, to affections being derivations of loves, and to loves collecting their supporting truths, revealed much that is in agreement with later discoveries of psychology. This science itself can therefore be of use to those of us who were not educated in the Church. It may help us to accept and understand the complexity of the mental (i.e., spiritual) life of each individual and the existence therein of complexes which can often rule in spite of the individual's attempts to dethrone them, indeed of complexes which even seem to take on a separate personality of their own. Presumably, this last is the ultimate of a close association with particular societies of spirits. Such complexes need not be bad; indeed they are often good; bad ones, being troublesome, merely come to notice more.

466. The idea of complexes having a life of their own receives support where "the creeping thing, the living soul" (Gen. 1: 20) is explained (AC 41).

Every single expression, every single idea and every least thought in an angelic spirit is alive, containing in its minutest particulars an affection that proceeds from the Lord, who is life itself. And therefore whatsoever things are from the Lord, have life in them, because they contain faith toward Him, and are here signified by the "living soul": they have also a species of body, here signified by "what moves itself," or "creeps."
Hence all these things would appear to have some degree of autonomy or life of their own received from the Lord. Thus we move away from the simple idea of personality as a unit, towards the view that there is no difference in essence between an idea or a complex and the person in whom it exists. This is why angels can know a person's qualities from one of his ideas. The idea cannot occur without the person, and the person without an idea is not existing. Each idea takes a quality from the whole and so takes on a personality which mirrors the personality which gave birth to it. In this way we arrive at a concept which permeates the Writings, but seems not to be stated in so many words: namely that each man is not a unit but a population, as with Noah and the ark. We may summarize these ideas by saying that each individual entering the other life takes with him a unique synthesis of many different components, good and bad. Often the bad can be set aside only after more or less break-down has been induced.

Mixed complexes are not permitted in the next life

467. The occurrence of mixed complexes is according to the Divine Permission and their dissociation under Providence is inevitable (DP 16-18). Where this is not too difficult, it corresponds to digestion.

468. We have already seen that digestion is an orderly process of taking molecules to pieces. Although orderly, it is severely destructive as far as those molecules are concerned. Such a process would correspond to the agitations of AC 5174. These correspondences suggest that an early process in the next life is the taking to pieces of unacceptable complexes. From psychology we know that, even in this world, associations of ideas can be dispersed and replaced by others, and we would expect this to be done more skillfully and more extensively in the spiritual world.

469. As has been emphasized above, individual spirits cannot be destroyed as protein and carbohydrate molecules are destroyed, but they may be "taken to pieces," i.e. criticized with merciless severity. Psychoanalysts say they can change the personality of their patients by taking them or their complexes to pieces and rebuilding them in a more acceptable form. We have called digestion a breaking down of molecules and we can apply the same term to the ideas and loves of people, but the process can be distressing. We are here dealing with those who correspond to food that is "reduced with more difficulty" (AC 5175). This speaks of those who do not readily accept the means of reformation provided by the Lord or whose personalities are more resistant. The man as a whole is not destroyed; but even if not predominantly evil he may love his proprium too much; then many things that he holds dear may be broken down and he may feel as though he himself is being destroyed. Lest this should seem too drastic an experience for many to believe, let us recall some of the records in the Writings.

470. One of the most telling episodes is Swedenborg's descent to spirits who were for a long time crying out, "O God! O God! Take pity on us! Take pity on us!" They were in despair, saying that they believed their torment would be eternal. However, he was allowed to comfort them (AC 699), which suggests that perhaps they were eventually to be rescued. We observe that meanwhile they were in torment and despair. Similarly in AC 2130:2 we find reference to societies who were rescued after having been in despair; and in many places we are taught that temptations continue until a state of despair is reached (AC 6144). I suggest that, as a consequence, the personality can be to some degree disintegrated. Something like this is the experience of all who are regenerated in this life, but we must not allow our natural terms to lead us to forget that mental changes experienced in this life are often in a low key. Distractions of the world and the body produce a kind of anaesthesia. In the spiritual world similar changes are vivid and intense. The disintegration of the personality that I am here suggesting would be, to a spirit, the tearing apart of his body.

471. The amount of tearing to pieces which a spirit can suffer without being destroyed is made clear from the punishments endured in hell (see below). The simplest direct statement is found in the SD 515 to the effect that a man (i.e., presumably his body) cannot be torn asunder like a spirit. The suggestion then is that the tearing asunder of the large molecules of food constituents is not much more drastic than what some spirits have to undergo. In hell, this tearing is a punishment to enforce a certain degree of order. Above hell, something similar might be permitted to remove evil loves from the centre of the personality and to enable good loves to reorganize the personality into a useful and acceptable creature. Under these circumstances, the effect would not be induced as a deterrent and it might therefore be achieved without pain.  All things of this world have their origin in the spiritual world and this must include the art and science of anaesthesia.

472. Another reason why preparation for heaven need not be very painful is because digestion, to which it corresponds, takes place by means of enzymes (see No. 432) produced in glands which are actually part of the body. These glands, therefore, have their correspondences in the Grand Man among angels. Orderly spiritual processes corresponding to digestion must take place under angelic control, which implies the maximum care and concern for the sufferer.

473. The drastic changes mentioned above (No. 469) were leading our thoughts towards the confines of hell. We were following the gut contents on their way down and were approaching the rectum "where first is hell," but we are not quite there yet. By the mercy of the Lord, many who we might think are not salvable are yet rescued in thousands of ways. Some of these ways are induced by means of the very evils and falsities that infest them. Such things may well correspond to digestion by micro-organisms.

The infernals who cause vastation probably correspond to bacteria that aid digestion in animals

474. We are now considering those who go to heaven after much difficulty, i.e., those who correspond to food that requires the maximum of digestion. Such people are to be found in the lower earth or in the pits beneath that earth. Of these two locations or spiritual states we read as follows:


That 'pits' are falsities is because men who have been in principles of falsity are, after death, kept awhile under the lower earth, until falsities have been removed from them, and, as it were, rejected to the sides. These places are called 'pits', and those who go into them are such as will undergo vastation. (AC 1106-1113, 2699, 2701,

2704)It is for this reason that by 'pits', in the abstract sense, are signified falsities. The lower earth is proximately under the feet and the region roundabout for a short distance. Here are most persons after death, before they are taken up into heaven. This earth is also frequently mentioned in the Word. Beneath it are the places of vastation, called 'pits', and below them and round about for a considerable extent, are hells.
(AC 4728)

476. As the pits here mentioned are places where falsities are removed, we may be sure that those who are there eventually become fit for heaven. Also, as "most persons" are in the lower earth before they are taken up into heaven, they are the ones who are capable of being adequately purified by the activities that correspond to digestion. We note also that the situation of the lower earth, the pits beneath, and the hells further below and round about, are similar to the course of the intestines into the colon and finally the rectum, toilet and sewage disposal corresponding to hell. We find further details in AC 7090 as follows:


At this day also, those who are of the Church, and have filled their ideas with worldly, and also with earthly things, and have caused the truths of faith to be adjoined to such things, are let down to the lower earth, and there also they are in combats, and this until those worldly and earthly things are separated from the truths of faith, and such things inserted that they can no more be conjoined. When this is accomplished, they are then elevated from there into heaven; for until such things are removed they cannot in any wise be with the angels, for those things are darkness and defilements which do not agree with the light and purity of heaven. Those worldly and earthly things cannot be separated and removed except by means of combats against falsities, which combats are effected in the following manner: those who are in the lower earth are infested by fallacies and consequent falsities, which are emitted from the infernals round about, but are repelled by the Lord through heaven; and at the same time truths are insinuated; and these truths appear as belonging to those who are in combats.
478. Here we have a factor not mentioned in the account of the correspondences of digestion, namely combat against falsities from the infernals round about. We saw above that the digestion that takes place by means of enzymes produced by glands of the body must correspond to angelic aid and correction (No. 472). There is an additional digestion in herbivores (No. 443) which takes place by means of bacteria within the contents of the gut, thus not caused by the tissues of the body. We may assume that these bacteria correspond to the infernals who induce falsities.

479. Possibly bacteria in the gut of man can have a purifying effect (for example, the harmless help to inhibit the harmful) but they are probably not important for digestion. However, as we have seen, digestion in animals is also relevant. In such as the horse we have an example clearly corresponding to the combats endured by those who have adjoined the truths of faith to worldly things. It is clear that this kind of spiritual digestion is very important in this life also for all who are being reformed. But the insertion of things to prevent such adjoining being repeated must be similar to initiation into gyres (AC 5173). Unless it is temporary, it must correspond to the resynthesis of digested food into tissues (which is not considered here).

The final stages of digestion include the disposal of sewage and correspond to the uses of hell

480. Some of the punishments in hell are a sort of tearing to pieces or discerption (AC 957). This is reminiscent of the tearing to pieces of food constituents by bacteria in the gut. We read that the only tearing in pieces in the spiritual world is that of good by evil and falsity. This was so when Israel said in reference to Joseph, "Surely tearing he is torn in pieces" (Gen. 44: 28; AC 5828). We are familiar, too, with the teaching that in the next life the evil are deprived of any good they may have. We conclude that the good with them is torn to pieces (or digested) by their evil and falsity or by those of their companions. Similar processes continue in sewage, becoming more and more destructive as they correspond more nearly to hell. As hell has its uses, so sewage has its corresponding uses as a fertilizer (SD 2660) or a source of energy. However, dung also corresponds to previous evils which one learns to abhor to such an extent that "a faculty of good may be inseminated."

Unpleasant representations are permitted for useful purposes

481. Some aspects of digestion are unpleasant. We prefer to dwell on the delightful things we are taught in the Writings about paradise. This is pleasant, but it would be unrealistic to do so exclusively. We know too well that unpleasant things exist, and the Writings give us no encouragement to imagine that they cease when life in the world is over. The doctrine of the Church would be unrealistic if this aspect of man's experience were ignored; the proprium is itself horrible, and it is obvious that whenever it is allowed to break out, horrible things will ensue. Representations of them will appear when the Lord permits. For example, when the sphere of an approaching evil spirit is changed into an odour, the experience must be disgusting. The most unpleasant representations are probably those that terrify. An example is the irresistible power represented by a bare arm (AC 4934-5) shown for a useful end under Providence. Another example of unpleasant representations is the occasion when Swedenborg saw a spirit changed into filthy intestines (SD 3087).

482. Obviously filthy things must not be ignored, as is clear from many passages in the Writings concerning the permission of evil. These things must receive sufficient attention to bring them under control. We need not be surprised that the Divine Revelation includes references to them. Representations of them are seen in the spiritual world according to Divine Providence, that good may come of them. The prospect of being broken down in spirit like food in the gut is so important that we ignore it at our peril. Also, it is so unpleasant that we do well to try, as of ourselves but really of the Lord, to become persons who need little or no digestion, or who at least do not bring distress upon themselves by their attempts to resist the process. However, the prospect is not necessarily terrifying, and there is another and brighter side to the question which we may now consider.

The more interior correspondences of eating and digestion are Full of heavenly delight

483. When a spirit has successfully endured the horrors and tribulation of the temptations corresponding to digestion, he can join those who have not needed such experiences and enter with them into a peaceful state made all the more delightful by contrast with his previous experience (DP 24). We, too, may now consider a delightful heavenly aspect of this same subject. In following the correspondences of food as it is digested during its movement down the alimentary canal, we have, as it were, drawn closer to hell, and our attention has been diverted from a question which is fundamental to this whole subject. It has appeared as though novitiate souls are food for the Grand Man. This correspondence, however, must not be understood in a materialistic manner. In the next chapter, we try to see how spiritual and material things differ and yet correspond. Meanwhile, we attempt to understand more clearly how it can be that in the spiritual world the life of new arrivals resembles food. Thus we ask whether there is any other food for the Grand Man.

484. Every angel is a heaven in particular, and so is like heaven in general. Thus "heaven is like itself in general and in particular, and…the human form is the form of the whole, of every society, and of every angel" (HH 460; see also HH 59-86). From this we deduce that what is food for individual angels is also food for the Grand Man. Concerning this food we read, "The nature of celestial and spiritual food can best be known in the other life. The life of angels and spirits is not sustained by any such food as there is in this world but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, as the Lord teaches in Matthew 4,4" (AC 681). Also "the nourishment by which children grow up in heaven is intelligence and wisdom, for these are essential spiritual nourishment" (HH 340).

485. Sustenance by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord is related to the Word made flesh. In John, the Lord says "Who so eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life" (John 6: 54); (TCR 703). This must also be related to the doctrine that every man is led and taught by the Lord alone (DP 155-174). Thus, although a man may receive truth from another man, if he is receiving genuine truth in a genuine manner, he is receiving it from the Lord. As the Lord's truth is also the Lord Himself, the man is receiving the Lord. So if he makes the truth his own, he appropriates it, and implied in receiving it genuinely, is the necessity of receiving good at the same time. Thus, he is appropriating good and truth in, from, and of the Lord. This is to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Furthermore, in order to make it his own, the man must understand it. He must chew it over, ruminate upon it, digest it, and absorb it. These operations are accepted metaphors for mental processes (because they are true correspondences from the spiritual world), and here they involve first taking the Lord's truth and good to bits. This chewing, ruminating, and digesting are necessary because we cannot deal with the whole. Understanding involves seeing how the various bits of truth are related to one another, or how general truth can be made of numerous particulars; but the main purpose of digestion is to make possible the absorption of the truth into life. This last must correspond to the synthesis of bodily tissues from the digested food. Its spiritual counterpart is the formation of a new will, or new man, during the process of regeneration. Thus, what is the Lord's is built into the man; but it is clear that it also remains the Lord's. The man is in the Lord and the Lord in him (John 6:56).

486. Now, in spite of regeneration, man remains imperfect. In making the Lord's truth his own he will link it with apparent truths, even with falsities. (This is done with no evil intent, thus not from hypocrisy with deceit such as causes profanation.) Besides such contamination, the man will inevitably link truths together in an imperfect way, so that they do not serve good as well as they might. For example, there may be two truths which can only be associated correctly with the aid of a third, but the man may force them together in a disorderly way. There may also be two other truths which cannot function if the influence of a certain third one is made too strong. (These fairly obvious suppositions are based upon what happens in the building up of proteins from amino acids by living organisms and in the laboratory.)

487. We can now see what may be understood by "his life resembles food." The all of a man's genuine life is from the Lord. This also is the life and the food for angels and the Grand Man. We have already seen how a man can eat the Lord's flesh as he receives instruction. We now see how the angels can do the same as they receive newcomers in the other life, since each newcomer will have something of the Lord which, of course, must be made useful in heaven. For this purpose it must be purified, as described above in AC 5174 through 5175. However, from our knowledge of digestion we can see that the general idea of purification can and should include particulars that correspond; these particulars include what we know of the taking to pieces of large molecules in order that other molecules better suited to the life of the man can be built up.  It is suggested, then, that the digestion of individuals in the other life is a taking to pieces of all those things of the Lord that the individual himself has assembled in an imperfect order. This done, the pieces can be reassembled correctly for the optimum use, and the man in whom they are can find his place and joy in heaven where the use is. 

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