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Human Organic
Lecture Notes by Hugo Lj. Odhner  

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Part 2, Chapter V


A.     The Doctrine of the "Economy"

    Reference reading: Economy of the Animal Kingdom, Vol I., chap iii (nos. 247-3 1 1), on "The Formation of the Chick in the Egg". Psalm 139:13-16.
1.     The formative substance. All things are fashioned in anticipation of their destined uses.(336) The formative substance in the (fertilized) ovum is called by some a plastic force and by Paracelsus the "Archaeus."(337) It is the most perfect and universal substance and force of the body, having a certain kind of omnipresence, foreknowledge, and providence.(338) It represents to itself the state to be formed, and according to its intuition causes flow into their effects.(339) It is the soul which is the life and spirit of this "spirituous fluid."(340) It does not depend on lower degrees, except for its expression.(341) The first cause is this Spirituous Fluid, the second cause is the Purer Blood, and the third cause is the Red Blood.(342)

2.     Stages of formation. The pure fibres of the Spirituous Fluid are first formed, then the vessels of the Purer Blood, and lastly the vessels of the Red Blood.(343) By the Spirituous Fluid the initiaments of the brains and the medullae are first delineated. Then by the medium of the Purer Blood, the primitive heart is provided. Then, by means of the Red Blood, the lungs are brought into existence. Finally the lungs begin to breathe the air, after birth.p. 80



3.     Three general motions are introduced into the body: a) The animation of the brains, on which the action of the Spirituous Fluid depends. b) The systole and diastole of the heart, on which the circulation of the Red Blood depends. c) The respiration of the lungs, on which the circulation of the Purer Blood principally depends after birth, the other dependence being on the animation of the brains.(344)

4.     In fetal life, the brain and the heart coincide as to motions. After birth the brain conjoins itself to the respiration.(345)

B.     The Cell-Theory versus the Fibre-Theory

1.     Swedenborg's philosophy pictures the body as being woven, composed, or organized by "simple fibres", invisible except in their grosser compounds. These fibres proceed like rays of force from the inmost centers of the cortical substances of the nervous system.(346)

    Modern Science, on the other hand, regards the body as a collection or community of cells forming tissues of various kinds by cell division and multiplication. Schleiden and Schwann (c. 1839) started biologists on this concept.

2.     The two theories are not irreconcilable, but view the organism from two different points of view. The presence of nerve-fibres of different types and degrees, of connective tissue fibres, and of various muscular fibres, is sufficiently obvious, and there are also other fibrous processes observable as extended from many types of cells and as active in the building of the cells and tissues of the body. Yet Swedenborg derives the body-structure from invisible centers in the cortical substance; centers the existence of which he deducts by analogy with the visible structures. The heart with its blood vessels thus is but the lower representative of untold "hearts" of a higher degree in the cortex of the  brains, and these "hearts"- the "cortical glands" - are the centers of a circulating fluid of higher type, coursing in the nerve-fibres. Each cortical "gland" has its own corresponding "cortex" in which there are innumerable higher centers which generate the Spirituous Fluid and expel it through "simple fibres". It is these simplest fibrillae that weave the body from the beginning and maintain it in connection and order.

3. Constitution of the Cell. The body is not a collection of independent cells, but a living purposive organism making its own "cells" or units for specialized purposes from parent cells (and in the last analysis from the original germ-cells).

    The cell itself is a community, highly organized. It has a Nucleus which exhibits executive control and contains the hereditary substance and force by which the cell can be regenerated. It has also Cytoplasm consisting of contractible threads and fibres of specific types according to the uses of the cell - a complex chemical factory and store-house for pigments, fats, and cell products, etc. The cell also has a delicate Membrane of selective permeability which acts as a "guard and customs office."(347)

    No part of the cell is a simple substance, but contains fibrillae. The Nucleus contains many different parts and elements - nucleolus, nuclear sap, chromatin strands of definite number, sometimes ordered as "chromosomes" and containing hereditary "genes" of stable pattern and form, reflecting the hereditary character of the individual. The process of cell-division reveals an intricate and mysteriously regular functional organization within the cell.

    From the interior of some cells, fascicles of almost submicroscopic fibrils are extended which form processes or - in nervous tissue - nerve fibres (axons and dendrites). There are indications that the nerve fibrillae may form a network which extends from cell to cell. If so, Swedenborg's philosophical conclusions would be confirmed.p. 82

        Concerning Body Corporeal "Unities".

    AK 532 and notes

         The bodily organs are composed of simples or units. Thus the stomach consists of innumerable simple stomachs (e.g. the glands of secretion), the tongue of several different kinds of units (the taste buds), etc. These "simples" are not simple substances or ultimate units (thus are not "homeomeric" monads 1) but are the feasts of their own souls.

        There is a trine of the cells, the glands, and the organ as a whole. Cf. AK 533. Some go as high as a fourth degree of composition (e.g., Cerebrum. ) AK 533(b).

        Illus: fibres and muscles, air cells and lungs, cortical glands and the papillae of the skin as an organ of touch, etc.

        The unities of society are entire men; and so the units of the muscle are entire muscles (AK 532n).

    Nerve processes interlace intricately and intimately with specific other nerve cells. The gross connections appear to be somewhat similar to the independent yet intimate relationships of Maternal-fetal circulation in the placenta. Whether or not the nerve fibrillae pass from one cell to another has not been established so far as I know. But it is of significance that under the electron microscope these tiny structures appear to be distinctly tubular. From a functional viewpoint the suggestion is that these tubules might well transcend intercellular barriers. - Dr. Robert Alden

    At any-rate, some of the types of cells in the embryo begin to extend from themselves fibrous processes which bind and fix the stationary cells into the various tissues of the body.

4.    Swedenborg does not describe the "cell" proper. But he speaks of the constituent unities of which each tissue is formed. Organic forms are perfect in proportion to the simple forms or unities of which they are composed. The liver is composed of hepatic lobules, the lungs of vesicles, the kidneys of tubules, the stomach of simpler stomachs, the intestines of papillae, the tongue of many different unities (the taste-buds.) These unities are not simples (like atoms or nomads) but are the simplest of their series.(348) Usually the unities ascend to the third components, or form a series of three.(349)



C.     The Formation of the Organs

1.     The use exists before the forms or organs and forms and adapts them to itself.(350)

2.     The spiritual intimately accompanies every stamen and fibre of the body. (351) There is not a fibril, thread, or minutest part where the human of the spirit is not in union with the corporeal human.(352) Human blood is spiritual in its inmosts.(353)p. 83

"No power is implanted in nature...It is the spiritual, deriving its origin from the Sun where the Lord is and proceeding to the ultimates of nature, that produces the forms of vegetables and animals, exhibiting the marvels that exist in both, and filling the forms with matters from the earth that they may become fixed and enduring..." (354)

    The forms of the animal kingdom are all according to the flux of spiritual substances and forces, which flux is in the human form.(355)

3.     Heat is the medium of formation in the egg or in the womb.(356)

4.     The organ is according to the form of its fibres, consequently such is its operation.(357)

5.     "The very forms of man's members, organs, and viscera, as regards the contexture itself, are from fibres arising out of beginnings (principiis) in the brains and becoming fixed by means of such substances and matters as are on the earth, in the air and the ether; which is done by the medium of the blood..." (358) Formation is thus finally effected through the heart and its blood. because these correspond to the will and its love.(359)
    The organs are thus woven out of vessels and fibres, and indeed from vessels and fibres within vessels and fibres, from which originate ducts and lesser forms.(360) The fibres combine into fascicles and form nerves. (361)

    The first rudiments of the human form are thus formed by fibres continued from the brains through the nerves.(362) All these fibres descend through the neck. (363) (Compare, however, the origin of motor-nerves and sensory-nerves.) All the things of the body from head to foot are produced from the fibres going forth from the cortical substances of the brains and spinal marrow. (364)

6.     The cortical substances contain spiritual forms of trinal order which (in the embryo) are the future abode of man's will and understanding. (365)

    These innumerable receptacles of love and wisdom "first exist with man at his conception and initiament in the womb."(366) From them, by what is continuous, are led forth and produced all things of the body; the production of these takes place according to the laws of correspondence; wherefore all things of the body, both internal and external, are correspondences.(367)

7.     The simple fibre. The simplest fibre is the form of forms and contains the proper animal essence or supereminent blood. It weaves all lower compound fibres and vessels.(368) It is the only continuous substantial in the entire body, even in cartilage and bone which have been woven from vessels and fibres.(369) The simple fibre is not from terrestrial origin, but is formed out of the first or universal aura, an aura which is called "celestial" and "perpetually vortical", being the highest form of nature and of celestial mechanics. (370) Hence the simple fibre is immortal. (371) (In the inmost fibres there is nothing solid.)(372)
p. 85

8.     The formation of the embryo in the womb advances by successive and discrete descending degrees, by compoundings, and what is formed grows by continuous degrees, with the aid of nutriment.(373)

9.     The parts that are to come are continually delineated and unerringly projected, so that one is always a plane for another.(374)

10.     First is delineated the cortical substance, as a primitive brain.(375) Therefore in the embryo the head is disproportionately large.(376)

    Then fibres proceed to form the sanguineous vessels of the body, and also "glands" that give rise to "corporeal fibres" which shall lead the simple fibres back to the brain.(377)

    From the blood vessels are projected the first membranes which in time become filaments, ligaments, and tendons. These membranes delineate the rudimentary forms of the organs and the forms of muscles which are formed in them as sheaths. From muscular fibres tendons and cartilages and bones are formed.(378)

        Although muscles, tendons and bones are derived from the same parent cells there is no evidence that muscle cells are able to produce any but muscle cells.- Dr. Robert Alden

D.     The State of the Fetus

1.     In the womb, spiritual things conjoin themselves with natural things.(379) In the womb, the soul is clothed with a body through material substances furnished by the maternal body.(380) This process is called Gestation, and corresponds to that of man's reformation and regeneration. (381) The formation of the embryo is also a "likeness of creation." (382)

    Swedenborg's work on "Generation" shows that the embryo is protected in marvelous ways. The amnion, for instance, acts as a hydraulic shock absorber. The mother cannot be said to act upon the enclosed fetus, for there are no vascular or nervous connectives.(383) The actual red blood corpuscles of the mother are not drawn into the embryo's blood stream, but only the plasma containing the most refined nutritive elements, sometimes described as "spirit" or "spirituous essences." Especially during the first few days after conception, the embryo draws "pure spirit from the blood and fibres." (384) The soul of the embryo (which is derived from the father) utilizes these elements and builds them into its own blood.(385)

2.     The Lord conjoins Himself to man in the womb at conception and forms him. Love and wisdom operate as one in the formation.(386) The embryo is in a state of innocence, and is held within the kingdom of the heart (the celestial kingdom).(387)

3.     There is in the fetus nothing of will and understanding, or any proper life, voluntary action, sensation, or consciousness. Its life is of the Lord alone. (388) The soul of the embryo "represents to itself" that which is yet to be formed as already formed.(389) (This refers to an unconscious instinct implanted by the Creator.)

4.     The motions of the embryo are those of the heart, which beats to circulate the blood, and the liver, which throbs for the reception of nourishment. (390)

    The liver, which is the largest organ of the fetus, receives the nourishment furnished by the placental blood(391) and purifies it, insinuating the purer parts into the veins so that it may flow into the heart by a shorter way. It then acts as a guard before the heart. (392)

    The arterial blood from the placenta (the umbilical vein) passes through the liver, but at a later stage it is partly conducted also through the ductus venosus directly into the vena cava.

    The renal capsules, the office of which is to fix the serum of the purer blood, are especially active in the fetus.(393) Similarly the thymus gland.(394)

    The lungs are being formed by the heart while it is acting alone and are adapted for future conjunction with the heart.(395)

    The bronchial arteries and veins are employed to construct the lungs and form its vessels and air-cells. (I Econ. 363, 364e, AK 409, DLW 405, 413) After birth these blood vessels give independence to the motion of the lungs, so that the lungs can respire non-sychronously with the heart. (DLW 403, 405, cf 407e) They give man the power of breathing. DLW 407e.
p. 88

    The pulmonary arteries and veins give up its blood mainly to the descending aorta, through the ductus arteriosus, which closes up after the lungs begin to function.

    According to DLW 401 and I Econ. 362, 363, no red blood from the pulmonary arteries goes to the fetal lungs, but only "purer blood". The fetal lungs are supplied by red blood from the bronchial arteries.

(A general treatment on the life of the embryo in the womb is given in Generation, especially nos. 359-365, 349-352.)

5.     The fetal circulation. (396) See Diagram.  Consult I Econ., ch. iv., nos. 325-363, especially n. 335.  Read Gray's "Anatomy", 1918, pp. 540-542, or corresponding anatomical description.



    "The embryo man lives by the heart, not by the lungs. For in the fetus the blood does not flow from the heart into the lungs, giving him the faculty to respire; but it flows through a foramen into the left ventricle of the heart. Therefore the embryo cannot then move anything of the body, for it lies bound; nor can it feel anything, for the organs of the senses are closed. It is the same with love or the will, from which it indeed lives, though obscurely, that is, without sense or action. But as soon as the lungs are opened, which takes place after birth (post enixum), then it begins to feel and act and also to will and think." (397)

    Special features of the fetal circulation: 1) The umbilical arteries and veins. 2) The ductus venosus. 3) The foramen ovale. 4) The ductus arteriosus.

        Blood does flow from the heart to some extent; in the absence of which pulmonary development is incomplete. Recent studies indicate that the fetus respires fluid. This is believed to be associated intimately with maturation of the lungs. Ex: where there has been an abundance of fluid exchange in parts of the lungs these remain incapable of gaseous exchange, and "closed."p. 89

Changes at birth: 1 ) The placental circulation through the umbilical vessels is cut off. - 2) The lungs are inflated and the flow of cardiac blood through the pulmonary arteries is vastly increased. 3) The ductus arteriosus contracts and gradually atrophies into a ligament. 4) The hypogastric arteries are turned into a fibrous ligament. 5) The umbilical vein and ductus venosus warp and turn into ligaments. 6) The foramen ovale gradually closes, which is usually completed by the tenth day after birth. -
p. 90

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336 I Econ. 251.

337 I Econ. 253.

338 I Econ. 25758.

339 I Econ. 265.

340 I Econ. 269271.

341 I Econ. 269.

342 I Econ. 272.

343 I Econ. 272.

344 I Econ. 279.

345 I Econ. 280. Why, 281, 282. Objections to the theory considered, 284f. The various motions discussed, 299-306.  The distinction between animation and life,discussed, I Econ. 310, cf 311.

346R. Psych., 1950 ea., p. 322ff.

347 See E. G. White, "Principles of Genetics", St. Louis 1940, and the Upjohn Company's 1958 "A Scope Monograph on Cytology The Cell". Also H.L Odhner's dinged article, "Heredity considered in the Light of Theology and Science".

348 AK 532.

349AK 533.

350 AC 4223, 4926.

351 D.Wis. vii:4.

352D. wis. vii:4.

353 D. Wis. x. 2:6.

354 DLW 340.

355 AE 1208 3. Cf Fibre, nos. 269,270. See above, page 13.

356 D. Love xxi.

357AC 4149:2.

358 DLW 370.

359D. Wis. x 2:7.

360 AC 3347. Descr., DLW 304, 366; HH 212.

361 DLW 367.

362 DLW 388, 400

363 DLW 365.

364 D. Wis. ii:3; Inv. 15.

365 D. Wis. ii; DP 324 :1 l; DLW 366.

366 D. Wis. ii. (1); cf above p. 21.

367 D. Wis. ii. (2), (3).

368 Rat. Psych., 1. The references are to the 1887 edition. In the 1950 version, see pp. 322-325.

369 R. Ps. 2; Periods. 4.

370 R. Ps. 4,5.

371 R. Ps. 6,9.

372 SD 242; See Fibre, ch xv., et passim.

Cf AC 6465, D. Love xi, SD 2477.

374 AC 6491; SD 2477.

375 Perios 4.

376 DLW 365.

377 Perios. 4,6. As to the corporeal fibres, cf AK, ii. nos. 484-530, especially 504-507, 540, and Fibre 168 et seq.

378 Perios. 5,7.

379 D. Wis. iii.

380 DLW 370.

381 D. wis. iv.

382 D Wis. ii:l. See also TCR 583ff.

383 Gener.307

384 Gener 304

385 Gener. 306, 330, 302, 300

386 D. Wis. iii.

387 D. wis. iii: l; AC 4931 3.

388 DLW 407; AC 3887:2; D. Wis. iii.l, 5, 6, iv.

389 Gener.359

390D. Wis.iii.5-

391 AC 10031.

392 AC 5183, cf I Econ.431f.

393 SD 968,1004; AC 5391.394 AC 5172; SD 1049.

395 DLW 402ff, 410; D. Wis. x.7

396 Consult I Econ., ch. iv., nos. 325-363, especially n. 355. Read Gray's Anatomy, 1918, pp. 540542, or corresponding anatomical descnption.

397 DLW 401, cf 407, 410, 412, 413, 415.

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