Lecture Notes by Hugo Lj. Odhner
Part 2, Chapter VIII
THE BODY AS A WHOLE: The Study of Man
The Study of Man:
Modern research has divided man into many unrelated compartments for study, in one of which the whole man can fit. Man has been studied as a mass of matter (biochemistry), as a mechanism (physics, physiology), as an animal (evolution), as a tangle of observable reactions (experimental psychology), as a jungle of instincts (psycho-analysis), as a composite of cells (histology), as a subject of diseases (pathology, medicine, psychiatry, abnormal psychology). Religion has often treated his soul without consideration for his body (asceticism, etc.). Many deny that he has a soul, and few can account for the fact that all the processes and parts which pertain to man are a unified whole - the accessories to his personality. His cells and organs and the elements of his experience are bound into a unity and are subordinated to a distinct and individual end by a creative force or organized power which, in the New Church, we call his Soul or Spirit.
Man cannot be described in terms of any one science or from any one limited viewpoint. Man transcends not only Space but Time. He as a Personality or Individual is not circumscribed by matter. As brought out so powerfully by Dr. Alexis Carrel in his "Man, the Unknown" (445), modern techniques of research "do not grasp things having neither dimension nor weight." (446) That writer also believes that science must extend its data to admit the experiences of "great mystics" and others who have travelled in the almost unknown regions of spiritual or psychological states. Perhaps he includes among these the Biblical writers and seers.
Certainly, Swedenborg was a man whose wide scientific knowledge and fidelity to a scientific method yet allowed him to see Man as a whole and the body of man as a marvelous assemblage of all nature's substances and powers, unified to a central purpose, operating, as to all its powers and parts, in a harmonious rhythm.p. 97
Swedenborg's studies of Man give a universal philosophy of the Human Organic. Yet in order to understand his philosophy we must reap impressions not only from one work or group of works, but from his whole experience; thus both from the "philosophical" works, and from the revealed Writings.
The purpose of the present text is to present Swedenborg's philosophy of Man as an Organism. This includes more than man's natural body. For man is a double being, a spirit clothed with a body. The spirit is not a mere abstraction or a mere process within the body, but is a distinct substance and thus a subject. And being a substantial organism it can be, and is, immortal.
Swedenborg's philosophy of the human form goes farther. It outlines the correspondence of the body of man to the larger human forms of society, and especially enters into- the parallels between the body of man and the heavens considered a kingdom of uses. This correspondence is discussed in chapter IX.
The importance of viewing the body as a whole, lest we be lost in a mass of particulars resulting from modern specialization, is frequently stressed by Swedenborg. The following notes are summaries of his Introduction to a proposed work on the Brain: (447)
a) A sphere of effects: the body proper, the viscera of the abdomen
and the thorax, the organs of motion and the external senses.
2. The sphere of effects: The Body Proper. (451)
The organs of sense are to receive the phenomena
of the ultimate, circumfluous world, and carry to the soul the things which
impinge on the body.
The muscles are therefore placed in the outer parts of the body. The organs of sense are partly places around the whole outer surface of the body (touch), and partly so as to meet particles and modifications of our surrounding world which are conveyed towards them.
For the production of effects, the organs of motion
and sense require blood which is the essence of the sphere of effects.
Blood requires, for its maintenance and renewal, the viscera, by which it is prepared, purified and renovated. The viscera thus receive the food, masticate it, convey it to the stomach, digest it into chyle, perfect this and turn it into blood. Smaller viscera are necessary to introduce, to dissolve menstrua, etc.
Motion is necessary for exciting the organs to their uses: hence the lungs provide such a suitable motion.
Each set of viscera in the body is distinguished by protecting walls of muscle and by sustaining bones. The specific uses of the three sets of viscera are different: The abdomen prepares chyle and blood. The thorax contains the sources of the determinations of the blood (heart) and of motion (lungs). (The heart is also a source of motion). The head contains organs of sense.p. 99
3. The sphere of causes: The Brain and Nervous System.(452)
The brain is called the Common Sensory and the Common
The brain gathers and folds together the fibres which spring from the principles (the cortical glands) and sends them out so as to keep the organs of sense and motion under the intuition and rule of the soul.
It elaborates a certain lymph or kind of purer
blood (called in general "the animal spirits") which is conceived,
worked up, and produced in the cortical substance.
The Brain as a whole is divided into three regions:
The Cerebrum, which presides over voluntary sensations and actions. The Cerebellum, which is set over those sensations and actions which are involuntary or natural, and the Medulla Oblongata and Medulla Spinalis, which preside partly over voluntary and partly over natural sensations and motions, since they consist of fibres from both cerebrum and cerebellum, besides having fibres of its own.p. 100
4. The sphere of ends: The Cortical Gland (453)
Into this sphere penetrates the senses of the body, especially the sense of sight. Out of it flow actions according to the fibres. There also motion and sense are in their beginnings (principles). And there are the first and last termini of the fibres. (The spirituous fluid is elaborated in the "simple cortex" of each gland.)
Each cortical gland is distinguished into three more
"spheres", which are likened to the celestial spheres of the sky.
5. The way to a knowledge of the soul.
Reference reading: Animal Kingdom, Prologue.
The lower spheres of the Body and the Brain must
be studied and understood, before the spheres of the soul can be unravelled.
"From Athens or the Lyceum (the Body?) we have to ascend to Parnassus,
the seat of the seven virgins; and after having tasted the water of its
spring, we may attempt the way to Helicon or to the hall where the soul
dwells. Three shrines are there, and through heaven or the sky only is
there an entrance to the holy of holies; and of what takes place there
our mind can become cognizant only in a universal and not in an individual
manner. Let us therefore take a broad view of the things below, and let
us elaborate doctrines by the aid of which we may be enabled to take a
universal view of the individual things which are around and below. And
thence l et us raise the sight of our mind towards the higher things which
will then be nearer, and let us regard with veneration the heavenly
things which will then meet us, and let us worship things Divine. This
is the analytic ladder which I intend to ascend, well knowing that no other
road to Olympus is granted to human minds." (454)p.