Lecture Notes by Hugo Lj. Odhner
SECTION D OF THE HUMAN ORGANIC NOTES
THE ULTIMATES OF THE BODY
A. THE BONES AND CARTILAGES
The bones of the body may be compared to the rocks
in nature, especially to the sedimentary rocks. They form the basis of
the softer tissues.
Ligaments and muscles connect the bones and hold them together.
The origin and formation of bones and muscles are described in Swedenborgs's work on "The Periosteum". The formation is accomplished by the extension of fibrous sheaths which are gradually infilled with earthy matter. (562)
Swedenborg makes no mention of the function of the marrow in connection with the origin of red blood corpuscles.
Correspondences of the Bones in Civic Society
In the body of civic society, the "bones" are represented by those who are of gross intelligence, set in their social habits and political opinions. Among these are many unskilled laborers, thoughtless, perfunctory, doing routine uses in a machinelike, non-cooperative way without appreciation of the end in view. Their use is to form the skeleton or the firm resisting outline of social action. Their efficiency for mechanical response is easily measured by various mental tests.
A civilization is in danger of producing too many of this external type of ability when it encourages blind loyalties, cut and dried education, hard and fast systems, and uses devoid of creative joy and individual initiative and enterprise; when freedom is limited, reflection is discouraged, and even philosophy is turned into a tiresome science of logical alternatives. The ossification of ideas is one of the dangers in any field thought or learning.
But the protective value of this fulcrum of narrow-minded, bigoted elements is important. They form an opposition to impulsive changes, stabilize all fields of uses. Without that element, society would be in a state of constant ferment, and would be spineless like a jellyfish.
Spiritual Correspondences of the Bones
The province of the Bones in the Grand Man is composed
of spirits whose spiritual thought is sluggish, heavy, and slow. These
are not easily worried with spiritual responsibilities, and have few temptations.
They are in obscurity, yet talk a great deal, but mechanically and without
really knowing what they say.(564) Other spirits speak
through them: they echo the opinions of others.
In general, bones, in a good sense, correspond to
the ultimate Divine truth of the letter of the Word, or the lowest natural
as to truth, which protects interior truths and goods. Hence the Lord said,
"A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have."
(571) No bones were permitted to be broken when
the passchal lamb was eaten. The Lord's bones were not broken on the
cross. (572) Joseph's bones (mummy) were at the
Exodus carried into Canaan and buried there. (573) Eve
was created from the "rib" of Adam. (574)
Bone, because of its sandy texture, particularly stands for scientifics,
or knowledges in the external memory. (575)
B. THE SKIN AND THE HAIR
The skin covers the surface of the body with a protective covering. It therefore forms a means of communication between the microcosm and the macrocosm, and separates the two. (578)
The atmospheres exert a pressure on all points of
the body; the body reacts and an equilibrium results. The atmospheres,
especially the etherial or prior ones, urge all parts of the body to
their center of gravity, giving freedom of locomotion, etc. The
atmospheres also serve by their modifications, making distant objects
present to our senses. The atmospheres communicate to
us their changes of states: heat, moisture and motion, etc. The body
opposes and balances its own states against them. The
atmospheres also nourish and renovate the blood and spirit with elements
sublimated from saline matters, thus with hidden food
they insinuate primarily through the cuticle and the lung-tissue. And
when man has died, the atmospheres and the earth receive
their own back, while the celestial part of nature (the soul and supreme
mind), goes to its own higher sphere. The world only
sustains our bodies. The coverings of skins are for communication with
the world, or for a boundary with the atmospheres.(579)
Cuticle or Epiderm - consisting of
a thick stratified epithelium, it serves to generalize the action of the
interior tissues. It
maintains the connection of the parts lying below or within it. Like
a coat of mail, its scales protect and defend the sensitive
membranes and organs below against the action of the air, against heat,
cold, wind, vapors, and fluids, tempering these
enforced changes of state in itself and breaking their force. In laborers
the cuticle is thick. With Africans the constant action of
the sun's rays is absorbed by the pigments. The cuticle admits simple
and pure elements from the air and ether, but expels
obsolete effluvia, sweats from useless lymph, brine, rancid fats, etc.
It also conjoins the sensations of the single nervous papillae
of the true skin into one sensation, which it blunts or sharpens. The
cuticle has to be framed of contiguous scales, having the vis
inertiae, to serve these uses. (580)
According to Swedenborg(582) the cutis serves as a new source for the fibres and as an end and beginning of the vessels. It contains three types of pores:
1. Diminutive pores which are continuations of the nerve fibres that terminate in the papillae. These are the beginnings of the "corporeal fibres", and suck in purer food elements from the air and ether.(583)All three kinds of pores continue with the blood vessels into the heart and lungs, and the corporeal fibres follow the arteries into the cortical glands. The cutis, with its miniature viscera and intestines, serves as the foster mother of the spirits and as the nurse of the blood.
The tissues of the skin are moved by a systole and diastole synchronous with the pulse.(585)
Thus the fibres springing up in the brain again commence anew in the cutis, returning in a gyre to their principles in the cortical glands and thence run forth again with their parent fibres in an everlasting circle. (586)
All the successive interior degrees are present in the skin in simultaneous order: nerves, blood, flesh, skin, and even horny nails. These correspond to the ultimates of all the various heavens. (587)
The various layers of the skin may be compared to the four coverings of the Tabernacle of Israel. The innermost curtain (with its guardian cherubs) is like the papillary layer with its tactile corpuscles which guard the entrance to the body itself.(588)
Correspondences of the Skin
The cuticle represents spirits who do not perceive or discriminate what is true or good, but go no further than arguing whether this or that be so. They remain in externals.(589) Those who are easily persuaded by others and then are most stubborn in their opinion. (590) Those who are in generals of faith, and exercise charity without discrimination. These are easily led astray by deceits and hypocrisies. The sensual. (591) Those who love to talk without understanding.(592) The simple. (593)
The papillary skin corresponds to societies at the entrance of heaven who perceive the quality of spirits at their first approach and who admit or reject them. (594) The ducts of the skin which serve for the absorption of ethereal chyles correspond to the office of introducing infants and little children into the gyre of heaven without their having to go through the states represented by the digestive process. (595)
A great many of the spirits from our earth belong to the province
of the skin, "because our planet is in externals and also, like
The skin of various parts of the body takes a correspondence according to the use it serves. Spirits of the skin of the chest are easily persuaded by simulated mercy, those of the skin of the genitals by simulated Conjugial love. (601)
Spirits of the province of the cuticle are obsessing spirits. An undue care of the complexion opens the way for these spirits who inflow with a distaste for doing anything real and a repugnance against one's uses. They also insinuate flippancy towards morals and religions, inculcate a love of delicate living and flattery, and the placing of wisdom in elegant refutations of truth. Such cuticular spirits also cause a type of deafness.(602) Certain sirens act as cuticular spirits.(603)
Among the spirits of the skin are also included literalists. (604) philosophers devoid of common sense;(605) and those signified by Hebrew servants, who can be reformed but not regenerated, and therefore can perform only menial uses in the other life.(606)
In a supreme sense, the skin corresponds to the external of the Word.(607)
Correspondence of the Hair and the Nails
The Hair supremely represents the Divine ultimates. (608) It also corresponds to the Word in its ultimates (609) and is sometimes described(610) as 'white as snow'; (611) and to the Divine Providence in its ultimate operation. (612) Angels who love the Word in its ultimates appear bearded (613) and the power of the literal sense is represented by Samson's hair, Absalom's hair, and the hairy garments of some prophets.
Hair represents the formalities and courtesies of
natural life, and to comb and pull the hair signifies to accommodate natural
things so that they are becoming and appropriate.(614)
C. THE MUSCLES
The skeleton is clothed and covered, except in a
few places, by flesh, which is made up of muscles in sheathings called
fascia. Muscle tissue is directly responsible for bodily movements, but
it also serves for protection, etc. The muscles are either
attached between two bones, as e.g. the biceps, or they occur in broad
sheets partly encircling a cavity, as e.g. the diaphragm
and the sphincter muscles. The arteries and veins and the walls of
the alimentary canal have muscular linings: and the heart and
some other organs consist mostly of muscular tissue. Such tissue occurs
also elsewhere in the body, as in the skin, the eye-ball,
Swedenborg, in the Writings, illustrates the doctrine
of "discrete degrees" by the muscle which consists of very minute fibrils
which are fasciculated into motor fibres, while these again are bundled
into muscles. (622) In the minutest fibres there is
solid. (623) The motor fibre consists of blood vessels
and nervous fibres. (624)
All the muscles which encompass the body - the skeletal
muscles - "take their fibres for the most part from the cerebrum". From
these man has sense and voluntary motion. But the viscera receive fibres
from the cerebellum; hence man has no conscious
sensation of them nor are those parts at the disposal of his own will.
(628) The things of the heart and the cerebellum are
involuntary and spontaneous, but the things of the lungs and the cerebrum
are called voluntary. (629)
The will together with the understanding moves the muscle. (636) The heart and the lungs are the two fountains of all natural movements in the body. (637) Voluntary actions depend on the lungs.(638) Still the heart is the prime agent in producing movements and the lungs the prime agent in producing sensation.(639)
Swedenborg labored long to explore how the will causes bodily movements by means of the fibres and how the lungs cooperated, but realized that it was "better simply to know that the will flows in..."(640)
Correspondences of Flesh and Muscle
Supremely, the flesh corresponds to the Lord's Divine
good or Divine Proprium, as in the Holy Supper. (641)
and to the
ultimates of the glorified Human. (642)
The structure of the muscles corresponds to that of the mind.(651) Also to the order of scientifics in the memory.(652) (The spiritual body is closely related to the memory.(653)) Also to the order of societies of spirits in the other life.(654)
All movements and actions correspond to the things which man thinks and wills.(655)
Correspondence of the Muscles in the Civic Society
While those answer to the bones who are stupid, ignorant, and set in their opinions, those answer to the muscles who are practical and active, and do much of the world's work. But efficiency is often overrated and the "red-blood" hero belongs to adolescence. Society can become musclebound, if it is insisted that only those things are useful which are of immediate practical use. The philosophy of "pragmatism" would judge all truth not from rational perception but on its value as a working theory . It would tolerate religion because it was in demand - true for some. It would be averse to the idea of anything being true in itself.
The muscles cannot rule the body, but must be directed by the brain. All uses in society must be directed by those in the perception of good ends and true means.