Think Tank
Contact Us
Other Links

Human Organic
Lecture Notes by Hugo Lj. Odhner  

Go to Next Chapter
or Go to Table of Contents

Part 4, Chapter III

(General reference reading: 2 Econ. 100109)


    The "cortical glands" are described in Swedenborg's physiological works as situated like clusters of grapes at the termini arteries extending into the cortical substance (or gray matter) of the brain. (1411a)
    Each "cortical gland" was a center of the circulation of the "animal spirit" and thus acts as a heart and lungs in miniature, or on a superior plane. It is also the origin of fibres, as the heart is the origin of the bloodvessels.
    But as to form, the cortical gland is a miniature brain, with corresponding parts.

    Arguing from this analogy, Swedenborg concludes (1412)  that in each gland (which is conceived as a spherule) there are a simple cortex, a minute ventricle, and a pure medullary substance which as partly fibrous and partly vascular. (See our Diagram)
    In the "pure cortex" or "simple cortex" is conceived the "substance of the soul" (1413)  which is the Economy is called the "spirituous fluid" and in the "Fibre" is called the "purest blood". (The generic term "animal spirit", used by Swedenborg's contemporaries, is sometimes applied to the "spirituous fluid", but usually refers to the middle blood, the "purer blood" which in turn contains the spirituous fluid.)

    The spirituous fluid is distilled in each of the innumerable "simple corticles" which together compose the simple cortex of the gland; and it is thence determined through "simple" fibres which proceed from these simple corticles. (1414)
    Most of the simple fibers terminate in the chamber of the gland, carrying to this cavity the finest essences of nature, the spirituous fluid. But some of the simple fibres instead form a medullary fibre by compounding. One such medullary proceeds from each of the cortical glands into the medulla of the brain. (The modern equivalent of this "medullary fibre" would thus be the axone of the cortical cell, which forms the axis cylinder process within the medullated nerve fibres.)

    The simple fibre projected by the simple cortex is conceived by Swedenborg as so exalted in type that it "flashes like a ray of the soul's intellectual light"(1415) Within it "flashes" the substance of the "soul", i.e, the spirituous fluid.(1416) This simple fibre flashes sinuously in a vortical gyre, thus forming a little canal which constitutes a continuation of the gland and is called the medullary fibre.(1417)

    The spirituous fluid, derived from the finest aura of nature, is of the celestial or perpetuo-vortical form: and the same holds true of their constituent units which make up the simple fibre. The simple fibre itself is of the vortical form (such as is the magnetic vortex around the globe). The medullary fibre is said to be of the spiral form.(1418)

    The simple fibre weaves all the organic structures of the body. There is nothing substantial or animate in the body except this fibre.(1419) It is imperishable and thus immortal(1420)

    (General References: AS ch. viii; OPS, ch. II, ch. III)
    Each cortical gland receives from the arteries certain "arterial vessels" The tunicles of these "arterial vessels" are formed by the "corporeal fibres" which have constituted the inmost tunic of the arteries. The corporeal fibres, having reached the gland, ramify to form the vascular substance of the medulla of each gland.(1421) They also form a network amongst the glands(1422) Thus the cortical glands are likened to grapes which hang by stems from the arteries, or from the sides or coatings of "their parent arteries".(1423)

    The Corporeal Fibres originate in glands formed by terminations in the simple fibres and located under the cuticle of the skin as well as in the stomach, the lungs, and elsewhere.(1424) These glands not only exhale effluvia from the body, but also absorb "fresh effluvia from the bosom of the atmospheres or ether".(1425)
    The corporeal fibres, proceeding form their subcutaneous or "miliary' glands on the surface of the body, convey this fresh effluvia which is described as "etherial salts". They follow the veins to the heart, constituting an outer coating of the veins. In the heart these corporeal fibres reverse their position and become the constituants of the inmost coat of the arteries. As such they pass to the brain through branches of the carotids.
    The "arterial vessel" which passes from the arteries to each cortical gland, is composed of these corporeal fibres, which are called "vascular stamens" AS 11, 12.

    The red blood itself does not pass to the cortical glands.(1426) But in the finest arterial branches the red corpuscles are resolved, and the "white blood" is released.
    This "white blood" is otherwise called the Purer Blood or the Animal Spirit.(1427)  It is described, on Leeuwenhoek's evidence, as pellucid, planooval particles, of which six were observed to constitute the red blood corpuscle. (1428)

    When the red blood is ruptured or resolved, these corpuscles of the purer blood are freed by the grosser saline elements in the capillaries near the cortical (1429)  The purer blood then-enters the glands through the "exsanguinous vessels,"(1430)  i.e., the "arterial vessels."

    In modern anatomy, this would probably mean that a certain amount of lymph is absorbed from the blood stream by the dendrites of the cortical cells, which seem to have a close resemblance to what Swedenborg here describes. (1431)

          Histology in Swedenborg's day was such that it is conceivable that several structures might have been mistaken for connections between blood vessels and nerve cells, among them dendrites, processes of various supporting cells probably not known to Sw. (I'll have to look this up sometime). - Dr. Robert Alden

    But the "vascular stamens" or "corporeal fibres" carry no other fluid than such as is drawn from the atmospheres, thus purest aliment only intended for the formation of the "animal spirit" which is to be formed in the cortical gland.(1432)  Each cortical gland contains:

1.     The Simple Cortex, containing innumerable simple corticles from which simple fibres proceed, which join to compose the cortical gland. (1433)1433 The position of this "Purer Cortex" in the inmost recesses of the gland (1434)  is not clearly specified by Swedenborg. In the Rational Psvchology, it is called the "Pure Intellectory."(1435)

2.     The Medulla or medullary substance, consisting of

a)     Simple fibres proceeding from the simple corticles;
b)    Vascular stamens of corporeal fibres which ramify throughout the structure.
3.     The Chamber or the gland - a cavity which cannot be seen by histologists because it collapses at death(1436) - contains an intrusion of vascular substance, a plexus- of corporeal fibres which would correspond to the choroid plexus in the ventricles of the cerebrum.

    This vascular substance distills into the cavity an atmospheric "chyle" - a copious volatile substance drawn from the ether(1437)  which is described as consisting of fine saline and sulphureous elements and effluvia, including "exhalations of magnetic substances" and disease breeding poisonous spheres. These etherial "salts" also assist to produce heat in the blood.(1438)

    I find it impossible at present to conceive of a scientific counterpart to the cortical gland.- Dr. Robert Alden

    Nourishment drawn into the "purer blood which by some is called the animal spirit" corresponds to man's mental states; with a spiritual man the purer blood is thus constantly purlfied and thus the red blood also; yet no one can test the interior quality of the blood by any experiment.(1439)
    The existence of spheres is noted in the Writings as exuding from all substances in both worlds.(1440)  Such spheres not only are absorbed by the purer blood, but serve to conjoin conjugal ?(ial?See context) partners.(1441)


1.     First Resolution of the Blood:

    Each of the three bloods have a distinct circulation.(1442)   There is a perennial circulation of "purer blood" or "animal spirit" through each cortical gland. The latter is therefore likened to a tiny heart.(1443)

    When the red blood corpuscles are resolved in the arterioles of the gray substance of the brain, the plano-oval globules (or pellucid particles) pass through the "arterial vessel" into the cavity of the cortical gland, leaving behind all the grosser angular particles or aqueous and aerial salts as well as the ordinary serum of the blood. Even water-particles seem to be too "hard" and gross to be admitted to the gland. The rejected part of the serum, laden with the grosser salts, find their way between the fibres and thus seep through the cortex of the brain.(1444)

    The liberated globules of the "purer blood" thus enter the gland's cavity alone, except for a vary fine serum suitable to carry them. The rhythmical animation and constriction of the gland is what attracts and expels the current of fluid.(1445)

    If this were so it would seem to me grossly to interfere with known principle of fluid, gaseous and electrolyte exchange between blood and tissues. - Dr. Robert Alden

2. Formation of "Animal Spirit":

    The special chemical function of the cortical gland is the production of "animal spirit". This blood is composed in the cavity of the gland, from two constituents: a) It is conceived by the spirituous fluid which flashes out from the simple fibres terminating at the surface of the cavity. b)- It is born, or clothed, by the etherial salts and effluvia exuded from the plexus of corporeal fibres which extends into the cavity.(1446)  Its formation and structure is-analogous to those of the blood, and can be known only by analogy.(1447)

    The quality of the "animal spirit" or "purer blood" depends largely on that of the fixative effluvia which it absorbs.(1448)l448

    In sleep, the cortical substances collapse or constrict, so that the arterial blood does not approach near the cortical glands. But the corporeal fibres then pour in their etheriaI chyle more abundantly, and the influx of spirituous fluid continues unabated, so that the gland is fully devoted to the manufacture of new animal spirit (1449)

3.     Renovation of the Purer Blood:

    The purer blood which enters the gland may be renovated by the substitution of new ingredients in the little chamber of the gland. It may break up, and form new combinations. New plano-oval corpuscles may be formed with fresh spirituous fluid; or new etherial elements may be added. Or there may be a  [UNFINISHED  ORO]


4.     Resolution of the Purer Blood:

    For the constituent spirituous fluid may leave the purer-blood corpuscle and penetrate to the subtlest region of the gland, viz., to the celestial corticles (1450)  while the etherial salts which bound the spirituous fluid units together into pellucid particles, find their ways into the surrounding tissues and eventually pass down through the interstices between the medullary fibres into the cerebral ventricles or into the nerves. (1451)

5. The Medullary or Compound Fibre:

    The revitalized purer blood, now definitely called "animal spirit", leaves the gland for its uses in the brain and body through a small canal which Swedenborg names the medullary fibre. This leaves the gland on the side opposite from that on which the purer blood had entered.
    The medullary fibre is compound: Its tunic is constructed by the continuous flow of simple fibres, each originating from a special center in the "simple cortex" of the cortical gland.(1452)
    A part of the medullary fibres are the units from which the nerves are formed, and thus pass through the medulla of the cerebrum and to various terminations in the head or body, conveying their spirit thither.
    But the greatest part terminate in the anterior ventricles of the cerebrum, and empty their spirit there, where it is mixed, copulated and tempered with the liquid exuding from the choroid plexuses. This ventricular fluid, rich in spirits, is then conveyed through foramina into the third ventricle into which it is drawn by the rolling action of the corpora striate, the thalami, the pineal gland and other parts; and then it is directed through the infundibulum towards the pituitary gland. In this its passage the fluid is filtered and separated. The more spirituous essence penetrates the pituitary gland, the rest pass around it. By various ways, aided by the vibrations of the bony structure at the base of the brain, the spirit is poured into the venous sinuses and is taken down through the jugular veins into the vortex of the heart. (1453)

    There is real evidence that the ventricular fluid is not drawn but forced by a pressure gradient from the choroids, thru the ventricular system to the venous sinuses. It is hard to see how the passage would be aided by "bony vibrations."     - Dr. Robert Alden
        Other parts of the "purer blood" are derived from the cortical substances of the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata and the medulla spinalis, and are also absorbed into the nerves and eventually into the blood.
    In the veins approaching the heart, the spirit meets first with the serum of the blood' then with the chyle from the mesentery which pours out through the chyle duct, and then with lymph from the right lymphatic duct. In the heart it then mingles with the "aerial chyle" (oxygen, etc.) absorbed by the lungs.
    From all these aliments, the units of the purer blood or animal spirit may be built up or compounded into red blood corpuscles of a lower degree. But soon the "circle" of the purer blood is completed for the blood ascends again into the head and is resolved in the arterioles of the cortex of the brain, the pellucid globules being returned into the chamber of the cortical gland.

    Note: The general circulation of the "purer blood" is referred to in the Writings.(1454)  As to the circulation of the purer or white blood in the embryo, see I Econ. 365. As to the flow of the ventricular fluids and various derivative lymphs, see AC 4050 and our Notes in section D, pages 59-63.


1. The Writings describe the cortical glands as star-like forms, (1455)  innumerable as the stars of the sky and comparable to the societies of the angelic heavens. (1456)

Each gland is said to be twinned, having relation both to love and to Wisdom. (1457)

2. In the physiological works, Swedenborg does not mention any physical organism superior to the simple or "celestial" corticles or "purer cortex".

In the work on the Brain,(1458)  each cortical gland is said to be distinguished into three "spheres" which are devoted to the operations, respectively, of the soul (or spirit), the rational mind, and the animus (or imagination).

3. In the Writings, however, the spiritual forms of the "substances which are the receptacles of love and wisdom" in man are said to "ascend to the third degree." (1459)  Such a trinal order is also suggested in the description of the spiritual "initiament" of the human form which is in the seed and which contains three spiritual degrees for the three degrees of man's mind, the Celestial, the Spiritual, and the Natural; the lowest or the natural degree being perverted from heredity. (1460)  Since the physiological works consistently teach that evil can affect the simple corticles as well as the cortical glands and the brain as a whole, it would follow that these three organisms are the bases of man's natural mind, that is, of his spiritual-natural or
ultimate spiritual degree, which is pervertible in man while on earth. (1461)


Go to Next Chapter
or Go to Table of Contents

1411b Fibre 171.

1412 AS 8,9.

1413 AS 9.

1414 Fibre 524, 249.

1415 Fibre 251, 259, 291 A.S. 9.

1416 Fibre 254, Cf Fibre299.

1417 Fibre 300.

1418 Fibre 275,266,266a, and b.

1419 Fibre 314, R. Ps. 2.

1420 Rat. Ps. 6, 9 (Note that in the 1950 translation of Rational Psychology, these references are found in the appendix, pp. 322-325.)

1421 Fibre 182-187, 170, 171, AS 11, 12.

1422 Fibre 172-180.

1423 Fibre 171.

1424 R. Ps. 1, AS 12.

1425 Fibre 184.

1426 2 Econ. 126.

1427 AS 14.

1428 AS 6; I Econ. 101; 2 Econ. 122.

1429 2 Econ. 124. 48

1430 Fibre 310;AS 14. Neurology~sthed-'p

1431  See Herrick, Intr. to

1432 AS 12

1433 R. Ps. ;950 ea., 1, 124-26, 464, 174; Fibre ch. XV.

1434 Fib. 254.

1435 R. Ps. 424.

1436 2 Econ. 124,125.

1437 AS 12; I Econ. 36, 53, 55, 92

1438 I Econ. 83.

1439 W. 420, 423. Confer Div. Wis. x. 6e.

1440 TCR 499, 410; DLW 291- 293; SD 3339; AC 10130:2.

1441 CL 171.

1442 See I Econ.148, 325-44,359-70; Fibre 320-27

1443  2 Econ.132, 305.

1444  AS 14, 2 Econ. 126, 128-131

1445 AS 14.

1446 Fibre 186; AS 2,5,8.

1447 AS 6.

1448 Fibre 373, 473. How the state of man's mind affects the purer blood, see DLW 420, 423.

1449 Brain 79; Fibre 427; I Econ. 58. See also above section D.

1450 2 Econ. 122,127.

1451 2 Econ. 130,131; I Econ. 150.

1452 Fibre 249. 279

1453 I Econ. 360; AS 9.

1454 See SD 914-15, 830, 831, 1130; DP 296: 14; WE 3435 (2/1809). Cf AC 5180.

1455 W 316

1456 W 366

1457 D Wis. v.2, iii.2

1458 Brain n. 7.

1459 D. Wis. v.2, ii, iii, 2.

1460 W 432, 239; D. Wis. iii, 4.

1461 W. 345. Compare Fibre 371-76, and Rational Psychology473, 470, 471.

Go to Next Chapter
or Go to Table of Contents