Lecture Notes by Hugo Lj. Odhner
Part 4, Chapter IV
THE BRAIN AS THE BASIS OF THE MIND
1. In his early investigations, Swedenborg proceeded from the promise that the "soul" which survived death was physical and geometrical; in other words, a mechanism.(1462) The intellectual mind he placed in the highest physical organism, later called "the simple cortex".
In the "Economy" be continued to cling to the concept that the "spirituous fluid" (formed from- the first aura of nature) could adequately answer as a description of the Soul.(1463) But by degrees he also recognized that there was in man a faculty prior to the intellectual mind and distinctly superior to it, - a faculty which alone deserved the name of 'the soul', but which is indescribable in words. In thus speaking of the soul as superior to the mind, he realized that he was departing- from the accepted usage of the term "soul" (psyche).(1464)
In the "Fibre" He clearly shows that the spirituous fluid was only the purest blood, and that while this was indeed immortal because of its origin in the inmost of nature, yet considered as to its life-essence [ ... ] the "Soul properly so called" is of spiritual form and essence. (1465) As such- it is superior even to the purest blood and the simple fibre.(1466) In fact "the spiritual form is the Soul, but the primitive cortices are of the celestial form" (i.e., the highest mechanical form, which is the perpetually vortical).(1467) In the Rational Psychology the soul is therefore defined as immaterial, and as above the purest blood.(1468)
2. Because of this development of his views, Swedenborg, in the latter parts of the Rational Psychology, temporarily set aside his Economy doctrine, which rested man's immortality on the perfection and indestructibility of the spirituous fluid and the simple fibre. Instead he theorized on the possibility that the surviving soul was purely spiritual, and that the "pure intellectory" (or simple cortex) - while surviving death for a time - would eventually be consumed by the subtle fires of the Last Day.(1469) By thus modifying his constant doctrine which he had taught even in an early draft of The Fibre(1470) he suggested a way to rationalize the orthodox teachings of the Church of his day.
3. Swedenborg had always seen the natural organics of the Brain as the basis of man's mental life. If now these organics should all perish, it would mean that the spirit would lose not only external sensation, but also imagination and memory and even all rational thought, and could enjoy only an intuitive intelligence. This was obviously insufficient. And therefore the Economy doctrine was gradually restored. In the Writings it is taught that the corporeal memory of men is retained after death, but is not used. It becomes quiescent, is not alterable or augmented by new experiences, but remains as a fixed plane. It cannot change in any essential determination, because it rests upon a natural basis or physical substratum which is called a "border" (limbus) and described as a cutaneous envelope for the spirit.
4. This limbus seems to answer in a general way to the "spirituous fluid" and simple fibre which the Economy held as immortal, or to the "pure intellectories" which are said (in the Rational Psychology) to be of the "celestial" or the highest natural form.
The Brain and the Mind: Notes from the Writings:
"The human mind is organized inwardly from (of) spiritual substances and outwardly from natural substances, and finally from material things...."(1471)l. The Brain is affected as a whole by all sensations, and is therefore called the Common Sensory.(1487) It is specifically called the "external sensory"; and its form is called "spiraL"(1488) Yet in the "crown" of the cerebrum, the cortical glands perceive the sensations most distinctly.(1489)
The changes induced upon the brain and its medullary fibres, are felt as "sensations."(1490) They may be described as
images, objects, modes, modulations, or words (voces).(1491) The sensations depend on the animation of the brain.(1492)
The sensory impulses conveyed by the fibres cause the surfaces of the cortical glands to quiver and the resulting modifications affects both the fibrillar and the vascular parts of the gland, "disposing the little sensories to receive a modification similar to its own.-"(1493) Thus the soul within the gland is the real cause of sensory perception.
The change of state of the brain as a whole does not cause any internal changes in the cortical glands, but only affect their external state, their fibrillary connections, mutual relations, and blood supply.(1494)
Sensation does not imply any "physical influx". "It is according to all appearance that the external senses, such as sight and hearing, inflow into the thought and excite ideas there; for it appears that objects, and also speech, more the senses, first the external, then the internal But this appearance, however strong it is, is nevertheless inflow and move the internal, which is pure and spiritual: this is contrary to nature. It is the internal sense, or the sense of the spirit itself, which senses through the external sense and disposes the external sensory to receive the objects according to its pleasure (suos nutus); wherefore also the sensories, such as the sensory of sight or the eye, accommodate themselves in a moment to all the objects according to their quality; which would not exist in the sensory unless there were an influx from the interior. For all the fibres and appendages which are very-numerous around every sensory or organ of sense, are in an instant determined suitably to the quality of the object. Yea, a conforming state is in a moment imparted ' to the organ itself...."(1495)
2. The Animus: The "life of the sensations"
is called the Animus.(1496) The Animus therefore
finds its organic basis in the Brain as a whole. The Animus (or lower-mind)
is also described as "the form of the material ideas of the common sensory"
and their affections; and also as "the beginning of the mutations of the
body"(1497); and it is a form whose essential
determinations are all those affections which flow in from the body
and the world through the senses.(1498)
C. IMAGINATION, MEMORY. AND RECOLLECTION(1499)
1. Imagination is evoked by an active state
of the corticals or by a general state induced on the cortical glands.(1500)
The cortical glands, which are all different, are called "internal sensories."(1501)
2. Memory is the permanence of the states induced upon the sensory, and all that is imagined remains as a memory. Recollection is the reproduction of these mutations.
3. Memory is of no use: without imagination.
Imagination depends both on the internal and the external state of the
gland. The external state depends on its connection with other glands
by means of delicate fibrous threads and arterial
ramifications.(1504) The internal state is
determined from the simple cortex Many aptitudes and temperamental genius
- which usually depend on the imagination - come from a hereditary (or
acquired) from of the gland. (1505)
4. Since imagination involves changes of state on the part of the cortical glands, phantasies and manias and fanatical notions occur if the glands come into a state of rigidity.(1508) Imagination vacillates and is poisoned with insanities, if the purer blood passing through the gland is obstructed by heterogeneous particles, for then the gland is stimulated into other states than those induced by sensations. Drunkenness in an instance of this.(1509)
5. The Animus and the imagination depend on the state of the purer blood and the medullary fibres, the diseases of which are passions of the animus, such as anger, jealousy, melancholy, haughtiness, and also timidity, forgetfulness, etc.(1510) These passions may have purely physical causes, or they may be the results from perversions of the intellectual mind; they may be removed by social life and moral philosophy, or even by drugs.
The purer blood attracts to itself such food as corresponds
to the state to the animus or the character. It is therefore different
in good and evil men, as to its interior composition.(1511)
1. The Pure Intellectories.
The higher intellectual processes and affections
have their organic seat in the simple cortex. They depend on the
internal state of the corticles. The gyre of our reason consists in a like
state within all the corticles.(1513) Each
simple corticle is therefore
called a pure intellectory, and the mental function seated in:
it is named the pure intellect. This is the same in the embryo and
man and in the wisest sage and the idiot.(1514)
It is present in the seed(1515) and carries
the paternal heredity.(1516)
2. The Pure Intellect
3. The Rational Mind
An internal change of state in the cortical gland
causes only an external change of state of the pure intellectories; but
intellectory, by use and experience, perceives the meaning of the change
and by concurring produces for itself a corresponding idea of the pure intellect.(1532)
The Rational Mind is called the Mixed Intellect, because its thought derives much from the Imagination of the Animus, and thus is impure.(1537) It contains fallacies, errors of sense and deduction, and ignorance.(1538)
In order to be free, the rational mind originates no affections, but is the focus of influx for the "instincts" that flow down from the "Superior Mind" (or the mind of the Spirit, called the "spiritual mind") through the Pure Intellectory, and for the cupidity that is from the Animus. (1539) All the affections of the Rational Mind are thus acquired by rational consent, and become moral virtues or vices. (1540) This mind is the man himself (1541) and the "body of the soul" (i.e., the embodiment of the spirit.)(1542)
The quality of the Soul or spirit of man is determined in the Rational Mind.(1543)
[Unknown text - ORO]
What is thought and what are its physical aspects in man's organism ?
Necessity of a "Pure Intellect" or Faculty of Understanding. (?See HLO
The Human Mind, 1969, middle of p. 59, for
Gestalt theory of mental experience The general effect I get of the
evidence produced under the name of this theory is that
Note the truth in this. The mental experience is discrete from the experience of the cortical cells and their connections. The whole mind partakes in the producing or educing of meaning. The same experience can produce entirely different meanings ! depending on the connections and the state of the mind.
[Each sensation is a modification of the whole state of mind.]
4. The Pure Intellectory in its relation to Actions. The cortex of the Brain is a common motory. Action is caused by its expansion and contraction, whereby it expels its spirit through the fibres.
In sleep, or when no rational will precedes, the actions flow directly from the pure intellect. This is instinctive action and is unconscious.(1547)
In somnambulism, the simple cortex and the simple
fibre are obstructed by vital fluids, which causes a "sleep of thought"
while the imagination is still active.(1548)
5. The Pure Intellectory as carrier of paternal
heredity. Paternal heredity is from the father and is the inmost determinant
human form of the offspring.(1550)
Maternal heredity is external. The mother furnishes all the external forms for the use of the soul, thus the clothing form the pure intellectory; and she also influences the states of the cortical glands of the developing embryo(1554) The Animus of the infant at birth therefore has a mixed genius derived from both the parents.(1555)
6. The Pure Intellectories and the Animus.
At birth, the Animus is a "pure natural mind", being entirely subject to
7. Perversions of the Spirituous Fluid. The "purest blood" (or spirituous fluid) determines the simple fibre and raises up the cortical substances in which the rational mind operates. If this purest blood is diseased or, more properly, if its state is perverted, the affections of the mind will be selfish loves, hatreds, vain ambitions, with phantasies, hallucinations, and: insanities such as spring from vices and from a lack of conscience. This state (which may be hereditary) can be cured only by self-restraint through the acceptance of discipline, instruction, and religion.(1562) But these remedies must be accompanied by a restoration of the purer blood or nervous juice into a proper state so that the passions of the animus are lulled.(1563)
1. The Soul, or spirit, is of spiritual essence
and form, immaterial', without extension, motion,. or. parts, yet has analogues
parts and of ' extension and motion.(1564)
It consists of spiritual substances.(1565)
2. The Soul has a Spiritual Mind which is Pure Intelligence. Its ideas are not natural but spiritual ritual truths, and its science is not philosophical but metaphysical, pneumatical and theological.(1567)
3. All souls are alike as to their state (or faculty) of intelligence.(1568) But as to the reception of wisdom (or goodness) all are different, and diabolical souls hate the truth although they have perfect intelligence.(1569)
The mind of the spirit ("the spiritual mind") is formed from the loves which inflow from God through His Spirit by means of the Word and from heaven and the celestial society of souls.(1570) Evil souls would be formed by the deliberate rejection of these loves. In man's soul, there can be no infinite love.(1571)
This spiritual mind (or, more properly, this mind of the spirit) is thus the source not only of the virtues but also of the vices which are the essential determinations of the human mind.(1572) Evil loves in the soul are propagated by heredity.(1573)
Since all souls (spirits whether good or evil. are purely spiritual forms. even an evil spirit is purely a spirit or purely a mind and has loves which are purely spiritual. in the sense that they are universal and supereminent. containing the principles of all lower or purely natural loves.(1574) (In the Writings, these are generally called ruling loves). Good and evil loves enumerated, R. Ps. 433, et seq.
The soul is also to diseases, but these are more properly called Guilt, caused by essential changes of state.(1575)
4. The Soul cannot change after death. In the natural world the soul (spirit) is in process of being formed of reformed into a good or evil state, determined in freedom, by means of the conscious rational mind.(1576)
F. AFTER-DEATH FUNCTIONS OF THE "SPIRITUOUS FLUID"
1. The highest organic substance of the natural
body is called the Spirituous Fluid, or the Purest Blood. This is immortal,
and is at death released "from the bonds and trammels of earthly things."(1577)
2. Because the spirituous fluid is a formative substance, it generates simple cortices (or pure intellectories) and simple fibres. These are - like itself - of the "celestial" form, and are not affected by death. Since it is the immortal basis of the Soul (or spirit, which is above nature and purely spiritual), the surviving man or angel is called "celestial" as to nature, and "spiritual" as to 1ife.(1582)
3. The Spirituous Fluid is not essentially mutable. It differs from the first aura is inanimate, and relapses into its natural state when a force has acted upon it, the spirituous fluid retains any impressions which it has received. This is the natural basis of Memory, enabling that fluid to "know" what happens in its body, and retain it forever.(1583)
This fluid can undergo infinite varieties of "accidental" mutations in inconceivable variety and in greatest perfection.(1584) But it suffers no essential mutations or any injuries which might diminish its physical perfection, its motion, or its essential determinations. Nothing can be permitted to pervert its formative action. For since it is the formative fluid and the carrier of the paternal conceiving power, being the essence of the human seed, its perversion would result in the degeneration of the race into one of monsters.(1585)
But this fluid can be essentially altered in respect to its reception of the life and wisdom. This is termed a superior essential mutation.(1586) Thus the spiritual character of man is confirmed. And as to this every man is different. Every such change in the body or the mind derives its origin from some superior essential mutation in the spirituous fluid.(1587)
4. Superior essential mutations in the spirituous fluid are the results of free choice. In such matters as it has come to know by instruction, the Mind. which holds the balance between the Soul and the Animus determines by free choice how the body is to act.(1588) But in spiritual matters, or where ends are concerned, the Mind is acted upon by the Soul. The moral differences and harmonic varieties which exist even among the angels, are due to "superior essential mutations" of the spirituous fluid.(1589)
In every case, choice, which determines those mutations, is exercised in the rational mind.(1590)
5. These essential mutations in the spirituous fluid may be conceived by analogy. as "least and imperceptible lines or pores" or "delicate deliniations" in the (unites of the ) spirituous fluid; which adapt this substance for the reception of life and wisdom.(1591) Yet these changes of state inscribed on the vital fluid are only the more general, compared to the changes of state within the spirit itself.(1592)
1. The Memory after death. In the Writings it is shown that man's character has been inscribed in the external or "corporeal" memory. This serves as a plane which determines the quality of each spirit, since it is retained but can no longer grow or alter.(1593)
This external memory- consisting of "material ideas"
and associated affections - is quiescent in the other life and serves no
mental use, but functions apparently as a body of the spirit.
It is not augmented by any sensual experiences from the natural
world, since the organs of physical sensation have perished. Spiritual
experiences are instead gathered into an "interior
2. The Limbus. The corporeal memory is, however, a spiritual substance and as such has no permanence or subsistence unless it be based on some natural substratum or a basis of fixity in time and space.(1594) And such a natural ultimate is provided in the ''limbus"(1595) or "medium" derived from the finest things of inmost nature;(1596) which is likened to a "cutaneous envelope" for man's spirit.(1597) Like the cutis of the skin, it is itself dead, having "receded" from the living substance of the spiritual body. (1598) But it holds the corporeal memory in its close order(1599) and serves as a medium by which spirits and angels can be conjoined to the human race.(1600)
3. Thus we may conclude that what is in the: Economy called the "spirituous fluid" served practically the same purpose as what the Writings describe as the "limbus". Yet certain differences are also observable.
In the Economy, Swedenborg states that the spirituous fluid after death remains in the "exact form of the human body", and that, because of its volume, it cannot be born again or transmigrate.(1601)
The Rational Psychology modifies this idea, in order to prevent a gross notion of the "limbus" as a bodily shape floating in the atmosphere. It thus denies a human shape or form to the "soul". But it states that the soul may materialize itself in such or other form if spiritual needs call for it.(1602)
In the Writings, the "shape" of the limbus
is not discussed, but it is shown that while the limbus is known
to exist by the angels, it is too subtle a substance to be described in
mortal words, although it is a natural substance.(1603)
The spirit itself, however, is in the human form, and angels and spirits
thus appear in complete human bodies.(1604)
1. The foregoing Notes in Part Four, on the "Connections of Body and Mind", have been drawn largely from Swedenborg's preparatory studies in psychology, which sought to describe the seat of man's mental activities in the subtlest physical organisms of the brain. These studies - recorded mainly in the Economy, The Fibre, and the Rational Psychology - were made before Swedenborg's introduction into the Spiritual World.
A more complete treatment of the subject of "The Human Mind", with some
additional material from the Writings, is given in a
2. The Writings alone show the origin and real nature of the affections and thoughts and other states of our mental life. For their causes can be found only in the spiritual world. The connection of man's mind with the unseen world of spirits, and with heaven and hell, is one of the main subjects treated of in the Writings. A general discussion of the subject is found in the NEW CHURCH LIFE, 1952, pp. 509-519, in an article by Hugo Lj. Odhner, "Where Two Worlds Meet". In this the function of spirits in man's mental life, and the spiritual causes of human thought, we described. This is further treated-of throughout the book "Spirits and Men", by Hugo Lj. Odhner.(1605)
3. The mind of man, the Writings make plain,
consists not only of the understanding but of the will. Our Notes
on the Human
Organic do not present much in the way of direct teachings on the formation
and organic basis of the Will. Attention is therefore
directed to an article in NEW CHURCH LIFE, 1946, pp. 465-477, on the
"The Mystery of the Human Will".
1605 "Where Two Worlds Meet". In this the function of spirits in man's mental life, and the spiritual causes of human thought, is described. This is further treated of throughout the book "Spirits and Men", by Hugo Lj. Odhner, AcademyBook Room, 1958.