Part 4, Chapter VI
THE RELATION OF SOUL AND BODY
I. THEORIES CONCERNING THE INTERCOURSE
OF SOUL AND BODY
A. The Philosophical Problem
General Reference: "Mind and Body, and the Problem of their
Intercourse". By Hugo Lj. Odhner. NEW CHURCH LIFE,
1930, pp. 633-659.
The great problem of philosophy has been to explain
the relation of matter to spirit, or of the body to the mind. Three
alternative explanations have been offered, and these were frequently
subjected to analysis by SWEDENBORG(1777)
1. PHYSICAL INFLUX.
The theory of "physical influx" is founded on the general appearance that
physical vibrations from the organs of the senses enter the brain and become
there converted into "sensations", i,e,. mental states. The corollary follows,
that spiritual things like love and wisdom are nothing but purer natural
activities. The soul, as a physical force, could then act on the body,
and the body as a physical force could act the soul or mind.
2. SPIRITUAL INFLUX AND THE THEORY OF OCCASIONAL
CAUSES. This was the theory of the Cartesian school,
which claimed that the body (a material substance) could never influence
the soul which was a spiritual substance of which no space, time,
or motion could be predicated; nor could the soul affect the body.
The problem then arose: How can the soul direct
the motions of the body without adding any motion thereto?
The "occasionalists" therefore suggested that on
the occasion of the mind's desire or will, the Deity miraculously effected
corresponding motion in the body. And on the occasion of changes
experienced in the senseorgans and the brain, God
produced a perception in the mind.(1778)
3. PRE-ESTABLISHED HARMONY.
Leibnitz pointed out the weakness of the Cartesian position; it involved
a dualism of perfectly heterogeneous entities (the spiritual and the natural)
which made any mutual influence inconceivable.
Leibnitz therefore instead offered the theory that
God had so created soul and body that - while each was spontaneous in its
own development each remained at every instant in conformity with the
other. He illustrated his idea by two clocks so perfectly
constructed as to constantly correspond without at all influencing
Among the faults of the theory are its reliance
on a miraculous predestination and also its failure to account for interior
thought and mental states which are not expressed in action.(1779)
B. Swedenborg's first treatment of the Problem.
Swedenborg ignores other attempted solutions such
as pure Idealism, which rules out the material as anything but a
phenomenon, or pure Materialism, which rules out the existence of anything
He recognizes certain factual bases in all the three
theories (above mentioned), and does not propose to add a fourth.(1780)
Instead he suggests that these theories can be reconciled as
to their contradictory features, by explaining the intercourse
of soul and body as a COESTABLISHED HARMONY made possible by natural
and acquired correspondence.(1781)
He rejects a priori the idea of a physical
influx such as that of the natural into the spiritual, and claims that
the soul is spiritual and above the natural, although it operates naturally
through the "pure intellect". The soul perceives the changes of state of
intellectory as though outside of itself, and understands their meaning
without previous experience.(1782)
"Natural" (i.e., innate) correspondence indeed implies
a preestablished harmony in the soul. But "acquired" correspondence
implies a co-established harmony existing between the soul and the
intellect, and between the thought among themselves. Influx
is thus an influx of the harmony itself which exists between these
Thus the body derives from the soul its power of
feeling and acting. But this is from the omnipresence of the soul in
and from the fact that the soul has so formed the organs that they
shall perceive and act as they do.(1784)
How the will produces muscular force can be understood
by a comparison with conatus. The will is as it were conatus
(endeavor) which breaks into action. Yet the mode of influx is indescribable
and better simply taken on faith.(1785)
C. In the Writings. the Theory of SpirituaI
Influx is definitely approved.(1786)
The doctrine of Spiritual Influx taught in the Writings
does not involve a full acceptance of the concepts of Descartes or his
followers. For Swedenborg complains that the root of the difficulty
thitherto had been an ignorance of what the Spiritual really
was,(1787) and of the discrete degrees by which
the influx of life proceeded from God into the human soul and
"Spiritual Influx, by some called Occasional
Influx, is from order and its laws; since the soul is a spiritual substance,
therefore purer, prior, and interior, but the body is material, and
therefore grosser, posterior, and exterior; and it is according to
order that the purer should inflow into the grosser, the prior into
the posterior, and the interior into the exterior, thus the spiritual
into the material, and not the reverse. Consequently it is of order
that the thinking mind should flow into the sight according to
the state induced on the eyes from objects; which state the mind also
disposes at will; and likewise the perceptive mind into the
hearing according to the state induced on the ears from speech.'"!(1789)
The hypothesis of Physical Influx is opposed in
the Writings as flowing merely from the fallacies of the senses.
Pre-established Harmony is opposed because
it ignores the fact that every operation in the body is first successive
afterwards simultaneous: the mind first thinks and speech follows afterwards,
or wills first and then later acts. "Successive
operation is influx, and simultaneous operation is harmony."(1790)
The work on Influx (Intercourse of Soul and Body,
publ. 1769) specifically points out two things: By references to teachings
in Conjugal Love(1791) it seeks to show what
the spiritual is in its essence, what the natural is, and also what the
human soul is.(1792) By an outline of creation,
spiritual and natural, it presents the mode, thitherto unknown, by which
influx passes from God into the soul and thus into the body .
II. HOW THE SOUL CAN ACT ON
1. The Problem.
Descartes' theory of Spiritual Influx was not permanently
accepted because no one understood how the spiritual, as understood at
the time, could possibly act upon the natural, except by a concurrent miraculous
addition of motion by Deity.
2. Origins of natural substances
The Writings show:
3. Motion and Conatus
a) that natural substance is created out of
spiritual pre existant "primitives".(1793)
b) that "all natural things, even earthly matters,
are effects produced by the spiritual as a cause"(1794)
c) that nature "subsists from the influx of
the things of the spiritual world, and without that influx could not subsist
for a moment"(1795)
d) that the relation of the spiritual to the
natural is that of conatus to motion.(1796)
Motion is natural, conatus is spiritual. Conatus
(or endeavor) is the "only real thing in motion." Material things are therefore
essentially forms of motions or energy, form a non-living conatus.
"All endeavors are not living?"(1797) Thus some endeavors
are living, others are not living.
Will is living conatus; and exertion of will results
in motion which is called "action".(1798)
Action is the release of the mechanical energy stored
in the chemicals of the body, and this release is timed to the bidding
of the mind and the soul.
Swedenborg explaisn to Dippel how the will, which
is spiritual, can move the body, by noting that "conatus produces
4. Conatus directs motion.
The conatus within the matters of the body is thus
directed by the soul, and this involves an "influx of the soul into the
body, or a manifestation of the presence of the spiritual in the body.
While thus inflowing, the soul adds no new physical energy or motion to
the body, which on its plane apparently obeys the supposed "law of the
conservation of energy".
"How the influx of the Lord is effected into man's
soul and thence into the superior? and inferior things of his mind, and
thence into the superior? and inferior things of his mind, and thence into
the body where it makes a conatus which when opportunity offers, becomes
5. Conatus gives Quality.
The quality fo every action is according to the
conatus which directs it; and the physical action will therefore correspond
the spiritual conatus, so far as natural conditions permit.
6. Degrees of Conatus.
The degrees and kinds of conatus are as many and
as different as the degrees and kinds of substances in the spiritual world.
For all the things of the spiritual world, whether visible or invisible,
are forms of conatus.(1801)
All three degrees of the spiritual world, "the world
of causes", are involved in the human soul, but only the ultimate spiritual
the "souls" of animals or plants.
The forces of each spiritual degree proceed to their
own spiritual ultimates(1802) and give rise in nature
to the conatus to motion, which is a non living conatus, the conatus of
life's ultimate forces.(1803) But in each degree of
the spiritual there resides formative forces of life which translate the
potential ities of that degree into uses- i.e., into the conatus to assume
forms- in both worlds, if possible. These uses are the "souls" of men,
or of brutes, or of vegetative forms, in both worlds. It is always the
use (or the need) that creates the form.(1804)
7. Man's spirit is an organization of conatus.
The organization of the mind of man and of his spiritual
body "from goods and truths" or their oppositesis by reception of the life
transmitted by by angels and devils in the various degrees of the spiritual
world. Each angel or spirit is an organized form of conatus; and these conati, both good and evil, are continually being
"represented" in the ultimates of the spiritual wordl as
Each humna mind is thus formed by reception into
a specific and unique form of personal and individualized conati.
8. Conversion of Conatus in the human body.
"Non living conatus", such as maintains the elements
of nature in their forms, can, in the body of man, be displaced (or infilled
by) a "living" conatus which converts blind motion into purposive action.
For the endeavors of the soul and the mind are
superior forms of conatus while the "non-living" conatus-to-motion
is a most general form o fconatus which can be directed by
various motivations and then cause intelligent and deliberate action.
This direction of energy at the bidding of the mind
is possible only because matter is essentially a form of space-time motion
maintained by a creative spiritual influx of canatus in a closed field.
The Principia theory of the origin of matter
from Conatus which manifests itself in space time as dynamic or energic
points of motion (or "first natural points"), clearly indicates that all
matter thence formed is receptive of influx from the spiritual, sicne essentially
all is composed from these natural points
By a change of motivation, a man accepts a new set of
endeavors (conatus) as the determining and directing source of the
actions of the body and the states of his spirit.
9. Fixation of Conatus.
By free choice and the acceptance of the influx of
specific types of conatus from the spiritual world, each man's spiritual
body is formed or organized within the material body.(1805)
The fixation of these conati can occur only by reference to conditions
of space-time ideasand thus only by birth into the natural world. For spiritual
substances cannot attain any permanent forms except on the basis of such
1777 For general treatments, see I Econ. 649, R.
Ps. 167 and context, TCR 695, and the special work on
The Intercourse of Souland and Body, published in 1769, nos. 1, and
1778 See article in NewPhilosophy(1959), pp. 33-43.
1779 LJ post. 264.
1780 R. Ps. chap. xii. Cf ISB i.e.
1781 I Econ. 649, v.
1782 R. Ps. 166, 167.
1783 R. Ps. 167.
1784 R. Ps. 174.
1785 SD 4010, of 3891.
1786 ISB 1. 19.
1787 ISB 2, 18.
1788 ISB 2, 8, 18. See Inv. 13.
1789 ISB 1, 1 9.
1790 ISB 1. Cf LJ post. 264.
1791 CL 315, 326-29, 380, and 415-22.
1792 ISB 2, 18.
1793 TCR 79:7, 280:8
1794 AE 1207:3.
1795 AC 4939, AE 395, AC 5084, 10185 etc.
1796 AC 5173;cf. Action xxvii., Fibre 266, 289, 290,
cp Heir. Key 10.
1797 DLW 311.
1798 AC 8911 5173 WE 989 Cp AE 1209:4 DLW 218, 219
Coro 30 AC 5116.
1799 SD 3891.
1800 Missing work On marriage, nos 57-61. Index II,s.v.
1801 DLW 310,311.
1802 AE 1210-1212.
1803 Cf.DLW 310,311.
1804 AC 4223, 4926.
1805 TCR 583.
1806 See D Wis. Viii, SD 5552.