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Human Organic
Lecture Notes by Hugo Lj. Odhner  

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Part 4, Chapter VI



General Reference: "Mind and Body, and the Problem of their Intercourse". By Hugo Lj. Odhner. NEW CHURCH LIFE,
1930, pp. 633-659.

A.     The Philosophical Problem

    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 a 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 one another.
    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 beyond "matter".
    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 the
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 planes.(1783)
    Thus the body derives from the soul its power of feeling and acting. But this is from the omnipresence of the soul in the body; 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, and
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 and 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 .


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:
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)
3.     Motion and Conatus
    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 action".(1800)

5.     Conatus gives Quality.
    The quality fo every action is according to the conatus which directs it; and the physical action will therefore correspond with 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 in 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 spiritual "creations".
    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 material ultimates.(1806)

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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 19.

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. Influx.

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.

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