BY JOHN WORCESTER
MASSACHUSETTS NEW-CHURCH UNION
THE world of spirits is like a forum or place of resort, where all are at first assembled, and is as a stomach in which the food is at first collected; the stomach, moreover, corresponds to that world." (A. R. 791.)
And again we read: --
"The world of spirits, which is midway between heaven and hell -- into which every man first comes after death, and is there prepared -- corresponds to the stomach, in which all the things that are put in are prepared, either to become blood and flesh, or to become excrement and urine." (A. R. 204.)
"It is known that nourishment or food is worked over in many ways in the stomach, that its interior things which are good for use may be brought out; namely, those which go into the chyle, and afterwards into the blood; and that the process is continued in the intestines. Such workings are represented by the first discipline of spirits, which is according to their life in the world, that evil things [p. 42] may be separated, and good things, suited for use, may be collected. Wherefore it may be said of souls or spirits soon after decease, or separation from the body, that they come as it were into the region of the stomach, and there are disciplined and purified. They with whom evils have obtained dominion, after they have been disciplined in vain, are borne through the stomach into the intestines, and even to the last, namely, the colon and the rectum, and thence are cast out into the draught, that is, into hell. But they with whom good things have dominion, after some discipline and purification, become chyle, and go into the blood, some by a longer way, some by a shorter; and some are disciplined severely, some gently, and some scarcely at all: these last are represented by the juices of food, which are immediately drunk in by the veins, and carried into the circulation, even into the brain, and so further." (A. C. 5174.)
Some of these good spirits, as we have already seen, are taken up into heaven before they reach the stomach, by the way of the ducts of the mouth. But some, of equally tender and pure quality, are more closely connected with worldly affairs and worldly people, and, like the juices [p. 43] entangled among coarser materials, are carried into the general place of assembly for new spirits, where they are soon made spiritually free and are conducted by a little longer way into heaven.
In the world of spirits, strictly speaking, to which the stomach corresponds (A. R. 791), spirits may remain from a month to thirty years (A. R. 866); and here are collected a vast multitude who live and work in societies, as in heaven or in hell. The work done here is that of what Swedenborg calls "the second state after death," that is, the state of the interiors; and consists largely in the opening of the interiors.
"When the first state is passed through, which is the state of the exteriors, . . . the man-spirit is let into the state of his interiors, or into the state of his interior will and consequent thought, in which he had been in the world when, being left to himself, he thought freely and without restraint. Into this state he slides without being aware of it, in like manner as in the world when he withdraws the thought which is nearest the speech, or from which the speech is, towards interior thought, and [p. 44] abides in it; wherefore when the man-spirit is in this state, he is in himself, and in his own very life; for to think freely from his own proper affection is the very life of man, and is himself" (H. H. 502.)
"The spirit in this state thinks from his own very will, thus from his own very affection, or from his own very love, and in this case the thought makes one with the will, and one in such a manner that it scarcely appears that the spirit thinks, but that he wills. The case is nearly similar when he speaks, yet with this difference, that he speaks with some degree of fear lest the thoughts of the will should go forth naked, since by civil life in the world his will had contracted this habit." (H. H. 503.)
In this state the habits of speech and action in which he has presented himself to society are separated from him, as the hulls from wheat, and the cell walls from the starch, sugar, or nutritive juices which they contain; and his interior affections act freely without any artificial cloak. And it is the dissolving of these cell walls and setting free of the contents which is the principal work of the stomach. [p. 45]
The food in the stomach is collected in considerable quantities, and is rolled in a spiral course around the large end of the stomach, and thence to the neighborhood of the pylorus, and back along the upper curve to the oesophagus. No doubt this takes place with great variety, and portions may be delayed in their course, and even drawn apart into the little chambers in the lining of the stomach for special treatment. All the while it is being mingled and worked over with the acid gastric fluids, whose function it is to set the purer parts of the food free and to separate them more completely from the gross and worthless.
The gastric fluids are secreted continually during the process of digestion and are continually absorbed again by the coats of the stomach, carrying with them food which they have dissolved and returning again for more. The quantity required for digestion it would be impossible for the body to supply except by this process of re-absorption and repeated secretion. And as in the saliva [p. 46] there is an organic element, the ptyalin, whose office it is to induce the change of starch and sugar into a form which can be assimilated, so in the stomach there is its peculiar organic substance, called pepsin, mingling with the gastric fluids, and quickening the solution of the "proteids," or muscle-making elements of the food.
The food thus massed together is like societies of spirits in similar states; the fluids are instruction concerning good and evil, concerning things that have life and those that are dead and useless, which is to good spirits the means of increased and more joyous activity, and to the evil the means of self-condemnation and rejection.
" All who have lived in good in the world, and have acted from conscience, as is the case with all those who have acknowledged a Divine and have loved Divine truths, especially those who have applied them to life, appear to themselves, when let into the state of their interiors, like those who being awakened out of sleep come into the full use of sight, and like those who from shade enter into light: they think also from the light of heaven, [p. 47] thus from interior wisdom, and they act from good, thus from interior affection. Heaven also flows in into their thoughts and affections with interior blessedness and delight, of which before they knew nothing; for they have communication with the angels of heaven. Then also they acknowledge the Lord and worship Him from their very life; for they are in their own proper life when in the state of their interiors; and they likewise acknowledge and worship Him from freedom, for freedom is of interior affection. They recede also thus from external sanctity, and come into internal sanctity, in which essential worship truly consists. Such is the state of those who have lived a Christian life according to the precepts delivered in the Word. But altogether contrary is the state of those who in the world have lived in evil, and have had no conscience, and hence have denied a Divine. . . . By reason of their evil lusts, they burst forth into all abominations, into contempt of others, into ridicule and blasphemy, into hatred and revenge." (H. H. 506.)
Physiology says that the starchy elements of the food, and perhaps cane-sugar, are not absorbed in the stomach, but, being acted upon by the saliva, and afterwards by the pancreatic and intestinal [p. 48] fluids, are turned into the more readily absorbed sugar, usually called grape-sugar, or glucose, in which form they are taken up by the veins and lactcals; that fatty materials pass unchanged into the intestine, where, soon after meeting with the bile and the pancreatic fluid, they are reduced to the form of an emulsion, or milky fluid; the oil being divided into minute particles which are held as if in solution, in a state to be absorbed; and that the fluids of the stomach dissolve only the muscle-making element of food, -- the lean meat, the cheese of milk, and the gluten of grains. A portion of this, when dissolved, is taken up immediately by the veins and lacteals of the stomach; and a portion, needing further purification by the bile and pancreatic fluid, is carried on for a short distance in the intestine.
And, correspondingly, we should expect to find only a small proportion of spirits, and those the most willing and unselfish in their usefulness, taken up directly from the province of the stomach to the places of instruction. The greater part [p. 49] need some further preparation. Most persons, Swedenborg says, are in the lower earth before they are taken up into heaven. (A. C. 4728.)
Of starch and fat we will speak hereafter, when we come to the intestines and the pancreas.
Sugar corresponds to spiritual sweetness and pleasantness, which is immediately cheering and encouraging, and, in proper proportion to the more substantial satisfactions of good work, is wholesome mental nourishment. And the nitrogenized elements of food, which make muscle in the body, correspond to the love of useful work. It is to the assimilation of this that the stomach in the spiritual world especially addresses itself separating it carefully from routine forms and conventionalities, and the many selfish considerations that mingle with every one's love of work, also from habits of indolence and self-indulgence, and rousing in it the desire to do the use in the Lord's kingdom for which it is fitted, and to learn to do it wisely and well.
The great mass of the good that there is among [p. 50] men consists of various kinds of love of work. It may be largely mixed with love of the world and of various selfish rewards, and widely misdirected by mistaken notions of what is useful, and by foolish requirements of society; yet it exists in some form in every mind that feels unhappy without useful occupation, and that prefers good work to large returns: and all such minds are collected and trained and purified in the world of spirits.
The chief acid of the solvent fluids of the stomach is hydrochloric acid, which is the acid of common salt. Salt is a representative of the principle that good and truth need each other and belong together; and the active principle of the salt represents a stimulus to every good to seek its truth, and to every truth to seek its good. The passive or alkaline principle may mean that they can do nothing alone. Solution by means of this active principle must mean the shaking off of all hindrances to the diligent learning to do good or to live the truth. And the organic substance, by which this solution is stimulated, must [p. 51] represent the personal encouragement or warning of angels who themselves delight in assisting in the union of every good with its truth. (Comp. H. H. 425.) The action of the gastric fluids in immediately arresting decay has a correspondence in the fact that a descent into worse evil or greater profanation of good than one was in in the world is not permitted.
By such influence and instruction good spirits are brought into more free and active life and are quickly separated from their worldly habits and desires. And, on the other hand, evil persons, who love self and the world supremely, reject the truth and when they come to those who accept it they repel each other. Swedenborg says of these: --
"They are generally carried about through a wide circle, and everywhere are shown to good spirits as they are in themselves; at the sight of them good spirits then turn themselves away; and as they turn themselves away, so also the evil spirits who are carried about turn themselves from them to the quarter where their infernal society is, into which they are about to come." (H. H. 511.) [p. 52]
Spirits who are good, but have confirmed in themselves some falsity or evil from which they must be freed, also turn away from those who accept the truth, and pass first through another stage of purification.
The truth which is taught in this state, and which is represented by the general digestive fluids of the stomach, has for its purpose to bring the good into spiritual freedom and to separate evil from them. It is not interior spiritual truth; it is religious and moral truth, such as is drawn from the letter of the Scriptures by those who are in the light of heaven and who love heavenly good. Interior truth, teaching more fully about the Lord and heaven and the spiritual sense of the Scriptures, is given to good spirits in their next places of sojourn, described by Swedenborg as the "places of instruction" into which good spirits come in "the third state after death."
How the Lord guides and controls all spirits, even when they seem mixed and confused, is described as follows: -- [p. 53]
"There was a numerous crowd of spirits about me, which was heard as something disorderly and flowing. They complained, saying that now a total destruction was at hand; for in that crowd nothing appeared consociated, and this made them fear destruction. They supposed also that it would be total, as is the case when such things happen. But in the midst of them I perceived a soft sound, angelically sweet, in which was nothing but what was orderly. The angelic companies there were within, and the crowd of spirits to whom appertained what was without order was without. This angelic flowing stream continued a long time, and it was said that hereby was represented how the Lord rules things confused and disorderly which are without from what is pacific in the midst, whereby things disorderly in the circumference are reduced into order, each being restored from the error of its nature." (A. C. 5396.)
The salivary fluids in the Greatest Man are such knowledge of heaven and of the world of spirits as serves to introduce new spirits into societies in the spiritual world. In the minds of men the correspondence of these fluids is with a knowledge of their own states and wants, which is the means [p. 54] of bringing new truth into relation with themselves. If sugar or salt or any other dry solid food be placed upon the dry tongue it is perfectly tasteless; but as soon as the saliva or other watery fluid dissolves a portion of it its quality is perceived. So we may hear new truth without any knowledge or thought of its relation to our own states, or to any human states, and it cannot be otherwise than insipid; but as soon as such knowledge or thought comes into contact with it instantly its agreement or disagreement with the life is felt, and it is received or rejected. Spitting upon anything is therefore a correspondential mode of expressing its utter disagreement with one's states of life.
On the other hand, the spittle of which the Lord made clay, and anointed the eyes of the blind man, represented the simplest truth of His life which, adapted to the states of men, shows the relation between their lives and His and opens their eyes to spiritual things.
After we have once received and accepted a [p. 55] knowledge of what is good and true, which is food for the mind, we may meditate further upon it or we may simply take it home with the determination to live it. The desire to live it, and to incorporate it in our life, will separate the essential goodness from the special forms in which it comes to us and do the work of assimilation as silently as the solvents of the stomach do their work; and we may know nothing of the process but only feel that we are encouraged and strengthened for our duties.
There is a likeness of indigestion when we cram knowledge or terms which we do not understand, and which we long revolve in the memory, vainly trying to get some good out of it. We become weary and disgusted with it and, for a time, with all knowledge.
There was also a likeness of indigestion in the heavens when there long remained and accumulated in the world of spirits those who were good externally and evil internally, and whose internals could not be opened until the time of the [p. 56] Judgment. Then by the solvents of the new truth taught, the externals were broken through, the good internals were gathered into heaven, and the evil were cast down.