BY JOHN WORCESTER
MASSACHUSETTS NEW-CHURCH UNION
WHEN the work of the stomach is done, and by the dissolving of cell walls the nutritious contents are set free, and as much as possible of the muscle-making elements of the food is dissolved, the work of digestion is continued in the intestines. But in the intestines the modes of action upon the food are changed according to the form and nature of the organ. The food is no longer revolved in a large mass, but is distributed into little pockets or chambers formed by the folds of the lining membrane of the intestine, and receives treatment adapted to the character of its various elements. It is mingled with a variety of pungent fluids, from the liver, the pancreas, and the intestinal glands, and is worked over in little handfuls much more urgently and severely than was possible in the general stomach. During the process of stomach digestion the [p. 58] door between stomach and intestine is not wholly closed; but those portions of the food which need the intestinal treatment, and will not be benefited by that of the stomach, are constantly passing out; and some of them, as fat and starch, are quickly changed by the bile and the pancreatic and intestinal fluids, and absorbed by the lacteals from the intestinal wall. A considerable mass, however, remains in the stomach and undergoes its utmost powers of digestion, without perfectly yielding to the influences which would make fluid the good elements and separate them entirely both from the useless and from those that need severer treatment. But when all that the stomach can do is done this large remainder rapidly passes out and all its elements meet the bitter and acrid bile. This precipitates at once the nitrogenized portion of the chyme, and delays it for solution again and absorption, while the other materials pass on, -- the remaining fat and starch to be converted into an emulsion and sugar respectively, and then absorbed, and the worthless materials to be rejected. [p. 59]
This great mass corresponds to the spirits long delayed in the world of spirits, many of whom are in the main good and charitable, disposed to good uses but confirmed in some falsity, or attached to other persons who appear well as to worship and life, yet in heart love evil of life and the false doctrines that permit it. These need to meet together the sharp corrections of spirits who love to bring out and punish all the evil of heart and thought that they can find, thus thoroughly exposing the wicked and causing them to flee, when the humbled and chastened good, fearing that they also shall be rejected, desire more earnestly to be instructed and taken up into heaven. The solvents of the stomach are mildly acid and perhaps, like the acids of fruit, represent instruction that is altogether pleasant and friendly but stimulating and quickening. The solvents of the intestine are acrid and alkaline, and, like the alkalies used in soap, and formerly used instead of soap, seem to represent reproving, chastening instruction by which good and evil are separated. [p. 60]
"Who they are who constitute the province of the intestines in the Greatest Man, may be manifest in some measure from those who relate to the stomach; for the intestines are continued from the stomach, and the offices of the stomach there increase and become more harsh, even to the last intestines which are the colon and rectum. Wherefore they who are in these are near to the hells which are called excrementitious. In the region of the stomach and intestines are they who are in the lower earth, who because they have brought with them from the world unclean things which are fixed in their thoughts and affections, are kept there for some time, until such things are wiped away, that is, are cast aside. After this is done, they can be taken up into heaven. They who are there are not yet in the Greatest Man; for they are like aliments let down into the stomach, which are not introduced into the blood, thus into the body, until they are purified. They who are defiled with more earthly dregs are under these in the region of the intestines; but the excrements themselves which are discharged correspond to the hells which are called the excrementitious hells." (A. C. 5392.)
There are many kinds of persons who need [p. 61] such discipline; among them are those who have contracted strong personal friendships without regard to the good or evil in one another. These, Swedenborg teaches us, --
"cannot like others be separated according to order, and assigned to the society correspondent with their life ; for they are bound together interiorly as to the spirit, nor can they be severed, because they are like branches engrafted into branches. Therefore if one as to his interiors is in heaven, and the other as to his in hell, they remain fast to each other, much like a sheep tied to a wolf, or a goose to a fox, or a dove to a hawk; and he whose interiors are in hell inspires the infernal things belonging to him into the one whose interiors are in heaven. For among the things that are well known in heaven is also this, that evil may be inspired into the good, but not good into the evil; this is because every one is by birth in evils. Consequently the interiors are closed in the good that are thus joined with the evil; and they both are thrust down into hell, where the good man suffers hard things, but after a lapse of time is taken out, and then first is prepared for heaven. It has been granted me to see such bindings, especially among brothers and relatives, and also between patrons [p. 62 ] and their dependants, and of many with flatterers, among whom were contrary affections and unlike genius; and I have seen some like kids with leopards, and they were then kissing one another, and swearing to their former friendship. And I then perceived that the good were absorbing the enjoyments of the evil, holding each other by the hand, and together entering into caves where crowds of the wicked were seen in their hideous forms, though to themselves, from the illusion of fantasy, they seemed in lovely forms. But after a while I heard from the good mournful cries of fear, as if on account of snares, and from the wicked I heard rejoicings like those of enemies over spoils; besides other sad scenes. I have heard that the good, when taken out, were afterwards prepared for heaven by reformatory means, but with greater difficulty than others." (T. C. R. 448.)
Closely allied to these evil friends, who drag those who are attached to them down with them, seem to be "the judges of friendship and bribes," who could see nothing but what favored their friends, whom Swedenborg saw "in the lower earth, next above hell," and who were afterwards cast out (C. L. 231). There also were those called [p. 63] '"learned," because they were able by ingenious reasonings to throw doubt upon the real existence of every thing; who also, because they perpetually argue upon the surface of things, from appearances, are likened to "shells around almonds, without the kernel," and to "rinds around fruits, without the pulp." These likewise were cast out. <C. L. 232.)
A third class seen in the same region were the "confirmators," called "wise" because they could make anything whatever appear to be true, no matter whether it were reasonable or unreasonable, true or false; but they had no genuine wisdom or understanding (C. L. 233). All three of these classes would be likely to drag down with them some who were simple minded, or strongly attached to them for various reasons, and to bring them into states of great suffering, from their evil associations in that lower earth.
Of the lower earth, as he usually calls it, Swedenborg says that in the world of spirits it is "next beneath the feet, and the region round [p. 64] about to a little distance; there most persons are after death, before they are taken up into heaven . . . Beneath it are the places of vastation, which are called pits; below these places, and round about to a great distance, are the hells" (A. C. 4728). He more commonly speaks of the places of vastation, by which are meant the places of severer trials by which the good are freed from evil clinging to them, as in the lower earth. He says, --
"In order that I might see the torments of those who are in hell, and also the vastation of those who are in the lower earth, I was sometimes let down thither. ... I perceived plainly that, as it were, a kind of column encompassed me; that column was sensibly increased, and it was insinuated to me that this was the wall of brass spoken of in the Word, formed of angelic spirits, in order that I might be let down safely amongst the unhappy. When I was there I heard miserable lamentations, and indeed this cry, ' Oh God, Oh God, be merciful to us, be merciful to us' ; and this for a long time. It was granted to me to discourse with those miserable persons for some time. They [p. 65] complained chiefly of evil spirits, as burning with a continual desire only to torment them; and they were in a state of despair, saying that they believed their torments would be eternal; but it was granted me to comfort them." (A. C. 699; Comp. 4940.)
Of the purpose of the vastation, he says, --
"Man, by reason of actual sin, brings with him into the other life innumerable evils and falsities, which he accumulates and joins together. This is the case even with those who have lived uprightly. Before they can be elevated into heaven, their evils and falsities must be dissipated; and this dissipation is called vastation. There are many kinds of vastation, and the times of vastation are longer and shorter; some are taken up into heaven in a very short time, and some immediately after death." (A. C. 698.)
"There are many who while they were in the world, through simplicity and ignorance, imbibed falsities as to faith, and formed a certain species of conscience according to the principles of their faith; and did not live, as others, in hatred, revenge, and adulteries. These in the other life, so long as they are in what is false, cannot be introduced into heavenly societies, for thus they would defile them; therefore they are kept for some time [p. 66] in the lower earth, in order that they may put off the principles of falsity. The times of their stay there are longer or shorter according to the nature of the falsity and the life contracted from it, and according to the principles confirmed in themselves; some endure hard things in that state, others not hard. These are what are called vastations, whereof much mention is made in the Word. When the time of vastation is over, they are taken up into heaven, and are instructed as novitiates in the truths of faith; and this is done by angels by whom they are received." (n. 1106.)
"There are some who willingly endure to be vastated, and thereby to put off the false principles which they had brought with them out of the world. (It is not possible for any one to put off false principles in the other life, except after some length of time, and by means provided by the Lord.) During their stay in the lower earth they are kept by the Lord in hope of deliverance, and in the thought of the end, that thus they may be amended and may be prepared to receive heavenly happiness." (n. 1107.)
"In those places are they who have ascribed all things to nature, and little to the Divine. I conversed with them there, and when the discourse was concerning the Divine Providence they [p. 67] attributed all things to nature. Nevertheless those there who have led a good moral life, when they have been detained there some time, successively put off those principles and put on principles of truth." (n. 4941.)
"In the lower earth, beneath the feet and the soles of the feet, are also they who have placed merit in good deeds and works; some of them appear to themselves to cut wood; the place where they are is rather cold, and they seem to themselves to acquire heat by their labor. With these also I conversed, and it was given to ask them whether they wished to come forth from that place. They said, that as yet they had not merited it by labor; but when that state has been passed through they are then conveyed away thence. These also are natural, because to wish to merit salvation is not spiritual. And moreover they prefer themselves to others; some of them even despise others. These, if in the other life they do not receive joy above others, are indignant against the Lord; wherefore when they cut wood it sometimes appears as if somewhat of the Lord was under the wood, and this from indignation. But whereas they have led a pious life, and have acted thus from ignorance, in which there was somewhat of innocence, therefore occasionally angels are sent to [p. 68] them and console them." (n. 4943; also n. 1110; the grass-cutters, 1111.)
"They who come out of the world from Christian lands, and have led a
moral life and had some degree of charity toward the neighbor, but have
had little concern about spiritual things, for the most part are sent into
the places beneath the feet and the soles of the feet; and are kept there
until they put off the natural things in which they have been, and are
imbued with spiritual arid celestial things as far as they can be according
to their life; and when they have become imbued with these, they are taken
up thence into heavenly societies. I have seen them at times emerging,
and their joy at coming into heavenly light." (n. 4944; also others to
All these states of vastation appear to be accomplished in those parts of the lower earth corresponding to the intestines, and from thence the chastened good spirits are taken up as chyle is absorbed by the veins and lacteals. No doubt the modes of correction and vastation are all represented in the methods by which the chyme is sorted, some of which we have briefly touched [p. 69] upon, and others will appear more clearly when we study the liver and the pancreas. The intestines are generally distinguished into two, -- the large and the small; and these are each subdivided into three or more. The small intestine is long, much convoluted, and freely supplied with absorbing vessels. Into this the imperfectly digested food first passes from the stomach, and almost immediately meets the bile, the pancreatic fluid, and the intestinal fluids.
By the bile a large part of the muscle-making chyle is immediately precipitated, and thus separated from impurities and held for solution by the pancreatic fluid; also a part of the fat is turned into soap, in which form it is readily absorbed. The pancreatic fluid, besides effecting the solution of the albuminous precipitate, quickly makes a milky emulsion of the remaining fat, at least in reasonable quantity, and also, with the fluid of the intestinal glands, quickly completes the transformation of the starch into sugar, in which forms respectively both fat and starch are readily absorbed. [p. 70] The remainder of the chyme, together with such portions of these good materials as have not completed their metamorphoses, passes rapidly on, subjected to more and more severe treatment, and parting at every turn with its good particles, till by the time it reaches the large intestine, called the colon, there is scarcely anything in it which can serve any good use in the body.
In the colon the residue is no longer treated as food to be redeemed to good uses if possible; but is compacted for rejection, and undergoes the last wringing to rescue from it the small remainder of possibly nutritious fluids.
That any spirits can be saved who, in the corresponding treatment in the lower earth, so long resist both kindness and chastisement, and remain as companions with the wicked until their loathsomeness is so fully exhibited, shows the infinity of the saving mercy of the Lord, which does not permit the least thing in a human spirit to be lost that can possibly be saved to heavenly life. There are spirits, Swedenborg tells us, "who have [p. 71] lived an evil life, and yet have some remains of good concealed in them. These remains cause them to have a little spiritual life after many ages of vastations." (n. 5561.)
These, perhaps, are taken up from the province of the colon. Others, corresponding to the contents of the colon, some of whom are saved, are described as delighting in rapine and slaughter, yet having a little humanity. (n. 5393.)
As to those who correspond to the walls of the intestine, and are a part of the Greatest Man, they must be such as take pleasure in correcting and punishing, yet from justice and for the sake of reformation. They who correspond to the small intestine, especially the upper part of it, from which chyle is most freely absorbed, are especially delighted to rescue the good from the evil, by sharp reproof if necessary, and to introduce them among heavenly companions. But they who are in the large intestine, and especially those who correspond in their uses to the rectum, take pleasure in punishing and confining the evil; yet always [p. 72] with an interior satisfaction in protecting the good from them.
Of course they who have absolutely no love of good, and no childlike remains, but are wholly devoted to self, have no basis for heavenly development. To make angels of them would be to destroy them utterly, and create new spirits. They are not destroyed, but are permitted to enjoy such vile pleasures as they can without injuring other spirits.
"They who in the life of the body have made voluptuous pleasures their end, and have loved only to indulge their natural propensities, and to live in luxury and festivity, caring only for themselves and the world, without any regard to things Divine, and void of faith and charity, these after death are at first introduced into a life similar to what they have lived in the world. There is a place in front towards the left, at a considerable depth, where all is pleasure, sport, dancing, feasting, and light conversation; to this place such spirits are conveyed, and then they know no other but that they are still in the world. But after a short time the scene is changed; for then they are carried down to [p. 73] hell . . . for such pleasure, which is merely corporeal, is, in the other life, changed into what is excrementitious; I have seen them there carrying dung, and lamenting." (A. C. 943.)
In the other life, the quality of spirits is made sensible by odors; and "they who have indulged in mere sensual pleasures, and have lived in no charity and faith, exhale an odor like that of excrement. The case is the same with those who have passed their lives in adulteries; but the odor of these is still more offensive." (1514.)
Those also who have lived in intense self-love, with no charity or humanity towards those who do not favor them, also those who have delighted solely in avarice, or in cruelty, or robbery, or mere selfish indolence, or any other form of evil, of necessity are entirely separated from the heavenly man.
In us as individuals, the operation of the intestines, as regards the digestion of food and the absorption of good material, is scarcely felt. And the like is true of the operation of the mind in [p 74] absorbing strength from the true and good things we learn and adopt. That the process does go on, however, and that we do continue for a time to gather strength from such spiritual food is evident. But much of the truth we receive is contained in forms and formulas which are themselves of no account; and the mind which is healthily growing in wisdom extracts the wisdom from them, and lets the mere learning pass into oblivion. And, again, the mind is recreated by pleasant natural things, which are correspondences of good affections and thoughts. Music, beautiful scenery, and pictures, pleasant food, and other things agreeable to the senses, may serve this purpose. A healthy mind loves these for their use, and then lets the sensual impressions pass away; but an unhealthy mind clings to these with a kind of indolent fascination, retaining them in the thoughts long after their use is over, and grows spiritually stupid and unhappy from them.