BY JOHN WORCESTER
MASSACHUSETTS NEW-CHURCH UNION
FROM stomach and intestines the chyle is absorbed both by veins and by lacteals. That which is taken up by the blood-vessels is carried forward by the portal vein to the liver, there to be sorted, trained to the activities of the body, and distributed in several ways according to its quality. That which is absorbed by the lacteals is carried through a labyrinthine network, knotted by many glands, called the mesentery, and is then collected into a vessel about the size of a finger, situated on the right side of the spinal column, just under the diaphragm, called the receptacle of chyle. Here it is mingled with the lymph returned by the lymphatics from all the viscera of the abdomen and the thorax; and then, through an irregular tube called the thoracic duct, it ascends nearly to the neck, emptying usually into the vein that returns the blood from the left arm to the heart. [p. 76]
Of those who constitute this receptacle and duct, Swedenborg says, --
"They who constitute this province are of a twofold kind; some are modest enough, some are forward. The modest are they who have desired to know the thoughts of men, with the intent of attracting and binding them to themselves; for he who knows what another thinks is acquainted with his secrets and his interiors, which cause them to be conjoined together; the end regarded is conversation and friendship. They desire only to know the good things and explore them, and put a good interpretation upon the rest." (A. C. 5180.)
Of a similar quality in general must be the angels of all the lacteals of the mesentery.
We can imagine these gentle angels, loving conversation and friendship, receiving the new spirits, who by various chastenings have come to desire instruction in the truth of heaven and a life according to it, walking with them by intricate ways, calling out their good thoughts, explaining away their troubles, leading them hither and thither according to the wants they discover in them, [p. 77] introducing them to quick and gentle changes of state, that their sympathies may be quickened and variously extended, and bringing them to one gland-like community or another, as it may seem useful to associate them with other new spirits, or to give them the benefit of angels' teaching, and finally escorting them to the great road in which, with thousands of redeemed, rejoicing spirits, they ascend toward the warm heart of the heavens.
This initiation into heavenly companionship and heavenly thought is a preparation of the good for heaven. The mesentery, therefore, corresponds to places of instruction for a part of the new spirits in their progress toward heaven; as is confirmed by the following passage : --
"It may be known in some measure from the gyres to what province in the Greatest Man, and correspondently in the body, spirits and angels belong. The gyres of those who belong to the province of the lymphatics are slender and rapid as a watery element gently flowing, so that scarcely any gyration can be perceived. They who belong to the lymphatics are afterwards conveyed into places [p. 78] which they said have reference to the mesentery, and it was told me that there are as it were labyrinths therein, and that they are next taken away thence to various places in the Greatest Man, that they may serve for use as chyle in the body." (5181)
The winding ways by which men are taught by the Lord, even in this world, are also likened by Swedenborg to these mesenteric paths, --
"Every one is from infancy brought into that Divine Man whose soul and life is the Lord; and in Him, not out of Him, he is led and taught from His Divine love according to His Divine wisdom. But as freedom is not taken away from man, a man cannot be led and taught otherwise than according to reception as by himself. They who receive are borne to their places by infinite windings, as by meandering streams, almost as the chyle is carried through the mesentery and its lacteals into its receptacle, and from this through the thoracic duct into the blood, and so to its destination. They who do not receive are separated from those who are within the Divine Man, as the faeces and urine are separated from man." (D. P. 164.) [p. 79]
The glands of the mesentery are of great interest in their correspondence. The fibres of the network of lacteals run from one gland to another, having also threads which pursue their course with more directness; so that it is possible for the chyle to pass through several glands, or, perhaps, to enter none at all, on its way to the receptacle.
In the glands it meets arteries and veins and nervous fibres. The arteries bring fresh blood from the heart, and the nerves bring spirit from the brain. The purpose of the glands is evidently to prepare the new chyle more perfectly to enter into the uses of the body; and this purpose they must fulfil by modifying the chyle, either through the forms of their little vessels, or by communication of vital elements to it from the arteries and the nervous fibres; perhaps it performs its office in both ways. "The mesentery elaborates the chyle, and the liver the blood" (D. P. 336). It is believed also that the white corpuscles, which are an active element in the blood and which are rapidly multiplied after a meal, are formed in part in these glands. [p. 80]
Now the chyle of the Greatest Man is composed of good spirits freed from their association with the evil and from evil influences, tender in feeling, and eager to learn. The blood of the arteries is composed of angelic spirits, prepared for heaven, but not yet fixed in their own societies; also in part, apparently, of "subject" angels sent from their societies for special service elsewhere. And the nerve influence, direct from the brain, is the direct influence or presence of wise angels of the third heaven.
If, then, we should read of good, intelligent spirits, eager to be instructed, being trained to angelic thought under the care of angels and the direct supervision and inspiration of angels of the third heaven, we should conclude with reason that we had found a place marvellously like a mesenteric gland.
In n. 132, of the work on "Conjugial Love," we read, --
"I once conversed with two angels; one was from the eastern heaven, the other from the [p. 81] southern heaven; who . . . said, 'Do you know anything of the Exercises of Wisdom in our world?' I answered that I did not yet. And they said, 'They are numerous, and those who love truths from spiritual affection, or truths because they are truths, and because by means of them is wisdom, come together at a given signal, and canvass and conclude those things which are of more profound understanding.' They then took me by the hand, saying, 'Follow us, and you shall see and hear; today the signal for meeting is given.' I was led across a plain to a hill; and, behold, at the foot of the hill was an avenue of palms, continued even to its top. We entered it and ascended. And on the top or summit of the hill was seen a grove, the trees of which, upon an elevation of ground, formed as it were a theatre, within which was a plain surface covered with little stones variously colored. Around it, in a square form, were placed seats, upon which the lovers of wisdom were sitting; and in the middle of the theatre was a table upon which was laid a paper sealed with a seal. Those sitting upon the seats invited us to the seats as yet vacant. And I answered, 'I was led here by the two angels to see and listen, and not to sit.' And then those two angels went into the middle of the plain surface to the table, and loosed the [p. 82] seal of the paper, and read, in the presence of those sitting, the arcana of wisdom written upon the paper, which they were now to canvass and unfold. They were written by angels of the third heaven, and let down upon the table. There were three arcana: First, What the image of God is, and what the likeness of God, into which man was created? Second, Why man is not born into the knowledge belonging to any love, when yet beasts and birds, as well the noble as the ignoble, are born into the knowledges belonging to all their loves? Third, What the tree of life signifies, and what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and what the eating from them?
"Under these was written, 'Conjoin these three into one opinion, and write this upon a new paper, and lay it upon this table, and we shall see it; if the opinion when weighed appears right and just, there shall be given to each of you a reward of wisdom.'
"These things being read, the two angels withdrew, and were taken up into their own heavens. And then those sitting upon the seats began to canvass and unfold the arcana proposed to them."
After an orderly and enlightened discussion, their conclusions were combined into one series, as follows, -- [p. 83]
"That man is created that he may receive love and wisdom from God, and yet in all likeness as of himself; and this for the sake of reception and conjunction; and that therefore man is not born into any love, nor into any knowledge, and also not into any power of loving and being wise from himself; wherefore if he ascribes all good of love and truth of wisdom to God, he becomes a living man; but if he ascribes them to himself, he becomes a dead man.
"These they wrote upon a new paper, and placed this upon the table; and, behold, suddenly angels were present in shining white light, and carried away the paper into heaven; and after it was read there, those sitting upon the seats heard thence the words, 'Well, well, well'; and forthwith there appeared one thence as if flying," and distributed to all the company beautiful rewards of wisdom.
If this admirable exercise did not take place in the mesentery, it certainly illustrates the processes which must there be accomplished.
Other similar lessons are also described by Swedenborg.
Somewhat similar are the schools taught by the ancient wise men of Greece. "All the [p. 84] Athenians," St. Luke tells us, "and strangers which were there, spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing." (Acts xvii. 21.)
In the neighborhood of Athens also were the schools of philosophy taught by Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many others, in which, from the new things told, wise lessons of morality or philosophy were deduced; and from which have come down to us, in the form either of allegory or of direct instruction, almost all the remains we have of the wisdom of the Ancient Churches.
The desire of these wise men to learn new things, and to instruct in true wisdom, was not diminished but increased and enlightened by their change to the spiritual world. It is not, therefore, a matter of surprise to find them, in Swedenborg's descriptions, receiving modest and intelligent new comers with the greeting, "What news from the earth?" -- inquiring especially about the thoughts of men concerning eternal life, and then wisely [p. 85] instructing the spirits in the nature of heavenly life and happiness.
These things are set forth at length C. L. 151-154, 182, 207.