BY JOHN WORCESTER
MASSACHUSETTS NEW-CHURCH UNION
THE great omentum is a thin membranous bag, quilted as it were into little pockets which are filled with fat; the whole suspended from the stomach and the transverse colon, and overhanging the intestines like an apron. A smaller and more delicate omentum is stretched between the stomach and the liver. And other still smaller omenta and epiploic appendages, all containing deposits of fat, occupy various crevices among the abdominal viscera.
Through these omenta arteries ramify, which, when there is a superfluity of fatty material in the blood, deposit it in these convenient places, from which it may as readily be absorbed again in time of want. From their close relation to the lacteals, the mesentery, and the lymphatics of the liver, pancreas, and spleen, it is probable that they receive temporary deposits from all these sources. [p.123] And these deposits they hold subject at all times to the demands of the liver, the great purveyor for the body; for this purpose sending all their veins to the portal vein which carries to the liver its supplies.
That the omentum has other secondary uses Swedenborg explains; as protecting the viscera from changes of temperature, and distilling an oily vapor to lubricate the surfaces of the viscera, which are perpetually in motion over one another. But its chief use is this, of gathering in the superfluous elements of the nutrition of the body, which otherwise must be cast out; and then, in time of need, furnishing freely from its stores whatever is wanted. The omenta, and also the other smaller reservoirs of fat, all share in this use.
In the liver itself the surplus of sugar, or of starch which had been converted into sugar, is reduced to a form of starch called glycogen, and is stored for use as it is wanted. In the omentum fatty elements are similarly stored, and both [p.124] deposits are reserves which can be drawn upon at any time for the uses of the body.
In the chapter on the saliva it was shown that the change from starch to soluble sugar consists in the chemical combination of a little more water with the starch; and that in the application to the heavens this corresponds to the reception by new spirits of the knowledge that opens to them the way to heaven. So, in the reverse of the process, the reducing the sugar again to starch is equivalent to saying, "Wait a little; the place for you will be ready presently; be content and wait patiently without thinking of particular uses in heaven, until the Lord calls you." The fat deposited in the omentum is similarly reduced from the active state of an emulsion to a passive, waiting state, which would represent a return from more active spiritual to quiet, natural states. Therefore Swedenborg speaks of the omenta as representing exterior and interior natural good.
As this function of the liver and the omentum is a permanent one, it seems possible that spirits [p. 125] are frequently detained in such quiet states for a while, perhaps until they can join friends who come later from the earth, or until the occasion for their full cooperation with angels is fully come.
Unless specially instructed, we should not know that there could be in the spiritual world quiet resting-places for good spirits, where they may live happily until their final homes are prepared for them. But John says, --
"I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?' And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (REV. vi. 9, 10, 11.)
These souls, Swedenborg says, were good spirits, [p. 126] "who were hated, reproached, and rejected by the evil on account of their life according to the truths of the Word, and their acknowledgment of the Lord's Divine Human, and were guarded by the Lord lest they should be led away. . . . As they were under the altar it is manifest that they were guarded by the Lord; for all who have lived any life of charity are guarded by the Lord lest they should be hurt by the evil; and after a last judgment when the evil have been removed, they are released from the guards, and are taken up into heaven. After the last judgment I often saw them sent forth from the lower earth and transferred into heaven." (A. R. 325.)
"The place where they were kept concealed is called the lower earth, which is next above the hells, under the world of spirits; and there by communication with heaven and by conjunction with the Lord they are in safety. There are many such places; and they live there cheerfully among themselves and worship the Lord; nor do they know anything about hell. They who are there are from time to time taken up by the Lord into heaven after a last judgment; and when they are taken up those who are meant by the dragon are removed. It has very often been given me to see them taken up and consociated with the angels in heaven." (A. R. 845.) [p. 127]
Before the Last Judgment there were fictitious heavens which at the time of the judgment passed away. They who constituted this heaven,--
"were seen upon mountains, hills, and rocks in the spiritual world, and hence they fancied themselves to be in heaven; but they who thus constituted this heaven, inasmuch as they were only in an external rnoral life, and not at the same time in internal spiritual life, were cast down, and then all those who were reserved by the Lord, and concealed here and there, for the most part in the lower earth, were raised up and translated into the same places, that is, upon the mountains, hills, and rocks where the former heavens had been, and from these a new heaven was formed. They who had thus been reserved, and were then raised up, were from those in the world who had lived a life of charity, and were in spiritual affection for truth. . . . The elevation of such into the places of those who constituted the former heavens has been often seen by me." (A. E. 391. See also 392.)
"The reason that the evil were so long tolerated upon the high places, and the good so long detained under heaven, was in order that both might be fulfilled or completed, that is, that the good might amount to such a number as to be sufficient [p. 128] to form a new heaven, and also that the evil might fall down of themselves into hell." (A. E. 397.)
"They who were under the altar received white robes, because those robes represented the presence of the Lord with the Divine truth around them; and the Lord by the Divine truth protects His own, for He surrounds them with a sphere of light from which they have white robes; and when they are thus encompassed, they can be infested no more by the evil spirits who before infested them, in consequence of which they were hid by the Lord. The case is the same also with those who are raised by the Lord into heaven, who are thus clothed with white robes, which is an indication that they are in Divine truth, and so in safety." (A. E. 395.)
Very similar things are said of those who were preserved in the safe places of the lower earth at the time of the first coming of the Lord, and who were then raised up by Him into the spiritual heaven. (See A. C. 6854, 7090, 8054.)
Such quiet places, where hell is not known, and where the good dwell cheerfully together, cannot be in the intestines, through which evil is [p. I29] continually passing, and where painful vastations are always going on. But the omentum covering the intestines, and the various deposits among them, are in nearly the same situation relatively to the stomach, and though very near the evil may not be at all disturbed by them.
The deposits in the liver, also, though so near the evil in the gall-bladder, are perfectly protected from them, and may well represent a peaceful, gentle life in waiting for freer opportunities.
Apparently the deposits in the omenta represent spirits like those carried by the way of the mesentery; and the deposits in the liver other spirits like those carried in the portal vein.
The province of the liver cannot strictly be regarded as in "the lower earth," since it is above the plane of the stomach. But Swedenborg's expression is, that those who are reserved are "in great part," or "mostly" (plerique) in the lower earth; which implies that they are partly elsewhere.
The great omentum I understand to be "the fat [p. 130] covering the intestines" in the Jewish sacrifices; and the smaller omentum, "the fat upon the liver"; of which last, Swedenborg says that it corresponds to a nobler, more interior good than the other, because it is connected with a nobler organ. (A. C. 10,031.)
In an individual man the omenta must correspond to a memory of natural and spiritual good which is reserved for times of temptation and want.