BY JOHN WORCESTER
MASSACHUSETTS NEW-CHURCH UNION
THE SUPRA-RENAL CAPSULES
THESE are two conical caps upon the two kidneys. In embryos these capsules are as large as the kidneys; but after birth they diminish considerably.
They consist of a yellowish, cortical substance, composed of parallel tubes perpendicular to the surfaces, which are ramifications of superficial arteries, and lead inwards; and an inner, dark-red, soft substance, in the cavity of which open the mouths of a vein much larger than the capsular arteries. They lie on either side close to the aorta, which brings the blood directly from the heart, and the vena cava, which returns it directly to the heart; and at the point whence the arteries which supply the principal abdominal viscera go off from the aorta.
Branches from several of these arteries ramify upon the capsules, as well as two small arteries [p. 132] of their own direct from the aorta. And one important use which they serve is to draw off and return immediately to the heart as much of the pure, good blood as is not needed by the lower viscera; so that none shall be wasted or compelled to serve in unnecessarily low offices.
The capsules are imbedded in a mass of fatty, cellular tissue, by which they are connected with the kidneys and with the cellular coat of the peritonaeum, which lines the whole abdomen. Through this cellular tissue circulates a useful serum derived from its arteries which is absorbed and again mingled with the blood by the capsules. This is the cause of the large size of their veins compared with that of their arteries. The reason that the capsules are so large before birth is that the streams of serum which after birth become defiled, and are sorted and purified by the pancreas, kidneys, and other viscera, in the innocent state before birth are not foul, but circulate in the viscera, forming them for their future uses, and are by no means to be cast out as worthless; nor, indeed, [p. 133] are means of casting them out yet provided; but they are gathered in and restored to the circulation by the capsules, -- now necessarily large, soft, and active.
These two uses, explained at length by Swedenborg in the "Animal Kingdom," are thus described in the "Arcana": --
"There are also kidneys which are called succenturiate kidneys, and also renal capsules. Their office is not so much to secrete the serum, but the blood itself, and to transmit the purer blood towards the heart by a short circle; thus to prevent the spermatic vessels, which are in the neighborhood, from carrying off all the purer blood; but they perform their principal service in embryos and in new-born infants." (A. C. 5391.)
And concerning those who constitute that province in the Greatest Man, we read, --
"There are chaste virgins who constitute that province in the Greatest Man; prone to anxieties and timid lest they should be disturbed, they lie quiet on the left part of the side beneath. If anything be thought concerning heaven, and anything [p. 134] concerning their change of state, they become anxious and sigh, of which it has sometimes been given me to be very sensible." (ibidem.)
Their use is to prevent the thoughts from descending to ultimates and to things unclean, and to turn and return all thoughts to heavenly things in which they take delight. It is to be noticed that they lie just below the diaphragm, and stop the thoughts from descending further.
It is not to be supposed that the same virgins occupy the province perpetually; but a succession as they approach a marriageable age. No doubt there are with them persons of both sexes who are in the love of educating those in such states; so that it is a province for the education of girls of a certain age. "They become anxious and sigh when heaven is thought of," because they fear lest they shall not be prepared for heaven, and fear also a loss of the influx of heavenly thoughts which are their life; "they are troubled when anything not heavenly is thought of," and love especially innocent thoughts like those of infants. (S. D. 968-972.) [p. 135]
The corresponding province in the mind every one may detect in the conscientious faculty which anxiously prevents the thoughts from descending, and brings them back to pure interior subjects. It is the instinct of delicacy and modesty, regulating the flow of thought. The unusually large supply of nerves to the capsules has a correspondence with sensitiveness of this kind.
It is by virtue of this faculty that what Swedenborg calls "the chaste love of the sex" is possible; for it makes of the closure of the thorax a tight compartment which can be filled full with affection and pure and friendly thought between the sexes, without descending. (Comp. C. L. 44.)
Immediately after passing the capsular arteries, the great stream of blood in the aorta is drawn upon by the renal arteries for the impure serum which is to be rejected by the kidneys. And, in like manner, after the capsules of the mind have done their duty in turning the thoughts upwards, impure thoughts are quickly excreted and rejected.