Think Tank
Contact Us
Other Links



p. 173

Chapter 14

THE lungs absorb aerial food composed of pure air and the exhalations and odors of innumerable mineral, vegetable, and animal bodies. This food is even more important to the life than the grosser food which is received through the stomach. If the supply be cut off even for a few minutes, the body dies; though it will endure privation from solid and liquid food as many days. The aerial food is also varied in quality very much more than the other; and the state of the body, especially of the brain and the delicate fluids, depends noticeably upon that quality -- upon the cleanness or uncleanness of the atmosphere, and upon the odors and exhalations which it bears in it -- whether they be fresh, rich, and stimulating, or corrupt, foul, and stupefying.

At the entrance of the passage to the stomach the mouth stands guard, with its sense of taste. [p.174]  And at the entrance to the lungs the nose is stationed, instructed in its use, and intelligent through its sense of smell.

The mouth tastes the liquid food that is brought to it, and dissolves in its own fluids portions of the solid food that it may taste them also; the purest and most acceptable portions it drinks in through its own little tubes and veins, and forewarns the whole digestive apparatus of the nature of the coming aliment, that it may open its pores to receive it freely. It also closes to refuse admittance to such as is excessively distasteful, or rouses the stomach to reject that which may be swallowed. And so the nose tastes the atmosphere with the various aliments contained in it, dissolving a part in its own fluids, and absorbing a small part of them, at the same time notifying the lungs of the quality of the approaching breath, and preparing all the air cells to receive it rightly. The tongue, "as an organ of taste," Swedenborg tells us, "corresponds to the natural perception of good and truth, but the smell corresponds to spiritual perception."  (A. E. 990.) [p. 175]

If the atmosphere be agreeable in quality, and altogether suitable for nourishment, the nose opens wide to receive as much as possible, encouraging the lungs, also, to expand their little chambers and breathe in freely the healthful odors, which it transmits to them warmed and moistened with a vapory saliva. By the combined effect of the opening of the nose and the expansion of the lungs, the air is drawn freely through the upper part of the nose where the olfactory nerves are distributed, that the pleasant refreshment may be more fully recognized and received.

But if the air be laden with pungent or putrid exhalations, the veinlets and even the nostrils contract to shut it out; a peremptory warning is sent likewise to the lungs, so that they may either refuse to admit it at all, or may expand with caution, drawing the air slowly through the lower nasal passages, and holding themselves ready to check it entirely, or to expel, by convulsive cough, any particles of unendurable foulness or acridity.

Besides these peculiar functions of the nose [p.176] analogous to those of the mouth, the nose cooperates with the mouth in its discernment of the quality of food. The mouth alone, by its exquisite touch, perceives the quality of saline, sugary, and other comparatively coarse particles; but the volatile, aromatic flavors or odors are not clearly distinguished by the papillae of the tongue, but are instantly recognized by the nose. They are faintly perceived as the food is presented to the lips, and the perception has much to do with the state of reception induced upon the lips and tongue and other parts of the mouth. Within the mouth these subtile elements seem to be freely liberated -- assisted, perhaps, by the warmth and moisture -- so as to affect sensibly the back part of the mouth, the pharynx, and even the nose itself with a sort of compound sense which is at least as much smell as taste. It is this which Swedenborg ascribes to spirits instead of taste: --

"I have discoursed with spirits concerning the sense of taste, which they said they had not, but that they had something whereby they nevertheless [p. 177] know what taste is; which they compared to smell, but were not able to describe. This brought to my recollection that taste and smell meet in a kind of third sense; as appears also from animals, which examine their food by the smell to discover whether it be wholesome and suitable for them." (A. C. 1516.)

From the frontal sinuses superfluous mucus is discharged into the upper part of the nose. The eyes also discharge their tears upon its lining membranes; and its own mucous follicles furnish it with additional moisture. These varied fluids arc distributed over the undulating surface of the inner nose, where their watery vapors moisten pleasantly the entering atmosphere, and the viscid fluids hold fast to every particle of dust, and carry it whither they themselves are hastened by the cilia lining the nose, through the oesophagus and stomach to the intestine.

The objects upon which the sense of the nose is exercized are the air and the various odors and spheres that mingle with it. That the amount and variety of these spheres are very great is [p. 178] evident from the fact that every existing thing is giving forth a sphere composed of its own particles. We are aware of a very strong sphere, pleasant or unpleasant, from certain animals, also from some plants, their flowers, fruits, leaves, or wood; from a few minerals and metals, also, as from copper, iron, and sulphur. Other animals, endowed with more exquisite sense than we, because their life is confined to the body, perceive distinctly odors which to us are obscure; as the sheep the odors of the plants upon which it feeds; the dog the faint odors of footsteps upon the sand or grass, even hours after they have passed. That this immense amount of exhalation is scarcely at all detected by chemistry proves nothing; for chemistry takes cognizance of only the grossest forms of matter, and most of the aerial and etherial fluids with which we are now concerned are above its reach.

In the chapter on the lungs, we saw that the breathing corresponds to the purification of the life by thinking the truth and applying it to our [p.179 ] affections and natural desires. Swedenborg says that the air corresponds to "all things of perception and thought" (A. R. 708). The pure air must correspond to pure, abstract wisdom of thought, and may be compared to the spirit of truth. Spirit also means breath, or wind; and the various exhalations with which the air is laden correspond to the spheres of as many states of life, which come to us as perceptions or thoughts of those states. Spheres of life are made sensible in the other world by odors, which, Swedenborg teaches, "spirits perceive much more exquisitely than men" (A. C. 1514); and, "what is wonderful, odors correspond to those spheres." He gives many instances of particular odors, with the spheres to which they correspond, --

"The spheres of charity and faith, when they are perceived as odors, are most delightful; they are pleasant odors, as of flowers, lilies, spices of various kinds, with indefinite variety." (n. 1519.)

"I perceived a winey odor, and was informed that it was from those who from friendship and lawful love speak courteously, but so that there is [p. 180] truth in their compliments; this odor is with much variety, and is from a sphere of beautiful manners." (n. 1517.)

''They who have cultivated eloquence for the end that all things may contribute to admiration of themselves, when their sphere is made odorous, it is like the smell of burnt bread;" because the instruction is like bread, and the zeal of self-love burns it." They who have indulged in mere pleasures, and have been in no charity and faith, the odor of their sphere is excrementitious." "Where men have lived in violent hatred, revenge, and cruelty, their sphere, when changed into odors, has the stench of a dead carcass. Such as have been immersed in sordid avarice give forth a stench like that of mice" (n. 1514). But he says that spheres are not always made sensible as odors, but these are "variously tempered by the Lord, lest the quality of spirits should always appear before others." (n. 1520.)

By these odors of life the minds of spirits and angels are exhilarated and delighted; the good [p. 181] with the pleasant fragrances of good life, and the evil with the stenches of evil life; and they are to them manifest perceptions of the life of those whom they meet.

In the province of the nose we shall find those who excel in such perception. Not the taste, nor the touch, nor even the sight can give so true a revelation of the interior quality of substances presented to it, as the nose; and they who constitute this province in the Greatest Man, must enjoy unerring perception of the quality of the lives and inner thoughts of those to whom their attention is directed.

"To that province belong those who are in general perception, so that they may be called Perceptions. The smelling, and hence its organ, corresponds to them. Hence also it is that to smell [a thing out], to get scent of, to be keen-scented, and also [especially in Latin, quick] nostrils are predicated in common speech of those who divine a matter accurately, and also who perceive; for the interiors of the expressions of man's speech derive many things from correspondence with the Greatest
[p. 182]  Man, because man as to his spirit is in society with spirits, and as to his body with men." (n. 4624.)

"They who relate to the interiors of the nostrils are in a more perfect state as to perception than they who relate to their exteriors. ... It is permitted to relate these things concerning them. There appeared to me as it were a bath with long seats or benches, and heat was exhaled from it. There appeared there a woman, who presently disappeared in a darkening cloud; and also children were heard, saying that they did not wish to be there. Afterwards some angelic choirs were apperceived, who were sent to me for the sake of averting the efforts of certain evil spirits. And then suddenly above the forehead appeared little openings greater and less through which there shone beautifully golden light; and in that light within the openings women in snowy white were seen. And there again appeared little openings in another order, through which they who were within looked out; and again other little openings through which the light did not thus pass. At length a brightening light was seen. It was said to me that there were the homes of those who constituted the province of the inner nostrils, for they were of the female sex, and that the keenness of perception of those who are there is represented in the world of spirits [p. 183] by such openings; for the spiritual things in heaven are represented by natural, or rather by such things in the world of spirits as are like natural. Afterwards it was permitted to speak with them, and they said that by those representative openings they can see exactly the things which take place below; and that the openings appear turned to those societies which they are trying to observe; and because then they were turned to me, they said that they could perceive all the ideas of my thought, and also of those who were about me. They added further that they not only perceived the ideas, but also saw them variously represented to them, as the things of affection for good by appropriate little flames, and those of affection for truth by variations of light. They added that they saw certain angelic societies with me, and their thoughts [represented] by things variously colored, by purples as in embroidered tapestry, and also by rainbows in a darker plane, and that thence they perceived that those angelic societies were from the province of the eye. Afterwards other spirits were seen who were cast down thence and dispersed hither and thither of whom they said that they were such as had insinuated themselves among them for the sake of perceiving something, and of seeing what went on below, but for the purpose [p. 184] of ensnaring. This casting down was observed as often as angel companies approached, with whom also I conversed. They said that those who were cast down relate to the mucus of the nostrils, and that they are heavy and stupid and also without conscience, thus altogether without interior perception. The woman who was seen, as mentioned above, signified such ensnarers; with whom also it was permitted to speak, and they wondered that any one has conscience; they were utterly ignorant what conscience is, and when I said that it is an interior apperception of goodness and truth, and if anything is done contrary to that apperception that it causes anxiety, they did not understand it. ... The light was then shown me in which they live who relate to the interiors of the nostrils; it was a light beautifully varied with veins of golden flame and of silver light; affections for good were there represented by the veins of golden flame, and affections for truth by the veins of silver light. And it was shown further that they have openings at the side, through which they see as it were the heaven with stars in the blue. And it was said that in their rooms the light is so great that the mid-day light of the world cannot be compared with it. It was said moreover that the heat with them is like vernal warmth upon the earth; and [p. 185] that there are also children with them, but children of some years; and that they are not willing to be there when those ensnaring women, or mucuses, approach." (n. 4627.)

Among the objects to which these keen perceptions direct their attention, are the new spirits coming from the earths, who at their entrance into the other life are received by the lips. At their first approach, while the lips still wait to receive them, their real quality is perceived in a general way by the angels of the nose; and lips and mouth and stomach, and indeed all provinces of the body, are notified, and prepared accordingly. In the further exploration of their quality, when the interiors of the memory are opened in the province of the mouth, the same angels assist; though not manifestly present, they perceive the spheres of the life, as it is opened, and add their more interior perception to the knowledge of fact and form acquired by the tongue.

From the earths themselves, where this food for the heavens is growing, ascend odors of the [p. 186] spiritual quality of the people upon them, which come to the manifest perception of the angels of the nose; thus we are told that from a wife who is tenderly loved, the angels perceive a sphere which is sweetly fragrant. (C. L.171.)

To the hells likewise these angels direct their attention, and to any part of the heavens or world of spirits which needs such attention; and by their perception the whole man is instructed; admonished, or encouraged, and assisted in its general efforts to remove evil, and to promote the growth of all things of heavenly life.

Besides the duty of perceiving and notifying the body of the quality of odors which come to its sense, the nose has a more constant duty of receiving, tempering, and transmitting to the lungs the pure air of heaven. As odors correspond to the spheres of life of individuals or societies, the pure air corresponds to the sphere of the Lord's life, as accommodated to the state of the heavens; it is the pure wisdom of the Divine thought, which shows what is absolutely true and [p. 187] wise. The purity of this truth the nose perceives and delights in; but it needs to be tempered and still further accommodated to the general life of the heavens, before it can be received without causing injurious discouragement. And this the angels of the nostrils perform by means of the abundant knowledge of the states of the body which they possess, and which is represented by the moisture of the nose. With such knowledge they temper the application of the pure truth of thought which they admit, and thus prepare it for ready acceptance by the lungs. Grosser thoughts, and spirits who embody them, who desire pure truth for selfish purposes, and not for the uses of heavenly life, also necessarily intrude, but are detected and quickly thrust down to the world of spirits, and then below.

Similar uses to these which are done for the whole heaven by the angels of the nose are performed for each society by angels appointed for the purpose; for, Swedenborg says, -- [p. 188]

"Each society is an image of the whole; for what is unanimous is composed of so many images of itself. The more comprehensive societies, which are images of the Greatest, have particular societies within themselves, which have like correspondence. I have sometimes conversed with those who, in the society into which I was sent, belonged to the province of the lungs, of the heart, face, tongue, ear, eye, and with those who belonged to the province of the nostrils, from whom also it was given to know their quality, namely, that they are Perceptions; for they perceived whatever happened in the society in general, but not so particularly as they who are in the province of the eye; for these latter distinguish and consider the things which are of perception. It was also given to observe that their faculty of perceiving varies according to the general changes of state of the society in which they are." (A. C. 4625.)

Every angel, spirit, and man possesses, in some degree, the same faculty, which is the faculty of perceiving what is abstractly true and wise, and also of perceiving truly the spheres of human life which are presented; and it does not deny the use for which the faculty was intended, that it [p. 189] may be employed to search out the spheres of foul life, and thoughts of unwisdom.

The things which have been said of the nose relate especially to the sensitive lining of it. Besides this, the great body of the nose is composed of cartilages and bones which protect the nerves and expand and support the membranes in the forms and positions which are necessary to their uses. The angels who are in these parts of the nose of the Greatest Man hold strongly and firmly to the right and duty to examine all the spheres of life that come to it, and to admit to the Heavenly Man the sphere of the Lord's genuine truth.

The same parts in an individual correspond to his hold of the right to think for himself as to the agreeableness or disagreeableness to him of states or spheres of life and thought. Hence a prominent nose indicates a certain degree of independence of thought and opinion.

In animals the same faculty appears as the faculty of examining and exploring, chiefly for the [p. 190] sake of finding appropriate food. It is a more prominent faculty in them than in man, and is embodied in long noses, snouts, or probosces. The elephant, in which the development of the nose is most remarkable, corresponds to a love of justice. His ivory tusks, from which the throne of Solomon was made, correspond to the truth by which appearances are stripped off, and the real life is exposed; and the wonderful trunk represents a perception of real quality, of genuineness, or of sham.

End of Chapter 14
Go to Next Chapter
or Go to Table of Contents