BY JOHN WORCESTER
MASSACHUSETTS NEW-CHURCH UNION
"THE light of the body is the eye." Through the eye the light affects the body, informs the brain, and through the brain all other organs of the body. And in the brain it meets the mind, which there delights in the forms of life which the eye presents to it, and flashes forth through the eye a responsive, spiritual light, expressive of intelligence and love of knowing.
With a peculiar tenderness, the body guards and protects its delicate organ of light, enclosing it in a strong, bony socket, just beneath the brain, which socket it softly wads, and then lines with smooth and carefully lubricated membranes. It shades it and protects it from blows by projecting the roof over it like eaves, and turns away the descending moisture of the forehead by the capillary eaves-trough of the eye-brows.
It closes and rests the eyes with [p. 294] smoothly-fitting, elastic shutters, which are provided each with a reservoir of tears, and are ever on the watch to remove with moistened touch every particle of dust, and to keep the surface of the eye bright, clear, and moist.
As to these protecting parts, there is slight analogy between the eye and the ear; for the ear deals with the undulations of the air and needs protection only from the insects and coarser particles which fly in the air; its protective organs are therefore limited to a few hairs and the adhesive cerumen which guard and moisten the auditory passage. But the eye is concerned with the undulations of the ether, and needs protection from the drying, chilling, and chafing of the air itself as well as from all the foreign particles contained in it.
Internally the structure of the eye is more closely analogous to that of the ear, and we may obtain valuable aid from the grosser organ in tracing the sequence of uses in the more delicate.
First, in the ear, we observe the visible auricle [p. 295] with its convolutions turned every way to catch and concentrate the vibrations of the air. In the eye the correlative function is performed by the cornea, -- a totally different organ in appearance, but perfectly qualified to receive and concentrate upon the inner parts of the eye the undulatory rays in the ether.
In the ear next we find the tympanum, which receives in a confused mass all the sounds gathered by the outer ear, and begins the work of assorting them; first by neutralizing the most violent shocks, with the help of the inner air-chamber, the. mastoid process, and the Eustachian tube, and then by transmitting its central undulations in a successive stream to the little chain of bones.
The multitude of rays of light gathered by the cornea from various directions are received similarly upon the iris, which immediately absorbs and neutralizes by its own pigment cells and dark lining membrane the rays that are too divergent and scattering for service, also cutting off by the closing of its pupil those that are too intense, [p. 296] and transmits through its centre -- the pupil of the eye -- the rays that are most fit to form distinct images.
Over the bones of the ear are communicated successively, one by one, the vibrations of the air, to the window of the inner ear, where the first branches of the auditory nerve are expanded, and the sense of hearing properly begins. And through the pupil and the lenses of the eye -- aqueous, crystalline, and vitreous -- are brought together upon the surface of the retina, or the first general expansion of the optic nerve, the rays that proceed successively from the same objects, and are capable of leaving a distinct impression of their form and colors. The ear has the power of selecting the series of sounds to which it will attend, as the notes of a single instrument in an orchestra, by attuning in agreement with them the tympanum and the window of the inner ear, by means of the little muscles attached to the chain of bones; and those sounds to which it is attuned are transmitted distinctly, but others obscurely. [p. 297] And so the eye has the power of adjusting its sequence of lenses to receive and concentrate distinctly the rays that come from a particular object, at the same time that they transmit obscurely those that come from other objects. This power it has partly from the muscles which turn the head, and the smaller muscles which direct the eye-ball in a particular direction; but especially from the ciliary muscle which encircles the crystalline lens, and by increasing or diminishing the convexity of its face, attuning it, as it were to the rays that come from different distances, according to the desire of observing.
Within the inner ear we traced in order the apparatus for distinguishing quantity or intensity of sound, articulation, pitch (including harmony and melody), and pathos. And the greater part of this apparatus is on a comparatively large scale, because the undulatory forms which it measures are those of the lowest atmosphere, which is the air.
The correlative qualities of light, which the eye [p. 298] measures, are those of light and shade, or intensity--which seem to correspond to the qualities perceived in the vestibule of the ear, and which first strike a child's eye, or our own half-closed -- then the particulars of form, corresponding to those of articulation; and then the varieties of color, to which we apply the term harmony.
The instruments by which these qualities are appropriately received, and their properties of varied motion are conveyed to the brain, must be as delicate as the vibratory forms of the ether. It is no wonder that, except as to their most general structure, they have so long escaped observation. The closely-woven, nervous net-work, from which the retina has its name, has, until recently, been the only sensitive part of the apparatus described; but now, behind the retina, and extending from its fibres outward to the layer of pigment cells of the choroid coat of the eye, is described a minute and highly complicated nervous structure of granules and fibres and inter-lacings, terminating in a closely set apparatus of [p. 299] minutest rods alternating with cones. It is like an exquisitely organized velvet nap standing upon the expanded tissue of the optic nerve.
The precise functions of the several parts of this structure are not known; but it is plain that we have here presented forms sufficiently varied and delicate for the wonderful work required of them.
The nerves of sight seem to be connected especially with the convolution of the brain which is called the "angular gyrus," and also to have connection with the whole of the occipital lobes. If any part of these is in good order, and the connection undisturbed, the sense of sight is possible. No doubt there is indirect communication with other parts of the brain; but not such as to give the sense of sight.
The auditory nerve, as has been said, as to one important branch, communicates directly with the cerebellum, and is the means of affecting the feelings directly as well as the intelligence. The nerve of sight affects the intelligence, and the feelings only through the intelligence. [p. 300]
There is a further difference between the animations of sound and those of light, as between generals and particulars. For the ether by its compositions produces the air, as materials of the air again are consolidated into water. The activities of the ether, therefore, affect the minute forms of the brain of which the generals are composed, or the single glands by the combination of which are formed composite glands.
As, therefore, through the air and by the ears, general animations are communicated, through the ether and by the eye are given particulars which fill those generals, and which never can be described to the hearing. We know this to be true, practically, in regard to scenery and to every work of nature; and Swedenborg says that in heaven the angels express to the eye by the curves and points of their writing, ideas which cannot be communicated by sound.
The hearing corresponds to the love of being instructed, guided, and affected obediently; and the correspondence of the sight is with the love [p. 301] of obtaining clear, distinct ideas, of being intelligent in spiritual things and wise in heavenly things.
Swedenborg says, --
"That the sense of sight corresponds to the affection of understanding and being wise, is because the sight of the body altogether corresponds to the sight of its spirit, thus to the understanding. For there are two lights, one which is of the world from the sun, and another which is of heaven from the Lord; in the light of the world there is no intelligence, but in the light of heaven there is intelligence. Hence as far as the things in man which are of the light of the world are illuminated by those which are of the light of heaven, so far man is intelligent and wise; that is, as far as they correspond." (A. C. 4405.)
"The eye is the most noble organ of the face, and communicates with the understanding more immediately than the other sensory organs of man. It is also modified by a more subtile atmosphere than the ear." (n. 4407.)
"It has been made plain to me by much experience that the sight of the left eye corresponds to truths which are of the understanding, and the right eye to affections of truth which also are of [p. 302] the understanding; hence that the left eye corresponds to truths of faith, and the right eye to good things of faith." (n. 4410.)
Perhaps we might interpret these words as meaning that the left eye corresponds to the understanding of things that we clearly perceive to be so; and the right eye to the understanding of things that we love; or that the left eye corresponds to the understanding of what is true, and the right eye to the understanding of what is good.
"All things in the eye have their correspondences in the heavens; as the three humors, aqueous, vitreous, and crystalline; and not only the humors but the coats also, -- yea, every part. The more interior things of the eye have the more beautiful and pleasant correspondences, but differently in each heaven. The light which proceeds from the Lord, when it flows into the inmost or third heaven, is received there as good which is called charity; and when it flows into the middle or second heaven, mediately and immediately, it is received as truth which is from charity; but when this truth flows into the lowest or first heaven, mediately and [p. 303] immediately, it is received substantially, and appears there as a paradise, and elsewhere as a city in which are palaces. Thus the correspondences succeed one another even to the external sight of the angels. Likewise in man, in the ultimate of sight, which is the eye, it is presented materially through the sight, whose objects are the things of the visible world. Man who is in love and charity, and thence in faith, has his interiors such; for they correspond to the three heavens, and he is in form a very little heaven." (n. 4411.)
"There was a certain person who was known to me in the life of the body, but not as to his disposition and interior affections; he has occasionally conversed with me in the other life, but a little at a distance. He usually manifested himself by pleasant representatives; for he could present such things as were delightful, as colors of every kind, and beautiful colored forms; he could introduce infants beautifully decorated, and very many like things which are pleasant and enjoyable. He acted by a gentle and soft influx, and this into the coat of the left eye. By such means he insinuated himself into the affections of others, with the end of making their life pleasant and delightful. It was said to me by the angels that such are they who belong to the coats of the eye, and that they [p. 304] comrnunicate with the paradisal heavens where truths and goods are represented in substantial form." (n. 4412.)
These paradisal heavens, or societies, I infer are in the eyes of the lowest heaven, and communicate by correspondence with the same provinces of the interior heavens.
The eyes of the inner heavens are delighted with the perception of interior goodness and truth, presented in simplest forms; but the eyes of the lower heavens love to see and to cause others to see the same things in full representatives. Of these Swedenborg further teaches, --
"The eye, or rather its sight, corresponds especially with those societies in the other life, which are in paradisal things, which appear above, a little to the right, where are presented to the life gardens with so many genera and species of trees and flowers that those in the whole world are respectively few. In every object there, there is something of intelligence and wisdom which shines forth, so that you may say that they are at the same time in paradises of intelligence and wisdom. [p. 305] These are the things which affect those who are there from the inmosts, and thus gladden not only their sight, but also at the same time their understanding. Those paradisal things are in the first heaven, and in the very entrance to the interiors of that heaven, and are representatives which descend from the higher heaven when the angels of the higher heaven converse together intellectually concerning the truths of faith. The speech of the angels there is by spiritual and celestial ideas, which to them are forms of expression, and continually by series of representations of such beauty and pleasantness as cannot at all be described. These beauties and pleasantnesses of their discourse are what are represented as paradisal things in the lower heaven. This heaven is distinguished into several heavens, to which correspond the particulars which are in the chambers of the eye. There is the heaven where are the paradisal gardens which have been spoken of; there is a heaven where are variously colored atmospheres, where the whole air glitters as if from gold, silver, pearls, precious stones, flowers, in minute forms, and innumerable other things; there is a rainbow heaven, where are most beautiful rainbows, great and small, variegated with most splendid colors. Every one of these things exists by the light which is from the Lord, in which [p. 306] are intelligence and wisdom; hence there is in every object there, something of intelligence of truth and of wisdom of good, which is thus presented representatively." (n. 4528.)
Swedenborg also describes "beautiful shrubberies and most pleasant flower-gardens of immense extent," in which everything shines with the changeful light of intelligence and wisdom. And he adds, --
"They who are in the intelligence itself and the wisdom, from which those things originate, are in such a state of happiness that the things which have been mentioned are esteemed by them of but little importance. Some also who had said when in the paradisal things that they exceeded every degree of happiness, were therefore taken more toward the right into a heaven which shone with still greater splendor, where was likewise the blessedness of the intelligence and wisdom which was in such things; and then when they were there, speaking with me again, they said that the things which they had seen before were respectively nothing. And at length they were taken to that heaven where from the satisfaction of interior affection they could scarcely subsist; for the satisfaction [p. 307] penetrated to the marrows, which being as it were dissolved by the satisfaction, they began to fall into a holy swoon." (n. 4529.)
Here are described, apparently, those who constitute the successively interior parts of the eye. Possibly they who are in the first sensitive coat and the adjacent humor love the paradisal representatives; those in a more interior province delight in the intelligence and wisdom represented; and those in an inmost department are satisfied with the interior affection from which that wisdom exists.
These provinces, as here described, appear to have been near together and closely related -- not in widely separated heavens. Probably they were all in the inmost Christian heaven, the situation of which agrees with what is said of these paradisal heavens.
Here, also, in the eyes of the Christian heaven, are the homes of those who now die as infants. (A. R. 876.) They are in the province of the eyes (H. H. 333); those of a celestial disposition [p. 308] in the right eye, and those of a spiritual nature in the left, "directly in the line or radius in which angels look to the Lord." (H.. H. 332.) "They are surrounded by atmospheres according to the state of their perfection; . . . especially there are presented to them atmospheres as of playing infants in least inconspicuous forms, but perceptible only by an inmost idea; from these they receive the heavenly idea that all the things about them are alive, and that they are in the life of the Lord, which affects them with inmost happiness." (A. C. 2297.) "They are instructed by representatives; . . . and these are so beautiful, and at the same time so full of wisdom from within as to surpass belief." (H. H. 335.) Indeed, by simplest representatives they are instructed in the holiest things of the Lord's mercy and providence, which they perceive very clearly, though in a simple and infantile manner. And in their delightful gardens, the flowers of which flash gladness through their glowing colors (n. 337), they enjoy delightful perceptions of innocence and charity. [p. 309]
It is impossible not to see the likeness of infants in the transparent humors of the eye, full of the forming images of light. And among these humors that most delicate fluid immediately under the cornea, receiving all light, but without distinctions, is unmistakably like the first state of infancy, open to all impressions, yet seizing none but the most general -- even in regard to sight, being content with the light, and scarcely discriminating even the brightest colors. The next medium is the crystalline lens, which is strongly characterized by the effort to receive distinctly the light from particular things, and seems plainly to correspond to infants in their effort to fix their attention, to discriminate, and to recognize particular objects. The vitreous humor continues the effort to concentrate the light in distinct images, and lies all around in contact with the retina, upon which such images are formed. Is not this the heaven in which children are taught by elaborate representatives, carefully and fully presented? Here also must be the paradises in which are so [p. 310] many perfect forms of human intelligence and affection.
It is in the different heavens corresponding to the chambers of the eye, that the beautiful atmospheres appear. It is in one of these, possibly the outer chamber, that "the universal aura glitters as if from gold, silver, pearls, precious stones, flowers in their least forms, and innumerable things." (A. C. 1621.) In an inner heaven, which seems beautifully like the crystalline chamber surrounded by the iris, "the whole atmosphere appears to consist of very small, continued rainbows. . . . Around is the form of a very large rainbow, encompassing the whole heaven, most beautiful, being composed of similar smaller rainbows, which are images of the larger. Every single color thus consists of innumerable rays constituting one general, perceptible ray, which is as it were a modification of the origins of light from the celestial and spiritual things which produce it, and which at the same time present to the sight a representative idea." (n. 1623 ; see also n. 4528.) [p. 311]
With the children in these beautiful heavens are the mothers and maidens who care for them, themselves in sympathy with the open innocence of the children, but wise to guide them in their heavenly sports. And penetrating everywhere through the humors are said to be, and no doubt there are, delicate tubes and fibres, as transparent as the humors, keeping them constantly changing according to their needs and the requirements of the eye.
The objects of delight to the eyes, and sight and enlightenment to the heavens, are revelations of truth and goodness from the Lord Himself, with the representatives of them. These revelations have a general ultimate in our Scriptures, just as all possible human uses and relations have a general representative in the human body. Divine wisdom concerning the development of human life is contained in the Word, and shines from it as light to the eyes of angels, or can be presented as beautiful representatives of human affection and thought. There are no beautiful [p. 312] things in heaven or on earth that are not representatives of these.
"The Word of the Lord, when it is read by a man who loves it and who lives in charity, and even by a man who from a simple heart believes what is written, having formed no principles contrary to the truth of faith contained in the internal sense, is displayed by the Lord to the angels with such beauty and with such pleasantness, accompanied also by representatives, -- and this with an inexpressible variety according to the whole state of the angels at the time -- that every particular is perceived as if it had life." (n. 1767.)
"The angels have a clearer and fuller understanding of the internal sense of the Word when it is read by little boys and girls than when by adults who are not in the faith of charity. The reason is, as was told me, that little children are in a state of mutual love and innocence, consequently their vessels are most tender and almost heavenly, so as to be pure faculties of receiving, which therefore are capable of being disposed by the Lord, although this does not come to their perception except by a certain delight suitable to their genius." (n. 1776.)
"In the literal sense, scarce anything appears [p. 313] but a something without order; still, when it is read by man, particularly by a little boy or girl, it becomes by degrees, as it ascends, more beautiful and delightful, and at length is presented before the Lord as the image of a man, in and by which heaven is represented in its complex, not as it is, but as the Lord wills it to be, namely, as a likeness of Himself." (n. 1871.)
From this that is said of children in this world we can have an idea of the use of the province of children in heaven; for children here are associated with children in the other world, and their uses are one.
To children in heaven comes the light which is the Word, representing before them good ways of life and lovely varieties of human affection and thought from Himself, such as the Lord desires the heavens to receive from Him. These the children perceive in their childlike way; but from their very perfect childlike ideas, angels corresponding to the optic nerves, of quickest and most interior perception, whose special delight it is to receive new desires from the Lord, perceive [p. 314] the Lord's desires and plans for the formation and perfection of the heavens.
This pure and beautiful wisdom they communicate to the societies of the whole inmost heaven (or brain), by whom it is adapted and sent forth to all other parts of the heavens, according to their functions.
Swedenborg's description of children in heaven is so full and sympathetic as to show a remarkably minute acquaintance with them. And there are other things which show his familiarity with the province of the eyes. His account of the visit of the ten strangers to the heavenly society, where they were instructed in the nature of heavenly joy, seems like the account of an eye-witness. And in that society were seen children with their nurses. Its emblem, also, was an eagle brooding her young at the top of a tree; which seems perfect as representing those who are in clear sight, and engaged in the education of children. The nearness of Swedenborg's own state to this is evident from the remark that "a man who draws wisdom from [p. 315] God is like a bird flying on high, which looks about upon all things that are in the gardens, woods, and villages, and flies to those things that will be of use to it." (T. C. R. 69.) It will be remembered that the angels of the nose perceived that the angelic societies with Swedenborg were from the province of the eye. (A. C. 4627.)
A few words only remain to be said with regard to the correspondence of weeping, --
"That weeping (or lamentation --fletus) is grief of heart, may appear from this consideration, that it bursts forth from the heart, and breaks out into lamentations through the mouth; and that shedding of tears (lacrymatio] is grief of mind, may appear from this consideration, that it issues forth from the thought through the eyes. In both, as well weeping as shedding tears, water goes forth, but bitter and astringent, which goes forth by influx from the spiritual world into the grief of man, where bitter water corresponds to defect of truth on account of falsities, and hence to grief." (A. E. 484.)
The proper function of the tears is to keep the eye moist and clear, and they correspond to [p. 316] thoughts from the love of clear sight. Tears of joy correspond to thoughts from delight in perceiving good things; tears of sorrow, to bitter thoughts in not perceiving what is loved; "bitter tears of disappointment" is a common expression.