ATMOSPHERES >> Spiritual Atmospheres


atmospheres-jwp_500_300 Another series of facts is disclosed to us by the solar spectrum. When a solid or a liquid is white hot, it gives a spectrum which shows all the bands of color continuously. But  a shining hot vapor, as of a burning candle, or any burning metal, gives only bars of color; and every substance has its own bars or series of bars. When the light from the incandescent solid passes through the shining vapor, instead of increasing the intensity of the parts of the spectrum answering to its own bars, the vapor puts them out; so that the spectrum is interrupted by dark bars.

Now the spectrum of the sun, when examined with appropriate glasses, shows a multitude of such dark bars, many of which answer to the bars of well-known metals and gases which enter into the composition of the earth and its atmospheres. And this seems to prove that incandescent vapors of those substances exist between the more solid part of the sun and us—probably in the immediate atmosphere of the sun. The telescope reveals to us the fact that the sun issurrounded with masses of such vapor shooting up from its surface like immense flames, and sometimes with a velocity of many thousand miles in a minute. The dark spots often seen upon the sun are openings in the flamy atmosphere, disclosing the relatively darker, but still bright, mass beneath. The spots are most extensive when the activity of the flames is greatest, and indeed they seem to be caused by that activity.  And it is remarkable that in the moments of most intense activity, the magnetic needles all over our earth are agitated; and where it is night, auroral flashes are displayed. And one thing more should be added, which is that a fine dust, composed of some at least of such elements as are detected in the flamy masses about the sun, is constantly falling upon the earth. It is known by the name of the “cosmic dust,” and probably adds some hundreds of tons to the mass of the earth every year.

We are taught in the revelations given to the New Church that there is a creative influence proceeding from the Lord, which appears as the sun in heaven; and that from that sun proceed atmospheres which furnish the means of all creations in the spiritual world, which all are animated by the love and the wisdom of the Lord. We are taught that these atmospheres descend and become grosser by discrete degrees, or steps, until the last plane of spiritual life is reached; and that the next step is from the last spiritual to the first and purest natural, which is not in itself living from the love of the Lord, but is the perfect instrument of that love in creating and actuating the natural world. That purest natural substance is the fire of the natural sun or suns, which is the first natural embodiment of the Divine desire to create earths from which men may rise with the capacity to know and love God. This fire, intensely active, sends forth from itself the elements of which worlds are made; first the purer atmospheres—the aura which is the means of binding all things to itself and to their uses, by the forces which we call gravity and cohesion; and the ether which is the means of animating and modifying all the otherwise inert materials, by the forces of heat, light, and probably electricity and magnetism. Then follow the elements of the air, and those other elements, at first in the form of fiery vapors, from which come earths and metals.

As to these things the sun is a correspondence and an expression of the Lord’s creative love.His love is a love of giving Himself to men who can receive and be blessed by it. He puts Himself forth in the spiritual sun; and in the natural sun He puts forth all the elements of Himself in their ultimate forms, all of which forms are from Himself as Man, corresponding to the elements of man, and capable of being built into man. The correspondence of some of the elements of the earth with man we have already seen; the correspondence of them all could be traced, no doubt, by patient study. They all come from the sun, and many of them can be distinctly discovered in the atmosphere of the sun, because the sun is the means by which God creates from Himself beings who can receive His own life; and God is a Divine Man.


0042 There are atmospheres proceeding from the sun of heaven, corresponding to the planes of the heavens. In the grossest of them, which seems almost watery to the angels above, dwell the angels of the lowest heaven; in a distinctly or discretely purer atmosphere dwell the angels of the higher heaven; and in an exquisitely pure air dwell the angels of the highest heaven. There are, no doubt, degrees within these degrees, and degrees above them in which the unconscious internals of man reside; but this is the usual statement, and is sufficiently full for our purpose.

To these general divisions of the spiritual atmospheres, the three natural atmospheres—the aura, the ether, and the air—correspond; the aura to the sphere of love from the Lord to the Lord and the neighbor, which fills the inmost heaven, and through that pervades all the heavens, and binds them to the Lord and to one another; to this also the brain and nervous system in the human body correspond. The ether has relation to the sphere of intelligent love which pervades the middle heaven, and through it gives guidance and impulses of charity to the lower heavens; corresponding to the uses of the heart and the lungs to the limbs and muscular and bony systems in the body. And the air has relation to the sphere of effects in the lowest heaven, through which the actual operations of development, increase, purification, and protection are performed upon the spirits of men. And therefore the forces of the wind are so often used to represent the action of the spiritual world in the natural.  “God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

The Lord breathed on His disciples, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (Ezekiel 37:10). (See Apocalypse Revealed #343.)

The elements of these atmospheres are not so simple as might at first be supposed. We know little of the composition of the ether and the aura, but more about that of the air. The principal elements of the air are nitrogen and oxygen; but other constant elements are hydrogen, and various compounds of these three with one another such as watery vapor and ammonia; and also very many compounds with carbon, the chief of which is carbonic acid gas, but among which also would be included a large part of the vapors of essential oils, which make the perfumes of flowers, also most of the exhalations of plants and animals; compounds of hydrogen and of oxygen with sulphur also, and possibly with many other substances. Everything exhales from itself a sphere of its own substance, which is like an odor about it. Many metals, even, can be recognized by the odor of their spheres. And yet chemistry cannot detect the presence of the substance in the air; and possibly the particles exhaled do not belong to the air, but to the purer atmosphere which we have called ether. There is an immense amount of exhalations contained in the atmospheres, some of them healthful and some noxious; also a multitude of living germs, animal or vegetable, which produce ferments and molds.


The oxygen and the nitrogen may be considered as the chief elements of the air, and other things as dependent upon circumstances. Oxygen, or the acid maker, has its name from its capacity for uniting with other substances and making acids of them. Its faculty seems to be that of making active what otherwise is inert, or of developing the proper quality and capacity of other substances.  Of hydrogen it makes water; of nitrogen various oxides and potent acids; of sulphur some of the most powerful acids; of carbon, phosphorus, arsenic, iron, and many other metals, active acids, each with its own properties. With most of these an effect of union with oxygen is to produce the heat and light which we associate with combustion.

If this is a just view of the properties of oxygen, its correspondence seems to be with an atmosphere of pure truth from the Lord, which brings out the real qualities of things, and shows them just as they are.


Nitrogen, on the contrary, by its inertness dilutes the oxygen, and prevents it from too rapidly dissolving organic combinations, and reducing everything to its elementary condition. It seems to have no love for combining with oxygen, being mixed with it in the air for an indefinite time without union in any degree. By various organic processes it is combined with oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and a little sulphur, of which elements all tissues and muscles in animal bodies are composed; also the grains and other nitrogenized kinds of food, by which such tissues are nourished. From the decomposition of such compounds, other compounds of nitrogen exist, as ammonia, nitrous and nitric acids, saltpeter, which is nitric acid and potash, and the numerous explosives which are made of nitric acid with carbon compounds. The power of these seems to arise from the quantity of oxygen lightly held by the nitrogen, and set free by heat or a blow to unite with other substances.

The correspondence of nitrogen seems to be with the atmosphere of protection and accommodation from the Lord; or, if a more positive form of statement is preferred, to the truth that all men are at liberty to accommodate the absolute truth to themselves; by means of which they can think apparent truth, or a little truth, as they are able to bear it, and their thoughts are not too rapidly disintegrated before they have done their use. Everyone’s present theories, plans, views, states of feeling, will be disintegrated in time, reduced to their elements of fact, and give place to others; as the tissues of every plant and animal will be reduced to their simple elements by oxidation, and give place to others. And this would be done suddenly and at once, if everyone was compelled to think the pure truth, unaccommodated; just as would happen with the corresponding natural phenomena in an atmosphere of pure oxygen. The liberty of accommodating truth to himself everyone must take to himself, and from it everyone must act, or he would not be himself and have any power at all to act. And therefore it is that nitrogen is an essential element of muscular and other tissues which make man and every animal to be himself, with power to act of himself.

But the truth that is thus held in restraint by man’s liberty of accommodating it to himself does not lose its force, even though restrained by custom long after the living power that bound it has disappeared from the scene; and upon occasions of violent feeling, or other emergency, it may assert itself with tremendous force. Our chief explosives, gunpowder, gun cotton, dynamite, and others, all owe their power to the oxygen held in restraint by nitrogen.


These principal and constant elements of the air, together with other elements proceeding directly from the sun, correspond to and are the ultimates of the general sphere proceeding from the Lord through the heavens for the uses of creation and preservation. The exhalations and odors that proceed from all created things and mingle with these general elements correspond to the spheres of thought and affection that proceed from angels and spirits and men upon the earth; of  which Swedenborg has very much to tell us. The breathing of pure air, which purifies and stimulates the blood, corresponds with the thinking of pure truth, adapted to our state, and the purification of our affections by it. The breathing of sweet and nourishing odors and exhalations corresponds to the perception and enjoyment of spheres of spiritual affection and thought from others. And the breathing of foul odors corresponds to the reception of a sphere of foul and contaminating thought and feeling. We recognize this in familiar speech when we speak of good and bad moral atmospheres.

( On the correspondence of various odors and stenches, see True Christian Religion #569, 570; Divine Providence #40, 304, 340; Conjugial Love #461; Heaven and Hell #429, 488; Arcana Coelestia #7225; and many other places.)


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