HEART AND LUNGS >> Will and Understanding

HL883_500_488 The heart is the motive power by which the blood is sent on its errands of usefulness to all parts of the body. Towards the heart varied streams of fluid from all directions wend   their way. From the liver comes a great stream of purified, sugary fluid, gathered from the digestive organs, and loaded with nutritious elements from the food, selected and sorted and partly trained to the motions of the body, ready to be put to useful service. Other great streams descend from the head, bringing, as Swedenborg believed, the freshest results of spirit and lymph from the laboratory of the brain; and side by side with one of them flows the stream of chyle and lymph brought up from the receptacle by the thoracic duct. And besides all these elements, there are the weary currents returning from the limbs and from the muscular system of the whole body, bringing the esults of labor and experience, and greatly in need of straining and replenishing.

A motley throng of materials, unacquainted, unaccustomed to one another’s ways and qualities, yet of abundant good-will and ability to serve, are brought by various channels to the heart, and from them the heart is expected to prepare and send forth a fresh, lively, elastic, homogeneous blood, ready for any good, human use which may be required of it.

In order that it may rightly perform this excellent use, the heart needs the lungs as a means of discriminating among the materials furnished to it, separating those vapors and aërial elements that are unserviceable, and receiving others that are serviceable; and it consociates the lungs with itself in its work, submitting to their discernment, for correction or encouragement, every particle of blood that it receives.

The heart is composed of four chambers; the upper pair thin, the lower, thick and muscular. The upper two serve as reception rooms in which the blood may be received and collected during the contractions of the lower pair. The blood comes up through the veins in a quiet, steady current; but of necessity it is driven out of the heart in pulses. Therefore lest the veins should be burst by the closing of the doors during the contractions of the heart, ante-rooms are provided, in which the blood can accumulated, ready to fill the stronger chambers instantly when the doors are opened with cordial invitation.

The first ante-room is called the “right auricle,” and the first propelling chamber the “right ventricle.” To the auricle come first all the streams that enter the heart; and after mingling there a moment they are passed on to the ventricle with gentle urgency, and thence with a strong impulse are sent through the pulmonary arteries to the capillaries of the lungs. These capillaries ramify in the walls of air chambers at the extremities of the bronchial tubes.

Of exquisite thinness though the walls of these air chambers are, they still are double, and find room between their layers for the minute blood-vessels, which thus spread out, almost in contact with the air, all the treasures of the heart. With a wise discernment all their own, the delicate membranes, in accordance with the desires of the blood, absorb for its benefit pure oxygen, and a considerable amount of fragrant exhalations and vapors which serve to enrich the blood; and, on the other hand, they invite the blood to give up and reject the fouler, grosser gases and vapors with which it came laden, which they then pass out to the general atmosphere.

Brighter in color, more lively in motion, and rather less in bulk, the blood returns from the lungs, through the pulmonary veins, to the left auricle of the heart, where it waits a moment for the doors of the ventricle to open. Then invited by the ventricle, it presently is sent forth upon its manifold errands of usefulness, with a strong, sustaining impulse which follows it, and whose repetitions are forcibly felt in all the capillarics of the body. Nor is it now in itself an unwilling, sluggish stream. It responds to the impulse of the heart with an elastic bound, and as it goes forward it presses upon the door of every gland and cell and muscular fibre, for opportunity to do good. Neither does it ask in vain; but is everywhere received with welcome according to its quality and the uses that are needed in the several provinces.

Every part of the body is hungry for the materials necessary for its own nutrition, or the exercise of its functions; and in various ways it makes it s hunger felt, even to the desire of the body for food. It is difficult not to believe that this hunger makes an effective requisition both upon the newly prepared nutriment; and that when the heart dismisses its richly endowed companies, containing so many elements eager for opportunities to employ their faculties, straightway each is drawn and invited towards the organ that needs it most; that the noblest blood ascends to the head; that streams rich with fibrinous clements hasten to the muscles of the body and limbs; that the more sluggish, adhesive blood descends to the spleen, and that which is poor and serous to the kidneys; and that thus to every member and gland the elements best suited to it are despatched by the impulse given from the heart, supplemented and directed by the organ itself.

We have followed the good spirits from the earth through their introduction into the spiritual world; and the subsequent opening of the interiors of their minds, and the separation from evil; and then through the places of instruction in which they are prepared for heaven. After this state is completed, Swedenborg says, “they are then clothed with angelic garments, which for the most part are white as of fine linen, and thus they are brought to the way which tends upwards towards heaven, and are delivered to the angel guards there, and are afterwards received by other angels, and are introduced into societies, and into many gratifications.”

The “angel guards there,” I understand to be at the doors of the heart; the “other angels” by whom they are received, and the societies into which they are introduced, seem plainly to be those of the chambers of the heart and the lungs; and the gratifications there enjoyed are those of angels’ love anDWisdom.

“Next,” Swedenborg continues, “every one is led by the Lord into his own society, which also is effected by various ways, sometimes by winding paths. The ways by which they are led are not known to any angels, but to the Lord alone. When they come to their interiors are then opened; and since these are conformable to the interiors of the angels who are in that society, they are therefore instantly acknowledged and received with joy.” (HH 519. See also AC 1381)

To the heart of the heavens the new spirits come rejoicing in their salvations, and in the wonderful things which they have learned of heavenly life. And there they find themselves in the very centre of the angels’ sense of the goodness of the Lord, and of their desire to do good from Him. Angels who are like love itself in form, receive them with affection so innocent and warm that their own hearts are melted, and they too are filled with a sense of the infinite goodness of the Lord as strong as they can bear; and at the same time with an equally strong desire to do good in every possible way to others because this is the nature of the love which they receive from the Lord.

But first the love inspires them with desire to know what they may do, and to find the means of doing gooDWisely; by the love itself, whose influence they receive, they are urged to the province of the lungs, into the society of angels who introduce them into the very wisdom of heavenly life, and “into interior perception and heavenly freedom” (AC 3894½). These are angels who are in clear perception of wisdom from the Lord, who perceive instantly the quality of every affection, and its agreement or disagreement with the pure truth by which the Lord which guide the life of the heavens. Such perceptions they communicate to the angelic spirits who come to them, opening the inner joys and possibilities of usefulness of the heavenly love which is given them, and causing theme to see and reject whatever of grosser, natural thought and desire still clings to them. And then again they return with new intelligence and zeal into a state of love for the goodness of the Lord, and for doing good from Him; coming now under the influence of those who receive most fully the Lord’s love for the whole heaven and for every part of it, and His desire to do good to all. Under their influence, inspired from their love with the desire to do all that they are capable of doing to bless at least a few in their Father’s heaven, the angelic spirits once more go forth from the heart of the heavens to find their home and their use. Towards those who are interiorly in similar good, and who therefore will most enjoy what they can bring them, the interiors of their life are irresistibly drawn; and to them they go infallibly, the Lord opening the way. Arriving at the gates of their own society, they are recognized as members of the society who have been already doing its work upon the earth, of whose coming the society was warned by the angels of the tongue on their very first entrance into the spiritual world, whose approach they now welcome as brothers and sisters, sharing with them all their joys, The new angels in turn recognize the life of the society as that which has given them their inmost satisfaction upon earth, though them perceived obscurely,— the life for which they have interiorly been yearning, and which now fills their cup to overflowing, more than satisfying their desire. The angles, too, seem like brothers and sisters, who come to them at once as their dearest friends. But they have not come merely to receive; the impulse of the heart of heaven is upon them still. Friends and homes and every good thing that love can suggest are provided for them; but the best thing of all is good work, helpful to all these kind friends, perfectly suited to their capacities, which they find waiting for them to do.

And not only the pulses of the heart, the respirations of the lungs, too, follow into every home in the heavens.

“For the lungs by their respiration act upon the ribs and the diaphragm, and through these, by means of ligaments and through the peritonæum, upon all the viscera of the body throughout, and likewise upon all its muscles, and not only involve, but also thoroughly enter them, and so thoroughly that there is not the smallest part of the viscera nor of a muscle, from the surface to the inmost, which does not derive something from the ligaments, consequently from the inspiration... The heart itself, besides its own, has also a pulmonary motion; for it lies upon diaphragm and in the bosom of the lungs, and coheres and is continued to them by it auricles. In like manner also what is respiratory passes into the arteries and veins” (D. WIS 6i). “From these considerations an attentive eye may see that all living motions, which are called actions, and exist by means of muscles, are effected by the coöperation of the motion of the heart and of the motion of the lungs which is in each, both the general motion which is external, and the particular motion which is internal; and he who is clear sighted may also discover that these two fountains of the motions of the body correspond to the will and the understanding, since they are produced from them. This has been also confirmed from heaven, where it was given me to be present with the angels, who presented this to the life. They formed a likeness of the heart and a likeness of the lungs, with all the interior and exterior things of their contexture, by means of a wonderful and inexpressible flowing into circles, and they then followed the flow of heaven; for heaven has a tendency to such forms, by virtue of the influx of love anDWisdom from the Lord. Thus they represented all the particulars which are in the heart and all the particulars of the lungs, and likewise their union, which they called the marriage of love anDWisdom. And they said that the case is similar in the universal body and in each of its members, organs and viscera, with the things which are of the heart therin and which are of the lungs therein; and that when they do not both act, and each take its turn distinctly, there cannot be any motion of life from any voluntary principle, nor any sense of life from any intellectual principle.” (ibidem)

With every society and every angel of heaven, in correspondence with these things, the impulses of the heart of heaven continually inspire love from the Lord; and the respirations of the lungs of heaven constantly interpret this love in forms of useful love to the neighbor. For the heart supplies the fluid and the pressure by which every gland and fibre is filled; and from the lungs is continued the sheathing by which the quality of the fluid received is determined, and the alternate motion of expansion and contraction by which reception is effected; and the sheaths of the fibres are continued into the tendons by which all motion is directed. (DWis 10 4)
Swedenborg says,—

“It was given me to perceive the general operations of heaven as manifestly as any object is perceived by any of the senses. There were four operations which I then perceived. The first was into the brain at the left temple and was general one as to the organs of reason; for the left part of the brain corresponds to things rational or intellectual, but the right to affections or things voluntary.

The second general operation which I perceived, was into the respiration of the lungs, which led my respiration gently, but from within, so that I had no need to draw breath, or respire, by any exertion of my will. The respiration itself of heaven was then manifestly perceived by me. It is internal, and on that account imperceptible to man; but by a wonderful correspondence it flows into man;s respiration, which is external, or of the body, and if man were deprived of this influx he would instantly fall down dead. The third operation which I perceived, was into the systole and diastole of the heart, which had, on the occasion, more of softness with me than I had ever experienced at any other time. The times of the pulse were regular, about three within each turn of respiration; yet such as to terminate in and regulate the lungs and what appertains to them. How the alternate changes of the heart insinuated themselves into the alternate changes of the lungs, at the close of each respiration, I was in some measure able to observe. The alternations of the pulse were so observable that I was able to count them; they were distinct and soft. The fourth general operation was into the kidneys, which also it was given me to perceive, but obscurely. From these things it was made manifest that heaven, or the Greatest Man, has cardiac pulses, and that it has respirations; and that the cardiac pulses of heaven, or the Greatest Man, have correspondence with the heart, and with its systolic and diastolic motions, and that the respirations of heaven, or the Greatest Man, have correspondence with the lungs and their respirations; but that they both are unobservable to man, being imperceptible, because internal.” (AC 3884)

On another occasion, he says,—

“It was given me to observe the general respiration of heaven, and what its nature was. It was interior, easy, spontaneous, and corresponding to my respiration as three to one. It was also given me to observe the reciprocations of the pulses and their respirations, and that the reason why they take place at dissimilar moments, is because both the cardiac pulse and the pulmonary respiration which exist in the heavens, pass off into something continuous, and thus into effort, which is of such a nature as to excite those motions variously according to the state of every subject.” (AC 3885)

“But it is to be known that the variations as to pulses and as to respirationsin the heavens are manifest, and that they are as many as all the societies; for they are according to the states of thought and affection with the angels, and these are according to their states of faith and love; but with respect tot he general pulse and respiration, the case is as above described.” (AC 3886)

“In heaven, or in the Greatest Man, are two kingdoms, one of which is called celestial; the other spiritual. The celestial kingdom consists of angels who have been in love to the Lord, and thence in all wisdom; for they are in the Lord, and are thereby in a state of peace and innocence, more than others. They appear to others like infants, for a state of peace and innocence presents that appearance. Everything there is as it were alive before them; for whatever comes immediately from the Lord is alive. This is the celestial kingdom. The other kingdom is called spiritual. It consists of angels who are called spiritual; and they are those who have been in the good of charity toward the neighbor. They place the delight of their life in this, that they can do good to others without recompense; it is recompense to them to be allowed to do good to others. The more they will and desire this, in so much the greater intelligence and felicity are they; for, in the other life, every one is gifted with intelligence and felicity from the Lord according to the use which he performs from the affection of the will. Such is the spiritual kingdom. They who are in the Lord’s celestial kingdom belong all to the province of the heart; and they who are in the spiritual kingdom belong all to the province of the lungs. The influx from the celestial kingdom into the spiritual is similar to the influx of the heart into the lungs, as also to the influx of all things which are of the heart into all which are of the lungs; for the heart rules in the whole of the body and in all its parts, by the blood-vessels, and also the lungs in all its parts by the respiration. Hence there is everywhere in the body as it were an influx of the heart into the lungs, but according to the forms there, and according to the states. Thence exists all the sensation as well as all the action which are proper to the body.” (AC 3887)

The correspondence of the heart and the lungs in an individual man, is with his love of doing and his love of wisdom; or, with his will and his understanding. “In the spiritual world,” Swedenborg tells us, “the quality of one’s faith is known by his breathing, and the quality of his charity by the beating of his heart.” (DF 19)

Every man naturally loves to live a selfish and worldly life, and also to think things that agree with such a life. But by instruction every one becomes capable of thinking what is truer and better; and if he takes home such thoughts to his heart, he makes his love wiser and better. By wisdom he cleanses his love from its foulness and grossness, and introduces it to spiritual and celestial delights; therefore by wisdom, if it be applied to the love, the love itself becomes spiritual and celestial. (DLW 422)

Of this, Swedenborg writes as follows:

“Man is born into evils, and hence he loves corporeal and worldly things more than celestial and spiritual things; consequently his life, which is love, is depraved and impure by nature. Every one may see from reason that this life cannot be purified by spiritual, moral, and civil truths, which constitute the understanding. Wherefore, also, it is given to man to be able to perceive, and to think affirmatively such things as are contrary to the love of his will, and not only to see that they are so, but also, if he looks up to God, to be able to resist, and thereby remove the depraved and filthy things of his will, which is the same thing as being purified. This may also be illustrated by the defecation of the blood in the lungs. That the blood admitted there from the heart is defecated, is a thing known to anatomists from this consideration, that the blood flows from the heart into the lungs in greater abundance than it flows in undigested and impure, but flows back refined and pure; also that in the lungs there is a cellular texture into which the blood of the heart presses out by separation its useless particles, injecting is from that source. From which considerations it is evident that the fæculent blood of the heart is purified in the lungs. By these considerations what was said just above may be illustrated, inasmuch as the blood of the heart corresponds to the lobe of the will, which is the life of man, and the respiration of the lungs corresponds to the perception and thought of the understanding, by which purification is effected.

“The life of the understanding also perfects and exalts the life of the will, because the love of the will, which constitutes man’s life, is purged from evils by means of the understanding, and man, from being corporeal and worldly, becomes spiritual and celestial, in which case the truths and goods of heaven and of the church are grafted in his affection, and nourish his soul; thus the life of his will is made new, and from it the life of his understanding becomes new, so that each is perfected and exalted. This is effected in the understanding and by it; but from the will; for the will is the man himself. This likewise is confirmed by the correspondence of the lungs and the heart; for the lungs which correspond to the understanding, not only purge the blood of its fæculent particles, as was before observed, but also nourish it form the air; for the air is full of volatile elements and odors homogeneous with the matter of the blood; and there are likewise innumerable plexuses of the blood-vessels in the pulmonary lobules, which, according to their wont, absorb the neighboring waves, in consequence whereof the blood becomes fresh and bright, and is rendered arterial, such as it is when conveyed from the lungs into the left ventricle of the heart. That the atmosphere nourishes the pulmonary blood with new aliments is evident from much experience; for there are some breezes which are injurious to the lungs, and some which recreate them, thus some which are hurtful, and some which are salubrious... From these considerations it is evident that the pulmonary blood derives nourishment also from the atmosphere. Thus also the life of the understanding perfects and exalts the life of the will according to the correspondence.” (DWis 10,. 3)

But if the love refuses to take to itself the admonitions and friendly counsel of wisdom, preferring filthy ideas and gross thoughts, it makes of the understanding a mere purveyor of these things, and drinks them in, to its own further defilement.

And then, in correspondence with this, the man at least in the spiritual world loves to breathe into his lungs the vile odors that correspond to such thoughts, and to defile his blood with them. Of this, Swedenborg teaches,

“That the blood in the lungs purifies and nourishes itself correspondently to the affections of the mind, is not yet known, but it si very well known in the spiritual world; for the angels in the heavens are delighted only with the odors that correspond with their love of wisdom, whereas the spirits in hell are delighted only with odors that correspond with love opposed to wisdom; the latter odors are stinking, but the former odors are fragrant. That men in the world impregnate their blood with similar things, according to correspondence with the affections of their loves, that, according to correspondence, his blood craves and attracts in respiration. From this correspondence it follows that a man is purified as to his love, if he loves wisdom, and that he is defiled if he does not love her; all a man’s purifications being effected by the truths of wisdom, and all his defilement by the falses that are opposed to them.” (DLW 420. Also DP end) [For “animal heat,” compare Dalton, p. 257, and DLW 379. For the “blood globules,” see Littell, 1477. For details of the conjunction between heart and lungs, and their correspondence, see DLW 404.]


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