697. The sixth experience. 1
I once saw not far from me an atmospheric phenomenon. I saw a cloud divided into smaller clouds, some of which were blue and others dark; and I saw these as it were colliding with one another. They were striped with glittering rays which crossed them; sometimes the stripes had sharp tips like sword-points, at other times they appeared square-ended like broken off swords. Sometimes the stripes ran out so as to meet, at other times they withdrew into themselves, rather like boxers. So it looked as if these little clouds of varied colours were fighting one another, but they were playing. Since this atmospheric display took place not far from me, I lifted up my eyes and looking hard I saw boys, young men and old men entering a building constructed of marble with also porphyry in its foundations. The phenomenon was over this building. Then I asked one of those who were going in what was happening there. 'It is a high school,' he replied, 'where young men are given an introduction to various forms of wisdom.'
 On hearing this I went in with them. I was in the spirit, that is, in much the same state as people in the spiritual world, those who are called spirits and angels. Inside the school there was in front a chair, in the middle were benches, around the sides seats, and a gallery over the entrance. The chair was for the young men who were to take turns to reply to the question set. The benches were for the audience, the seats at the sides for those who had previously given wise answers, and the gallery for the older men who were to be umpires and judges. In the middle of the gallery there was a platform, where a wise man, called the headmaster, was seated. He put the questions, and the young men answered these from the chair.
When all were assembled, the man on the platform got up and said: 'Please now reply to this question and answer it if you can: what is the soul and what is its nature?'
 On hearing this all were astonished and began to murmur; and some of the crowd on the benches cried out: 'What man is there from the age of Saturn 2
down to our times who has been able by any effort of rational thought to see and grasp what the soul is, much less what its nature is. Surely this is beyond the capacity of anyone's understanding?'
But people in the gallery replied to this: 'This is not beyond the understanding, but within its capacity and purview. just give a reply.'
So the young men got up who had been chosen that day to mount the chair and reply to the questions. There were five of them, who had been examined by the elders and found to be outstandingly clever. They were then sitting on padded seats at the sides of the chair. They then took it in turn, according to the order in which they sat, to climb up to the chair. As each went up, he put on a tunic of opalescent silk and over it a gown of soft wool with flowers woven in it, and a hat on his head with a chaplet of roses surrounded by small sapphires on the crown.
 Then I saw the first man so clothed go up and say: 'What the Soul is and what its nature is has not been revealed to anyone since the first day of creation. It is a secret which God alone keeps in His treasure-houses. But this much has been discovered, that the soul dwells in man like a queen. However the location of its residence has been the subject of conjecture among learned experts. Some have placed it in the small tubercle between the cerebrum and the cerebellum known as the pineal gland. They have guessed that this was the seat of the soul because the whole person is controlled from those two brains, and that tubercle regulates them. So what governs the two brains at its whim, must also govern the whole person from head to heel. This view,' he said, 'has been regarded by many in the world as true or very probable, but a later age has rejected it as a mere invention.'
 On finishing this speech he took off the gown, tunic and hat, and the second of those chosen put them on and so took the chair. His pronouncement about the soul was that in the whole of heaven and in the whole of the world there is no one who knows what the soul is and what its nature is. 'This much,' he said, 'we know, that the soul exists and is in man; but where it is, is a matter of guesswork. This is certain, that it is in the head, since that is where the understanding thinks and the will forms its resolutions; and it is on the face in front of the head that man's five sense organs are to be found. What gives all of these life is the soul which resides inside the head; but I would not dare to express an opinion on where in it its residence is. I have agreed with those who have assigned to it a lodging in the three ventricles of the brain; at other times with those who placed it in the corpora striata there, at other times with those who placed it in the medullary substance of either brain, at other times with those who placed it in the cortical substance, at others with those who placed it in the dura mater. For there was no lack of points to be made in favour of each one of these seats.
The point in favour of the three ventricles in the brain was that they are the receptacles of the animal spirits and all the brain's lymphs. The points in favour of the corpora striata were that these compose the marrow through which the nerves emerge, and by means of which either part of the brain has continuous extensions to the spine; and from one or other of these the fibres emerge which compose the whole structure of the body. The points in favour of the medullary substance of either brain were that it is a gathering and massing together of all the fibres which form the starting point for the development of the whole person. The point in favour of the cortical substance was that here are the first and last ends, and so the beginnings of all fibres, and so of sensation and movement. The point in favour of the dura mater was that it is the shared covering of either brain, from where it stretches in a kind of continuity over the heart and the viscera of the body. For my part, I do not rate one of these theories as superior to another. Will you please, decide and choose which is the best theory.'
 After saying this he came down from the chair and passed on the tunic, gown and hat to the third, who went up to the chair and spoke as follows. 'How can I at my age deal with such a lofty subject? I appeal to the learned people seated at the sides here, I appeal to you wise people in the gallery, in fact I appeal to the angels of the highest heaven: can anyone by the light of his reason form for himself any idea of the soul? As regards its seat in man, I can offer as good a guess as anyone else. My guess is that it is in the heart and consequently in the blood. My reason for this is that the heart by means of the blood from it controls both the body and the head. There is a large blood-vessel called the aorta emerging from it and reaching the whole of the body; and there are blood-vessels called carotid arteries emerging from it and reaching the whole of the head. As a result it is universally agreed that the soul by means of blood from the heart sustains, nourishes and gives life to the whole organic system of both the body and the head. An additional reason for believing this assertion is the fact that Holy Scripture says so many times 'soul and heart'. For instance, you are to love God 'with all your soul and with all your heart'; and God creates in man 'a new soul and a new heart' (Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 26:16; Jeremiah 32:41; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33; Luke 10:27, and elsewhere). It also says explicitly that the blood is the soul of the flesh (Leviticus 17:11, 14).' On hearing this some people raised their voices to cry 'Very learned!'; they were members of the clergy.
 After this the fourth put on the garments worn by the previous speaker, and on taking the chair said: 'I too suspect that there is no one of such a sharp and subtle mind as to be able to discern what the soul is and what its nature is. I think therefore that anyone who wishes to scrutinise it has his subtlety exhausted by useless exertions. But from childhood up I have persisted in believing the opinion of the ancients, that man's soul is in the whole of him and in every part of him, and so is as much in his head and each of its parts as in the body and each of its parts. It is a useless invention of modern scholars to locate its seat in some part rather than everywhere. Also the soul is a spiritual substance, to which neither extension nor position can be attributed, but only residing and filling. Again, is there anyone who does not understand life when he mentions the soul, and is not life in the whole and in any part you like to name?' There were many in the audience who supported this statement.
 He was followed by the fifth, who, adorned with the same emblems, pronounced from the chair as follows: 'I don't much care to say where the soul is, whether it is in some part or in the whole person. But I will draw on my own resources to disclose my opinion on this question, what the soul is and what its nature is. No one thinks of the soul as anything but something pure, which can be likened to ether or air or wind, the vital principle in which derives from the faculty of reason, which man has to a higher degree than animals. I have based this opinion on the fact that, when a person expires, he is said to breathe out or give up his soul or spirit. As a result too a soul which goes on living after death is believed to be a breath of this kind, containing the life of thought which is called the soul. What else could the soul be? But because I have heard people from the gallery asserting that the question what the soul is and what its nature is, is not beyond the understanding, but within its scope and purview, I beg and beseech you to disclose yourselves this everlasting secret.'
 The elders in the gallery here looked at the headmaster, who had set the question. He understood from their nods that they wanted him to go down and tell them the answer. So he at once got down from the platform, and passing through the auditorium took the chair, and holding up his hand said: 'Please listen to me. Is there anyone who does not believe the soul to be the most intimate and subtle essence of a person? But what is essence without form but a figment of the imagination? The soul then is a form, but what sort of form I will tell you. It is the form of all the parts of love and all the parts of wisdom. All the parts of love are called affections, and all the parts of wisdom are called perceptions. The perceptions as a result of and so together with the affections make up a single form containing countless parts but arranged in such order and so cohering that they can be called a unity; and they can be called a unity, because nothing can be taken away from it or added to it, if it is to be a unity. What is the human soul but such a form? All the parts of love and all the parts of wisdom are the essentials of such a form, and in the case of a person these essentials are in his soul, and from his soul in his head and body.
 'You are called spirits and angels; and you believed in the world that spirits and angels were like puffs of wind or particles of ether, and so minds of higher or lower degree 3
. Now you see clearly that you are truly, really and actually people, who in the world lived and thought in a material body; and you knew that it is not the material body that lives and thinks, but the spiritual substance in that body. This you called the soul, whose form you did not know; yet now you have seen it and go on seeing it. You are all souls, about whose immortality you have heard, thought, talked and written so much; and since you are forms of love and wisdom coming from God, you cannot ever die. The soul then is a human form, from which nothing can be taken away, and to which nothing can be added, and it is the inmost form of all the forms throughout the body. Since the forms which are outside receive from the inmost both essence and form, you are therefore souls, just as you appear to be to your sight and to ours. In short, the soul is the real person because it is the inmost person; its form therefore is the human form in full perfection. But it is not life, but is the nearest receiver of life from God, and so God's dwelling.'
 This speech was greeted by many with applause, but there were some who said, 'We must think about this.' I then went home, and suddenly there appeared above that high school, in place of the previous atmospheric display, a shining cloud without any stripes or rays fighting one another. This cloud penetrated the roof and coming inside lit up the walls. I was told that they saw things written on them, among which was this:
Jehovah God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul, Genesis 2:7.
1. This section is repeated from Conjugial Love 315.
2. The 'golden age' of antiquity.
3. Latin: mentes et animi.