Divine Wisdom #6

By Emanuel Swedenborg
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This is something of which the world is in ignorance, because it has been in ignorance of what Correspondence is and of there being correspondence between everything in the world and everything in heaven: and likewise of there being in man correspondence between everything in his body and everything in his mind, for there is correspondence between natural things and spiritual things. What "Correspondence" is, however, also what the nature of it is, and with what things in the human body there is correspondence, has been already stated [No. 73].

As in man there is correspondence between everything in his body and everything in his mind, this is so in the first place with the heart and lungs. This correspondence is universal because the heart reigns throughout the body, as do the lungs also. The heart and lungs are as it were the two fountainheads of all the natural motions in the body, while the Will and Understanding are the two fountainheads of all the spiritual activities in that same body; and the natural motions of the body must correspond to the activities of its spirit, for unless they correspond, the life of the body as well as the life of the lower mind (animus) would cease. It is correspondence that causes both of these to have existence and to continue in existence.

[2] [88.] That the heart corresponds to the Will, or, what is the same thing, to the love, is evident from its pulse varying with each affection. Its variations consist in beating either slowly or rapidly, strongly or feebly, easily or with difficulty, regularly or irregularly, and so on; thus it is different in joy from what it is in sorrow, different in peace of mind from what it is in a fit of anger, different in bravery from what it is in fear, different when the body is heated from what it is when chilled: it differs in various ways in diseases: and so on.

[3] All affections are of the love, and are therefore of the Will. It is because the heart corresponds to affections that are of the love, and therefore of the Will, that wise men in ancient times referred the affections to the heart, some even laying it down that the seat of the affections was there. Owing to this, it has entered into common speech to say "kind-hearted," "fainthearted," "light-hearted," "sad-hearted," "softhearted," "hard-hearted," "great-hearted," "to have little heart for," "whole-hearted," "brokenhearted," "a heart of flesh," "a heart of stone," "heavy-hearted," "tender-hearted," "base hearted," "heartless," "putting one's heart into one's work," "giving one's whole heart to," "putting new heart into," "laying a thing to heart," "taking to heart," "one's heart not being touched," "hardening one's heart against," "lifting up one's heart," "a bosom friend": hence, too, the terms "concord," 1 "discord," "accord" and many others. Moreover, throughout the Word, by "heart" is signified the Will, or the love, the Word having been composed entirely by means of correspondences.

[4] [89.] It is the same with the lungs, by the breath (anima) or breathing (spiritus) of which is signified the Understanding 2 ; for, as the heart corresponds to the love or the Will, so the breath (anima) or breathing (spiritus) of the lungs, which is respiration, corresponds to the Understanding. It is on this account that it is said in the Word that man is to love God "with all his heart and all his soul (anima)," 3 by which is signified that he is to love Him "with all his Will and all his Understanding"; again it is said that God will create in man "a new heart and a new spirit (spiritus), 4 where by "heart" is signified the Will, and by "spirit" the Understanding, because a man is being created anew when he is being regenerated; hence, also, it is said of Adam that "Jehovah God breathed into his nostrils the breath (anima) of lives" 5 and made him a "living soul (anima)," by which is signified that God breathed into him "wisdom." Moreover, the "nostrils," by reason of the correspondence of the breathing effected through them, signify "perception," and it is owing to this that an intelligent person is said to "have a sharp nose," and an unintelligent person to "have a dull nose." For this reason also the Lord breathed upon His disciples, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit (spiritus) (John 20:22).

[5] By "His breathing" upon them is signified the intelligence they were to receive, and by the "Holy Spirit" is meant the Divine Wisdom teaching and enlightening men. This was done to show that the Divine Wisdom, understood by the Holy Spirit, proceeds from Himself. It is well known, too, from common speech that "soul (anima)" and "spirit (spiritus)" are used in reference to respiration, for when any one dies it is said that "he gives up the ghost (anima)" or that he "yields up his spirit (spiritus)," for he ceases then to breathe in and out. Besides, in most languages the word "spirit (spiritus)" means the two things, "a spirit in heaven" and "man's breathing," also "wind". This is the origin of the idea prevailing with many people that spirits in the heavens are like "air," and that so also are the souls of men after death, and even that God Himself is, because He is called a Spirit; whereas, on the contrary, God Himself is a Man; so, too, is a man's soul after death, and so is every spirit in the heavens. They are so called, however, because, in accordance with correspondence, "soul (anima)" and "spirit (spiritus)" signify wisdom.

[6] [90.] Again, that just as the heart corresponds to the Will, so the lungs correspond to the Understanding, is evidenced in a man's thought and speech. All thought is of the Understanding, and all speech is of the thought. A man cannot think unless the breathing (spiritus) of his lungs accompanies and is concordant. And so, when he is thinking quietly, he breathes quietly: if he is thinking deeply, he breathes deeply: similarly if he is thinking slowly, hurriedly, intently, calmly, ardently, etc.; if he were to hold his breath altogether he would not be able to think, except in his spirit and by its respiration; and so on. That the mouth's speech, proceeding from the thought of a man's Understanding, makes one with the breathing of his lungs, and so much one with it that he cannot utter the slightest sound or syllable without assistance from the lungs by way of larynx and epiglottis-that this is so, every one may know, if he wishes, by practical observation upon himself.

[7] [91.] Then another thing showing that the heart corresponds to the Will, and the lungs to the Understanding, is the universal government exercised by both heart and lungs throughout the body and in each and all things in it. That in the body there is a government exercised by the heart through the arteries and veins is recognized. That there is also a government exercised by the lungs may be verified by any anatomist; for the lungs, by their respiration, act both upon the ribs and upon the diaphragm, and through these two, by means of the ligaments and by means of the peritonaeum, upon all the viscera throughout the body, and upon all the muscles in the body, too; not only do they envelop the viscera and muscles, but they also penetrate far into them, so far indeed that there is not the least part in any one of them, from surface to centre, that does not derive some effect from the ligaments, consequently from the respiration. This is the case, most of all, with the stomach, owing to the fact that the esophagus passes through the diaphragm and joins company with the trachea issuing from the lungs. For the same reason, too, the heart has, besides its own motion, another caused by the lungs, for it rests upon the diaphragm and lies in the curve of the lungs, and is, through its auricles, attached to the lungs and in continuous connection with them; by this arrangement the respiratory motion passes also into the arteries and veins. Heart and lungs therefore have a joint dwelling within an arched space separated from the rest of the body, the space called the chest.

[8] A discerning investigator can see from the above facts that all living movements, called actions and coming into effect by means of the muscles, take place through the co-operation of the two motions, cardiac and pulmonary, this co-operation being present in every part, a general co-operation that is external together with a particular co-operation that is internal. Moreover, any one possessing penetration can see that those two sources of bodily motions, because they are produced by the Will and Understanding, correspond thereto.

[92.] This has furthermore been corroborated from heaven, it being granted me to be among angels who presented it to the life. By a wonderful flowing movement into gyres, which no words can describe, they formed a figure resembling a heart and another resembling a pair of lungs, together with all the structures, inner and outer, that they contain; they then moved in imitation of the flow (fluxus) 6 of heaven, for heaven is in a constant effort towards such forms, the effect of the influx of love and wisdom from the Lord. In this way these angels represented every part of the heart and lungs, as well as their union, which they call the marriage of love and wisdom. They said, moreover, that throughout the body and in each of its members, organs and viscera, there is a similar marriage between the things there that are of the heart and those that are of the lungs; and they said further that where these do not both act and each perform separately its respective part, no motion that is of life originating from anything of Will would be possible there, nor any sense that is of life originating from anything of Understanding.

[9] [93.] From all that has now been said, anyone desiring to penetrate to causes can be instructed, and be enabled to form an idea of how the Will conjoins itself to the Understanding, and the Understanding to the Will, and how they act conjointly; an idea of how the Will conjoins itself may be had from the heart, of how the Understanding conjoins itself, from the lungs, and of the reciprocal conjunction of Will and Understanding from the conjunction of heart and lungs.

From the above the truth of the preceding section is now confirmed, namely, that with human beings the receptacle for love becomes after birth their Will, and the receptacle for wisdom their Understanding; for it is after birth that the lungs are opened and that they, with the heart, initiate the active life that is of man's Will, and the sensative life that is of his Understanding. Neither of these two lives comes into activity from either the heart's operation alone or the lungs' operation alone, but only from their co-operation; nor do they come into activity unless there is correspondence, nor in a state of unconsciousness, nor with those being suffocated.


1. The Latin for heart is cor, genitive cord-is.

2. The Latin word anima means both "breath" and "soul," and spiritus means both "breathing" and "spirit." As the argument here depends on the double meanings of these Latin words, they have been inserted in brackets in every case.

3Deuteronomy 6:5

4Ezekiel 36:26

5Genesis 2:7.

6. Translator understands "situation and flowing" to mean "How the spherules were arranged" and "The course taken by the spherules themselves, or by any motion passing from one spherule to another".

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.