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Chapter 17The Senses: Their Correspondence, and Independent or Spiritual Action

In most systems of mental philosophy, the bodily senses are stated to be five in number — seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. Some metaphysical writers have added others to the number, as the muscular sense, the moral sense, and the esthetic sense. Others with more reason have reduced them to three in number, the sense of smelling and tasting being viewed as only modifications of feeling, as they are excited by the actual contact of substances with their nerve fibers. In fact the sense of feeling may be considered as the universal sense underlying the action of all the others. And in certain states, as in what is called psychometry, the whole body becomes an organ of perception, and all the senses are reduced to a unity — a spiritual state it is difficalt to describe.

The truth previously demonstrated, that sensation is not located in the bodily organism, but in the intermediate spiritual form, is one of great scientific value. All sensation is a spiritual phenomenon. The spiritual senses are not another set of faculties, but only our ordinary senses acting independently of the bodily organs. It has been demonstrated that there is vision, clear and far-reaching, without the use of the external eye. In somnambulism this can be proved to be the fact. The pupil of the eye is dilated to its utmost capacity, and the direct rays of the sun, or the powerful calcium light thrown upon it, do not cause it to contract in the least. The six small muscles that move the eye seem to be temporarily paralyzed and motionless. No degree of light can be made to affect the lachrymal glands, but the eye is fixed, vacant, and glassy. All this goes to show that the optic nerve is destitute of sensibility, and the external eye is of no more use than it is after death. Yet there is the power to discern objects near or remote, with far greater distinctness than in the normal state.

There are certain persons who seem to have unfolded within them the power of seeing without the use of the material organ of vision. I do not refer to what is usually called clairvoyance, which is a much less spiritual state. The persons to whom I refer are in their normal state. They are not subject to what passes under the name of the trance, a magnetic sleep either self-induced or imposed upon them by another. They are not in a somnambulic state, but in perfect consciousness and wakefulness. Yet they see with more or less clearness, either with the eye open or shut, in the light or in the darkness, hundreds of miles away, so that they can describe persons, and even places with great particularity and exactness. They perceive the complexion, the form of the countenance, the color of the hair, the temperament, and read the character, the leading traits of which they give with accuracy, though entire strangers to them, and see the objects that surround them. This state is far higher and more spiritual than ordinary clairvoyance. Their inner being has arisen above the limitations of time and space, and the bondage to material things, and the spiritual man, the interior life, has attained to freedom, such as it usually enjoys only after it has become divested of the external body.

The organs of sense, like everything else in the human body, are correspondences, or are effects of which something in the spiritual nature is the cause. The eye belongs to the intellect, or is an organ through which the understanding holds communication with the outward world. This is unconsciously recognized in the language of men. To see a thing and to know it, are used interchangeably, as when one says, the whole of a thing is greater than any of its parts, and you reply, “I see it is so.” We at once see the truth of it. But seeing is not knowing, but corresponds to it, for we may see an object of which we know little or nothing. We see just to the extent of our knowledge and no further. A skillful botanist sees a thousand times more in a tree than one who knows but little of its morphology and physiology. In a purely spiritual state and world, the more the intellect is developed, the clearer is the vision.

The relation of the understanding and the eye, and the sympathetic connection between them may be shown in another way. The eye sometimes silently speaks, and discloses the interior thought, which is often quite different from the language of the lips. Intelligence beams from the eye. An intense excitement of the intellect gives an unearthly lustre to the eye. The eye is oftentimes affected by the diseased condition of those organs that have correspondence with the intellectual faculties, as the kidneys and the lungs. The condition of the duodenum or second stomach, seems to influence the external eye. We have had occasion to notice that sore eyes are often accompanied with an inflamed state of the mucous surface of the duodenum. In all ophthalmic inflammations, there is found a tender spot about half way between the ear and the corner of the eye. When the sensitiveness of this part is removed, and the congestion relieved by the magnetism of the hand, it allays the inflammation of the eye and the duodenum at the same time.

It was remarked by Swedenborg that the natural eye sees only material objects, but cannot discern spiritual realities. This is undoubtedly correct. But when he avers that the spiritual eye takes cognizance only of spiritual things, and cannot perceive any objects in the material world, we think there is some mistake here, either in him or our understanding of him. He himself saw the fire that was raging in Stockholm, when he was in Gottenburg three hundred miles from the former place. He informed his friends where it commenced, how far it proceeded, and when it was extinguished. All his statements were confirmed two days after by the arrival of a messenger at Gottenburg. It is useless to say that this was seen by the external, or what he calls the natural eye. It was only the inner sense, acting independently of the bodily organ, that became cognizant of it. Here then is a plain case of the inner eye perceiving material phenomena. There can be no doubt, that while the spiritual world, with its objective realities, is veiled is darkness to our outward senses, the penetrative vision of spirits and angels may perceive the objects and persons of this lower or exterior range of life. The spiritual may discern the material, the inner take cognizance of the outer, the higher of the lower, because this is the divine order, but the converse of this is impossible.

The sense of hearing, as a medium of communication between the mind and the external world, stands next in importance to that of vision. The ear, in its structure, is one of the most compicated and delicately organized instruments of the soul. As the eye corresponds to the intellect, so the ear answers to the affectional nature. As the eye is influenced by the states of the intellectual faculties, so the ear is affected by the varying states of the love. In the bodily organism it belongs to the vital system, as the eye does to the pulmonary. Diseases of the involuntary or vital organs affect the ear by sympathy, while pulmonary disorders, and an abnormal state of the organs having correspondence with the intellect, affect the eye.

Hearing, as a voluntary act, is the result of attention and hearkening. They are the causes or prior states of the mind, of which hearing is the effect. In a state of absent-mindedness or mental abstraction, the ear becomes insensible to external sounds. Ordinary conversation is not noticed. A person may be addressed, but he hears nothing until his attention is excited. The mental act of listening, or hcarkening, infuses into the auditory nerve a spiritual and cerebral stimulus, that increases its sensibility and renders it more impressible to the undulatory movements of the atmosphere and the ether which are necessary to the sensation of hearing. In all forms of deafness occasioned by a weakened condition of the nerve of hearing, the best remedy will be found in the frequent excitement of the mental state that is a prerequisite to the action of the auditory sense. Sometimes the very act of listening to hear the ticking of a watch, or some distant sound, will so affect the organ of hearing that the sensitiveness of the nerve will be restored. In some forms of deafness, there seems to be only a loss of the power of attention. The cause of the defect in the hearing is found in a sort of mental abstraction, and when they are temporarily aroused from this introversion of the mind, their power of hearing even ordinary conversation is restored. We have had under our care several cases of this nature. The remark is often made of such persons, that they hear with distinctness what you do not wish them to hear. When their attention is excited, even ordinary conversation becomes audible to them. This indicates with clearness that the mind is at fault, more than any diseased condition of the organ of hearing. The cause of this form of deafness is spiritual, and the remedy must be spiritual also.

There is a sympathetic connection between the ear and what is improperly called the organ of cautiousness. We have reason to suspect that the power of listening, or of hearkening, is located in this part of the cerebral structure. It will be found to be true, that the more fully this part of the brain is developed, the more acute is the sense of hearing. This is so both in animals and men. In the hare the ear, which is of unusual size, is situated in immediate connection with the so-called organ of cautiousness, and there is a remarkable power of attention, or of concentrating the mental force upon tale auditory sense, and a most acute perception of sounds. What is called its timidity, is only this mental trait, the unusual activity of the faculty of attention. We have demonstrated by experiment, that by magnetizing this part of the brain, with an attempt to excite the attention, it increases the sensitiveness of the ear to sounds.

We have come to the conclusion that the sense of hearing, so far as it is a voluntary act, depends upon this point of the cerebrum for its nerve stimulus. But hearing is also involuntary, and as an involuntary sense, the ear has sympathetic connection with the cerebellum, and by placing the hand on a point just below the cercbellum, at the commencement of the occipital portion of the spinal column, and imparting a magnetic force to it, the ear will he affected. When a person has been deaf of one ear for any considerable length of time, there will be found a perceptible depression here on one side. This we have frequently noticed.

Deafness is sometimes occasioned by an inflamed state of the membrana tym-pani, a delicate and sensitive membrane stretched across the ear passage, and designed to protect the inner ear from the violence of the atmospheric vibrations. The nerve of this membrane may be affected by applying the finger just behind the zygomatic process of the superior maxillary bone, and in front of the ear. Beneath this place the nerve enters the ear. Here is the seat of the pain in acute otal-gia or ear-ache. Deafness is sometimes only an inflamed and congested condition of the membrana tympani. It becomes positively charged with vital force, and is too sensitive, while the inner ear is coldly negative. This occasions a constant roaring or ringing sound, in its earlier stages. By cooling the nerve, the difficulty is at once relieved. This membrane seems to have a sympathetic connection with the organs of tune and time, and receives its cerebral stimulus from a point situated between them.

The sense of hearing may act independently of the external organ. There are those who not only see without regard to distance of space and without the intervention of ordinary light, but also are able to hear without the vibration of the atmosphere. As light is produced by an undulatory movement of the ether, so the sensation of hearing may depend for its existence upon the motion of a still more subtle element denominated the aura. Certain it is, that persons many miles away are heard distinctly to speak, and even their thoughts become audible. Words, uttered at a distance of many leagues, are heard as clearly as if the person speaking were in the same room with us. This may seem even more marvelous and incredible than the interior vision above described. To this inner auditory sense spirits and angels speak. The Jewish prophets listened to voices wafted from the interior realms, and in the unruffled stillness of the soul received messages from the inhabitants of the other shore. Some in every age and nation have enjoyed the same privilege. By them the harmonies of the upper spheres have been heard through the operating vail.

One peculiarity of those sounds ought not to pass without notice. They do not enter the ear by an external way, or through the auditory canal (the meatus au-ditorius externus), but they arise from within, and seem to pass up through the Eustachian tube. Whether this is real or only a seeming, we are unable to say. But the sound is as distinctly heard, as any produced by a vibration of the atmosphere; collected and thrown upon the membrane of the tympanum. Persons in whom the intellect is exalted to a spiritual plane of action, are endowed with clear-seeing, because the sight corresponds to the understanding. Those in whom the affectional nature is elevated to the same degree, so as to be in harmony with the spiritualized intellect, are not only clairvoyant, but clairaudient also, because the hearing corresponds to the love, and is influenced by the emotions.

The sense of touch, or feeling, is not confined to a small portion of the body, but is distributed over its whole surface. But there are certain parts, as the palms of the hand, and the lips, which possess this sense in a higher degree, in conseq-nence of numerous papillae, which, in addition to blood-vessels, contain nervous loops, and also peculiar ovoid bodies called “axile corpuscles,” possessing gray ganglionic vescicles or cells. The touch or feeling is the sense belonging to the af-fectional department of the human mind. This is tacitly recognized in all languages, where we find the word feeling used to express emotions and desires, which are modifications of the love. We speak of feelings of joy, of sorrow, of want, of contentment. These are states of the affections. We also speak of various painful diseased conditions as affections, as a rheumatic, or a neuralgic affection. This is an instinctive acknowledgment, that these abnormal physiological conditions are caused by a disordered or unharmonious state of the affections.

The sphere of our life and the states of our love, are communicable by the touch, especially of hand. This is a truth of great practical importance. To those who are peculiarly sensitive to the influence of others, and are highly intuitional, the touch of an individual reveals his affectional states, and even his bodily condition. Such persons are like a delicate electrometer. Affection and friendship spontaneously grasp the hand of another. This is a contact of sensitive and magnetic surfaces through which there is an actual interchange of feeling. When we wish to express and communicate a more ardent state of the feelings, we employ, besides the contact of the hands, the more sensitive surface of the lips, and as Tennyson words it, “The spirits rush together at the touching of the lips.” This is a thing too sacred to be deemed a mere trifle. The kiss of a mother whose whole soul goes out in loving benediction upon her child, is no empty or unmeaning form. It is an actual communication of life, and the divine magnetism of love.

It is proper to remark, that the lips have a sympathetic nervous connection with the organs in the back brain that correspond to the domestic and social affections. The touch, or imposition of the hand, has the effect of actually imparting the sphere of our life, and is the natural and spontaneous expression of a desire to do good to others. Thus Jesus blessed little children, and a heart overflowing with benevolence, has often manifested its wish to communicate good to others in the same way. It has a living power, and it is the divine older of our being, that vital force is transmissible from one to another by this means. When the two blind men, who sat by the way-side begging, cried to Jesus to have mercy upon them, he touched their eyes, and immediately they received sight, and followed him. (Matt. xx. 34.) In this way he imparted his own life to diseased humanity, but without any permanent loss of his vital fores, for it is a law as invariable as that of gravitation, that to him who gives life, shall life be given. He shall receive from the exhaustless fountain, more than he imparts. We may be conscious that “virtue” has gone out of us, but we shall be made equally certain of the reception of an equivalent potential force. The imposition of the hands always imparts life to another, and as a therapeutic agency, we may rely upon it, with unhesitating confidence and absolute certainty. It is a remedy that never fails when under the direction of intelligence and love.

The sensation of smell is occasioned by a minute exhalation of particles from the odorous body. Its anatomy is less understood than that of any of the other senses. The effuvia going forth from all material bodies, wafted by the atmosphere, affect the olfactory nerves of the nostrils. The design of the sense seems to be to give us a perception of what is agreeable to our life, spiritual and physical. There are certain substances that emit to us a disagreeable odor, because they are not in harmony with our nature, yet to certain animals they pour forth delicious fragrance.

The sense of smell may have a spiritual range of action. It may become an acute faculty of perception, and so intensified as to be affected not merely by the emanations of material bodies, but by the mental sphere of an individual. A person whom we love, and with whom we are in sympathy, gratifies all our senses, and emits an agreeable spiritual odor. While one, toward whom we feels deep repugnance, becomes offensive to all our senses, and is a mental stench in our spiritual atmosphere. It is a law of our inner being, that whatever is out of harmony with our ruling love, should affect the spiritual sense of smell. When we hear a statement that is repugnant to our feelings, or that we deem absurd, we sometimes instinctively expel the air from the nostrils, as if ridding the nasal cavity of a disagreeable odor. The feeling of disgust toward a person, is expressed by a peculiar movement of the muscles of the nose, as if it were an effort to close the nostrils. This is sufficient to establish the correspondential relation between the mind and the olfactory sensory. They also place in a rational and philosophical light the statement of a distinguished seer, and herald of a New Age, respecting the spiritual world. He discloses the fact that in the realm above, the emanating sphere of spirits and angels is perceived as odorous, and the sense of smell becomes a means of perceiving character.

When the sphere of another is in harmony with our own life, it comes as grateful perfume. When not in agreement with our affections, it is perceived as an offensive odor. This is liable to ridicule from shallow minds who do not understand the hidden laws of our being, but the statement rests on a scientific basis and is not so unlike what we here experience as to be destitute of credibility. In what we have said above, we see that the same law operates here, though not so perfectly as in the world beyond. All men know, or may be assured of it, that the perception of what is disagreeable to them ultimates itself in a correspondent movement of the nostrils. The concordant associations, into which the inhabitants of higher spheres are organized by the law of affinity or spiritual attraction, are like the “smell of a field the Lord has blessed.”

On the celestial plains, where pure affections prevail and are the spring of all outward activity; odorous gales sweep over the eternal hills, and fragrant spiritual incense fills the land of everlasting spring as the fire of the golden ccnscr perfumed the temple. The man who deems this a matter of ridicule, or unworthy the life above, to he consistent with himself ought to hold his nose, when with hypocritical sanctimoniousness he walks in a flower garden. He should put a bandage over his nostrils in the presence of the magnolia and orange-groves of the South, which fill the adjacent regions with their rich perfumes.

Taste is used in common language both in a physical and spiritual sense, It is employed to express a particular sensation excited in us by the application of certain substances to the tongue, as the taste of a grape or apple. Its office in the bodily economy is to give us a perception of pleasure in the use of the natural aliments which are adapted to promote the growth and the healthful functional action of all the organs, and to build up the various tissues. It has also for an end to furnish us with a ready means of judging what is agreeable to the life of the body. In the animal races, in whom it is seldom perverted as in man, in connection with the sense of smell, which is analogous to it, it subserves this use with well-nigh unerring certainty. It has a correspondence with a certain mental function.

We have an intellectual relish for those things which are not obnoxious to our interior life, and we have a discernment or power of perceiving what is promo-tive of our spiritual well-being and growth. Material food serves a similar use in the outward organism to that which truths and spiritual enjoyments accomplish in the interior man. These latter nourish the inward life and contribute to the development of the soul. Hunger and thirst answer, in the external nature, to the desire of knowing, of understanding and of becoming wise. And taste, in its spiritual application, expresses the power of discerning what is promotive of such an end, — especially a judgment based on experience — and a mental relish for and pleasure in those things.

In what has been said above, we perceive that all the senses have correspondence with the spiritual nature of man. Sensation is located in the mot external degree of our inner being, in something: intermediate between pure mind and matter, and is the medium through which matter and spirit mutually act and react upon each other. This we have denominated the spiritual body. It is proper to remark,also, that, as the sensation of light and sound is produced by an undulatory movement of a subtle element — the ether and the aura — pervading all space, so the other senses are affected in so analogous way. And all the senses may be excited to action without the intervention of any tangible material substance. They are called into action whenever and wherever the necessary vibratory force acts upon them. They are thus capable of a range of activity independent of the bodily organs.

The spiritual senses are the common possession of humanity. The opening of them, as it is called, in certain persons, or rather their emancipation from their material instuments, is apt to be looked upon as an abnormal state, or as an extraordinary, if not miraculous, vouchsafement. If, in the hour of the rending off the external covering, and the transition of the inner man to immortality, the spiritual world is unveiled before the freed vision and celestial voices and harmonies float in upon the enraptured inner ear, it is deemed proper and right, and is accepted as what ought to be. It is a consolation to surviving friends. In the funeral oration from the pulpit, which is now usually deaf, dumb, and blind to all spiritual realities, the comfortable fact is dwelt upon with much solemn
eloquence. But, if a person becomes sufficiently spiritual twenty-five years before his departure to a higher realm, to see, hear, and even converse with those who walk the “velvety soils” of the land of perpetual spring, he is looked upon with suspicion, sometimes treated with neglect and contempt, and his sanity seriously called in question. So inconsistent a thing is human nature. In this way the world treated Emmanuel Swedenborg, the most illumincd mind of modern history.

We believe, with the force of a prophetic conviction, that the time is coming, and draws near, when men will be educated into the normal use of their spiritual senses. Then the spiritual world will no longer be like those large blank spaces on the earlier maps of Africa, marked “Unexplored Territory.” The youthful imagination was wont to people this wondrous unknown region with all manner of men, animals, birds, and creeping things. To see and converse with those on the shining shore, and to pierce the hidden depths of the inner realms, will be deemed a no more extraordinary occurrence, than our everyday social intercourse with those who are in this outside circumference of being. Such is the normal state of man, and may God and angels help us to return to nature and come into harmony with it. Only one thing is necessary to the unveiling of our spiritual senses, and that is the acquisition of the power of retiring behind the fleshly curtain, so that the interior man may act independently of the outward body. The main obstacle to this is the want of real faith in the actual and substantial existence of our interior selfhood — of a living personality within the material organism. Attaining this, the veil is rent and soon will be removed.

As long as the outward body is viewed as the chief thing in our existence, and fills the first place in our thoughts and affections, the inner senses will be in bondage and the spiritual world shrouded in darkness. As soon as men become assured, that the body is no necessary part of our manhood, but the spirit is the real man, they will be able to live independent of the material shell, free themselves from its thraldom, the inner senses will be opened, and they will become conscious inhabitants of a higher world.

In the devolopment of the new age, now opening before man a higher earthly destiny, this may become his nornlal state. The soul is sometimes freed, to a certain extent, from its bondage to the fleshly covering, and the spiritual senses are unveiled, by frequent fasting and ascetic mortifications; by an immoderate use of narcotics, as opium and hasheesh; by sickness, in which the powers of the body are gradually weakened; by loss of sleep, and drowning. These are all favorable to the emancipation and manifestation of the soul’s interior powers. Whatever weakens the body loosens the soul’s connection with it, and, in the same degree, gives opportunity for the independent exercise of the senses. But these are abnormal, and hence undesirable, modes of development. No method of unfolding our inner powers is to be deemed desirable which unfits a man for the duties and uses of our ordinary life.


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