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Chapter 19 Mental Metamorphosis; or How to Induce Upon Ourselves any Desirable Mental State

The different states of the mind, both in the department of thought and feeling, influence the physiological manifestations. All psychological movements effect a change in the organic functions. Hence the law according to which our feelings may be changed and controlled, is one of great hygienic value. Everyone who has ever had much to do in the treatment of the various forms of chronic disease, must have frequently heard the remark made by invalids, that some peculiar mental trouble, some disappointment, or unhappiness, or abnormal excitement or derangement of the spifitnal nature, was the original cause of their ill health. And in every case, if we investigate their mental history, we shall find some disturbance of the spiritual equilibrium to underlie their pathological condition. But how few, either among patients or physicians, ever think of finding a cure in the removal of the interior cause of their disease, and in the restoration of the mind to a sound and healthy state. How few seem to make any practical use of those spiritual forces, that exercise so potent an influence over the external organism, both in the generation of diseased conditions, and as a therapeutic agency. Every particular case needs instruction adapted to its peculiarities, and we can lay down only some general principles, that may serve as hints in the treatment of all cases. We shall not in this chapter attempt to show how one mind may so act upon another as to change its mental state, but how the patient may effect in himself a spiritual metamorphosis, and induce upon himself any desirable mental state. For it is a matter of prime importance to teach a chronic invalid to be self-reliant, and to become his own physician.

We have seen that our thoughts and affections are not self-originated, but are the result of an influx from the world of spirit, which is interfused within this realm of being. It might, at first, seem from this, that the soul of men was only a passive recipient of the ideas and feelings of others, and that we could have no more control over our emotional and intellectual states, than over the winds that blow upon us. It is true that our thoughts and affections are involuntary, in the sense that they cannot be changed by the direct action of the will. We often struggle long and hard against them, and gain no relief from their infestation. A mere command of the volitive power cannot dispel melancholy, regret, fear, anxiety, guilt, or any affection or emotion we do not wish to nourish, and of which we would gladly rid ourselves. They cleave to us like the poisoned shirt of Nessus. Still the human soul is not like a ship on a stormy sea, driven before tempests and resistless currents, without rudder or compass. While it is admitted, that neither thought nor affection is self-derived, but both flow in from our vital connection with the all-surrounding, all-pervading spiritual world, and we are under the law of necessity both to think and feel while we live, yet if unhappy feelings or mental states flow in, why may not good ones as well? We drink in spiritual life from another realm of being; but can we not choose at what fountain or stream we will receive? Is there not a law of which we may avail oarselves, and by conformity to which, we may render ourselves receptive of any desirable mental state we may wish to induce upon ourselves, as one of calmness or joy, of faith or trust, of gentleness and lovingness?

There is a way, easy and practical, by which we may loosen the hold of any unhappy feeling upon us, and cause if to give place to a better state. Suppose we find ourselves, no matter from what cause, suffering from certain disordered and depressing mental states, as anxiety, or sadness, or despair, or hurry of spirits, or the foreboding of evil, or conscious self-imposed guilt, so that we are filled with inward disquietude, and suffering the consequent derangement of the bodily functions. We desire to exchange our present mental condition for a happy one — to convert ourselves, to “make to ourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” We would be rid of the evil and attain the opposite good. How can this be done in harmony with the truth, that our feelings are involuntary, and come to us from without, and do not originate from the depth of our being? If we are at all self-reliant, we need send for neither the priest nor the doctor. They are often like the blind leading the blind, and both fall into the ditch. They are a broken reed, on which if we lean, it will pierce our hand. To struggle against our feelings, will do us no good, for action and reaction will here be egual. Our convulsive efforts to deliver ourselves from our mental sufferings, will only plunge us the deeper; like a man sinking in the mire. We are then to cease all useless strugglings and vain efforts to free ourselves by our own strength. Let the soul be calm and passive. Let it be negative and receptive towards the sphere of those who are in the state you would induce upon yourself, whether they are in this world or that above.

We lay down this general law — that influx is always into forms that are correspondences. We will explain this. Between external form and internal character there is everywhere the relation of cause and effect. Between the outward configuration of an object and its inward nature, there is mutual action and reaction. “It is everywhere the indwelling life, which determines the external form of things. Throughout nature, in strict accordance with this law, differences of confignra-tion are, in all cases, found to be commensurate with differences of character and use. Things which resemble each other in quality and function resemble each other in shape; and whereever there is unlikeness in quality and function, there is unlikeness in form; in other words, there is a determinate relation between the constitution and appearance of material objects; and the reason why any particular animal or plant assumes its own precise figure rather than any other, need be sought only in the necessity of adapting configuration to character.” (New Physiognomy by Samuel R. Wells, p. 83)

The relation of the outward form to the interior essence and character, is a universal one, and in living beings is a mutual one. To put an animal into a form or attitude that expresses some ruling passion, will excite it to action. This we have successfully tried. So in men, when the external is made to assume a form in harmony with any spiritual state, the emotions and thoughts constituting it flow in. It is a law of our being, uniform in its operation, that when we assume the attitude which outwardly expresses or manifests any feeling or sentiment, it spontaneously arises within us. There are many familiar illustrations of this. When an actor on the stage, by his countenance, attitudes, and gestures, outwardly manifests the feelings that belong to the chracters he personates, they take possession of him in all their reality, and sometimes with over-powering force. The power of not only feigning the emotions and passions that tragic and comic acting are designed to represent, but of actually inducing them upon one’s self, is the secret of the highest attainments in the art.

But all this takes place in harmony with the laws of our nature, and is due only in part to a susceptible constitution. The relation of body and soul is that of correspondence, and there is a tendlency in each to adjust itself in harmony with the other. The external form is under the control of the internal manhood, and obeys the dictates of its volitions. By an effort of will, it can be made to assume any attitude we please, and when it comes into the external form that manifests or expresses any feeling, it becomes as a prepared vessel to receive it from the spiritual realms. All our interior states are outwardly expressed by that most wonderfully organized instrument of the mind — the human face. Its muscles respond spontaneously to the least change of feeling, and mold the countenance into the ultimate image of every varying emotion. And melancholy cannot long reign in the mind, when the face is made to assume the form that expresses mirthfulness. So of all other depressing mental states. The muscles of the face will respond to the force of the will, and form an image expressive or representative of the opposite feelings, and the breath of lives shall be infused into it, and the outward form shall become a living soul.

If one is troubled with a hurry of spirits, so common in chronic diseases of the so-called nervous type, and which quickens all its movements, the pulsations of the heart, and the respiratory action, and exhausts the nerve force, let him see to it, that all his outward motions are slow and tranquil. Become externally quiet, and
soon a tranquil feeling will steal over the mind, as gently as the dews of evening descend upon the flower. If one is sad or gloomy, or fearful, or desponding, or suffers from a loss of self-respect or is habitually impatient, let him voluntarily assume the attitude that outwardly expresses the opposite state, and the desired emotion will arise in his consciousness. Here is a principle of great practical hygienic importance and has its application to all those abnormal and pathological mental states that sustain a causal relation to the various forms of chronic disease. We can place the external man in such an attitude and form, as shall no longer ultimate the feelings we wish to remove, but which shall be the correspondence of the opposite emotional state. Then the disordered psychological condition, of which we wish to clear onrselves, having no basis on which to rest, comes to an end, like the fall of a tower when the foundation is removed, and the opposite affectional state flows in from above into the correspondcnt and rcceptive form. The wind of tile spirit bloweth where it listeth, and if we spread our canvas aright, as shall catch celestial gales.

When the outward man comes into correspondent harmony with the affections that prevail in the heavens, the soul will vibrate in harmony with the angels. Celestial motion will be communicated to our spirit’s harp strings, and bliss shall pervade our soul, like festive lights in a long deserted mansion. For the external atmosphere will no more certainly rush in to fill a vacuum, than the all-surrounding spirit-world will flow into the outward forms that are the correspondent or ultimate expression of its states.

To receive light and love, thought and affection, from the upper or inner world, is to be inspired. If we would be inspired with any particular feeling, as that of joy, of peace, or hope, or faith, it is important that we attend to our respiration. Inspiration means an in-breathing. And there is an important connection between the manner of our respiration and our states of mind, When Swedenborg asserts that in the primeval age, the paradisiacal state, the golden age of the poets, when men were in the superior, or rather interior condition, their breathing was tacit, and not externally perceptible, it is what we should naturally expect, provided it be historically true that there ever was such an age of the world or race of men. The statement, as to the mode of their respiration, rests on a scientife basis. They thought interiorly, abstractly, intensely, and passively, and their respiration corresponded. The nearer we approach to the same state of thought, the less discernible is our breathing. The more interiorly we think, the more tacit is our respiration, as in the genuine trance. And there are states of rapt abstraction from our external surroundings, when the body seems breathless, and the spirit only respires. The breathing is internal, invisible, and in harmony with that of the spiritual world, and then the intellect is exalted to a higher plane of action.

That there is an important connection between our modes of respiration, and our states of mind, is a physiological and psychological truth, not hitherto sufficiently attended to, but worthy of investigation. In all languages, the air is made representative of spirit, and it is a fact familiar to the seers of all ages, that influx from the spiritual world, is often times attended with a sensation as of a cool air blowing upon some part of the person. Thus the word used for soul or spirit is derived from a term meaning air, wind, or breath. Thus the Latin animus and anima, are from the Greek anemos, wind. The old Saxon word for spirit, ghost, and the German geist, are only another form of the term gas, which is from the same root. In the Christian and Jewish Scriptures, there is only one word used to express the two ideas of wind and spirit. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth. So it is with whatsoever is generated from the spirit.” The latter word is the same that is rendered wind at the commencement of the passage.

The spiritual realm is within and around the material world. The sphere of the one pervades the atmosphere of the other. That sphere is composed of the emanations, or vibrations, of the life of angels. Thus we inhale the affectional states of those above and around us. While gently breathing deep and full, we may elevate the soul’s aspirations to the upper realms. A desire for a particular state, if it be not inordinate, but calm and tranquil, is a reaching forth of the mind to grasp it. Such is the radical sense of the word. It is a negative and reeptive state, a consciousness of want, a sort of mental vacuum. It renders us admissive of the mental state we wish to induce upon ourselves. With the mind thus fixed upon those above, we may breathe through to the spiritual range of life, and inhale purity, peace, and bliss from perennial and immortal fountains — the sphere of angels and of God.

We hear people talk about the soul’s breathing after purity and bliss, yet the expression has lost its meaning, and has degenerated into a cant phrase, of which no definite idea is formed. To aspire to any spiritual state, is to breathe after it, (from the Latin ad towards, and spiro, to breathe.) The very word spirit comes from spiro to breathe. So also the French esprit, the Italian spirito, the Spanish espiritu, and the Latin spiritus. The interior man respires, as well as the external body, but its respiration is tacit to the senses, and is not recognizable as that of the outward man is. “There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body,” and the respiration of the one is synchronous and harmonious with the other. The one breathes an atmosphere surrounding the globe we inhabit, and charged with the effluvia of material objects; the other an aura enveloping the spiritual world, and pervaded with the emanating sphereof its inhabitants. The air has pneumatical or spiritual life within its serene depths. Thus while we breathe the “air of immensity,” we may inhale the aura of celestial climes, impregnated with the joys and affectional states of the angels, and the spirits of the blest, who have been born into an undying life. We may be inspired with a bliss from above, and with spiritual delights that shall make our life a perpetual psalm of praise, and fill with unuttered hallelujahs our every day concerns. But these hints and suggestions are given only to those “who have ears to hear” — who believe the spiritual world is the reality, our earthly life, the dream.

All depressing mental states are attended with a peculiar respiration, the top of the lungs only being called into action, and not the abdominal muscles. By directing the mind to the frontal muscles, and breathing naturally, and not too artificially, and with no other effort of will than the fixing of the thoughts upon the abdominal coverings, their muscular tissue is contracted in the respiratory act, and this will go far towards relieving the mind of any morbid state of the feelings, as anxiety and melancholy, and the whole class of depressing emotions. We have known this to effect, in a few moments, a surprising metamorphosis in the mental condition of a patient. As a remedial agency in a system of Mental Hygiene, it deserves consideration and a fair trial.

The motion of the diaphragm and the lungs in breathing, communicates a peculiar movement to the cerebral mass, and affects the action of the brain, and consequently the manifestations of the mind. In a work entitled “The Institutions of Physiology,” by Blumenbach, it is said in speaking of the brain, “that after birth it undergoes a constant and gentle motion correspondent with respiration, so that when the lungs shrink in expiration, the brain rises a little, but when the chest expands, it again subsides.” The discovery of this concordant movement of the lungs and the brain, has been claimed by some for Swedenborg, but Blumenbach ascribes it to Daniel Schlichting who described it in 1744. It shows in a clear light, the sympathetic connection between the lungs and the cerebum, and the effect of respiration upon the organ of the mind, and consequently upon our mental states. Just in proportion as the respiratory movements are diminished, external consciousness and sensibility are lessened. When we cease breathing, they are sus- pended altogether. The external manifestations of the mind are no longer possible, when the movement of the brain, consequent upon, or synchronous with respiration, terminates.

It is also reasonable to suppose, that the several varieties of respiration should be accompanied with peculiar mental states, as well as with peculiar movements of the cerebral mass. This is confirmed by experience. To relieve ourselves of any involuntary and unhappy state of the mind, we have only to change the mode of respiration peculiar to it for that which belongs to the opposite state, and the desired feeling or emotion will arise within us. The Swedish Movements are peculiarly adapted to effect the necessary change, both as to degree and character, of the breathing which characterizes all depressing and abnormal mental states. Hence their demonstrated efficiency in the cure of chronic diseases, both of the mind and body.


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