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ROOM TO BREATHE IN.
One of the most painful stories of suffering is that which records the horrible death of those hapless victims of suffocation, who perished in the Black Hole of Calcutta. Compelled to inhale the same atmosphere, gradually become more and more laden with carbonic acid gas, healthy and vigorous men sank down, stricken with death, poisoned and poisoning with vitiated breaths. In the massacre of that terrible night, the poor imprisoned sufferers were at once each other's murderers and victims. They could not get into “God's free air,” nor could the free air get to them; so the dungeon became a stifling hot-bath of contagion. To enable us to live we are continually breathing out death, and it is one of the most marvellous arrangements of infinite wisdom, which contrives to diffuse our death-laden breaths through the atmosphere, accelerating the diffusion by agitating the atmosphere with constant air currents, and fixing the poison of our exhalations in the beauty and usefulness of vegetation. Among the solemn lessons taught by the Black Hole of Calcutta, one must never be forgotten that men must have room to breathe in, if they are to be healthy or even to live.
As to his breath, each living being is most individual. No one man can breathe for another. His own lungs must inhale so many cubic inches of air at each inspiration. To breathe the breath of another injures him; to breathe nothing save the breaths of others will kill him.
This physical fact is only the ultimation of a corresponding spiritual law: what breath is to the lungs, thought is to the understanding. On no specific correspondence is Swedenborg more explicit or impressive than on the correspondence of heart and will, of the lungs and the understanding. Man as a physical being must breathe; as an intellectual being, he must think. His breathing is but the taking in of so much air from the atmospheric ocean, with which the Creator has surrounded the earth on which his body dwells : his thinking is but the taking in of so much of the spiritual atmosphere of wisdom, with which the Creator has filled the spiritual world in which his soul already resides. as is his lung capacity will be his physical inhalation of air: such as is his mental capacity will be his intellectual inhalation of truth. According to his breathing power will be his physical health and vigour : according to his intellectual capacity of reception will be his mental health and vigour. Until he begins to do his own breathing
he has no physical individuality: until he begins to think for himself he has no intellectual individuality. His individuality in either case deepens and strengthens according as he more strongly and independently breathes and thinks. It must therefore be as foolish and wicked to attempt to repress individual thinking, as to attempt to limit or restrain individual breathing. To suppose that any one man ought to limit his own thinking to the set forms of another man's thought, so as continually to do no more than reproduce that other man's idea, phrased in the same words and introduced always in the same connection, is manifestly unreasonable. We can discover its unreasonableness by bringing the notion down to the natural plane, and seeing how it would work there. We should obstinately refuse to live were we compelled to breathe over again the breath of another, or of a half-score of others. Both physically and intellectually, living beings have the right to demand breathing-room of all their fellows.
It is, however, undeniably true that, due regard being paid to ventilation, the association of any number of breathers is provocative of a fuller and richer life. Loneliness, sitting on a mountain peak for the sake of free breathing, is not the healthiest position for a man to covet or cling to. He needs warmth as well as air, and covers his body with clothing in order to modify the rigour of what else would be a perpetual air-bath. So the association of the thoughts of other thinkers with one's own thoughts stimulates a fuller and richer intellectual life. But in both cases, due care must be given to ventilation, i.e. the allowing of the free atmosphere to circulate among the breathers and thinkers.
Yet so truly individual must be the thinking of each mind, that until the thought of another has also been thought out by him, it is not his, and does not profit him. Until each has mastered for himself the principle which another has set forth, the speech or the book which contains it is as though it were uttered or written in a language as yet unknown, needing a grammar and a dictionary as yet unbought. To learn words so as to be able to repeat another's thought is one thing: to master the thought so as to be able to reproduce it in any other connection, to clothe it in other than the original phrases, and to adapt it to the changed circumstances of its new expression, is quite a different thing. The former is an exertion of memory; the latter is the exercise of intellect. The former may be aped by a parrot; the latter is possible only to man. A speaker or writer, breathing so much of the heavenly atmosphere of truth as he can, sees certain objects, mental or physical, spiritual or natural, and he labours to inform his fellows of what he has seen. But until his words call up in the minds of his readers or hearers, images corresponding to the things. he describes, so that they also may mentally see the things he describes, his utterances will be to them of little or no value. The great use of written or spoken thought, therefore, is to set other people a-thinking. In this thinking, however, individuality will still rule, and each mind will be able to see and think only in harmony with its own character and state. Hence the unwisdom of blaming some for not thinking in the same way as do others. Hence also the insanity of attempting to repress or prevent thought.
Swedenborg, more than any man, has raised up and dignified the great conception of individuality. He tells us that the Lord has not created any two things which are alike; that is, infinite wisdom cannot repeat itself in its works. There are no two minds alike, no two thoughts in any one mind alike, no two angels alike, and, to cap the climax of individualizing, he assures us that no two human souls are regenerated in identically the same fashion, or by means of an exactly similar process. General similarity, of course, prevails in respect of all these matters; but exact similarity is to be found nowhere in the vast universe of life. Charmingly illustrative of this high thought is the narrative in the Word, where David goes forth to fight Goliath. Saul, in the desire that the youthful and ruddy champion of Israel may go forth to the combat well furnished for victory, clothes him in his own armour, and lends to him his own sword. These weapons had done good service for Israel in former times. They suited well a man of Saul's height and girth; and but for Saul's sins, his sword would, doubtless, have gained the victory in Saul's hands against the giant boaster of Gath. But David put them off. He could not fight the battle with Saul's sword. His conflict must be waged with his own weapons. At the same time that David's triumph is representative of so many solemn and glorious truths, it was also the vindication of individuality. The life battle of each has to be fought with his own weapons, just as each must breathe his own breath, and think his own thoughts. The assertion of individuality is not arrogance.
On the contrary, they alone are arrogant who seek to repress the individuality of another, in order to give to their own individuality the freer and larger scope. They not only wish to clothe David in their own armour, but absolutely refuse to allow him to fight with any other weapons than their own. They would rather that no combat should take place than that the battle should be won in an unorthodox fashion. Against such mental tyranny all free men must protest.
The perfection of the heavens does not consist in the similarity of the angels, but in their diversity ; just as the perfection of the body is secured by the diversity of its members. It would not add to the completeness of society on earth if all its members were alike. The differences between men have accomplished more for human progress than their agreements. It is a necessary lesson which all have to learn that difference need not be antagonism; that variety does not involve the idea of contrariety. Indeed, as Swedenberg so finely shows, "the form [of any whole) makes a one so much the more perfectly in proportion as the things which enter into it are distinct from each other, and are nevertheless united." Hence, he says, it may be affirmed of the societies of heaven, and of the angels of each society, " that the more every individual has a distinct identity of character, in which he freely acts, and thus loves his associates from himself, or from his own affection, the more perfect is the form of the society” (D. P. 4). In heaven each angel has free breathing-room, the fullest scope for the development of all his capacity to receive, and to co-operate with the gifts which come from the Lord. Such individual liberty must likewise be extended to men on earth, if earth is to grow like heaven. Hence the true glory of the Church is its breadth of charity, the wish to extend, and the effort to secure the fullest mental breathing room for all its members. There are just as many gates in the New Jerusalem for those who dwell in the chilling north, and the dark west, as for those who dwell in the glorious east, and the blazing south. On each side there were “three gates," truths adapted to the states of those towards whom the four walls faced, and by learning, loving, and living which, the people could gain admission into the holy city, and access to the Lamb who is the light thereof.
Because in the life after death the individuality of each of the saved is made more distinct, instead of being obliterated, one aim of our earthly preparations for heaven should be to foster and develop the individuality of our character, and of our use. Any coterie of men
, who make the mistake of attempting to shrink down the taller, or to stretch out the less, to their standard of mental height; to puff out the smaller, or to squeeze down the larger, to their standard of mental girth, must fail of their purpose. They may herd together, shut out the free air, and breathe over again each other's breaths; but this means poison and not health, death and not life. If men would have life and vigour they must claim for themselves, and must ever be willing to accord to others, physically, socially, spiritually, room to breathe in.
THE INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL MAN.
(Read at a meeting of the Swedenborg Reading Society.)
Man may be regarded in several aspects; as a Created being, as an Educated being, and as a Regenerated being; as the subject of general and of particular distinctions; and as an inhabitant of the natural and the spiritual worlds.
It is not necessary in our present remarks to treat of these points separately, but it is requisite that they should be kept in view, in order that we may have anything like a clear view of the doctrine of the Internal and External man. For, as the doctrine of the internal and external man is differently stated in the Writings, it is necessary, to the harmony and connection of these statements, to understand something of the several aspects in which man is to be regarded, and to which those statements respectively apply. As a created being, man is an organized form, intended for the
reception of life, and of different degrees of life. Although possessed of life, we must remember that life forms no part of created man, since life is not creatable. As a created being, man consists of the organized forms of soul and body. The soul, which is his internal man, is created to the image of heaven, and the body, which is his external man, is created to the image of the world. Indeed, the soul is created of substances of the spiritual world, and the body is created of substances of the natural world. Into his soul all the wonders of the spiritual world are collated, and all the wonders of the natural world are collated into his body; so that the soul may be called a little heaven, and the body a little world.
Considered simply as a created being, man is described in the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." His internal man is like the heavens before there is sun or moon or stars, or even a firmament in which to place them; and his external man is like the earth before the existence of either the vegetable or the animal kingdom,—we might say even before the existence of the mineral kingdom, for Geology points to a period in the history of our globe, when the stratified body, which we call the mineral kingdom, existed only as an undistinguished mass of elemental substances. This is, however, descriptive of the natural