Spleen and Pancreas

Close under the lower ribs, on the left side of the body, just outside the stomach, lies the spleen, — a body about the size of the thick part of the hand, though nearly twice as thick; of soft, spongy structure, composed of what is called the spleen pulp, together with very numerous arteries, veins, and lymphatics. The spleen receives a considerable quantity of blood through the splenic artery, and returns it though the splenic vein more fluid and lively than when it came. It sends also a considerable quantity of lymph by the lymphatics through the omentum to the chyle receptacle; but discharges no other peculiar secretion.

Its purpose is to modify the blood and prepare it for the winnowing of the liver, whither the blood returned by the spleen is immediately sent through the portal vein. At the extremities of the arteries in the spleen, the blood appears to circulate among the cells of the pulp, unconfined by the usual capillary walls, and to be collected from this pulp circulation by the veins. During this process the mischievous adhesions among its particles are broken up, the worn-out globules are disintegrated, the worthless particles are set free, so as to be easily sifted out by the liver, and the good elements also are set free, so that they may meet and combine with the new chyle with more ready sympathy and greater power for usefulness. All the lymph that can be spared is sent off to the receptacle; for the good blood is on its way to meet the new chyle, which will need all its power of absorbing and assimilating.

Huxley says that the blood returned from the spleen “is found to contain proportionally fewer red corpuscles and more fibrine than that in the splenic artery; and it has been supposed that the spleen is one of those parts of the economy in which the colorless corpuscles of the blood are especially produced.” Probably some of the wornout red corpuscles are really destroyed by the action of the spleen. It would naturally contain a larger proportion of fibrine, because the lymph is so largely withdrawn, and also because the colorless corpuscles seem to have the power of converting the albuminous materials, dissolved in the blood, into coagulable fibrine, ready to be built into the tissues of the body. Hence also these corpuscles are especially wanted in the work of receiving and initiating new blood. It should be added that the spleen increases in size immediately after taking food, and continues swollen and active during the process of digestion.

The office of the spleen is supplemented by that of the pancreas. As the splenic artery runs along behind the stomach towards its goal, it sends little branches continually to a long, thin gland, called the pancreas, whose shape is likened by several authors to that of a dog’s tongue. The pancreas also receives supplies from two other abdominal arteries.

The quality of the blood drawn from the arteries by the pancreas may be inferred from the products which it makes of it. These are, first, a thin, watery, alkaline fluid called the pancreatic fluid, or, by Swedenborg, and other old authors, the pancreatic bile, which is discharged into the small intestine through the same orifice with the hepatic bile; second, a purified blood which it presents to the splenic vien as this brings back the fluid blood frome the spleen; and third, the lymph and fatty particles which it withdraws as much as possible from the other secretions to fit them for their uses, and despatches to the mesentery, and probably at times to the omentum. (AK 228)

The blood returned from the pancreas unites with that from the spleen, and together they proceed to the portal vien and the liver, to be there strained and purified, and then to unite with the new chyle and initiate it into the uses of the blood.

The pancreatic fluid, in its humbler way, enters upon a lower part of the same use; for it proceeds immediately to the intestine, where it performs a prominent part in the digestion of fats and also of starch. Of the fats it quickly forms an emulsion, which is then readily absorbed by the coats of the intestine, and is conducted away by the lacteals and veins. And it assists greatly in transforming the rigid, insoluble starch into soluble sugar, which is taken up principally by the veins. Thus the spleen and the pancreas join hands to assist the liver in the work of preparing a stream of good blood for the general uses of the body, and initiating the new chyle into those uses.

The spiritual uses of the correlative provinces in the Greatest Man must correspond to these natural uses. It is not for a moment to be supposed that any angel who has been received into heaven ever becomes useless and is cast down (TCR 341). The correspondence of the continual renovation of the tissues and the blood globules of the body is with the continual purification of forms of thought and affection in the heavens. “It is a known truth,” Swedenborg says, “that heaven is not pure before the Lord; it is true, also, that angels are in continual progress towards perfection.” (AC 2249)

“It is worthy of notice, yet it is altogether unknown in the world, that the states of good spirits and angels are continually changing and being perfected, and thus they are carried on into the interiors of the province in which they are, thus into nobler functions; for there is in heaven a continual purification, and, so to speak, a new creation; but still it is true that no angel will ever attain absolute perfection to eternity; the Lord alone is perfect; in Him and from Him is all perfection.” (AC 4803)

The worn-out elements of the heavens, therefore are not the angels, but their inadequate forms of thought and states of feelings. The plan of the heavens is constantly being enlarged by the addition of new members; and these members bring states of life which are new; consequently the angels must have constantly expanding sympathies, and enlarging ideas of their mutual relations and uses. Any who suffer themselves to be hindered in their usefulness by too strong attachments to persons and ways, or by too limited views or set opinions, need to be brought within the influence of the province of the spleen, that their states of life may be taken out of their routine and thoroughly examined. With gentle reproof those natural limitations are there broken, and they are prepared to receive broader views, and more comprehensive, freer affections, more fit for their uses. Sullen, disappointment feelings, and whatever selfish affections there may be mingled with the good, are there exposed and loosened; and if any cling to such feelings, or if evil persons have forced themselves into the company of the good, they are detached and sent on to the places of instruction, whence they are at once cast out for the sterner warnings of the gall ducts, where all such bitterness is rendered harmless. Before the Last Judgment there were many evil spirits, especially of the dragonists, who thus intruded themselves; so that Swedenborg says the province of the spleen was crowded with them. (SE 1005) But the good angels who receive well the mild discipline of the spleen, made gentler, happier, and more ready for extended sympathy and good use, are gladly received in the province of the liver, and are entrusted with the care and instruction of new spirits just entering upon the life of heaven. This expansion of thought and plan and sympathy is continually needed by the whole heaven, especially in the process of assimilating new spirits; and to obtain such expansion, probably angels form all parts of the heavens are continually descending to the places of instruction where new spirits are received. Therefore also the spleen, as well as the liver, is in its highest activity during the process of digestion.

The pancreas, for its part of the work, separates from the currents of thought, or of spirits or angels, who come to it, those who are censorious, and unnecessarily disposed to correct others; and sends such to the intestines, where such work is needed.

No doubt, in both these organs, a similar work is done for those not so much in the love of practical uses as in that of intelligent thought and conversation, who are represented by the lymph. These, too, in the gyres of the pancreas and the spleen are winnowed of the love for mere pleasant, idle talk, and also of that for censorious and acrimonious discussion; and made more intelligent by the purification, and more ready to do kindly to offer themselves in such capacity to the novitiates ascending through the lacteals and the receptacle.

Enough perhaps has been said of the muscle making elements of food, the digestion of which is begun in the stomach and completed in the intestine. Their correspondence, it will be remembered, is with the love of useful work; the stomach digestion of them seems to correspond to the freeing of them from externals of form and routine, that the inner love of usefulness may appear; and the subsequent digestion in the intestines seems to represent the purification of this love.

It remains to speak of the digestion of fats and starch, which takes place chiefly in the intestine.

No doubt some delicate oils are absorbed from the stomach, and even from the mouth. The grosser kinds, as butter and the fat of meat, pass on to the intestine, and meet the acrid biles, by which they are emulsified, and made ready for absorption by the lacteals. They seem to correspond to natural goodness and kindness which has paid little attention to spiritual things, and needs a sharp warning to arouse a sense of need of instruction. Possibly they are those who are described by Swedenborg as follows:

“They who came out of the world from Christian lands and have led a moral life, and had somewhat of charity towards their neighbor, but have had little concern about spiritual things, for the most part are sent into the places beneath the feet and the soles of the feet; and are there kept until they put off the natural things in which they have been, and are imbued with spiritual and celestial things as far as they can be, according to their life; and when they have become imbued with these, they are elevated thence into heavenly societies. I have at times seen them emerging, and their joy at coming into heavenly light.” (AC 4944)

To such good but careless spirits the sharp censoriousness of the pancreatic spirits brings a sudden and wholesome awakening, one effect of which is to fill them with anxiety to be instructed, in which state they are ready to be taken up, and introduced into various exercises of spiritual wisdom.

A similar use to that which the bile and pancreatic fluid do for oils is done for starch by the pancreatic and intestinal fluids. Starch is exclusively a vegetable product, nearly resembling oil in its elements, but in a stiff, insoluble form. It is also like cane sugar in its composition, and needs only a slight modification to become like the sugar of fruits. Fruits correspond to works of affection, and their sugar to the enjoyment in them. Grains correspond to the duties of life, and their starch, which is in the place of sugar, to the satisfaction in good, faithful work. This has some sense of merit and virtue in it, which needs to be chastened and humbled, in order that it may work gently and sweetly with other people; and this no doubt is represented by the turning of starch into easily soluble sugar by the action of the harsh pancreatic and intestinal fluids.

They who receive this treatment, perhaps, are the spirits who, conscious of their own merit, saw wood in stern, puritanical style, wanting no assistance, determined to earn their own salvation; and indignant with the Lord that they do not receive more of heavenly joy than other men. (AC 1110, AC 4943)

Some, however, who are represented by the starch of wheat and rice, must be innocent and esily instructed, with a child-like sense of well-doing, only needing to have it clearly shown to them what they are in themselves, and how mercifully the Lord has dealt with them.

As the use of the spleen is to prepare the blood so that in the liver the pure, living portion may unite readily with the new chyle, and the hard, unelastic particles may be separated and rejected, the spiritual work of the spleen of the mind is to examine the thoughts of the heart, and prepare them to unite readily with new ideas, affections, and satisfactions which come to us in our work and social intercourse with the community. In the spleen of the mind the thoughts are drawn out into a quiet chamber, apart from the busy circulation, and there the feelings and opinions that are beginning to make trouble are candidly inspected, and those elements which do not agree with the practical life of charity are detached from those that are alive and willing, and are made ready for speedy rejection. Their hold upon the mind is loosened, so that when the opportunity for usefulness comes they are immediately given up.

Minds in which this work is not well done, which adhere tenaciously to by-gones, and therefore do not come into pleasant relations with new things that are both true and good, but are disposed to complain of evils which arise simply from their own lack of sympathy and charity, are popularly called “spleeny”; perhaps from a common perception or tradition of the uses of the spleen surpassing the medical science of the present day. The pancreas joins in the work of the spleen by setting aside from the current of thought, in regard to the good and true things we are loving and receiving, all that is unnecessarily acrimonious and severe, reserving this for the complacent enjoyment of natural kindliness, and the sense of superior merit and virtue, which need some rebuke, and sending forward sympathetic and friendly feelings which will enter heartily without censoriousness, into good uses.