Extracts

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Perception via the senses

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[1 of 3] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Senses, relation to spirit" (search under Outer Life/Body)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.8": detail "Section 5779"
Perception comes through the Internal from the Lord. From no other source does perception come, nor even sensation. It appears as if sensation, as also perception, come by influx from the External; but this is a fallacy, for it is the Internal that feels through the External. The senses placed in the body are nothing but organs or instruments that are of service to the internal man in order that it may be sensible of what is in the world; wherefore the Internal flows into the External, causing it to feel, to the end that it may thereby perceive and be perfected; but not the reverse.

[2 of 3] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Senses, relation to spirit" (search under Outer Life/Body)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.7": detail "Section 5081"
The sensuous things of the body, namely, the sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, are as it were ministers of the court relatively to the interior man, who is their lord the king; for they minister to him, so that he may learn by experience of the visible world and human society, and may thus acquire intelligence and wisdom. For man is not born with any knowledge, still less with any intelligence or wisdom, but only with the capability of receiving and assimilating them. This is effected in two ways, by an internal way, and by an external way. By the internal way flows in what is Divine, by the external way flows in what is of the world. These meet within the man, and then so far as he allows himself to be enlightened by the Divine, he acquires wisdom. The things which flow in by the external way flow in through the senses of the body; yet they never flow in of themselves, but are called forth by the internal man to serve as a plane for the celestial and spiritual things which flow in by the internal way from the Divine. This shows that the sensuous things of the body are like the ministers of a court. In general, all exterior things are ministers relatively to interior things; the whole natural man is nothing else relatively to the spiritual man.

[3 of 3] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Senses, limitations of" (search under Cosmology/Science)": source "Arcana Coelestia, vol.8": detail "Section 6322"
It is according to all appearance that the external senses, as the sight and hearing, flow into the thought, and excite ideas there; for it appears that objects, and also speech, move the senses, first the external, and then the internal senses. But this appearance, however strong, is nevertheless a fallacy; for what is external, being gross and material, cannot flow into and move what is internal, which is pure and spiritual: this is contrary to nature. It is the internal sense, that is, the sense of the spirit itself, which sensates through the external sense, and disposes the external sensory to receive objects according to its dictates; and therefore the sensories (as for instance the sensory of sight, or the eye) instantly accommodate themselves to all objects in accordance with the nature of these; which would not take place in the sensories unless there were an influx from within.
 I have often heard among spirits a discourse about this appearance, and it was as often stated by angels that influx by no means takes place from externals into internals, but always from internals into externals; and that this is according to order, contrary to which there can be no influx. Two or three times I have seen spirits separated from an angelic society because they had believed from the appearance that there exists an influx from externals into internals; thus that influx is physical and not spiritual. The reason of their separation was that according to this notion it might have been concluded that the hells, which are in externals, can flow into the heavens, which are in internals; and it might also have been concluded that the influx of life is not from the Lord, although everything of life flows in from Him, because He is in the inmost, and relatively to Him all things are external.