(TCR) - True Christian Religion: Containing the Whole Theology of the New Church Predicted by the Lord in Daniel 7:13-14 and Revelation 21:1-2

TCR 665

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665. After this there was heard a voice out of heaven from the angels who were immediately above us, saying, "Come up hither, and we will question one of you (who is yet in the body in the natural world) what is there known about Conscience."
And we went up; and when we had entered, some wise men came to meet us, and asked me, "What is known in your world about conscience?"
I replied, "If you please, let us descend and call together both from the laity and clergy, a number of those who are esteemed wise; and we will stand directly beneath you and will question them; and thus with your own ears you will hear what they will answer."
This was done; and one of the elect took a trumpet and sounded it toward the south, north, east, and west; and then after a brief hour so many were present as almost to fill the space of a square furlong. But the angels above arranged them all in four assemblies, one consisting of statesmen, another of scholars, a third of physicians, and a fourth of clergy men.
When thus arranged, we said to them, "Pardon us for calling you together; we have done so because the angels who are directly above us are eager to know what you thought, while in the world in which you formerly were, about conscience, and thus what you still think about it, since you still retain your former ideas on such subjects; for it has been reported to the angels that in your world a knowledge of conscience is among the lost knowledges."
[2] After this we began, and turning first to the assembly composed of statesmen, we asked them to tell us from their hearts, if they were willing, what they had thought, and therefore what they still thought, about conscience.
To this they replied one after another; and the sum of their replies was that they knew only that conscience is secum scire [a knowing within one's self], thus conscire [a being conscious] of what one has intended, thought, done, and said.
But we said, "We do not ask about the etymology of the word conscience, but about conscience."
And they answered, "What is conscience but pain arising from anxiety about the loss of honor or wealth, and the loss of reputation on this account? But this pain is dispelled by feasts and cups of generous wine, as also by conversation about the sports of Venus and her boy."
[3] To this we replied, "You are jesting; tell us, if you please, whether any of you have felt any anxiety arising from any other source."
They answered, "What other source? Is not the whole world like a stage on which every man acts his part, as the player does on his stage? We cajole and circumvent people, each by his own lust, some by jests, some by flattery, some by cunning, some by pretended friendship, some by feigned sincerity, and some by various political arts and allurements. From this we feel no mental pain, but on the contrary, cheerfulness and gladness, which we quietly but fully exhale from an expanded breast. We have heard indeed from some of our class, that an anxiety and a sense of constriction, as it were, of the heart and breast has sometimes come over them causing a sort of contraction of the mind; but when they asked the apothecaries about it, they were informed that their trouble came from a hypochondriacal humor arising from undigested substances in the stomach, or from a disordered state of the spleen; and we have heard that some of these were restored to their former cheerfulness by medicines."
[4] After hearing this, we turned to the assembly composed of scholars, among whom there were also some skilful naturalists, and addressing them, we said, "You who have studied the sciences, and therefore are supposed to be oracles of wisdom: tell us, if you please, what conscience is."
They answered, "What kind of a question for consideration is that? We have heard, indeed, that with some there is a sadness, gloom, and anxiety, which infest not only the gastric regions of the body, but also the abodes of the mind; for we believe that the two brains are those abodes, and because they consist of containing fibers, that there is some acrid humor, which irritates, gnaws, and corrodes the fibers, and thus compresses the sphere of the mind's thoughts, so that it cannot flow forth into any of the enjoyments arising from variety. This causes a man to fix his attention upon one thing only, and this destroys the tension and elasticity of these fibers, so that they become numb and rigid. All this gives rise to an irregular motion of the animal spirits, which by physicians is called ataxy, and also a defective performance of their functions, which is called lipothymia. In a word, the mind is then situated as if it were beset by hostile forces, nor can it turn itself in any direction any more than a wheel fastened with nails, or a ship stuck fast in quicksands. Such oppression of mind and consequently of the chest, afflicts those whose ruling love suffers loss; for if this love is assaulted, the fibers of the brain contract, and this contraction prevents the mind from going out freely and partaking of the various forms of enjoyment. Hallucinations of various kinds, madness, and delirium, attack such persons during these crises, each according to his temperament, and some are affected with a brain sickness in religious matters, which they call remorse of conscience."
[5] After this we turned to the third assembly, which was composed of physicians, among whom were also some surgeons and apothecaries. And we said to them, "Perhaps you know what conscience is. Is it a grievous pain that seizes both the head and the parenchyma of the heart, and from these the subjacent regions, the epigastric and hypogastric? Or is it something else?"
They replied, "Conscience is nothing but such a pain; we understand its origin better than others; for there are related diseases that affect the organic parts of the body and of the head, and consequently the mind, since this has its seat in the organs of the brain like a spider in the midst of the threads of its web, by means of which it runs out and about in a like manner. These diseases we call organic, and such of them as return at intervals we call chronic. But the pain which has been described to us by the sick as a pain of conscience, is nothing but hypochondria, which primarily affects the spleen, and secondarily the pancreas and mesentery, depriving them of their normal functions; hence arise stomachic diseases, from which comes deterioration of juices; for there takes place a compression about the orifice of the stomach, which is called cardialgia; from these diseases arise humors impregnated with black, yellow, or green bile, by which the smallest blood-vessels, which are called the capillaries, are obstructed; and this is the cause of cachexy, atrophy, and symphysia, also bastard pneumonia arising from sluggish pituitous matter, and ichorous and corroding lymph throughout the entire mass of the blood. Like consequences arise when pus makes its way into the blood and its serum from the breaking of pustules, boils, and swellings in the body. This blood, as it ascends through the carotids to the head, frets, corrodes and eats into the medullary and cortical substances, and the meninges of the brain, and thus excites the pains that are called pains of conscience."
[6] Hearing this we said to them, "You talk the language of Hippocrates and Galen; these things are Greek to us; we do not understand them. We did not ask you about these diseases, but about conscience, which pertains only to the mind."
They said, "The diseases of the mind and those of the head are the same, and the latter ascend from the body; for there is a connection like the two stories of one house, between which is a stairway by which one can ascend or descend. We know therefore that the state of the mind depends inseparably on the state of the body; but we have cured these heavinesses of the head or headaches (which we take it are what you mean by troubles of conscience), some by plasters and blisters, some by infusions and emulsions, and some by stimulants and anodynes."
[7] When therefore we had heard more of this kind, we turned away from them and toward the clergy, saying, "You know what conscience is; tell us therefore and instruct those present." They replied, "What conscience is we know and we do not know. We have believed it to be the contrition that precedes election, that is, the moment when man is gifted with faith, through which he obtains a new heart and a new spirit, and is regenerated. But we have perceived that this contrition happens to but few; only with some is there a fear and consequent anxiety about hell-fire, while scarcely anyone is troubled about his sins and the consequent just anger of God. But we confessors have cured such by the gospel that Christ took away damnation by the passion of the cross and thus extinguished hell-fire and opened heaven to those who are blessed with the faith on which is inscribed the imputation of the merit of the Son of God. Moreover, there are conscientious persons of different religions, both true and fanatical, who make to themselves scruples about matters of salvation, both in things essential and in things formal, and even in what is indifferent. Therefore, as we have said before, we know that there is such a thing as conscience, but what and of what nature true conscience is, which must by all means be spiritual, we know not."


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