SPEECH >> Expression of Thought and Feeling

spe1ech Are our spoken words simply sounds, vibrations of the air? or is there something spiritual contained within these sounds? Our thoughts and feelings are within them. We  wish to give these spiritual treasures to others, and we clothe them in words. Our friends hear the words, and opening them, almost as they tear open an envelope and unfold a letter, discover the thought and feeling we wished to communicate. The speech thus corresponds to the feelings and thoughts which it contains. (AC 2271; AE 817) There are these two things, feeling and thought, to be conveyed by speech. And there are two elements in speech, the tone, and the articulation which shapes the tone into words. What does the tone especially express? and what the articulation? Could you perhaps discover whether one's feeling was of anger or kindness, even if he spoke a strange language? The feeling would show itself in the tone of his voice; the distinct thought you could not learn till you under stood the words. Suppose a mother's voice is too distant for you to hear more than the tone in which she speaks; can you perhaps judge whether she is scolding or soothing her child? When we speak to -very little children is it more important to articulate our words clearly or to speak in a kindly tone? We often say the same meaningless words over and over again, but the child hears our love in the pleasant tone. Animals understand little of the exact thought of our speech, but they do understand our feeling. Therefore the tone rather than the words is important in addressing them. Animals themselves make sounds, very expressive sounds, but do not articulate words. Why is it? Because they have feelings, but not distinct thoughts, to express. When we feel sudden suffering or joy or anger we do not wait to find words, but make simply a sound. The thought follows more slowly, and finds expression in words. (AE 1216)

There is a kind of expression which is entirely by tone, without articulation - it is music. Is it adapted rather to express thought or feeling? Tender music touches our hearts, martial music stirs them with courage, but till words are joined with the tone, no distinct thought is communicated. (AE 323, 326)

Can we listen very closely to our speech and discover whether some letters among those that compose our words contribute more to their tone than other letters do? If so, they are the chief means of expressing feeling. Are they the consonants or the vowels? The vowels give the tone, and therefore are the chief means of expressing feeling, but on the consonants depends the articulation which has most to do with expressing distinct thought. And among the vowel sounds there are some like oo, o, ah, which have a fuller tone than others such as a, e, i. You will notice that writers and speakers, especially poets, instinctively choose words with round, full vowels when the feeling to be expressed is deep and tender.

The importance of the very letters, on account of the thought and feeling they contain, is especially great in the Bible, where the message within the letters is one of Divine love and wisdom. "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail." (Luke xvi. 17; AC 9349) Two letters, alpha and omega, the first and last of the Greek alphabet, are even used as a name of the Lord. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord." (Rev. i. 8) Does it not mean that all things of wisdom and of love which letters are capable of expressing are in the Lord and from Him? And the fact that both the letters are vowels emphasizes the thought that the Divine love of the Lord reaches from the highest to the lowest. (AR 29; TCR 19)

The correspondence between spoken words and the thought and feeling they contain is still more perfect in the spiritual world. Speech in that world is an exact and spontaneous expression of feeling and thought. There is nothing that is arbitrary and artificial which must be laboriously learned. It is only needful there to gain distinct feelings and thoughts, and they, as it were, express themselves. (HH 331; SD 5668) Can we see what general difference there must be between the speech of celestial angels, whose ruling characteristic is love, and the speech of spiritual angels, who are characterized by intelligence? With which must speech be more soft -with more of full, round vowels? (HH 241; TCR 278) And singing in heaven; what holy, tender affections must breathe into the angels' hearts through that sweet music! It is as if affection itself sounded in their ears. (TCR 745:2, 746 end)

Speech is double. Its outer part is tone and articulation; its inner part is the feeling and thought which they express. The process of speaking is also double. On the physical side we find the lungs pressing out the air through their little pipes, the larynx stretching its delicate vocal cords and tuning them to the shade of tone desired, the tongue and teeth and lips by their many forms and combinations articulating the words, and the chest and throat and nose by their sympathetic vibration giving richness to the voice. Within this is a spiritual process similar to the physical, but even more complex and delicate. (DP 279 end)

The mind is "inspired " by wise perceptions. It cannot keep them to itself, but feels impelled to express them for others. This desire to express is like the pressure of the lungs. Still we must with careful effort determine the exact shade of affection which we will express, which is like the work of the larynx in tuning its vocal cords; and we must shape our inspiration into clear-cut and intelligible thoughts, which is like the careful articulation in the mouth. Notice that the same lips and teeth and tongue receive and examine our food and articulate our words; for the same faculties which discriminate wisely in receiving instruction also give clear definition to our expression of our own thoughts. (AC 4795)

If the organs of speech are unable to produce intelligible sounds, one is physically dumb. But suppose the failure to speak intelligibly on any subject is from a mental cause - one has himself no perception of delightful truth which he feels impelled to express, or he has not the ability to put his perception into clear, intelligible form - then he is spiritually dumb. In the Bible one is called dumb who from ignorance is unable to confess the Lord and the genuine truths of the church. (AE 455; AC 6988)

One of the joyful promises about the Lord's coming says, "The tongue of the dumb shall sing." (Isa. xxxv. 6) Does it mean that men had not the power of physical speech till the Lord loosed their tongues? or that they were in such ignorance about the Lord and heavenly life that they could not confess Him and teach His laws, till they learned from the Lord? Then the silent world broke forth in joyful confession and praise. (AE 518) There were indeed some physically dumb who were brought to the Lord for healing. "They brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake." (Matt. ix. 32, 33, xii. 22) What spiritual infirmity of mankind did this dumbness typify? and what spiritual benefit is represented by the healing? (AC 6988) What spiritual meaning has the prayer, "O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise "? (Ps. li. 15) It is a prayer that learning truly of the Lord we may make grateful confession of Him from an overflowing heart. (PP) Remember how dumbness came upon Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, because he believed not the promise of the angel. (Luke i. 20, 64, 68) It was an outward picture of his spiritual inability to receive the inspiring news and to thank the Lord. When with the fulfillment of the promise, the father's heart overflowed with a deep sense of Divine mercy, "his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God . . . saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel."

The Psalms call upon us to sing unto the Lord. "O come, let us sing unto the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation." (Ps. xcv. 1, xcvi. 1, xcviii. 1) It is a call to let grateful affections go forth to the Lord with glad heart. (AC 8261; AE 612; AR 279) We sing a "new song" when with a new sense of what the Lord has done for us our hearts overflow with new thanksgiving. Thus the "new song " sung by those about the throne (Rev. v. 9), means the joyful confession of the Lord in His Divine Humanity as God of heaven and earth. The church is only now learning to make this acknowledgment, and it is therefore called a "new song." (AR 279; AE 326) "Sing unto the LORD," in its fullest meaning, is but the first great commandment in another form. It means to love the Lord with all the heart and soul and mind and strength. Love is the song; it finds expression not in the voice alone, but in obedience, and in every useful and kindly work. Such is the unending song of heaven. (CL 9)

The natural idea of speech is of spoken words; the spiritual idea is of the feeling and thought which the words express. We read in the Bible of the voice of the Lord. "The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty." (Ps. xxix. 4) The natural idea is of spoken words, and the Lord's message has at times come down even into this natural form, but the spiritual idea is of the Divine thought or the Divine truth expressed in whatever way. (AC 9926, 10182; AE 261) This helps us to understand more spiritually what is said of each step of the creation, that "God said," and it was (Gen. i); also what is said in John, "In the beginning was the Word. All things were made by him " (John i. 1, 3); and again in the Psalm, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." (Ps. xxxiii. 6) The natural idea is that creation was accomplished by a spoken word. The spiritual and true idea is that it all is an expression of the Lord's Divine thought, the work of Divine truth. (AC 9926, 10182; AE 261) Because a word is the embodiment of affection and thought, we call the book which contains and brings to us the Lord's Divine love and wisdom, His Word.


 We have studied the nose and the lungs in their relation to breathing, and the mouth in its use of eating. Let us now attend to their common use of speaking, in which the larynx and trachea are added to them, and indeed with a leading part.

The larynx lies behind and below the prominence in the throat called the “Adam's apple.” This prominence consists of a large cartilage, closed in front but open behind. Just within the open edges behind, and extending below, lies another large cartilage; and across the space between the Adam's apple in front and the top of the second cartilage in the rear are stretched two membranous chords called the vocal chords. These are attached in front to the middle of the Adam's apple, just where we feel a depression; but behind they are attached not immediately to the other large cartilage, but to the edges of two little cartilages which are hinged upon the great cartilage. Resting upon this great cartilage, these little cartilages, as they open and shut, open and shut also the vocal chords, to regulate the amount of air that passes to the lungs; and the two great cartilages play upon each other in such a way as to, tighten or loosen the chords, and so to vary the pitch of the voice.

There are several little muscles by which these motions are effected ; and some muscular fibres are said to be attached to the vocal chords themselves, to regulate their length of vibration, like fingers upon a violin string.

The tension alone of these chords produces no sound; but when they are made tense, and the lungs also arouse themselves and forcibly puff upon the chords, they instantly respond with a sonorous tremble, like the reed of an organ-pipe, or the strings of an Šolian harp. Then, the horseshoe-like cartilages of which the trachea or windpipe is composed, and the scarcely less sonorous elastic membrane by which they are connected together and their circle is completed, all join in the audible vibration, like the pipe of an organ when its reed is blown upon. The tense lungs, also, elastic and made to delight in every kind of aŰrial motion and vibration, resound like the body of a viol, with a tremble in which the lining membranes of the chest, and even the ribs and the very skin, are compelled to join, and which is communicated by elastic fluids and tissues to the extremities of the body. From the larynx the vibration extends upward, affecting all the parts contiguous to the breathing passages, namely, the pharynx, the palate, tongue, teeth, and lips, the nose, and the sinuses of the forehead ; indeed, the whole skull and the brain partake of the contagious thrill, and join in the song or speech. Nor is their part merely that of passive spectators carried away by enthusiasm; they all contribute to the quality of the tone, each one modifying it in its own way, as we see plainly in regard to the nose, teeth, tongue, and lips, and as would appear from the other organs observed attentively.

There are two kinds of modifications to which vocal utterances are subject, one affecting the quality, of the tone as to force, pitch, harshness, or tenderness, and the other producing the articulations of speech. The lungs, trachea, larynx, nose, and bones of the head, are concerned especially with the first class, producing and modifying the tone of the voice; the lips and teeth, the palate, and especially the tongue, are principally instrumental in forming words. In singing, tone predominates; in speaking, articulation; yet the words of speech are imperfect unless filled with sonorous sound from the lungs and larynx; and the tones of singing are incomplete until shaped by the mouth.

The lungs, in their office of breathing, correspond to the love of perceiving and thinking truth in its application to the affections; or, in the Greatest Man, to the states of life of the heavens. In other words, they correspond to the faculty of exploring our own affections and ends, and purifying and correcting them according to the pure truth from the Lord.. And it is meet that the organ which corresponds to the faculty of knowledge of the affections and ends, should express that knowledge by means of the very air which corresponds to the truth by which the exploration is made. As vocal organs, therefore, the lungs correspond to the love of confessing the thoughts of the heart. In the heavens it is the love of confessing to the Lord, or from the Lord to men and angels, the thought and the affection of the heavens.

“There were angelic choirs,” Swedenborg relates, ” which praised the Lord together, and this from gladness of heart. Their praise was heard sometimes as very sweet singing; for spirits and angels have sonorous voices, and hear one another as men do; but human singing, as to the sweetness and harmony, which were heavenly, is not comparable to that. From the variety of the sound I perceived that there were many choirs. I was instructed by the angels who were with me that they belonged to the province and uses of the lungs[5]; for they have song, because this office belongs to the lungs; this also it was given to know by experience. It was permitted them to rule my respiration, which was done so gently and sweetly, and also interiorly, that I felt my respiration scarcely at all. I was further instructed that they who are assigned to the involuntary respiration are distinct from those assigned to the voluntary. It was said that who are assigned to the voluntary respiration are present while man goes to sleep, the voluntary control of his respiration ceases and the involuntary takes it up.” (AC 3893)

On another occasion, to correct the unfavorable opinion which spirits from the planet Jupiter had formed of the spirits from our earth, choirs of the angels from this earth came to them, one after another. “Choirs,” he explains, “are when many think, speak, and act one thing together, in a continuous series; the celebration of the Lord in the heavens is for the most part by choirs...Those choirs so greatly delighted the spirits of Jupiter who were with me, that they seemed to. themselves to be caught up into heaven. That glorification lasted about an hour. It was given me to feel their delights which they derived from it, which were communicated to me. They said that they would tell it to their friends who were elsewhere.” (AC 8115.[For an account of a general glorification in the heavens, see CL 81. And for further details about choirs, AC 3350, AC 3351.])
To the larynx are related those members of the community in heaven and on earth whose love it is to catch the shades of affection which come to them, and express them by modulations of tone. The larynx is the only musical instrument in the body; and the things that relate to the musician’s art, which is strictly the art of expressing affection by sound, are there concentrated. A true musician is not led by his ears but by his affection; the tones that agree with this he seizes, whether they are sweetest to the ears or not. He will be true to his feeling in his playing and in composing. As he writes, his throat sings silently; and his ears, possessed by the same affection, hear the silent music, and help to guide the throat. If orchestras and choirs are added they are only developments of the larynx, carrying out its efforts; in which case the original musician is like the sensitive and moving fibres of the larynx, and the rest are like the masses of muscle, cartilage, and ligament which compose its principal substance.

The part which the lungs have in this expression in the individual and the Greatest Man, is to furnish the breath, that is the thought, modified by the life of the man, and full of its heartthrobs. They represent the inspiration of exalted thought and feeling, springing from the life of the community, which they of the larynx put into form.

Other organs that are interested in the reception of the breath, as the nose and the membranes and passages connected with it, partake of the resonance of the expired air; and no doubt the angels of the corresponding provinces in heaven join sympathetically and joyfully in the sonorous thought of the lungs of the heavens.

They themselves sought and examined the truth which furnishes the means of thinking; and they share in the delight of expressing the truth.

To this the lips, teeth, palate, and especially the tongue, contribute definiteness of articulation, which corresponds to distinctness and definiteness in the expression of thought, especially from the love of instructing.

“They who correspond to the mouth,” Swedenborg says “continually wish to speak; for in speaking they find the greatest pleasure. When they are perfected, they are brought to this, that they do not speak anything but what is of use to their companions, to the community, heaven, and the Lord. The delight of speaking thus is increased with them as the lust of regarding themselves in their speech, and of seeking wisdom of their own, perishes. (AC 4803)

No argument is needed to show that if the whole heaven ever speaks as one man, it is through those who are in the province of the mouth; and that if either of the heavens, or any society in heaven, should so speak, it would be by those related to it in this manner.

Now, the whole heaven does speak to man, or the Lord through the heavens; for He speaks His Word to man, and He speaks it not immediately, but through the heavens; thus by degrees accommodating it to man, and forming in it the various heavenly senses. On this subject very much might be quoted from Swedenborg; but one passage will suffice:—

“The Lord spoke through heaven with John, and He also spoke through heaven with the prophets, and through heaven He speaks with every one with whom He speaks. The cause is that the angelic heaven in the general is as one man, whose soul and life is the Lord; wherefore all that the Lord speaks, He speaks through heaven, as the soul and mind of man through his body.... But I will declare this mystery: the Lord speaks through heaven; but still the angels there do not speak, and do not even know what the Lord speaks, unless there be some of them with the man, through whom the Lord speaks openly from heaven, as with John and some of the prophets. For the influx of the Lord through heaven is like the influx of the soul through the body; the body indeed speaks and acts, and also feels something of the influx; but still the body does not do anything from itself as of itself, but is acted upon. That the speech and all the influx of the Lord through heaven with man is of such a kind, it has been given me to know by much experience.” (AR 943. See also AC 6982, AC 6996, AC 8443, AC 4677 end, AC 10033 end, AC 8899, AC 5121)

Usually the Word of the Lord seems to have been spoken by “an angel of the Lord”; but sometimes by “a great voice out of heaven” without the presence of an individual. In either case, it is from the Spirit of the Lord filling the heavens, and expressing His thought and affection through those who are in the organs of speech. During the scenes of the Last Judgment, no doubt Swedenborg had a great deal of experience of the ways in which the Lord speaks in the world of spirits.

Returning, now to the use of the mouth in receiving food, we remember that it corresponds to the use of receiving new spirits into the heavenly kingdom, and, more generally and abstractly, to the love of gathering in their experiences of the providence and goodness of the Lord; for it is only that which men receive and live of the goodness anDWisdom of the Lord, that is food to the heavens. The two uses of the mouth, therefore, are as closely related as sowing and reaping; for the Sower soweth the Word, and the harvest is the ripened lives of men. Twin offices,” Swedenborg calls them—“the office of serving speech, and that of serving nutrition”; and he adds: “as far as the tongue serves nutrition, it corresponds to the affection of knowing, understanding, and being wise in truths; wherefore, also, sapientia, wisdom, and sapere, to be wise, are from sapor, taste; and, as far as it serves speech, it corresponds to the affection of thinking and producing truths.” (AC 4795. See also AC 4791)

Even the silent angels whose special office it is, to prepare the spirit to be raised from the body, and thus to receive additions to the heavens, as, they sit quietly by his head look into his face with the effort to.communicate their own thought, which relates to etcrnal life in heaven; and this is the means of doing their use.

The influence of the angels of the mouth into our minds produces therefore not only the love of obtaining useful knowledge, which corresponds to the love of receiving food, but also the love of bringing the thought into good form for expression; or, more simply, to the love of speaking, of communicating knowledge, and of teaching. (See AC 6987)

In any company or society of persons associated for some use, there are many who have some perception of what should be done; but it is usually the case that a few speak for the rest, and express their thoughts for them. The feelings and perceptions of the many correspond to the action of the heart and the lungs, and perhaps other interior organs; and the expression of these feelings and perceptions in form, to the action of the mouth. Hence, we not unfrequently call one who speaks, a mouth-piece for others. And if there are any who only wait for the conclusion, that they may know what is to be done, they are like hands and feet to the company.

In ancient days, before men learned to speak by words, they expressed their feelings and thoughts by changes of the face, and especially by delicate motions of the lips, which in innocent persons are still so expressive. They were taught by angels by similar changes of the face; and their teachers also were from the province of the mouth, and particularly from that of the lips. (See AC 4799)


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