As I was browsing headlines the other day, this title at LiveScience.com caught my attention:
“A Politician’s Name & Face: Why a Good Match May Win Votes”
How does someone’s name match their face, I wondered?
As it turns out, studies show that people tend to think:
- Names with “rounder-sounding” vowels such as “u” and “o,” that are pronounced with rounded lips, go better with people who have a rounder face, puffier lips, and so on.
- Names with “sharper-sounding” vowels such as “e” and “I” go better with people who have a more angular face and thinner lips.
For further fascinating details on these findings, including how having a name that matches the face can help politicians win elections, see the linked article.
For me though, as a lifelong aficionado of the spiritual writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), the story had yet another fascination. You see, two and a half centuries ago Swedenborg connected the “rounder” and “sharper” vowels to the character types of the two main types of angels.
Heavenly and spiritual angels
In ordinary conversation, when we talk about something being “heavenly” or “spiritual,” the two words often mean the same thing: something that is blessed, holy, and angelic as compared to ordinary, earthly, and physical things. And truth be told, Swedenborg sometimes uses these words in that rather loose way, as meaning things that are unearthly and exist at a higher level.
But Swedenborg also uses the words “heavenly” and “spiritual” to mean two distinct kinds of angels, and two distinct regions of the heaven where they live:
- Heavenly angels are heart-centered They are angels who are all about love—especially love for God. Angels who live in the heavenly kingdom of heaven are warm, emotional, feeling-centered angels. And they are also the wisest of the angels.
- Spiritual angels are head-centered These angels are all about truth—especially spiritual truth about God, heaven, spiritual growth, and so on. They also focus their attention less on God and more on other people. Angels who live in the spiritual kingdom of heaven are cooler, more intellectual, more about learning and scholarship and understanding how things work.
Of vowels and angels
Now back to the vowel connection.
Here is one of several places where Swedenborg makes the connection between the different types of vowels and the different types of angels:
The speech of heavenly angels is like a gentle stream, soft and virtually unbroken, while the speech of spiritual angels is a little more resonant and crisp. Then too, the vowels U and O tend to predominate in the speech of heavenly angels, while in the speech of spiritual angels it is the vowels E and I. The vowels stand for the sound and in the sound there is the affection. (Heaven and Hell #241, italics added)
Do you see why that article piqued my curiosity?
Isn’t it fascinating that scientific studies today are making some of the same connections, on their own level, that Swedenborg made several centuries ago?
There does seem to be a real connection between the “rounder” vowels and a “rounder” type of person, and between the “sharper” vowels and a more “angular” type of person.
However, the scientific studies are about a person’s physical characteristics, whereas Swedenborg connects those different types of vowels with our psychological or spiritual characteristics.
Are you an angular or rounded person?
What about you?
- Are you all about warmth and feelings and love and relationships?
- Or are you all about thoughts and ideas and concepts and how things work?
I can assure you that in heaven, whichever type of person you are, you’ll have both a name and a face to match!
For further reading:
I suppose I identify as angular much more than rounded, but often wish I was the reverse. I often feel that being more head strong vs. heart strong can make connections with many people difficult. I’ve recently been pondering the spiritual side of this. Here on Earth we simply don’t click with everybody that we interact with and that’s just the way it is. Being someone who’s’ perhaps more logical than emotional though, I often wonder if I’m at a disadvantage, spiritually speaking of course.
It takes all different types of people to make the world—and heaven—go ’round. And though we can wish we were someone else, and think the grass would be greener on the other side, we each have our own distinctive contribution to make to the whole. The emotional ones do keep the heart of humanity pumping, but without the logical ones, the machinery and organization on which we depend would break down. The same is true in the spiritual world. There’s a reason God created some of us more emotional and others more intellectual. Both are needed for the health and functioning of the whole.
Couldn’t people be combination of both?
Yes, of course we’re all combinations of head and heart. After all, each one of us does have both a head and a heart. It’s more a matter of which one predominates in our character. And yes, some people are fairly evenly balanced between the two.
I seem to be a very head-centered person, but I feel like it is a massive flaw. I tend to overthink, I tend to doubt, I listen to my head more often than my heart. In fact, I feel like it hinders my relationship with God as I tend to get caught up on technicalities, get very militant in my need for order and dislike for human traditions when compared to God’s truth and I keep searching for strict rules of guidance of the spirit, yet I find none. I seem to be overly focused on how things are done correctly and by the book instead of seeing the spirit of things. I also think that this hinders me to express true love as I catch myself judging people by their adherence to the Bible.
In short, I have a feeling like being stuck in your head too much does not do me a favour.
Being head-centered is not in itself a problem. As I say in the above article, even in heaven, according to Swedenborg, there are two general realms, or “kingdoms”: the heavenly kingdom, where people who are heart-centered live, and the spiritual kingdom, where people who are head-centered live. It’s not that the heart-centered people can’t think, and the head-centered people don’t feel or love; rather, it’s what part of them—the head or the heart—generally takes the lead.
It sounds to me like your issue is less with being head-centered than it is with being too stuck on strict adherence to rules, regulations, and “truth” seen primarily as a system of laws. My suggestion would be, not that you try not to be head-centered, which would probably fly in the face of your basic character type, but rather that you seek to raise your conception of truth to a higher level.
Rules and regulations are good for people who are inclined toward being lawless for their own benefit—and when any of us get into a mindset in which we’re inclined to act badly in order to get something we want. For many people who are in this rather low spiritual state, a system of strict rules is necessary to keep them on the strait and narrow.
However, as we grow and develop spiritually, and have a greater desire and motivation to act in good and conscientious ways not only for our own benefit, but taking the good of others into account, and wanting to do good for them, strict rules and regulations are not so necessary. We then usually do the right thing, not because we’ll get in trouble if we don’t, but because we actually want to do the right thing, and we are continually directing our desires, thoughts, and actions toward good paths out of love and consideration for our fellow human beings, and out of a love for God.
If we can rise up to this level in our spiritual and moral life, then being head-centered can be a good thing. It will cause us to seek out knowledge, understanding, and truth so that we can use it to better guide our steps on a good path of love and concern for our neighbor. Even if we don’t naturally feel overflowing love for others, taking it as a principle that we should love our neighbor as ourselves causes us to live differently—and better—than we otherwise would.
Of course, as you may have noticed, this means that love still is behind our head-centeredness. That’s the other important thing for us head-centered people to do: to recognize that in the end, it’s all about love, and that we can love the truth, and love learning what’s true and what’s false, in order to make ourselves better able to show love to God and the neighbor.
I hope this helps. But feel free to continue the conversation or ask more questions.