The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Swedenborg is one of those characters better known by name than in fact, at least by the public. His books are bulky and the text generally very abstract, almost exclusively read by the scholarly. Thus, most people who speak about him would be very embarrassed to define him. To some he is a great man, object of profound veneration, although they don’t know why. To others he is a charlatan, a visionary, a thaumaturge.
As every person who professed ideas contrary to the majority, particularly when those ideas harm certain prejudices, he had and still has his contradictors. Had the latter ones limited themselves to refute him they would be in their own right, but the spirit of faction respects nothing, not even the noblest qualities. Swedenborg could not be an exception.

His doctrine, no doubt, lacks a great deal. He himself is far from approving it in all its points today. Irrespective of how much it is refutable, however, it does not take from him the fact that he was one of the most eminent men of his century.

The information below was extracted from an interesting note sent by Mrs. P… to the Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies.

Emmanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm in 1688, dying in London in 1772 at the age of 84 years old. His father, Joeper Swedenborg, Bishop of Scava, was distinguished for his merit and knowledge. His son, however, went much beyond him. He sticks out in all Sciences, particularly Theology, Mechanics, Physics and Metallurgy. His prudence, wisdom, modesty and simplicity gave him the high reputation he still enjoys these days. The kings invited him to their counsels. In 1716 he was appointed assistant to Charles XII in the School of Metallurgy of Stockholm. He was granted a nobility title by Queen Ulrika, taking with distinction the most important positions up until 1743, time when he had the first spiritist revelation. He was then 55 years old. He resigned, wishing to dedicate to his doctrine and to the establishment of the New Jerusalem. That is how he describes his first revelation:
“I was in London, having a very late dinner in my modest guesthouse, where I had reserved a room in order to have more freedom to meditate. I was hungry and ate with great appetite. After the meal I noticed a kind of mist spreading before my eyes, the floor covered by horrible reptiles such as serpents, frogs, lizards and others. I felt frightened as the darkness spread further but it soon dissipated. Then I clearly saw a man in the middle of a live and radiant light, seating in one corner of the room. The reptiles had gone with the darkness. I was alone. Just imagine the fear that took over me when I heard him distinctly pronouncing words, but with a tone of voice capable of producing horror: “Don’t eat as much!” After those words my vision was blurred, slowly reestablishing, when I then saw myself alone in the room. Still a bit scared for everything that I had seen, I promptly retired into the room without saying a word about what had happened. Then I gave myself to reflection, not conceiving that it had been the effect of chance or any physical cause.”
“In the following evening the same man appeared, still radiant in light, and said: “I am God, the Lord, Creator and Redeemer. I chose you to explain to men the interior and spiritual meaning of the Sacred Scriptures. I will dictate what you have to write.”
“That time I was not so scared and the light that surrounded him, although very strong and resplendent, did not produce any painful sensation in my eyes. He was dressed in purple and the vision lasted a good quarter of an hour.”
“On that very evening the eyes of my inner self were opened and prompted to see heavens, the world of the spirits and hell, and I found familiar people everywhere, some deceased long time ago, others recently. Since that day I renounced all my mundane occupations so I can work exclusive with the spiritual things, to submit myself to the orders I had received. Following that it frequently happened in broad day light that having my eyes of the spirit open I could see what happened in the other world; to speak with the angels and the spirits as I do with human beings.” 
One of the fundamental points of Swedenborg’s doctrine rests on what he calls the “correspondences”. In his opinion, as the spiritual world and the natural world are interconnected, like the interior and the exterior, it results that the spiritual things and the natural things constitute a unity, by influx, and that there is a correspondence between them.
That is the principle, but what is actually understood by such correspondence and influx is difficult to comprehend.
The Earth, says Swedenborg, corresponds to man. The several products which serve man’s nutrition correspond to the several kinds of good and truth, as follows: the solid food to the kind of good, the liquids to the truths. The house corresponds to the will and understanding, which constitutes the mental and human.
The food corresponds to the truthfulness or the falsehood, according to the substance, color and shape that they present. The animals correspond to the affections: the useful and meek, to the good affections; the bad and noxious to the bad affections; the beautiful and docile birds to the intellectual truths; the bad and ugly to the falsities; the fish to the Sciences originated form the sensorial things; the pernicious insects to the falsities which come from the senses. The trees and bushes correspond to the several kinds of knowledge; the herbs and grass to several scientific truths. Gold corresponds to the celestial good; Silver to the spiritual truth; bronze to the natural good, etc. Thus, since the first steps of creation up to the celestial and spiritual Sun, everything is maintained, everything is linked by the influx that produces the correspondence.
The second point of his doctrine is the following: there is only one God and only one person who is Jesus Christ.
The human being, created free, according to Swedenborg, abused his freedom and reason. He fell, but the fall has been foreseen by God and should have been followed by rehabilitation, for God who is love could not leave him in the state he was found after his fall. Well, how to operate such rehabilitation? Place the individual in his primitive state would be the same as removing his free-will and thus annihilating him. He proceeded to the rehabilitation of humankind subordinating the human being to the laws of his eternal order. Then comes the fuzzy theory of the three Suns, transposed by Jehovah to approach us and demonstrate that he is the man, himself.
Swedenborg divides the world of the spirits in three different places: heavens, the intermediaries and hell, but not defining a place to them. “After death”, he says, “We enter the world of the spirits. The saints willingly go to one of the three heavens, the wicked to one of the three hells from where they will never leave.”
This desperate doctrine nulls God’s mercy for it denies God’s power to forgive the sinner surprised by a violent or accidental death.
Although rendering justice to the personal merit of Swedenborg as a scientist and good man, we cannot defend doctrines that are condemned by the most elemental common sense. The most interesting result, according to what we know from the spiritist phenomena, is the existence of an invisible world and the possibility of communicating with that. Swedenborg enjoyed a faculty that seemed supernatural in his time. That is why some fanatic supporters see him as an exceptional creature. In former times altars would have been raised in his honor. Those who did not believed him considered him as having an exalted brain or a charlatan. To us he was a clairvoyant medium and an intuitive writer, as there are to the thousands, faculty that is in the roll of the natural phenomena.
He made a perfectly excusable mistake, given his inexperience regarding things of the occult world: blindly accepting everything that was dictated to him, not submitting it to the strict control of reason. Had he maturely weighed in the pros and cons he would have recognized principles incompatible with logic, however weak they were! He would not probably have fallen in the same mistakes today since he would have the means of judging and appreciating the value of the communications from beyond the grave. He would have known that they constitute a field from where not all herbs must be harvested and that common sense, given to us for a reason, must know to choose among them.
The quality attributed to the communicating spirit to him would be enough to put him on guard, particularly considering the triviality of his introduction. He did not do himself what we must do today, only accepting from his writings what it contains of rational. His mistakes must operate as a warning to the mediums that are too credulous that certain spirits try to fascinate, flattering their vanity or prejudices, through a pompous and deceiving language.
The following joke demonstrates the degree of ill-faith of Swedenborg’s adversaries, who tried all opportunities to denigrate him. Queen Luisa Ulrika knew his faculties and assigned him with the task of bringing news from her brother, prince of Prussia, to whom she had sent a letter, with no response, sometime before his death, asking him for advice. Twenty-four hours later Swedenborg would have reported the Prince’s answer to the Queen, in a private audience, leaving her totally convinced of the great man’s power since she was absolutely sure that nobody but her deceased brother and herself knew the contents of the referred letter.
Below the explanation given to such a fact by one of his antagonists, knight Beylon, reader of the Queen:
“The Queen was considered one of main authors of the revolution attempt which took place in Sweden, in 1756, which cost the life of Count Barhé and Marshal Horn. She fell short of being blamed for the bloodshed by the party of hats. Given the critical situation she wrote to her brother, Prince of Prussia, asking for advice and assistance. The Queen did not get an answer and, as the Prince died soon after, she never knew the reason for his silence. That is why she ordered Swedenborg to interrogate the spirit of the Prince about it. At the very moment when the message was delivered to the Queen, Senators Count T… and Count H… were present. The latter who had intercepted the brother’s letter knew as well as his accomplice, Count T… why the letter had gone without an answer and both decided to take advantage of the circumstances to give their own advices to the Queen about several things. Then, in the evening, they sought the visionary and dictated the answer to him. Swedenborg, who was not very inspired, promptly accepted. The next day he rushed to the Queen and in the silence of her office he told her that the spirit of the Prince had appeared to him, assigning him with the task of announcing his displeasure, assuring her that if he had not responded to the letter it was for his disapproval of her conduct, since her imprudent policies and ambition were the cause of the bloodshed; that she was guilty before God and would have to be punished for that. He was asking her to no longer get involved with state matters, etc. Convinced by that revelation the Queen believed Swedenborg and ardently stood up in his defense.”
That anecdote gave rise to a continuous polemic between Swedenborg’s disciples and his detractors. A Swedish priest, called Malthesius, who ended up mad, had published an article saying that Swedenborg, his declared enemy, had retracted before his death. The rumor spread in Holland around the autumn of 1785, leading Robert Hindmarck to establish an enquiry, demonstrating the total falsity and calumny invented by Malthesius.
The story of Swedenborg proves that his spiritual vision had caused no harm to the exercise of his natural faculties. His eulogy, pronounced by the scholar Landel, at the Stockholm Academy of Sciences, shows how vast his erudition was and also through his speeches pronounced in the Diet 1761, we learned about his participation into the public business of the country.
Swedenborg’s doctrine made several proselytes in London, Holland and even in Paris where it gave origin to the Martinists Society, Theosophists, etc. mentioned in our October issue. It may not have been accepted by everyone with all its consequences but resulted in the propagation of the belief in the communication with the beings from beyond the grave, beliefs as a matter of fact very old, as everybody knows, but occult to the public up until now by the mysterious practices which they involved. Swedenborg’s incontestable merit, his profound knowledge and highly reputable wisdom, had great influence in the propagation of these ideas, which are more and more vulgarized these days, openly growing and, far from seeking the shadow of mystery, they appeal to reason. Despite the mistakes of his system Swedenborg is not but of one the great characters whose memory will be linked to the history of Spiritism, from which he was one of the first and most zealous pioneers.

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