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
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.