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Arcana Coelestia. The Heavenly Arcana contained in the Holy Scriptures, or Word of the Lord, unfolded. By Emanuel Swedenborg. 12 vols. 8vo. London, 1848.
The True Christian Religion; containing the Universal Theology of the New Church, foretold by the Lord in Daniel and in the Apocalypse. By Emanuel Swedenborg. 8vo. London, 1855. Heaven and Hell; also the Intermediate State, or World of Spirits: a Relation of Things heard and seen. By Emanuel Swedenborg. 8vo. London, 1850.
Conjugal Love, &c. By Emanuel Swedenborg. A new edition revised. 8vo. London, 1855.
Emanuel Swedenborg: a Biography. By J. J. G. Wilkinson. 8vo. London, 1849.
Life: its Nature, Varieties, and Phenomena. By Leo H. Grindon. Second edition, improved and considerably enlarged. Svo. London, 1857.
Swedenborg's Writings and Catholic Teaching; or, a Voice from the New Church Porch, in answer to a Series of Articles on the Swedenborgians. By the Vicar of Froome-Selwood, in the Old Church Porch. 12mo. London, 1858.
SWEDENBORG is more of a mystery and in some important par ticulars less of a mystic than any other founder of a sect. This opinion, which is the result of the perusal of a good many books by and about him, is exactly opposite to the opinion which is commonly held, and which is probably the result, in those who hold it, of their not having read any such books. We propose simply to present our readers with the mystery of Swedenborg, as far as we can in a few pages, without any attempt to solve it. Our readers may try, if they please, to do that for themselves; but they will probably find it a harder task than they may suppose, while they are as yet unacquainted with facts and writings which make it absurd to call him an impostor, and which, if they prove him to have been insane, prove also that insanity is compatible with powers of intellect which, in certain directions, stand almost unrivalled. We will not go so far as Coleridge, who called him "the man of ten centuries;" since the last ten centuries, to say nothing of lesser lights, have produced Shakespeare and Dante- the latter of whom was, in some respects, extremely like Swedenborg, and nearly if not quite equal to him in what constitutes his great and unquestionable intellectual claim, namely, the power of observing facts concerning the nature, capacities, and destiny of the human spirit, which, when they are stated,—or rather poetically suggested-for frequently
they do not admit of direct statement,-are by one set of hearers at once rejected, not as false but as simply unintelligible; while by another set, not the least respectable in point of admitted culture and capacity, they are welcomed as truths of the highest importance, and of such a nature that they are not opined but discerned. To this extraordinary power in the Swedish seer we shall not attempt to do justice. No adequate idea of it can be obtained without a somewhat deep and extensive study of his writings.
Emanuel Swedenborg was born in 1688, at Stockholm. He was the second son of the Bishop of Skara, a man of much influence and high family. The bishop gave his son an excellent moral and secular education, but seems to have left him curiously to himself in the matter of doctrinal instruction. Very little, however, is known of Swedenborg's childhood and youth beyond what is contained in a letter which he wrote late in life to one of his friends. "From my fourth to my tenth year," he says, "my thoughts were constantly engrossed by reflecting on God, on salvation, and on the spiritual affections of man." At this period he informs his friend that he often revealed things in his discourse which astonished his hearers, and made them declare that the angels spoke through his mouth. "From my sixth to my twelfth year it was my greatest delight to converse with the clergy concerning faith; to whom I often observed that charity, or love, is the life of faith;" a doctrine which he lived to teach with an incomparable power of persuasion. "I knew of no other faith or belief at that time than that God is the Creator and Preserver of nature; that He endues man with understanding, good inclinations, and other gifts derived from these. I knew nothing at that time of the systematic or dogmatic kind of faith, that God the Father imputes the righteousness or merits of his Son to whomsoever, &c." Dr. Swedberg, however, was a serious and earnest man; and in April 1729, he thus writes of his son: "Emanuel, my son's name, signifies God with us;' a name which should constantly remind him of the nearness of God, and of that interior, holy, and mysterious connection in which, through faith, we stand with our good and gracious God." At the proper time the young Swedenborg, or Swedberg as his name was then, went to the University of Upsal; and from this time forth until a late period in middle life, all his attention seems to have been devoted to secular learning, and particularly to mathematics and mineralogy. In 1709, at the age of twenty-two, he took his degree of Doctor of Philosophy; and in the following year he commenced the course of travel which was then looked upon as an essential part of a liberal education. He directed his course first to London. On his voyage thither his ship was fired
into as a Danish pirate by an armed English vessel. On reaching the port of London he incurred a second danger; for he was persuaded by some of his countrymen to land in opposition to the quarantine regulations; for which, as the plague was then raging in Sweden, he narrowly escaped hanging. Twelve months were spent at London and Oxford, and three years more on the Continent. His writings, up to this time, were not much more than academical exercises. On his return to Sweden, in 1715, he published a small volume of poems, which seem to have been decidedly poor. The Bishop of Skara left his son as free in the choice of a profession as in that of a religion. To mineralogy and mining Swedenborg devoted himself on setting out in life. His scientific acquirements, even at this period, seem to have been great; for he counted among his friends and correspondents the most renowned mathematicians and astronomers at that period in Europe. From 1716 to 1718 he edited a mechanical and mathematical journal, the Dedalus Hyperboreus, to which Christopher Polheim, called the Swedish Archimedes, was a contributor. Polheim's connection was a very important one for Swedenborg. He was introduced by him to the notice of Charles XII., who immediately appreciated the young man's capacity, and appointed him to be the colleague and the successor of Polheim in high official employments in connection with mining and mechanical operations. Swedenborg lived in Polheim's house at this time, and fell in love with the counsellor's second daughter, Emerentia. She was only fourteen years old, and at first would not consent to a betrothal; but her father, desiring the match very much, gave Swedenborg a written agreement that he should have the lady when she was a little older, and this bond she herself was prevailed upon to sign. It was, however, only in obedience to her father's wish, and the engagement preyed upon her mind and depressed her spirits; and her brother, seeing how matters stood, stole the document from Swedenborg, who, as soon as he discovered that there was no hope of persuading her affections, handsomely relinquished all claims to her, and left her father's house. This seems to have been the only love-passage in his life. He never married.
During his professional life Swedenborg was in frequent and friendly personal intercourse with the royalty of Sweden. Charles XII. made various use of his services, which were very remarkable on the occasion of the siege of Frederickshall, at which the king was killed. Swedenborg, on this occasion, performed the almost incredible feat of transporting over fourteen miles of hilly country, by machines of his own invention, two galleys, five large boats, and a sloop. "By this operation the king found himself in a situation to carry out his plans; for under cover of these
vessels he transported on pontoons his heavy artillery, which it would have been impossible to convey by land, under the very walls of Frederickshall." In the same year Swedenborg produced a treatise on mathematics, containing the earliest Swedish account of the differential and integral calculus; and also a work on the finding of the longitude of places by lunar observations. In 1719 the Swedberg family were ennobled by the name of Swedenborg, and in this year he produced works on decimal coinage and measures, on the motion of the earth and planets, on docks, sluices, and salt-works, and on "proofs derived from appearances in Sweden of the depth of the sea, and the greater force of the tides in the ancient world." The reception of his scientific schemes and speculations by the Swedish people seems to have disgusted him; he complains, in a private letter of this date, that "Pluto and envy possess the Hyperboreans, and that a man will prosper better among them by acting the idiot than by remaining a man of understanding." Dr. Wilkinson, in pausing at this epoch in Swedenborg's history, observes, "We are not aware that any great brilliancy was displayed in his works up to this date; but rather great industry, fertile plans, a belief in the penetrability of problems usually given up by the learned, a gradual and experimental faculty, and an absence of precocity.'
Swedenborg was of too great a genius to be long a grumbler; accordingly we find him returning shortly to his scientific investigations, and in a spirit still further removed from popular sympathies. He published several works in which, according to Dumas, the French chemist, he laid the foundations of the science of crystallography. For many years his time was divided between his travels, which he frequently renewed, his duties as assessor of mines, and his scientific studies. In 1724 the consistory of the University and the Academy of Sciences at Upsal offered him the professorship of pure mathematics. In 1734 he published the most famous of his works on natural philosophy, the Principia, which was prohibited by the Pope, because it was considered to contradict the position that all things were created out of nothing. His reputation was now European; and he was in correspondence, and on terms of intellectual equality, with Christian Wolf, and the greatest philosophers of the age. We cannot pause to speak separately of the vast series of works which Swedenborg produced in various departments of the natural sciences. Dr. Wilkinson, however, remarks upon one property common to them all, which we must not omit to notice. belief in a personal God was with him the fountain of sciences, which alone allowed a finite man to discover in nature the wisdom that an infinite man had planted there. . . . Only in so far as man is the image of God, and can think like God, can he give
the reason of any thing that God has made. . . . There is a peculiar sacredness pervading the treatment of his subjects, depending on the perception that their last wisdom is always God. He seldom utters the divine name; but points to a truth and sapience in all things, which elicit the repeated thought, 'this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'
"We now pass onwards," to use the words of Swedenborg's biographer, "to another man and author, to Swedenborg the seer and theologian." We cannot, however, accompany Dr. Wilkinson any further in his spirit of faith, not only in the sincerity (which is indubitable) but in the complete sanity of his hero, whose first vision shall be related in his own words. In a letter, dated 1769, and addressed to Mr. Hartley, he writes, "I have been called to a holy office by the Lord Himself, who most graciously manifested Himself in person to me, his servant, in the year 1743, when He opened my sight to the view of the spiritual world, and granted me the privilege of conversing with spirits and angels, which I enjoy to this day." The following is another and fuller account of this event:
"I was in London, and dined late at my usual quarters, where I had engaged a room, in which, at pleasure, to pursue my studies in natural philosophy. I was hungry, and ate with great appetite. Towards the end of the meal I remarked that a kind of mist spread before my eyes; and I saw the floor of my room covered with hideous reptiles, such as serpents, toads, and the like. I was astonished, having all my wits about me and being perfectly conscious. The darkness attained its height, and then passed away. I now saw a man sitting in the corner of the chamber. As I had thought myself entirely alone I was greatly frightened, when he said to me, 'Eat not so much!" My sight again became dim; but when I recovered it I found myself entirely alone in my room. The unexpected alarm hastened my return home. I did not suffer my landlord to perceive that any thing had happened; but thought it over attentively, and was not able to attribute it to chance, or any physical cause. I went home; but the following night the same man appeared to me again. I was this time not at all alarmed. The man said, I am God, the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. I have chosen thee to unfold to men the spiritual sense of the Holy Scripture. I will myself dictate to thee what thou shalt write.' The same night the world of spirits, heaven and hell, were convincingly opened to me, where I found many persons of my acquaintance of all conditions. From that day forth I gave up all worldly learning; and laboured only in spiritual things, according to what the Lord commanded me to write. Thereafter the Lord daily opened the eyes of my spirit, to see in perfect wakefulness what was going on in the other world, and to converse, broad awake, with angels and spirits."