Swedenborg by Vladimir Solovyev
translated from the Brockhaus-Ephron Encyclopedia
by GF Dole
Friday, January 1, 1999
(Emanuel Swedenborg, 1688-1772)--learned scientist, later spirit-seer and,
after Jakob Boehme, most remarkable theosoph of the new age, founder of
Swedenborgian sectarian groups that exist to the present time in various
countries (especially England and America). His father, Jesper Swedberg
(q.v.), did not subject his son to any confessional requirements
whatever; only on his enrolment in Upsala University did young
Swedenborg become familiar in detail with the principal teachings of
Protestant orthodoxy, which deeply disturbed him. In particular, free
redemption, justification by faith alone apart from works, and
predestination to salvation or to eternal damnation--dogmas then taught in
rationalist, scholastic style to the exclusion of any speculative or
mystical subjects--appeared to Swedenborg's straightforward mind to be pure
nonsense, an offence to the Divine. He remained of this opinion to the end,
expressing it in all his works with somewhat naive indignation.
Swedenborg's distaste for the accepted theology prompted him to turn to
secular science--classical languages and literature, mathematics, and the
natural sciences. In 1709, he presented for the degree of doctor of
philosophy his scholarly edition of sentences of Seneca and Publius
Syrus the Mime, with references to Erasmus and a Greek translation by
Scaliger. On his return from a trip to England, Holland, and France, he
published two collections of poems, Ludus Heliconius, sive carmina
miscellanea (1714) and Carmina borea sive favellae Ovidianis similes
(1715). Not possessing poetic inspiration, he wrote correct and elegant
In 1716, he founded a periodical publication of his own and others'
researches and articles in the natural sciences, Daedalus Hyperboreus (six
issues). Charles XII appointed him Assessor of the College of Mines and
then entrusted him, along with the engineer Polhelm, with the construction
of a system of canals and locks linking Stockholm with Gothenburg. In
connection with this [post], Swedenborg invented a special machine with
rollers with which Swedish artillery was dragged up to the walls of a
Norwegian fortress during the siege in which Charles XII was killed.
Queen Ulrika Eleonora raised the Swedberg family to a higher rank with a
right to the name Swedenborg, which belonged to another, more eminent line
of the family.
Between 1717 and 1719, Swedenborg published scientific works: on algebra,
on ways of determining longitude by means of observations of the moon,
on a decimal system of measurement and currency denominations(?), on the
great height of tides in ancient times, and on the motion and position of
earth and the planets. This scientific work did not obliterate his
moral/religious interest, and at this time he formulated concisely five
basic principles of the good life, which he faithfully copied out as a
1) To read God's Word frequently, and to meditate on it.
2) In everything, to trust the intent of divine providence.
3) In everything, to observe the demands of propriety.
4) Always to have a clear conscience.
5) Faithfully to carry out the duties of one's public office, and to try in
everything to be useful to society.
As a member of the Swedish Diet, Swedenborg worked tirelessly on some very
difficult practical problems, especially in the area of finance. The
importance and practicality of the measures which he proposed on these
issues in his parliamentary memoranda were acknowledged by experts even
half a century later. It was in connection with his official duties that he
wrote his essay on the fall and rise of the value of Swedish currency
After thorough research into his native country's mines, he traveled for
the same purpose to Germany (1721-22). He then published in Amsterdam and
Leipzig (in Latin) the following works: On the Principles of Natural
Philosophy, Observations and Discoveries concerning Iron and Fire,
A New Method of Finding Geographical Latitude on Land and Sea, The Art
of Building Docks and a New Method of Designing Dams, The Art of
Determining the Mechanical Forces on Ships, Various Observations on
Minerals, Fire, and the Strata of Mountains, and On the Stalactites in
Baumann's Cave. These, like Swedenborg's later scientific works, were
singled out in the remarks of specialists for their rich collection of
facts, the prompt disclosure of these facts to the public, their definitive
principles, and the obvious usefulness of the applications they indicated.
Between 1733 and 1736, he again traveled to Bohemia and Germany in order to
publish his Opera Philosophica et Mineralia. The first volume, after
positing general philosophical principles (in the course of which
Swedenborg adopted the rationalism of Leibniz and Wolff), contained
original solutions to specific problems of scientific cosmology. In this
area of study, Swedenborg retains to the present day an important place in
the history of science. The noted chemist Dumas, in his lectures on the
philosophy of chemistry, named Swedenborg as the real founder of
crystallography. Other scholarly publications of Swedenborg were
anticipations of the theories of Dalton and Berzelius. Before
Herschel, Swedenborg discovered the place of our solar system in the Milky
Way, and before Lagrange he showed that the perturbations of the
planetary orbits have their own properties by determining the intervals of
time recurring according to a norm. The other two volumes contained a
series of tracts on mineralogy. The publication of the Opera gained
Swedenborg a widespread reputation in the learned world; he was elected an
honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Science.
In 1734, Swedenborg published in Dresden his Prodromus philosphiae
rationalis, where he dealt with infinity (arguing against Descartes), with
purpose and nature (arguing against Bacon), and with the connection between
body and spirit (arguing against Leibniz, with his "preestablished
harmony"). Swedenborg did not at this point come out with a systematic
publication of his own settled views on these three questions because,
among other things, he felt that for a final resolution of the third
question he needed specialized research on the organic world and especially
the animal kingdom.
In 1736, Swedenborg undertook another jouney to Holland, Belgium, France,
and Italy, now focusing intensively on physiology and especially on
anatomy. He published the results of his labors in the two volume Economy
of the Animal Kingdom (1741). In 1743, he published in the Hague and
London three further volumes entitled The Animal Kingdom, whose
significance was reserved for a hundred years, when a scholarly member of
the London Medical Association published in in English translation. In this
pair of publications Swedenborg was not interested in the classification
and description of animals: they make no reference whatever to zoology in
the usual sense. Swedenborg held the animal kingdom or the zoological
level of creation in its highest and normative representation to be the
human being, and the subject of these two works may be defined as the
morphology and physical mechanics of the human organism. The author himself
rated this vast work as merely preliminary: he had made no new discoveries,
he had relied throughout on the most recent scientific advances.
At the time Swedenborg was coming up with new, more independent works on
biology for solutions to philosphical questions concerning the relationship
of the spiritual and the physical sides of the human organism, though,
remarkable spiritual-physical changes were taking place within him, opening
for him the new religious calling primarily associated with his name among
later generations. In 1745 (having reached the same age at which, later,
Kant would write his Critique of Pure Reason, fifty-seven), Swedenborg was
in London. For dinner, he went to a particular inn where he had a room at
his disposal so that he could peacefully devote himself to solitary
reflection. On one occasion, being hungry, he ate more than usual and
suddenly saw that the room was becoming full of mist, and there appeared on
the floor a multitude of different crawling things. The mist turned into a
thick darkness, then it dissipated; the reptiles were no longer there, but
Swedenborg saw a man sitting in the corner of the room, surrounded by a
dazzling light, saying sternly to him, "Do not eat so much!"
Then Swedenborg lost his sight; when it gradually came back, he hurried
home with great fear, spending the night and the next day there in
meditation without eating anything. The next night, the man clothed in
light appeared again, dressed in a beautiful robe, and said to him, "I am
God, the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer. I have chosen you explain to
mortals the inner and spiritual meaning of scripture. I will dictate to you
what you are to write." After this, Swedenborg felt that the sight of his
inner person was opened, and from that time on he began, without changing
his external location, to be transported to heaven, hell, and the
(intermediate) World of Spirits, where he saw and talked with many
individuals he had known, sometimes recently deceased, sometimes deceased
When he returned to Sweden, Swedenborg gave up his job and his occupation
with natural science to devote himself exclusively to his new calling.
Caught up in uninterrupted inspiration, he wrote his fundamental
theological work, Arcana Coelestia (London, 1749-1756). The contents
are indicated by the title: Heavenly Mysteries in Sacred Scripture or the
Word of God, with Wonderful Visions (of Swedenborg) in the World of Spirits
and the Heaven of Angels. The form of the work was that of an
uninterrupted, detailed commentary on the first two books of the
Pentateuch (verse by verse) in a new Latin translation by Swedenborg
himself from the Hebrew text (though he was not a Hebraist, he had gained
some knowledge of the Hebrew language in his youth).
His method of interpretation was purely allegorical, distinguished from
that of other ecclesiastical writers only by his directness and
consistency. Basically, Swedenborg distinguishes three meanings in the
text, historical or literal, spiritual, and heavenly; but in the work,
he brings out only the contrast between the outer or natural and the inner
or (in a broad sense) spiritual meanings, and his task of interpretation is
to show the inner meaning of every verse and every word in the Bible.
This relationship in the holy text was connected for Swedenborg with his
theory of correspondences (correspondentiae), in which for every object and
quality in the natural world, there is something corresponding in the
spiritual world. In the assignment of these correspondences for every event
that occurs, we see in substance the Biblical exegesis--or more precisely
For example, wherever in the text it mentions stone, stones, or stony, in
the spiritual sense this refers to faith, fidelity, or truth in respect to
its solidity. Water also corresponds to truth, not in respect to solidity,
though, but in respect to originality (a spring), and also to its reviving
and cleansing properties. Bread and wine, already connected by outward
correspondence, in their spiritual meaning correspond to categories of
action--to the will, love, good. Various mammals mean various spiritual
affections, feelings, and passions. Birds refer to thoughts, and waterfowl
to thoughts flowing like pure scientific truth, etc. With the aid of
these allegorical relationships, the first two books of the Bible turn into
an explanation of the primordial fate of humanity or the consequent changes
in its inner spiritual state--epochs of religious decline and recovery.
In addition to this philosophy/history in Arcana Coelestia, it contains two
other types of material: 1) prompted by one text or another, the author
explains various dogmatic propositions of his own plain true doctrine,and
2) every chapter of commentary, regardless of its contents, is accompanied
by particular addenda where Swedenborg tells things he has seen and heard
in his states of spiritual detachment or when the eyes and ears of his
inner person were opened.
After Arcana Coelestia, Swedenborg published a series of books in which,
with constant references to the Bible and to appropriate sections of
his principal work [i.e., Arcana Coelestia], but now not in the form of
straight commentary, he presented and explained various distinct aspects
and points of his theosophical teaching. These works, arranged in
chronological order, are the following: Clavis Hieroglyphica (a
presentation of the theory of correspondences, 1757); De telluribus (a
description of the planets and their inhabitants as Swedenborg observed
them on his visits to them "in the spirit," London, 1758); On Heaven,
Hell, and the World of Spirits (his most characteristic and popular work,
London, 1758); De ultimo judicio et de Babylon destructa (an
explanation of the eighteenth chapter of Revelation; Swedenborg asserted
that an apocalyptic judgment had taken place in the spiritual world in 1757
and that he was permitted by God to witness it, London, 1758); Equus
albus (a commentary on the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, London,
1758); De nova Jerusalem et doctrina ejus coelesti (a commentary on the
twenty-first chapter of Revelation, London, 1758); Doctrina nov. Jerus.
de Domino (Amsterdam, 1763); Doctr. n. J. de Scriptura Sacra
(same); Doctrina vitae (same); Doctr. de fide (same); De ultimo
judicio (same); Angelica Sapientia de divino amore et de dkvina
Sapientia (same); Angelica Sapientia de providentia divina (same place,
1764): Apocalypsis revelata (Amsterdam: 1766); Deliciae Sapientia
de amore conjugali et voluptates insaniae de amore Scortatorio (same place,
1768); De commercio animae et corporis (London, 1769; at this place and
time Swedenborg also published his autobiography in the form of a letter to
a friend); Expositio doctr. Ecclesiae novae (Amsterdam: 1769); and
the major, concluding work of Swedenborg, Vera Christiana Religio (3 Vols.,
Amsterdam, 1771). After his death, Swedenborg's friends published his
extensive commentary on Revelation, Apocal. explicata; A Brief
Explanation of the Inner Meaning of the Psalms and All the Prophets;
The Old Testament; Doctr. nov. Jer. de charitate; 9 Questions
concerning the Trinity, proposed by Hartley, and Swedenborg's answers;
and The Crown or Appendix to the Work on True Christian Religion.
Out of all these numerous volumes, one can distill a single, original,
harmonious theosophical system. Swedenborg's doctrine on theological
matters did not have any literary antecedents. It was actually in the Bible
that he found the bases for his thought, at least under the stipulations of
the particular system of interpretation that he regarded as sacred. As for
texts and secondary literature, these were not the direct source. He did
not read theological literature at all. In the field of philosophy (of
which he shows no historical knowledge), he sets out exclusively from a
priori/rationalist principles, but as for the ideas of the philosophers
with which he argued or agreed, he clearly derived these from the
surrounding intellectual atmosphere and not from their works. In the
publications of his religious period, his theosophy seems complete, and he
is concerned simply to explain and propagate it. The immense quantity of
Swedenborg's own writings, together with the journeys he made to the end of
his life, precluded the possibility of any systematic and broad [program
The originality of Swedenborg's theosophical doctrine does not, though,
rule out substantial similarities between him and other well-known
doctrines (well known to us, that is, but not to him), especially some
gnostic systems (q.v.) and the Jewish Cabalah (q.v.). Swedenborg
rejected a concept of God as an abstract source. God always has his own
definite and substantial form, which is the form of the human body.
God eternally exists as the "Grand Man" (Maximus Homo, = "Universal
Human"), namely as our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwells the fullness of
Swedenborg's doctrine is absolutely Christian, even to the extent that he
presumes that in fact only Christ exists, and nothing more. By what means
can the human, especially a physical one, be in absolute being? Or, by what
means can the infinite be bounded within the finite? This question has no
meaning from Swedenborg's perspective because he understood before Kant the
relative, subjective nature of our "space," "time," and all delimited and
mechanistic orders of appearance. All this, for Swedenborg, was not
essential reality, but appearance (apparentia); effectual qualities and
forms of being, both mathematical and organic (that is, everything that is
enduring and qualitatively defined) do not depend at all on the outward
natures of their appearances in our world. This world itself is nothing
unqualifiedly real, but only the lower "natural" state of humanity,
distinguished by the fact that here apparentia is confirmed or fixated as
entia. Everything enduring or having actual qualities in our
world--qualities of color and sound, mountains, oceans, and rivers, rocks,
plants, and animals--actually exists as independent from its apparent
external cause; its true cause belongs to the spiritual world (in a broad
sense of the word) or to the spiritual state of humanity, where it becomes
obvious to everyone, namely as a direct and immediate dependence of
external objects on inner spiritual states.
So for example, if love and joy within someone in the spiritual world
become weak, then his outward surroundings are immediately changed in
corresponding fashion; without his moving, he finds himself all alone in a
dark, mountainous region, dry and bare of greenery. If between two
spiritual beings there arises a mutual inner affection, then for that
reason alone there and then they are gradually brought towward each other
outwardly and suddenly appear together, no matter how great the distance
between them had been before. In this way, Swedenborg distinguishes two
modes of apparent being: true, or effective, in which outer phenomena are
created by their own corresponding inner states, and apparent or false
modes of being in the case of different or contradictory relationships.
For Swedenborg, matter as an independent entity does not exist at all, but
the independence of material appearances from their spiritual causes and
ends is simply an illusory manifestation of a subjective origin. What is
true and effective is only the divine-human Jesus Christ and His kingdom,
that is, the union of the human nature, defined from within by its
substance and by the actual relationship of its will to the good and its
understanding to the true, which are incarnate in Jesus Christ, but
representing itself outwardly in the world of forms, united according to
the principle of correspondence.
From the perspective of fundamental quality, the whole community of human
beings is distinguished into three primary regions of being: 1) heaven or
the world of angels (in a broad sense)--that is, people who have
consistently governed their lives by love of God and the neighbor. On
dying, they become angels, and from their community is formed the body of
the Grand Man [Maximus Homo], that is, of Jesus Christ; 2) hell, populated
by people whose lives have been ruled by a dominant love of self and the
world, that is, for externals and for vanity. On dying, these people become
evil spirits, of whom Swedenborg distinguishes two categories: devils in
the strict sense, whose evil nature is expressed primarily in deceit and in
hatred of the truth, and satans, governed primarily by evil and by hatred
of the good as such. The former and the latter have fantastic and
monstrous bodies, corresponding to what is within them; 3) the intermediate
world of spirits (in a special sense), consisting of people who have died
without making a final decision in one direction or the other. After death,
they are subjected to the reinforcing influence of guardian angels and
seductive devils until they join themselves decisively to the one side or
the other. These results of spiritual struggle proceed either
individually or collectively up to the end of earthly epochs, until the
arrival of a general judgment at which the Lord himself appears.
Swedenborg was present at one of these judgments in the year 1757 (marking
the close of the Christian era of history) and describes it in detail.
Very distinctive in Swedenborg's theosophy is the fact that he does not
admit of any pre-human or trans-human creation of angels and demons but
sees in them only human evolution in two opposite directions, in that after
death every individual is already essentially either an angel or a devil;
and then, for the individual as for Swedenborg, the spiritual sight is
opened and this can be clearly discerned. In this way, the wellspring or
seedbed (seminarium) of heaven and hell is earthly or natural humanity
which, according to Swedenborg, inhabits not only our planet but other
planets or earths as well. These inhabitants of the planets are "natural"
[= physical] people of various kinds who, like us, after death become
either heavenly or hellish spirits. We may add that Swedenborg's
communications about the visits of his "inner person" to these planets and
his conversations with their inhabitants, unlike the consistent
reasonableness of his expository writing, have an essentially hallucinatory
In general, Swedenborg's doctrine does not give a clear and decisive answer
to philosophical questions about the primordial and general origin of the
earthly, natural, or external world and about its metaphysical connection
with the truly existent universal human. We do not find in it a
theosophical cosmology or cosmogony, but see on this point only a reluctant
vacillation between arbitrary naturalism, realism, and outright idealism
(the denial of all material existence), of the kind principally advocated
Swedenborg's anthropology is more precise. The human in essence (essentia
for Swedenborg = esse) is threefold not in a mechanical but in an organic
sense, exhibiting in its existence (existentia) the sucessive opening of
three principal levels: 1) the natural, opened at birth and dominant until
the development of intelligence, 2) the rational, from the awakening of
reason and conscience--in a majority of people--until death, and 3)the
spiritual, usually opened only upon death, after crossing into the World of
Spirits, but for some (as for Swedenborg himself) emerging prematurely
during this life.
The natural threefold or three-level structure of every human being does
not determine in advance one's moral quality or destiny. Every individual,
on the first or natural level, is predisposed to both good and evil; on the
second, rational level, one chooses between these two directions; on the
third or spiritual level, one is manifested decisively as either a good or
an evil spirit. The matter is complicated, though, by the fact that every
individual, until the final transformation into an angel or a devil, is
constantly situated between two opposite influences (influxus)--a good or
heavenly one that comes from God through angels and an evil or hellish one
that comes from evil spirits.
To resolve the vexing question of free will, Swedenborg tried to protect
himself against fatalism by suggesting an unavoidable psychological
illusion in which we are obliged to think that our actions, effected
through the strength of our divine or hellish influx, are accomplished as
if (quasi) on our own, recognizing, however, that all the good in our
actions comes from God. For Swedenborg, the essence of moral good consists
of love of God and th neighbor, while the essence of moral evil consists of
love of one's own selfhood (proprium) and of the world--that is, for
external objects for their own sakes apart from their deeper purposes.
Swedenborg's moral doctrine was theologically irreproachable (in the
opinion of the Moscow Metropolitan Filaret, among others), but he did not
provide a resolution of the philosphical debate between fatalism and
freedom. In general, Swedenborg refrained from autonomous thinking during
his religious period, writing only what had appeared to his spiritual sight
and the ideas which he believed were from direct inspiration or dictation
In the area of theology in the narrow sense of the word, Swedenborg offers
a striking replacement of the Trinity by Christ alone. Unfamiliar with
Greek philosophy and any kind of dialectic thinking, a cool and sober mind
with a formal-rational style of thought, Swedenborg did not understand the
speculative basis of ecclesiastical dogma and saw in it simply tritheism,
which offended him. His simple refutation, founded on this kind of lack of
understanding, comes from a simplistic rationalistic polemic, and is of no
interest whatever. However, standing in a resolutely Christian (Biblical)
perspective and acknowledging Christ as the universal center, Swedenborg
transfers into Him the threefold nature of God, which is undoubtedly
suggested by the sacred texts. 1) Within the one God Jesus Christ,
Swedenborg distiguishes the Divine as such (Divinum), the Divine-human or
Divine-rational (Divinum Humanum seu Divinum rationale), and the
Divine-natural (Divinum Naturale). 2) In the manifestation of Christ, this
inner threefold nature is designated as the perfect divine essence--the
Father, as his perfect human form--the Son, and as perfect efficacy or his
living breath in the heavenly atmosphere or aura (aura) which proceeds
from Christ and surrounds him--the Holy Spirit.
For Swedenborg, the essence of the incarnation consists in the fact that
the divine-natural element in Christ (his divinum naturale) came into our
earthly realm, clothed itself in a human naature and then in the
rational-human elements of Jesus. The goal of the incarnatin was that the
divine gain a tangible effectiveness in our earthly realm and also in the
world of terrestrial spirits, and that the heavenly atmosphere of Christ
might drive out the increasing numbers of evil spirits who were flooding
(infestabant) our world; Christ's task, for Swedenborg, was not the
redemption and justification of humanity by means of formal acts but by an
actual confrontation of heaven and hell in his earthly humanity and the
restoration of the disturbed balance between the forces of good and evil.
For Christ himself, his earthly life was a process of gradually putting off
the earthly covering, which had been initially necessary for the
development of his merely human nature (ens rationale), which became an
adequate covering for his Divinity. In the resurrection, Christ became
complete reality, for the opening in his disciples of the sensory organs of
their inner or spiritual persons.
Swedenborg did not acknowledge the second coming of Christ or the universal
judgment of the living and the dead. For the (formal and substantive)
characteristics of Swedenborg's theosophical explanations in the area of
eschatology, the following story from his "Memorabilia" (additions to
Arcana Coelestia) may serve best of all.
At this time my inner person was in the middle heaven, in the region of
the Lord's heart, to the left of the stomach, which consists of a
community of spirits who love truth because it was good (amant verum quoad
bonum). In their presence I felt their strong influence on my heart
and proceeding through it to my brain, and the thought occurred to me, Is
there any way in which the Lord's mercy could let devils remain in hell to
eternity? Even while I was thinking about this, one of the angels of a
just temperament [?] flew down with uncommon speed to the throne region of
the great Satan and at the Lord's suggestion brought out one of the
evil devils in order to grant him heavenly bliss. I was allowed to see,
however, that as the angel rose into a heavenly sphere, the proud
expression on his prisoner's face changed to one of suffering and his body
turned black; when, with no regard for his resistance, he was dragged
into the middle of heaven, dreadful convulsions came over him and with
his every intent and movement he showed that he was suffering immense and
unbearable pain. When he was brought near the central region of heaven, his
tongue hung out as though he were exhausted and thirsty, and his face was
inflamed [?] as though with a raging fever. Then his misery touched me, and
I begged the Lord to command the angel to let him go. When, with the Lord's
consent, he was released, he hurled himself down heaadfirst so
impetuously that all I could see was how his extraordinarily black heels
Then I was given the insight that anyone's stay in heaven or in hell
depends not on the arbitrary will of God but on the inner state of one's
essential nature, and that the transfer against one's will from hell to
heaven is just about as painful for the one who is transferred as is a
transfer from heaven to hell . . . . In this way, I understood that the
eternity of hell for people who arrive their for their own gratification is
in complete accord with both the wisdom and the goodness of God.
After 1745, Swedenborg, while changing the character of his occupation, did
not change his life style; he traveled frequently, preferring to stay in
London and Amsterdam for the printing of his religions works, which he
generously distributed to various individuals and institutions.
The well-known stories about several particular instances of Swedenborg's
clairvoyance and spirit-seeing (a fire in Stockholm, the communication of
important secrets of deceased individuals), although cited in the oral and
written testimony of eminent individuals, do not have enough explicit and
documented confirmation and are not free from inconsistency in details.
In view of his honest and serious character, Swedenborg's regular dealings
with various spheres of life beyond the grave have full subjective
credibility; any evaluation of their actual significance depends on one's
general point of view. In several instances, Swedenborg certainly lapsed
into mistaken judgment. In the latter years of Swedenborg's life, an
investigation was pursued by the Swedish clergy, provoked by his sharp
critique of Protestant dogmas. In 1769, there was a speech in the Diet
about the necessity of declaring Swedenborg insane and depriving him of his
freedom. The offices of the clerical estate, led by Bishop Filenius, a
nephew of Swedenborg, decreed that his books should be confiscated; amd two
of his followers, members of the consistory, were brought to trial. One of
them, Th. Dr. Beyer, published a declaration in his defense, while
Swedenborg himself drafted memoranda and appeals to the three universities
of the kingdom. Because of the general esteem of Swedenborg and the support
of the king, the case, referred to the Senate, was discontinued.
In 1770, Swedenborg set out on his last journey. Falling ill in London, he
slept for more than a week without rousing. On awakening, he foretold the
day of his death, and to an English friend he solemnly testified to his
conviction of the complete truth of everything he had written, and he died,
receiving Holy Communion from a Swedish pastor.
Swedenborgian: In the eighties of the eighteenth century, several
Swedenborgian (New Jerusalem) churches were founded, which soon began to
spread in Great Britain and America. By the end of the nineteenth century,
there were eighty-one societies in the United Kingdom, and one hundred and
sixteen in the United States of America. For the distribution of books by
and about Swedenborg, the Swedenborg Society was founded in 1810.
There are scattered groups in Germany, France, and Switzerland, and also in
Russia (to these belongs the noted writer V. I. Dal and the part-time
Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University, P. D. Yurkevich).
Literature: The theosophical works of Swedenborg were published in the
course of the nineteenth century in the English translations of Clowes and
Mather, in the French translations of Le Boy des Guays, and in the German
translations of Tafel. In Russian, only the book Heaven and Hell has been
published (in the translation of A. N. Aksakov, Lits., 1860). Tafel
published Documents concerning the Life and Character of Swedenborg
(Tubingen, 1839-42). He also published Abriss von S. Life (1845).
Brickmann, Die Lehre der neuen Kirche (2 editions, Basel, 1880).
Biographies: Schaarschmidt (Elberfeldt, 1862), Matter (I., 1863), White
(Two editions, London, 1874), Wilkinson (London, 1849), Paxton Hood
(London, 1854). Newer works: Rev. Samuel Warren, Compendium of the
Theological Writings of E. S. (London: 1855); Edm. Swift, Manual of the
Doctrines of the New Church; Noble, Appeal, etc. On Swedenborgianism, see
Robert Hindmarsh, Rise and Progress of the New Jerusalem Church in Engl.,
Amer. and other parts (London: 1861). Critical work on Swedenborg. Görres,
E. S., seine Visionen u. s. Verhältniss zur Kirche (1827). Of major secular
writers interested in Swedenborg, Balzac, in his novel Séraphitus-Séraphita
and Emerson (Chapter "The Mystic" in his Representative Men (1850). An
idiosyncratic variation on Swedenborg's teaching is offered by Thomas Lake
Harris, founder of the distinctive community The brotherhood of the New
Life in the United States of America.
It will later be noted that Swedenborg himself made no effort toward
"founding" an organization. The groups that formed around his doctrines did
so after his death.
Jesper was a "Pietist"--i.e. one who tried to get back to the simple
Gospel message, and had little patience with the abstruse theological
disputations that could characterize the defence of orthodox Lutheranism.
In his later years, though, Swedenborg would recall his own childhood
participation in theological discussions.
Solovyov's sources for much of the biographical information may have been
James John Garth Wilkinson's Emanuel Swedenborg: A Biography (the edition
to which I have access was printed in Boston by Otis Clapp in 1849;
Solovyov lists a London edition of the same year) and the Abriss des Lebens
und Wirkens Emanuel Swedenborgs which he also cites. This latter is
subtitled übersetzt aus den Penny-Cyclopedia of the Society for the
Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, to which Wilkinson contributed the article
on Jesper Swedberg (cf. Wilkinson, op. cit., p. 4). It appears to reflect
an abridgment of Wilkinson's biography. It omits some information and
opinions clearly reflected in Solovyov's article, e.g., Swedenborg's
childhood ignorance of traditional atonement theology (Wilkinson, p. 5),
attested by a late letter of Swedenborg to Dr. Beyer, and Jesper's not
imposing Lutheran dogmas on his childhood mind, for which no primary source
is cited (ibid., p. 6). It includes, however, at least one detail mentioned
by Solovyov that is not in the English biography, namely the mention in the
full title of Swedenborg's thesis of the Greek translation of Seneca by
Scaliger (Abriss, p. 2).
This degree is explicitly mentioned in Wilkinson (op. cit., p. 7) and the
Abriss (p. 2). However,I have not found any references to Swedenborg as
"doctor," and the best-documented of the biographies that of Cyriel O.
Sigstedt (The Swedenborg Epic" The Life and Works of Emanuel Swedenborg
[New York: Bookman Associates, 1952], p. 12) states explicitly that his
graduation "involved no granting of a degree in any modern sense." In this
connection it may be worth noting Wilkinson's comment on the later
ennoblement ; "His new rank conferred no title . . . : he was not either a
count, or a baron, as is commonly supposed" (op. cit., p. 18, clearly
reflected in the Abriss, p. 7: "Sein neuer Rang gab ihm . . . keinen Titel,
und er war weder, wie man gewöhnlich annahm, Graf, noch Baron . . . ."
He also published Festivus applausus in Caroli XIII in Pomeraniam suam
adventum in 1714. Annotated editions of this and the Carmina Borea, with
English translations, have recently been published by Hans Helander in the
Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis series. Perhaps more to the point, he
returned also with a portfolio of mechanical inventions, with the express
hope that one or another of them might lead to a career. Cf., for example,
Henry Söderberg, Swedenborg's 1714 Airplane: A Machine to Fly in the Air
(New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1988).
The literary quality of Swedenborg's youthful poetry may be open to
debate. Per Atterbom, "Sweden's first great literary historian"
(Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. "Atterbom") thought very highly of the
poetic quality of one of Swedenborg's later works (The Worship and Love of
God, 1745), judging it presumably by the standards of nineteenth century
Romanticism. Cf. Hans Helander, "Swedenborg's Latin," in Studia
Swedenborgiana 8/1, p. 31. The reference there is to Atterbom's Svenska
siare och skalder, eller Grundragen af svenska vitterhetens hälder (Uppsala
1841ff.), to which I do not have access. Helander's essay argues against
any facile discounting of neo-Latin literature in general.
This was initially an unpaid position, "Extraordinary Assessor," and was
not recognized by the College itself. It was not until 1723 that Swedenborg
was accepted and salaried.
This massive project was severely hampered the massive drain on Sweden'g
finances and manpower for Charles's military ventures, and was abandoned at
Charles's death. The canal was not completed until this century. Cf. Robin
E. Larsen, ed., Emanuel Swedenborg: A Continuing Vision (New York:
Swedenborg Foundation, 1988), p. 21.
Primary sources indicate that it was a fleet of warships that was hauled
overland under Swedenborg's supervision. Both Wilkinson and the Abriss list
the warships ("two galleys, five large boats and a sloop," Wilkinson p. 17;
"Zwei Galeeren, fünf grosse Bote und eine Schaluppe," Abriss) and state
that the artillery was deployed under cover of these vessels.
I am not aware of the source of this attribution of the name to another
branch of the family.
At this time, owing to disastrous shipping losses directly attributable to
mistakes in calclating longitude, the British government offered a
substantial prize for a reliable method. Swedenborg's proposal was
apparently defensible technically, but would have required skilled
mathematicians to execute. The prize was eventually granted to the inventor
of a clock whose accuracy could be trusted even under extreme weather
conditions. Cf. The Harvard Magazine
These were "reportedly" found among Swedenborg's manuscripts, and are
attributed to him in a posthumous tribute by Samuel Sandels. There is no
convincing evidence that they were actually "formulated" by Swedenborg. I
do not find them mentioned in Wilkinson, but they are to be found on p. 57
of the Abriss (p. 57) as follows:
:1) Oft im Worte Gottes zu lesen, und über dasselbe nachzudenken.
2) Alles dem Willen der Göttlich vorsehung zu unterwerfen
3) In allem den Anstand des Benehmens zu beobachten, und das Gewissen rein
4) Treu der Geschäfte seines Berufs und der Pflichten seines Amtes zu
warten, und sich in allen Dingen der Gesellschaft nützlich zu machen.
Where Solovyev cites Swedenborg's titles in Latin, I have left them in
Latin. Where he cites them in Russian, as here, I have translated them into
English. Cf. especially n. 24 infra.
Prodromus principiorum rerum naturalium, sive novorum tentaminum chymian
et physicam experimentalem geometrice explicandi [Preliminary sketch of
principles of natural phenomena, or of new efforts to explain experimental
chemistry and physics empirically] (Amsterdam: Joannis Oosterwyk, 1721).
Nova observata et inventa circa ferrum et ignem, et praecipue circa
naturam ignis elementarem, una cum nova camini inventione [New Observations
and Discoveries concerning Iron and Fire, and Especially concerning the
Basic Nature of Fire, together with a Newly Invented Furnace] (Amsterdam:
Joannis Oosterwyk, 1721).
Methodus nova inveniendi longitudines locorum terra marique ope lunae [A
New Method of Finding the Longitudes of Places on Land and Sea by Means of
the Moon] (Amsterdam: Joannis Oosterwyk, 1721).
The essays on docks and on ships were included in the publication on
Miscellanea observata circa res naturales, et praesertim circa mineralia,
ignem, et montium strata, Parts I-III [Miscellaneous Observations
concerning Natural Phenomena, Especially concerning Minerals, Fire, and the
Strata of Mountains] (Leipzig, 1722).
Pars quarta miscellanearum observationum circa res naturales, et praecipue
circa mineralia, ferrum et stallactitas in cavernis Baumannianis, etc.
[Part Four of Miscellaneous Observations concerning Natural Phenomena,
Especially concerning Minerals, Iron, and the Stalactites in Baumann's
Cave] (Schiffbeck bei Hamburg: Herm. Hein. Hollius, 1722).
Perhaps the clearest statement of Swedenborg's resolute empiricism during
his scientific career is to be found in the introduction to his Regnum
Animale: Swedenborg emphatically rejects a priori rationalism under the
name of "synthesis" and emphatically espouses empiricism under the name of
"analysis." SYNTHESIS, quae a Causis & Principiis rationum suarum filum
auspicatur, & usque ad Causarum Effectus . . . [est] non nisi quam Analysis
proletaria, praecox & vaga . . . ¶ 7. This is because Sola mente divinare
Principia, & exinde se per consequentia certo tramite deducere ad
posteriora, est modo Entium & Potentium Superiorum, Spirituum, Angelorum,
Ipsiusque Omniscientis Numinis, qui scilicet summam incolunt lucem (¶ 10).
In contrast, ANALYSIS a Causatis, Effectibus, & Phoenomenis per viam
sensuum Corporis ingressis telam suae ratiocinationis inchoat, & usque ad
Causas causarumque causas . . . procedit (¶ 11). Haec via sola ducit ad
Principia atque Veritates, seu ad Superiora, & fere ad Coelestia, nec alia
nobis Terrigenis aperta esse videtur (¶ 12). "SYNTHESIS, which picks up its
thread of reasoning from causes and principles, and [proceeds] from there
to the effects of the causes . . . ]is] nothing but lower-class, premature,
and rambling analysis;" because "To divine principles by means of the mind
alone, and to travel down from there on a proven pathway through
corollaries to consequences, is a property of higher beings and spirits
alone and and of the omniscient deity himself, who of course dwell in the
highest light." In contrast, "ANALYSIS picks up its thread from things
caused, from effects and phenomena that come into us through our physical
senses, and proceeds . . . from there to causes and to the causes of
causes." "This way alone leads to principles and truths, or to the higher
and almost heavenly things; nor does any other way seem to be open to us
earth-born creatures." As is customary in Swedenborgian studies, references
are not to pages but to paragraph numbers, which are uniform in all
editions. Cf. n. 26 infra.
Cf. Wilkinson, op. cit., p. 25, not mentioned in the Abriss. The New
Jerusalem Magazine of November 1830 cites the "forty-fifth number of the
Foreign Quarterly Review (London)" as an apparently primary source for this
Dalton's New System of Chemical Philosphy (1808) is recognized as a major
step toward an atomic theory of matter. In his Principia (1734), Swedenborg
proposed that matter consists of energy moving in geometrically describable
Jöns Berzelius's work proposing that atoms are electrically polarized
(Theory of Chemical Proportions and the Chemical Action of Electricity) was
published in 1814. Swedenborg's Principia includes a detailed proposal that
the phenomenon of magnetism is due to the polarization of the particles of
iron. It also included extensive tables of calculations of the declination
of the compass in different geographical areas.
Sir William Herschel published his findings on this subject in a series of
papers between 1784 and 1818. Swedenborg's nebular hypothesis was outlined
in his Principia (1734) and included not only speculations about the shape
of our galaxy but also the proposal that our galaxy was only one of
myriads. Cf. Gustav Arrhenius, "Swedenborg as Cosmologist," in Erland Brock
et al., eds, Swedenborg's Historical Position (Bryn Athyn, PA: Swedenborg
Scientific Association, 1988).
Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736-1813) developed a method of calculating how
the gravitational interactions of the planets affected their orbits, a
particularly intricate problem given the constantly changing spatial
relationships between them.
These "tracts" were definitive studies of mining and especially smelting
processes for the iron and copper industries. Swedenborg was convinced that
Sweden's economic health depended on these industries and as a member of
the House of Nobles argued against efforts to lay more stress on the more
glamorous metals, silver and gold. He was distressed that Swedish crude
metals were shipped to the Continent for further processing and then
repurchased by Swedish industry, and the volumes in question were part of
his campaign to break the Continental "monopoly" on the production of
Oeconomia regni animalis in transactiones divisa, etc. ("The Soul's
Domain, Divided into Transactions:") Two vol's. (London and Amsterdam:
Francois Changuion, 1740-41). The first volume focused on the circulatory
system, the second on the brain.
Regnum animale, anatomice, physice, et philosophice perlustratum, etc.
(The Soul's Domain, Considered Anatomically, physically, and
Philosophically) Three vol's. (The Hague: 1744, and London: 1745). In the
introduction, Swedenborg explains that his first effort to find the soul by
empirical means failed because he had not been thorough enough. He now
proposes eleven volumes, of which he completed three (on the abdominal
organs, the thoracic organs, and the skin and senses of touch and taste),
with substantial material in draft on the brain and on the reproductive
Since Solovyev cites these titles in Russian, it seems probable that he
had not seen the Latin editions. In the Latin titles (Oeconomia Regni
Animalis and Regnum Animale) the adjective animalis is explicitly used in
its meaning, "of the soul," and has nothing to do with "animals."
Swedenborg makes it clear that he has set out on an empirical search for
the soul, and that to his mind, we must look for the soul in her "kingdom,"
the human body. He undertook the second series (projected as comprising
eleven volumes!) because of his conviction that the first effort had failed
and that a more thorough study of anatomy was called for.
Solovyev seems here to credit Swedenborg with too much modesty.
Swedenborg's assertion was that he himself had laid aside the scalpel as a
source of primary data and relied on the latest researches of others
because he has observed a tendency to attach undue significance to his own
first hand observations. There is every reason to believe that he was aware
that his use of the primary data broke new ground in a number of respects.
This event marked the culmination of more than a year of intense inner
ferment, witnessed principally by the "Journal of Dreams" from 1743-44.
This source was probably not available to Solovyev, since the only
publication before the twentieth century was in Swedish (G. E. Klemming,
ed., Stockholm: 1859). The "Journal" records a Christ-vision at Easter time
in Delft in 1744, but makes no mention of the London event, attributed to
the Easter season of the following year. The only account of this latter
comes from a friend of Swedenborg's, the banker Carl Robsahm, and rests on
a conversation between the two late in Swedenborg's life (Cf. Rudolph L.
Tafel, ed., Documents concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel
Swedenborg. Two vols. bound as three. [London: Swedenborg Society, 1875,
1877], Vol. I, pp. 35f.). For this reason, some scholars have suspected
that the account represents no more than a fauly recollection of the Delft
vision. However, there is very strong evidence for the London event early
in The Word Explained (9 volumes, A. Acton, tr. and ed.; Bryn Athyn, PA:
Academy of the New Church, 1928-51). In ¶ 1003, Swedenborg eplicitly dates
the beginning of his open experience of the spiritual world to eight months
earlier, namely "the middle of April, 1745," at which time he was
definitely not in Delft but in London. Cf. also William Ross Woofenden,
ed., Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams, 1743-44 (New York: Swedenborg
Foundation, 1977). The two differences between the Robsahm account and
Solovyov's summary of it are that the former 1) states that the vision in
his room happened during the night of the incident at dinner, and 2) gives
the message that the Lord would "explain" (rather than "dictate") what he
should write. There is compelling evidence in Swedenborg's manuscripts
against any theory of automatic writing or stenographic "dictation."
This retirement was not immediate. He remained a fully active member of
the College of Mines for more than a year, and submitted his resignation
only when one of the senior members retired and his post, with additional
responsibilities, was offered to Swedenborg. Even then, he saw through to
completion any cases he had been actively involved in. He continued his
involvement with the House of Nobles for the rest of his life; and while he
clearly did not engage in further scientific research, as late as 1763 he
published a treatise on the craft of marble inlay. There are indications
that this latter was done simply to maintain his standing in the Academy of
Sciences and amounted to little more than dusting off something drafted
years earlier, but it nevertheless testifies to some ongoing interest in
the physical world.
In the time between 1745 and 1749, Swedenborg had also reviewed his
university Hebrew and Greek, compiled a substantial Bible index for
himself, begun a diary of his spiritual experiences, and drafted the nine
volumes of The Word Explained (cf. n. 26 supra). This latter, while clearly
intended for revision and publication, was left in manuscript, the first
Latin editions appearing between 1842 and 1854. There are also indications
that he considered publication of his "Spiritual Diary," but instead he
indexed it and drew on it for illustrative material in his published works.
A Latin edition of the diary was published in nine volumes between 1843 and
1869. A new critical text has been issued under the editorship of Durban
Odhner, who is also preparing a fresh English translation.
Latin title, Arcana Coelestia quae in Scriptura Sacra seu Verbo Domini
sunt detecta: [nempe quae in Genesi et Exodo] una cum mirabilibus quae visa
sunt in Mundo Spirituum et in Coelo Angelorum. The basic title remained
constant through the eight Latin volumes of the first edition: the
bracketed segment (using hic rather than nempe) changed to reflect the
specific contents of each volume.
At the close of his description of Arcana Coelestia, Solovyov will note
that the exegesis is not as "uninterrupted" as the present statement would
suggest. It may be noted here that at the beginning of the second chapter
(¶ 67), Swedenborg announces his intention to include material on his
experiences in the spiritual world. From then on there is a continuing
series of "interchapter articles" which, as the work proceeds, cover a
fairly wide range of theological topics.
Swedenborg often follows closely the very literal Latin translaition of
Sebastian Schmidt (1696), and apparently used his Hebrew more for reference
than as his primary source. In more casual citations, he is quite capable
of quoting from memory, with considerable but not perfect accuracy. It may
be of interest that there was a very fresh and lively interest in Hebrew at
Uppsala during his university days; cf. "'Rabbi' Johann Kemper of Uppsala"
(translated from pp. 60-67 of Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Barocke Juden,
Christen, Judenchristen [Bern: Francke Verlag, 1965]) in Studia
Swedenborgiana 7/1 (December 1990), pp. 10-17.
(Sensus) coelestis, most frequently translated as "the celestial (sense)."
Solovyev may be referring to one of the advertisements for the Arcana,
which expressed the intent of "such an exposition of the whole Bible, as
was never attempted in any language before. " The advertisement is quoted
in Robert Hindmarsh's Rise and Progress of the New Jerusalem Church, etc.
(London: Hodson & Son, 1861), p. 2), which Solovyev includes in his
bibliography at the close of this article. It is an intent which has
escaped the notice of most Swedenborg scholars. As Solovyov will note,
after completing his commentary on Genesis and Exodus, Swedenborg published
mainly non-exegetica works, the only exception being his commentary on the
book of Revelation.
Swedenborg uses scientia, verum scientificum and scientifica to refer to
factual information on any subject, not necessarily "scientific." In Arcana
Coelestia ¶ 34, for example, he speaks of spirits who are in scientia
doctrinalium fidei absque amore, literally, "in the science (= knowledge)
of the doctrinal aspects of faith, without love," referring to having a
wealth of information about theology but not the love that the theology
This holds true for the exegesis of Genesis 1-11. For chapters 12-50 of
Genesis, though, Swedenborg deals with the "celestial sense"--that is, he
focuses primarily on his story of the gradual replacement of the human by
the divine in the person of Jesus. For most of Exodus, his interpretation
focuses on the state of human spirituality at the time of the Advent. The
most concise overview of the contents of Arcana Coelestia presently
available is by William Ross Woofenden, and has been published serially in
Studia Swedenborgiana (7/4, 8/1, 8/2, and 8/3) under the title, "Doctrinal
Patterns in Arcana Coelestia." For a more extensive (and apologetic)
survey, cf. William F. Wunsch, The World within the Bible: A Handbook to
Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia (New York: New Church Press, 1929).
Cf. n. 32 supra.
It was presumably for this purpose that Swedenborg compiled a fairly
extensive index to Arcana Coelestia of which a rough draft and a fair copy
have been preserved. A somewhat conflated version was compiled by E. Rich
and published in two volumes by the Swedenborg Society in London in 1852
and 1860, reprinted in 1865.
This is a peculiar error. Clavis hieroglyphica arcanorum naturalium et
spiritualium per viam representationum et correspondentarium ("A
heiroglyphic key to natural and spiritual arcana by means of
representations and correspondences") was apparently written no later than
1744--before the onset of Swedenborg's paranormal experiences, that is--and
was left in manuscript. The first Latin edition was published by Robert
Hindmarsh in London in 1784.
`De telluribus in Mundo nostro Solari, quae vocantur Planetae: et de
telluribus in coelo astrifero: deque illarum incolis; tum de spiritibus et
angeli ibi; ex auditis et visis (London: 1758).
De Coelo et ejus mirabilibus, et de Inferno, ex auditis et visis (London:
De Ultimo Judicio, et de Babylon destructa; ita quod omnia, quae in
Apocalypsi praedicta sunt, hodie impleta sint. Ex auditis et visis London:
1758). Of the five works published in 1758, this is the only one which does
not depend substantially on Arcana Coelestia. The events described were
witnessed a year after the completion of that major work.
De Equo Albo, de quo in Apocalypsi, cap. xix. Et dein de Verbo et ejus
sensu spirituali seu interno, ex Arcanis Coelestibus (London: 1758). As the
full title indicates, the image from Revelation is used as a vehicle for a
summary of Swedenborg's doctrine of the spiritual meaning of Scripture.
De Nova Hierosolyma et ejus Doctrina coelesti: ex auditis e coelo. Quibus
praemittitur aliquid de Nova Coelo et nova Terra (London: 1758). The slight
differences in the title suggest that Solovyov was quoting from his
remarkable memory. The work itself contains very little Scripture
interpretation. It is divided into very brief chapters, each a discussion
of one or more items in Swedenborg's standard theological vocabulary
followed by extensive references to Arcana Coelestia. It offers a
reasonably complete and simple overview of his theology.
Doctrina Novae Hierosolymae de Domino (Amsterdam: 1763). In the interim
between the 1758 works and the 1763-64 ones, Swedenborg wrote most of an
extensive (and discursive) running commentary on the book of Revelation,
including the preparation of a fair copy for the printer. He left it
unfinished, however, and the treatment of Revelation published in 1766 is
much more concise. For a review of evidence concerning this and similar
situations, cf. George F. Dole, "A Rationale for Swedenborg's Writing
Sequence, 1745-1771" in Robin Larsen, ed., Emanuel Swedenborg: A Continuing
Vision (New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1988), pp. 293-297. The earlier
work, under Swedenborg's title of Apocalypsis Explicata, was first
published (in four volumes) in 1785-1789.
Doctrina Novae Hierosolymae de Scriptura Sacra (Amsterdam: 1763).
Doctrina Vitae pro Nova Hierosolyma ex praeceptis Decalogi (Amsterdam:
Doctrina Novae Hierosolymae de Fide (Amsterdam: 1763).
Continuatio de Ultimo Judicio: et de Mundo spirituali (Amsterdam: 1763).
Sapientia angelica de Divino Amore dt de Divina Sapientia (Amsterdam:
Sapientia angelica de Divina Providentia (Amsterdam: 1764). Clearly a
sequel to the preceding title.
Apocalypsis revelata, in qua deteguntur arcana quae ibi praedicta sujt, et
hactenus recondita latuerunt (Amsterdam: 1764). Cf. n. 44 supra.
Delitiae sapientiae de Amore conjugiali [sic]; post quas sequuntur
voluptates insaniae de Amore scortatorio (Amsterdam: 1768).
De Commercio Animae et Corporis, quod creditur fieri vel per Influxum
Physicum, vel per Influxum Spiritualem, vel per Harmoniam Praestabilitam
Summaria Exposition Doctrinae Novae Ecclesiae, quae per Novam Hierosolymam
in Apocalypsi intelligitur (Amsterdam: 1769). The work consists mainly of
critique of traditional Protestant and Catholic doctrine: the only
"exposition of the doctrine of the New Church" is a set of proposed chapter
titles, of which the actual chapter titles of True Christian Religion may
be regarded as a significant revision.
Vera Christiana Religio, continens universam Theologiam Novae Ecclesiae, a
Domino apud Danielem cap. vii.13, 14 35 in Apocalypsi cap. xxi.1, 2
praedictae (Amsterdam: 1771). This was a single volume publication. The
second Latin edition, published by Jo. Fr. Im. Tafel in Tübingen and London
in 1857-58, was in two volumes. In 1852-52, however, the French translation
by le Boys des Guays was published in three volumes (Paris: M, Minot). No
other three-volume edition is attested. I find this particularly intriguing
in view of the fact that this is one of the titles Solovyov cites in Latin.
Apocalypsis explicata secundum sensum spiritualem, cf. n. 46 supra.
Editor's title. This was little more than a notebook, clearly for his own
benefit and with no intent of publication. It was first published in Latin
Presumably the work referred to above as The Word Explained. Its first
Latin publication (4 vols. J. F. I. Tafel, ed., Tübingen, 1847-1854) was
under the editorial title, Adversaria in libros veteris testamenti, "Notes
on the books of the Old Testament." Cf. n. 30 supra.
A manuscript that seems nearly ready for publication: some of the
paragraphs consist of single sentences only, and were apparently intended
for amplification, but for the most part the text is quite presentably
written. The probable date of composition is 1766; the first Latin edition
was published in 1840.
Quaestiones Novem de Trinitate, etc. ad Emanuelem Swedenborg propositae a
Thomas Hartley, tum illius responsa (London: R. Hindmarsh, 1785). The Rev.
Thomas Hartley also prompted the 1769 autobiographical letter mentioned
Coronis seu appendix ad Verum Christianam Religionem: in qua de quatuor
Ecclesiis in hac tellure a creatione mundi, deque illarum periodis et
consummatione; et deinde de Nova Ecclesia quatuor illis successura, quae
futura corona illarum; deque adventu Domini ad illam hodie, et de divino
auspicio Ipsius in illa in aeternum: et porro mysterio redemptionis ("A
conclusion or appendix to True Christian Religion: dealing with the four
churches on this earth since the creation of the world and their periods
and consummation; then with the New Church which is to succeed those four
and is to be their crown; then concerning the Lord's present day advent for
that purpose and his divine guidance over it forever, and further, the
mystery of redemption"). N.B. Coronis = "conclusion, appendix:" corona =
"crown." It should probably be noted that Swedenborg's followers have at
one time or another published virtually everything he put on paper.
Swedenborg had little patience with philosophy to the extent that it
appeared to be an attempt to construct a consistent verbal system. It
should be noted, though, that during his university years the Cartesian
controversy was very much alive, that his thesis was on Seneca, and that
there are accurate comments on both Aristotle and Leibniz in his
theological works. Cf. also the posthumously published A Philosopher's
Notebook, A. Acton, ed., (Philadelphia: Swedenborg Scientific Association,
1931. Reprinted 1976), in which Swedenborg apparently collected quotations
from philosophers that represented their thoughts on issues of particular
concern to him. This was probably compiled between 1741 and 1744--just
before his theological period. In his published theological works he shows
no interest whatever in providing references for his comments on
The title page of a volume of Plotinus with Swedenborg's signature on it
has been preserved, perhaps from his university days. It should also be
noted that the professor of Hebrew at Uppsala University in Swedenborg's
era, Johann Kemper, wrote three volumes attempting to show that the Zohar
contained the Christian doctrine of the trinity, translated the Gospel of
Matthew into Hebrew, and wrote a cabbalistic commentary on it. Cf. n. 33
supra. It seems highly unlikely that Solovyov would have had access to this
While it is quite true that Swedenborg regards the human form as by far
the most adequate image of the Divine, he clearly points to the unknowable
Divine beyond that form. Cf., for example, True Christian Religion ¶ 339,
"we ought to believe . . . in God the Savior Jesus Christ, ecause this is
to believe in a visible God in whom is the invisible; and faith in a
visible God, who is at the same time both human and divine, enters into
us," and ibid. ¶ 538, where "the Father," the Divine beyond or within the
incarnate Lord, is said to be "invisible, unapproachable, and non
susceptible of union with us."
A reference to Colossians 2:9, which is one of the few passages of the
Epistles cited by Swedenborg with some frequency.
The distinction is accurate, but the terminology is reversed. Devils are
those whose whose antagonism is directed primarily against love, and satans
those whose antagonism is directed primarily against truth. Cf. Swedenborg,
The Apocalypse Revealed, ¶ 387.
This description is at best an approximation of the picture Swedenborg
presents. For him, everyone who dies in adulthood has made the fundamental
decision for heaven or for hell, but more or less time in the "World of
Spirits" may be necessary for that decision to become manifest and for any
reservations about it to be dismissed. The essential mechanism of this
process is the gradual loss of the ability to act and speak in such a way
as to conceal one's inner nature. As this happens, the good are attracted
to the good and the evil to the evil.
It may be argued that this "vacillation" is simply Swedenborg's
unwillingness to indulge in the oversimplifications of either materialism
or idealism. He does develop in some detail a doctrine of distinct levels
of reality which related to each other according to laws of influx and
correspondence. Cf. especially the first two chapters of his Divine Love
Swedenborg's stock phrase is sicut [a se] (Arcana Coelestia ¶¶ 47, 17122,
et passim). Solovyov's synonymous quasi presupposes the kind of fluency
with Latin that would enable him to attend to meaning rather than to
particular items of vocabulary.
Swedenborg rarely uses the word aura, and so far as I can discover, never
in description of the Divine. Far more frequent in a quite similar meaning
is the word sphaera, which is predicated of the Divine in, for example,
Arcana Coelestia ¶¶ 3645, 36462, and 3660e. An extended discussion of the
Holy Spirit may be found in Arcana Coelestia ¶ 9818, while the trinity
itself is treated in the first three chapters of True Christian Religion.
In The Apocalypse Revealed, Marital Love, A Brief Exposition, and True
Christian Religion, Swedenborg appended to sections or chapters stories of
his experiences in the spiritual world, which he referred to as
memorabilia--roughly, "noteworthy events." This is not true of Arcana
Coelestia, however, where the interchapter material is consistently
expository, with narrative kept to a minimum.
:The story that Solovyov proceeds to relate reflects with considerable
accuracy Swedenborg's view of the dynamics of the spiritual world,
especially his fundamental concept of what we might call "the law of
spiritual gravity" whereby persons of like temperament naturally gather
together, the good thus forming heaven and the evil forming hell. However,
while equivalents of most parts of the story can be found, they are nowhere
gathered into the narrative which Solovyov presents. My annotations may
serve to demonstrate the eclectic nature of this particular text.
John Faulkner Potts' (six volume) The Swedenborg Concordance lists
forty-one references to the middle heaven, usually called "the middle or
second heaven" (¶¶ 4240, 4279 (bis), 4286 (bis), 4411, 4605, 5145, 5328,
5922 (bis), 6013, 6065, 6366, 6417, 6524, 6832, 8443, 8920, 9407, 9408,
9457, 9468, 9543, 9592, 9615, 9670 (bis), 9673, 9680, 9684, 9741, 9811,
9933, 9992, 10005, 10062, 10130, and 10181). All of these are descriptive
rather than narrative, and while it is clearly assumed that Swedenborg has
"been there," it is never so stated. The same is true of like references in
Heaven and Hell (¶¶ 15, 29, 31, 33, 34, 65, 100, 207, 208, 210, 280, and
295), in The Apocalypse Revealed (¶ 49), in Soul-Body Interaction (¶ 16),
and in True Christian Religion (¶¶ 121 and 580).
Swedenborg often describes the overall form of heaven as a human form,
referring to it as maximux homo or "the universal human" (traditionally,
"the Grand Man). Cf. for example, Arcana Coelestia 1894, 3624. In Arcana
Coelestia 3637 he does state that this maximus homo, "in the highest sense
is th Lord alone" (in supremo sensu est Solus Dominus), but when he
describes various locations he uniformly refers to this "body" as maximus
homo--never, so far as I can discover, as "the Lord." He associates the
heart with the right side of the body and with the third or highest heaven
and the lungs with the left side and with the second or middle heaven (cf.
Arcana Coelestia ¶¶ 418, 9050). I do not find any reference to a location
"left of the stomach," though both sinster and ventriculus occur fairly
frequently as indications of spiritual location.
Swedenborg uses quoad almost exclusively in the sense of "in respect to."
For the meaning intended here, he regularly uses propter: cf., e.g., Heaven
and Hell ¶ 557, Amor coelestis est amare usus propter usus, seu bona
propter bona, "Heavenly love is loving service for the sake of service, or
good [acts] for the sake of good [acts]." I have not found a passage where
he speaks of loving what is true for the sake of the good or because it is
good. He frequently contrasts "heavenly" and "spiritual," the former
referring to what we might call an essentially affective intuition and use
of truth and the latter to an essentially cognitive use of
affect--incidentally, locating the "celestial" in the right side of the
brain and the "spiritual" in the left (cf. Arcana Coelestia, ¶ 641)--but I
do not find the equivalent of the phrase which Solovyov quotes here.
There is an aproximate parallel to this in Arcana Coelestia, ¶ 3884.
While I do not find this particular incident recorded, there are several
instances where Swedenborg interpreted physical sensations in terms of
spiritual qualities, Cf.. e.g., Arcana Coelestia, ¶ 5714, where the
influence of a particular adulterer was felt as "pain in the periosteum . .
. and in the toes of the left foot" and a "strong feeling of heaviness in
the stomach." Cf. a similar incident in ¶ 5720.
Swedenborg is quite capable of speaking about "the devil" in colloquial
style (e.g., "It is slavery to be led by the devil," Arcana Coelestia, ¶
2890), but when presenting his concepts of spiritual reality, he is careful
to insist that there is no single ruler of the hells. Cf. especially Heaven
and Hell, ¶ 311, with the summary statement, "Hell in its whole complex is
that is called the devil and Satan."
This might reflect the relatively infrequent cum venia of True Christian
Religion, ¶ 80. Venia as "willing consent" falls between voluntas, "intent"
and permissio, "toleration" in Marital Love, ¶ 41. The context in True
Christian Religion is the story of a "satan" who cum venia comes up from
hell, but this satan comes with a woman apparently to be interviewed
concerning his theology.
This phenomenon is noted in the context of different incidents in Arcana
Coelestia, ¶¶ 817, 952, 4328, and 5865.
As far as I am aware, the notion of a devil being compelled to visit
heaven has no parallel in Swedenborg's accounts. He does tell of "evil
spirits" wanting to come into heaven and being allowed to, but the notion
of compulsion by an angel is quite alien to his sense of spiritual
dynamics. In Marital Love, ¶ 415, there is the story of two "satans" who
want to speak with angels and are given two angels as custodia. Clearly,
however, the satans are not "prisoners" in this account.
This is a recurrent theme in Swedenborg's descriptions and offers a kind
of visual image of his contention that human beings are capable of
preferring hell with a passion. Arcana Coelestia, ¶ 1820 may be referred to
as an example.
While I do not find Swedenborg making this point in exactly these words,
Solovyov here reflects his doctrine very accurately. The principle is
stated and discussed in Chapter 57 of Heaven and Hell under the title, "The
Lord Does Not Cast Anyone into Hell; Rather, the Spirits Themselves Do So"
(Quod Dominus neminem in Infernum dejiciat, sed quod ipse spiritus semet).
The documentation is probably as good as one could expect. In response to
a request from a friend, Fraulein von Knobloch, Kant looked into the
reports of clairvoyance and reported himself impressed with the reliability
of the accounts, despite his own well-known skepticism. His letter to this
effect is published in English translation in Tafel, op. cit., Vol. II, pp.
The case was not actually dropped until after Swedenborg's death. There
had been a finding against Dr. Beyer and his colleague, Dr. Rosen, which
had been appealed. Dr. Rosen died before the charges were withdrawn.
He is reported to have said to the pastor (Ferelius), "As truly as you see
me before your eyes, so true is everything that I have written; and I could
have said more had it been permitted. When you enter eternity you will see
everything, and then you and I shall have much to talk about" (Cyriel
Sigstedt, The Swedenborg Epic [New York: Bookman, 1952], p. 432).
This continues to function in London. Its equivalent in the United States
is the Swedenborg Foundation, now headquartered in West Chester,
The title page of this indicates that it is translated from the Penny
cyclopedia of the Society for the Dissemination of Useful Knowledge. It
seems quite clearly to reflect an abridgement of the Wilkinson biography
which Solovyov lists just below; and since in that biography Wilkinson
refers to his own article on Jesper Swedberg in that Cyclopedia, it is
quite possible that the abridgment was by him rather than by the
It may be of interest that this work was also published in Baltimore,
Maryland. There were several German-speaking Swedenborgian congregations in
the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
White had written a very favorable biography which was published in two
volumes in 1867, then condensed and published in a single volume in 1868.
After he was fired from his post as manager of the Swedenborg Society, he
wrote and published the 1874 biography, which is distinctly hostile in