« AnkstesnisTęsti »
derangement makes in the normal texture of the human system, we obtain a glimpse otherwise unattainable of the interior working of its marvellous organisation.
The growing interest in the character of Swedenborg may be inferred from the number of biographies that have appeared within a recent period. Between the years 1839 and 1844, Dr. Tafel, University Librarian at Tübingen, collected with true German diligence from a variety of sources, and published in four parts, a mass of materials illustrating the life and character of this extraordinary man. These were subsequently translated into English by the Rev. J. H. Smithson of Manchester, and then republished with further additions by Professor Bush of New York. Towards the close of the last year, Mr. Wilkinson gave to the world his more attractive and popular volume, setting the bare statements of the earlier narratives in a glowing framework of expository eomment.—Intimately familiar with the doctrines of Swedenborg, as the translator and editor of many of his works, and imbued with religious veneration for his memory, he possesses many of the qualifications of a successful biographer; for if his strong predilection and foregone conclusion are apparent in every page, his warm and earnest colouring leaves perhaps a deeper sense of general truth and reality, than the cold and lifeless outlines that might be more accurately traced by a mind wholly dispassionate. His reasonings indeed often seem to us inconclusive, and his treatment of other philosophies assumes at times the tone of flippancy. He possesses no small share of poetic feeling; but in a too evident straining after ornament and brilliancy, his style constantly overflows in a luminous haziness of diction, through which it is very difficult to discover his precise meaning. He gives us a sparkling profusion of words, where we should be thankful for one clear idea ; and after the fashion of certain French authors, when he should produce an argument, he simply turns a phrase. On the whole, however, his work is clever and suggestive, and will be read with interest.
Availing ourselves of the sources of information indicated at the head of this article, we shall briefly lay before the reader the principal events in the outward life of Swedenborg, as the best preparation for understanding his
Religious Philosophy, and estimating at their proper value the allegations of supernatural authority that he put forth in evidence of its truth.
Emanuel Swedenborg or Swedberg (for that was his original name) was born in 1688, descended from a family of credit and respectability in Stora Kopparberg, a great mining district in Sweden. His father, a man of learning and ability, distinguished for his religious fervour, and his activity in the promotion of missions among the Heathen, was bishop of Skara in East Gothland.-From early childhood Emanuel was remarkable for his devotional susceptibility. His parents wondering at his observations, often said that angels spoke through his mouth. At the proper age he repaired to the University of Upsala, where he applied with peculiar assiduity to Mathematics and the Physical Sciences. He did not however neglect the Litere Humaniores, of which he gave proof by publishing when very young, a selection from Seneca and Publius Syrus, and two volumes of his own compositions in Latin.* After taking his degree as Doctor of Philosophy, he travelled for some years in England and on the Continent, and appears to have passed some time at the Universities of Oxford and Greifswalde. On his return he attracted the favourable regards of Charles XII. who had himself considerable talent for the Mathematics, and held them in great estimation. Swedenborg was employed by that Prince in several engineering operations of importance, and in particular constructed a machine for transporting ships overland to the siege of Frederickshall. In 1719 the Swedberg family was admitted into the lowest order of Swedish Nobility, and took the name of Swedenborg. He was entitled by this elevation to a seat with the equestrian nobles in the triennial assemblies of the States. At the
* L Annæi Senecæ et Pub. Syri Mimi, forsan et aliorum Selectæ Sententiæ. Quas Notis illustratas edidit Emanuel Swedberg. 1709.
Ludus Heliconius, sive Carmina Miscellanea, quæ variis in locis cecinit Eman. Swedberg. Skaræ. 1715.
Camena Borea, cum Heroum et Heroidum factis ludens, sive Fabellæ Ovidianis Similes, &c., Ab Em. Swed. Gıyphiswaldæ. 1715. (These are in prose.)
in the newly awakened interest about Swedenborg, these publications of his youth have been rescued from dust and oblivion, and recently given to the world in a new edition by Dr. Tafel.
commencement of the last century, Sweden was beginning to participate more largely in the general culture and refinement of Europe, and her eminent men travelled into the more advanced countries of the South, to make themselves acquainted with the actual state of learning and the sciences, and to impart the knowledge of recent discoveries and inventions into their native land. Swedenborg was a great traveller with this view from an early period of his life, and a certain taste for wandering always remained with him after his enthusiasm had taken another direction. The titles of some of his publications about this time will mark the bent of his studies and the activity of his mind.-Among them we find A Proposal for a Decimal System of Money and Measures (reprinted as late as 1795)-Proofs derived from appearances in Sweden, of the depth of the Sea, and the greater force of the Tides, in the ancient world—A New Method of finding the Longitude of places, by Lunar observations (also reprinted in the latter part of his life)-Miscellaneous Observations connected with the Physical Sciences (a work in which, M. Dumas says, may be traced the first idea of the modern science of Crystallography)—On the Depreciation and Rise of the Swedish Currency (republished at Upsal in 1771).
In the unpublished portion of an introduction to Algebra, which is still extant in MS., he is said to have given the earliest account in Sweden of the Differential and Integral Calculus. During his travels he turned his attention to other objects besides science; and in the minuteness and variety of its observations on practical life, his Diary resembles that of Locke. In 1724 he was offered the vacant chair of Mathematics in the University of Upsal, but having previously accepted the office of Assessor to the Royal Board of Mines, he declined the situation.
The pursuits to which Swedenborg had hitherto chiefly devoted himself, were Geometry, Astronomy, Mechanics and Mineralogy. To perfect himself in the last with reference more immediately to the important post which he filled under the Swedish Government, was one object of his frequent travels. Chemistry, Geology and Physiology-sciences then in their infancy-had also strong attractions for him. It is curious to observe, with what felicitous divination he appears to have discerned the latent tendencies of the age
into which he had been born, and how he laid his hand, as it were by instinct, on the most improvable parts of human knowledge. Very early, however, he discovered a passion for theory and a leaning towards cosmogonical speculation; and this was strengthened by the deep religious feeling which he carried into all his studies, and which led him to seek, as their proper end, a full comprehension of the spiritual relations of the Universe. The correspondence in which at this time he was engaged with his brother in law, Eric Benzelius, afterwards Archbishop of Upsal, may also probably have quickened these aspirations after a religious consummation of his philosophy. From this time we can trace the formation in his mind of a vast plan of consecutive study-taking for its basis an exact knowledge of the great masses of unorganised matter, (with which his professional duties of course rendered him familiar)then rising from them into the regions of mechanics and chemistry, interpreted by the laws of geometry-passing on, at the next step, to human physiology-and so bending his course inwards continually, till he should open all the doors that lead to the soul, and at length contemplate the soul herself. “His object was,” says Mr. Wilkinson
-"to open a new way through natural knowledge to religious faith, and to transfer to Christianity the title deeds of the Sciences.” -(P. 49.)
. ) The nature of the works which he henceforth published, indicate the steps of this progress. In 1734 appeared at Dresden and Leipsic, the first of three volumes folio, inscribed to the Duke of Brunswick who had liberally patronised him, under the general title of Philosophical and Mineral Works. This first volume he designated Principia, because in it he explained his views of the first principles of the Universe. In its aim it was more akin to the à priori theorising of the earlier philosophies, than to the cautious inductive methods of the eighteenth century. He adopted in a modified sense the doctrine of vortices, and placed the primal generative force, issuing immediately from the Infinite, in a conatus towards spiral motion, which from its being circular in all its dimensions, he regarded as one perpetual ens, possessed of the highest perfection, being at once most highly mechanical and most highly geometrical. This primary movement con
necting the Finite with the Infinite he called a Simple, and the entities derived from it, he further distinguished into Actives and Finites, and lastly Composites or Elementaries compounded of the former two. The Active expressed the force transmitted from the Simple; the Finite was the limit or boundary of its operation. From their junction resulted the elements of creation; the Finite constituting the superficies, the Active filling the interiors. In these refined abstractions, which would have been as suitable to the infancy as to the maturity of Science, since they do not necessarily imply any extensive acquaintance with facts, we perceive the characteristic tendency of his mind to invest all his knowledge with a theosophic character. A work on Mineralogy did not require so metaphysical an introduction.
In the same year with the Principia, he put forth a small treatise intended to develope more fully some of its views, containing a philosophical argument on the Infinite and on the intercourse between the Soul and the Body-which has been translated into English with some introductory remarks by Mr. Wilkinson.* This argument advances him a step nearer to the high questions of Theology and Spiritual Psychology. He assumes the consciousness of the Infinite as a part of the original constitution of the human mind, though we are unable to comprehend it. We can show, he says, ' quod sit,' not quale sit.' But there is
' a further difficulty—to conceive the relation of the Infinite to the Finite-how one can act on the other—since they are incommensurable quantities, and one is to the other, as though it did not exist. How, then, are we to account for their connexion? There must be a nexus between them: and this nexus cannot be finite, otherwise it would be as all other finites, and the difficulty would only be thrown one step further back; neither can it be infinite, for by the supposition, the Infinite cannot act directly on the Finite. The nexus, therefore, to accomplish its purpose, must be of a mixed nature, and partake at once of
* The full title of the work in Latin is as follows: Prodromus Philosophiæ ratiocinantis de Infinito, et Causa Finali Creationis : deque Mechanismo Operationis Animæ et Corporis. Dresdæ et Lipsiæ, 1734 ;' which Mr. Wilkinson has rendered Outlines of a Philosophical Argument on the Infinite, etc.'