Puslapio vaizdai

the Finite and the Infinite. Of this nexus, as of the Infinite itself, we simply see that it must exist. Of its quality we know nothing. Nevertheless, we can discern thus much-that the Infinite must be the final and the efficient cause of everything that exists—the whole intervening system of means which connect the first primitive with the last effect, deriving their energy and working from it alone. Creation then exists by and for the Infinite. All other ends are subordinate to this final end. Now, viewing Creation as a descending fluxion of effects, while the Infinite has no limits, the proper Finite has two -a prior and a posterior. But the pure Simple, in which the primal force of Creation exits, has only one limitviz. towards the Finite: towards the Infinite, it is without a limit. In this Simple, then, on the à priori side of Creation, we find the nexus of the Finite and the Infinite. If again we pursue Creation to its last effect in Man, we find that he too, on one side of his being, touches on the Infinite. For though his nature bodily and mental is finite, yet through his power of knowing, adoring and loving the Infinite, he has access to it, and is open towards it. So long as his nature is in harmony with God, he connects the Finite and the Infinite. On both sides, therefore, of Creation, à priori and à posteriori, we find a nexus with the Infinite. Thus far the argument of Swedenborg has kept to the ground of Natural Religion : from this point, it plunges at once into the dogmas of a traditional Theology. This union with God-he proceeds—is the normal condition of humanity. So it existed in Eden. But the union was dissolved by the Fall; and it has been taken up and knit together again through the incarnation of Christ, who by that event brought Humanity into direct contact with Deity. His redemption is available for all, whether his name be known to them or not, whose minds recognise the existence of the Infinite; for inasmuch as they recognise the Infinite, they virtually recognise Christ. Swedenborg winds up his argument in the following way. All things in Creation are subordinate to man. All effects run up into and centre in him. He is the end and crown of Creation. As Christ by becoming flesh thus outwardly and visibly links man's nature with the Infinite-we have in Revelation a clear confirmation of the previous assumption of Reason that the Universe exists for the Infinitethat it is embraced in the Infinite—that the Infinite is its first cause and final end.

This argument on the Infinite has been extolled as a masterpiece of abstract reasoning. We confess it does not appear so to us. The reasoning is more specious than solid. It yields if we touch it. We perceive on the slightest analysis of the argument, that it only disguises the original difficulty in a new form of words. For whatever be the difficulty in conceiving a direct connexion of the Finite with the Infinite, it is certainly not diminished -to us it is rather increased—by the assumption of a nexus between them which is at once finite and infinite, for the two predicates destroy one another, and only leave a negation where we were promised an idea. Again, we cannot but ask, how the fact of Christ's incarnation reunites the links between God and Man, dissolved by the Fall—especially for those who know not Christ, and to whom therefore he cannot furnish either motive or example. The break was a moral one; it cannot be made good by a historical event. There is something very mechanical in Swedenborg's conception of this transaction. He takes a type for a process, and confounds an illustration with an agency. Unless the whole of humanity past, present and to come, had been centred in Christ, his incarnation could not have been availing for universal redemption even in the mechanical sense here understood.* His argument on the Soul, though imperfectly developed, is to us clearer and more worthy of thought than that on the Infinite. The Soul, he admits, is finite, naturally mortal, and governed like the body by mechanical and geometric laws. For the laws of causes are discovered in their effects, and the visible phænomena of body suggest the invisible phænomena of mind, which are anterior to them and operate through them. In the descending order of Creation there is an intellectual agency which precedes all corporeal manifestation. In accordance with his general theory already explained, Swedenborg described the Soul as an Active enclosed within space by Finites-i. e. by membranes. Through these membranes and what he called the contiguum of elemental influence, he supposed outward impressions to be conveyed to the mind, and ideas and volitions to re-act on the external world. Although the mechanism of the Soul was in his view geometric, he considered it to belong to a higher and purer region of existence, not subject to the changes of grosser matter; and though not immortal through any inherent quality, made such by the goodness of God, who permits it to unite itself indissolubly with Him, and pours into it His own divine energy. This doctrine of divine influx, here slightly indicated, afterwards assumed a more important place in his theological system.* This work was reviewed in the Acta Eruditorum for 1735, where its principles were charged with a tendency towards Materialism. But the Materialism of Swedenborg was refined and attenuated like that of Boscovich and Priestley, and is most distinctly reconcilable with the fact of immortality.

* Perhaps this was the idea in Swedenborg's mind; for according to him, -as we shall see, when we come to speak of his Theology in its whole extent --the essence of Humanity dwelt in Christ.

We request the reader's forgiveness for having detained him so long on a theme that lies remote from the present interests and sympathies of the world. But the view thus afforded of the growth and aim of Swedenborg's mind, seemed to us an important element towards forming a just estimate of the remarkable phænomena exhibited in the final development of his character. He now began to apply himself with uncommon ardour to the study of human anatomy, travelling in quest of the most eminent teachers and the best books into Holland, Germany and Italy — still looking to spiritual results and a deeper insight into the Soul, as the consummation of his inquiries. The fruit of these studies was seen in two of the most important of his earlier works—the Economy of the Animal Kingdom, published at Amsterdam in 1740-41—and the Animal Kingdom, which came out at the Hague in 1744-5. The interval between these dates he seems to have occupied entirely with pursuits of this description. His knowledge of the human frame was gained chiefly, it would appear, from books and plates. He has left, we are told, voluminous MSS. filled with notes and extracts from the

* In this treatise on the Soul, the ideas of Life and Mind (as in some of the old Heathen philosophies) seem to be in a manner confounded.

[ocr errors]

most eminent writers on Anatomy and Physiology-all digested in admirable scientific order for the apprehension and development of general truths. He was not an original observer, nor is there any evidence of his having been a dissector. He was distinguished rather for a wide and superficial range of view, than for minute exactness of investigation. But Mr. Wilkinson, who is well qualified to give a verdict in this case, assures us, that his works, though out of date as records of anatomical fact, are still inestimable for the spirit of study with which they are imbued, for their frequent suggestions, and their happy divination of comprehensive laws.

The last work which we shall mention in connexion with this period of his life, and which marks the transition from scientific studies (which however had long been gradually melting into theosophy) to a new development of thought, is his Worship and Love of God, published in London 1745. Judging from Mr. Wilkinson's description and analysis, which is our only means of forming an opinion, it was a strange performance to come from the pen of a man, now fifty-seven years of age, the whole of whose early life had been devoted to the severest and most exact departments of mental activity. But a new power was evidently springing up and shooting forth beneath the scientific crust that had formed over his mind. The Worship and Love of God is a cosmogonical myth, in which he has given scope to his imagination, and in rich poetic envelopment set forth his ideas concerning the origin of the earth, and the cradle of the human race. Mr. Wilkinson's account of this book, though in a somewhat luscious style, is written with considerable beauty.

We here take leave of Swedenborg as a man of learning and science, and his title to consideration in this character cannot perhaps be more fairly given than in the candid estimate of his admiring biographer.

“ Undoubtedly," says Mr. Wilkinson, “his learning was not so thorough as to lead to danger of mere scholarship: nay, from long experience in editing his works, we pronounce his acquaintance with the ancients loose and inexact; and with more modern writers, (we speak principally of the anatomists,) undoubtedly wide and general, but by no means verbatim et litteratim. Theory was his joy, and so strongly did he asseverate his main discoveries, that he often based


them on citations which will not bear their weight. His ignorance, however, of philosophy, and inability to learn or remember it, were the defences of that freedom which made him what he was. In this he is like other originators, who happily did not comprehend the details of that which they departed from; had they understood these in the way in which sympathy understands, it is probable that they would not have escaped in time from their systematic fascination."

Some time between the years 1743 and 45+ (for the dates of the different accounts vary, and the state of mind now permanently superinduced, seems to have been gradually prepared), an event occurred, which from its strange character and the remarkable effects by which it was followed, it will be best to narrate in Swedenborg's own words. They are thus reported by his friend, M. Robsahm.

“I was in London, and dined late at my usual quarters, where I had engaged a room, in which at pleasure to prosecute 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 a corner of the chamber. As I 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 alone in my room. The unexpected alarm hastened my return home. I did not suffer my landlord to perceive that anything 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. 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

• P. 61. A large part of this biography filled up with analyses of Swedenborg's different publications. A further account of one portion of them will be found in the Author's 'Popular Sketch of Swedenborg's Philosophical Works. London: 1847.'

+ In a letter to the Rev. Mr. Hartley, dated 1769, Swedenborg says, that the Lord had personally manifested himself to him, and opened his spiritual sight, in 1743. According to an entry in his Diary, the same event appears to be referred to April 1745. What is certain is, that from this latter date the change of mind became decided and permanent, which has led many to regard him as a supernaturally gifted Seer.

[ocr errors]


« AnkstesnisTęsti »