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Phenomena like Swedenborg's are the comets of the Moral World. Till we have noticed their periodical return, we are apt to regard them as signals of some change and revolution in the divine economy of things. Intervals of a few centuries have rarely elapsed in the history of Christendom without the appearance of some earnest and enthusiastic spirit, that, mistaking its own intense convictions for actual messengers from Heaven, has felt itself invested with superhuman authority to rouse the slumbering faith and conscience of mankind, and urge them, in the name of the promised Paraclete, to fill up the wanting proportions of a perfect Church. Montanus, Manes, even Mahomet, and mystic reformers of less extended name in the mediæval period-are links in a series of kindred phenomena, of which Swedenborg is the last and most extraordinary manifestation. Motives less pure may in some cases have mixed themselves with the governing conviction ; but generally, and where great results have followed, we believe such outbursts of the religious life, in their first fresh earnestness, to have been profoundly sincere. Why they have been, and may be expected to become, less common with the progress of civilisation, is to be explained partly from the fact, that the habitudes of modern life are unfavourable to the mental conditions in which they originate, and partly from men's learning to distinguish, as the philosophy of our frame is better understood, their own subjective creations from outward realities. In Swedenborg the influences of an earlier and a later age were singularly compounded. Inheriting the psychological peculiarities of the old Scandinavian mountaineer, and retaining the childlike faith that was anciently associated with them-he had at the same time steeped his spirit deeply in the rarest essence of the most recent science and philosophy. And the result was what we have witnessed-puzzling to those who have not analysed it into its elements,—the soul of a genuine Norseman, still beating with its native instincts and primæval beliefs, projected into the central light of the eighteenth century, and clothed with the abstractions and formalities of the most advanced of its schools.
We deem it unnecessary to allude particularly to the cases of pre-vision and immediate acquaintance with events at a distance, which are much insisted on by the biogra
phers of Swedenborg. They are many of them, it must be confessed, remarkably attested; but whether we admit or reject them is a question that has no bearing on the determination of his prophetic claims. Cases of the same kind are reported of other individuals, apparently on unexceptionable evidence, without our being expected to attach superhuman authority to their words : or if such a pretension were advanced in behalf of any of them, their characters would generally suffice to repel it. All these cases must remain as they are, insulated, and at present inexplicable, phenomena in the constitution of certain minds. For ourselves, we are disposed to hold our judgment in suspense respecting them, balanced as it is almost equally between testimony which we know not how to reject, and the inference from it which we are unable to admit.*
Great stress is laid by those who regard Swedenborg as a true prophet of God, on his doctrine
of correspondences, which reveals, they say, as with a light from Heaven, the spiritual and celestial meanings hidden within the natural sense of the Divine Word. But this multiplication of senses is no new thing in the history of Biblical exegesis. It is the expedient to which all have had recourse in every age of the Church, who were unable to reconcile the natural meaning with their increased intelligence and humanity, and yet could not surrender their hereditary belief in the plenary inspiration of the sacred texts. Philo, under the old dispensation, Clemens and Origen among the early Christians, have been the precursors in this respect and for the same reason, of Swedenborg in modern times. The most general answer to every modification of this theory is, that it rests on an assumption which indisputable facts completely overturn. We know the origin of the different books of Scripture-if not their particular authors, yet the
* A rational and dispassionate history of such cases, drawn from all literatures and every period of civilisation, is a desideratum. Such a digest of facts must lead to some results; for the parallelisms one meets with even in the general course of reading, are marvellous. Dr. Tafel has adduced some curious instances from Augustine (De Cura gerendâ pro Mortuis, c. 10); others might be added from Tertullian. The story told by Augustine of the discovery of the quittance of a debt, which was claimed a second time, by the appearance of a deceased party in a dream, is almost in every particular identical with the case of the Countess Marteville, in which Swedenborg was concerned.-Sammlung, I. p. 121.
circumstances generally under which they must have originated-the influences that regulated their composition-in many cases, their heterogeneous elements-and the conditions under which they have been transmitted to us :-and these circumstances alone suffice to prove to any competently instructed man, that their plenary inspiration is impossible. In the parallelism of the poetical and prophetic diction of the Hebrews, and in their hereditary system of types and figures founded on the physical aspects of their native land and the traditions of their forefathers-there is no doubt a loose foundation for carrying to a certain extent the doctrine of correspondences. But the very principles on which Swedenborg constructed that doctrine, show how little efficacy it could have had in elaborating a fixed and definite sense, and how flexible an instrument it must have been to every impression of his creative subjectivity. Correspondences, he lays it down, relate to universals—that is, to the most general and abstract forms of moral and spiritual truth-Love, Wisdom, Peace, Intelligence, &c. The parallelisms of the sacred phraseology represent the parallel functions of the understanding and the will in two corresponding series. Every word in the one series expresses some truth or its opposite false, and every word in the other, some good or its opposite evil.* With such large and indefinite conditions-universals exhibiting the fundamental idea and all the subordinated terms with a negative and a positive sideit is plain that a man of moderate ingenuity could evolve everything out of anything. Swedenborg has developed from Scripture so interpreted, a theological system rational in many respects and beautiful; but it was not because his mind obeyed the leading of correspondences, but because correspondences were the ready and pliant instruments of his mind.
While we are compelled to deny the supernatural claims advanced for Swedenborg by his followers, we admit on the
, other hand freely, that he possessed many of the attributes of a genuine prophet, and that from the intense concentration of his naturally superior faculties on spiritual things, he has thrown a deep and penetrating glance into realities that lie at the very heart of our being.--Stripped of its grosser anthropomorphism and mystic accompani
* True Christian Religion,' 250. “Heaven and Hell,' 357, note.
ts, there is an element of truth in his fundamental doctrine, that man cannot believe in God and love him as a real Being, till he conceives of him as the infinite perfection of Humanity. This view kills the root of Pantheism. All worship, which is affection chastened by awe, implies sympathy; and sympathy can only subsist between
kindred natures.-In his doctrine of universals, as the types of singulars and essential to the conservation of all things, he boldly maintained in an age of triumphant Nominalism, a theory which since the days of Goethe, has begun again to hold up its head, and under the sanction of high names seems to be recovering the favour of scientific men.-In his refined materialism, regarding body as the function and instrument of an inner life which comes direct from God, we trace an affinity with views put forth by Herder in his ‘Ideas on the Philosophy of Human History.' - There was a profound significance in his doctrine, that Will is the sovereign attribute of Man, and Intellect but its agent: that the Life of Man consists in his predominant Love; and that herein, if he elect it wisely, lies his true and eternal good. Connate ideas he did not admit. Nothing he held was original in Man, but the primitive loves, capable of perversion, which impel him to the acquisition of knowledge and the pursuit of good.-In making Will the feminine, and Intellect the masculine, attribute of the Soul, he has done honour to Woman, and approached a favourite dogma of Zinzendorf, and will find sympathy with some more recent speculators on the higher questions of psychology.-Most fully does he appear to have penetrated into the true nature of religious belief,—that it cannot be originated by science, although, where it already exists, science may help to explain and defend it. Miracles he clearly saw were compulsive in their influence, converting man from a spiritual into a merely natural agent.*
But it was in his vivid realisation of the scenes of the Future Life, that we discern at once the wildest aberrations of his fancy and the profoundest depths of his wisdom. No one ever more clearly expressed the views which Reason
can alone approve on this awful and interesting theme, and which, as put forth by him, present Immortality to us as an organic development and natural completion of a great moral process commenced on earth. We except alone from this general sentence of approval, his doctrine that the separation of the virtuous and the wicked will be final and irreversible. Interminable suffering and helpless degradation even for the most heinous transgressions of the weak and short-lived tenant of a world like ours, contradict all our notions of Divine mercy and justice. In this point the besetting formalism of Swedenborg got the better of his deeper humanities. But his main views are eminently sound and benevolent, and possess this capital excellence, that they hold out something to the mind which is congenial to its present experience, and make Heaven a reality. The Life of the Future World for good or for evil, is the growth of Earth. What men are here, they will be hereafter-their own moral nature becoming the direct instrument of retribution. All delights, by the constitution of man's being, flow from Love. His delight in the other world will be of the same quality as the delight of his spirit in this. His present tastes and inclinations will not be broken off, but yield their respective fruits beyond the grave. Men will be convicted from the witness of their own memories : for the memory of the individual constitutes the Book of Life, from which he will be judged and condemned. Evil is the root of its own suffering; it is so intimately conjoined with its punishment, that the two cannot be separated. Few thoughts have been more profoundly conceived than the following.
" Man has an external memory and an internal memory; an external memory which is of his natural man, and an internal memory which is of his spiritual man. Everything which man thinks, wills, and speaks, or which he has done, heard or seen, is inscribed on his internal or spiritual memory; but whatever is received into the spiritual memory is never blotted out, for it is inscribed at the same time on the spirit itself, and on the members of its body, and thus the spirit is formed according to the thoughts and acts of the wilī."*_ Another deep glance of Swedenborg's taught him, that the
* • Heaven and Hell,' 464.