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Abstract Of Swedenborgianism
by [?]

ABSTRACT OF SWEDENBORGIANISM:
BY IMMANUEL KANT.

(May, 1824.)

—-But now to my hero. If many a forgotten writer, or writer destined to be forgotten, is on that account the more deserving of applause for having spared no cost of toil and intellectual exertion upon his works, certainly Swedenborg of all such writers is deserving of the most. Without doubt his flask in the moon is full; and not at all less than any of those which Ariosto saw in that planet filled with the lost wits of men, so thoroughly is his great work emptied of every drop of common sense. Nevertheless there prevails in every part so wonderful an agreement with all that the most refined and consistent sense under the same fantastic delusions could produce on the same subject, that the reader will pardon me if I here detect the same curiosities in the caprices of fancy which many other virtuosi have detected in the caprices of nature; for instance, in variegated marble, where some have discovered a holy family; or in stalactites and petrifactions, where others have discovered monks, baptismal fonts, and organs; or even in frozen window-panes, where our countryman Liscow, the humourist, discovered the number of the beast and the triple crown; things which he only is apt to descry, whose head is preoccupied with thoughts about them.

The main work of this writer is composed of eight quarto volumes full of nonsense, which he presented to the world as a new revelation under the title of Arcana Coelestia. In this work his visions are chiefly directed to the discovery of the secret sense in the two first books of Moses, and to a similar way of interpreting the whole of the Scripture. All these fantastic interpretations are nothing to my present purpose: those who have any curiosity may find some account of them in the Bibliotheca Theologica of Dr. Ernesti. All that I design to extract are his audita et visa, from the supplements to his chapters–that which he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears: for these parts of his dreams it is which are to be considered as the foundation of all the rest. Swedenborg’s style is dull and mean. His narrations and their whole contexture appear in fact to have originated in a disorder of his sensitive faculty, and suggest no reason for suspecting that the speculative delusions of a depraved intellect have moved him to invent them. Viewed in this light, they are really of some importance–and deserve to be exhibited in a short abstract; much more indeed than many a brainless product of fantastic philosophers who swell our journals with false subtilties; for a coherent delusion of the senses is always a more remarkable phenomenon than a delusion of the intellect; inasmuch as the grounds of this latter delusion are well known, and the delusion itself corrigible enough by self-exertion and by putting more check upon the rash precipitation of the judgment; whereas a delusion of the senses touches the original foundation of all judgment, and where it exists is radically incapable of all cure from logic. I distinguish therefore in our author his craziness of sense from his crazy wits; and I pass over his absurd and distorted reasonings in those parts where he abandons his visions, for the same reason that in reading a philosopher we are often obliged to separate his observations from his arguments: and generally, delusive experiences are more instructive than delusive grounds of experience in the reason. Whilst I thus rob the reader of some few moments, which otherwise perhaps he would have spent with no greater profit in reading works of abstract philosophy that are often of not less trivial import,–I have at the same time provided for the delicacy of his taste by the omission of many chimaeras, and by concentrating the essence of the book into a few drops; and for this I anticipate no less gratitude from him than (according to the old story) a patient expressed towards his physicians–who had contented themselves with ordering him to eat the bark of the quinquina, when it was clearly in their power to have insisted on his eating up the whole tree.