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Abstract Of Swedenborgianism
by [?]

One presiding doctrine in Swedenborg’s ravings is this: corporeal beings have no subsistence of their own, but exist merely by and through the spiritual world; although each body not by means of one spirit alone, but of all taken together. Hence the knowledge of material things has two meanings; an external meaning referring to the inter-dependencies of the matter upon itself, and an internal meaning in so far as they denote the powers of the spiritual world which are their causes. Thus the body of man has a system of parts related to each other agreeably to material laws: but, in so far as it is supported by the spirit which lives, its limbs and their functions have a symbolic value as expressions of those faculties in the soul from which they derive their form, mode of activity, and power of enduring. The same law holds with regard to all other things in the visible universe: they have (as has been said) one meaning as things–which is trivial, and another as signs–which is far weightier. Hence by the way arises the source of those new interpretations of Scripture which Swedenborg has introduced. For the inner sense,–that is, the symbolic relation of all things there recorded to the spiritual world,–is, as he conceits, the kernel of its value; all the rest being only its shell. All spirits represent themselves to one another under the appearance of extended forms; and the influences of all these spiritual beings amongst one another raise to them at the same time appearances of other extended beings, and as it were of a material world. Swedenborg therefore speaks of gardens–spacious regions–mansions–galleries–and arcades of spirits–as of things seen by himself in the clearest light; and he assures us–that, having many times conversed with all his friends after their death, he had almost always found in those who had but lately died–that they could scarcely convince themselves that they had died, because they saw round about them a world similar to the one they had quitted. He found also that spiritual societies, which had the same inner condition, had the same apparition of space and of all things in space; and that the change of their internal state was always accompanied by the appearance of a change of place.

I have already noticed that, according to our author, the various powers and properties of the soul stand in sympathy with the organs of the body entrusted to its government. The outer man therefore corresponds to the whole inner man; and hence, whenever any remarkable spiritual influence from the invisible world reaches one of these faculties of the soul, he is sensible also harmonically of the apparent presence of it in the corresponding members of his outer man. To this head now he refers a vast variety of sensations in his body which are uniformly connected with spiritual intuition; but the absurdity of them is so enormous that I shall not attempt to adduce even a single instance.—-By all this a preparation is made for the strangest and most fantastic of his notions in which all his ravings are blended. As different powers and faculties constitute that unity which is the soul or inner man, so also different spirits (whose leading characteristics bear the same relation to each other as the various faculties of a spirit) constitute one society which exhibits the appearance of one great man; and in this shadowy image every spirit is seen in that place and in those visible members which are agreeable to its proper function in such a spiritual body. And all spiritual societies taken together, and the entire universe of all these invisible beings, appears again in the form of a hugest and ultra-enormous man mountain: a monstrous and gigantic fancy, which perhaps has grown out of the school mode of representing a whole quarter of the world under the image of a virgin sitting. In this immeasurable man is an entire and inner commerce of each spirit with all, and of all with each; and, let the position of men in reference to each other be what it may, they take quite another position in this enormous man–a position which they never change, and which is only in appearance a local position in an immeasurable space, but in fact a determinate kind of relation and influence.

But I am weary of transcribing the delirious ravings of a poor visionary, the craziest that has ever existed, or of pursuing them to his descriptions of the state after death. I am checked also by other considerations. For, although in forming a medical museum it is right to collect specimens not only of natural but also of unnatural productions and abortions, yet it is necessary to be cautious before whom you show them: and amongst my readers there may happen to be some in a crazy condition of nerves; and it would give me pain to think that I had been the occasion of any mischief to them. Having warned them however from the beginning, I am not responsible for anything that may happen; and must desire that no person will lay at my door the moon-calves which may chance to arise from any teeming fancy impregnated by Mr. Swedenborg’s revelations.

In conclusion I have to say that I have not interpolated my author’s dreams with any surreptitious ones of my own; but have laid a faithful abstract before the economic reader, who might not be well pleased to pay seven pounds sterling for a body of raving. I have indeed omitted many circumstantial pictures of his intuitions, because they could only have served to disturb the reader’s slumber; and the confused sense of his revelations I have now and then clothed in a more current diction. But all the important features of the sketch I have preserved in their native integrity.–And thus I return with some little shame from my foolish labours, from which I shall draw this moral: That it is often a very easy thing to act prudentially; but alas! too often only after we have toiled to our prudence through a forest of delusions.