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by [?]

Possibly we take these great men too seriously–literature is only incidental, and what any man says about anything matters little, except to himself. No book is of much importance; the vital thing is: What do you yourself think?

When we read Shakespeare in a parlor class there are many things we read over rapidly–the teacher does not stop to discuss them. The remarks of Ophelia or the shepherd talk of Corin are indecent only when you stop and linger over them; it will not do to sculpture such things–let them forever remain in gaseous form. When George Francis Train picked out certain parts of the Bible and printed them, and was arrested for publishing obscene literature, the charge was proper and right. There are things that need not to be emphasized–they may all be a part of life, but in books they should be slurred over as representing simply a passing glimpse of nature.

And so the earnest and minute arguments of Swedenborg need not give us headache in efforts to comprehend them. They were written for himself, as a scaffolding for his imagination. Don’t take Jonathan Edwards too seriously–he means well, but we know more. We know we do not know anything, and he never got that far.

The bracketing of the names of Shakespeare and Swedenborg is eminently well. They are Titans both. In the presence of such giants, small men seem to wither and blow away. Swedenborg was cast in heroic mold, and no other man since history began ever compassed in himself so much physical science, and with it all on his back, made such daring voyages into the clouds.

The men who soar highest and know most about another world usually know little about this. No man of his time was so competent a scientist as Swedenborg, and no man before or since has mapped so minutely the Heavenly Kingdom.

Shakespeare’s feet were really never off the ground. His excursion in “The Tempest” was only in a captured balloon. Ariel and Caliban he secured out of an old book of fables.

Shakespeare knew little about physics; economics and sociology never troubled him; he had small Latin and less Greek; he never traveled, and the history of the rocks was to him a blank.

Swedenborg anticipated Darwin in a dozen ways; he knew the classic languages and most of the modern; he traveled everywhere; he was a practical economist, and the best civil engineer of his day.

Shakespeare knew the human heart–where the wild storms arise and where the passions die–the Delectable Isles where Allah counts not the days, and the swamps where love turns to hate and Hell knocks on the gates of Heaven. Shakespeare knew humanity, but little else; Swedenborg knew everything else, but here he balked, for woman’s love never unlocked for him the secrets of the human heart.

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Emanuel Swedenborg was born at Stockholm, Sweden, in Sixteen Hundred Eighty-eight. His father was a bishop in the Lutheran Church, a professor in the theological seminary, a writer on various things, and withal a man of marked power and worth. He was a spiritualist, heard voices and received messages from the spirit world. It will be remembered that Martin Luther, in his monkish days, heard voices, and was in communication with both angels and devils. Many of his followers, knowing of his strange experiences, gave themselves up to fasts and vigils, and they, too, saw things. Abstain from food for two days and this sense of lightness and soaring is the usual result. So strong is example, and so prone are we to follow in the footsteps of those we love, that one “psychic” is sure to develop more. Little Emanuel Swedenborg, aged seven, saw angels, too, and when his father had a vision, he straightway matched it with a bigger one.