Emanuel Swedenborg

Increased Exposure

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These three examples of Swedenborg's clairvoyant abilities, along with lesser incidents, served to spread his fame. He continued to live and write as before, but curious persons often interrupted his studies; many sought to visit with the man who claimed, in a calm and reasonable way, to be able to converse with angels.

The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant's reaction to Swedenborg's visionary powers is of interest in this connection. Although Kant never met Swedenborg himself, he wrote to him and also sent personal messages through mutual friends. Kant, the great rationalist, tended to discount all stories of mystical experience but the persistent and authoritative reports on Swedenborg's powers gave him repeated pause. At times he wrote favorably; at times quite the reverse. However, Kant's continuing interest is indicated by a variety of evidence. Even his most critical survey, Dream of a Spirit-Seer, published in 1766, in which Kant attempted to denigrate Swedenborg, reveals doubts regarding the basis for his own ridicule. In short, Kant must be numbered among those intellects of Swedenborg's day who experienced difficulty explaining satisfactorily the theological phase of Swedenborg's distinguished career.

During Swedenborg's final years a variety of old friends and new acquaintances wrote accounts of their impressions of him. His claims seemed preposterous to many, yet few who met and talked with him had anything really adverse to say of him. They were perplexed at his accounts of conversations with spirits, but found him otherwise to be a gentle, humorous man with a relaxed, benign air. Occasionally, when callers tried to make fun of him, Swedenborg spoke cuttingly, but in general he was the perfect host.

In 1768, Swedenborg, eighty years of age but in excellent health and spirits, set out on the next-to-last extensive journey of his life on earth. Many previous trips had taken him all over Europe including Italy, France, Germany, Holland, and England. On this occasion he went first to France and then to England, where he took lodgings with a young couple in Wellclose Square, London. During the summer he spent many hours working on his last great theological work, a study entitled True Christian Religion. He also enjoyed walking in the nearby parks, talking with acquaintances, and visiting friends. One associate said of him during this period, "Someone might think that Assessor Swedenborg was eccentric and whimsical; but the very reverse was the case. He was very easy and pleasant in company, talked on every subject that came up, accommodating himself to the ideas of the company; and never spoke on his own views unless he was asked about them."

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- by Sig Synnestvedt

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