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Philip H Johnson REVELATION THROUGH THE AGES The Swedenborg Society 1955

Philip H Johnson REVELATION THROUGH THE AGES The Swedenborg Society 1955

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a brochure issued on the occasion of the publication of the Third Latin Edition of the ARCANA CAELESTIA of Emanuel Swedenborg (1949).
a brochure issued on the occasion of the publication of the Third Latin Edition of the ARCANA CAELESTIA of Emanuel Swedenborg (1949).

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REVELATION

THROUGH THE AGES
BY
PHILIP H. JOHNSON, B.A., B.Sc.
This essay Jormed part '!f a brochure
issued in 1949 to mark the occasion '!f
the publication '!f the Third Latin Edition '!f
arcanll ltatlestia
BY EMANUEL SWEDENBORG
and '!f the Two Hundredth Anniversary '!f the
publication '!f the First Edition
SWEDENBORG SOCIETY (INe)
20 Bloomsbury Way, London
1955
THE greatest need of mankind today is for a knowledge
of where to look for a clear and authoritative revelation
from God. It always has been so and it always will be
so, but the present time is our chief concern, and many
professing Christians are deeply perturbed by the
apparent lack of such revelation.
Ifthere be a loving God, a Heavenly Father caring for
His children, surely He would reveal Himself to them,
and would provide those children with a means of
knowing His will, and of Iearning how they may live in
accordance with it.
In olden times the difficulty was not so great. There
were Writings, Holy Scriptures, which man accepted as
the Word of God. Christian people recognized the
Jewish Scriptures as a,. Divine revelation to aIl men.
They added to them the gospels, the stories of the life of
Jesus Christ upon earth; they accepted also the letters
written by Paul and other apostles to the early Christian
churches, and with some hesitation they added to these
the strange book known as the Apocalypse of John the
Divine.
AlI these writings have been in existence for weIl nigh
two thousand years, some of them very much longer,
and while we are bound to acknowledge that there are
many other writings for which Divine authority is
claimed, yet we must also admit that the Bible has
gained wider acceptance as the Word of God than have
any of the sacred books of other religions, with the
possible exception of the Mohammedan Koran, largely
copied from the Old Testament Scriptures.
The discussion of the comparative merits of these
writings is beyond the scope of this pamphlet, which
seeks to draw your attention to the fact that two hun­
3
dred years ago there appeared a remarkable book,
written by Emanuel Swedenborg, which sought among
other things to re-establish the authority of the Bible as
the Word of God, and which contained, for those who
read and studied it, abundant evidence for the accept­
ance of that authority.
For we must recognize that though many Christians
continued to sing
We won't give up the Bible,
God's holy book of truth;
yet there were many also, sorne of whom still professed
to be Christians, who nevertheless gave up their belief
in the Bible as the Word of God. The attacks led by
Voltaire, Thomas Paine and many other writers con­
temporary with Swedenborg, were having their effect
in shaking man's belief in the Sacred Scriptures as being
a Divine reve1ation, and we believe that the results of
those attacks are manifested in the state of the world
today.
We fully appreciate the honesty of sorne of those
attacks, but we daim that a fair consideration of
Swedenborg's reply to them might have changed the
history of the world.
The book above mentioned is the ARCANA CAELESTIA,
first published in 1749. It was written in Latin and con­
tains sorne three million words, so that we can scarcely
hope to summarize it in a few pages, but we may in a
short space draw attention to sorne of the guidance it
provides to man in his search for the Word of God.
Swedenborg suggests (or rather informs us, but until
we accept his mission we will be satisfied with sugges­
tion), that primitive man was nearer to God than is
modern man. This is not a mere flight of imagination:
4
we may note that Sir G. Elliott-Smith in his masterly
work on Primitive Man arrives at a similar conclusion
though differently worded. He is convinced that war
and bloodshed came to mankind with the arrivaI of
what we caU civilization and wealth.
Being nearer to God, early men saw Him in aU their
surroundings; like Shakespeare, they
Found tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
They lived a family life and teaching their family was
an important part of their occupation, and the form of
their teaching was parabolic. Long ages age men spoke
in parables, they told fables, they talked of birds and
beasts, but saw in them God's creatures. And in God's
creatures, ox and lamb, sheep and goat, aye, even in the
serpent, they saw representatives of things Divine.
Hence arose the manner of expression familiar to us in
the earliest chapters of the Bible, and if we would
understand those chapters we must find out what the
things in them represent, and thereby we can leam how
man feU from his early state of innocence.
Now this way of speaking, and later of writing, was
handed down to the descendants of primitive man,
even though the things represented were not so clearly
seen. Hence came the hieroglyphic writings and
polytheistic religion of Egypt, the cuneiform inscrip­
tions of Babylon and Chaldea with their remarkable
paraUels to the early chapters of Genesis. There is a
common idea that these last are copied from the
Babylonian tablets, but it needs Httle study of these
tablets to show the impossibility of this: one might as
weU suggest that Beethoven's sonatas are a derivative of
American jazz-music.
5
Abraham certainly came from Ur of The Chaldees
sorne four thousand years ago, but it is very doubtful
whether he brought with him any of its stories and
legends. He was a pastoralist and the founder of the
Jewish people, and we read in the Bible a remarkable
history of how that people rose to a position of world­
wide importance, a position which they have maintained
to the present day. But wherein lies this importance?
l suppose that there are those today, especially
among the Jews themselves, who will say that it arose
from their being God's 'chosen people'. But why
chosen? The answer is very different from what we
might expect, and yet as Swedenborg explains it, it
is very satisfying. We read in Deuteronomy ix 6,
'Know therefore that the Lord thy God giveth thee not
this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for
thou art a stiff·necked people'.
It may at first seem incredibJe that this obstinate
people should be chosen by God for His purposes, but
there are cases in which obstinacy can be useful.
Winston Churchill is probably as obstinate a man as
ever lived, but he managed to instil his obstinacy into
others with commendable results at a time of crisis.
And the obstinacy of the Jews made them a people
peculiarly suited for preserving the Word of God
unaltered: firstly, by their rigid observance of the
representative rites of worship; and secondly, by their
meticulous accuracy in handing down the Hebrew
Scriptures. Note that these rites and these scriptures
were both founded on the representatives received
from the earlier direct revelations, although their
meanings had mostly been forgotten. But a dark age for
mankind had to be bridged, and the revelation had to
6
be preserved through that period. Only an obstinate
people, determined to maintain the exact rites and
words handed down from their forefathers could
accomplish this task. Anyone who has studied ancient
manuscripts, and the variant readings to which the
copying of them gave rise, must regard with amaze­
ment and admiration the meticulous accuracy of the
Hebrew Bible. It is not perfect, but no other ancient
book in the world approaches it for purity of text. It
seems only rational to believe that this preservation of
the text is the result of a Divine interposition in the
affairs of men. If there be a Word of God handed down
from ancient times, then these writings assuredly
provide, in their form and in their history, stronger
evidence for such a daim than any other.
It is strange, however, to meditate on the utterly
changed outlook ofthese recipients of Divine revelation.
The earliest men looked at worldly objects and saw
in them representations of Divine things; the Jews,
especially in the years just before the Lord's first advent,
looked at worldly objects and saw in them things to
worship. In spite of their Sacred Scriptures they were
utter materialists. Their temple was a building to
worship, not one in which to hold communion with
God. Their sabbath was a ceremonial to be worshipped,
not an occasion for approaching God more dosely:
and their scriptures were an object of worship rather
than of learning God's will.
It is always tempting to ponder on what might have
been. Suppose that the Jews had recognized that their
Scriptures were God's Word for mankind, not merely
for themselves; suppose that they had sought for the
spiritual teaching underlying the rites and ceremonies
7
therein described, instead of being solely concerned
with their exact observance; suppose that they had
spread their teachings abroad among men, instead of
selfishly concealing them from aIl but 'the chosen
people'. WeIl, many things might have happened, one of
which would almost certainly have been a serious
corruption of the text, for wide dispersion of written
manuscripts would certainly have had this result, as
we see in the case of the gospels, and to a lesser degree
in the variations of the Alexandrian Septuagint from
the original test.
But what did happen? We have it in the words ofHim
Who brought a further revelation:
Thus have ye made the Word of God of none effect by your
tradition (Matthew xv. 6);
and because the Jews, in spite of their care, had made
the Word of God of none effect, therefore
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and
truth (John i. 14).
In these simple words the Gospel of John discloses the
fact that, and the means by which, the Word of God
was restored to men; in this statement we have a
summary of the whole teaching of the gospels. But we
must notice that the gospels do not replace the Old
Testament scriptures, although there is a tendency
among Christians to regard them as doing so. They
who would banish the Old Testament from our churches
and schools must surely have given but superficial study
to the words of Jesus: such words for example as:
Think not that 1 am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: 1
am not come to destroy, but to fuIfil (Matthew v. 17);
or again in Luke,
And beginning at Moses and aU the prophets, He expounded unto
them in all the seriptures the things concerning Himself(Lukexxiv. 27).
8
'Search the Scriptures' was His command, 'for these are
they which testify of Me' (John v. 39). Assuredly they
who reject the Hebrew scriptures reject the teachings
of Jesus.
In the ARCANA CAELESTIA we find a marvellous
revelation of how these scriptures teach the inner life of
our Saviour, but the book must be read to appreciate
this. The gospels certainly differ in style as they do in
language from the Jewish scriptures, but we may note
the enlightening statement, too often neglected, that
'without a parable spake He not unto them' (Matthew
xiii. 34). There are many 'hard sayings' in our Lord's
discourses which would not prove so hard to under­
stand if we would recognize that He a/ways spoke in
parables, and that these parables can be interpreted, as
Swedenborg clearly shows, by exactly the same methods
as apply to the 'dark sayings' of psalmist and prophet.
Yet we ought also to recognize, what was so readily
accepted by our predecessors, that there is in the Bible
just as it stands in its literaI sense all that is necessary for
man's salvation. The spiritual teachings of the Word
shine through the letter, as the face of -Mosesshone
tIiIôtigh the veil he wore on coming down from Sinai.
Let us accept the truth that the purpose of the gospels
is not to supersede, but to reveal the spirit ~ n d life of
the Jewish scriptures, and we shall then find that the
Old and New Testaments are not opposed, but comple­
mentary one to the other; and that either is necessary
for understanding the other. The Old Testament tells
again and again of the promised coming of the Messiah,
but the Jews utterly misread the promise: the New
Testament tells of the actual coming, but the Jews
utterly rejected Him Who fulfilled the promise, in fact
9
they crucified Him. There are many today who are
spiritually as the Jews, and it is for their salvation that
a new revelation is now taking place.
This may seem a bold statement, but it should prove
very welcome to those who desire to have their faith in
God's Word restored. And it is not contrary to Scrip­
ture: Jesus speaking to his disciples proc1aimed:
1 have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them
now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He wiH guide
you into aH truth (John xvi. 12, 13).
Surely we can see in these words a promise of further
revelation, but still c1earer, if we would but recognize it,
is the promise contained in another dec1aration to His
disciples:
Then shaH appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then
shaH aH the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shaH see the Son of
man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Matthew xxiv. 30). --
Fundamentalists will scoff at the suggestion that
'this day is this scripture fulfilled'; others will regard it
as sheer imagination; many will exc1aim that the idea is
impossible in view of the facts of science and meteor­
ology. We grant the difficulty of a literaI interpretation
ofthe words, but, as stated above, Jesus spoke in parables.
Can we interpret this parable?
The crucial word is 'c1ouds'. Earthly c10uds shut us
off from the blue heaven and from the sun in that
heaven: is it sheer imagination to suggest that the
c10uds of which Jesus spoke are those which shut us off
from the spiritual heaven and from the Sun of right­
eousness, that is, from Gad, the Light of the world?
This is more than poetic imagery though poets often
see more c1early than prosaic mortals, as Keble did
when he wrote:
10
Oh may no earth-born cloud arise
To hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes.
But it is Swedenborg who points out that the 'clouds
of heaven' mentioned in our Lord's prophecy are just
those difficulties and obscurities of which we have been
writing. The hard sayings, the strange parables, the
unclean incidents, the obscure figurative language of
many parts of the scriptures: these are earth-born, the
Word might have been given throughout in the beautiful
language of the first chapters of Genesis, and we might
have appreciated fully its imagery, but for man's faU.
'Because of the hardness of your heart' was the
explanation Jesus gave to the Jews of difficulties in the
text of scripture, and so it has ever been. Yet always
there have been concealed in that text Divine and
spiritual truths for those ready to receive them. The
sun is ever behind the clouds, and many of the clouds
have a silver lining.
It is interesting, and should be convincing, to look
through a concordance of the Bible, and note how every
reference to clouds is enlightened by this correspond­
ence, as Swedenborg caUs it, of 'cloud' to the letter of
the Word. The sign of the covenant with Noah, 'the
bow in the cloud', is surely a prophetie announcement
of this same revelation of God through an unveiling of
the spiritual teaching within the written scripture. The
miraculous guide of Israel in the wilderness was 'a pillar
of cloud' to the earth-bound Egyptians, but 'a pillar of
fire' to those who were Israelites indeed. Many a refer­
ence in the Psalms becomes full of light as we think
of this correspondence, and we may note especial1y the
verses: 'He covereth the heaven with clouds', and 'He
maketh the clouds His chariot'. It is Divine Providence
11
that has preserved the Word of God by concealing it in
the clouds of the letter, but that same letter is still 'the
chariot of God' by which He wars against evil and
falsity, and by which He can bear us up to heaven, as
Elijah was carried up in a 'chariot of fire'-a glorious
representative of the uplifting power of the Bible for
those who recognize it as the Word of God.
One hesitates to draw attention to the convenience of
this interpretation for fear of detracting from its Divine
significance. Yet there are many earnest Christians who
are puzzled by what our learned divines in their wisdom
describe as the eschatology of the scriptures, a word
they define as 'the doctrine oflast, or final, things'. The
more one studies their commentaries on eschatology the
more one is Led to understand that it is aU very inter­
esting but aU a mistake, and the puzzled earnest
Christian very naturaUy enquires, Was Jesus then quite
mistaken in His beliefs? and are His words often those
of a mistaken enthusiast?
We commend the attention of these puzzled Chris­
tians to Swedenborg's eminently rational and beauti­
fuUy simple explanation. Because of the hardness of
heart of His hearers our Lord spoke in parables, but this
( parable is easy ofinterpretation. His promise of'coming
1 in the clouds' is a prediction that He would reveal Him­
i self to His disciples at some future time by showing
them His glory through the dark sayings of the sacred
scriptures.
Many may still be worried by the time element, but
surely they ought not to be. There is no time in affairs of
the spirit, modern physicists support the fact by telling
us there is no real time even in this world, 'Behold 1
come quickly' means 'behold 1 come surely' and has no
12
reference to worldly time; and 'those who stand here and
shaH not see death' are those who take their stand on the
rock of faith in Christ, who assuredly will not taste of
spiritual death.
The second coming of Christ is not a physical but a
spiritual coming: there was a coming in the flesh and in­
time, and this we celebrate every Christmastide, but it is
not one that is to be repeated, and there is now no
reason or excuse for apprehension as to a last day for
this wonderful universe. If only we can raise our ideas
a little above the world and the flesh, we begin our
preparation to receive with joy the news of the Lord's
second coming in power and great glory by the opening
the
tures-wonders that have always Iain conceaIeathere,
bUt which are today unveiled for those who are willing
to have their eyes opened.
This is the message that Swedenborg gave to the wodd
two hundred years ago, and this pamphlet is an invita­
tion to you to examine that message.
You will, of course, start by enquiring as did the
lews, 'Have any of the rulers believed on him?' and it
would be possible to draw up quite an imposing list of
writers, scientists, industrialists and others, who have
been receivers and, to a greater or lesser extent, foHowers
( of his teachings, but it is very much better that you
) should judge for yourself of the truths contained in his
writings. The task presents sorne difficulty and demands
careful consideration, but so does every task that is
1
. worth doing. You will find that in many points there
are differences between the Christian religion as set
forth in the Writings of Swedenborg and that preached
by many today. We would emphasize, however, with
13
all the power at our disposaI, that Swedenborg did not
reveal, or profess to reveal, a new religion. His writings
are an unfolding Qf what is in.Jhe S ~ c r e d Scriptures of
the Old and New Testaments. The very title ofthë"WOfk
to which we are drawmg attention on this 200TH
ANNIVERSARY of its first publication dearly demon­
strates this. The full title is ARCANA CAELESTIA QUAE
IN SCRIPTURA SACRA SEU VERBO DOMINI SUNT DgI.!3GfA,
which being translated is, 'The secret things of Heaven
that are in the Sacred Scripture or Word of the Lord,
uncovered' .
~ The outstanding words of this title are areana and
( deteeta, both difficult to translate exactly, although
, comparatively easy to understand. Areana from area
(=a chest or depository) suggests treasures stored away
î for safe keeping; detecta reminds us of the modern craze
r for detection and detective stories. We love mysteries
but still more do we love their unravelling. There are no
mysteries of modern literature that can for a moment
compare with the mysteries of man's origin and
destiny, and to our mind there are no unravellings that
can compare with those displayed in this remarkable
work. Not that Swedenborg daims to have disdosed
ail the mysteries of the Word: again and again he assures
us that they are infinite in number, and many of them
beyond human grasp; but he does show how, by careful
and prayerful study of the Word as a whole, we may
solve many of the difficult problems that scientist,
philosopher and theologian find so puzzling.
1 With acceptance of the teachings set forth in this
work (teachings which Swedenborg justly daims, as it
) seems to us, to be the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and which he supports by thousands of quotations from
14
aIl parts of the Bible), we shaIl indeed find that the
rough places smooth, the
are removed, the clouds dispersed, and 'the true light
that enlighteneth every man coming into the world' is
displayed in aIl its brightness.
But before accepting these teachings the enquirer
will naturaIly wish to know something of the teacher,
whether he be of God, or whether he speaks from him­
self only. There is probably no religious writer whose
life can bear closer inspection than Swedenborg's. The
son of a Swedish bishop, Jesper Svedberg, bishop of
Skara, he received his education at Upsala, the Swedish
home of learning, and subsequently traveIled widely in
Europe. The breadth of his studies is truly amazing and
he weIl deserved the title of 'the Swedish Aristotle' that
has been bestowed upon him. There was scarcely a
branch of knowledge that he did not explore and in
many he was an adept. It is very noticeable that he was
no mere bookworm, for he writes to his brother-in-law
Benzelius, '1 have always desired to turn to sorne
practical use the studies which l selected on your
advice'.
A list of the subjects he studied and on which he
published treatises would occupy many pages of this
pamphlet; we must be satisfied with two quotations
from the ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA'S article on
Swedenborg:
Swedenborg's voluminous writings were not properly coUected and
examined until towards the end of the 19th century; it was then seen
that in almost every department of scientific activity he was ahead of
his time. His work on palaeontology shows him the predecessor of
aU the Scandinavian geologists. He was also a great physicist and
had arrived at the nebular hypothesis theory of the formation of the
planets and the sun long before Kant and Laplace; he wrote a lucid
15
account of the phenomena of phosphorescence, and adduced a
molecular magnetic theory which anticipated sorne of the chief
features of modern hypotheses. The French chemist Dumas, credits
him with the first attempt to establish a system of crystallography.
He was the first to employ mercury for the air pump, and devised a
method of determining longitude at sea by observations of the moon
among the stars.
This seems a noteworthy list of achievements and one
which might weIl entitle him to a niche in the halls of
fame, but the article continues:
In no field were Swedenborg's researches more noteworthy than
in physiological science. In 1901 Max Neuberger of Vienna called
attention to certain anticipations of modern views made by Sweden­
borg in relation to the functions of the brain, and the University of
Vienna appealed to the Royal Swedish Academy for a complete
issue of the scientific treatises. Swedenborg showed (lSO years before
any other scientist) that the motion of the brain was synchronous
with the respiration and not with the action of the heart and the
circulation of the blood, a discovery the full bearings of which are
still unrealized. He arrived at the modern conception of the activity
of the brain as the combined activity of its individual cells. The
cerebral cortex, and, more definitely, the cortical elements (nerve
cells), formed the seat of the activity of the soul, and were ordered
into departments according to various functions. His views as to the
physiological functions of the spinal cord are in agreement with
recent research, and he anticipated modern research on the functions
of the ductless glands.
As we read this account of almost dazzling achieve­
ment we are driven to enquire how it is that Sweden­
borg is not ranked, as he deserves to be, with great
scientific pioneers such as Galileo, Kepler, Newton and
Darwin. His discoveries were no less remarkable, in
importance they were equal to those for which these
pioneers attained world-wide fame, yet the name of
Swedenborg is known to comparatively few. How can
we account for this neglect? The answer probably lies in
the fact that he wrote the ARcANA CAELESTIA.
The implications of this explanation are worthy of
16
careful consideration, especial1y in these days when w ~
are witnessing the downfal1 of a materialistic conception
of the universe that1las-flourished for sorne two huiïdred
y e ~ r s . They liave been years-of astonisnfng material
progress for mankind, but he would be a bold man who
ventured to suggest that either moral or spiritual
progress has been equal1y great during this period.
Many indeed are of the opinion that the reverse is the
case and that humanity has made little or no progress.
We do not propose to enter into a discussion of this
question, but we would point out that it is exactly what
Swedenborg foresaw, and that it was just because he
was aware of the terrible dangers of materialism that he
gave up his scientific pursuits and devoted the latter
years of his life to the study of spiritual matters.
Throughout his studies he had been an enquirer. He
was haunted by 'the everlasting Why1' He sought
always for the causes of things and he discovered (and
passed on to us the discovery) that there is a world of
causes above and within the phenomenal world of the
scientist. This may not seem a great advance on Plato
and other Greek philosophers, but consider the words in
which Swedenborg passes on this discovery: they will
be found in §2993 of the ARCANA:
The causes of aH natural things are from spiritual things, and the
beginnings of causes are from celestial things; or what is the same
thing, aH things in the natural world derive their cause from truth,
which is spiritual, and their beginning from good, which is celestial.
AU things of nature take their rise from these (i.e. truth and good)
in accordance with the different forms of truth and good found in
)
the Lord's kingdom, and thus from the Lord Himself, the source of
aH good and truth.
This is a tremendous statement and volumes might
be written upon it. We do not propose to do more than
17
ask your careful consideration of what is implied by it,
and to point out that Swedenborg does not daim it as
his own discovery, but states that he learned it from his
converse with angets, and that it is a revelation from the
Lord H i m s ~ l f . His own comment upon-itisfffiportant.
'These things,' he writes, 'cannot but seem strange, especially to
those who will not, or cannot, raise their thoughts above the things
of nature.'
We suggest, however, that in his theological works,
and especially in the ARCANA, Swedenborg showed
that he was willing and able to raise his thought above
merely natural things, and that in so doing he has helped
us to see something of the causes and origins of the
things around us. His critics find fault with him for
abandoning the pursuit of natural science in which he
had taken such great strides, and turning to the study
of theology; especially do they object to his turning to
the Hebrew, but surely this quotation from his writing
provides a complete explanation of his reasons for so
doing, nay more, it shows that believing as he did, he
could act in no other way.
We must refer you to his biographers for details of
the steps he took in surrendering his place in the world
of science and devoting himself to the dutY he felt
incumbent upon him, that of prodaiming to a world
sadly in need of such teaching, that the spiritual world
is at least as worthy of investigation as the natural, and
that it can be investigated by those who have learned
( the right methods. He chose as the motto to be printed
at the beginning of each volume of the ARCANA :
) Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and ail
these things shaH be added unto you (Matthew vi. 33);
and if ever man sought to live up to his motto surely it
was Swedenborg who did so.
18
!
He resigned his high position in the Swedish College
of Mines, explaining in a letter to the King, 'As 1 feel
it incumbent on me to finish the work on which 1 am
now engaged, 1 would most humbly ask your Majesty
to select another in my place.... It is my humble wish
that you graciously release me from my office, but
without bestowing upon me any higher rank, which 1
\ most earnestly beseech you not to do. 1 further pray that
1 may receive half of my salary, and that you will
graciously grant me leave to go abroad to some place
where 1 may finish the important work on which 1
am now engaged. (Stockholm, June 2nd, 1747)'.
The work on which he was engaged was his prepara­
tion for writing the ARcANA. The request was granted
and he proceeded with that work, though he probably
had no idea at the time that the rest of his life would
be devoted to similar productions and that after some
five and twenty years of unremitting labours he would
still leave much of it uncompleted and unpublished.
We can well understand, however, the need he felt for
more time, when we contemplate the_'!.stop.j§hLng
acc,!m_ulation of his preparatory work. This is now
stored up, chiefly in the library of the Royal Academy
of Sciences, Stockholm, but much of it has been pub­
lished either in book form, or in phototyped copies.
We gather from it that, during the two years preceding
his retirement from public office, Swedenborg was
engaged in an intensive study of the Bible. The actual
i volume he used has been preserved and its margins
'1 bear witness to the thoroughness of his study, these
marginal notes alone would fill a volume. But in
addition to this he compile_d indexes of names and
subjects which fill nearly a thousand pages ~ f close
19
writing, and there are also more than two thousand
pagés of notes and comments on his reading of the
Word. Sorne of these he seems to have intended for
publication, but the time was not yet.
To many students this would appear 'a full-time job',
but the results of his release from official duties show
that it was not so with Swedenborg, for in the next
year he produced fifteen hundred more pages of
~ indexes, and seven hundred pages of notes that have
) been preserved, while there is abundant evidence that
much of his labour is unrecorded, as for example, his
work of mastering the Bebrew tongue.
We stress the importance of these preliminary studies
as evidence that the ARCANA are not, as superficial
students of them have suggested, the random writings
of a disordered mind; stilliess are they as Swedenborg's
latest biographer suggests 'a chaotic mass', but they are
)
the ordered findings from a most intensive study by a
mind endowed with extraordinary acuteness. Few can
devote the time to their study that was expended on
their production, but the history of how they were
produced suggests that superficial study will not be
sufficient to disclose their depth.
- These studies had now reached a stage such that
Swedenborg was ready to write and publish his work,
but for this something more was needed, and that was
'freedom of the press'. Only in Bolland or in England
could that be obtained in 1748. Hence his request for
'leave to go abroad where he might finish the important
work'.
The place chosen was London and we may feel proud
of the compliment paid to our ancestors by this choice.
Ten years later, in 1758, Swedenborg writes of 'the
20
noble English nation' and enlarges upon the freedom
they enjoy, though he also remarks, gently but firmly,
upon their insularity, as when he notes their readiness
'to contract intimacy with friends of their own nation
and rarely with others'. 'Englishmen,' he says, 'are
lovers of their country and zealous for its glory, and
regard foreigners much as a person looking through a
telescope from the roof of his house regards those
outside the city.'
But never mind this aloofness, the English press was
free, he could publish his work without interference.
So early in OC1()12er)-J 748, Swedenborg sailed for
England wfth ms Hebrew and Latin Bibles, his Hebrew
· Lexicon, his precious indexes and his notes on spiritual
experiences, and there he sought for a quiet lodging
1
where he could write his new book and superintend its
publication.
One would like to know where he lodged, but while
we have evidence and addresses of later residences,
there is none for his address while writing the ARCANA.
In a now very shabby quarter of London, close to the
docks and still frequented by Swedish and Norwegian
sailors, there is a Swedenborg Street and a Swedenborg
Square, close by is Wellclose Square where he certainly
stayed at a later time with a Swedish compatriot, but
we have been unable as yet to trace the origin of these
names. Possibly they arise from Swedenborg's remains
having Iain for over a hundred years in the Swedish
church in Ratcliffe Highway, which is not a great
distance away.
The fact remains, however, that the place where this
great work was written is at present shrouded in
mystery, aU we have with regard to it is a scrap ofpaper,
21
stuck to the flyleaf of his spiritual diary, or notes on
spiritual experience. This scrap, when translated from
the Swedish, reads:
Took 10dgings on the 23rd November, 1748, for six shillings per
week for haIf a year. For one year sufficient will be deducted to make
the rent f14, being a saving of thirty two shillings.
This sounds perhaps a little parsimonious, but we
must remember that, as the figures prove, money was
then at least ten times as precious as today, and we must
recognize that Swedenborg's care for small sums was
due ratber to generosity than to parsimony. Certainly
these must have been but poor lodgings for a Swedish
nobleman, the associate of kings, and prime ministers,
) but he proposed to defray the whole expense of printing
and publishing his work, and those expenses ran into
)
sorne thousands of pounds. Nor did he look for any
monetary return. His printer informs us that the
profits, if any, were to be devoted to the propagation of
( the gospel. Swedenborg was not a wealthy man and he
) needed to be careful in his private expenditure.
The ARCANA CAELESTIA was a generous gift to the
world, and the world hardlynoticed the-grr(s t ~ d
it express any gratitude for it, certainly not in the life­
time of the donor. Since that time sorne thousands of
copies either in the original Latin, or in various trans­
lations have been printed, distributed and sold, but the
numberofthosewhoacceptitsteachingsisstill verysmall.
Now, two hundred years after its first appearance,
it is being re-published in Latin. Those responsible for
this republiëation desire aM hope for an awakened
interest in it. The Latin needed revision in the light of
modern scholarship, and the revision has been greatly
helped by a comparison with Swedenborg's own manu­
22
script, which has been almost miraculously preserved in
the archives of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
More than ten years have been spent in its production
and it should contain information invaluable for the
student. The manuscript just mentioned is not that
rwhich was sent to the printer, Swedenborg re-copied its
more than two million words, but there seems little
1doubt that in many cases it is nearer to Swedenborg's
t words than is the sometimes faulty printed version. In
the new edition both MS. and printed edition are repro­
duced, either in text or notes, so that the reader can
know and learn from both.
No writer can be fully appreciated save in the lan­
guage in which he wrote, and it is to the original lan­
guage we must turn in aIl controversial matters:-If is
hoped that this willoé recogmzea--by a11 ardent students
of Swedenborg, and that there will be a wide demand
for this new edition.
But there will still be many who have not had the
privilege of education in the Latin tongue, and yet
desire to read of these 'Heavenly Mysteries'. 'Heavenly
Mysteries' was the translation of ARCANA CAELESTIA
accepted in Swedenborg's own time, and we presume
by Swedenborg himself, for he spent ;(200 on
having the second volume translated into EnglisL
Mysteries, mystics and mysticism wefe anathematothe
) materialistic age of the past two centuries, but today we
- begin to see that there may be something in them, as did
1the Greeks of old. Swedenborg frequently speaks of the
'mysteries of faith,' and we can scarcely close this brief
appreciation of his work on a more appropriate note
than that of his approach to these mysteries.
In Psalm viü. 9, 10, we read 'The Lord bowed the
23
heavens and came down, and thick darkness was under
His feet, and He rode upon a cherub'. Of this passage
Swedenborg writes (in A.C. n 1761): Thick darkness is
put for clouds, and to ride upon a cherub tells of the
Lord's Providence lest man should enter from himself
into the mysteries of faith.
This last sentence might almost be described as the
essence of Swedenborg's method, for he does not enter
into the mysteries of faith from himself, but from the
Lord. He accepts the opening verses of John's gospel,
he recognizes that the Word is God, that the Word was
made flesh and dwelt among us, and that it is full of
grace and truth. So fully did he recognize this that
the Lord actually revealed Himselfto Swedenborg in the
spirit, and instructed him to convey to mankind the
unveiling of the mysteries of faith.
The results of this opening of Swedenborg's spiritual
sight are disclosed in many passages in the ARcANA, but
it would need a volume to discuss them. Here it is
sufficient to emphasize the fact that while the writing
of the book is Swedenborg's, yet it was not from himself
that he obtained its contents, but from the Word, and
therefore from the Lord Himself. We might write at
length to support this contention, but the best support
for it will be found in reading the work. And see what is
promised thereby (i) a revelation of the mysteries of
faith, (ii) a discovery of God's providential care for
mankind, (iii) a way of approach to the Lord Jesus
Christ, and (iv) a knowledge of, and guide to eternallife.
Surely it is worth while to read and study this book.
24

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