The Method of Giving Revelation -
by John L. Odhner
Each revelator and prophet has
been unique. The symbolic visions of Ezekiel were not like the simple
conversations Hagar had with angels. John's extended experiences were not
like Peter's brief glimpses of the spiritual world. The Lord gave each of
them the degree and kind of communication with angels and spirits that
suited His purpose for that person. Likewise, Swedenborg's state was
uniquely suited to the purpose to which God called him.
Sometimes Swedenborg has been
described as a medium or spiritualist. This is not surprising.
Swedenborg was and is well-respected for his scientific, political, and
philosophical works. He was known for his gentle, mannerly ways and his
clear thinking. For those who would like to discredit the Writings, it is
difficult to do so by directly attacking his personal life. It is much
easier to undermine his reputation by associating him with people who have
engaged in questionable practices, such as mediumship and spiritism. At
the same time, Swedenborg is often claimed as a spiritualist by mediums
themselves because his respectable standing lends credence to their own
Obviously, whether we consider
Swedenborg to be a medium depends on how broad a definition of "medium"
we choose. A very broad definition would include everyone who has
contact with the spiritual world. Spiritualists often claim that such
people as Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, John, Paul and
Jesus were mediums. In a local spiritualist bookstore I found half a dozen
books which claimed to prove that Jesus was a medium. What better way to
gain respectability for spiritualism? On the other hand, those who wished
to discredit Jesus accused him of working in league with evil spirits.
Many of the prophets and
revelators of the Old and New Testaments clearly did have open
communication with spirits and angels. Just as clearly, the Word itself
does not consider Jesus or any of the prophets to be mediums, since
mediums were to be avoided. The Bible distinguishes between those who are
given communication with the spiritual world for the purposes of
revelation and those who seek such contact for purposes of spiritism. Not
everyone who communicates with the spiritual world is a medium.
The list below contains
some of the evidence that Swedenborg belongs in the category of revelator,
1. Mediums seek
spiritualistic experiences, through meditation, classes, séances,
mind control. Unlike mediums, Swedenborg did not seek, or even
expect or desire, communication with spirits. When spirits began to speak
with him he "was greatly astonished" (Doc. II, p. 146).
2. Mediums encourage others
to contact spirits. Often mediums will offer training courses,
seminars, books, etc., to spread mediumship to others. Unlike mediums, Swedenborg
strongly warned against trying to contact spirits.
3. Mediums offer their
services as a source of counsel, teaching, guidance. Unlike
mediums, Swedenborg claimed that one cannot learn any truth through
contact with spirits (AE 1182:4).
4. Mediums often make a
living through contact with spirits. Unlike mediums, Swedenborg
made no attempt to advertise his powers or accept money for his services
or gather a personal following. "I was thinking," he wrote in a
personal diary, "Suppose someone should consider me a saint, and on
that account think highly of me? Indeed, suppose ...he should not only
revere but also adore me as ...a holy man or a saint?... I saw that I must
entreat the Lord with the most earnest prayers, not to have any share in
so damnable a sin, which would then be laid to my charge. For Christ, in
whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead, must alone be addressed in
prayer" (Doc. II, p. 164). Note also that most of his books were
published anonymously, and profits were donated to a Bible society.
5. Mediums depend on their
own judgment and good character to distinguish good spirits from evil. Unlike
mediums, Swedenborg followed the warning of John about testing spirits
by their relationship to Jesus Christ: "Beloved, do not believe every
spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God .... Every
spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from
God" (1 John 4:1,3; Doc. 11, pp. 159, 208-9).
6. Mediums depend on spirit
guides to lead them to their contacts. Unlike mediums, Swedenborg
was guided by constant and thorough study of the Bible, and by unswerving
devotion and obedience to Jesus Christ. For example, when the Lord
appeared to him and opened his spiritual eyes, he was regularly praying
and singing to Jesus, fasting, attending church, and receiving communion.
His notes from his personal Bible study at that time filled half a dozen
large volumes within three years.
7. Mediums do not agree
with the teachings of the Writings. Most mediums compromise or deny
the divinity of Christ and believe that the individual, rather than
Christ, is the source of salvation. Reincarnation, meditation, and other
eastern religious concepts are often accepted by mediums. Unlike
mediums, Swedenborg taught that Jesus Christ is God-Man, and that we
are totally dependent on Him for life and salvation. Superficially, there
is some agreement about the appearance of the spiritual world, but the doctrines
about the spiritual world (for example, about influx, correspondence,
the nature of man and spirit, the connection between worlds, the way to
heaven, the relationship between heaven and the Lord, etc.) are
incompatible with spiritualistic beliefs. Consequently, most mediums have
little interest in reading Swedenborg, although a few refer to his
experiences (in much the same way they refer to the Bible) for evidence of
8. Mediums expose people
directly to spirits and supernatural phenomena. For example, the
medium of Endor allowed Saul to converse directly with "Samuel"
(1 Sam. 28). Unlike mediums, Swedenborg never put other people in
contact with spirits. Swedenborg did not lead or participate in séances
or in any way associate himself with any such activities.
9. Mediums are sometimes
wrong. Sometimes the messages of mediums are convincingly accurate.
Often, however, they are vague, symbolically obscure, or just plain wrong.
Unlike mediums, Swedenborg 's few instances of prediction and
referral of messages from the spiritual world were never wrong and never
10. The ability to give
proof of communication with spirits is important to mediums.
Clairvoyance, prediction, uncovering personal secrets, bringing messages
from departed relatives, and similar activities are often used for
"proof' of the validity of spiritualism. Generally the activities and
beliefs of mediums revolved around giving such evidence. Unlike
mediums, Swedenborg did not claim any importance for his evidences of
having been in the spiritual world. "He did not think it worth while
to waste many words" on such "trifles" as his report of the
fire in Stockholm. Instead, through what he said and wrote he directed
people to the Word and to the Lord Jesus Christ. (See TCR 849, DP 134,
Trobridge, Swedenborg: Life and Teaching, p. 196, 1935 ed.)
11. Spiritualism is usually
accompanied by physical phenomena, such as healings, levitation,
materializations of objects or spirits, psychometry, knockings, noises,
voices ("whisperings and mutterings" - Isa. 8:19), etc. Unlike
mediums, Swedenborg made no attempts to prove the truth by sensual or
12. Mediumship does not
open one's spiritual mind, although it may open the spiritual eyes
temporarily. Mediums receive spiritual messages in a worldly way, with
worldly comprehension. Unlike mediums, Swedenborg communicated with
spirits on a spiritual level, as spirit with spirit and not as man to
l3. Mediums often contact
spirits through trance-like states of mind. They allow themselves to
become passive in the hands of spirits. And, in a similar but reversed
situation, Saul went to a woman who was, literally, "master" of
an evil spirit - she could control the familiar spirit at will. Unlike
mediums, Swedenborg was neither controlled by nor in control of
The warnings of the Old and
New Testaments make it very clear that mediums and spiritism should be
Do not turn to mediums or
spiritists. Do not seek them out to be defiled with them (Lev. 19:31).
As for the person who turns
to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also
set My face against the person and will cut him off from among his
people (Lev. 20:6).
There shall not be found
among you anyone who...casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or
one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable
to the Lord (Deut. 18:10, 11).
And when they say to you,
'Consult the mediums and the wizards who whisper and mutter,' should not
a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of
the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak
according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa.
If they hear not Moses and
the Prophets, neither will they hear though one rose from the dead (Luke
16:19-31. See also Ex. 22:18, Lev. 19:26, 20:27, I Sam. 15:23, 28:6-20,
I Kings 22:19-23, 19:3, 44:2425, Ezek. 12:22-25, 13:17-23, 21:29, Mic.
5:12, Zech. 10:2).
Similar teachings are found in
To those who seek contact
with spirits, Swedenborg says, "Woe to those who do so!" (Doc.
II, p, 208). They may easily "be led astray" (Ibid., p. 210).
People who contact spirits are "speedily in danger of their life
....I would dissuade all from cherishing such desires" (Ibid.,
p. 232). "It is most dangerous" (Ibid., p. 387).
"It is dangerous,...for evil spirits desire nothing more than to
destroy a man, both soul and body" (HH 249). "When spirits
begin to speak with a person, he must beware lest he believe them in
anything .... They lie .... deceive, and seduce ....Let people beware!
....It is most perilous!" (SD 1622). "It is attended with
danger to their souls!" (AE 1182:4).
No medium ever spoke like
this. We cannot explain away such statements simply by saying that
Swedenborg was not following his own advice, or that he himself was
deceived. A more consistent and logical explanation is that Swedenborg
clearly saw the difference - indicated in the Word itself - between a
medium and a revelator. The combined evidence of his published works, his
private diaries, and the testimony of his contemporaries shows that he
made every effort to obey the laws of the Old and New Testaments and to
act solely as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
-New Church Life