Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


Return from the Unknown Country:
A Swedenborgian Key to Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment

David Simpson*

With every man there are two gates; one that leads to hell and that is open to evils and their falsities;
while the other leads to heaven and is open to goods and their truths. (Heaven and Hell 430)


While commentaries proliferate about Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866)—for the reason that it is arguably one of the most powerful and influential novels ever written—comparatively little exists about the association between its author and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg as a potential source for Dostoevsky’s literary devices and spiritual themes. With the exception of several works of the Writings of Swedenborg, most notably a Russian edition of Heaven and Hell from 1863 catalogued in Dostoevsky’s library, the empirical evidence is not abundant. Yet according to some scholars1 including Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz in his essay Doestoevsy and Swedenborg,2 Dostoevsky had Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell at his disposal while he was writing Crime and Punishment and he took from it what suited his purpose. The parallels between major themes in the two works are so strikingly similar as to further suggest that Dostoevsky may have not merely taken from Swedenborg what suited his purposes, but may have been re-purposed3 in his intentions toward Crime and Punishment by his encounter with Swedenborg’s revelation. Working from these similarities, Milosz’s essay specifically suggests the possibility of an interpretation of Dostoevsky’s writings using the name of Emanuel Swedenborg as a catalyst. This essay arises from the invitation contained in that suggestion as applied to Dostoevsky’s classic novel.4

* David Simpson is a life-long student of Swedenborg and an admirer of Dostoevsky’s writings who lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife and two children. During a recent hiatus from his 20-year career in property management, David has spent his time pursuing the translations by Dr. Leopold Calleja of Swedenborg’s writings into Spanish, particularly the work Heaven and Hell, with the aid of his wife Vicky who is a native Spanish speaker. His interest in Dostoevsky and the spiritual themes in Heaven and Hell are combined here in an examination of the Swedenborgian elements in Crime and Punishment first suggested by Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz.



In many ways Crime and Punishment is a modern “pilgrim’s progress,” albeit in specific relation to the process of spiritual regeneration which occurs within a modern secular man (Rodian Raskolnikov) in an ideologically post-Christian age who is profoundly and completely ignorant of spiritual truths. In our times, while we struggle with empty political ideologies and the vastated states of superseded religious doctrines characteristic of Dostoevsky’s era and in our own post-Christian technological era, the significance of this acclaimed masterpiece which reflects spiritual themes and descriptions of psycho-spiritual states mined from the revelations of Swedenborg should interest us.

Against the backdrop of the particular brand of Russian nihilism5 and the impending emergence of scientific socialism coined by Engels after Marx, the character of Raskolnikov has been interpreted by some critics as a personification of the evolving political and cultural ideas of the mid-nineteenth century. He has been described as a man representative of “the thirst for social justice, a terrible ideological consistency and inflexibility in action” that would later characterize the rank of people’s commissars that ultimately came from the class to which Raskolnikov belongs.6 In the extreme, Raskolnikov has been labeled as a demon embodied (dressed up) as a Humanist,7 a description deployed as a means of describing the incompatible and self-canceling nature of the two alternating characters which make up his schism. Raskolnikov’s inconsistencies confuse the critics. As a literary creation it is hard to know what he really represents. Working in the light provided by Swedenborg’s revelations of the spiritual nature of man’s life found in the work Heaven and Hell, the perennial distinctions of spiritual reality rapidly dissipate this confusion. Dostoevsky shows us clearly that Raskolnikov is not solely a demon in hiding, nor is he an angel in waiting; he is a human being. In harmony with Swedenborg, Dostoevsky’s portrait of being human means that Raskolnikov’s spiritual potential means he is potentially either while appearing to be both. In Crime and Punishment the rescue of human potential for what is angelic transpires in the complex and intense themes of the novel, within the symmetrical labyrinths of pervasive internal psycho-spiritual states and their coincidental external events, all of which lie beneath the superficial playing out of the contemporary ideologies. The affective or emotional forces can be clearly seen wearing their chosen ideological mantles as little more than a suitable covering for what lies beneath, most notably in Raskolnikov himself. This feature of Dostoevsky’s revitalized aim in Crime and Punishment raises the novel above and beyond the airy initial intention to explore the extrapolated implications of radical ideology in the psychological account of a crime. What he accomplished by his new plan ascends into the stratosphere, where Dostoevsky’s dramatic presentation of the process that sets out the path that leads to spiritual regeneration continues to lift Crime and Punishment and its principle message out of the mere historical context.

The universal internal states through which Raskolnikov passes, prescribed by Swedenborg and described through Dostoevsky’s shifting omniscient third person naration, are simultaneously manifested externally in parallel horrific events, startling coincidences, and eventual (re)unions. Seen through the lens provided by Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell, the principle characters, the settings, the interwoven subplots, the advancement though specific stages of the main plot, and even the title of Dostoevsky’s novel itself, can be seen reflecting interrelated spiritual themes which follow and reenact the descripitions and the purpose of the spiritual world presented by Swedenborg. The connection becomes obvious, particularly in relation to Swedenborg’s descriptions of the nature and purpose of the “World of Spirits,” or the intermediate abode and the three states of the resuscitated person after death. To establish this connection a brief description of Swedenborg’s revelation must be made.


Swedenborg devotes the first half of his book Heaven and Hell to a description of Heaven. The middle third is given to the realm he names “the World of Spirits,” and the remaining sixth part pertains to descriptions of Hell. While “Heaven” and “Hell” dominate the title of the work, each of these spiritual realms can be seen as a kind of fait accompli, or the final destination abodes8 of good and evil spirits respectively, once the good have shed their external evils and the evil have shed their superficial good. The World of Spirits, where people enter immediately after death, is an interstitial and intermediate abode, being neither Heaven nor Hell. This “world,” initially bears a very close resemblance to all that was familiar to them in the natural world as it was perceived with their natural senses. Swedenborg gives reports that many new arrivals in the World of Spirits are at least surprised and often incredulous at the pronouncement that they are no longer in the natural world, for the internal experience of external reality in that world, albeit a reality composed of what Swedenborg calls spiritual (not natural) substances, is so similar to them that they can scarcely comprehend having died. The practical similarities between the natural and the spiritual worlds described by Swedenborg gave Dostoevsky the means of employing the character and the nature of an “otherworldly” setting that could be taken without question as “real.” The suggestion that Dostoevsky’s St. Petersburg exudes a character that adaptively mirrors the changing internal states of Raskolnikov compels us to consider the setting itself as a functional character in the novel, as has been noted by Milosz and others.9

In Swedenborg’s revelation of the afterlife, the World of Spirits has a profound and necessary purpose. Swedenborg indicates that there are some who have become so confirmed in good and truth, or conversely in evil and falsity, during their natural life that they are taken up to Heaven or lowered into Hell almost immediately upon being resuscitated after the death of the natural body.10 But these are rare. The majority of persons after death reside temporarily in the World of Spirits. Here the thoughts and intentions reflected in the choices and actions that they made, or would have made in the natural world are given reign to demonstrate their true spiritual effects. Those who have loved the good for the sake of the good with a sincere affection for truth are inclined to follow that love and are gradually liberated from appropriated lusts and other evil inclinations specifically arising from their heredity, and are thereby prepared to enter Heaven. Those who have secretly loved and pursued their evils, or who would have pursued them were they not restrained by fear of consequences or other restrictions, gradually lose their fear of such external constraints when restrictions are removed. These spirits engage themselves more fully and openly according to their true internal inclinations, shedding whatever superficial good they may have had, and thereby prepare themselves to enter Hell.

According to Swedenborg, after death everyone continues to possess their natural memory which is complete in every respect, containing all that a person has done or said.11 Those who had committed crimes are confronted with the revelation or the coming to the light of their actions in order that they might confess, such confessions being necessary if any opportunity for a possible regeneration can be forthcoming.

In several cases Swedenborg describes people who continued to deny their culpability for evils that they had successfully hidden from view in the world. With these people,

. . . all their deeds were disclosed and reviewed from their memory in order, from their earliest to their latest years… and what is wonderful, in some cases their memorandum-books, in which they had recorded these things, were opened and read before them page by page the details of their crimes were drawn forth from their memory and reviewed… with the places, words and intentions, and this as unexpectedly as when an apparition is seen. There was one, who had deprived a relative of his inheritance under a fraudulent pretext… and what is wonderful, the letters and papers that passed between them were read in my hearing, and it was said that not a word was lacking. The same person shortly before his death had also secretly poisoned his neighbour. This was disclosed in this way. He appeared to be digging a trench under his feet, from which a man came forth as out of a grave, and cried out to him, “What have you done to me?” Then everything was revealed . . .12 (Emphasis mine)

According to Swedenborg, no one is permitted to enter Heaven with a divided mind, for Heaven itself is the internal conjunction of good and truth, or as Swedenborg says, of the will and the understanding which constitute the mind, so united in a person as to be able to receive the combined influx of Love and Wisdom from the Lord, who is the only source of Life. Most people, with only an unconscious sensation of the essence and purpose of their spiritual identity, carry the division or schism between the internal and the external person with them during their life in the world, and so carry it after death. After death, in the World of Spirits, the externals of a person that are not in accord with the internals are gradually removed so that the essential person, according to the nature of their affections is revealed. Swedenborg affirms that “the nature of every individual is determined by his or her deepest love”13 and, as he elsewhere states, “our primary or controlling love is what makes us the people we are.”14 Yet, this spiritual identity or ruling love is often hidden. Nevertheless, we see that there is a mixture in differing proportions of love toward the Lord and His reflection in the neighbour, and love of the self and its corresponding worldly ambitions in everyone. The World of Spirits, similar to the purpose of our life in the natural world, is to effect and complete our regeneration, for as Swedenborg states, “There is granted to everyone after death the opportunity of amending his life, if it is at all possible.”15

The removal of evil loves and their corresponding ideas is not a pleasant experience. In order to enter either Heaven or Hell the externals of a person that are not in accord with any internal heavenly loves that exist must be removed, often by means of severe temptations or vastations, which is the process which accomplishes the dissipation of appropriated and hereditary evil from those who are essentially good, and the separating of assumed apparent good from the person who chooses to be disposed to evil. Generally speaking, vastation precedes regeneration. Swedenborg indicates, “. . . for before man can know what is true, and be affected with what is good, there must be a removal of such things as hinder and resist their admission; thus the old man must needs die, before the new man can be conceived.”16 Only in a “world” which provides a forum to sustain the vital activity of life, whether it be the natural world or the World of Spirits, can the latent possibility or manifest impossibility of regeneration occur.

As was said, the World of Spirits is indeed a world. It is made of spiritual substance and contains objects and vistas that are familiar to the spiritual senses of sight, hearing, and touch. There are associations between people, gatherings, entertainments and employments, places of worship, meeting places, even brothels. Furthermore, the exterior manifestation of objects, associations, and events corresponds with the internal states of the people there. Swedenborg states that “all the objects that come into existence round about them correspond to their interiors.”17 This correspondence between external objects and internal states also relates to events, as the action of regeneration can only take place in the vital spheres of active and interactive living. With those in the World of Spirits, it is a life that is intricately involved in the dramatic experiences that are the necessary means to remove the externals and reveal the internals to the extent that the two are divided. Experiences, encounters, and exchanges between people accord to their internals more and more as the external restraints are removed. Nevertheless, just as in the life we lead in the natural world, every event is subtly governed by the Divine providence in order that a spirit might be reformed in freedom, if it is at all possible.

There are no meaningless coincidences, no random or unconnected events. Everything is governed by the Divine providence to lead each spirit into a state of greater good or a less grievous evil, in order that their eventual place in either Heaven or Hell will be as close to the Lord, or as little removed from Him as possible. What is confirmed internally in a person, be it good or evil, must be manifested externally for preparation for regeneration to occur. The external reality, including events and associations, is a setting which corresponds directly to the internal states of the spirit. For this reason there is no necessary external judgment, as each spirit assumes the form of the love that rules them and eventually of their own volition chooses either Heaven or Hell, according to the affinity of their loves. In this mirroring of internal and external reality we see the basis of the truth that the punishment is inherent in the crime to such a degree that external judgment is superfluous. Swedenborg states,

In the world of spirits there are many kinds of punishment; and there is no regard for person, whether one had been in the world a king or a servant. Every evil carries its punishment with it, the evil and the punishment being connected; therefore whoever is in evil is also in the punishment of evil . . .18

and elsewhere,

. . . nothing of punishment there is from the Lord, but is from the evil itself; since evil is so joined with its own punishment that the two cannot be separated.19

Because the punishment of evil is inherent in the evil itself, those who are in confirmed evil sustain the effect of the punishment within. In the World of Spirits these effects are also manifested externally, as the evil and its consequential result are in effect synonymous. In this sense we can see that punishment takes the form of internal torments and assaults that produce unbearable pains of conscience, which either soften the heart toward repentance or so harden it that spirits (or people) can become impenitent and impervious to any attempt at intervention, even the immediate intervention of punishment that is brought about for their own redemption. Punishment does not arise simply or solely for the restriction or suppression of the prohibited act alone. In the true and larger sense it addresses the internal spiritual condition that precipitated the act, rendered it possible, even consequential, for it is not the act but rather the thought and intention, or the spiritual state behind an act that constitutes the person. Once evil has been confirmed and thus appropriated into a person, the painful and purposefully intolerable condition of punishment will follow. What remains to be seen is whether the person or the spirit will heed the experience of it as a call to repentance and thus benefit from an opportunity for regeneration, or not. This is the path, revealed by Swedenborg, along which Dostoevsky so skillfully leads Raskolnikov. All the events and characters are reflections of his internal condition to reveal (to him) the path that will lead him to what the Divine providence intends for him, “the gradual renewal of a man, . . . his initiation into a new unknown life.”


In Crime and Punishment we become intimate with Raskolnikov (from the Russian “raskol” meaning a schism or split). Initially he is presented to us as a man whose unrecognized internal spiritual identity is unwillingly subservient to the notions of grandiosity, self-importance, and irascibility that comprise his external persona. He is a “house divided,” as his name suggests, and while witnessing his internal dialogue we observe a man seeking to validate and fulfill his need for greatness while constantly battling with the annoying internal voice of conscience that accompanies his thoughts and dreams. He is in many ways completely enigmatic, which of course makes him completely and utterly human, despite his perception of himself as “extraordinary.”

What differentiates Raskolnikov from his loyal friend Razumikhin (from the Russian “razum” meaning “reason” or “intelligence”), is the conspicuous pride of self-intelligence which Raskolnikov possesses, (or which more appropriately possesses him), and from which, despite his impoverished conditions and appearance, he considers himself to be the visible and obvious superior of others.

In his essay “On Crime,” Raskolnikov argued the sentiments and ideas of the nihilism20 and materialistic utilitarianism circulating in Dostoevsky’s Russia at the time. The basis of his philosophy was rooted in the perception that some men or “Supermen,” by virtue of the moral superiority granted them by their uncommon genius, are above the ethical and legal constraints by which “ordinary” men must conduct themselves. Such men, the “Napoleons” of their age, are not bound or compelled by facile notions of good and evil. They are rightfully laws unto themselves who inevitably and unavoidably must kill and destroy for the sake of the higher aims that are beyond the capacity of the lesser men beneath them. Raskolnikov considered himself to be such a man, a man who was not afraid to “utter a new word,” a word of his own invention that would no doubt redefine the world and thus provide him with his rightful place in a new order. But the word he is contemplating is a word of self-love uttered by a man for his own deification and is thus inherently opposed to the genuine Logos or Word, being the Divine Human which has already proceeded from God. This harbored “love of self,”21 which in the unconscious soul is an act of treason, is the source of his internal conflict that also reveals itself as the motive for his conscious actions. We will see later that despite the intellectual abstractions deployed by Raskolnikov to rationalize his otherwise unthinkable intentions, they arise from the most human sentiments of jealousy and contempt, the visible tip of Raskolnikov’s emotional iceberg which are the derivations of the personal humiliation and embarrassment that lies underneath. This is a fact that Dostoevsky reveals to us on the first page so that we can be prepared to recognize the fundamental truth that it is through the affections and not the intellect that a person needs to be reformed.

Throughout the novel, the city of St. Petersburg itself demonstrates a morbid character, effectively reflecting the internal states of the protagonist himself. The oppressive heat that symbolizes Raskolnikov’s fevers of conscience, the stenches that waft up from the open canals representing the torrents of falsity that commandeer his mind, the ramshackle buildings and impoverished citizens, all emulate his internal states with a surreal quality purposely suggesting something quite other-worldly. Raskolnikov’s cupboard sized “garret” or small attic room is described as a tomb. Coincidentally, Swedenborg describes people in the spiritual world who live in “dark attics” as those who live in fear about their fate and do not trust in the Lord’s providence,22 which is an applicable description of our protagonist. It is clear that Dostoevsky’s specific decisions for settings did not come from sources that he could not have known, but we can entertain the suggestion that the visions from the Spiritual World that Swedenborg describes are provided to be correspondential representations and conditions of spiritual states common to all humans and are therefore universal. Thus the setting, according to Dostoevsky’s rather powerful intuition about such correspondences, easily subliminally conveys something similar to what Swedenborg actually saw.

Raskolnikov is a handsome and able young man broken by poverty and forced to abandon his studies at the university due to his inability or unwillingness to continue sustaining himself through the lessons and translation work that he did. We might be tempted to extend sympathy toward him on account of his circumstances, but we find that Raskolnikov, in contrast to his friend Razumikhin, refuses to accept work available to him that he comes to consider as beneath him. Instead, he prefers to allow himself to sink into a self-induced despair and forced idleness that inevitably addles his mind toward practical matters. After a month of personal isolation, detached from the world by his self-exile, Raskolnikov is unwittingly but completely absorbed in the act of peering into the mental world of his eternity within his own mind and is consequently forced to confront what he finds there. We meet him as he is emerging from his tomb-like, dingy, attic abode scurrying down the stairs trying to avoid the embarassment of being confronted by his landlady to whom he is hopelessly in debt, whilst his mind is engaged in the exercise of rehearsing an idea that has recently obsessed him, the idea of killing another person.

In the throes of his poverty as a student Raskolnikov had come into contact with an old woman, Alonya Ivanova, a pawnbroker. In the act of failing to overvalue the pledges that Raskolnikov had brought to her in order to raise money, the old woman stirs up Raskolnikov’s latent humiliation in a feeling of revulsion and contempt for what he rationalizes as the real causes of his situation, which are nonetheless external effects. His bitterness over being unable to redeem himself with his “trinkets” is representative of the fact that our own “good” has no value. Raskolnikov’s reaction to this fact is to personify the old woman as the source of his difficulties, a parasite, a louse, and the worst form of miser whose very occupation oppresses vulnerable people and keeps them in their poverty. But because he is such an external man, the old pawnbroker is, in fact and effect, a personification of the condition of Raskolnikov’s own spiritual affection for Truth. He argues from his personal contempt arising from feelings of embarrassment that ridding the world of such people would not only be a service to humanity in general, but that robbing her of her hoarded impotent riches would also revitalize him in particular to serve greater aims. Dostoevsky demonstrates this hypocrisy in Raskolnikov’s confrontation with Luzhin23, a character who represents Raskolnikov’s pride, or more acurately what Swedenborg refers to as “love of dominion.”24 Luzhin’s purpose is to effectively demonstate Raskolnikov’s “love of dominion,” a derivative of self-love in its malicious form which Luzhin reveals in his soliloquy25 as the basis of his designs toward Raskolnikov’s sister, a character who represents Raskolnikov’s moral integity. “Luzhin” is derived from the Russian word “Luzha,” meaning “puddle,” an image in the original language which delivers the contradiction between reflections of depth (of character) despite the shallowness beneath, a quite adequate description of the hellish pride arising from love of dominion. Raskolnikov’s rather strange betrothal to his landlady’s daughter is synonymous26 with Luzhin’s pursuit of his sister, and has no other purpose than to expose Luzhin as a externalization of Raskolnikov’s pride—the child of contempt and embarrasment, two attributes which successively define Luzhin throughout the novel, ultimately leading to his ruin and departure through Raskolnikov’s defense of Sofya, who will later become Raskolnikov’s revitalized spiritual affection for truth.

Before the murders, from his idea of himself as a Superman, Raskolnikov is in fact uniquely disposed to regard a simple and hellish desire for revenge as a noble cause, and the obsession, born out of personal affront, insinuates itself within him to the exclusion of everything else. Dostoevsky shows us, in accord with what Swedenborg describes of the spirits in hell, that these manifestations of love of self27 are not so easily constrained and do become uncontrollable obsessions in complete accord with the inherent maliciousness of that love.

All that remains is for Raskolnikov to carry out his intention, yet what he deems in his mind as a purposed resolution is also characterized as a compulsion that he cannot rally himself to resist, despite the pangs of conscience that torment him. It is as if he is drawn, not by ideological consistency and inflexibility in action, but rather, as Swedenborg describes it, by a leash or a cord into his hatred and lusts.28 To eliminate any sympathy that we might feel for Rasklolnikov as a victim of forces that are outside of his control, Dostoevsky later shows us that Raskolnikov’s resolution or abandonment to follow his obsession is the cause of his abandoning his studies and the other aspects of his external poverty, not the reverse.29

Nevertheless, the Divine providence intervenes in both the immediate and the future spheres. Before actually committing his crime, Raskolnikov, for the first time in his life we are told, enters a tavern and is introduced to a failed and pathetic drunkard named Marmeladov who shares Raskolnikov’s irresistible need to pamper and intoxicate himself in the same manner as Raskolnikov nurses on his obsession. (The name “Marmeladov” is derived from the Russian “Mamelad” meaning “Jam”). Marmeladov represents Raskolnikov’s frustrated desire for unmerited redemption, what Swedenborg describes as a misguided hope that spiritual life can be entered into without means, and from which arises an intoxicated belief that faith alone30 without genuine charity can save anyone. Both men, having abandoned their stations, are tortured internally by their misalignments. Marmeladov desperately longs for the affection of his border-line abusive wife Katerina, who represents the affective side or external character of Raskolnikov’s proprium.31 The marriage between Marmeladov and his wife represents the infernal conjunction between the misguided false hope for unmediated mercy repleat with its dependence on salvation by faith alone, and the latent grandiosity, schismatic alterations, and vanity which demands it. Their impoverished children serve to provide numerous superficial reflections of Raskolnikov’s resultant internal states, his own neglected natural thoughts and affections. In an inexplicable act of what appears as kindness, Raskolnikov assists Marmeladov to return home and meets his family. By this encounter with himself, the soon to be murderer establishes a connection with Marmeladov’s daughter “Sofya,” a character who represents the unrecognized capacity for heavenly affections within him. Sofya has been pushed into prostitution by her step-mother in order to preserve the family from the threat of imminent starvation brought about by her father’s failure to rise above the worthlessness imposed upon him by his wife for failing to satisfy her expectation of being restored to the “nobility” that she insanely believes she belongs to. The grandiosity and pomposity of Marmeladov’s wife stands as an immediate affective reflection of Raskolnikov’s own conception of himself, presented by the character of a woman who manifests externally the burning lusts of self-love and revenge that Raskolnikov internalizes. Marmeladov’s wife has no difficulty in compelling the daughter of her husband, whom she also brutalizes along with her children, into prostitution. Sofya or Sophia, as her name signifies, represents the “internal affection for wisdom,” a desire to vitalize truth that is the essence of the divine feminine and the path through the affections to a genuine redemption. She is meek and easily embarrassed, but she maintains a strong religious faith and in this sense, her prostitution, because it is borne from a love of her family, is an act of charity. Contrasting Sofya to her stepmother (Raskolnikov’s externalized proprium) whose life is based on illusions of nobility and the resulting inevitable series of insufferable disappointments that only serve to entrench her insanity, Dostoevsky conforms with Swedenborg in demonstrating that the love of self will always prostitute heavenly affections for truth, debasing them and thereby converting what is good and true into its opposite to feed vain imaginings.32

Raskolnikov is disgusted at the family’s treatment of their daughter, which reveals that although he is unable to recognize reflections of his own impoverished internal states, there is a burgeoning hope for him that will be actualize in the future. Before leaving, Raskolnikov deposits the little money that he has on a windowsill, establishing himself as a benefactor and kind person in complete contrast to what is actually transpiring inside him. However, immediately upon leaving the household he regrets his act, castigating himself for giving in to such a weak impulse. Despite the stirrings of his internal man he still considers goodness to be weak, which he must do if he is to muster the strength to do evil.

But the Divine providence intervenes by another encounter. While walking in the avenue, absorbed with his intention to murder, Raskolnikov encounters a young girl who appears drunk. By the way she has been apparently dressed by somebody else, he easily surmises that she has been raped. He notices also that she is being stalked by a man who Raskolnikov presumes is intending to take further advantage of the girl’s weakened condition. In a fit of indignation, inexplicable for a would-be murderer, he interposes himself to protect the girl and assaults the stalker which draws the attention of a passing policeman. The raped girl represents Raskolnikov’s treatment of his own spiritual affections and shows Sofya’s “consent” to being prostituted for what it really is. He is the one who has raped his innocence, and in effect the “stalker” is none other than himself. He calls the stalker a “Svidrigaďlov,”33 identifying the lurking presence of the darkest side of his internal proprium which has now come to the surface and must soon be confronted. Initially he tries to intervene on behalf of the girl and calls the assistance of the police, the very people who he will later do everything to avoid. The police represent “Judgment” and the scene externally represents the state of temptation that Raskolnikov is suffering. But the opportunity is lost when Raskolnikov’s prevailing self-love resurfaces and he suddenly reverses himself, telling the policeman that the girl’s fate is not his affair and that he doesn’t care what happens to her (what remains of his own intoxicated and abused spiritual innocence) and walks away.34

Raskolnikov decides that he will not visit his old friend Razumikhin, who represents “Reason,” until after he has committed his murder, but providence intervenes again, providing him with a dream in which he recalls vividly a childhood experience of witnessing an “old mare” harnessed to a wagon full of jeering peasants that is whipped to death by the driver out of sheer malice for the sport of the onlookers. The peasants, representing the ignorant cacophony of evil spirits in Raskolnikov’s own head, cheer on the cruelty, eventually calling for an axe to “finish her off.”35 As he did as a child, in the dream Raskolnikov is stirred to compassion for the suffering of the old mare. He “. . . put his arms round her bleeding dead head and kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips . . .”36 The dream, which arises from a long-forgotten event of his childhood, is an effort by heavenly influences acting on his deepest internal affections to employ the remains of heavenly states residual from childhood that, according to Swedenborg, are used by the angels to assist in a person’s redemption.37 Raskolnikov easily identifies the “old mare” in his dream as Alonya Ivanova, his potential victim. Swedenborg revels that a “horse” is a correspondential representation of the intellect or the understanding of truth, and that a female horse or a mare is the affection for truth.38 For a moment Raskolnikov is horrified at his obsession to kill the old woman, to murder what remains of his affection for truth or more precisely, what he had allowed it to become. He temporarily renounces his intention. Stirred by compassion and momentarily humbled he actually prays; “Lord,” he prayed, “show me my path—I renounce that accursed . . . dream of mine.”39 But we are not sure who he is calling “Lord” or which dream he is renouncing. Is it the fantasy of a killing another that he has justified in his heart as a proof of his own greatness, or is he renouncing the feeling of contempt that he felt for those who sought the death of an innocent animal for their amusement as weakness in himself?

Raskolnikov does not know who the “Lord” is. In fact, he has made a “god” of himself, enmeshed in the vanity of a Nebuchadnezzar, worshiping his own image and is in fact praying to no one other than himself, although he was incapable of knowing it. Dostoevsky demonstrates this immediately when Raskolnikov, wandering off his regular path coincidentally encounters Lizaveta, the innocent and subservient sister of the old pawnbroker. He secretly overhears her in the marketplace agreeing to attend a meeting the following evening at a precise time and assumes instantly that he has been “provided” with the direct knowledge of an opportunity (or a temptation) to commit his crime when the conditions necessary for his plan to succeed would be satisfied. This occurs immediately after his “prayer” to be shown his path. To conclude that God himself is sanctioning his intention to commit murder is a symptom of his burgeoning insanity rooted in his love of self, but will he act on it? Dostoevsky informs us how this circumstance, which was “to exert the gravest and most decisive influence on his whole destiny”40, later haunted Raskolnikov, for the question at the heart of this coincidence is “Who is God?” Dostoevsky later espouses in “The Possessed”, “. . . if there is no God then I am God.”41 Swedenborg clearly indicates that love of self has no bounds and, unbridled, would assume to rule over the Divine itself.42

Still in conflict over his plans, Raskolnikov starts to see that he is guided by “coincidences and peculiar influences” which are the characteristics not of fate but rather of the operation of reality in the World of Spirits. He recalls his instant revulsion toward the old woman on his first encounter with her after pawning his father’s watch given to him by his mother and a ring which was a gift from his sister, items which represent respectively his mortality and his eternity. After his first encounter with the old woman, he had gone to a little café and overheard another student conversing with a military officer at the table beside him. The “student” coincidentally was speaking contemptuously about the same “old woman” and ventured the opinion to the “officer” that all the pawnbrokers money, if it was given to those in real need, would justify her being killed. This conversation, an externalization of his own thoughts, overheard between strangers, merely echoes the particular idea already introduced into Raskolnikov’s molten state of revulsion which formed the nucleus of his crystallizing obsession in the ensuing month.

As the story progresses, we see that “coincidences and peculiar influences” of the World of Spirits are what in fact drive the progression of events. But as was said, these events, as with the characters themselves and the relationships between them, are correspondences and representations of Raskolnikov’s internal states. Such are the realities of the World of Sprits, as Swedenborg makes clear in his discussion of the interaction and correspondence between interior states and external conditions and events.

Raskolnikov, now confirmed in his internal capacity for intending evil as good, equipped with rationalized falsity as a motive, and provided, as if by what he misconstrues as fate, with an open opportunity to fulfill his obsession, has crossed the line and mobilizes his intent. He acts, not with a “thirst for social justice, a terrible ideological consistency or inflexibility in action” but rather, as Swedenborg describes a person confirmed in evil, as one who is drawn by his evil loves as if by a rope. Taking advantage of all his planning, he arms himself with an axe taken from his landlady’s shed and presents himself at the pawnbroker’s door when he knows the innocent and subservient Lizaveta will not be there. He finds the old woman alone and murders her with numerous blows, revealing the intensity of his malice. He begins searching for the valuables in the back room of the squalid apartment and fills his pockets with all that he can find, in his panic leaving behind a vast sum of money that he did not know existed. Footsteps in the outer room shock him, and to his horror he finds Lizaveta has returned and is standing stupefied with horror over the body of her murdered sister. Raskolnikov murders her with one blow as the poor woman whimpers, without even trying to protect herself. Here Dostoevsky provides a powerful representation of just how easily spiritual innocence can be extinguished. At that moment Raskolnikov realizes that the outer door had not been locked and in fact had been open all the time, a fact which later appears in the trial to demonstrate his state of mind. By means of the open door, Dostoevsky shows us clearly, as Swedenborg frequently reveals, that evil is always done in the open. In these two murders, one calculated and the other necessitated by the first, we see clearly that a person who murders his spiritual affection for truth, no matter how miserly or usurious it may have become in the service of self-love, will also simultaneously murder his Lizaveta, his ignorant and subservient spiritual innocence and her unborn child.43 Raskolnikov is in effect responsible for three murders and is unaware of the third, a fact that most commentators have omitted. By murdering his spiritual affection for truth and his spiritual innocence he also murdered its unborn potential.

In a sort of blankness, Raskolnikov takes to washing the blood from his hands and the axe. The instinct to flee arises when suddenly he hears the voices of men ascending the stairs to the apartment. He locks the door, trapping himself inside the room with the bodies of the two murdered women, or in effect sealing the crime within himself, revealing that spiritually what is without is also within. Raskolnikov, in confirming his intention to dispose of what remained of his affection for truth in favour of the falsity necessary to serve his own grandiosity, had already murdered his own innocence. So it was that he would also unavoidably murder the innocent Lizaveta (and her unborn child), and in that singular un-contemplated act, all his rationalizations and intent to demonstrate to himself as belonging to a superior caste of men, evaporate like a mirage. The whole enterprise—with its internal justifications and practical benefits—is an instant and complete failure.

Two men bang on the door while Raskolnikov is trapped inside. Perceiving the oddity that no one answers when the door is locked from the inside they leave together to get help. Raskolnikov is provided with a chance to escape. He descends the staircase and ducks into a vacant apartment on a lower floor just in time in order to avoid detection. The similarity of this image to the manner in which we see Raskolnikov leaving his own garret trying to avoid detection by his landlady, introduces a parallel between his landlady and the old woman whom he kills with his landlady’s axe. He manages to steal away from the building, slipping past the eyes of anyone who might have seen him. Having cleaned the axe in the apartment, he returns it secretly to its place and seeks refuge in his garret. His mind is completely overwhelmed and tortured in the aftermath of his act, obsessing over details that he might have already forgotten, as he tries to determine to himself if there is any way he might have been recognized or left some clue as to his identity. Swedenborg affirms that the punishment is inherent in the crime, and in his panic and anxiety Raskolnikov cannot help but exclaim: “Surely it isn’t beginning already! Surely it isn’t my punishment coming upon me? It is!”,44 as if on some level he intuitively knows that what he has done, quite apart from the hideousness of the crime itself, was an act of treason in his own soul and that the resulting internal punishment and the crime itself are now inseparable.

Raskolnikov passes out and is awakened the next morning by the porter in his building who delivers him a summons to appear at the police station. Afraid and nervous, he attends (too late) only to find out that the summons was issued on the basis of a complaint made by his landlady for the money that he owes her, in the form of a demand that has passed into other hands. The personal debt that he hoped to absolve himself of by his crime has now come back in an even fuller force and effect. The coincidence of the arrival of this summons, the day after his murders, leaves no doubt that Raskolnikov’s actions in favour of himself have initiated the unbridling—by an external authority—of the full consequences (that supersede the mild pangs of conscience initiated by his landlady’s petty indignities) that can exert a forced judgment necessary for the ordering of his external man. Here is an opportunity to strengthen his resolve, to negate his guilty conscience and blot out the memory and the consequence of what he has done, to plead for himself as a Marmeladov that he tries to do. In the police station he musters his entire ability to pass himself off as a victim, but overhears details of the murders that are being discussed and uncontrollably faints. In his paranoia he can’t help imagining that the police actually suspect him, and he hurries home to hide the stolen property, choosing to put all the proceeds from his crime, including a unopened purse that contained a quantity of banknotes that could have more than paid his debt, under a large stone in a courtyard, symbolically trying to suppress his conscience.

Raskolnikov visits his friend Razumikhin (Reason) who sees immediately that he is ill. It is not mere irony that Raskolnikov’s efforts to return to some semblance of normal mental activity, represented by his re-acquaintance with Razumikhin, is immediately cut short when he is presented with the opportunity to engage himself through his friend’s offer to earn money, translating from the German a pamphlet on the contemporary subject, “Is woman a human being?” Presented with this prospect, Raskolnikov instantly and silently flees from his friend, declining the work offered to him. He needs the work and the money, but it is too late. If he had gone to his friend before his murders, in short, if he had listened to reason, he would have been provided with a justification against killing a woman that he reasoned was not human, and thereby could have been empowered to overcome his temptation, if not by some internal change of heart, then at least by some external persuasion. But if abandoned reason cannot save when the affections are dedicated to evil, Dostoevsky shows that reason— confronted with the irrepressible truth—will be unable to avoid the falsity of the initial justification. In the last sentence of Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell is the closing revelation that “. . . all truth is in light.”45

Raskolnikov is instantly mortified as indications of his crime, so insinuated within him, become so ubiquitous that he is compelled to research it and relive it as an entity that is enmeshed with his identity. Unwilling to respond to his friend’s current suggestions for his welfare, Raskolnikov finds himself walking “for some unknown reason”46 in the middle of the street on a bridge. He is only brought back into consciousness by a lash from a coachman’s whip administered to prevent him from being trampled. He in effect is saved by the lash of whip, an external representation of the internal punishment that is to follow, but here Dostoevsky is also providing us with a foreshadowing of how Marmeladov—Raskolnikov’s frustrated desire for unmerited redemption, a desire to enter into spiritual life by faith alone without means—must die before any real reformation of his character necessary for regeneration can occur. After the incident, a smartly dressed woman accompanied by her daughter, taking Raskolnikov to be an impoverished beggar, gives him some money. Their act, which inversely mimics the charitable impulse that Raskolnikov had succumbed to when he left the little money that he had with the Marmeladov’s, reveals him to be essentially the same as those over whom he had previously felt so superior. He throws the coin into the river.

Raskolnikov returns home and dreams vividly that IIya Petrovich— the explosive police detective who humiliated him that morning on account of his landlady’s complaint—had come to the boarding house and was savagely beating the landlady. By means of Raskolnikov’s dream, Dostoevsky again reveals Raskolnikov’s unaltered latent selfishness and overpowering unconscious desire for revenge and blame, inseparable from a love of self, which was the real motive for his crime. In the depths of his mind, his landlady’s incessant and humiliating demands for payment lay at the root of the motive to kill the pawnbroker, another old woman, a substitute for the landlady herself. Despite his moral musings about Supermen, the unrecognized motive for his act was simply a need to be liberated from the humiliation and limitations caused by his debts. So Dostoevsky demonstrates clearly that Raskolnikov, while fooling himself that he is engaged in some experiment of superiority is actually only reacting to exaggerated feelings of personal worthlessness, in the worst possible way, that he won’t or can’t admit to himself; for if he had that capacity he might have prevented himself from being consumed by his obsession and thereby avoided his extreme fate in the first place.

Raskolnikov eventually wakes up in his tomb-like room to find himself surrounded by his landlady, her servant, Razumikhin and a doctor who is a friend of Razumikhin, unaware that they had been taking care of him. He has been unconscious and delirious for four days, the same number of days that Lazarus lay dead before his resurrection.47 Raskolnikov’s re-enactment of Lazarus’ rising from the dead within the tomb of his small garret, represents what Swedenborg describes in the first state of man after death as the period of resuscitation, during which angels are attendant with the spirit to bring him into the spiritual world.48

According to Swedenborg, there are three successive stages or states that occur after death.

There are three states that man passes through after death before he comes into either heaven or hell. The first state is the state of his exteriors, the second state the state of his interiors, and the third his state of preparation. These states man passes through in the World of Spirits.49

Not coincidentally, references to Lazarus occur in Crime and Punishment three times. Each occurrence, in the context of the events and the progression of the story, corresponds to each of the successive states that Swedenborg describes as occurring in the World of Spirits50 to facilitate the passage into either Heaven or Hell.

Raskolnikov, owing to the total failure of his rational and affective faculties, is no longer capable of living consciously or amending his life in the material world of natural cause and effect. He is no longer able to be “bound for the sake of completeness and order to live only in this life,” as Svidrigaďlov later puts it. In effect, the superman that Raskolnikov had created died when he confirmed himself in the cause of his evils and committed his murders. What remains is his spiritual opportunity to renounce their effects. The man who is now engaged and absorbed in the mental world of his eternity, having regained consciousness after his symbolic interment for four days, has entered into a of life akin to existence in the World of Spirits, as described by Swedenborg, where the possibility of amending his life, if at all possible, can be given to him. Ironically, in retrospect it is Svidrigaďlov,51 the character representing Raskolnikov’s proprium who, while musing about the eternity that he has likely made for himself, provides the explanation to Raskolnikov as to what had transpired with him. Speaking with Raskolnikov about his encounter with the ghost of his murdered wife, Svidrigaďlov speculates, referring to ghosts:

A man in health has, of course, no reason to see them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as soon as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the organism is broken, one begins to realize the possibility of another world; and the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes one’s contact with that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he steps straight into that world.52

“That World” is where the beneficial and necessary punishment that Raskolnikov would not otherwise accept will actually begin, so that he can experience in full that anguished state of being where the infernal affections that he allowed to incubate in his consciousnesses, and so permitted to become the guiding impulses which commandeered and directed his life, were actually leading him.

In the simplistic duality of men as spiritual wheat or tares, sheep or goats, saved or unsaved; where the unrepentant sinner is eschewed by God for being no better than his sin, it is clear that Raskolnikov is an unregenerate reprobate who is deserving of an eternity of torment in Hell. But Dostoevsky, clearly influenced by Swedenborg, does not lead us down that road, which is a reflection of the trap that Raskolnikov had led himself into in his attempt to separate the world into two classes of men. Despite the unquestionable depravity of his actions, Raskolnikov is allowed to suffer punishment, not as a feature of a retributive damnation but out of mercy, a mediated mercy that acts not for the validation of misguided ideas or as a temporary reprieve from immediate difficulties, but for the hope of his future regeneration, his eternal welfare. The punishment, even in the context of the living hell that Raskolnikov experiences, is nevertheless merciful because it respects his freedom, for as Swedenborg states: “The Lord withdraws no one from their hell unless they see that they are in hell and wish to be led out.”53

Whereas in the portion of the novel leading up to the crime, Raskolnikov is isolated and cut-off from contact with others—due largely to his irascible character and crazed obsession—very quickly after the crime we are introduced to a parade of other characters who enter or invade Raskolnikov’s life in rapid succession to facilitate him or tempt him on the path that is being unfolded for his redemption, if he will take it.

As the World of Spirits is a place where outward appearances reflect internal realities, it is also a place where a person or a spirit, upon being presented with the appearance of their life, can also confront their internal realities. At first, Raskolnikov eschews the presence of others who mean him well, including his mother and sister who arrive from the provinces, declining their assistance and wishing to be left alone. We can see further a resemblance to the description Swedenborg provides of angels attending to newly arrived spirits, until the spirit, being of dissimilar affection, longs to be removed from them.54

Raskolnikov takes to the streets eventually entering a café, only to encounter Zametov,55 whose presence in the same café indicates that the truth is irrepressable. In the crazed conversation with the detective, Raskolnikov’s guilt bubbles out of him and he reveals many of the details of the crime that he can’t help reliving, but stops short of confessing. Leaving the café to escape his friend Razumikhin who is now looking for him, he contemplates killing himself until he witnesses a young woman hurl herself off the bridge into the canal at the very place he is standing. The woman is easily saved and Raskolnikov is thwarted in his idea of “making an end of it all.” As in all the coincidences, Dostoevsky makes use of parallel realities of internal and external experiences that characterize the World of Spirits, while all the time showing that Raskolnikov is no longer aware or able to think about “coincidences and peculiar influences” affecting his life, simply because he is no longer able to believe in his superior destiny. Despite his internal torment, he is slowly coming into an experience of the responsibility of spiritual freedom, the way it should be, for as Swedenborg reveals, “Everything that happens which is called accidental and is ascribed to chance or fortune, is of Providence. But the Divine Providence operates invisibly and incomprehensibly, in order that people may be in freedom to ascribe an event either to Providence or to chance.”56

Thereafter, while still eschewing the company of others, he witnesses a crowd gathered in the street only to discover that the drunken Marmeladov has been trampled by a carriage in an accident that parallels what almost happened to Raskolnikov himself. The weak and pathetic Marmeladov, who represents the false hope of salvation by faith alone or unmediated mercy, is killed by horses hoofs and Raskolnikov, through this event, is thrust back into contact with the family to confront his states of grandiosity, misery, and internal oppression.

Dressed in the new clothes provided for him by the renewed presence of abiding reason in the person of Razumikhin and which represent the first state after death pertaining to the ordering of externals, he cannot resist leaving money for the widow and orphans of Marmeladov and gives twenty rubles from the money given to him by his mother, with promises of future support. Despite his own poverty this is the first act of genuine magnanimity he has undertaken and represents his emerging willingness to take responsibility for himself. He later apologizes to his mother, not for having wasted money on worthless people as before, but for being overly generous with property that was not his to give.

Through these subtle differences in behavior Dostoevsky reveals Swedenborg’s principle that a person’s spiritual identity is alive or dead according to the capacity for genuine charity. By means of the death of Marmeladov (faith alone), Raskolnikov is reunited with Sofya who represents Raskolnikov’s internal affection for truth and with whom he is now subtly and weakly able to form a bond. Raskolnikov is being prepared for entry into the second state where he can begin the work of ordering his internal life. For this Raskolnikov needs Sofya, whom he still undervalues, equating her as a sinner equal to himself, not yet realizing that the consequences she suffers are for the sake of others, while his suffering has been brought about solely by himself. He visits her and asks her to read the story of Lazarus to him, only to find out that the Bible Sofya reads from was a gift from her friend Lizaveta. Lizaveta, the woman representing Raskolnikov’s own ignorant spiritual innocence and its unborn potential that he had killed, was now repaying him by returning as a witness for the opportunity of his own restoration, in the company of another woman representing his prostituted affection for truth.

Raskolnikov is moved to confess but is unable to overcome his fear of the consequences. He learns that the police suspect him, not merely for reason of material evidence, of which there is little, but rather because his uncontrollable behavior openly reveals his guilt. In an informal interview, Porfiry Petrovich, the chief magistrate in the case and a relative of Razumikhin, lures Raskolnikov to share his views as to whether some men might have the right to kill under certain circumstances, a subject Raskolnikov wishes to avoid. To his astonishment, the magistrate produces a copy of Raskolnikov’s article “On Crime,” stating that he had read it with great interest. Up to this point Raskolinikov was unaware that his article had even been published, but again, by a guided series of coincidences, more evidence from his own hand, including his own words, surfaces to incriminate him. There is a clear parallel to this event and Swedenborg’s description of how papers and journals appear in the World of Spirits to indict those who refuse to admit their wrongdoings, for everything is preserved in the memory and in the Spiritual World a person’s memory can be read as if it was a book written in a man’s own hand. In the same interview, the magistrate quite casually asks Raskolnikov if he believes in Lazarus rising from the dead. The second state, which deals with the ordering of his internals, is unfolding and demanding a confession. Raskolnikov is later accosted by a stranger in the street who calls him a “Murderer” and retires to his garret where he is tormented by a nightmare in which he is trying to kill the old woman again while she laughs at him, a dream that also parallels Swedenborg’s description from the World of Spirits of a murder victim appearing to accuse his murderer. He wakes to find a stranger in his room.

The stranger is Svidrigaďlov, a depraved man from Raskolnikov’s home town and his sister’s former employer and illicit suitor who confesses to marrying his recently deceased wife for money. While denying the responsibility for his wife’s recent drowning in her country bathhouse, he is nevertheless haunted in person by her ghost, a mirror of Raskolnikov’s visitations by Alyona Ivanova in his dreams which unites the identity of the two men. Svidrigaďlov had come to Petersburg in pursuit of Raskolnikov’s sister and coincidentally, unknown to anyone, he is lodging in the same house where Sofya lives in the adjacent room. The juxtaposition of Svidrigaďlov and Sofya is in effect to show how the proprium of a person and a spiritual affection for truth are counterposed.

Earlier in his internal dialogue, Raskolnikov had speculated how his position as a condemned man was akin to living on “some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”57

In a later conversation with Svidrigaďlov, to whom everything is permitted, Raskolnikov says he doesn’t believe in eternity or an afterlife. Svidrigaďlov then ponders why we think eternity must be vast. “Instead of all that, what if its one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is?”58 When an anguished Raskolnikov asks Svidrigaďlov why it is that he can’t imagine anything more just, Svidrigaďlov replies in a tacit admission of his culpability for his wife’s death: “Juster?”, And how can we tell, perhaps that is just, and do you know it’s what I would certainly have made it?”59

Suddenly, Raskolnikov’s willingness to remain for a thousand years on a narrow ledge simply in order to live pales when confronted with the idea that all of eternity could be nothing more than a bathhouse full of spiders that he also had made for himself. Svidrigaďlov represents the darkest side of Raskolnikov’s proprium, cavalier towards everything, and conscienceless. A fellow murderer who is cavalier about his crimes, he torments Raskolnikov with the effect of subtly demonstrating to him his fate, should he remain what he is and numb himself to the pangs of his own conscience, eschewing the path of redemption. Raskolnikov’s anguish suggests he believes in justice, provoking Svidrigaďlov to torment him further by implying in his response that anyone who renounces good and evil has no right to ask for justice.

Porfiry Petrovich continues his torment of Raskolnikov, eventually revealing to him that the police more than suspect him and that it is only a matter of time before the evidence necessary to arrest and convict him will appear. Judgment, representing the coming to the light of all truth, is imminent. Raskolnikov is urged to confess in order that sentencing will go lighter for him and thereby avoid the full weight of the law, which could prescribe his own death. In order to obtain a beneficial judgment, Raskolnikov must first concede to justice, to have affection for the truth in relation to what is good. For this he intuitively knows that he needs Sofya, and he goes to her. But faced with the reality of what a true encounter with himself in the form of a confession would mean to him, “a sort of bitter hatred for Sofya passed through his heart.”60 Nevertheless he persists and his hatred vanishes. He confesses to her.

“Good God!” broke in an awful wail from her bosom. … “What have you done—what have you done to yourself?” she said in despair, and, jumping up, she flung herself on his neck, threw her arms round him, and held him tightly . . .61

And so, for the first time, even as a result of his crime and his punishment, Raskolnikov discovers that judgment united with justice, or truth combined with an affection for truth brings life, and life is love that had been waiting for him, although he was still incapable of it and still longs to justify himself without the judgment of the truth upon him.

“Well, what am I to do now?” he asked, suddenly raising his head and looking at her with a face hideously distorted by despair. “What are you to do?” she cried, jumping up, and her eyes that had been full of tears suddenly began to shine. “Stand up!” (She seized him by the shoulder, he got up, looking at her almost bewildered.) “Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a murderer!’ Then God will send you life again. Will you go, will you go?” she asked him, trembling all over, snatching his two hands, squeezing them tight in hers and gazing at him with eyes full of fire.62

Sofya, Raskolnikov’s prostituted affection for truth, shy and abused, is now a burning passion to be united with the word of truth. Not the “new word” that flows from a grandiose superman, but the word of truth that faces up to the judgment necessary for true justice.

Simultaneously Svidrigaďlov is listening to Raskolnikov’s confession through the wall in the adjacent room, and goes to Raskolnikov’s sister in an attempt to use information he has procured regarding her brother’s guilt, promising to save him as a means of blackmailing her into loving him. Raskolnikov’s sister is a strong, developed character who, by her family affiliation with her brother, as was said, represents Raskolnikov’s related but detached moral integrity. The attempt by the proprium—as represented by the character of Svidrigaďlov—to enslave moral integrity by desperate and scurrilous means to validate itself, is met with resistance, which incites Svidrigaďlov to attempt to rape what he cannot corral. Dunya resists and fires two missed shots from a revolver in order to protect herself. Svidrigaďlov retires, and realizing that the destructive designs that sustain his life are now irreversibly thwarted, shortly afterward kills himself with the same revolver in a description that can only be said to be worthy of how the “old man” dies. With the suicide of Svidrigaďlov, almost simultaneously as expected, Katarina—Sofya’s crazed and borderline step-mother who externally represents Raskolnikov’s exaggerated internal grandiosity and the affective side of his proprium—finally succumbs to her illness, and after a fit of madness parading in the streets, also dies. These two deaths, preceded and made possible by the death of Marmeladov, and followed by the death of Raskolnikov’s mother, although horrible and tragic in their aspects, represent the impending death of the “old man,” both in the internal and the external hold that they maintained over Raskolnikov’s spiritual identity; as Swedenborg indicates, “thus the old man must needs die, before the new man can be conceived.”63

Raskolnikov confesses his guilt to his sister, who is now bonded with Razumikhin, a union which represents the newly formed association within Raskolnikov between his developing understanding and recovering moral integrity. Although all the elements are now in place for a full confession to the police, Raskolnikov hesitates and goes to see Sofya again, who takes out two crosses, a wooden one that she places on Raskolnikov, and a copper cross that was worn by Lizaveta at the moment when Raskolnikov killed her. Raskolnikov asks Sofya to wear the copper cross, which symbolically represents that the initial stirrings of a willingness to repent has commenced the process of restoring the unification of his spiritual innocence with his affection for truth, in essence, bringing back to life what he had murdered.

Raskolnikov waffles as he approaches the police station, but nonetheless acts on Sofya’s presciption for him and bows and kisses the ground at the “Cross-roads.”64 While harboring his confession within, he hears himself being dispatched to the New Jerusalem65 by a passer-by. Seeing Sofya, who is following him at a distance, he renews his conviction and enters the Police station where he comes into the knowledge that Svidrigaďlov, the last man with a motive to betray his secret, was dead. This event gives Raskolnikov the opportunity to pass off his appearance there as pertaining to some triffle and walk away, which he intially does. Dostoevsky, drawing from Swedenborg, is reminding us that reformation must be accomplished in complete freedom, and that if we are to be compelled by anything it must be by a love for the truth and the good for its own sake, exercised in freedom or there is no spiritual validity to our actions.

Upon emerging from the Police station Raskolnikov is in complete freedom to walk away, to acquit himself and fall back into the trap of his illusions and justifications and perish. His confrontation with Sofya again outside the Police station provides Raskolnikov with a reminder of the necessary motive for his confession, which would otherwise be meaningless, that he is not a cornered criminal reacting out of fear of the rapidly descending forces of fate over which he has no control, but rather is able “to enter as a man,66 endowed with a restored liberty and rationality, who for the first time is in control of himself. Only an acknowledgement and submission to a genuine affection for truth can empower him with the courage to allow his true spiritual identity to act according to the demands of truth in the moment of truth, “the fatal place.” Sofya, by her abiding presence ultimately provides him with that courage.

Raskolnikov at that moment felt and knew once for all that Sofya was with him forever and would follow him to the ends of the earth, wherever fate might take him. It wrung his heart . . . but he was just reaching the fatal place.67

Facing her the second time, Raskolnikov reenters the police station and gives a complete confession, submitting to the justice and judgment that he needs to complete the work of ordering his internal man.

The story could well end here if the spiriutal significance of Raskolnikov’s ordeal is not understood, especially in relation to Swedenborg’s descriptions of the three stages which occur after death in the World of Spirits.68 Many commentators have questioned the pertinence of the epilogue, considering it to be an obligatory convention in nineteenth century fiction or a simple means of tidying up loose ends that does not technically belong to the formal structure of the novel. Superficially this view may play back logically in relation to the conventions; however, the epilogue in Crime and Punishment, which represents the third state of preparation for regeneneration as descirbed by Swedenborg, is the climax of the work, which quite the opposite from simply tidying up loose ends, actually provides the meaning for all the preceeding events. Without it the essence and purpose of the story carried in the structure of the novel would be an unconluded failure. Dostoevsky carefully and purposefully reserves the actual ending of the work, the fulfillment of his purpose, for this moment.

On account of the free confession, the sentence is commuted to eight years of hard labor in Siberia.69 Raskolnikov goes and suffers his penance. Sofya, who is liberated from her prostitution by the changes in Raskolnikov, follows him, and while engaging herself in service, waits for him, although at a necessary distance. Swedenborg relates that during periods of extreme temptation we are indeed given to feel that we are cut off or alienated from our spiritual affections, especially our affection for truth. In the epilogue we are given details of the trial and discover, by means of testimony offered in defense of the character of Raskolnikov provided by his landlady and Razumikhin,

That while Raskolnikov was at the university he had helped a poor consumptive fellow student and had spent his last penny on supporting him for six months, and when this student died, leaving a decrepit old father whom he had maintained almost from his thirteenth year, Raskolnikov had got the old man into a hospital and paid for his funeral when he died. Raskolnikov’s landlady bore witness, too, that when they had lived in another house at Five Corners, Raskolnikov had rescued two little children from a house on fire and was burnt in doing so.70

From our first and abiding impressions of Raskolnikov it would be impossible to imagine him ever or at all capable of such selfless generosity and saintly acts of charity, yet Dostoevsky introduces these seemingly incongruous facts, almost too matter-of-factly, which serve to create a balanced view and to support Raskolnikov’s defence, aided by the fact that he is no longer intending toward relying on the indefensible ideations and self-justifation he mistakenly believed as lying at the core his actions. In the work Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg affirms that man is in equilibrium because of his constant, although unconscious, association with the spiritual world. Evil spirits, which excite lusts and exaggerate guilt, are counterbalanced by good spirits who assist in exciting heavenly affections and the calling to mind of the good that a person has done, or retains in him, as a means of combating evil.71 Dostoevsky applies this principle from Swedenborg by the simple inclusion of a reference to Raskolnikov’s history that, without reference to Swedenborg as a source, would otherwise be so utterly incongreous as to cause us to doubt if Dostoevsky is really describing the character he had already so artfully introduced us to.

During the final preparation, though Raskolnikov confronts his insanity in dreams, sickness, and even an attempt on his life, his sister’s marriage to Razumikhin and the death of his mother represents the unification of the understanding and the will, released from the limitations and expectations of natural heredity that is subtly and secretly transpiring within him. These events are outside of the confines that he is restricted to, beneath his conscious awareness, simply because it is not a process that he is controlling. Raskolnikov’s journey through his arduous final preparation for reformation is characterized by Dostoevsky this way, through sickness and sullen moods, even doubting the new life of a future resurrection; in effect a reenactment of the temptations Raskolnikov already passed through in his former states.

But there is a difference. Swedenborg reveals that suffering in temptations only has value, that is, only has the potential to advance a person’s spiriutal condition for the better, if the object or the objective at the center of the temptation is a spiritual one. Temptations arising after natural objects, such as Raskolnikov previously suffered, were therefore necessary to be repeated, at a time when the natural object can be effectively subsituted for a spiritual one. For Raskolnikov this could only occur in prison, which, as a consequence of falsity, represents a state of instruction. To Raskolnikov it feels the same, even unfair as he has always been aware of his suffering, even to the point of convincing himself that he has already suffered enough. The character of Nikolay,72 who Raskolnikov was willing to allow to shoulder his guilt, represents the naturally simplistic and therefore unsustainable suffering for the wrong object that has no value and is essentially meaningless. This class of suffering does not constitute or provide any advancement, and in effect only adds to the burden of the wrong by extending it. Raskolnikov’s “great striving and great suffering,” as part of his prepartion for true regeneration, was yet to come. Dostoevsky pulls back the curtain further on Raskolnikov’s soul.

In misery he asked himself this question, and could not understand that, at the very time he had been standing looking into the river, he had perhaps been dimly conscious of the fundamental falsity in himself and his convictions. He didn’t understand that that consciousness might be the promise of a future crisis, of a new view of life and of his future resurrection.73

Raskolnikov is not looking for religion. In fact we are told that his fellow prisioners fall on him, calling him an infidel who does not believe in God and who ought to be killed. He is looking for his spiritual identity. After the first year in prison, one day, after having read from the Testament given him by Sofya that had once belonged to Lizaveta (from which Sofya had read the story of Lazarus), Raskolnikov contemplates what it means to have a sincere affection for truth, an affection for the truth for the sake of the truth. He falls at Sofya’s feet.

He wept and threw his arms round her knees. For the first instant she was terribly frightened and she turned pale. She jumped up and looked at him trembling. But at the same moment she understood, and a light of infinite happiness came into her eyes. She knew and had no doubt that he loved her beyond everything and that at last the moment had come . . .

As a result of having submitted to his punishment, Raskolnikov received the benefit of its purpose and was introduced into the path that would lead him to Heaven.

Dostoevsky concludes:

But that is the beginning of a new story—the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.74

Crime and Punishment is a great novel which succeeds on multiple levels, as has been revealed by the unceasing criticism it attracts, both the adulatory and the disparaging. As a psychological drama, the first of its kind, it is deserving of its status as a masterpiece of fiction. It is clear that Dostoevsky, as a keen writer and a sensitive observer of the human soul, had he persisted in the amalgamation of the elements that he originally conceived and drew from for his story, could not have done otherwise than to produce a great book. It is equally clear that had Dostoevsky not incorporated the spiritual realities described by Swedenborg in Heaven and Hell, Crime and Punishment would not be the novel that it is. His encounter with Swedenborg compelled and enabled him to envision and produce the new plan for his novel, in the new form that reflects not only the structures and activities of the psyche but also their immutable spiritual foundations. This is seen in the successive stages of ordering proper to the external and internal man, and the subsequent instruction made possible by that ordering that Dostoevsky so artfully demonstrates through Raskolnikov.

As a penetrating insight into an extreme man who commits an extreme act, Crime and Punishment cannot fail to captivate our imagination to be engaged in its contents without being astonished, and yet, our daily newspapers are lamentably full of reports of similar and even more heinous crimes, to the point where the outward actions of Raskolnikov have an element of the mundane.

The same was true in Dostoevsky’s time, but the purpose of Crime and Punishment was not merely to pull back the veil on the inexplicable nature of extremities of thought and action which by their pervasiveness have become commonplace. If Raskolnikov is an isolated figure who is caught in the personal web of his own self-deceptions, and motivated by his particular brand of insanity to commit a crime for which he and he alone must pay, we can be interested in him as much as pathology interests or fascinates us and then dismiss him to his fate. Crime and Punishment is established in a different reality and in effect dramatizes more than the story of what happened to a man as a result of what he did. The power of Dostoevsky’s novel is precisely because it touches the core of what is true and thus pertinent to all men, not only in a relation of what happened, but in relation to what always happens.

It is the story of a man, a young man, who, in the search for the meaning of his life, attempts to attain an unified, universal identity that will nullify the growing schism between his burgeoning internal man and his rarified external persona, and who mistakenly pledges his mortal heredity and his eternity to a self-serving understanding of the world that is naturally ignorant of spiritual reality. A man who, unwittingly, without knowing what he is really doing, dispenses with any affection for truth that his grandiosity cannot tolerate, and loses his spiritual innocence at the same time. It is the story of a man who is under the influence of a love of self that influences all men to a greater or lesser degree and who is therefore forced, by the Order that governs the universe according to spiritual laws, to reap the exact opposite of what he intended to sow, only so that he can be brought into contact with what his real heredity and his real eternity mean. Vain demands for unmediated mercy, the trap of external and extraneous expectations, destructive and overbearing pride and all its rationalizations, the internal and external manifestations of the worst that a person can be because of what he or she is all must die or be disenfranchised, according to the spiritual laws of order.

These deaths must occur to permit the possibility for the emergence and eventual fruition of true spiritual identity. In effect it is the healing of the schism which proceeds, as all healing does, by the overpowering of the disease that is necessary for a return to health. This result is achieved through the agency of a liberated chaste affection for truth that restores the lost spiritual innocence, and a return to reasonableness and rationality that is compatible with moral integrity in liberty.

This is the story of Raskolnikov, and it is a story that is carried by the disclosures of Swedenborg on the nature of the Spiritual World and spiritual reality. Although the drama carries and demonstrates the full enactment of all these elements, there is still more that elevates Crime and Punishment into the status of a masterwork on the human soul. Dostoevsky presents us with dynamic characteristics of two worlds, the inner and the exterior, the spiritual and the natural, whose essential aspects are as skilfully drawn from Swedenborg as they are blended in Raskolnikov’s reality. In the throes of the novel, we, the readers, in common with Raskolnikov himself, are actually in the spiritual domain without knowing it. The foundation truth that Dostoevsky subtly presents to us by deliberately erasing the imagined line between Heaven and Earth is that there really is only one reality, and it is a spiritual reality; a person is in the world as to his body or externals and in the spiritual world at the same time as to his interior or his mind, which is the real person. Swedenborg relates this theme in Heaven and Hell repeatedly. In this we have a lot more in common with Raskolnikov than we might otherwise think, for, like him, we also experience our singular spiritual reality and live simultaneously, whether we realize it or not, in two worlds.

  1. Dostoyevsky and Holy Russia” by Mark Richard Barna in World and I. Volume: 13. Issue: 9 (September 1998): 321.
  2. Czeslaw Milosz, “Dostoevsky and Swedenborg,” Slavic Review, Vol. 34, No. 2 (June 1975): 302–318. Reprinted in James Lawrence (ed.), Testimony to the Invisible—Essays on Swedenborg (West Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, Chrysalis Books, 1995).
  3. We know that Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment under immense time and personal pressure. Perhaps for this reason the main event (the murder of Alyona Ivanovna by Raskolnikov) and subplots woven into the work were taken from previously worked or outside sources. The Marmeladov family was taken from the abandoned pages of “The Drunkards” and it is clear that the main event itself Dostoevsky modified from Pushkin’s famous short story “The Queen of Spades,” where Swedenborg is mentioned by name. Despite the tremendous pressure he was under to complete his novel, which was begun in the first-person as “the psychological account of a crime” motivated by the “strange and incomplete ideas which go floating about in the air . . .”, Dostoevsky burned the entire manuscript and began again in December 1865 in the third person omniscient style that would allow him to incorporate grander elements. Dostoevsky wrote to his friend Baron Vrangel declaring that his work had grown into “a big novel, in six parts. I had much of it written already by the end of November. I burned it all. Now I can confess it. I wasn’t pleased with it myself. A new form, a new plan captivated me and so I began all over again. I am working day and night . . .” Under immense pressure and trapped in circumstances threatening his entire career, we cannot help but wonder how the irresistible attraction offered by a new form or new plan could have so captivated him as to motivate such an action. The necessity of a change in style, (if this is what is meant by “a new form”) is understandable but only if warranted by the demands of a new plan, a wider vision and deeper intent that was worth the abandonment of all that he had already done. It is plausible to suggest that Dostoevsky’s encounter with Swedenborg’s work, specifically Heaven and Hell, introduced these new grander elements, elements that would fuse the other independent sources into a more unified whole aimed at a deeper, more spiritual purpose which mandated a complete reworking.
  4. “When it is hard to see clearly a work as complicated as Crime and Punishment, it would seem less than wise to shut our eyes to anything that might help us to see even a little.” Edward Wasiolek from the introduction to The Notebooks for Crime and Punishment, Edited and Translated by Edward Wasiolek, University of Chicago Press, 1967.
  5. The term “Nihilism” reappears in mid-19th Century Russia in connection with the radicals and revolutionaries engaged in their struggle against their perception of tyranny and injustice. With the publication of Fathers and Sons in 1861, Turgenev made nihilism a household word in Russia. Surprisingly when Raskolnikov is about to formally confess to his crime he is casually asked to identify himself as a nihilist and he denies it. Ilya Petrovitch: “There are a great many Nihilists about nowadays, you know, and indeed it is not to be wondered at. What sort of days are they? I ask you. But we thought . . . you are not a Nihilist of course? Answer me openly, openly! Raskolnikov: “N-no.” Part 6, chapter 3, § 50.
  6. Alberto Moravia, “The Marx-Dostoevsky Duel,” Encounter VIII (November, 1956).
  7. Konstantin Mochulsky, Dostoevsky, his life and work, (Princeton University Press, 1971), 285
  8. Swedenborg’s description of Heaven includes innumerable societies, as each society represents a particular love for good that is common to its members. The more innocent the love, the more celestial it is and societies are ordered in their proximity to the center or interior of Heaven by the quality of their love, which is reflected in innocence. Angels in the spiritual heavens live in magnificent houses and wear clothes that provide reflections of their interior states. Angels in the higher or more inmost celestial heavens live in tents. Dostoevsky paints a picture of the celestial heavens as described by Swedenborg that he presents to Raskolnikov while in prison in the form of singing arising out of tents Raskolnikov sees on the other side of the river, as a representation of the state of peace and restored innocence which is the aim and goal of regeneration.
  9. Czeslaw Milosz, “Dostoevsky and Swedenborg,” Slavic Review, Vol. 34, No. 2 (June 1975): 302–318, “Swedenborgian elements in Crime and Punishment.” See also Donald Fanger, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism . . . “the real city . . . rendered with a striking concreteness, is also a city of the mind in the way that its atmosphere answers Raskolnikov’s spiritual condition and almost symbolizes it. It is crowded, stifling, and parched.” Fanger (2006): 28; and Richard Pevear, Forward to Crime and Punishment (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)—“Petersburg is not a backdrop of the events . . . but a constant participant in them, and a mirror of Raskolnikov’s soul. The enigma of the city and the enigma of the hero are one.”
  10. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 426.
  11. That the brain acts in effect like a giant recording device is a fact confirmed by neuroscience, particularly in the experiments performed by Penfield.
  12. E. Swedenborg § 462.
  13. E. Swedenborg, The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine § 54.
  14. E. Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia § 6872.
  15. E. Swedenborg, Divine Providence § 380.
  16. E. Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia § 18.
  17. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 489.
  18. Ibid § 509.
  19. Ibid § 550.
  20. The likely source of Raskolnikov’s ideas, according to Dostoevsky’s principle biographer Joseph Frank, is Dimitri Pisarev, a radical social critic who popularized the “proto-Nietzschean” ideal of the superman. Pisarev declared that the masses, who generally do not commit crimes, are served by “other people” who do, vested by their superiority with the right to transgress moral law, and whose crimes are for the benefit of the masses. In his notebooks, Dostoevsky wrote that Pisarev had gone “too far.” In fact, the Russian word for “crime” can be interpreted as “overstepping,” an idea of transgression that is more akin to the English word “sin.” Pisarev later ridiculed the notion that the ideas of the radicals could be associated with Raskolnikov, an indication that the perceived connection between the two was sufficiently inferred as to warrant a denial.
  21. “Love of self” is a term that Swedenborg uses as love which, when placed as the prime love is diametrically opposed to love of God, as love of the world is similarly opposed to love of the neighbor. In its essence it results in the deification of the Self, which is the complete negation of the ability to receive anything of good and truth into a person’s will and understanding which has heaven as its source. In Swedenborg’s hierarchy of loves, Love of God, Love of the Neighbor, Love of the World and Love of the self, in that order, constitute Heaven whereas the inverse order constitutes Hell.
    To have an understanding of the effect attributed to “love of the self” when it is supreme, we can refer to a passage in the Divine Providence where Swedenborg states: “The love of self, which is the head of all evils, surpasses other loves in its ability to adulterate goods and falsify truths; and it does this by the misuse of the rationality which every man, wicked as well as good, has from the Lord. It can indeed by confirmations make evil to appear exactly like good and falsity like truth” (DP § 233). “Again, love of self is such that so far as the reins are given it, that is, so far as external bonds are removed, which are fears of the law and its penalties, and of the loss of reputation, honor, gain, employment, and life, so far it rushes on until it finally wants to rule not only over the whole terrestrial globe but also over the entire heaven, and over the Divine Himself; knowing no limit or end. This propensity lurks hidden in everyone who is in the love of self; although it is not manifest to the world, where he is held in check by such bonds as have been mentioned” (HH § 559).
  22. E. Swedenborg, Spiritual Experiences § 1580.
  23. Luzhin makes use of a young radical named Lebezyatnikov to keep him in touch with the circulating ideas of “our younger generation,” which he intends only to use to his political and social advantage. In similar manner, although he secretly loathes Lebezyatnikov, he uses him and takes his lodging with him while in Petersburg. Lebezyatnikov takes his name from the Russian “lebizit,” meaning “to fawn on somebody,” or “to cringe.” The partnership between Luzhin and Lebezyatnikov is that between pride, manifested from the desire to rule over others and its corresponding rationalizations. Ultimately it is Lebezyatnikov who turns on Luzhin, thwarting Luzhin’s design to malign the character of Sonya to satisfy his revenge against Raskolnikov, whom he blames for the break-up of his engagement with Raskolnikov’s sister. Dostoevsky is effectively demonstrating Swedenborg’s constant assertion that as good affections are always united with their corresponding truths, evil affections are always united with their corresponding falsity in the form of self-serving and subordinate rationalizations. These rationalizations, especially those of Lebezyatnikov which sound a great deal like those of Raskolnikov, will eventually betray the evil love which created them when such evil reaches the level of malice that can no longer be protected by a false rationality and is instead exposed by its rationalizations.
  24. Swedenborg indicates that there are two kinds of “dominion,” one which exerts authority for genuine good or useful service, and the other which is a derivative of love of self and therefore seeks only the imposition of one person’s will over another for the sole purpose of personal gain. This love continues after death and therefore must be removed for regeneration to occur. See Heaven and Hell § 564.
  25. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 4, chapter 3, paragraph 3, where Luzhin imagines that his wife will “be slavishly grateful all her life for his heroic condescension, and would humble herself in the dust before him, and he would have absolute unbounded power over her! . . . ”, which is a clear identification of Luzhin with what Swedenborg describes as “love of Dominion.” Swedenborg takes special pains to describe specifically how this love destroys spiritual union in marriage in language that Dostoevsky practically mirrors. See Heaven and Hell § 380.
  26. Raskolnikov, preoccupied only with himself, interprets accordingly the innocent reference to Luzhin’s designs on his sister contained in his mother’s letter and castigates them both. Luzhin aims to procure for himself a wife, who on account of her poverty would be forever indebted and bound to him, precisely and permanently for the difference in their stations. Raskolnikov hates Luzhin for his motives and his hypocrisy but later casually admits to his mother and his sister his own hypocrisy in reference to his betrothal to his landlady’s daughter. “’H’m, yes. What shall I tell you? I don’t remember much indeed. She was such a sickly girl,’ he went on, growing dreamy and looking down again. ‘Quite an invalid. She was fond of giving alms to the poor, and was always dreaming of a nunnery, and once she burst into tears when she began talking to me about it. Yes, yes, I remember. I remember very well. She was an ugly little thing. I really don’t know what drew me to her then—I think it was because she was always ill. If she had been lame or hunchback, I believe I should have liked her better still’” (Part 3, chapter 3, paragraph 93). Raskolnikov dismisses his engagement as a “Spring obsession,” but later, on the eve of his confession, he kisses her portrait. The similarity in the conduct and the motives of the two men does more than unite them in common hypocrisy, as it is clear that Dostoevsky’s intent is to show that Luzhin is best understood as a derivative of Raskolnikov.
  27. “What is important is that love of self, as a central theme, appears in Crime and Punishment in two forms: the one represented by Raskolnikov, who gradually becomes aware of its power; the other by his double, Svidrigaďlov, who has nothing to learn for he knows his evil nature and has a feeling of eternal damnation.” Czeslaw Milosz, “Dostoevsky and Swedenborg,” Slavic Review Vol. 34, No. 2 (June, 1975): 302–318.
  28. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 548.
  29. When he is able to confront himself from a platform of personal honesty, conversing with Sofya, Raskolnikov concedes that he could have continued to support himself, and thereby been able to continue his studies in like manner as his friend Razumikhin had, had he genuinely wanted to. “I told you just now I could not keep myself at the university. But do you know that perhaps I might have done? My mother would have sent me what I needed for the fees and I could have earned enough for clothes, boots and food, no doubt. Lessons had turned up at half a rouble. Razumihin works! But I turned sulky and wouldn’t” Crime and Punishment Chapter 4, part 5, paragraph 129.
  30. Ibid § 480
  31. Swedenborg’s doctrine of the “proprium” is a simple and simultaneously complex concept. In simple terms the proprium is “all that is man’s own,” as the Latin word implies. (Proprius, adj. meaning own, very own; individual; special, particular, characteristic). In the work Heaven and Hell reference to the proprium, or what is of the “unregenerated self,” in whole or in part, is made no less than sixty-one times, and in almost all instances the reference indicates the proprium as all that is opposite and violently opposed to God and Divine Good. Man’s proprium, which he is born into, is nothing but dense evil which does not admit anything of good or truth into it. In effect, man’s proprium is hell with man and those who live their lives from it, which is a life dedicated to love of self by means of contempt for others, enmity, hatred, revenge, cruelty, deceit, (spiritual murder) are effectively in Hell. Strangely, which adds to the complexity, Swedenborg reveals that the angels in Heaven themselves retain their proprium, or a portion of it, but that they are withheld from it, and are kept in the Lord’s Proprium, which is Good Itself. Swedenborg makes the same observation about a man in this world, that as far as he can be separated from his proprium then he is in the Lord’s Proprium, and this is accomplished by (spiritual) innocence.
  32. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 290.
  33. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment. Trans. Constance Garnett (Bantam Classics, 1996): Part 1, chapter 4,§ 14.
  34. Ibid, Part 1, chapter 4, § 41–44.
  35. Ibid, Part 1, chapter 5, § 44.
  36. Ibid, paragraph 51.
  37. In the work, Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg presents the idea of “remains” which are not merely residual but abiding states of innocence and the corresponding affections that are sealed in a person’s interior. The concept is best explained by a passage from the work Arcana Coelestia: “Remains, as has been said, are all things of innocence, all things of charity, all things of mercy, and all things of the truth of faith, which from his infancy a man has had from the Lord, and has learned. Each and all of these things are treasured up; and if a man had them not, there could be nothing of innocence, of charity, and of mercy, and therefore nothing of good and truth in his thought and actions, so that he would be worse than the savage wild beasts” (§661 [2]).
  38. Swedenborg’s explanation of the correspondential meaning of a horse is presented in the following passage from Arcana Coelestia: “The origin of ‘a horse’ meaning the understanding part of the mind lies nowhere else than in representatives in the next life. Frequently there, in the world of spirits, horses which display great variety are seen, and also people seated on horses. And whenever they are seen the understanding is meant by them. Such representatives are of constant occurrence among spirits. It is because the horse is a representative of the understanding that when horses are mentioned in the Word the spirits and angels present with man know instantaneously that it is the understanding which is being spoken of” (§ 2762).
  39. Ibid. § 52
  40. Ibid. § 64.
  41. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Possessed, Part 3, chapter 6.
  42. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 559. (See also note 5).
  43. Lizaveta is described as being “continually with child” Part 1, chapter 5, § 7.
  44. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 2, chapter 1, § 18.
  45. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 603.
  46. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 2, chapter 2, § 40.
  47. John 11: 38.
  48. E. Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell § 451.
  49. Ibid. § 491
  50. The first instance, in his first encounter with Porfiry Petrovich who represents Raskolnikov’s spiritual conscience and his unequivocal guilt, we see the shaking out of Raskolnikov’s externals, when, to his amazement, he is confronted with his forgotten essay “On Crime,” which comes to the surface in Porfiry’s hands. This is a clear reference both to the first stage after death and the manner in which Swedenborg describes how the memorandum books and papers of those who will not admit to their crimes “unexpectedly” appear, as cited above. The second occurrence takes place between Raskolnikov and Sofya. The police actively suspect him and he feels that he must either confess or “make an end of it all,” nevertheless, the forced subservience and ultimate reduction of his moral integrity to the demands of pride arising from self love represented by the proposed marriage between Luzhin and Raskolnikov’s sister has been broken. At this point, with his recovered moral integrity, Raskolnikov is free to visit Sofya, to become acquainted with a genuine affection for truth. Raskolnikov’s internal man is the subject of the events that follow. His demand that Sofya read to him the story of Lazarus, although he appears to be unfamiliar with it or where it can be found despite having earlier confessed to believing it, is his passage into the second state. The Bible that Sofya reads from is revealed to have come from Lizaveta, which represents the possibility of Raskolnikov restoring his spiritual innocence. The third reference appears in the epilogue, at the closing of the book. At this point all the characters representing Raskolnikov’s “old man,” Marmaledov, Katerina Ivanova, Svidrigaďlov and even Raskolnikov’s mother Pulcheria Alexandrona, who represents that the natural limitations of heredity are dead, which must happen, as Swedenborg says, in order that the “new” man may be conceived.
  51. The character of Svidrigaďlov, in the present analysis, is given to be representative of Raskolnikov’s proprium, building on the initial observation by Milosz that he is in effect Raskolnikov’s “double.” Milosz muses that Dostoevsky chose a Lithuanian name for Svidrigaďlov, the only one of his characters possessing one, because he was fond of referring to his ancestors who hailed from the estate of “Dostoevo” in Lithuania. One senses that there is a deeper motive for Dostoevsky’s identification of Svidrigaďlov with that of a historical figure. Duke Svidrigaila was a well-known Lithuanian prince from the 15th century who died one year before the fall of Constantinople. Initially the name Dostoevsky chose for the character of Svidrigaďlov, as his early notes for Crime and Punishment indicate was “Aristov.” Pavel Aristov was a fellow prisoner that Dostoevsky met during his incarceration on charges of sedition. Aristov, a well educated member of the upper-class, was, according to Dostoevsky’s notes, “the most revolting example of the depths to which a man can sink and degenerate, and the extent to which he can destroy moral feeling in himself without difficulty or repentance.” In effect Aristov was as close a man from Dostoevsky’s own experience as Swedenborg describes the proprium to be (see note 31). Nevertheless, according to his new plan, Dostoevsky chose the name “Svidrigaďlov” derived from the historical figure Duke Svidrigaila as the name of his character. That the character of Svidrigaďlov contains all the elements of evil that Dostoevsky observed in Aristov is without doubt, but the use of a name that refers to a historical figure is clearly attached to Raskolnikov’s obsession with his iconic Napoleon, the only other historical figure that appears in Crime and Punishment. Duke Svidrigaila was imprisoned in a castle as an inveterate traitor to protect his countrymen from his ill-fated military campaigns and habitual defections. After nine years of captivity, Duke Svidrigaila continued his intrigues and became Grand Duke of Lithuania, a position he occupied for only a few years before being defeated and forced into ignominious exile in southern Romania, where according to legend, he is reported to have become a shepherd. He ultimately returned to Lithuania but was never able to regain his throne. The figure of Duke Svidrigaila, in terms of his exiles and military defeats, presents easily as a failed Napoleon. Raskolnikov himself, as a failed Napoleon, presents the same way, which establishes a correlation between Raskolnikov and Svidrigaďlov by reference to two historical figures that are historically similar.
    Examining Dostoevsky’s description of Svidrigaďlov’s marriage reveals that it was a kind of imprisonment, fortified by contracted conditions of forced fidelity that Svidrigaďlov was compelled to accept in order to have his wife pay his way out of the debtor’s prison he found himself in as a result of the debaucheries of his youth. The history of Duke Svidrigaila as a failed Napoleon parallels closely the fate of Svidrigaďlov, his imprisonment, campaigns, intrigues, and defeats including his final self-destruction. Thus not surprisingly, Swedenborg’s description of the proprium, which is always trying to set itself up as the reigning monarch—a feature of the external man trying to gain control over the internal man—can be intuitively understood in terms of the ambitions of princes and would-be emperors. Swedenborg writes in Heaven and Hell (§ 559) that the love of self that flows out of a man’s proprium know no bounds. “That this is so, no one can fail to see in the case of potentates and kings who have no such restraints and bonds, but rush on and subjugate provinces and kingdoms so far as they are successful, and aspire to power and glory without limit . . .”
    Although the Proprium is never destroyed, even in the angels, for to do this would be to destroy the man himself, it must be dethroned and thwarted by spiritual combat from its unceasing ambitions to rule, to commandeer moral integrity, and negate spiritual affection for truth. The proprium as what is a man’s own, achieves its aims that are always evil, generally by doing hypocritical good with an evil motive. Lies, flattery, bribes, the offer of an easy unmediated redemption in the form of escapes, playing upon weakness, introducing doubt, and destroying and deflowering innocence are all properties of what it does. Given free reign it cannot do anything but rush headlong into hell, and for this reason needs to be restrained until it can be “put to pasture,” as it were turned into a shepherd instead of a wolf, by the Lord’s Proprium, which will withhold, or effectively nullify its power. In this light, Svidrigaďlov’s seemingly charitable impulses are not inconsistent or hard to understand. His gift to Dunya was an evil temptation. The protection and placement of the Marmeladov children, Raskolnikov’s own neglected natural thoughts and affections, after the death of their mother, is made possible by Svidrigaďlov’s coming apart, which provides for the restoration of what was previously neglected.
  52. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 4, chapter 1, § 78.
  53. E. Swedenborg, Divine Providence § 451.
  54. E. Emanuel, Heaven and Hell § 450.
  55. Zametov, (from the Russian “zametit” meaning “to notice , to realize”).
  56. E. Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia § 5508.
  57. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 2, chapter 6, § 40.
  58. Ibid., Part 4, chapter 1, § 83.
  59. Ibid., § 85.
  60. Ibid., Part 5, chapter 4, § 35.
  61. Ibid., §§ 67, 72.
  62. Ibid., §§ 142, 143.
  63. E. Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia § 18.
  64. Sofya’s commanding Raskolnikov to go to the “cross-roads” has been cited by some critics as a portrayal of Raskolnikov as an image of Christ “taking up his cross,” bowing to his suffering. This gospel imagery is compelling, but it is too inapplicable to the character of Raskolnikov in relation to Dostoevsky’s purpose. In Swedenborg’s description of the World of Spirits, the “cross-roads” has reference to the internal paths that lead to either Heaven or Hell. According to Swedenborg these paths do intersect.

    There are actually two paths that lead to our rational mind, one from above or within, through which the good and the true enter from the Lord, and one from below or outside, through which the evil and the false infiltrate from Hell. The rational mind itself is at the intersection of these two paths, so to the extent that light from Heaven is let in, we are rational; but to the extent that it is not let in we are not rational, even though we seem so to ourselves.” (Heaven and Hell § 430; emphasis added)

    Sofya, Raskolnikov’s spiritual affection for truth, is employing him to allow his rational mind to acknowledge and submit to truth, which is imperative for the ordering of Raskolnikov’s internal man, the second state after death necessary for the preparation for regeneration.
  65. In the surprised reaction of the onlookers Raskolnikov hears from a passing workman, who was a little drunk, “He’s going to Jerusalem, brothers, and saying good-bye to his children and his country. He’s bowing down to all the world and kissing the great city of St. Petersburg and its pavements . . .” Reference to “Jerusalem” occurs twice in the novel. The first instance, which Raskolnikov evokes himself in his defense of his ideas to Porfiry, is clearly an intellectual construct referring to the political ideal of the just society or the “New Jerusalem” envisioned by the radicals and utopian socialists. The second instance comes from the pure affective quality of a “workman, who was a little drunk.” In these references Dostoevsky is showing us that justice as a spiritual reality is not a matter of ideation or reworked external conditions. It is an internal state, as described by Swedenborg, available to all men, though not without some “struggle,” and made possible by the existence of heaven in man. Raskolnikov’s departure from “his children and his country . . . the great city of St. Petersburg and its pavements” is in effect his passing from the “World of Spirits” represented by the “city” of St. Petersburg, into a genuine spiritual life, which is eternal, represented by the eternal “city.”

  66. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 6, chapter 8, § 35.
  67. Ibid., Part 5, chapter 4, § 33.
  68. Swedenborg indicates that of the three states that we pass through after death, the first two are common to people who being prepared to enter either Heaven or Hell, according to the spiritual nature of their loves. Consequently, all will pass through these states. The third state is a state of instruction, and is only entered into by those who are capable of Heaven, as these are able to be taught, whilst those whose affections are unalterably oriented toward Hell no longer possess that ability. The epilogue pertains to the third state, and if its purpose is unknown then Dostoevsky’s use of the epilogue and what he intends by it can be confusing, suggesting erroneously that the novel could end after the completion of the states that are common to both good and evil spirits which Raskolnikov passes through.
  69. Historically, Russia had three types of prisoners: The most severe criminal received life imprisonment or a term of more than twelve years. The second class received an imprisonment of eight to twelve years, and the third class received less than eight years. Raskolnikov, therefore, receives the lightest possible sentence for the severity of his crime.
  70. Crime and Punishment Epilogue, chapter 1, § 4.
  71. “With every individual there are good spirits and evil spirits. Through the good spirits, man has conjunction with heaven, and through the evil spirits with hell. These spirits are in the world of spirits, which lies midway between heaven and hell . . . When these spirits come to a man they enter into his entire memory, and thus into his entire thought, evil spirits into the evil things of his memory and thought, and good spirits into the good things of his memory and thought” (HH, § 292). Swedenborg elsewhere states: “In the case of those who are being regenerated through temptations, the remains [the good that he has done or felt, or more accurately the state of innocence and genuine charity that inspired these actions—see note 37] in a man are for the angels that are with him, who draw out from them the things wherewith they defend the man against the evil spirits who excite the falsities in him, and thus assail him.
  72. In his final confrontation with Raskolnikov, Porfiry reveals that Nikolay, is an “Old believer,” which is a term given to those who remained faithful to the established liturgical practices and separated themselves from the Russian Orthodox Church in response to the reforms of the Patriarch Nikon in 1667. This schism within the Russian church is referred to as “Raskol,” thus Porfiry is subtly equating Nikolay as an “Old Believer” with Raskolnikov. Porfiry also reveals that Nikolay’s dedication to suffering is based on an unsustainable belief that that the object of suffering is suffering itself. Despite the reality of the suffering that torments both Nikolay and Raskolnikov, which neither seem unable to escape or deny, it is a class of suffering that is as essentially invalid and ultimately false as Nikolay’s open confession of what he isn’t or Raskolnikov’s internal denial of what he is, and, is actually an impediment to genuine justice as regards to anything practical or spiritual.
  73. Crime and Punishment Epilogue, chapter 2, § 9.
  74. Ibid., chapter 2, § 30.

Swedenborg Biography
Heavenly Doctrines
The revelation process
Who is God?
The Word of God
Bible & the Writings
Time and Eternity
History of Religion
On Being Useful
Providence and  Evil
Getting Rid of Evil
The Death Process
Life after Death
Life on Other Planets
The Second Coming
Spiritual Marriage
Art & Literature


• Back • Home • Up • Next •


Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com