Emanuel Swedenborg's Physical And Metaphysical Revelation
Christen A. Blom-Dahl
Analect Hursserliana, Vol LII,
Book I, Part Two, pp 167-195 (1998)
REVELATION OF PHYSICAL MATTERS?*
In March 1744 a peculiar crisis put an end to what promised to be – and actually was – the brilliant scientific career of the Swedish citizen of the Age of Enlightenment, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Ever since then, it has been granted that his contributions to science had come to a standstill, he started writing about spirits, angels, the afterlife, the Lord . . . A physical revelation? Wasn't everything metaphysical? – or pretending to be?
As I was to discover with the most overwhelming feeling of amazement in the spring of 1973, the seemingly metaphysical subjects referred to by Swedenborg as "the wisdom of angels" and recorded in a very specific part of his post-crisis production,1 resolve themselves into neat, sharp and spectacular images at the very level of physical reality, mainly within the fields of modern knowledge about the physiology, pathology and microanatomy of the human body. This extraordinary discovery accidentally made in the spring of 1973 revolutionizes our ideas about the processes of acquisition of innovatory knowledge (heuristic processes), and mightily expands the currently accepted frontiers of reality.
I can still sense the shock-waves this claim created when recently launched in certain circles. No wonder that prior to any scrutiny of the methodology applied and the evidence obtained, any stringent reader would feel that this is typical yellow-press kind of stuff. Reactions have bifurcated, but even among enthusiastic partisans a complication has arisen: these seem to be waiting for an expert to make some authoritative statement. Let me put this quite clearly right from the start: my theory is not about scientific facts known today. It is about the way these are concordant with Swedenborg's descriptions as shown by means of very elementary comparative operations. Thus any cultivated reader is a fully competent "specialist" for checking these operations.
It is a well-known fact amongst Swedenborg scholars that Swedenborg's investigations finally concentrated on the physiology and anatomy of the human body. Then came the crisis, and after that, he introduced a very central concept: the Homo Maximus or Grand Man, together with the doctrine of correspondences.2
the correspondence of all man's organs and members. both interior and exterior. with the grand man, which is heaven. It is now allowed to relate and describe wonderful things, which, so far as I know, have never as yet been known to anyone, nor even entered into his mind, namely, that the universal heaven is so formed that it corresponds to the Lord, as to His Divine Human; and that, as to all things in general and particular in him, he corresponds to heaven, and by means of heaven to the Lord. This is a great mystery, which is now to be revealed, and which is to be treated of here and at the close of the subsequent chapters. (AC 3624) It is from this ground that it has been occasionally stated in the proceeding pages, where speaking of heaven and angelic societies, that they belonged to some province of the body, as to that of the head, or of the breast, or of the abdomen, or of some particular member or organ; and this by reason of the said correspondence. (AC 3625)
This allows for the introduction of an extremely interesting analytical tool: systematic contrast analysis of homologous pre- and post-crisis texts; i.e., of texts bearing reference to the same anatomical organs or systems dealt with by Swedenborg prior to, and after, the crisis. As will be discussed later on, this operation has never before been performed. Its results are quite astonishing, as may be seen from the fragment anticipated below (Table 1, to be shown later in its full-blown format).
I imagine readers must have commenced to grasp that something quite unusual is at issue. To start with, the continuity thesis (the thesis that Swedenborg was saying the same things about scientific topics he had already developed during the first stage of his life) is wrong.3 But the true amazement arises from the fact that whilst pre-critical opinions appear at the average and quite often wrong or trivial eighteenth-century level of insight, post-crisis descriptions are incredibly advanced and technically correct!
Often Swedenborg's post-crisis experiences were visual and took place during twilight states of consciousness (between sleep and waking). As every potentially explanatory possibility had to be explored, I turned my attention to some hypothetically parallel cases in the domains of normal science.
HYPNOGOGIC VISIONS IN TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE
Transcendence of technological or scientific barriers on the cognitive horizon often takes place during dreamlike (hypnogogic) experiences which frequently take on an air of preternaturality. The first point at issue refers to the imagery associated with these experiences. The images in question have been virtually classified by historians of science as curious but inessential objects. Yet, their relevance is fundamental. A couple of examples will suffice to illustrate this fact from an unexpected and quite thrilling angle. The first case refers to Fredrich August Kekule von Stradonitz.
Kekule's providential encounter with Justus von Liebig at the University of Giessen made him change his mind and study chemistry, instead of following his original project to become an architect. However, structures continued to fascinate him so intensely that he pioneered the system of structural formulas for chemical substances still profitably used today in organic chemistry. For seven years Kekule arrived at satisfactory formulations of a series of hydrocarbons by means of his system, and using a linear configuration paradigm for the atoms. However, in 1865 he found himself facing a tricky problem when the benzene molecule refused to fit into that model. At long last the answer to that problem came to him in a very peculiar manner. Explains Kekule:
I put my armchair in front of the fireplace and dozed off. Suddenly, atoms revolved in front of me [. . .] moving like serpents. But - what is this? One of the serpents was biting its own tail, dancing teasingly in front of my eyes! I woke up as struck by lightning, and worked the rest of the night on the consequences of the hypothesis thus created.1
His experience was crucial and elucidative, the structure of the benzene molecule is actually like a ring - the very ring allegorized by the serpent that bit its own tail.
My second example refers to the domain of technology. Elias Howe, a young American engineer, had gotten stuck with a problem which might seem ridiculous nowadays. Namely, the location of the eye in a sewing-machine needle. However, over millennia that tiny little hole had remained located close to the needle's butt end. Consequently, permuting this location to the tip to solve certain mechanical problems the machine posed, required a certain amount of imaginative power. According to Michele Masson, the solution to the problem the standard multimillennial needle presented struck the mind of the young American engineer in the course of an experience similar to Kekule's, and just as queer:
When the inventor Elias Howe was attempting to create one of the first sewing-machines, he dreamt of jumbled spears suddenly pointing downwards. Trifling or erotic symbols to anyone but himself, those spears gave him the idea of placing the needle-eye in the tip, not at the top.5
Howe's machine was a total success. It competed against five professional seamstresses with ample superiority in 1845 at the premises of the Quincy Hall Manufacturing Company in Boston.
Where did the respective elucidative crepuscular dreams of Kekule and Howe originate? The answer would seem quite obvious: they must have arisen through some sort of pre-conscious process not at all mysterious, but taking place in the brain and then suddenly popping up at a conscious level. However, this may not be the correct answer to this question.
UNEXPECTED HEURISTIC SIGNIFICATIONS IN SWEDENBORG'S POST-CRISIS TEXTS
After the crisis suffered in 1744, which transformed Swedenborg from scientist to revelator, a retrospective entry in his diary dated August 27th, 1748, refers to "Many visions when my eyes were closed, and light miraculously given" (SD 2951). When publicly disclosing his experiences at a later stage, he wrote:
I have been further informed that the men of the Most Ancient Church had most delightful dreams, and also visions, and that it was insinuated into them at the same time what they signified. (AC 1122)
For Sigmund Freud, who certainly mistrusted whatever claim of metaphysical inspiration might be alleged (e.g.: the insinuation of the signification of dreams induced), the problem of signification was the very master element of all his analytical endeavours. And yet, there is a veritable hiatus in his doctrine of symbolic significations when it comes to the analysis of experiences of a heuristic nature: indeed, Freudian psychoanalysis is totally unoperative in cases such as exemplified by Kekule and Howe. Why should it apply to Swedenborg's?
What is being discussed is not the fact that dreams may be instructive or significant. Psychoanalytic theory takes this for granted. Indeed, this is the very foundation of its operative function, both clinical and theoretical. The essential point is: taking hypothetically for granted that Swedenborg's was a heuristic case, perhaps peculiarly advanced but still along the lines of Kekule's and Howe's - what signification or what instructive contents are supposed to be derived from his post-crisis texts, and what analytical tools might be considered appropriate? This sounds like some crazy hypothesis – but it worked.
In contradistinction to Kekule and Howe's flashlike experiences, probably lasting no more than a fraction of a second, the "representative" images Swedenborg saw appeared in extended series – even for hours on end.
I could follow these representations by a kind of sight which I can never describe, and this in a long series from beginning to end and even for an hour or two hours until the several scenes were completed. Thus, if only it were allowed to make public a single one of them, to wit, the representation concerning the pyramid which was so marvellously constructed and adorned [. . .] if this should be described, it would fill many pages. (WE 4917)
This is an exciting but purely anecdotal statement. It hardly needs further analysis. But this circumstance changes when contents are specific. Then the essential question arises: whether the contents make sense, and in what manner this sense may be elicited.
It is worthy of mention that when after waking I related what I had seen in a dream, and this in a long series, certain angelic spirits [. . .] said that what I related wholly coincided, and was identical with the subjects they had been conversing about, and that there was absolutely no difference; but still that they were not the very things they had discoursed about, but were representatives of the same things into which their ideas were thus turned and changed in the world of spirits, [. . .] They said, further, that the same discourse could be turned into other representatives, nay, into both similar and dissimilar ones, with unlimited variety. The reason they were turned into such as have been described, was that it took place in accordance |. . .] with my own state at the time. (AC 1980)
Supposing those "very things" were not sheer fantasy, but still, that they were "things" that crystallize as ever-changing representative images "with unlimited variety" – how might they be recognized? Kekule and Howe were perfectly familiar with "the very thing" to which their dreamlike experiences referred (atoms, needles). But what is our situation in respect to Swedenborg? The whole problem boils down to the subject of the reference keys. How were reference keys conveyed to Swedenborg? My answer to this question is so incredible that I must perforce start with its background. That is, with my earliest discovery which took place accidentally in the spring of 1973.
I was at that time firmly convinced that the crisis Swedenborg experienced in 1744 was the initial symptom of some serious mental trouble. Yet, something completely irregular took place while I was reading some post-crisis passages about the adrenal glands, the glands which produce the hormone called adrenalin. I suddenly realized that they contain the very terms which describe the psychosomatic effects of an adrenalin discharge: fear, tremor, distress, anxiety (Table 2).
The case of adrenalin implied an astounding anticipation in relation to Sir Walter Bradford Cannon's discovery of the effects of this hormone in 1914. And I was yet to become increasingly perplexed as I gradually learned that this was no isolated case of random coincidence. The accuracy and anticipatory nature of Swedenborg's post-crisis organic and functional descriptions, were a steady general rule.
In Swedenborg's retrospective annotation of the full scope of the strange experiences he went through during the post-crisis stage of his life, we find that after his statement mentioning "many visions, when my eyes were closed, and light miraculously given", he adds:
Fiery lights were seen. Speech (was heard] in morning time (loquelae malulino tempore), besides many other things; until a certain spirit addressed me in a few words. I was greatly astonished that he should perceive my thoughts, and afterwards wondered greatly when [my mind] was opened so that I could converse with spirits. (SD 2951)
What is a true wonder is the striking contents – the very topics – of that "speech" which was heard by Swedenborg "in morning time", that is, in a twilight state of consciousness. Those verbal statements do fall outside the sphere of any matters we ordinarily would imagine would be the topic of conversation of allegedly discarnate creatures. They are very physical and very tangible. For instance, my present example is a statement that served to convert images of Swedenborg's visions very precisely into a virus. And not just an unspecific virus, but one positively known to be related to a very specific type of cancers, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). And, wow! - this is what Swedenborg heard:
It was said that such contribute to the formation of cancers (dicebant quod tales ad cancrum contribuanl). (SD 4348)
Really striking! Of course, the "such" referred to ("hypocritical spirits") have not been identified as Epstein-Barr viruses on so meager a foundation as the paragraph shown above, but on the basis of lengthy annotations to which, also, some highly interesting statistical criteria apply (see Table 3. Cf. also La Tercera Fuente, ch. 11-14).
AN ORIENTATING INFLUX
Disease-generating sources pointed out by Swedenborg prior to his crisis, were aseptic (devoid of germs): "dews, pestilential fumes, sulphureous effuvia, ignis fatuus [will-o'-the-wisp]"!6 And what is still more flagrant: he has denied the existence of bacteria. And this he did to no less a person than the world-famous Dutch seventeenth-century microscopist, Antony van Leeuwenhoek. Swedenborg maintained Leeuwenhoek's observations of actual bacteria in human saliva were fallacious. He terms them "particles", and states:
. . . when examined in water by the microscope, [these particles) appear oblong and branching. Leeuwenhoek describes them as like little worms, with heads, tails, and tortuous bodies, and swimming about with great agility. But what do we gain in point of understanding, from this chemical analysis, when we consider that similar liquids, spirits,7 oils, and residua may be elicited by distillation from all the subjects of both the animal and vegetable kingdoms. [. . .] Nothing, in fact, is more common than for forms in a state of quick motion, to appear in all those parts where the afflux of spirits is abundant, as in the epididymes, the vasa deferentia, the vesiculae seminales, and the semen itself. And also, according to Leeuwenhoek, even in the saliva of the mouth. So that it seems as if the substance called animal spirit, were in the constant desire and endeavor, wherever an opportunity is offered, of clothing itself with a body, but which body easily relapses back into its constituent principles or spirits. (AK I, 81, nn. m and o)
Swedenborg mixed up into an indiscriminate lot bacteria and spermatozoa. And, obviously, this idea of ephemeral, transitory and unstable forms participating in a process that builds up and dissolves living matter perpetually, utterly opposes the very notion of microbes that can be individualized according to constant and specific shapes. This is what makes Swedenborg's post-crisis reorientation so extremely striking as to the correct sources of disease, a reorientation we will now discuss.
Of the various examples that might serve to illustrate the reorientation process, the one I have chosen is particularly fascinating. It refers to a certain type of "infernal" creature. How? Well, Swedenborg started all of a sudden to assert that "all the infernals induce diseases" (AC 5713 et passim). This evidently contradicts his theory about dews, fumes and sulphurous effluvia, and might have been just a matter of a regressive return to old spiritualistic doctrines. However, the true circumstance is quite a different one. In quite the same anticipative category as the startling findings which I have turned up since the spring of 1973, the "infernals" fit neatly into the frames of modern parasitology and microbiology.
The only example given so far concerns a virus (Epstein-Barr). The one now selected for further illustration is a bacterial microbe: the Rickettsia prowazekii, the causative agent of typhus (spotted fever). Swedenborg terms this kind of germ "cruel and adulterine spirits". Indeed fittingly! Its noxiousness is so high that it killed the two researchers who pioneered in its investigation: Stanislas von Prowazek and Howard T. Ricketts. It should also be remarked that names are important. Evidence obtained shows that Swedenborg makes as taxonomically a systematic and regular a use of them as microbiologists do when they classify the germs they discover. The identification of the "cruel and adulterine spirits" as a rickettsiae is thoroughly solid, being supported by a full set of criteria: clinical (type of fever), cytologic (presence of the germ inside infected cells), parasitologic (transmission by lice), prophylactic (capillary hygienics, baths, hot water), and the ways of the microbe's penetration into the human organism (transcutaneous, respiratory).
The topic I am specifically to deal with now, refers to the reorientation of Swedenborg's attention, which shifted markedly from aseptic foci (exhalations, dews, fumes . . .) to foci that are positively septic and characteristic of the germs involved. It is therefore quite essential that the following points be stressed: 1) that the germ discussed mainly propagates through the excrement of lice; 2) that this insect proliferates where filth accumulates (where cleanliness slackens); 3) that the germ in question was first discovered in 1916 by H. da Rocha-Lima in the intestines of that very insect. These three elements were exactly the elements pointed to and stressed in Swedenborg's experiences.
[. ..] when 1 walked in the street, they carried away my eyes to all such things; wherever there was filth, excrement and intestines (sordes, excrementa et intestina), thither they directed my eyes, although I was ignorant of where were such things in the street. (SD 2843)
Midway between this and the description of that very germ, Swedenborg had just as startling an experience. To wit, a twilight vision in the course of which the bacterial nature of this disease-generating agent was unveiled in much the same manner as the one that made Louis Pasteur conceive many years later his general theory of infectious germs.
The fermentation of milk – this is a historically well-known fact – was one of the phenomena that put the great French researcher on the track to the discovery of insalubrious bacteria. It is also a fact that teeth offer bacteria perfect conditions for proliferation. In the light o4f this couple of facts, Swedenborg's vision becomes highly significant:
concerning an ideal representation. In a state intermediate between sleeping and waking (in statum medio inter somnum et vigiliam), bul verging nearer to sleep, there was remarkably represented a tooth. When in the waking state I could not know, still less express, what it was, but simply that a tooth was perceived, which, according as the desire was (sicul desiderium erat), was turned into something resembling coagulated milk (quasi coagulatum lacteum). (SD 3791)
Milk coagulates by the action of bacteria and this "ideal" tooth appears once more exactly when Swedenborg resumes the topic of the "cruel and adulterine spirits" identified as bacteria of the rickettsia genus. In this way an "ideal" link was evidently and prodigiously established between bacteria that spoil milk and bacteria that "spoil" humans (remember Prowazek and Ricketts!), amounting to a cognitive leap of 130 years in relation to Pasteur's theory,8
On this occasion Swedeborg additionally terms the "cruel and adulterine spirits" as "mucus-spirits". This makes perfect sense. One of this germ's habitual ways of penetration is the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract. Into this tract the germ enters, conveyed by the powdery residua of the excrement of its specific transmitter: the louse (this was probably how Prowazek and Ricketts got infected). Swedenborg's new experience is most outstanding not just because the "ideal" connecting element – a tooth – is indicated once more, but because quite an essential "character" comes upon stage: the very transmitter of the Rickettsia prowazekii, – the louse. Indeed, if there is any passage amongst those genuinely sensational which truly deserves being termed revolutionary in the eyes of philosophy and science, the one I am now to quote must be one of them.
This time the "tooth" pointed at is "putrid"; i. e., decayed, septic. It could hardly have been intimated more clearly that the bacterium now involved coagulates no milk but kills!
When those mucus-spirits flowed in, it was perceived that they moved my tongue towards a putrid tooth (mtiverenr tinguam versus dentem putridum). There was then also at the back of the neck a sense of biting as of lice (sensus morsus sicut pediculorum); then an itching in the nates (turn in nutibus titilatio). All of which was from them. (SD 4035)
That "itching in the nates" is also quite significant. The louse defecates as it bites, and inoculates an irritative saliva. Scratching and excoriation become unavoidable, and this facilitates the germ's penetration through the skin.
The respiratory way of penetration was also indicated in just as peculiar a manner: "They farther spake with me also as if in the throat or trachea (sicut in gutture seu trachea)". (SD 4035 '/2)
There is very obviously a great difference between this, and mere mental automatism, delirium or psychopathological ideas of influx. Swedeborg's case clearly demands new analytical criteria, unexpectedly offers insight into one part of reality negated by modern philosophy, and challenges current research.
THE CONTINUITY THESIS
The crisis experienced by Swedenborg in 1744 split his life two stages, one scientific and one religious. Nevertheless, a thesis of an essential continuity has prevailed even amongst the most heterogenous scholars. For instance, Prof. Martin Ramstrom said in 1910: "In these works [Regnum animate and De cerebro] Swedenborg reached the summit of his scientific career, and they afterwards served as the foundation of the religious edifice to which he devoted the remainder of his life".9
Fifty-nine years later and with reference to that very "edifice". Dr. Inge Jonsson asserted: "The anatomical and physiological parallelisms show the existence of the closest thinkable link with his works about biology".10
Like Ramstrom, Jonsson thought the topics Swedenborg addressed during the first stage became the basis for his production during the second stage. Seven years later he reaffirmed this viewpoint:
It is evident that Swedenborg, for the most part, didn't see the spirits materialized in external space but experienced their presence as a son of personalized, internal thought |. . .] and it is quite obvious, also, that whatever the information was, that the angels communicated, it confirmed his opinions and not the opposite. And also, that their behavior in the highest degree coincides with his knowledge about anatomy and physiology."
And yet by then, the phenomenon that my entirely antithetical discovery reveals had become a reality, to wit: that far from confirming Swedenborg's viewpoints, those angelic communicators he mentions had transmitted information that was totally different. And not just different, hut incredibly correct!
I shall soon return to the continuity thesis, but room must now be made to allow for a very essential discussion. "Scientific Elements Revealed" (items tabulated in the last column) are fairly self-evident in Table 4, but this is certainly not the case in Table 5. Indeed, I was recently prompted by a most valuable correspondent:
1 believe that your greatest challenge [. . .] is convincing them [other scientists] that your last column titled "Scientific Elements Revealed" [Table 5, column C] is contained in the "Post-crisis Topics" [Table 5, Column B]. I mean, it is quite a bit of a leap from "Protection of the skin [and] fighting antagonists - SD 1743" on the one hand, and on the other, "Keratinocytes and T-cells". I wonder how you can make this connection, which is seen by your mind, more explicit for others to see.11
Well, this has been made quite explicit in my main manuscript intended for a book titled La Tercera Fuente (references to specific chapters are given in both tables: Tables 4 and 5, see n.**). But my correspondent – as indeed any exacting reader would also do – cannot imagine how that "quite a bit of a leap" between columns (B) and (C) can be convincingly bridged (or even bridged at all!) whilst no specific examples are given. So, I have decided to incorporate into this synopsis one short and abridged piece of evidence,13 to illustrate how the seemingly unbridgeable gap is filled by very specific material not simply "seen by my mind".
Let us concentrate on T-cells (thymus-dependent cells). How on earth can cells so peculiar be "detected" and identified in Swedenborg's post- crisis texts? The first point to be taken into consideration refers to these cells' specific role: the discrimination of "self" and "not-self"; i. e., of foreign tissues, substances, germs and native but abnormal (tumoral) cells. Says Swedenborg:
There are certain very upright spirits who feel the quality of things . . . and they declare quickly enough. "That is not good"; "That is not well"; "That is well"; and frequently that "It ought not to be so". . . . (SD 1048)
T-cells acquire this ability through a process of "education"; mainly, through encounters with viral germs in early infancy. Adds Swedenborg:
In their infancy they had been dull and difficult to teach (hebetes et indomitus); but as they progressed in life, they became sufficiently instructed from themselves and their own disposition concerning the goodness of a thing (bonitate rei). . . . (Ibid.)
Then comes a most essential statement, a tangible reference key, to wit: "That these spirits pertain to the province of the thymus gland was indicated to me . . (SD 1049).
Indeed! Immunologists even term T-cells' acquisition of the self/not- self, good/not-good discriminative ability a thymic "education". The thymus gland contributes so essentially to this process that if surgically removed in the new-born animal, its capacity to reject foreign tissues disappears (even plumes may then be grafted onto the skin of mammals – a celebrated experiment that was made by J. F. Miller in 1961). Yet, readers might be asking: where is the clinching piece of evidence, – the one that links Swedenborg's descriptions so far quoted: 1) to humans, 2) to a protective immunological action; and 3) to "infernals" (in concordance with the hypothesis that infernals = germs)! Well, here it is: "The same spirits are also in great crowds [with little children] and defend them while they are being tormented [by 'infernals']". (Ibid.)
There are many more and very fascinating details about those "very upright spirits" Swedenborg describes that correspond very neatly to those about T-cells, but there is no room for all this in an abridged communication like this one. Just let me add that there is a peculiar co-operation between certain cells of the immune system, that was likewise recorded by Swedenborg: "spirits" performing defensive roles individually identified as specific types of lymphocytes (cells of the immune system), additionally appear in coordinated joint actions which truly correspond to them, and linked to organs and tissues that are real components of the defensive system (spleen, lymphatic system, Pecquet's cystern, [cisterna chyli in Swedenborg's old-fashioned terminology], the peritoneum, and so on). Clearly, this amounts to a double-checking of the analytical operations performed and duplicates the weight of the evidence obtained.
I now resume the topic of the continuity thesis. It should be only too evident that if any person had carried out a comparative analysis of homologous pre- and post-crisis texts as shown in Tables 4 and 5, the conclusion would very decidedly have been that the continuity thesis is wrong. To put it differently: it can be firmly asserted that neither Ramstrom nor Jonsson nor anyone else had previously carried out any truly systematic collation of homologous pre- and post-crisis texts.
BIPARTITE COMPOSITION OF SWEDENBORG'S MAIN POST-CRISIS WORK: ARCANA CAELEST1A
Swedenborg composed his Arcana Caelestia (his first and greatest post- crisis work, anonymously published in London in eight volumes) according to a bipartite structure. Its main and considerably more extensive contents constitute as esoteric interpretation of the spiritual sense of the Word. This might be defined as a metaphysical revelation. As a second textual element Swedenborg extracted from the Diarium spiritual, the journal in which he recorded the main part of his peculiar experiences of dreams, visions, "conversations with angels, spirits ..." and sensorial and motor influxes, this kind of material, and appended it "following instructions from heaven" to the chapters of exegesis meant to unveil the internal or spiritual sense of the Word. It is this appended material which, in outright opposition to all previous assumptions, has been found to refer primordially to a physical reality. And now comes yet another surprise.
What this material was actually intended for, constitutes another finding at least as baffling as the earliest discovery about adrenalin made in the spring of 1973. The role the physical revelation is meant to play appears faithfully recorded by Swedenborg in a series of notes – but notes which he himself did not understand! This is very queer indeed. Actually, their contents have only become evident now that we are in a position to contemplate them in retrospect, from the angle of our present state of knowledge. This is so noteworthy and fascinating a matter that I shall dwell upon it at some length.
In his frank and critical letter dated March 8th, 1769, Johan Christian Cuno confessed to his good friend, Swedenborg:
I have industriously searched into the principles of your System. Its main authority is your own sight. From things seen and heard, you tell marvels. You desire to make the world assured that it has been granted you to be with angels in the spirit world and at the same time with men in the natural world. You proclaim great things which an unbelieving world dislikes. Your readers, little solicitous of their eternal salvation, laugh at their latest teacher, as this an amphibian whom no one endowed with sound reason can imagine to himself as possible, nor can wish or is able to give assent to his novelties. [. . .] One eyewitness is of more avail than ten earwitnesses. But that you are truly and actually such – as to this, the world will deservedly retain its right to require some other testimony than from you alone. . . . Until you have proven your ocular testimony, and made it convincing by surer witnesses, neither the theologian nor the logician will take pen against you.14
Cuno did not know – nobody knew! – that such witnesses would become available in the future, for instance, when Sir Walter Bradford Cannon discovered the effects of adrenalin in 1914. As I have previously explained, equipped with this knowledge I suddenly realized in the spring of 1973, although quite accidentally, that Swedenborg, when referring in his post-crisis texts to the adrenal glands which secrete that very substance, had used precisely the very terms with which Cannon was to describe those effects 166 years later (fear, tremor, distress, anxiety). Unexpectedly, that British physicist and physiologist had turned all of a sudden into one of those "surer witnesses" Cuno had demanded two centuries earlier. As my findings progressed, such "witnesses" turned up by the hundreds.
Cuno's "witnesses" are all of them scientists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In other words: it was the science of the future that came to validate Swedenborg's claim that the angels he said he had been in touch with, had made him the depository of a "wisdom from heaven". Whether that wisdom is angelic remains to be discussed, but at least three points had become obvious: 1) what has been presented as wisdom is authentic wisdom, 2) can be validated and 3) cannot be referred to Swedenborg nor to any one of his contemporaries, because it was only to become detectable and verifiable in the future. Yet, in spite of this, Swedenborg wrote towards the end of the summer of 1749: "I received letters [informing me] that not more than four copies [of Arcana Caelestia] had been sold in two months". (SD 4422)
The fact that Swedenborg should expect immediate results when these necessarily had to be the sequel of a future evolution proves that he himself was ignorant that part of his revelation was anticipating knowledge about physical reality that had not yet been attained by means of the science practised by ordinary mortals.
Indeed, no remark about the role or physical nature and future delectability of one part of the recorded revelations is found anywhere amongst Swedenborg's own comments or the texts he gave to the press. He presented everything as "metaphysical" and never hinted at any physically testable reality. This is very queer indeed, because, just imagine how extremely striking such an announcement would have been, and how strong an argument against all those who pronounced him to be out of his wits, once its veracity could be fully established in the course of time. But actually, such an announcement was made in a series of notes, although he never published them himself, which obviously means that his Source of inspiration knew about it! Take for instance the future detectability and testability of the physical revelations. The most paradigmatic passages about this subject were recorded by Swedenborg when he was nearing the day of his death. He then returned to the subject of the meager attention paid to his works by prospective readers, but this time in a decidedly inspired context which I have termed The Allegory of the Shooting Star. In those passages he starts by enumerating the various types of revelation conveyed through him. The first ten points are clearly religious, moral, metaphysical. But then comes:
[. . .] moreover, concerning the inhabitants of the planets and the earths in the universe; besides many memorable and wonderful things from the spiritual world, which have been the means of revealing from heaven much wisdom. (TCR 846)
The physical revelations to which nobody had paid heed! – that is, on the one hand, concerning physical beings from physical worlds; and on the other hand, a wisdom "from the spiritual world", which is obviously a reference to the "things heard and seen" that have turned out to deal with subjects of an advanced nature related to physical reality.
At its start, the allegory pictures some angels being commanded to write down on a piece of paper all truths revealed so far, and let it drop unto the earth. Whilst that paper traversed the spiritual sphere, it shone like a star, only to fade away when it gradually plummeted into our world. Finally, it fell amongst a group of "learned and erudite men" and these responded with the greatest disconcert: obviously, a very faithful picture of our own reactions! Then comes the next stage. It is very essential. The angels questioned themselves as to how long this state of affairs would last, and a reply came from on high, which refers to the future detectability and comprehension of the physical revelation: a feature we positively know Swedenborg was not aware of. It was worded thus: "[. . .] a voice was heard saying: 'For a time, and times, and half a time' [Rev. 12:14]". (TCR 848)
Subsequently, Swedenborg states, he perceived a rumor ex inferis (from hell) requesting: "Perform miracles and we will believe!" (TCR 849).
On December 9th, 1748, Swedenborg recorded yet another truly spectacular fact related to these questions we are discussing. The note in question, which is worthy of being printed in golden characters, reads as follows:
concerning things revealed (De revelatis). There are spirits who are averse to anything being said concerning the things revealed (de revelatis), but it was said (sed iis dictum) that they are instead of miracles (ea loco miraculorum sint) and that without them men would not know the character of the book (quod talis liber sit), nor would they buy it, or read it, or understand it, or be affected by it (non afficiumur), or believe in it [. . .] nor would they wish to hear anything respecting the interiors of the Word, which they regard as mere fantasies (quae ut phantasias putant). Such as are simply men of learning (aliqui docri solum) will for the most pari reject them (qui maxima pars rejiciunt). SD 4123.
In short, we are told about a book (Arcana Caelestia) dealing with the internal sense of the Word, whose credibility depends on certain "things" which have to strike our minds. This being very evidently a reference to the things discovered since the spring of 1973; things which are certainly shaking our minds (minds that had espoused too limited an idea about reality) with a power of conviction equivalent to that of the biblical miracles, but tuned to the present-time requirements of rationality. And this is why "ea in loco miraculorum sint". In other words, they act as a substitute for miracles of biblical proportions capable of impinging upon our minds and shaking our consciousness.
On August 27th, 1748, Swedenborg recorded in yet another note statements, just as singular, about the foreseen ways of reception of this revelation:
how my writings seem to bf. received by men (Quomodo scripta videntur recipi ub hominibus). I spoke with spirits as to how my writings concerning these things ["things heard and seen"] seem to be received when they become public; for evil spirits sometimes infused that no one would perceive these things (quod nullus ea perciperet), but that [men] would reject them. Now, while in the street and talking with spirits, it was given to perceive that there are five kinds of reception (genera receptionis). First, [those] who wholly reject, who are in another persuasion (qui in alia persuasinoe sint), and are enemies of (he faith. These reject; for it cannot be received by them, since it cannot penetrate their minds (quia in mentes eorum non penetrare Ipossunt]). Another class (genus) who receive these things as scientifica15 and as such (et ut scientificis), and consequently as curious things, they are delighted (turn ut curiosis delectantur). A third class, which receives intellectually so that they receive with sufficient alacrity, but still remain [in respect to life] as before. A fourth class [which receives] persuasively, so that it penetrates to the improvement of their lives; they recur to these in certain slates (obveniant eis in quibusdam statibus), and make use of them. And a fifth class who receive with joy, and arc confirmed. (SD 2955)"
The expression "scientifica" and that we should receive this particular material as curious things and be delighted with them is most striking. How could Swedenborg presume that certain persons would receive as scientifica what he systematically presented and understood as metaphysica? This is quite sensational. He could not have invented it. Furthermore, it fully coincides with the findings made in the spring of 1973 and thenceforth.
THE USE OF THE MICROSCOPE: "THINGS WHICH CONVINCE"
The microscope as a key to discovery and conviction was also announced. Again, Swedenborg never took advantage of this fact. He never published himself the notes containing this information.
As was previously discussed, a fascinating world appeared before my eyes when I discovered that the "infernals" responded marvellously to a reversal of the optics, from metaphysical to physical; more concretely: to microscope optics even beyond the range of the power of electronic magnification! By this procedure the "infernals" suddenly resolved themselves into clear pictures of specifically recognizable germs through a scries of morphological details. Germs which had previously been pinned down with extraordinary accuracy by means of the clinical, parasitological, prophylactic, cytological and genetic information profusely contained in Swedenborg's descriptions.
This topic of the microorganisms detected and recognized in Swedenborg's post-crisis texts is undoubtedly one of the most impressive aspects of the physical revelation. This is probably why it is stated in one of the series of notes about the nature and aims of the physical revelation that, "by holding the idea on the objects of the microscope" one becomes absolutely "obstupefactus": stupefied.17 Furthermore, that:
[. . .] when it was granted to represent experience by means of the microscope (cum experienliam repraesentare darelur per microscopium), the spirits resisted, and did not wish to allow it (nec admiuere volebant), saying that they do not wish to admit those things which convince, for they fear to be convinccd (dicentes quod non velint admit- tere ea, quae amvincunt. nam timenl convinci). (SD 2898)
Indeed, these are things which convince, things that are very obviously foreshadowing the astonishing findings made in the field of microbiology (Figure 1. Cf. La Tercera Fuente, chs. 11-12, 11-13 and 11-14).
SUMMARY AND COMMENTS
To what situation has my search-and-compare exercises brought us to? In fact, a multifarious array of arguments supports the solidity of my claims of the existence of physical revelations. Individually considered, identification of the "things seen" relies on tangible indications (verbal and motor) and the concordance of the descriptions with physical objects and phenomena (microbes, effects of hormones, physiological processes, etc.). References (clues) are very straightly formulated in Swedenborg's texts and quite to the point; e.g. adrenal glands, spleen, Pecquet's cystem, colon, scaly skin (keratinocytes), brothels, filth, intestines, excrements, spinal cord, semen, saliva, lice, bed-bugs, etc.
Additionally, when individual proofs are globally contemplated, new arguments arise which strongly enhance their credibility. To wit: the microbiological consistency of morphological details, the firm coherence of cross-references, taxonomic uniformity (regular use of names and expressions, such as "cruel and adulterine spirits", "Hypocritical spirits", and so on), the number and variety of the proofs obtained,18 and the ruling out of trivial random coincidence as an explication on the ground of very obvious computational odds. In this latter respect it should also be mentioned that in each and every case, details appear sequenced according to the true chronological order of the real process being described.
These facts I have just mentioned thoroughly discard chance as an intervening factor and firmly substantiate the legitimacy of my claims of the discovery of physical revelations in Swedenborg. Then we arrive at next point at issue. The "miraculous" nature of that revelation leads to a brand new understanding of the series of notes that were discussed in the preceding section. Although unheeded and uncomprehended since they were penned by Swedenborg more than two centuries ago, those notes have all of a sudden acquired a fascinating significance because they testify to the existence of a second revelation of a decidedly metaphysical nature.g
As far as metaphysical issues are concerned. Swedenborg has become the first man in history whose claims of prophetic endowments have been "physically" tested, which claims lend rational credibility to metaphysical revelation. This is an outright and supreme novelty, even though I am not the only person who has found that the obtention of anticipatory (but strictly physical?) information of unknown origin is possible. For instance, a preliminary draft about some aspects of my findings was not long ago despatched to Princeton University, addressed to Drs. Robert G. Jahn and Brenda J. Dunne. This was their reaction:
We have at last had an opportunity to read your fascinating manuscript. [. . .] Although at the superficial level it appears to deal with phenomena well removed from our own areas of study, there are nonetheless several points of potential overlap that would be worth considering. At the very least, any extended model of reality must be able to accommodate a full range of such consciousness-related anomalies if it has any hope of being complete. We suspect that ultimately Swedenborg's works will prove far more prophetic than most people have recognized."
So in the eyes of these researchers I have not been making unheard-of statements.
How can persons willingly accept as normal what seems nonsensical to Others? The answer is that it all depends on the type of material one has access to, and the theories about reality this material might give rise to.20 Actually, the paradoxes modern physicists are faced with, thoroughly indicate that matter does not conform to the axioms of materialism, which is quite an ironical fact. Materialism has become a useless doctrine even if this fact seems only to be familiar to a limited circle of researchers cavalierly ignored by the greater part of the scientific establishment. Such a situation seems highly ridiculous; but it is no novel situation at all. When Copernicus published his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, the majority was still espousing the geocentric theory. And it is highly convenient to bear in mind that the Copernican hypothesis was revolutionary not just because planetary orbits now fitted elegantly into a neater, homogenous system (and it was, indeed, closer to the truth than the Ptolemaic doctrine), but also because it made us realize that things can be just the opposite of what seems very decidedly obvious at a given moment.
Matters I am now discussing may belong to quite another area – a field which is closely related to the so-called mind-body problem. But most probably, the situation is exactly the same as exemplified by my discussion of the Copernican hypothesis. Indeed, Swedenborg's case definitely confirms that the ordinary paradigm about reality we are massively committed to and operating with, must be wrong. Its degree of inaccuracy must necessarily be proportional to the very extent that his case bewilders, staggers, generates skepticism and was never anticipated.
Summing up: the world is not as we have generally been told. My findings challenge the prevalent view nowadays advocated by outstanding materialist neuroscientists, and formulated by Richard Rorty in the introduction to his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature as follows: "The mind-body problem [. . .] was merely a result of Locke's unfortunate mistake about how words get meaning combined with his and Plato's muddled attempt to talk about adjectives as if they were nouns". In the light of the findings made since the spring of 1973, this is fallacious. Swedenborg's angels deserve serious consideration: 1) their wisdom cannot have been kindled by his mind; 2) his source of inspiration is very decidedly not an adjective. His case is not an "anomalous" case either. It is a case that foreshadows the necessity of a radical shift of the prevailing paradigm about the frontiers of reality. It is this paradigm which is anomalous. A shift away from it is becoming an imperative necessity because wrong paradigms foster warped judgments and the derivative risk of a perilous handling of human affairs. Indeed, signs that mankind has been pushed along a false trail are not lacking. This is why Swedenborg is becoming highly pertinent. There is now every reason to believe that his texts, now glowing in the dark, contain cardinal clues for shedding light upon some of our gravest problems.
Finally, there is one more point I would like to stress. Jahn and Dunne's opinion in relation to my findings has already been mentioned. Their laboratory experiences at Princeton University under the Project of Engineering Anomalies Research offer - I quote - some "potential overlap that would be worth considering". Also, quite a number of very able physicists would be fully prepared to back my claims fundamentally. It is very encouraging not to be entirely alone when announcing news as controversial as mine. Yet, it seems that Swedenborg's case is the antechamber to stronger and still more startling surprises than any preceding experiments or systematic theoretical speculations have jointly produced so far. In fact, this is the first time a Source has been detected, that cannot be referred to laboratory conditions nor to any tests with humans. At least, not in any ordinary sense – or perhaps in no sense at all. Under these circumstances, can Swedenborg's own claims be distrusted? Swedenborg refers to angels as communicators and asserts these were guided by the Lord so that he was actually to become the depository of the Lord's tidings. There may certainly be divergencies of viewpoint, but Swedenborgian believers are fully entitled to feel and argue that both the "classical", and now quite unexpectedly and most strikingly the "new" post-1973 Swedenborg, strengthens their faith – indeed: any believer's faith.
* For bibliographic references and the symbols of the works of Swedenborg quoted here, see the Index in pp. 194-195.
(*) Drawing by Sylvia Treadgold, reproduced by courtesy of Dr. A. Stuart Mason.
1 Some parts of the JD, the indented paragraphs in WE, the totality of SD and some aspects of the Memorabilia (Memorable relations) are incorporated in his late production (AR, CL and TCR).
2 Strictly speaking, forerunners of the doctrine of correspondences are found in EAK and in Clavis hieroglyphica arcanorum naturalium et spiritualium, per viam repraesentationum et corfespondentiarum, published posthumously (London: R. Hindmarsh. 1784).
it has been consistently sustained by first rank scholars.
12 Letter to the author by Prof. Leon James, dated February 3, 1995.
13 Six lengthy chapters of my main work, La Tercera Fuente are dedicated to covering matters mentioned in Table 5. Obviously, there is no room for that material in this highly abridged report. La Tercera Fuente is programmed for publication in the nearest future by Grupo Libro, Madrid.
14 Letter from J. C. Cuno to Swedenborg dated March 8, 1769. in Letters and Memorials of Emanuel Swedenborg, collected and annotated by A. Acton (Bryn Alhyn, Pa.: Swedenberg Scientific Association. 1949), pp. 650-51 and 653-54.
15 I have chosen to keep Swedenborg's original Latin term and convey to the reader the peculiar and highly significant meaning he assigned to it. To wit: any kind of empirical or experimental information; i. e.: "[any data] procured from earthly and wordly things by means of sensuous impressions. ... All things which are learnt and stored up in the memory, and which can be called forth from it for the use of the sight of the mind" (AC 1846 and 9394). Consequently, this expression neatly matches the theoretical requisites for positive science as stipulated by empiricists like David Hume, Auguste Comte, the Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle, etc. And indeed, it is to empirical science that Swedenborg's physical revelations can be and have been collated.
16 It should be stressed that C. O. Sigstedt's book. The Swedenborg Epic, marvellous and most accurate in all other respects, contains in this case a seriously mutilated version in which no less than the extremely important term, scientifica. has been omitted. This defective version reads as follows: "Another class are delighted with the new things as curiosities" (The Swedenborg Epic [London: The Swedenborg Society, 1981], p. 234). The original text reads quite clearly: Alterum genus, qui recipiunr ea lit scientifica, et ui scientificis, turn ut curiosis delectantur (sec Emanuelis Swedenborgii Diarium Spiriiuale, ed. Tubingen and London: J. Fr. I. Tafel, 1843-46. SD 2955).
17 See series SD 2896-98.
18 A selection of twenty-two extensive monographic and fully documented cases is thoroughly discussed in my main manuscript, La Tercera Fuente. Evidently, this may be reckoned to amount to quile a substantial body of research evidence.
19 Letter to the author dated Princeton, December 4, 1991.
20 In this connection it ought to be mentioned that some laboratory experiments about consciousness-related phenomena and the paradoxes of quantum mechanics are at least as perplexing as my findings. Cf. for instance R. G. Jahn's and Brenda J. Dunne's excellent book. Margins of Reality: the Role of Consciousness in the Physical World (Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987), and John Horgan's "Filosofia quantica" (Quantic philosophy) in Investigacion y Ciencia (Spanish ed. of Scientific American). September 1992, pp. 70ff.
INDEX OF SWEDENBORG WORKS CITED
AK Regnum animate anatomice, physice, et philosophies perlustratum (Vols. I and II). The Hague: 1744 (Vol. III. London: 1745). Transl. into English by i. J. G. Wilkinson: The Animal Kingdom Considered Anatomically, Physically and Philosophically. London: 1843. Abridged title: Regnum animate. Fib. Emanuelis Swedenborgii Oeconomia regni animalis in transactions divisa III. Poslh. publ. by J. J. G. Wilkinson, London: 1847. Transl. into English by A. Acton: The Medullary Fibre of the Brain and the Nerve Fibre of the Body. The Arachnoid Tunic. Disease of the Fibre. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 1918. Abridged title: Fibre.
JD The Journal of Dreams (Dromboken). English version by J. J. G. Wilkinson, revised by W. R. Woofenden, ed. by The Swedenborg Foundation Inc., New York: 1977. WE Emanuelis Swedenborgii Adversaria in libros Veteris Testamemi. Posth. publ. by Dr. J. Fr. Immanuel Tafel, Tilbingen and London: 1847-1854. Transl. into English by A. Acton: The Ward of the Old Testament Explained. Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania: 1927-1948. Abridged title: Adversaria.
SD The Spiritual Diary. Transl. into English of Swedenborg's Diarium spirituale by A. W. Acton (Vol. I), G. Bush and J. H. Smithson (Vols. II—III), G. Bush and J. F. Buss (Vol. IV), and J. F. Buss (Vol. V), publ. by The Swedenborg Foundation Inc., New York: 1971-1978. Swedenborg himself didn't publish or put any title to this diary. This was done for the first time by Dr. J. Fr. Immanuel Tafel of Tubingen University. In 1843-1846, Tafel transcribed and published the original Latin manuscript, which is kept at the Royal Academy of Sciences of Stockholm. The passages I have reproduced, have been collated with the Latin version.
AC Arcana Caelestia quae in Scriptura Sacra seu Verho Domini sunt detecta; hie primum quae in Genesi; una cum mirabilihus quae visa sunt in mundo spirituum. et in coelo angelorum. London: 1749-1756. Transl. into English by J. F. Potts et al. as Heavenly Arcana Contained in the Holy Scripture or Word of the l.ord. Unfolded, Beginning with the Book of Genesis. Together with Wonderful Things Seen in the World of Spirits and the Heaven of Angels. The Swedenborg Society, various eds. and rcprintings, London: 1916-1978.
AR Apocalypsis revelata in qua deteguntur arcana quae ibi praedicta sunt, et hactenus recondita latuerunt. Amsterdam. 1766. Transl. into English by F. F. Coulson. The Swedenberg Society, London: 1970.
CL Deliciae sapientiae de amorc conjugial; post quas sequuntur voluptates insaniae de amore scortatorio, Amsterdam: 1768. Transl. into English by A. H. Searle: The Delights of Wisdom Relating to Conjugal Love, after which Follow the Pleasures of Insanity Relating to Scortatory Love, The Swedenborg Society, London: 1891.
TCR Vera Christiana religio continens universam theologiam Novae Ecclesiae. Amsterdam: 1771. Transl. into English by Wm. C. Dick with the collaboration of E. A. Sutton: The True Christian Religion, The Swedenborg Society, London: 1975.