The mythological studies of Carl Theophilus Odhner explore the application of Emanuel Swedenborg's "Science of Correspondences" to Egyptian, Greek, and Roman myths. Swedenborg, 18th-century scientist, philosopher, and theologian, attributed to the world's myths a consistent inner content of spiritual meanings, veiled in symbolism. His own exegesis was confined primarily to the Testaments; but he demonstrated by profuse examples that the same interpretive key might be used to discover a common origin and a harmony of hidden meaning in all of these survivals of an ancient wisdom.
Mr. Odhner himself wrote at the turn of the century, when secular scholarship in these fields was relatively primitive. Republication of his explorations has been put off for a number of years because of doubts as to their accuracy in some areas of fact—especially in his often undisciplined etymologies—and instances in which patient scholarship appears the victim of his far-reaching search for grander patterns. The hope has persisted that the suspect elements might be amended, and from time to time various men have begun revisions of the text; unfortunately the press of other duties has kept these efforts from completion.
But Odhner wrote from a unique combination of strengths, and his works show it. He possessed a broad command of Swedenborg's teachings, a wide knowledge of history and ancient languages, and a joyous appreciation of the imagery in Bible and in myth. What seems passé or naive today, his sometimes overreaching enthusiasm, his tendency to scoff at secular scholars, mars only the surface of these warm and vibrant studies.
Today a reawakened interest in the world of antiquity—new archaeological discoveries, the decoding of antique inscriptions, and new psychological perspectives—have produced a whole great secular literature on the meaning of myth. In the face of this new material, Odhner's penetrating explorations, inspired and guided by the revealed wonders of genuine correspondences, may be more valuable than ever.
The reprinting of these books does not deny the hope of new work being done which will more accurately answer to modern knowledge. It simply expresses the conviction that, until a better way is opened, our students should not be deprived of the dramatic introduction to the wonders of the ancient past that may be found on almost every page penned by this dynamic guide.
Bryn Athyn, Pa., 1978 Aubrey C. Odhner