Science, Swedenborg and his Mystical Affair

August 2, 2013

In my assiduous attempt to provide my intellect with quality lectures favoring the breeding of uncountable thoughts I genuinely consider a chief condition for one’s happiness to achieve substance, I rarely came across spiritual themed books. Mysticism’s not really my cup of tea and reading its adepts has yet to attract me, you should know, but while relishing a dose of Borges’ oral speeches the other day (Borges being quite a brilliant modern mind, if you’d ask my opinion) I became unexpectedly intrigued by the man he was talking about, a certain Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

Swedenborg who? Apparently, the guy was the proud possessor of a brilliant mind which Kant took some time in studying with expressed  regrets he could never meet its owner, dead a decade earlier. Reputed scientist for the first half of one of those lives uncommonly long in the not so healthy 18th century (he managed to survive the age of 80), obedient student and offspring of a wealthy Lutheran bishop quite respected by the Swedish King, he was much appreciated himself for researches (truly ahead of his times) on human brain (developing the “neuron” concept barely occurred as an important matter to Swedenborg’s contemporaries), psychology and complex anatomy, although international recognition came with a treaty on similarities between metallurgy and philosophy. Later, he even took some time in designing a flight machine, reaching the sky otherwise than through death being a dream he had in common with da Vinci.

Great variety in preoccupations, do observe.

But not sufficient to conquer historic immortality.

Until Providence generously opened the gates of a new domain Swedenborg could usefully study in a wholly eccentric perspective: theology. Now, how he came to have the transcendent visions on which his following works were heavily based one may effortlessly find on omniscient Wikipedia without my mentioning it, yet I’d like sketching their content as it explains my decision of boring you with this particular Swede.

Upon experiencing an elevating journey of the type Dante made famous worldwide at the end of a swift adjustment, Swedenborg established a few marvelously novel religious ideas definitely surpassing, in context, Rudolph Steiner’s esoteric movement centuries later.

According to him, our souls are directly responsible for their entry in either hell or Paradise since, here goes the surprise, each man is let to decide where to spend his afterlife. Swedenborg explains that, after an interval spent hanging in a neutral zone where angels and demons could freely pass, we are put to chose the place of our eternity, the only space in which we’re able to find happiness. Shockingly, some actually desire to reside in the fiery depths of infernal terror, which he doesn’t interpret as punishment.

“The life of any one can by no means be changed after death; an evil life can in no wise be converted into a good life, or an infernal into an angelic life: because every spirit, from head to foot, is of the character of his love, and therefore, of his life; and to convert this life into its opposite, would be to destroy the spirit utterly.” Explained, it means a predominantly mischievous spirit, without being damned, can never pass Heaven’s doors because it would condemn him to tremendous misery; it’s not his nature to stay among those essentially good or graceful for he’s destined to hate, spite, breath in torturing vices alongside those assembling his temper, a theory most sophisticated in comparison with Bible’s old-fashioned variant -reminiscent, though, of Shaw’s “Man and Superman” third act.

Evidently, there’s much more to say about Swedenborg regarding his concepts and the authenticity of his mystical connections; I promise to incorporate sometime in a longer post if interested, probably subsequent to reading the “Heaven & Hell” work which won him posterity.

For now, what do you think about his rather strange philosophy? Heresy? Madness? A wild but nevertheless genuine hunch?

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9 Responses to “Science, Swedenborg and his Mystical Affair”


  1. I agree with the man. Heaven? Hell? It’s our choice. What do you choose, Madame?


    • i must admit that’s a tricky one, Sisi! not as easy as people’s desire to reach heaven seem to be… after all, we’re used with living in one utterly imperfect world: would the perfect, continuous serenity of the divine realm suit us? don’t know. maybe i’ll just wait to die and see then; it’s a possibility that angels will convince me. what do you think?

  2. Susan Ozmore Says:

    If I understand correctly, he’s saying that we can’t change our nature after death, and that although we still have the choice of where to spend the after life we may be compelled to choose that which matches our nature. Sounds like taking freewill to the ultimate, but what does he say about changing our nature before death? Does he think that our nature is fixed or can an evil life be converted into a good one prior to death and vice versa? Interesting ideas. :-)


    • well, i’m much ashamed to admit i haven’t actually read his whole work on the subject (heaven & hell) as i’ve barely discovered the man in a brilliant essay, hence a fully personal opinion about the “free-will” philosophy elaborated by Swedenborg has yet to clot and achieve contour in my brain. from what Borges interpreted, though, i assume it could be said the truth lies middle-way: man is majorly capable to chose his path, growing to be considered either good or bad by society’s canons, in the limit of a certain nature. during a lifetime, quite ambiguous and subjective if you ask me. okay, say we’re born with a pronounced propensity for heavenly deeds which we enormously enjoy doing but something happens and vice contaminates us. we’ll never do terribly horrific things because our so-called goodness hinders us but we will nonetheless break the 10 commandments. then we die, reach the neutral zone between heaven and hell; what next? do we pick heaven because our nature’s attracted by goodness? do we, former sinners, must select the infernal fire? most likely Swedenborg would’ve chosen the latter since, during our life, we ourselves have embraced “evilness” with full awareness… obviously, i’m not entirely sure. ambiguous and subjective.
      so sorry for the useless answer :)

      • Susan Ozmore Says:

        No problem. I haven’t rushed out to find his work either, although it’s an intriguing concept. I imagine we are all a mixture and that no one is really pure evil, or pure goodness, at least to start. Some definitely embrace one or the other by the end of their lives. Certainly an interesting concept that in the end we have a choice. Or do we? Guess we’ll have to wait to find out. :-)


      • i’m partly existentialistic so I regard the concept of “free-will” as being quite a certitude. its boundaries and perceptions, though, I really look forward to explore in Swedenborg :)

  3. chengboiser Says:

    interesting.. thanks for introducing him. I really have no idea about him and this concept. hmm actually it kinda explains how come some people are generally mean spirited.

    well we just need to read more about this I guess..

  4. aubrey Says:

    It sounds oddly benevolent – so no heresy. The thoughts are clear and evidently the product of much and serious thought. So. A wild and genuine hunch. Yes – that feels about right.


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