NARRATOR: Gothenburg, Sweden, in the year 1765
F.X.: FADE IN CHATTER OF SMALL DINNER PARTY
ROSEN: Good evening, my dear Beyer. Come in.
BEYER: Thank you, Rosen. It was very good of you to invite me to this dinner.
ROSEN: Well, I felt sure you'd like to meet him.
BEYER: To be perfectly frank, my dear Rosen, I've been wondering why on earth I accepted your invitation. I suppose it was out of friendship for you; or perhaps, for entertainment, or something of the sort.
ROSEN: (Surprised) Really!
BEYER: Well, yes! After all,I'm not particularly eager to meet Emanuel Swedenborg. I know he has quite a reputation as a philosopher; and as a young man he did advance the cause of Science here in our beloved Sweden. I grant him that! But really, Rosen, a man who claims to talk with spirits and angels! (chuckling). I mean one can hardly take him seriously, can one?
ROSEN: No, I suppose not. But still I don't like to reject the possibility altogether, you know.
BEYER: (Abruptly). Have you ever read any of his theological stuff, Rosen?
ROSEN: Well -- no. I've always meant to, but...
BEYER: Oh! Don't waste your time. I read one of his books once. At least, I got half-way through it. But Oh! Dear me! I couldn't fathom it. Quite beyond me. I put it aside. After all, Swedenborg doesn't seem to have much to off as a theologian. A Scientist, yes -- and a philosopher. But not as a theologian.
ROSEN: Oh well. Never mind. It should be interesting to talk to him at first hand. They say he's quite a sociable old gentleman -- although he does live alone. I must say I'm quite looking forward to meeting him. He's not often here in Gothenburg, you know.
BEYER: (Board FADE OUT). Well, we shall see.
F.X.: FADE IN CHATTER OF SMALL PARTY.
BEYER: Thank you, Rosen, for a most enjoyable evening.
ROSEN: Not at all. Swedenborg deserves the thanks. What do you think of him, now, Beyer?
BEYER: Swedenborg? Really, Rosen, I've never been more astonished in all my life! The old gentleman is delightful company. Frankly, I thought he d be quite eccentric. You know, rather weird. After all, one doesn't expect a seer of spirits and angels to be anything else than demented. But this man is--well, I was about to say quite normal, but he's more than that. He's downright extra-ordinary.
ROSEN: Yes, I must say he surprised me, too. I hadn't expected him to be so sensible.
BEYER: (musing) There's something there that I don't fully understand. The man intrigues me.
ROSEN: If I may ask, what was the subject of your conversation with him?
BEYER: As a matter of fact, he was so interested in my work at the Diocesan College, that we spent most of the time discussing the teaching of Greek. He has a wonderful way of drawing one out, you know.
ROSEN: Yes, I found the same thing. I found myself telling him about my sermon writing course at the College. He even wanted to discuss my poetry. Did he refer to his speaking with spirits and angels?
BEYER: No, but I asked him about it!
ROSEN: What did he say?
BEYER: Well, in the most matter-of-fact way you could imagine, he simply said that the Lord had appeared to him and opened his spiritual eyes and commissioned him to set down these teachings. He was so natural and...so guileless about it, it rather took my breath away!--
ROSEN: Did he say anything more about it?--
BEYER: No. Aurell and one or two others tried their best to bait him on the subject, and have some fun at his expense, but he became quite silent then, and would say no more on the matter.
ROSEN: Yes, I've heard that he won't discuss it with anyone who tried to make fun of him.
BEYER: I understand he did speak with Councillor Wenngren at some length on the matter.
ROSEN: Oh yes! But you see Wenngren was quite respectful about it. He was really interested in what he had to say.
BEYER: The man intrigues me (pause). Rosen, suppose I invite him to dine with us at my home tomorrow evening? We must ask him to give us a full account of these teachings of his. Do you agree?
ROSEN: Yes, indeed! Thank you very much. Let us arrange it now (FADE) before he leaves...
NARRATOR: Emanuel Swedenborg -- scientist, philosopher, theologian! One of the guests at Dr. Rosen's party -- Gothenius, a colleague of Rosen and Beyer said concerning him in a letter to a friend in Stockholm.
GOTHENIUS: Swedenborg was here...and was constantly invited out. He afterward departed by boat for Holland. Opinions among us vary greatly concerning him.
NARRATOR: OPINIONS AMONG US VARY GREATLY CONCERNING HIM
This was the case in Swedenborg's own lifetime and it has been even more so since. What are these differing estimates of him?
Emanuel Swedenborg was born as Emanuel Svedberg in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 29th, 1688, the third child and second son of Dean Jesper Svedberg and his gracious wife, Sarah Behm. Swedenborg's father was first regimental chaplain to the King, then a professor of theology and later a Bishop in the Swedish Lutheran Church. Renowned for his fearlessness and out-spokenness, Jesper Svedberg was a formidable crusader against the moral laxity of his day, and never hesitated to denounce it whether in high places or low.
From the age of fifteen, Swedenborg lived in the home of his sister, Anna, the wife of Erik Benzelius, Librarian at the University of Upsala, north of Stockholm. His brother-in-law, a keen student of Mathematics and Science, greatly influenced the young Swedenborg.
After completing his university studies in the department of philosophy at the age of twenty, Emanuel Swedenborg took the first opportunity to complete his education by making a foreign voyage. He went to London in 1710, where he wrote to his brother-in-law, Erik Benzelius:
SWEDENBORG: You encouraged me to go on with my studies in the sciences, but it is something that I ought rather to be discouraged in, as I have an immoderate desire for them, especially for astronomy and mechanics.
NARRATOR: While in London, Swedenborg lodged with various trades-people, learning their arts and crafts. He studied the works of Newton, introducing them into Sweden; he studied mathematics at Oxford, and conferred at length with astronomers, Flamsteed and Halley. His stay in England had a broadening effect on his mind. In addition to gaining a wider perspective than his native land could possibly have provided, Swedenborg met many of the world's best thinkers. England's great freedom of speech a nd of the press please him very much, and he often referred to it later. He recognised this period as the beginning of his preparation for his life's work. Looking back upon it in his old age, he said:
SWEDENBORG: I was first introduced by the Lord into the Natural (Old) sciences and thus prepared: and this from the year 1710 to 1744.
NARRATOR: After two and a half years in England, Swedenborg visited Holland, Paris, and Germany. From Rostock he wrote giving a list of plans for fourteen mechanical inventions. It included:
SWEDENBORG: The plan of a certain ship which, with its men, can go under the surface of the sea, wherever it chooses, and do great damage to the fleet of the enemy.
A universal musical instrument, by means of which one who is quite unacquainted with music may execute all kinds of airs, that are marked on paper by notes.
A flying carriage, or the possibility of remaining suspended in the air, and of being conveyed through it.
A method of ascertaining the desires and affections of the mind by analysis.
NARRATOR: Back in Sweden in 1715, after an absence of five years, Swedenborg, now 26 years of age, was full of ambition to bring science in Sweden up the level of her neighbours.
The whole country was in ruin through the extended military campaigns of its King, Charles XLL.
Declining an invitation to become Professor of Mathematics at Upsala University, Swedenborg collaborated with Christopher Polhem, the great Swedish inventor, in publishing at his own expense, what is now recognised by the Swedish Royal Academy of Science as its first Scientific periodical. He also enjoyed the company and favour of the King, working with Polhem on many engineering projects for him.
After the death of King Charles, the new Queen ennobled the family of Bishop Svedberg, and the name was changed to Swedenborg. For the next 25 years -- until he was 60 -- Swedenborg worked by Royal appointment as Assessor or Superintendent of Mines, taking part in mining commissions, investigating, acting as judge in miners disputes, and, in general, co-operating with his colleagues in the administration of mining matters in Sweden -- despite the fact that he had independent means inherited from his late ste p-mother and could have lived a life of idleness.
Though very much in touch with the work-a-day world, Swedenborg had by no means retired from the learned world. He was a pioneer in the field of geology -- a fact recognised by geologists in our century. One geological professor says:
GEOLOGIST: Swedenborg's contributions in the field of geology are of much significance and scope that they alone would have been sufficient to secure him a respected scientific name and prove him to be an investigating genius of the highest rank. With his sharp powers and observation, he left nothing unnoticed.
NARRATOR: During this period as an Assessor, Swedenborg quickly established a European reputation as a front-rank philosopher. From his pen there flowed the following major works in philosophy:
1st VOICE: Philosophical and Mineralogical Works.
2nd VOICE: The Principia, or First Principles of Natural Things.
3rd VOICE: The Infinite and Final Cause of Creation.
NARRATOR: Concerning this last work one reviewer said:
REVIEWER: This work is the fruits of Swedenborg's highly refined mind, which so greatly excels in its fitness for lofty subjects.
NARRATOR: And in the opinion of a modern student of Swedenborg's philosophy, his fame as a philosopher could well rest on this work alone.
Swedenborg now turned to anatomy. He saw the human body as the kingdom of the soul, the realm where it worked out its effects. His first work in his search for the soul was The Economy of the Animal Kingdom , or The Economy of the Kindgom of the Soul . In commenting on this penetrating analysis of human anatomy, which Swedenborg published anonymously, a review in a scientific periodical, also shows how well known Swedenborg was at this time.
REVIEWER: For this volume we have to thank the industry of the famous Swedish philosopher, Herr Swedenborg. Although he does not wish to set his name to the work, he has nevertheless earned such a reputation for learning, by other works, and has made his ideas on philosophy so well known that one can easily guess the author from the nature of the work itself...The learned Herr Swedenborg imparts a wealth of instruction in noble truth.
NARRATOR: A French reviewer is equally full of praise.
2nd REVIEWER: I doubt not but that the learned writings which the author will unceasingly give to the press will be received with no less favour. The republic of letters would be much more flourishing if all writers strove to enrich it equally we ll.
NARRATOR: Yet there was one reviewer who was thoroughly annoyed by Swedenborg's speculations about the soul, and described them as...
3rd REVIEWER: Figments of the imagination and silly trifles...Swedenborgian dreams.
NARRATOR: This last comment referred to Swedenborg's next and final anatomical work, The Animal Kindgom, or The Kingdom of the Soul. In this he reached the threshold of the soul. He had gone as far as reasoning from the scientific method could ta ke him.
F.X.: MUSIC BRIDGE
We come now to the turning point in Swedenborg's life, his transition from being a philosopher to a theologian. As early as 1736, when Swedenborg was 48, he began to have certain extra-sensory experiences, all of them unsought and of a minor nature -- such as seeing bright lights after he had written some particular passage. In one case, he wrote at the end of a manuscript on creation:
SWEDENBORG: These things are true because I have the sign.
NARRATOR: Later, in describing this sign, which he regarded as an assurance that his conclusions were correct -- a sign of Divine approval, he said:
SWEDENBORG: While I was writing a certain little work, hardly a day passed by, for several months, without a flame being seen by me as vividly as the flame of the household hearth.
NARRATOR: This is the first indication to be found in his writings of any extra-sensory perception, and it occurred several years before he turned to the study of theology itself. For our knowledge of this period of transition from the natural to the spiritual, we are indebted to Swedenborg's own account in his Journal of Dreams. Written in Swedish, it was never intended for publication, being a private diary of his increasingly significant dreams during the year 1744, when he was 56 years of age.
The Journal records (among other things) Swedenborg's daily struggles to overcome what he calls the pride of his own intelligence and other besetting sins.
Finally, however, he could say:
SWEDENBORG: This much I have now learned in regard to what is (56) spiritual, that there is nothing for it but to humble oneself, and not to ask for anything but the grace of Christ, and this in all humility. I in my stupid understanding had neglected humility, which is the foundation of everything.
NARRATOR: Only after being prepared in this way could Swedenborg progress to the next stage, that of vision -- the actual sight of the spiritual world, as distinct from mere dreams. This has been truly described as the climatic event of his life.
According to his own account, Swedenborg had, one evening, been in a state of nagging doubt while reading the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament.
The next day, April 7, 1744, his thoughts were, he said more profound and beautiful than they had ever been before. He goes on to say:
SWEDENBORG: At ten o clock I went to bed, and fell asleep. About twelve, one, or two o clock at night a most powerful tremor seized me from head to foot, with a sound like the concourse of many winds. By this sound, which was indescribable, I was shaken, and thrown (from the bed) on my face. At the moment I was thus thrown down, I became wide awake.
NARRATOR: It is clear that by wide awake, Swedenborg must mean awake in the spirit, that is, with his spiritual sense organs, because later he says that he became altogether awake, that is, in a physical sense. He continues.
SWEDENBORG: I lifted up my hands, and prayed, when a hand came and strongly pressed my hands; I then continued by prayer, and said, O Thou, who hast promised to receive in mercy all sinners, Thou canst not otherwise than keep this Thy work! I looked at Him face to face. It was a countenance with a holy expression, and such that it cannot be described; it was also smiling, and I really believe that His countenance was such during his life upon earth. He addressed me and asked, if I had a certifica te of health? I answered, O Lord, Thou knowest this better than I , when He said, Do it then! -- This, as I perceived in my mind, signified, Do what thou has promised. O God, impart to me grace for this! I now awoke in a tremor.
NARRATOR: This second awakening was, of course, a complete physical awakening. Swedenborg felt it wrong to doubt that it was the Lord who had appeared to him. But he recalled, he said, that we are to test the spirits to see whether they are of God. After much reflection, he concluded that he had indeed been called to some Divine commission. But what it was he did not yet know.
Swedenborg now made his first attempt at a work of a religious character - a book called the Worship and Love of God. More poetic than any of his later works, it was never completed. In April of the year 1745, just one year after what Swedenborg had described as the appearance of the Lord to him, he had another similar experience, this time in London.
Concerning this, Swedenborg related to a friend:
SWEDENBORG: I went home; and during the night the same man revealed himself to me again, but I was not frightened now. He then said that he was the Lord God, the Creator of the world, and the Redeemer, and that he had chosen me to explain to men the spiritual sense of the Scripture, and that he Himself would explain to me what I should write on this subject: that same night were also opened to me, so that I became thoroughly convinced of their reality, the world of spirits, heaven, and hell, and I recognized there many acquaintances of every condition in life. From that day I gave up the study of all worldly science, and laboured in spiritual things, according as the Lord had commanded me to write. Afterwards the Lord opened my eyes, daily very o ften, so that, in the middle of the day I could see into the other world, and in a state of perfect wakefulness converse with angels and spirits.
NARRATOR: By angels, Swedenborg did not mean a race of beings created separately from the human race. He said that every inhabitant of heaven had at one time been a man, woman or child on earth, and that they were all in the human form -- a male if a man on earth, a female if a woman.
Swedenborg now knew what his mission was, so he began an intensive study of the Hebrew language, and compiled a Bible index. After some hesitant, uncompleted attempts at biblical explanations, he began his first published theological work in November 1748 -- when he was 60 years of age.
This monumental work, which was completed some 8 years later (in 1756) filled 8 large quarto volumes. Like all Swedenborg's previous works it was written in Latin, this being the usual language in the 18th century for non- fiction works. It bore the Latin title Arcana Coelestia, or Heavenly Hidden Things. It is a verse-by-verse, chapter by chapter, exposition of the Books of Genesis and Exodus, the object being to demonstrate that there is an internal or spiritual meaning within these Bible stories. Swede nborg explained his approach in the the Preface:
SWEDENBORG: It may be truly said that any expression in the Word that does not enfold the Lord within it, that is, which does not in its own way bear reference to Him, is not Divine. Without such a Life, the Word as to the letter is dead, like th e body without the soul.
NARRATOR: In the beginning of the Arcana Coelestia the reader is first introduced into the internal sense of the 7 days of creation, seen as seven stages in the re- creation of the human mind. There are 6 stages of labour or temptation-struggles, but these cease on the Sabbath -- the Lord's day of rest. Another difference the reader soon encounters is this statement in an early paragraph:
SWEDENBORG: In the following work, by the name Lord is meant the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, and Him only; and He is called the Lord without the addition of other names. He also commanded His disciples so to call Him, saying, Ye call Me L ord, and ye say well, for I am . And after His resurrection His disciples called Him the Lord .
NARRATOR: Swedenborg's best known work is Heaven and Hell: from Things Seen and Heard, written in 1758. In the introduction he wrote:
SWEDENBORG: The man of the church at this date knows scarcely anything about heaven and hell or about his life after death, although all these matters are set forth and described in the Word: and yet many of the learned born within the Church say in their hearts, Who has come from that world and told us . Lest, therefore, such a spirit of denial, should also infect and corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith, it has been granted me to associate with angels and to talk with them as man with man, also to see what is in the heavens and what is in the hells, and this for thirteen years; so now from what I have seen and heard it has been granted me to describe these things, in the hope that ignorance may thus be enlightened and unbelief di ssipated. Such immediate revelation is granted at this day because this is what is meant by the Coming of the Lord.
NARRATOR: All these books were published anonymously by Swedenborg. In fact, it was not until about 1760 that it became generally known that he was the author of these new works on theology and religion. Later publications bore his own name. Thes e included The Divine Love & Wisdom -- published in 1763 at Amsterdam -- a book of spiritual- philosophy on creation; The Divine Providence which appeared as a sequel the following year; Conjugial Love which emphasized the spiritual aspects of marriage; The Apocalypse Revealed, expounding the Book of Revelation; and the final work, True Christian Religion - a compendium of the whole system and subtitled, The Universal Theology for the New Church. But if Swedenborg wished to remain anonymous, how was it that his authorship became known?
It was not because of anything unusual in his words, or behaviour. He continued, for example, to be active in the Swedish House of Nobles without anyone noticing any change. But a series of incidents showing his powers as a clairvoyant caused suspicion that Emanuel Swedenborg was the unknown author. Then asked directly, he simply acknowledged the fact.
The best known of these incidents is the one concerning the Stockholm fire. According to several well-authenticated accounts by eye-witnesses, Swedenborg while in Gothenburg described a fire that threatened his house in Stockholm 300 miles away. The particulars were confirmed down to the least detail by messengers sent from Stockholm.
Another similar occurrence caused a sensation in Court circles. Swedenborg astounded the Queen by giving her a verbal message from her lately deceased brother -- a message which was in fact a secret between the Queen and her brother. Through these and similar incidents it became known that Swedenborg was the unknown author. These is also an anecdote that reveals a more playful side of Swedenborg's character.
One day a neighbour of his -- a young girl -- came to see him in his summer house, (FADE), where he was writing.
GRETA: Uncle Swedenborg! May I come in?
SWEDENBORG: (FADE ON) Yes, my dear! Oh! It is you again, Greta.
GRETA: Yes, Uncle Swedenborg. And I still wish to know why you cannot show me an angel. People say you speak to the angels. Why can you not show me one, just once?
SWEDENBORG: Greta! This is the third time this week that you have asked me. But I am ready for you this time (chuckling). Come this way, and you shall see an angel -- a beautiful angel. This way...into this room here. Now, cover up your eyes. Good. Now (mysteriously) let me pull back this curtain. There! There is an angel for you!
GRETA: But I only see the mirror... Oh! Uncle Swedenborg.
(Fade -- both chuckling).
NARRATOR: This, then was Emanuel Swedenborg, the man whom Dr. Johan Rosen had invited to his home in Gothenburg, and whom Dr. Gabriel Beyer invited to dinner the following evening. This was the occasion when Beyer especially began to be impressed by the teachings as well as by the man. After dinner, when the three men were comfortably seated (FADE) he broached the subject.
BEYER: Assessor Swedenborg: Dr. Rosen and I were wondering whether you would please favour us with an account of your theological system.
SWEDENBORG: (Enthusiastically). I should be very glad to do so.
BEYER: I understand it differs in some respects from our Swedish Lutheran teaching.
SWEDENBORG: Indeed it does. But first let me say that it is not my system. These books were written by the Lord -- through me.
They are the Lord's books, not mine.
Now, the teachings of the new Church meant by the New Jerusalem, in the Book of Revelation are these:
First, that there is one God, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, that saving faith is to believe in Him. Third, that evils must be shunned as sins, because they are of the devil, and from the devil. The devil means hell. Fourth, that good things must be done, because they are of god, and from God. Fifth, that they are to be done by man as if of himself; yet that he must believe they are from the Lord with man, and through him.
Those are the five essential teachings of faith and charity in the New Church. Perhaps you would like to consider them one at a time.
ROSEN: Yes I am afraid I did not quite grasp what you said about the first one. Did I understand you correctly? We have always been taught that there is indeed one God, and that there is a Trinity in God. But you seemed to say something different ... I did not quite...
SWEDENBORG: I said that there is one God, and that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Trinity is in Him.
BEYER: Could you please explain that a little more? I have always thought that the Trinity meant THREE persons.
SWEDENBORG: Three Divine Persons?
SWEDENBORG: Is not God one and indivisible, and is He not a Divine Person?
BEYER & ROSEN: Yes.
SWEDENBORG: And is not a Divine Person God?
SWEDENBORG: Well, then, does it not follow that if you have more than one Divine Person, you have more than one God?
BEYER: (Quietly after a pause) Yes, I suppose it does. I have never thought of that before.
ROSEN: That thought has occurred to me. But I have always turned away from it. It is...frightening.
SWEDENBORG: There is nothing to be frightened about. God has given you an understanding. He gave it to be used. We are not meant to believe with our eyes shut.
BEYER: (puzzled) Yes, but what do you mean by saying that the Trinity is in the Lord Jesus Christ? If the Trinity is not a Trinity of Persons, what is it? What ideas are we to attach to the word Trinity ?
SWEDENBORG: It is a trinity of attributes -- not of Persons. The Father means the Divine Soul -- which no one has seen at any time. That is one attribute. The Son means the Divine Body -- which brings the Soul forth to view. That is why Jesus said: I and the Father are one. Not two, but one. One, just as the soul and the body are not two persons, but one.
ROSEN: But what of the Holy Spirit? I can see that the Divine Soul could be like a Father to the Divine Body, but how do you think of the Holy Spirit?
SWEDENBORG: The Holy spirit is the Divine influence that goes forth from the union of the Divine Soul and Body. That was why Jesus breathed on the disciples when he said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit. You see, His breath, His Spirit! His influence! The Trinity of Soul, Body, and proceeding Influence is in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Paul said that in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.
BEYER: All the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form . You know, I must have read that a hundred times, but I have never seen it in this light before!
ROSEN: Mr. Assessor Swedenborg! I find this way of understanding the Trinity most enlightening and quite delightful. But I must confess, it does raise many other questions.
SWEDENBORG: That is quite according to order. No truth should be confirmed in a moment. If it is, it becomes fixed and hard, and cannot be extended. In the heavens, whenever a new truth is set forth, something opposite is presented that raises a doubt. In this way, the truth is considered from all sides so that it is not confirmed in a moment. So, please, feel quite free to ask any question that comes into your mind.
ROSEN: (FADE) Well, then: my first question....
DR. ROSEN: (BOARD FADE IN) What a wonderful evening we have had -- almost three hours of discussion.
DR. BEYER: Yes, indeed, I wish we might continue for another three hours, but it is already eleven o clock. But would it be imposing a hardship on you, Mr. Assessor Swedenborg, to ask you to give me a written outline of those five essential teach ings?
SWEDENBORG: That is no hardship. I shall be glad to do it. There will be some leisure tomorrow in the afternoon.
DR. BEYER: Thank you. I should be much obliged. I was most impressed with how much these teachings apply to life.
DR. ROSEN: I had never given much thought to the importance of shunning evils as sins.
SWEDENBORG: Well, if a man shuns evils for any other reason than that they are sins, he is not shunning them; he is just preventing them from appearing before the world. Anyone can shun evils as harmful, but only a true Christian can shun them as sins against the Lord Jesus Christ.
ROSEN: I was also struck by what you said about saving faith - that it is not faith unless charity be in it. (Pause). But now, we must let you retire.
BEYER: You remember, sir, that we all meet again tomorrow at Councillor Wenngren's home.
SWEDENBORG: Good, I shall look forward to (BOARD FADE OUT) seeing you both there.
NARRATOR: The next day Swedenborg gave Beyer his written outline. Beyer resumed reading the book by Swedenborg that he had put aside, and found it altogether different. So, he began a systematic study of Swedenborg's Writings, keeping up a steady correspondence with the author.
Dr. Rosen shared Dr. Beyer's interest in Swedenborg's theological writings. Both were members of the Consistory of the Bishop of Gothenburg, where, three years after meeting Swedenborg, they became the centre of what was virtually a heresy trial.
The persecution of Beyer and Rosen really began when a confused country parson wrote this letter to his Bishop.
COUNTRY PARSON: I beg to ask that the Bishop and the members of the Consistory, as the most competent judges in theological matters, would enlighten the clergy, as to how far the Writings of Swedenborg are really objectionable.
NARRATOR: As a result of this letter, the Consistory asked none other than Dr. Beyer to report on Swedenborgianism . In this report he pointed out:
BEYER: Swedenborg is generally known to be a God-fearing and virtuous man, and also a quiet, peaceful, and well-reputed citizen; and in the public press is declared to be a giant of learning in the various sciences; but especially is he known to have an unbounded veneration for the Divine Word. The thoughts of such a man on matters of religion ought surely not be condemned rashly, and without a previous most thorough examination...
Until, however, such an investigation has been made, this Consistory does not deem itself justified in declaring the works of Assessor Swedenborg to be prohibited books.
NARRATOR: When no investigation was ordered by the Consistory, it seemd as if the matter would lapse.
However, Dr. Ekebom, Dean of Gothenburg, was determined not to let the matter rest, and a month later sent an inflammatory letter to the Consistory in which he said:
ELEBOM: I am not acquainted with the religious system of Assessor Swedenborg, nor shall I take any trouble to become acquainted with it. But from conversation with the author and a comparison with his Apocolypse Revealed , I must confess that his doctrines appear to me corrupting, heretical, injurious and in the highest degree objectionable.
NARRATOR: He objected particularly to the idea that the Sacred scriptures have an internal sense; that God is said to be One-Person; that justification by faith alone is denied; that the bread and wine of the Holy Supper represent Divine spiritua l qualities. In conclusion, he said:
EKEBOM: Swedenborgianism is diametrically opposed to God's Word and the dogmatic writings of the Lutheran church, and full of the most intolerable errors which overturn the very foundation of faith in the Christian religion. They are not merely schismatic, but in the highest degree heretical, in most parts Socinian and in every sense objectionable.
NARRATOR: Beyer took strong exception to the Consistory's making a judgment without a thorough examination of Swedenborg's system. Swedenborg also was quite indignant on hearing of Ekebom's condemnation.
In a reply addressed to the Consistory, he protested against the charges made by the Dean, whom he characterised as:
SWEDENBORG: A person who does not seem to have a bridle for his tongue or eyes in his forehead.
NARRATOR: Turning to the Dean's declaration that although he had not read them, he considered the works in question to be corrupting, heretical, and injurious .
SWEDENBORG: Can any one competent to judge in spiritual or temporal matters regard an outburst of feeling expressed in such language otherwise than as criminal?
NARRATOR: But he was most hurt by being called a Socinian, one who denies the Divinity of Jesus.
SWEDENBORG: With respect to the second point where the doctrine is called Socinian, it is a cursed blasphemy and lie: for Socinianism signifies a denial of the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; when yet his Divinity is the chief point affirmed in the Doctrine of the New Church, wherefore, I look upon the word Socinian as a downright insult, and a diabolical mockery.
NARRATOR: However, while the tension mounted -- with Beyer and Rosen fearing for their livelihood -- there was one calm voice in Gothenburg, that of Professor Gothenius -- a colleague of the two men. He wrote to a friend in Stockholm:
GOTHENIUS: Do not believe of Gothenius -- that he is a Swedenborgian, or the pupil of a dreamer. But it is against his nature to do the man an injustice by storming at him, without actually showing wherein he has transgressed against our confession n of faith. It does not take great deal of cleverness to shout: Swedenborg is a Socinian, but it would probably be, for many, quite an embarrassing proposition to refute him, for in order to do this one must at least be acquainted with his opinions .
NARRATOR: The matter was next taken by the Bishop to the House of the Clergy at the Diet then in session. From there it was referred to the King, who asked Beyer and Rosen to defend themselves against the charge of teaching heresy. Rosen's defence consisted almost entirely of Scripture quotations, tellingly handled, by which he made the point that others in Scripture times had been divinely inspired; why not now in the present case? He amplified his views in a letter to Senator von Hopken:
ROSEN: Are we not told (in our dogmatic writings) that one God was angry and implacable until the death of the second? How does this strike the more enlightened theologians? I cannot see why, in a free nation, these doctrines should be maintained as infallible and pure.
NARRATOR: Dr. Beyer, in his reply, was respectful, calm and systematic.
BEYER: No one is competent to pass a judgment about these writings, who has not read them, or has not been willing to read them; nor is he who has read them only superficially, or who, with a determination at heart to condemn them, has read a passage here and there without making a critical examination of them; meets with some things which conflict with principles that he has long entertained and acknowledged as correct, and of which he is blindly enamoured.
NARRATOR: After appealing to Swedenborg's impressive learning, and the manifest consistency of his works, Beyer went on to say:
NARRATOR: What Beyer emphasized most strongly, however, was that Swedenborg's system did not conflict with the Word of God when all the passages on a subject were consulted, but that it agreed with it completely.
Dean Ekebom submitted a declaration similar to his earlier unfavourable opinion, and the matter was now in the hands of the King and the Royal Council. Swedenborg was known personally to the King, who had also frequently heard his system recommended by Co unt von Hopken when Prime Minister. Von Hopken later said:
COUNT von HOPKEN: I have sometimes told the King, that, if ever a colony were to be formed, no religion could be better, as the established one, than that developed by Swedenborg from the Sacred Scriptures, and this for the two following reasons:
(1) This religion, in a higher degree than any other, must produce the most honest and industrious subjects; for it properly places the worship of God in uses;
(2) It causes least fear of death, as this religion regards death merely as a transition from one state to another, from a worse to a better situation; nay, upon his principles, I look upon death as being of hardly any greater moment than drinking a glass of water.
NARRATOR: These favourable recommendations notwithstanding, the Royal Decree was that Drs. Beyer and Rosen were forbidden to instruct in theology, publish anything theological, or address either private or public gatherings.
Swedenborg, on hearing of this sentence, wrote to the King, protesting against the lack of freedom of speech. His books had been called heretical, he had been accused of publishing falsity, and all without a personal hearing. But there were no further developments. So ended the heresy trial in Gothenburg.
F.X.: MUSIC BRIDGE
NARRATOR: Even in his life time, Swedenborg had been accused of insanity. The fact that he claimed he could see and hear in the spiritual world, and that the Lord had appeared to him, has been considered sufficient evidence.
Later, this charge was given wide publicity by the famous John Wesley, who disagreed vehemently with many of Swedenborg's teachings, especially with his doctrine that hell-fire was the heat of human passions and not a fire outside of man. Wesley's opinion was that Swedenborg, following a fever supposedly suffered in England in 1743, never recovered from the delirium associated with it. Wesley also spread a story that Swedenborg at that time ran naked into the streets, shouting that he was the Messiah.
Against this it had been pointed out that from all accounts Swedenborg does not deem to have suffered any illness while in England, except his final stroke in 1772; that the delirium of a fever does not remain afterwards; that Swedenborg had begun his psy chic experiences before the alleged running into the streets; that in any case, his subsequent life was absolutely free of anything of the kind; that his behaviour was in fact so normal that he was able to remain the anonymous author of his theological wo rks for many years.
Recent research has cast considerable doubt on Wesley's story. He was relying on information given him years after Swedenborg's death by John Paul Brockmer, at whose house Swedenborg had lodged for a time and whom he left because Brockmer kept meddling wi th his papers in his absence. Among these papers was Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams in which is this entry:
--an account of a dream.
SWEDENBORG: Afterward, one night, I was found in the church, but I was naked, having nothing on but my nightshirt, so that I did not dare to come forward. This may mean that I am not yet clothed and prepared as I need to be.
NARRATOR: Only a dream! Only an entry in the Journal of Dreams! But it became the basis of Wesley's accusation of insanity. Students of Swedenborg also point out that his writings, taken in context, are calm, logically arranged, and reasonable, a nd that they contain nothing more than might be expected of a servant or phophet of the Lord.
Perhaps the last word on this subject was said by the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His comment was:
COLERIDGE: Would that more of our theological writers were gifted with a like madness!
NARRATOR: On his death-bed, Swedenborg received the sacrament at the hands of his friend, the Reverend Arvid Ferelius, pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church in London. Ferelius asked him if he wished to retract anything in part or in whole of what he had written.
Swedenborg raised himself in bed on his elbow and said very earnestly.
SWEDENBORG: As truly as you see me before your eyes, so true is everything that I have written; and I could have said more had it been permitted. When you enter eternity you will see everything, and then you and I shall have much to talk about.
NARRATOR: Thus lived and died Emanuel Swedenborg -- scientist, philosopher, seer and theologian.
GOTHENIUS: Swedenborg was here. Opinions among us vary greatly (REVERS) concerning him.
F.X.: MUSIC TO END.