« AnteriorContinuar »
or revelation. This being the case, the things dictated to the new prophet to interpret those of the first, which had become obscure or remained imperfect, must enjoy a decided superiority over the old."
This conclusion is the result of taking "inspiration" and "dictation" in a wrong sense. Taking them in the writer's meaning, he would have stated the case correctly by simply inverting the terms. If, instead of saying that the prophets wrote by inspiration and Swedenborg by dictation, he had said that they wrote by dictation and he by inspiration, he would have stated the truth. The prophets and apostles wrote by verbal inspiration, Swedenborg by mintal dictation. This at least is Swedenborg's own account of the matter, and it is but fair that his views and claims should be rightly represented. Had the author been sufficiently acquainted with the writings which he undertakes to describe, he would have found numerous cases in which dictation is spoken of as mental perception, and but one in which it is spoken of as verbal communication,—and this one is the case of the prophets. Speaking of the sacred writers, he says—
"They wrote as the Spirit from the Divine dictated, for the very words which they wrote were pronounced in their ears." (A. C. 7055.)
But he never speaks in this way respecting what he himself wrote. He tells us, indeed, that what he wrote he "received, not from any angel or from any spirit, but from the Lord alone;" but he adds that he" "received it while reading the Word." That which he received was a dictation, not into the ear, but into the thought, which is internal dictation. Of internal dictation he speaks repeatedly. Treating of the difference between external and internal revelation, he says, in reference to the internal— ,
"Genuine perception exists through heaven from the Lord, and affects the intellectual principle spiritually, and leads it perceptibly to think as the thing really is, with an internal assent, the source of which it is ignorant of; it supposes that it is in it, and that it flows from the connection of ideas, whereas it is a dictate through heaven from the Lord, flowing into the interiors of the thought, concerning such things as are above the natural and sensual principle, that is, concerning such things as are of the spiritual world, or heaven." (A. G. 5721.)
This shows that the author makes a clear distinction between dictation to the sense and dictation to the mind. And without wishing to assert that Swedenborg's was simply that which any good man enjoys, we consider ourselves justified in saying that, while that of the prophets was an inspiration of words, Swedenborg's was an inspiration of ideas. Still it may seem that, even on this principle, our "new prophet" claims for himself a higher condition than that which he assigns to the old.
But the real question is, not what is the comparative excellence of the two states, but of the two writings. The writings \yhich explain the 378 REVIEW.
Word, cannot be greater than the Word which they explain, although the explanation bring to light higher truths than were previously derived from the Word, or were even known to those who wrote it. So far as relates to the two conditions, we regard the one simply as the complement of the other, and both to be the result of the Divine goodness,— the first to reveal, the second to unfold, the eternal truths of the Holy Word. The literal sense and the spiritual sense belong to different periods of mental and religious development,—the literal, to the time of the Lord's first advent; the spiritual, to the time of His second.
But there is another part of Swedenborg's mission which his biographer and critic considers. The Lord, who appeared to him, promised not only to dictate to him what he should write, but to open his eyes to see the objects of the spiritual world. "And the same night the eyea of my interior man were opened."
"And let us remark (says M. Matter) the purport of these words. We have not to deal with a new idea, or a vast assemblage of ideas, but with a radical modification in the organism of all the faculties, of the whole human* existence of Swedenborg."
We are surprised that any one who admits the testimony of the Scriptures, should consider the opening of the eyes of a man's spirit as an act involving such a change. Every instance recorded in the Bible of a man on earth seeing an inhabitant of heaven, implies that he was for the time the subject of this change, for spiritual beings can only be seen by spiritual eyes. M. Matter considers the opening of the eyes of the spiritual body as involving a greater organical change of all the faculties than acquiring a vast assemblage of ideas; in other words, he considers the opening of the eyes as implying a greater change than the opening of the understanding. But the reverse is the truth. It is much easier to see spiritual objects than to understand spiritual truths. The one requires only the opening of an organ; the other requires the development of a faculty. Accordingly we find Swedenborg had the eyes of hie interior man opened the same night, and he probably saw the objects of the spiritual world as distinctly then as he did twenty years afterwards; but he did not nearly so well understand them, for the faculty by which he understood what he saw in the spiritual world, and what he read in the Word, had to be educated and developed; and so we find that his spiritual illumination was gradually perfected, as some of his earlier manuscripts testify; and it was not till after several years of preparation, that he commenced his first great work, the Arcana Coelestia.
But this opening of the eyes of his interior man is not the whole of the privilege granted to Swedenborg. He receives a commission to go into heaven and into hell.
'' No mortal (our critic says) has ever been placed in a similar condition. That Christ might converse with Moses and Elias, they had to descend on the Mount of Transfiguration. Swedenborg goes into the heavens to converse with whom he will. It appears that several of the faithful themselves made exceptions to Swedenborg's visions, to judge by General Tixeu, ' who wished that his friend had not put in his writings revelations that shocked many of his readers.' And at the distance we are at this day from all the facts, what reasonable idea can we form of the faculty of itineration which Swedenborg attributes to himself?
"It appears to us that one of three views will have to be selected which best suits each one's mind: either to reject it as a sad delusion, which casts a shade on the life of a great man,—that is to say, to reject it with a sincere compassion for such a mental misfortune; or else to take it for such as he gives it, and in this case to regard him as a unific specimen of the human species; or to seek a new explanation of it, better than any of those which have hitherto been given, because not one of these will bear examination.
"Evidently this third view is the only reasonable one; but it is the most difficult. How shall we find or even risk a new explanation when all explanation has failed? There is a new one certainly; but the bare mention of it is sufficient to cause its condemnation,—to accuse Swedenborg of imposture. This would be a summary method; but if in the present and past generations not one serious voice has been found willing to compromise itself by daring to accuse of deception a man whose honesty was evident and whose sense was unquestionable, how shall we have the courage to do so at this day?
"Was the state of Swedenborg clairvoyance or somnambulism, as the result of self-magnetisation? It has been printed, but no one has ever seriously believed it.
"Was it hallucination? Nothing is better known in philosophy than this phenomenon, nothing more extraordinary, and nothing tends more to brilliant examples.
"But if it is a state of hallucination which connected itself with the life of a man of genius, as M. Lelul shows so well in the demon of Socrates and in the amulet of Pascal, it does not follow that genius is folly or folly genius. The learned physiologist of thought whom we have just quoted, protests against the blasphemy with the double authority of the philosopher and doctor. In fact, what is there that can well account for a hallucination which can last without interruption from the age of fifty-eight to eighty-five!—of a state of hallucination which inspires, and which says and writes only what is the best calculated, most suitable to the end concerned,—which pursues without cessation what it has present in its thoughts every hour of the day !—of a hallucination which moves with the same ease in the circle of the court and in the political assemblies of the empire,—discusses with clearness questions of metaphysics and of finance,—criticises with precision the state of the enthusiast, of the visionary, of the fanatic, and of the dreamer, the dupe of his own phantoms! It is known that the demon of Socrates, if it was created by a state of hallucination, took from that philosopher nothing of the lucidity of speech, but, on the contrary, gave him the authority and perseverance necessary to the reformation of the
morals and politics of Athens. The greatness of Socrates remains whether his demon be a poetical fiction or a hallucination. It is the same with Swedenborg. His greatness—I mean his thought—remains, 'whether the character of a medium, chosen of God to be an organ and interpreter of the Word of God to men, be a pious fiction or an illusion the most sincere. His doctrine, so completely explained in his writings, has its value in itself, independent of the visions quoted in its support,— it is given in the sacred texts when understood at last. Every man of sense may do as Count Hopkin did, take the doctrine and leave the visions. The true question for all the world is this—Has Swedenborg interpreted the Holy Scriptures better than the eighteen centuries which have preceded him?"
So the splendid illusion is dispelled!—the Memorable Relations, the Heaven and Hell, the Earths in the Universe, the Last Judgment itself, have all melted into thin air—the brilliant but unsubstantial visions of a long hallucination!
But though the Seer is gone, the Exposition remains; and it is yet to be seen what our philosopher makes of it. Of this we intend to speak in another article.
PROPOSED MONUMENT TO THE LATE REV. WILLIAM
MASON. To the Editor.
Dear Sir,—A few friends of the late Rev. William Mason feel desirous to erect a memorial of their respect for him in the Derby Cemetery, where his mortal remains were interred. They regard this as only due to his valuable services, and as a pleasure in which many who knew and esteemed the deceased would be glad to share. The lesson the epitaph might be made to convey may be useful and instructive, indicative at once of our veneration for our departed friend, and of the glorious hopes the New Churchman cherishes as to the future life. The style of the memorial must depend on the amount subscribed. We, the undersigned, have felt great pleasure in undertaking to act as the agents of Mr. Mason's friends in the matter, and shall be happy to receive and acknowledge by letter any sums forwarded to us for this purpose. Any suggestions or drawings we shall be glad to accept, and, as far as practicable, to adopt them. We beg to urge upon those desirous to subscribe, the advisability of promtitude, and the desirability of soliciting subscriptions with this object, in order that the monument may be worthy of the deceased and of the church. The total amount received, and a description of the monument, will be published in this Magazine as soon as completed.— We are, dear Sir, respectfully yours,
John Hyde, Derby, July, 1863. Thomas Madelei. POETRY. 881
TO A "SPIRIT IN PRISON."
The clouds of anguish dim
Thy spirit's upward gaze; Pain's choking earth-fogs swim
Athwart heaven's quenchless rays. The breath of faith comes thick
In airs despair doth taint; Thy very soul is sick,
Thy very heart is faint,
Beloved! But deem not thou for this
The Father's face withdrawn; It is no night of bliss
Precedes the true heaven-dawn. Think on that midnight's gloom,
When o'er earth's Hope did close The narrow garden-tomb—
Yet what a morning rose,
Beloved! Think on that watch of woe
By love despairing kept; Its only balm to know,
There its lost Saviour slept! Then on dawn's glory burst
O'er death's despoiled prison— Morn of all mornings first!
"He is not here—but risen,"
Beloved! Seems then thy soul such tomb,
Where, death-betrayed, doth lie Life's early spirit-bloom
Of aspiration high--' The holy, healing love,
The gracious, saving truth, So, welcomed from above,
'Mid dews of thy lost youth,—
Faithful amid despair,
Though buried, Christ is there!