Swedenborg:  To Believe or Not to Believe

 

December 12, 1991

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Believe or Not to Believe

           

            This semester I was introduced, by my psychology instructor, to a very interesting individual who caused much controversy in the classroom because of his ideas and theories of the existence of a spiritual world. I found this person to be both intriguing and thought-provoking for I am greatly interested in this topic of spiritual existences. This fascinating individual’s name is Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) who was a very influential philosopher and scientist during his time. His influences and contributions to the sciences were so significant, that even till today his accomplishments and theories are still remembered and taught to people who are willing and even ready to listen.

            It is known throughout the history of science that Swedenborg anticipated and predicted many scientific facts before they were ever discovered in more modern times. Because of this fact, I truly feel that Swedenborg should not be totally disregarded and should be included in science, philosophy, and psychology books. Just because he switched from studying the physical science to a science of spiritual inquiry doesn’t mean that his intelligence or predictive knowledge’s have gotten out of line. His predictions about facts in many sciences were proven to be correct later in time, so Swedenborg just might be correct in anticipating people’s realization of a spiritual world and how God governs the way people think, feel, and act.  His theories hold much explanations of why we are the way we are and why we exist.  If he is included in the history of psychology, people will have the access to his theories and have the choice to believe him or not. People should have this choice and maybe it will teach them how to keep an open mind and keep the mind’s cup half full to leave room for new information, even if not ready or willing to accept ideas that are presented.

 

 

A. J. C. “Swedenborg, Emanuel.” Encyclopedia Britannica.11th Edition. 1911.

Reference#:   Ref. AE5 E36 v. 26 cop.4

           

            I went to the first floor of the Hamilton Library to the encyclopedia section. At first I couldn’t find the Encyclopedia Britannica’s so I had to ask the librarian for a little assistance. I finally found the edition I was looking for and looked up Swedenborg, Emanuel. I decided to choose this short write up on Swedenborg because it was suggested by my psychology instructor; also because encyclopedia entries tend to be precise and to the point in presenting materials. The entries also tend to pick out only the real relevant and important facts about the subject being written on.

            This encyclopedia entry discussed briefly on Emanuel Swedenborg’s life and it presented his major predictions and contributions to the sciences. Here it was shown that Swedenborg did indeed predict many scientific facts and positions before they were ever really taken seriously by other scientists. For example, he came up with the nebular hypothesis theory of the formation of the planets and the sun way before Kant and Laplace did. He also had his own theory of light and theory of the cosmic atoms which also proved to hold some merit today.

            Those were just a few examples of Swedenborg’s theories in the physical sciences that proved to hold many truths today, so why not hold his ideas of the spiritual world with some regard also. His spiritual theories tend to explain how the spiritual world influences people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. This can be another type of psychological explanation of why people are the way they are. Like the encyclopedia entry implied, Swedenborg changed to study the spiritual to broaden his interests, so people should do the same, even if not really will ready to accept what is said.

 

 

Henderson, Bruce. Window to Eternity. New York: The Swedenborg Foundation. 1987.

Reference #:  HAML EX 8748 .H45 1987

           

            When using the UH CARL computer in the Hamilton library, I did a name search on Emanuel Swedenborg and this was one of the books on the list that was presented. I decided to use this book as reference because it was a book that was written by another individual about Swedenborg. I am very interested in other people’s view on Swedenborg because it would help with my thesis of this annotated bibliography.

            In this book in the chapter entitled, “Coming Home,” Henderson comments on Swedenborg’s teaching about finding the meaning of life. What Henderson got out of Swedenborg’s teachings of the spiritual world is that if we don’t keep an open mind about its existence, we’ll have a hard tine finding the meaning of life. Through the teachings of heaven given by Swedenborg, people can begin to understand who they are, why they are here, and what does it all mean. With this understanding, I feel people will better understand the nature of human nature which is concern in psychology. This is one of the reasons why I feel Swedenborg should be included in the history of psychology. With his teachings, and by keeping an open mind, people may come to realize later, that Swedenborg ideas of the spiritual world are not all that far fetched after all.

 

 

Keller, Helen. My Religion. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, Inc. 1953.

Reference #: BX K35 1953

           

            I found this book in Hamilton library when looking at the listing of books in the UH CARL computers. This listing was found when doing a name search under Helen Keller. I decided to use this book because I remember it was one of the books that were mentioned by my psychology instructor. It was said that Helen Keller was a dedicated follower of Swedenborg’s teachings and that it gave her a better understanding of and brighter outlook on her existence.

            In this book Helen Keller writes on her views on Swedenborg’s teachings and how it changed her life dramatically. She writes on how he taught of love and on how love is the essence of almost everything one does, feels, and thinks. From Swedenborg’s teachings, Keller got a sense of understanding herself. Understanding oneself better is a goal of psychology, thus here is reason why Swedenborg should be included in the study of psychology. She also writes on how love, “. . . gives the senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing... “The senses are also topics in psychology, so more the reason why I feel Swedenborg’s theories should be included in psychology. Even though Helen Keller was blind, with her open mind she was able to believe in Swedenborg and was quoted, “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” Maybe in the future Swedenborg will be proven to be correct and then others will then see also.

 

 

Odhner, Hugo Lj. The Spiritual World. Pennsylvania:  Academy Publication Committee. 1968.

Reference #: BX8711 .034 1968

           

            The way I found this reference was I went to Hamilton library and did a name search on the UH CARL computer. I typed in Emanuel Swedenborg and got a listing on books that he had either written or books that are written on him. I chose to use this book because it was recommended by my psychology instructor as a good reference to use.

            This book was very interesting in that it studied and surveyed many of Swedenborg’s testimonies and theories on the spiritual world. It contained many earlier testimonies on psychology by Swedenborg. In chapter 3, entitled ‘Death and Resurrection, Swedenborg is referenced as making a connection between how the bodily function of circulation of the blood that warms the body and the spiritual heat are interconnected or related to each other. The flow of blood that provides the heat that maintains life is the “conatus” or spiritual heat of the soul. When the heart stops and bodily heat is lost completely, this when the connection between the material body and spiritual soul separate. This section in itself is proof that Swedenborg should be included in psychology, because this is logical theory that just might be correct. Maybe later in the future when everyone’s mind is broader minded, we’ll find his theory has undeniable merit after all.

 

 

Sutton, Eric A. The Living Thoughts of Swedenborg. London, Toronto, Melbourne, and Sydney: Cassell and Company, Limited. 1944.

Reference #: BX 8711 A7 878

           

            I found this book in the Hamilton library when on the UH CARL computers. I did a name search on Emanuel Swedenborg and it gave me listing of books associated with him. I chose to use this particular book as a reference because it was a book on what another person had to say about Swedenborg and his findings. This book was very complete in presenting and describing Swedenborg’s life, studies, and philosophical theories.

            In this book, Sutton mentions some of Swedenborg’s anatomical and physiological studies. Here Swedenborg wanted to find the nature of the soul. During the course of his studies, Swedenborg discovered the real nature of the cerebrospinal fluid way before Cotugno, who was given the recognition of its discovery. This is just an example of one of Swedenborg’s theories that was at first disregarded until a later date when it was found to be true. Swedenborg’s anatomical and physiological studies should somehow be included in psychology because his findings are being seen as holding merit. By not recognizing his theories, is just a great loss to the study of human beings, for Swedenborg is regarded as, “… learned anatomist and sharp—sighted observer . . . and in many respects unprejudiced, acute, and a deeply anatomical thinker.”

 

 

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Earths in the Universe. London:  The Swedenborg Society. 1970.

Reference #:  HAML BX 8712 .E3 1970

           

            I found this book on the first floor of the Hamilton library when I went to the UH CARL computers and did a name search on Emanuel Swedenborg. This book was one of the books on the list that came under his name and I was particularly interested in this book because of its title. I thought that it was kind of far fetched, but then again, it just might help in supporting my thesis statement that Swedenborg should be included in the history of psychology.

            This whole book is on the existence of spirits and angels on other planets or earths in our Universe. Swedenborg tells of the relationships and the natures of these spirits in regard to the different planets. The book tells how spirits can communicate with one another and with man on earth. What I found interesting about it is that Swedenborg said that the spirits who are with man are in possession of all things in his memory. What I gather from this statement is that man or people can be read by spirits and thus in a way influence by them mentally. For this reason, I feel that Swedenborg should be included in the history psychology because this shows how the spiritual world influences people’s minds. This issue of the mind is an issue that is debated over greatly in the history of psychology. Swedenborg’s ideas on the mind just might the theory that people might chose to believe.

 

                                                                                     

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. New York:  Swedenborg Foundation, Inc. 1990.

Reference #: HAML BX 8712 .H 1984

           

            I found this book in Hamilton library when doing a title search on the UH CARL. I typed in the title “Heaven and Hell” and it gave me the listing on this book. I chose to use this book as one of my references because I remember my psychology instructor talking about and referencing this book in the beginning of this semester. I thought that it could help in defining my thesis statement.

            This book was very complete in Swedenborg’s explanation of the existences of both spiritual heaven and hell in different states of minds. In my opinion, to some extent, this book presented the ideas of how Swedenborg’s interests were geared toward his attitudes of the nature of wisdom and intelligence. According to Swedenborg, by us receiving this knowledge of the spiritual world it will help to enhance our understanding of life both here and hereafter. This shows how Swedenborg should be regarded and included in the study of psychology because by understanding the after-life we’ll have a better understanding of our existence here on earth. By maintaining an open mind and by studying the spiritual realm, people will be better prepared to become self-aware and develop the capability to be able to reason better also. Swedenborg might be proven to be totally correct on these explanations of the after world some years from now.

 

Swedenborg, The Man that had to Know: Johnny Apple seed and the Frontier Within. Video recording.

 UHM AV/C. Videotape 123 BETA. 1982.

           

            I found this videotape by going to Hamilton Library’s UN CARL. I did a name search on Emanuel Swedenborg and it gave me a listing of books and even the title of this videocassette. This video could be found in Sinclair Library’s AV center on the third floor where it could be viewed also. I decided to watch this video because it was highly recommended by my psychology instructor and by some of my classmates because it’s brief but excellent overview of Swedenborg’s extraordinary life.

            The first part of this video shows some of Swedenborg’s discoveries, research activities, and his spiritual and philosophical beliefs. It showed how Swedenborg was a very influential person because of his remarkable theories and discoveries in the sciences. It also showed how Swedenborg made his switch from doing physical research to research of the spiritual. Just because Swedenborg decided to broaden his horizons by studying the spiritual, he was thought of as kind of losing his mind by his maid and friend. This shows how closed minded people are because they didn’t even really give Swedenborg a chance to really explain his visions to them. If people were just a little more open—minded about new ideas and concepts, think of how much more knowledge everyone could obtain.

            The second part of this video showed an individual by the name of John Chapman, who was totally devoted to the teachings of Swedenborg. He went around the countryside of the United States preaching the teachings of Swedenborg, while spreading and planting apple seeds. This shows how one individual learned and accepted the ideas of another, Swedenborg’s, and had decided to try to teach others this knowledge. Because John Chapman had kept an open mind, his whole life had changed and he’d come to accept the idea that maybe Swedenborg is correct about the existence and influences of the spiritual world. This is the reason why I feel Swedenborg should be included in the history of psychology. Swedenborg influenced many important people and changed their lives completely for the better because they got enlightened to who they are and why they are here. In including Swedenborg in psychology, I feel his ideas will influence other people in very positive ways.

 

 

Synnestvedt, Big. “Swedenborg, Emanuel.” Encyclopedia Americana. International Edition. 1990.

Reference #: Ref. Ae 5 .E333 1991 v.26

 

            I found this encyclopedia in Hamilton Library on the first floor where all the encyclopedias are located. I decided to use this encyclopedia entry on Swedenborg because it not only contained information of Swedenborg, but it also contained a brief overview of “Swedenborgians,” which is something extra that I thought may be of some help to support my thesis statement.

            This encyclopedia entry was a very brief overview of Emanuel Swedenborg’s life and contributions. What was of great interest to me was the fact that it contained only his major contributions and fields of interest. What was included was a short listing of just some of his studies, such as mechanics, cosmology, anatomy, mathematics, economics, geology, chemistry, and metallurgy. It also includes his great interest in the Bible.

            In the section under ‘Theology, it states that Swedenborg’s central interest turned to the nature of the human soul. It states that Swedenborg taught of man’s spiritual freedom and responsibility. It also says how Swedenborg taught that, practical love is a necessity in every relationship.” This shows how Swedenborg taught on human responsibilities and human relationships. How the spiritual world affects people is a kind of explanation of why people are they way they are and why people act like how they do toward one another. The field of psychology also studies why people are the way they are, but tend to reject Swedenborg’s theories just because it includes God and can’t really be proven. Swedenborg’s theories should be regarded here with open mindedness because it’s logical to think that his theories on human relations and responsibilities governed by God are not far fetched at all, unless you’re an atheist.

 

 

Trobridge, G. Swedenborg: Life and Teaching. London:  Swedenborg Society (Incorporated). 1945.

Reference #: EX 8748 .T8 1938

 

            I found this book by doing a name search on the UH CARL in Hamilton library. I typed in the name of Trobridge, the author that was recommended by my psychology instructor. The computer then gave me a listing of the books in which Trobridge has written. I decided to use this book because it was all about Swedenborg’s life history, all or most of his studies, and most of his teachings.

            In the chapter entitled, “Swedenborg Science,” it states the contributions that Swedenborg had made throughout the course of his life. It was brought to my attention here also, that Swedenborg was the first to discover many scientific findings, but for some reason was not really given proper credit for them. For example, Swedenborg was the first to discover the localization of the functions of the brain. He was thought to be more than a century ahead in many of his discoveries. In my opinion, this shows how Swedenborg should have been included in the history of psychology because he did discover the functions of the brain. Like this book said, he is more than a century ahead in his discoveries, so with an open mind we might just find that Swedenborg is correct even with his spiritual findings.

 

 

Van Dusen, Wilson. Swedenborg’s Journal of Dreams. New York, N.Y.: Swedenborg Foundation, Inc. 1986.

Reference#:  HAML BX 8712 .D994 1986.

           

            I found this book in the Hamilton library when doing a name search on the UH CARL computers. I typed in Emanuel Swedenborg and got a listing of some of the books that were either written by him or on him. I chose this book because it was a commentary on Swedenborg and his works by a scholar by the name of Wilson Van Dusen. I read some of the things he had to say about Swedenborg and how he got interested in him and got curious about what he had to say about Swedenborg. What was so interesting about Van Dusen is that he wanted to find out the processes of which Swedenborg used to get his information on the spiritual world.

            In the last section of this book Van Dusen comments on Swedenborg meditation. It was mentioned that this was the method at which Swedenborg obtained his enlightenment. Van Dusen himself meditated and found it is very relaxing. According to Swedenborg, God is aware and governs all and this is what Van Dusen discovered. While meditating Van Dusen says that you cannot meditate “...without coming to the conclusion that there is something wiser within.”  This implies that if one properly meditates like how Swedenborg did, one should be able to realize one’s true self and even the presence of God. Van Dusen keeping an open mind to Swedenborg’s ideas has come to realize him a little more. This is part of psychology because meditation has to do with states of mind and body.

 

 

Woofenden, William Ross. Swedenborg and 20th century Thought. Sidney, Australia: The Swedenborg Lending Library and Enquiry Centre. 1981.

Reference #: HAML BX 8748 .W65 1981

 

            I got this book by going to the first floor of the Hamilton library and doing a name search on the UH CARL computers. I did a search on Emanuel Swedenborg and got a listing of some of his writings or writings on him. I chose this book because it sounded interesting, in the sense that it contained modern day thoughts on Swedenborg and his theories. Dr. William R. Woofenden is a leading American Swedenborgian scholar that spends a lot of time giving lectures on Swedenbory. I was just interested in what he had to say.

            In one section of the book, Woofenden quotes Swedenborg on his definition of what is a science. Swedenborg’s spiritual theories were not considered scientific findings, thus he was left out of psychology. But according to Swedenborg and Woofenden, the sciences are nothing more than, “. . . a means becoming wise, or of forming one’s rational mind... like how languages are ways of developing thought. According to this definition of the sciences, Swedenborg should be included in the history of the sciences, including psychology because his theories do indeed help in becoming wiser and more rational beings. Opening our minds to the comprehension of the existence of the spiritual world, will definitely develop people’s thinking and learning skills.

 

 

Do You Believe

           

           Overall, by doing this research to answer the question if Swedenborg should be included in the history of psychology, the more I believe that he definitely should be. He was proven to be correct on almost all of his scientific discoveries, so I feel that he just might be correct in his ideas of the existence of the spiritual world. Swedenborg’s knowledge of things are known to be far beyond his time, so maybe in the future this statement will be proven undeniably true beyond doubt.

            What people must realize today is to keep the mind’s cup always half full to leave room for new information to pour in. If one keeps one’s mind full, close mindedness results with no new learning of information. Even if not ready or willing to completely accept Swedenborg’s idea of the spiritual world and how it governs us, people should accept it as another possible theory of why we act, think, and feel the way we do. By totally disregarding Swedenborg from the history of psychology is a shame for other’s are denied the right to decide for themselves if they want to accept Swedenborg’s psychological views of man’s existence.

 

 

References

 

A. J. G. “Swedenborg, Emanuel.” Encyclopedia Britannica.11th Edition. 1911.

Henderson, Bruce. Window to Eternity. New York: The Swedenborg Foundation. 1987.

Keller, Helen. My Religion. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, Inc. 1953.

Odhner, Hugo Lj. The Spiritual World. Pennsylvania: Academy Publication Committee. 1968.

Sutton, Eric A. The Living Thoughts of  Swedenborg. London, Toronto, Melbourne, and Sydney: Cassell and Company, Limited. 1944.

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Earths in the Universe. Londo: The Swedenborg Society. 1970.

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. New York: Swedenborg Foundations, Inc. 1990.

Swedenborg, The Man that had to Know: Johnny Apple seed and the Frontier Within. Video recording. UHM AV/C.  Videotape 123 BETA. 1982.

Synnestvedt, Sig. “Swedenborg, Emanuel.” Encyclopedia Americana. International Edition. 1990.

Trobridge, G. Swedenborg: Life and Teaching. London:  Swedenborg Society (Incorporated). 1945.

Van Dusen, Wilson. Swedenborg’s Journal of Dreams. New York, N.Y.: Swedenborg Foundation, Inc. 1986.

Woofenden, William Ross. Swedenborg and 20th Century Thought. Sidney, Australia: The Swedenborg Lending Library and Enquiry Centre. 1981.

 

 

 

BACK HOME