Swedenborg: To Believe or Not to Believe
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.
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
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.
Reference #: HAML EX 8748 .H45 1987
using the UH CARL computer in the
this book in the chapter entitled, “Coming Home,”
Keller, Helen. My Religion.
Reference #: BX K35 1953
found this book in
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.
Reference #: BX8711 .034 1968
way I found this reference was I went to
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.
Reference #: BX 8711 A7 878
found this book in the
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.
Reference #: HAML BX 8712 .E3 1970
found this book on the first floor of the
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.
Reference #: HAML BX 8712 .H 1984
found this book in
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.
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
Synnestvedt, Big. “Swedenborg, Emanuel.” Encyclopedia
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.
Reference #: EX 8748 .T8 1938
found this book by doing a name search on the UH CARL in
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.
Reference#: HAML BX 8712 .D994 1986.
found this book in the
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.
Reference #: HAML BX 8748 .W65 1981
got this book by going to the first floor of the
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.
A. J. G. “Swedenborg, Emanuel.” Encyclopedia Britannica.11th Edition. 1911.
Henderson, Bruce. Window to
Keller, Helen. My Religion.
Odhner, Hugo Lj. The Spiritual
Sutton, Eric A. The Living Thoughts
Swedenborg, Emanuel. Earths in the Universe. Londo: The Swedenborg Society. 1970.
Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and
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,
Trobridge, G. Swedenborg: Life and
Woofenden, William Ross. Swedenborg
and 20th Century Thought.