History: Developing a New Church Perspective
Faith and Learning at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church. Ed. Dan A. Synnestvedt.
Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania: The Academy of the New Church, 2004. 15975.
The organization of the General Church of the New Jerusalem is based upon the religious Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and draws its self-understanding from them. They call us "to make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). Thus, there is a laudable and earnest desire within the Church to have the Writings inform our life and our work, and within Bryn Athyn College we seek to have them shape our intellectual perspectives and tools. The specific task of this chapter is to discover how the unique message of the Writings can help us understand and interpret human history.
The Writings contain a radical and rational Christian message. This message is first revealed in the Arcana Coelestia (1749–1756) and it finds its culmination in True Christian Religion (1770–1771). In the Arcana, the reader is told that "the mere letter of the Word of the Old Testament . . . contains deep secrets of heaven, and that everything within it both in general and in particular bears reference to the Lord, to His heaven, to the Church, to religious belief, and to all things connected with them" (AC 1). The last work True Christian Religion (1770–1771) states that "now it is permitted to enter into the mysteries of faith with understanding" (TCR 508).
In these works Swedenborg also wrote that (incredible to some as it may seem) both the Last Judgment and the Second Coming occurred in the middle of the 18th century. In The Last Judgment published in 1758, he states,
It was granted to me to see from beginning to end how the last judgment was accomplished; also how Babylon was destroyed, also how those who are meant by "the dragon" were cast into the abyss and how the new heaven was formed, and the new church instituted in the heavens, which is meant by "the New Jerusalem." It was granted me to see all these things with my own eyes, in order that I might be able to testify of them. This last judgment was commenced in the beginning of the year 1757, and was fully accomplished at the end of that year. (LJ 45)
In True Christian Religion the Second Coming is discussed. Its purpose was to effect the separation of the evil from the good, so that those who believe might be saved (TCR 772). Swedenborg also revealed that the Second Coming of the Lord was not to occur in person, but in the Word, which is from Him and is Him (TCR 776). This could happen because Swedenborg was called by the Lord to rationally comprehend the doctrines of the New Church and to publish them by the press. To this end he was permitted to enter the heavens and the hells, and to learn the doctrines directly from the Lord while reading the Word.
Swedenborg states at the end of True Christian Religion that the New Jerusalem promised in Revelation chapter 21:2 was proclaimed in the heavens by the 12 disciples who had followed the Lord on earth.
He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages . . . This took place on the 19th day of June, 1770. (TCR 791)
This new church would not only spread throughout the spiritual world, but it was to be "the crown of all the churches that have existed on the earth" (TCR 787). Swedenborg witnessed these events and duly recorded them in the Writings. Although they were spiritual in essence, through Swedenborg's experience they entered the domain of human history.
History is a specifically human enterprise and construct made within the framework of the Lord's providence. History unfolds in the temporal, natural world, guided by the divine providence that looks to eternal, spiritual and celestial ends.
The publication of the Writings signaled the spiritual end of the first Christian Church. While this transformation was clearly visible in the spiritual world, signs also appeared on earth in the events of everyday life, but few could read or interpret them. Although the 18th century is considered a watershed in European history, none of the currently accepted interpretations of that time period see events from a New Church perspective.
A New Church historical perspective is one that is informed by doctrine and frameworks found in the Writings, but does not literally apply spiritual truths to the unfolding of human and natural events. As the Rev. Dr. Hugo Lj. Odhner said in an article on "The Doctrine of the Four Ages," identified as the Gold, Silver, Copper (Bronze) and Iron ages "the Writings speak of spiritual states not of cultural periods."1 One might add that the Writings do not speak of historical periods, as well. While Dr. Odhner said that Swedenborg adopted terminology similar to that used by both the Ancient Greeks and Romans to identify the four ages of humankind, he states that "there are almost no points of similarity with the original Greek legends."2 He also stressed that gold and silver are used in a purely symbolic or correspondential manner to identify the Most Ancient and Ancient Churches.
Interpreting the Bible literally was a significant failing of the first Christian Church. This not only entailed the assumption that creation occurred in seven days, and that the flood was a real world historic event, but also the belief that the earth was only 6,000 years old and that it was the center of the universe.3
While the Writings demonstrate that the story of creation is really the story of the states of human regeneration, and that the flood refers to overwhelming states of evil that engulfed the human race, it also presents various models of humanity's salvation drama. These include the doctrine of the four churches, which are the Most Ancient Church, the Ancient Church, the Israelitish Church and the Christian Church, and the doctrine of the Grand Man. The New Church historian must accept these doctrines as true, while at the same time not literally identifying the elements of the models with particular eras or peoples. In this vein, Dr. Odhner continues:
These teachings are not, like the surviving legends of Greece, an outside view of the past cultures; but they present the states of the church on earth as viewed from heaven, and thus speak of those nations or groups with whom there was a reception or response to Divine revelation.4
Although the Writings speak extensively about the four churches that have existed on this earth from the dawn of human consciousness until the Last Judgment in 1757, they document the spiritual story of humanity, not our history. The spiritual story of humanity is the story of the decline or rise of human internal states. While these internal states are played out in the lives of real people, specific nations and eras, these historicals merely clothe, contain or mask actual spiritual states. They take place on the external plane, and the Writings make it clear that it is not possible to read internals from externals. For example, an apparently weak or misguided leader may ultimately be internally and spiritually more righteous than his seemingly more upright enemy or opponent.
While it is not appropriate to apply the doctrine of the four churches directly to particular historical events, the New Church historian must discern in what way the truths and doctrines learned in the Writings might still inform our understanding of human events.
In time, each of the four churches mentioned in the Writings has flowered and died. New Church history would document the rise and fall of these churches. To conceptualize their progress and decline, the Writings provide a language of stages comparing the churches to the states of life of a person, the seasons of a year, or the hours in a day. Birth and death, spring and winter, dawn and darkness are terms analogous to the beginnings and endings of the Churches.
The Writings also indicate that when one church dies another is born. Within the framework of recorded history it is possible to mark the birth of Judaism, Christianity and the New Church. Sacred texts were written that document each of them. However, since the origin of each of these churches is spiritual, as a consequence, the natural beginning of each one is shrouded in myth and mystery. The defining event for each church involved only one individual and occurred without witnesses. Moses received the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God, alone on Mount Sinai, while the children of Israel waited below. The resurrection of the Lord's body took place in the isolation of the tomb covered by a heavy stone while guards stood unknowing outside. Swedenborg visited the spiritual world daily and witnessed the cataclysm of the Last Judgment, while going about his normal business, as if at that moment nothing extraordinary was taking place.
Historians have not been able to discover evidence independent of the accounts in the Word about the historical Moses or Jesus, except, in the case of Jesus, for a paragraph that mentions him in the Antiquities of the Jews written by Josephus about 60 years after the crucifixion.5 The problem of evidence remains, even though at a certain date, it is clear and well-documented that both an organized Judaism and Christianity existed, founded upon the reality of each of their lives, their actions and their words. On the other hand, Swedenborg, the revelator for the New Church, is a well-documented historical person, although his claim to have visited the spiritual world cannot be independently empirically verified. In each case, therefore, acceptance of the testimony requires spiritual assent to the historical reality.6
From the New Church perspective there is a constant ongoing relationship between the spiritual and the natural worlds. The natural world is sustained by a continual inflowing of life from the spiritual world. While this inflowing certainly shapes human history, as Dr. Odhner noted, it is imperceptible within the natural human framework and therefore cannot be interpreted by the historian. In presenting any story, the historian is limited to the use of humanly constructed datathat is, to data that is the result of actions taken in the world of time and space. This is equally true for the Jewish, Christian or secular historian, as it is for the New Church historian. However, the New Church historian may begin her inquiry by exploring events surrounding the open penetration or intersection of the spiritual into the world of human events such as the birth of the Lord or the Last Judgment and the Second Coming. Once that has happened the spiritual has its own concrete base or foundation in the world, first in human shape and form as it did with Moses, Jesus and Swedenborg, for example, and then as text in the form of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Writings. New Church history begins in the exploration of the context in which one or another of these open penetrations of the spiritual into the world of time and space has occurred. What makes the New Church historian unique is the interpretive framework that knowledge of the Second Coming provides.
Focusing on these points of penetration enables the New Church historian to see the same historical events as a secular historian, but to put them in a different light, so that the same facts open up a whole new understanding of the events or era in question. Let us illustrate this in two ways: first, by taking the dominate motifs of the 18th century and recasting them, and second, by looking at certain aspects of Swedenborg's biography in a new light.
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Alexander Pope in his 1733 Essay on Man provides a comprehensive summary of elite and enlightened 18th century self-understanding:
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is man.7
This attitude is reinforced by Immanuel Kant's (1724–1804) phrase, "Dare to Know," in his 1784 essay, "What is Enlightenment?" These two essays frame the intellectual project of the 18th century. God and Revelation were dethroned by "Man" and "reason." Diderot made this clear in his entry on "Encyclopdie" in The Encyclopedia:
This word means the interrelation of all knowledge; . . . In truth, the aim of an encyclopedia is to collect all the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth, to present its general outlines and structure to the men with whom we live, and to transmit this to those who will come after us, . . . I have said that it could only belong to a philosophical age to attempt an encyclopedia; and I have said this because such a work constantly demands more intellectual daring that is commonly found in ages of pusillanimous taste. All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard to anyone's feelings. . . . We must ride roughshod over all these ancient puerilities, overturn the barriers that reason never erected, give back to the arts and sciences the liberty that is so precious to them.8
In 18th century Europe, the struggle to dominate the hearts and minds of the people was no longer between Catholicism and various state-supported forms of Protestantism that in the previous century had fought the devastating Thirty Years War. The new struggles were fought on two different fronts. On one front the traditional Christian Churches (Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed) wrestled with wholly new Christian confessions and Second Coming movements, such as the Quakers, the Shakers and Moravians. On the other front the traditional Christian Churches were assaulted by the philosophes and the forces of the Enlightenment and a naturalistic science.
Whereas the battles of the 17th century had gripped whole populations, issues in the 18th century concerned many small groups of people on all sides, but no one issue or concern seemed to touch the population as a whole. As Walpole observed, writing in 1757:
There were no religious combustibles in the temper of the times. Popery and Protestantism seemed at a stand. The modes of Christianity were exhausted and could not furnish novelty to fix attention.9
Unlike the deadly religious wars of the previous century, the religious conflicts of the 18th century were played out on intellectual battlefields. Though on the surface less bloody, these debates fundamentally reshaped the Western conversation about religion. The state-supported Christian churches no longer had the power to set the parameters of human inquiry. Science and philosophy would now make those determinations. Religion, dethroned because of its unyielding dogmatism and misuse of power and reason, was increasingly privatized and marginalized. It lost its claim to have any rational status and became identified solely with matters of the heart. Religion itself gave up the claim that its core could be known empirically from without and conceded that it could only be intuited from within. The insistence on the part of a very vocal element of the Christian community that religion was beyond understanding and that the essence of religion made it unknowable complemented the developing view that science possessed the only legitimate tools through which reality could be grasped with certainty.
Prior to the 18th century, human destiny was thought to be spiritual not natural. It was taken for granted that human spiritual essence shaped and informed human nature and social relations. In Europe, religion in general and Christianity in particular was the institution that had interpreted and governed humanity whose essence had been assumed to be spiritual. To the philosophes, however, religion was viewed as both an area of human knowledge and a profound barrier to its further development. As Peter Gay said in The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism,
many of the philosophes might pretend to oppose superstition and fanaticism in the name of "true" religion, but once we examine the philosophes' writings on these matters we find that their definition of superstition practically coincides with their definition of religion.10
To the philosophes, the natural eye encompassed the whole essence of humanity, the appearance was the reality. The truth that they endorsed was simply that human beings can be adequately understood and can sufficiently understand themselves through the lens of nature, without having to have recourse to either spiritual or supernatural explanations. To resort to spiritual or supernatural explanations was not only unnecessary, but it encouraged a sense of dependence on that world and God and defined human beings as insufficient masters of their own fate.11 Thus, in redefining the essence of human nature to be the equivalent of the scientific and rational tools now available to them, the philosophes hoped that human ability to control the world and its destiny would be unleashed. Certain knowledge of nature, although limited and limiting, was believed to be infinitely superior to the imperfect and uncertain knowledge available about the spiritual realm. Human beings redefined in this way would possess greater power than they would have, if they continued to think that spiritual truths were actually real and accessible. From this point of view, therefore, reducing human stature and spiritual pretensions was believed to be an act of empowerment, not diminishment.
It is within this social and historical context, as interpreted by the author, that Swedenborg made his claim to be the Revelator of a rational Christianity. His Christianity states clearly "now it is permitted to enter into the mysteries of faith with understanding" (TCR 508). It also affirms that "love is the life of every person" (DLW 1). It would appear that Swedenborg shared with the rationalists a need to confirm truth in this world, and with them he heeded the call for a clear and logical mind. While with the advocates of the new religions of intuition, Swedenborg seemed to have shared a knowledge of the inner way and the desire for piety of heart. Thus, in his claim of two foundations of truth, nature and revelation, Swedenborg was neither wholly rationalistic, nor wholly enthusiastic. He was seeking a united Christianity that was both true and good, rational and moral, wise and loving. He was seeking a Christianity that moved beyond the Protestant belief in justification by faith alone, and the Catholic belief in sacramental and ritual efficacy, to a new Christian life focused on a life of use in which the conjunction of true propositions make one with the good of life.
This vision of a united Christianity was not preached by Swedenborg, but was given in the form of a written revelation to suit the intellectual and rational nature of the religious debates of his day. In the Swedenborgian movement, the written Word, itself, was the source of the inspiration of the founding, not Swedenborg nor any personal follower of his. The revelatory texts published by Swedenborg were both the message and the messenger. Unlike many other religious prophets such as George Fox, John Wesley and Mother Ann Lee, who preached their new vision and amassed a devoted group of followers, Swedenborg confined his mission to writing, publishing and to some extent marketing the books he produced. He clearly believed that these activities alone defined his call.
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It is interesting to note that from 1749 until 1768, a period of almost 20 years, Swedenborg chose to publish the Writings anonymously. In this way he kept his call private and reduced, if not eliminated, assaults on his character and his mission from those in both worlds who would have felt threatened by them. In 1768, with the publication of Amore Conjugiale (Married Love), he chose to acknowledge his authorship, not only of that book, but of all the works of the Writings he had previously published by listing them on a page in the back of the volume. Why would he abandon his anonymity and why so late in his career as a revelator?
One possible reason could be the fact that his clairvoyant experiences of the Stockholm fire that had occurred during the summer of 1759 had become a matter of such common knowledge that anonymity was no longer feasible or useful. Another conceivable reason might have been that as his mission was drawing to a close, enemies of his call were beginning to muster strength both in Europe and in the spiritual world. Dropping the cloak of anonymity might draw them into the open and permit a stronger and perhaps more spirited defense.
Two attacks come to mind: Immanuel Kant's satire on Swedenborg published in 1766, Traüme eines Geistersehers (Dreams of a Spirit-Seer), and the heresy trial in Göteborg, Sweden of Gabriel A. Beyer and Johan Rosén. The latter were both Lutheran priests and early believers in the teachings of Swedenborg. The question of heresy was raised in 1768 and the trial was at its height during the fall and winter of 1769.
Immanuel Kant had been intrigued by reports of Swedenborg's clairvoyance. Kant, like other philosophers of his day, was interested in banishing superstition and therefore he found Swedenborg's experiences troubling. Unable to explain them, he ridiculed them instead. He initially published Traüme anonymously, although he sent a copy to the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) for his comments. Mendelssohn immediate wrote to Kant, deploring its tone. Kant replied, "I realized that I would have no peace from incessant inquiries until I had rid myself of my suspected knowledge of all these anecdotes."12
It is interesting to note that some Swedenborg scholars believe that Swedenborg replied to the charges in Traüme in his small work entitled De Commercio Animae et Corporis . . . or Soul-Body Interaction published in London in 1769. Swedenborg identified himself as the author of this work.
In a naturalistic and scientific age, the very public nature of Swedenborg's extraordinary experiences demanded assessment of them and of the man who made them. In order to distance himself and his philosophical system from the taint of Swedenborgianism and metaphysics, Kant made a negative assessment of them. Others painted a more sympathetic picture of Swedenborg, the man, but not necessarily of his claims or doctrines. In this category the names of Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–1782) and Johann Christian Cuno (1708–1796) come to mind.
The heresy trial in Göteborg was another interesting situation that encouraged Swedenborg's personal involvement. One of the factors that may have brought the matter to a head was the public distribution of a letter that Swedenborg had written to Beyer on October 30, 1769. From a purely natural or historical perspective, surprisingly, it was Swedenborg himself who had suggested to Beyer to have the letter printed and distributed. The letter described an encounter in the spiritual world that Swedenborg had had with Beyer's deceased wife. During the later part of her life, she had been as attracted to the teachings in the Writings as had her husband. However, upon her deathbed, she denounced them. This was, of course, a profound shock to Beyer, and he had sought advice from Swedenborg on this matter.
In his October 30th letter, written in response to Beyer's inquiry, Swedenborg revealed that Beyer's wife had been in a disordered state of mind at the time of her death, due to the presence of two clergymen who attended to her on her deathbed. This included Dean Ekebom, the man who had presided over the heresy trial earlier in the year. Swedenborg wrote the following to Beyer:
What you relate respecting your wife in her dying hours, was caused especially by the impression of two clergymen who associated her in her thoughts with those spirits from whom she then spoke; it sometimes happens with some in the hour of death that they are in the state of the spirit. Those spirits that first spoke through her belong to the followers of the Dragon which was cast down from heaven (see Rev. XII), and who then became so filled with hatred against the Savior, and consequently against God's Word and against everything belonging to the New Church, that they cannot bear to hear Christ mentioned. When the sphere of our Lord descends upon them out of heaven, they become raving mad and seek to hide themselves in holes and caverns, and thus to save themselves, according to Rev. IV, 16. Your deceased wife was with me yesterday and informed me of many things which she had thought and spoken to you, her husband, and with those who led her astray. Were I at this time near you, I might relate to you many things on this subject, but I am not permitted to write about them . . .13
Needless to say the Consistory was furious. Beyer, despite the difficulties the publication of the letter had personally brought him, became equally alarmed about what fate might befall Swedenborg. While there does appear to have been a plot by certain members of the House of the Clergy to have Swedenborg declared insane, ultimately nothing came of it.
Swedenborg seems to have invited a storm or kindled a fire, no doubt in the spiritual world as well as in Sweden. He wrote to Beyer in December of 1769,
Such a noise does no harm! For its effect is like that of fermentation in the preparation of wine by which it is cleared of impurities; for unless what is wrong is ventilated, and thus expelled, what is right cannot be seen and adopted.14
Swedenborg also informed Beyer that he was considering traveling on the invitation of two friends to London in the spring of 1770, and that he had no personal fear because he had been told by an angel of the Lord that "'I may rest securely on my arms in the night,' by which is meant the night in which the world in now immersed in respect to the things of the Church"15
One of the two friends may have been Thomas Hartley (1709–1784), a believer and translator of the Writings, who had written to Swedenborg in 1769 encouraging him "to leave with us some particulars respecting yourself, . . . and . . . anything else that might be useful in establishing your good character. . . ."16 Swedenborg complied. He wrote to Hartley, "After reflecting on this, I have been led to yield to your friendly advice and will now communicate to you some particulars of my life . . ."17
Late in his life, Swedenborg felt the need not only to claim authorship of the Writings but also to respond to Hartley's warm advice to set forth his good character. It would appear that he did so purposefully in order to vouchsafe his great service to humanity—to protect it from harm. Going public thwarted those with evil intent at the time by drawing them into the open. It also protected the future of his mission by providing his work with the earthly protection of his name and reputation. Perhaps without this protection, after his death his manuscripts might have been judged worthless and might have been disposed of without a second thought.
First raised during the last years of his life, questions about Swedenborg's sanity and character have continued to emerge since his death. Among other responsibilities, dealing with them is an important job for the New Church historian. As I recently wrote in "Swedenborg Studies 2002: On the Shoulders of Giants":
The Lord was crucified in an attempt to silence His Word, but He arose from the dead, and His message took on more power than His earthly enemies could have ever imagined. They killed the body, but they could not touch the spirit of life, itself. Emanuel Swedenborg in his role as "Servant of the Lord" was called to write and publish what he saw and heard in the spirit. The enemies of the new Word did not seek to kill his body, but they assaulted his character instead, hoping thereby to rob the Word of its power. It is difficult to silence the written Word, however, particularly when it embodies the living spirit and copies are dispersed worldwide. Nonetheless, history has shown that enemies seem to emerge in each succeeding generation and re-open the question of character, making it difficult for the living spirit to spread it roots.18
It is clear that Swedenborg chose to abandon anonymity when it no longer served his role as the "Servant of the Lord." The shift was not done in the cover of darkness, but in the full light of day. He claimed authorship of his religious writings and then appeared to engage the world on two fronts: one was an open debate with philosophers in De Commercio (1769) perhaps specifically intended for Kant, and the other was with Lutheran theology, in general and with specific priests in mind, perhaps Dean Ekebom. Perhaps both these groups are addressed in his conclusion in De Commercio:
Moreover, what theologian among Christians does not first study philosophy at college, before he is inaugurated as a theologian; and from what other source has he intelligence? At last he said, Since you are become a theologian, explain what is your theology. I [Swedenborg] replied, These are the two principles of it, That God is one, and that there is a conjunction of charity and faith. To which he replied, Who denies these? I answered, The theology of the present day, when interiorly examined. (20)
As outlined in this chapter, the New Church historian must assume two responsibilities. One is the protection of Swedenborg's reputation against multiple discrediting attacks, so that people may be free to approach the Writings on their own account; and the other is the analysis of the numerous profound and complex effects that occur as churches decay and are founded. While it is a given that life as such is not possible without Divine influx and that individuals cannot be saved without an acknowledgment of that influx and an amendment of life in correspondence with it, yet these realities are too subtle for the historian's analysis.
The New Church historian must focus on those crucial historical events about which the Word testifies and whose implications are worked out within human relationships and institutions. The fall of one church and rise of its successor represents the core problematic for New Church history because it is within that process that a Divine penetration of human life takes place that may be assessed at the historical level.
This dual calling of protection and analysis is the essence of the New Church historian's mission. She accomplishes the first part of her calling by delivering to the world a clear and unbiased foundation for evaluating the Writings by combating vile and false characterizations of Swedenborg and his activities. She accomplishes the second part by subjecting the known events of the periods surrounding the occurrences of Divine penetration to a renewed analysis based on our understanding of their spiritual dimension. This analysis requires the utmost knowledge and sophistication and must avoid the appearance of spiritual judgment. However, it allows us to see history in an entirely new light. Thus, we would be able to glimpse, in human events, the profound impact of the relationship between the natural and spiritual worlds.
The call in Revelation "to make all things new" would then take on a completely different dimension. What the New Church historian seeks to do, is to make "new" our own past. To demonstrate the possibilities of New Church history, this article presents two examples for your reflection. Because the New Church historian lives in the present while being informed by a different understanding of key historical events such as the birth of the Lord, the source of the scientific revolution, and the Second Coming, to name only a few, a new dimension is brought to historical analysis. This new light enables her to see different contours in the shadows of the past.
1 Hugo Lj. Odhner, "The Doctrine of the Four Ages," The New Philosophy 59.4 (1956): 113. The spiritual states represented by the four ages are Celestial, Spiritual, Natural, and a Corporeal Natural. The first three states honor conjugial love, or the love of one man and one woman. In the last state idols are used in worship and conjugial love is no longer understood and in its place is polygamy. See Conjugial Love numbers 7580.
3 In Norman Hampson's book A Cultural History of the Enlightenment, New York: Pantheon Books, 1968, he provides three different ideas about the literal interpretation of the Bible regarding creation. In discussing Christian ideas concerning the creation of the universe prior to the Enlightenment, he states that "The Creation, it was generally agreed—for here Revelation silenced Aristotle and his eternal universe—took place around 4004 B. C." (20). In discussing new scientific evidence about the age of the planet, he writes, "In implication at least, the most disturbing scientific discoveries were those in geology. Evidence of the rise and fall of the earth's surface was difficult to fit into the 6,000-year span that the Old Testament allowed" (25). When commenting on John Swan's Speculum Mundi, published by Cambridge University Press in 1635, Hampson says, "Swan denounced attempts to predict the end of the world as 'doting froth of some men's idle fancies'—but he was prepared to date its creation as precisely as 26 or 27 October!" (33)
4 Odhner, 113.
5 E. P. Sanders discusses this problem in his book The Historical Figure of Jesus, London: Penguin Books, 1993. He writes, "But knowledge of Jesus was limited to knowledge of Christianity; that is, had Jesus' adherents not started a movement that spread to Rome, Jesus would not have made it into Roman histories at all. The consequence is that we do not have what we would very much like, a comment in Tacitus or another Gentile writer that offers independent evidence about Jesus, his life and death" (50). He continues his assessment of external sources by examining the material in Josephus, whose work was preserved and edited by Christian scribes. He writes, "Failing a fluke discovery, we shall never know what Josephus actually wrote. He was not a convert to Christianity, and he did not really think that Jesus was the Messiah" (50). While not part of the Bible or the Word, documents like the Gospel of Thomas and the Dead Sea Scrolls are sources that are also influenced by Christianity and therefore are not the sort of independent evidence historians would like or that Sanders would say satisfied the criteria of historians.
6 It should be mentioned that this lack of historical determinacy is essential for the maintenance of human spiritual freedom. Nonetheless it presents problems for the historian.
7 Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Man," in Pope's Complete Poems, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1903, stanza 1, lines 12.
8 Peter Gay, ed. The Enlightenment, A Comprehensive Anthology, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973, (288289).
9 Horace Walpole as quoted in Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, New York: Atheneum, 1980, (345).
10 Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973, (200).
11 The ideal human from the perspective of the philosophes would be an autonomous, independent, self-sufficient individual. Whereas the ideal from a New Church perspective is one that acknowledge the essential social quality of human life. This is discussed my article "A Swedenborgian Perspective on the Social Ideal: Society in Human Form," in Dialogue & Alliance, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1996, 6177. "Relationship, dependency, and reciprocity are key elements of the human condition and from them it is possible not only to describe all the characteristics of society, such as population, division of labor, social structure, hierarchy, function and norms or rules, . . . , but they also provide the foundation for the fundamental patterns of symbolic social interaction" (64).
12 Claire E. Berninger, "Oetinger, Kant and Swedenborg," in The New Philosophy, Vol. LI October, 1948, 257.
13 Emanuel Swedenborg, Stockholm, October 30, 1769, in Cyriel Odhner Sigstedt, The Swedenborg Epic, New York: Bookman Associates, 1952, (392).
14 Emanuel Swedenborg, Stockholm, December 28, 1769, in Sigstedt's The Swedenborg Epic, (396).
15 Emanuel Swedenborg, Stockholm, December 28, 1769, in Stigstedt's The Swedenborg Epic, (396).
16 Sigstedt, The Swedenborg Epic, (384).
17 Sigstedt, The Swedenborg Epic, (385).
18 Jane Williams-Hogan, "Swedenborg Studies 2002: On the Shoulders of Giants," in The New Philosophy, Vol. CV, nos. 1 & 2, January–June, 2002, 223251. There are indication both in numbers in the Journal of Dreams, in the Writings, and in The Swedenborg Epic (398) that attempts on Swedenborg's life were contemplated both in the spiritual world and on earth. But nothing came of those plots, however, because Swedenborg was continually protected by the Lord. Protecting his reputation clearly is another matter and it requires the on-going effort of the New Church.