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New features in Spiritual Nu. "Wapers,
D. W. WEATHERHEAD, PRINTER, KEIGHLEY,
Dr. J. J. G. Wilkinson, a writer whose treatises, according to Emerson, “throw all the contemporary philosophy of England into the shade," has remarked, that "perhaps with the exception of Protestantism, there is not a faith recorded in the world's history but has leant upon supernatural revelations, and these the more bright and frequent in proportion as we approach the primitive ages."
Even this possible exception however is somewhat doubtful, and can be admitted only with considerable qualification. Not a few of the most eminent Protestant Reformers and Divines, as we have in some measure shown, have “leant upon supernatural revelations,” and, we may now add, that many of the reformed churches whose influence has been most strongly marked, have claimed for themselves a distinctive spiritual origin, and, that their early histories contain free quent narratives and averments of the spiritual aid by which they were sustained; not to speak at present of special and wonderful manifestations of spiritual power that they have experienced, such as those that have been recently so graphically described in the Telegraph by William Howitt; and others of a like kind to which we may hereafter refer. Indeed, “a religion that has not the key of the spiritual world is to this extent a failure, and enjoins its votaries to shoot at a mark that is not set up."
We find the founders of these churches persistently affirming that they receive ed visions and revelations, that they were spiritually inspired and strengthened, that the interiors of their minds were opened to perceive spiritual realities, and sometimes, that they were intromitted into the spiritual world, and permitted to bold converse with its inhabitants.
The sceptic may scoff at all such statements, but the believer in the truth of the Bible-narratives, and the student of human nature who feels the wonder and the mystery with which life is environed, should pause and think ere in relation thereto they pronounce the word "impossible.” Doubtless madmen and impostors have claimed for themselves these spiritual endowments, but no explanation is so bald and empty as that which finde in lunacy and knavery the motive-pow.
LONDON : F. PITHAN, 20, PATERWORTBR Row, E. C.
er to sway the hearts and understandings of mankind. But whether these pretensions are true or false, it is at least true, that they have been entertained and avowed by men of vigorous mind and earnest soul, and accepted by large bodies of disciples not inferior in capacity, attainments, and culture to their contemporaries. This itself is a significant phenomenon, and evidences that a belief in immediate spiritual action upon our world, through mortal media, underlies much of our religious faith, and influences, though often indirectly, and unconsciously, the thoughts and conduct of men, who in other respects are of widely different character and cr'eed.
Into the truth or falsehood of the respective religious systems which these men and women have taught it is not our purpose to enter, it lies altogether beyond the scope of our present inquiry even were we qualified to judge thereof; but we may point out that the belief in the spiritual origin of a system does not necessa. sarily imply a belief in its truth; nor is spiritual inspiration synonomous with spiritual infallibillity. Our spiritual perceptions when opened, and our understandings when illumined by influx of celestial, yea, even of divine wisdom, must still be limited and imperfect. The absolute and perfect truth can dwell only with and in the Being who is himself Absolute and Perfect. Inspiration too, is various in its degrees, the majestic tones of the organ cannot be breathed through a tin whistle; the light of heaven itself is refracted and tinged by the media through which it passes. Men may be inspired with just that kind and measure of truth which they are best fitted to receive and impart to others, and no more. But a truth may be presented in undue proportion in relation to other truths, or be wrenched away from the body of truth to which it belongs. The body of truth is a broken body; in its complete form, its perfect symetry, its dazzling beauty, mortal men know it not, and could not recognize the heavenly vision ; glimpses of its presence, and inspirations of its spirit is all to which the most gifted of our race have yet attained.
Seers, Prophets, and men largely endowed with spiritual gifts, are the chief instruments by which God sustains the strength and vitality of his church, and guides the religious instincts of his rational creatures. By their living spiritual fire and their fresh experiences they reanimate the cold and faithless times, and in the place of traditional theology and lifeless churches, the newly awakened spiritual life forms to itself a new body in which it may grow, and by which it can act upon the world around : the new wine is put into new bottles, and, for a time, both are preserved.
Perhaps the greatest christian Seer and revealer of spiritual things since the days of the Apostles has been Emanuel SWEDENBORG: truly a man upon whose like we shall not soon look again ; eminent too in many ways, possessing a completeness of mind and a rounded symetry of character which it would be difficult to parallel. It is common (alas ! that it should be so) to regard ignorance and fanaticism as the natural concomitants of religious earnestness; and especially so, if associated with professions of deeper spiritual experiences, and a relation to the eternal world of a more immediate and intimate nature than men of ordinary minds are conscious of in their own personal history; or, than is familiar to the society in which they move. To those who think thus, we would specially recommend the study of Swedenborg, not his books only, but himself: they will find him an enigma which upon
their principles will be hard to solve. We hope the slight sketeh of Swedenborg we are about to give may lead the reader to seek a fuller acquaintance with him; he will find ample materials for doing so in the excellent biography of him by Dr. Wilkinson, or in the more recent and cheaper one by Mr. White.
Swedenborg was the 80 of a Lutheran Bishop, and was born at Stockholm, in 1688. He received the best education that the times and his country could afford. At 22 years of age he took his degree of Doctor of Philosophy, at Upsal, and shortly after set out on his travels in England and the continent. During this time he wrote letters to a friend, detailing the newest discoveries in science, and sent home models of all such inventions as he thought might be useful to his country. In 1716, he accompanied his friend, Polheim, the Swedish mathematician, on a visit to Charles the XIIth., who was so well pleased with him that he appointed him Assessor of the Board of Mines. Besides editing a magazine, he now began publishing various scientific treatises ;--On Algebra, On the Longitude, On a Decimal system of Money and Measures ; On the Earth and the Planets; On the Depth of the Sea and on the Tides ; and On Docks, Sluices and Salt Works.
In 1721, he visited Holland, where we again find him publishing several small works on Natural Philosophy, and the application of Mechanics to Docks, Dykes, and Shipping. To improve his knowledge of mining, he left Amsterdam for Leipsic, that he might inspect the different mines and smelting works on his route. At Leipsic, and at Hamburgh he published Miscellaneous Observations connected with the Physical Sciences. To this work, M. Dunas, the French chemist, ascribes the origin of the modern science of crystallography. In 1724 he was invited to accept the Professorship of Mathematics in the University of Upsal, but declined the honour. Ten years later, we find him publishing Philosophical and Mineral Works, in three folio volumes. In the first part of this book, entitled The Principia, he seems to have anticipated some of the most important discoveries in modern astronomy, chemistry, and magnetism.
This work attracted considerable attention to its author. The Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh appointed him a corresponding member of their bo. dy; and the Pope did him the honour of inserting the title of his book in that catalogue of excellent works, the Index Expurgatorius. In 1740, Swedenborg published his Economy of the Animal Kingdom; and in 1745, The Animal Kingdom. Emerson, says of the former of these works, that it is one of those books which by their sustained dignity of thinking, is an honour to the human race," and of the latter, that it “is a book of wonderful merits. It was written with the highest end, to put science and the soul, long estranged from each other, at one again. It was an anatomist's account of the human body in the highest style of poetry. Nothing can exceed the bold and brilliant treatment of a subject usually so dry and repulsive."
Swedenborg soon after published a book, On the Worstiq and Love of God; in which his various teachings are gathered up in a narrative and pictorial form;
but The Animal Kingdom may be regarded as his last great scientific work. The first book of his life's history--its mere scientific phases here closes in the 58th year of his age. "Carefully disciplined by thought and investigation in the outer world, through a long series of laborious years, the curtain which separated the seen from the unseen was, for him, drawn aside, and his prepared eyes saw in clear sun-light, those mysteries of life and spirit which the best and wisest of men have most ardently desired to see.”+
Swedenborg, in one of his letters, written 1769, says, “I have been called to a holy office by the Lord himself, who most graciously manifested himself to me, his servant, in the year, 1743, when he opened my sight to a view of the spiritual world, and granted me the privilege of conversing with spirits and angels, which I enjoy to this day. From that time, I began to print and publish vari. ous arcana that have been seen by me, or revealed to me; as respecting heaven and hell, the state of man after death, the true worship of God, the spiritual sense of the Word, with many other most important matters conducive to salvation and true wisdom.” He speaks of this privilege as connected with, and in some measure dependant on certain peculiar powers of respiration with which he was gifted. He writes, “my inspiration has been so formed by the Lord, as to enable me to breathe inwardly for a long period of time, without the aid of the external air ; my respiration being directed within, and my outward senses, as well as actions, still continuing in their vigour, which is only possible with persons who have been so formed by the Lord. I have also been instructed that my breathing was so directed, without my being aware of it, in order to enable me to be with spirits, and to speak with them.”I
Swedenborg now resigned his assessorship that he might devote himself whol
† Swedenborg's writings however, furnish evidence that the opening of his spiritual sight had been commenced long previous, that it had been brought on by degrees, even as after this, it was plainly gradual and progressive.
Thus Swedenborg tells us, that years before the time when spirits began to speak with him viva voce, he had seen flames of different sizes, and of different colour and splendour, and that so often, that for several months whilst a certain work (supposed by Dr. Tafel to be that on the Worship and love of God) scarcely a day passed in which these did not appear before him.
Possibly, some may think these appearances were simply the odic light and flame, the existence of which Reichenbach has since demonstrated; but, in addition to this, in his Spiritual Diary, and in the Fourth Part of his Animal Kingdom, he speaks, not only of much information given to him in orderly and instructive dreams; but also, of many visions that he received ; as well as of changes of state while he was writing, and a peculiar extraordinary light in the writings; and of spirits influencing him “ak sensi. bly as if they appealed to the bodily senses "; and, of “words addressed to me in early morning,” of being "commanded to write "-of there “happening wonderful things in the night between the first and second of July,” when things “were foretold to me in a wonderful manner on that occasion” &c.
* We must refer the reader to Swedenborg's Animal Kingdom for an exposition of the philosophy of respiration and of its correspondence with thought.