ARCHITECT OF ETERNITY
EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)
His life and works. Influence on the spiritual and aesthetic processes in Europe and USA from the 18th to the 20th century. Rediscovery and impact of his ideas in the 21st century.
MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE BOOK
• To answer the question “Who was Swedenborg? ”
The famous Swedish scientist, philosopher, Christian mystic and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg is almost completely unknown in Bulgaria and this explains why my research is focused on the necessity to paint a detailed and convincing portrait of this outstanding personality. His biography, scientific achievements, the essence of the doctrine of correspondences as a dynamic context in which the natural, spiritual and divine things are connected in a whole with a universal scope and validity require a multiple approach and wealth of learning and information adequate to the task of analyzing Swedenborg’s encyclopedic synthesis and demonstrating the grand edifice of his philosophical and religious system. The first part of my study is essentially devoted to tracing the most important elements in his rationalistic mysticism and the empirical background of his exploration of outer worlds. The foundations of his theosophy lie in ancient Gnostic schools, in Aristotelian logic and metaphysics, in a mysticism combined with then contemporary theoretical approaches and scientific discoveries. One of the main objectives in my book is to disclose the mental world Swedenborg inhabited and recreated, and to show how and why he epitomizes the spirit and the criteria of the Enlightenment, the need for rationality and the benefits one could derive from the acquisition of knowledge as a prime objective for humanity. He connects all this with ancient philosophy - a way of life as well as an intellectual phenomenon and a method premised on the idea about the trinity of existence (physical, mental and spiritual), with Neo-Platonism and the most ancient roots of hermeticism in general. As some say, never before had a Christian visionary complemented his mission with the intellectual training and erudition of a leading European scientist.
• To draw the trajectory of Swedenborg’s life and works and its elevation to the highest of vocations. To contribute to Bulgarians ’ knowledge and understanding of this extraordinary mind.
Swedenborg demonstrated that even the most trivial phenomena and concepts could hold a profound spiritual meaning. Influenced by Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Descartes, Leibnitz (among others) he influenced Emerson, Whitman, Blake, Dostoyevsky, Balzac, Baudelaire, Strindberg, Borges, Jung, Ekelof... Many writers and artists were and continue to be attracted by the creative opportunities provided by the doctrine of correspondences, which is based on the idea about the spiritual projections of objects and phenomena in the physical world, making use of the method of analogy. This method is a key tool in art and literature for the creation and decoding of the associative imagery and the symbolism of aesthetic works; it finds its confirmation in a considerable part of the world culture as it is shown in my research with appropriate observations, examples and conclusions. The doctrine of correspondences has been transformed into a peculiar aesthetic formula, a mathematically designed and calculated yet romantically elevated dream of a visionary access to the absolute and its poeticized recreation. This contributed to a radically new way of writing and made possible the structural and stylistic experiments within the framework not only of Romanticism (whose forerunner and revered icon Swedenborg is) but also in modernism, opening up the space for important transformations in the sphere of art.
Empiricist and mystic, Swedenborg personalizes the duality of his age: a time that combines the clarity and the irrefutable power of reason with an inclination for the irrational, the occult, and the elaborately obscure. In short, it is a time that unites mechanicism (the dominant view that brings together most of the representatives of the age) and the metaphysical instinct, which often prevails over the mechanicist streak. In forming his worldview and his concepts, Swedenborg draws upon the whole then available scientific and spiritual experience, on the basis of which he achieves a powerful balancing consciousness, capable of pushing the world ahead and accelerating the evolution of the rational mind. Elaborating on this subject involves a detailed description of the Enlightenment in Europe and Scandinavia with a special emphasis on the Swedish Enlightenment and the interaction of its inventors, thinkers and creative artists with European currents of thought. The spirit of the Swedish Enlightenment finds a profound manifestation in the work of such representative figures as Urban Hjarne, Christopher Polhem, Anders Celsius, Carl Linnaeus, Emanuel Swedenborg and others who defended the belief that utilitarianism, i.e. expediency and usefulness, should be given priority and ensured a privileged status in those scientific fields that most obviously fit this agenda: medicine, natural science, mechanics and economics, along with physics, chemistry and astronomy. Linnaeus was another empiricist-cum-mystic and his impressive ability to trigger all-encompassing analogies and schemata mainly through particular details and creative intuition, together with his inclination to subject the order of Creation to a scientific scrutiny and analysis, nourish interesting parallels with Swedenborg, also a famous “gardener”, both in the figurative and the literal sense of the word.
Although many facts of Swedenborg’s life are interwoven in the first part of the book, the second chapter of the second part is wholly dedicated to his biography with a focus on the special connection between its two main phases - before the religious crisis in 1743-45 and after; on the passage from his philosophy of nature to his theological works. I offer a more or less analytical survey of the corpus of his writings from both periods in an attempt to make them known in Bulgaria. My list includes Opera philosophica et miineralia I-III, Principia rerum naturalium, De infinito, De Cerebro, Oeconomia regni animalis, Clavis hieroglyphica, The Journal of Dreams, De Cultu et Amore Dei, Diarium Spirituale, Arcana coelestia, De telluribus in mundo nostro solari, De coelo et ejus mirabilibus, et de inferno, Sapientia angelica de divino amore et de divina sapientia, Sapientia angelica de divina providentia, Apocalypsis explicata, Apocalypsis revelata, Delitiae sapientiae de amore conjugiali, Vera Christiana religio. I have used mainly translations into Swedish, English or Russian and have spared no effort to provide my book with Bulgarian interpretations, hopefully adequate, of these and other titles mentioned on its pages.
It is a well-known fact that Swedenborg has followed his own religious path although he never severed the bond connecting him to the official Church in Sweden, nor did he express a wish to establish his own Church or sect. I mention several times explicitly his criticism of the Swedish Lutheran Church, to which he belonged until his death. It is my contention also that his visions and his teachings cannot be separated from his essence of a Protestant visionary and Prophet, from his exegesis of the Bible and his doctrine of the New Church.
For my close reading of texts by and on Swedenborg and for their understanding I am greatly indebted to a brilliant constellation of Swedish scholars such as Martin Lamm, Inge Jonsson, Olle Hjem, Olof Lagercrantz, Lars Bergquist, Anders Hallengren, David Duner... One of the main points in my research was to introduce their thoughts and interpretations with the stimulating prospect of broadening and enriching the future Bulgarian swedenborgiana (impossible in the near past, during the years of ideological rigidity and restraint in my country) with translations into Bulgarian of such remarkable books like Lamm’s Emanuel Swedenborg: en studie over hans utveckling till mystiker och andeskadare, Jonsson’s Swedenborgs skapelsedrama, De Cultu et Amore Dei, Jonsson’s and Hjern’s Swedenborg’o karen i naturens och andens varldar. The books on Swedenborg’s life, works and presence in the world by Lars Bergquist, Anders Hallengren, David Duner and others will probably also find their way to a receptive Bulgarian public in the near or more distant future.
During my work on this book, which lasted over a decade, I had the privilege to contact researchers, writers, linguists, historians etc. - experts in many fields of knowledge from Sweden, Bulgaria and some other countries. Remarkable erudites and highly respected intellectuals, they helped me a lot in my research, giving me precious advice, sending me books and all kinds of material, making corrections in my text, serving as deep and pure sources of insight and inspiration, encouraging me with their understanding and good will. I didn’t miss the opportunity to express my gratitude to many of them in the body of this book, and especially in the explanatory notes and different remarks dispersed on its pages, but I would like to emphasize their important contribution to my work here, too. Their names are Professor Inge Jonsson, Rev. Olle Hjem, Dr. Susanna Akerman, Assoc. Professor Anders Hallengren, H. E. Lars Bergquist, Assoc. Professor Barbro Stable Sjonell, Assoc. Professor David Duner, Professor Tomas Transtromer, Monica Transtromer, H. E. Bertil Roth, Charlotte Roth, Rev. Goran Appelgren, Anita Persson and much revered institutions as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Academy, the Swedish Institute - from Sweden, Ms. Carroll Odhner - from USA, Professor Johan de Mylius and H. E. Klaus Otto Kappel - from Denmark, Professor Piotr Bukowski - from Poland, Professor Elena Chekalina from Russia, Richard Lines from Great Britain, Professor Bogdan Bogdanov, Professor Emilia Staycheva, Professor Assen Jablensky, Professor Boris Parashkevov, Assoc. Professor Vladimir Teoharov, Professor Dimitar Zashev, Assoc. Professor Anna B. Nikolova, Dr. Boyko Zlatev, Assoc. Professor Petko Nedialkov, Assoc. Professor Ljudmil Dimitrov, Professor Mirena Slavova, Professor Tatyana Evtimova, Assoc. Professor Milena Bratoeva, Professor Radosvet Kolarov, Vladimir Paunovski, Margarita Krumova, Liljana Tabakova, Lubomir Terziev - from Bulgaria.
Some are not among us today, like the great Swedish writers, members of the Swedish Academy Lars Gyllensten and Osten Sjostrand. To communicate with them was to access a school of erudition, spirituality and intellectual refinement. Also, of great importance during the work on this book was the connection with my soul mate and sister Vassa Gancheva (1946-2011), especially during the unforgettable summers we spent together in our old family house in Boyana. Talented, gifted with a wonderful sense of humour, knowledgeable and generous, she understood and helped me to understand.