« PreviousContinue »
NEW JERUSALEM MAGAZINE.
For the New Jerusalem Magazine.
LIFE OF SWEDENBORG. (Continued from page 232.) In the last number of the Magazine we gave some account of the early part of Swedenborg's life, and introduced a letter of his detailing the principal events of his life. In the present number, we shall commence by giving some account of the principal works which he wrote previously to his illumination, and which were alluded to in our last number.
The Opera Philosophica et Mineralia, Philosophical and Mineral Works, 3 vols. folio, published in 1734, are, in fact, three distinct works, each treating upon distinct subjects, and each dedicated to different men. But as they were published together, and were always alluded to by Swedenborg as one work, we shall consider them as one. It was published in a very elegant style, at the expense of Ludovicus Rodolph, Duke of Brunswick, at whose court Swedenborg tarried for some time, receiving from him many inarks of favour.
The first volume is entitled The Principles of Natural Things, or, New Attempts at a Philosophical Explanation of the Phænomena of the Elementary World. It is generally called Swedenborg's Principia. It is dedicated to the Duke of Brunswick, has an engraved likeness of Swedenborg, and is adorned with many fine engravings, and copper plates, illustrative of the several subjects treated of. In the introduction, he treats at large upon “the means which lead to true philosophy; also upon “what constitutes a truly philosophical man." The means conducive to true philosophy are considered threefold;
First, Experience; which is defined to be the knowledge of every thing in the world of nature, that is capable of being received by the medium of the senses :
VOL. 1.-NO. IX.
Secondly, Geometry, and Rational Philosophy; by means of which we are enabled to compare our experiments, to digest them analytically, to reduce them to laws, rules, and analogies, and thence to arrive at some more remote principle or fact which before was unknown:
Thirdly, The Faculty of Reasoning, or of thinking rationally (facultas ratiocinandi); by which is understood the faculty of comparing the several parts of knowledge and experience, and presenting them distinctly to the soul: the faculty of reasoning justly, and of arriving at the end in view by proper means, which are experiment and geometry, is peculiar to the rational man.
With regard to what constitutes a true philosopher, he says, “When we speak of a true philosopher, we understand a man, who has ability, by the assistance of the means above treated of, to arrive at first causes, and to obtain a knowledge of those things in the mechanical world which are invisible and remote from the senses; and who is afterwards capable of reasoning, a priori, from principles or causes, concerning the world and its phænomena, both in physics, chemistry, metallurgy, and all other sciences or subjects which acknowledge the empire of mechanical principles; and who can thus, as from a central point, take a survey of the whole compass of the mundane system, and of mechanical and philosophical science."* It is maintained that no one can become a true philosopher who is not a good man; that previous to the fall, when man was in a state of integrity, he had all the essentials of philosophy and wisdom without being obliged to acquire them by a laborious external application of the mind.
The Principia is divided into three parts. The first part treats of creation in general.t
The second part treats on Magnetism and the variations of the magnetic needle. This has been translated into English by Dr. Edwin A. Atlee, of Philadelphia, and will be published whenever sufficient encouragement is given. The third part treats of the sun and its vortex, of the creation of the planetary earths from the sun, of paradise and the first man. It is remarkable that, in treating on the creation of the planets in our solar system, he speaks
* Per verum philosophum intelligimus illum, qui per dicta media ad ipsas causas et cognitionem rerum in mundo mechanico invisibilium et a sensibus remotarum pervenire potuerat ; ut dein ex priori, a principiis seu a causis de mundo, et ejus phænomenis, tam physicis, chymicis, quam metallurgicis et aliis rebus imperio mechanismi subjectis, ratiocinari possit; et sic ex centro totum ambitum mundi, mechanismi et philosophiæ suæ permetiri.
† We had prepared some translations from this part of the work, and in connexion with them, selected something from his subsequent productions, in order to show wherein consisted the difference in his views of creation and the spiritual world at this time, and his views of the same after his illumination. But it was found that they would occupy too much space for this article. They may appear hereafter.
of seven. This was more than forty years before the discovery of the seventh planet by Dr. Herschel.
The second and third volumes of this work treat on Mineralogy, and are generally termed Swedenborg's Regnum Minerale. But they are two distinct works.
The second volume is entitled The Subterranean or Mineral Kingdom, or A Treatise on Iron. It treats of the various methods employed in different parts of Europe, for the liquefaction of iron, and converting it into steel; of iron ore, and the examination of it; and also of several experiments and chymical preparations made with iron and its vitriol. It is illustrated by a great number of fine
copper engravings. A part of this volume has been translated into French, and inserted in the Description of Arts and Manufactures.
The third volume is entitled The Subterranean or Mineral Kingdom, or, A Treatise on Copper and Brass, and the various methods which are adopted in various parts of Europe for the liquefaction of copper; the method of separating it from silver, converting it into brass, and other metals; of Lapis Calaminaris; of Zinc; of Copper Ore, and the examination of it; and lastly, of several chymical preparations and experiments made with copper. Like the other volumes, it is illustrated with many copper engravings. Each volume is subdivided into three sections.
This work, in England, is esteemed very valuable. In the translation of Cramer's Elements of the Art of Assaying Metals, by Dr. Cromwell Mortimer, Secretary to the Royal Society, it is mentioned by the translator in the following terms: '“For the sake of such as understand Latin, we must not pass by that magnificent and laborious work of Emanuel Swedenborgius, entitled, Principia Rerum Naturalium, &c. Dresdæ et Lipsiæ, 1734, in three tomes, in folio: in the second and third tomes of which he has given the best accounts, not only of the methods and newest improvements in metallic works in all places beyond the seas, but also of those in England and our colonies in America, with draughts of the furnaces and instruments employed. It is to be wished we had extracts of this work in English.” p. 13, 2d ed. London, 1764.
The Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Pennsylvania, R. M. Patterson, in a letter written about a year since, to Dr. Atlee, from whom he had received the first volume for perusal, says, “The work of Swedenborg which you were so kind as to put into my hands, is an extraordinary production of one of the most extraordinary men, certainly, that has ever lived." After stating, among other things, that he should like to peruse it farther before he could form an opinion of it, "a thing not to be done in few words,” he continues; “This much, however, I can truly say ; that the air of mysticism which is generally thought to pervade Baron Swedenborg's ethical and theological writings, has prevented Philosophers from paying that attention to his physical productions, of which I now see that they are worthy. Many of the experiments and observations on Magnetism, presented in this work, are believed to be of much more modern date, and are unjustly ascribed to much more recent writers.” What these “experiments and observations" are, which, Professor Patterson says,
are unjustly ascribed to much more recent writers,” we know not: but we shall be able to show, presently, that some other important discoveries, claimed by different writers, were anticipated by Swedenborg.
The Economy of the Animal Kingdom, Economia Regni Animalis, published, as was said, in 1740–1, treats, in the first part, of the Blood, the Arteries, the Veins, and the Heart; with an introduction to Rational Psychology. The second part treats of the Motion of the Brain, of the Cortical Substance, and of the Human Soul. The Introduction to Psychology will be found very interesting. We regret that our limits will not allow us to make copious extracts from it. Psychology is termed "the science which treats of the essence and nature of the soul, and of the mode by which she flows into the actions of the body.”
The Animal Kingdom, Regnum Animale, published in 1744-5, is divided into three parts. The first part treats of the Viscera of the Abdomen, or the Organs of the lower region. The second, of the Viscera of the Breast, or of the Organs of the superior region: The third, of the Skin, the Touch, and the Taste, and of organical forms in general. It appears that it was Swedenborg's intention, when he commenced this work, to have extended it to great length; for, in the introduction, he promised, besides the subjects above named, to attempt the following :
“ It is my purpose afterwards to attempt a kind of Introduction to a Rational Psychology, or to establish some new Doctrines, by the aid of which we may be led, from the material organization of the body, to the knowledge of its soul, which is immaterial; viz. the Doctrine of Forms; the Doctrine of Order, and of Degrees; also the Doctrine of Series, and of Society; the Doctrine of Influxes; the Doctrine of Correspondences and of Representations; lastly, the Doctrine of Modifications.
"From these doctrines I shall proceed to a Rational Psychology itself, or to a Treatise concerning Action; concerning External and Internal Sense ; concerning Imagination and Memory; as also concerning the Affections of the mind (animus;) concerning Intellect,, or concerning Thought and Will; concerning likewise the Affections of the Rational Mind (mens;) and concerning Instinct.
Lastly, concerning the Soul and its State in the Body, its Commerce, Affection, Immortality; also concerning its State after the Life of the Body; to which will finally be added the Concordance to the various Systems."
This purpose was not carried into effect; but it is interesting to see what subjects, at that time, he proposed to treat of: his promising to treat of the state of the soul after the life of the body, shows that his mind was fast approximating to a knowledge of the spiritual world. The increased light which he now began to receive probably induced him to change his plans. It seems, too, that he had intended the Economia, the work written immediately before the one now under notice, should have embraced more than was actually accomplished. We will introduce what he says here in relation to that work, as it serves to show the progression of truth in his mind : “Not long ago I published the Economia Regni Animalis, intended to be digested into several sections; but I only completed the section relating to the blood, its arteries and heart, as also to the motion and cortex of the brain : I likewise, before passing through the whole of the intended course, took a compendious way to the soul; on which subject I published a Prodromus (sketch or outline.) I have discovered, however, on deeper consideration, that I had been too quick and hasty in my steps, whilst I was attempting to attain a knowledge of the soul merely from an inquiry into the nature of the blood and its organs. But I was urged on by the ardour of my desire to arrive at the knowledge of that subject. But since the soul exerts her activity in supreme and inmost principles, and cannot be brought forth to view, until all the coverings with which she is enveloped are unfolded in order ; I have determined not to desist from this part task, until I have traversed the whole field above mentioned, even to the goal; in other words, until I have explored the whole animal kingdom even to the soul. Thus it is my hope, if I bend my course continually inwards, that I shall be enabled, through divine favour, to open all the doors which lead to her presence, and at length to be admitted to the view and contemplation of herself."
In these two works, viz. the Economia, and the Regnum Animale, he made many important discoveries in anatomy and in the circulation of the blood : buť owing to the little pains taken to circulate his writings, those discoveries are not generally known; at least not known as belonging to him. We will state some of them. One of those discoveries is the existence of a passage of communication between the right and left, or two lateral ventricles of the cerebrum.
The first discovery and description of this passage was claimed by the celebrated anatomist, Dr. Alexander Monro, of Edinburgh,