Emanuel Swedenborg Criticism - Essay

William White (essay date 1866)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: White, William. Life of Emanuel Swedenborg: Together with a Brief Synopsis of His Writings, Both Philosophical and Theological. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1866, 272 p.

[In the essays which follow, White offers synopses and analyses of three of Swedenborg's greatest scientific-philosohicial works. He also describes the contents of three of Swedenborg's most important works of theology.]


In attempting to give the reader an idea of the contents and aims of this great work, within the compass of a few paragraphs, one feels extreme difficulty in knowing where or how to begin. It starts so...

(The entire section is 18477 words.)

Henry James (essay date 1869)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: James, Henry. The Secret of Swedenborg: Being an Elucidation of His Doctrine of the Divine Natural Humanity, pp. 1-31. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1869.

[In the following excerpt, James compares Swedenborg favorably with other philosophers, particularly the idealist thinker Friederich Hegel. James shows Swendenborg to be a different kind of thinker, one who is interested in humanity's intimate fellowship with God and who affirms an absolute but empirical element in consciousness.]

The fundamental problem of Philosophy is the problem of creation. Does our existence really infer a divine and infinite being, or does it not? This question addresses itself to...

(The entire section is 12015 words.)

Signe Toksvig (essay date 1948)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Toksvig, Signe. “Why Swedenborg.” In Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic, pp. 1-6. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948.

[In this essay, Toksvig notes that Swedenborg was a thinker of incredible range, with interests in science, mysticism, psychology, ethics, philosophy, and religion but admits that Swedenborg is difficult to comprehend fully and that he has been misunderstood by many who have read him.]

A member of one of America's great endowed institutions for scientific research was congratulated on belonging to this modern sanctuary, where he could work, free of material worry, together with men interested in the same subject.


(The entire section is 2260 words.)

William A. Johnson (essay date 1966)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Johnson, William A. “Swedenborg as a Modern Thinker: His Influence Upon American Thought.” American Swedish Historical Foundation Yearbook (1966): 23-36.

[In the following essay, Johnson offers a sketch of Swedenborg's philosophical and religious ideas before discussing his influence on nineteenth-century American thought, in areas including Deism, neo-Platonism, Unitarianism, and the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson.]


However one would want to evaluate Emanuel Swedenborg, one can only conclude that he is one of the most extra-ordinary men that ever lived! He belongs properly in that company of the greatest creative...

(The entire section is 5222 words.)

Inge Jonsson (essay date 23-28 August, 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jonsson, Inge. “Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist, Poet, Prophet.” In Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Lovaniensis: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Louvain 23-28 August 1971, edited by J. I. Jsewijin and E. Kessler, pp. 331-40. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1973.

[In the following essay originally delivered as a lecture in 1971, Jonsson offers a brief overview of Swedenborg's literary production as a scientist, poet, and religious thinker.]

It is very likely to be supererogatory work to lecture on Emanuel Swedenborg to a highly qualified international audience. He has become a world author to a greater extent than any other Swede....

(The entire section is 4462 words.)

Inge Jonsson (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jonsson, Inge. “The Age and the Man,” and “New Jerusalem in the World.” In Emanuel Swedenborg, translated from the Swedish by Catherine Djurklou, pp. 13-28; 182-95. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971.

[In the first essay below, Jonsson examines the historical period in which Swedenborg lived and wrote before presenting an introductory biographical sketch of and presenting an overview of his most important works. In the second, she offers an analysis of Swedenborg's importance in the history of ideas, noting particularly his influence on writers such as William Blake, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, W. B. Yeats, Honoré Balzac, Victor Hugo, and George Sand.]...

(The entire section is 12468 words.)

Czeslaw Milosz (essay date June 1975)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Milosz, Czeslaw. “Dostoevsky and Swedenborg.” Slavic Review 34, no. 2 (June 1975): 302-18.

[In the following excerpt, Milosz explores two twentieth-century interpretations of Swedenborg—the psychological portraits by Karl Jaspers and Paul Valéry—and compares them with William Blake's approach, which characterized Swedenborg's writings as supreme works of the imagination.]

During the first half of our century much attention was paid to so-called symbolism in poetry, and it seems strange that despite this preoccupation Swedenborg was little known. After all, Baudelaire's sonnet “Les Correspondances,” a poem crucial to symbolist poetics, took its...

(The entire section is 1323 words.)

Inge Jonsson (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jonsson, Inge. “Swedenborg and His Influence.” In Swedenborg and His Influence, edited by Erland J. Brock et al., pp. 29-43. Bryn Athyn, Penn.: Academy of the New Church, 1988.

[In the essay below, Jonsson examines Swedenborg's influence on scientific and societal thinking, maintaining that Swedenborg's ideas were an expression of a yearning to create order out of a chaos of information that could not be confined within the limits of scientific rationality.]

In the years around 1760 literary circles in Stockholm slowly began to realize that the anonymous author of a remarkable series of books published in England since 1749 was not only a compatriot but a...

(The entire section is 6664 words.)

Daniel W. Goodenough (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Goodenough, Daniel W. “A Trust from God: A Survey of Swedenborg's Political Thought.” In Swedenborg and His Influence, edited by Erland J. Brock et al., pp. 135-53. Bryn Athyn, Penn.: Academy of the New Church, 1988.

[In the following essay, Goodenough examines Swedenborg's political ideas—including his vision of an organically unified humanity—which the critic says are not simply those of a spiritual dreamer but are thoughtful, practical, detailed, and concern actual problems needing attention.]

Swedenborg began his productive years as a sort of technology trouble-shooter for Charles XII, six years his elder. Devoted to war and a bright mathematician,...

(The entire section is 7546 words.)

Eugene Taylor (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Taylor, Eugene. “The Appearance of Swedenborg in the History of American Psychology.” In Swedenborg and His Influence, edited by Erland J. Brock et al., pp. 155-76. Bryn Athyn, Penn.: Academy of the New Church, 1988.

[In this essay, Taylor discusses Swedenborg's ideas about psychology and his influence on American psychiatry, philosophical psychology, Jungian psychology, personality-social psychology, and humanistic psychology, arguing that Swedenborg's thought contains the germ of the idea that psychiatry and psychology can be central to the transformation of the social and medical sciences.]

He looked at his own Soul with a telescope....

(The entire section is 8362 words.)

Bernhard Lang (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Lang, Bernhard. “Glimpses of Heaven in the Age of Swedenborg.” In Swedenborg and His Influence, edited by Erland J. Brock et al., pp. 309-38. Bryn Athyn, Penn.: Academy of the New Church, 1988.

[In the following essay, Lang argues that Swedenborg was largely responsible for the shift in the eighteenth century from the “theocratic” scholastic model, in which Christians focused on the divine, to an “anthropocentric” model that emphasizes the human element, and that he gave the new model its most intellectually satisfying and emotionally relevant form.]

If Christians believe in an eternal life after death, it should not be surprising to see them form,...

(The entire section is 12138 words.)

Jonathan S. Rose (essay date 12-17 August, 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rose, Jonathan S. “Similes in Emanuel Swedenborg's Vera Christiana Religio (1771)” In Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Hafniensis: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Copenhagen 12-17 August 1991, edited by Ann Moss et al., pp. 869-74. Binghampton, N.Y.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1994.

[In this essay, originally delivered as a lecture in 1991, Rose analyzes the complex or Homeric similes used by Swedenborg in his poetical-informative narrative account of his spiritual experience, Vera Christiana Religio. This use of imagery, according to Rose, sets the work apart from Swedenborg's other religious writings.]...

(The entire section is 2571 words.)

George F. Dole and Robert H. Kirven (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Dole, George F. and Robert H. Kirven. “Key Concepts in Swedenborg's Theology.” In A Scientist Explores Spirit: A Compact Biography of Emanuel Swedenborg with Key Concepts of Swedenborg's Theology, pp. 66-79. New York, N.Y. and West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 1992.

[In the following essay, Dole and Kirven elucidate key ideas in Swedenborg's religious thinking concerning God, humanity, love, and his theory of correspondence which they explain have as their foundation the concepts of “distinguishable oneness” and the reality of spirit.]

In paragraph 172 of his last published work, True Christian Religion, Swedenborg wrote, “Anyone who...

(The entire section is 3154 words.)

Scott McLemee (essay date May-June 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: McLemee, Scott. “Under the Influence: The Long Shadow of Emanuel Swedenborg.” Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life 8, no. 4 (May-June 1998): 58-61.

[In the following essay, McLemee discusses the work of Gregory Johnson, who claims that Swedenborg was a seminal influence on the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and that Swedenborg's ideas actually informed Kant's thinking, even though the German thinker once lampooned the Swede in his pamphlet Dreams of the Spirit Seer and called him a “deliberate fraud.”]

Right up until the dramatic events of his mid-fifties, Emanuel Swedenborg—nicknamed “the Swedish Aristotle”—led the busy life of a...

(The entire section is 2380 words.)