Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic

Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic

Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic

Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic


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.

He took the congratulations with a shade of reserve, explaining that he sometimes wished he were working at a university where he could drop into a faculty club and talk over his subject and theirs with men from entirely different fields, and learn their points of view. By contact even with astronomy, geology, engineering, philosophy, psychology, he felt that his section of his own field-- that of physiology--could be more usefully related to the rest of the world.

Emanuel Swedenborg was such a faculty club all by himself. It is hard to enumerate all the branches of knowledge with which he made himself familiar, as familiar as the resources of a couple of hundred years ago allowed.

But such "scholars" were not uncommon in the centuries before experimental science demanded monogamous attention in each minute parcel of every field, and, except for museum curiosity, there would be no reason for reading about Swedenborg if he had been only such a gorgeous compendium of untested theories. He was, however, in the words of a modern Swedish historian of biology, "one of the richest and most fertile geniuses known to history."

In 1910, at the International Swedenborg Congress in London, it took nearly a whole faculty club of professors to cover the various facets of Swedenborg's learning and to hail the value of his scientific work. Similarly, in 1938, at the 250th anniversary of his birth, tributes were paid to him by scientists in various fields.

These witnesses, most of whom deplored his later preoccupation . . .

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