The Swedenborg epic

Table of Contents


Chapter 31 - Astonishment in Sweden

Toward the end of June, 1759, Swedenborg left England for Sweden, returning from his seventh journey abroad, presumably by way of Holland. Until this time he had succeeded in guarding the anonymity of his publications and few, if any, were aware that he was consciously living a double life as a citizen of two worlds. But the time had now arrived when public attention was to be drawn to him through a series of incidents which demonstrated his remarkable psychic powers. The first occurred on his arrival at the port of Gothenburg, on the west coast, some 300 miles distant from Stockholm.

At four o'clock on July 19, a Saturday, Swedenborg and fifteen others were dinner guests of William Castel, a prominent merchant, in his fine home on Canal Street, now known as "the Sahlgren house."

About six o'clock Swedenborg left the company for a while and returned pale and in great agitation. Questioned, he said that a dangerous fire had just broken out in South Stockholm and that it was rapidly spreading. He was restless and often went out into the garden. He said that the dwelling of a friend whom he named was already in ashes and that his own house was in danger of catching fire.

At eight o'clock, after he had been out again, he exclaimed with relief, "Thank God! The fire is extinguished, the third door from my house!" Some of the guests at Mr. Castel's were residents of Stockholm and had been greatly alarmed.

The same evening the story was told to the provincial governor and on Sunday morning Swedenborg was summoned to the governor's house and questioned about the disaster. He gave a detailed account of the fire, telling how it had started, how long it had lasted, and in what manner it had been put out. The news spread throughout the town and caused considerable consternation, many people being alarmed for the welfare of their friends and the grievous loss of property that such a fire would occasion.

On Monday evening a messenger arrived from Stockholm, who had been dispatched by the Board of Trade while the fire still raged. In the letters he brought with him the course of the conflagration was described exactly as Swedenborg had described it two days previously. On Tuesday a royal courier arrived at he governor's mansion bringing the sad news of the fire, telling of the widespread loss and property damage. This second account of the fire, like the first, differed in not the slightest particular from the description Swedenborg had given of it at the very time when the fire was in progress.

A few days later a Gothenburg newspaper, edited by Johan Rosén, a teacher in the college, contained an account which began: "Stockholm: An unfortunate fire, on the nineteenth of this month, visited Södermalm. It started at three o'clock in the afternoon, in a wooden house where too strong a fire had been built for baking; and it spread over the whole of Skinnareviken, Hornsgatan, and Mariagatan and over the Södermalm market place. Fine houses and properties were laid in ashes, among them the Maria Church. The wind was west-northwest and very strong."[436] No mention of any extraordinary feature, of course, found its way into this account. But Swedenborg's double sight and remarkable prognostications were not forgotten by the people of Gothenburg, and a few years later the name of Johan Rosen reappears in this story.[437]

When the news of Swedenborg's extraordinary vision of the fire reached the capital, public curiosity about him was very much aroused. His late publications in theology had not yet become known, so his clairvoyance could not have been associated in people's minds with his spiritual experiences,, for up to this time he had never talked to anyone about his visions and few could have known that he was the author of Arcana Coelestia. At least there is no documentary evidence to show that anyone attributed the astounding declarations of that book to Assessor Swedenborg.

A single copy of Heaven and Hell had, however, found its way into Stockholm during the winter, as is proved by a sheet of paper in the handwriting of Swedenborg's friend, Count Gustaf Bonde, dated January 5, 1759.[438] Bonde seems to have been the first person to guess, or in some way find out, that Swedenborg was the author of the five London treatises, although it was not until nine years later that his name was affixed to any volume of his theological works.

Swedenborg knew Count Bonde quite well. He was president of the Board of Mines when Emanuel dedicated to him the first three parts of his Miscellaneous Observations. Bonde afterward served his country as senator and then became chancellor of Upsala University. In 1739 he retired but now, twenty years later, he had been recalled to serve another term in the senate and had moved to Stockholm.

That Bonde's comments about this book should have taken the form of "objections" to the novel ideas expressed in the volume should surprise no one. He was offended, for instance, at Swedenborg's denial of salvation through pure grace apart from repentance. And how could the serpent have tempted Eve in Paradise, if there were no angels and devils before man existed upon the earth? Bonde fears that if, instead of basing one's faith on the plain letter of Scripture, one has to look into it for an "internal sense," then anyone could make up a special religion to suit himself, by searching out whatever meaning he pleases.

His objections notwithstanding, Count Bonde was deeply impressed by Swedenborg's books, for he wrote about them to Baron Hatzel, a literary friend in Rotterdam, who immediately became an enthusiastic reader of the works, including the Arcana. Hatzel lost no time in communicating to Count Bonde his ardent desire to make Swedenborg's acquaintance. He asked him to deliver a note to the assessor, in which Hatzel states that from his early youth he has striven after truth and now, having become acquainted with Swedenborg's extraordinary insight and illumination, he wishes to become his disciple and to follow him "to taste the waters of the same fountain of wisdom" from which Swedenborg was drinking.439 In return for this favor Baron Hatzel offered to translate all of Swedenborg's writings into German and French, so that they might be accessible to the uneducated.

In forwarding this letter to Swedenborg, on August 7, 1760, Count Bonde refers to their long-standing friendship and recommends to Swedenborg his Rotterdam friend who has been writing to him about these books ever since the spring, telling Bonde the inexpressible pleasure he derived from them. Bonde closes by reminding the assessor of his promise to honor him with a visit during the summer and view his little garden, assuring him that he will be more than welcome.

Swedenborg's reply to this letter, four days later, dealing with the delicate problem involved in Hatzel's request, is an excellent example of his friendliness and tact. Politely he explains to Bonde that, since his books are published anonymously, he cannot enter into correspondence with anyone abroad. He asks Count Bonde to express his pleasure that Baron Hatzel found satisfaction in his writings. It was a sign of his having been enlightened from heaven, for the matters there treated cannot be comprehended without such enlightenment.

Whether or no his answer to Bonde's Rotterdam friend satisfied the latter's esoteric ambitions we do not know, since no further documents on the subject have come to light. In time, however, the whole town was talking about Swedenborg and his remarkable second sight. Several of the learned had become acquainted with his works which he now began presenting to his friends although, as he told the erudite archivist Anton von Stjärnman, he limited his gift copies to those who were intelligent and wise. Among these was von Stjärnman himself who assisted Swedenborg with the distribution and to whom he presented certain of his scientific books, notably his Chemistry, with the curious and somewhat facetious inscription:

These treatises, which are my first fruits, are given as a present to the nobleman, knight, councillor of the Chancery, A. Stjärnman, a friend, by the author, Em. Swedenborg. A knight, in the spiritual sense, which is called the mystical sense, signifies one who is knowing and intelligent; so also Stjärnman (=Star-man), for stars, in that sense, signify the cognitions of truth and good; thus a man of stars is one who is knowing and intelligent.[440]

To Count Anders von Höpken Swedenborg presented his own copy of Swammerdam's Biblia Naturae, from which lengthy quotations are made in later works: [44l] Among the "wise" were also numbered two bishops, Halenius and Mennander, each of whom received presentation copies of Arcana Coelestia.[442]

Among the distinguished men whose curiosity was aroused by Swedenborg's unusual claims was the former Prime Minister Carl Gustaf Tessin, whose Diaries are a rich source of anecdote about contemporary persons and events. They are preserved in Tessin's beautiful castle of Åkerö, on Lake Mäler, in Södermanland, whose greatest treasure is the twenty-nine folio volumes where, day after day, Count Gustaf wrote down his comments and conversations, never forgetting a daily note about the weather.[443] On February 28, 1760, Tessin jotted down the following hasty impression:

Councillor Swedenborg is a living instance among us of the height to which vapors may rise in a man's head and imagination. He dwells, I am told, in a garden-conservatory, regards himself as the most fortunate of mortals and is so, too; for through an intimate intercourse with a future world, he believes that he sees and can speak with all the dead, both known and unknown.

To which a few days later he added: "When Commerce-Councillor Polhem was being buried Swedenborg `took part in the procession and reported that Polhem had come and was walking beside him, and that he asked what all this was about; whereupon Swedenborg informed him that it was his burial.[444]

Wrote Tessin:

Merely out of curiosity, to make the acquaintance of a singular man, I went to see Assessor Swedenborg on the afternoon of March 5, 1760. He lives far up on Hornsgatan in a neat little wooden building on a large plot of ground with a garden belonging to him. I found there an old man about seventy-three years of age with a countenance perfectly like that of the late Bishop Swedberg, but not so tall. He had feeble eyes, a large mouth, and a pale complexion, but he was cheerful, friendly, and talkative. It seemed that I was welcome, and as I had not intended to make many preludes, I began at once by speaking about the work on Heaven and Hell.

He said that besides his own copy he had only two others, which he had intended, at the next Riksdag, to hand over to two bishops; but as he had heard that one copy of it had come into the country without his knowledge, having been sold to His Excellency Count Bonde, he had reconsidered the matter and given one of his copies to Senator Count Höpken and the other one to Councillor Oelreich, the censor of books. He expects fifty more copies from England next spring and then he will send one to me.

He did not seem particularly prepared for many objections, but stammered in a hesitant manner. He said that he was forbidden to repeat what the angels and the departed had told him, but that for sixteen years God had granted him revelations of this kind, so that he might lead the world away from darkness and error, which of late had increased to such a degree that the very existence of God was in effect denied ... Whenever he is by himself angels and the departed come to him, but only a few for a longer time than half a year; for gradually, he said, they forget temporal things and remain in their heavenly homes ... Last Wednesday Senator Ehrenpreuss was with him the whole day. He fills the office of judge in his society, but was ashamed of the little insight he formerly had, compared with the light he has now.[445]

All the heavens, he said, are divided into societies, and all these societies are classified according to the inclinations of men; so that all the members are in mutual accord. In case a wife and husband are not of the same disposition, they meet indeed in the other life - as all relations and acquaintances do in the beginning - but each is afterward directed into his or her respective society, where they get another mate; for, according to him, all things in the other life are circumstanced like the things in this life, only in different degree. Besides, he says, there are many thousand hells which are likewise divided into societies and governed by God; and where punishments are inflicted according to His all-wise measure.

Our conversation was interrupted when he assured me that as soon as I come into the other world I should certainly be appointed to the Privy Council. I thanked him but assured him that I had enough of that in this life.

"I never concern myself with other people's affairs," wrote Tessin another time, "but I nevertheless intend to do everything I can to become informed of Assessor Swedenborg's life and mode of living, in order that our biographies may contain everything relating to a man who will come to occupy the foremost place among visionaries . .

Following up this intention, Tessin paid a second visit on June 30, a Monday afternoon, taking with him his wife, some relatives and the Countess Fersen with whom they had been dining. In describing this visit to Swedenborg's "neat garden and philosophically established household on Hornsgatan," Tessin says:

He told me that Countess Hedwig Sack [Fersen's sister-in-law] often was with him. She is now-these are his word--quite well, and certified that everything he had said about the life to come was true. I don't know whether to call happy or unhappy a weakminded person who finds pleasure in his imagination. He gave me his book on The Brain, published in Amsterdam in quarto. Someone ought to write "On Brain cure," which this otherwise very kindhearted, pleasant gentleman is in need of . . . Faith is the holiest thing of all, into which Reason is not permitted to enter.446

Still Tessin could not have been altogether satisfied with his conclusion, for he continued to read and study Swedenborg's books, and later commented:

Among all visionaries, Herr Swedenborg is probably the one who has written most explicitly. He discusses, quotes sources, adduces arguments and causes, etc. The whole edifice has a kind of connection and with all its peculiarity is erected with studied thought. The book, moreover, has so many new and unexpected turns that it may be read through without boredom. What he says in number 191 . . . concerning space in heaven is a well-reasoned dream. Throughout the entire work one recognizes Bishop Swedberg's son, who is dreaming with far greater profundity than the father . . . All this may be read with the same credence that one gives to Mohammed's Alkoran ... [447]

That a considerable sensation had been caused in the capital that spring when the news of Swedenborg's intercourse with spirits first leaked out is evident from the letters of the mineralogist Daniel Tilas to his young colleague, Councillor of Mines Axel Cronstedt. Wrote Tilas on March 16, 1760:[448]

Some years ago I had the honor to take part in a correspondence on magic and mystical philosophy. We have now got hold of the right man. A very short while ago the whole town was almost in alarm about it and the affair spread surprisingly fast for not a breath was heard respecting it before my departure. It is Swedenborg, who has intercourse with the dead whenever he chooses and who can inquire after his former departed friends when it pleases him, whether they be in heaven or hell, or whether they hover about in a third nondescript place. He has had many conversations with Senator Ehrenpreuss, likewise with Count Gyllenborg, about whose condition he gives satisfactory accounts. He called on Baron Hårleman [the architect of the royal palace] in order to get from him the plan for some building, and he found him taking a- walk in his garden . . . Queen Ulrika Eleonora is doing well. She is now married to another noble gentleman and lives in a state of blessedness. I am all in a flutter before conversing with him and hearing whom my lately departed [wife] Hedwig Reuterholm has married; I should not like it, forsooth, if she had become a sultaness.

All this he reports without a screw seeming to be loose in the clock-work in any other respect. He has also written a book upon communication with spirits, which was printed in England. I have not yet seen it. Nor would I have lent any credence to all this stuff had I not heard it yesterday from Count Tessin's own mouth . . . I wish you were here that we might go to him together, but in that case I should have to caution you first, "Risum teneatis, amici" (Stockholm, March 16, 1760).

A week later Tilas continued the subject:

. . . Since writing my last letter I have been in company with this wonderful man. Many consider him crazy, but I desire to scan the matter more thoroughly before expressing myself upon it. Senator Höpken has visited with him for three or four hours; likewise Senator Tessin . . . Just listen to this astounding news: The Last Judgment has already taken place, in 1757, and he talks about it as familiarly as if he had been the secretary there and taken down the minutes. Since that time the judgment board is in continual session and parties are judged as soon as they arrive. This information must not be spread abroad, since I do not wish to be held accountable for it. These things are known to thousands here, but I do not think it advisable for them to become generally known ... (Stockholm, March 24, 1760).

Tilas was one of Tessin's special friends. Four years had elapsed since the latter resigned as Prime Minister, but he was still a member of the executive council. Tessin's deep-seated love for culture and beauty continued to express itself in work on his exquisite art collection, his library and his unique mineral cabinet. During the winter the Tessins lived in a large mansion just opposite the House of Nobles, but during the summer of 1760 the family occupied a small country estate called Svindersvik, only forty minutes' drive from the castle of Drottningholm, where the meetings of the royal council were held. Svindersvik was the property of Tessin's wealthy friend, Claes Grill, brother of Anton and Johan Grill, Swedenborg's Amsterdam bankers. It had a fine view over-looking the sea, promenades along high cliffs, a large garden, and a well-furnished library. "In one word," says Tessin, "Nature's play, Mr. Grill's purse and taste, and my late lamented friend Baron Hårleman's art, have made of Svindersvik a, joy for humanity that has few equals in charm and arrangement."

Here, as at his town house, it was Tessin's custom to gather about him, on Saturday afternoons, lovers of art and learning. Besides the mineralogist Daniel Tilas, there were the librarian Carl Christopher Gjörwell and Anton von Stjärnman, who is described as a little blond man with an up-turned nose who, in spite of his vast learning was an insatiable lover of social life. There were several ladies besides the hostess, Carl Gustaf's charming wife, Countess Ulla Sparre, who presided at the dinners, and intimate friends like Countess Fersen and Brita Sparre.

Into this distinguished circle, in September, 1760, stepped the venerable savant, Emanuel Swedenborg, dressed, we suppose, as Tessin has described him, in flowing wig, knee breeches and his "lavender velvet coat, black silken vest and shoes with large, gold buckles." The diary of Tessin's nephew, Count Frederick Sparre,[449] contains the statement that on the twenty-seventh of September Tessin arranged for a carriage to be sent for Swedenborg and von Stjärnman to drive them to Svindersvik, and that after dinner "instead of the usual billiard playing, everybody remained seated to listen to Swedenborg give an account of his ideas. The company did not break up to return to the city before six o'clock in the evening." Dinners were served early in those days!

Tessin's interest in Swedenborg continued. He was invited to attend the Saturday assemblies all through the winter. It was, however, a largely personal interest, arising more from curiosity than because of the logical appeal of Swedenborg's theology, as in the case of von Höpken.

In the spring an incident occurred which caused a new sensation in the capital. Monsieur de Marteville, the Dutch ambassador to Stockholm, had died the previous April. About a year later, a goldsmith presented Mme. de Marteville with a bill demanding payment for a silver service he had sold her husband. The widow was astonished at this demand, in view of her husband's customary punctuality in settling his accounts. She was convinced that the bill, amounting to 25,000 Dutch guilders, had been paid but, in spite of all searches, she was unable to find the goldsmith's receipt.[450]

There seems reason to believe that the Russian ambassador, Count Ostermann, a friend of her late husband, was the one who suggested to Mme. de Marteville that she might, in her anxiety, apply to Swedenborg. She mentioned to several ladies her desire to make the acquaintance of the strange and wonderful man who lived in the neighborhood, and they agreed to go together on a certain day and pay him a visit.

The assessor received them courteously in what is described as a fine high-ceilinged room with a skylight opening into the conservatory above. He afterward led them out into the garden. When Mme. de Marteville asked him whether he had been acquainted with her late husband, he said he had not. After apologizing for troubling him, the widow then made her request. If, as people said, Swedenborg possessed the extraordinary gift of conversing with the souls of the departed, would he have the kindness to ask her husband about the matter of the silver service? Swedenborg had no objection to complying with her request.

In relating this incident to Robsahm, he stated that when the lady told him about the lost receipt he promised her that if he should meet de Marteville he would mention the matter to him. This he did when, a few days later, he encountered the ambassador in the spirit word. Mme. de Marteville assured Swedenborg that he would "go home that same evening and look after it." "But I did not receive any other answer for his widow," Swedenborg added.

According to Mme. de Marteville, eight days after her visit to Swedenborg her late husband appeared to her in a dream and pointed out the place where the receipt lay, in an English bureau. In another account she repeats her husband's words:

"My child, you are worried about the receipt. Just pull out the drawer of my desk all the way. In pulling it out, the receipt was probably pushed back and is lying behind it."

This dream occurred about two o'clock in the morning. The widow rose, full of joy, and found in the place indicated, not only the receipt but also a hairpin set with diamonds which had been considered lost. She then retired and slept until nine o'clock in the morning.

About eleven o'clock Swedenborg came and begged to be announced. Before he had heard a word from Mme. de Marteville, he told her that, during the night, he had seen various spirits, among them Monsieur de Marteville. Swedenborg had desired to converse with the ambassador but he refused because, as he said, he had to go to his wife and tell her something of importance. After that he would leave the colony in which he had been for about a year, and pass into one more blessed.

A more dramatic version of this story was told to Immanuel Kant, four years after the incident of "the lost receipt." Kant declares that Swedenborg, in the presence of visitors, described to Mme. de Marteville the exact whereabouts of a secret drawer, and that the whole company rose and followed the lady into the upper room where, to their great astonishment, the papers were found in the hidden compartment. Robsahm's brief statement - related above - is based on what Swedenborg told him with the assurance that "he had no other share in bringing the matter to light."[451]

* * * * *

More striking and important than the story of the lost receipt is the incident of the Queen's secret which occurred in the autumn of the same year. This story, like the preceding, is related in various forms by various persons, from which we select as most authentic the account written down in his Diary only three days after the event by Count Tessin.[452] We introduce it with a brief passage from a Danish official, who interviewed Swedenborg on the subject, as it throws some light on what preceded the main event.

Swedenborg related that one day in late October, 1761, he received a visit from Count Ulric Scheffer. The Count asked him whether he would accompany him to court the next day, and Swedenborg inquired why Count Scheffer proposed this, knowing very well that he occupied himself with other matters than going to court.

Scheffer replied that the Queen, a few days before, had received a letter from her sister, the Duchess of Brunswick, who mentioned a censure or criticism she had read in the "Gottingen Gazette"[453] about a man in Stockholm who pretended to speak with the dead; and she wondered much that the Queen never had mentioned the subject in her letters. The Queen then inquired of those present whether it was true that there was such a man, and whether he was not insane? To this Count Scheffer had answered that, far from being insane, he was a sensible and learned man, whereupon Lovisa Ulrika expressed a wish to see him. Count Scheffer then said he was intimately acquainted with him and would propose it to him.

Hearing this, Swedenborg consented to accompany him to court. The King and Queen arrived, entered into conversation with the foreign ambassadors and other prominent men at court and then approached Count Scheffer, who presented Swedenborg.

"The Queen expressed her satisfaction at seeing him and asked him `Whether it was true, that he could converse with the dead?'

"He answered 'Yes.'

"She further inquired `Whether it was a science that could be communicated to and by others?'


"'What is it, then?'

"’A gift of the Lord'

"'Can you, then, speak with every one deceased, or only with certain persons?'

"He answered, 'I cannot converse with all, but with such as I have known in this world; with all royal and princely persons, with all renowned heroes, or great and learned men whom I have known either personally or from their actions or writings; consequently with all of whom I could form an idea; for it may be supposed that I neither could nor would wish to speak with a person whom I never knew or of whom I could form no idea.'

"The Queen then asked him `Whether he would undertake a commission to her lately deceased brother?' [Augustus William, of Prussia, who had died on June 12, 1758].

"He answered, 'With all my heart.'

"On this he followed the Queen, with the King and Count Scheffer, to a window in the apartment, where the Queen gave him his commission, to which he promised to bring her an answer."[454]

After this Swedenborg was invited to the royal table where they put a thousand questions to him, which he duly answered. It was on this occasion that he requested permission to present the Queen with copies of his published books.

About three weeks later, says Tessin, a report was being circulated so remarkable that he went to the assessor himself to obtain a firsthand report of what had occurred, which he immediately committed to writing. It constitutes the most reliable testimony about the incident of the Queen's secret. Tessin's entry, written on November 18, continues:

"Three days ago (which was last Sunday), Swedenborg again presented himself and, after delivering his various books, requested an audience with the Queen." The Queen herself later stated that she was seated at cards when Swedenborg entered, and that he asked her to grant him a private audience. She replied that he might communicate whatever he had to say before everybody, but Swedenborg assured Her Majesty that he could not disclose what he had to say in the presence of witnesses.[455]

At this the Queen became agitated and, giving her cards to another lady, requested Senator von Schwerin to accompany her into another apartment. She posted M. de Schwerin at the door and walked with Swedenborg to the other end of the room. "He then told Her Majesty something privately which he was bound to keep secret from everyone else," says Tessin. Thereupon the Queen turned pale and took a few steps backward, as if she were about to faint, but shortly afterward she exclaimed, excitedly, `That is something which no one else could have told, except my brother!'

When he noticed Her Majesty's intense consternation, Swedenborg expressed regrets at having gone so far.

"On his way out he met Councillor von Dalin in the antechamber and requested him to tell Her Majesty that he would follow up the matter still further, so that she would be comforted thereby.

"'But I shall not venture to do so,' he added to me, `until some ten or twelve days; for if I did it before, it would have the same terrifying effect, and perhaps still more intensely, upon Her Majesty's mind.'

"However remarkable this may appear, as well as other things which he said to me during an hour and a half," Tessin continues, "I nevertheless feel all the more safe in putting it down, as Her Majesty's obvious consternation is unanimously vouched for by all those who were in the room, and among others by Count Carl Scheffer.

"The Queen also tells it very nearly in the same way, adding that she was still in doubt as to what to believe, but that she has put Assessor Swedenborg to a new proof. If he managed in this, she would be convinced that he knew more than others.

"Perhaps this was what he referred to when mentioning his intention to say more in ten or twelve days.

"For all that we can see," Tessin concludes, "this statement is so clear, and confirmed by so many testimonials that it must needs be regarded as reliable. As to how an explanation would look, we do not, for the present, venture to state. This much seems certain to us, that Swedenborg's condition of mind must have been a highly remarkable mixture of penetration, indeed even divination, and of unrestrained imagination. He is one of those exceedingly uncommon characters who will always be a puzzle to investigators without necessarily, on that account, lying beyond the bounds of possibility and comprehension." With this diplomatic and completely meaningless explanation Tessin was willing to let the matter rest.

What was the secret that passed between Swedenborg and the Queen of Sweden? That was what everyone wanted to know. For days after the event carriages stopped before the assessor's door from which the first gentlemen of the realm alighted, desiring to know the secret that had so greatly affrighted the Queen, but he steadfastly refused to divulge it.[456] In another account Swedenborg is said to have told the Queen the exact words of her conversation when she parted company with her late brother at the castle of Charlottenburg.

Had Swedenborg told this secret, it might have led to serious disclosures and renewed the charges against the Swedish queen of treason and conspiring with the enemy in time of war, for Sweden was then at war with Prussia. Only a few years earlier Lovisa Ulrika had narrowly escaped the charge of inciting to revolution in an effort to extend the royal power. But in order to understand the implications of this story it is necessary to consider certain political aspects of the times as well as the character of the Queen. This we leave to another chapter.

It was Swedenborg's new housekeeper, Maria Berg, who supplied inquirers with the above and other details about his personal life, his former servants having moved away from the house on Hornsgatan in the fall of 1757. Maria's husband, Karl Wessel, was a professional gardener. This well-to-do couple had no children of their own but an adopted daughter nine years old. Also living with them was Maria's sister and a servant girl.[457]

Swedenborg rarely went to church. He was not edified by sermons that contradicted his ideas of what was true. Neither did he very often partake of the Lord's Supper. On this account he had received "a friendly remonstrance" from one of the bishops, a close relative, who was attending the Diet of 1760. He answered that, in his case, this religious act could not be regarded in the same light as in the case of others, inasmuch as he had been appointed by the Lord for a special mission and was constantly in the company of angels. However, when the bishop reminded him that he would set a good example by observing the sacrament, Swedenborg decided to take the communion before the altar of the church which had been temporarily fitted up for the Maria congregation after the fire of the previous year. As he was not particularly well acquainted with the clergymen there, he asked his servants, a few days before the event, which one of the ministers he should go to. They proposed the elder chaplain.

"No," said Swedenborg immediately, "he is a passionate man and a violent priest. I was much displeased at hearing him thunder from the pulpit."

When they proposed the assistant chaplain, who was less popular in the parish, Swedenborg said, "This is the one I want, for I have heard that he speaks as he thinks and that for this reason he has lost popularity, as is usually the case in this world."[458]

Swedenborg's visions became a subject of popular attention in court circles. He presented a tantalizing puzzle indeed to the sophisticated noblemen of his day, who had not been able to follow the seer in his pilgrimage through philosophy and had not seen his gradual ascent in the search for the soul. That they would be affirmatively disposed toward his claims as a revealer was hardly to be expected.[459]

Count Klas Ekeblad notes in his Diary an incident typical of the times: On June 16, a Wednesday, in 1762, he took a walk in King's Garden (Kungsträdgården):

It was entertaining to see how all were mutually attached, for one could always tell where this or that cavalier was when one saw any particular lady. There was an enormous gathering of people in Kungsträdgården and the royalty stopped for the express purpose of allowing themselves to be gazed at by their loyal subjects whose observations were sometimes ludicrous indeed. Assessor Swedenborg was there, who told about the marriage of the Russian Empress with my grandfather in Paradise, which I put down for what it is worth.[460]

Count Ekeblad's mother was Eva de la Gardie, who came from a prominent family of Sweden. Her grandfather, Magnus de la Gardie, had been a favorite of Queen Christina, known for the many beautiful castles he built. Count Ekeblad's maternal grandfather, Magnus de la Gardie - son of the distinguished count of that name - had died as a young man twenty-one years before. The Empress Elizabeth of Russia, daughter of Peter the Great, had died the previous January at the age of fifty-three years. Swedenborg, in his Spiritual Diary, gives a delightful account of the meeting in the world of spirits of De la Gardie and the Empress of Russia, their mutual attraction and subsequent nuptials. De la Gardie, in the other world, had been separated from his former wife because of the dissimilarity of their minds. The Empress had met various men who had been her suitors in the world, but she found all of them inharmonious. When finally she met De la Gardie, they knew instinctively they were meant for each other. Elizabeth was ruler over the best society of the Russians, says Swedenborg, and De la Gardie also governed a large society in. the spiritual world. When they decided to be married an angel in beautiful white raiment was sent as a minister to perform the brief ceremony. He merely asked the pair for their mutual consent and then wished God's blessing upon them. This took place on the fifth of March, 1762, thus about three months before Swedenborg's encounter with De la Gardie's grandson in the park.[461]

History credits the Empress Elizabeth with keen judgment and diplomatic tact; and a genius for government inherited from her father, Peter the Great. "What seemed irresolution and procrastination in her was most often a wise suspension of judgment." This is most interesting in view of Swedenborg's pronouncements on two occasions.

The first is recorded by his friend Carl Robsahm,[462] who one day invited Swedenborg to dine in the company of a Russian monk named Oronoskow, chaplain at the Imperial Legation in Stockholm. This pious and godly man, having become acquainted with Robsahm, borrowed from him some of, Swedenborg's writings which he read with the greatest delight. The dinner had been arranged so that Oronoskow might have an opportunity to meet the remarkable author.

The Russian chaplain asked Swedenborg whether he had seen the Empress Elizabeth.

"I have seen her often, and I know that she is in a very happy state," was Swedenborg's reply, which one of the company translated into French.

The answer brought tears of joy into the chaplain's eyes, who said that she had always been good and just.

"Yes," said Swedenborg, "her kind feeling for her people was manifest after her death, for in the other life it was shown that she never had gone into the council without praying to God and asking His advice and assistance, in order that she might govern her country and her people well."

The chaplain expressed his joyful astonishment by silence and tears.

The second time that Swedenborg is on record in reference to the spiritual state of the Empress Elizabeth occurred some years later in Denmark, at the home of the Swedish consul, who was entertaining him at dinner. (See Chapter XXXIX.) Asked whether he had seen the lately deceased King Frederick V of Denmark, Swedenborg replied:

Yes, I have seen him and I know that he is very happy, and not only he but also all the kings of the house of Oldenburg, who are all associated together. Such is not, alas, the case with our Swedish [Vasa] kings, some of whom are not so well off.

He then added:

In the world of spirits I have not seen anyone so splendidly served and waited on as the late Empress Elizabeth of Russia ... For all her faults, she had a good heart ... She purposely postponed signing many edicts and papers that were from time to time handed to her, and for this reason they multiplied to such an extent that at last she could not examine or peruse them, but was obliged to believe the reports of her ministers and sign as many as possible. Afterward she would retire into her closet, fall upon her knees and beg forgiveness of God if she had, against her will, signed anything that was wrong.[463]

Another anecdote that concerns royalty, dating from this time, is told in the following words by "a certain Mr. G." who was well known as "a man who feared God and loved the truth":

"In the year 1762, on the very day when Emperor Peter III of Russia died, Swedenborg was present with me at a party . . . In the middle of the conversation, his expression changed, and it was evident that his soul was no longer present in him, and that something [strange} was taking place. As soon as he recovered, he was asked what had happened. At first he would not speak out, but after being repeatedly urged, he said,

"'Now, at this very hour, Emperor Peter III has died in prison.' He explained the nature of his death, and added:

"'Gentlemen, will you please make a note of this day in order that you may compare it with the announcement of his death which will appear in the newspapers.' "

The papers soon after announced the death of the Emperor, which had taken place the very day that Swedenborg described it. Peter III had been appointed by the Empress Elizabeth, his aunt, to be her successor, and ascended the throne of Russia on January 5, 1762. Shortly afterward, Peter's wife, the Empress Catharine, a German princess, led an insurrection against him and had herself proclaimed ruler of Russia. On July 17, Peter was strangled in prison by one of the conspirators, and this was the tragedy that Swedenborg is reported to have seen enacted before his inner eyes![464]

It had become customary in Stockholm to question him on the subject of his visions. Judgments varied. Some gave full credence to his second sight, some passed it by as incomprehensible, and others rejected the stories as fantastic. Swedenborg himself, however, on account of his unimpeachable character, was universally held in esteem. A wealth of anecdotes arose, not all of them equally well authenticated. Among the less credible stories is one attributed to Professor J. B. von Seherer,[465] attaché to the French legation, who was personally acquainted with the assessor but found it impossible to believe his doctrines.

The professor relates that Swedenborg was with friends one, evening when, after listening to his information about the world of spirits with rapt attention, his hearers put him to the test as to the credibility of his extraordinary spiritual powers. He was to say which of those present would die first:

Swedenborg did not refuse to answer the question, but after some time, in which he appeared to be in profound and silent meditation, he frankly replied,

"Olof Olofsohn will die tomorrow morning at forty-five minutes past four o'clock."

This prediction, so confidently pronounced, threw the company into a state of consternation. One gentleman, a friend of Olofsohn's, resolved to go to the man's home the following morning, at the time mentioned, to see how he fared. On the way he was met by Olofsohn's servant who told him that his master had just passed away in a fit of apoplexy. A peculiar circumstance was that the clock in Olofsohn's apartment had stopped at the very minute in which he expired, the hand pointing to the hour!

This uncorroborated anecdote, regarded by some as very important, seems to us rather questionable. Swedenborg did, on rare occasions, predict future events, but the miraculous stoppage of the clock smacks more than a little of pure invention, and the story is important only as an example of the rumors then in circulation.

Another anecdote, said to be told by "a trustworthy gentleman" is, if true, very much to Swedenborg's credit as a wit. Dr. Achetius Kahl, a learned chronicler, relates:[466]

Archbishop Samuel Troilius, whose greatest pleasure consisted in playing the game of tresett - a card game for three players then very popular - had lost one of his gambling partners, Erland Broman, president of the Board of Trade. Meeting Swedenborg in a large gathering shortly after Broman's death, and wishing to amuse himself and the rest of the company at the seer's expense, the prelate asked him, in a jocular tone,

"By the way, Assessor, tell us something about the spirit world. How does my friend Broman spend his time there?"

Swedenborg is said to have immediately replied, "I saw him but a few hours ago shuffling his cards in the company of the Evil One, and he was only waiting for your worship to make up a game of tresett!"

"The conversation was thus brought to a close," remarks Dr. Kahl, "and it is not hard to see which one of the two became the subject of the company's mirth."

Erland Broman had the reputation of being a very worldly man. He was the favorite of the dissolute King Frederick I, and was married to the sister of Fröken Taube, the king's mistress. In his Journal of Dreams Swedenborg relates being once tempted to the pursuit of luxury, riches and pride, which qualities were represented to him in the person of Erland Broman. The description of Broman's spiritual state is as follows:

There was a certain one known to me who while in the world lived gaily and cared only for worldly things. When he was about to die, he prepared himself more devoutly than any one, until the priest and all believed he would come into heaven on account of his repentance at that time. I spoke with him the third day after death and then immediately he encountered acquaintances there and saw such things as he had taken delight in, in the world. He returned to his former life, so that his repentance at the time of death amounted to nothing at all.[467]

to Chapter 32