In Amsterdam the printing of the new work went on apace. It was finished by the end of September, 1768, for on the first of October Swedenborg sent a copy of it to Dr. Beyer. This was the first of his theological books to which he affixed his name, the title page reading: Delights of Wisdom concerning Conjugial Love after which follow Pleasures of Insanity concerning Scortatory Love, by Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swede."
On November 4, in M. François Changuion's French bookshop in Amsterdam, Swedenborg chanced to meet a leading citizen, the merchant and banker, John Christian Curio. As this first encounter proved sympathetic and agreeable to both men, they struck up an acquaintance which led to Curio's writing the most detailed account of Swedenborg's personality that we have.
Cuno had led an interesting and adventurous life. He was born in Prussia and his youth, in Berlin, seems to have been spent in trying to escape the clutches of recruiting officers for the army of Frederick the Great. So eager for new material were they that Curio, who for two years lodged within the walls of the school where he was studying, was impressed into the army when only sixteen, in spite of all efforts of the institution to protect him. For twenty-four years he served under the military authority, was advanced and often entrusted with foreign missions of grave responsibility. He finally deserted and decided to try his fortunes in Holland, a safe refuge for the oppressed. There he eventually married the widow of a Dutch merchant and turned to commerce. All his life Cuno had been a prolific writer in prose and verse and his 4,000-page Memoirs are rich in comments on art, science and social life.
Led by natural curiosity, Cuno made inquiries respecting Swedenborg from Joachim Wretman and other Swedish merchants of the city. On the Sunday following his encounter with Swedenborg at the book shop, he paid the author a visit at his comfortable two-room lodging near the church in Kalberstrass, and he made it a custom during the winter to stop there after attending church.
One of his first questions to Swedenborg was why he did not keep a servant to wait upon him and accompany him on his journeys. Swedenborg replied that he needed no one to look after him because his angel was always with him.
Cuno describes Swedenborg as a perfect wonder of health. "He is of middle stature and, though more than twenty years older than I, yet I surely would not dare to run a race with him, for he is still as nimble on his feet as the youngest man. When I dined with him the last time at Herr Odon's, he told me that he was growing new teeth - and who has ever heard that of a graybeard of eighty-one years? [This statement, which has puzzled many, is explained by a modern authority as referring to the roots of the teeth which, after having been overgrown by the gum, had reappeared as the gums atrophied.]
On one occasion a young man procured access to Swedenborg and, pretending to agree with everything he said, drew him out on the subject of the Church of Rome and the extraordinary changes that had lately taken place among the Jesuits, expressing his surprise that the King of Portugal had even caused the Bishop of Coimbra to be hanged. [King Joseph II and his minister Pombal had introduced many wholesome reforms into Portugal, curtailing the power of the nobility and clergy. The order of Jesuits was abolished and one of their leaders had been executed.]
"That is not true!" Swedenborg interrupted, "The Bishop has not departed from life, or I should have known it. Only recently I spoke about him with some who were lately deceased, and bantered the Pope on this case."
The young man went immediately to the bookshop of Pieter Meyer and related what he had just heard to a number of people gathered there before the opening of the Bourse. Most were of the opinion that the news was quite true, as it had appeared in all the public papers with an account of the attendant circumstances.
"I will make a note of this," said Hem Pieter Meyer, "for it will soon appear whether it is true or not."
But the gossips declared that the old gentleman was crazed. They said he had disgraced himself at The Hague at the time when rumor related that Voltaire had died. They asserted that Swedenborg appeared very sad and said that he was frightened at the terrible state of Voltaire when he met him in the spirit world. So when the news came out that Voltaire was still alive-the French poet himself having wittily remarked that his death had been "greatly exaggerated"-Swedenborg was stigmatized as a false prophet and left The Hague in disgrace, according to the gossips.
Cuno was easily able to spike this cunning and malicious falsehood by proving that Swedenborg had been in Amsterdam during the whole time that the false report of Voltaire's death was being circulated and never once had put foot in The Hague.
"I am not at all willing to go security for the old gentleman to the extent that everything he tells in his writings should be believed, but what I have just heard concerning him is an arrant falsehood," said Cuno. He told Swedenborg what he heard said about him respecting Voltaire. Swedenborg merely smiled and said,
A few days later the papers retracted the statement that the Portuguese bishop had been hanged, and Swedenborg's reputation as a prophet was restored.
In January an Amsterdam paper came out with a review of Conjugial Love:
After commenting favorably on Swedenborg's descriptions of angels, the reviewer indicates that the situation of the evil is "too disgusting to talk about."
Cuno now had real trouble on his hands:
It is one thing to entertain a celebrity, it is another to be called a heretic! Cuno was a man with whom the opinion of the world had weight. Neither a deep scholar nor an original thinker, he depended for his spiritual life upon piety and honesty. Like many another German, he had an affable personality until crossed. He was conscientious but hidebound in his thinking. He wanted to be fair and honest, but in Swedenborg he met ideas so revolutionary that he did not at first realize their implications. He thought of Swedenborg at first as an interesting character, a gentlemanly figure for his salons, an ornament for his Memoirs. But when public opinion began to go against the seer - as it did during the winter of 1768-9 - Cuno became confused and unable to hold the various threads together. Very likely also his Lutheran church affiliates entered a protest against his heretical association.
Cuno secured all of Swedenborg's writings and made a thorough study of them, one by one, making copious notes but finding little that he could agree with. He accepted the unity of God and the necessity for faith and charity being conjoined, but being thoroughly satisfied with the Lutheran doctrine of salvation by faith alone, he missed completely the essential point of Swedenborg's teachings. He found Conjugial Love very entertaining, but objected to the idea of marriages in heaven. Abhorrent to him also was the idea that all angels and devils have once been men. Conscientious but inconsistent, Cuno thought that the same end Swedenborg had in view-namely the establishment of a New Jerusalem here on earth-was being attained by the Lutheran church of his day. He refused to believe in Swedenborg's mission and the need for any new church.
With all this Cuno had a sincere love for Swedenborg personally, and wished to induce the venerable author to desist from further publications. He was worried about "the good Swedenborg flooding the world with his manifold writings," and "wished that the theologians - whose business it is to examine and defend the truth - had not so long kept silence, allowing this man unchallenged to write things that might be untrue."
When Swedenborg mentioned to Cuno his intention of publishing a compendium of his theology, Cuno tried his best to convince his friend of the danger he was running in publishing a complete system of heretical doctrine. In spite of his entreaties Swedenborg refused to show Cuno a single line of the proposed work, but he decided to publish a summary of it beforehand. Thinking that his remonstrances might prove more effective if he expostulated with Swedenborg at table, in the presence of company, Cuno addressed him in these words:
"As your faithful friend I must advise you not to come out with your new doctrine, or at least to allow the two years which you have announced to elapse, or you will expose yourself to the danger of being banished from the city."
Swedenborg was not dissuaded from his purpose even by this threatening suggestion, however, and before the end of January-to Cuno's great annoyance-he issued a small quarto volume bearing the title: A Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church, which is understood by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse.
When Cuno examined the copy of the Brief Exposition which Swedenborg sent him, he found it less dangerous than he had expected. He waxed indignant however, at the statement that Roman Catholics, in respect to the doctrine of justification, would be able to enter the New Jerusalem before the Evangelicals.
After waiting until March, Cuno wrote Swedenborg a long letter, probably the most familiar and certainly the most impudent of any he ever received. The Brief Exposition, said Cuno, did not resolve the doubts that had arisen in his mind from having carefully perused the sixteen works previously published. (Cuno never read the Arcana.)
Cuno waited a few days for a reply. When none came he went to see Swedenborg. He found him cold, even a little angry. "Nothing seemed to surprise him more than that I had suspected his honest angels, and regarded him as so simple as not to have detected the rogues among them!"
"If you are not willing to believe me," Swedenborg dryly remarked, "you have taken far too much trouble in studying my writings so attentively as you have done." As he spoke these words the smiling and innocent expression Cuno usually saw on Swedenborg's face had totally vanished:
Cuno was disappointed, but nevertheless satisfied that he had done all he could to defend himself against the charge of being one of Swedenborg's proselytes. He made several copies of his letter and distributed them among his friends, confident that anyone who read it would at least not regard him as a flatterer. "Perhaps the old gentleman did not expect me to give him such a piece of my mind or he would not have become angry." At all events the anger did not last very long, and Swedenborg, soon was reconciled with Cuno.
Shortly after this he came to Cuno and put a little paper into his hand. It was no answer to his letter, in Cuno's estimation, but he was glad to have it as the autograph writing of one of the most singular men who ever lived. It was much like the answer Swedenborg had given to Oetinger and Kant, and he later printed it as the concluding paragraph of a treatise called The Intercourse Between the Soul and the Body It begins as follows:
After many confirmatory passages from the Word, the note ends: "Hearing this, my questioner raised his voice and said: ‘Now I can understand why the Lord chose fishermen for disciples, and therefore I do not wonder that He also chose you ... The Lord alone knows who is fitted for the perceiving and teaching of the truths which are of His New Church, whether one among the primates or one among their servants . . . ' "
Cuno had great difficulty in estimating Swedenborg. As a philosopher, he was a star of the first magnitude, the Principia alone being proof of that. He compared him to Paracelsus. Swedenborg, the philosopher, he finds modest and unassuming. Only as a theologian does he find him more than arrogant, claiming to have received a call immediately from the Lord and that he was sent to disabuse the whole world of its prejudices! Cuno felt no self-reproach for having written his bold letter nor for spreading it among his friends.
"His errors I leave him to answer for before God. I will not judge him, that I be not judged myself. My intention in writing to him was an honest one. `If the counsel or the work, be of men it will come to nought. But if it be of God, ye cannot suppress it' (Acts V: 38, 39). Far be it from me precisely to determine what here is divine and what human! . . . "
Obviously, Cuno did not know what to think of Swedenborg. But what did Swedenborg think of Cuno? That would be interesting to know. One recalls instinctively the French wit who said, "Defend me from my friends, I can defend myself from my enemies!" Cuno continued his investigation, and read several reviews written by learned authorities, but whether these influenced him against his friend was still an open question at their meeting the following year.
When Swedenborg was ready to leave Amsterdam he decided to visit Paris before proceeding to London and thence to Sweden.
"He is almost on the point of departing," wrote Cuno "and is waiting only for the confinement of the Princess of Orange, after which he will at once enter on his journey in order to pay his respects, and on his return to Sweden, be able to tell the Queen that he has seen the newborn Prince or Princess of Orange." But in March the princess was delivered of a still-born child and Swedenborg did not pay the intended visit to The Hague but remained in Amsterdam until the 24th of April, 1769, when he left for Paris.
His purpose in going to Paris was to arrange for the publication there of his large work The True Christian Religion, which he had been drafting during his sojourn in Holland and which was not completed until a year later. He wrote Dr. Beyer that his purpose in going to Paris "must not be divulged beforehand."
Cuno describes the leave-taking of his friend: