The Swedenborg epic

Table of Contents



Appendix B


Linnaeus was a poor student with nothing to offer but the riches of his mind. How was he to win the daughter of a famous doctor, a young lady whose hand was sought by many a proper swain? Her father, Johan Moraeus, however, was as quick to spot the genius of Linnaeus as his uncle, Bishop Swedberg, had been to discern Johan's own fine endowments when first he brought him to Stockholm as his protégé. He saw the young folks' mutual attraction and, to everyone's surprise, gave his consent to the match. Marriage, however, was another matter.

The young man had to sally forth and conquer a kingdom before he could claim Sara Elisabet as his bride. Many years of intense study in Holland under the great Boerhaave were to follow, many weighty tomes on botany were to issue from Linnaeus' pen-indeed the whole vegetable kingdom was to be catalogued and described-before this loving couple could stand together to be joined in wedlock in the living room of ancestral "Sweden." This took place in 1739. Swedenborg could not have been present at the wedding as he was then in Italy.

The pious feelings of the original family of peasant mine-owners seem still to linger in that room where, on all sides, you are surrounded by wall paintings that tell, in quaint and faded forms, the stories of the Bible. Here a dim David smites a pale Goliath, there a young Absolom hangs by his hair from a dark green tree. "God gives me food for my many children's sake," had been the humble motto of old Daniel Isaacsson, Bishop Swedberg's father, as he daily gave thanks to his Maker.

Appendix C


The Delaware settlements were Sweden's only venture in American colonization. Founded in 1638, during the reign of Queen Christina, the town of Wilmington was first named Christina in her honor. It was, for a long time, the most important of the settlements and the only one that possessed a really fine church. "Old Swedes" is the oldest church in this country still continuously used for services, a handsome contribution to American culture. The "Gloria Dei" church in Philadelphia is similar in style to the Wilmington church.

Both Christina and Wicacoa (Philadelphia) were on the west bank of the Delaware. The school where young Jesper Swedberg taught, lay on the east bank, at Raccoon Creek, now Swedesboro.

The Swedes who lived in New Jersey were even more numerous than those in Pennsylvania, although they were scattered about on farms and in small groups of houses in the backwoods. The Swedish settlers were not townsmen as were many of the colonists who came from England and Holland to settle New York and New England. They were farmers, shepherds, woodsmen and fishermen, well accustomed to the rigors of rural life. Many of them had established their homes across the river because the Jersey side afforded them better fishing places and grazing grounds for their cows, sheep, oxen and horses, and here they could let their hogs run wild without disturbing the peace. They found the creeks very "fishful" and the soil, gently rolling up into rich meadows, fertile and easily worked. Then, too, over in the uncleared Jersey forests, the crown-taxed beaver trade could be more freely indulged in, and it offered a safe haven for rebels, debtors, deserters, and law-breaking Finns.

Some of the earliest families - the Mullicas and the Steelmans - had settled in "Yearsey" shortly after the Dutch governor Stuyvesant of New York conquered the Swedish colony in 1655. Others, like Israel Helm and Peter Rambo and the Dalbos came after the English, ten years later, had driven out the Dutch. Most of the lands had then been taken over by William Penn, who held the Swedes in high regard for their industry and agricultural skill. They were good guardians of the forests which they had learned to respect under the old country's exacting laws. And the building of comfortable log cabins was an art that they thoroughly understood. Indeed, it was from the Swedes that the neighboring American settlers learned the art of constructing the log cabins with neatly fitted corners. Another virtue was their friendly sympathy with the Indians. It was natural for the Swedes to understand these primitive people, for in their own country they had, for generations, lived in close proximity to, and on terms of mutual good will with the Lapps, a nomadic people of a culture similar to that of the Indians.

Long after the Swedish men had learned English for use in the market places, they still spoke their native tongue at home with their wives who greeted their homecoming with good Swedish dishes. These might well be made from native opossum or river shad; and be served with corn bread instead of rye, but they always bore savory, familiar Old-World names and were introduced with pious prayers in the native Swedish.

When the English took over the government of New Sweden in 1687, there were only about 175 Swedes inhabiting the east bank of the Delaware, but relations with their new rulers were peaceful and the population soon increased. A great step forward was made when the King's Highway was constructed from Salem to Gloucester, knitting the communities together.

These people were deeply religious, but it was very difficult for them to get to church, since crossing Potaxat-the Indians' name for the lordly Delaware-was no small feat in any season. First the churchgoers had to cover several miles on foot, along newly cut trails through the woods, to reach the river's edge. Then they had to launch crude flatboats and risk being buffeted by gales from the bay, tossed by wild freshets in spring and fall, and locked in midstream by ice floes in winter. It was no wonder, then, that the Jersey settlers grumbled and finally broke away from the Christina and Wicacoa churches, to form independent congregations of their own at Penns Neck and Raccoon Creek, and to build log-house churches with rude log altars on their own bank of the river, to worship in.

They clung tenaciously to their Swedish customs and traditions and they were very grateful to have their children taught in the mother tongue in the log-cabin schools such as that which Jesper Swedberg conducted. The young teacher was very popular and often was asked to stand godfather to the settlers' children. He probably shared many of the hardships of the minister, whose salary was pitifully small and had to be eked out by his "living around" among the members of his little flock. It was a life not without its attractions for a young man free of matrimonial bonds, but not so easy for the minister, at that time the Rev. Abraham Lidenius.

The two churches were eighty miles apart and Lidenius had to preach in each of them on alternate Sundays, traveling the distance over rough roads on horseback, to join couples in wedlock, conduct funerals, and baptize children. When Lidenius finally married the daughter of an old Swedish-Dutch family, he was obliged to have a home of his own, but this occasioned bitter rivalry between the two congregations. Each one wanted the pastor to reside in its own parish. Bishop Swedberg, to settle the dispute, proposed that they build a church and parsonage halfway between the two parishes. "Let everything be done in mutual sincerity, Christian charity and brotherly confidence," he admonished them in his episcopal letter.

The parsonage was eventually built at Varkins Kill on the King's Highway, but not without a great deal of difficulty, and it would most likely have ended in failure were it not for the part played by young Jesper Swedberg. Very few turned up at the first meeting, called to discuss the building project and even the rich members were not digging very deeply into their pockets. Lidenius was so discouraged that he was ready to give it up.

"The pastor thought that it was all over with the plan," reads the church record, "until Mr. Jesper Swedberg came down to see him and said that he himself and Måns Kyn had gone around to each member of the congregation of Raccoon [now called Swedesboro, New Jersey], and made a subscription list of 120 pounds, with a fine of ten shillings unless they fulfilled their obligations." Jesper assured the pastor that they all wanted his services. Bishop Swedberg rejoiced to hear that the difficulties were eventually adjusted, and the glebe built, each member contributing a certain number of days' work,-the hired carpenters receiving, in all probability, a portion of their dues in rum, according to the custom of the times.

Another source of satisfaction to the Bishop was that his Hymnal, formerly branded as "heretical," had come into good use in New Sweden. Beside those copies that Dean Björk had taken with him many years before, Queen Ulrika Eleonora, in a gracious letter, told the New Jersey churches, she had ordered Swedberg to come to their assistance with "some religious books which he would send over by two clergymen wherewith we commend you graciously to God Almighty." The distribution of them fell to Jesper.

(See the Records of the Swedish Lutheran Churches at Raccoon and Penn's Neck 1713-1786, and The Swedes and Finns in New Jersey, 1938, published by the State of New Jersey, 1938, in commemoration of the founding of the settlement 300 years before. See also Christopher Ward, The Dutch and Swedes on the Delaware, Philadelphia, 1930).

Appendix D

Appendix E


Click for drawing of House and Garden

... A few hundred steps further [on Hornsgatan] is No. 43: a pair of large carriage gates, a door for foot visitors, a wooden house, side to the street, which has a door and a window opening into it, and then a long stretch of wooden garden fence, close boarded. On entering the smaller door, one has the end of the street house on the right hand, and sees in front, about fifteen yards distant, the gable end of a brightly-painted house of two stories. The upper story is a lean-to in the roof; there is a little flower garden between it and the visitor, its front looking across another little patch of flowers to a fence, on the other side of which is a row of lime trees, and beyond a large garden. In this modest, simple, but merry-looking little house lived and wrote our great philosopher, our dear Swedenborg, "The grandest viking the hardy Swedes ever sent to battle."

It's very small,-but nine feet high to the eaves. Approaching it from the street, there is first a double door, then three windows; at the distant end another door, opening under cover of a gangway, which formerly probably ran down or round half the garden. A mansard roof of pantiles surmounts the low building; a dormer window pierces it, so as to look fairly through the lime trees, exactly opposite the garden gate and the distant summer-house. In the gable end, which looks toward the street, are two windows; one below, to light the hall, is now "blind"; a square one above gives light to the landing of the staircase. The whole building is but forty-two feet long, by about twenty-one feet deep; but at the end nearest the street is an additional bit of about six feet, used as a scullery, etc.; it fills the space between the back of the house and a tall stone wall of the adjoining property. On entering at the double door, a step down is the hall or lobby, out of which goes, straight in front, the staircase, and on the right the room which is lighted by one of the three windows of the front, and is heated by an old earthen blue pattern stove. This room is separated from the next (taking a second window) by a partition, probably of recent erection. Beyond this is the kitchen, which accounts for the third window, and has its outlet to the covered way before mentioned, now used as a wood store, etc.

A staircase full of "winders" leads to a landing over the hall, in the gable. Opposite the square window is the bedroom door. The room, though it has its walls not perpendicular, looks very airy and light. It is now divided into two rooms by a modern partition; the dormer window lights one of these, the larger; the other inner one has its own window in the gable end. A pitcher with garden flowers stood on the window-sill, and gave a pleasant, homey look to the old place. It is but a mere cottage of four rooms, that's all. It is built of logs, dovetailed together at the ends, and covered with boards. Over their edges is nailed a strip of wood, to keep them water-tight. These give a neat striped look to the walls, not unpleasant. The whole building is painted ochre color; the molding under the eaves and gutter, dark red; the window frames, white; and nothing can look more comfortable than it does, quietly settled in its flower plots, under the honest blue sky. Immediately opposite the middle of the front is the gate of wood, under a heavy molded head or hood, of massive construction. Its curves are designed as one sees the French doorways arranged, of the period of Louis XIV, and it has quite an air of display about it that the house has not. This gateway leads to a walk, about fifty-five yards long, down the center of the garden. In the plots on each side are the stumps of old fruit trees: on the right, three apple trees still flourish; on the left are two old pear trees, which look old enough to have been planted by their great proprietor.

At the end of the walk are two poplars; behind them is the summerhouse, which looks down the garden walk between the trees. It occupies the middle of the end of the garden and is about fourteen feet square. There are three stone steps up to the doorsill, a double door, on each side a window; a vine gathers over them and the top of the door, and clambers partly over the roof. On the two sides are external traces, and the shutters, of windows which are now obliterated 'inside. In the room is another door opposite the entrance; it opens into a lobby, a pace wide, on the right of which is a cupboard, on the left the bricked-up doorway, which formerly led to the covered way; a part of it remains between the summer-house and the long side of the garden, away from the street. From that angle to within a few yards of the house the covered way has been removed. It appears as if it originally ran down the length of the garden, and served as a protected path to the summerhouse-pleasant in bad weather or at night. Like the house, the summerhouse or study is built of logs, raised on a granite foundation about a couple of feet from the ground. It is as gay in color as the house - dark red lines on yellow ground, with white window frames and a black roof, all well contrasted with the bright green of the vine. The roof does not go up to a ridge or gable, but is broken through by a short vertical portion, in which are long narrow windows, serving to light the loft over the room. This, in turn, is roofed with hip rafters. On the two points of the ridge is a ball ornament, on which is perched a little golden star. A chair which belonged to Swedenborg remains in the summer-house. His organ lately stood there, but has passed into the possession of Mr. Hammer, in whose museum, in Byström's Villa, it may be seen.

The garden is fenced in, and divided from the street by a palisade of such great boards as can only be seen in a country where wood is in great abundance. Within the little place is a remnant of the old style of its decoration; it is a little window or light over the door which leads to the lobby, it is glazed in a geometrical pattern, with leads, which are gilded, the frame pure white. The organ is white and gold; this simple system probably extended over the whole interior. Modern paper hangings conceal the original paneling; on the table are a couple of books, one an essay or Life of Swedenborg, and one the T. C. R. An engraving from the Gripsholm portrait, and a photograph of the summer-house itself, hang on the walls. A badly kept visitors' book is the last item. It must have been a charming workroom, opening on a lovely garden, in which doubtless Linnaeus himself often walked and enjoyed the society of his friend ...

(Extract from an article signed, "J. C. L. S.," in Intellectual Repository, London, 1867, p.69 ff. )

Appendix F


" . . . I was born at Stockholm, on the 29th of January in the year 1689 [instead of 1688. He was not born in that year, but in the preceding one. Tuxen says Swedenborg wrote that year, in place of the other, for the sake of the correspondence of the number, an angel having told him that the year 1689 was "more suitable to himself than the other." (Tafel, II, 468, note.)]. My father's name was Jesper Swedberg, who was Bishop of Westrogothia, and a man of celebrity in his time, He was also elected and enrolled as a member of the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; for he had been appointed by King Charles XII bishop over the Swedish churches in Pennsylvania and also over the church in London. In the year 1710 I went abroad. I proceeded first to England and afterward to Holland, , France and Germany, and returned home in the year 1714. In the year 1716, and also afterward, I had many conversations with Charles XII, King of Sweden, who greatly favored me, and the same year offered me an assessorship on the Board of Mines, which office I filled until the year 1747, when I resigned it, retaining, however, the official salary during my life. My sole object in tendering my resignation was that I might have more leisure to devote to the new office to which the Lord had called me. A higher post of honor was then offered me, which I positively declined, lest my heart should be inspired with pride. In the year 1719 I was ennobled by Queen Ulrika Eleonora and named Swedenborg; and from that time I have taken my seat among the nobles of the rank of knighthood, in the triennial Diet of the Realm. I am a Fellow and Member, by invitation, of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm; but I have never sought admission into any literary society in any other place, because I am in an angelic society, where such things as relate to heaven and the soul are the only subjects of discourse, while in literary societies the world and the body form the only subjects of discussion. In the year 1734 I published, at Leipzig, the Regnum Minerale, in three volumes, folio; and in 1738 I took a journey to Italy, remaining a year at Venice and Rome.

"With respect to my family connections, I had four sisters. One of them was married to Eric Benzelius, who subsequently became the Archbishop of Upsala, and through him I became related to the two succeeding archbishops, who both belonged to the family of Benzelius, and were younger brothers of his. My second sister was married to Lars Benzelstierna who became a provincial governor; but these two are dead. Two bishops, however, who are related to me, are still living; one of them, whose name is Filenius, and who is Bishop of Oestrogothia, officiates now as President of the House of the Clergy in the Diet at Stockholm in place of the Archbishop, who is an invalid; he is married to my sister's daughter: the other named Benzelstierna is Bishop of Westmanland and Dalecarlia; he is the on of my second sister. Not to mention others of my relations who occupy stations of honor.

"Moreover, all the bishops of my native country, who are ten in number, and also the sixteen senators and the rest of those highest in office, entertain feelings of affection for me; from their affection they honor me, and I live with them on terms of familiarity, as a friend among friends; the reason of which is that they know I am in company with angels. Even the King and the Queen, and three princes, their sons, show me great favor: I was also invited once by the King and Queen to dine with them at their own table, which honor is generally accorded only to those who are highest in office; subsequently the Crown Prince granted me the same favor. They all desire me to return home; wherefore I am far from apprehending, in my own country, that persecution which you fear, and against which in your letter you desire in so friendly a manner to provide; and if they choose to persecute me elsewhere it can do me no harm.

"But all I have thus far related I consider of comparatively little importance, for it is far exceeded by the circumstance that I have been called to a holy office by the Lord Himself, who most mercifully appeared before me, His servant, in the year 1743, when He opened my sight into the spiritual world and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels, in which state I have continued up to the present day. From that time I began to print and publish the various arcana that were seen by me or revealed to me, concerning heaven and hell, the state of man after death, the true worship of God, the spiritual sense of the Word, besides other most important matters conducive to salvation and wisdom. The only reason of my journeys abroad has been the desire of making myself useful and of making known the arcana that were entrusted to me. Moreover, I have as much of this world's wealth as I need, and I neither seek nor wish for more.

"Your letter has induced me to write all these particulars in order that, as you say, ‘ill-conceived prejudices may be removed.' Farewell: and from my heart I wish you all blessedness both in this world and the next; which I have not the least doubt you will attain, if you look and pray to our Lord.

Eman. Swedenborg.

[London, August, 1769]
(Tafel, I, 7 ff.)

Appendix G


A year after Swedenborg's death he was visiting Wesley's friend Richard Houghton, in Liverpool, when his host asked him whether he had seen Swedenborg's Latin volume The True Christian Religion. On Clowes' replying in the negative, Houghton made him promise to get a copy of it. This, upon his return home, Clowes did but, being too busy to read it, he left the book unopened on his library table for some months. One day, as he was about to leave his study to mount his horse for a visit to a distant friend in the country, he chanced upon the neglected volume, which he then opened at random. His eye fell upon the words Divinum Humanum (the Divine Human). He thought the phrase an odd one, closed the book and rode away.

The next morning the young clergyman awoke with a very brilliant appearance before his eyes, something surpassing sunlight. In the midst of the glory were the words: Divinum Humanum. He rubbed his eyes, got up, tried to rid himself of the vision, but in vain. Wherever he went, whatever he did, the words were always before him. The following day Clowes remembered that he had seen them in the book on his table. Apologizing to his friends he left abruptly and galloped home to read about Divinum Humanum.

"The delight produced in my mind by the first perusal of the work entitled Vera Christiana Religio no language could fully express," he says. "It seemed as if a continual blaze of new and re-creating light had been poured forth on my delighted understanding ... with a force of satisfactory evidence which I had never known before."

There were not half a dozen readers of the Latin volumes at that time in all England. Considering that such a treasure should be shared with others, Clowes set about translating Swedenborg's works into English and he organized a society among his friends in Manchester to secure their publication. Regular meetings were held in his home, and he visited other groups of believers in nearby villages, exhorting and encouraging the little flocks.

It is not surprising that before long those who opposed his peculiar views made efforts to have Mr. Clowes suspended from office. But such a favorable witness was his pure, affectionate, and truly Christian life that by degrees all opposition gave way and he came out of an interview with the bishop of his district without the slightest censure.

(Retold from Tafel, II, 1167.)

Appendix H


"... I have sometimes told the King that, if ever a new colony were to be formed, no religion could be better, as the prevailing and established one, than that developed by Swedenborg from the Sacred Scriptures, and this for the two following reasons:

(1) This religion, in preference to, and in a higher degree than, any other, must produce the most honest and industrious subjects; for this religion properly places the worship of God in uses:

(2) It causes the least fear of death, as this religion regards death as merely a transition from one state to another, from a worse to a better situation; nay, upon his principles, I look upon death as being of hardly any greater moment than drinking a glass of water. I have been convinced of the truth of Swedenborg's doctrine from these arguments in particular; viz., That One is the author of every thing, and that a separate person is not the Creator, and another the Author of religion; that there are degrees in every thing, and these subsisting to eternity - the history of creation is unaccountable unless explained in the spiritual sense. We may say of the religion which Swedenborg has developed in his writings from the Word of God, with Gamaliel: 'If it be of God, it cannot be overthrown, but if it be of man, it will come to nought.'


(Tafel, II, 416.)

Appendix I


The story is told that while the manuscript of Apocalypse Explained was in Mr. Peckitt's possession a fire broke out in his home at midnight. Mr. Peckitt narrowly escaped with his life and it was not until the next morning that he bethought him of Swedenborg's precious manuscript which he concluded must have burned up with the many other books of his large library. Sadly he visited the ruins of his home with slender hopes of recovering the precious document.

A few evenings later, the Society was holding its meetings in the Temple. They were lamenting the calamity that had overtaken Mr. Peckitt when that gentleman entered the room bearing the lost volume under his arm! Throwing the bundle on the table he burst into tears.

"There," he said, when he had regained self-possession, "the greatest treasure I had in my home is preserved in safety, and for the sake of that I willingly submit to my great loss!"  He explained that a neighbor had picked up the package from the street where a fireman had thrown it together with the contents of a desk too heavy to move. (Retold from Tafel, II, 712 ff.)

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