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denborg's history are very meagre. Most that we are able to gather is, that he was born in Stockholm, Sweden, January 29, 1688, and was educated principally at the University of Upsala. Great care is said to have been bestowed by his father on his early education. His youth was marked by uncommon assiduity and application in the study of philosophy, mathematics, natural history, chemistry, and anatomy, together with the European and Oriental languages. He had an excellent memory, quick conceptions, and a most clear judgment.
The following extract from a letter written to a friend, who inquired of him what had passed in the earlier part of his life, affords a striking indication of spirituality in his youth : “From my youth to my tenth year," he says, " my thoughts were constantly engrossed by reflecting upon God, on salvation, and on the spiritual passions of man.
í often revealed things in my discourse which filled my parents with astonishment, and made them declare at times that certainly the angels spoke through my mouth. From my sixth to my twelfth
was my greatest delight to converse with the clergy concerning faith, to whom I often observed, that charity or love was the life of faith, and that this vivifying charity or love was no other than the love of one's neighbor ; that God vouchsafes this faith to every one, but that it is adopted by those only who practice that charity."
In early life, Swedenborg's mind was preserved in a remarkable degree from false theological doctrines, and from the trammeling influence of the commentaries and biblical criticisms in common use at that period ; wherein the Providence of the Lord is strikingly manifest. Those who are acquainted with the true principles of biblical interpretation, which he was made the instrument in unfolding, will readily perceive the great importance of this, and the difficulties which would have arisen to him had his mind been early imbued with the prevailing dogmas of the Old Church. The following is what Swedenborg himself says upon this subject : "I was prohibited reading dogmatic and sys
tematic theology before heaven was opened to me, by reason that unfounded opinions and inventions might thereby easily have insinuated themselves, which, with difficulty could afterwards have been extirpated. Wherefore, when heaven was opened to me, it was necessary first to learn the Hebrew language, as well as the correspondences of which the whole Bible is composed, which led me to read the Word of God over
And, inasmuch as the Word of God is the source whence all theology must be derived, I was thereby enabled to receive instruction from the Lord who is the Word.”
The offices of honor and trust which were bestowed upon Swedenborg without any solicitation on his part, together with the many marks of distinction which he received from the nobility of Sweden, and from the King Charles XII., show us in what high repute he was held by men of his own time, who were able to appreciate distinguished talents and learning. Nor was he, like most men of profound learning, a mere scholar. He was eminently a practical man. He regarded use as the end of all science. He was therefore not miserly in respect to his intellectual possessions, but liberal and expansive as the air. Consequently, his mind was not a mere treasure-house or depository of dead learning, but like the great laboratory of nature, it made every speck of knowledge subserve some useful end. Like some rich and beautiful garden, ever swept with vernal breezes, and moistened with vernal showers, and warmed with the beams of a tropical sun, it was full of green and living things, which grew, and blossomed, and bore fruit perpetually, shedding their fragrance on all around; and this, because his mind was ever open to the Lord's love. In the garden of his soul, it was always summertime.
Those who will take the trouble to familiarize themselves with his history, will find ample illustrations of the truth of these remarks.
In 1716, at the age of twenty-eight years, and soon after his return from a four years' tour in England, Holland, France and Germany, Swedenborg was appoint
ed by Charles XII. to the important office of Assessor Extraordinary of the Metallic College, or Board of Mines. But so careful was he to discharge in the most faithful and perfect manner the duties of every station, that he was unwilling to exercise the functions of this office, before he had acquired a perfect knowledge of metallurgy. Accordingly, he did not enter upon the duties of this office, until six years afterwards; most of which time was spent in the universities of England, Holland, France and Germany, and in journies to different parts of Europe to examine the principal mines and smelting works. The diploma appointing him to this office, states, “that the King had a particular regard to the knowledge possessed by Swedenborg, in the science of mechanics, and that his pleasure was, that he should accompany and assist Polhammar (afterwards called Polheim,) in constructing his mechanical works.” Charles XII. is said to have been fond of devoting his leisure hours to the subject of mathematics and mechanism; and in Dr. Norberg's history of that King, are detailed many interesting conversations between Charles, Swedenborg and Polheim. He remained in the office of Assessor of the Metallic College, until 1747, when he resigned it on account of other more important duties, which he felt claimed his attention. “My sole view," he says, “in this resignation, was, that I might be more at liberty to devote myself to that new function to which the Lord had called me. On resigning my office, a higher degree of rank was offered me; but this I utterly declined, lest it should be the occasion of inspiring me with pride.”
In 1719, he was ennobled by Queen Ulrica Eleanora, and named Swedenborg, his father's name being Swedberg. From this time he took his seat with the Nobles of the Equestrian Order in the Triennial Assemblies of the States of the Realm. In 1724, he was offered a professorship of Mathematics in the University of Upsala, which he declined. In 1729, he was, by invitation, admitted a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Stockholm ; and was appointed a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, in
1734. His society was sought by learned men of his own and of foreign countries, some of whom were eager to establish with him a literary correspondence, and to consult him on many intricate subjects. He lived on terms of familiarity and friendship with the ten bishops of Sweden, and sixteen Senators, and the rest of the nobility; and received much favor also from the King and Queen, and the three princes, their sons.
During his life he travelled much, and visited most of the interesting and important parts of Europe. And that he did not, like many tourists, have recourse to travel merely for pleasure, or as the most agreeable mode of spending his time, but that in this, as in every thing else, he had regard to use, will appear evident from the following remarks in a dissertation on the Royal Society of Sciences at Upsal, published in 1789. The author of this dissertation, after mentioning Swedenborg as one of its first and best members, says, “His letters to the Society while abroad, witness that few can travel so usefully. An indefatigable curiosity, directed to various important subjects, is conspicuous in all. Mathematics, astronomy and mechanics, seem to have been his favorite sciences, and he had already made great progress in these. Everywhere he became acquainted with the most renowned mathematicians and astronomers, as Flamstead, Delahire, Varignon, &c. This pursuit of knowledge was also united with a constant zeal to benefit his country. No sooner was he informed of some useful discovery, than he was solicitous to render it beneficial to Sweden, by sending home models. When a good book was published, he not only gave immediate notice of it, but contrived to procure it for the university."
That the high repute in which Swedenborg was held as a philosopher, by the scholars and nobility of Sweden, and the marks of royal favor which he received, were not unmerited, appears evident from the number and character of his published philosophical works. For, in addition to the other honorable things that may be said of him, he was the most voluminous writer of his own, or indeed of any age. The bare titles of the works
he has published, are sufficient to evince the extent and variety of his knowledge; and the honorable testimony borne to their merit by learned men, is sufficient evidence of their worth.
The most important of his scientific works are his “Opera Philosophica et Mineralia;” or, Philosophical and Mineral Works—his “CEconomia Regni Animalis;" or, Economy of the Animal Kingdom—and his “Regnum Animale;" or, Animal Kingdom. The first of these works, commonly called his Principia," was published at Dresden and Leipsic in 1734, in three volumes folio, of about 400 pages each; and in reality it consists of three distinct works, though always alluded to by Swedenborg as one. The first volume is entitled, “The Principles of Natural Things; or, New Attempts at a Philosophical Explanation of the Phenomena of the Elementary World.” (Principia Rerum Naturalium, sive, Novorum Tentaminum Phænomena Mundi Elementaris Philosophice Explicandi.) The second volume is called “ The Subterranean or Mineral Kingdom; or, A Treatise on Iron.” (Regnum Subterraneum, sive Minerale de ferro.) The third is called, “The Subterranean or Mineral Kingdom; or, A Treatise on Copper and Brass." (Regnum Subterraneum, sive Minerale de Cupro et Orichalco.)*
His economy of the Animal Kingdom was published at Amsterdam in 1740-1, in 4to. It consists of two parts, the first of which treats of the blood, the arteries, the veins, and the heart, with an introduction to Rational Psychology. The second part treats of the motion of the brain, of the cortical substance, and of the human soul.
His Animal Kingdom consists of three parts. The first two were printed at Amsterdam in 1744, and third at London in 1745; and together they make a thick quarto volume. The first part treats of the viscera of the abdomen, the second of the viscera of the thorax, and the third of the organs of sense.
* See Life of Swedenborg, published at New York, 1841, p. 13–32.