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John Wesley on Emmanuel Swedenborg

December 12, 2012

I put this up on the interest of some on the so-called writings and person of Emmanuel Swedenborg. Since John Wesley lived in his time, and Wesley is considered a sound and solid Christian Man of God, we should take note!


Swedenborg and Wesley

Ormond DeCharms Odhner

“One of the most ingenious, lively, entertaining madmen that ever set pen to paper. . . . His waking dreams are so wild . . . that one might as easily swallow the stories of ‘Tom Thumb’ or ‘Jack the Giant-Killer.'”

Thus, in 1770, wrote John Wesley, founder of Methodism, concerning his contemporary, Emanuel Swedenborg. A year later he wrote again: “The fever he had twenty years ago, when he supposes he was ‘introduced into the society of angels,’ really introduced him into the society of lunatics; but still, there is something noble, even in his ravings:

His mind has not yet lost
All its original brightness, but appears
Majestic, though in ruins.”

Seven years after Swedenborg died, Wesley reviewed Heaven and Hell. . . the dreams of a disordered imagination . . . a brain-sick man. . . . contrary to Scripture to reason and to itself . . . . Essentially and dangerously wrong. . . . His ideas of heaven are low, groveling, just suiting a Mohametan paradise. . . .”

Two years later, in his Arminian Magazine, Wesley published an “authentic account” of Baron Swedenborg’s “insanity.” In detail it describes an incident that supposedly occurred in 1744, when Swedenborg, in London, was lodging at the house of a John Paul Brockmer- 1744, a year after the Lord had first appeared to our seer. “His hair stood upright and he foamed a little at the mouth He said . . . he was the Messiah . . . come to be crucified for the Jews. He then went to a place called the Gulley-Hole, undressed himself, rolled in very deep mud, and threw his money out of his pockets among the crowd.”

In 1783, Wesley plunged his final daggers into Swedenborg’s reputation and into the Writings as well. In several articles reviewing Heaven and Hell and the True Christian Religion, he again refers to Swedenborg’s “fit of madness,” and says: “From this time we are undoubtedly to date that peculiar species of insanity which attended him, with scarce any intermission, to the day of his death.” He quotes extensively and incorrectly, and always comments most adversely. “Utterly false . . . . As arrant nonsense as ever was pronounced by any man in Bedlam . . . . Contrary to all sound reason [and] to . . . Scripture. . . . When were the hells not in subjection to the Almighty? When was heaven, the abode of angels, out of order? 56 . . . Blasphemous nonsense. . . . Which shall I believe, the Bible or the Baron? . . . If this stands, the Bible must fall.”

At length Wesley damns the teachings given by “this filthy dreamer” as he delighted to call Swedenborg. He ridicules the doctrine of an internal sense to the Word, the explanation of the Ten Commandments. He condemns the teaching that the Lord is a Divine Human God, and misquotes the Bible to prove his point. He damns the denial that salvation comes through faith alone. He insists that God is an angry Being who personally condemns men to eternal fire in hell. He calls Swedenborg insane for teaching that angels wear clothes, and says he is worse than Mohammed in his teaching that there is marriage, not only in heaven, but also in hell.

He closes: “O my brethren, let none of you that fear God recommend such a writer any more! . . . All his folly and nonsense we may excuse, but not his making God a liar . . . . If the preceding extracts are from God, then, the Bible is only a fable; but if ‘all Scriptures are given by the inspiration of God,’ then let these dreams sink into the pit from which they came.”

Thus was the Heavenly Doctrine introduced to the general public of England by the most famous churchman of the Eighteenth Century, whose devoted Methodist followers numbered a hundred and fifty thousand by the day of his death. John Wesley, founder of Methodism-no other man has ever done as much to injure the cause of the Lord’s New Church on earth!

*The so-called, ‘Lord’s New Church on earth’ is of course Swedenborgen!  And there are indeed only a few thousand in our time. Surely just another modern cult, and now they are just liberal and postmodern!

  1. Here is a piece from the Text of The Essential Swedenborg (yes there are still some of these people around today!) Note, I had a long dialogue and debate (several years ago) with one called the ‘God-Guy’.

    “He wrote to John Wesley, the noted English minister, and told him that he would be happy to discuss religion with him if Wesley could come to London. Swedenborg mentioned that he had learned in the world of spirits that Wesley wanted to talk with him about theology. Wesley expressed his great surprise to friends regarding Swedenborg’s invitation because he did not recall having told anyone of his interest in the Swedish seer. Wesley answered Swedenborg’s letter with hopes that he would be welcomed upon completion of a six months’ journey on which he had just embarked. When he received Wesley’s reply Swedenborg remarked that six months would be too long since he, Swedenborg, would permanently enter the world of spirits on the 29th of March, 1772. The maid who attended Baron Swedenborg during his final months also reported that he predicted the exact date of his death.”

    One can see they believe in full-blown visions and overt mysticism. But they follow Swedenborg almost literally!

    • Btw, as John Wesley noted Swendenborg was NOT stupid or ignorant per se, just driven by his own interior and internal world of overt and obscure mysticism. And Swendenborg also denied the Trinity and Vicarious Atonement.

      Surely NOT classic or even the general historical Christianity, which does have some form of biblical mysticism and spirituality, but within and under the authority of the Holy Scripture, and the Holy Spirit in the local Church, with something of the creedal Church.

  2. Kant on Swedenborg

    In 1763, the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), then at the beginning of his career, was impressed by these accounts and made inquiries to find out if they were true. He also ordered all eight volumes of the expensive Arcana Cœlestia (Heavenly Arcana or Heavenly Mysteries). One Charlotte von Knobloch wrote Kant asking his opinion of Swedenborg’s psychic experiences.[102][103] Kant wrote a very affirmative reply, referring to Swedenborg’s “miraculous” gift, and characterizing him as “reasonable, agreeable, remarkable and sincere” and “a scholar,” in one of his letters to Mendelssohn,[104] and expressing regret that he (Kant) had never met Swedenborg.[105][106] An English friend who investigated the matter for Kant, including by visiting Swedenborg’s home, found Swedenborg to be a “sensible, pleasant and openhearted” man and here again, a scholar.[107]

    However, three years later, in 1766, Kant wrote and published anonymously a small book entitled Träume eines Geistersehers (Dreams of a Spirit-Seer)[108] that was a scathing critique of Swedenborg and his writings. He termed Swedenborg a “spook hunter”[109] “without official office or occupation.”[110] As rationale for his critique, Kant said he wanted to stop “ceaseless questioning”[111] and inquiries about Dreams from “inquisitive” persons, both known and unknown”,[112] and “importunate appeals from known and unknown friends”,[113] as well as from “moon calves”.[113] Kant also said he did not want to expose himself to “mockery.”[114] More significantly, he became concerned about being seen as an apologist for both Swedenborg and for Spiritism in the guise of his interest in Swedenborg,[115] which might have damaged his career.[116] Dreams was intended as a refutation of all such thinking.[117] This left Kant in the ironic or hypocritical position of trying to free himself of ridicule while he at the same time ridiculed Swedenborg.[115]

    • In the end, finally Kant knew he blew it early with Swedenborg! “Dreams of a Spirit-Seer” and “spook hunter” ; “without official office or occupation.” Indeed John Wesley, as a Christian and theologian knew best from the very beginning! (Though it took some years for Wesley to fully read and respond to Swedenborg’s doctrine/teaching, after I believe Swedenborg died.)


    Historical information here about John Wesley and Swedenborg, and Wesley’s written work against Swedenborg’s whole ideas.

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