網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

This indicates that Swedenborg believed all human beings to be potentially clairvoyant, somewhat as the later Theosophists teach. He did not claim the uniqueness which some of his followers have ascribed to him.

And as a useful corrective to a possibly excessive tendency to accept a great man's dicta unquestioningly, it is interesting to compare one prophet with another and to note contradictions. Swedenborg was emphatic that all the angels had first been human beings. Jacob Boehme was equally certain that God created angels direct, out of Himself (“Aurora,” p. 44). This question of the nature of angels was a much disputed one among the learned of the Middle Ages. As against Swedenborg, it would certainly seem hasty to decide that in this immense universe there are no spiritual beings who have not lived in flesh-bodies on the speck of matter which we call our Earth. It would perhaps be more consonant with what we know of nature if we assumed the existence of beings of an infinite number of grades and kinds.

CHAPTER III

CONFLUENCE OF SWEDENBORGIANISM AND MESMERISM

IN AMERICA

[ocr errors]

S with sporadic apparitions, the fact of alleged

trance and apparent intromission into the spiritual world, or at least extension of normal vision, is not uncommon. Swedenborg was not unique. The records of such experiences are extensive both in space and time.

. A typical case is that of Hermotimus of Clazomene, whose soul was wont to forsake its body and to bring back intelligence of many things at a distance which none could know but such as were present, during which time his body lay half dead; until his enemies burnt it, and thus cut off the retreat of the returning soul." The Khond priest authenticates his claim to office by remaining from one to fourteen days in a dreamy state, caused by one of his souls being away in the divine presence. The Turanian shaman lies in lethargy while his soul departs to bring hidden wisdom from the land of spirits,: and the same sort of thing occurs among the North American Indians. Sometimes we are spe

* Pliny the Elder, “Hist. Nat.,” vii., 53. *Tylor's “Primitive Culture," p. 396. Ref. to Macpherson, “India," P. 103

'Ibid. Ref. to Ruhs, “Finland,” p. 303; Castren, "Finn. Myth.," P. 134; Bastian, "Mensch,” ii., p. 319. See also section on “The Nature of the Soul" in J. G. Frazer's “Golden Bough,” vol. i., p. 247 and following.

"

1

cifically told that the trance is deep and memory not continuous; for Cicero mentions that when the revelations are being given, someone must be present to record them, since "these sleepers do not retain any recollection of it.” 1

After Swedenborg's death in 1772, it was natural that, in spite of his followers' attempt to maintain his uniqueness, there should be others with similar experiences. We hear, for example, of a Mrs. Lindquist, wife of a gardener who, in Stockholm in 1788, was controlled in trance by her deceased infant daughter and another young child. These spirits gave accounts of their state and expounded the Scriptures, adhering closely to the Swedenborgian views on both. Other somnambules and controls delivered themselves to a like effect.2 Then arose Anton Mesmer (1743-1815), a Viennese doctor who settled in Paris and created a great sensation in 1778 by his magnetic (or as we should now say hypnotic or suggestive) cures. His disciples de Puységur, Pététin, Deleuze, and others continued the study, and societies for the investigation of "Animal Magnetismo sprang up in many towns. As a rule, no transcendental theory was adopted, the explanation being the mechanical one of some "fluid” proceeding from the operator; and the main interest was in the cure of disease, the entranced person being often able to diagnose not only his own ailments but also those of others, and to prescribe for them. Some investigators, however, believed that in a very deep trance the soul of the sub

*Lib. iii., “de Divin."

'Podmore: “Modern Spiritualism: a History and a Criticism," i., pp. 76-7.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ject was partially released from the limitations due to the body, and Jung Stilling (1740-1817) may be regarded as the most notable of those who accepted a superhuman source of some of the somnambules' communications. Jung Stilling was an able and hardworking doctor, afterwards Professor of Political Economy at Marburg and Heidelberg. Some of his views have still a plausible sound, as when he says that "Light, electric, magnetic, galvanic matter, and ether appear to be all one and the same body, under different modifications. This light or ether is the element which connects soul and body and the spiritual and material world together.” 1 His book is mainly a collection of ghost stories of low evidential standard, and his doctrine is Swedenborgian, with a strong flavour of apology to orthodoxy.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars and their effects interfered with philosophy and science in Western Europe, and at this point the centre of interest shifts to America, and indeed for some time remains there.

New England in the early years of the nineteenth century was, like Europe, in a state of ferment, but the working was mainly in philosophy, religion, and social ideas. Crank communities abounded, preaching vegetarianism (“a return to acorns and the golden age, as Emerson humorously put it in “New England Reformers”), mindcure, shakerism, and all sorts of fads. Travelling mesmerists toured the towns and villages, and clairvoyants, mesmeric “subjects,” and mystical

1 "Theory of Pneumatology" ("Theorie der Geister-Kunde"), p. 372.

[ocr errors]

ideas abounded, as we see in the biographies of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thoreau, Lowell, Mrs. Eddy, and others. Swedenborg's books, or some of them, had been translated, and his doctrines were taking hold of many who, after abandoning orthodoxy, were still unsatisfied with the intellectual Unitarianism which was the main religion of New England at that time. Moreover the Universalist body was suffering disruption, and the early American Swedenborgians and Spiritualists were largely drawn therefrom. O. W. Holmes studied medicine in Paris in 1833 and learnt much of mesmerism and the like, even evolving something very near the modern doctrine of the subliminal self and of multiple personality. Emerson's transcendental tract “Nature” appeared in 1836, treating the world of sense as a symbol of something more real. The popular mind was in the mood for revelations; and a revelation came.

Andrew Jackson Davis was born in 1826 in a village of New York State, moving in 1838 with his family to Poughkeepsie in the same State. His parents were working people, and he himself was in 1841 apprenticed to a shoemaker. In 1843 he was hypnotised by a tailor named Levingston, and practised for some time as clairvoyant diagnoser of disease, also prescribing remedies. In 1844 he fell into a spontaneous trance, in which Galen and Swedenborg appeared to him and instructed him concerning his mission to mankind. A Dr. Lyon and the Rev. William Fishbough became associated with him as hypnotiser and scribe respectively, and the three took lodgings in New York, Davis having two trances daily, mostly for medical clairvoyance, but

« 上一頁繼續 »