From the cradle to the grave every human experience or thought is wrapped, inextricably locked, in the enigmatic embrace of space and time. In fact, nothing has meaning to us unless so clothed. There is nothing with which man is more familiar, and about which, at the same time, he is more ignorant, baffled or lost in wonderment. Ever since he first turned his face from the clod, this wonderment and bewilderment have persisted. The Ancients were sufficiently intrigued by it to study and philosophize about it. In Plato’s Idealism, a solipsistic fallacy in sense perception, space and time were cast in the leading roles. This strange duality— imponderable, intangible, elusive coordinator of our senses—is as close and familiar to us and equally as baffling as the miracle of life itself.
This article is being written, not to be broadcast among materialists to wean them from their atheism, but as a means of helping confirmed New Church men to confirm their own beliefs yet further. For, as Invitation 51 tells us: “It is allowable to confirm the truths of the church by reason, or the understanding, as much as one pleases, and also by various things in nature; and, in proportion as truths are so confirmed, they become inrooted and shine.”
In dealing with the subject of Swedenborg’s scientific contemporaries, the object is not so much to present potted biographies of Swedenborg’s contacts in the scientific world, as to try to show something of the intellectual climate of that world. For the distinction between the eighteenth century and our own is far more than may be attributed to a mere increase in our store of knowledge. To some of us, brought up in an age dominated by scientific materialism, the pre-revelation works of Swedenborg may seem far from scientific. It is appropriate, therefore, that we should attempt to project ourselves back these brief but eventful two hundred years, lest we attempt to judge them by a totally misleading standpoint.
Following the strict line of the dialectical materialism of Marx, and citing Engels as a prophet and pathfinder, this volume documents a research typical of modern Russia, the paradise for atheists, and is devoted mainly “to drawing a picture of the progressive development of matter which,” in the author’s opinion, “led up to the emergence of life on our planet” (p. xiii).