The New Philosophy Vol 62 No 2, April-June 1959
Students of philosophy may well be surprised that Swedenborg in the Intercourse of Soul and Body—the work on influx published in London, 1769—should attribute to Descartes Swedenborg’s own concept of Spiritual Influx and at the same time identify this theory with the system called Occasional Causes (ISB I, 19: 3). For certainly the Spiritual Influx which the Writings describe as accordant with “order and its laws’’ (ISB 1) is very different both from Descartes’ statements and from the explanations of the Cartesians as these are presented in most texts on the history of philosophy. The question naturally occurs as to whether Swedenborg misunderstood Descartes and his followers, or used their terms erroneously. But the present writer believes that an examination of the subject will show that Swedenborg was justified in his statements.
One of the earliest reasons presented to justify the launching of artificial satellites was their potential contribution to the science of geodesy. The shape of the earth has been measured by many different methods in the past, and each has shortcomings that have kept the most accurate determinations beyond man’s reach. A close artificial satellite is capable of filling the void between measurements made from the earth’s surface and those made by observations of celestial bodies. It gains perspective without losing proximity, and shows by its behavior in orbit the variations in the gravitational attraction acting upon it.
Cause. A little over thirty years ago the modern quantum theory had its beginning in the mathematical work of Heisenberg and Schroedinger. The indeterminancy principle of Heisenberg was the basis for much writing at that time to the effect that free will was again restored to man. The mechanistic world of Newton was challenged. Because this mechanization was supposed to apply to all things in creation, even to man himself, it was thought by some to mean that there was a predestination in all things. However, as time went on it was gradually realized that entirely too many things were supposed without foundation, so that now we hear very little of the relation of indeterminancy and free will.
Whatever conclusions may be drawn by the student, it is interesting to note the existence of three definite cycles in the order of Swedenborg’s studies. From 1710 through 1719 he studied mineralogy, geology, astronomy, mathematics, physics, anatomy and physiology—all between the ages of twenty-one and thirty- one. Some of the fruits of these initial studies are to be found in interesting little works written while he was publishing Daedalus Hyperboreus.
In the first article we traced some of the stages by which mankind was led by Divine Providence to the realization of the differences between the soul and the body, and to recognize that the mind had at least a claim to be regarded as a real substance and a distinct entity. The ensuing dilemma—caused by the apparent impossibility of any intercourse between two so diverse substances— was actually solved by Swedenborg the philosopher through his theory of the dynamic origin of matter; although the learned world has taken slight notice of this accomplishment. But this philosophic solution still leaves the difficulty of seeing what the essence of the soul or mind really is. Without a real idea of the soul— with merely the general definition that it is a “thinking substance,” as Descartes put it—the world was bound to drift into its present state of skepticism about its reality. And this was the reason why our philosopher was introduced into the spiritual world, to learn first-hand what the soul was, and to feel the marvelous reality of mental things and teach men of their destiny as immortal spirits.
This small book raises many questions in the mind of a reader of the works of Swedenborg. Like many other recent books written by scientists for laymen, it expresses a deep unrest among the scientists of today. Fifty years ago the scientist was secure in his belief that matter was fundamental: that it behaved according to fixed laws as a result of forces in the surroundings. He was confident that while as yet he did not know all the laws, still they were knowable. Further research would bring him step by step nearer to a complete understanding of the operation of nature.