In beginning this presentation on Swedenborg in Germany, it is appropriate that we should draw attention to the age-old and continuing discussion of Swedenborg’s impact on the renowned German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. The most recent contribution to that discussion comes from the pen of Dr. Gottleib Florschütz whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Wolfenbüttel Swedenborg Symposium in 1988. It was there that I introduced him to the Swedenborg Scientific Association which subsequently sponsored the translation of Swedenborgs verborgene Wirkung auf Kant (Swedenborg’s Hidden Influence on Kant) published by Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg, in 1992. This task I have the privilege of sharing with Rev. Kurt Nemitz.
This contribution to Swedenborgiana deals with two different aspects of the reception of the teachings of the New Church. Part I relates the history of French Swedenborgianism, based mainly on the discovery of the Chevrier Collection of the French translator Le Boys Des Gays's manuscripts which relate a whole century of efforts toward the establishment of the New Church in France. These efforts originated in Sweden a decade after Swedenborg’s death in London in March 1772. And due to the fact that the Doctrines were confused with freemasonry, animal magnetism, somnambulism, spiritism, etc. the early “Swedenborgians” could hardly be considered as true receivers. Le Boys des Guays, however, was the great exception among them and rightly deserves to be considered as the founder of the New Church in France. Part II includes three examples of French literary “Swedenborgianism,” which should be classed among the pseudo-Swedenborgian teachings. Le Boys des Guays condemned Balzac’s Louis Lambert and Séraphita. The exchange of letters between George Sand and Le Boys shows the unwillingness of the “Bonne Dame de Nohant” to adopt Le Boys’ religious ideas. As far as Baudelaire and his followers in French modern poetry are concerned, their “Swedenborgianism” is as shallow as Balzac’s. But should poetry and religious systems be judged together?
The two literary works I am going to treat now were published when Swedenborg was 27 years old. They are both intimately connected with the fateful events of the Great Northern War, which had then, around 1715, been raging for 15 years. It can indeed be argued that they are impossible to understand if certain occurrences in the war are not taken into consideration, especially those events that are part of the personal history of the Swedish King, Charles XII. For King Charles is the principal character in both works (although in quite different ways, as we shall see). It will therefore be wise to start this address with a short summary of the main course of events of the war, up to 1715, concentrating on the King's person and on the Swedish aspects, as this is what Swedenborg does.