The New Philosophy Vol 119 No 1-2, January-June 2016
Emanuel Swedenborg believed that there is a perfect alignment between the spiritual and natural world, and that all observable effects in the natural world arise directly from correspondent causes in the spiritual world. Because of this spiritual reality, what often appears to be mere coincidence, when seen more deeply, can be regarded as correspondence. In this paper, I will begin by speaking about how correspondence—not just coincidence—led me uncannily to the presidency of Antioch University New England. And then, I will attempt to illustrate how New Church teachings, especially the science of correspondences, can be enormously useful in digging out precious lessons on leadership.
To date, many scholars approaching A Christmas Carol have taken the existence of the spiritual within the story as a matter of fact without considering the imaginative origin of the spirit world as an object of inquiry. They accept Dickens’s inclusion of the supernatural without considering what may have inspired him to do so. Dickens’s discussion of the spiritual realm in A Christmas Carol hearkens to the work of a well-known mystic and writer, Emanuel Swedenborg. In Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell: From Things Heard and Seen (1758), Swedenborg recounts his own experiences with beings of the spiritual state. He attests to direct interaction with otherworldly beings throughout a period of thirteen years (Swedenborg 1946, 3, § 1).2 Swedenborgian theory circulated in his own country and abroad through the Romantic and Victorian eras, and the question of whether or not Dickens wrote under Swedenborgian influence motivates this study.
The nature of the human mind is a fundamental philosophical problem that never goes away. Emanuel Swedenborg’s (1688–1772) model of the mind rejects his response to the time in which he lived and worked—the early days of the Enlightenment, when the prevailing Platonic dualism was being challenged by an emerging materialism that denied the existence of anything beyond the physical world of the senses. Preserving a defensible spiritual-natural worldview while working within the limits of the new scientifc method was his greatest challenge, a task that would require a methodical sifting of the entire Western philosophical tradition. To under- stand Swedenborg’s ideas on the human mind, therefore, we must start with Plato (424–348 BCE).