The New Philosophy Vol 102 No 3-4, July-December 1999
Swedenborg, like many of the learned in his day,1 knew Wolff’s philosophic thought almost as well as Plato knew Socrates. Over a period spanning some forty or more years Swedenborg made numerous references to statements by Wolff. Earlier in this period these are statements drawn from reading Wolff’s works; later they are statements Wolff has made in actual conversation—when Wolff was speaking with him in the spiritual world.
The origins and intent of Dreams of a Spirit-Seer are shrouded in mystery. Elsewhere I have argued that an adequate interpretation of Dreams must answer six questions.3 First, one must explain why Kant was willing to take the professional risks of writing about Swedenborg, who was regarded as a disreputable enthusiast by Enlightenment intellectuals. Second, one must explain why Kant was willing to take the personal risks of writing about Swedenborg, who was considered a heretic by the Lutheran church. Third, one must explain why Kant was willing to take on the considerable practical difficulties of researching, writing, and publishing a book on Swedenborg. Fourth, one must explain the strange literary style and internal contradictions of Dreams. Fifth, one must explain why Dreams was published anonymously. Finally, one must explain the puzzling contradictions, both of facts and of evaluations, between Dreams and Kant’s other discussions of Swedenborg.