The life and works of William James laid the foundation for modern concepts of psychology and application of psychological concepts. From his ideas in Psychology: A Briefer Course to the ideas of philosophy in Pragmatism, his ideas were brilliant new concepts in the field. This, from the man who “would flounder for twelve years in search of vocation” who finally found his footing in the science of the psychological world. In short, “William James was a gifted young man, and the length of time required before he found his direction could be considered natural for a youth with multiple talents and a family with ample financial resources to support his wanderings.”2 Only after rebelling against his father and the religion of his youth, a time in medical school, struggles with depression, and vacations ranging from painting in Europe to sketching in Brazil, did he finally find his footing in philosophy, psychology, and religion. This personal need to flounder empowered James’s later professional life with the imagination he would need to develop new ideas.
Emanuel Swedenborg was no ordinary Age of Reason scholar. He claimed to have witnessed the Last Judgment unfolding in the spiritual world, and announced to the world the subsequent descent of the New Jerusalem, as foretold in Revelation 21—experiences that would determine the trajectory of his life’s work. He came of age with the rise of modern science and the waning of religious orthodoxy. As a theistic scientist he was at odds with the naturalism of his colleagues, and as a mystical theologian he was equally at odds with orthodox Christianity. Yet his accomplishments in science and spirituality did much to improve the lot of both: his scientific discoveries are capable of informing twenty-first century physics and biology, and the spiritual principles he discovered are comprehensive enough to support a model inclusive of both. His method is as useful today as it was in his time.