EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772), AUGUST STRINDBERG (1849-1912) Страница 8 of 12
well acquainted with the specific atmosphere associated with the boom of occultism in Paris. The city was the true Mecca of mystical teachings, much more so than London, St Petersburg or some other European capitals. As in Swedenborg’s time, the French capital was a cauldron teeming with conflicting ideas, affiliations and attitudes, which could be seen as a sign of the anxiety of human consciousness to refract the scientific materialism as well as the social and economic upheavals of the age through the prism of a more emotional appropriation of a fast-paced technological world, the prism of a more sophisticated response to the exigencies of the day. The influence of mystics and magi like Eliphas Levi (1810-1875), Sar Peladan (1859-1918), Papus (1865-1916), the alchemists’ experiments, spiritualism, the shocking prose of the decadents (Huysmans 1848-1907), or decadent poetry (Stanislas de Guaita 1861-1897) could be regarded as a reaction against industrialization and materialism, which had violated the spiritual legacy of Romanticism, a reaction against the ideas of positivism and utilitarianism, which were not alien to Strindberg himself. It was in this restless fin-de-siècle Paris that he was preparing for that inner metamorphosis, which, he felt, would help him emerge from the unfathomable abyss of the mind and the soul in this period of psychological hardship. He effected the metamorphosis through Inferno three years later. According to some, the novel achieves “a transformation, one of the most profound in our literary history” (Martin Lamm) 4, while others believe that it creates its own religion under the strong influence of Swedenborgianism (Axel Herlin), which impressed Strindberg both with its unorthodox theology and with its matter-of-fact attitude to the divine and the eternal. We cannot but agree with Olle Hjern, who points out that after Strindberg found a spiritual explanation of his mental crisis he was no longer frustrated by it. I will also draw upon Olle Hjern’s reflections concerning the dramatic fragment The Island of the Dead (1906), which although it was never completed, contains the key motif of man’s journey after death, a motif that Strindberg picks up again in the third volume of his Blue Book. In The Island of the Dead the writer depicts an angel-like figure, the master, who takes up the instruction of the novice in the beyond in order to help him cope with the tribulations of intermediate states, which Swedenborg describes as vastationes or ödeläggelser, i.e. stages on the road towards maturity and deeper knowledge.
Like many other representatives of world literature and art, who have been influenced by the Swedish theosophist, Strindberg appropriates and applies his teachings idiosyncratically; to a certain extent he even hyperbolizes Swedenborg’s impact on his personality and his identity as a writer. He transforms the ethical principle of analogy between the earthly and the beyond into a highly individualized artistic method, flexible and effective in its own right. At the same time,