EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772), AUGUST STRINDBERG (1849-1912)
AND THE THEORY OF CORRESPONDENCES: AN ESOTERIC COMPLEX OF IDEAS AND A POETICS
Ancient philosophy was a way of life as well as an intellectual method premised on the trinity of existence (physical, mental and spiritual); a trinity subject to the laws of rationality. In a similar manner, for Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish scientist, scholar and theosophist, who epitomizes the ideas and the criteria of the Enlightenment, the need for rationality and the benefits one could derive from the acquisition of knowledge are of prime importance to humanity. These benefits involve the formation of a powerful balancing consciousness, capable of pushing the world ahead and accelerating the evolution of rational nature, whose slower progress is determined by the norms and the conditions of whatever is universally accepted as natural. It is no accident, then, that among his favorite interlocutors in the beyond we see the names of Aristotle (384-322) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716). Like them, Swedenborg draws upon the visible and the familiar in order to picture the invisible and the unfamiliar, in order to gain an insight into the transcendental plane that he will recreate in the form of a philosophical system based on logic. “It looks as if the simple is less perfect than the complex, but the simple from which the complex originates, is perfect” 1, he asserts in his Sapientia angelica de divina providentia (Angelic Wisdom Concerning Divine Providence, 1764). Such an emblematic summation of Swedenborg’s quest in the sphere of Naturphilosophie and religion sounds fully acceptable even at the turn of the 20th century, when August Strindberg makes of it a motto of the first piece in a series of articles entitled “A Religious Renaissance, or Religion against Theology” (the articles appeared in the form of a booklet in 1910). The statement holds true even today, or it could actually have been formulated by, say, Aristotle, with whom Swedenborg has an affinity on the basis of his belief in the attainable reality of “knowledge without bounds”, if we borrow the phrase of American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), who is another disciple of the Swedish thinker.
Empiricist and mystic, Swedenborg epitomizes the duality of his age, a time which combines the clarity and the irrefutable power of reason with a penchant for the irrational, the occult, and the elaborately obscure. In short, it is a time that combines mechanicism (the dominant view that brings together most of the representatives of the age) with the metaphysical instinct, which often prevails over the mechanicist streak. In forming his worldview and his concepts, Swedenborg draws upon the available scientific and spiritual experience, on the basis of which he constructs the grand edifice of his philosophical and religious system. Its key building block is the doctrine of correspondences, which is based on the idea about the spiritual projections of objects and phenomena in the physical world; the doctrine makes use of the method of analogy, which is a key tool