Letters #1

By Emanuel Swedenborg
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1. Letter to Bonde 1 , August 11, 1760

I am grateful for the honour of your letter and for your gracious invitation to Hesleby. 2 As to the letter you enclosed from Baron Hatzel of Rotterdam I ought to answer it according to his desire, but since it concerns the Writings which were last published in England, on which my name is not mentioned, it therefore behooves me not to enter into any literary correspondence with any one in foreign lands, for thus I would myself show myself to be the author. 3 But it is different in my own country. Yet those abroad may receive a reply by means of others, and I humbly ask you to be so good as to convey my greeting to him and to give him my apology that I am unable to give him a personal answer. Yet please assure him that it much pleases me that he has found delight and enlightenment in reading those Writings. This is a sign that he was then in illumination from heaven, for the things written in them cannot be comprehended without illumination, because they do not belong to the external understanding but to the internal.

With reference to the question as to whether any verses in the Pentateuch have the property and power of bringing about commerce or conversation with spirits, I know of no verses in Scripture possessing that property more than any others; 4 but this I know, that the Word of God throughout is so written that when man reads it with affection and attention, spirits and angels have a part in the reading and adjoin themselves to man; for the Word of God is so written as to make a bond between heaven and earth (as can be seen from what is to be found on this subject in the treatise concerning HEAVEN AND HELL n. 303-310). Still the Lord provides that spirits and men should rarely come close enough together to speak to each other reciprocally, 5 for by so close a commerce with spirits man might soon come into a peril of soul and danger to his life. 6 I would therefore warn against any desire for this. The Lord Himself has been pleased to introduce me into conversation and life together with spirits and angels on account of the matters which are mentioned in the Writings, and for this reason the Lord Himself protects me against the many crafty attempts and threats of wicked spirits.

Spirits and men are kept apart by the spirits being kept in spiritual thought and speech, and man in natural thought and speech. This separates them, and they make one only by means of correspondences, the nature of which has also been treated of. Therefore, so long as the spirits are in a spiritual state, and man in a natural state, they do not get so close to each other as to converse; still they are together in the affections. But when spirits speak with man they are out of the spiritual state, and in a like natural state with man, and they are then able to bring man into danger of his soul and his life, as has been said above. For this reason they are kept apart so that the spirits do not know of man, and man does not know of them, although they are always together; for man cannot live without spirits with him. Through them he has connection with heaven and hell, and through that connection he has life. I make bold to request you, when writing to Baron Hatzel, to be good enough to convey my respectful greeting and apology, and if it please you to give something of the above as an answer, for he writes to me about these matters in his letter and desires information.

I remain etc.,

Em. Swedenborg. Stockholm

11 August 1760


1. Count Gustaf Bonde, member of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Sweden, politician, at one time President of the Board of Mines, at another Chancellor of Uppsala University (see TD ii p. 1130), had corresponded for many years with Baron L. von Hatzel, a German living in Rotterdam about whom little is known beyond his being a student of mystical philosophy.

In the Spring of 1760 von Hatzel, having read one or two of Swedenborg's works that had been published anonymously in London during the previous ten years, wrote to Bonde seeking the name of the author, whom he knew to be a Swede. Bonde replied that he did indeed know who the author was but that he was not at liberty to disclose his name. He promised to act as a mediator however and pass on any correspondence sent care of himself.

On 7 August Count Bonde wrote to Swedenborg enclosing a copy that had been made of a letter from von Hatzel written in German whose handwriting was 'very indistinct and illegible'. Addressing himself directly to the anonymous author, von Hatzel asked him to 'indicate and point out to which of the five books of Moses, in what chapter and in which two verses, lies concealed the means of coming into the company of these spirits [that is, those with whom Swedenborg had "familiar and free interaction"], and moreover, how to use it, and how to comport oneself'.

Swedenborg's reply to Bonde, written immediately after receiving these two letters, took up first the question of the anonymity of his writings, secondly that of open communication with the spiritual world. Von Hatzel's original letter, and copies of Bonde's and of Swedenborg's, are to be found in the Bergius Collection in the Library of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. The original of Swedenborg's letter is now preserved among Riksarkivet (the State Archives) of Sweden's capital city.

2. Bonde had a country estate in Hesleby, near Stockholm. In his letter the Count had invited Swedenborg to visit him and examine his 'little garden'.

3. In his first draft of his letter, copied by Dergius, Swedenborg here adds: 'The bookseller who has these writings for sale has also been forbidden to make my name known.'

4. 'The idea that there are two verses in the Sacred Scriptures by which man receives the power of holding converse with spirits has been widely spread among necromancers of all ages' (TD Vol. 11 p. 229).

5. The draft adds: 'for this is more dangerous than man can imagine'.

6. [NCBSP Editor] The text of this footnote is currently missing from our source for Harley's text. It's likely to be similar to this footnote from Acton's 1949 translation: In his draft, Swedenborg here adds: "Unless the Lord Himself bring them into this condition and take them under His care and protect them specially, as is the case with me."

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.