Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams #0

Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams (Wilkinson translation)      

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Emanuel Swedenborg

Edited from the original Swedish by G. E. Klemming. Translated into English in 1860 by J. J. G. Wilkinson. Edited by William Ross Woofenden with an Introduction by Wilson Van Dusen, Second Edition, 1989.

Published by the Swedenborg Scientific Association, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and the
Swedenborg Society, London, England.

Copyright 1989 Swedenborg Scientific Association
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: Swedenborg, Emanuel, 1688-1772.

[Dromboken. English]

To Lennart O. Alfelt


The first English edition of this version of Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams, published in 1977 by the Swedenborg Foundation, is out of print. It was apparently the decision of the editorial and publication board of the Foundation to regard their 1986 publication, Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams, 1743-1744: Commentary by Wilson Van Dusen, as a wholly adequate replacement for the 1977 edition.

There is reason to hold this view: Dr. Van Dusen's version does contain, as an integral part of his Chapter 2, the entire text of the original work. This chapter (pages 10-165) however, comprises not only Swedenborg's text but also Van Dusen's commentary, interspersed with the text. Not surprisingly, the commentary is often much longer than the passages referred to. Thus, in order for the reader to read just the words of Swedenborg, it is necessary to thumb through more than 150 larger-format pages in order to read what was contained seriatim in 90 smaller-format pages in the 1977 edition.

It should be noted that this observation is not to be construed as depreciating the value or significance of Van Dusen's valuable professional insights found in his comments. It is simply to note that the reader whose primary interest is in the original text is faced with some inconvenience if the only version available is the 1986 volume. On the other hand, for those seeking interpretive help in understanding the original text, Van Dusen's version will serve them well, and is commended to their attention.

Reference is made in the Preface to the 1977 edition (q.v.) to one of the shortcomings of the 1918 English edition of the Journal of Dreams translated and edited by C. Th. Odhner, namely his seemingly Victorian decision to translate certain passages into Latin rather than English. What was not mentioned was that Odhner had done extensive research concerning references by Swedenborg about people, contemporary events, etc., and had included these data in a number of footnotes. Some of this information was included in the 1977 edition, but most of it was not.

The primary change in this 1989 edition is the inclusion of most of Odhner's reference material in footnotes. In some cases, however, instead of including his lengthy biographical abstracts, the reader is referred to other books for the details. And in some instances, items included by Odhner that seem to be entirely conjectural in nature have been omitted.

Perhaps the most indefensible omission by the editor of the 1977 edition was his failure to give expression of thanks and due credit for the invaluable editorial assistance given to him by the late Lennart Alfelt. When the decision was made to publish the Wilkinson translation serially in Studia Swedenborgiana, the undersigned prevailed on his good friend, Mr. Alfelt, to draw on his expertise in Swedish and to compare Wilkinson's version with the original Swedish text. This he did, both cheerfully and thoroughly, and the resulting text printed first in Studia and later in the 1977 Swedenborg Foundation edition, was greatly improved over the original Wilkinson version, in large part because of Mr. Alfelt's efforts. Belatedly, this editor here expresses his profound thanks and indebtedness to this remarkable servant of the Church.

William Ross Woofenden
Sharon, Massachusetts, 1989


The Royal Library in Stockholm purchased in October 1858 the original manuscript that contains the principal contents of this little volume. It had previously long lain concealed in the possession of R. Scheringsson, Professor and Master in Vasteras (not far from Stockholm), who died in 1849 at the age of 90. The manuscript continued hidden among his papers for nearly ten years more after his decease, and was ultimately offered for sale to the Royal Library. The handwritten document is contained in a common memorandum book in small octavo, bound in parchment after the fashion of the 17th Century, and provided with wrappers and pockets on both sides. At present the leaves number 69, but some leaves, probably not written on, have been torn out. Of those which remain, there is writing on only 54 sheets, or more exactly speaking, 104 pages. The first leaves are notes of a journey to The Hague in 1743, where Swedenborg went to superintend the printing of the first volume of Regnum Animate [the soul's kingdom], and to write the continuation of that work. The notes of travel are however soon brought to an end, and are succeeded by accounts derived from the world of dream and vision, although among the latter there are also scattered notices of the external and actual life. "Embracing as they do the transition period in Swedenborg's life the transition from the worldly to the spiritual, they are of great value in helping us form a judgment of his spiritual condition, which they show us to have been one of singular agitation and upheaval, enabling us to penetrate his state with deeper gaze than was previously possible. Nevertheless, the editor [G.E. Klemming] deals with the subject solely in the interest of literary history, and confines his office to the task of offering this document just as he found it. The thoughtful reader will easily form his own conclusions; and for the rest, we may be assured there will be no lack of commentators."

So wrote the editor who first published this work. In the original preface he went on to note the difficulties of "dealing with a piece of writing executed with so little care, and consequently often so dubious in its expressions and so difficult to read." His decision was to try to render it as exactly as possible, even to the italicizing of words underscored in the manuscript. He also employed the services of a distinguished reader of manuscripts, F. A. Dahlgren, who "with his usual penetration and ingenuity successfully guessed many of the words which were hard to decipher."

Gustaf Klemming, editor of the 1859 edition, was however an avowed enemy of Swedenborgianism as a religion, but was greatly interested in it as what he considered it to be, namely, a strange venture into the world of the occult.

The following year (1860), disturbed by Klemming's edition, a group of Swedenborgians published a second Swedish edition with a 24-page preface of "reflections on the lately discovered dreams of Swedenborg." Although unsigned, this preface was apparently written by a Lady Anna Frederika Ehrenborg. She had explained in the reflections that Swedenborg was passing through a personal crisis during the time he was hastily scribbling the contents of this journal. Her obvious intent was to help the reader to view the work with a better perspective. A third Swedish edition edited by Knut Barr appeared in Stockholm in 1924. It included a commentary on the Journal as well as a biographical sketch of Swedenborg. A fourth edition was published in 1952 by Wahlstrom and Widstrand, Stockholm, with Per Erik Wahlund as editor. A slightly revised fifth edition with a considerably enlarged body of notes was issued by the same publisher in 1964.

The first English translation - and to date the only complete English translation - is this present one of J. J. G. Wilkinson. This edition was first published serially in Studia Swedenborgiana, the occasional journal of the Swedenborg School of Religion, Newton, Massachusetts, Volume I, 1974-75.

A pirated and abridged version of Wilkinson's translation, which claimed to be the work of a Baron Holmfeld of Denmark, appeared in "The Dawn," a London monthly, in 1861-1862. Later this version was reprinted in "The Crisis," a paper published at LaPorte, Indiana, in the 1860s. Dr. R. L. Tafel, in his three-volume Documents Concerning Swedenborg (London, 1875-77), methodically exposed the plagiaristic nature of Holmfeld's purported new translation. In the course of his exposé, Tafel was moved to translate and print (as Document 209) a large part of the contents of the 1743-44 journal. However, he omitted most of the entries before March 24, 1744, and also several scattered sections which he apparently felt were too explicit or indelicate for the average reader.

Although Tafel, following Swedenborg's usual practice of numbering paragraphs, did insert such numbers in his abridged version, the next English translator found he had to renumber the work to allow for Tafel's omissions. This version, edited by Carl Theophilus Odhner (Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, 1918), has become the standard for references to this work among English readers. One major drawback for scholars of this edition is that although Odhner did indeed include the sexually explicit passages Tafel omitted, he chose to translate them not into English but into Latin. Thus the present version, that of Wilkinson edited to conform to contemporary English by the undersigned, remains the only extant complete version in English. The paragraph numbers used in this edition agree with those used by Odhner.

William Ross Woofenden
Sharon, Massachusetts, 1976

by Wilson Van Dusen

It is a strange experience to be handed someone's Journal of Dreams. It is a compliment to be entrusted with the intimate secrets of someone's life. But it is an ambiguous situation, for these intimate secrets are written in a foreign and barely intelligible language. The purpose of this introduction is to help make this particular account more intelligible.

To begin with, this Journal of Dreams was obviously not intended for publication. We are privileged to see a very personal journal, sometimes scratched out in the middle of the night after a dream or vision. Because Swedenborg did not actually invite us to see this, we should treat this material with some respect. We are privileged to see here what is probably the oldest and longest series of dreams available in any language. For those who really want to understand spiritual development we could not have had a more fortuitous kind of material. The Journal was written just when Swedenborg, the scientist, was changing to become the religious seer. These dreams show the development leading to his later experience of heaven and hell. Swedenborg sought to meet God within, and these dreams are a glimpse into the dialogue of changes in this meeting. While he was given his highest wish, the Divine response also led him into personal changes that would aid him to receive the Divine.

What is a dream? Those who have not looked closely consider it to be some sort of useless fancy that spins itself out when we are not glued to the real world. Such people overlook their own lifetime production of some eight dreams a night. Dreams are dramatic presentations of the basic issues of an individual's life. It is their difficult language of symbolism that puts off all but the hardy searcher. Suppose you wished to become a dream maker. Here is what you should do. You live in intimate association with a person. Your task is to wait till he sleeps and then present him with an intimate report on the essentials of his life. Your intimacy is so subtle and full of feeling that you know, for instance, that even breakfast cereal has the meaning of a close family gathering. You also know more than the dreamer does. You know that intimate family gatherings are not only pleasant, they are also root and branch of this person's way of spiritual development. But in your wisdom, you wish to speak in a coded message that leaves him free. Both your intimacy and your wish to leave him free would incline you to use a symbolic language of parable, what Swedenborg calls the language of correspondences. But there is another reason for symbolism. It is a very wisely condensed language that can say several things simultaneously. You can deal with all levels from the trivial to the celestial simultaneously in parable. So, as dream maker, you will speak to the person out of the innermost nature of his life in a symbolic, dramatic language of living events in a way that does not impair his freedom.

Let's create one. At this time the individual is losing his way. His spiritual development grows out of regular small intimate gatherings such as those at the breakfast table. He doesn't quite know this. He thinks it is just more pleasant to have everyone together at breakfast. He has temporarily lost this thread of his spiritual development. He is becoming scattered into other concerns. We must remind him. So here is the dream. He falls asleep and we put him through this experience. He is in the kitchen; it is a bit dark (the understanding is poor); people are rushing by (rushing rather that strolling, scattering rather than gathering); a large package of breakfast cereal falls over and scatters (much is involved here). He is trying to gather it in when he is awakened. This condensed message says, where you are, it is dark; people are rushing too much and scattering. You need to gather in. It is presented as breakfast cereal because, to him, what is involved doesn't seem too important when he's awake. "I don't know why I was concerned to gather up mere breakfast cereal." But the feeling inside the dream was quite the opposite. It was urgent to gather up these grains. The feeling inside the dream is always correct. On one level it says your life is scattering and you need to gather in. On a deeper level the way is being pointed towards his spiritual development and grain means interior goods and truths (see Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia 7112). Here is something of a message from the One who lives in intimate association with us, the One concerned about the quality of our life while essentially leaving us in freedom. But this is a process that most dismiss as useless fancy. Breakfast cereal indeed!

The basic process underlying dreams is the same as the language of correspondences that Swedenborg later came to see as a central key to understanding all spiritual matters. In the Journal of Dreams we see Swedenborg beginning to experience and grasp this language. In fact, the early part of the Journal shows that Swedenborg already has had some experience in these matters. At the outset he was grasping his dreams far better than his contemporaries. Yet his understanding of this language of parable grew more certain as the Journal progressed. This is not to say that an individual's personal dream imagery and the correspondences in the Bible are exactly the same, but that they reflect the same process. In the Bible the Lord is speaking to people in terms of the intimate experiences of races of people, whereas in the case above, the speaking is to a man in terms of his personal life experience. The process is the same. In fact, one of the central implications of The Natural Depth in Man 2 is that this process, which writes dreams and various other inner processes, is an inherent, natural one. Everyone has it, whether or not he cares a fig for symbolism. There are experiments showing it can't really be shut off. Experimentally cutting off dreaming tends to make dreaming spread into waking consciousness. In fact this is the most fundamental of all processes underlying consciousness. No matter what is done to limit or impair mental functioning, it will only serve to awaken this innermost process. For instance, try to cut out all sensory input, with a person floating blind, deaf and fetal-like in warm water. Does such a person become unconscious without all this sense data to keep him oriented? Not at all. The inner natural symbolic dream maker comes forth in flaming colors. 3 The religious, usually remiss about looking at the depths of human experience, discard dreaming and allied states as of doubtful use. Clinical psychologists make use of it but rarely see its religious implications. Devoted followers of Swedenborg would rather overlook the fact that he studied his dreams at the very time he was becoming a seer. It is as though we have compartmented our knowledge and have difficulty seeing that, what is taken as a simple personal experience, also has broader religious implications. If we were concerned only to give our subject above a deeper religious experience, we should have given him the same dream. Yet, it appears, the dream maker is concerned with the whole range of our life experience. The message to our subject above is suitable for eating better, turning from scattering to gathering, bringing peace to him and his family and returning him to his personal, natural spiritual path.

Get the picture of being inside the person's intimate life details and you can begin to interpret dreams. It isn't an intellectual process but rather one of trying to feel with the person. It helps very much to try to visualize being caught in the same dream to get the feeling of what is going on. Let us, then, look at one of the dreams in Swedenborg's Journal:

Stood behind a machine, that was set in motion by a wheel; the spokes entangled me more and more and carried me up so that it was impossible to escape; wakened. (JD 18)

Swedenborg was a mining engineer. He had done many careful drawings of such machinery. He was trying to improve mining processes and this involved new and better machines. Let us try to enter the experience to see if we can feel what it is talking about. We are standing behind a machine. Normally we'd feel safe and not involved in the machine. It must be big. Great big intermeshed wheels. Oh, oh! We are getting involved in it more and more, caught in its spokes. Here we go. It is frightening. We are caught in the spokes and being carried upwards. There is no escape. There is a helpless feeling. We can hear the great wheels grinding, moving, carrying us, inexorably. What will happen? We awaken.

Notice the drama. At first we are standing behind, less involved, not caught up. Then we become involved, caught up. Swedenborg the engineer could stand by, not get caught up. This is one of the earliest dreams in the Journal. He was being caught and carried up. Though it may be frightening, the usual implication of up is toward what is higher, the spiritual. If, as dream maker, we wanted to say to Swedenborg, 'You engineer! you thought you could stand by and not be involved. Now you are caught up in what is immense and somewhat frightening,' we would devise a dream like this.

Swedenborg had an advantage over us: he could feel into the details of his life to read the associations of the dream. We have the advantage over him in that we can look at the nature of his life and see what was to come, what he was being carried towards.

Let us look at his associations to the above dream.

Signifies either that I ought to be kept more strictly; or perhaps it referred to the lungs of the fetus in the womb, about which I was writing immediately afterwards, or both. (JD 18)

What are associations? The dream is made out of inner aspects of the life itself. Associations are the interconnections within this life. When helping someone to work out a dream it makes considerable difference what level within the life is reflected in their associations. The more they are like intellectual constructions from near conscious, the less value they have. The more they represent what is affectively significant to the person, the more central the association. All associations are correct to some extent and are to be respected. But the associations that grip the life are the deeper and more significant. For instance, if the dreamer suddenly feels, with a burst of feeling that such and such means so and so, this association is central and becomes a significant key to the meaning of the dream. It isn't a matter of being biased towards feeling, it is a key to how fully and centrally the life is involved. The most central drift of all these dreams of Swedenborg is from a rather cool, detached intellectual approach to the inner life, to a deeper and deeper emotional involvement.

The above associations say several things. Though they are at the beginning of the dream journal they indicate he already has some experience with inner processes. Wheels and machinery are taken symbolically as having some reference to his life. He is evidently unsure of the meaning. These associations are shallow, not wrong, but near intellect and hence not too deep. "Signifies that I ought to be kept more strictly...." That's pretty good. It captures some of the quality of being caught in the spokes of the wheel. But kept in what way, in his scientific work or in the pursuit of the inner life? The next association to the lungs of a fetus stems from the fact that he was doing work in anatomy at that time. In part this was an interpretation of a symbol with a symbol, something that easily occurs when one is at the beginning of penetrating this process. How can we know "fetal lungs" is a symbol? Everything of dreams is made from the life of the person and reflects the person. If fetal lungs represent him, then they too are symbolic. If we went to Swedenborg's later works to see what fetal lungs represent, we would discover that being fetal, they point to the very beginning, and that lungs have to do with understanding. Translation: "I am caught in the very beginning of understanding of a process which is larger than I and carries me up." This fits the context of his whole life and especially the spiritual development which was to occur soon. There is another sign here that Swedenborg was on the right track in understanding this process. He could accept that the dream may have two levels of meaning at once, that he should be "kept strictly," and "fetal lungs." He was ready to abandon the rather linear and limited quality of logical consciousness (especially characteristic of a lifelong scientist) towards the more pervasive spread of meaning in the inner process. Something can have two very different meanings. His grasp of the nature of the process that caught him up grew rapidly during the few months of this Journal. He began the Journal with a good beginner's sense of the language of the inner life and showed himself to be a fast learner.

Let us try the next dream together to make sure you can enter and begin to understand the process reflected in this Journal.

Was in a garden which had many divisions; pretty; of these I wished to possess one for myself; but looked about to see if there was any way to get out. It appeared to me that I saw one, and thought of another. There was a person who picked away a number of invisible creeping things, and killed them; he said they were bugs, which someone had dropped there and thrown in, and which infected the people there. I did not see them, but saw another creeping thing which I dropped on a white linen cloth beside a woman. It was the uncleanness which ought to be rooted out of me. (JD 19)

Enter the experience. See the pretty garden. If you were Swedenborg's dream maker, what is a garden? It is a place where life blossoms verdantly. Swedenborg notices the garden has many divisions. It is ordered, laid out, structured. This is not surprising, for all his life he had been noticing the structure of things. Even his later theology was a garden of many divisions. He wants to possess at least one. Sad, but none of this is his yet. This is to say that this verdancy he is walking in, while asleep, seems alien to him. None of it is his. This is another way of expressing this otherness and also his first attitude towards this verdancy in himself. It is similar to standing behind the wheel in the first dream. It is a desire to detach oneself. How shall I get out of here: this way? that? He is a thinker not imbued with the wonder of the garden, even though it is beautiful. What is really going on in this verdancy within? Someone is picking away a number of invisible creeping things. Too bad; the garden is contaminated in a way that can't be seen on the surface. Someone had infested the garden almost carelessly (had dropped and thrown in). This infested the people there, namely Swedenborg himself. What are these bugs? Anything that tends to contaminate and destroy this verdancy of life. Though someone (some force in Swedenborg) is catching and killing off this contamination, the implication is, there is a lot more. What the infestation is, is not yet clear. But finally he sees a creeping thing and drops it on a white cloth beside a woman. A creeping bug, dropped on a white cloth. The scene suggests a contrast of good (white cloth) and evil (a bug). In fact, like good and evil, the bug shows up better in contrast to a white cloth. But why white cloth next to a woman? The image says the purity of the white cloth and the woman are associated. Swedenborg's own association is that the dream says some kind of impurity is to be rooted out of him. This certainly fits with the whole drama and feeling of the dream. It may be he had in mind some particular kind of impurity (he says the uncleanness which ought to be rooted out).

Can we know precisely what the bugs in the garden are? It is actually intimated in the dream, but difficult to see. I believe Swedenborg only partly understood it at this point. My guess is that he saw the uncleanness as indicative of lust or pride, or both. The value of a long series of dreams is that any mistakes we make in one dream can gradually be straightened out as the inner process sends its nightly messages in countless different ways. The bugs and women are within a central theme being dealt with in his dreams.

Actually, the impurity has been described in this dream; the reader, however, has the added advantage of knowing Swedenborg's life and this whole dream series quite well. One is in a beautiful garden, it is structured, one wants to own part, and one is thinking how to get away from it. Condensed, one wants to own and control one's relationship to this life. What are bugs in a garden but self-willed bits of life that don't act as one wishes. If they did as the gardener wished, there would be no problem. Gardeners don't mind bees who pollinate. Swedenborg wishes to own, control, but remain aloof from this life. This attitude leaves him contaminated. The bug which is brought into clear focus on the white cloth is specifically a "creeping thing." No fragment of a dream is a useless piece of information. Swedenborg's later revelation was to say creeping things represent the intellectual memory-knowledge of the external man (Arcana Coelestia 40). This is the "bug" that spoils the garden of life the intellectual, rational, external man that would like to own, control, but not be controlled by life (stand behind the machine rather than be caught up). This is the tendency to be rooted out. But, it would be quite sufficient for the reader to get a sense that there is a garden of life in this man but something of him contaminates this life and needs to be rooted out.

Now that you have some sympathy with the process involved and can wander within this murky drama, let us talk of the dramatic sweep of all these dreams. To understand Swedenborg it is necessary to accept that he was really a very intellectual scientist. If you don't have a solid grasp of this, read his several volumes on the senses, genital organs, brain, and chemistry as a starter. Here is a giant intellect attempting to understand everything.

Having exhausted all known areas of human knowledge, he chose to explore within himself in the most direct way possible, by a very close study of inner processes. In the Journal of Dreams (222, 261, 267) there are visions, trances, and hypnogogic experiences. Appreciate, too, the time and context of this inner exploration. There were no psychoanalysts, no depth psychologists; the unconscious was yet to be discovered. There was virtually no real understanding at all of these inner processes or dreams except by isolated monks and mystics. It was terra incognita, an unknown land that he proposed to risk his life and sanity exploring. He had no one to consult, no books, no help except inwardly. This was unquestionably a daring venture.

There was, however, a kind of guidance in this exploration. His supreme value was to know and experience God. This is a central theme in this Journal. He was cheered when he had some kind of experience of the Divine (JD 39, 51-54, 127, 167, 276) and downcast when he felt removed from the Divine. He entered dream exploration partly to see what was really there, just as he had all the prior sciences, but mostly to encounter the Divine. Hence we find prayer and visions of the Divine mixed in this process. This was Swedenborg's conscious side of the equation. He was a very intellectual scientist trying to know God by digging deeply into his own life. Anyone who has ventured into this same area will appreciate how hard he tried.

Now let us try to see the development between Swedenborg and the inner process. Until he actually had intimations that the Divine was within and was reaching out a hand to him, he was really uncertain what he was getting into. Even with odd experiences such as the doubling of his thoughts (JD 174: he was aware of an idea and its opposite, his intellectual controls being overwhelmed), he did not really fear insanity. He feared that it might not be meaningful, that it might not help him reach the Divine, his real goal. In fact the whole drama was a kind of upwardly inclined spiral. In short periods of time he would feel up and down, but his overall progress towards the Divine was almost inexorably upwards.

In an early dream Swedenborg described himself as impure and unworthy (JD 19). This was true, but probably not in the sense he suspected. By far the greatest task the inner had to accomplish was to bring this massive intellect to a feelingful understanding of life itself. At several points he thought the dreams were concerned with his scientific work (JD 18, 243, 244) in the same way he was. They weren't. The inner process called them a heavy load (JD 31). The inner was trying to bring him into a feelingful understanding, an understanding based directly on personal life experience. Among other symbols it spoke of this in terms of his relations with women (feeling). He wanted a woman (to join with this inner realm of life feeling) but he was unworthy. He thought of them sexually, but sex was prohibited. Whatever sexual experience he had had in earlier years, actual sexuality had been put aside for some time according to the dreams. His problem with his own feelings was that he had to consider them in their own nature by entering their realm sympathetically. Yet, this intellect was worried about what he might be getting into. At the shallowest level his unworthiness was that he was lustful and had to put aside sex. That had mostly been done. More seriously, and at a deeper level, his unworthiness was that he was daring to grasp the Divine on his own terms, that is intellectually. The inner process simply could not permit this. He had done all these volumes on anatomy before in an effort to find the soul. The soul could be found, represented here as a beautiful woman, but he had to struggle emotionally to find her. Moreover, he had to become emotional to find her. In a way the last recorded conscious thoughts at the end of the Journal reflect the path he had come over.

Truths or virgins of this sort think it base to be exposed to sale; they regard themselves as so precious and dear to their admirers that they think it an indignity if anyone bids for them; still more so if he comes to buy them. Others, who regard them as of no account, they treat superciliously. So then, in order that they may not fall under valuation by the former, nor into contempt from the latter, they prefer to offer themselves gratuitously to their lovers. I, who am their servant, do not dare to disobey them, for fear of being deprived of their service. (JD 286)

What did he seek? Truth. But truth has been transformed. She is like a lovely virgin and the way she feels must be understood. No one can buy her. Those who think little of her, she treats superciliously. She prefers to give herself to one who loves her.

The central change that takes place in the Journal of Dreams is that the very basis of his understanding was shifted by this inward exploration. His understanding had become affectional, thereby becoming living. Formerly there was unworthiness. He had tried to buy truth, paying a price of intellectual analysis. He too, had undervalued her when he doubted and undervalued this inner process. Now he had found the way. The real truth, what hadn't been known before (a virgin) was given freely to a lover, for the lover had come sympathetically into her real nature.

The Journal of Dreams has been relatively neglected by Swedenborg scholars because they didn't fully sense what was involved. There was some scandalous talk when this was first published in its original Swedish because of the few sexual references. The one complete English edition had all the sexual passages in Latin. The scandal was foolish. These people hadn't looked at their own far more sexual dreams. Compared to an average series of dreams, sex is probably under-represented here. One psychoanalyst concluded Swedenborg was homosexual. He hadn't seen the obvious heterosexuality of these dreams. Some have said 4 that Swedenborg had a sexual problem. It has to be seen in context. It was the effort to control natural desire in an unmarried man which made it seem like a problem. Sexual desire disappeared during the writing of the Journal. The intimate association of the dream maker leads it to use rude symbols. The rudest example here is the vagina dentata, a vagina with teeth (JD 120, 261). Modern dream analysts have found the same symbol. This was one of the several ways in which Swedenborg's difficulty (teeth) with feeling (vagina) was expressed. In a way the flap over sex in these dreams is appropriate, for the relationship to women (his own feeling side) was a central issue of the dreams. It was as though this great explorer wanted to know God on his own terms (intellectual, rational and in control) and learned that he would have to experience his own feeling side in order to enter into the love of God. He could not know God except by becoming more like Him. This is also the model of the relationship between personal and spiritual development.

There are two precognitive dreams in this series (JD 243, 250). Until one wrestles with dreams and comes to appreciate their wisdom, it is difficult to believe that the dream maker also sees one's future. There is good evidence for this. 5 The difficulty is that, in the midst of a welter of symbolism, the dreamer usually has trouble seeing what is talking of the future and what is simply portraying the present. In one, the dream (250) referred to Swedenborg's book, The Worship and Love of God. But Swedenborg hadn't even thought of writing it yet, let alone figure out its title. He thought the dream referred to his rather dry, intellectual work on the infinite. The whole dream (249-252) is worth looking at, for it deals directly with the central problem of bringing him away from intellect into love. The dream casually speaks of a book he had not yet conceived, a book that was to be a bursting forth of passionate understanding. The other dream is of even more interest for it very informally says Swedenborg is to be admitted into heaven and hell, as later happened.

I saw a gable of the most beautiful palace that could possibly be seen; glory like the sun upon it. It was said to me that in the society it was decided that I should be a member that was immortal, which no one previously had been except one who had been dead and had lived again. Others said that there were several. (JD 243)

Here his future entry into heaven and hell is casually described. He used the gable end of a palace more than once as though it meant an ideal place. Apparently it had been decided that he was to be one of the few mortals to explore heaven and hell. Curiously, he thought perhaps he was the only one to have this experience, while "others said there were several."

One final scene from beyond this journal will round out the drama here. Swedenborg's friend Robsahm 6 recollected asking Swedenborg whether any other person could come into the same degree of spirituality in which he was. Swedenborg warned him that this could lead to insanity if a person "from his natural man and by his own speculations tries to fathom heavenly things which transcend his comprehension." Here was the central uncleanliness that was to be eliminated in this dream series. He goes on to describe the day when he was admitted into heaven and hell. He was in London at an inn. He had eaten heartily and engaged in much discussion. Then he unaccountably entered a vision. The room grew dark (darkness of understanding) and the floor was covered with crawling reptiles, snakes, frogs and similar creatures. Then the darkness suddenly cleared and there was a man in the room with him. "I was very much frightened at his words, for he said 'Eat not so much.'" In terror he hastened home. Again, the man appeared and revealed he was the Lord God and that Swedenborg was to be guided in what he was to write. That same night, according to Robsahm, he was fully introduced into heaven and hell, an experience that was to remain his whenever he wanted for many years. Dream 243 becomes real. But why "Eat not so much"? I believe with the scholar Alfred Acton that the reference was to excess on his part in presuming to know so much in philosophical discussion, for his mission was to be guided by the Lord. He "swallows too much," who presumes of his own powers. Creeping things represent the dangers of presumptuous speculation. With this final warning of the uncleanliness to be removed, he became a servant of the Lord. His writings thereafter are in marked contrast to the earlier ones. Where he endlessly speculated before, there is not a trace of speculation in his theology. There he describes what he has been given to know, what he has seen and experienced. His later writings are full of feeling and show much concern with love and affection.

There are several important lessons in this volume. The Divine is within and can be known, but the process is one of struggle and search. It is just as well that the very language of dreams requires us to enter into the somewhat alien and intimate ways of the inner process. We must stretch and change to understand it. The process of spiritual development requires personal growth. The person who would try to reach the Divine by his conventional viewpoint of consciousness finds he must change, expand, become anew in unexpected directions before the Divine can be known. If we can really learn to read this account, to get "caught in the spokes of the wheel" as he was, then we can also begin to read the patiently sent messages we receive every night. In Swedenborg's uncertainty, doubt, and struggle, we should see something of ourselves and take heart. For we all are like Emanuel Swedenborg, by the grace of God, caught in the spokes of a great wheel.


1. Adapted in part from the Preface to the original 1859 Swedish edition of Swedenborg's Drommar.

2. W. Van Dusen, The Natural Depth in Man, Harper and Row, New York, 1972.

3. The author participated in sensory deprivation experiments and wrote the foreword to C. Brownfield, Isolation, Random House, New York, 1966.

4. See e.g. Colin Wilson's introduction to the Dole translation of Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg Foundation, New York, 1976.

5. Jan Ehrenwald, New Dimensions of Deep Analysts, Allen and Unwin, New York, 1954.

6. R. L. Tafel, Documents Concerning Swedenborg, 2 vols., Swedenborg Society, London, 1875-1877. Vol I, p. 34.


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