Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

III. Emanuel Swedenborg

254. Emanuel Swedenhorg.—A mystic, who as yet has made much more noise in the world, though totally unworthy of being compared with Jacob Bohme—for this latter has left to the world solid and positive scientific knowledge, founded on an extraordinary insight into Nature and her operations; whilst the former has left it nothing but some poetical ideas, with a farrago of nonsensical rubbish, such as hundreds of confessed madmen have written—is Emanuel Swedenborg. Still he was a man of great parts. In him were combined the opposite qualities of scientist, poet, and visionary. The desire of knowledge made him master the whole cycle of the sciences of his age, and when twenty-eight years old he was one of the most learned men of his country. In 1716 he visited the English, Dutch, French, and German universities. In 1718 he transported for Charles XII. a number of vessels over land from one coast to another. In 1721 he visited the mines of Europe, and wrote a description of them in his great work "Daedalus Hyperboreus." Then he gave himself up to theology, and unexpectedly turned to mysticism, often the denial of theology.

He was fifty-five years old when he began to look within himself and to discover the wonders of the ideal world; after the mines of the earth, he explored the depths of the soul, and in this later exploration he forgot science. His pretended revelations drew upon him the hatred of the clergy, but he enjoyed such consideration in his own country that they could not injure him. At the Diet of 1751 Count Hopken declared that the most valuable writings on finance proceeded from the pen of Swedenborg. A mystical financier was what the world had never seen, and perhaps will never see again. He died in London. There is an English society which prints and circulates his works, filling about fifty large volumes; and he has many followers in this country. He moreover made many discoveries in astronomy, chemistry, and medicine, and was the forerunner of Gall in phrenology.

255. His Writings and Theories.—Much in his writings is no doubt absurd; but still we think a sense, not at once apparent, but which turns nonsense into sense, may be discovered therein. Whoso attentively reads the "New Jerusalem," or the "Journey to the Astral Worlds," must see that there is a hidden meaning in his abstruse language. It cannot be assumed that a man who had shown so much vigour of mind in his numerous works on poetry, philosophy, mathematics, and natural history—a man who constantly spoke of "correspondences," wherein he attributed to the least thing a hidden sense—a man whose learning was unbounded and acute—that such a man wrote without attaching some real meaning to his illusory language. The religion he professes is philanthropy, and consequently he gives to the abstract idea of the perfect man the name of Man-Grod, or Jesus Christ; those who aspire to it are angels and spirits; their union becomes heaven, and the opposite, hell.

256. Rationale of Swedenborg's Writings.—From the most remote antiquity we meet with institutions—as the foregoing pages have sufficiently shown—ever aiming at political, religious, and intellectual reform, but expressing their ideas by speaking allegorically of the other world and the life to come, of God and angels, or using architectural terms. This practice, which is permanent, and permeates all secret societies, aims at morality in conduct, justice in government, general happiness and progress, but aims at all these according to certain philosophical ideas, viz., that all men are free and equal; but understanding that these ideas, in the various conditions of actual society, in its different classes, and in the heads of government and worship, would meet with powerful opponents, it takes its phraseology from an imaginary world successfully to carry out its objects. Therefore its external worship resembles ours, but by the science of correspondences it becomes something different, which is thus, expressed by Swedenborg: "There is in heaven a divine cultus outwardly similar to ours, but inwardly different. I was permitted to enter into the celestial temple (perhaps the lodge), where are shown the harmonised divinity and the deified humanity."

257. The New Jerusalem.—One of the chief conceptions of Swedenborg, as expounded in the "New Jerusalem," is the divine in the heart of every man, interpreted by humanity. which is one of the articles of faith of (true) Masonry.

"The will and to do right without any interested aims, is to restore heaven in oneself, to live in the society of angels. The conscience of every man is the compendium of heaven; all is there, the conception and sanction of all duties and all rights."

It is thus Swedenborg speaks of the mystic or sectarian life:

"Between the good and the evil there is the same difference that there is between heaven and hell. Those that dwell in evil and error resemble hell, because the love of hell is the opposite of that of heaven, and the two loves hate and make war upon each other unto death. Man was created to live with the soul in the spiritual, and with the body in the natural, world. In every man, then, there are two individualities, the spiritual and the natural, the internal and the external. The internal man is truly in heaven, and enjoys intercourse with celestial spirits even during the earthly life, which is not the true, but only a simulated life. Man, being twofold, has two thoughts, the superior and the inferior, two actions, two languages, two loves. Therefore the natural man is hypocritical and false, for he is double. The spiritual man is necessarily sincere and true, because he is simple and one; in him the spirit has exalted and attracted the natural; the external has identified itself with the internal. This exaltation was happily attained to by the ancients, who in earthly objects pursued their celestial correspondences."

258. The Correspondences.—He returns over and over again to the science of the correspondences, alluding to the initiations of the ancients, the true life that succeeds the simulated initiatory death, the mystical heaven, which to the Egyptians and Greeks was nothing but the temple.

"The science of the correspondences among the ancients was the highest science. The Orientals and Egyptians expressed it by hieroglyphics, which, having become unintelligible, generated idolatry. The correspondences alone can open the eyes of the mind, unveil the spiritual world, and make that apprehensible which does not come under the cognisance of the senses." Again he says: "I will show you what faith and charity are. Instead of faith and charity think of warmth and light, and you will understand all. Faith in its substance is truth, i.e., wisdom; charity in its essence is affection, i.e., love. Love and wisdom, or charity and faith, the good and the true, form the life of God in man."

In the description of the fields of heaven, the guiding augel—perhaps the warden of the lodge—says to Swedenborg that the things around him are correspondences of the angelic science, that all he sees—plants, fruits, stones—all is corresponding, just as in masonic lodges. As there are three degrees in life, so there are three heavens, and the conditions of their respective inhabitants correspond with those of the initiated of the three masonic degrees. The "New Jerusalem" may be considered also as a protest against the papal rule, hated by Swedenborg, as by all sectaries. He sought its fate in the Apocalypse, as formerly did the Albigenses; and declared that the corrupt Roman clergy must make way for a better priesthood, and the decayed and idolatrous church for a new temple. To increase the authority of his words he adds: "What I tell you, I learned in heaven," probably the sectarian heaven, into which he had been initiated. Extracts might be multiplied, but the above will suffice to show the spirit that animates the writings of Swedenborg; they will suffice to show that to enter into the hidden thoughts of most emblems, rites, and secret societies, it is necessary to consider the twofold, and even threefold, sense of the different figures. Every symbol is a mystery; nothing is done or said in secret assemblies that is not worthy of scrutiny—names, members, forms, all are indications, hints of hidden truths, dangerous truths, and therefore covered with double and triple veils.

259. Various Swedenhorgian Sects.—From these writings arose various sects, one of them composed of men who await the New Jerusalem, believing in the marvellous prophecies, the conversations with angels, the seraphic marriages of the elect, and considering themselves the true disciples of Christ, because Swedenborg called the Sun of Mercy, which spreads light and warmth throughout the universe, the Saviour of the world. This sect has most followers in England. The other sects boast of possessing the greatest secrets of their master. Of these sects the following may be mentioned.

260. Illuminati of Avignon.—Pemetti, a Benedictine monk, and Gabrianca, a Polish nobleman and a Mason, were the first to surround with whimsical rites and ceremonies the knowledge and reveries of the Swedish mystic. In 1760 they established at Avignon a society of Illuminati, not to be confounded with the Illuminati of Bavaria, nor with any other Illuminati. The city of the popes became a sectarian stronghold, with affiliated lodges in the chief towns of France. The members occupied themselves with philosophy, astronomy, and that social chemistry, which then subjected to a formidable examination all the elements of which political society is composed.

261. Illuminated Theosophists.—Paris wanted to have its own Swedenborgian rite, not satisfied with having introdaced that of Pernetti The Freemason Chartanier, who in 1766 was the master of the Parisian lodge "Socrates," modified the rite of Avignon, and called the new order the "Illuminated Theosophists," and after an active propaganda in France, crossed the Channel and opened a lodge in London, where at first he met with much success; but the rite was soon abandoned.

262. Philosophic Scotch Rite.—Another modification of the Avignon rite was one introduced in 1770 by the Abb Pernetti, who was entirely devoted to alchemy. He called the rite the "Hermetic" rite; but, as its name implies, it was more alchemistical than masonic. Boileau, a physician of Paris, and zealous follower of Pernetti, remodelled the Hermetic rite, rendered it more purely masonic, and gave it the name of the "Philosophic Scotch rite." The two rites were afterwards united into twelve degrees, the last of which is the "Sublime Master of the Luminous Ring," which boasted of being derived from Pythagoras. In 1780 an Academy of the Sublime Masters of the Luminous Ring was established in France, the initiation into which consisted of the presumed philosophic doctrines of the sage of Samos.

263. Rite of the Philalethes.—Another rite founded on the masonic speculations of Swedenborg was one invented in the lodge of the "United Friends," in Paris. The members, among whom were Condorcet and Antoine Court de Gobelin, the author of the "Monde Primitif," called themselves "Philalethes," or "Searchers after Truth," and the founder was Lavalette de Langes, Keeper of the Royal Treasury. It was divided into twelve classes or chambers; the first six degrees were styled Petty, and the last six High Masonry. Like almost all societies founded on Masonry, the Philalethes endeavoured to lead man to his pristine virtue and liberty; they felt the approach of the Revolution, and kept themselves au fait of events and aspirations. The lodge of the Amis Reunis, the centre of the system, possessed a rich collection of works and MSS. on secret societies, a large chemical laboratory, a cabinet of natural history, all under the care of De Langes; but at his death, in 1788, the precious collection was dispersed and the lodge dissolved.

A lodge, in imitation of the above, was founded at Narbonne in 1780, but with considerable modifications. The brethren called themselves Philadelphians, who are not to be confounded with the Philadelphian Society founded in London about a century before, though they professed to derive their rites from England. They were divided into three categories or temples, and ten classes or circles. After the first three masonic degrees came the "Perfect Master," the "Elect," and the "Architect," forming the fourth. The fifth comprised the "Sublime Scotch," the sixth the "Knight of the East" and the "Prince of Jerusalem." The four remaining degrees were supposed to be the depositories of masonic knowledge, philosophical and physical, and of mystic science, fit to fortify and exalt the mind of man. These four degrees were called the first to the fourth chapters of Rose-Croix.

264. Rite of Swedenborg.—What is properly known as the rite of Swedenborg was another modification of the order of the Illuminati of Avignon (260), effected by the Marquis de Thome in 1783, wherein he endeavoured to restore the true meaning of the doctrines of the Swedish mystic. It was a critical labour of some value, and the rite is still practised in several lodges of Northern Europe. It consists of six degrees: Apprentice, Companion, Master Theosophite, Illuminated Theosophite, Blue Brother, Red Brother.

265. Universal Aurora.—In the same year, 1783, there was founded in Paris the Order of the "Universal Aurora," whose chief object was the support of Mesmerism. Cagliostro took an active part in it.