LORD'S PERSONAL MANIFESTATION TO SWEDENBORG C. TH. ODHNER 1900
NEW CHURCH LIFE Vol. XX. JANUARY, 1900 No. I.
The worship and love of the visible God is the supreme glory of the Lord's New Church. Though the walls of the holy city be built of jasper and her gates made of pearl, - though every precious stone be her foundation and her streets transparent gold, - yet what treasure, what blessing, what glory is like unto the Lamb Himself who reigns within her, who is her lamp and her sun, whose face is seen, and whose name is written upon the forehead of her inhabitants. This vision of the Lamb, this constant sight, in faith and love, of God visible in His glorified Human, is that which makes the New Church the very Crown of all the churches that hare been upon the earth. For in this Church is fulfilled the eternal purpose of the Divine Love: the conjunction of the human race with its Maker and Sustainer; and the means of this conjunction is the revealing, unveiling, or manifestation of the LORD in His Divine Humanity. It is this revelation of the visible God that makes the New Church truly New; a dispensation or universal spiritual condition among men, absolutely unique and without precedent in the history of the race; a state of blessedness and beauty and strength, which, inmostly considered, is, or will become, superior even to the Golden Age.
We cannot enter, at this time, into the internal reasons why the men of all preceding ages were not gifted with this immediate revelation of the visible LORD. Let it suffice, for the present, that "they were not able yet to bear it." But to the New Church He JEHOVAH-MAN, as God in Person, as the One Divine Person who as the "Angel of Jehovah," but as stands revealed, no longer Himself is the Divine Trinity. And how did this one God-Man thus render visible His Divine Humanity in these latter days? By revealing Himself in Person to His servant, Emanuel Swedenborg, whom He filled with His Holy Spirit, to teach the Doctrines of the New Church through the Word from Him.
In order, then, to gain a clear understanding of this supreme doctrine concerning the Visible God, it would seem of exceedingly great importance to learn how the LORD revealed Himself " in Person" to Swedenborg; that is, not only internally, as the Divine Truth in the World, but visually, i. e. objectively, and definitely. For without a definite and objective view there is no determination for the natural thought, no ultimate in the mind upon which the ideas can rest, no bulwark against infesting doubts, no fostering home, in which the spiritual ideas can gather form and power.
The New Church has been blessed with abundant materials for the formation of such an objective idea of the Loan in His Divine Humanity. To begin with, let us consider Swedenborg's own statements as to the fact of the Lord's personal manifestation before him.
I sacredly attest that I have been intromitted into the Kingdom of God by the Messiah Himself, Jesus of Nazareth. (Adversaria n. 475)
This statement, written in the year 1746, is the first of a series of similar, most solemn asseverations, as witness the following:
By command of the LORD, who has been revealed to me, the following; works are to be published. (Doct. Lord. Pref.)
The LORD alone has taught me, who has been revealed to me, and afterwards has continually appeared and does appear, before my eyes as the Sun, in which He is, just as He appears to the angels, and has illustrated me. (D. P. 135)
It has pleased the LORD to manifest Himself to me, and to send me to teach those things which are to be of the New Church. (C. L. 1.)
Hence it is evident that the LORD Will also now appear in the Word. That He will not do so in Person, is because after His Ascent into Heaven He is in His Human glorified, and in this He cannot appear to any man, unless He has first opened the eyes of the spirit [of that man]. (T. C. R. 777)
That the LORD has manifested Himself before me, His servant, and has sent me to this office, and that after this He has opened the sight of my spirit, and thus has introduced me into the spiritual world, testify in truth. (T. C. R. 779)
The manifestation of the LORD in Person, and the introduction into the spiritual world, - both as to sight and as to hearing and speaking from the Lord - this surpasses all miracles.
This has never been granted to anyone since creation, except to me. (Inv. 43, 52.)
Of the same import are the following statements in Swedenborg's private correspondence:
I can solemnly bear witness that the LORD Himself has appeared to me and that He sent me to do what I am now doing. (Letter to Oetinger, Sept. 23, 1766.)
I have been called to a holy office by the LORD Himself, who most mercifully appeared before me, His servant, in the year 1743, when He opened my sight into the spiritual world. (Letter to Hartley, August, 1769.)
That our Saviour visibly revealed Himself before me, and commanded me to do what I have done, and what I still do; and that He thereupon permitted me to have intercourse with angels and spirits, I have declared before the whole of Christendom. (Letter to the king of Sweden, May 10, 1770.)
As the LORD had prepared me for this from my childhood, He manifested Himself in Person before me, His servant, and sent me to do this work. (Letter to the landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, July 13, 1771.)
This fact being thus established, in Swedenborg's own words, it remains to be shown how and when this manifestation of the LORD took place.
It will be noticed that the year 1743 is the earliest date assigned for this occurrence. A second manifestation took place on April 7, 1744, and a third, according to Robsahm's report, in April, 1745.
Of the first manifestation, in 1743, We have no detailed account, but we are led to infer that it must have taken place in a dream, during a "preternatural sleep," of a kind which Swedenborg began to experience about the middle of October, 1743. (Doc. ii: 1125.)
But though it may have been in a dream, this manifestation of the LORD was none the less actual, -as actual as the revelations which in ancient times came to the prophets "in dreams." (A. C. 1975.) It was a first approach of the LORD in Person, and must necessarily have been tempered to the state of Swedenborg, whose spiritual sight was not yet fully opened. During this dream, then, the sleeper first received the Divine "call" to the "holy office" which awaited him, and it would see in, responded to this call by a promise. And this call was twice repeated, each time more clearly, as Swedenborg gradually became more actually or consciously awake in the spiritual world. Does not this repeated call bring to mind the thrice repeated call to Peter,-"Feed My Sheep?"
The next manifestation of the LORD, which occurred in 1733, has been fully described by Swedenborg himself in his private Record of Dreams.
[Delft, in the night between April 6th and 7th, 1744]: During the whole day I had enjoyed the grace of being engaged in profound spiritual thought, more profound and beautiful than I had ever before experienced. . . At 10 o'clock I went to bed, and felt somewhat better; half an hour afterwards I heard a rumbling noise beneath my head, and I supposed then that the Tempter had left me. Immediately afterwards a powerful tremor came over me, from the head and over the whole body, accompanied by a strong sound, and this several times; I felt that something holy was over me. I then fell asleep, and about twelve, one, or two o'clock in the night there came over me a most powerful tremor from the head to the feet, with a crashing sound, as of the concourse of many winds, by which I was shaken; it was indescribable and prostrated me on my face. Now, in the moment I was thus prostrated, I became wide awake and recognized that I had been thrown down. I wondered what all this meant, and I spoke as if I were awake, but still I noticed that the words were put into my mouth. And I said, "O Thou Almighty Jesus Christ, who of Thy great mercy hast deigned to come to so great a sinner, make me worthy of this grace!" I kept my hands folded, and prayed, and a hand came and strongly Dressed my hands. I now continued my prayer and said, "O Thou who hast promised to receive in grace all sinners, Thou canst not otherwise than keep Thy word!" At that moment I lay on His bosom and looked at Him face to face. It was a countenance of a holy mien, and everything such that it cannot be described it was also smiling, and I truly believe that such had been His face while He lived on earth. He spoke to me, and asked "If I had a certificate of my health?" I answered, "O LORD, Thou knowest this better than I." He then said, "Well, then do." This, as I perceived in my mind, signifies "Love me truly," or "Do what thou hast promised." O God, give me grace for this! I perceived I could not do it by my own strength. I now awoke in a tremor. (Record of Dreams, Swedish original, pp. 11, 12; compare Dec. 11: 158.)
It appears from this most wonderful. account that Swedenborg understood the words, "Then do," as reminding him of something he had promised, - the promise, perhaps, which he may have given during the dream in the year 1743. It appears also that this second manifestation occurred similarly in a dream. Swedenborg being asleep as to his body, but becoming consciously awake as to his spirit. The final "I awoke" refers to the natural state of the sleeper.
With this account may be compared the manifestation of the LORD in a dream which Swedenborg had, seven years afterwards, in the night between November 18th and 19th, 1751:
In a dream the Lord was seen by me, with the face and form which He had in the world. He was such that interiorly there was a fullness, and thus so that He could interiorly rule the whole of Heaven. There was a certain person not far from Him, whom he regarded, and then He elevated the eyes a little, and thus knew who and of what quality that person was; and often he was as it were sleeping with the eyes, when He was interiorly within Himself. When I awoke, He was still obscurely seen by me, and it was said that He had appeared thus: in a word. He was full of Heaven and the Divine. (Diar. Minus. 4831.)
For an account of the Lord's third manifestation, occurring in the year 1745, we have only the narrative of Carl Robsahm, the young friend of the Seer in Stockholm, who wrote down his well-known Memoirs in 1782, thus twelve years after his last interview with Swedenborg. His report is as follows:
I asked him where and how it was granted him to see and to hear what takes place in the world of spirits, in heaven, and in hell. Whereupon Swedenborg answered as follows: "I was in London, and dined rather late at the inn where I was lodging. I was hungry and ate with a good appetite. Towards the close of the meal I noticed a sort of dimness before my eyes; this became denser, and I then saw the floor covered with the most horrid, crawling reptiles, such as snakes, frogs, and similar creatures. I was amazed, for I was perfectly conscious, and my thoughts were clear. At last the darkness increased still more; but it disappeared all at once, and I then saw a man sitting in the corner of the room; and as I was then alone, I was very much frightened at his words, for he said, 'Eat not so much.' All became black again before my eyes, but immediately it cleared away, and I found myself alone in the room. . . . I went home, and during the night the same man revealed himself to me again, but I was not frightened now. He then said he was the Lord God, the Creator of the World, and the Redeemer, and that He had chosen me to explain to men the spiritual sense of the Scripture, and that He Himself would explain to me what I should write on this subject; that same night, also, were opened to me the world of spirits, heaven, and hell, and I recognized there many acquaintances of every condition in life"- (Doc i: 36.)
Virtually the same account,-taken from Robsahm's Memoirs--is found in Abbe Pernety's preface to his French translation of Heaven and Hell (Berlin, 1782), but with some additional details supplied by C. F. Nordenskjold, of Stockholm, from a letter to him by Dr. G. A. Beyer, who writes as follows:
The information respecting the Lord's personal appearance before the Assessor, who saw Him in imperial purple and in majestic light, seate3d near his bed, while He gave Assessor Swedenborg his commission, I had from his own lips at a dinner-party in the house of Dr. Rosen, where I saw the old gentleman for the first time.
I remember that I asked him how long this lasted; whereupon he answered, "About a quarter of an hour;" also, whether the strong light did not affect his eyes; when he said, "No." - (Doc. ii., 426.)
Now, as to the "vision at the inn" we have a somewhat different account in Swedenborg's own words, and it will be noticed that he is entirely silent in regard to the manifestation of the LORD on this occasion.
A vision by day, concerning those who have been given to feasting, and who thus indulge the flesh. In the middle of the day, about dinner-time, an Angel who was with me spoke to me, that I should not indulge the stomach too much at the table. While he was with me there distinctly appeared to me as it were a vapour exuding from the pores of the body, plainly visible like steam, which fell down to the earth, where a carpet was seen, upon which the vapour collected and was turned into worms, which collected under the table, and in a moment exploded with a noise and the appearance of a fiery light. I supposed that in this way there had been cast out of my body all the worms which can be generated by an immoderate appetite, and that I had been then cleansed from them. (S. D. 397. Cf. Adversaria ii., 1956.)
We are told here that it was "an angel" who first addressed Swedenborg, probably the same one as that "spirit," who "finally addressed him in a few words," as a culmination of the various phenomena which for a number of years had marked the gradual opening of his spiritual sight. (S. D. 2951.) But Robsahm reports that Swedenborg had told him that this same "man," ("spirit," or "angel"), was really the LORD Himself, who thus revealed Himself, and who again appeared in the following night, now announcing Himself as the Creator and Redeemer. We have no reason to doubt Mr. Robsahm's veracity, even though the lapse of many years may have confused his recollection of the details in regard to the "vision in the inn." As to the essential features his account agrees with Swedenborg's own statement in the Spiritual Diary n. 397, and We may therefore take it for granted that his report as to the manifestation of the LORD in 1745 is Substantially correct: that it was the LORD Himself who appeared, through an angel, in the night after the vision in the inn. That the LORD at times did appear thus to Swedenborg, by means of an angel, is evident from the following memorable statement:
It has several times happened to me, that I judged not otherwise than that the LORD Himself was present and spoke. But the case is this: it is the LORD who then appears through others, who then are not themselves, and these suppose similarly that they are the Lord, - and the LORD then appears in the form of that [spirit], whose form still remains, for the Loan is not willing altogether to change the former individuality (indoles) of another, and thz1sto appear through him. (S. D. 2990)
It might be inferred from this and other similar teachings in the Writings, that the manifestations of the LORD to Swedenborg, in 1743 and 1744, we've also effected through the medium of an angel, infilled for the time being with the Divine Human of the LORD. On this subject we may not venture any mere hypothesis. One thing is certain, however, - that the LORD did reveal Himself, in Person, to Swedenborg, immediately, in His Person Divine Human, - as He appears in the Sun of the spiritual world, in which the celestial angels constantly behold Him.
It appears that he was gradually introduced and habituated to this glorious sight. Following his statements chronologically we read:
In order that I might be confirmed in this, that the LORD appears to the Celestial angels as a Sun, but to the Spiritual angels as a Moon, the internal sight was opened even unto this, by the Divine Mercy of the Lord, and I manifestly saw the Moon shining. It was girded about with several lesser little moons, the light of which was almost solar, according to these words in Isaiah: "the light of the moon shall be as the light of the Sun" (xxx: 26); but it was not granted to see the Sun. (A. C. 1531; written about the year 1748)
That the LORD appears as a Sun...has not only been told me by the angels, but it has sometimes been granted me to see. (H. H. 118; written in 1737.)
It has been granted me to see the LORD in this way as a Sun. I see Him before my face; and for many years I have so seen Him, to whatsoever quarter of the world I have turned. (D. L. W. 131; written in 1763.)
The glorious appearance of the Sun of Heaves, glowing and beaming with such splendor as cannot be described, is indicated in Heaven and Hell n. 159, and the Spiritual Diary n. 4639.
This Heavenly Sun, however, is not the LORD Himself. "Beware of thinking it. God is a Man." That Sun is the first proceeding of His Love and Wisdom, a spiritual Fire, which appears in the sight of the angels as a Sun. But within that Sun, encompassed with the solar fire, He appears as a Man, the Divine Man, for "there He is in His Divine from eternity, and at the same time in His Divine Human, which are one like soul and body." (A. R. 465; compare A. C. 10809; D. L. W. 97)
When, however, the LORD appears in Heaven, which often occurs, He does not appear clothed with the Sun, but in an angelic form, distinguished from the angels by the Divine which is translucent from His countenance.
For He is not there in person - the LORD in person being always encompassed with the Sun; but He is in the presence of the angels by aspect.... The LORD has also been seen by me out of the Suit, in an angelic form, a little below the sun, at a great altitude. I have likewise seen Him near, in a similar form, with a resplendent countenance. Once also, in the midst of a band of angels, as a flaming beam of light. (H. H. 121.)
What is meant by the LORD appearing by aspect, - out of the Sun, and not in His own person, - will be explained in a subsequent article. We must here confine ourselves to the accounts given by Swedenborg himself of the objective manifestations of the LORD before him.
The appearance of the LORD, out of the Sun and in Heaven, was witnessed on various occasions, which have been particularly described:
There suddenly appeared under the Sun a bright cloud, which did not obscure the Light, but transmitted it; and in that shining cloud there appeared angels with trumpet, and round about them there were altars and tables upon which, in heaps, were lying Books half opened, and above the cloud the LORD appeared, out of the Sun, speaking with the angels; and then out of the cloud there dropped as it were Dew, which was scattered about and was condensed into Manna; the angels took some of this and gave it to their companions, [certain novitiate spirits], and they ate of it. (Five Mem. Rel. 18.)
On another occasion Swedenborg was shown a magnificent Temple representative of the false faith of the consummated church. Presently it was changed into a miserable structure, full of chinks, standing upon a swamp in which was immersed a great hewn stone, concealing the Word beneath it. Then an east wind came and dried up the swamp, and laid bare the stone, after which, in turn there appeared a Temple similar to that in Jerusalem. Finally the whole of that Temple vanished, and in place of it was seen the LORD alone, standing upon the foundation stone, which was the Word, in an appearance similar to that in which He was seen by John (Apoc. 1). But because a holiness then filled the interiors of the minds of the angels, by which they were impelled to fall down upon their faces, suddenly the way of light from the third heaven was closed by the LORD, . . . in consequence of which the former appearance of the [latter] Temple returned. (A. R. 926.)
A very complete vision of the LORD was granted to Swedenborg on an occasion when he was in company with certain spirits from the planet Mercury:
As they were speaking thus among themselves, the Sun of Heaven appeared. When this was seen, they said that this was not the LORD God, because they did not see a face;...but suddenly the Sun appeared again, and in its midst the LORD surrounded with a solar circle. On seeing this, the spirits of Mercury humbled themselves profoundly and became quiet. Then the LORD was also seen out of the Sun to certain spirits from this earth, who, when they were men, had seen Him in the world; and one after the other confessed that He was the LORD Himself, and this they confessed before the whole company. (A. C. 7173; S. D. 3292.)
The appearance of the LORD as a "flaming beam of light," which is referred to in Heaven and Hell n. 69 and 191, is described in detail as follows:
There was seen an obscure cloud towards the east, descending from on high; in its descent it appeared by degrees lucid, and in a human form, and this finally in a flaming beam of light, surrounded with little stars of the same color. Thus the LORD presented Himself among the spirits with whom I was speaking.... This cloud, which thus appeared...was an angelic society, in the midst of which was the Lord. (A. C. 10810-11; S. D. 5513)
From all that has been said we draw the general conclusion, that the Lord manifested Himself to Swedenborg in three distinct modes:
1. Mediately, and occasionally, through nit angel infilled with the aspect and presence of the Divine Human.
2. Objectively and at the same time subjectively, through the occasional aspect of the reflected image of the Lord Himself, in Heaven, out of the Sun of the Spiritual World.
3. Actually, and immediately, at first occasionally, but afterwards continually, through the personal appearance of the Lord in His Divine Human, in the Sun of Heaven.
Not only was He thus revealed to the instrument of His Second Coming, but He remains revealed as the God-Man to those who have received Him in His Coming. These are able to see Him, mentally, in the Heavenly Sun-
As One Divine Person, with rays of Heavenly Light around the head, spreading forth His hands, and inviting to His arms, He who is at once Creator, Redeemer and Regenerator, thus the Saviour. (T. C. R. 296 and 787.)
They are able, and allowed, to represent Him thus objectively to themselves, because He has thus described Himself in His crowning Revelation. But even as the angels see Him objectively, outside of themselves, as The Divine Man in the flaming Sun of Heaven, because they see Him essentially, within themselves, as the Word, where He is really present in His Divine Love and Wisdom, -even so is the LORD present, and essentially visible to the man of His New Church, in the Divine Truth of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. For this Doctrine is one with the Word which is in Heaven.
"Therefore, think of God from Essence, and from this of His Person; and not from Person, and from this of Essence; for to think from Person about Essence, is to think materially even about Essence; whereas, to think from Essence about Person, is to think spiritually even about Person" (A. R. 611). C. TH. ODHNER.