After a pause, during which the pastor seemed to be gathering his recollections, he continued in the following words:—
“Emanuel Swedenborg was born at Upsala in Sweden, in the month of January, 1688, according to various authors — in 1689, according to his epitaph. His father was Bishop of Skara. Swedenborg lived eighty-five years; his death occurred in London, March 29, 1772. I use that term to convey the idea of a simple change of state. According to his disciples, Swedenborg was seen at Jarvis and in Paris after that date. Allow me, my dear Monsieur Wilfrid,” said Monsieur Becker, making a gesture to prevent all interruption, “I relate these facts without either affirming or denying them. Listen; afterwards you can think and say what you like. I will inform you when I judge, criticise, and discuss these doctrines, so as to keep clearly in view my own intellectual neutrality between HIM and Reason.
“The life of Swedenborg was divided into two parts,” continued the pastor. “From 1688 to 1745 Baron Emanuel Swedenborg appeared in the world as a man of vast learning, esteemed and cherished for his virtues, always irreproachable and constantly useful. While fulfilling high public functions in Sweden, he published, between 1709 and 1740, several important works on mineralogy, physics, mathematics, and astronomy, which enlightened the world of learning. He originated a method of building docks suitable for the reception of large vessels, and he wrote many treatises on various important questions, such as the rise of tides, the theory of the magnet and its qualities, the motion and position of the earth and planets, and while Assessor in the Royal College of Mines, on the proper system of working salt mines. He discovered means to construct canal-locks or sluices; and he also discovered and applied the simplest methods of extracting ore and of working metals. In fact he studied no science without advancing it. In youth he learned Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, also the oriental languages, with which he became so familiar that many distinguished scholars consulted him, and he was able to decipher the vestiges of the oldest known books of Scripture, namely: ‘The Wars of Jehovah’ and ‘The Enunciations,’ spoken of by Moses (Numbers xxi. 14, 15, 27-30), also by Joshua, Jeremiah, and Samuel — ‘The Wars of Jehovah’ being the historical part and ‘The Enunciations’ the prophetical part of the Mosaical Books anterior to Genesis. Swedenborg even affirms that ‘the Book of Jasher,’ the Book of the Righteous, mentioned by Joshua, was in existence in Eastern Tartary, together with the doctrine of Correspondences. A Frenchman has lately, so they tell me, justified these statements of Swedenborg, by the discovery at Bagdad of several portions of the Bible hitherto unknown to Europe. During the widespread discussion on animal magnetism which took its rise in Paris, and in which most men of Western science took an active part about the year 1785, Monsieur le Marquis de Thome vindicated the memory of Swedenborg by calling attention to certain assertions made by the Commission appointed by the King of France to investigate the subject. These gentlemen declared that no theory of magnetism existed, whereas Swedenborg had studied and promulgated it ever since the year 1720. Monsieur de Thome seizes this opportunity to show the reason why so many men of science relegated Swedenborg to oblivion while they delved into his treasure-house and took his facts to aid their work. ‘Some of the most illustrious of these men,’ said Monsieur de Thome, alluding to the ‘Theory of the Earth’ by Buffon, ‘have had the meanness to wear the plumage of the noble bird and refuse him all acknowledgment’; and he proved, by masterly quotations drawn from the encyclopaedic works of Swedenborg, that the great prophet had anticipated by over a century the slow march of human science. It suffices to read his philosophical and mineralogical works to be convinced of this. In one passage he is seen as the precursor of modern chemistry by the announcement that the productions of organized nature are decomposable and resolve into two simple principles; also that water, air, and fire are not elements. In another, he goes in a few words to the heart of magnetic mysteries and deprives Mesmer of the honors of a first knowledge of them.
“There,” said Monsieur Becker, pointing to a long shelf against the wall between the stove and the window on which were ranged books of all sizes, “behold him! here are seventeen works from his pen, of which one, his ‘Philosophical and Mineralogical Works,’ published in 1734, is in three folio volumes. These productions, which prove the incontestable knowledge of Swedenborg, were given to me by Monsieur Seraphitus, his cousin and the father of Seraphita.
“In 1740,” continued Monsieur Becker, after a slight pause, “Swedenborg fell into a state of absolute silence, from which he emerged to bid farewell to all his earthly occupations; after which his thoughts turned exclusively to the Spiritual Life. He received the first commands of heaven in 1745, and he thus relates the nature of the vocation to which he was called: One evening, in London, after dining with a great appetite, a thick white mist seemed to fill his room. When the vapor dispersed a creature in human form rose from one corner of the apartment, and said in a stern tone, ‘Do not eat so much.’ He refrained. The next night the same man returned, radiant in light, and said to him, ‘I am sent of God, who has chosen you to explain to men the meaning of his Word and his Creation. I will tell you what to write.’ The vision lasted but a few moments. The angel was clothed in purple. During that night the eyes of his inner man were opened, and he was forced to look into the heavens, into the world of spirits, and into hell — three separate spheres; where he encountered persons of his acquaintance who had departed from their human form, some long since, others lately. Thenceforth Swedenborg lived wholly in the spiritual life, remaining in this world only as the messenger of God. His mission was ridiculed by the incredulous, but his conduct was plainly that of a being superior to humanity. In the first place, though limited in means to the bare necessaries of life, he gave away enormous sums, and publicly, in several cities, restored the fortunes of great commercial houses when they were on the brink of failure. No one ever appealed to his generosity who was not immediately satisfied. A sceptical Englishman, determined to know the truth, followed him to Paris, and relates that there his doors stood always open. One day a servant complained of this apparent negligence, which laid him open to suspicion of thefts that might be committed by others. ‘He need feel no anxiety,’ said Swedenborg, smiling. ‘But I do not wonder at his fear; he cannot see the guardian who protects my door.’ In fact, no matter in what country he made his abode he never closed his doors, and nothing was ever stolen from him. At Gottenburg — a town situated some sixty miles from Stockholm — he announced, eight days before the news arrived by courier, the conflagration which ravaged Stockholm, and the exact time at which it took place. The Queen of Sweden wrote to her brother, the King, at Berlin, that one of her ladies-in-waiting, who was ordered by the courts to pay a sum of money which she was certain her husband had paid before his death, went to Swedenborg and begged him to ask her husband where she could find proof of the payment. The following day Swedenborg, having done as the lady requested, pointed out the place where the receipt would be found. He also begged the deceased to appear to his wife, and the latter saw her husband in a dream, wrapped in a dressing-gown which he wore just before his death; and he showed her the paper in the place indicated by Swedenborg, where it had been securely put away. At another time, embarking from London in a vessel commanded by Captain Dixon, he overheard a lady asking if there were plenty of provisions on board. ‘We do not want a great quantity,’ he said; ‘in eight days and two hours we shall reach Stockholm,’— which actually happened. This peculiar state of vision as to the things of the earth — into which Swedenborg could put himself at will, and which astonished those about him — was, nevertheless, but a feeble representative of his faculty of looking into heaven.
“Not the least remarkable of his published visions is that in which he relates his journeys through the Astral Regions; his descriptions cannot fail to astonish the reader, partly through the crudity of their details. A man whose scientific eminence is incontestable, and who united in his own person powers of conception, will, and imagination, would surely have invented better if he had invented at all. The fantastic literature of the East offers nothing that can give an idea of this astounding work, full of the essence of poetry, if it is permissible to compare a work of faith with one of oriental fancy. The transportation of Swedenborg by the Angel who served as guide to this first journey is told with a sublimity which exceeds, by the distance which God has placed betwixt the earth and the sun, the great epics of Klopstock, Milton, Tasso, and Dante. This description, which serves in fact as an introduction to his work on the Astral Regions, has never been published; it is among the oral traditions left by Swedenborg to the three disciples who were nearest to his heart. Monsieur Silverichm has written them down. Monsieur Seraphitus endeavored more than once to talk to me about them; but the recollection of his cousin’s words was so burning a memory that he always stopped short at the first sentence and became lost in a revery from which I could not rouse him.”
The old pastor sighed as he continued: “The baron told me that the argument by which the Angel proved to Swedenborg that these bodies are not made to wander through space puts all human science out of sight beneath the grandeur of a divine logic. According to the Seer, the inhabitants of Jupiter will not cultivate the sciences, which they call darkness; those of Mercury abhor the expression of ideas by speech, which seems to them too material — their language is ocular; those of Saturn are continually tempted by evil spirits; those of the Moon are as small as six-year-old children, their voices issue from the abdomen, on which they crawl; those of Venus are gigantic in height, but stupid, and live by robbery — although a part of this latter planet is inhabited by beings of great sweetness, who live in the love of Good. In short, he describes the customs and morals of all the peoples attached to the different globes, and explains the general meaning of their existence as related to the universe in terms so precise, giving explanations which agree so well with their visible evolutions in the system of the world, that some day, perhaps, scientific men will come to drink of these living waters.
“Here,” said Monsieur Becker, taking down a book and opening it at a mark, “here are the words with which he ended this work:—
“‘If any man doubts that I was transported through a vast number of Astral Regions, let him recall my observation of the distances in that other life, namely, that they exist only in relation to the external state of man; now, being transformed within like unto the Angelic Spirits of those Astral Spheres, I was able to understand them.’
“The circumstances to which we of this canton owe the presence among us of Baron Seraphitus, the beloved cousin of Swedenborg, enabled me to know all the events of the extraordinary life of that prophet. He has lately been accused of imposture in certain quarters of Europe, and the public prints reported the following fact based on a letter written by the Chevalier Baylon. Swedenborg, they said, informed by certain senators of a secret correspondence of the late Queen of Sweden with her brother, the Prince of Prussia, revealed his knowledge of the secrets contained in that correspondence to the Queen, making her believe he had obtained this knowledge by supernatural means. A man worthy of all confidence, Monsieur Charles-Leonhard de Stahlhammer, captain in the Royal guard and knight of the Sword, answered the calumny with a convincing letter.”
The pastor opened a drawer of his table and looked through a number of papers until he found a gazette which he held out to Wilfrid, asking him to read aloud the following letter:—
Stockholm, May 18, 1788.
I have read with amazement a letter which purports to relate the interview of the famous Swedenborg with Queen Louisa-Ulrika. The circumstances therein stated are wholly false; and I hope the writer will excuse me for showing him by the following faithful narration, which can be proved by the testimony of many distinguished persons then present and still living, how completely he has been deceived.
In 1758, shortly after the death of the Prince of Prussia Swedenborg came to court, where he was in the habit of attending regularly. He had scarcely entered the queen’s presence before she said to him: “Well, Mr. Assessor, have you seen my brother?” Swedenborg answered no, and the queen rejoined: “If you do see him, greet him for me.” In saying this she meant no more than a pleasant jest, and had no thought whatever of asking him for information about her brother. Eight days later (not twenty-four as stated, nor was the audience a private one), Swedenborg again came to court, but so early that the queen had not left her apartment called the White Room, where she was conversing with her maids-of-honor and other ladies attached to the court. Swedenborg did not wait until she came forth, but entered the said room and whispered something in her ear. The queen, overcome with amazement, was taken ill, and it was some time before she recovered herself. When she did so she said to those about her: “Only God and my brother knew the thing that he has just spoken of.” She admitted that it related to her last correspondence with the prince on a subject which was known to them alone. I cannot explain how Swedenborg came to know the contents of that letter, but I can affirm on my honor, that neither Count H—— (as the writer of the article states) nor any other person intercepted, or read, the queen’s letters. The senate allowed her to write to her brother in perfect security, considering the correspondence as of no interest to the State. It is evident that the author of the said article is ignorant of the character of Count H——. This honored gentleman, who has done many important services to his country, unites the qualities of a noble heart to gifts of mind, and his great age has not yet weakened these precious possessions. During his whole administration he added the weight of scrupulous integrity to his enlightened policy and openly declared himself the enemy of all secret intrigues and underhand dealings, which he regarded as unworthy means to attain an end. Neither did the writer of that article understand the Assessor Swedenborg. The only weakness of that essentially honest man was a belief in the apparition of spirits; but I knew him for many years, and I can affirm that he was as fully convinced that he met and talked with spirits as I am that I am writing at this moment. As a citizen and as a friend his integrity was absolute; he abhorred deception and led the most exemplary of lives. The version which the Chevalier Baylon gave of these facts is, therefore, entirely without justification; the visit stated to have been made to Swedenborg in the night-time by Count H—— and Count T—— is hereby contradicted. In conclusion, the writer of the letter may rest assured that I am not a follower of Swedenborg. The love of truth alone impels me to give this faithful account of a fact which has been so often stated with details that are entirely false. I certify to the truth of what I have written by adding my signature.
Charles-Leonhard de Stahlhammer.
“The proofs which Swedenborg gave of his mission to the royal families of Sweden and Prussia were no doubt the foundation of the belief in his doctrines which is prevalent at the two courts,” said Monsieur Becker, putting the gazette into the drawer. “However,” he continued, “I shall not tell you all the facts of his visible and material life; indeed his habits prevented them from being fully known. He lived a hidden life; not seeking either riches or fame. He was even noted for a sort of repugnance to making proselytes; he opened his mind to few persons, and never showed his external powers of second-sight to any who were not eminent in faith, wisdom, and love. He could recognize at a glance the state of the soul of every person who approached him, and those whom he desired to reach with his inward language he converted into Seers. After the year 1745, his disciples never saw him do a single thing from any human motive. One man alone, a Swedish priest, named Mathesius, set afloat a story that he went mad in London in 1744. But a eulogium on Swedenborg prepared with minute care as to all the known events of his life, was pronounced after his death in 1772 on behalf of the Royal Academy of Sciences in the Hall of the Nobles at Stockholm, by Monsieur Sandels, counsellor of the Board of Mines. A declaration made before the Lord Mayor of London gives the details of his last illness and death, in which he received the ministrations of Monsieur Ferelius a Swedish priest of the highest standing, and pastor of the Swedish Church in London, Mathesius being his assistant. All persons present attested that so far from denying the value of his writings Swedenborg firmly asserted their truth. ‘In one hundred years,’ Monsieur Ferelius quotes him as saying, ‘my doctrine will guide the Church.’ He predicted the day and hour of his death. On that day, Sunday, March 29, 1772, hearing the clock strike, he asked what time it was. ‘Five o’clock’ was the answer. ‘It is well,’ he answered; ‘thank you, God bless you.’ Ten minutes later he tranquilly departed, breathing a gentle sigh. Simplicity, moderation, and solitude were the features of his life. When he had finished writing any of his books he sailed either for London or for Holland, where he published them, and never spoke of them again. He published in this way twenty-seven different treatises, all written, he said, from the dictation of Angels. Be it true or false, few men have been strong enough to endure the flames of oral illumination.
“There they all are,” said Monsieur Becker, pointing to a second shelf on which were some sixty volumes. “The treatises on which the Divine Spirit casts its most vivid gleams are seven in number, namely: ‘Heaven and Hell’; ‘Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom’; ‘Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Providence’; ‘The Apocalypse Revealed’; ‘Conjugial Love and its Chaste Delights’; ‘The True Christian Religion’; and ‘An Exposition of the Internal Sense.’ Swedenborg’s explanation of the Apocalypse begins with these words,” said Monsieur Becker, taking down and opening the volume nearest to him: “‘Herein I have written nothing of mine own; I speak as I am bidden by the Lord, who said, through the same angel, to John: “Thou shalt not seal the sayings of this Prophecy."’ (Revelation xxii. 10.)
“My dear Monsieur Wilfrid,” said the old man, looking at his guest, “I often tremble in every limb as I read, during the long winter evenings the awe-inspiring works in which this man declares with perfect artlessness the wonders that are revealed to him. ‘I have seen,’ he says, ‘Heaven and the Angels. The spiritual man sees his spiritual fellows far better than the terrestrial man sees the men of earth. In describing the wonders of heaven and beneath the heavens I obey the Lord’s command. Others have the right to believe me or not as they choose. I cannot put them into the state in which God has put me; it is not in my power to enable them to converse with Angels, nor to work miracles within their understanding; they alone can be the instrument of their rise to angelic intercourse. It is now twenty-eight years since I have lived in the Spiritual world with angels, and on earth with men; for it pleased God to open the eyes of my spirit as he did that of Paul, and of Daniel and Elisha.’
“And yet,” continued the pastor, thoughtfully, “certain persons have had visions of the spiritual world through the complete detachment which somnambulism produces between their external form and their inner being. ‘In this state,’ says Swedenborg in his treatise on Angelic Wisdom (No. 257) ‘Man may rise into the region of celestial light because, his corporeal senses being abolished, the influence of heaven acts without hindrance on his inner man.’ Many persons who do not doubt that Swedenborg received celestial revelations think that his writings are not all the result of divine inspiration. Others insist on absolute adherence to him; while admitting his many obscurities, they believe that the imperfection of earthly language prevented the prophet from clearly revealing those spiritual visions whose clouds disperse to the eyes of those whom faith regenerates; for, to use the words of his greatest disciple, ‘Flesh is but an external propagation.’ To poets and to writers his presentation of the marvellous is amazing; to Seers it is simply reality. To some Christians his descriptions have seemed scandalous. Certain critics have ridiculed the celestial substance of his temples, his golden palaces, his splendid cities where angels disport themselves; they laugh at his groves of miraculous trees, his gardens where the flowers speak and the air is white, and the mystical stones, the sard, carbuncle, chrysolite, chrysoprase, jacinth, chalcedony, beryl, the Urim and Thummim, are endowed with motion, express celestial truths, and reply by variations of light to questions put to them (‘True Christian Religion,’ 219). Many noble souls will not admit his spiritual worlds where colors are heard in delightful concert, where language flames and flashes, where the Word is writ in pointed spiral letters (‘True Christian Religion,’ 278). Even in the North some writers have laughed at the gates of pearl, and the diamonds which stud the floors and walls of his New Jerusalem, where the most ordinary utensils are made of the rarest substances of the globe. ‘But,’ say his disciples, ‘because such things are sparsely scattered on this earth does it follow that they are not abundant in other worlds? On earth they are terrestrial substances, whereas in heaven they assume celestial forms and are in keeping with angels.’ In this connection Swedenborg has used the very words of Jesus Christ, who said, ‘If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?’
“Monsieur,” continued the pastor, with an emphatic gesture, “I have read the whole of Swedenborg’s works; and I say it with pride, because I have done it and yet retained my reason. In reading him men either miss his meaning or become Seers like him. Though I have evaded both extremes, I have often experienced unheard-of delights, deep emotions, inward joys, which alone can reveal to us the plenitude of truth — the evidence of celestial Light. All things here below seem small indeed when the soul is lost in the perusal of these Treatises. It is impossible not to be amazed when we think that in the short space of thirty years this man wrote and published, on the truths of the Spiritual World, twenty-five quarto volumes, composed in Latin, of which the shortest has five hundred pages, all of them printed in small type. He left, they say, twenty others in London, bequeathed to his nephew, Monsieur Silverichm, formerly almoner to the King of Sweden. Certainly a man who, between the ages of twenty and sixty, had already exhausted himself in publishing a series of encyclopaedical works, must have received supernatural assistance in composing these later stupendous treatises, at an age, too, when human vigor is on the wane. You will find in these writings thousands of propositions, all numbered, none of which have been refuted. Throughout we see method and precision; the presence of the spirit issuing and flowing down from a single fact — the existence of angels. His ‘True Christian Religion,’ which sums up his whole doctrine and is vigorous with light, was conceived and written at the age of eighty-three. In fact, his amazing vigor and omniscience are not denied by any of his critics, not even by his enemies.
“Nevertheless,” said Monsieur Becker, slowly, “though I have drunk deep in this torrent of divine light, God has not opened the eyes of my inner being, and I judge these writings by the reason of an unregenerated man. I have often felt that the inspired Swedenborg must have misunderstood the Angels. I have laughed over certain visions which, according to his disciples, I ought to have believed with veneration. I have failed to imagine the spiral writing of the Angels or their golden belts, on which the gold is of great or lesser thickness. If, for example, this statement, ‘Some angels are solitary,’ affected me powerfully for a time, I was, on reflection, unable to reconcile this solitude with their marriages. I have not understood why the Virgin Mary should continue to wear blue satin garments in heaven. I have even dared to ask myself why those gigantic demons, Enakim and Hephilim, came so frequently to fight the cherubim on the apocalyptic plains of Armageddon; and I cannot explain to my own mind how Satans can argue with Angels. Monsieur le Baron Seraphitus assured me that those details concerned only the angels who live on earth in human form. The visions of the prophet are often blurred with grotesque figures. One of his spiritual tales, or ‘Memorable relations,’ as he called them, begins thus: ‘I see the spirits assembling, they have hats upon their heads.’ In another of these Memorabilia he receives from heaven a bit of paper, on which he saw, he says, the hieroglyphics of the primitive peoples, which were composed of curved lines traced from the finger-rings that are worn in heaven. However, perhaps I am wrong; possibly the material absurdities with which his works are strewn have spiritual significations. Otherwise, how shall we account for the growing influence of his religion? His church numbers to-day more than seven hundred thousand believers — as many in the United States of America as in England, where there are seven thousand Swedenborgians in the city of Manchester alone. Many men of high rank in knowledge and in social position in Germany, in Prussia, and in the Northern kingdoms have publicly adopted the beliefs of Swedenborg; which, I may remark, are more comforting than those of all other Christian communions. I wish I had the power to explain to you clearly in succinct language the leading points of the doctrine on which Swedenborg founded his church; but I fear such a summary, made from recollection, would be necessarily defective. I shall, therefore, allow myself to speak only of those ‘Arcana’ which concern the birth of Seraphita.”
Here Monsieur Becker paused, as though composing his mind to gather up his ideas. Presently he continued, as follows:—
“After establishing mathematically that man lives eternally in spheres of either a lower or a higher grade, Swedenborg applies the term ‘Spiritual Angels’ to beings who in this world are prepared for heaven, where they become angels. According to him, God has not created angels; none exist who have not been men upon the earth. The earth is the nursery-ground of heaven. The Angels are therefore not Angels as such (‘Angelic Wisdom,’ 57), they are transformed through their close conjunction with God; which conjunction God never refuses, because the essence of God is not negative, but essentially active. The spiritual angels pass through three natures of love, because man is only regenerated through successive stages (‘True Religion’). First, the love of self: the supreme expression of this love is human genius, whose works are worshipped. Next, love of life: this love produces prophets — great men whom the world accepts as guides and proclaims to be divine. Lastly, love of heaven, and this creates the Spiritual Angel. These angels are, so to speak, the flowers of humanity, which culminates in them and works for that culmination. They must possess either the love of heaven or the wisdom of heaven, but always Love before Wisdom.
“Thus the transformation of the natural man is into Love. To reach this first degree, his previous existences must have passed through Hope and Charity, which prepare him for Faith and Prayer. The ideas acquired by the exercise of these virtues are transmitted to each of the human envelopes within which are hidden the metamorphoses of the inner being; for nothing is separate, each existence is necessary to the other existences. Hope cannot advance without Charity, nor Faith without Prayer; they are the four fronts of a solid square. ‘One virtue missing,’ he said, ‘and the Spiritual Angel is like a broken pearl.’ Each of these existences is therefore a circle in which revolves the celestial riches of the inner being. The perfection of the Spiritual Angels comes from this mysterious progression in which nothing is lost of the high qualities that are successfully acquired to attain each glorious incarnation; for at each transformation they cast away unconsciously the flesh and its errors. When the man lives in Love he has shed all evil passions: Hope, Charity, Faith, and Prayer have, in the words of Isaiah, purged the dross of his inner being, which can never more be polluted by earthly affections. Hence the grand saying of Christ quoted by Saint Matthew, ‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,’ and those still grander words: ‘If ye were of this world the world would love you, but I have chosen you out of the world; be ye therefore perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’
“The second transformation of man is to Wisdom. Wisdom is the understanding of celestial things to which the Spirit is brought by Love. The Spirit of Love has acquired strength, the result of all vanquished terrestrial passions; it loves God blindly. But the Spirit of Wisdom has risen to understanding and knows why it loves. The wings of the one are spread and bear the spirit to God; the wings of the other are held down by the awe that comes of understanding: the spirit knows God. The one longs incessantly to see God and to fly to Him; the other attains to Him and trembles. The union effected between the Spirit of Love and the Spirit of Wisdom carries the human being into a Divine state during which time his soul is woman and his body man, the last human manifestation in which the Spirit conquers Form, or Form still struggles against the Spirit — for Form, that is, the flesh, is ignorant, rebels, and desires to continue gross. This supreme trial creates untold sufferings seen by Heaven alone — the agony of Christ in the Garden of Olives.
“After death the first heaven opens to this dual and purified human nature. Therefore it is that man dies in despair while the Spirit dies in ecstasy. Thus, the natural, the state of beings not yet regenerated; the spiritual, the state of those who have become Angelic Spirits, and the divine, the state in which the Angel exists before he breaks from his covering of flesh, are the three degrees of existence through which man enters heaven. One of Swedenborg’s thoughts expressed in his own words will explain to you with wonderful clearness the difference between the natural and the spiritual. ‘To the minds of men,’ he says, ‘the Natural passes into the Spiritual; they regard the world under its visible aspects, they perceive it only as it can be realized by their senses. But to the apprehension of Angelic Spirits, the Spiritual passes into the Natural; they regard the world in its inward essence and not in its form.’ Thus human sciences are but analyses of form. The man of science as the world goes is purely external like his knowledge; his inner being is only used to preserve his aptitude for the perception of external truths. The Angelic Spirit goes far beyond that; his knowledge is the thought of which human science is but the utterance; he derives that knowledge from the Logos, and learns the law of correspondences by which the world is placed in unison with heaven. The word of God was wholly written by pure Correspondences, and covers an esoteric or spiritual meaning, which according to the science of Correspondences, cannot be understood. ‘There exist,’ says Swedenborg (‘Celestial Doctrine’ 26), ‘innumerable Arcana within the hidden meaning of the Correspondences. Thus the men who scoff at the books of the Prophets where the Word is enshrined are as densely ignorant as those other men who know nothing of a science and yet ridicule its truths. To know the Correspondences which exist between the things visible and ponderable in the terrestrial world and the things invisible and imponderable in the spiritual world, is to hold heaven within our comprehension. All the objects of the manifold creations having emanated from God necessarily enfold a hidden meaning; according, indeed, to the grand thought of Isaiah, ‘The earth is a garment.’
“This mysterious link between Heaven and the smallest atoms of created matter constitutes what Swedenborg calls a Celestial Arcanum, and his treatise on the ‘Celestial Arcana’ in which he explains the correspondences or significances of the Natural with, and to, the Spiritual, giving, to use the words of Jacob Boehm, the sign and seal of all things, occupies not less than sixteen volumes containing thirty thousand propositions. ‘This marvellous knowledge of Correspondences which the goodness of God granted to Swedenborg,’ says one of his disciples, ‘is the secret of the interest which draws men to his works. According to him, all things are derived from heaven, all things lead back to heaven. His writings are sublime and clear; he speaks in heaven, and earth hears him. Take one of his sentences by itself and a volume could be made of it’; and the disciple quotes the following passages taken from a thousand others that would answer the same purpose.
“‘The kingdom of heaven,’ says Swedenborg (‘Celestial Arcana’), ‘is the kingdom of motives. Action is born in heaven, thence into the world, and, by degrees, to the infinitely remote parts of earth. Terrestrial effects being thus linked to celestial causes, all things are correspondent and significant. Man is the means of union between the Natural and the Spiritual.’
“The Angelic Spirits therefore know the very nature of the Correspondences which link to heaven all earthly things; they know, too, the inner meaning of the prophetic words which foretell their evolutions. Thus to these Spirits everything here below has its significance; the tiniest flower is a thought — a life which corresponds to certain lineaments of the Great Whole, of which they have a constant intuition. To them Adultery and the excesses spoken of in Scripture and by the Prophets, often garbled by self-styled scholars, mean the state of those souls which in this world persist in tainting themselves with earthly affections, thus compelling their divorce from Heaven. Clouds signify the veil of the Most High. Torches, shew-bread, horses and horsemen, harlots, precious stones, in short, everything named in Scripture, has to them a clear-cut meaning, and reveals the future of terrestrial facts in their relation to Heaven. They penetrate the truths contained in the Revelation of Saint John the divine, which human science has subsequently demonstrated and proved materially; such, for instance, as the following (‘big,’ said Swedenborg, ‘with many human sciences’): ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away’ (Revelation xxi. 1). These Spirits know the supper at which the flesh of kings and the flesh of all men, free and bond, is eaten, to which an Angel standing in the sun has bidden them. They see the winged woman, clothed with the sun, and the mailed man. ‘The horse of the Apocalypse,’ says Swedenborg, ‘is the visible image of human intellect ridden by Death, for it bears within itself the elements of its own destruction.’ Moreover, they can distinguish beings concealed under forms which to ignorant eyes would seem fantastic. When a man is disposed to receive the prophetic afflation of Correspondences, it rouses within him a perception of the Word; he comprehends that the creations are transformations only; his intellect is sharpened, a burning thirst takes possession of him which only Heaven can quench. He conceives, according to the greater or lesser perfection of his inner being, the power of the Angelic Spirits; and he advances, led by Desire (the least imperfect state of unregenerated man) towards Hope, the gateway to the world of Spirits, whence he reaches Prayer, which gives him the Key of Heaven.
“What being here below would not desire to render himself worthy of entrance into the sphere of those who live in secret by Love and Wisdom? Here on earth, during their lifetime, such spirits remain pure; they neither see, nor think, nor speak like other men. There are two ways by which perception comes — one internal, the other external. Man is wholly external, the Angelic Spirit wholly internal. The Spirit goes to the depth of Numbers, possesses a full sense of them, knows their significances. It controls Motion, and by reason of its ubiquity it shares in all things. ‘An Angel,’ says Swedenborg, ‘is ever present to a man when desired’ (‘Angelic Wisdom’); for the Angel has the gift of detaching himself from his body, and he sees into heaven as the prophets and as Swedenborg himself saw into it. ‘In this state,’ writes Swedenborg (‘True Religion,’ 136), ‘the spirit of a man may move from one place to another, his body remaining where it is — a condition in which I lived for over twenty-six years.’ It is thus that we should interpret all Biblical statements which begin, ‘The Spirit led me.’ Angelic Wisdom is to human wisdom what the innumerable forces of nature are to its action, which is one. All things live again, and move and have their being in the Spirit, which is in God. Saint Paul expresses this truth when he says, ‘In Deo sumus, movemur, et vivimus,’— we live, we act, we are in God.
“Earth offers no hindrance to the Angelic Spirit, just as the Word offers him no obscurity. His approaching divinity enables him to see the thought of God veiled in the Logos, just as, living by his inner being, the Spirit is in communion with the hidden meaning of all things on this earth. Science is the language of the Temporal world, Love is that of the Spiritual world. Thus man takes note of more than he is able to explain, while the Angelic Spirit sees and comprehends. Science depresses man; Love exalts the Angel. Science is still seeking, Love has found. Man judges Nature according to his own relations to her; the Angelic Spirit judges it in its relation to Heaven. In short, all things have a voice for the Spirit. Spirits are in the secret of the harmony of all creations with each other; they comprehend the spirit of sound, the spirit of color, the spirit of vegetable life; they can question the mineral, and the mineral makes answer to their thoughts. What to them are sciences and the treasures of the earth when they grasp all things by the eye at all moments, when the worlds which absorb the minds of so many men are to them but the last step from which they spring to God? Love of heaven, or the Wisdom of heaven, is made manifest to them by a circle of light which surrounds them, and is visible to the Elect. Their innocence, of which that of children is a symbol, possesses, nevertheless, a knowledge which children have not; they are both innocent and learned. ‘And,’ says Swedenborg, ‘the innocence of Heaven makes such an impression upon the soul that those whom it affects keep a rapturous memory of it which lasts them all their lives, as I myself have experienced. It is perhaps sufficient,’ he goes on, ‘to have only a minimum perception of it to be forever changed, to long to enter Heaven and the sphere of Hope.’
“His doctrine of Marriage can be reduced to the following words: ‘The Lord has taken the beauty and the grace of the life of man and bestowed them upon woman. When man is not reunited to this beauty and this grace of his life, he is harsh, sad, and sullen; when he is reunited to them he is joyful and complete.’ The Angels are ever at the perfect point of beauty. Marriages are celebrated by wondrous ceremonies. In these unions, which produce no children, man contributes the understanding, woman the will; they become one being, one Flesh here below, and pass to heaven clothed in the celestial form. On this earth, the natural attraction of the sexes towards enjoyment is an Effect which allures, fatigues and disgusts; but in the form celestial the pair, now one in Spirit find within theirself a ceaseless source of joy. Swedenborg was led to see these nuptials of the Spirits, which in the words of Saint Luke (xx. 35) are neither marrying nor giving in marriage, and which inspire none but spiritual pleasures. An Angel offered to make him witness of such a marriage and bore him thither on his wings (the wings are a symbol and not a reality). The Angel clothed him in a wedding garment and when Swedenborg, finding himself thus robed in light, asked why, the answer was: ‘For these events, our garments are illuminated; they shine; they are made nuptial.’ (‘Conjugial Love,’ 19, 20, 21.) Then he saw the two Angels, one coming from the South, the other from the East; the Angel of the South was in a chariot drawn by two white horses, with reins of the color and brilliance of the dawn; but lo, when they were near him in the sky, chariot and horses vanished. The Angel of the East, clothed in crimson, and the Angel of the South, in purple, drew together, like breaths, and mingled: one was the Angel of Love, the other the Angel of Wisdom. Swedenborg’s guide told him that the two Angels had been linked together on earth by an inward friendship and ever united though separated in life by great distances. Consent, the essence of all good marriage upon earth, is the habitual state of Angels in Heaven. Love is the light of their world. The eternal rapture of Angels comes from the faculty that God communicates to them to render back to Him the joy they feel through Him. This reciprocity of infinitude forms their life. They become infinite by participating of the essence of God, who generates Himself by Himself.
“The immensity of the Heavens where the Angels dwell is such that if man were endowed with sight as rapid as the darting of light from the sun to the earth, and if he gazed throughout eternity, his eyes could not reach the horizon, nor find an end. Light alone can give an idea of the joys of heaven. ‘It is,’ says Swedenborg (‘Angelic Wisdom,’ 7, 25, 26, 27), ‘a vapor of the virtue of God, a pure emanation of His splendor, beside which our greatest brilliance is obscurity. It can compass all; it can renew all, and is never absorbed: it environs the Angel and unites him to God by infinite joys which multiply infinitely of themselves. This Light destroys whosoever is not prepared to receive it. No one here below, nor yet in Heaven can see God and live. This is the meaning of the saying (Exodus xix. 12, 13, 21-23) “Take heed to yourselves that ye go not up into the mount — lest ye break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many perish.” And again (Exodus xxxiv. 29-35), “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two Tables of testimony in his hand, his face shone, so that he put a veil upon it when he spake with the people, lest any of them die.” The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ likewise revealed the light surrounding the Messengers from on high and the ineffable joys of the Angels who are forever imbued with it. “His face,” says Saint Matthew (xvii. 1-5), “did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light — and a bright cloud overshadowed them."’
“When a planet contains only those beings who reject the Lord, when his word is ignored, then the Angelic Spirits are gathered together by the four winds, and God sends forth an Exterminating Angel to change the face of the refractory earth, which in the immensity of this universe is to Him what an unfruitful seed is to Nature. Approaching the globe, this Exterminating Angel, borne by a comet, causes the planet to turn upon its axis, and the lands lately covered by the seas reappear, adorned in freshness and obedient to the laws proclaimed in Genesis; the Word of God is once more powerful on this new earth, which everywhere exhibits the effects of terrestrial waters and celestial flames. The light brought by the Angel from On High, causes the sun to pale. ‘Then,’ says Isaiah, (xix. 20) ‘men will hide in the clefts of the rock and roll themselves in the dust of the earth.’ ‘They will cry to the mountains’ (Revelation), ‘Fall on us! and to the seas, Swallow us up! Hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!’ The Lamb is the great figure and hope of the Angels misjudged and persecuted here below. Christ himself has said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn! Blessed are the simple-hearted! Blessed are they that love!’— All Swedenborg is there! Suffer, Believe, Love. To love truly must we not suffer? must we not believe? Love begets Strength, Strength bestows Wisdom, thence Intelligence; for Strength and Wisdom demand Will. To be intelligent, is not that to Know, to Wish, and to Will — the three attributes of the Angelic Spirit? ‘If the universe has a meaning,’ Monsieur Saint-Martin said to me when I met him during a journey which he made in Sweden, ‘surely this is the one most worthy of God.’
“But, Monsieur,” continued the pastor after a thoughtful pause, “of what avail to you are these shreds of thoughts taken here and there from the vast extent of a work of which no true idea can be given except by comparing it to a river of light, to billows of flame? When a man plunges into it he is carried away as by an awful current. Dante’s poem seems but a speck to the reader submerged in the almost Biblical verses with which Swedenborg renders palpable the Celestial Worlds, as Beethoven built his palaces of harmony with thousands of notes, as architects have reared cathedrals with millions of stones. We roll in soundless depths, where our minds will not always sustain us. Ah, surely a great and powerful intellect is needed to bring us back, safe and sound, to our own social beliefs.
“Swedenborg,” resumed the pastor, “was particularly attached to the Baron de Seraphitz, whose name, according to an old Swedish custom, had taken from time immemorial the Latin termination of ‘us.’ The baron was an ardent disciple of the Swedish prophet, who had opened the eyes of his Inner-Man and brought him to a life in conformity with the decrees from On-High. He sought for an Angelic Spirit among women; Swedenborg found her for him in a vision. His bride was the daughter of a London shoemaker, in whom, said Swedenborg, the life of Heaven shone, she having passed through all anterior trials. After the death, that is, the transformation of the prophet, the baron came to Jarvis to accomplish his celestial nuptials with the observances of Prayer. As for me, who am not a Seer, I have only known the terrestrial works of this couple. Their lives were those of saints whose virtues are the glory of the Roman Church. They ameliorated the condition of our people; they supplied them all with means in return for work — little, perhaps, but enough for all their wants. Those who lived with them in constant intercourse never saw them show a sign of anger or impatience; they were constantly beneficent and gentle, full of courtesy and loving-kindness; their marriage was the harmony of two souls indissolubly united. Two eiders winging the same flight, the sound in the echo, the thought in the word — these, perhaps, are true images of their union. Every one here in Jarvis loved them with an affection which I can compare only to the love of a plant for the sun. The wife was simple in her manners, beautiful in form, lovely in face, with a dignity of bearing like that of august personages. In 1783, being then twenty-six years old, she conceived a child; her pregnancy was to the pair a solemn joy. They prepared to bid the earth farewell; for they told me they should be transformed when their child had passed the state of infancy which needed their fostering care until the strength to exist alone should be given to her.
“Their child was born — the Seraphita we are now concerned with. From the moment of her conception father and mother lived a still more solitary life than in the past, lifting themselves up to heaven by Prayer. They hoped to see Swedenborg, and faith realized their hope. The day on which Seraphita came into the world Swedenborg appeared in Jarvis, and filled the room of the new-born child with light. I was told that he said, ‘The work is accomplished; the Heavens rejoice!’ Sounds of unknown melodies were heard throughout the house, seeming to come from the four points of heaven on the wings of the wind. The spirit of Swedenborg led the father forth to the shores of the fiord and there quitted him. Certain inhabitants of Jarvis, having approached Monsieur Seraphitus as he stood on the shore, heard him repeat those blissful words of Scripture: ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of Him who is sent of God!’
“I had left the parsonage on my way to baptize the infant and name it, and perform the other duties required by law, when I met the baron returning to the house. ‘Your ministrations are superfluous,’ he said; ‘our child is to be without name on this earth. You must not baptize in the waters of an earthly Church one who has just been immersed in the fires of Heaven. This child will remain a blossom, it will not grow old; you will see it pass away. You exist, but our child has life; you have outward senses, the child has none, its being is always inward.’ These words were uttered in so strange and supernatural a voice that I was more affected by them than by the shining of his face, from which light appeared to exude. His appearance realized the phantasmal ideas which we form of inspired beings as we read the prophesies of the Bible. But such effects are not rare among our mountains, where the nitre of perpetual snows produces extraordinary phenomena in the human organization.
“I asked him the cause of his emotion. ‘Swedenborg came to us; he has just left me; I have breathed the air of heaven,’ he replied. ‘Under what form did he appear?’ I said. ‘Under his earthly form; dressed as he was the last time I saw him in London, at the house of Richard Shearsmith, Coldbath-fields, in July, 1771. He wore his brown frieze coat with steel buttons, his waistcoat buttoned to the throat, a white cravat, and the same magisterial wig rolled and powdered at the sides and raised high in front, showing his vast and luminous brow, in keeping with the noble square face, where all is power and tranquillity. I recognized the large nose with its fiery nostril, the mouth that ever smiled — angelic mouth from which these words, the pledge of my happiness, have just issued, “We shall meet soon."’
“The conviction that shone on the baron’s face forbade all discussion; I listened in silence. His voice had a contagious heat which made my bosom burn within me; his fanaticism stirred my heart as the anger of another makes our nerves vibrate. I followed him in silence to his house, where I saw the nameless child lying mysteriously folded to its mother’s breast. The babe heard my step and turned its head toward me; its eyes were not those of an ordinary child. To give you an idea of the impression I received, I must say that already they saw and thought. The childhood of this predestined being was attended by circumstances quite extraordinary in our climate. For nine years our winters were milder and our summers longer than usual. This phenomenon gave rise to several discussions among scientific men; but none of their explanations seemed sufficient to academicians, and the baron smiled when I told him of them. The child was never seen in its nudity as other children are; it was never touched by man or woman, but lived a sacred thing upon the mother’s breast, and it never cried. If you question old David he will confirm these facts about his mistress, for whom he feels an adoration like that of Louis IX. for the saint whose name he bore.
“At nine years of age the child began to pray; prayer is her life. You saw her in the church at Christmas, the only day on which she comes there; she is separated from the other worshippers by a visible space. If that space does not exist between herself and men she suffers. That is why she passes nearly all her time alone in the chateau. The events of her life are unknown; she is seldom seen; her days are spent in the state of mystical contemplation which was, so Catholic writers tell us, habitual with the early Christian solitaries, in whom the oral tradition of Christ’s own words still remained. Her mind, her soul, her body, all within her is virgin as the snow on those mountains. At ten years of age she was just what you see her now. When she was nine her father and mother expired together, without pain or visible malady, after naming the day and hour at which they would cease to be. Standing at their feet she looked at them with a calm eye, not showing either sadness, or grief, or joy, or curiosity. When we approached to remove the two bodies she said, ‘Carry them away!’ ‘Seraphita,’ I said, for so we called her, ‘are you not affected by the death of your father and your mother who loved you so much?’ ‘Dead?’ she answered, ‘no, they live in me forever — That is nothing,’ she pointed without emotion to the bodies they were bearing away. I then saw her for the third time only since her birth. In church it is difficult to distinguish her; she stands near a column which, seen from the pulpit, is in shadow, so that I cannot observe her features.
“Of all the servants of the household there remained after the death of the master and mistress only old David, who, in spite of his eighty-two years, suffices to wait on his mistress. Some of our Jarvis people tell wonderful tales about her. These have a certain weight in a land so essentially conducive to mystery as ours; and I am now studying the treatise on Incantations by Jean Wier and other works relating to demonology, where pretended supernatural events are recorded, hoping to find facts analogous to those which are attributed to her.”
“Then you do not believe in her?” said Wilfrid.
“Oh yes, I do,” said the pastor, genially, “I think her a very capricious girl; a little spoilt by her parents, who turned her head with the religious ideas I have just revealed to you.”
Minna shook her head in a way that gently expressed contradiction.
“Poor girl!” continued the old man, “her parents bequeathed to her that fatal exaltation of soul which misleads mystics and renders them all more or less mad. She subjects herself to fasts which horrify poor David. The good old man is like a sensitive plant which quivers at the slightest breeze, and glows under the first sun-ray. His mistress, whose incomprehensible language has become his, is the breeze and the sun-ray to him; in his eyes her feet are diamonds and her brow is strewn with stars; she walks environed with a white and luminous atmosphere; her voice is accompanied by music; she has the gift of rendering herself invisible. If you ask to see her, he will tell you she has gone to the astral regions. It is difficult to believe such a story, is it not? You know all miracles bear more or less resemblance to the story of the Golden Tooth. We have our golden tooth in Jarvis, that is all. Duncker the fisherman asserts that he has seen her plunge into the fiord and come up in the shape of an eider-duck, at other times walking on the billows of a storm. Fergus, who leads the flocks to the saeters, says that in rainy weather a circle of clear sky can be seen over the Swedish castle; and that the heavens are always blue above Seraphita’s head when she is on the mountain. Many women hear the tones of a mighty organ when Seraphita enters the church, and ask their neighbors earnestly if they too do not hear them. But my daughter, for whom during the last two years Seraphita has shown much affection, has never heard this music, and has never perceived the heavenly perfumes which, they say, make the air fragrant about her when she moves. Minna, to be sure, has often on returning from their walks together expressed to me the delight of a young girl in the beauties of our spring-time, in the spicy odors of budding larches and pines and the earliest flowers; but after our long winters what can be more natural than such pleasure? The companionship of this so-called spirit has nothing so very extraordinary in it, has it, my child?”
“The secrets of that spirit are not mine,” said Minna. “Near it I know all, away from it I know nothing; near that exquisite life I am no longer myself, far from it I forget all. The time we pass together is a dream which my memory scarcely retains. I may have heard yet not remember the music which the women tell of; in that presence, I may have breathed celestial perfumes, seen the glory of the heavens, and yet be unable to recollect them here.”
“What astonishes me most,” resumed the pastor, addressing Wilfrid, “is to notice that you suffer from being near her.”
“Near her!” exclaimed the stranger, “she has never so much as let me touch her hand. When she saw me for the first time her glance intimidated me; she said: ‘You are welcome here, for you were to come.’ I fancied that she knew me. I trembled. It is fear that forces me to believe in her.”
“With me it is love,” said Minna, without a blush.
“Are you making fun of me?” said Monsieur Becker, laughing good-humoredly; “you my daughter, in calling yourself a Spirit of Love, and you, Monsieur Wilfrid, in pretending to be a Spirit of Wisdom?”
He drank a glass of beer and so did not see the singular look which Wilfrid cast upon Minna.
“Jesting apart,” resumed the old gentleman, “I have been much astonished to hear that these two mad-caps ascended to the summit of the Falberg; it must be a girlish exaggeration; they probably went to the crest of a ledge. It is impossible to reach the peaks of the Falberg.”
“If so, father,” said Minna, in an agitated voice, “I must have been under the power of a spirit; for indeed we reached the summit of the Ice-Cap.”
“This is really serious,” said Monsieur Becker. “Minna is always truthful.”
“Monsieur Becker,” said Wilfrid, “I swear to you that Seraphita exercises such extraordinary power over me that I know no language in which I can give you the least idea of it. She has revealed to me things known to myself alone.”
“Somnambulism!” said the old man. “A great many such effects are related by Jean Wier as phenomena easily explained and formerly observed in Egypt.”
“Lend me Swedenborg’s theosophical works,” said Wilfrid, “and let me plunge into those gulfs of light — you have given me a thirst for them.”
Monsieur Becker took down a volume and gave it to his guest, who instantly began to read it. It was about nine o’clock in the evening. The serving-woman brought in the supper. Minna made tea. The repast over, each turned silently to his or her occupation; the pastor read the Incantations; Wilfrid pursued the spirit of Swedenborg; and the young girl continued to sew, her mind absorbed in recollections. It was a true Norwegian evening — peaceful, studious, and domestic; full of thoughts, flowers blooming beneath the snow. Wilfrid, as he devoured the pages of the prophet, lived by his inner senses only; the pastor, looking up at times from his book, called Minna’s attention to the absorption of their guest with an air that was half-serious, half-jesting. To Minna’s thoughts the face of Seraphitus smiled upon her as it hovered above the clouds of smoke which enveloped them. The clock struck twelve. Suddenly the outer door was opened violently. Heavy but hurried steps, the steps of a terrified old man, were heard in the narrow vestibule between the two doors; then David burst into the parlor.
“Danger, danger!” he cried. “Come! come, all! The evil spirits are unchained! Fiery mitres are on their heads! Demons, Vertumni, Sirens! they tempt her as Jesus was tempted on the mountain! Come, come! and drive them away.”
“Do you not recognize the language of Swedenborg?” said the pastor, laughing, to Wilfrid. “Here it is; pure from the source.”
But Wilfrid and Minna were gazing in terror at old David, who, with hair erect, and eyes distraught, his legs trembling and covered with snow, for he had come without snow-shoes, stood swaying from side to side, as if some boisterous wind were shaking him.
“Is he harmed?” cried Minna.
“The devils hope and try to conquer her,” replied the old man.
The words made Wilfrid’s pulses throb.
“For the last five hours she has stood erect, her eyes raised to heaven and her arms extended; she suffers, she cries to God. I cannot cross the barrier; Hell has posted the Vertumni as sentinels. They have set up an iron wall between her and her old David. She wants me, but what can I do? Oh, help me! help me! Come and pray!”
The old man’s despair was terrible to see.
“The Light of God is defending her,” he went on, with infectious faith, “but oh! she might yield to violence.”
“Silence, David! you are raving. This is a matter to be verified. We will go with you,” said the pastor, “and you shall see that there are no Vertumni, nor Satans, nor Sirens, in that house.”
“Your father is blind,” whispered David to Minna.
Wilfrid, on whom the reading of Swedenborg’s first treatise, which he had rapidly gone through, had produced a powerful effect, was already in the corridor putting on his skees; Minna was ready in a few moments, and both left the old men far behind as they darted forward to the Swedish castle.
“Do you hear that cracking sound?” said Wilfrid.
“The ice of the fiord stirs,” answered Minna; “the spring is coming.”
Wilfrid was silent. When the two reached the courtyard they were conscious that they had neither the faculty nor the strength to enter the house.
“What think you of her?” asked Wilfrid.
“See that radiance!” cried Minna, going towards the window of the salon. “He is there! How beautiful! O my Seraphitus, take me!”
The exclamation was uttered inwardly. She saw Seraphitus standing erect, lightly swathed in an opal-tinted mist that disappeared at a little distance from the body, which seemed almost phosphorescent.
“How beautiful she is!” cried Wilfrid, mentally.
Just then Monsieur Becker arrived, followed by David; he saw his daughter and guest standing before the window; going up to them, he looked into the salon and said quietly, “Well, my good David, she is only saying her prayers.”
“Ah, but try to enter, Monsieur.”
“Why disturb those who pray?” answered the pastor.
At this instant the moon, rising above the Falberg, cast its rays upon the window. All three turned round, attracted by this natural effect which made them quiver; when they turned back to again look at Seraphita she had disappeared.
“How strange!” exclaimed Wilfrid.
“I hear delightful sounds,” said Minna.
“Well,” said the pastor, “it is all plain enough; she is going to bed.”
David had entered the house. The others took their way back in silence; none of them interpreted the vision in the same manner — Monsieur Becker doubted, Minna adored, Wilfrid longed.
Wilfrid was a man about thirty-six years of age. His figure, though broadly developed, was not wanting in symmetry. Like most men who distinguish themselves above their fellows, he was of medium height; his chest and shoulders were broad, and his neck short — a characteristic of those whose hearts are near their heads; his hair was black, thick, and fine; his eyes, of a yellow brown, had, as it were, a solar brilliancy, which proclaimed with what avidity his nature aspired to Light. Though these strong and virile features were defective through the absence of an inward peace — granted only to a life without storms or conflicts — they plainly showed the inexhaustible resources of impetuous senses and the appetites of instinct; just as every motion revealed the perfection of the man’s physical apparatus, the flexibility of his senses, and their fidelity when brought into play. This man might contend with savages, and hear, as they do, the tread of enemies in distant forests; he could follow a scent in the air, a trail on the ground, or see on the horizon the signal of a friend. His sleep was light, like that of all creatures who will not allow themselves to be surprised. His body came quickly into harmony with the climate of any country where his tempestuous life conducted him. Art and science would have admired his organization in the light of a human model. Everything about him was symmetrical and well-balanced — action and heart, intelligence and will. At first sight he might be classed among purely instinctive beings, who give themselves blindly up to the material wants of life; but in the very morning of his days he had flung himself into a higher social world, with which his feelings harmonized; study had widened his mind, reflection had sharpened his power of thought, and the sciences had enlarged his understanding. He had studied human laws — the working of self-interests brought into conflict by the passions, and he seemed to have early familiarized himself with the abstractions on which societies rest. He had pored over books — those deeds of dead humanity; he had spent whole nights of pleasure in every European capital; he had slept on fields of battle the night before the combat and the night that followed victory. His stormy youth may have flung him on the deck of some corsair and sent him among the contrasting regions of the globe; thus it was that he knew the actions of a living humanity. He knew the present and the past — a double history; that of to-day, that of other days. Many men have been, like Wilfrid, equally powerful by the Hand, by the Heart, by the Head; like him, the majority have abused their triple power. But though this man still held by certain outward liens to the slimy side of humanity, he belonged also and positively to the sphere where force is intelligent. In spite of the many veils which enveloped his soul, there were certain ineffable symptoms of this fact which were visible to pure spirits, to the eyes of the child whose innocence has known no breath of evil passions, to the eyes of the old man who has lived to regain his purity.
These signs revealed a Cain for whom there was still hope — one who seemed as though he were seeking absolution from the ends of the earth. Minna suspected the galley-slave of glory in the man; Seraphita recognized him. Both admired and both pitied him. Whence came their prescience? Nothing could be more simple nor yet more extraordinary. As soon as we seek to penetrate the secrets of Nature, where nothing is secret, and where it is only necessary to have the eyes to see, we perceive that the simple produces the marvellous.
“Seraphitus,” said Minna one evening a few days after Wilfrid’s arrival in Jarvis, “you read the soul of this stranger while I have only vague impressions of it. He chills me or else he excites me; but you seem to know the cause of this cold and of this heat; tell me what it means, for you know all about him.”
“Yes, I have seen the causes,” said Seraphitus, lowing his large eyelids.
“By what power?” asked the curious Minna.
“I have the gift of Specialism,” he answered. “Specialism is an inward sight which can penetrate all things; you will only understand its full meaning through a comparison. In the great cities of Europe where works are produced by which the human Hand seeks to represent the effects of the moral nature was well as those of the physical nature, there are glorious men who express ideas in marble. The sculptor acts on the stone; he fashions it; he puts a realm of ideas into it. There are statues which the hand of man has endowed with the faculty of representing the noble side of humanity, or the whole evil side; most men see in such marbles a human figure and nothing more; a few other men, a little higher in the scale of being, perceive a fraction of the thoughts expressed in the statue; but the Initiates in the secrets of art are of the same intellect as the sculptor; they see in his work the whole universe of his thought. Such persons are in themselves the principles of art; they bear within them a mirror which reflects nature in her slightest manifestations. Well! so it is with me; I have within me a mirror before which the moral nature, with its causes and effects, appears and is reflected. Entering thus into the consciousness of others I am able to divine both the future and the past. How? do you still ask how? Imagine that the marble statue is the body of a man, a piece of statuary in which we see the emotion, sentiment, passion, vice or crime, virtue or repentance which the creating hand has put into it, and you will then comprehend how it is that I read the soul of this foreigner — though what I have said does not explain the gift of Specialism; for to conceive the nature of that gift we must possess it.”
Though Wilfrid belonged to the two first divisions of humanity, the men of force and the men of thought, yet his excesses, his tumultuous life, and his misdeeds had often turned him towards Faith; for doubt has two sides; a side to the light and a side to the darkness. Wilfrid had too closely clasped the world under its forms of Matter and of Mind not to have acquired that thirst for the unknown, that longing to go beyond which lay their grasp upon the men who know, and wish, and will. But neither his knowledge, nor his actions, nor his will, had found direction. He had fled from social life from necessity; as a great criminal seeks the cloister. Remorse, that virtue of weak beings, did not touch him. Remorse is impotence, impotence which sins again. Repentance alone is powerful; it ends all. But in traversing the world, which he made his cloister, Wilfrid had found no balm for his wounds; he saw nothing in nature to which he could attach himself. In him, despair had dried the sources of desire. He was one of those beings who, having gone through all passions and come out victorious, have nothing more to raise in their hot-beds, and who, lacking opportunity to put themselves at the head of their fellow-men to trample under iron heel entire populations, buy, at the price of a horrible martyrdom, the faculty of ruining themselves in some belief — rocks sublime, which await the touch of a wand that comes not to bring the waters gushing from their far-off spring.
Led by a scheme of his restless, inquiring life to the shores of Norway, the sudden arrival of winter had detained the wanderer at Jarvis. The day on which, for the first time, he saw Seraphita, the whole past of his life faded from his mind. The young girl excited emotions which he had thought could never be revived. The ashes gave forth a lingering flame at the first murmurings of that voice. Who has ever felt himself return to youth and purity after growing cold and numb with age and soiled with impurity? Suddenly, Wilfrid loved as he had never loved; he loved secretly, with faith, with fear, with inward madness. His life was stirred to the very source of his being at the mere thought of seeing Seraphita. As he listened to her he was transported into unknown worlds; he was mute before her, she magnetized him. There, beneath the snows, among the glaciers, bloomed the celestial flower to which his hopes, so long betrayed, aspired; the sight of which awakened ideas of freshness, purity, and faith which grouped about his soul and lifted it to higher regions — as Angels bear to heaven the Elect in those symbolic pictures inspired by the guardian spirit of a great master. Celestial perfumes softened the granite hardness of the rocky scene; light endowed with speech shed its divine melodies on the path of him who looked to heaven. After emptying the cup of terrestrial love which his teeth had bitten as he drank it, he saw before him the chalice of salvation where the limpid waters sparkled, making thirsty for ineffable delights whoever dare apply his lips burning with a faith so strong that the crystal shall not be shattered.
But Wilfrid now encountered the wall of brass for which he had been seeking up and down the earth. He went impetuously to Seraphita, meaning to express the whole force and bearing of a passion under which he bounded like the fabled horse beneath the iron horseman, firm in his saddle, whom nothing moves while the efforts of the fiery animal only made the rider heavier and more solid. He sought her to relate his life — to prove the grandeur of his soul by the grandeur of his faults, to show the ruins of his desert. But no sooner had he crossed her threshold, and found himself within the zone of those eyes of scintillating azure, that met no limits forward and left none behind, than he grew calm and submissive, as a lion, springing on his prey in the plains of Africa, receives from the wings of the wind a message of love, and stops his bound. A gulf opened before him, into which his frenzied words fell and disappeared, and from which uprose a voice which changed his being; he became as a child, a child of sixteen, timid and frightened before this maiden with serene brow, this white figure whose inalterable calm was like the cruel impassibility of human justice. The combat between them had never ceased until this evening, when with a glance she brought him down, as a falcon making his dizzy spirals in the air around his prey causes it to fall stupefied to earth, before carrying it to his eyrie.
We may note within ourselves many a long struggle the end of which is one of our own actions — struggles which are, as it were, the reverse side of humanity. This reverse side belongs to God; the obverse side to men. More than once Seraphita had proved to Wilfrid that she knew this hidden and ever varied side, which is to the majority of men a second being. Often she said to him in her dove-like voice: “Why all this vehemence?” when on his way to her he had sworn she should be his. Wilfrid was, however, strong enough to raise the cry of revolt to which he had given utterance in Monsieur Becker’s study. The narrative of the old pastor had calmed him. Sceptical and derisive as he was, he saw belief like a sidereal brilliance dawning on his life. He asked himself if Seraphita were not an exile from the higher spheres seeking the homeward way. The fanciful deifications of all ordinary lovers he could not give to this lily of Norway in whose divinity he believed. Why lived she here beside this fiord? What did she? Questions that received no answer filled his mind. Above all, what was about to happen between them? What fate had brought him there? To him, Seraphita was the motionless marble, light nevertheless as a vapor, which Minna had seen that day poised above the precipices of the Falberg. Could she thus stand on the edge of all gulfs without danger, without a tremor of the arching eyebrows, or a quiver of the light of the eye? If his love was to be without hope, it was not without curiosity.
From the moment when Wilfrid suspected the ethereal nature of the enchantress who had told him the secrets of his life in melodious utterance, he had longed to try to subject her, to keep her to himself, to tear her from the heaven where, perhaps, she was awaited. Earth and Humanity seized their prey; he would imitate them. His pride, the only sentiment through which man can long be exalted, would make him happy in this triumph for the rest of his life. The idea sent the blood boiling through his veins, and his heart swelled. If he did not succeed, he would destroy her — it is so natural to destroy that which we cannot possess, to deny what we cannot comprehend, to insult that which we envy.
On the morrow, Wilfrid, laden with ideas which the extraordinary events of the previous night naturally awakened in his mind, resolved to question David, and went to find him on the pretext of asking after Seraphita’s health. Though Monsieur Becker spoke of the old servant as falling into dotage, Wilfrid relied on his own perspicacity to discover scraps of truth in the torrent of the old man’s rambling talk.
David had the immovable, undecided, physiognomy of an octogenarian. Under his white hair lay a forehead lined with wrinkles like the stone courses of a ruined wall; and his face was furrowed like the bed of a dried-up torrent. His life seemed to have retreated wholly to the eyes, where light still shone, though its gleams were obscured by a mistiness which seemed to indicate either an active mental alienation or the stupid stare of drunkenness. His slow and heavy movements betrayed the glacial weight of age, and communicated an icy influence to whoever allowed themselves to look long at him — for he possessed the magnetic force of torpor. His limited intelligence was only roused by the sight, the hearing, or the recollection of his mistress. She was the soul of this wholly material fragment of an existence. Any one seeing David alone by himself would have thought him a corpse; let Seraphita enter, let her voice be heard, or a mention of her be made, and the dead came forth from his grave and recovered speech and motion. The dry bones were not more truly awakened by the divine breath in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and never was that apocalyptic vision better realized than in this Lazarus issuing from the sepulchre into life at the voice of a young girl. His language, which was always figurative and often incomprehensible, prevented the inhabitants of the village from talking with him; but they respected a mind that deviated so utterly from common ways — a thing which the masses instinctively admire.
Wilfrid found him in the antechamber, apparently asleep beside the stove. Like a dog who recognizes a friend of the family, the old man raised his eyes, saw the foreigner, and did not stir.
“Where is she?” inquired Wilfrid, sitting down beside him.
David fluttered his fingers in the air as if to express the flight of a bird.
“Does she still suffer?” asked Wilfrid.
“Beings vowed to Heaven are able so to suffer that suffering does not lessen their love; this is the mark of the true faith,” answered the old man, solemnly, like an instrument which, on being touched, gives forth an accidental note.
“Who taught you those words?”
“What happened to her last night? Did you force your way past the Vertumni standing sentinel? did you evade the Mammons?”
“Yes”; answered David, as though awaking from a dream.
The misty gleam of his eyes melted into a ray that came direct from the soul and made it by degrees brilliant as that of an eagle, as intelligent as that of a poet.
“What did you see?” asked Wilfrid, astonished at this sudden change.
“I saw Species and Shapes; I heard the Spirit of all things; I beheld the revolt of the Evil Ones; I listened to the words of the Good. Seven devils came, and seven archangels descended from on high. The archangels stood apart and looked on through veils. The devils were close by; they shone, they acted. Mammon came on his pearly shell in the shape of a beautiful naked woman; her snowy body dazzled the eye, no human form ever equalled it; and he said, ‘I am Pleasure; thou shalt possess me!’ Lucifer, prince of serpents, was there in sovereign robes; his Manhood was glorious as the beauty of an angel, and he said, ‘Humanity shall be at thy feet!’ The Queen of misers — she who gives back naught that she has ever received — the Sea, came wrapped in her virent mantle; she opened her bosom, she showed her gems, she brought forth her treasures and offered them; waves of sapphire and of emerald came at her bidding; her hidden wonders stirred, they rose to the surface of her breast, they spoke; the rarest pearl of Ocean spread its iridescent wings and gave voice to its marine melodies, saying, ‘Twin daughter of suffering, we are sisters! await me; let us go together; all I need is to become a Woman.’ The Bird with the wings of an eagle and the paws of a lion, the head of a woman and the body of a horse, the Animal, fell down before her and licked her feet, and promised seven hundred years of plenty to her best-beloved daughter. Then came the most formidable of all, the Child, weeping at her knees, and saying, ‘Wilt thou leave me, feeble and suffering as I am? oh, my mother, stay!’ and he played with her, and shed languor on the air, and the Heavens themselves had pity for his wail. The Virgin of pure song brought forth her choirs to relax the soul. The Kings of the East came with their slaves, their armies, and their women; the Wounded asked her for succor, the Sorrowful stretched forth their hands: ‘Do not leave us! do not leave us!’ they cried. I, too, I cried, ‘Do not leave us! we adore thee! stay!’ Flowers, bursting from the seed, bathed her in their fragrance which uttered, ‘Stay!’ The giant Enakim came forth from Jupiter, leading Gold and its friends and all the Spirits of the Astral Regions which are joined with him, and they said, ‘We are thine for seven hundred years.’ At last came Death on his pale horse, crying, ‘I will obey thee!’ One and all fell prostrate before her. Could you but have seen them! They covered as it were a vast plain, and they cried aloud to her, ‘We have nurtured thee, thou art our child; do not abandon us!’ At length Life issued from her Ruby Waters, and said, ‘I will not leave thee!’ then, finding Seraphita silent, she flamed upon her as the sun, crying out, ‘I am light!’ ‘The light is there!’ cried Seraphita, pointing to the clouds where stood the archangels; but she was wearied out; Desire had wrung her nerves, she could only cry, ‘My God! my God!’ Ah! many an Angelic Spirit, scaling the mountain and nigh to the summit, has set his foot upon a rolling stone which plunged him back into the abyss! All these lost Spirits adored her constancy; they stood around her — a choir without a song — weeping and whispering, ‘Courage!’ At last she conquered; Desire — let loose upon her in every Shape and every Species — was vanquished. She stood in prayer, and when at last her eyes were lifted she saw the feet of Angels circling in the Heavens.”
“She saw the feet of Angels?” repeated Wilfrid.
“Yes,” said the old man.
“Was it a dream that she told you?” asked Wilfrid.
“A dream as real as your life,” answered David; “I was there.”
The calm assurance of the old servant affected Wilfrid powerfully. He went away asking himself whether these visions were any less extraordinary than those he had read of in Swedenborg the night before.
“If Spirits exist, they must act,” he was saying to himself as he entered the parsonage, where he found Monsieur Becker alone.
“Dear pastor,” he said, “Seraphita is connected with us in form only, and even that form is inexplicable. Do not think me a madman or a lover; a profound conviction cannot be argued with. Convert my belief into scientific theories, and let us try to enlighten each other. To-morrow evening we shall both be with her.”
“What then?” said Monsieur Becker.
“If her eye ignores space,” replied Wilfrid, “if her thought is an intelligent sight which enables her to perceive all things in their essence, and to connect them with the general evolution of the universe, if, in a word, she sees and knows all, let us seat the Pythoness on her tripod, let us force this pitiless eagle by threats to spread its wings! Help me! I breathe a fire which burns my vitals; I must quench it or it will consume me. I have found a prey at last, and it shall be mine!”
“The conquest will be difficult,” said the pastor, “because this girl is —”
“Is what?” cried Wilfrid.
“Mad,” said the old man.
“I will not dispute her madness, but neither must you dispute her wonderful powers. Dear Monsieur Becker, she has often confounded me with her learning. Has she travelled?”
“From her house to the fiord, no further.”
“Never left this place!” exclaimed Wilfrid. “Then she must have read immensely.”
“Not a page, not one iota! I am the only person who possesses any books in Jarvis. The works of Swedenborg — the only books that were in the chateau — you see before you. She has never looked into a single one of them.”
“Have you tried to talk with her?”
“What good would that do?”
“Does no one live with her in that house?”
“She has no friends but you and Minna, nor any servant except old David.”
“It cannot be that she knows nothing of science nor of art.”
“Who should teach her?” said the pastor.
“But if she can discuss such matters pertinently, as she has often done with me, what do you make of it?”
“The girl may have acquired through years of silence the faculties enjoyed by Apollonius of Tyana and other pretended sorcerers burned by the Inquisition, which did not choose to admit the fact of second-sight.”
“If she can speak Arabic, what would you say to that?”
“The history of medical science gives many authentic instances of girls who have spoken languages entirely unknown to them.”
“What can I do?” exclaimed Wilfrid. “She knows of secrets in my past life known only to me.”
“I shall be curious if she can tell me thoughts that I have confided to no living person,” said Monsieur Becker.
Minna entered the room.
“Well, my daughter, and how is your familiar spirit?”
“He suffers, father,” she answered, bowing to Wilfrid. “Human passions, clothed in their false riches, surrounded him all night, and showed him all the glories of the world. But you think these things mere tales.”
“Tales as beautiful to those who read them in their brains as the ‘Arabian Nights’ to common minds,” said the pastor, smiling.
“Did not Satan carry our Savior to the pinnacle of the Temple, and show him all the kingdoms of the world?” she said.
“The Evangelists,” replied her father, “did not correct their copies very carefully, and several versions are in existence.”
“You believe in the reality of these visions?” said Wilfrid to Minna.
“Who can doubt when he relates them.”
“He?” demanded Wilfrid. “Who?”
“He who is there,” replied Minna, motioning towards the chateau.
“Are you speaking of Seraphita?” he said.
The young girl bent her head, and looked at him with an expression of gentle mischief.
“You too!” exclaimed Wilfrid, “you take pleasure in confounding me. Who and what is she? What do you think of her?”
“What I feel is inexplicable,” said Minna, blushing.
“You are all crazy!” cried the pastor.
“Farewell, until to-morrow evening,” said Wilfrid.
Last updated Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 16:28