zondag 24 september 2017

Frank Sewall (1837-1915) vergeleek Spinoza met Swedenborg

In het blog van 20-11-2015 “Ethan A. Hitchcock's vergelijking van Spinoza en Swedenborg” schreef ik: “Daar ik geen aanleiding zie om nog eens een apart blog aan Emanuel Swedenborg te wijden, plaats ik hier zijn afbeelding i.p.v. nog eens Hitchcock.” Nu geeft Frank Sewall aanleiding om toch nog eens over Emanuel Swedenborg te schrijven. Ethan A. Hitchcock gaf een vergelijkend overzicht dat duidelijk maakte dat Swedenborg Spinoza goed bestudeerd moet hebben. Sewall schrijft in de tekst die ik zo dadelijk citeer: “We find nowhere any mention of Spinoza by Swedenborg, and can easily understand why he might not have felt attracted to his teaching.”
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was een Zweeds wetenschapper en theoloog. Hij deed ontdekkingen in de natuurwetenschappen, waaronder de astronomie, geologie en mineralogie. Zijn intensief zoeken naar antwoorden op ultieme vragen, deed hem op 55-jarige leeftijd ontwaken en een uniek inzicht in de werking van ‘de geestelijke wereld’ krijgen. Hij besteedde de rest van zijn leven aan het schrijven over deze ervaringen en hoe mensen kunnen komen tot een dieper besef van het goddelijke. Hij had invloed op velen. De voortdurende aantrekkelijkheid van zijn denken ligt zonder twijfel in zijn inzichten in het leven na de dood, zijn concepten over de goddelijke liefde, en zijn focus op persoonlijke en sociale ontwikkeling. [Cf.]

Frank Sewall, die zoals we in het vorige blog zagen, Swedenborgiaans geestelijke was, leiding gaf aan het Swedenborgiaans Urbana College en veel over o.a. Swedenborg publiceerde, deed in 1902 het volgende werk het licht zien, waarin hij – afgezien van zijn inleiding op de Elwes-vertaling – het uitvoerigst over Spinoza schreef:
Frank Sewall, Swedenborg and Modern Idealism: A Retrospect of Philosophy from Kant to the Present Time. London: James Speirs, 1902, iv + 244 p. – HathiTrust. In deze studie maakt hij een uitgebreide vergelijking tussen Spinoza en Swedenborg. Die tekst, die gaat van p. 42-46, neem ik hier over:

In Spinoza (1632-1677), who followed Descartes, and who was profoundly impressed with his philosophy, there was a tendency back to a kind of idealistic monism which has been interpreted by many as sheer pantheism. With him, as with Descartes, there is but one substance, but this exists under the two attributes of extension and thought, and this substance itself being God, it follows that God is immanent in all things, or all things have their only true being in God. There is, according to Spinoza, no discrete degree between thinking and extended being. God thinks in all substance, and is everywhere obeying the necessary laws of [hi]s own being. A perfect or "adequate" knowledge in the human mind would see everything under the form of eternity and as occurring under the necessity of the Divine law. All the changes and imperfections of the finite are regarded as passing modes of these two Divine attributes, extension and thought. It is easy to see how Spinoza may be classed as a fatalist on the one hand, and on the other as a Christian of an exalted type, namely, as he teaches that man's happiness and salvation consists in his attaining to a true " intellectual love of God," which is a love that sees all things as occurring according to the perfect law of Divine Order. The true knowledge of oneself is that which sees oneself under the form of eternity, in which case it sees oneself as thought by God. The mind can only as eternal so know itself, and from this knowledge [43] springs the " intellectual love of God." There is something here that suggests Swedenborg's doctrine of the soul's immortality as consisting in its " ability to know and to love God." [1]
Swedenborg's opposition to the Pantheism of Spinoza is fundamental, because grounded in a doctrine of Love the opposite of his. This appears from the following passages in the Divine Love and Wisdom.
Swedenborg on the Divine :—
The Divine essence itself is love and wisdom: it is Divine love because it is of Divine wisdom, and it is Divine wisdom because it is of Divine love; since there is such a union of these principles therefore the Divine life is one " (No. 35).
Love is also the Divine Esse, and Wisdom the Existere, since love does not exist but in wisdom, nor wisdom but from love, wherefore when love is in wisdom, then it exists. These two are such a one that they may be distinguished indeed, in thought, but not in act, therefore they may be said to be distincte unum, distinctly one, or one and yet distinct (No. 14).
And on God in Nature Swedenborg teaches as follows :—
The created universe, viewed from a principle of order, is so full of wisdom grounded in love that it may be said that all things in the complex are wisdom itself, for indefinite things are in such successive and simultaneous order that taken together they make one, and only thus can they be held together and preserved perpetually (D. L. W., No. 30). [44]
Spinoza's Doctrine of Love is quite another:—-
Love is joy accompanied with the idea of its cause. . . . God loves Himself with infinite intellectual love, for the Divine nature has 'joy' in infinite perfection, the idea of which is accompanied by the idea of the Divine nature as its cause. . . . The intellectual love of the mind to God is a part of the infinite love with which God loves himself (i.e., of Infinite self-love).— Spinoza, Ethics, Pt. 5.
This is the joy of infinite self-love.
Compare Swedenborg's definition of Love in Divine Love and Wisdom :—
It is an essential of love not to love itself but to love others, and to be joined to them by love; it is also an essential of love to be loved by others, for tliereby the conjunction is aff'ected. The essence of all love consists in conjunction. Love consists in our willing what is our own to be another's, and feeling his delight as delight in ourselves —this is to love; but for a man to feel his own delight in another, and not the other's delight in himself, is not to love, for, in this case, he loves himself, whereas in the former he loves his neighbour. For what is it for a man to love himself alone and not anyone out of himself, by whom he may be loved in turn? The conjunction of love arises from reciprocation, and reciprocation does not exist in self alone.
Hence it is that the Divine love cannot but be and exist in other beings or existences whom it loves and by whom it is beloved.
With respect to God, it is not possible that He can love and be reciprocally beloved by other beings or existences in whom there is anything of the Infinite or anything of the essence and life of love in itself—i.e., anything of the Divine, for if there were anything of the Infinite or Divine in them then He would not be beloved by others, but He would love Himself, for the Infinite or the Divine is one. If this Infinite existed in others, it would be Itself, and God would [45] be self-love, not the least of which is possible with Him, for this is totally opposite to the Divine essence. Wherefore this reciprocation of love must have place between God and other beings or existences in whom there is nothing of the selfexistent Divine. It must have its place in beings created from the Divine (No. 47, 49).
The doctrine of love, both of Divine and human love, is essentially selfish in Spinoza, being the love directed toward self in the contemplation of one's perfection to eternity. God seeing Himself thus in man, man himself in God. Whereas in Swedenborg the essence of love is the contemplation of one's own good and happiness in another, and in God this is carried to an infinite degree.
Spinoza read a moral meaning into the Bible, declaring that it never pretends to reveal natural laws, and yet that there must be a method of interpretating it as truly as of interpretating nature. Although of early Jewish education, Spinoza, in his Tractatus TheoJ. Polit, exalts Christ above Moses and the Prophets, for the reason that Christ received the revelation of God not like them, through words, but in His own consciousness, and thus was, indeed, the incarnation of Divine wisdom in human nature. He was the perfect knowledge, or God knowing Himself. In all this monistic doctrine, in which the influence of the Jewish monotheism is distinctly traceable, there appears the same fatal results of the absence of a recognition of the discrete degrees between God and spirit and nature as are on every hand exhibited to-day in those erratic schools of mysticism and occultism, which teach the soul's immediate knowledge of God by selfabsorption in God, or by the realization of self in God.  Spinoza, the "God-intoxicated," shows us what the [46] doctrine of God the All, even as the Infinite Love, would be without the saving doctrine of Discrete Degrees. It was, doubtless, owing to the conflicting and confusing teaching of both Monists and Dualists regarding Mind and Body, that the doctrine of Discrete Degrees assumed before Swedenborg's mind a constantly increasing importance. We can easily understand why he lays such stress on that which he calls the new doctrine of Series, Orders, Degrees, and Correspondence, and why. he even claimed that up to his time "nothing has been known of the doctrine of discrete degrees." He could not have meant that in the natural plane there had been no recognition of the relation of end, cause, and effect, as constituting the graded being of a thing, for, as we have seen, this had been already taught centuries before in Aristotle. But he, doubtless, did see in the philosophy about him, with its tendency on the one hand to Monism and consequent Pantheism, and on the other to a helpless Dualism, with its two irreconcilable Unlikes, the need of a third principle, which should preserve the elements of truth in both, but should bridge over the difficulties in their unification. We find nowhere any mention of Spinoza by Swedenborg, and can easily understand why he might not have felt attracted to his teaching.
Otherwise, indeed, was it with his other great contemporaries —Isaac Newton (1642-1727), whom we know, from Swedenborg's London Letters, that " he read daily," and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz (1646-1716), whom, when he was at Greifswalde, in 1715, he "should have liked to meet," but who was then at Vienna, and whose disciple. Wolf, Swedenborg says, "may be justly styled a true philosopher."
[Gaat dan verder door met Wolff en Leibniz]

In een volgend en laatste blog over Frank Sewall wil ik enige conclusies trekken uit de diverse teksten die hij over Spinoza schreef.

[1] "Man is so created that as to his internal he cannot die; for he is capable of believing in and of loving God, and thus of being conjoined to God by faith and love ; and to be thus conjoined to God is to live to eternitj^" —Swedenborg's Heavenly Doctrines, No. 223
Dmitri Plax schreef in 2004 een dialoog tussen de filosoof Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) en de wetenschapper-mysticus Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). [cf. blog]

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