Emanuel Swedenborg's Erotic Dreams
Swedenborg kept a less well-known diary of his dreams, where he describes the apparition of desire and women in the most peculiar, archetypical way.
Emanuel Swedenborg’s mind, so dilated and worked through the scientific information from all of the disciplines on which he focused, eventually gave place to the perfect atmosphere for the spirits and revelations that soon covered his spacious temple – as a windstorm lights on a moor. After 1745, the man who’d designed a submarine to attack ships from underwater, sketched a flying machine, manufactured lenses and invented a new stove, was completely overcome by his visions. Swedenborg shelved mere science to attend talks with the dead, with demons and with angels. All of this is recorded in treatises like De Caelo et Inferno, which describes, among other things, the balance between the two spheres (Heaven and Hell) for the freeing of the will. “Every day man tills his eternal damnation or salvation,” he said, on the road to the exercise of a virtuous life.
But Swedenborg also kept a less well-known diary of his dreams. This was lost for many years until in 1849 it was found in the library of his one-time enemy, Professor R. Scheringson. The diary covers the period from July 1743 to October 1744; precisely the time when Swedenborg made the transition from being a scientist and an engineer to being a visionary and a mystic.
The entries describe his celestial visions, in detail, along with worldly and fantastic scenarios. But what’s caught the attention of critics and readers is the emergence of so many women in these dreams. They’re women desired by Swedenborg, and often carrying archetypal myths in their genitals, myths that the Scandinavian had never heard of and which are repeated in different cultures around the world. His symbolic and sensual erotic dreams, however, eventually reconcile a cohesiveness of sexuality with Christian concepts of sin.
In one vivid dream, number 171, Swedenborg is in bed with a woman. She touches his penis with a hand and he has the “biggest erection ever.” He penetrates her, reflecting that a child must come from there, and writes that he was satisfied en marveille [sic]. Another notable dream, number 120, finds him lying with a woman who was not beautiful but whom he pleasured. Upon touching her vagina he found that it had teeth. Suddenly the woman takes the form of a man, a politician Johan Archenholtz, and Swedenborg’s friend. The image of the toothed vagina appears again in several dreams.
These erotic dreams were omitted from the first English translations, and only included in the version of C. Th. Odhner in 1918 (presented above), in Latin. The Public Domain Review, which has presented so many wonders, has translated a selection of these into English.
Interest in these dreams is partly because, soon after recording them, Swedenborg wrote an important book on marital affection, Conjugal Love (1768). Physical and sexual love are lifted to spiritual heights, representing the union of wisdom and love, two essential attributes of the divine. Swedenborg’s book allows him to insist that erotic love is of divine origin, though human beings can pervert it to selfish and therefore evil ends. The proverbial toothed vagina, remarked Richard Lines, a member of The Swedenborg Society, is found in popular folklore, especially in Japanese folktales and in the mythology of the tribes of Guyana in South America. The fact that Swedenborg had these archetypal erotic dreams at such a crucial moment of his life is remarkable, to say the least. He could then exalt humility, misery and misfortune (cfr. Borges) as part of the doctrinal correspondence between hell and heaven, which were for him but two parts of one humanity.
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