Scientific discovery of Spiritual Laws given in Rational Scientific Revelations


By Emanuel Swedenborg (1719)



EMANUEL SWEDENBORG'S treatise, "on Tremulation," which now for the first time appears in the English tongue, was originally written toward the close of the year 1719, as may appear from the following statement in a letter by the author, dated Nov. 3, 1719, and addressed to his brother-in-law, Dr. Eric Benzelius, then librarian of the University of Upsala:

"I have also written a little anatomy of our vital forces, which, I maintain, consist of tremulations; for this purpose I have made myself thoroughly acquainted with the anatomy of the nerves and the membranes, and I have proved the harmony which exists between that and the interesting geometry of tremulations; together with many other ideas, where I have found that I agree with those of Bagius. [Giorgio Baglivi, a disciple of Malpighi, and professor at Rome.] The day before yesterday I handed them in to the Royal Medical College. (See R. L. Tafel's " Documents Concerning Svvedenborg,," Vol. I., p. 310.)"

From the contemporary entries in the Proceedings of the Sundhets Collegium, or Board of Health, in Stockholm, it appears that this work of Swedenborg's was duly received and reported, the Board resolving that the treatise should be read in turn by all the members, who afterwards were to pronounce an opinion respecting it. While thus circulating, it seems that the manuscript disappeared, as there is no further reference to it in the Proceedings of the Board, and as it has not been preserved in the library of the Royal College of Medicine at Stockholm. Swedenborg himself retained only the first rough draft, which has also disappeared, but from it he made a second copy of chapters I.--VI., and XIII., which fortunately has been preserved. This, therefore is all that remains of the original work, "On Tremulation," and it is from this copy that we have prepared the present translation.

A few quotations from Swedenborg's correspondence with Benzelius will give the history of this second copy, and also illustrate the nature of the work itself :

[Stockholm middle of January, I720.] By the last post I began sending over to you my latest literary efforts. I should be very glad if this, as well as what is to follow, meet with your approbation. It is certainly true that Baglivius first started the theory; and that Descartes treated upon it, and afterwards Borellus; but no one has yet furnished any proofs, or treated the whole subject fully; wherefore I claim my proofs as new and as my own although the subject, or the theory itself, I am wilting to leave to others. Still I must say that a great part of what I discovered myself I afterwards found I had done in conjunction with Baglivius, which has rather pleased my fancy; as, for instance, what I have to say about the function of the meninges. The whole will cover a large space; I think it will occupy seven or eight weeks, even if I send you portions twice a week. The physicians here in town avid take the subject into consideration, and all express themselves favorably. (Documents, I., 3I7.)

[Stockholm, February 24, I720.] I break off my article now, and send chapter XIII., lest there might arise a squabble [among the professors in Upsala] as to the proper meaning. It would be very desirable if, in the objections that may be raised, respect were had to such things as would contribute to set this matter in its proper light for me; I mean that such objections should be raised, by which I might in a certain measure see whether I am on the right or on a wrong track; but merely to imagine many things about the animal spirits, and to admit only such things as have reference to their chemistry and function, and none that concern their geometry, seems too weak a defense. For I lay it down as a principle, that the tremulation begins in the fluid Which is contained in tile membranes; in order that this tremulation may spread, the membranes require to be in a state of tension with the hard substances as well as with the blood vessels; for in such a case all the lymphatic vessels, or the vessels of the nervous fluid, lie upon the membranes in their proper order, and exert a pressure upon their contiguous parts in an instant, just like any other fluid, and they thus communicate a trembling motion to the membranes, and also to their bones; so that almost the whole body is brought into a state of subtle tremulation, which causes sensation. I presume that Messieurs, the Academicians, are so reasonable as to set aside childish prejudices, and oppose reasons to reasons, so as to see on which side is the greatest weight. (Ibid., p. 318.)

February 29, I720.] I send you now the continuation of the preceding part. I wish much that it may gain the approval of the learned who are concerned in the subject; but as I am doubtful of this, I will allow some interval to elapse, that I may learn meanwhile what objections may be raised to it: for if any one entertains an opposite opinion, the best arguments may be thrown away; in preconceived opinions every one is almost totally blind: still I will with all my heart leave to your good pleasure, and to the service of the public, anything that may be demanded. Care must be taken not to draw down upon oneself the anathemas of the learned, on account of new discoveries, or some hitherto untried argumentations. In the next chapter there seems to me to be contained better and more evident proofs, which are taken from the senses and our sensations. I have some other parts besides, which are not yet worked out, and which treat of the mechanism of our passions and the movements of our senses, so far as they may be deduced from the structure of the nerves and the membranes. To this there will be added some unknown properties possessed by the least ramifications of the arteries and veins, for the purpose of continuing motion; but inasmuch as this requires to be established by several courses of thought, and by anatomical investigations, I reserve it for some future opportunity.... The whole of what has been sent over to you has been written off from the first draught; should any mistakes have crept in with regard to the orthography, you will please attribute it to the fact, that a proper copy does not yet exist. (Ibid., p. 319.)

[Brunsbo, April I2, 1720.] Since my departure from Stockholm, I have not had time to send you the continuation of my Anatomy; nor can I send it to you from here, because I have not my first draught with me, and my head does not well recall things from memory; with the first opportunity I will again communicate something to you. (Ibid., p. 324.)

[Brunsbo, May 2, 1720.] It would be my greatest delight if I could Continue my Anatomy from here. The first draught was left at Starbo, and without it it would make my head ache, to endeavor to hunt up the various threads which are already deeply obducta alius generis cogitationibus [that is, covered up by thoughts of a different kind]. Still it shall be done, as soon as an opportunity offers. (Ibid., p. 325.)

This is the last reference made by Swedenborg to his little work, "On tremulation." The desired opportunity did not offer itself, and Benzelius, consequently, never received any further installment of the work. The copy of chapters I. VI., and XIII., was subsequently carried to the city of Linkoping, when Benzelius, in 1731, was appointed Bishop over that diocese, and there it remains until the present day among his other papers, which are preserved in the library of the cathedral. Dr. R. L. Tafel, in 1869, procured a photo-lithographic copy of the manuscript, which constitutes pages 1321 80 of the first volume of Swedenborg's photoülithographed manuscripts.

As indicated by the author, this copy was transcribed from the first rough draft, which will account for certain unpolished sentences and other crudities of diction, many of which will be apparent also to the English reader. The original language is very peculiar, indeed, both as to orthography, syntax, and vocabulary. The Swedish of the early part of the eighteenth century was as different from modern Swedish, as was the language of Tyndale or Coverdale from modern English. Swedenborg himself was, in fact, one of the first who ventured to employ Swedish in a scientific treatise, and he was therefore forced to coin many new and strange expressions, and to borrow largely from other tongues, such as the Latin, French, German, and even English, with which the original of this work is plentifully besprinkled. The author himself soon recognized the insufficiency of the Swedish, as then existing, as the vehicle of scientific thought, and therefore, in all his subsequent works, he fell back upon the all dominant Latin.

Leaving to the reader to judge of the intrinsic value of the present treatise, we will merely point out its historical importance as a contribution toward a correct understanding of the growth of Swedenborg's mind, and of the beginnings of those great principles of natural truth which received a more perfect development in his later scientific and philosophical works. It is to be noted that this treatise was written when the author was but thirty-one years of age, and that it is the first of all his anatomical or rather physiological works. It may be regarded as distinctly marking the close of the first period of Swedenborg's career as an author and scientist. During this period, which commenced in the year 1709, he had written no less than twenty different treatises, nearly all in the Swedish language. Some of these were published by himself, and all have been preserved in one form or other, but none of them has as yet appeared in English. All may not be of supreme value, regarded in themselves, but they are nevertheless indispensable to a thorough comprehension of Swedenborg's preparation for that unique and stupendous mission which awaited him. Beginning his literary career as an annotator of the classics, he next appears as a Latin poet of no mean ability. Forsaking Polyhymnia for sterner muses, he now delves into mineralogy, geology, astronomy, mathematics, and physics, Writing numerous interesting and.suggestive little works on all these subjects, while at the same time publishing his Deedless Hyperboreus or Journal of Mathematics, Mechanics, and other physical sciences. In the sixth and last number of this journal, which was written in the beginning, of 1707, but not printed until October, 1718, we find an article on the subject of tremulation, which we have added as an introduction to the present treatise, being the conception and forerunner of this more extended work, which may be looked upon as the last work of Swedenborg's youth.

He now appears to have begun his studies and labors over again, as it were, in a more thorough and systematic manner, and with more mature results. Leaving physiology for a time, he returns to metallurgical, geological, and astronomical subjects; he writes his "Lesser Principia" in I720, publishes his ('Chemistry " in 1721 his " Miscellaneous Observations on Minerals, Fire," etc., in I 722, and the " Principia," the " Regnum Subterraneum," and the "Outlines on the Infinite," in I 734. Having thus a second time run through the cycle of these more ultimate sciences, Swedenborg, in 1735, resumes his study of the human body, which he fitly terms is the temple of all the sciences." The great work, (& on the Brain," the "Economy of the Animal Kingdom," the "Rational Psychology," the "Organs of Generation," (X The Animal Kingdom," and others now follow one another in rapid succession, but through all of these magnificent works of philosophic science there vibrates the key-note which many years before was struck ill the work, "on Tremulation." Nay, even in Swedenborg's latest theological writings there will be found many traces of the principles and arguments first presented in this little treatise.

HUNTINGDON VALLEY, PA. February 15, I899.


 Rules of Tremulation

 Chapter 1

 Chapter 2

 Chapter 3

 Chapter 4

 Chapter 5

 Chapter 6



Source pages

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