ON MECHANICAL TREMULATION, VIBRATION IN THE BODY
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 :
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.