Emanuel Swedenborg, 1688 - 1772

Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish scientist and mystic whose views on spirit, nature, mind, ethics, and language proved to be very congenial to the transcendental movement.  In 1745 he experienced a supernatural vision or illumination, and from then on believed he was able to converse with the spiritual world.  Ralph Waldo Emerson was impressed by Swedenborg's Neoplatonic concept of "correspondence," through which nature is the symbol of spirit, and his theory of language, which held that the linguistic origins of words yield corresponding essential spiritual truths.  His ideas were introduced in New England largely through the efforts of his French disciple Guillaume Oegger and his American follower Sampson Reed, whose "Oration on Genius" (1821) and Observations on the Growth of the Mind (1826) are veritable transcendental source texts.  Amos Bronson Alcott was so struck by Swedenborg's works, which he read and reread for decades, that he declared to Emerson in 1839 that Swedenborg "should be in the hands of every earnest student of the Soul."