Here’s the latest of my Thinking Allowed Interviews with Jeffrey Mishlove. This time we look at one of the most fascinating and influential figures in the western esoteric tradition, the Eighteenth Century scientist and spiritual explorer, Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg influenced practically every important intellectual, cultural, and spiritual figure in the Nineteenth Century, from William Blake to Charles Baudelaire, Ralph Waldo Emerson to Honore Balzac – and that’s just for starters. In the interview, I try to do what I aim at in my book, Swedenborg: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas: to show that if you don’t know who Swedenborg is, you really should make an effort to get some idea of his importance, both in the history of ideas, and in our own attempts to make sense of life. He helped August Strindberg get through a bad patch and Helen Keller found joy and meaning in his work. That sounds like a pretty good endorsement.
I’ve posted a short video of the Question and Answer session following my recent talk at Rudolf Steiner House on YouTube . Here’s the link. I’m aiming to post more of the talk sometime soon, and to record future talks and make those available too. It’s a slow process and while I am not a technophobe, I know why I studied the Humanities.
I’ve also recently agreed a deal with Thirteen Ventures Limited, of Toronto, Canada, for them to produce an audio book version of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. Mark Jeftovic, the man in charge, has had success with his earlier audio ventures, but Lost Knowledge is, I think, a new departure. I look forward to hearing the finished product, and with any luck others will too.
And last week I submitted my 10,000 word essay on ‘Swedenborg’s Correspondences’, to the Swedenborg Society, who commissioned me to write it for a new series of short books they are launching, dealing with different aspects of Swedenborg’s huge body of work. The idea of correspondences is at the heart of Swedenborg’s vision, and it is an idea that has had an enormous influence on western culture over the last two centuries. I take a look at Swedenborg’s influence on Baudelaire and the Symbolist movement, his own correspondences with the western Hermetic tradition, and ask how his ideas may be of help to us today, in the early years of the post-truth world.
Nicholas Colloff has posted some thoughts about Lost Knowledge of the Imagination on his excellent Golgonooza site. Golgonooza was the name William Blake gave to his “city of the imagination.” What better place to get some feedback from about a book that looks at Blake and his fellow students of the “learning of the imagination”? Nicholas knew Kathleen Raine, the poet and Blake scholar whose work was the inspiration for the book, and I imagine he received some of this learning from her first hand. Not all of us are this lucky. But imagination can be remarkably resourceful, especially when directed at itself – as I imagine readers of the book will discover.