Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, , at sacred-texts.com
<s : Independently of illumination, Swedenborg was one of the great men of all time—a great thinker, a great writer, a great scientist, a great engineer. In 1743, at the age of fifty-four years, something happened—some change took place in him; it does not seem to have been any form of insanity, since he was not sick, maintained and even increased all his friendships, was apparently entirely unsuspected by those about him of any mental alienation. His own account of his illumination to his friend Robsahm, as far as it goes, is very characteristic; he reports that God appeared to him and said, "I am God the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. I have chosen thee to unfold the spiritual sense of the Holy Scriptures. I will myself dictate to thee what thou shalt write" [87a:759].
It is admitted by all students of Swedenborg's life that the change was in reality an illumination, that putting aside his visions of angels and demons he actually had thereafter a spiritual insight beyond that of ordinary men, and if he was a visionary he also "led the most real life of any man then in the world" [87a: 96]. As for his visions, it may be said that they were not fundamentally different from those of Blake, Behmen, Dante and others. It must be remembered that these men see things that we do not see—things that are outside of our language; if, then, they use this language (which is all they have) to set them before us, it seems inevitable that we should not understand their words as they understand them. The result, in the case of every such expositor, however common-sense he tries to be—in the case of Jesus, Gautama, Paul and all the rest—is terrible misunderstanding and confusion; and yet, in spite of all, something passes from these men to us of more importance than all that we could get from the ordinary scientists and philosophers.
Many facts indicate that Swedenborg may have belonged to the class of men here in question. "He was never married. He had great modesty and gentleness of bearing. His habits were simple; he lived on bread, milk and vegetables" [87a:98]. "He was a man who won the respect, confidence and love of all who came in contact with him" [87a: 759]. Though many of those about him did not believe in his visions they respected him too much to make light of these in Swedenborg's presence. His teaching at bottom is that of all the great seers—that God in himself is infinite love—that his manifestation, form or body is infinite wisdom—that divine love is the self-subsisting life of the universe [87a: 759].
Swedenborg departs from the norm of these cases especially by his age (fifty-four years) at illumination. It seems incredible that a man could go on growing to such an age; still this is what we must believe if we include him. Mohammed was thirty-nine, Las Casas forty, C. M. C. forty-nine; these were undoubted cases, and it does not seem as if Swedenborg's personal history can be explained on any other hypothesis.