Dreams of a Spirit-Seer/Appendix 3

APPENDIX III.Edit

THE RELATIVE PRIORITY OF THE “LETTER” AND THE “DREAMS.”


Regarding the disputed date of this letter the reader is referred to a lengthy discussion in the Reclam edition of the Träume, ed. Kehrbach, Leipzig, 1880: pp. 25-33, and to the documents concerning Swedenborg, Tafel: Vol. II., pp. 620-625. The former editor favours 1763, the latter 1758, as the true date. Inasmuch as several events mentioned in the letter occurred, as all now agree, subsequent to 1758, that date may be regarded as now set aside by universal consent. The circumstance that Kant speaks in the letter of being entirely unacquainted with Swedenborg’s writings, whereas in the “Dreams” he professes to have read the Arcana through, would seem to favour a date for the letter considerably prior to that of the “Dreams,” 1766. On the other hand, the mention in the letter of Swedenborg’s intended journey to London the “next year” to publish a volume which would answer Kant’s inquiries, a journey actually made in 1769, when the work on the “Two Worlds,” De Commercio, was brought out discussing the theories of Aristotle, Descartes and Leibnitz, this also being Swedenborg’s only journey to London since 1761, would seem to be strong evidence in favour of 1768. Against this conclusion, however, may be brought the fatal circumstance that Fraülein von Knobloch was married in the year 1763 or 1764 to a General von Klingshorn, and hence could hardly have been addressed in 1768 under her maiden name. (See Reclam ed. p. 32.)

As to the significance of the date as bearing upon the question of Kant’s final estimate of Swedenborg’s philosophy of the two worlds I think it has been much over-rated, for the two following reasons: I. That the humorous and flippant style of the “Dreams” forbid our attaching very serious weight to anything whether of fact or opinion alleged therein; II. The true and sufficient evidence of Swedenborg’s influence on Kant is unmistakably shown in his Inaugural Dissertation on the Two Worlds written in 1770, the year following the publication of Swedenborg’s De Commercio, and in subsequent lectures on Metaphysics and Psychology which have recently been edited by Du Prel and Heinze. See Introduction p. 35.