-Julian Winston on HomeoNet, February 1994.
My Granddad was a devout Swedenborgian, a pillar in the Swedenborgian church on Washington Street in San Francisco. They called it, "The Church of the New Jerusalem," at the time. It is interesting to me that Swedenborg's ideas were so attractive to homeopaths, in particular, as a group. As a young girl, it bored me, all this stuff about talking to angels, and then when my aunt wanted to remarry (to another homeopath), the Swedenborgian minister wouldn't perform the ceremony, because the religion insists "you are married for life." Well, they finally got a Presbyterian minister to perform the rites in the Swedenborgian church, but by then I had had it, so I moved on to the Unitarian church where I still play the organ on Sundays. Two months after Granddad died, the house on Tamalpais Avenue (Marin, California) burned to the ground in that terrible fire of July 2-4, 1929. It was so hot the steel bed frames melted, and all the window glass melted into the ground. My father and I went to inspect the damage four days after the fire and the ground was still warm. Everything was turned to ash except the stone fireplace and, oddly enough, Granddad's homeopathic books.
-Jean Barnard, granddaughter of William Boericke, at age 73, HCH, 1993
James Tyler Kent is a unique figure in the history of homeopathy. There were great homeopaths before Kent, and others have followed, but his role in the evolution of homeopathy has been pivotal.
Kentianism is not thinkable without the Swedenborgian soil in which it grew to maturity, nor has it seemed able to grow or develop further since it largely lost contact with this nutrient and sustaining environment.
-Ralph Twentyman (Treuherz)
Twentyman's perception of the intimate intertwining of Swedenborgian concepts and homeopathy in Kent's homeopathic philosophy is unquestionably correct.
Certainly there are differences between Kentian and Swedenborgian thought, but those differences are principally a matter of focus rather than underlying point of view. Swedenborg's writings relevant to health are quite compatible with Hahnemann, although he did not discuss the essential principle of simillia. Nor does Swedenborg mention the process of dilution and succussion. On the other hand, one of the principle philosophic concepts of Swedenborgianism, the doctrine of correspondences, is an all-encompassing statement of the defining principle of homeopathy. There are parallels between all portions of every entity of the natural world, other entities in the world and other levels of existence. At their central core, the philosophies are one.
Swedenborg's thought in many areas, is exactly the same as Hahnemann's, only more far-reaching. The principle of likes extends throughout existence, says Swedenborg, and, in fact, is the means by which the world is manifest. The excitement of discovering their own whispered convictions shouted back to them from an unexpected direction must have had a powerful impact on the 19th century homeopaths when they first learned of Swedenborg. In the words of Kent: "Through familiarity with Swedenborg, I have found the correspondences wrought out from the Word of God harmonious with all I have learnt."
Consider the following quotation from Swedenborg's most important (and voluminous) work Arcana Coelestia (§ 3628):
The whole man in general, and in particular whatever is in man, has such a correspondence, in as much as there is not the smallest part, nor even the smallest constituent of a part, which does not correspond. ...and further, that unless there was such a correspondence of man with heaven, and by means of heaven with the Lord, thus with what is prior to himself, and by means of what is prior with the First, he would not subsist a single moment, but would fall into annihilation.
Compare this with Kent's Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy (page 48):
Each and every thing that appears before the eyes is but the representative of its cause, and there is no cause except in the interior. Cause does not flow from the outermost of man to the interior. ...Causes exist in such subtle form that they cannot be seen by the eye. . . . They are so immaterial that they correspond to and operate upon the interior nature of man, and they are ultimated in the body in the form of tissue changes that are recognized by the eye. Such tissue changes must be understood as the results of disease only or the physician will never perceive what disease is, or what the nature of life is.
In this last quotation it is difficult to tell where Hahnemann's influence ended and Swedenborg's began:
The animal kingdom has in itself the image of sickness, and the vegetable and mineral kingdoms in like manner, and if man were perfectly conversant with the substances of these three kingdoms he could treat the whole human race.
-J. T. Kent *, Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy
The other aspect of Swedenborg's writing, which is probably even more important than the doctrine of correspondences, is his exaltation of love as the very soul of existence. Actually, in many ways, love is the whole of Swedenborg's philosophy. He saw love as the essence of human beings. Love is what we are and the basis of our existence. Love is life. Feeling, not thought, is the substantive element in life. These beliefs are quite striking in a man of Swedenborg's intellect. Some who didn't care for his mysticism have called his intellect one of the greatest in the history of mankind. Swedenborg himself believed intelligence was far less important than love. He also believed that love was more important than faith.
Unlike many mystics, especially those like himself who never married, he thought marriage was superior to celibacy. On conjugal love, he says:
A married condition is preferable because it comes from creation, because its source is the marriage of good and truth. ...In addition, marriage is human fulfillment because a person becomes fully human through it. ...No celibate people are fully human. He believed that married, sexual love was the highest expression of human love in the world. It is the closest we come to God. The innermost heaven is the one through which the Lord instills marriage love. The people there are in peace more than other people are. Peace in the heavens is quite like springtime in the world, which touches everything with rejoicing: it is utterly heavenly in its origin. The angels in this heaven are the wisest of all. They love little children far more than their own fathers and mothers do. They are present with infants in the womb, and through them the Lord takes care that infants are nourished and developed there. So they superintend the womb during the process of birth."
-Arcana Coelestia, §5052
Probably his conviction of the ultimate importance of love appealed to the homeopathic physicians of the 19th century, as love is at the heart of all healing. This belief is very attractive in today's world also.
The number of homeopaths who were also Swedenborgians is surprising until you understand the inevitable attraction. Homeopathy came to America in the medical bag of the Swedenborgian Hans Burch Gram. Boericke, Hering, Holcombe, Kent, Farrington, Tafel, Wesselhoeft, and Ward were only some of the homeopathic Swedenborgians. Even as recently as three years ago, aTafel was President of the Swedenborg Foundation in the United States. John James GarthWilkinson is famous in Swedenborgian circles for the first English translations of Swedenborg. He was introduced to homeopathy through his friend Henry James, Sr. He is famous in homeopathic history for spreading the homeopathic "gospel" among the upper class in England, in no small part because of his gift for communicating homeopathic and Swedenborgian ideas. One of his friends, RalphWaldo Emerson, praised his rhetoric like the armory of the invincible knights of old. In the following letter to Henry James, his Swedenborgianism is apparent. Furthermore, in my opinion, it is one of the finest passages in homeopathic literature.
The matter of doses depends upon the fineness of the aim. In everything there is a punctum saliens so small, that if we could find it out, a pin's point would cover it as with a sky. What is the meaning of that invisible world which is especially versed about organization, if there be not forces and substances whose minuteness excludes them from our vision? We have not to batter the human body to pieces in order to destroy it, but an artistic prick -a bare bodkin -under the fifth rib, lets out the life entire. Nay, had we greater skill of delineation, a word would do it. The sum of force brought to bear depends upon precision, and a single shot, true to its aim, or at most a succession of a few shots would terminate any battle that was ever fought, by picking off the chiefs. If our gunnery be unscientific, the two armies must pound each other, until chance produces the effects of science, by hitting the leaders; and in this case a prodigious expenditure of ammunition may be requisite; but when the balls are charmed, a handful will finish a war. It is not fair to count weight of metal when science is on the one side, and brute stuff on the other; or to suppose that there is any parallel of well-skilled smallness with ignorance of the most portentous size. The allopathic school is therefore wrong in supposing that our 'littles are the fractions of their mickles'; the exactness of the aim in giving the former a new direction, takes them out of all comparison with the unwieldy stones which the orthodox throw from their catapults.
But again there is another consideration. Fact shows that the attenuation of medicines may go on to such a point, and yet their curative properties be preserved, nay, heightened, that we are obliged to desert the hypothesis of their material action, and to presume that they take rank as dynamical things. A drop of Aconite may be put into a glass of spirit, a dreg of this latter into another glass of spirit, and so on, to the hundredth or the thousandth time, and still the Aconite-property shall be available for cure. Here then we enter another field, and deal with the spirits of things, which are their potential forms, gradually refining massy drugs, until they are likened to those sightless agents which we know to be the roots of nature, and feel as the most powerful in ourselves. How can such delicate monitors be looked at from the old point of view, as assimilated to the violence that is exercised by materialist physic? If the latter would stir the man, it does by as much main force as it dares to use; whereas the former moves him by a word, through the affinities and likings of his organization.
-John James Garth Wilkinson
Kent's Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy is colored deeply with Swedenborgian terms as well as concepts. Some of the most characteristic are discussed in this paper. Will and understanding, for example, are terms which Kent used often in Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy. He uses these terms, as did Swedenborg who considered will and understanding to be the two fundamental elements of a human being. According to Swedenborg, will is the volitional quality, intentionality in another word. Understanding means discrimination, the capability of discernment. Will is the engine, while understanding is the captain or rudder.
Another belief which is characteristic of mysticism generally, and a strong conviction of Swedenborg, is the primacy of the interior state of man. Kent emphasized this time and again, as in Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy (page 74):
In considering simple substance we cannot think of time, place or space, because we are not in the realm of mathematics nor the restricted measurements of the world of space and time, we are in the realm of simple substance. It is only finite to think of place and time. Quantity cannot be predicated of simple substance, only quality in degrees of fineness. We see the importance of this in its special relation to homeopathy, by using an illustration. When you have administered Sulphur 55M. in infrequent doses and find it will not work any longer you give the CM. potency and see the curative action taken up at once. Do we not see by this that we have entered a new series of degrees and are dealing entirely with quality?
Kent * believed that higher doses were more powerful and needed later in the treatment as disease is "finer" or even spiritual in nature. As the patient improves, the treatment must be at a more fundamental level. In other words, a remedy that is more spiritual will work better.
Today, many homeopaths believe that higher potencies act at subtler levels. For example, a psychotic patient needs a 10M, whereas a 6c won't help that patient very much. This idea is from Kent and a part of what has been labeled his mystical (Swedenborgian) homeopathy.
Swedenborgians have been remarkably disparate in their points of view and allegiance to organized Swedenborgian churches. Many who have considered themselves Swedenborgians have rejected Swedenborgian churches. This is not surprising, as Swedenborg himself held that the interior understanding was important, not attending religious services. Many of his writings contain severe criticisms of organized Christianity's perversion of what he thought should be its proper teachings.
It is my belief that we are the late twentieth-century version of Swedenborgians. The rising interest in metaphysics in the Western world has coincided with the homeopathic resurgence. I believe that our interest in mysticism and belief in spiritual well-being as the highest good are the preconditions for acceptance of Kentian homeopathy.
• Gladish D. Love in Marriage (a translation of Swedenborg's The Sensible Joy in Married Love and The Foolish Pleasures of Illicit Love), Swedenborg Foundation, 1992.
• Keller, H. My Religion, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Kingslake, B. Inner Light, J. Appleseed and Company.
• Larsen, R. Emanuel Swedenborg: A Continuing Vision, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Saine, A. Fads, trends and dogma undermining the quality of the practice of homeopathy in America, Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 1994 87: 197-207.
• Stanley, M. Emanuel Swedenborg: Essential Readings, Aquarian Press.
• Swedenborg, E. Arcana Coelestia (12 vols.), Swedenborg Foundation.
• Swedenborg, E. Conjugal Love, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Swedenborg, E. Divine Love and Wisdom, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Swedenborg, E. Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Swedenborg, E. Journal of Dreams, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Treuherz, F. The origins of Kent's homeopathy, Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 1984 77:130-49.
• Trobridge, G. Swedenborg: Life and Teaching, Swedenborg Foundation.
• Van Duesen, W. The Presence of Other Worlds, Swedenborg Foundation.(This book is unquestionably the best place to start an investigation of Swedenborg.)
• Van Duesen, W. A Guide to the Enjoyment of Swedenborg, Swedenborg Foundation.
Swedenborg Foundation, P.O. Box 549, West Chester, PA 19381-0549, 800-355-3222. Publishers of Swedenborg's works since 1849, they publish the periodical, Chrysalis, and make Swedenborg's writings available inexpensively.
Michael Carlston, MD, DHt, lives and practices in Santa Rosa, California. He is an assistant clinical professor with the University of California, San Francisco, Medical School.