Dreams of a Spirit-Seer/Introduction

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Dreams of a Spirit-Seer by Immanuel Kant
Recent German Discussion






  • Professor VAIHINGER, Commentar zu Kants Kritik der Reinen Vernunft: Vol. II.
  • The Kant-Studien, edited by Professor VAIHINGER at the University of Halle:
  • The Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. Berlin: 1895.
  • Professor Heinze of Leipzig in Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, Leipzig, 1894.
  • P. von Lind: Kants Mystische Weltanschauung: Munich: 1892.
  • Carl du Prel: Kants Vorlesungen über Psychologie: 1889.



In his Commentary on “Kant’s Transcendental Æsthetic, Lecture i. on Space,”[1] where the problem is under discussion whether space be (i.) purely Objective and a posteriori (Newton), or (ii.) purely subjective and a priori (Kant), or (iii.) according to Treudelenburg’s “Third Possibility,” at once Objective and Subjective (Leibnitz), Professor Vaihinger introduces a note on Lambert’s suggestion. “Our space is a simulacrum of true space” (Lambert’s Recension, 1773, on Herz Betrachtungen, Allg. Deut. Bibli. 20, 228), and quotes Lambert’s letter to Kant, 1770:

“I thought that the simulacrum (appearance) of Time and Space in the Thought World could easily be brought into contemplation with your sublime theory.” Also Mendelssohn in his letter to Kant, Dec. 23, 1770, regarding time says:

“Time is, according to Leibnitz, a phenomenon, and has, like all phenomena, something objective and something subjective.”

Kant has, moreover, touched upon the problem in the Dissertation (i.e., the Inaugural Dissertation on the Two Worlds: 1770). He asks outright in § 16:

quonam pricipio ipsa haec relatio omnium substantiarum nitatur, quae intuitive spectato vocatur spatium?

To what seems to us spatium there corresponds then an ipsa substantiarum relatio. He answers this subtilis quaestio thus: that the connection of all appearances in space is a reflection (Gegenbild) of the connection of all substances in the primal Being, “ideoque spatium, quod est conditio universalis et necessaria compraesentiae omnium sensitive cognita, dici potest omnipraesentia (sic) phenomenon (Scholion 22).” “Therefore Space, which is the universal and necessary condition of the united presence of all things, sensitively known, may be called omnipresence as phenomenon, or the phenomenal omnipresence . . . .”[2] Still Kant is unwilling to enter farther upon such mystic surmises (indagationas mysticas), which, he says, suggest Malebranche, but which more truly recall Swedenborg, and he very distinctly asserts further on (§ 27) that “it is impossible for the human intellect to know in substantiis immaterialibus these relationes externas which correspond to Space as the condition of the relation of material but only apparent (erscheinende) things. Kant therefore recognizes relations of the things in themselves which correspond to Space, but regards them as unknowable. On the other hand, Lambert’s suggestions hold good still and with all the more force: That to reason by analogy—at least to a certain extent—from the spatial relations of appearances to the true relations of things in themselves is not



only allowable but required.”* (Vaihinger: Kant Commentar: ii., p. 143.)

  • The Doctrine of the Reason as taught by Swedenborg and its bearing on our knowledge of reality may in general be seen from the following extracts from the “Arcana,” and other works:

“Three things constitute the external man: the rational, the scientific, and the external sensuous. The rational is interior, and is that through which the interior man is conjoined with the external; in itself it is nothing unless affection flows into it and makes it active; and it thence becomes such as is the affection. When the affection of good inflows, this becomes in the rational the affection of truth; the contrary when the affection of evil inflows.” (Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia, 1589.)

“What goes on in the internal man cannot be apprehended by the man himself because it is above the rational from which he thinks. To the inmost or internal man is subject the rational faculty or principle which appears as if belonging to man. Into this there inflow through the internal man the celestial things of love and of faith; and through this rational down into the scientific things which belong to the external man. But the things which flow in are received according to the state of each.” (Ibid., 1941.)

“Man is born into nothing rational, but only into the faculty of receiving it, and as he learns and imbues all things so he becomes rational. This is done by the way of the body. But there is something constantly flowing in from the interior which receives the things thus entering [through the bodily senses] and disposes them into order. Hence is their order and the relationships among them, from which it is evident that the rational faculty of man is from divine celestial good as its father.” (Ibid., 2557.)

“The things of reason illustrated by the divine are appearances of truth. All appearances [phenomena] of truth in which is the divine are of the rational faculty, insomuch that rational truths and appearances of truth are the same, whereas scientific things belong to the natural plane. Rational truths can never be and come forth except from an inflowing of the divine into the rational faculty of man; and through the things of reason into the scientific things which belong to the natural plane of the mind. The things that then


take place in the rational appear in the natural plane as an image of many things together in a mirror.” (Ibid., 3368.)

“Rational things, or what is the same, appearances of truth, that is, spiritual truths, are not knowledges [acquired by the senses, F. S.] but are in knowledges; for they are of the rational or internal man. For knowledges being of the natural man are vessels which receive rational things.” (Ibid., 3391.)

“When man is in the world his rational is distinct from his natural [plane of thought]; insomuch that he can be withdrawn from external sensuous things and in some degree from interior sensuous things and be in his rational, thus in spiritual thought.” (Ibid., 3498.)

“It is not he who can ratiocinate from scientific facts who enjoys the rational faculty. A fatuous lumen produces this skill. But he enjoys the rational who can see clearly that good is good and truth truth; consequently that evil is evil and falsity falsity. Thus the scientific [sensuous] knowledges are means for perfecting the rational faculty and also for destroying it; and those who by means of scientific knowledges have destroyed their rational faculty are more stupid than those versed in no knowledges.” (Ibid., 4156.)

“The faculty of thinking rationally regarded in itself, is not of man, but of Cod with him. Upon this depends human reason in

general.” (I

ivine Love and Wisdom, 23.)


From Professor Vaihinger’s Kant Commentar. Vol. II.

“Kant delights in the assertion that we are imprisoned by the senses, i.e., by the limitations of sensuous appearances . . . ‘The highest Being will surely not be subject to all these appearances which sense unavoidably imposes on those intelligences derived by us through experience.’ (A. 640). ‘All Nature exists only for us . . .’ This Kant formulates expressly as the result of the Esthetic in the Prolegomena, 36: ‘How is nature possible in material relation, that is, viewed as the concept of appearances? how are Space, Time, and what fill these as objects of sensation possible? The answer is: By means of the peculiar quality of our sensuous faculty? (unserer Sinnlichkeit): according to which our Sense in a way of its own is moved by objects which in themselves are not known to it and are altogether different from these appearances.’ The appearance of Space answers therefore only for this empirical nature and for us as empirical subjects: it is not valid either for all objects in themselves, nor for all subjects ...” * p. 344.

  • On Time and Space in the Spiritual World, see Swedenborg in Divine Love and Wisdom, as follows:


The above reference of Kant to “other thinking beings” is not, as has been so generally supposed, a mere critical suggestion, but is made in thorough earnest. The existence and nature of the “Spirit World” was from the beginning an interesting problem with Kant. In the Natural History of the Heavens, R. VI., 1 79, and especially 206, “On the Inhabitants of the Stars,” Kant sets forth his theories about the “various classes of intelligent beings,” the “kinds of thinking natures,” and

“In the spiritual world the progressions of life appear to be in time; but since state there determines time, time is only an appearance. Time in the spiritual world is nothing but the quality of state. Times ate not there constant as in the natural world, but change according to the state of life, having relation especially to changes of wisdom. Time there is one with thought from affection. (70-74.)

“But time and space as fixed or measured by material standards are proper to nature, and as such belong only to a limited world, and cannot be applied to infinite being. Time and space belong to nature, just as finiteness or limitation belong to a created world. For nothing which is proper to nature can be predicated of the Divine, and space and time are proper to nature. Space in nature is measurable, and so is time. Nature derives this measurement from the apparent revolution and annual motion of the sun of this world. But in the spiritual world it is different. (73.)

“Times which are proper to nature in its world are in the spiritual world pure states which appear progressive, because angels and spirits are finite; from which it may be seen that in God they are not progressive, because He is Infinite, and infinite things in Him are One; and hence it follows that the Divine in all time is apart from time. (75.)

Schopenhauer in his essay, “Versuch ueber Geisterseher and was damit zusammenhaengt,” in the volume entitled “Parerga and Paralipomena,” Vol. I., pp. 241, 328, calls attention to an existing order of things:

“Entirely distinct from that of nature where the purely formed


on the various “dwelling-places” of these “intelligent creatures.” He speaks at length about the dependence of the “spiritual faculties” of the various Planet-inhabitants on the grosser or finer, heavier or lighter, matter as determined by the “distance of these abodes from the sun ...” The inhabitants of Jupiter or Saturn belong to the “most exalted class of intelligent creatures. These at least have a different Time-idea from ours; they are not subject to death in the same degree that we are ...” Man occupies a middle ground between these m<5st excellent and the more imperfect grades of

laws of nature do not apply, hence where time and space do not separate individuals any more, and where separation and isolation resulting from time and space do not offer obstacles to influence of will or to communication of thought. . . . Here, be it said, that tfie true idea of actio in distans is that the space between the worker and the worked upon, whether full or empty, has no influence at all on the working; it is the same whether the distance be an inch or a “billion of Uranus orbits.” (p. 282.)

We commonly imagine that the reality of a spiritual world is overthrown when we have shown that such a world is only subjectively conditioned. But what weight can that argument have with one who knows from Kant’s doctrine how strong a share of subjective conditions is involved in the appearance [to our senses] of the corporeal world; how for instance this world with the space in which it stands, the time in which it moves, and the causality in which the being of matter consists, according to its whole form therefore, is only a form of brain-functioning, according as the impressions are awakened by shock on the nerves of the sense organ.” (p. 318.)

And this shock, which it is the main purpose of Schopenhauer in this essay to prove, may really occur from internal as from external causes. And therefore, as he says, “there remains left only the question as to the Ding an sick.”


“thinking natures.”* These thoughts, to which by Kant “probability” is frankly attributed, are carried out at length in the “Dreams of a Spirit-seer, &c.,” in the half serious, half ironical style which characterises this remarkable work. (Du Prel makes another application of this thought: The Planet-dwellers; 1880, pp. 114-175.) See Fortschr. d. Met. Ros. I., 497: “We could imagine an immediate representation of an object, not through the conditions of sense, but by the understanding. But we have no tangible idea of such knowledge. Still, it is necessary for us to think of such in order not to subject all beings capable in intelligence to only our way of seeing things. For it may be that some world-beings might behold the same objects under another form. It can also be that this form is, and of necessity must be, the same in all world-beings, although we do not understand this necessity.” Kant refers to this last possibility also later in his Note II. to the second edition of the ^Esthetic, but remarks that this extension of the Space* Compare Swedenborg’s De Telluribus, &c.: “Earths in the Universe and their Inhabitants, &c.: also their Spirits and Angels: from what has been heard and seen ...” This work appeared in sections inserted in successive volumes of the Arcana from the year 1749 to 1756, and was published in a volume in London in 1758. Kant’s Theory of the Heavens appeared in 1755. Swedenborg also treats of the inhabitants of Jupiter and Saturn as described by the spirits from those planets in the spiritual world. He, too, treats of their character in relation to their planetary conditions, but describes them mainly as to their spiritual place or function in relation to the Maximus Homo or entire order and form of the heavenly society.


view to “all finite thinking beings” would not change its subjectivity.

Kant declares very distinctly in the Grundl. z. Met. d. Sitten: 3, Abschnitt, Ros. VIII., 84: “that the world of sense may be very different according to the difference of sense perception in various world beholders, while the world of understanding which lies at its foundation remains always the same.” Kant has therefore adhered in all earnest, even in his “critical” period, to this idea conceived at an earlier time. Vaihinger: Kant Commentar II., pp. 344-346.

In a chapter devoted to a discussion of the Origin of Kanfs Doctrine of Space and Time, especially as to whether Kant’s attitude in the year 1770 as represented by the Dissertation on the Two Worlds was wholly the result of his own thinking or caused partly by Leibnitz’ Nouveaux Essais, with its clearly marked distinction between the mundus sensibilis and the mundus intelligibilis, as well as by other external influences, Prof. Vaihinger, in a footnote remarks as follows:

“Laas calls attention to the influence of Euler, whose ‘Letters to a German Princess,’ 1769, Kant quotes very favourably in the Dissertation 27, 30. The same author, in Anschluss an Diihring, Krit. Gesch. d. Phil., 396, finds in Kant’s dissertation Swedenborgian influences, a view at first surprising but not to be dismissed too abruptly. Attention has been already called to this subject (referring to the passages above quoted from


pp. 143, 344). We only need to recall that in the ‘Dreams’ I. 2 and II. 2 Swedenborg’s theory of the ‘Two Worlds’ is thoroughly discussed, and that Swedenborg, who regarded the sensuous world in space as only a ‘Phaenomen’ of the unspatial spiritual world, applied precisely the same terms to both worlds which Kant has used: mundus intelligibilis et sensibilis. Compare also Kant’s Vorl. ueber Met. herausg. v. Poelitz (1821), S. 257. The same passages have led also Riehl, Krit. I., 229, to accept Swedenborg’s influence upon Kant. Compare my review of the edition of Kanfs Vorlesungen iiber Psychologie: mit einer Einleitung: ‘Kant’s mystische Weltanschauung,’ by Du Prel (1889), in Arch. f. Gesch. d. Phil. IV., 721 ff.* If the last author considerably

  • Says Kant, as quoted by Du Prel:

“The thoughts of Swedenborg are in this connection (that is, with regard to the two worlds) very sublime. He says the spiritual world constitutes an especially real universe; this is the intelligible world, mundus intelligibilis, which must be distinguished from the sensible world, mundus sensibilis.”

“Through Kant’s ‘Lectures on Psychology,’ his ‘Dreams of a Spirit-Seer’ are placed in an altogether new light. One might suppose that this work was so clearly written that an erroneous interpretation of it would be an impossibility, but the aversion of our century to mystic thinking has brought about a misconception o/ the ‘Dreams.’ It has been interpreted as a daring venture of Kant’s genius in making sport of superstition; the accent has been laid on Kant’s negations, and his affirmative utterances have been overlooked. The ‘Lectures on Psychology’ now show, however, that these utterances were very seriously intended; for the affirmative portions of the ‘Dreams’ agree very thoroughly with the lengthier exposition of the ‘Psychology,’ and the wavering


exaggerates the connection of Kant with Swedenborg, still we are not to fall into the other error of denying altogether a positive relation of Kant to Swedenborg which shows itself occasionally even in the period of the ‘Critique,’ as for example Critique of Pure Reason: A. 394: A. 808: B. 836 (idea of the Corpus mysticum of rational beings). Critique of the Practical Reason, I. 2, 7 (Ros. VIII., 242; Hart V., 112).” Vaihinger: Kant Commentar II., p. 431.

Finally, in a chapter of General Observations, the author compares Kant’s intuitus originarius with Swedenborg’s “pneumatische Anschauung” or “Soulvision”:

“As B. Erdmann (Reflex II., 313) rightly remarks,

attitude of Kant is here no longer perceptible.” (Du Prel Introduction to Kant’s “Lectures on Psychology,” pp. vii., viii.)

“The faculty ascribed to Swedenborg answers completely to Kant’s conception of a being inhabiting two worlds at the same time.” (Du Prel, Ibid., p. xxiv.)

That Kant at the time of the letter to Fraeulein von Knobloch felt the deepest interest in Swedenborg is freely admitted by Robert Hoar in his Inaugural Discussion, entitled Der Angebliche Mysticismus Kanfs. Brugg: 1895.

“So soon as Swedenborg’s ‘Arcana Coelestia’ was printed, for whose publication he had been eagerly waiting, he bought the volumes at seven pounds sterling, and this at a time when Kant, the privat-docent, was anything but well off, and when that amount of money meant more than it does now. That he also studied other works of Swedenborg besides the ‘Arcana,’ appears from a letter of Hamann to Scheffner, Nov. 10, 1784, where he mentions Swedenborg and Kant: ‘As our Kant at that time prescribed to himself all the works of the Dreamer, so I had the patience to wade through the whole set of thick Quartos.”


the acceptance of this ‘soul-vision’ stands in manifest connection with the ‘philosophic invention’ of a mundus intelligibilis with its ‘spiritual’ constitution. The spiritual world is visible only to the spiritual sight. Man does not possess this; only God does. But that man may come to possess this vision which is for a time denied him, Kant does not deny. Indeed, the immortality of man consists in just this possession, in the change from the sensuous spatial vision into the timeless and spaceless spiritual vision: and this is itself ‘the other world.’ The other world is therefore not another place, but only another view of even this world. This hypothesis appears in the ‘Dreams;’ also in the period between 1770 and 1780 in the ‘Lectures on Metaphysics,’ p. 225; and even in the Critique of Pure Reason, A. 393; especially in the Methodenkhre, A. 779, where Kant admits of our accepting such a “transcendental hypothesis,” yea, approves of it. He proposes, indeed, in the same line of thought, the following hypothesis: ‘That this life is nothing more than the mere appearance, i.e., the sensuous semblance of the pure spiritual life, and the whole sense world is but a picture which hovers before our present modes of knowing, and, like a dream, has no reality in itself; and that, if we should know and see things and ourselves as they really are, we should see ourselves in a world of spiritual natures.’ That ‘world of spiritual natures’ constitutes then that timeless ‘corpus mysticum of rational beings’ (A. 808, B. 836). Of this corpus mysticum Kant


has already spoken in the ‘Dreams,’ where he mentions the ‘spiritual body’ and the ‘society of spirits’ (Ros. VII., A. 96).* These expressions of Kant offered at

  • On the change from the natural to the spiritual world Swedenborg says:


“That man when he passes out of the natural world into the spiritual, as is the case when he dies, carries with him all things that are his, or which belong to him as a man, except his earthly body, has been testified to me by manifold experience; for man when he enters the spiritual world, or the life after death, is in a body as in the world; to appearance there is no difference, since he does not perceive nor see any difference. But his body is then spiritual, and thus separated or purified from earthly things, and when what is spiritual touches and sees what is spiritual, it is just as when what is natural touches and sees what is natural: hence a man, when he has become a spirit, does not know otherwise than that he is in his body in which he was in the world, and thus does not know that he has deceased. A man-spirit also enjoys every external and internal sense which he enjoyed in the world; he sees as before, he hears and speaks as before, he also smells and tastes, and when he is touched, he feels the touch as before; he also longs, desires, craves, thinks, reflects, is affected, loves, wills, as before; and he who is delighted with studies, reads and writes as before. In a word, when a man passes from one life into the other, or from one world into the other, it is as if he passed from one place into another; and he carries with him all things which he possessed in himself as a man, so that it cannot be said that the man after death, which is only the death of the earthly body, has lost anything of himself. He also carries with him the natural memory, for he retains all things whatsoever which he has in the world heard, seen, read, learned, and thought, from earliest infancy even to the end of life; the natural objects, however, which are in the memory, because they cannot be reproduced in the spiritual -world, are


once a welcome meeting ground to the ‘mystics,’ from Jung-Stilling down to Du Prel. Schopenhauer has also turned Kant’s transcendental idealism to the support of mysticism as occasion has offered; but especially was Jung-Stilling an admirer of the Esthetic, because he traced through its involved argumentation the direct influence of Swedenborg. The latter’s ideas Kant calls “very sublime.” (Metaphysik, Ed. Poelitz, p. 257; compare Du Prel, Kant’s Vorlesungeniiber Psychologic, 1889; comp. Riehl, Krit. I., 229).

Swedenborg says: The Spiritual World is a very real

quiescent, as is the case with a man when he does not think from them; but still they are reproduced when it pleases the Lord. 1 such is the state of man after death, the sensual man cannot at all believe, because he does not comprehend it; for the sensual man cannot think otherwise than naturally, even about spiritual things

“But still the difference between the life of man in the spintu world and his life in the natural world, is great, as well with respect to the external senses and their affections, as with respect to the internal senses and their affections. Those who are in heaven perceive by the senses, that is, they see and hear, much more exquisitely, and also think more wisely, than when they were in th world; for they see from the light of heaven, which exceeds by many degrees the light of the world; and they hear by a spiritua atmosphere, which likewise by many degrees surpasses that of earth The difference of these external senses is as the difference between sunshine and the obscurity of a mist, in the world and as the difference between the light at mid-day and the shade a evening; for the light of heaven, because it is divine truth, gives to the sight of the angels to perceive and distinguish things tl most minute. Their external sight also corresponds to the inter sight or to the understanding; for with angels one sight flows in the other, so that they act as one; hence they have so great acu ness ._From “Heaven and Hell,” Nos. 461, 4 6z


universe. It is the mundus intelligibilis which must be distinguished from this mundo sensibili. He says that all spiritual natures are connected with one another, &c. Even now our souls stand in this connection and society and, indeed, in this very world where we are; only we do not here see this association, because here we enjoy only the sensuous vision. But although we cannot see it, we are nevertheless now in this spiritual society. If this hindrance to our spiritual vision were once removed, we should see ourselves in the midst of this spiritual society, and this is the ‘other world,’ which is not a world of other things, but of the same things seen differently by us.”

“Whether these words date from 1788 or from 1774 (Erdmann, Phil. Mon. XIX., 129, properly chooses the latter), they admit perhaps of the conclusion that Kant found himself in sympathy with Swedenborg in this contrast between the sensuous and the intelligible worlds, so that the Dissertation of 1770, and with this the Esthetic, do stand, in however loose, still, a very positive relation to the Dreams of 1766, and so with Swedenborg himself. But the wildly fermenting must of the Swedenborgian Mysticism becomes with Kant clarified and settled into the noble, mild, and yet strong wine of criticism.”

To this paragraph Prof. Vaihinger adds this footnote:

“Notwithstanding, or rather for this very reason, would it be entirely unjust to classify Kant among the ‘mystics’ in the modern sense. Even though certain


Swedenborgian conceptions had, to some degree, entered into his position of 1770, which we have admitted to be entirely possible, still, even in 1770 Kant had declined to enter further upon such indagationes mysticas. As completely as Kant from the middle of the year 1770 set himself to the working out of the germs of his Criticism, i.e, his critical doctrine of experience, as this is developed in the Analytic, just so completely must henceforth all serious contemplation of Swedenborg’s phantasies be given up. That he had, for a time, lent an ear to these phantasies served henceforth as a warning against any attacks from Swedenborg’s delusion. If he speaks in the Critique of Pure Reason of the corpus mysticum, still this is not mysticism, for the grossly dogmatic teaching of Swedenborg becomes changed in Kant to merely “a bare but still practical idea.” If a somewhat drastic comparison may be allowed, one might say: as little as the various tarproducts are tar itself, so little are these ‘ideas’ of criticism to be identified with dogmas of mysticism. Kant’s world of experience, governed, as it is, by the ‘analogies of experience,’ excludes all invasion of the regular system of nature by incontrollable ‘spirits’; and the whole system of modern mysticism, so far as he holds fast to his fundamental principles, Kant is ‘bound to forcibly reject.’” Vaihinger, Kant Commentar, vol. II., pp. 512, 513.



With these sober and rational conclusions of Professor Vaihinger regarding Kant’s relation to existing “mysticism,” meaning, as he doubtless does, modern “spiritism,” every one will concur, and none more readily and heartily than the followers and admirers of Swedenborg.* He more impressively and more effectually than any subsequent writer has warned his readers against the delusions and snares of the so-called modern “medium” and the mis-named “spiritual” seance. We would only call attention here to the misapprehension to which the concluding note of Professor Vaihinger might give rise, namely, that, because Kant rejects the absurdities of modern spiritism, therefore we are to cancel from his system all influences from Swedenborg’s teaching. As matter of fact, a student equally conversant with both systems those of Kant and Swedenborg would see in the reserve of Kant over against Swedenborg’s “revelations from things seen and heard” the only attitude possible to a critical student of the powers of pure reason to evolve knowledge a priori or from itself. The great mission of Kant was to establish just

  • See Note 37: to p. 72 of the “Dreams.”


this negative or neutral ability of the reason. It can neither create a knowledge of the spiritual world, nor can it deny the possibility of such a world. It can affirm indeed the rationality of such a conception, but the reality of it does not come within its domain as pure reason. It is interesting to note all through Kant’s “critical” period this forced attitude of neutrality as long as the inquiry is simply and solely as to the power of the reason as such to create a knowledge of things transcending experience. He is strictly and manfully consistent with himself in rejecting as conclusions of pure reason any experiences of an objective world experimentally observed, whether on this material plane of existence or any other. To refuse to deny the possibility of other planes of existence and other modes of knowing than we now experience, is as far as he will go. As for admitting the direct communication of “spirits,” or of the seer himself whose system of the two worlds he has so carefully studied, as elements of purely rational knowledge, this was of course out of the question. The nearest approach to the break down of the barrier between Kant’s “pure reason” and Swedenborg’s knowledge ex visis et auditis in mundo spirituali, is in the ^Esthetic with its doctrine of the subjective origin of Time and Space. Here of course Kant throws down all his defences against whatever charge of idealism or spiritualism. The question is no longer, can an “intelligible world” exist? or, are there existences other than that of which we become aware through the


senses of this body? Since the spatial extent and the endurance, or what we would call the “reality,” of even this sensuous world is seen, in the ^Esthetic, not to exist in the world itself but in something more real, of which we are in some secondary sense subjectively the agents the real question remaining is, granting that many such worlds may exist and with them the various modes of cognition, what connection of these worlds and their mutual relation or their internal order shall we regard as consistent with the demands of pure reason? And here it is that Kant’s recognition of Swedenborg’s system of the two worlds and their correspondence as “sublime” finds its real and only important significance. Neither of the two great system builders asks the support of the other. Their mutual testimony, while of use for illustration, would be only a source of weakness if accepted in a constructive sense. If Swedenborg has given future spiritual philosophy the legend seen in one of his symbolic visions: nunc licet intellectualiter in t 'rare in mysteria fidei, he would resent any trifling with that fair instrument, the intellect, through a bias of whatever kind, spiritual or anti-spiritual. Kant was equally consistent in saying to spirits and to spirit-seers: My mission is neither to confirm nor reject your messages, it is to define the limits of the intellectual judgment itself, and to keep the mind a clear and perfect instrument for the disposing of all subjects that are brought for its reception and determination. As Kant was necessarily critical, this being the


office of the pure reason itself, so was Swedenborg dogmatical, this being the office of experience. But the dogmas of Swedenborg’s experience lie, unlike other dogmas, according to Swedenborg’s repeated asseverations, subject always to the verdicts of “sound reason,” and the soundest reason in Kant is, as we see, that wherein his fundamental principles are identical with those of Swedenborg.

Professor Vaihinger’s simile of the fermenting must and clarified wine is too happy a one to be rejected altogether, even if the application be somewhat faulty. Not alone with Swedenborg, but with all investigators, including especially a man like Kant, the crude facts of experience are what truly constitute the fermenting “must,” so long as they have not, by reduction and clarifaction from error, become settled into the wine of a thoroughly rational, harmonious, and consistent system. The process of the reduction of experimental knowledge into rational intelligence is what is constantly going on. But it would be a mistake to conceive of Swedenborg as merely the collector of crude experiences, however truly his visa et audita may impress a hasty reader as such: his knowledges are also elsewhere in his own works reduced to the “wine” of a system as profound, as clear, and as steady as that of any of his contemporaries. That so able a judge as Professor Vaihinger should find them in the clear and vigorous depth of Kant’s best reasoning, is only another tribute to their universal and enduring value. FRANK SEWALL.


Professor Vaihinger, in the Archiv fur Geschicte der Philosophic, 1895, Berlin, calls attention to the work of P. von Lind: Kants Mystische Weltanschauung, ein Wahn der Modernen Mystik: Munich, 1892, in which the author criticises Du Prel’s favourable view of Kant’s so-called mystic tendency, and remarks that:

Lind has correctly pointed out that Du Prel has interpreted the Trdume too favourably for Swedenborg, but still he fails to recognise that Kant must have had a strong sympathy for the metaphysical hypotheses which he brings forward to explain Svvedenborg’s phantasies.

The well-known place in which Kant calls certain views of Swedenborg (regarding the two worlds to which we belong) “sublime,” Lind endeavours in vain to interpret ironically. I called Du Prel’s attention to this passage, which occasioned his new edition of the Kantian “Lecture on Psychologic.” The passage also, Heinze admits, points out an inner principielle relation between the doctrines of both, which Kant discovered; indeed he took perhaps this doctrine of two -worlds from Swedenborg direct. But only the doctrine! Not Swedenborg’s pretended empirical proofs, which Kant has always discarded as phantasies. (Compare my Index of Du Prel’s edition in Archiv. IV., 722, and also my Extracts in Commentary, II. 5126). But Du Prel is in error, in that from that agreement in single points of theory he concluded that Kant would give up his opposition to the Praxis in view of the facts of modern spiritism. Lind has done valuable service in showing that Kant knew very familiarly this pretended material of facts, and always rejected it with the same determination. Lind has shown this by many extracts from Kant’s works, especially from the Anthropology. On the other hand Lind goes far beyond the mark when he seeks to


dispute away the “transcendental subject” of Kant, whose relationship to the spiritual Ego of Swedenborg is unmistakable. . . . This is not affected either by Von Land’s further explanation in Hallier’s Recension of his article in the Altpr. Manuscript XXIX., 449f, on these questions. Compare also the favourable comment on Von Lind’s article by Guttler, in the Zeitschr. f. Philos., Bd. 104, S. 146-152, and also the there cited article in the Zeitschrift, “Sphinx,” 1892 and 1893.

The well-known testimony of Kant in Jachmann, that he “has nothing to do with mysticism,” refers only to the practices (of spiritism), and to the Mysticism of the Feelings; it does not apply to the rational belief of Kant in the “corpus mysticum of the intelligible world.”


Together with the German critics above cited, President Schurman, of Cornell University, in the Philosophical Review for March, 1898, also makes note of the inevitable return of Kant’s mind to those ideas of the corpus mysticum, and of a mundus intelligibilis, which he tries in vain in his work on Swedenborg to laugh away.

Professor Schurman says:

“The disparity between the reach and the grasp of his thought engendered in him a bitterness of spirit, the pathos of which is unknown to the mere sceptic. Hence the still sad music which he that hath an ear may hear beneath the banter and the persiflage of Swedenborg and Metaphysics.

“In the ‘Dreams of a Spirit-Seer,’ we have the critical part of the ‘Right Method in Metaphysics.’ Here Swedenborg serves as a whipping post for the Metaphysicians whom Kant scourges most unmercifully. Knowledge of the supra-sensible is put on the same level with arts of necromancy. In the one case it is a dream of sense; in the other a dream of reason in both an illusion, (p. 146.)

“But though Kant, in virtue of the divorce between the theoretical and practical element of his thought, gibed at the metaphysical proof of those dear interests, which his heart was still open to shelter, it required some effort to overcome the rationalizing aspirations of early years, and the struggle occasionally found vent in a bitterness of feeling like the hatred of a deserted friend or the despair of a rejected lover.”

No better illustration of this return of Kant’s mind to the spiritual realities so vividly impressed upon him by


Swedenborg could be desired than that which is afforded in the following extracts from Heinze’s “Observations on Kant’s Lectures in Metaphysics,” which fully bear out all that Professor Vaihinger has asserted as to the deep hold that Swedenborg’s doctrine of the two worlds had taken on Kant’s mind. I have translated them from the Abhandlungen der Sachsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften: Leipzig, 1894.




As to the state of the soul after death Kant will say nothing with assurance, since the limits of our “reason” stop here. Nevertheless he speaks -with more certainty than one -would expect from this precaution!

After death the soul possesses self-consciousness, otherwise it would be the subject of spiritual death, which has already been disproved. With this self-consciousness necessarily remains personality and the consciousness of personal identity. This and the self-consciousness rest upon the inner sense which remains without body, and thus the personality remains.

But if the body is a hindrance to life and yet the future life be the perfect life, then it must be purely spiritual; the soul cannot therefore resume its body. If we ask as to the future place of the soul we are not to think of the separation of the soul from the body as a change of place, since the soul has no determined place in a corporeal world, and, in general, occupies no place, but is in the spiritual world and in communion with spirits.

If the soul is in the society of good and holy beings then it finds itself in heaven; if with the evil, then in hell. Thus the soul does not enter into hell if it has lived wickedly, but it will only now find itself in the society of evil spirits, and this is called being in hell; and so conversely with heaven.*

Similarly in the “Religion within the Bounds of the Pure

  • Swedenborg, in “Heaven and Hell,” says “That the Lord casts no one into hell, but evil spirits cast themselves in,” &c. (545.)


Reason,” Kant shows heaven to be the Seat of Righteousness, that is, the association with all the good. The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ signify, “when regarded as ideas of reason,” the beginning of the new life, and the entrance into the above named association. (Religion within the Bounds of the Pure Reason, p. 138.)

It is remarkable how Kant proceeds further to describe without any hesitation the condition of the soul after death, in that it exchanges its sensuous vision which it enjoyed during life, with the spiritual vision, and that this is the other world! (Politz, p. 255.)

As regards the objects of that world they remain the same; they are not different in substance but only changed in being seen spirittially!

Erdmann in his Reflexionen, No. 1277, remarks on this passage:

“The other world will not present other objects, but only the same objects seen (intellectually, that is) in their relations to ourselves; and the knowledge of things through the divine vision, and at the same time the feeling of blessedness through this, is no longer the world but is heaven.”*

When one comes into the other world he does not come into connection with other things, as if with another planet, but one remains in this world, only having a different vision. The other world is heaven for me if I have lived a righteous life and enter into the society of such righteous spirits, and therewith enjoy spiritual vision. It is true this view of the other world cannot be demonstrated, but it is a necessary hypothesis of reason (which can be maintained against its opponents). t

Kant here becomes so enthusiastic as to call “very sublime” the thought of Swedenborg about the spiritual world, which according to him [Swedenborg] is a very real universe even though in the work “The Dream of a Visionary,” &c., he had called Swedenborg

  • This reflection of Erdmann is evidently an attempt on the part of the modern decadent philosophy to adapt Kant’s truly splendid conception to the materialism of modern thought in explaining away a real life after death and reducing heaven to a certain state of mind in this world. F. S.

t Wanting in Politz.


the Arch-fanatic and enthusiast and had remarked of his great work that it consists of “eight volumes full of nonsense.”

That Kant here uses the word sublime in an ironic sense, as Lind tries to show in his work on “Kant’s Mystic View of the World,” no one can admit, since Kant’s view, as here presented, bears at least a resemblance to the idea of Swedenborg. Nor is there anything contradictory in the fact that Kant finds something inconsistent in Swedenborg’s doctrine of one’s being able to see in a certain manner the society of departed spirits with which one’s own soul, which is not yet departed, stands associated as a spirit. Naturally; since the soul in this world has only sensuous vision and cannot at the same time have spiritual vision, one cannot be wholly in this and in the other world at the same time. (Heinze, p. 557.)

This inclination of Kant to Swedenborg at the time of these lectures (1775-1780) is not so surprising, since in his “Inaugural Dissertation” Kant himself clearly distinguished between the two worlds, the mimdiis sensibilis and the tnundus intelligibilis, and in this it is probable that he was influenced by Swedenborg.

Kant differs distinctly from Swedenborg in that he does not believe in the possibility of the association of any soul which is still bound to the body with absent souls; as he also rejects the idea that souls which spiritually are already in the other world appear in visible acts in this visible world. If we accept this, then there is no more use of reason in this world at all, for then the spirits can be made to account for many transactions.

It is of this kind of vision or representation that Kant speaks in his earlier* and his later works. His utterances in the “Critique” leave the impression that he has not entirely rid himself of these ideas of the Lectures.

In the “Paralogism of the Pure Reason” (p. 230, German edition), he says: “The idea that the thinking subject could have thought before connection with the body, would be thus expressed: ‘Before the beginning of the kind of sensation wherein something appears to us in space, the same transcendent objects which in our present state appear as bodies may have been seen in an entirely different way!’

“The idea that the soul also after the body’s death could still

  • “Dreams,” &c., S. 27.


think, would take this form: ‘If the kind of sensation whereby transcendental objects and those at present entirely unknown appear as a material world should cease, still all vision would not thereby cease, and it would be quite possible that even the same unknown objects should continue, although not indeed under the aspects of bodies, but still continue to be knowable to the thinking subject.’“

It is true he speaks altogether in the critical manner regarding these views, insisting that dogmatically nothing can be adduced either for or against them.

[Compare “Lecture on the Philosophy of Religious Doctrine,” p. 106: “Of this immediate vision of the understanding have we as yet no notion: but whether the departed soul, as intelligence, instead of the sensuous vision, may not obtain some such vision, wherein, in the Ideas of God, he may behold the things in themselves, cannot be denied, neither can it be proved.”]

Something similar, and reminding one of the Lectures, but still of Swedenborg, we find in the section (of the “Paralogisms of the Pure Reason “) on the description of the Pure Reason in regard to Hypothesis. There we read (p. 592) that, “one may use as a weapon against materialism the argument that the separation from the body is the end of our sense knowledge and the beginning of our intellectual knowledge. The body helps the sensual and animal part, but hinders the spiritual part of our nature. And against other criticisms of the doctrine of Immortality one may adduce the transcendental hypothesis:

“All life is essentially only intellectual and not subject to time changes, neither beginning with birth nor ending with death. This world’s life is only an appearance, a sensuous image of the pure spiritual life, and the whole world of sense only a picture swimming before our present knowing faculty like a dream, and having no reality in itself. For if -we should see things and ourselves as they are -we would see ourselves in a -world of spiritual natures with which our entire real relation neither began at birth nor ended with the body’s death.”

One sees here Kant’s strong inclination to these views and how easy it is to establish them by his distinguishing of the appearance from the thing in itself, and on his acceptance of a world of rational beings {mundus intelligibilis') as a kingdom of ends to be thought f


as under its own ruler and as necessary to the moral conception of the world, even if at the time of the “Critique” he is afraid to insist on these views dogmatically.

If we add to this the idea of the corpus mysticum of rational beings in the sense-world that it “consists in the free will of these rational beings under moral laws, this being in perfect systematic unity with the freedom of themselves and of each other,”* we cannot wonder that both in modern and earlier times the “mystics” have claimed Kant as being of their number, even if we can in no case admit that modern spiritism has any claim on him.

Jachmann has reported Kant as denying totally that his words have any mystic sense, or that he is in any way a friend to mysticism. It all depends on what is meant by the mystic. Truly the whole idea of freedom is with Kant a mystic one. Where he differs from mysticism is seen from the Lectures (Politz, 101), where he says: “If one supposes there are thinking beings of whom one can have intellectual vision, that is mysticism, so long- as the vision remains only sensual.”

From Heinze’s “Observations on the Lectures of 1790 91, on Rational Psychology,” we quote:

When Kant says of the virtuous man “he is in heaven,” but cannot see himself there and only infers this from reason, the statement resembles the thought of Swedenborg which Kant communicated in his earlier lectures, but without clearly designating it as his (Swedenborg’s).

Now our souls are all as spirits, associated in this union and society, even in this world; only here we do not see ourselves as being in this society, because here we have only our sensuous vision; but although we do not see ourselves in this society (of spirits), we are nevertheless in it. If a man has lived righteously in the world, and his will has been well disposed, and he has endeavoured to obey the moral law, he is in this world already in the society of all well-disposed and righteous souls, whether they be in India or in Arabia, only he does not see himself to be in this

  • Compare passages from the “Ecstatic Journey of a Dreamer through the Spiritual World” in the “Dreams,” etc.


society until he is freed from the sensuous vision. In the same way the wicked is in the society of the wicked, (p. 577.)

The following is an extract from the Lectures themselves:

Life reveals nothing but appearances; “another world” means nothing more than “another way of seeing things.” The Dinge an sick selbst are unknown to us here; whether in another world we shall come to know them we do not know. (Beilage III., Heinze, p. 677.)

What is very remarkable is the theory last advanced by Du Prel, which is noticed by Professor Vaihinger in the Kant-Studien, Vol. I., 1896-97, p. 477, under the heading, “Kant and Swedenborg: Dr. Carl Du Prel.” Du Prel is here said to attribute the spirit- vision described in the letter of Kant to Fraiilein von Knobloch, to Swedenborg’s “Clairvoyance brought about by Mono-ideism”:

This appears to Du Prel as the most probable explanation, and not the intromission of Swedenborg into the spiritual world, which to Kant seemed even more plausible because it corroborated his own philosophic views regarding the double nature of man.

It is strange to find the discussion of the German metaphysicians resulting in the bringing forward of Kant as a witness to the rationality of Swedenborg’s claims to spirit vision! It might seem almost to be the long-delayed retribution for Kant’s scornful treatment of them in the “Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, illustrated by those of Metaphysics.”



  1. Commentar zu Kants Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, by Dr. H. Vaihinger, A. O. Professor der Philosophie an der Universitaet Halle. Motto: Die Schriften Kants sind doch einmal der Codex, den man nie in philosophischen Angelegenheiten, so wenig als das Corpus juris in juristischen aus der Hand legen darf. W. v. Humboldt. Zweiter Band. Stuttgart, Berlin, Leipzig. Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft. 1892.
  2. Kant’s Dissertation was produced in 1770. It was about the year 1769 that Swedenborg wrote in Canones Novae Ecclesiae the doctrine that space and time are not forms of things in themselves, but by correspondence there is such relationship (between phenomena and noumena). Thus: “God’s infinity as corresponding to spaces is called ‘immensity’; and as corresponding to times ‘eternity’; yet there is nothing of space in his immensity, and nothing of time in his eternity.” See also Swedenborg’s statement in Divine Love and Wisdom, 69-73: “The Divine apart from space fills all the spaces of the universe . . . . The Divine is in all time, apart from time.” On Space and Time as forms of human thinking, or of the universe as “sensitively known,” see Swedenborg, Arcana Cœlestia, 7381 (published 1753). “The ideas of interior thought pertaining to man, although they are above material things, yet terminate in natural things, and where they terminate they appear to be. Thence the man perceives what he thinks. If the idea from time and space were taken away he would not know what he thinks . . . . Man cannot in anywise think without the idea of time and space. The idea adheres to everything which man thinks. If the idea from time and space were taken away he would not know what he thinks scarcely whether he thinks. The ideas of space arise from measuring by times; wherefore where the one is there is the other.”