Swedenborg, Emanuel - The account of the vision of the Great Fire
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
“The following occurrence appears to me to have the greatest weight of proof, and to place the assertion respecting Swedenborg’s extraordinary gift beyond all possibility of doubt.
“In the year 1759, towards the end of September, on Saturday at four o’clock p.m., Swedenborg arrived at Gottenburg from England, when Mr. William Castel invited him to his house, together with a party of fifteen persons. About six o’clock Swedenborg went out, and returned to the company quite pale and alarmed. He said that a dangerous fire had just broken out in Stockholm, at the Södermalm (Gottenburg is about fifty German miles from Stockholm), and that it was spreading very fast. He was restless, and went out often. He said that the house of one of his friends, whom he named, was already in ashes, and that his own was in danger. At eight o’clock, after he had been out again, he joyfully exclaimed, ‘Thank God! the fire is extinguished; the third door from my house.’ This news occasioned great commotion throughout the whole city, but particularly amongst the company in which he was. It was announced to the Governor the same evening. On Sunday morning Swedenborg was summoned to the Governor who questioned him concerning the disaster. Swedenborg described the fire precisely, how it had begun and in what manner it had ceased, and how long it had continued. On the same day the news spread through the city, and as the Governor thought it worthy of attention, the consternation was considerably increased; because many were in trouble on account of their friends and property, which might have been involved in the disaster. On Monday evening a messenger arrived at Gottenburg, who was despatched by the Board of Trade during the time of the fire. In the letters brought by him, the fire was described precisely in the manner stated by Swedenborg. On Tuesday morning the Royal Courier arrived at the Governor’s with the melancholy intelligence of the fire, of the loss which it had occasioned, and of the houses it had damaged and ruined, not in the least differing from that which Swedenborg had given at the very time when it happened; for the fire was extinguished at eight o’clock.
“What can be brought forward against the authenticity of this occurrence (the conflagration in Stockholm)? My friend who wrote this to me has examined all, not only in Stockholm, but also, about two months ago, in Gottenburg, where he is well acquainted with the most respectable houses, and where he could obtain the most authentic and complete information, for as only a very short time has elapsed since 1759, most of the inhabitants are still alive who were eye-witnesses of this occurrence. He has also given me an account of the manner in which, according to Mr. Swedenborg, his intercourse with other spirits takes place, and also the ideas which he communicates regarding the condition of departed spirits. This portrait is remarkable, but time fails me to describe it. How I wish that I might have questioned this remarkable man myself, for my friend is not so proficient in method as to ask just those questions which would throw the most light on the subject. I await with longing the book that Swedenborg is about to publish in London. I have made every provision for receiving it as soon as it shall leave the press.
“This is as much as I can do up to the present in satisfying your worthy desire. I do not know, gracious lady, whether you care to know what judgment I would pronounce on so slippery a matter. Much greater talents than the small one allowed to me have been able to arrive at little that is reliable. Still, whatever may be the worth of my opinion I shall feel myself bound to communicate it to you in writing, if you remain in the country, and I cannot confer with you in person. I regret to have abused the privilege of writing to you in detaining you too long with this hasty and awkward epistle, and am with deepest respect, &c.,
“Königsberg, 10th August, Immanuel Kant.”