Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Immanuel Kant on the Fire Prophecy of Swedenborg, by William White 1874
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On the 19th of July, 1759, we find Swedenborg at Gottenburg. Here occurred the following circumstance, of which Immanuel Kant, the celebrated transcendentalist, is the narrator.
"On Saturday, at 4 o'clock, P. M.," says Kant, "when Swedenborg arrived at Gottenburg from England, Mr. William Castel invited him to his house, together with a party of fifteen persons. About 6 o'clock, Swedenborg went out, and after a short interval returned to the company, quite pale and alarmed. He stated that a dangerous fire had just broken out in Stockholm, at Sundermalm, (distant three hundred miles from Gottenburg,) 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 8 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 among the company. It was announced to the governor the same evening. The next morning, Swedenborg was sent for by the governor, who questioned him concerning the disaster. Swedenborg described the fire precisely, how it had begun, in what manner it had ceased, and how long it had continued. On the same day the news was spread through the city; and as the governor had thought it worthy of attention, the consternation was considerably increased, as 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 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, a royal courier arrived at the governor's with the melancholy intelligence of the fire, of the loss it had occasioned, and of the houses damaged and ruined, not in the least differing from that which Swedenborg had given the moment it had ceased: the fire had been extinguished at 8 o'clock.
"What," continues Kant, "can be brought forward against the authenticity of this occurrence? My friend who wrote this to me, has not only examined the circumstances of this extraordinary case at Stockholm, but also, about two months ago, at Gottenburg, where he is acquainted with the most respectable houses, and where he could obtain the most authentic and complete information, as the greatest part of the inhabitants, who are still alive, were witnesses to the memorable occurrence."
This narrative is taken from a letter written by Kant, in 1768, to Charlotte de Knobloch, a lady of quality. Kant, it may be remarked, was no adherent of Swedenborg's. Two years before writing this letter, he had attacked him in a small work entitled, "Dreams of the Great Seer Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics." Received from such a source, we can entertain no doubt as to the truth of the story.
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