Emanuel Swedenborg | influence

Arthur Schopenhaur

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer died on the 20th September 1860, nearly 150 years ago. A reader of Plato, Kant and Swedenborg, the latter found a place in Schopenhauer's library of the esoteric tradition. He is recognized as one of the first Western philosophers to learn from this tradition, drawing his ideas from the work of Eckhard, Paracelsus, Boehme and Swedenborg in the West, as well as from Hinduism and Buddhism in the east. Schopenhauer came to believe in the existence of two worlds: the material world and its source in a metaphysical reality.

Like Swedenborg, he had a Neoplatonic belief in the transcendental meaning of objects in the material world, each corresponding to its Platonic ideal in the metaphysical world. However according to Schopenhauer, the metaphysical world, or 'world as will' has no divine order. It is defined by the meaningless, blind energy of the will. Thus the laws of nature, time and space on Earth are not corresponding to a spiritual reality, but manufactured by man's material nature, obsessed with individuation. The is man's curse; Schopenhauer's conception of individuation as an unquenchable thirst, a desire with no object, recalls Swedenborg's conception of evil. In this way both thinkers envisage a struggle between nature and freedom.

However, according to Schopenhauer, man is tortured by his compulsion towards individuality and order because there is, in fact, no individuality and no order. There is a unity of all things - and this must inform morality - but the soul perishes with death as one enters 'the will in itself' or what Jung would later call 'the collective unconscious'. At its deepest level, love and reason are irrelevant and Swedenborg's idea of the afterlife (full of individuated human beings) is not possible. Schopenhauer and Swedenborg shared a deep respect for art as a means of transcendence. Schopenhauer claimed music could even embody the 'will in itself', just as Swedenborg described its celestial correspondences. Like Swedenborg, Schopenhauer was a great influence on later artists, as witnessed in the music of Richard Wagner and the literature of Thomas Mann.