Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

American poet, philosopher and essayist

The American poet, philosopher and essayist first encountered the works of Swedenborg while he was a student at the Harvard Divinity School and remained a keen reader throughout his life.  His biographical essay, ‘Swedenborg, or the Mystic’ was published in his Representative Men (1850).  References are made to Swedenborg in several other works, including English Traits (1856) and the poem ‘Solution’ in May-Day and Other Poems (1867).
Emerson wrote of Swedenborg :  “A colossal soul, he lies vast abroad on his times, uncomprehended by them, and requires a long focal distance to be seen.”  Emerson’s embrace of Swedenborg encouraged other transcendentalists, among them Margaret Fuller (1810–50), a journalist and early leader in the women’s rights movement.  Also in Emerson’s social circles was Henry James Sr. (1811–82), a devoted Swedenborgian and the father of psychologist William James (1842–1910) and novelist Henry James Jr. (1843–1916).  It was probably a student of William James’s who introduced the Zen author D. T. Suzuki (1870–1966) to Swedenborg’s writings.  Suzuki would later translate some of Swedenborg’s works into Japanese.