Emanuel Swedenborg’s Journal of Dreams and Spiritual Experiences in the Year 1744 (1918)

Lesser known among the many works of the eighteenth-century Swedish scientist, philosopher, religious teacher and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) is his private Drömbok (variously translated into English as Journal of Dreams or Dream Diary). Attracting less attention than his other journals, from later years, this "octavo pocket book, (6.5 by 4 inches), bound in parchment and containing 104 written pages" was lost for many years, only found in 1849 in the library of an apparent "enemy" of Swedenborg's, R. Scheringson, professor and lector in the city of Westeras. Its contents cover a period from July 1743 until October 1744, a time of crisis for Swedenborg, transitioning as he was from life as a scientist and mining engineer to one as a "revelator" and seer. It begins as a simple travel diary, describing his leaving Sweden, crossing the Baltic to Stralsund and then journeying through Hamburg and Bremen to the Netherlands. After some undated fragments it resumes at the end of March 1744. A week or so later during Easter weekend, in what is probably the most significant part of the Journal, Swedenborg describes in detail a vision of Christ he had while staying in Delft. Among the heavenly visions come other scenes both mundane and fantastical: a cast of various dogs, Kings, an executioner with his heads, dragons, a talking ox, and an abstract apparition of an oblong globe. There are also many women and, somewhat controversially, several dreams that are erotic in content.

In one vivid dream, no. 171, Swedenborg finds himself in bed with a woman. She touches his penis with her hand and he has an erection, bigger than he has ever had. He penetrates her, reflecting that a child must come of this, and writes that he got off en merveille. (He uses the French expression in the original.) In a remarkable dream (no. 120) he is lying with a woman who was not beautiful but who pleased him. He touched her vagina and discovered that it had a set of teeth. Suddenly this woman assumes the form of a man, the politician Johan Archenholtz, a friend and ally of Swedenborg’s. The image of the vagina dentata (vagina with teeth) appears again in no. 261 where he sees in a vision a fiercely burning coal fire that represents the "fire of love". Then he is with a woman whom he wants to penetrate, but the teeth prevent him entering her.

In R. L. Tafel's early English translation this erotic material was omitted, and it wasn’t until C.Th. Odhner’s translation published in 1918 (featured above), that the offending passages were reinstated, albeit in the guise of Latin.

Learn more about his dream diary, and the saucy visions within, in our essay by Richard Lines here.

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