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Comfort and revelation

Religious and spiritual voices can reveal special insights or knowledge that comforts or reassures the hearer.

The fact that voices say things that seem unexpected and alien makes it feel – for some people – that they are being spoken to by a knowledgeable or powerful entity. Often the knowledge represented by these voices and their messages seems to provide comfort, rather than distress or unwanted intrusions.

Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg, a prominent scientist, began to experience voices and visions in the mid 1700s. Whilst struggling over whether or not to continue his successful scientific career or to turn to a righteous life in pursuit of God, he began hearing spirits communicating theological ideas and insights into both the nature of the afterlife and the inhabitants of the cosmos. Eventually Swedenborg would report being visited by Aristotle and Abraham, as well as countless other spirits who revealed fresh theological truths. They informed him that he was chosen by God to communicate those revelations. Swedenborg became a prolific Christian author, publishing numerous volumes of his religious beliefs and speaking across Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. His spiritual experiences influenced several spiritual movements well into the 19th century.

At ten o’clock I went to bed…Half an hour afterwards I heard a noise beneath my head…Immediately there came over me a powerful tremor, from the head and over the whole body, together with a resounding noise, and this occurred a number of times…I then fell asleep, but about twelve, one, or two o’clock in the night there came over me a very powerful tremor from the head to the feet, accompanied with a booming sound as if many winds had clashed against one another…[Jesus Christ] spoke to me and asked if I had a bill of health. I answered, “Lord, thou knowest better than I.” He said, “Well, then do.” This I found in my mind to signify, “Love me truly,” or “Do what thou hast promised.” – I perceived that it was the Son of God Himself who descended.

Emanuel Swedenborg

Journal of Dreams (April 6-7, 1744)

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A painting of Emanuel Swedenborg by Carl Frederik von Breda.

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Read

Simon McCarthy-Jones and Charles Fernyhough (2008). Talking back to the spirits: the voices and visions of Emanuel Swedenborg. History of the Human Sciences.

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