Travel in the Spiritual Worlds
Tactile Sensation in Psychic States
Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell (New York: Swedenborg Foundation Press, 1962), pps. 294-295
The following passage, which was written by the 18th century thinker Emanuel Swedenborg, attempts to describe what happens when a person is "withdrawn from the body and is carried away by the spirit to another place".
Swedenborg was a complex man who was part scientist, part inventor, part theologian, part spiritualist-medium, and part spiritual traveler.
Of particular interest here is first his attempt to put spiritual travel in a biblical context by describing the soul as "being carried away by the Spirit". This is something that happens in a number of places in the Bible such as in Saint John's vision in the book of Revelations. He also makes reference to Saint Paul's vision of light on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) in describing the state of "not knowing one is in the body or out of it".
Second, his emphasis on the the capacity of the spiritual traveler for the sensation of touch is unusual. He emphasizes how this sense of touch is very pronounced because he believes that all the bodily senses are available to the spiritual traveler (as well as to the angels and to man's disembodied spirit after death). This is a topic which is not much discussed by other authors.
This passage contains some confusing elements. He apparently, while walking and "conversing with spirits", went into an out-of-body state without realizing it, and only became aware of it when he returned to his body and saw he was at a different physical location.
439. To make clear that man in respect to his interiors (inner state) is a spirit I will relate from experience what happens when man is withdrawn from the body, and what it is to be carried away by the spirit to another place.
440. First, as to withdrawal from the body, it happens thus. Man is brought into a certain state that is midway between sleeping and waking, and when in that state he seems to himself to be wide awake; all the senses are as perfectly awake as in the completest bodily wakefulness, not only the sight and the hearing, but what is wonderful, the sense of touch also, which is then more exquisite than is ever possible when the body is awake. In this state spirits and angels have been seen to the very life, and have been heard, and what is wonderful have been touched, with almost nothing of the body intervening. This is the state that is called being withdrawn from the body, and not knowing whether one is in the body or out of it. I have been admitted into this state only three or four times, that I might learn what it is, and might know that spirits and angels enjoy every sense, and that man does also in respect to his spirit when he is withdrawn from the body.
441. As to being carried away by the spirit to another place, I have been shown by living experience what it is, and how it is done, but only two or three times. I will relate a single instance. Walking through the streets of a city and through fields, talking at the same time with spirits, I seemed to myself to be fully awake, and in possession of my usual sight. Thus I walked on knowing what I was doing, and all the while with clear vision, seeing groves, rivers, palaces, houses, men, and other objects. But after walking thus for some hours, suddenly I saw with my bodily eyes, and noted that I was in another place. Being greatly astonished I perceived that I had been in the same state as those were who were said to have been led away by the spirit into another place. For in this state the distance, even though it be many miles, and the time, though it be many hours or days, are not thought of, neither is there any feeling of fatigue; and one is led unerringly through ways of which he is ignorant, even to the destined place.
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