Correspondences, Doctrine of
Central idea in the work of Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg
(1688–1772). Swedenborg, in contrast to the new opinion
of his intellectual colleagues that reality was basically found in
the visible material world, argued that everything visible is but
the shadow of a corresponding spiritual reality. Ultimately, he
believed the nature of the connection with the spiritual world
is most easily realized through a knowledge of the correspondences
found in the Bible. Swedenborg devoted a considerable
part of his life to writing a 12-volume commentary on the books
of Genesis and Exodus (Arcana Coelestia) (1905–10) and several
volumes on the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse Revealed) (1970).
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Correspondences, Doctrine of
In his last book, The True Christian Religion, originally published
in 1770–71, he detailed his method of interpreting the
Bible spiritually. While on cursory examination it appears similar
to allegory, it differs considerably. Swedenborg said he
learned from the angels that Scripture had a literal meaning
and that one could not derive the higher spiritual meaning
from it by allegory. He claims that the angels told him the true
meaning of the Bible.
Robert A. Vaughan, author of Hours with the Mystics (1905),
notes in regard to Swedenborg
‘‘According to Swedenborg, all the mythology and the symbolisms
of ancient times were so many refracted or fragmentary
correspondences—relics of that better day when every outward
object suggested to man’s mind its appropriate divine truth.
Such desultory and uncertain links between the seen and the
unseen are so many imperfect attempts toward that harmony
of the two worlds which he believed himself commissioned to
reveal. The happy thoughts of the artist, the imaginative analogies
of the poet, are exchanged with Swedenborg for an elaborate
system. All the terms and objects in the natural and spiritual
worlds are catalogued in pairs.’’
For those who do not accept Swedenborg’s system, his continued
attempt to draw out the correspondences make the
reading of his commentaries quite difficult. However, his intense
affirmation of a spiritual world drew a welcome response
from those satisfied with neither traditional Christianity nor
the new, truncated scientific worldview.
Woofenden, William Ross. Swedenborg Researcher’s Manual.
Bryn Athyn, Pa. Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1988.
Worcester, William L. Lessons in Correspondence. 1892. Reprinted
as The Language of Parable A Key to the Bible. New York
Swedenborg Foundation, 1984.