Kant, Immanuel (1724–1804)
German philosopher, born on April 22, 1724, who anticipated
the modern pictographic conception of apparitions in
his analysis of the experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg in
Dreams of a Spirit-Seer (1766). He was impressed with Swedenborg’s
attempts, with some seeming success, to communicate
with the deceased brother of the wife of the king of Sweden. In
his book, written several years later, Kant explores the possibility
of the existence of disembodied spirits and their ability to
communicate with humans ‘‘Departed souls and pure spirits
. . . can still act upon the soul of man. . . . For the ideas they
excite in the soul clothe themselves according to the law of fantasy
in allied imagery and create outside the seer the apparition
of the objects to which they are appropriate.’’
Kant did not distinguish between veridical and objective apparitions
and after some perfunctory speculation laid the subject
aside.
In Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Kant expresses admiration for some
of Swedenborg’s insights, although he questions the seer’s sanity
and pokes fun at some of his more extravagant claims. He
later acknowledges, albeit grudgingly, an affinity between his
philosophy and Swedenborg’s ‘‘The system of Swedenborg is
unfortunately very similar to my own philosophy. It is not impossible
that my rational views may be considered absurd because
of that affinity. As to the offensive comparison I declare
we must either suppose greater intelligence and truth at the
basis of Swedenborg’s writings than the first impression excites,
or that it is a mere accident when he coincides with my system.’’
Kant died on February 12, 1804.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Broad, C. D. ‘‘Immanuel Kant and Psychical Research.’’ Proceedings
of the Society for Psychical Research 49 (1950).
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Kant, Immanuel
849
Kant, Immanuel. Träume eines Geistersehers erläutert durch die
Träume der Metaphysik. 1766. Translated as Dreams of a SpiritSeer.
N.p., 1900.

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