Saturday, August 8, 2015

John Adams on Swedenborg and Wesley

His words were, to put it mildly, unkind.

A taste:
I have just read a sketch of the life of Swedenborg, and a larger work in two huge volumes of Memoirs of John Westley* by Southery, and your kind letter of January 22d came to hand in the nick of time to furnish me with a very rational exclamation, “What a bedlamite is man”! They are histories of Galvanism and Mesmerism thrown into hotch potch they say that these men were honest and sincere, so were the Worshipers of the White Bull in Egypt, and now in Calcutta, so were the Worshipers of Bacchus and Venus, so were the worshipers of St Dominick and St Bernard. Swedenborg and Westley had certainly vast memories and immaginations, and great talents for Lunaticks.
-- To Thomas Jefferson from John Adams, 3 February 1821.


Tom Van Dyke said...

I still question why the post-presidential natterings of Adams and Jefferson on religion are given the time of day. In public life, they kept their beliefs largely obscured, and in private life their investigations are dilettantish.

Freeborng said...

Thank you for the post. For something more substantial on John Wesley, I would like to invite you to the website for the book series, The Asbury Triptych Series. The trilogy based on the life of Francis Asbury, the young protégé of John Wesley and George Whitefield, opens with the book, Black Country. The opening novel in this three-book series details the amazing movement of Wesley and Whitefield in England and Ireland as well as its life-changing effect on a Great Britain sadly in need of transformation. Black Country also details the Wesleyan movement's effect on the future leader of Christianity in the American colonies, Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is Please enjoy the numerous articles on the website. Again, thank you, for the post.

Ruby Glasser said...

I appreciate that you've posted this bit on what was on Adams mind at that time in his life, because it reflects the zeitgeist. And that matters to me because I'm interested in the trends, the beliefs, the undercurrents that influenced influential figures and thus everyone. My keywords for coming here were galvanize and mesmerism, which obviously don't come up in today's chit chat but Adams it seems had these concepts in his awareness (since they were referenced here and elsewhere). And trends in science have also been rooted in belief and magical thinking, much to a collective sense of disdain and sometimes embarrassment.