shorthand is the language of angels


The decision to translate Emmanuel Swedenborg’s Rules into shorthand was not a random choice. Isaac Pitman was a devout member of the controversial Swedenborgian New Church, and was fired from his teaching post because of it, two years after the publication of Phonography. The loss of his job and religious discrimination were the real impetus behind the establishment of Pitman’s independent publishing house and school. Emmanuel Swedenborg had a good career as an all-around, 18th-century scientist/philosopher/inventor. That is, until one Easter weekend in 1744, when he started having visions. Swedenborg wrote many books about this spiritual awakening. He wrote that the Church was in man and not outside of him. He wrote that if man lived in love and charity he would understand the Word — and not the other way around. He claimed that he spoke with demons and angels, that he spoke with spirits on other planets, that he had visited both heaven and hell. Emmanuel Swedenborg was a scientist-turned-mystic whose extraordinary accounts went on to fascinate many artists and intellectuals. Not just Isaac Pitman but Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Blake, Immanuel Kant, Carl Jung, August Strindberg, Jorge Luis Borges, George Inness, Honoré de Balzac, Helen Keller, Czesław Miłosz, August Strindberg, W. B. Yeats.

more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.