Legend 4: the Pre-Adamites

November 11, 2016 § 1 Comment

Here is Mr. Simons 4th legend:

The teachings on the “pre-Adamites” (Spiritual Diary/Spiritual Experiences 3390ff.).

From <http://www.swedenborgproject.org/2009/01/29/swedenborgian-legends/>

Aside SD 3390-3394; pre-Adamites are also mentioned in SD 3397, 3399, 3455 and TCR 466.

Unlike Mr. Simons’ earlier legends, I think with some effort, he could have made a case for there being legends about the pre-Adamites — not because the teachings are mostly in the Spiritual Diary, but because there has been so much speculation about them.

First, let us look at what we are actually taught about the pre-Adamites:

  • They were regenerated by the Lord and called Adam (SD 3390)
  • Speech was not rapid or distinct
    • Characterizes their life
    • It had little life interior life

Second, let us look at some examples of the speculation about the pre-Adamites:

  • The internal-historical sense of the first chapter of Genesis treats of the reformation and establishment of the celestial church from the posterity of the pre-Adamites (1892 New Church Life 40). This might be true, but it is not taught anywhere that I know of.
  • Ormand Odhner applied the teaching in SD 2591 (about how the Lord led the first men when there was no Grand Man) to the pre-Adamites (1974 New Church Life 551); but AC 4 and 1013 identify Adam as the first man. Again, what is said in SD 2591 may well apply to the pre-Adamites; but it is not certain.
  • The High School Church History Notes, written by Ormond DeC. Odhner says that the pre-adamites had internal breathing and cites AC 607 (p. 12) which is about the people of the Most Ancient Church. He also says they “walked, stooped, and bent, helping themselves along with their hands” (p. 12) and cites SD 567 which is about the inhabitants of Jupiter. These statements may be true (who knows), but they don’t necessarily follow from the teachings cited.

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum; human nature also abhors a vacuum. We like to fill in the blanks where we are missing information; rather than going around not knowing. The above examples of speculations about the pre-Adamites are a prime example of this. Honest theology, however, sometimes require that we leave unanswered questions unanswered. Speculation to fill in the gaps in our knowledge is not necessarily advancing our understanding of what the Lord is teaching us.

What Mr. Simon’s means by a “legend” is a teaching in the unpublished theological works of Swedenborg which is not repeated in the published works. And it is true that the teachings on the pre-Adamites that he refers to (and others as well) are not found in the published works. Yet, pre-Adamites are mentioned in the True Christian Religion.

A little history of what Swedenborg’s beliefs were about the existence of pre-Adamites might be useful.

In April of 1717 Swedenborg appears to have denied the existence of pre-Adamites. In his first manuscript (of two) in preparation of a paper (On the Motion and Position of the Earth and Planets) published in 1719, he writes:


Before such a time, no Preadamites could arise, nor any large animate thing, because of the great heat; and after that time, none could arise by reason of its cold; but only during the period was a constant spring–a ver temporis or ver mundi, as the poets call it.  1950 New Philosophy p. 46. ( translation Hugo Lj. Odhner and based on the Swedish text found in Opera quaedam, volume III, pp. 271-82.)

Personally, I find the explanation to be saying that the pre-Adamites could only have existed with the earth was a paradise. This would be the only time that it was not too hot or too cold for them to have arisen. But the heading seems to say flat out that there were no pre-Adamites. This was written in a first draft and pre-Adamites are not mentioned in the work that was published.

The first time that Swedenborg encounters a pre-Adamite spirit in the other world, he is not absolutely certain of his identification:

Whether, he was a pre-Adamite cannot be known, because the pre-Adamites [lived] so many ages before, and at this day there are very many of such a character; otherwise there would be no correspondences to have reference to that hair. (SD 3390)

Later, his doubts about this identification appear to be removed:

From what has been said of the pre-Adamites . . . (SD 3397)

When the pre-Adamites, and [those who are] like the pre-Adamites . . . (SD 3399)

In the one place in the published works that the pre-Adamites are mentioned, Swedenborg says:

It is believed by many that by Adam and Eve in the book of Moses the first created persons are not meant, and in proof of this, arguments respecting Pre-adamites have been brought forward, drawn from the computations and chronologies of some heathen nations, and from the saying of Cain, Adam’s firstborn, to Jehovah. . . (TCR 466)

If this were the only time Swedenborg mentioned the pre-Adamites, we would have no idea of what he believed about them. He mentions them only to illustrate how many people’s belief in the pre-Adamites causes them to misunderstand the opening chapters of Genesis. Swedenborg’s statement says nothing about whether not pre-Adamites actually existed or not. Judging from what is said in the Spiritual Diary, I would have to conclude that Swedenborg does believe that there were pre-Adamites.

It is possible that one of many who falsely mistook the references to Adam and Eve to be about the pre-Adamites was the preacher he interacted with in SD 3455, of whom he wrote:

He then scraped together whatever he could from the Word, – some things respecting David, and others respecting the Pre-Adamites, – which I had not before heard. . . SD 3455)

The Spiritual Diary records Swedenborg’s thoughts about his interactions with spirits whom he understood to be pre-Adamites. To my mind, it is hard to toss these out without casting doubt on the whole of Swedenborg’s spiritual experiences, and thus on his Divine mission.



§ One Response to Legend 4: the Pre-Adamites

  • A friend of mine, the Rev. Stephen D. Cole pointed out a passage I missed, AC 286:

    “Up to now the subject has been the most ancient people and their regeneration. Those who lived as wild animals who subsequently became spiritual men were dealt with first, then those who became celestial and constituted the Most Ancient Church. After that the subject concerned those among them, and their descendants, who regressed dealing in order with the first, second, and third generations of these descendants, and finally with those who followed them, down to the Flood. The verses which follow from here to the end of the chapter are a recapitulation concerning members of the Most Ancient Church down to the Flood, and so are the conclusion to all that has gone before.”

    This passage was missed by NewSearch because the word pre-Adamites does not occur in the passage. The people of the Most Ancient Church was called “Adam.” This passage talks about the people who were like animals and who were regenerated and eventually became those who belong to the Most Ancient Church. Hence it treats of the pre-Adamites.

    This passage clearly establishes the existence of the pre-Adamites since it is in a published work. Given the fact that there were pre-Adamites there really is no good reason for doubting what the Spiritual Diary says about them.

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