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Borges, Swedenborg and Mysticism

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William Rowlandson

Jorge Luis Borges was profoundly interested in the ill-defined and shape-shifting traditions of mysticism. However, previous studies of Borges have not focused on the writer’s close interest in mysticism and mystical texts, especially in the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). This book examines the relationship between Borges’ own recorded mystical experiences and his appraisal of Swedenborg and other mystics. It asks the essential question of whether Borges was a mystic by analysing his writings, including short stories, essays, poems and interviews, alongside scholarly writings on mysticism by figures such as William James. The book locates Borges within the scholarship of mysticism by evaluating his many assertions and suggestions as to what is or is not a mystic and, in so doing, analyses the influence of James and Ralph Waldo Emerson on Borges’ reading of Swedenborg and mysticism. The author argues further that Swedenborg constitutes a far richer presence in Borges’ work than scholarship has hitherto acknowledged, and assesses the presence of Swedenborg in Borges’ aesthetics, ethics and poetics.

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Abramowicz, Maurice, 222–3 Alanus de Insulis (Alain de Lille), 117 anomalous human experience (para- psychology, paraphenomena, the occult, etc.), 6, 21–30, 91–4, 101–23, 134, 156–9, 195 Aristotle, 136, 169 Augustine, St, 28, 110, 156 Baba, Meher, 149, 185 Barili, Amelia, 15, 29, 39–43, 195, 198, 222 Bioy Casares, Adolfo, 6, 23–8, 58–9, 76, 195, 203, 217 Blake, William, 4–5, 18, 22, 33, 43, 45, 55–6, 63, 84, 98, 107, 115, 120, 123, 129, 135, 138, 140, 143–4, 157–61, 170–1, 182–3, 188–196, 210–12, 239 Borges, Jorge Luis aesthetic value of philosophy, 6, 8–14 agnosticism, 7, 12–13, 23, 45, 74, 85–6 ethics, 198–203 Hitler, Nazis, Third Reich, 24, 16, 228 in Japan, 98–9, 108, 113, 159, 191, 241 psychoanalytical reading of, 227–9 teaching Borges, 6–7, 39–43 as Virgil, 43–6 Borges, Jorge Luis, texts discussed or referred to: ‘Abramowicz’ (Los Conjurados), 222–3 ‘Ajedrez’ [‘Chess’], 154 ‘El Aleph’ [‘The Aleph’], 4, 8, 43, 76–7, 80–4, 100, 108–20, 138, 155, 157 ‘Los ángeles de Swedenborg’, 194, 203–5 Antología de la literatura fantástica [Extraordinary Tales], 59, 203 Atlas, 1, 30, 104, 154, 194, 221 ‘Autobiographical Essay’, 29 ‘La biblioteca de Babel’ [‘The Library of Babel’], 7, 13, 176 ‘Borges y yo’ [‘Borges and I’], 220, 233 ‘El ciervo blanco’, 105 ‘El Congreso’ [‘The Congress’], 21, 57, 149 Los Conjurados, 3, 21–2, 193, 222,...

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