Thursday, February 27, 2014


Thanks to Merlin Coverley’s book, Occult London, I’ve become familiar with a passage from Emanuel Swedenborg, someone who is otherwise not an entirely open book to me.  In April 1745, late one evening, Swedenborg was eating in the private dining room of a London chop house.  He wrote, “I was hungry and ate with a good appetite.  Towards the end of the meal I noticed a kind of blurring in my vision, it grew dark and I saw the floor covered with the nastiest crawling animals, like snakes, frogs, and creatures of that kind.  I was amazed, because I was fully conscious and thinking clearly.  After a while the prevailing darkness was quickly dispelled, and I saw a man sitting in the corner of the room. Since I was alone, I was quite frightened when he spoke and said, ‘Don’t eat so much.’”

Let's leave aside the question of whether snakes and frogs are really the nastiest animals, and move to the eloquent Coverley reaction, “An admonishment to eat less, even when given by a ghostly figure, would, in itself, seem an inadequate basis with which to embark on a life of mysticism.”  You can say that again, Merlin.  You can say that again.

Above is a picture by Henry William Bunbury, of Boswell and Johnson in a chop house in London in 1781.  Below is the only genuine London chop house I think I’ve ever been to, the Quality Chop House in Farringdon, open since 1869, which was obviously a little late for Mr. Swedenborg.  I seen to recall the food was pretty good but you ended up having to sharing a table, which was less good, though it wasn't ghostly figures.

Swedenborg also said, “If one tries to attain complete happiness through eating or sex, or personal power, or even orderliness, the result is a lopsided catastrophe.”  Words to live by.

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