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Reed, Sampson (1800-1880), author and advocate of Swedenborgianism  

Peter Hawkes

Reed, Sampson (10 June 1800–08 July 1880), author and advocate of Swedenborgianism, was born in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of John Reed, a Unitarian pastor, and Hannah Sampson. Reed graduated with high honors from Harvard College in 1818 and went on to study at the Divinity School. There he was introduced to the mystical writings of Emanuel Swedenborg by his roommate, Thomas Worcester, and shortly thereafter Reed abandoned his intention to become a Unitarian minister and in 1820 joined the Boston New-Church Society. At his graduation from Harvard with an M.A. in 1821, he delivered an oration on “Genius,” which rejected the current Lockean notion that at birth the mind is a tabula rasa that registers only impressions received through the senses and experience. His claim that “Locke’s mind will not always be the standard of metaphysics” and his advocacy of intuition as a way of knowing appealed to eighteen-year-old ...