Emanuel Swedenborg (born Emanuel Swedberg; January 29, 1688 – March 29, 1772) was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, Christian mystic, and theologian. Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. At the age of 56 he entered into a spiritual phase, in which he experienced dreams and visions of the afterlife. This culminated in a spiritual awakening, where he claimed he was appointed by the Lord to write a heavenly doctrine to reform Christianity. He claimed that the Lord had opened his eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell, and talk with angels, demons, and other spirits. For the remaining 28 years of his life, he wrote and published 18 theological works, of which the best known was Heaven and Hell (1758), and several unpublished theological works.
Swedenborg deserves to be appreciated as much for his theology as for his mysticism, for much of it was centuries ahead of its time. For example, he taught an ecumenical faith: that God's providence works to save all people, whether or not they are Christians, and that in heaven dwell good people of many religions. He rejected the Lutheran doctrine of salvation by faith alone; instead both faith and charity are necessary for salvation, and the purpose of faith is to lead a person to live according to the truths of faith, which is charity. Swedenborg thus emphasized the supreme importance of a person's heart as the determining factor as to whether they were destined for heaven or hell. Upon entering the spirit world, he taught, people judge themselves and find their proper habitation according to the altruistic or self-centered orientation of the heart. Thus he rejected the then commonplace notion that God was a stern judge who met out punishment by consigning sinners to hell. Swedenborg's God is a God of love. He also taught of the divine polarity of love and wisdom, which resonates with the contemporary appreciation of God as having feminine as well as masculine attributes.
Swedenborg's theological writings have elicited a range of responses from praise to sarcasm. Some assert that Swedenborg lost his mind, suffering some sort of mental illness. One of the most prominent Swedish authors of Swedenborg's day, Johan Henrik Kellgren, called Swedenborg "nothing but a fool," a view shared by the ruling establishment of Sweden. However, others regard Swedenborg's conclusions as natural developments of his inquiring nature and spiritual gifts.
Despite his critics, it is certainly true that Swedenborg had an important impact on European literature and intellectual thought. Several famous writers were influenced by him, including William Blake, August Strindberg, Charles Baudelaire, Honore de Balzac, William Butler Yeats, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The theologian Henry James, Sr. was also a follower of his teachings, as was Johnny Appleseed. Additionally, his transition from scientist to mystic fascinated many people, including: Immanuel Kant, Goethe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jorge Luis Borges, August Strindberg, and Carl Jung, just to mention a few. Thus, the impact of Swedenborg's writings is quite broad.
Toward the end of his life, small reading groups formed in England and Sweden to study his teachings, which eventually sprouted into a religious organization. Fifteen years after Swedenborg's death, the New Church, based on the principles of Swedenborg's theology, was founded in England. Several other Swedenborgian organizations have been subsequently established throughout the world, which still carry on Swedenborg's teachings today.
Swedenborg's father Jesper Swedberg (1653–1735) descended from a wealthy mining family. He travelled abroad and studied theology, and on returning home he was eloquent enough to impress the Swedish King Charles XI with his sermons in Stockholm. Through the King's influence, Jesper would later become professor of theology at Uppsala University and Bishop of Skara.
Jesper took an interest in the beliefs of the dissenting Lutheran Pietist movement, which emphasised the virtues of communion with God rather than relying on sheer faith (sola fide). Sola fide is a tenet of the Lutheran Church, and Jesper was charged with being a pietist heretic. While controversial, the beliefs were to have a major impact on his son Emanuel's spirituality. Jesper furthermore held the unconventional belief that angels and spirits were present in everyday life. This view also came to have a strong impact on Emanuel.
Emanuel completed his university course at Uppsala, and in 1710 made his Grand tour through the Netherlands, France, and Germany, before reaching London, where he would spend the next four years. At this time, London was the largest city in Europe, and one of the most liberal European places for philosophical discussion and freedom of speech. It was also a flourishing center of scientific ideas and discoveries. Emanuel studied physics, mechanics, and philosophy, read and wrote poetry. He wrote to his benefactor and brother-in-law Eric Benzelius that he believed he might be destined to be a great scientist. In one of his letters he includes, somewhat boastfully, a list of inventions he claims to have made, including a submarine and a flying machine.
In 1715, Swedberg (as he was called then) returned to Sweden, where he was to devote himself to natural science and engineering projects for the next two decades. A first step was his noted meeting with King Charles XII of Sweden in the city of Lund, in 1716. The Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem, who became a close friend of Swedberg's, was also present. Swedberg's purpose was to persuade the king to fund an astrological observatory in northern Sweden. However, the warlike king did not consider this project important enough, but did appoint Swedberg assessor-extraordinary on the Swedish board of mines (Bergskollegium) in Stockholm.
From 1716 to 1718, he published a scientific periodical entitled Daedalus Hyperboreus ("The Nordic Daedalus") which was a record of mechanical and mathematical inventions and discoveries. One notable description was that of a flying machine, the same he had been sketching on a few years earlier).
Upon the death of Charles XII, Queen Ulrika Eleonora ennobled Swedberg and his siblings. It was common in Sweden during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for the children of bishops to receive this honor as a recognition of the services of the father. The family name was changed from Swedberg to Swedenborg.
In 1724, he was offered the chair of mathematics at Uppsala University, but he declined, saying that he had mainly dealt with geometry, chemistry and metallurgy during his career. He also noted that he did not have the gift of eloquent speech because of a speech impediment. The speech impediment in question was stuttering, noted by many acquaintances of his, and it forced him to speak slowly and carefully, and there are no known occurrences of him speaking in public. It has been proposed that he compensated for his poor speech by extensive argumentation in writing.
In the 1730s, Swedenborg became increasingly interested in spiritual matters and was determined to find a theory that would explain how matter relates to spirit. In Leipzig, 1735, he published a three volume work entitled Opera philosophica et mineralis ("Philosophical and mineralogical works"), where he tries to conjoin philosophy and metallurgy. The work was mainly appreciated for its chapters on the analysis of the smelting of iron and copper, and it was this work that gave Swedenborg international reputation.
The same year he also published the small manuscript de Infinito ("On the Infinite"), where he attempted to explain how the finite is related to the infinite, and how the soul is connected to the body. This was the first manuscript where he touched upon these matters. He knew that it might clash with established theologies, since he presented the view that the soul is based on material substances.
During the 1730s, Swedenborg undertook many studies of anatomy and physiology. He also conducted dedicated studies of the fashionable philosophers of the time John Locke, Christian von Wolff and Leibniz, as well as returning to earlier thinkers Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Descartes and others. 
In 1743, at the age of 55, Swedenborg requested a leave of absence to go abroad. His purpose was to gather source material for Regnum animale (The Animal Kingdom, or Kingdom of Life), a subject on which books were not readily available in Sweden. The aim of the book was to explain the soul from an anatomical point of view. He had planned to produce a total of seventeen volumes.
By 1744, he had traveled to the Netherlands. Around this time he began having strange dreams. Swedenborg carried a travel journal with him on most of his travels, and did so on this journey. The whereabouts of the diary were long unknown, but it was discovered in the Royal Library in the 1850s and published in 1859 as Drömboken, or Journal of Dreams. It provides a first-hand account of the events of the crisis.
He experienced many different dreams and visions, some greatly pleasurable, others highly disturbing.The experiences continued as he travelled to London to continue the publication of Regnum animale. This cathartic process continued for six months. It has been compared to the Catholic concept of Purgatory. Analyses of the diary have concluded that what Swedenborg was recording in his Journal of Dreams was a battle between the love of his self, and the love of God.
In the last entry of the journal from October 26-27 1744, Swedenborg appears to be clear as to which path to follow. He felt he should drop his current project, and write a new book about the worship of God. He soon began working on De cultu et amore Dei, or The Worship and Love of God. However, it was never fully completed; nevertheless, Swedenborg still had it published in London in June 1745.
The following tale is frequently told to explain why the work was never finished. In April 1745, Swedenborg was dining in a private room at a tavern in London. By the end of the meal, a darkness fell upon his eyes, and the room shifted character. Suddenly he saw a person sitting at a corner of the room, telling Swedenborg: "Do not eat too much!" Swedenborg, scared, hurried home. Later that night, the same man appeared in his dreams. The man told Swedenborg that He was the Lord, that He had appointed Swedenborg to reveal the spiritual meaning of the Bible, and that He would guide Swedenborg in what to write. The same night, the spiritual world was allegedly opened to Swedenborg.
In June 1747, Swedenborg resigned his post as assessor of the board of mines. He explained that he was obliged to complete a work he had begun, and requested to receive half his salary as a pension. He took up afresh his study of Hebrew and began working on a spiritual interpretation of the Bible with the goal of interpreting the spiritual meaning of every verse. From sometime between 1746 and 1747, and for ten years henceforth, he devoted his energy to this task. This work, usually abbreviated as Arcana Cœlestia ("Heavenly Secrets"), was to become his magnum opus, and the basis of his further theological works.
The work was anonymous and Swedenborg was not identified as the author until the late 1750s. It consisted of eight volumes, published between 1749 and 1756. However, it initially attracted little attention, as few people could penetrate its meaning.
His life from 1747 until his death in 1772 was spent in Stockholm, Holland, and London. During these twenty five years he wrote another fourteen works of a spiritual nature of which most were published during his lifetime. Freedom of the press was not allowed for religious works at the time in Sweden, which is why they were all printed in either London or Holland. 
Throughout this period he was befriended by many people who regarded him as a kind and warm-hearted man. When in the company of others, he was jovial, and conversed about whatever subject was discussed. Those who talked with him understood that he was devoted to his beliefs. It is said that Swedenborg's approach to his theological writings was to find and use voluminous quotations from the Old Testament and New Testament to allegedly demonstrate the agreement between the Bible and his teachings. He never argued matters of religion, except when ridiculed, when he replied sharply, so that the ridicule would not be repeated.
In July 1770, at the age of 82 he traveled to Amsterdam to complete the publication of his last work,Vera Christiana Religio (The True Christian Religion). It was published in Amsterdam in 1771 and was one of the most appreciated of his works. Designed to explain his teachings to Lutheran Christians, it was the most concrete of his works.
In the summer of 1771, he traveled to London. Shortly before Christmas he suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed and confined to bed. He died on March 29, 1772. He was buried in a church in London. On the 140th anniversary of his death, in 1912/1913, his earthly remains were transferred to Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden, where they now rest in close proximity to the grave of the botanist Carolus Linnaeus.
Swedenborg proposed many scientific ideas, both before his crisis and after. In his youth, his ambitions were boundless, and he wanted to present a new idea every day, as he wrote to his brother-in-law Erik Benzelius in 1718. Around 1730, he had changed his mind, and instead believed that higher knowledge is not something that can be acquired, but that it is based on intuition. After his crisis in 1745, he instead considered himself receiving scientific knowledge in a spontaneous manner from angels.
From 1745, when he considered himself to have entered a spiritual state, he tended to phrase his "experiences" in empirical terms, claiming to report accurately things he had experienced on his spiritual journeys.
One of his pseudoscientific ideas that is considered most crucial for the understanding of his theology is his notion of correspondences. He first presented the theory of correspondences in 1744, before his crisis, in the first volume of Regnum Animale dealing with the human soul.
The basis of the correspondence theory is that there is a relationship between the natural ("physical"), the spiritual, and the divine worlds. The foundations of this theory can be traced to Neoplatonism and the philosopher Plotinus in particular. With the aid of this scenario, Swedenborg now interpreted the Bible in a different light, claiming that even the most apparently trivial sentences could hold a profound spiritual meaning.
There are three well known incidents of psychic ability reported in literature about Swedenborg. The first was from July 19, 1759, when during a dinner in Gothenburg, he excitedly told the party at six o'clock that there was a fire in Stockholm (405 km away), that it consumed his neighbor's home and was threatening his own. Two hours later, he exclaimed with relief that the fire stopped three doors from his home. Two days later, reports confirmed every statement to the precise hour that Swedenborg first expressed the information.
The second incident occurred in 1758 when Swedenborg visited Queen Louisa Ulrika of Sweden, who asked him to tell her something about her deceased brother Augustus William. The next day, Swedenborg whispered something in her ear that turned the Queen pale and she explained that this was something only she and her brother could know about.
The third event involved a woman who had lost an important document, and came to Swedenborg to help find it, which he did the following night.
Immanuel Kant, then at the beginning of his career, was intrigued by these reports and made inquiries to find out if they were true. In doing so, he ordered all eight volumes of the expensive Arcana Cœlestias. However, Kant was not persuaded by what he read and, in 1766, he published Träume eines Geistersehers (Dreams of a Seer) where he concluded that Swedenborg's accounts were nothing but illusions. He could however not give a scientific explanation for Swedenborg's description of the fire in 1759. 
Swedenborg himself did not put much weight in such events. He several times explained that God did not perform miracles any longer, or manifest Himself in people's dreams.
Swedenborg considered his theology a revelation of the true Christian religion that had become obfuscated through centuries of theology. However, he did not refer to his writings as theology since he considered it based on actual experiences, unlike theology. Neither did he wish to compare it to philosophy, a science he in 1748 discarded because it "darkens the mind, blinds us, and wholly rejects the faith".
The foundation of Swedenborg's theology was laid down in Arcana Cœlestia, or Heavenly Secrets, published in eight volumes from 1749 to 1756. In a significant portion of that work, he interprets Biblical passages. Most of all, he was convinced of how the Bible described a human being's transformation from a materialistic to a spiritual being. He begins his work by outlining how the creation myth was not an account of the creation of Earth, but an account of man's rebirth in six steps. Everything related to humankind could also be related to Jesus Christ, and how Christ freed himself from materialistic boundaries. Swedenborg examined this idea by an exposition on Genesis and Exodus.
Swedenborg was sharply opposed to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as the concept of One God being three separate Persons: the Person of the Father, the Person of the Son, and the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Instead he claimed that the three were different aspects of the one God, one Person, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and that divinity is impossible if divided into three Persons. Swedenborg spoke sharply against the Trinity of Persons in virtually all his works, and taught that the Divine Trinity exists in One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, as a trinity of the soul, body, and spirit exists in each person. The Divine Trinity in the Lord Jesus Christ is the Divine called the Father as the Soul, the Divine Human called the Son as the Body, and the proceeding Divine called the Holy Spirit as the Spirit. The Divinity or Divine essence of the three is one, as the Person is one. According to Swedenborg, Muslims, Jews and people of other religions are mainly opposed to Christianity because its doctrine of the Trinity of Persons makes One God into three Gods. He considered the separation of the Trinity into three separate Persons to have originated with the First Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. and the Athanasian Creed. For example:
From a Trinity of Persons, each one of whom singly is God, according to the Athanasian creed, many discordant and heterogeneous ideas respecting God have arisen, which are phantasies and abortions. […] All who dwell outside the Christian church, both Mohammedans and Jews, and besides these the Gentiles of every cult, are averse to Christianity solely on account of its belief in three Gods.
Swedenborg's theological teachings about the Trinity being in the One Person Jesus Christ is labeled by some as modalism because it identifies three aspects (not persons) of One God, a unitarian God.
Swedenborg spoke sharply against the Lutheran theological tenet called Sola fide, which is the position that salvation is achievable through faith alone, irrespective of the person's deeds in life. This belief was a core belief in the theology of the Lutheran reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. Swedenborg instead held that salvation is only possible through the conjunction of faith and charity in a person, and that the purpose of faith is to lead a person to live according to the truths of faith, which is charity. He further states that faith and charity must be exercised by doing good out of willing good whenever possible, which are good works or good uses, otherwise the conjunction perishes:
He came to this theological opinion based upon his spiritual experience, where he saw the supreme importance of a person's heart as the determining factor as to whether they were destined for heaven or hell. Upon entering the spirit world, he saw that people judged themselves and found their proper habitation according to the altruistic or self-centered orientation of the heart. He recognized as false the then commonplace notion that God was a stern judge who met out punishment by consigning sinners to hell. People who live by faith and practice charity have altruistic hearts; they are fit for heaven. People who lack faith, or whose faith is only conceptual and not matched by charity, are likely to have an inner nature that is basically self-centered; as such they are suitable for hell. In his emphasis on the interior affections, Swedenborg anticipated by a half-century the views of nineteenth century Romantic theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, which became widespread in liberal Protestantism.
Swedenborg taught that God's providence works to save all people, whether or not they are Christians, and that in heaven dwell good people of many religions. This insight was based on his mystical experiences of meeting angelic spirits from many religions. Yet his ecumenical outlook was in accord with the views of Enlightenment thinkers like Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and others.
One aspect of Swedenborg's writing that is often discussed is his ideas of marriage in the afterlife. Swedenborg himself stayed a bachelor all his life, but that did not hinder him from writing voluminously about the subject. His work Conjugial Love (1768) was dedicated to this purpose. A righteous marriage, he argues, is intended to be a continuous spiritual refinement of both parties, and such a union would be maintained in the afterlife.
He regarded marriage as being fundamentally about the union of wisdom — physically represented in the man — and love — physically represented in the female. This dualism can be traced throughout Swedenborg's writings. Faith, he writes, is a union of the two qualities of reason (represented by the man) and intention (represented by the female). Similarly, he argued, the wisdom of God has its corresponding part in the love from the Church.
The impact of Swedenborg's writings on European literature was quite broad. His transition from scientist to mystic fascinated many people, including: Immanuel Kant, Goethe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Balzac, Jorge Luis Borges, August Strindberg, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Carl Jung, just to mention a few. Other famous writers influenced by him included William Blake, August Strindberg, Charles Baudelaire, Balzac, William Butler Yeats and Carl Jung. The theologian Henry James Sr. was also a follower of his teachings, as was Johnny Appleseed. Thus, the impact of Swedenborg's ideas on European literature and philosophy was wide-ranging.
However, Swedenborg's ideas were not received without criticsm. One of the most prominent Swedish authors of Swedenborg's day, Johan Henrik Kellgren, called Swedenborg "nothing but a fool," a view shared by the ruling establishment of Sweden. A heresy trial was initiated in Sweden in 1768 against Swedenborg's writings and two men who promoted these ideas. 
Swedenborg's legacy would also take on institutional form as a new church. Toward the end of his life, small reading groups formed in England and Sweden to study Swedenborg's teachings, which eventually sprouted into a religious organization. Fifteen years after Swedenborg's death, the New Church, based on the principles of Swedenborg's theology, was founded in England. Other Swedenborgian organizations were subsequently established throughout the world, which still carry on Swedenborg's teachings today.
Within parenthesis, the common name used in text, based on the New Church online bookstore. Then follows the name of the original title in its original publication.. Various minor reports and tracts have been omitted from the list.
All links retrieved October 29, 2013.
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