Who was Emanuel Swedenborg?
Born: 1688 (in Sweden)
Died: 1772 (in London aged 84)
Occupations: Scientist/Engineer, anatomist, philosopher, theologian, mystic
IQ: 205+ beyond measurable genius – Berkeley University of California
Emanuel Swedenborg is a difficult man to describe, partly because his life was so unusual, varied and full, but also because much of it may be viewed by many of us as verging on fantasy; yet his character and achievements are well documented as being sound and true. His writings are vast. There are many biographies on Swedenborg which can be accessed on the internet.
Swedenborg was born as Emanuel Svedberg in Stockholm in 1688, His name was later changed to Swedenborg because his family was ennobled by the Monarchy. He attended university in Upsala in Sweden and soon afterwards took up residence in London and parts of Europe in order to widen his learning. He became an ‘Assessor’ to the Swedish Board of Mines and continually improved the mining processes upon which Sweden’s economy was so dependant. In his fifties, he began to have visions and was convinced by certain events in his life that the Lord wanted him to write the theology of the New Church. So he retired from the Board of Mines in order to write theology full time. This he did for around thirty years until his death.
Leading up to his ‘conversion’, he determined to find the ‘seat’ of the human soul and so he began by understanding the human body and studied anatomy at very great depth, using all the knowledge of anatomy then in existence and taking it further. Around this time he also expanded current knowledge of philosophy and effectively invented psychology. From all this he came up with a philosophical explanation of the nature, origin and seat of the soul. We may get a hint of the quality of Swedenborg’s thinking from a comment on his work on the soul from Dr Spurgin, a former President of the Royal College of Physicians who declared it to be: “a production unparalleled in the whole compass of human philosophy; ..” The famous poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge referred to it also in terms of the highest praise. But Swedenborg wasn’t happy with it and continued to develop his philosophy of the soul as he gleaned more information from his visits to the spiritual worlds.
Swedenborg was clearly one of the greatest geniuses in history. His mind was engaged in religious, mystical and spiritual things as well as excelling in all the known academic subjects of his time, including mathematics, physics, metallurgy and chemistry, engineering, philosophy and anatomy. His leanings were always directed towards the ‘practical’; to what use all his efforts could be put for the temporal and eternal benefit of mankind. He was proficient in most of the European languages and also Hebrew, Greek and Latin. In the latter part of his life he was ‘tasked’ (he says by the Lord Himself) to write a completely rational Christian theology. His whole life’s work had led up to this, and a trail of books running through his whole adult lifetime – scientific, philosophical, psychological and religious – culminated in his final work “The True Christian Religion” which he completed only months before his death in 1772. Swedenborg’s rational theology is entirely comprehensive and in it, apparent inconsistencies in the Bible are explained.
His works integrate religion, philosophy, psychology and science so that they become inseparable disciplines which are completely dependent upon one another. On this basis he explained a completely rational Christian religion as well as describing how all religions are valid and relate to each other.
This integration is made possible by the “Science of Correspondences” which was – according to Swedenborg – the chief education of the ancient peoples of this Earth; going back perhaps many tens of thousands of years; it was almost totally lost by the time the Lord incarnated as Jesus Christ. Its last remnants are hinted at by the Wise Men who attended Jesus with three gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh which he says represent a good heart, a good understanding and good works from these: a good heart, a good head, and a good hand. This science was/is based upon the belief that every natural object which exists and process which occurs in this material world has its origin in a spiritual cause in the eternal world of spirit. One of the simplest examples of this is that light represents or corresponds to wisdom and heat to love. so that the spiritual cause of the material sun in our sky, which gives out heat and light, is the spiritual sun in the spiritual world which gives out Love and Wisdom, or what is the same ‘Life’ because the Lord God is within or behind the spiritual sun.
In order to encourage you to further investigate Swedenborg and the New Church, here follows a number of quotations from famous people about Swedenborg and his work; to give a sense of the breadth of appreciation there is around the world for his work. These are well documented amongst the many biographies which exist both in book form and in fragments on the internet: