“First of all it must be known who the God of Heaven is, since upon that all the other things depend.” Emanuel Swedenborg
Emanuel Swedenborg was born on the 29th January 1688 (Gregorian Calendar that would be February 9th) with the surname Swedberg but he changed it later in life to Swedenborg.
His father was a professor of Theology at the University of Uppsala and went on to become Bishop of Skara. So young Swedenborg was brought up in a highly religious family, and as a child he said that he used to hold his breath during prayers because he thought it would help him with his connection to God. Holding his breath like this was like a meditation where it helped to concentrate his thoughts into his prayers.
As a young man he studied philosophy and maths but he became adept at many trades throughout his early life. He wrote scientific journals and books on astronomy, he met Edmond Halley whilst he lived in London. He had ideas for inventions that were before his time, making designs of flying machines and when he became a civil servant and worked for the metallurgy department, he created machines that were efficient in the mining industry. He also designed a device that he named ‘a universal musical instrument’, which he said that anybody could play a tune on, “by the aid of which the most unskilled in music can play all kinds of harmonies that are found in the score”.
He also wrote poetry, most of his poems are about people he admired, both dead and alive. His collection of poetry was published in 1919 ‘Emauelis Swedenborgh Opera Poetica’.
Swedenborg was intrigued with the human body and mind and how they worked. He was interested in the mental health as well as the physical health of people and worked on a new theory and practice that he said was “a method of conjecturing the wills and affections of men’s mind by means of analysis.”, what would now be termed psychoanalysis.
Swedenborg studied medicine and the human body because he was looking for answers to this question-How does the human body function? He soon figured this out from his anatomical studies, so his questions became deeper-Where and what is the soul? Where and what is the spirit?
He was having difficulty finding the soul, it was being elusive, but he soon realised that the soul was not a physical thing, that it existed on a different plane to the physical body, which is why it could not be seen. He was convinced that the soul existed in a replica, spiritual double of the person. To Swedenborg, the soul was the real person, the essence of the person and lived in all realms but the physical body was a vehicle for that soul to be on this earthly plane.
Swedenborg wrote three volumes, ‘The Realm of the Soul’ in 1743, discussing his findings on the human soul, and explanations as to why when one died on this physical plane, one still lived on in the spiritual world. To Swedenborg this was because the soul, after departing the dead physical body, continued on in its spiritual body in the spiritual world.
“In fact, death is a continuation of life, but a continuation in another world. That world is invisible to the eyes of the physical body but can be seen there in light that outshines the noonday light of this world a thousand times.” Emanuel Swedenborg.
In the years 1743-4 he began a dream diary. He was travelling between Sweden and Holland when he wrote this and the dream diary was published as ‘The Dream Journal’. It is a collection of accounts of his dreams and psychic visions of that time which were becoming more prolific.
The most significant moment happened on April 6th 1744. In the Dutch hotel that he was staying at he had a series of psychic experiences which started with ‘terrible temptations’ which went on for most of the night, but then ended with his vision of Jesus Christ. The Saviour Christ appeared to Swedenborg in physical form and spoke with him, they discussed the future of faith and religion in this world.
It was exactly a year later that he had another psychic experience with the Christ. This time he was in London, England. Jesus Christ told Swedenborg that he had been chosen to pass on a message to humanity that would be a new revelation and to be able to do that Jesus Christ would bestow upon Swedenborg a special gift; a key to the other realms. Jesus Christ told Swedenborg that he was to prepare the people for the Second Coming through the New Church that he ordained Swedenborg to set up.
Swedenborg was now able to not only see into but actually enter and be a part of the worlds of spirit, of the heavens and of Hell, and he could do this anytime he wished. He was able to communicate with the occupants in them, the spirits of the dead and he was also able to let them, the spirit, see through his eyes into this earthly world. Swedenborg could now speak to any person who had ever lived, he said he spent a year on and off talking with St Paul and he made acquaintance with many other well- known people from the past.
When this second event occurred, Swedenborg was writing ‘The Worship of Love and God’, but he stopped writing and instead threw himself into learning the ancient languages of Greek and Hebrew so that he could talk with the prophets of the Old Testament and the ancient Greek philosophers.
Aged 59, Swedenborg took early retirement so that he could concentrate on his new spiritual findings and to write his ‘Spiritual Diary’. He had been shown a vision by Jesus Christ about what the New Church was to be and he now had a new and more fuller understanding of what the Bible teachings actually meant. Swedenborg put together a Bible concordance revealing the true significance to the Old and New Testaments, named ‘Index Biblicus’.
The new revelation that he had received from Jesus Christ was that each person was now responsible for his or her development into the celestial kingdom, one did not need to go through organised religion any more. This was what the New Church was to be, each person able to discover the Divine through their self.
“Angels say that each of us has a central or highest place into which the divine flows directly. They call this place God’s gateway to us and his true home is within us.” Emanuel Swedenborg
Even though they followed the teachings of Jesus Christ those that joined this New Church became known as Swedenborgians. In 1768 charges were brought against the Swedenborgians for heresy but they were able to prove that they followed and taught Jesus Christ’s Word, that they were true Christians and that the theology of Swedenborg agreed with Christian doctrine.
But some of his theology and writings are out of this world, literally. ‘Earths in the Universe’ is a book Swedenborg wrote in which he explains that there are many inhabited worlds throughout the universe and that it was the same in the spiritual world, where the dead resided. The spiritual universe is a spiritual copy of the material universe and Swedenborg was able to travel to these worlds, both spiritual and material versions. In ‘The Heavenly Doctrine’ Swedenborg writes about how the Lord opened his eyes so that he could walk between all these different worlds, all inhabited with beings created by the one true God.
“After our life in this world, we all live forever. This is because we are then no longer physical but spiritual.” Emanuel Swedenborg