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Emanuel Swedenborg

1688-1772

Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish mystic, scientist, theologian and philosopher. He was born Emanuel Svedberg in Stockholm on 29 January, 1688 (the family was ennobled in 1719, changing their name to Swedenborg). He graduated from University of Uppsala in 1709, then traveled around Europe studying mathematics and the sciences. In 1716, he began work as assessor for the Royal Board of Mines in Sweden, and over the years that followed employed his great energy and considerable intellect in investigating a wide range of scientific disciplines, resulting in a number of scientific publications.

Swedenborg's religious crisis began with the Journal of Dreams (1743-44), and he had his first vision of Christ on 7 April, 1744. The following April brought a waking vision of Christ that made him turn from science and apply himself to theology and mysticism, and in 1747 he finally left his long-held post to devote himself to this cause. The works that followed were all written in Latin, and include Arcana Coelestia ('Heavenly Arcana', 8 volumes, 1749-56), De Coelo et ejus Mirabilibus et de Inferno ('On Heaven and Its Wonders and on Hell', 1758), Apocalypsis Explicata ('Apocalypse Explained', 4 volumes, 1785-89) and Vera Christiana Religio ('True Christian Religion', 1771). He expounded a system of allegorical interpretation of the Bible, in which even mundane events communicate higher truths through correspondences between the material and spiritual planes. He declared that he had been present at the Last Judgement, and that this had taken place in 1757, creating a new Christian church, and considered his religious works to herald this new age of Christianity, and that this was actually what was meant by the Second Coming. He believed in the absolute unity of God, rejecting the orthodox view of the Trinity, and that redemption is obtained by accepting and responding to divine truth through love, wisdom and action. Swedenborg died on 29 March, 1772 in London, England, and was buried in the Swedish Church. He body was moved to Uppsala cathedral in 1908.

Though Swedenborg never made any direct attempt to found a Christian sect himself, a society dedicated to his teachings was created in England in 1787, and similar societies established themselves around the world, known as the Church of the New Jerusalem, New Church or Swedenborgians. Swedenborg's religious works have influenced later writers, including the poets William Blake and William Butler Yeats.



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