1.Swedish theologian (1688-1772)
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Emanuel Swedenborg (n.)
|Born||January 29, 1688
|Died||March 29, 1772
London, England, Kingdom of Great Britain
|Occupation||Mining engineer, nobleman, author|
|Language||Swedish, Neo-Latin, English|
|Main interests||Theology, science, philosophy|
|Notable ideas||Last Judgment and Second Coming of Christ occurred|
|Notable works||True Christian Religion, Heaven and Hell|
|Influences||Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Descartes, Leibniz|
|Influenced||Johnny Appleseed, William Blake, Jorge Luis Borges, Daniel Burnham, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Flaxman, George Inness, Henry James Sr., Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Carl Jung, Honoré de Balzac, Immanuel Kant, Helen Keller, Czesław Miłosz, August Strindberg, D.T. Suzuki, and W.B. Yeats|
Emanuel Swedenborg (help·info) (born Emanuel Swedberg; January 29, 1688 – March 29, 1772) was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, revelator, and, in the eyes of some, Christian mystic. He termed himself a "Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ" in True Christian Religion, one of the works he published himself.
Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. In 1741, at the age of 53, he entered into a spiritual phase in which he eventually began to experience dreams and visions beginning on Easter weekend April 6, 1744. This culminated in a spiritual awakening, whereupon he claimed he was appointed by the Lord to write a heavenly doctrine to reform Christianity. He claimed that the Lord had opened his spiritual eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell, and talk with angels, demons and other spirits.
He said that the Last Judgement had already occurred, in 1757, although only visible in the spiritual world, where he had witnessed it. That Judgement was followed by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which occurred, not by Christ in person, but by a revelation from Him through the inner, spiritual sense of the Word to Swedenborg. In fact, Swedenborg said, it is the presence of that spiritual sense that makes the Word Divine.
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his life, he wrote and published 18 theological works, of which the best known was Heaven and Hell (1758), and several unpublished theological works. Some followers of Swedenborg believe that, of his theological works, only those which Swedenborg published himself are fully divinely inspired.
In Life on Other Planets, Swedenborg stated that he conversed with spirits from Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Venus, and the Moon. He did not report conversing with spirits from Uranus and Neptune, which were not yet discovered. This lack is seen by some to raise question about the credibility of all his reports on this matter. This issue has been extensively reviewed elsewhere.
Swedenborg rejected the doctrine of salvation through faith alone, since he considered both faith and charity necessary for salvation, not one without the other, whereas the Reformers taught that faith alone procured justification, although it must be a faith which resulted in obedience. The purpose of faith, according to Swedenborg, is to lead a person to a life according to the truths of faith, which is charity, as is taught in 1 Corinthians 13:13 and James 2:20.
Swedenborg's theological writings have elicited a range of responses. However, he made no attempt to found a church. A few years after his death – 15 by one estimate – for the most part in England, small reading groups formed to study the truth they saw in his teachings. As one scholar has noted, Swedenborg’s teachings particularly appealed to the various dissenting groups that sprang up in the first half of the 19th century who were "surfeited with revivalism and narrow-mindedness" and found his optimism and comprehensive explanations appealing.
A variety of important cultural figures, both writers and artists, were influenced by Swedenborg, including Johnny Appleseed, William Blake, Jorge Luis Borges, Daniel Burnham, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Flaxman, George Inness, Henry James Sr., Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, Honoré de Balzac, Helen Keller, Czesław Miłosz, August Strindberg, D. T. Suzuki, and W. B. Yeats.
His philosophy had a great impact on the Duke of Sodermanland, later King Carl XIII, who as the Grand Master of Swedish Freemasonry (Svenska Frimurare Orden) built its unique system of degrees and wrote its rituals.
In contrast, one of the most prominent Swedish authors of Swedenborg's day, Johan Henric Kellgren, called Swedenborg "nothing but a fool". A heresy trial was initiated in Sweden in 1768 against Swedenborg's writings and two men who promoted these ideas.
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 he 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 also came to have a strong impact on Emanuel.
Swedenborg completed his university course at Uppsala in 1709, and in 1710 made his grand tour through the Netherlands, France, and Germany, before reaching London, where he would spend the next four years. It was also a flourishing center of scientific ideas and discoveries. Emanuel studied physics, mechanics, and philosophy, and read and wrote poetry. According to the preface of a book by the Swedish critic Olof Lagercrantz, Swedenborg wrote to his benefactor and brother-in-law Eric Benzelius that he believed he (Swedenborg) might be destined to be a great scientist.
In 1715 Swedenborg 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 Swedenborg, was also present. Swedenborg's purpose was to persuade the king to fund an observatory in northern Sweden. However, the warlike king did not consider this project important enough, but did appoint Swedenborg assessor-extraordinary on the Swedish Board of Mines (Bergskollegium) in Stockholm.
From 1716 to 1718 Swedenborg published a scientific periodical entitled Daedalus Hyperboreus ("The Northern Daedalus"), a record of mechanical and mathematical inventions and discoveries. One notable description was that of a flying machine, the same he had been sketching a few years earlier (see Flying Machine (Swedenborg)).
Upon the death of Charles XII, Queen Ulrika Eleonora ennobled Swedenborg and his siblings. It was common in Sweden during the 17th and 18th centuries for the children of bishops to receive this honour as a recognition of the services of their father. The family name was changed from Swedberg to Swedenborg. (Note: The reader should be aware that there is question about this and the other Bergquist Notes' accuracy. See and scroll down to “Bergquist Footnote problem.”)
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: it forced him to speak slowly and carefully and there are no known occurrences of his speaking in public. The Swedish critic Olof Lagerkrantz proposed that Swedenborg compensated for his impediment by extensive argumentation in writing.
During the 1730s Swedenborg undertook many studies of anatomy and physiology. He had the first anticipation, as far as known, of the neuron concept It was not till a century later that science recognized the full significance of the nerve cell. He also had prescient ideas about the cerebral cortex, the hierarchical organization of the nervous system, the localization of the cerebrospinal fluid, the functions of the pituitary gland, the perivascular spaces, the foramen of Magendie, the idea of somatotopic organization, and the association of frontal brain regions with the intellect. In some cases his conclusions have been experimentally verified in modern times..
In the 1730s Swedenborg also became increasingly interested in spiritual matters and was determined to find a theory which would explain how matter relates to spirit. Swedenborg's desire to understand the order and purpose of creation first led him to investigate the structure of matter and the process of creation itself. In the Principia he outlined his philosophical method, which incorporated experience, geometry (the means whereby the inner order of the world can be known), and the power of reason; and he presented his cosmology, which included the first presentation of his Nebular hypothesis. (There is evidence that Swedenborg may have preceded Kant by 20 years in the development of this hypothesis.)
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 which 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 presents the view that the soul is based on material substances.
He also conducted dedicated studies of the fashionable philosophers of the time John Locke, Christian von Wolff, Leibniz, and Descartes, as well as returning to earlier thinkers Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, 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.
He experienced many different dreams and visions, some greatly pleasurable, others highly disturbing. The experiences continued as he traveled to London to continue the publication of Regnum animale. This process, which one biographer has proposed as cathartic and comparable to the Catholic concept of Purgatory, continued for six months. He also proposed 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. It was never fully completed, but Swedenborg still had it published in London in June 1745.
One explanation why the work was never finished is given in a well-known and often referenced story. 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 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 to work on the 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. Usually abbreviated as Arcana Cœlestia and under the Latin variant Arcana Caelestia (translated as Heavenly Arcana, Heavenly Mysteries, or Secrets of Heaven depending on modern English-language editions), the book became 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. It 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 25 years he wrote another 14 works of a spiritual nature of which most were published during his lifetime.
One of his lesser known works presents a startling claim, that the Last Judgment had begun in the previous year (1757) and was completed by the end of that year and that he had witnessed the whole thing. According to Swedenborg, the Last Judgment took place, not in the physical world, but in the World of Spirits, which is located half-way between heaven and hell, and which everyone passes through on their way to heaven or hell. The Judgment took place because the Christian church had lost its charity and faith, resulting in a loss of spiritual free will that threatened the equilibrium between heaven and hell in everyone’s life
In another of his theological works, Swedenborg wrote that eating meat, regarded in itself, “is something profane,” and was not practiced in the early days of the human race. This teaching appears to have given rise to the idea that Swedenborg was a vegetarian. This conclusion may have been reinforced by the fact that a number of Swedenborg’s early followers were part of the vegetarian movement that arose in Great Britain in the 19th century. However, the only reports on Swedenborg himself are contradictory. His landlord in London, Shearsmith, said he ate no meat but his maid, who served Swedenborg, said that he ate eels and pigeon pie.
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. 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. The book, Vera Christiana Religio (The True Christian Religion), 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. His health improved somewhat, but he died on March 29, 1772. There are several accounts of his last months, made by those he stayed with, and by Arvid Ferelius, a pastor of the Swedish Church in London, who visited him several times.
There is evidence that Swedenborg wrote a letter to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in February, saying he (Swedenborg) had been told in the world of spirits that Wesley wanted to speak with him. Wesley, startled, since he had not told anyone of his interest in Swedenborg, replied that he was going on a journey for six months and would contact Swedenborg on his return. Swedenborg replied that that would be too late since he (Swedenborg) would be going to the spiritual world for the last time on March 29. (Wesley later read and commented extensively on Swedenborg’s work.) Swedenborg’s landlord's servant girl, Elizabeth Reynolds, also said Swedenborg had predicted this date, and that Swedenborg was as happy about it as if was “going on holiday or to some merrymaking.”
In Swedenborg’s final hours, his friend, Pastor Ferelius, told him some people thought he had written his theology just to make a name for himself and asked Swedenborg if he would like to recant. Raising himself up on his bed, his hand on his heart, Swedenborg earnestly replied, "As truly as you see me before your eyes, so true is everything that I have written; and I could have said more had it been permitted. When you enter eternity you will see everything, and then you and I shall have much to talk about." He then died, in the afternoon, on the date he had predicted, March 29.
He was buried in the Swedish Church in Shadwell, 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 close to the grave of the botanist Carolus Linnaeus. In 1917, the Swedish Church in Shadwell was demolished and the Swedish community that had grown around the parish moved to West London. In 1938 the site of the former church where he had been buried in London was redeveloped, and in his honor the local road was renamed Swedenborg Gardens. In 1997 a garden, play area and memorial near the road were created in his memory.
Swedenborg's transition from scientist to revelator or mystic has fascinated many people ever since it occurred (see list of some of the people involved above, in introduction).
In keeping with the experience of a long tradition of ideational innovators (John 10:20, Mark 3:21) some have asserted that Swedenborg suffered from mental illness.  While this idea was not uncommon during Swedenborg's own time, it is mitigated by his activity in the Swedish Riddarhuset (The House of the Nobility), the Riksdag (the Swedish parliament), and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Additionally, the system of thought in his theological writings is remarkably coherent.
Swedenborg has had a variety of biographers, favorable and critical. Some propose that he did not in fact have a revelation at all, but rather developed his theological ideas from sources ranging from his father to earlier figures in the history of thought, notably Plotinus.This position was first and most notably taken by the Swedish writer Martin Lamm, who wrote a biography of Swedenborg in 1915, which is still in print. Olof Lagercrantz, the Swedish critic and publicist, had a similar point of view, calling Swedenborg's theological writing "a poem about a foreign country with peculiar laws and customs".
Swedenborg's approach to demonstrating the veracity of his theological teachings was to find and use voluminous quotations from the Old Testament and New Testament to demonstrate agreement between the Bible or Word of God and his theological teachings. The demonstration of this agreement is found throughout his theological writings, since he rejected blind faith and declared true faith is an internal acknowledgment of the truth. The vast and consistent use of Biblical confirmations in Swedenborg's theological writings led a Swedish Royal Council in 1771, examining the heresy charges of 1770 against two Swedish supporters of his theological writings, to declare "there is much that is true and useful in Swedenborg's writings."
Swedenborg proposed many scientific ideas during his lifetime. In his youth, 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 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 ideas that is considered most crucial for the understanding of his theology is his notion of correspondences. But in fact, he first presented the theory of correspondences in 1744, 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.
Three incidents of purported psychic ability of Swedenborg exist in the literature. There are several versions of each story.
The first was from July 29, 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 neighbour'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.
However, though the fire was real enough and spared Swedenborg’s house, the fire anecdote – one of the most well-known psychic anecdotes – may have an alternative explanation: In Sweden, the fire is known as Mariabranden (after the church Maria Kyrkan, which was severely damaged). In the high and increasing wind it spread very fast, consumed about 300 houses and made 2000 people homeless. However, the fire undoubtedly broke out Thursday July 19 (about 3 p.m.) and was put out during the following night or early morning. At that time, a messenger could bring the news from Stockholm to Gothenburg within two or three days. Under the July 29 interpretation, Swedenborg did not need any supernatural power or psychic ability to correctly visualize the fire. However, this explanation depends upon there being a belief in the July 29 date-based alternative. Since, as just noted, it seems clear that the July 19 date is correct there appears to be no credible basis for an explanation based on the 29th. It also seems unlikely in the extreme that the many witnesses to Swedenborg’s distress during the fire, and the immediate report of it to the provincial governor, would have believed any such claim.
In the fire anecdote, July 29 is said to be a Saturday. It was a Sunday.
It has been proposed that, according to Swedenborg biographer John Garth Wilkinson, "On Saturday, at 4 o'clock, p.m.," says Kant," when Swedenborg arrived at Gottenburg [Gothenburg] from England, Mr. William Castel invited him to his house, together with a party of 15 persons." If so, Swedenborg could not have participated in a party on July 19 because this date was a Thursday. If the dinner was arranged the first Saturday thereafter, on Saturday 21 July, Swedenborg also could have been informed of the fire in a natural way by another person.
This interpretation has several problems: One, as noted above, is that current scholarship does place the incident on July 19. The original Knobloch letter quoted from Kant here does not specify a day of the week, but the definitive The Swedenborg Epic biography associates the 19th with Saturday. Furthermore, if the 29th is associated with Sunday, as just noted, then the 19th would be associated with Saturday. And, finally, there is, again, the simple logic that, if Swedenborg had received news of the fire at the same time as everyone else in Gothenburg, there would have been no anomaly perceived at the time and recorded for history.
The second event was in 1758 when Swedenborg visited Queen Louisa Ulrika of Sweden, who asked him to tell her something about her deceased brother Prince Augustus William of Prussia. 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 was a woman who had lost an important document, and came to Swedenborg asking if a recently deceased person could tell him where it was, which he (in some sources) was said to have done the following night.
Although not typically cited along with these three episodes, there was one further piece of evidence of possible pertinence here: Swedenborg was noted by the seamen of the ships that he sailed between Stockholm and London to always have excellent sailing conditions. When asked about this by a friend, Swedenborg played down the matter, saying he was surprised by this experience himself and that he was certainly not able to do miracles.
In 1763, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), then at the beginning of his career, was impressed by these accounts and made inquiries to find out if they were true. He also ordered all eight volumes of the expensive Arcana Cœlestia (Heavenly Arcana or Heavenly Mysteries). One Charlotte von Knobloch wrote Kant asking his opinion of Swedenborg’s psychic experiences Kant wrote a very affirmative reply, referring to Swedenborg’s “miraculous” gift, and characterizing him as “reasonable, agreeable, remarkable and sincere” and “a scholar”, in one of his letters to Mendelssohn, and expressing regret that he (Kant) had never met Swedenborg. An English friend who investigated the matter for Kant, including visiting Swedenborg’s home, found Swedenborg to be a “sensible, pleasant and openhearted” man and, here again, a scholar.
However, three years later, in 1766, Kant wrote and anonymously published a small book entitled Träume eines Geistersehers (Dreams of a Spirit-Seer) that was a scathing critique of Swedenborg and his writings. He termed Swedenborg a “spook hunter”“without official office or occupation” As rationale for his critique Kant said that he wanted to stop “ceaseless questioning” and inquiries about "Dreams" from “inquisitive” persons, “both known and unknown,” and “importunate appeals from known and unknown friends.” as well as from “moon calves” He also said he did not want to expose himself to ”mockery.” More significantly, he became concerned about being seen as an apologist for both Swedenborg and for Spiritism in the guise of the interest in Swedenborg., which might have damaged his career. It seems clear that Dreams was intended as a refutation of all such thinking. This left Kant in the ironic or hypocritical position of trying to free himself of ridicule while at the same time applying ridicule to Swedenborg .
However, there has long been a suspicion among some scholars that, despite "Dreams", Kant actually had a behind-the-scenes respect for Swedenborg. Certainly there were inconsistencies in Kant’s handling of this issue. For instance,
(2) While he mocked Swedenborg in print, in the preserved notes of Kant’s lectures on metaphysics taken by a student named Herder, Kant treated Swedenborg with respect, “not to be sneezed at”. At one point, Herder’s notes term Swedenborg’s visions as “quite sublime”.
(3) Kant’s friend Moses Mendelssohn thought there was a “joking pensiveness” in "Dreams" that sometimes left the reader in doubt as to whether "Dreams” was meant to make “metaphysics laughable or spirit-seeking credible”.
(4) In a one of his letters to Mendelssohn, Kant refers to "Dreams" less-than-enthusiastically as a “desultory little essay”.
Finally, a case has been made that Kant wrote "Dreams" before, not after, the Knobloch letter and that this was accomplished by accidentally or deliberately falsifying the dates of the documents involved, notably that of the Knobloch letter. This alteration, if true, would strengthen the case for Swedenborg’s work being viewed by Kant, in the last analysis, positively. However, the fact of the matter is difficult to determine since the key date involved is that of the original of the Knobloch letter, which is lost.
For a brief overview of the extensive teachings Swedenborg claimed were revealed to him by Jesus Christ, see the Table of Contents of his book, The True Christian Religion, Containing the Universal Theology of the New Church.
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, except in the title of his last work. Neither did he wish to compare it to philosophy, a discipline he discarded in 1748 because it "darkens the mind, blinds us, and wholly rejects the faith".
The foundation of Swedenborg's theology was laid down in Arcana Cœlestia (Heavenly Mysteries), published in eight Latin volumes from 1749 to 1756. In a significant portion of that work, he interprets the Biblical passages of Genesis and Exodus. He reviews what he says is the inner spiritual sense of these two works of the Word of God. (He later made a similar review of the inner sense of the book of Revelation in Apocalypse Revealed.) Most of all, he was convinced that the Bible describes a human's transformation from a materialistic to a spiritual being, which he calls rebirth or regeneration. He begins this work by outlining how the creation myth was not an account of the creation of Earth, but an account of man's rebirth or regeneration in six steps represented by the six days of creation. Everything related to mankind in the Bible could also be related to Jesus Christ, and how Christ freed himself from materialistic boundaries through the glorification of his human presence by making it Divine. Swedenborg examines this idea in his exposition of Genesis and Exodus.
One aspect of Swedenborg's writing that is often discussed is his ideas on marriage. Swedenborg himself remained a bachelor all his life, but that did not hinder him from writing voluminously on the subject. His work on Marriage Love (Conjugial Love in older translations)(1768) was dedicated to this purpose.
The quality of the relationship between husband and wife resumes in the spiritual world in whatever state it was at their death in this world. Thus, a couple in true marriage love remain together in that state in heaven into eternity. A couple lacking in that love by one or both partners, however, will separate after death and each will be given a compatible new partner if they wish. A partner is also given to a person who loved the ideal of marriage but never found a true partner in this world. The exception in both cases is a person who hates chaste marriage and thus cannot receive such a partner.
Swedenborg saw creation as a series of pairings, descending from the Divine love and wisdom that define God and are the basis of creation. This duality can be seen in the pairing of good and truth, charity and faith, God and the church, and husband and wife. In each case, the goal for these pairs is to achieve conjunction between the two component parts. In the case of marriage, the object is to bring about the joining together of the two partners at the spiritual and physical levels, and the happiness that comes as a consequence.
Swedenborg explicitly rejected the common explanation of the Trinity as a Trinity of Persons, which he said was not taught in the early Christian church. There was, for instance, no mention in the Apostolic writings of any "Son from eternity". Instead he explained in his theological writings how the Divine Trinity exists in One Person, in One God, the Lord Jesus Christ, which he said is taught in Colossians 2:9. (See also 1 John 5:20, Matthew 28:18 and Acts 20:21) According to Swedenborg, Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world due to the spread of evil here. The hells were over-running the World of Spirits, which is midway between Heaven and Hell, and parts of Heaven as well, threatening the whole human race with damnation. God needed to correct this situation to preserve the spiritual freedom of all people. Swedenborg tells us God corrected this situation by redeeming the human race. But God as He is in Himself could not come in direct contact with any evil spirit, which would destroy that spirit (Exodus 33:20). So God impregnated a human woman from the Holy Spirit (Luke 1), thereby creating a person – Jesus Christ – Who had a Divine soul in a material body. The human body from Mary provided Jesus access to the evil heredity of the human race.
He then set up two cyclical processes, one of redemption and one of glorification. In the redemption process the human part of Jesus was tempted by different hells, and He conquered them one by one (Matthew 4). In that way God and evil spirits could engage each other. At the same time Jesus went through the glorification process, in which He successively united His human external with His Divine humanity from God (Colossians 2:9). In this way the Human Jesus became one with the Divine Humanity of His Father and was then no longer the son of Mary. The glorification process involved alternation between a state of humiliation (or “emptying out”, as in Isaiah 53:12), when Jesus was only aware of His human from Mary, and a state of glorification, or union, with Jehovah. When Jesus was in the humiliation state He prayed to the Father as someone other than Himself. At times when Jesus was in the glorification state He spoke with the Father as Himself. The passion of the cross was Jesus’ final combat with and victory over the hells, in which He completely conquered them and glorified His Human form.
Jesus put off the human taken from the mother, and put on the Human from the Divine in Himself, is also evident from the fact that whenever He addressed His mother directly He called her “Woman,” not “Mother.” (John 2:3,4, 19:26, 27). Once he did not recognize her as His mother. (Luke 8:20, 21) In other places Mary is called His mother, but not by Jesus (e.g. Luke 1:43, 2:34).
That Jesus became fully Divine is also illustrated by the fact that He rose bodily out of the tomb (Matthew 28) and entered a closed room (John 20).
Swedenborg spoke in virtually all his works against what he regarded as the incomprehensible Trinity of Persons concept. He said that people of other religions opposed Christianity because of its doctrine of a Trinity of Persons. He considered the separation of the Trinity into three separate Persons to have originated with the First Council of Nicaea and the Athanasian Creed. According to Swedenborg the Athanasian Creed is true, however, if by a trinity is understood to mean a trinity in one person and that person is in the Lord God Jesus Christ.
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.
He also spoke sharply against the tenet called Sola fide, which means that justification based upon imputed righteousness before God is achievable by a gift of God's grace ("Sola gratia"), through faith alone, not on the basis of the person's deeds in life. Sola fide was a doctrine averred by Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and others during the Protestant Reformation, and was a core belief especially in the theology of the Lutheran reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. Although the Sola fide of the Reformers also emphasized that saving faith was one that effected works (by faith alone, but not by a faith which is alone), Swedenborg protested against faith alone being the instrument of justification, and 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 or the conjunction perishes. In one section he wrote:
It is very evident from their Epistles that it never entered the mind of any of the apostles that the church of this day would separate faith from charity by teaching that faith alone justifies and saves apart from the works of the law, and that charity therefore cannot be conjoined with faith, since faith is from God, and charity, so far as it is expressed in works, is from man. But this separation and division were introduced into the Christian church when it divided God into three persons, and ascribed to each equal Divinity.
— True Christian Religion, section 355
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.
Older material of importance, some of it not in print:
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