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Swedenborgianism

SWEDENBORGIANISM

SWEDENBORGIANISM. A religious movement based on the revelations of Emanuel Swedenborg (16881772), an eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and religious visionary. The son of a Swedish Lutheran theologian and bishop, Swedenborg was educated at Uppsala, and then traveled through the Continent and England. A visionary theoretical scientist, Swedenborg anticipated many later scientific discoveries, but gradually became convinced that material nature had an essentially spiritual foundation. His religious visions, which began in 1736, climaxed with a vision of Jesus in 1744, and from then on he devoted himself to his extensive spiritual writings. The essence of his thought centered around a correspondence between the physical and spiritual worlds; life on earth is merely preparation for a heavenly existence. The New Jerusalem Church, of which he was the prophet, would be the world's ultimate religion. Swedenborg did not intend, however, to form a separate church, but a fellowship of like-minded individuals. His thought had the most influence in England, where two Anglican priests, Thomas Hartley (d. 1784) and John Clowes (17431831), were early disciples. In 1787, a separate New Jerusalem Church was founded in London by former Wesleyan pastors, an organization that now has branches worldwide, mainly in English-speaking countries.

Swedenborg's thought and visions affected several major artists and writers; William Blake was a follower, and Swedenborgian influences have been seen in the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Honoré de Balzac, among others. Immanuel Kant was an early critic of Swedenborg and wrote his "Dreams of a Spirit-Seer" (1766) as a scathing polemic against his thought.

See also Catholic Spirituality and Mysticism .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Benz, Ernst. Emanuel Swedenborg: Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason. Translated by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. West Chester, Pa., 2002. Translation of the 2nd German edition of 1969.

Lamm, Martin. Emanuel Swedenborg: The Development of his Thought. Translated by Tomas Spiers and Anders Hallengren. West Chester, Pa., 2000. Translation of the Swedish original of 1915.

Mark Granquist

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