Skip to main content
Select Source:

Swedenborg, Emanuel

SWEDENBORG, EMANUEL

(b Stockholm, Sweden, 29 January 1688; d. London, England, 29 March 1772)

technology, geology, cosmogony, physiology, theology.

Swedenborg’s career is one of the most remarkable in the history of science. In his youth and early manhood he was an enthusiastic scientist and technologist, and published a number of articles in various fields. Almost imperceptibly he turned to religious speculation, which, after a decisive divine revelation, led him to become a visionary and the founder of a religious sect, for which he is best known.

The son of Jesper Swedberg, professor of theology at Uppsala and later bishop of Skara, Swedenborg grew up in Uppsala and studied at its university, specializing in the humanities. He soon turned to the sciences, however, influenced by his brother-in-law, the learned university librarian Erik Benzelius. In the fall of 1710 Swedenborg traveled to England, where he stayed until 1713, mostly in London. During this time he was captivated by what he learned of science. He read Newton. He met Flamsteed, Halley, and John Woodward. He considered the universe to be a problem in mathematics, and, filled with youthful self-confidence, he tried to realize grandiose technical inventions, among them flying machines and submarines. Swedenborg returned to Sweden via Paris and Germany, and in 1716 was appointed extraordinary assessor on the Board of Mines. In this capacity he worked with Christopher Polhem, whom he admired greatly and assisted in far-reaching technical and industrial projects. Many articles in Daedalus hyperboreus, Sweden’s first, short-lived (1716–1718) scientific journal, which the wealthy Swedenborg published at his own expense, were devoted to Polhem’s mechanical inventions. Ennobled in 1719 (until then he signed himself Swedberg), he served for years on the Board of Mines; he was a competent metallurgist and, among other things, experimented with a new process for refining copper ore.

Always manifold in his scientific ambitions Swedenborg during this period wrote many short articles on his observations and theories. They were of varying importance, some indifferent or amateruish in quality, others ingenious and interesting. He was least successful as an astronomer. Swedenborg’s attempt to determine longitude at sea by means of the moon (published in 1716 and later several times revised), was submitted in a competition sponsored by the British Parliament. It was rejected by the experts and failed completely. In Om jordenes och planeternas gång och stånd ("On the Course and Position of the Earth and the Planets"; Skara, 1718), which was inspired by the Bible, Polhem, and Thomas Burnet’s Telluris theoria sacra, Swedenborg tried to prove that in earlier times the earth had revolved at a faster rate around the sun. The seasons would have been of similar climate and a paradisiacal spring would have reigned. As the earth slowed down and the length of the year and the seasons increased, the final catastrophe was approaching.

Young Swedenborg was undoubtedly at his best in geology and paleontology. In Om watnens högd och förra werldens starcka ebb och flod ("On the Level of the Seas and the Great Tides in Former Times"; Uppsala, 1719) he submitted empirical proof–sedimentary deposits, gravel ridges, fish in landlocked lakes without outlets, and the raising of the land along the Baltic coast–that Scandinavia had once been covered by an ocean from which the land had slowly risen. With the chemist Urban Hiärne, who strongly influenced him, he thus initiated the eighteenth-century debate in Sweden about “water reduction.”Swedenborg was very interested in fossils as evidence of a prehistoric flood. He was convinced of their organic origin; and during a journey in 1721–1722, he examined many fossils of plants found near Liège and Aachen. His descriptions of them were published together with other geological papers in his Miscellanea observata circa res naturales (Leipzig, 1722).

Swedenborg’s plans were to become increasingly grandiose. In his Principia rerum naturalium (Leipzig, 1734), probably conceived as a counterpart to Newton’s Principia, he sought a comprehensive physical explanation of the world based on mathematical and mechanical principles. While remaining faithful to the general principles of Cartesian natural philosophy, which he had learned while studying at Uppsala, Swedenborg elaborated upon them. According to his cosmogony the physical reality has developed from the mathematical point, which was an entity between infinite and finite. Through a vortical movement implanted on the point, a series of material particles developed (the “first finiata,”the“second finita,”and so on) that eventually led to the cosmos in its present state. In contrast to Descartes, Swedenborg believed that the planets had developed from the chaotic solar mass through expansion of its surrounding shell, which finally joined to form a belt along the equatorial plane of the sun. It then exploded, forming the planets and the satellites. Although the basic construction of Swedenborg’s thought heralded the later planetary theories of Buffon, Kant, and Laplace, there is nothing to indicate that it exerted any direct influence on posterity.

In the 1730’s Swedenborg pursued his materialistic explanation of the universe to its furthest consequence, concluding that the human soul also derived from the movements of the small particles. But at the same time a disturbing feature emerged in his thought. In speculating on paradise and the nature of angels, Swedenborg became increasingly involved–faithful to the Cartesian way of stating the inquiry– in the body-soul problem; and the soul and the mysteries of organic life soon became his main field of research. He planned enormous works in which physiology step by step was transformed into theology: Oeconomia regni animalis (2 vols., London-Amsterdam, 1740–1741) and Regnum animale (3 vols., The Hague, 1744–1745).

Swedenborg now sought to explain everything in terms of psyche, considering even the body as a manifestation of divine origin: “Everything lives the life of its soul and the soul lives the life of God’s spirit.”With the help of Malpighi, Swammerdam, and Vieussens he sought to discover the location of the human soul in the brain and its role as intermediary between mortal and divine. In his Oeconomia and in certain manuscripts, especially “De cerebro”(first published 1882–1887), he presented for the first time his theory that the activities of the soul, located in specific centers in the cortex of the brain, were built up from the finest“fibers.”In this categorical form it was an original and remarkable hypothesis that remained unnoticed by later physiological researchers.

The religious crisis in Swedenborg’s life was now approaching. At the beginning of the 1740’s he wrestled with the greatest problem in metaphysics. Wishing to find words for the ineffable, he experimented with a logical-mathematical universal language, a mathesis universalis on Leibniz’s and Wolff’s models, but it turned instead into the theory of correspondence. As worked out in its linguistic and philosophical details, this theory taught that existence was made up of three reciprocal levels–the natural, the psychic, and the divine; each word or concept within a certain level corresponded to a word or concept within another.

A financially independent bachelor, Swedenborg journeyed to Holland and England during this period. Restless and excited, he was plagued by dreams and visions that he described in the peculiar Drömboken ("Journal of Dreams"; Stockholm, 1859). At the same time he was working on a great narrative of creation, De cultu et amore Dei, but abandoned it when the final vision came upon him at London in the spring of 1745: God revealed himself to Swedenborg and ordered him to interpret the meaning of the Bible; on the same night the world of the spirits, Heaven and Hell, were opened to him.

At the age of fifty-seven Swedenborg abandoned his scientific investigations. For the rest of his life he was purely a visionary and prophet. Many thought him mad. In a stream of Latin works, especially the gigantic commentary on the books of Moses, Arcana coelestia (8 vols., London, 1749–1756), he developed his theory of the spiritual world, which was to be the beginning of a new universal religion, represented on earth by the Swedenborgian New Church. But despite its bizarre aspects Swedenborg’s theology is by no means a chaos of whims and visions. It is characterized by rigorous logic and obviously is rooted in his previous concern with the physical sciences.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Swedenborg’s enormous literary production, only part of which was published during his lifetime, is listed by James Hyde, A Bibliography of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg (London, 1906); and by Alfred H. Stroh and Greta Ekelöf, An Abridged Chronological List of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg (Uppsala, 1910). His most important scientific works are mentioned in the text. Most of Swedenborg’s early scientific works, including Principia (1734) and letters to Erik Benzelius, among others, are in his Operaquaedam aut inedita aut obsoleta de rebus naturalibus, 3 vols. (Stockholm, 1907–1911). Swedenborg’s work on longitude was published in Latin as Methodus nova inveniendi longitudinem locorum...ope lunae (Amsterdam, 1721). He also published Prodromus principiorum rerum naturalium (Amsterdam, 1721) and monographs on the metallurgy of iron and copper: Regnum subterraneum sive minerale de ferro and Regnum...de cupro et orichalco (Dresden–Leipzig, 1734). together with Principia rerum naturalium, are contained in his Opera philosophica et mineralia, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1734).

Swedenborg’s MSS on the physiology of the brain was published by R. L. Tafel as The Brain Considered Anatomically, Physiologically and Philosophically, 2 vols. (London, 1882–1887), and as Three Transactions on the Cerebrum, Alfred Acton, ed., 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1938–1940). The unfinished De cultu et amore Dei was published at London in 1745. Almost all of Swedenborg’s scientific works have been translated into English, most of them in the nineteenth century–for instance, Principia (London, 1846). His MSS are in the library of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Many of them, under the title Autographa, have been published by R. L. Tafel, 10 vols. (Stockholm, 1863–1870).

II.Secondary Literature. The literature is concerned mainly with his theology and spirit theory. Indispensable, although often unreliable, is R. L. Tafel, Documents Concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel Swedenborg, 2 vols (London, 1875–1877). An excellent introduction, especially to his scientific achievement, is Inge Jonsson, Emanuel Swedenborg (New York, 1971). A pioneering work in its time was Martin Lamm, Swedenborg (Stockholm, 1915). also in German (Leipzig, 1922) and French (Paris, 1936). Later biographies include Ernst Benz, Emanuel Swedenborg, Naturforscher und Seher (Munich, 1948); Cyriel Odhner Sigstedt, The Swedenborg Epic (New York, 1952); and Signe Toksvig, Emanuel Swedenborg, Scientist and Mystic (New Haven, 1948). Inge Jonsson has also writen Swedenborgs skapelsedrama De cultu et amore Dei (Stockholm, 1961) and Swedenborgs korrespondenslära (Stockholm, 1969).

Various aspects of Swedenborg’s scientific thought have been investigated by Svante Arrhenius,“Emanuel Swedenborg as a Cosmologist,”in Swedenborg’s Operaquaedam (see above), II (Stockholm, 1908), xxiii–xxxv; Gustaf Eneström, Emanuel Swedenborg såsom matematiker (Stockholm, 1890); Tore Frängsmyr Geologioch skapelsetro. Föreställningar om jordens historia fråm Hiärne till Bergman, Lychnosbibliotek no. 26 (Stockholm, 1969), on Swedenborg as geologist and cosmologist, with an English summary; N. V. E. Nordenmark,“Swedenborg som astronom,”in Arkiv förmatematik, astronomi och fysik, 23 , ser. A, no. 13 (1933); Gerhard Regnéll, “On the Position of Paleontology and Historical Geology in Sweden Before 1800,”in Arkiv för mineralogi och geologi, 1 (1949–1954), 1–64; and Hans Schlieper, Emanuel Swedenborgs System der Naturphilosophie (Berlin, 1901). Martin Ramström has examined Swedenborg’s physiology of the brain in important articles, summarized in “Swedenborg on the Cerebral Cortex as the Seat of Psychical Activity,” in Transactions of the International Swedenborg Congress 1910 (London, 1910), 56–70.

Sten Lindroth

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/swedenborg-emanuel

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/swedenborg-emanuel

Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772)

Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772)

Swedish seer. He was trained as a scientist and became the country's leading expert in mining and metallurgy. He was also a military engineer, learned astronomer, reputed physicist, zoologist, anatomist, financier, political economist, and biblical student.

He was born January 29, 1688, at Stockholm, son of a professor of theology at Upsala, afterward bishop of Scara. Swedenborg graduated from Upsala University in 1710 and then traveled in England, Holland, France, and Germany, studying natural philosophy. He studied and was influenced by the work of the most famous mathematicians and physiciansSir Isaac Newton, Flamsteed, Halley, and De Lahire. He made sketches of inventions as varied as a flying machine, a submarine, a rapid-fire gun, an air pump, and a fire engine. He wrote many poems in Latin, and when after five years of study he returned to Sweden, he was appointed assessor of the Royal College of Mines.

Originally known as Swedberg, nobility was bestowed upon him by Queen Ulrica, and he changed his name to Sweden-borg. He sat in the House of Nobles, his political utterances having great weight, but his tendencies were distinctly democratic. He busied himself privately in scientific gropings for the explanation of the universe. He published at least two works dealing with cosmology remembered primarily as foreshadowing many scientific facts and ventures of the future. His theories regarding light, cosmic atoms, geology, and physics were distinctly ahead of their time.

In 1734 he published Prodomus Philosophie Ratiocinantrio de Infinite, about the relation of the finite to the infinite and of the soul to the body. In this work he sought to establish a definite connection between the two as a means of overcoming the difficulty of their relationship. The spiritual and the divine appeared to him as the supreme study of man. He searched the countries of Europe for the most eminent teachers and the best books dealing with anatomy, for he considered that science the locus of the germ of the knowledge of soul and spirit. Through his anatomical studies he anticipated certain modern views dealing with the functions of the brain.

At the height of his scientific career he resigned his office to devote the rest of his life to spreading spiritual enlightenment, for which he believed himself to have been specially selected by God. He showed signs of psychic power as a child. Even at an early age he could cease breathing for a considerable period and freely enter an altered state of consciousness, possibly trance. In his book Dreams of a Spirit Seer philosopher Immanuel Kant narrates several paranormal experiences from Swedenborg's early life. He had gifts of clairvoyance. Kant also investigated and reported as authentic the story that in Gothenburg Swedenborg observed and reported a fire that was raging in Stockholm, 300 miles away.

Swedenborg's real illumination and intercourse with the spiritual world in visions and dreams began in April 1744. He claimed that in a waking state his consciousness wandered in the spirit world and conversed with its inhabitants as freely as with living men.

In later experiences he heard wonderful conversations and sensed the eyes of his spirit were so opened that he could see heavens and hells and converse with angels and spirits. He claimed that God revealed himself to him and told him that he had chosen him to unveil the spiritual sense of the whole Scriptures to man. From that moment, according to Swedenborg, he eschewed worldly knowledge and worked for spiritual ends alone. Through the next three decades, he lived in Sweden, Holland, and London.

After initially reviewing his knowledge of the Hebrew language, Swedenborg began his great works on the interpretation of the Scriptures, which were to dominate the rest of his life. A man of few wants, his life was simplicity itself, his food consisting for the most part of bread, milk, and coffee. He was in the habit of lying in a trance for days, and day and night seemed to have no distinction for him. He regularly conversed with angels in broad daylight, he said. At other times, his wrestlings with evil spirits so terrified his servants that they would seek refuge in the most distant part of the house.

Swedenborg speaks of the nature of his visions and communications with the angels and spirits in his book Heaven and Hell:

"Angels speak from the spiritual world, according to inward thought; from wisdom, their speech flows in a tranquil stream, gently and uninterruptedlythey speak only in vowels, the heavenly angels in A and O, the spiritual ones in E and I, for the vowels give tone to the speech, and by the tone the emotion is expressed; the interruptions, on the other hand, correspond with creations of the mind; therefore we prefer, if the subject is lofty, for instance of heaven or God, even in human speech, the vowels U and O, etc. Man, however, is united with heaven by means of the word, and forms thus the link between heaven and earth, between the divine and the natural.

"But when angels speak spiritually with me from heaven, they speak just as intelligently as the man by my side. But if they turn away from man, he hears nothing more whatever, even if they speak close to his ear. It is also remarkable that several angels can speak to a man; they send down a spirit inclined to man, and he thus hears them united."

From his ongoing conversations with the angelic beings, he wrote a number of books. These may be divided into expository books, notably The Apocalypse Revealed, The Apocalypse Explained, and Arcana Celestia; books of spiritual philosophy, such as Intercourse between the Soul and the Body, Divine Providence and Divine Love and Wisdom; books dealing with the hierarchy of supernatural spheres, such as Heaven and Hell and The Last Judgment; and books outlining the teachings of the new church, such as The New Jerusalem, The True Christian Religion, and Canons of the New Church.

Of these works, his Divine Love and Wisdom most succinctly presents his entire religious system. God he regarded as the divine man. Spiritually God consists of infinite love, and corporeally of infinite wisdom. From the divine love, all things draw nourishment. The sun, as we know it, is merely a microcosm of a spiritual sun emanating from the creator. This spiritual sun is the source of nature; but whereas the first is alive, the second is inanimate. There is no connection between the two worlds of nature and spirit unless in similarity of construction. The causes of all things exist in the spiritual sphere and their effects in the natural sphere, and the purpose of all creation is that man may become the image of his creator, and of the cosmos as a whole.

Swedenborg believed that man possesses two vessels or receptacles for the containment of Godthe will for divine love, and the understanding for divine wisdom. Before the Fall, the flow of these virtues into the human spirit was perfect, but through the intervention of the forces of evil, and the sins of man himself, it was interrupted. Seeking to restore the connection between himself and man, God came into the world as Man, for if he had ventured on Earth in his unveiled splendor, he would have destroyed the hells through which it was necessary for him to proceed to redeem man, and this he did not wish to do, merely to conquer them.

The unity of God is an essential of Swedenborgian theology, and Swedenborg thoroughly believed that God did not return to his own place without leaving behind him a visible representative of himself in the word of Scripture, which is an eternal tripartite incarnationnatural, spiritual, and celestial. Of this Swedenborg was the apostle. Nothing seemed hidden from him; he claimed to be aware of the appearance and conditions of other worlds, good and evil, heaven and hell, and of the planets. "The life of religion," he stated, "is to accomplish good. The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of uses."

Central to understanding his system is the doctrine of correspondences. There are two realms of created existence, the spiritual, which is real and substantial, and the physical, a mere reflection of the spiritual, according to this doctrine. Everything visible, Swedenborg argued, is the shadow of an appropriate spiritual reality. Between the two realms is an exact correspondence.

The work of explaining the correspondences, said Sweden-borg, begins with the Scriptures; hence the prodigious amount of time he devoted to his voluminous Scripture commentaries.

Swedenborg died in London on March 29, 1772, at Prince's Square, in the parish of St. George's in East London, on the very day he had earlier predicted in a letter to Methodist leader John Wesley, who had sought an audience with him. In April 1908 his bones were removed, at the request of the Swedish government, for reburial in Stockholm.

Swedenborg wrote at a time when heretical ideas were taken seriously by state and church officials. To avoid any sanctions for his increasingly divergent ideas he initially published his works without his name. It was not until 1760, with the publication of the Treatise on Four Doctrines, that his authorship was acknowledged on the title page. Also, he wrote in Latin and argued that he was writing for the intelligentsia and church leadership and had no intention that his new approach would have a following until judged by his colleagues. Nevertheless, in his later years he found it convenient to reside outside his native land.

In England Swedenborg's ideas found some popular support, and beginning in the 1770s his major works were translated. The Church of the New Jerusalem was founded there in 1774, moving to the United States in 1792 soon after the Revolution.

Sources:

Sigstedt, C. O. The Swedenborg Epic: The Life and Works of Emanuel Swedenborg. New York: Bookman Associates, 1952. Reprint, London: Swedenborg Society, 1981.

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Arcana Coelestia. 12 vols. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1905-1910.

. Heaven and Hell. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1979.

. The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine. London: Swedenborg Society, 1938.

. On the Divine Love and on the Divine Wisdom. London: Swedenborg Society, 1963.

. The True Christian Religion. London: Swedenborg Society, 1950.

Woofenden, William Ross. Swedenborg Researcher's Manual. Bryn Athyn, Pa.: Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1988.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swedenborg-emanuel-1688-1772

"Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swedenborg-emanuel-1688-1772

Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg

The Swedish scientist, theologian, and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) founded a religious system known as Swedenborgianism, ideas of which were incorporated in the Church of the New Jerusalem.

Emanuel Swedenborg was born Emanuel Swedberg on Jan. 29, 1688, in Uppsala. His father, Bishop Jesper Swedberg, was a professor at the University of Uppsala. The family name was changed in 1719 to Swedenborg when the family was ennobled. After studies at the University of Uppsala, where he concentrated on mathematics and astronomy, Swedenborg traveled for 5 years throughout Europe (1710-1714). After a 2-year period in which he engaged in scientific journalism, Swedenborg became assessor at the Royal College of Mines in 1716. For the next 30 years, Swedenborg's main work was concentrated in the Swedish metal-mining industry. His engineering skill earned him a wide reputation. From 1747 onward, he devoted most of his time to the acquisition of knowledge through traveling and observation and to the elaboration and publication of scientific and theological theories.

Throughout his career in mining, Swedenborg studied and wrote. In 1718 Swedenborg published the first Swedish work on algebra. In 1721 he issued a voluminous work in which he attempted to demonstrate the geometrical character of physics and chemistry. Swedenborg spent the next 13 years researching and writing a three-volume work on the nature of physics, Opera philosophica et mineralia, published at Leipzig in 1734. He conceived of the atom as a particle vortex, each particle being composed of its own inner motions. This theory approximated the electron-nucleus framework of the atom in modern physics. Swedenborg reasoned from a general principle of matter, in which he thought of the infinite as pure motion. He conceived of pure motion as a tendency to create, and any subsequent molding of creation became a complex of pure motion.

After the publication of his work on physics, Swedenborg's studies and researches focused on man as a physiological and anatomical whole and on man in his relationship to God. His new studies led to the publication of two works: Oeconomia regni animalis (1740-1741) and Regnum animale (1744-1745). Some of Swedenborg's physiological discoveries were important. He was among the first to discover the nature of cerebrospinal fluid. He identified the correspondence between particular parts of the body and certain motor regions of the cerebral cortex. His studies of the physiology of the blood, brain, lung, and heart led him to characterize correctly the relationship between these organs. He also attempted to describe the physiological basis for human perception and thus to find a way to define and describe man's soul.

After these studies Swedenborg devoted his energies to the philosophy of theology. Although not a theologian in the strict sense, he was an outstanding philosopher or theological speculator. Utilizing some basic Christian truths, Swedenborg elaborated—partly on a scientific basis, partly on a philosophical basis—a theory of God, of man, and of divine revelation and redemption. On the basis of these theorizings, the Church of the New Jerusalem was founded in 1784.

Swedenborg did not himself found any church or sect. Although his reputation has been established on his theological theories, his greatness as a scientist and philosopher of nature probably exceeds his greatness as a theological speculator. The basis of Swedenborg's speculations was his assumption that the infinite was an indivisible power, a personal god indivisible in essence or power or person. He rejected the traditional Christian teaching of the Trinity.

A systematic presentation of Swedenborg's theology appeared in 1771 entitled Vera Christiana religio. He viewed all things as created by divine love and according to divine wisdom. Each material thing corresponded to a "spiritual form." Swedenborg thus achieved a modified Neoplatonism: all effects in the material world have spiritual causes and therefore a divine purpose.

Swedenborg analyzed the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus in his Arcana coelestia (1749-1756), and Revelation in his Apocalypsis explicata (1785-1789), the latter published posthumously. He elaborated the purely philosophical aspect of his reasoning in three major works: De coelo et ejus mirabilibus, et de inferno (1758), Sapientia angelica de divino amore et de divina sapientia (1763), and Sapientia angelica de divina providentia (1764).

Swedenborg's theory of redemption rejected any notion that Jesus Christ was in himself a divine person, but it held that the inmost soul of Jesus was divine. This divine soul had taken on a human form from Mary, and Jesus' human nature had been glorified by his exemplary life. By resisting all the temptations and ills of the powers of darkness, Jesus had opened a way for divine life to flow into all mankind. Man had become free to know truth and to be able to obey its dictates. Human salvation lay in this knowledge and obedience.

Swedenborg defended his theological speculation by claiming it resulted from a divine call. He maintained that he had received special light from God. He also maintained that all of his exegetical and philosophical treatises constituted a new revelation from God. Mankind must live according to this revelation in order to usher in a new age of reason and truth.

Swedenborg died in London on March 29, 1772. In 1908 the Swedish government requested that his remains be transferred to Uppsala Cathedral.

Further Reading

Primary material is in Rudolph L. Tafel, ed., Documents concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel Swedenborg (3 vols., 1875-1877). Other studies include Signe Toksvig, Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic (1949); Cyriel S. Sigstedt, The Swedenborg Epic (1953); John H. Spalding, Introduction to Swedenborg's Religious Thought (1956); and George Trobridge, Swedenborg: Life and Teaching (4th ed. 1968).

Additional Sources

Dole, George F., A scientist explores spirit: a compact biography of Emanuel Swedenborg with key concepts of Swedenborg's theology, New York; West Chester, Pa.: Swendenborg Foundation, 1992.

Keller, Helen, Light in my darkness, West Chester, Pa.: Chrysalis Books, 1994.

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro, Swedenborg: buddha of the North, West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 1996.

Toksvig, Signe, Emanuel Swedenborg, scientist and mystic, New York, N.Y.: Swedenborg Foundation, 1983. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Emanuel Swedenborg." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Emanuel Swedenborg." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/emanuel-swedenborg

"Emanuel Swedenborg." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/emanuel-swedenborg

Swedenborg, Emanuel

Emanuel Swedenborg (swēd´ənbôrg; āmä´nōōĕl svā´dənbōrk´), 1688–1772, Swedish scientist, religious teacher, and mystic. His religious system, sometimes called Swedenborgianism, is largely incorporated in the Church of the New Jerusalem, founded some years after his death. His father was Bishop Swedberg, professor at Uppsala Univ. The name became Swedenborg when the family was ennobled (1719). Emanuel traveled extensively and was made (1716) assessor of the Royal College of Mines; his engineering skill made him widely known. He took active part in the proceedings of the house of nobles, where he showed himself an ardent reformer. A series of scientific works by him began to appear in 1734. The first, Principia, was an attempt to trace the system of the world philosophically. He studied almost every field of scientific investigation and wrote copiously, anticipating in many instances later discoveries and inventions. His studies of man in works on the animal kingdom, the human brain, and psychology were published before 1747, when he resigned his post and gave himself to the contemplation of spiritual matters, especially to the work of making clear to mankind the true inner doctrines of the divine Word as he claimed that they were revealed to him by direct insight into the spiritual world after "heaven was opened" to him in 1745. Visions and communication with spirits and angels helped prepare him to set forth the teachings of what he termed the New Church, the inauguration of which he believed to have taken place in 1757 with the second coming of Christ. He claimed to have received from the Lord himself the true sense of the Scriptures. His expositions of Genesis and Exodus were published as Arcana Coelestia (1749–56). Of the many works that followed, a number have been published in English, among them Heaven and Hell; Divine Love and Wisdom; True Christian Religion, stating fully his system of doctrine; and the Apocalypse Revealed. His writings have been translated into numerous other languages. It was not Swedenborg's intention to establish a new sect. In his mind the New Church might include members of any Christian churches. The latter part of his life he spent partly in London, partly in Amsterdam and Stockholm. In 1810 a society was founded for publishing Swedenborg's works in English. In Stockholm lithographed facsimiles of his manuscripts were issued in 1869–70, and an 18-volume edition of his writings was published between 1901 and 1916.

See R. F. Tafel, ed., Documents Concerning Swedenborg (1857–77); biographies by G. Trobridge (4th ed. 1968) and C. S. Sigstedt (1971); studies by H. A. Keller (1927, repr. 1972), I. Jonsson (tr. 1971), and R. Larsen et al., ed. (1988).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swedenborg-emanuel

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swedenborg-emanuel

Swedenborg, Emanuel

Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688–1772). Speculative religious reformer and visionary. A severe religious crisis in 1743–5, accompanied by increasing dreams and visions, made him turn his attention to religious matters; and when a vision of Jesus Christ resolved his crisis, he spent the rest of his life expounding his understanding of Christianity in Neoplatonic terms. Among many works, the 8-vol. Arcana Caelestia (Heavenly Secrets) and The True Christian Religion (1771) give vivid descriptions of his spiritual experiences. His followers, after his death, organized, in 1787, the New (Jerusalem) Church, though this is meant to complement, not supplant, existing Churches.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/swedenborg-emanuel

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/swedenborg-emanuel

Swedenborg, Emanuel

Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688–1772) Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, and mystic. In 1745, after a glittering scientific career in which he wrote many books (notably on metallurgy and metaphysics), Swedenborg gave up worldly learning to concentrate on religious affairs. His religious writings include Heavenly Arcana (1749–56), The New Jerusalem (1758), and True Christian Religion (1771). After his death, the Church of the New Jerusalem carried forward his theology.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swedenborg-emanuel

"Swedenborg, Emanuel." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swedenborg-emanuel