Who was Swedenborg?
Emanuel Swedenborg was born on 29th January 1688. His father was the court chaplain in Stockholm, and later became professor of theology at the University of Uppsala. His mother was Sara Behm, the daughter of a wealthy mineowner, and Swedenborg continued the family involvement in the mining industry by becoming an Assessor to the Board of Mines for most of his adult life. He studied mathematics and natural sciences at Uppsala and graduated when he was 21.
Travels for five years in Europe widened and extended his education, and on return to Stockholm, Swedenborg published several of his own inventions showing what a wide ranging, brilliant and ambitious imagination he had. They included a submarine, a magazine gun to fire sixty or seventy shots without reloading and a flying machine (although he recognised that there was no suitable means of propulsion available at that time).
Over the next twenty years, he published books and articles on a wide variety of topics including chemistry, metallurgy, the origin of the universe, inflation, and calculating longitude. In 1735, he turned his attention to physiology, and began a “search for the soul”. During this time he travelled widely in Europe, and published a series of books exploring new areas of physiology relevant to his search. In 1745, after a series of visions in which the Lord spoke directly to him, Swedenborg realised that the soul was not part of the physical body. Through the visions, the Lord commissioned him to document the inner, spiritual meaning contained in the Bible, a meaning that tells us about our spiritual development which Swedenborg called regeneration, and to describe the spiritual world – heaven and hell – for the benefit of the whole human race.
After three years of preparation, there began a mammoth writing task, lasting twenty seven years, during which Swedenborg wrote a whole series of theological books which set down in some detail spiritual principles which were soon to be adopted as the doctrines of a new Christian Church. Most of the books were published anonymously, at his own expense, in London or Amsterdam, thus involving him in more travel, which, in the 18th century was difficult, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous.
Emanuel Swedenborg died in London on 29th March 1772. He was buried in the Swedish Church in London, but in 1908 his remains were moved with ceremony to a final resting place in Uppsala Cathedral.
Details of his theological books can be found at the web site of the Swedenborg Society.
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