Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)


Bibliographical Notice

Emmanuel Swedenborg was first a scientist, then an anatomist, a theologian and finally a theosopher. His recognition by the world in general has followed a similar pattern. His contemporaries saw him as a genius in science and invention,but it was not until much later that anatomists began to appreciate his contributions to the study of the human body. Swedenborg’s achievements in the province of religion are not yet well known, as they are most of the time overshadowed by controversy. He has always been recognized as a theosopher, but opinions as to his importance in this field have varied sharply.

Attention was focused onSwedenborg in 1908 when the Swedish government sent a cruiser to England to bring home his mortal remains from the little Swedish church in London – where they had lain since 1772 – and later when a sarcophagus of native red granite was provided to enshrine them in the cathedral church of Upsala, making of him the first and only original theosopher to receive recognition both from the religious and civil authorities of his native country.

The 18th century had just emerged from the mysticism and metaphysics of the preceding one. It had accumulated enough scientific data to upset the thinking of the learned men and to raise doubts in the minds of the unlearned. Few men, at the time, could even have dreamed that the great question of our twentieth century would be the apocalyptic query : Shall we survive our own inventiveness?

During the first part of Swedenborg’s life he labored to accumulate scientific evidence to answer the question of the credibility of the Christian Scriptures by rational argumentation. He studied the rocks and the soil of his native land to prove the existence of the Noachicflood, and while doing so, he incidentally made observations that anticipated the modern science of geology. Turning to philosophy, he sought to establish a theory of the universe based on laws, where precise weights, masses and motions had their place, but whereinroom was left for an unseen spiritual world and Infinite Cause. In the course of his investigations, he anticipated Lavoisier in physics and Kant and Laplace in cosmology. But that was merely a by-product of his efforts to establish a universe wherein God was present. Before Dalton, he described something that closely resembled the atomic structure of matter; before Young and Faraday, he described the vibratory nature of light and even the equivalent of radioactivity, but only as a result of his attempt to explain the workings of the universe. When, in his study of anatomy, Swedenborg preceded modern researchers in describing the functions of the brain and in highlighting the importance of the endocrine glands, his aim was only tofind a support for the soul.

It was while working on the “Index for the books of Isaiah and Genesis” in his small two room apartment in the Kalverstraat, Amsterdam (Holland), that he made a significant note which has been taken to indicate theexact time at which dawned upon him a distinctly deeper view of the nature of the Divine World, leading him to abandon his former work and to begin something entirely new, along very different lines: “1747, August 7, old style. There was a change of state in me into the heavenly kingdom, in an image. ” Nothing better illustrates the change that had taken place in Swedenborg’s mind at the time, than his change of vocabulary and terminology. Most of the expressions employed in his previous works were taken from the orthodox theology and embodied the dogmas of the Lutheran Church, in which he had been raised. No longer is there hesitation or doubt as to the meaning of the words, as to their correspondences, as to whether this or that should be included in the text; no longer is there adherence to orthodox theological terminology: it was a statement of that new doctrine out of which Swedenborg considered it his mission to lead men.

The spiritual adventures that Swedenborg experienced, were of a nature hardly conceivable in our normal consciousness. They require courage, but a courage of a different kind of the one expected for normal, physical adventures. Here was a man well born, endowed with genius, a man for whom the doors of the political world, as well as the learned world of science stood open, with the promise of fame. Swedenborg choose to risk it all on a career that could bring him little, but scorn from his contemporaries, persecution from the orthodox clergy and enmity from his relatives who saw him squandering his time and means on publishing books that nobody read. This risk, however, was nothing compared to another danger: the danger of communicating with the Invisible, of establishing a relationship with the world of the spirits, some of them waiting to rush in upon him and destroy his body and soul. Swedenborg was aware of the danger. His sublime confidence, his complete childlike trust in the Lord’s protection, was the heart of his courage. He suffered excruciating pains of soul and body to bring down to earth, as he firmly believed, information of inestimable spiritual worth. His dangerous mission required courage of a very special order. In his treatise on thesoul, he gives a definition of courage that is suitable to describe his own:

“Genuine courage is never united to the love of self, but is the inseparable companion of the love for the many, thus of society  the most despicable and the lowest of all mortals is he who fears nothing for the Truth, for sacred things, for heaven and the Deity, but only for himself


Swedenborg’s Theosophy

1) Cosmogony

A) Genesis

  • The INFINITE generates a conatus in motion and forms, that are the First Natural Points of pure and total From these arise:
  • the First Finites, vortical forms of motion which may conbine into:
  • the Second Finites. First and second finites in intense activityform “solar spaces”
  • the Third Finites form a primitive sphere about the sun, but are absorbed to compose the Second Element.
  • the Fourth Finites encrust the sun and later, by centrifugal force, collect around its equator to be flung off as planetary
  • the Fifth Finites are formed at the surface of the planets. Their activity is the cause of combustion.
  • the Sixth Finites are “hard” fluid particles, which in turn may break down to form salts and various

B.   Composition

  • 1) A First Element or universal aura arises to form a vortex around each solar· space. Its components areactive volumes of First Finites enclosed by passive Second Around the sun its components are compressed to form the Third Finites.
  • 2) A Second Element, or magnetic aura , forms a wide solar Its units are active volumes of First and Second Finites, which may be compressed to form the Fourth Finites.
  • 3) A Third Element, or terrestrial ether, develops around the Its components have an active nucleusmade of the First Elementaries and a passive envelope made of the Fourth Finites. Its components may becondensed into the Fifth Finites.
  • 4) A Fourth Element, or Air, is formed from active Second Elementaries and passive Fifth Finites. By compression its components may form the Sixth Finites.


2) The Universal Brotherhood and the return to Unity

As we have seen, for Swedenborg, the creation is the work of the spiritual Sun, emanated from God. The universe contains within itself the divine image. Man is the origin of the Dark aspect in creation, as he moved away from God to exercise his own independant will. The Fall of man appears as a progressive degradation of the human race, confused by the senses. In the spiritual world, every human being will finally, as the image of the creator, show his real inner appearance and reveal its true nature. The real work of Regeneration or Reintegration consists in the abandonment of  our own independent  will and into the submission  to  the  Divine Plan as an instrument in His Hand. For Swedenborg, the secret of  the divine manifestation  or  Theophany  is: “that the Lord appears to every one under a form corresponding to every one’s capability to see .” He describes this Brotherhood of Men as the New Church: the inner communion of those seeking the Truth.


3) The Latent Faculties in Men

 Evidence exists of Swedenborg’sunusual faculties. He could see in the future and report facts occurring at great distance, with a high degree of accuracy. During the great fire of Stockholm, Swedenborg was visiting friends in Goteborg. He became restless and began to describe the fire with great details. A little later, he appeared relieved and said: “The fire stopped three doors from my house”. All his descriptions pertinent to the fire appeared to be true. Countless stories report that he could read the thoughts and the intentions of others. He was mainly knownfor his visions of the invisible. According to him, those special faculties were the result of the training of the will of man, the conduct of a regular life, the development of an open mind and the submission of the individual to the Divine Plan.





Opera Poetica – Upsala, 1910 (Ms. 1700-1740) Camena Borea – Greifswalde, 1715

Daedalus Hyperboreus – Upsala, 1716

Motion and Position of the Earth and the Planets – Skara, 1719 Height of Water – Upsala, 1719

Prodromus Principiorum Rerum Naturalium – Amsterdam, 1721 Miscellaneous Observations- Leipzig, 1721

Philosophical and Mineralogical Works – Dresden & Leipzig, 1734 On the Infinite – Dresden & Leipzig, 1734

De Cerebro – Philadelphia, 1938-1940 (Ms. 1739-1740)

Occonomia Regni Animalis -London & Amsterdam, 1740-1741 The Fibre – Philadelphia, 1918 (Ms. 1741)

The Rational Psychology – Bryn Athym, 1950 (Ms. 1742) The Brain – London 1882 (Ms. 1743)

The Animal Kingdom, Part I & II – The Hague, 1744 The Animal Kingdom, Part III – London, 1745

The Animal Kingdom, Part IV & V – Philadelphia, 1912 Worship and Love of God – London, 1745

The World Explained (Ms. Adversaria) – 1746-1747 The Spiritual Diary (Ms. Memorabilia) – 1747-1765 Arcana Coelesta – London, 1749-1765

Earths in the Universe – London, 1758 Heaven and Hell – London, 1757

The Last Judgment – London, 1758

The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrines – London, 1758 The White Horse of the Apocalypse – London, 1758

The Apocalypse Explained (Ms. 1759) The Athanasian Creed (Ms. 1760)

The Internal Sense of the Prophets and Psalms (Ms. 1761) The Four Doctrines – Amsterdam, 1763

Continuation of the Last Judgment – Amsterdam, 1763 Divine Love and Wisdom – Amsterdam, 1763Divine Providence – Amsterdam, 1764 Apocalypse Revealed – Amsterdam, 1766 Conjugial Love – Amsterdam, 1768

A Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church – Amsterdam, 1769 Intercourse of Soul and Body – London, 1769

The True Christian Religion – Amsterdam, 1771