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The reason for a compilation such as is
here presented should be obvious. Swedenborg's
theological writings comprise some
thirty or more substantial volumes, the result
of the most concentrated labor extending over
a period of twenty-seven years. To study these
writings in their whole extent, to see them in
their minute unfoldment out of the Word of
God, is a work of years. It is doubtful if there
is a phase of man's religious experience for
which an interpretation is not here to be found.
Notwithstanding this immense sweep of doctrine
there are certain vital, fundamental truths
on which it all rests: -- the Christ-God, Man a
spiritual being, the warfare of Regeneration,
Marriage, the Sacred Scriptures, the Life of
Charity and Faith, the Divine Providence,
Death and the Future Life, the Church. We
have endeavored to press within the small
compass of this book passages which give
the gist of Swedenborg's teachings on
The compilers would gladly have made
room for the interpretative and philosophical
teachings which contribute so much to the
content and form of Swedenborg's theology;
but they have confined their effort to setting
forth briefly and clearly the positive spiritual
teachings, where these seemed most packed
with religious meaning and moment.
The translation of the passages here
brought together has been carefully revised.
JULIAN K. SMYTH.
Emanuel Swedenborg was born at Stockholm,
January 29, 1688.
A devout home (the father was a Lutheran
clergyman, and afterwards Bishop of
Skara) stimulated in the boy the nature which
was to become so active in his culminating
life-work. A university education at Upsala,
however, and studies for five years in England,
France, Holland and Germany, brought other
interests into play first. The earliest of these
were mathematics and astronomy, in the pursuit
of which he met Flamsteed and Halley.
His gift for the detection and practical employment
of general laws soon carried him
much farther afield in the sciences. Metallurgy,
geology, a varied field of invention,
chemistry, as well as his duties as an Assessor
on the Board of Mines and of a legislator in
the Diet, all engaged him, with an immediate
outcome in his work, and often with results in
contributions to human knowledge which are
gaining recognition only now. The Principia and two companion volumes, dedicated to his
patron, the Duke of Brunswick, crowned his
versatile productions in the physical sciences.
Academies of science, at home and abroad,
were electing him to membership.
Conspicuous in Swedenborg's thought all
along was the premise that there is a God and
the presupposition of that whole element in
life which we call the spiritual. As he pushed
his studies into the fields of physiology and
psychology, this premised realm of the spirit
became the express goal of his researches.
Some of his most valuable and most startling
discoveries came in these fields. Outstanding
are a work on The Brain and two on the Animal Kingdom (kingdom of the anima, or
soul). As his gaze sought the soul, however,
in the light in which he had more and more
successfully beheld all his subjects for fifty-five
years, she eluded direct knowledge. He was
increasingly baffled, until a new light broke in
on him. Then he was borne along, in a profound
humiliation of his intellectual ambitions,
by another way. For when the new
light steadied, he had undergone a personal
religious experience, the rich journals of
which he himself never published. But what
was of public concern, his consciousness was
opened into the world of the spirit, so that he
could observe its facts and laws as, for so long,
he had observed those of the material world,
and in its own world could receive a revelation
of the doctrines of man's spiritual life.
It was now, for the first time, too, that
he gave a deep consideration to the condition
of the Christian Church, revealed in otherworld
judgment to be one of spiritual devastation
and impotency. To serve in the
revelation of "doctrine for a New Church"
became his Divinely appointed work. He
forwent his reputation as a man of science,
gave up his assessorship, cleared his desk of
everything but the Scriptures. He beheld in
the Word of God a spiritual meaning, as he
did a spiritual world in the world of phenomena.
In revealing both of these the Lord,
he said, made His Second Coming. For the
rest of his long life Swedenborg gave himself
with unremitting labor but with a saving calm
to this commanding cause, publishing his great
Latin volumes of Scripture interpretation and
of theological teaching at Amsterdam or London,
at first anonymously, and distributing
them to clergy and universities. The titles of
his principal theological works appear in the
following compilation from them. Upon his
death-bed this herald of a new day for Christianity
solemnly affirmed the reality of his
experience and the reception by him of his
teaching from the Lord.
Swedenborg died in London, March 29,
1772. In 1908 his remains were removed
from the Swedish Church in that city to
the cathedral at Upsala, where they lie in
a monument erected to his memory by the
WILLIAM F. WUNSCH.
Documents Concerning the Life and Character of Swedenborg (3 vols.) 1875-1877, R.L. Tafel, is the main collection of biographical
material; The Life and Mission of Emanuel Swedenborg,
1883, Benjamin Worcester, and Emanuel Swedenborg, His Life,
Teachings and Influence, 1907, George Trobridge, are two of the
better known biographies.
Links to Additional Media for Spirit of Swedenborg by Emanuel Swedenborg such as audio and ebooks are located at the bottom of this web page.