The Gist of Swedenborg by Emanuel Swedenborg


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Page 1

JULIAN K. SMYTH.




BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE


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
Swedish Parliament.

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.

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