[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column bg_color=”hsl(0, 10%, 89%)” fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Emanuel Swedenborg (1688- 1772)
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688- 1772) was born in Stockholm, Sweden from the age of eleven he was educated at the University of Uppsala, where he studied medicine, astronomy, mathematics, natural sciences, Latin and Greek.
Early influences included Rene Descartes (1596-1650), Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) and Christian Wolff (1679-1754).
As a young man, he became renowned for his mechanical inventions, and has since been compared with Leonardo da Vinci.
In the physical sciences his achievements were considerable.
He speculated about the nature of matter and the universe and anticipated the cosmology later formulated by Immanuel Kant and Pierre Simon. He also published a theoretical book on the physical sciences’
In the mid-1740s, however, Swedenborg’s life took a new direction. Turning from his outward journey, he embarked on an inward journey. at the outset, he underwent a transitional period in which he experienced very lucid dreams, this phase of Swedenborg’s life culminated in a vision of Christ in a London inn (1745).
He came to believe that God was using him as an instrument to interpret the Bible. To Swedenborg himself that was the most important part of his work.
He embarked on a huge work of biblical exegesis, a massive verse-by-verse commentary on the first books of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus, explaining the ‘inner’ or ‘spiritual’ meaning of these ancient texts.
He explored the idea that the Old Testament was symbolic, not literal. In his theological books, written over a period of more than twenty years and culminating in his work of ‘universal theology’, The True Christian Religion (1771), Swedenborg assumed the role of the prophet of a ‘new age’ of enlightened Christianity, although he never attempted to found a new religious denomination.
God is manifested to humans as the Lord Jesus Christ, the ‘Divine Human’, and so his theology is essentially Christ-centred. God, who is love itself, condemns no one to hell.
‘Heaven’ and ‘hell’ are self-chosen states of consciousness, both in this life and the next.
Acknowledging the Divine in some form and a life of love, or charity, towards the ‘neighbour’ are the means of salvation, not adherence to rigid creeds. Although an 18th-century Protestant, Swedenborg was, in effect, one of the first ecumenical Christians, living in an age when that term had not been invented.
In his best-known work, Heaven and Hell (1758), Swedenborg gave an account of a next world that resembles this one. The spiritual world is the foundation for the natural world and without it our world could not subsist.
He describes this world as one of ‘states’ of consciousness where time and space as we know them do not exist, but he describes a world where spirits eat, sleep, talk, read books, work and make love, just as humans do here, although clothed in a ‘spiritual’, not a natural, body.
Heaven and Hell is a book that has brought great comfort to many over the last 250 years. Some have seen Swedenborg as the ‘father’ of spiritualism, although he himself believed he had been granted special gifts by God which were not to be used for trivial purposes and were not available to everybody.
Others have dismissed Swedenborg as an inventor of pretty fairy tales.
Two and a half centuries on, we can compare Swedenborg’s experiences with accounts given by spiritualists and with the evidence collated over the last thirty odd years of ‘near-death experiences’; There is a remarkable consistency between these accounts and what Swedenborg wrote in Heaven and Hell and other works.
Those reporting near-death experiences tell of benign feelings of light, gentleness, peace and love, even of being welcomed by deceased relatives and friends.
All this you will find in Swedenborg. Especially moving is his description of the newly arrived soul, being awakened in the spirit world by two ‘celestial’ angels, beings who represent love.
Heaven and Hell bears some comparison with the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Swedenborg appears to have perfected special breathing techniques which enabled him to achieve ‘hypnagogic’ states.
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