The New Church draws on the spiritual philosophy that is given to us in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a remarkable mystic, Christian theologian and author who was born in 1688. Our Church organisation began about 250 years ago with a small number of people who shared a strong love for Swedenborg’s writings. But since then there have been many others who, whilst not joining the organised New Church, have found this philosophy very inspiring and profoundly significant.
Swedenborg himself did not set out to start a church, believing rather that the philosophy contained within his writings would affect the religious ideas of his day for the better.
Emanuel Swedenborg started out with a strong scientific interest. It was the time of the Age of Reason of the early eighteenth century when new ideas proliferated. Swedenborg possessed an awesome intellect, which served him when he turned his interest from the natural sciences to philosophy, and finally the mystical and spiritual areas of life.
Throughout his life he sought to understand the nature of all things and had developed exercises in meditation and breathing. These allowed him to go within to discern and explore truths about life. In mid-life, at the age of fifty five, he went through a two year personal change, during which he recorded and interpreted his frequent dreams. Finally he experienced visions of the Lord Jesus Christ along with a sense of deep peace and profound faith.
From this point onwards he wrote exclusively on spiritual matters, and his conscious mind was completely opened up to the dimension of the spiritual – a world where he met and communicated with angels and other such beings. At the same time he continued to live a practical and active life on the level of the outer natural world. He contributed much to the progress and prosperity of his native Sweden.
The main subjects that are dealt with in his books are the afterlife, the symbolism of the Bible, the nature of the Divine, or God, Christian theology, spiritual growth, and the complementary differences between the two sexes. His books are a vast field of exploration in which true religion is revealed to be a rich understanding of life on both the personal and the universal levels. He died in London in 1772 at the age of eighty four, a quiet and well-thought of person whose sincerity spoke for itself. Many people in the last two centuries, including some very well-known figures, have paid tribute to Swedenborg, to his writings, and to the insights found within these pages.
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Here are some of their acknowledgments to him and the message that he had to deliver:
“Swedenborg’s visions are worthy of the attention of painters and poets they are the foundation for grand things.”
“Swedenborg had the sanest and most far-reaching intellect this age has ever known.”
Henry James Snr.
‘I acknowledge my profound indebtedness to Swedenborg for a richer interpretation of the Bible, a deeper understanding of Christianity, and a precious sense of the Divine presence in the world.”
“Swedenborg that mountain peak of mentality.”
Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle
‘I admire Swedenborg as a great scientist and a great mystic at the same time. His life and work have always been of great interest to me!’
Carl Gustav Jung
‘It must be acknowledged that there is something very beautiful and healthy about the Swedenborg religion.”
“Swedenborg’s writings have a sphere of consistent sincerity and honesty. He combined a genius for science and religion with such a high level of congruity as one cannot even fathom.”
D T Suzuki, Zen Writer