Authors: Emanuel Swedenborg

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Swedish philosopher and theologian

Author Works


Opera philosophica et mineralia, 1734

Prodromus philosophiae ratiocinantis de infinito et causa finali creationis, 1734

Œconomia regni animalis, 1740-1741 (The Economy of the Animal Kingdom, 1846)

Regnum animale, 1744-1745 (The Animal Kingdom, 1843-1844)

Arcana coelestia quae in scriptura sacra seu verbo Domini sunt detecta, 1749-1756 (8 volumes; The Heavenly Arcana, 1951-1956)

De coelo et ejus mirabilibus et de inferno, 1758 (Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell, 1884; also known as Heaven and Hell)

De ultimo judicio, 1758 (The Last Judgment, 1788-1791)

Sapientia angelica de divino amore et de divina sapientia, 1763 (The Wisdom of Angels Concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, 1788; also known as The Divine Love and Wisdom)

Vera Christiana religio, 1771 (True Christian Religion, 1781)

Apocalypsis explicata, 1785-1789 (4 volumes; Apocalypse Explained, 1846-1847)


Emanuel Swedenborg (SWEED-uhn-bawrg) was born Emanuel Swedberg at Stockholm on January 29, 1688. His father was Dr. Jesper Swedberg, professor of theology at the University of Uppsala and Bishop of Skara who, raised to the rank of the nobility for services to the Swedish crown, later changed his name to Swedenborg. By Swedenborg’s own account, his childhood was unusual in that he spent much time in spiritual thought and in conversation with clergymen on matters of faith. He attended the University of Uppsala, taking his degree in 1709. He then traveled in England, Holland, France, and Germany before returning to Sweden in 1715. During his travels he studied wherever he went, and upon his return he entered Uppsala once again to study science and engineering. In 1716, Charles XII of Sweden, who had become a friend and admirer of Swedenborg, appointed him assessor on the Swedish board of mines, a post Swedenborg filled until 1747 (with some opposition between 1718 and 1723) and for which he received a salary for the rest of his life.{$I[AN]9810000365}{$I[A]Swedenborg, Emanuel}{$I[geo]SWEDEN;Swedenborg, Emanuel}{$I[tim]1688;Swedenborg, Emanuel}

By 1720 Swedenborg had published a volume of Latin verse and more than twenty treatises on scientific and mechanical subjects. The scientific works before 1721 were largely in Swedish, but the later writings, regardless of subject, were written in Latin and were mostly published outside Sweden. His first major work in philosophy and theology was the Principia, which was one volume in the three-volume Opera philosophica et mineralia published in 1734. In the same year he published Prodromus philosophiae ratiocinantis de infinito et causa finali creationis, a work dealing with the relations of the finite to the infinite and the body to the soul. During the next few years Swedenborg turned his attention to anatomy, hoping to find the seat of the soul. Two works on anatomy resulted from his studies. These works, to which little attention was paid, anticipated many modern physiological theories.

In addition to being a scientist, Swedenborg was a mystic. According to his report, he experienced God on three occasions between 1743 and 1745. During the third of these spiritual experiences Swedenborg, according to his own account, was called upon to reveal what he called the “Doctrine of the New Jerusalem.” He then turned his energies to religious inquiry, dividing his time among stays in Sweden, England, and Holland while he wrote works of biblical interpretation and oversaw their publication. Among the important books of this period was The Heavenly Arcana, an eight-volume work giving a revealed interpretation of the Bible, originally published anonymously. Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell describes the future of humankind after death. The Last Judgment tells of a mystical experience in which God revealed to Swedenborg a vision of doomsday. The last of many theological works from Swedenborg’s hand was True Christian Religion, in which he set forth his New Church doctrines. Although he did not found a sect or attempt to do so, later adherents to his doctrines formed a sect of their own, the New Jerusalem Church.

Swedenborg died on March 29, 1772, while on one of his visits to England. Temporarily buried in London, his body was later removed and interred in a place of honor in the cathedral at Uppsala. Many major artists and thinkers were influenced by Swedenborg, most notably William Blake but also Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jorge Luis Borges, and even Helen Keller. In 1989 active Swedenborgian groups comprised sixty thousand people worldwide.

BibliographyBenz, Ernst. Emanuel Swedenborg: Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason. West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 2002.Bishop, Paul. Synchronicity and Intellectual Intuition in Kant, Swedenborg, and Jung. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 2000.Brock, Erland J., et al., eds. Swedenborg and His Influence. Bryn Athen, Pa.: Academy of the New Church, 1988.Jonsson, Inge. Emanuel Swedenborg. New York: Twayne, 1971.Jonsson, Inge. Visionary Scientist: The Effects of Science and Philosophy on Swedenborg’s Cosmography. West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 1999.Lagercrantz, Olof. Epic of the Afterlife: A Literary Approach to Swedenborg. Translated by Anders Hallengren. West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 2002.Lamm, Martin. Emanuel Swedenborg: The Development of His Thought. Translated by Tomas Spiers and Anders Hallengren. West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 2000.Larsen, Robin, ed. Swedenborg: A Continuing Vision. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1988.Woofenden, William R. Swedenborg Researcher’s Manual: A Research Reference Manual for Writers of Academic Dissertations and For Other Scholars. Bryn Athen, Pa.: Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1988.
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