SWEDISH SEER, primarily a scientist, an authority on metallurgy, a mining and military engineer, a learned astronomer, reputed physicist, zoologist, anatomist, financier and political economist, also a profound Biblical student. He was the son of a Bishop, graduated at Upsala University and studied abroad under the most famous mathematicians and physicians - Sir Isaac Newton, Flamsteed, Halley and De Lahire. He made sketches of inventions as varied as a flying machine, a submarine, a rapid-fire gun, an air pump and a fire engine. He wrote many poems in Latin and when, after five years study he returned to Sweden, he was appointed Assessor of the Royal College of Mines. Originally known as Swedberg, nobility was bestowed upon him by Queen Ulrica, and he changed his name to Swedenborg. At the height of his scientific career he resigned his office to devote the rest of his life to the spreading of the spiritual enlightenment for which he believed himself to have been specially selected by God.
He showed signs of psychic power as a child. His ability to cease breathing for a considerable period probably means that he passed into the state of trance. He had gifts of clairvoyance. Kant investigated and found the story authentic that in Gothenburg he observed and reported a fire which was raging in Stockholm, 300 miles away. In his
Dreams of a Spirit Seer Kant narrates several supernormal experiences from Swedenborg's early life. His real illumination and intercourse with the spiritual world in visions and dreams began in April, 1744. In a conscious state he wandered in the spirit world and conversed with its inhabitants as freely as with living men. He was in a sense the first spiritualist. Those who went before him did not commune with the spirits of departed
people. Spirits were considered a different order of beings. The great principle of continuity was not known. It was he who bridged the gulf between life and death. But he could not completely break with theological tradition. He still distinguished between heaven and hell but not in the orthodox sense. Of mediumship he knew little. Spirits of kings, popes, saints, apostles and biblical personalities were his instructors. Of spirit identity we have but a dozen evidential cases in his writings.
His descriptions of the spirit world fall in the main into two classes: experimental writings and dogmatic writings. His accounts of what he saw and felt in the spirit world agree fundamentally with present day spirit teachings, but his theologic writings which led to the establishment of the New Church and Swedenborgianism are not only too involved but appear to be arbitrary and, though attributed to spirit instruction, suggest a subconscious elaboration of his preconceived ideas.
Spiritualism owes much to Swedenborg. He was the first to explain that death means no immediate change, that the spirit world is a counterpart of this world below, that it is ruled by laws which ensure definite progress and that our conditions in the Beyond are determined by the life we live here.
His best-known books are Apocalypse Revealed, Apocalypse
Explained, The Arcana Celestia, Heaven and Hell,
Intercourse Between the Soul and the Body, The True Christian
Religion, Canons of the New Church, The Last
Judgment, Conjugal Love, Divine Love and Wisdom,
Divine Providence, The Four Doctrines, Miscellaneous Theological
Work and Posthumous Theological Works.
(with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic
Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).