Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who is Emanuel Swedenborg?

Who is Emanuel Swedenborg? We just held the 18th Mystical Art and Talent Show for the 9th year in a row at a 109 year old gothic chapel founded in his name, it might be nice to know. Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a genius Swedish scientist and engineer turned religious philosopher who has been a favorite of artists and mystics for centuries; D. T. Suzuki famously called him the Buddha of the North, Ralph Waldo Emerson listed him among the 50 great men of history, and Carl Jung closely studied his works. Not many know that Swedenborg was one of the two master spirit guides, the other being the Roman physician Galen, who tutored the founder of Spiritualism, Andrew Jackson Davis, in the early 19th century in the Catskills of New York State to prepare for the arrival of modern spirit communication.

The Cambridge Swedenborg chapel in particular is in the neighborhood of many such as William James, who wrote the "Varieties of Religious Experience" in 1902 and whose father was a huge Swedenborg fan. The chapel was visited and blessed by the Dalai Lama more recently for providing a home for the ceremonies and classes of Tibetan refugees for many years before such things were cool. We hold our own events there because we were invited to by Spirit for reasons that become delightfully obvious with a little investigation. I am enormously grateful to Swedenborg's presence and impact which continues to shape the coming utopia of this golden planet, which I call the New Earth and he called the New Jerusalem.

Here's a nice podcast I came across summarizing Swedenborg's amazing life and contributions ahead of his time to both the hard sciences and advanced spirituality. If you get into Swedenborg's writings, they are enormously poetic and wise in the language of his time. Many volumes comment directly on Biblical symbolism, "Heaven and Hell" gives a wonderful overview of the cosmic order, "Other Earths in the Universe" (or similarly translated title) is a spirit tour of other planets as their peoples relate to humanity's place in the universe, and "The Dream Journal" is Swedenborg's bravely honest diary from the year 1744 in which he turned his scientific mind to his dreams to find angels and ascended masters guiding him to his own second coming, which he saw as the personal angelic transformation which everyone will enjoy sooner or later. Swedenborg's spiritual eyes were opened so that he might function equally in both the material and energetic worlds, he was a great shaman in the most wonderful and classic sense.

Podcast on Emanual Swedenborg in the series Stuff you Missed in History Class:

And if you want to attend the church, what is a Swedenoborgian service like? Kind of like a cross between Unitarian and Episcopalian perhaps, in other words a structured traditional Christian ritual with very open-minded references to wide-ranging spiritual philosophies, plus very good music. Wonderful open-hearted free-thinking people go there for various personal reasons and you will be most welcome too. So if you can just expect it to not be New Agey or Spiritualist or whatever, it is its own lovely experience, then you may well enjoy more value on your own path, particularly if like myself you have strangely fond childhood memories of relating to church like no one else and wishing someday to revisit a more mystical and less judgmental version of Christianity.



Doug Webber said...

Unfortunately, hard to find a Swedenborgian or New Church close by, so I often have to compromise attending other churches. With Swedenborg, you will find answers to issues that often pop up in New Age philosophy. For example, concerning reincarnation, Swedenborg states that that belief originates from memories received from similar spirits in your "group soul". The soul is created at conception, and you only live once. Once you die, you are then perfected to eternity, depending on how you lived in this earthly life.

Carl J. Schroeder said...

Thanks Doug, and good for you to find a lot of answers with Swedenborg, his light is brilliant for many things! Personally I also see him as the product of his times, so his view is limited on a few topics that were too far beyond his society to handle anyway. He didn't understand reincarnation beyond the perspective of one life, because it's perfectly valid to focus on one life at a time and leave the rest to a soul group generally surrounding us. I don't think he understood things like animal souls or homosexuality very well either. But he was never too judgmental even when he was limited, which is good, so he goes very well with a grain of salt! He also wasn't encouraged by God to teach what he did, as he definitely said do not try this at home, which is the prevailing attitude among Swedenborgians today. That's why I believe that he reincarnated as the near look-alike Stanislav Grof, whose soul mission was to experiment with altered states until he could perfect breathwork techniques safe for anyone to explore the other worlds and gain wisdom for themselves. Swedenborg said he learned breathing exercises from Eastern spirits to enable his sustained voyages into other realms, and Grof emigrated from Czechoslovakia, so how's that for karmic closure!