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Emanuel Swedenborg – Mystic or Misguided?

Emanuel Swedenborg  (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist who, after recovering from a psychological crisis, became a mystic claiming to speak on a regular basis with angelic, alien and demonic beings.

Although thought-provoking and laid out in an orderly manner, some of Swedenborg’s writings seem questionable.

Emanuel Swedenborg at age of 75, holding the manuscript of Apocalypsis Revelata (1766)

He writes, for instance, that spirits told him people lived in wooden buildings and tents on the planet Jupiter:

Their dwellings were also shown me. They are lowly dwellings constructed of wood; but within they are lined with bark or cork of a pale blue colour, and the walls and ceiling are spotted as with stars, to represent the heaven; for they are fond of picturing the visible heaven with its constellations in the interiors of their houses, the reason being that they believe the constellations to be the abodes of the angels. They have tents also, which are rounded off above and extended in length, spotted likewise within with stars on a blue ground. They retire into these in the day-time, to prevent their faces suffering from the heat of the sun. They bestow much care on the fashioning of these tents of theirs, and on keeping them clean. In them they also take their repasts.¹

Similarly, a spirit from the moon apparently told Swedenborg that the voices of that satellite’s inhabitants “made a loud thundering sound.”

With no atmosphere on the moon’s surface, necessary for sound waves and hence hearing, one wonders how this could be possible.

It’s easy to assume that Swedenborg’s accounts simply reflect the popular imagination of his day, suggesting that he was a quack, charlatan or, as some might put it today, mentally ill. But one could argue that some of the problems with his far-fetched claims arise from translation and interpretation, along with his human limitations inherent to living in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Swedenborgs Flying Machine (via Thomas Roche)

Swedenborg’s Flying Machine (via Thomas Roche)

Swedenborgians could argue, for instance, that the beings on the moon weren’t physical but composed of energy or spirit—likewise with regard to the apparent “sound” they made.

Whatever the truth may be, the psychiatrist Carl Jung notes that Swedenborg did have an accurate precognition of a great fire in Stockholm.

With regard to Christianity, Swedenborg’s work presents a novel and creative interpretation of that religion. He suggests that everything occurring in this life corresponds to a cosmic body, which he calls “The Universal Human.” And the different races of mankind apparently correspond to different regions of The Universal Human.

Likewise, Swedenborg says individual merits during Earthly life correspond to favorable afterlife regions in the cosmic body, such as the brain or the eye. But those who lead evil lives end up in undesirable, filth-ridden regions, such as the liver or intestines.

Swedenborg wrote copiously about demonic beings whose sole intent is to drain energy from the living, causing severe pain and distress.

With regard to the idea of the Trinity, Rev. Glenn “Mac” at GlennFrazier.com adds:

Since you mention Swedenborg, it might be worth pointing out that he explicitly spoke up against the idea of a trinity of persons. According to his theology (in, e.g., his book, True Christian Religion), Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son were not only one God, but also the one and only one person of God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the activity of that person, and not a seperate person in its own right. This is somewhat similar to Michael Servetus’ ideas expressed a good deal earlier in his “Errors of the Trinity”. Swedenborg’s idea of a trinity of essentials, rather than of persons, should not be confused with modalism—the idea of there being one God that at various times takes on different functions or modes in sequence. To Swedenborg, the Father was literally God’s soul, the Son his body, and the Spirit his influence/activity, not by analogy, but actually. » See in context

Swedenborg was not only interested in the inner life. Like other historical innovators, he tried to devise technological contraptions that would, in due time, appear in some other form, such as a flying machine (pictured 2nd image above).

Swedenborg’s work has been compiled, edited and commented on by the Swedenborg Foundation.

A student of Swedenborg’s works, Judah, adds:

A final thought: while I enjoy pondering the existence of life on other planets, I find it more enjoyable – and meaningful – to explore the ideas in Swedenborg’s writings that have to do with wisely loving my fellow human beings and our creator – the Divine Human. » See in context

Related » Aliens, Angels, Demons, Vampires

On the Web:

  • Rock and roll song dealing with Swedenborg’s ideas:

¹ Earths in our Solar System which are called Planets and Earths in the Starry Heaven: Their Inhabitants, and the Spirits and Angels there from things Heard and Seen from the Latin of Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedenborg Society, London: 1962, par 59.

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The Holy Trinity

Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...

Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Christian theology, the Holy Trinity refers to the belief that God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit form a co-equal and co-eternal mystical union.

Each of the three parts is defined as a person. It remains somewhat mysterious as to just what this means.¹ Are the persons really human in form? Or do created human beings resemble the three holy persons of the Trinity?

According to one interpretation of the view that created human beings resemble the three holy persons of the Trinity, some individuals predominantly act as God’s hands, others as God’s mind, others as God’s heart and so on. Biblical support for this idea is often cited in Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 10:17, and Collossians 3:15.

The notion of different types of people corresponding to different parts of the Divine Body is found in Emanuel Swedenborg‘s (1688-1772) The Universal Human and Soul-Body Interaction. Swedenborg believed he was further delineating the connection between earthly people and their heavenly counterparts. But it remains unclear whether Swedenborg’s vision was identical to other Christian beliefs.

The belief that different types of people correspond to different parts of the Divine Body is also fundamental to Hinduism, a religion which some scholars say has its own kind of Trinity, one quite different from the Christian Trinity. The Hindu Trinity consists of Brahma (Creator), Visnu (Preserver of the Universe) and Siva (Cosmic Destroyer).

But again, to contend that the Swedenborgian, Hindu and Christian Trinities are identical is a gross simplification.

Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire by Brian

Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire by Brian

The idea that the diversity of human beings resembles the Trinity raises important questions about the relationship between God and humanity. For most Christians it does not mean that God is humanity, and nothing more. Rather, the idea is that God, as Creator, is reflected by and present in humanity but still transcends the human condition.

The Christian Holy Trinity is often dismissed as a socio-historical construction, but those claiming to have been granted a vision of the Holy Trinity say that its mysterious character can only be fully comprehended through revelation. Most Christian saints who have experienced a vision of the Trinity say that theological formulas only point the way. True experience of the Trinity apparently unravels the mystery or, perhaps, clarifies it.

Rev. Glenn “Mac” at GlennFrazier.com adds:

Since you mention Swedenborg, it might be worth pointing out that he explicitly spoke up against the idea of a trinity of persons. According to his theology (in, e.g., his book, True Christian Religion), Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son were not only one God, but also the one and only one person of God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the activity of that person, and not a seperate person in its own right. This is somewhat similar to Michael Servetus’ ideas expressed a good deal earlier in his “Errors of the Trinity”. Swedenborg’s idea of a trinity of essentials, rather than of persons, should not be confused with modalism-the idea of there being one God that at various times takes on different functions or modes in sequence. To Swedenborg, the Father was literally God’s soul, the Son his body, and the Spirit his influence/activity, not by analogy, but actually.²

¹Wikipedia further outlines the standard theological wording, but it doesn’t really help much. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity

² https://earthpages.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/trinity-holy-trinity/#comments

Related Posts » Arius, Brahman, Faith, Holy Spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Logos, Monotheism