Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm Sweden in 1688. As the son of Jesper Swedberg, who was a clergyman and professor of theology, Swedenborg grew up in a household filled with moral, political, intellectual, and philosophical dialogue. At age twenty-two, after taking his formal education at Uppsala University, he began to travel. While in England and Holland, he immersed himself in physics, astronomy, mathematics, anatomy, physiology, economics, metallurgy, mineralogy, geology, chemistry, even lens grinding, watch making, and bookbinding.
During this time of travel and scholarship, Swedenborg began a career of public service. In 1716, the King of Sweden appointed young Swedenborg as Extraordinary Assessor in the Royal College of Mines. Two years later, Swedenborg took a seat in the House of Nobles, where he would serve the Swedish government for the next fifty years. The king, impressed with Swedenborg's contributions as editor of Daedalus (a periodical dedicated to the discussion of natural sciences) asked Swedenborg to serve as his engineering advisor. In that capacity, Swedenborg devised numerous feats of engineering, including the plan and design of a submarine, an airplane, a steam engine, and a slow-combustion stove.
Befitting a man of his intellectual strength and fervor, Swedenborg published books on a vast number of subjects, making extraordinary advances in metallurgy and biology. Especially impressive is the work he did in connection with the nervous system; he is generally credited with being the first to understand the significance of the cerebral cortex and the respiratory movement of the brain tissues.
As a philosopher, however, Swedenborg wasn't satisfied with a purely physical approach to studying humanity and the universe. He wanted to comprehend more fully the nature of the soul, and to develop a new, more accurate cosmology. Based upon his conviction that underlying all matter in the universe is divine force, he wrote of the relationship between matter and energy, between the finite and the infinite, and between God and humanity.
Over several years, from 1743 to 1745, Swedenborg felt called by the Lord to publish the deeper meaning contained within the Bible. He left his scientific work and devoted himself to studying the Word intensely and in the original languages, using the Bible itself to uncover what he believed to be a deeper meaning.
Swedenborg published his first work, Secrets of Heaven, in twelve volumes between 1749 and 1756. This work explained the deeper meaning in Genesis and Exodus, and by cross-referencing, much of the remainder of the Bible. He then turned to other subjects, writing such works as Heaven and Hell, Divine Love and Wisdom, Divine Providence, The Apocalypse Revealed & Explained, Married Love, and finally, True Christianity. He published this last work the year before his death in 1772.
During all of this time, and for the remainder of his life, Swedenborg remained active in the world, taking part in political discussions in the Swedish House of Lords, and writing on diverse topics such as Sweden's monetary policy and how to inlay marble tables.
Since his death, Swedenborg’s writings have affected many people, both directly and indirectly. The universal theology put forth in his works has contributed to the advancement of religious thought throughout the world—from Christianity to Buddhism—and it has inspired many great persons, among whom are the following: Calvin Coolidge, Helen Keller, Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, Henry James Sr., William Butler Yeats, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jorge Luis Borges, Honoré de Balzac, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Carlyle, Walter M. Horton, and Hiram Powers. Click here to read what these people have said about Swedenborg.
*Contributing authors: Grant Schnarr, Mac Frazier, Sasha Silverman, John Odhner, Mark Pendleton