EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: SCIENTIST AND SPIRITUAL EXPLORER
In terms of intellectual stature and original, creative thinking, Swedenborg has been compared to Leonardo da Vinci. Yet, for the most part, the world remains in ignorance of the significant contribution made by this Swedish genius in so many fields of human endeavour, and of the veritable mine of enlightenment to be found in his esoteric writings, which give the blueprint for individual spiritual development and growth. These writings are known to have influenced the earliest anti-slavery movements and many of the great thinkers and religious leaders who have helped shape western culture during the past 200 years. These same writings largely inspired the establishment of infant education in Germany and England in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Whilst their impact has spread far and wide, it is has been largely forgotten that they were such a source of inspiration. Today, though, as the world enters a new era with a growing thirst for an understanding of the purpose of life and the working of the human psyche, there is a re-awakening of interest in, and appreciation of, the immensely valuable insights to be gained from the contents of Swedenborg's works. His name is becoming increasingly known.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1688, Emanuel was the third child of Lutheran Bishop Jesper Swedberg and his wife Sara. Endowed with a remarkable mind, he grew up to be one of Sweden's most illustrious men of science (see Scientific Achievements) . In an era when scientists were few and their enquiries limited, Swedenborg investigated the physical universe in many directions. He designed a number of useful inventions, made some remarkable discoveries and anticipated theories now accepted by modern science. He wrote some 33 scientific works embracing such widely differing subjects as metallurgy, mineralogy, physiology, mathematics, cosmology, and the structure and function of the brain. During this period of outstanding mental activity he worked in an important government position as a Royal Assessor of Mines contributing significantly to the revitalisation of his country's mines industry. He travelled extensively throughout Europe, taking notes everywhere on the latest scientific marvels, meeting the leading scholars of the day, always searching, wondering, probing the mysteries of life.
His stated purpose in pursuing a scientific career was to locate and understand the working of the human soul. He gradually realised that he was not going to achieve his objective, however, on reaching the boundaries of human knowledge. Rational deductions postulating the existence of the soul could not be proved. At 55, Swedenborg essentially relinquished government work and his scientific and anatomical research. Whilst continuing a normal, active life for a gentleman in his position, being a member of the Upper House of the Swedish Parliament, he began a detailed study of the Bible following a series of mystical experiences. It may sound extraordinary, but Swedenborg writing a year or so before his death in London in 1772, claimed that his spiritual faculties had been opened for 27 years enabling him to become a citizen of two worlds at the same time - this natural plane of which we are all conscious and the spiritual dimension of consciousness into which we fully enter when the physical body ceases to function. A scientist and philosopher, as he had been, trying to demonstrate the existence of the things of the spirit, Swedenborg was brought to see the answers he had tried to discover could only be known by revelation - from above and from within. He became a spiritual explorer. He also demonstrated psychic powers via a number of well-documented extraordinary incidents involving some well-known people of the day.
The profoundest questions about the existence of God, the creation of the world, our spiritual dimension, and the Divine government of the natural and spiritual worlds, are all discussed in one or other of the approximately thirty volumes which comprise Swedenborg's spiritual writings. He saw these things written by himself as a God-given response capable of satisfying the questioning and the probing of men and women in full possession of their rational and critical faculties. (see Swedenborg’s Spiritual Philosophy)
Two excellent websites having a great overview on Swedenborg's Life and Teachings are the Swedenborg Foundation and Wikipedia.