History

The Swedenborg movement in Australia reaches right back to the days of the beginnings of white settlement. In fact, it perhaps goes back further in that Captain James Cook (then Lieutenant), prior to leaving Plymouth in 1768 in his search of southern oceans spent his last three days with a friend, William Cookworthy, an ardent student, translator and promoter of Swedenborg’s spiritual teachings. It is almost inconceivable that they would not have discussed these new ideas.

We know that an assortment of Swedenborg’s books in English were carried with the First Fleet on leaving England in 1787 as a gift to the new colony. They were entrusted to a Swedenborgian convert, Assistant Surgeon John Lowes. Letters back to England by himself and others substantiate they were distributed amongst the crew and prisoners who could read and generally well received – except by the Chaplain who was much opposed. What happened to those volumes remains an unanswered question.

The first immigrant committed to Swedenborg’s spiritual writings was a Thomas Morse, who arrived in 1832. Other Swedenborgian immigrants followed, including Jacob Pitman – brother of Sir Isaac Pitman who introduced the shorthand technique in Britain – and over the years groups of people formed together either for worship, discussion of the concepts found in Swedenborg’s books, or both.

In 1959, a bequest from the estate of homoeopath Dr. William Moore, Sydney, enabled a considerable expansion of activities to make Swedenborg’s books more readily available to people – especially in country areas as specified by the bequest – and to promote interest in them. The Swedenborg Centre was established in the 1960’s with branches in most of the other capital cities to spearhead this work, which continues unabated today using a range of avenues. Over the years, this has resulted in many people from different backgrounds and walks of life 'discovering' the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg and finding within them a source of wisdom to help answer their spiritual needs in this increasingly challenging and complex age. The donation of books to public and institutional libraries on a regular basis remains a central focus of its work.

The Swedenborg Association of Australia was incorporated in 1992 under the Australian Companies Code, as a non-profit autonomous company, to serve the wider interests that individuals have in Emanuel Swedenborg the man, the scientist, the philosopher, the influence of his thought and particularly the invaluable insights in the theological writings that he penned. It provides a unique avenue for anyone in Australia, for whatever reason and from whatever background, to take up membership and join with other, similar minded, people to become involved in making Emanuel Swedenborg and his great contribution to the world more widely known and understood. In 2002, by mutual agreement of the controlling parties of both operations, the activities of the Swedenborg Centre and the Swedenborg Association now go hand-in-hand under the name of the Swedenborg Association of Australia bringing benefits and savings for all concerned.