to Modern Spiritualism:
Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis
Conan Doyle, in his classic The History of Spiritualism,
made the following comments concerning the Swedish seer, Emanuel
the first rays of the rising sun of spiritual knowledge fell
upon the earth, they illuminated the greatest human mind before
they shed their light on lesser men. That mountain peak of mentality
was this great religious reformer and clairvoyant medium, as
little understood by his own followers as ever the Christ has
order fully to understand Swedenborg one would need to have
a Swedenborg brain, and that is not met with once in a century."
Emanuel Swedenborg was, truly, one of Europe's great minds; and
it is to this that we can attribute the success of his mission
as a teacher and philosopher of the Spirit. At that time, Spirit
needed a vehicle to help lay the groundwork for what was to follow.
Spirit needed a channel who would be respected amongst the world's
great minds. Spirit needed a vehicle through whom they could open
the eyes of men and women to the realities of spiritual communion
and communication, without creating a cultural or theological
Emanuel Swedenborg was that vehicle. He was an expert in mine
engineering, metallurgy, astronomy, physics, zoology, anatomy,
and political economics. He was, also, a military engineer under
the reign of Charles XII. Above and beyond this vista of intellectual
accomplishments, Swedenborg was best known as an astute Biblical
The son of a strict Lutheran minister, Swedenborg grew up in an
atmosphere full of religion and the Bible. As we shall see, this
affected his outlook on spiritual matters, as well as the content
of his later revelations. Yet, in many ways, he was so nontraditional
with respect to his theology that it frightened many of his peers.
Briefly, Swedenborg's theology encompasses the following concepts:
Bible is the Word of God; however, its true meaning differs
greatly from its obvious meaning. Furthermore, he and only
he, via the help of Angels, was in the position to shed
light upon the true meaning and message of the Scriptures.
believed that the world of matter is a laboratory for the
soul, where the material is used to "force-refine" the spiritual.
many ways, Swedenborg was quite universal in his concepts,
for he believed that all religious systems have their divine
duty and purpose and that this is not the sole virtue of
believed that the mission of the Church is absolutely necessary
inasmuch as, left to his or her own devices, humanity simply cannot
work out its relationship to God.
saw the real power of Christ's life in the example it gave
to others and vehemently rejected the concept of Christian
atonement and original sin.
The Seer and Medium
Swedenborg's psychic faculties were quite evident as a child;
but, as adolescence approached, they were put aside and room was
made for more practical pursuits. As time passed on, however,
the unfoldment of his inevitable mission as a forerunner to Modern
Spiritualism could not be camouflaged by more mundane activities.
The philosopher, Kant, investigated and found quite genuine Swedenborg's
vision of a raging fire in Stockholm while he, himself (Swedenborg),
was in Gothenburg, a city some 300 miles away. To this day, this
clairvoyant (seeing with the mind's eye) vision is considered
to be Swedenborg's most amazing psychic experience.
In April, 1744, Swedenborg had his first real illumination and
intercourse with the Spirit world. In the preface to his Arcana
Celestia, Swedenborg writes:
the Lord's Divine mercy it has been granted me now for several
years, to be constantly and uninterruptedly in company with
spirits and angels, hearing them converse with each other,
and conversing with them. Hence, it has been permitted me
to hear and see stupendous things in the other life which
has never before come to the knowledge of any man, nor entered
into his imagination. I have been instructed concerning different
kinds of spirits and the state of souls after death; concerning
Hell, or the lamentable state of the unfaithful; concerning
Heaven, or the most happy state of the faithful, and particularly
concerning the doctrines or faith which is throughout Heaven."
However, in his Miscellaneous Works, he writes:
narrate things wholly false, and lie. When spirits begin to
speak to man, care should be taken not to believe them, for
most everything they say is made up by them, and they lie; so
if we permitted them to relate what Heaven is, and how things
are in Heaven, they would tell so many falsehoods, and with
such strong assertion that man would be astonished; wherefore
it was not permitted me when spirits were speaking to have any
belief in what they stated. They love to feign. Whatever may
be the topic spoken of, they think they know it, and if man
listens and believes, they insist, and in various ways deceive
This massive contradiction clearly indicates that as marvelous
a medium as Swedenborg was, his visions and revelations were
still subject to earlier philosophical and theological influences.
His whole concept of Heaven and Hell was strongly influenced
by his Lutheran background. The fact that he, himself, was in
constant communication with the Spirit world and promulgated
said spirit teachings, while at the same time warning of the
deception and falsehood of spirit communicators, is clearly
reflective of his general approach to spiritual and theological
matters: that he, alone, was the spokesman for those in Spirit.
In effect, Swedenborg could be called the first Spiritualist;
for those who came before him did not claim to be in contact
with departed men and women. Up until Swedenborg's revelations,
spirits who communicated were generally considered to be of
a very high order of being. The idea of communicating with ordinary
people was decidedly new and quite threatening to the theological
community at large. Nevertheless, Swedenborg continued and,
in effect, helped bridge the age-old gap between life and death.
Throughout his adult life, Swedenborg was in daily communication
with the Spirit world and received much instruction and revelation
concerning life after death. We can summarize the mediumistic
teachings of Swedenborg as follows:
Spirit world is in a number of concentric spheres, each
with its own density and inhabitants.
in Spirit is similar to that on the Earth plane, with houses,
churches, schools, etc. The process of death is aided by
Angels (good spirits); everyone rests for a few days after
death and then regains full consciousness.
process of death changes nothing of an internal nature.
is no such thing as eternal punishment. Those who find themselves
in Hell after death can work their way towards something
is a form of spiritual union which is continued in the Spirit
world. It takes the union of a man and a woman to make a
complete human unit.
who die old or diseased regain their youth and health in
the Spirit world.
Swedenborgian philosophy and traditional Spiritualism differ
on many points, and although the Church of the New Jerusalem
(the religious movement based on Swedenborg's revelations) generally
condemns the practice of spiritism, we cannot overlook the tremendous
impact and contribution which this Swedish seer made towards
laying a pathway for the coming dispensation of spiritual truth.
We can summarize Swedenborg's contributions to the cause of
Spiritualism as follows:
was the first to present a modern cosmological description
of the various planes of spirit.
his mediumship the world was given the first catechism of
of his social standing, integrity, and education, he was able
to bring these varied spirit teachings to a great number of
Europe's savants as well as to the general populace; therefore,
he was a great channel for the dispensation of spirit truth
during a period when such teachings were unheard of.
will be eternally grateful for the work brought forth through
Article in Series: Forerunners to Modern Spiritualism:
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