Who was Emanuel Swedenborg?
The life of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) was steeped simultaneously in the rational world of the physical sciences and a deep Christian faith. He lived during the height of the Enlightenment, a period when intellectuals rejected dogmatic religious teachings in favor of science and reason, and his theology reflects a long struggle to understand the world of spirit through investigation of the physical world. Ultimately, that struggle was resolved when (as he described it) his spiritual senses were opened and he began to interact directly with the denizens of heaven, hell, and the world of spirits between. Although his theological writings are based on experiences and visions that may seem unbelievable to a modern audience—as they did to many of Swedenborg’s contemporaries—he writes with full awareness of how difficult his accounts may be to accept. In keeping with his early scholarly training, he presents his ideas in a logical order, drawing examples from everyday life as proof of the truth of his words, inviting readers to judge for themselves.