Born in Stockholm in the winter of 1688, Swedenborg lived a life of privilege. His father, a prominent Lutheran Bishop, had ties that later allowed young Emanuel to develop a close association with Charles XII, King of Sweden. For over thirty years, from the time he was 27 until he was 58, Swedenborg was Special Assessor to the Royal College of Mines, a sober and scientific pursuit.
But while he might have stayed in this respected position until he retired, in 1746 Swedenborg suddenly resigned. “My sole object in tendering my resignation,” he wrote, “was that I might have more leisure to devote to the new office to which the Lord had called me.”
Three years earlier Swedenborg had been in Amsterdam on an October morning when "such dizziness...overcame me that I felt close to death." He felt a roaring wind pick him up; a hand clutched his, and he saw Christ.
"He showed me the face of my spirit,” he wrote toward the end of his life, “and thus led me into the world of the spirits and allowed me to see heaven and its wonders, and at the same time to see hell as well, and also to speak with angels and spirits, and this has gone on continually for twenty-seven years."
Swedenborg’s connection with the spiritual world gave him the gift of clairvoyance. One night, he was at a party in the town of Göteborg when he “saw” a raging fire burning in Stockholm, almost three hundred miles away. The next day, he was able to confirm that his vision of the fire had indeed been true.
(Not all of Swedenborg’s predictions turned out to be accurate, including his assertion that a race of people live on the moon, who speak through their stomachs, making a sound like belching.)
Swedenborg came to define his entire life as one lived among the angels. And yet he also continued to find acceptance among his peers.
“I am a Fellow and Member, by invitation, of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm,” Swedenborg wrote, “but I have never sought admission into any literary society in any other place, because I am in an angelic society, where such things as relate to heaven and the soul are the only subjects of discourse, while in literary societies the world and the body form the only subjects of discussion...
"Moreover, all the bishops of my native country, who are ten in number, and also that sixteen senators and the rest of those highest in office, entertain feelings of affection for me; from their affection they honor me, and I live with them on terms of familiarity, as a friend among friends; the reason of which is that they know I am in company with angels. Even the King and the Queen, and three princes, their sons, show me great favour...
What was Swedenborg's vision of heaven and hell? Read more on page 2 >>
“From that time I began to print and publish the various arcana that were seen by me or revealed to me, concerning heaven and hell, the state of man after death, the true worship of God, the spiritual sense of the Word, besides other most important matters conducive to salvation and wisdom. The only reason of my journeys abroad has been the desire of making myself useful and of making known the arcana that were entrusted to me. Moreover, I have as much of this world's wealth as I need, and I neither seek nor wish for more.”