Rethinking Swedenborg

A short post today; really more of a quick update and recommendation. Lately, I’ve been looking for some practical advice on living more spiritually day to day.  I’ve taken a short break this summer from my intellectual pursuits of life after death research to look for ways to be more mindful, strengthen my spiritual senses, and work on some of my shortcomings as a human being.  To that end, I have found some spiritual inspiration in absolutely the last place I thought I’d find it: An 18th century theologian named Emmanuel Swedenborg.

I’ve posted about Swedenborg before; a short post last year mentioning the OffTheLeftEye channel for any interested readers who might get something out of it.  As far as I was concerned, however, I wrote him off as an interesting novelty in Christian mysticism and that’s about where my interest dried up.

No, I haven’t become a Christian. Nothing has changed in that regard.  However, I have found that the Swedenborg Foundation has presented some of Swedenborg’s less religious teachings in a way that I have now found very practical for everyday use.  Much of his professed knowledge stemming from his spiritual experiences are not dissimilar from the kinds of teachings you’d find in channeled material, especially once you get past some of the more overt Christian references.

Before we go any further, you should probably know a little bit about Swedenborg, and why I think some of his work is beneficial even to non-Christians who seek spiritual wisdom.  Handily, the Swedenborg Foundation has provided a video on their OffTheLeftEye YouTube channel that introduces us to who Swedenborg was and what happened to him in his mid-50s which made him a controversial figure to science, and a legend to those who follow his works:

Swedenborg claimed to have direct contact with the afterlife through waking visions and out-of-body experiences which spanned decades.  The ideas that he brought back were quite radical for the time, and his reinterpretation of the scriptures and practices of the church spawned a new type of Christianity still practiced today known as The New Church, or colloquially, Swedenborgianism.  Swedenborg’s take on Christianity is quite palatable, suggesting the importance of all religions and spiritual beliefs for a healthy afterlife, as well as radical new way of understanding otherwise confusing and contradictory biblical texts through an interesting concept called correspondences.

In  many cases, however, new-age ideas that would be quite familiar to us can be found in his writings – ideas parroted by Seth or in mediumship transcriptions. For example, the concept of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ as a state of mind is central to Swedenborg’s understanding of reality, as is new-agey topics such as auras and the spiritual nature of colors or numbers.  Swedenborg also introduces some interesting new spiritual ideas that I haven’t seen represented before such as the concept of ‘the grand man’; the notion that all of ‘heaven’ functions like a human body, with each component part working together for the greater whole.

For Swedenborg writing in the 18th century, many of these concepts would have been so foreign as to be seen as nonsense. Some of what we would consider secular or at least universalist ideas are wrapped in Christian terms – perhaps for Swedenborg’s benefit and understanding.  But if we are willing to accept his Christian interpretation of his experiences, there is a wealth of useful information available here.

I probably would have still ignored Swedenborg’s work if not for The Swedenborg Foundation’s OffTheLeftEye YouTube channel.  They have taken the difficult reading of Swedenborg and made it relatable and entertaining while still being sophisticated and thought-provoking. The host, Curtis Childs, is warm and affable.  His easy-going delivery provides just the right counterbalance to the weight of Swedenborg’s 18th century theology.  I also really appreciate that the videos are not monetized and all of Swedenborg’s books are free to download.

As with all spiritual resources – take what works for you, and leave what doesn’t.  I definitely don’t agree with everything presented by Swedenborg, but his spiritual philosophy has also given me food for thought and helped me examine better what I do believe and why.  And learn from my mistake: don’t ignore something that might provide you with spiritual insight simply because it comes from a different culture or religion.

As of right now, the Swedenborg Foundation has hundreds of videos to choose from.  Here are just a few of the videos I’ve enjoyed:


I’d also like to hear from you!  Have you found any resources for practical ways to apply spirituality to every day life?  Suggest your methods, ideas, favorite books or authors, or just your opinion on how you live YOUR spirituality every day!

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20 thoughts on “Rethinking Swedenborg

  1. I have found great enlightenment ( the beginning of at least) and pleasure in Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘the power of now’ it enables one to stop being burdened by the past and to stop living in the future, to recognize that there is only the now, to feel the presence behind the mind. The mind which is the imagined you, covers up the void and wisdom of being, of the consciousness, of awareness. of non duality.

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    1. Thank you, noppohn. A friend of mine was really into Tolle for a while but I never did end up reading the book. Some of the concepts sounded very interesting. I absolutely agree with not living in the past though like most people I suppose, I worry too much about the future. Maybe now is the right time for me to finally get around to reading it. Thanks so much for the recommendation.
      Jenn

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  2. Jenn, i almost can’t believe the coincidence of this current post. I’ve been reading Helen Kellers spiritual biography. She was a Swedenborgian. Because of reading her it has rekindled my curiosity about his, S, work. So i knew of the Swedenborg podcast channel and added the Curtis Child podcasts to my podcast app. then i went on line scrolling thru the many many presentation he’s given and choose Spiritual Detoxing to listen to first. This was all earlier this afternoon. Then i came home this evening and found ur latest posting! Coincidence Control Center doing it’s job.

    There is a concept of a universal man in Vedanta and Islam. I can’t for the life of me remember the the name of this being. I don’t think it is Manu nor Atman. I don’t believe it is unique just the descriptor are different in different traditions. Does sound like God as opposed to the Void or consciousness without objects.

    Regards finding a practical path for yourself. There are many paths finding the one your are resonant to appears to be luck but i’d say something like follow ur ‘nose’. They all work, more or less depending on your disposition. Intellectual, emotional, physical. Explore what attracts you. The exploration does something like magnetizes some center in you that starts directing you to what you need for u at this time. Your already well on your way .
    2 useful elements for me have been a sangha -fellow wayfarers – and a teacher. Lately extensive reading of NDE stories has been very helpful for me, but that is after 50 years of finding with 2 teachers and sanghas, and many on the ground explorations. Some unusual people, like Helen Keller, can do it without an incarnate teacher.
    All roads lead to Heaven. Just pick one, any one, and go.

    Below is a composite quote from Don Jaun it works for all life choices and it took me over 20 years to begin to get it in a practically. But then i’m not a quick learner though i have been a relentless one.
    Another good bit of advice i got was ‘keep going’. there is no top end to learning and Being.

    A Path with Heart
    Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. There are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you. Don Juan

    Knowledge plus experience make for Wisdom. Knowledge without experience does not create Being.

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  3. I have heard some of Swedenborg’s ideas, but I haven’t read any of his original works. As a Spiritualist I am interested in his views about the spirit world, and would like to compare his ideas concerning it with two other people who have also apparently been able to project their consciousness into it: Andrew Jackson Davis, in the 19th Century, and Jurgen Ziewe, in the 20th and 21st.

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    1. I thought of you, James, while watching the foundation’s video on reincarnation. As we discussed a few weeks back, Swedenborg did not believe in reincarnation and his explaination for past life memories is interesting. When I get to my regular computer, I’ll link the video for you. I have to see if I have Andrew Jackson Davis in my collection of 19th century writings… if not, it sounds like something I should definitely get! Thanks for writing, Jenn

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      1. I would love to see that, Jenn, and thank you! Davis didn’t believe in reincarnation either. Ziewe does. I think that in all their cases, as in others: no matter what we see or hear, if we are a medium or receive a message through a medium or visit the spirit realms ourselves through and out-of-body experience: whatever we see or hear or encounter is going to be filtered and interpreted through our own belief system, and this is strongly influenced by the culture in which we live. Swedenborg and Davis lived in eras where reincarnation was not accepted. Ziewe lives in an era where reincarnation is largely taken as a given, at least among people who are spiritual in a non-traditional sense.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this fascinating post on Swedenborg Jenn! I hadn’t heard of him but just watched the 1st video about the foundation. His teachings don’t seem that far off to me but yes, way ahead of his time. Hopefully, soon I will find time to watch the others or check out some of his many books. 🙂 P.S. I loved all your stories in the 8 part series on the afterlife. So many different interpretations and all so compelling!
    Kathy

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  5. I think Swedenborg spoke to his era and so his message was for that era. I would prefer to read his material over watching the videos because I sense a certain spin that doesn’t quite compute for a non-Christian. I hear people speaking of Jurgen Ziewe, and I think you have the message for our time there. Since Swedenborg’s time, we have made the encounter with nonduality, Vedanta, and quantum physics as part of the new evolution, and these reveal a more universal and non-exckusive approach to understanding the ieffable realities of the spiritual dimensions. Nowadays, thanks to heart resuscitation technology, we have a wealth of literature across many cultures concerning life after death that is well worth investigating, as well as the wonderful research by Michael Newton and life between lives regression hypnosis that fills many gaps in our knowledge. Swedenborg fills in some of these gaps but it it good to realize its doctrinal tilt was for a previous era and European culture at that time.

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    1. Its true that modern experiences, such as OBEs and NDEs likely resonate better and take more of our progress into account, but I do find historical spiritual books to be really interesting for the way that you can determine what has changed, what hasn’t, what is a product of bias, and possibly how the afterlife has evolved as well. Certainly, I believe that the afterlife probably evolves even more quickly than earth does which is an interesting concept in its own right. I agree though – we are lucky to have such a wealth of material to work with! I wish more people knew just how much evidence is really out there!
      Thanks for writing!
      Jenn

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  6. Thank you for sharing this, Jenn! I knew absolutely nothing about Swedenborg before reading your article and watching the first video.

    Religious and spiritual beliefs aside, I am blown away by people like him who seem to be able to tackle any subject well. And the volume of work he wrote is simply staggering.

    There is a new church in Manhattan. Here’s their website, which looks really inviting: https://www.newyorknewchurch.org/. I have passed it many times and wondered what they believed.

    Your website is endlessly fascinating! ❤

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  7. Thank you, Judie! I was also surprised that I had never heard of Swedenborg, especially considering that his experiences were definitely more on the spiritual/new-age side as are many of his ideas. I guess no one really knows what to do with someone like Swedenborg – He doesn’t quite fit into traditional Christianity, and yet he is too Christian-oriented to really jive with spiritual/new-age circles. On the other hand, he has so much information to share that I feel its a share to simply dismiss his experiences outright. I was also really blown away by simply how much he contributed. I can understand why devotees were able to create an entire theology around his works. Thanks for keeping an open-mind! I’ll check out that link – I’m not far from Manhattan myself. Just a hop, skip and a jump over the water.

    Jenn

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      1. Hi Jenn. Yes, both messages came through. Thank you for being so thoughtful.

        I have three WordPress blogs bookmarked: mine, yours and one other person’s. That’s how awesome I think your blog is! 🙂

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  8. Greetings, Jenn. I came to have a look after reading Judie Sidgel’s blog this morning and I must thank her. I had heard references to Swedenborg, but did not know anything about it really. I am surprised it hasn’t popped up when watching YouTube since it fits in with my viewing habits. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

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    1. Dear Olga,
      I was shocked that I had never heard of Swedenborg either until I came across OffTheLeftEye on youtube. I think maybe it’s because Swedenborg is kind of smack dab in the middle of spirituality and Christianity without being strongly in either camp. Thank you for visiting and I hope to see you around soon!
      Jenn

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