So, who is Swedenborg?
THE NEW CHURCH is founded on the work of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 - 1772), who, in mid-life, was compelled by events he described as a spiritual awakening to write and publish the details of his experience.
He believed his information came directly from God, he was just the scribe, and his hope was that it would influence the clergy and religious leaders of his day, as they were responsible for leading people toward a good life here and in the hereafter.
Swedenborg did not found a church, or invent a religion. What was revealed to him was an understanding of the nature of true religious life and life in general. He had means and was able to travel to London from Sweden where he could freely publish his work and he did so, for some time, anonymously.
His was a fascinating life, born in 1688, the son of a Lutheran bishop, he was about as well educated as a person could be in his time. This was the height of the Enlightenment, dogmatic religious teachings were getting strong pushback from discoveries in science and the application of reason.
Having been trained as a scholar, he was also a devout Christian. Swedenborg was able to present his ideas logically, with examples from everyday life to prove the truth of his words, always asking his readers to judge for themselves.
The New Church is a small yet world wide denomination whose beginnings in the new world reach back to 1784 in Philadelphia with a box of English editions of some of his works and a reading circle of enthusiastic converts.
For an excellent overview of Swedenborg’s life and ideas, check out the Swedenborg Foundation’s YouTube channel “Off the Left Eye” for the show Swedenborg 101 and many other episodes that explore New Church thought.