Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Early in his life, Emanuel Swedenborg established a lasting reputation as a scientist in many scientific fields, including physics, astronomy, mathematics, engineering, and human anatomy. His research in several of these fields culminated in important publications that showed him well in advance of his time. His work in anatomy, for example, anticipated some of the later theories of physiology, including those involving the functions of the ductless glands.
With respect to his later writings in religion and theosophy, Swedenborg’s reputation is a mixed one. Between 1743 and 1745 he suffered a mental and religious crisis that changed his life and his work. During the crisis, according to his own report, he underwent mystical experiences in which he believed he was given access to the spiritual world. He saw visions of that world, heard and took part in celestial conversations, and received divine instruction. In 1745, during a third great spiritual experience, Swedenborg reported having witnessed the second advent of Christ and having been instructed to establish a “New Church.” From his visions and the instructions he purportedly received grew Swedenborg’s theosophical writings, for which he used Latin. Although he wrote voluminously on his doctrines, Swedenborg did not found a sect, for he believed that members of any church could follow his doctrines. Later his followers did constitute the Church of the New Jerusalem, or New Church.
(The entire section is 1074 words.)
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