From Academic Kids

Swedenborgianism is a term based on the ecclesiastical organization of certain beliefs relating to Emanuel Swedenborg's writings and, as such, is considered a religious movement by some. It is based on the belief that Swedenborg witnessed the Last Judgment and second advent of the Lord, along with the inauguration of the New Church and an explanation of the spiritual meaning of the literal sense of The Word. Some Swedenborian organizations teach that the Writings of Swedenborg (often called The Writings) are a third part of the Word and have the same authority as the Old and New Testaments. Swedenborgians often refer to themselves by other terms, including "New Christians", "Neo-Christians", "The New Church", and "Church of the New Jerusalem".



Swedenborg spoke of a "new church" that would be founded on the theology in his works, but he himself never tried to establish an organization. At the time of his death, few efforts had been made. But May 7, 1787, 15 years after Swedenborg's death, the New Church movement was founded in England, a country Swedenborg often visited and where he also died. Its ideas were carried to United States by missionaries. One famous Swedenborgian was Johnny Appleseed. Early missionaries also went to parts of Africa, as Swedenborg himself regarded black Africans as more receptive to spiritual teachings.

In the 19th century, occultism became increasingly popular especially in France and England, and Swedenborg's writings were, by some, blended in with theosophy, alchemy and divination. What fascinated these followers most was Swedenborg's mystical side. Much emphasis was laid on his work Heaven and Hell, wherein Swedenborg is led to Heaven and Hell by spirits to experience and report the conditions there.

In the U.S., Swedenborgianism was organized in 1817 with the founding of the General Convention of the New Church (sometimes referred to as the Convention,) now also known as the Swedenborgian Church of North America.

The movement in the United States grew increasingly stronger until the late 19th century, when a controversy about doctrinal issues and the authority of Swedenborg's writings caused a faction to split off to form the Academy of the New Church which would become the General Church of New Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as the General Church,) with headquarters in Bryn Athyn, a suburb of Philadelphia. Today, the General Church has about 5,000 members in 33 churches. The Swedenborgian Church of North America, with headquarters in Newtonville, a suburb of Boston, now has 37 active churches with about 1,500 members in the U.S. The various Swedenborgian organizations worldwide are estimated to have about 50,000 members.


The "doctrines" of the New Church are as follows:

  1. That there is one God and that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Within Him there is a Divine Trinity.
  2. That a saving faith is to believe in Him and to live a life of charity.
  3. That all evils are to be shunned and originate in mankind.
  4. That good actions are to be done, because they are of God and from God, and are therefore necessary for life.
  5. That these good acts are to be done by mankind as if from him/herself; but that it ought to be acknowledged that they are done from the Lord with Him and by Him.

(see Swedenborg's True Christian Religion, author's introduction [1] (http://www.heavenlydoctrines.org/static/d12851/0.htm))

Swedenborgians have been viewed skeptically by Christian groups as an occult heretical movement in which people speak in tongues and see spirits [2] (http://www.carm.org/list/swedenborg.htm). While the mystic aspect certainly appealed to some people, and still does, the New Church as an organization today constitutes a widely-spread and considerable society with a regularly constituted ecclesiastical organization.

The term may also be used to refer to people inspired by some part of Swedenborgian philosophy or theology who nevertheless take an eclectic approach to such topics and so blend "pure" Swedenborgian thought with ideas from other systems, including Jungian psychology, Spiritualism, and "traditional" Christianity. Such Swedenborgianism bears little resemblance to the more ecclesiastical form usually referred to by the term.


Notable persons influenced either by Swedenborg's writing or by the New Church include Honoré de Balzac, Henry Ward Beecher, William Blake, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Robert Carter III, S. T. Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Inness, Henry James Sr., C.G. Jung, Helen Keller, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Coventry Patmore, Walt Whitman, and Bill Wilson.


External links


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