Most of the books written on eighteenth-century theologian and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg analyse his theology, detail his remarkable mystical travels or investigate his influence on philosophers and artists who succeeded him. Distinguished Swedish scholar Inge Jonsson approaches Swedenborg’s oeuvre from the standpoint of the history of ideas and relates it to the intellectual milieu of the time. From the impact of Cartesian philosophy on eighteenth-century thinkers to the effect of Leibniz and his disciples on Swedenborg’s emerging views of science and spirit, Jonsson recreates the debates that electrified the Enlightenment.
Despite Swedenborg’s enduring fame as a mystic, his early reputation was firmly based on scientific treatises that he wrote during years when new theories of life were exploding through microscopic and anatomical research. In the first part of this study, Jonsson examines Swedenborg’s philosophy of nature, his cosmology, and physiological and psychological theories and shows how Swedenborg’s unique spiritual perspective was rooted in his early scientific endeavours and in agreement with contemporary science.
However, after a spiritual crisis in the years 1744-5, detailed in the remarkable document The Journal of Dreams, Swedenborg turned his intellectual energies and scientific precision toward biblical exegesis and examination of spiritual nature. In the second half of this work, Jonsson investigates Swedenborg’s detailed and sensitive rendering of spiritual life in such works as Arcana Caelestia, Heaven and Hell and Conjugial Love.
INGE JONSSON was professor of Comparative Literature at Stockholm University from 1973 to 1994. From 1988 to 1994, he also served as rector of the university. He has written four books on various aspects of Swedenborgs thinking, two volumes on the history of literary theory, and a number of articles on research policy and university administration problems. He also served as president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities from 1993 to 2001 and has written a history of the institution.
This book can be purchased from the Swedenborg Society in London, however, if you are in the USA, you can order directly from the Swedenborg Foundation.