THE GENERAL CHURCH OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
GENERAL CHURCH OF THE NEW JERUSALEM TIMELINE
1688 (January 29): Emanuel Swedenborg was born Emanuel Swedberg.
1709: Swedenborg graduated from Uppsala University.
1710-1715: Swedenborg traveled to England and Europe before returning to Sweden in 1715.
1716: The first issue of Daedalus Hyperborus, a scientific magazine, was published.
1716: Swedenborg was appointed to the Royal College of Mines.
1719: The children of Bishop Jesper Swedberg were ennobled and took the name Swedenborg.
1721: Swedenborg’s first book, Chemistry, was published.
1744-1745: Swedenborg experienced extraordinary dreams. He recorded and analyzed them in what has come to be known as The Journal of Dreams.
1745: Swedenborg claimed that he received a “Divine call.”
1745-1747: Swedenborg studied the Bible and wrote a six volume interpretation of the Bible starting with Genesis. It was never published.
1757: Swedenborg claimed that the Last Judgment took place in the spiritual world during this year.
1759: Swedenborg made public a clairvoyant experience of the Stockholm fire that he witnessed while in Göteborg 400 miles away.
1769: A heresy trial began in Göteborg of two Lutheran Priests who were readers of and belevers in the New Christian message revealed by Emanuel Swedenborg.
1771: Swedenborg wrote and published a “ Pro Memoria against Ernesti.” The document contained a defense of his theological teaching and his personal character against the attacks of Johann August Ernesti (1707-1781), a renown linguist and theologian.
1771 (December): Swedenborg suffered a stroke in London.
1772 (March 29): Swedenborg died in London. He never made an attempt to found a church. He felt he was “called” to write and publish his revelation.
1787: The first formal New Church Worship Service/Holy Supper/Baptism took place.
1788: The first priests of the New Church were ordained.
1789: The first Conference of the New Church was held in London.
1815: The Congregational Church structure was ratified at church conferences/annual conferences held yearly from this year to the present.
1817: The organizational meeting of the Convention of the New Church of North America was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1867: A theological School in Waltham, Massachusetts was organized by the General Convention.
1876: The Academy of the New Church (precursor to General Church of the New Jerusalem) was incorporated.
1890: A schism occurred in the North American Swedenborgian Movement between the Convention and what is now known as the General Church based on different principles of government (congregational vs. episcopal) and different interpretations of Swedenborg’s revelation (inspired vs. divine).
1897: The General Church was established under the leadership of Bishop W. F. Pendleton and separated from the leadership of W. H. Benade.
1916: The New Church Community of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania was officially incorporated in a borough in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
1937: A schism occurred in the General Church Movement with the separation of some priests and laity from the General Church. The new group was called The Lord’s New Church Which is Nova Hierosolyma under the leadership of the Rev. Theo Pticairn. The new group was based on the principle that, just as Swedenborg revealed the internal sense of the Old and New Testaments, there is an internal sense to the Writings of Swedenborg that can be revealed to “regenerate” individuals and thus can be used to develop doctrine in the church.
1972: The Swedenborgian Church of North America began to ordain women into the ministry.
1976: The Academy of the New Church celebrated its 100th anniversary.
1988: An International Conference was held in celebration of the 300th anniversary of Swedenborg’s birth in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.
1997: The Swedenborgian Church of North America determined that sexual orientation was not an impediment to ordination.
2009: The First President of Bryn Athyn College was inaugurated.
2015: The Theological School of the Swedenborgian Church of North American moved to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and is now called the Center for Swedenborg Studies at the GTU.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was born on January 29, 1688 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the third child and second son of Jesper Swedberg (1653-1735) and Sara Behm Swedeberg (1666-1696). The Swedberg’s had six additional children, three girls and three boys, one of whom died as an infant. Jesper Swedberg was a Lutheran priest, who had an illustrious career within the Church despite his belief in works and not faith alone. He was also known to have a strong belief in the supernatural. He was Chaplain to the King’s horse guard, Professor of Theology at Uppsala University, Dean of the Cathedral in Uppsala; he also served as Bishop of Skara, located in Västergötland, from 1703 until his death in 1735. He is remembered for his contribution to education and his many hymns, some of which are still sung in Sweden today. Sara, who came from a wealthy family with mining interests, died in an epidemic in Uppsala in 1696, as did the Swedberg’s oldest son, Albrecht. A year later Jesper married a widow, Sara Bergia (1666-1720). She was a loving mother to the remaining Swedberg children. She was very fond of Emanuel and left him a portion of her estate, when she died. Jesper Swedberg married a third time in 1720 to Christiana Arrhusia (dates unknown).
The Swedberg family moved from Stockholm to Uppsala in 1692. They lived in a simple par stuga until after the death of Sara. In 1698, they moved into a very impressive three-story house which was built on part of the property they owned. It faced the central square in Uppsala. Emanuel was tutored at home until the age of eleven, when he matriculated at the University of Uppsala, a very common practice for boys at that time. He attended the University until 1709, when he graduated with a degree in Philosophy, although his main interests were mathematics and science. His thesis, which he dedicated to his father, was titled “Selected Sentences from Publius Syrus Mimus and L. Annaeus Seneca.”
The outbreak of war between between the French and The English that year prevented Swedenborg from immediately setting off on his study trip abroad, again a very typical practice for well-to-do Swedish young men. Swedenborg spent the year in Skara in Western Sweden where his father was the Bishop. He mastered the organ and explored the region where he discovered fossils in the hills north of Skara. This discovery led Swedenborg to publish in the first edition of Acta Literaria Sueciae in 1719 an article entitled “Height of Water in the Primeval World.” This article appears to be the first one of Swedenborg’s to be reviewed in a European Journal, Neue Zeitungen, in March of 1721.
Swedenborg’s active and inquisitive mind wanted more stimulation than Skara could provide. In late spring of 1710 he traveled to Gothenburg to investigate rumors that there was a ship’s captain willing to risk sailing to London, despite the the on-going war. Swedenborg immediately found passage on the ship, and before he could inform his family, he was on his way. The trip was hazardous, and the ship was both boarded and shot at by combatants. It also ran aground on a sand bar. Arriving in London, the ship was immediately quarantined under the suspicion that there was an outbreak of the plague in Sweden. A young and restless Swedenborg, unwilling to remain on board with London so tantalizingly close, slipped overboard into a skiff when friends came to visit. He was caught and threatened with being hung, but “friends” in high places intervened and his life was spared. He never forgot this incident, with its imprint surfacing later in his life.
Swedenborg spent the next two years and a half in England. He immersed himself in his passion for mathesis, visting astronomers, observatories, and men of science, while residing with skilled craftsmen so he could learn their secrets. He developed a method of finding the longitude, and found books for the scientific community in Uppsala. He drank in the spirit of modern science, but was disappointed in the English response to his longitude methodology.
He left England in late 1712 or early 1713. He then spent time in The Netherlands and Paris, France, engaged in similar pursuits. He soaked up as much modern science as he could. In the late summer of 1714, Swedenborg traveled to Rostock in Swedish Pomerania, and somewhat later in the year he settled in Griefswalde. His focus was to record the intellectual fruit of his time abroad. This included listing various inventions that had occurred to him, among others, a submarine, an airplane, a mechanical water pump, a machine gun, and a siphon. He sent his list to his brother-in-law, Eric Benzelius.
Upon returning to Sweden in 1715, Swedenborg focused on finding useful employment. He began the first scientific journal in Sweden, Daedalus Hyperboreus, and published six issues. The journal found favor with the King, Carl XII, and eventually led to his employment as an assistant to Christopher Polhem (1661-1751) and to his appointment as an Extraordinary Assessor to the Board of Mines by the King. The death of the King on November 30, 1718 delayed Swedenborg’s appointment for six years due to the changing political climate in Sweden from the absolutism of Karl XII to the limited monarchy of Queen Ulrica Eleonora and her husband King Frederick I. The Swedberg children were ennobled in May 1719, and their name was changed to Swedenborg.
Swedenborg’s relations with Polhem became strained, and in 1720, discouraged by his prospects in Sweden, Swedenborg traveled abroad to study mining methods in Germany and to publish. Two years later he was called back from his travels by his father over family business matters. Upon his return, he continued to pursue his position on the Board of Mines, and finally in 1723 he was seated; in 1724, he was granted a salary. He continued to work on the Board of Mines until 1747, when he was asked to become President. His calling, however, had changed in the mid-1740s, and so he declined the Presidency and resigned from the Board.
When seated on the Board, Swedenborg engaged in his all the official duties of the position, which entailed inspecting mines and the ores produced, judging mining disputes between owners and between owners and workers, and writing mining policy, He began to investigate and write in the areas of cosmology, the nature of the infinite, and the investigation of the relationship between the body and the soul, as well as seeking the location of the soul in the body. Between 1734 and 1745, Swedenborg wrote on all these topics. In 1734, he published a three volume work, Opera Philosophiica et Mineralia, as well as a work called Prodromus Philosophia Ratiocinantis de Infinito.… In 1740/1741 he published his two volume Oeconomia Regni Animalis …, and in 1744/1745 he published Regnum Animale in three volumes. He also published Pars Prima de Cultu et Amore Dei. This last work was the result of a dramatic change of focus for Swedenborg. A series of deeply spiritual but troubling dreams shook his self-image led him reorient his sense of how the universe works. He began to view the world of spirit as the cause of the natural world. Previously in his philosophical endeavors, he had been seeking hidden origins and causes from effects in the natural world, using the scientific method. His dreams led him to conclude that spiritual forces animate natural reality.
Swedenborg traveled to Amsterdam and then London in order to publish his “search for the soul” through its kingdom the human body. With the publication of the third volume, he abandoned his effort and returned to Sweden in 1745. He worked for two more years on the Board of Mines, but the focus of his private writing changed dramatically as he began to seek the inner meaning of the Bible. While engaged in this effort, he wrote 5,000 pages that he never published.
What caused him to abandon his search for the soul using natural science and philosophy were powerful dream encounters with Christ. He recorded these in a journal: in one dream Christ embraced him and asked him if “he had a clean bill of health?” In another, Swedenborg handed Christ small sums of money which had fallen, and Swedenborg wrote “in such an innocent manner they seem to live together.” Also in a later entry, Swedenborg wrote that “Christ said I ought not to undertake anything without him.”
In the Spring of 1745, he had his first open and conscious experiences of the spiritual word that convinced him of its “reality.” At this time the Lord clothed in purple and arrayed in light sat next to his bed, and gave him his “commission,” which was to explain to the inhabitants of the world the spiritual or inner meaning of Scripture. It was not long after this, that Swedenborg sailed home to Sweden.
He stayed in Sweden for only two years before setting off on a journey that was marked by the first two volumes of his eight volume set, Arcana Coelestia, written in Latin. The work was published anonymously and gave a line by line, and often word by word, explanation of the books of Genesis and Exodus. After completing this work in 1756, Swedenborg identified the next year, 1757, as the Last Judgment. He claimed it was a spiritual event that occurred in the spiritual world. He published a work with that title in 1758 along with four others, including one titled Heaven and Hell. These also were written in Latin and published anonymously in London.
Swedenborg continued to publish and in1763/64 he published doctrinal works on the topics ofthe Lord, the Word, Life, and Faith. In addition he published a work on Divine Love and Wisdom, and Divine Providence. These works were published anonymously in Amsterdam. In 1766, he returned to Amsterdam to publish anonymously the Apocalypse Revealed in two Latin volumes. In 1768, in Amsterdam, for the first time he signed a book he published. It was Amore Conjugiali or Marriage Love. He signed it Emanuel Swedenborg, A Swede. In that work he also listed his previous works, and additional works he planned to publish. The three additional works were all signed. Two were published in Latin in 1769, Survey and Soul-Body Interaction , one in Amsterdam and one in London. In 1771, he published his final work, True Christianity, in Amsterdam, also in Latin; he signed it “Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” With the publication of this work, his commission was fulfilled. He had written in this work, in §779 that he was called to write and publish. It would be up to others to found an organization.
Almost immediately after Swedenborg began to publish his religious writings, readers found them, not many, but a steady trickle. Some came, read a little, and moved on. Others read them and wondered, could this truly have come from God. Then there were those who found the spirit of truth in them, and they believed. They found them to be inspired by direct contact with the spiritual world; they learned that the Old and New Testaments contained an internal sense that was now revealed by the Lord to the world by means of Swedenborg’s writings, and they understood the Bible in a new way. It was plain to them that the Last Judgment, which Christians had long been waiting for, had taken place in the spiritual world because it clearly was a spiritual event. Finally, it was clear that the Lord’s second coming was by means of the Word, and because the Word is the Lord, he dwells there and lives within it. It is there that he reveals himself to inner human eye, to our rational sight, which is the longing of many modern hearts. To clearly see, that is, to clearly understand the nature of God, to rationally understand “the mysteries of faith,” as Swedenborg wrote in True Christianity §508, is a modern quest.
With True Christianity published, Swedenborg traveled from Amsterdam to London for the last time. In December 1771, he had a stroke and was bed-ridden. On March 29, 1772, he passed from this world into the next. Swedenborg was laid to rest in the Swedish Church in London. His remains were removed from the Swedish Church when it was scheduled for demolition early in the twentieth century. He was officially interred in the Cathedral in Uppsala, Sweden in a “homecoming” ceremony in 1908, when the whole of Uppsala filled the streets to welcome the “world famous scientist and seer.”
7 July 2016