Swedenborg has been variously described as a pioneer of Spiritualism, a Swedish Scientist and a Lutheran Theologian by modern commentators, and as a ‘sensible, pleasant and open-hearted man and scholar’ by a contemporary.
He lived at the time of the Age of Enlightenment when intellectuals were anti-dogma and preferred to trust reason and science. Among his sympathetic contemporaries were the Wesley Brothers, the founders of Methodism and William Blake.
A Scientist, Swedenborg was an authority on physics, metallurgy, zoology, astronomy, and anatomy and included books on all these subjects among his thirty plus published over his lifetime. In 1745 he had a ‘spiritual awakening’ and came to believe that God wanted him to reform Christianity. He wrote books on biblical interpretations, which were studied by at one time about 15 reading groups in England. In daily sessions with his ‘angel friends’, as he called his spirit guides, he found out about the two worlds, physical and spiritual, and was taught much of what can be accepted as Spiritualist philosophy. His book ‘Heaven and Hell’ describes possible destinations after death, with a spirit life before reaching those destinations.
Swedenborg’s scientific mind led him to keep accurate records of everything he had seen and learned through his gifts of clairvoyance and remote viewing, and his teachings were accepted by an increasing number of churches. The Lutheran church and the state, however, objected, with charges of heresy against two men who followed his teachings in 1768 and assigning cult status to the new religion.
He was the only scientist of repute who had made contact with the Spirit world and dared to speak out about it, although he knew it was a threat to his reputation. Because of him, when Spiritualism developed in the mid19th century, it became a subject worth investigating. but the Swedenborgians had distanced themselves from the Spiritualist movement.