Swedenborg's Secret is Lars Bergquist's biography - and the first major study - of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) in over 50 years. Who was he? Well, the Swedenborg Society tell us he was a "scientist, philosopher, theologian and visionary. Born in Sweden, he began his career as an engineer and inventor, later becoming interested in anatomy and religion. By the time of his death Swedenborg had gained fame throughout Europe as one of the greatest minds of the eighteenth century."
Reviewing the book in the Independent, Gary Lachman said:
Why then is this Scandinavian Da Vinci not better known? Because in 1744, when Swedenborg was in his mid-fifties, he went through a profound psychological and spiritual crisis, culminating in a visitation by Christ and his own entrée into the spirit world. Swedenborg abandoned his scientific work [amongst other things he had discovered a lunar method of establishing longitude at sea] and for the remaining years of his long life devoted himself to what he considered his destined task: the deciphering of the hidden, "internal" sense of Scripture, the full explication of which would usher in the New Church and Christ's second coming - not a physical return, but the unveiling of the Bible's true message, hitherto obscured by Catholics and Protestants alike.
So, clearly a nutter then! But an interesting one ... and one with local links for me - early radical figures like parliamentary reformer Joseph Brotherton were members of the Swedenborg Church in Salford, just up the road, and strict vegetarians.