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.

Readers Comments

  1. There are lots of historic Swedenborgian links with the Manchester area. The Rev. John Clowes (1743-1831), the Rector of St John's Church, Deansgate (long since demolished) was one of the first and greatest of Swedenborg's English translators. He was described by De Quincey as'the holiest man it has been my lot to meet'. He never left the Church of England, but maintained good relations with those in the Swedenborgian or New Church. Two Victorian Mancunians I would mention are the poet and temperance journalist Henry Septims Sutton (1825-1901) and Edward John Broadfield (1831-1913). Sutton was originally from Nottingham, but he settled in Manchester and spent most of his adult life there. He was editor of the temperance paper 'The Alliance' from 1854 until 1898. He was chief reporter of 'The Manchester Examiner and Times' from 1853. His poetry, particularly a volume called 'Rose's Diary', was once much admired. His literary friends included Ralph Waldo Emerson and George MacDonald (both of whom he met in Manchester) and also Coventry Patmore. Edward Broadfield was a very important Manchester citizen. He was an early graduate of Owen's College and went on to become a founder of Manchester University. He was also associated with school management in th ecity, was a member of the School Board and a governor of Manchester Grammar School. He was active in Liberal politics. He also had strong musical interests and was a founder of the Royal Manchester College of Music, was associated with the Halle Orchestra and wrote music criticism for 'The Manchester Guardian'. All this as in addition to being a most active member of the New (ie Swedenborgian) Church in the city and a lay preacher. The Swedenborgian associations with Manchester are less strong today, but there are still churches in Greater Manchester and Lancashire generally and the new Church College is now at Radcliffe (25 Radcliffe New Road). This has a considerable library. There is a small bookshop, North of England, New Church House, at 34 John Dalton Street, Manchester. Richard Lines, Secretary, The Swedenborg Society, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH.

  2. what happened to the stone relief above the shop window of the new church house shop on john dalton street?
    it had an inscription re- swedenborg wit alpha and omega symbols.

Leave a Comment

If you have not posted a comment on RSB before, it will need to be approved by the Managing Editor. Once you have an approved comment, you are safe to post further comments. We have also introduced a captcha code to prevent spam.




Enter the code shown here:   [captcha]

Note: If you cannot read the numbers in the above image, reload the page to generate a new one.