We live in a time of spiritual upheaval. People are examining traditional Christian beliefs as never before. Some are leaving their churches. Others have kept denominational ties, but long for a deeper understanding of spiritual reality.
Over two hundred years ago, Emanuel Swedenborg began a similar search. For the son of a Lutheran bishop, a church vocation would have been a natural choice. Instead, he chose a career in science and engineering. He traveled from his native Sweden to the intellectual centers of Europe, learning from the prominent scientists of his day.
When he returned from his travels, he took a position on the Swedish Board of Mines. Mining was the largest industry in Sweden, and Swedenborg took his new post seriously. He again traveled to Europe, this time to learn the newest and best mining tec hniques and bring them back to Sweden. His new post involved diverse skills, from deliberating on mining regulations and mediating business disputes to inspecting the mines firsthand and making on-site improvements.
Meanwhile, he continued his scientific studies. He mastered nearly every branch of scientific knowledge that existed in his day, and wrote books about many of them. He made new discoveries and proposed theories to explain some of the phenomena he enc ountered.
His goal was not simply an increase in scientific knowledge. Swedenborg was searching for the human soul. He focused increasingly on the human body and brain, attempting to locate the soul through scientific observation. But the more painstaking his studies, the more his goal eluded his grasp. He began to realize that he could not reach the soul through study of the material world, because the soul is on an entirely different level--a spiritual level.
At this point, Swedenborg's life went through a profound change. Through a series of dreams and visions, he felt called by God to leave his scientific work and explore the deeper mysteries of spirit and religion. Yet his scientific studies were not i n vain. He realized that every material thing expresses a deeper, spiritual reality. His thorough knowledge of the physical world gave him the foundation he needed to understand the workings of the inner, spiritual world. And his habits of careful observa tion and analysis proved valuable.
For the next thirty years--until his death in 1772 at the age of eighty-four--Swedenborg devoted himself to spiritual studies. By his account, God had allowed him to be conscious in the spiritual and physical worlds simultaneously. He carefully laid the basis for a new Christianity appropriate to an age of intellectual freedom. The Heavenly City is Swedenborg's brief introduction to this new Christianity. It was originally published in Latin in 1758 as De Nova Hierosolyma et ejus Doctrina C oelesti ("The New Jerusalem and its Philosophy from Heaven"). Swedenborg drew the material from his earlier eight volume work Arcana Coelestia ("Secrets from Heaven").
My aim in this translation of The Heavenly City has been to put Swedenborg's simple, readable Latin into an equally readable modern English. I have used the broadest, least sectarian language possible in order to convey the remarkable sweep of Swedenborg's original vision.
In The Heavenly City Swedenborg transforms many conventional religious ideas into vital new concepts. He explores the stages of spiritual growth, examines the deeper structure of the human mind, and gives new meaning to many Christian beliefs and practices. The thoughtful reader will travel beyond the apparent similarities with familiar religious ideas into a rich and rewarding world of new spiritual insights.
Guemes Island, Washington
Notes to the Reader
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