Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: A Swedenborg Sampler by Emanuel Swedenborg

Before I get into the book review, you may be asking, who is Swedenborg? I'd never heard of him until about three years ago. Here's his bio off the Amazon website:

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist, inventor, and theologian who made significant discoveries in many of the natural sciences, including astronomy, anatomy, geology, and mineralogy. At age fifty-five, his intensive search for answers to ultimate questions culminated in an awakening that gave him a unique insight into the workings of the spiritual world. He spent the remainder of his life writing about his experiences and how human beings can come to a deeper awareness of the divine.

Swedenborg's ideas have influenced people as diverse as Helen Keller, Johnny Appleseed, William Blake, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, D.T. Suzuki, Jorge Luis Borges, and Dr. Mehmet Oz. The continuing appeal of his thought undoubtedly lies in his insights into the afterlife, concepts of divine love, and focus on personal and social development.

Wikipedia has more on Swedenborg here.


Review:

I bought A Swedenborg Sampler about two years or so ago and it has been sitting on my shelf, waiting. After reading the book, I see now that I wasn't ready for the book when I bought it and got more out of it having waited.

That said, I thought the book was quite fascinating. This is just a small sample of Swedenborg's work and I fully intend to read more. I've never been a fan of blind faith and I understand Swedenborg wasn't either. I always wanted to know why things were as they were and have the Bible explained in terms that made sense to me. Swedenborg presents his theological insights in a way that I found to make sense. I'll touch on a few.

Swedenborg asserts that the Old Testament, especially the first books, are not meant to be read literally, but that nearly every word has a metaphorical meaning. He says the story of creation is not the literal creation of the world and universe, but is instead essentially the process of development of the inner human spirit over time (sorry Swedenborgian's if I don't have the fine details exact, but this is the gist). The first six days of creation are not literal days, but time periods of a person's development from being born into selfish ignorance to being considerate of others to ultimately living a life of faith and love. He goes into great detail of the explanation of each of the six "days" or stages of "regeneration."

Without getting too lengthy, Swedenborg equates key words in the Old Testament like heavens, day, light, earth, darkness, night, water, fruit, plants, trees, birds, fish, and animals, etc. to concepts such as truth, goodness, faith and love, knowledge, ignorance, and other aspects of development with the goal in life of becoming more like God (not necessarily in that corresponding order).

This is just a small glimpse into Swedenborg's insights. Also discussed in the book are what happens to your spirit after your body dies, what it means to be human, how goodwill should be dispensed, what is heaven and what is hell, angels, spirits, the purpose of evil and so much more. There was so much packed into this book of deep thought that I can't even remember it all, but I do want to know more. I'm surprised that Swedenborg's writings are not more widespread.

Five Stars.

And guess what. The Kindle version of this book is only 99 cents! And many of his other works are FREE on Kindle.

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