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Center for Swedenborgian Studies

New Affiliate Center

A Swedenborgian Cross

The Center for Swedenborgian Studies will become an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union on July 1, 2015 after partnering with Pacific School of Religion as a House of Studies since 2001. Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was an eighteenth-century Swedish scientist who was also an active member of Sweden’s national parliament. He underwent a dramatic mid-life spiritual crisis that resulted in a vocational change from one as a natural philosopher and government official to that of secluded biblical revelator and Christian prophet.

Swedenborg lived during the age of reason in the European Enlightenment and was steeped in the philosophical frameworks of neo-Cartesian thought. His early religious formation had been shaped by the Pietist spirituality of his Lutheran bishop father, Jesper Swedberg (chaplain to the royal family, professor of theology and Dean of the Cathedral at the University of Uppsala). He was also influenced by his brother-in-law, Eric Benzelius, with whom he lived during his university days and who, as head librarian at Uppsala, had a passion for hermetic philosophy and the Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah which molded Swedenborg’s own interests in religion.

Dr. James Lawrence, Dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies – Photo: GTU

Over the final twenty-three years of Swedenborg’s life, he produced seven major theological works (Secrets of Heaven, 8 vols. [1749-1756]; Heaven and Hell [1756]; Divine Love and Wisdom [1763]; Divine Providence [1764]; Revelation Unveiled, 2 vols. [1766]; Marriage Love [1768]; and True Christianity [1771]; eight minor works and numerous unpublished manuscripts still extant (most posthumously published). Running to over 20,000 manuscript pages, his literary remains are located at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, and this archive was selected as one of two Swedish sources by UNESCO for its Memory of the World program.

Emanuel Swedenborg was an influential thinker in philosophy and religion whose works influenced the Henry James family (Henry, Sr., Henry, Jr., William, and Alice), Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and many others in the Romantic and Transcendentalist traditions, Spiritualists, healing theorists, utopian communitarian groups, and Christian leaders. He also was a pivotal figure in the development of a new church and the Center for Swedenborgian Studies remains connected to the General Convention of the New Jerusalem Church.

Dr. James Lawrence is Dean and assistant professor of Spirituality and Historical Studies of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies. Dr. Lawrence is a member of the Core Doctoral Faculty of the GTU. Also teaching at the GTU as a professor of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies will be Dr. Devin Zuber, and Rebecca Esterson, Scholar-in-Training at Boston University, will join the Center in August.