Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)

Emanuel Swedenborg is noteworthy as being one of the great polymaths of the 18th century. Firstly, he was a renowned theoretical scientist who anticipated many later discoveries in various branches of science and psychology. Then in midlife he became a detailed visionary of the spiritual world inhabited by the departed. Resulting from the latter experiences, he developed a deep spiritual philosophy and psychology that has influenced many great symbolic writers such as William Blake, Goethe and Balzac.

Emanuel SwedenborgHe went on to devote much of his time to unfolding the deep inner meaning of books of the Bible, reconnecting us with the timeless spiritual symbolism that links the world of visual forms with the corresponding worlds of the human mind and spirit. In particular, he gave a very detailed spiritual interpretation of the Book of Revelation within two great works entitled the Apocalypse Explained and the Apocalypse Revealed.

 

It is particularly in those works that Swedenborg highlights how the great Judgment event that is central to the visions of the Book of Revelation, is to be spiritually understood as a crucial self-judgment.

 

This is a judgment that each person will make as the result of an eventual breaking in of divine light that reveals a person's chosen inner state for good or ill. This is very reminiscent of the life review reported by so many of those who have undergone a near-death experience. Swedenborg's presentation of judgment is of a divinely-instigated yet self-determined process within us, in which what links us with higher states of hearts and minds is separated from what acts as a barrier to such qualities. This process provides an immensely helpful and uplifting concept, contrasting sharply with any idea of a judgmental or vengeful God.

The choice of images in the Artist's illustrations here has been partially guided by the Apocalypse Study Group's endeavour to present a more modern personal interpretation of the Book of Revelation, though one which has remained rooted in the above-mentioned works of Swedenborg.