Swedenborg: A Herald of the New Age?

by Jean-François Mayer (University of Fribourg)

[This paper was originally presented at CESNUR 98. A German translation has been published in the Swiss quarterly Offene Tore. Beiträge zu einem neuen christlichen Zeitalter (Zürich), 4/98, pp. 186-199. © Jean-François Mayer 1998, 1999]


In the early 1980s, as I was gathering material for my doctoral thesis on the Swedenborgian movement in Switzerland [1], I spent several months studying the archives and printed literature of the New Church in Lausanne. Beside the church itself, that active group had created several auxiliary societies: a Swedenborg Circle, a Youth League, and also another association called the Evidence Society. It was modelled on the pattern of similar societies already existing among Swedenborgians in the English-speaking world. Apparently, the first society of this kind had been instituted in the United Kingdom in 1873 as "The Auxiliary New-Church Missionary and Tract Society" and renamed as "The New-Church Evidence Society" in its tenth year [2]. An Evidence Society was subsequently founded in 1895 in the United States "to take note of and make generally known such evidences of the New Church as may be found in literature or gathered from current talk; to correct misconceptions and misstatements; to provide ways of further conveying a knowledge of the New Church to the world […]."[3] While the wish to be able to help developping an accurate understanding of Swedenborg and his message in the outside world was undoubtedly - in addition to missionary aims - one of the main motivations of the people who invested time in gathering any quotation of Swedenborg found in books, newspapers or radio broadcasts, and while impressive collections of flattering comments about Swedenborg by famous authors also served to enhance the cultural legitimacy of the New Church by showing that it was something more than a small fringe movement, another and no less important purpose was to document the progress of the influence of Swedenborg in contemporary thought. An early report of the Evidence Society stated: "[…] we can not only say, in general, that the influence of Swedenborg's teachings and New Church thought pervade the religious, philosophical, literary and social life of our times, but we can give decisive instances and authoritative statements to show such influence."[4] For the New Church members themselves, this played a faith-promoting role too: "Don't you believe, wrote one of them in 1924, that such research […] will teach us in a convincing manner the ways of the Providence for the penetration of the doctrines of the Second Advent inside today's Christendom […]? Our faith in Providence may become reinforced and we will be less preoccupied about the future." [5] It is well-known that Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) did never launch a new religious movement himself: while continuing to the very end of his life to affirm the truth of everything he had written, he received communion from a Swedish Lutheran pastor shortly before he passed away and the same minister buried him in the vault of the Swedish church in London [6]. It took several years after his death until some English readers of his writings decided to establish a separate place of worship in London; but other no-less enthusiastic followers thought otherwise. For instance, Rev. John Clowes (1743-1831), who was during sixty-two years the venerated rector of St. John's Church in Manchester, maintained that the best way to propagate the new message was to print Swedenborg's writings and to make them known as widely as possible, while remaining inside the Established Church: "He thought it probable, that sooner or later the bishops and other dignitaries of the Church of England would be disposed to revise their Liturgy, and make it conformable to the truths of the new dispensation; and he considered, that no others had any right whatever to interfer in the matter. A separation, he thought, might at some future period be thought necessary, if no such reform […] should be likely to take place. In the mean time he recommended […] to wait with patience until the doctrines of the New Church shall have gained a more extensive reception in the hearts of the people."[7] From Swedenborg's life and writings themselves, Clowes remarked that Swedenborg was no violent innovator, that his writings said very little regarding external worship and that "he never called any from the use of those externals of worship to which they had been accustomed from infancy".[8]

But whichever their opinion in such matters, it was rather a question of the proper strategy to be adopted: all Swedenborgians, whether "separatists" or "non-separatists", were equally and deeply convinced that the influx of the New Dispensation would be felt more and more in the entire world, well beyond the borders of New Church societies. Most of them would have shared the optimistic mood expressed by an American Swedenborgian author of the XIXth century:

"By influxes and radiations from the New Church in the world of spirits, and from the opened spiritual sense of the Word of God, a vast new spiritual atmosphere has been created […] in which the Lord is constantly descending with new light, new truth, new applications and new interpretations into the hearts of his children."[9]

"The visible New Church, possessing the spiritual oracles of God, will expand in numbers and power at a healthy and continually accelerating pace, increasing in spiritual gifts and spiritual insight as it advances."[10]

However, added the author, "[t]he growth and influence of the visible New Church cannot be measured by the progress of its technical institutions": there are many outside its ranks who "have been more or less favorably impressed with the doctrines of Swedenborg"[11]. The Christian Churches were perceived as "animated by a different spirit from what ruled them a century ago":
"Christians think and feel very differently now from what they did formerly."[12] Faced with a modest number of members in their congregations, not a few Swedenborgians found comfort in the "permeation theory", according to which "the whole world is being gradually permeated by the new truths" and "[t]hough the world has not accepted the Writings [13] of Swedenborg nevertheless its teachings have influenced its thought far more than it is aware".[14]

Since the beginning of this century, some branches of the New Church have tended to decline, while others have experienced a steady albeit modest growth, but their membership remains quite low compared with other religious groups: when two European New Church ministers decided in 1997 to call the New Church to join the World Council of Churches (WCC), they suggested to group together all the New Church organizations in an alliance, since none could on its own reach the threshold of 25,000 parishioners required by the WCC guidelines for any application for membership.[15] There is little prospect for the New Church to expand suddenly. Competition is stronger than ever on the market of beliefs, and this applies also to Swedenborg's writings.

But what about the "permeation" theory? At least some of the books written by Swedenborg continue to enjoy a wide circulation, for instance that Swedenborgian "best-seller" which Heaven and Hell always has been. Do the Heavenly Doctrines revealed more than two centuries ago in huge Latin volumes influence more and more people in our world? Surprisingly, if we are to believe some experts on alternative religions, especially in Germany, there are good reasons for Swedenborgian "permeationists" and coworkers of the Evidence Society (if there still is one) to rejoice. According to several recent publications, Swedenborg should be seen as a forerunner of the New Age movement. In a thick book about New Age from the perspective of the science of religion, Christoph Bochinger devotes nearly 40 pages to Swedenborg [16] and comes to the conclusion that the famous Swedish seer and scientist had the function of a bridge and should be seen as a key person for any interpretation of new religious movements: he opened new perspectives while still remaining rooted in the classical Christian tradition. Bochinger finds it revealing that Swedenborg himself understood his work as introducing a new Christian era, i.e. the New Church, and the German scholar also sees Swedenborg as a kind of godfather for all those who would insist upon the unity between science and religion. Another German observer of the alternative religious scene, Hans-Jürgen Ruppert, has come independently to similar conclusions: not only did Swedenborg influence various figures of the New Age movement, but what Swedenborg developped is more or less, according to Ruppert, the core idea of New Age itself: the passage from the Christian era to a new dispensation, and so Swedenborg provided the earliest pattern (Ur-Modell) for alternative religious groups. [17] Finally, Michael Fuss comes to the conclusion that Swedenborg "has to be regarded as a focal point for the development of the New Age consciousness" and "as the main inspirer of New Age philosophy".[18]

There are Swedenborgian authors who share such perspectives. Although she takes care to warn that what Swedenborg understood as "New Church" is not identical with "New Age", Ursula Groll discovers not a few similarities between Swedenborg's writings and New Age beliefs [19]: according to her reading of Swedenborg, the Swedish seer had already understood the principles of what is known today as the "chaos theory", his spiritual interpretation of the Seven Days of Genesis (understood as meaning successive stages in human regeneration) corresponds to the development of the seven centers of consciousness in the Eastern teaching on the chakras, etc. New Church minister Michael W. Stanley estimates that Swedenborg "should be seen as the Father of the New Age", beyond the external appearances of writings "colored by the […] thought forms and jargon of the eighteenth century"; his article correlates key principles of the New Age with corresponding aspects of Swedenborg's teachings (such as holistic approach, balance of right and left brain modes of thought, esoteric significance of sacred texts, etc.). "Both his teachings and much of subsequent New Age writing can be said to be a fresh revelation of ancient universal truth in a form suited to modern scientific man living in the aftermath of the historical incarnation of Christ."[20]

As we all know, trying to trace the genealogy of ideas proves in many cases to be an uncertain venture, except in those cases where there are clear and demonstrated influences. Ideas are no private property; the fact that similar ideas are developped by different people does not yet prove that they have copied each other. If we look at Swedenborg, it is true that he emerges as a major figure, a giant in the history of alternative religion. His name can be found everywhere and can even be used as a kind of thread for a guided tour of new religious movements. Jane Williams-Hogan listed several of them [21], and the list could go on, as she rightly remarks herself.

I think that I first became aware of it as a young researcher, in those same archives of the New Church in Lausanne which I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, when I came across a letter written by an American New Church organization to Korean Swedenborgians and alluding to the trouble caused in the tiny Swedenborgian flock in Korea by a reader of Swedenborg's writings, Dr. Youn Oon Kim (1915-1989) - who had converted to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. When I got the opportunity of staying at Unification Theological Seminary in 1983, I did not miss the opportunity to ask for a meeting with Dr. Kim, who kindly accepted to speak with me. [22] She had been an enthusiastic reader of Swedenborg and wrote much later: "Swedenborg's message is a most precious truth which became the foundation of my theology."[23] She told me that, when she visited New York for the first time, she first went to the headquarters of the Swedenborg Foundation. When she met Rev. Moon in Dec. 1954, she was struck by the similarities between the Divine Principle and Swedenborg's writings [24], and even asked Rev. Moon if he ever had read Swedenborg's writings; he replied that he never had. Years later, through medium, she allegedly received confirmation from Swedenborg himself that she was on the right way following Rev. Moon. Young Oon Kim's case is an interesting one; at the same time, it shows that she could find striking similarities (in her eyes at least [25]) between Swedenborg and Moon without a genealogical link, it seems, between the worldviews of both.

However, such similarities are not as obvious to other people as they were to her. A Swiss Swedenborgian minister who had the opportunity to meet Dr. Kim as he was President of the Swedenborg School of Religion in Massachussetts in 1978, felt that she had made a selection of those elements in Swedenborg's theology which might harmonize with the Unificationist doctrine [26]. At least, Youn Oon Kim was really conversant with Swedenborg's writings, which is certainly not the case with many of those who mention him as a forerunner to their movement. Ruppert has remarked that Marilyn Ferguson, author of that New Age manifesto which The Aquarian Conspiracy is, is "one the few New Age authors who refers directly to Swedenborg", but without quoting directly from his works [27]. This seems quite revealing: the fact that the name of Swedenborg is mentioned in the cultic milieu is not a sufficient measure of his real influence. Spiritualists of all kinds, up to the "channeling" movement, mention the name of Swedenborg as a precursor (although he had warned against seeking to enter into relationship with the spirits of defuncts); but it would be very hard to find any Spiritualist circle having doctrines in agreement with the major tenets of Swedenborg's theology. Here again, there will be a selective interest. And, as much as Swedenborg's work may have prepared the ground for Spiritualism, Spiritualists and followers of other alternative teachings contributed to keep an interest toward Swedenborg alive. In a "Report of the American New-Church Evidence Society" published in 1914, we can read: "One important field is that of the agency of Spiritism in extending a knowledge of Swedenborg in a very large circle." But that the Spiritualists expressed an interest for those works of Swedenborg where he described his travels in the spiritual world doesn't mean that they accepted his theology - not rare have been the cases of mediums claiming to bring messages from Swedenborg "correcting" his doctrines from his current abode in the spiritual world!

Any new movement is happy to find for itself famous ancestors, and due to the rich content of his writings, Swedenborg could easily be appropriated in a selective way by a variety of groups. For instance, at the end of the second volume of her Secret Doctrine (1888), Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1890) refers to the "innermost sanctuaries" "in the countries pointed to by the great seer of the past century Emanuel Swedenborg", a reference to an information given by Swedenborg in his Apocalypse Revealed (1766) about the "Ancient Word" (i.e. a Scripture older than our Bible) still kept among the people of the "Great Tartary" [28]. But she certainly doesn't agree with Swedenborg on a number of other points; he is only one lost among the many authors which are quoted in the H.P. Blavatsky's works, and not among the main ones.

While the influence of the Theosophical thought upon the New Age can easily be recognized (I use here the word "Theosophical" in a restrictive sense, meaning the authors who belonged to the Theosophical Society or to groups, like the Arcane School, tracing their roots back to the Theosophical Society), it is more difficult to identify Swedenborg's direct influence, although it can not be doubted that elements of his message have become part of the multifaceted cultic milieu and that, in this sense, he can be listed among the ancestors not only of the New Age, but of several other currents within the cultic milieu.[29]

Even without a strong direct influence upon the New Age, should we then see him as a precursor, who already developped views similar to those later promoted by New Age groups? We will probably all agree that the New Age is about transformation - both personal and global [30]. It is true that Swedenborg called the human being to regeneration and wrote a lot about it, but that has nothing to do with the development of some hidden potential, it is rather a continuous effort of the human being in order to do what is good and flee away from what is evil; it is not so much different from what other Christian authors might have called their readers to (and it is significant that Swedenborg connects it with the inner meaning of the sacrament of baptism). Regarding the collective transformation, Swedenborg announced a major change, but he did not connect those perspectives with astrological considerations [31]; it is much closer to the old traditional teachings of the Four Ages, to which Swedenborg refers explicitly; there have been four churches on this earth since the creation (the Most Ancient Church, the Ancient Church, the Israelitish Church and the Christian Church):

"[…] the first of them, which was the most ancient, was as the morning, the spring and the east; the second, or the ancient, was as mid-day, the summer and the south; the third was as the evening, the autumn and the west; and the fourth as the night, the winter and the north. From these progressions according to order, the wise ancients drew their conclusions of the four ages of the world, the first of which they called golden; the second, silver; the third, copper; and the fourth, iron; by which metals also the churches themselves were represented in the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar. But, moreover, in the Lord's sight the church appears as one man, and this Grand Man must needs pass through his different ages like the individuals of which he is composed; advancing from infancy to youth, through youth to manhood, and, at length, to old age, and then when he dies, he rises again."[32]

Now comes the new morning, according to Swedenborg's teachings, which is the Second Advent of the Lord, not to be understood as a physical advent, but as the unveiling of the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures revealed through Swedenborg's writings. The New Church, which is the New Jerusalem, appears. It is true that the Swedenborgians often have tried to interpret upheavals taking place in the world as as many signs of the spiritual influx descending upon this earth since the Final Judgement took place in the spiritual world in 1757, if we are to believe Swedenborg - although he had himself insisted that mighty changes in the external conditions of the world should not be expected [33]. It is thus not surprising that the expression "New Age" itself can easily be found in Swedenborgian literature well before its current use [34]. The Columbian Exposition and the World's Religious Congresses of 1893 were understoof by many Swedenborgians as "a manifestation of the New Age"[35]. However, in itself, the use of an expression such as "New Age" doesn't prove anything, except a common hope for something new and a belief in a progress, which is certainly a feature shared by New Church and New Age.

Most important, I think, is the fact that Swedenborg's New Age (although he does never use this expression himself) is a New Christian Age, in contrast with the post-Christian features of the current New Age movement [36]. The New Church does not abolish Christianity, but rather claims to be the Christian Church par excellence, which is now first commencing, while the former Church was Christian in name only, explains Swedenborg. [37]

The influence of elements from Swedenborg's writings upon the alternative religious tradition (and through it possibly upon the New Age [38]) should certainly not be underestimated, and those works which mention it in relationship to a variety of authors and groups are to be welcomed by all historians of religious ideas. But putting excessive emphasis upon Swedenborg as a kind of grand-father of the New Age might lead us to forget that Swedenborg was primarily the prophet of a new Christian theology, and not only because he was influenced by the circumstances of his times: the confession of Jesus Christ as God and Saviour is essential for the New Church doctrine, and Swedenborg insists that he received his Heavenly Doctrine not from some angel, but only from the Lord Himself. Replaced in their historical context, Swedenborg's writings can be understood as an attempt to renew the Christian faith in face of the challenges of the Enlightenment [39], not to discard Christianity for replacing it through some new, post-Christian religion. From the perspective of history of religion, the Swedenborgian impulse has provided elements to alternative religious strains (and has influenced to some extent other currents of thought as well [40]), but this doesn't prevent Swedenborg and the New Church to remain in the orbit of Christianity; it is significant that they cling to the external forms inherited of Christian culture [41]. The impressive and wide-ranging work of Swedenborg is rich enough to provide inspiration as well to people whose beliefs are quite far from his own, and both his place at a turning point of history and the intrinsic quality of his writings have allowed such a role, but he remained to the end a Christian [42]. And the New Church is a new Christian religious movement, not the new religion which it might have become.


1. See J.-F. Mayer, La Nouvelle Eglise de Lausanne et le mouvement swedenborgien en Suisse romande, des origines à 1948, Zurich: Swedenborg Verlag, 1984.

2. I would like here to thank Jane Williams-Hogan for having kindly provided photocopies of several yearly reports of the British and of the American Evidence Societies.

3. Quoted in Marguerite Beck Block, The New Church in the New World: A Study of Swedenborgianism in America (new edition), New York: Swedenborg Publishing Association, 1984, p. 359.

4. Ibid. In a report of the London-based Evidence Society for the year 1897, one can read such typical comments: "As was noted in last year's Report, there is apparent on all sides a growing tendency to treat the name of Swedenborg with respect, and give earnest attention to his Writings. A prominent Congregationalist minister writes: — "Christian thought, especially in denominations like the Congregational, has been more subtly influenced by Swedenborg and his ideas, than any of us are really aware […]."" (Twenty-Fifth Report of the New-Church Evidence Society, London, 1898, p. 5)

5. Le Messager de la Nouvelle Eglise (Lausanne), Vol. VIII, No. 1, January 1924, p. 14.

6. See R.L. Tafel, Documents concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel Swedenborg (Vol. II, Part I), London: Swedenborg Society, 1877, pp. 557-558.

7. Robert Hindmarsh, Rise and Progress of the New Jerusalem Church in England, America, and Other Parts, London, 1861, p. 55.

8. John Clowes, Outlines of Swedenborg's Doctrines: Being Dialogues on the Nature, Design, and Evidence of the Theological Writings of the Hon. Emanuel Swedenborg (new edition), London, 1873, pp. 89-93. "And would it not be wiser and more expedient, and consequently more becoming of the duty of every sincere and humble Christian, at present, instead of separating from his weak and ignorant brethren in the use of their imperfect forms, rather to accommodate himself herein to their infirmities; […] to acquire thereby such an influence over them, as might lead them by degrees to receive more solid and perfect principles of doctrine and of life? The truth being thus recommended, it appears to me there might be better hope of a more general reception […]." (Ibid., p. 95)

9. William H. Holcombe, The End of the World: With New Interpretations of History, Philadelphia, 1881, p. 332.

10. Ibid., p. 334.

11. Ibid., pp. 334-335.

12. The Dawn: A New Church Home Journal, Vol. VI, No. 270, September 6, 1888, p. 574.

13. In New Church literature, the word "writings" is usually written with a capital when it refers to Swedenborg's works, and sometimes New Church people just speak of "the Writings".

14. M.B. Block, op. cit., p. 357.

15. Rev. Dr. Friedemann Horn (Zurich) and Rev. Jean Vidil (Lausanne), "Open letter to all organizations of the New Church" (Christmas 1997). The document states that "[n]obody knows the exact number of parishioners of all New Church organizations. Estimates vary from thirty thousand to fifty thousand." Regarding the doctrinal justifications for taking such a step: "We believe that the Ecumenical Movement, flawed as it may be, is a precursor of the new christian Era, since it is in harmony with one of the key principles of True Christian Religion: love leads, doctrine follows."

16. Christoph Bochinger, "New Age" und moderne Religion: religionswissenschaftliche Analysen, Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser / Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1994, pp. 244-280.

17. Hans-Jürgen Ruppert, "Swedenborg und New Age: Zu einem Ur-Modell alternativer Religiosität neben den Kirchen", in Materialdienst der Evangelischen Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, 57/12, Dec. 1994, pp. 353-363.

18. Michael Fuss, "New Age and Europe: A Challenge for Theology", in Michael A. Fuss (ed.), Rethinking New Religious Movements, Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University, 1998, pp. 648-649.

19. Ursula Groll, Emanuel Swedenborg und das neue Zeitalter, St. Goar: Reichl Verlag, 1993.

20. Michael W. Stanley, "The Relevance of Emanuel Swedenborg's Theological Concepts for the New Age as It Is Envisioned To1day", in Robin Larsen et al. (eds.), Swedenborg: A Continuing Vision, New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1988, pp. 354-360.

21. See Jane Williams-Hogan, "Swedenborgian Traces in Modern Religious Movements Old and New", in Bertrand Ouellet and Richard Bergeron (eds.), Croyances et Sociétés, Montréal: Fides, 1998, pp. 287-304.

22. The meeting took place at her flat at U.T.S. in Barrytown on 7 July 1983.

23. Unification News, Vol. 8, No. 11, Nov. 1989, p. 2. "Often people ask how I was able to accept the Divine Principle. There were several contributing factors. One of them is because I was greatly influenced by the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg and still treasure them deeply because they have continued to have lasting value in my spiritual life." (Young Oon Kim, "Emanuel Swedenborg's Unique Theological Contribution", in The Way of the World [HSA-UWC, New York], Nov.-Dec. 1977, pp. 22-37)

24. See her listing of those similarities (as well as some differences) in Young Oon Kim, "God Is Now Closer", in M. Darrol Bryant and Frederick Sontag (eds.), God: The Contemporary Discussion, New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1982, pp. 313-331 (pp. 324-327).

25. Insofar as she knew, no other Korean reader of Swedenborg's writings had felt attracted toward Rev. Moon's teachings.

26. Friedemann Horn, "Der "Materialdienst" und Swedenborg", in Offene Tore: Beiträge zu einem neuen christlichen Zeitalter (Zurich), 39/6, 1995, pp. 231-246 (pp. 242-243).

27. H.-J. Ruppert, op. cit., p. 358.

28. Apocalypse Revealed, No. 11; the same information can be found in the True Christian Religion (No. 279).

29. See Kay Alexander, "Roots of the New Age", in James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton (eds.), Perspectives on the New Age, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992, pp. 30-47.

30. "What unites all New Agers […] is the vision of radical mystical transformation on both the personal and collective levels. In fact, the awakening to the potential abilities of the human self - one's individual psychic powers and the capability for physical and/or psychological healing - is the New Age springboard for the quantum leap of collective consciousness, which is to bring about and constitute the New Age itself. In other words, "The essence of the New Age is the imposition of that personal vision onto society and the world" (Melton)." (Michael York, The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-Pagan Movements, Lanham / London, Rowman & Littlefield, 1995, pp. 39-40)

31. There are very few mentions of astrologers in Swedenborg's writings, and the Swedish seer writes of them contemptuously (see True Christian Religion, No. 620 and 631).

32. True Christian Religion, No. 762.

33. "The state of the world hereafter will be precisely similar to what it has been hitherto; for the great change which has been effected in the spiritual world does not produce any change in the natural world in its outward appearance […] But the state of the Church will be dissimilar hereafter. It will, indeed, be similar in outward appearance, but dissimilar internally. To outward appearance, there will be divided Churches as heretofore, and there will, in like manner, be various religions among the Gentiles. But the man of the Church will hereafter be in a freer state of thought respecting matters of faith […]." (Last Judgement, No. 73)

34. For instance in the Report of the American New-Church Evidence Society for the years 1918-1919: "The naturalism and rationalism of the day, the so-called modernism, has undermined the orthodox and traditional positions on both of these points of the Christian faith. Many thoughtful people try to console themselves with the idea and the prospect that all this is a preparation for the New Age [emphasis mine], that is clearing away rubbish, and that new and truer views of the Bible and Christ are permeating the minds of men." (p. 3)

35. L.P. Mercer (ed.), The New Jerusalem at the World's Religious Congresses of 1893, Chicago: Western New-Church Union, 1894, p. IX. A Swedenborgian, Charles Carroll Bonney, played an important role in the idea and the organization of the Congresses.

36. As Rev. Friedemann Horn very accurately remarked in his comments about Ruppert's article (in Offene Tore, 39/1, 1995, pp. 17-28, and 39/2, pp. 76-84 [p. 18]).

37. True Christian Religion, No. 668.

38. "A detailed comparative and historical study would be necessary in order to determine the actual extent of Swedenborgianism in New Age religion." (Wouter J. Hanegraaf, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, Leiden / New York / Köln: E.J. Brill, 1996, p. 426, n. 61)

39. See Kurt Hutten, Seher - Grübler - Enthusiasten. Das Buch der traditionellen Sekten und religiösen Sonderbewegungen (13th ed.), Stuttgart: Quell Verlag, 1984, pp. 614-619.

40. See for instance Ernst Benz, "Emanuel Swedenborg als geistiger Wegbahner des deutschen Idealismus und der deutschen Romantik", in Vision und Offenbarung. Gesammelte Swedenborg-Aufsätze, Zurich: Swedenborg Verlag, 1979, pp. 121-153.

41. The founders of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, with headquarters in Bryn Athyn (Pennsylvania), had quite strong views about the separation between the "Old Church" and the New Church: "The old or former Christian Church is consummated and dead, with no hope of a resurreciton; nor can there be a genuine church except with those who separate themselves from it and come to the Lord in His New Church. The New Church is to be distinct from the old, in faith and practice, in form and organization, in religious and social life." (William Frederic Pendleton, The Principles of the Academy, Bryn Athyn: Academy Book Room, 1958, pp. 5-6) Accordingly, only baptism administered by a New Church clergyman is regarded as introducing into the New Church. However, in a revealing way, when the group built its cathedral, at the beginning of this century, it was decided to follow the pattern of Gothic style: "It was felt that the Gothic represented the highest development of Christian architecture, and that of all historic forms of church building it would offer the best available basis from which there might slowly arise a distinct style to accommodate the ritual and worship of the New Church." (A Handbook of Information Concerning the Cathedral-Church of Bryn Athyn [9th ed.], Bryn Athyn: General Church Book Center, 1967, p. 9; for a more detailed presentation of this impressive building, see E. Bruce Glenn, Bryn Athyn Cathedral: The Building of a Church, Bryn Athyn: The Bryn Athyn Church of the New Jerusalem, 1971)

42. At the end of his biography of Swedenborg, Benz concludes that Swedenborg definitely must be placed in the tradition of Christian visionaries; he certainly should not be seen as a kind of proto-Spiritualist (Ernst Benz, Emanuel Swedenborg, Naturforscher und Seher [2nd ed.], Zurich: Swedenborg Verlag, 1969, p. 535).

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