Swedenborgianism evolved into a concrete organization and based upon the beliefs and writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 to 1772), who held some of the same thoughts as Christianity. The movement that later emerged involved the writings of Swedenborg, who claimed to have witnessed the Last Judgment and envisioned the second coming of Christ.
There are different variations of the religion, a some organizations of Swedenborgianism teach that Swedenborg wrote the third portion of the Bible, which is viewed as possessing the same power as the Old and New Testaments. Depending on whom you speak to, Swedenborgianism is also referred to as New Christians, Neo-Christians, as well as the New Church. It is also not uncommon to hear of the organization as being called the Church of the New Jerusalem.
The History of Swedenborgianism
In his teachings and writings, Swedenborg mentioned a “new church” that would become a reality and base upon the theology that he placed in his works. However, it was not he who would create this organization that he spoke of. At the time of his passing, a couple of efforts were made, but nothing as concrete as on May 7th, 1787, where 15 years after Swedenborg’s death, the New Church movement started its roots in England , actually a country that Swedenborg was a frequent visitor. It is also the same place where he died.
The idea of the New Church also made its way to the United States; as missionaries went on to carry the word. Many followers gathered, including one notable member called John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed. During the early part of the religion, missionaries would travel to different parts of Africa, where Swedenborg was known to praise the Africans for the way they received the truth, as well as their thought processes.
During the 19th century, occultism was on the rise, especially in places like France and England. At this time, Swedenborg’s writings became part of this movement that combined alchemy and divination with other religious aspects. There was quite the fascination with the mystical side of Swedenborg’s words. His work, ” Heaven and Hell” was heavily received by the public, as he even made mention of spirits within the text.
Throughout the United States, Swedenborgianism was fully organized n 1817, where the founding of the Convention took place. This was the shortened version of making mention of the General Convention of the New Church. Today, this establishment is referred to as the Swedenborgian Church of North America.
The movement in the US became rather powerful until the later part of the 19th century where controversy spread regarding doctrinal issues. This would lead to a splitting of the church and the creation of the Academy of the New Church, which was later dubbed the General Church of New Jerusalem. Often times, it is simply called the General Church. The headquarters were placed in a suburb of Philadelphia called Bryn Athyn.