In Swedenborg's final hours, his friend, Pastor Ferelius, told him some people thought he had written his theology just to make a name for himself and asked Swedenborg if he would like to recant. Raising himself up on his bed, his hand on his heart, Swedenborg earnestly replied,
"As truly as you see me before your eyes, so true is everything that I have written; and I could have said more had it been permitted. When you enter eternity you will see everything, and then you and I shall have much to talk about".
He then died, in the afternoon, on the date he had predicted, March 29.
Swedenborg's father, Jesper Swedberg (1653–1735), descended from a wealthy mining family. The first known paternal ancestor was Otte Persson from Sundborn parish, mentioned 1571.
In 1703–1709, Swedenborg lived in Erik Benzelius the Younger's house. Swedenborg completed his university course at Uppsala in 1709, and in 1710, he made his grand tour through the Netherlands, France and Germany before reaching London, where he would spend the next four years. It was also a flourishing center of scientific ideas and discoveries. Swedenborg studied physics, mechanics and philosophy and read and wrote poetry. According to the preface of a book by the Swedish critic Olof Lagercrantz, Swedenborg wrote to his benefactor and brother-in-law Benzelius that he believed that Swedenborg might be destined to be a great scientist.
In 1715 Swedenborg returned to Sweden, where he devoted himself to natural science and engineering projects for the next two decades. A first step was his meeting with King Charles XII of Sweden in the city of Lund, in 1716. The Swedish Inventor Christopher Polhem, who became a close friend of Swedenborg, was also present. Swedenborg's purpose was to persuade the king to fund an observatory in northern Sweden. However, the warlike king did not consider this project important enough, but did appoint Swedenborg assessor-extraordinary on the Swedish Board of Mines (Bergskollegium) in Stockholm.
From 1716 to 1718, Swedenborg published a scientific periodical entitled Daedalus Hyperboreus ("The Northern Daedalus"), a record of mechanical and mathematical inventions and discoveries. One notable description was that of a flying machine, the same he had been sketching a few years earlier (see Flying Machine (Swedenborg)).
Swedenborg proposed many scientific ideas during his lifetime. In his youth, he wanted to present a new idea every day, as he wrote to his brother-in-law Erik Benzelius in 1718. Around 1730, he had changed his mind, and instead believed that higher knowledge is not something that can be acquired, but that it is based on intuition. After 1745, he instead considered himself receiving scientific knowledge in a spontaneous manner from angels.
In 1724, he was offered the chair of mathematics at Uppsala University, but he declined and said that he had dealt mainly with geometry, chemistry and metallurgy during his career. He also said that he did not have the gift of eloquent speech because of a stutter, as recognized by many of his acquaintances; it forced him to speak slowly and carefully, and there are no known occurrences of his speaking in public. The Swedish critic Olof Lagerkrantz proposed that Swedenborg compensated for his impediment by extensive argumentation in writing.
In the 1730s, Swedenborg became increasingly interested in spiritual matters and was determined to find a theory to explain how matter relates to spirit. Swedenborg's Desire to understand the order and the purpose of creation first led him to investigate the structure of matter and the process of creation itself. In the Principia, he outlined his philosophical method, which incorporated experience, geometry (the means by which the inner order of the world can be known) and the power of reason. He also outlined his cosmology, which included the first presentation of his nebular hypothesis. (There is evidence that Swedenborg may have preceded Kant by as much as 20 years in the development of that hypothesis.)
In 1735, in Leipzig, he published a three-volume work, Opera philosophica et mineralis ("Philosophical and mineralogical works") in which he tried to conjoin philosophy and metallurgy. The work was mainly appreciated for its chapters on the analysis of the smelting of iron and copper, and it was the work that gave Swedenborg his international reputation. The same year, he also published the small manuscript de Infinito ("On the Infinite") in which he attempted to explain how the finite is related to the infinite and how the soul is connected to the body. It was the first manuscript in which he touched upon such matters. He knew that it might clash with established theologies since he presented the view that the soul is based on material substances. He also conducted dedicated studies of the fashionable Philosophers of the time such as John Locke, Christian von Wolff, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Descartes and earlier thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and Augustine of Hippo.
In 1743, Swedenborg was dining in a private room at a tavern in London. By the end of the meal, a darkness fell upon his eyes, and the room shifted character. Suddenly, he saw a person sitting at a corner of the room, telling him: "Do not eat too much!". Swedenborg, scared, hurried home. Later that night, the same man appeared in his dreams. The man told Swedenborg that he was the Lord, that he had appointed Swedenborg to reveal the spiritual meaning of the Bible and that he would guide Swedenborg in what to write. The same night, the spiritual world was opened to Swedenborg.
One of his ideas that is considered most crucial for the understanding of his theology is his notion of correspondences. But, in fact, he first presented the theory of correspondences only in 1744, in the first volume of Regnum Animale dealing with the human soul.
From 1745, when he considered himself to have entered a spiritual state, he tended to phrase his "experiences" in empirical terms, to report accurately things he had experienced on his spiritual journeys.
His life from 1747 to his death was spent in Stockholm, the Netherlands and London. During the 25 years, he wrote another 14 works of a spiritual nature; most were published during his lifetime.
Swedenborg considered his theology a revelation of the true Christian religion that had become obfuscated through centuries of theology. However, he did not refer to his writings as theology since he considered it based on actual experiences, unlike theology, except in the title of his last work. Neither did he wish to compare it to philosophy, a discipline he discarded in 1748 because, he claimed, it "darkens the mind, blinds us, and wholly rejects the faith".
The foundation of Swedenborg's theology was laid down in Arcana Cœlestia (Heavenly Mysteries), published in eight Latin volumes from 1749 to 1756. In a significant portion of that work, he interprets the Biblical passages of Genesis and Exodus. He reviews what he says is the inner spiritual sense of these two works of the Word of God. (He later made a similar review of the inner sense of the book of Revelation in Apocalypse Revealed.) Most of all, he was convinced that the Bible describes a human's transformation from a materialistic to a spiritual being, which he calls rebirth or regeneration. He begins this work by outlining how the creation myth was not an account of the creation of Earth, but an account of man's rebirth or regeneration in six steps represented by the six days of creation. Everything related to mankind in the Bible could also be related to Jesus Christ, and how Christ freed himself from materialistic boundaries through the glorification of his human presence by making it Divine. Swedenborg examines this idea in his exposition of Genesis and Exodus.
The work was anonymous, and Swedenborg was not identified as the author until the late 1750s. It had eight volumes, published between 1749 and 1756. It attracted little attention, as few people could penetrate its meaning.
One of Swedenborg's lesser-known works presents a startling claim: that the Last Judgment had begun in the previous year (1757) and was completed by the end of that year and that he had witnessed it. According to The Heavenly Doctrine, the Last Judgment took place not in the physical world but in the World of Spirits, halfway between heaven and hell, through which all pass on their way to heaven or hell. The Judgment took place because the Christian church had lost its charity and faith, resulting in a loss of spiritual free will that threatened the equilibrium between heaven and hell in everyone's life.
The third event was in 1758 when Swedenborg visited Queen Louisa Ulrika of Sweden, who asked him to tell her something about her deceased brother Prince Augustus william of Prussia. The next day, Swedenborg whispered something in her ear that turned the Queen pale and she explained that this was something only she and her brother could know about.
On Thursday, 19 July 1759 a great and well-documented fire broke out in Stockholm, Sweden. In the high and increasing wind it spread very fast, consuming about 300 houses and making 2000 people homeless.
In 1763, the Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), then at the beginning of his career, was impressed by these accounts and made inquiries to find out if they were true. He also ordered all eight volumes of the expensive Arcana Cœlestia (Heavenly Arcana or Heavenly Mysteries). One Charlotte von Knobloch wrote Kant asking his opinion of Swedenborg’s psychic experiences. Kant wrote a very affirmative reply, referring to Swedenborg's "miraculous" gift, and characterizing him as "reasonable, agreeable, remarkable and sincere" and "a scholar," in one of his letters to Mendelssohn, and expressing regret that he (Kant) had never met Swedenborg. Joseph Green, his English friend, who investigated the matter for Kant, including by visiting Swedenborg’s home, found Swedenborg to be a "sensible, pleasant and openhearted" man and here again, a scholar.
However, three years later, in 1766, Kant wrote and published anonymously a small book entitled Träume eines Geistersehers (Dreams of a Spirit-Seer) that was a scathing critique of Swedenborg and his writings. He termed Swedenborg a "spook hunter" "without official office or occupation." As rationale for his critique, Kant said he wanted to stop "ceaseless questioning" and inquiries about Dreams from "inquisitive" persons, both known and unknown", and "importunate appeals from known and unknown friends", as well as from "moon calves". Kant also said he did not want to expose himself to "mockery." More significantly, he became concerned about being seen as an apologist for both Swedenborg and for Spiritism in the guise of his interest in Swedenborg, which might have damaged his career. Dreams was intended as a refutation of all such thinking. This left Kant in the ironic or hypocritical position of trying to free himself of ridicule while he at the same time ridiculed Swedenborg.
A variety of important cultural figures, both Writers and artists, were influenced by Swedenborg's writings, including Robert Frost,Johnny Appleseed, william Blake, Jorge Luis Borges, Daniel Burnham, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Flaxman, George Inness, Henry James Sr., Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, Honoré de Balzac, Helen Keller, Czesław Miłosz, August Strindberg, D. T. Suzuki, and W. B. Yeats. His philosophy had a great impact on the Duke of Södermanland, later King Carl XIII, who as the Grand Master of Swedish Freemasonry (Svenska Frimurare Orden) built its unique system of degrees and wrote its rituals. In contrast, one of the most prominent Swedish authors of Swedenborg's day, Johan Henric Kellgren, called Swedenborg "nothing but a fool". A heresy trial was initiated in Sweden in 1768 against Swedenborg writings and two men who promoted them.
In July 1770, at the age of 82, he traveled to Amsterdam to complete the publication of his last work. The book, Vera Christiana Religio (The True Christian Religion), was published there in 1771 and was one of the most appreciated of his works. Designed to explain his teachings to Lutherans, it is the most concrete of his works.
He was buried in the Swedish Church in Princes Square in Shadwell, London. On the 140th anniversary of his death, in 1912/1913, his remains were transferred to Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden, where they now rest close to the grave of the Botanist Carl Linnaeus. In 1917, the Swedish Church in Shadwell was demolished, and the Swedish community that had grown around the parish moved to Marylebone. In 1938, Princes Square was redeveloped, and in his honour the local road was renamed Swedenborg Gardens. In 1997, a garden, play area and memorial, near the road, were created in his memory.
Some propose that he did not have a revelation at all but developed his theological ideas from sources that ranged from his father to earlier figures in the history of thought, notably Plotinus. That position was first and most notably taken by the Swedish Writer Martin Lamm, who wrote a biography of Swedenborg in 1915 that is still in print. Olof Lagercrantz, the Swedish critic and publicist, had a similar point of view, calling Swedenborg's theological writing "a poem about a foreign country with peculiar laws and customs".
Swedenborg made no attempt to found a church. A few years after his death – 15 by one estimate – for the most part in England, small reading groups formed to study his teachings. As one scholar states, The Heavenly Doctrine particularly appealed to the various dissenting groups that sprang up in the first half of the 18th century who were "surfeited with revivalism and narrow-mindedness" and found his optimism and comprehensive explanations appealing.
For the last 28 years of his life, Swedenborg wrote 18 published theological works—and several more that were unpublished. He termed himself a "Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ" in True Christian Religion, which he published himself. Some followers of The Heavenly Doctrine believe that of his theological works, only those that were published by Swedenborg himself are fully divinely inspired.
Upon the death of Charles XII, Queen Ulrika Eleonora ennobled Swedenborg and his siblings. It was Common in Sweden during the 17th and 18th centuries for the children of bishops to receive that honour, as a recognition of the services of their father. The family name was changed from Swedberg to Swedenborg.
A central question with regard to marriage is whether it stops at death or continues into heaven. The question arises due to a statement of Jesus’ that there is no marriage in heaven (Luke 20:27–38, Matthew 22:23–32, and Mark 12:18–27). Swedenborg wrote The Lord God Jesus Christ on Marriage In Heaven as a detailed analysis of what he meant.