Biographies of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, have portrayed him as anything from a schizophrenic wandering ascetic to a hedonistic pleasure-seeker. But who was the real man behind the misconceptions?

In this spiritual biography, Ray Silverman explores the stories and the popular misconceptions about Johnny Appleseed as well as the truths behind the legends. Chapman was not only a savvy businessman with nurseries and land holdings throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, he was a compassionate friend and neighbor. But it is only once we talk about Chapman’s spiritual beliefs that we come to the core of who he was: a thoughtful and joyful Christian who was deeply moved by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

The picture that emerges is of a light-hearted person whose convictions led him to seek harmony not only in nature but in the spiritual realms also–and to share his bounty with as many people as he could.

About the Author

Ray Silverman is the author of Rise Above It: Spiritual Development through the Ten Commandments (co-authored with his wife, Star) and the editor of Helen Keller’s spiritual autobiography Light in My Darkness. More recently, he authored the introduction for the stand-alone edition of Helen Keller’s inspirational essay How I Would Help the World. Ray has a PhD from the University of Michigan, an MAT from Wesleyan University, and an MDiv from the Academy of the New Church Theological School. He currently serves as associate professor of religion, English, and moral philosophy at Bryn Athyn College and is an adjunct instructor at Urbana University, the home of the Johnny Appleseed Education Center and Museum and the Chapman School of Leadership in Sustainability.


Nancy Poes was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and received a BA in history from the University of California Berkeley. She studied illustration at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She spent twenty years in Hawaii and extensive time in Portugal, and since 2006 she has lived and painted in Santa Fe. Her work is part of many international public, corporate, and private collections.


“The only way to make sense of John Chapman’s life is through Emanuel Swedenborg. In The Core of Johnny Appleseed, Ray Silverman shows us why that is so.”

—Howard Means, author of Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story

“What’s the connection between American apples and Emanuel Swedenborg? ‘Johnny Appleseed,’ says Ray Silverman in this little gem of a well-written and well-researched book. So when you eat your next slice of apple pie or drink your next glass of apple cider, reflect on the principle of correspondence, as Appleseed, a Swedenborgian, must have understood it. From the seed falling onto the ground to the fruit of the tree that springs up — all ‘a living sermon from God about how truth can be received and bear fruit in human beings.'”

—Susanne Scholz, associate professor of the Old Testament, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

“As a professional living history scholar/actor, I have performed as Johnny Appleseed some 1,300 times. My research has taken me into many libraries, museums, professors’ offices, and along the road sometimes called the Johnny Appleseed Trail. Ray Silverman has taken a more difficult trek, one that leads to John Chapman’s soul. After reading this book, I find myself in agreement with Ray. You cannot know the Johnny Appleseed story without understanding the faith of this important American hero.”

—Hank Fincken, American history scholar and actor

“Ray hits a homerun on his new book, helping us understand the spiritual side of Johnny Appleseed. It was Johnny’s faith, above all, that guided him in his business dealings as well as his relationships with settlers and Native Americans. Johnny’s faith inspired him to be a man of integrity — hardworking and charitable. These are just a few of the principles he lived by, principles we should emulate today.”

—Joe Besecker, director of the Johnny Appleseed Education Center and Museum

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