• Emanuel Swedenborg

    Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason

    By Ernst Benz
    Translated by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

    In this comprehensive and well-researched biography, the distinguished German theologian Ernst Benz documents the rich and fascinating life of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), putting the man and the philosophy in the context of his time. Read more

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The distinguished German theologian Ernst Benz documents the rich and fascinating life of Emanuel Swedenborg, who claims an exceptional place in history as both a scientist and a visionary. Also an active statesman, Swedenborg accomplished major engineering feats, contributed numerous groundbreaking studies in a variety of scientific fields, and played a prominent role in Swedish public institutions.

Benz examines Swedenborg’s life through the lens of the intellectual atmosphere of the eighteenth century. Growing up at a time when the classical view of the world was being challenged by the new philosophers and scientists of the Enlightenment, Swedenborg was deeply immersed both in the religious teachings of the Lutheran church and the explorations of rational science. His quest for understanding eventually led to his spiritual awakening and the unique insights that continue to inspire seekers and thinkers today. Now available for the first time in paperback, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s eminently readable translation shines a new light on the Swedish seer.

About the Author

Ernst Benz was professor of church history at the University of Marburg. His bibliography embraces hundreds of learned articles and some fifty books, ranging from studies of Eastern Orthodox churches and Asian religions to the mystical sources of German Romanticism and the interaction of theology and science in such movements as mesmerism and electrotheology.


Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is the director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism at the University of Exeter in England. He is also the author of The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (2008), Helena Blavatsky (2004) andThe Occult Roots of Nazism, which has been in print continuously since its first publication in 1985.


“Ernst Benz’s book offers the best access to Swedenborg’s thought. This translation will serve many students, especially those of the Western esoteric traditions. The remarkable introduction by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is simply the best and most comprehensive short text on Swedenborg I’ve ever read.”

—Prof. Antoine Faivre, Sorbonne, Paris

“German church historian Benz (deceased, formerly Univ. of Marburg) first wrote this German study of Swedenborg’s life and thought in 1948, with a revised version in 1969. The Swedenborg Foundation has sponsored this English translation of Benz’s work. In it Benz rejects any simplistic reduction of Swedenborg’s spiritual crisis of 1744 by mental or psychological explanations. Rather, Benz sees Swedenborg’s visions and his spiritual awakening as part of a long European esoteric and mystical tradition, going back as far as Neo-Platonism and the Hermetic tradition, and shaped as well by the scientific spirit of the age. Benz downplays the idea of a visionary “conversion” of 1744, insisting that Swedenborg’s later theological works develop themes already present in his earlier scientific writings.

Recommended: Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.”

—M.A. Granquist, Gustavus Adolphus College for Choice Magazine, March 2003

“Ernest Benz (1907-1978) was one of the most prolific scholars in the field of esotericism during the twentieth century, but many of his works remain only in German. Thus Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, himself an important scholar,…does readers a considerable favor in making Benz’seminal work on Swedenborg available today. While this book was originally published in 1948, it remains one of the best studies of this influential author, and for the general reader or scholar who wishes for a good introduction to Swedenborg, this is an excellent place to begin.”

Esoterica Journal, May 2006

About the Swedenborg Studies Series

Swedenborg Studies is a scholarly series published by the Swedenborg Foundation. The primary purpose of the series is to make materials available for understanding the life and thought of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and the impact his thought has had on others. The Foundation undertakes to publish original studies and English translations and to republish primary sources that are otherwise difficult to access.

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Ernst Benz






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