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The man who survived the end of the world and described heaven and hell in detail

The man who survived the end of the world and described heaven and hell in detail 1

The year 1757 may not be widely commemorated in Europe. Indeed, it was a year like any other, marked by births, deaths, political strife, and ongoing wars—the typical cycle of world events. Yet, there was one individual who was certain of an extraordinary occurrence: he claimed that 1757 was the year of the Last Judgment and the Second Coming.

This “omniscient” figure was Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist and mystic. Far from being mad, his genius occasionally bordered on the brink of slight insanity. How did Swedenborg “perceive” the operations of heaven and hell?

Immersed in science

Voltaire once remarked that the Swedish King Charles XII was the most remarkable person. However, this assertion is debatable, as it is not the Swedish monarch who is considered the most unconventional individual, but rather his modest subject, Emanuel Swedenborg.

Born in January 1688 into the family of Jesper Svedberg, who was also a notably extraordinary individual, Emanuel was deeply engaged in theology and traveled widely across Europe. Upon his return to Sweden, Emanuel’s father so greatly impressed the king that he was promptly appointed as a professor of theology.

The man who survived the end of the world and described heaven and hell in detail 2
Carl Fredrik von Breda’s “Portrait of Emanuel Swedenborg” is an 1817 painting by the renowned Swedish portrait artist. It depicts Emanuel Swedenborg and includes intricate details such as the names of his written works in the background and a dusting of white wig powder on his shoulder.

It is highly probable that the son was profoundly influenced by his father, adopting his fascination with the unknown and a certain flamboyance in thinking. When it was time, Emmanuel enrolled at Uppsala University. Upon completing his studies, Swedenborg established himself as a skilled scientist.

His pursuits spanned mineralogy, geodesy, metallurgy, anatomy, and economics. Indeed, it takes a remarkably versatile and intelligent individual to excel in such diverse fields. Moreover, Swedenborg endeavored to unlock the universe’s mysteries and comprehend the nature of things that remained enigmatic to humankind.

By 56, Emanuel Swedenborg had earned the esteem of the scientific community. His peers never questioned his ongoing commitment to science. Yet, on one pivotal day, an event occurred that irrevocably altered the course of the researcher’s life.

Meeting Jesus

The scientist recounted that one day, he became aware of a stranger tailing him. The man did not appear to be a criminal, which did not alarm the scientist, but rather piqued his curiosity immensely.

This individual trailed Emmanuel to his residence and proceeded to enter. He introduced himself as Jesus Christ and proclaimed he was on a distinct mission. Through Swedenborg, God intended to reinstate the forgotten wisdom to humanity, as the scientist documented in his writings:

“On the same night, my inner eyes were opened, so that I was able to see the inhabitants of the spirit world, heaven and hell, and thus many hidden aspects of existence.”

Heaven, Hell and the Last Judgment

Following a remarkable encounter, Swedenborg started experiencing unusual visions of the otherworld and its structure. He meticulously recorded everything he witnessed in his diaries, and the text, along with the manner of its presentation, did not suggest any doubts about the author’s mental clarity.

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Should Swedenborg’s “revelations” be taken as truth, it appears he grasped many concepts found in most world religions, as well as the misconceptions held about some. For instance, he posited that individuals choose hell voluntarily. Sinners there reportedly feel content; they relish their animosity towards each other, engage in taboo pleasures, and participate in conflicts.

The man who survived the end of the world and described heaven and hell in detail 3
Frans Francken the Younger’s “The Choice Between Virtue and Vice”.

Swedenborg described paradise not as a reward for righteous living, but as an individual’s choice. Moreover, he noted that paradise’s inhabitants are often characterized by their high intelligence and kindness towards others. For humans, salvation is achieved not only through faith but also through reason.

William Blake added that there is a third salvation through art, and Dostoevsky proclaimed that beauty will save the world. It appears that if humanity fails to heed the words of these visionaries, it is indeed doomed, akin to a herd of hopeless fools.

It may sound quite peculiar, yet there seems to be a semblance of truth in these ideas, and they hardly seem like the delusions of a madman.
Swedenborg’s revelations suggest that in 1757, the Last Judgment prophesied in biblical lore occurred, aiming to purify the world of demons. Nevertheless, he did not dismiss the possibility of such events recurring throughout humanity’s existence.

The man who survived the end of the world and described heaven and hell in detail 4
Per Krafft the Elder’s “Swedenborg at the Age of 75 Holding the Manuscript of the Revelation of the Apocalypse” is housed in the National Portrait Gallery of Sweden.

Emanuel Swedenborg led a life marked by honesty and righteousness. He avoided intrigue, adultery, envy, and greed. In his later years, he was known to wander his room, conversing with angels visible only to him.

While some may label him a madman or an eccentric, it was Swedenborg who pioneered the fields of mineralogy and brain physiology in European science. His case might be one where genius bordered on madness. Or perhaps, Swedenborg truly perceived what was beyond the reach of others.


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