Swedenborg and the Plurality of Worlds: Astrotheology in the Eighteenth Century

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The possible existence of extraterrestrial life led in the eighteenth century to a heated debate on the unique status of the human being and of Christianity. One of those who discussed the new scientific worldview and its implications for theology was the Swedish natural philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. This article discusses Swedenborg's astrotheological transformation, his use of theological arguments in his early cosmology, and his cosmogony that later on ended up in his use of contemporary natural philosophy in his theology, especially concerning the question of the plurality of worlds. I will first sketch the astrotheology found in his natural philosophical works, and then turn to the astrotheology of his later spiritual teachings. In Swedenborg's works we find teleological arguments and a stress on the universality of the divine creation and Christianity, as well as anthropomorphic descriptions of extraterrestrial life. By reconciling contemporary astronomical ideas, among others the concept of the plurality of worlds, with Christian dogmas, Swedenborg refuted deistic conclusions that Jesus was merely a mortal, while at the same time keeping his belief in the modern astronomical worldview.

Details

Authors
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Ideas

Keywords

  • Astrotheology, Eighteenth century, Emanuel Swedenborg, Extraterrestrial life debate, History of astrobiology, History of astronomy, Physico-theology, Plurality of worlds, Teleology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-479
Number of pages30
JournalZygon
Volume51
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun 1
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes