The Man and His Work
Emanuel, born in Stockholm on January 29, 1688 was the third of nine children
and the second son born to Jesper and Sarah Behm Swedberg. The family moved
to Uppsala four years later when Jesper was appointed professor of theology
at the university there and where he also served as Dean and Rector of the Cathedral.
While living in Uppsala, in 1696, Swedenborg suddenly lost his mother and his
older brother Albert in an epidemic. A year later his father Swedberg remarried.
His new wife was Sarah Bergia, a wealthy widow, who also had mining interests.
She seems to have been particularly fond of Emanuel and upon her death in 1720,
he inherited half of her estate, Starbo, and a modest fortune.
Swedenborg wrote very little about his early life, and except for the following,
which was written in a letter to a friend in 1769, what little else is known
comes from public records and his father's autobiography:
"From my fourth to my tenth year, I was constantly engaged in thought
upon God, salvation, and the spiritual sufferings of men, and several times
I revealed that at which my father and mother wondered. . . . From my sixth
to my twelfth year my delight was to discourse with clergymen concerning Faith
that the life thereof is love, and the love that gives life is the love of one's
After his family moved to Uppsala, Swedenborg spent the next seventeen years
there. He lived in his father's home for eleven years, until Bishop Swedberg
was called to Skara. For the next six years, until his graduation from the university
in 1709, he lived with his sister Anna and her husband, Eric Benzelius, who
was the librarian at the University.
Benzelius was a modern, bishop of Linköping. He was a brilliant man with
a keen interest in the philosophy of Descartes, and was convinced that science
held the key to the future. With that perspective, he eagerly took on the responsibility
of modernizing the holdings of the Library. To accomplish this he corresponded
with many of the most prominent men of learning in Europe and in this way he
gained a knowledge of the developing intellectual trends of his day.
Both Swedberg and Benzelius were important influences in shaping Swedenborg's
aims and interests. Swedenborg himself acknowledges this in dedications that
he wrote to both men. Swedenborg dedicated his graduation thesis Selected
Sentences from Publius Syrus Mimus and L. Annaeus Senecato his father
with the following words: May I grow, with increasing years, in the imitations
of those deeds which have covered the name of my parent with honor and Fame.
May I resemble him in his writings as well as in mind and character.