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Swedenborg: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas Paperback – April 12, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Presenting the influential mystic who reported speaking with angels and inhabitants of other planets as well as unlocking the genuine meaning of the Bible, Lachman extracts Swedenborg’s basic ideas from his immense, esoteric oeuvre. Those are not easily and perhaps not convincingly summarized, but Lachman, a former rock-’n’-roller whose second career is writing books about spiritual seekers like Swedenborg, successfully informs his readers of the arc of Swedenborg’s inner theological experience, which did not begin until Swedenborg hit middle age in the 1740s. Until then, he was notable in Sweden as an inventor, science popularizer, and mining official. But Swedenborg’s visions and dreams during this period led to his ecstatic contemplation of connections between the finiteness of earth and the infinitude of ethereal realms. The slew of Swedenborgian tracts that ensued, such as Heaven and Hell (1758) and The True Christian Religion (1771), receive Lachman’s clear and respectful explanations, which pave the way for readers ready to tackle the standard biography, Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic, by Signe Toksvig (1948). --Gilbert Taylor

About the Author

Gary Lachman is one of today’s most widely read and respected writers on esoteric and occult themes. His books include Jung the Mystic, Rudolf Steiner; Politics and the Occult; Turn Off Your Mind; and A Secret History of Consciousness. In his musical career, Lachman has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of Blondie. He was born in New Jersey and currently lives in London. His website is:

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; Reprint edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585429384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585429387
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary Lachman (1955- ) was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, but has lived in London, England since 1996. A founding member of the rock group Blondie, he is now a full time writer with more than a dozen books to his name, on topics ranging from the evolution of consciousness and the western esoteric tradition, to literature and suicide, and the history of popular culture. Lachman writes frequently for many journals in the US and UK, and lectures on his work in the US, UK, and Europe.His work has been translated into several languages. His website is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Anna from InannaWorks on April 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a highly readable academic treatise on the life and work of one of the majorpioneers of modern Western spiritual thought. It was during childhood that Swedenborg began controlling his breath and focusing his mind during prayer. By the time he was an adult, he was highly skilled at using the technique to alter his brain chemistry and shift his consciousness into a deep meditative state. Inner doors opened for him and he pursued them as earnestly as he pursued the rational, scientific study which defined his early professional career. In mid-life he experienced a full-blown spiritual crisis, similar to those experienced by many of the Saints. Afterwards, he communicated with angels and the dead, talking and writing about his encounters as if they were common, every day occurrences.

New Agers and present day occultists might be more familiar with names like Jung, Yeats, Goethe, Poe, de Balzac, and Yeats, but Swedenborg predated all of them, and echoes of Swedenborg's ideas permeate their work.

Lachman paints a literary portrait of a man who was at the heart of modern esoteric thinking. His rendering puts the roots of the modern alternative spiritual movement in the context of the society out of which it was born. Paired with Lachman's earlier work, Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung's Life and Teachings, we have a clear picture of the foundation of a spiritual shift that is only now beginning to blossom fully.

( received a free review copy of this book.)
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on June 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
The first thing to say about Gary Lachman's new book is: This is not an official publication of any branch of Swedenborg's movement. Of course, that movement is tiny in this new millennium: less than 10,000 adherents in the main branches according to one estimate. The movement does sponsor some websites, some official publications and occasional conferences, but this is not a denomination like the Catholic Church that can support multiple semi-official publishing houses.

Lachman is a former rock star and, over many years, has become a leading author on esoteric branches of spirituality. His new book is published by the most respected imprint in alternative spirituality today: Tarcher-Penguin, a publishing division headed by scholar, author and editor Mitch Horowitz. That's not intended as a slight against smaller publishers in alternative spirituality, but Penguin's size (the second largest trade book publisher in the world) and Tarcher's record for selecting and carefully editing alternative books puts the imprint in a category all its own. I make this point to underline that, even if you haven't heard of Lachman's work before, this is a reliable overview of Swedenborg's legacy and influence. And, in Lachman's book, you will find an entirely different approach to Swedenborg's life than you would find if you managed to visit a gathering of New Church followers today. Lachman's short introduction for general readers focuses, partly like a journalist and partly like a sociologist of religion, on influential themes in Swedenborg's spiritual work.

I highly recommend Lachman's book, which does a great job in less than 200 pages of sorting out key themes in the life and work of this absolutely amazing religious innovator.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Christopher B. Murray on April 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you know Gary Lachman's writings, you will not be surprised that his brief book on Swedenborg is well-researched and very readable. It is fewer than 100 pages long, so you will be disappointed if you are looking for the complete life of "The Buddha of the North". Basically, this book is an introduction, a bit more in depth than D.T Suzuki's study, but not by much. However, Lachman keeps the book interesting throughout. He explains some of Swedenborg's ideas clearly, offers some excerpts from the Scandinavian mystic's writings, and details the trajectory of this visionary's life--from his successful career as a scientist, through his period of crisis and troubling dreams, to his journey to Heaven and Hell and his communion with spirits, angels, demons, and with Christ Himself. Lachman does not write from the point of view of a follower or "Swedenborgian"; he entertains the understandable questions of the skeptics, yet he is very much open to the possibility that Swedenborg was neither mad nor a con man--that he was a mystic who visited other realms and wrote voluminously about his findings. I only wish the book was longer and more in-depth.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on July 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a short biography and discussion of Swedenborg's life and work.

Modern writers, philosophers and psychologists cite him as providing a foundation for their works - Carl Jung, Henry James, W.B. Yeats are a few who further explored his themes. Despite his great influence, he has remained an obscure historical figure.

This book does not address the reasons for omission of Swedenborg from the anthologies and academic texts that would give his ideas a wider audience. It gives an introductory sketch and the reader can draw his/her own conclusions.

This book is for those who who want a brief introduction to this scientist/philosopher.
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