ABSTRACT

This chapter will look at some of the people attracted to Swedenborgianism and how they adapted and transformed his ideas. From the beginning, swedenborgians were split between those who found in the theosophist an evangelical spirituality which enlivened the faith they practised within the established Church, and those who took Swedenborg as a prophet for a new dispensation portending the demise of the old churches. To understand why Swedenborgianism exerted a pull on Blake and others with radical inclinations in religion and politics, it is necessary to recover what Swedenborgianism ‘meant’ at the time. For this, two types of documents will be analysed in this chapter. One is the evaluations of heresy-hunters. Swedenborgianism’s attack on the established Church as corrupt invited critical commentaries on the way in which this foreign import related to the English tradition of radical dissent. If alarmist accounts are notoriously unreliable sources, the public image is important, however, for establishing the cultural status of Swedenborgianism at the time Blake was associated with the movement. Even more relevant than the views of outside observers are the mind-sets and attitudes of believers whose paths crossed with swedenborgianism.