Swedenborg and Martin Luther King, Jr.

From Rev. Jeremy Simons, Cathedral Chaplain
January 28, 2020

Last week, we celebrated Swedenborg’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthdays only one week apart, due to quirks of the calendar. I like this because it is an opportunity to highlight one of the similarities in their messages.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a celebration of civil rights, of the equality of all people, of diversity, and of the importance of loving and respecting all people, rejecting bias and discrimination. The New Church teaches these same things, but recently something stood out for me that emphasizes this.

Looking at the early parts of Spiritual Experiences, which records some of the first things that the Lord showed Swedenborg, I noticed that there is an emphasis on the variety of people in heaven, and of the goodness of peoples from many different places. For example, we read the following about Muslims and Mohammed:

“About Mohammed: that he drove off a crowd coming towards him, and said they should go to Jesus, the Son of God.” Spiritual Experiences 447

This is one of a series of passages that explains how devout, kind and teachable most Muslims are, and how many of them easily accept the truth.

The next day Swedenborg recorded meeting people from Africa, and says the following:

“A greater proportion [of people] from Africa, than from other regions of the earth, are introduced into heaven…  They say that they do not love their own race only, but all however many there are in heaven, so that they have an ingrained universal love. 1748, the 7th day of January.” Spiritual Experiences 453

During those same few days, he meets people from other planets, and two weeks later writes about who they worship:

“They say that they worship the one only Lord of heaven, whom they do not name by name, but know that the one only Lord rules all people. They therefore look for Him after death, and find Him, Who is Jesus Christ.  Asked whether they knew that the One Only Lord is Human, he replied that they all know He is Human, for by many of them He had been seen as Human. 1748, the 24th day of January.” Spiritual Experiences 523

It is striking that Swedenborg was introduced by the Lord to people from different places, and even from different worlds, right from the start. These were people who Europeans might not have expected to have such heavenly qualities or wisdom. It even appears that Swedenborg adopted the name “Lord” used for God throughout the Writings from his interaction with the people from other worlds.

These early messages in the Writings seem to illustrate a harmony with Dr. King’s work.


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