Swedenborg: The Man, The Religion And The Rite

By Brother William G. Peacher, Ph.D.



It is with great pleasure to have been given this exceptional opportunity to address this distinguished group of Freemasons on this memorable occasion of having been elected a Fellow of the Maine Lodge of Research. I have elected, arbitrarily, to review with you some notes on a subject that has been of considerable interest to me through the years, and hopefully, you will enjoy them as much as I have in their acquisition. This concerns the man, Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg was one of the most exceptionally talented and gifted men that graced the eighteenth century. He formed a group of the elite in that era of great scientific achievement, philosophical enlightenment, psychological advancement and theological erudition as will be noted below. He contributed extensively to all these fields of endeavor using a quill pen writing in Latin and personally publishing his works anonymously in the early years. Following his religious revelations occurring between 1743-1745, he felt that the Lord had called him into the office of bringing news of the second coming of Jesus Christ. He called himself the revalator and was convinced that his forays into the higher life were divinely guided. The religion and church based upon his philosophy and theology and the Masonic rite named in his honor were inculcated with his principles.




  • 1578-1657 William Harvey, English physician and anatomist, discovers circulation of blood.
  • 1540-1603 William Gilbert, English physician and physicist, had shown that the Earth was a magnet.
  • 1642-1727 Sir Isaac Newton, English natural philosopher, whose Principia establishing universal gravity was published the year Swedenborg was born.
  • 1628-1694 Marcello Malpighi, Italian anatomist, in following the high doctrines of Hippocrates, Leucippus and Lucreteus had given emphasis to the dogma that nature works best in least, i.e. "Tota in minimis existit natura".
  • 1637-1680 Jan Swammerdam, Dutch naturalist known for his biology research with a microscope.
  • 1632-1723 Anton Van Leewenhoch, Dutch naturalist.
  • 1669-1760 Jacob B. Winston, Danish naturalist.
  • 1524?-1574 Bartolommeo Eustachius, Italian anatomist.
  • 1683-1758 Lorenz Heister, German surgeon who wrote Chirurgie in 1719.
  • 1668-1738 Hermann Boerhaave, Dutch physician and professor of medicine, botany and chemistry.
  • 1646-1716 Baron G. W. von Leibartz, German philosopher and mathematician.
  • 1679-1754 Baron Christian Wolff, German philosopher and mathematician.
  • 1632-1704 John Locke, famed English philosopher.
  • 1583-1646 Hugo Grotius (de Groot), Dutch jurist and statesman.
  • 1707-1778 Carolus Linnaeus, Swedish Naturalist who is the father of systematic botany and affirmed that "Nature is always like herself", and added, "The nobility of method, the largest application of, had been established by Leibnitz and Christain Wolff in cosmology; whilst Locke and Grotius had drawn the moral arguments".
  • During this period was also the universal dissectors: Swammerdam, Leewenhock, Winslow, Eustachius, Heister, Vesalius and Boerhaave, who left nothing for the scalpel or microscope to reveal in human or comparative anatomy.
  • 1575-1624 Jacob Boehme, German theosophist and mystic.

Swedenborg was born on January 29, 1688 at Stockholm, the second son and third child of nine. His father, Jesper, was Professor of Theology at the University of Uppsala, Dean of the Cathedral and subsequently Bishop of Skara. Queen Ulrika Ellonora ennobled the family in 1719, and their family surname was changed from Swedberg to Swedenborg. His father was also Chaplain of the Royal House, giving the family unusual social and political opportunities. Swedenborg was also entitled to sit in the House of Lords in which he contributed greatly through the years.


His mother, Sara, unfortunately, died when he was eight. Her family had been quite financially successful in the mining industry and Swedenborg's inheritance subsequently was to help him immeasurably throughout life, in addition to stimulating his interest in mining.


The children received scriptural names, and in the case of Emanuel it meant "God with us". The atmosphere at home tended to be religious and resulted in a marked influence on Swedenborg's future court connections also permitting discussions on war, politics, technology and philosophy.


Amidst such early intellectual motivation, Swedenborg was able to enter Uppsala in June 1799. He elected to major in philosophy which embraced also science and mathematics, one of the four major fields of study then available the others being theology, law and medicine, and he did add courses in law subsequently. Instruction was primarily in Latin and he later studied Greek and Hebrew. His knowledge in languages extended ultimately to include English, French, Dutch, German and Italian, nine in all, including his native Swedish. His formal studies were completed in 1709, his thesis being on Moral Philosophy.


Following graduation, Swedenborg spent the next five years, (1710-1714) traveling abroad visiting England, France and Holland. Eric Benzellus, his brother-in-law, was most helpful in introducing him to many of the most learned individuals of the day in England. He studied physics, astronomy the natural sciences, mineralogy, metallurgy, chemistry, geology, mining engineering, cosmology, economics, mathematics, physiology, politics, anatomy, philosophy and theology. He became proficient also in practical mechanics, including bookbinding cabinet work, watch making, engraving and the construction of brass instruments. His proficiency in grinding lenses was achieved in 1713 while in Holland, and his pursuit in the field of science continued in France, and proceeding on to Ristock via Germany, he returned finally to Sweden in 1714.


Swedenborg published a collection of Latin poems at Greifawald, Germany in 1715. He was responsible for Sweden's first scientific publication in 1716, Daedalus Hyperboreus which although short lived with a total of six issues, brought him considerable notoriety. He was appointed also in the same year Extraordinary Assessor of the Royal College of Mines by King Charles XII. He became, thereafter, Assessor in 1723 and Full Assessor in 1724, approved by the king and placed on full salary and continued to serve until 1747. His administrative duties included attending Board meetings regularly when decisions had to be made in the regulation of the mining industry, hiring of officials, arbitration of labor and personal disputes, study and recommendations of progress and collection of taxes levied by the government in mining. Swedenborg worked also in the field, spending the best part of seven summers on inspection tours of the mines which involved the quality and quantity of ore and the necessity of appropriate safety precautions for the miners.


Following visits to Holland and Germany in 1721-1722, he wrote Specimen of a Work on the Principals of Natural Philosophy and Miscellaneous Observations on Natural Things. Returning to Germany then via Bohemia in 1733-1734, he published Pentographical and lneralogical Works and The Infinite. Subsequent research in Paris in 1736 in the field of anatomy and physiology over a period of two years, resulted in one of his most celebrated works, The Economy of the Animal Kingdom which was printed in Amsterdam in 1740.


Swedenborg's life and writings were to undergo an evolutionary change during the years 1743-1745 during which time he experienced many visions and dreams. Although he did not discuss these emotional reactions with his friends, they were recorded in his Journal of Dreams and Journal of Travel. Previous to this time, his writing had been primarily scientific, but some philosophical including Minor Principia (1720), The Principia (1730), Infinite and Final Cause of Creation (1734), Psychological: Empirical Psychology (1733) and Rational Psychology (1742).


A radical change occurred in April 1745 following an intense emotional experience while dining alone in an inn during a visit to London. He was accosted and addressed by an apparition in a visual hallucination as the room darkened. The room cleared and Swedenborg returned obviously quite moved, the spirit returned during the night and this time emphasized the need of an individual to spread the word of God in such a manner that works of the Lord would again be revealed, not unlike the revelations given in the Old Testament. This prompted Swedenborg to believe that he had been called to be this heavenly inspired instrument. With this in mind he then spent his remaining years in the preparation of theological treaties.


These works included an extensive study of the books of Genesis and Exodus which appeared in 12 volumes under the title of Arcana Coelestia-Heavenly Secrets from 1749-1756. This was followed by the Apocalypse Explained in six volumes from 1757-1759. Other extensive volumes were published including, Heaven and Hell (1758), The Four Doctrines (1763), Divine Love and Wisdom (1763), Divine Providence (1763), Apocalypse Revealed (1766) in two volumes, Conjugal Love (1767), True Christian Religion (1771) in two volumes, Miscellaneous Theological Works (1758-1769) and Post-Humous Theological Works (1761-1772) in two volumes.


Swedenborg became more or less an international celebrity following a series of mystical experiences beginning in 1759, a few of which will be recorded here.


Swedenborg was dining in a party of fifteen at the home of William Castelln Gottenberg which was a town approximately three hundred miles from Stockholm in late July 1759, when he suddenly arose about 6 p.m., left the house, returning shortly thereafter and was quite pale, obviously upset and agitated and explained his great concern was about a devastating fire that had broke out in Stockholm or Sodermalue and his home was in grave danger and feared the loss of his papers and manuscripts. His distress continued, pacing about the room frequently going in and out of doors. Finally at 8 p.m., he exclaimed with great fervor; 'Thank God! The fire is extinguished the third door from my home".


The news of the conflagration spread rapidly reaching the Governor's attention. Swedenborg was summoned and dearly discussed the incident which caused great consternation among the populace. Every detail was confirmed when a messenger arrived from the capitol two days later. Swedenborg became, thereafter, public figure which was greatly enhanced by similar episodes of clairvoyance which are well known and documented.


The granddaughter of a Mr. Bolander, owner of extensive cloth mills in Gottenberg, recalled another dramatic incident of Swedenborg's clairvoyance to Dr. R. L Tafel, who wrote extensively on material obtained from Swedenborg's papers. Swedenborg was enjoying a sumptuous dinner given in his honor in I770 at Mr. Bolander's home where he turned and abruptly addressed his host exclaiming, "Sir, you had better go to your mills". Bolander hurried to the mills and found a large section of cloth had fallen close to a hot furnace and was smoldering. The fire was quickly extinguished and thus avoided spreading and would have completely destroyed the structure. Bolander returned and thanked Swedenborg profusely for his remarkable insight. Swedenborg smiled apologetically for his sharp manner in apprising him of the impending calamity as he recognized the immediate danger and knew there was no time to be lost.


Another interesting anecdote illustrating Swedenborg's extraordinary visionary ability concerned John Wesley (1703-1791), celebrated evangelist, theologian and founder of the Methodist Church. Swedenborg, as a result of one of his visions, wrote to Wesley that he felt that Wesley desired to converse with him and he would be quite pleased to see him. Wesley was greatly surprised as he had been thinking about him and his works for some weeks. He responded quite apologetically that he would accept his kind invitation as soon as he returned from an extensive six month evangelistic tour on which he was about to leave. Swedenborg replied shortly after that it would then be too late as he would enter the spirit world on the 29th day of March, 1772, which proved to be the exact date of his passing as predicted.





Swedenborg returned to London in August 1771 where he rented rooms from Richard Shearsmith, a local wigmaker and continued writing and meditation. He suffered a moderately severe stroke just prior to Christmas that year manifested by impaired speech and use of his right limbs. There was sufficient improvement for him to resume working on his manuscripts in the latter part of January 1772. In early March 1771 Swedenborg conversing with his maid, Elizabeth Reynolds subsequently Mrs. Shearsmith advised her that there were several matters that would need his immediate attention as he would be dying in just three weeks time at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.


Ms. Reynolds recalled subsequently that "He was as pleased as if he were going to a holiday, and go to some merrymaking". He received what was to be his last communion in his room a few weeks before his death from the Reverend Arvid Ferelius, former pastor of the Swedish church in London. The above prediction proved to be true as exactly three weeks later on March 29, 1772 at 5:00 p.m., Swedenborg asked the maid the time, to which she replied as noted. Swedenborg then said, "That is good, I thank you. God bless you." He then passed away peacefully.


Services and interment beneath the altar were carried out at the Swedish church on Princes Square near the tower of London led by Pastor Arvid Ferelius on April 5, 1772 at 4 p.m. The small church was filled with Swedenborg's friends. Samuel Sandals, a councilor of mines, read a eulogy in the House of Nobles in Stockholm at the time.


Due to the possibility of demolition of the church, and with permission of Parliament, his remains were disinterred on April 7, 1908 and taken on the frigate Fulgia with much fanfare. He was laid to rest for all time on May 18, 1908 in a handsome sarcophagus in a side chapel in the Uppsala Cathedral, the burial placed of King Gustavus Vasce, other Swedish royalties and distinguished citizens. The tomb next to that of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist and founder of systematic botany was unveiled by King Gustav V on November 19, 1910.


Many well known poets, philosophers and authors in succeeding generations were greatly impressed with Swedenborg's philosophical, theological and psychological contributions to the literature.


Henry James said: "Emanuel Swedenborg had the sanest and most far-reaching intellect this age has ever known".


Samuel Taylor Coleridge remarked that Swedenborg was "one of the most remarkable poets and thinkers". "I can venture to assert, as a moralist, Swedenborg is above all praise; and that, as a naturalist, psychologist and theologian, he has strong and varied claims of the gratitude and admiration of the professional and philosophical faculties.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning the well known poet stated: "To my mind, the only light that has been cast on the other life is found in Swedenborg's philosophy. It explains much of the incomprehensible."


John Greenleaf Whittier said: "There is one grand and beautiful idea underlying all Swedenborg's revelations about the future life."


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: "I am as much inclined as any one to believe in a world beyond the visible, and I have enough poetic and vital drive that even my own constricted self expands to feel a Swedenborgian spirit world."


Ralph Waldo Emerson was most impressed and influenced by Swedenborg's philosophical aiid theological contributions and was instrumental in their introduction, to his erudite colleagues. He made at least eighty references to Swedenborg in his writings including one widely accepted essay on Swedenborg as "the Mystic".


Henry Ward Beecher noted: "No one can know the theology of the 19th Century who has not read Swedenborg".


Harvey F. Bellini in his essay Opposition is True Friendship, discussing Swedenborg's influences on William Blake, aptly observed that Swedenborg had earned the distinction of having been the last man on earth to master all the knowledge of his time.


Helen Keller remarked: "Swedenborg's message has given color and reality and unity to my thought of the life to come, it has exalted my ideas of love, truth, and usefulness; it has been my strongest incitement to overcome my limitations." She became further a most eloquent spokeswoman for the Swedenborgian church in the 1920's. Her activities on the part of the handicapped and her inspiring account of her personal Swedenborgian beliefs in My Religion brought considerable attention to this small but outstanding religious sect.


William Butler Yeats commented: "It was indeed Swedenborg who affirmed for the modem world, as against the abstract reasoning of the learned, the doctrine and practice of the desolate places, of shepherds and midwives, and discovered a world of spirits where there was a scenery like that of the earth, human forms, grotesque or beautiful, senses that knew pleasure and pain, marriage and war, all that could be painted upon canvas or put into stones".


There are few who have not heard of Johnny Appleseed, the nickname of John Chapman, born at Leominster, MA on September 26, 1774 and died on March 17, 1845 in a cabin owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Worth along the St. Joseph's river 3 miles south of Fort Wayne, IN. Chapman first walked into American history on a mid-eastern day in 1797 and his wanderings through the mid-west along the Ohio River to the Great Lakes in modern Ohio, Indiana and illinois have entered into our folklore and the Johnny Appleseed story has remained to this day a favorite part in our primary school curricula. His appellation was derived from his planting, pruning and distributing apple seeds over hundreds of square miles in the Ohio River Valley. He served additionally as a herbal doctor, and minor military hero as a frontier messenger in the War of 1812 and what perhaps is less well known was an ardent Swedenborgian. Along with his apple seeds he distributed Swedenborgian books throughout his journeys for over forty years. On occasion when supplies ran low, he would tear a book in segments or pages and then supplement missing parts to the farmers on return visits. His figure in American literature was enhanced further by Vachel Lindsay's poem In Praise of Johnny Appleseed.





Followers of Swedenborg's teachings were known as Swedenborgian's and accepted his philosophy and theology as divinely inspired, although Swedenborg had never made an attempt to establish a new church. However, shortly after his death, Robert Hindmarsh (1759-1835), a British printer, organized a group of his followers in London in 1787 after reading a copy of Heaven and Hell. This assembly met regularly expounding the tenets of Swedenborgian theology, thereafter establishing churches which were incorporated in 1821. The Swedenborg Society had been founded in London in 1810 to publish Swedenborg's works. The church today is referred to as the "General Conference of the Church of the New Jerusalem". There are approximately five thousand members divided among 75 branches.


The Swedenborgian philosophy integrated into the New Church was transmitted thereafter, to Sweden by Johan Rosen and Gabriel A. Berger and then to the thirteen colonies in an unusual way. James Glen, a wealthy English planter en route to his plantation in Demerara, South America, had read a copy of Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell on ship board and was so impressed that he elected arbitrarily to promulgate Swedenborg's ideas to the colonists on a brief sojourn to the New World. This was evidenced by the following announcement that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette published in Philadelphia, PA on June 2, 1784:


For the Sentimentalists: A discourse on the extraordinary science of Celestial and Terrestrial Connections and Correspondences, recently reviewed by the late honorable and learned Emanuel Swedenborg, will be delivered by Mr. James Glen, a humble Pupil and Follower of the said Swedenborg's, at 8 o'clock in the evening of Saturday the 5th of June, 1784, at Bell's Bookstore, near St. Paul's Church, on Third Street, Philadelphia.


Glen delivered one more lecture at Philadelphia and another at the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston. Following short visits to other parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky he then returned home. Similar ground work was laid at Demerara which continued to 1840. A mission was founded subsequently in 1900 by the New Church based in the United States.


Glen's seed planted in Pennsylvania was to bear much Swedenborgian fruit and augured well for dissemination of the faith. This was initiated by a small group of enthusiastic apostles that included: Francis Bailey, John Young and James Vickery. Shortly after Glen's return home, Robert Hindmarsh forwarded a box of Swedenborg's books which were published subsequently by Bailey, a celebrated printer of the time. Bailey had been an apprentice of Peter Miller, proprietor of the well known Ephrates Press, which had produced the Declaration of Independence and Continental money. Bailey achieved success as a Printer for the State of Pennsylvania and published the Freeman's Journal. He was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, invented a method to prevent counterfeiting bills and notes, and was an elder of the Presbyterian Church. The first Swedenborgian publication written by John Clowes A Summary View of the Heavenly Doctrine appeared in 1787.


The first American church was organized in Baltimore, Maryland in 1790. President Jefferson invited John Hargrove from this congregation to preach in the Capitol rotunda before Congress during his term of office. There are two Swedenborgian societies in the United States. The General Convention of the New Jerusalem was organized in 1817 and has about 55 churches with approximately 4,500 parishioners. The other group known as the General Church of the New Jerusalem was established in 1890 as a result of a schism within the church resulting in withdrawal of the Philadelphia, PA group which adhered to strict adherence to Swedenborg's theology. Headquarters had been at Bryn Athyn, PA until 1993 when they were moved to Westchester, PA. There are 33 churches with about 2,100 members. Swedenborgian's in general have followed Protestant theology, but with some variation. The General Conference (England) and General Convention emphasize missionary activities whereas the General Church places stress on education advocating the philosophy of internal growth.


There are 45 Swedenborgian Churches in North America with approximately 2,600 members with an international membership of 50,000. The General Convention has churches in the United States, Canada and Guyana. Friendly relations are maintained with sister churches in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The headquarters of the General Church has been noted above; The General conference of the New Jerusalem in England is an international Swedenborgian organization not formally affiliated with the General Convention.


Educational instutions associated with the General Convention include:

  • Urbana University at Urbana, Ohio. It was organized in 1850 by members of the Swedenborgian church. It was the second coeducational University to be established in the United States. It offers a four year liberal arts based course with a major in the field of the students choice.
  • The Swedenborgian School of Religion at Newton, Massachusetts. The school's primary function is to prepare qualified candidates for ordination in the Swedenborgian church. It is the only theological institution accredited to award a masters degree in Swedenborgian studies as of 1990. The library contains over 35,000 reference volumes on theology, philosophy, mysticism and related subjects.
  • There are also some summer retreat programs available for study in Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. There are a number of Book Centers throughout the country from which Swedenborgian literature is available.

Churches in the early years were constructed in the traditional Gothic and Renaissance style. The majority have been sold with the passage of time and replaced by more practical and contemporary forms of architecture. Perhaps the one best known is the Wayfarer Chapel at Palos Verde, California with similar structures following glass features in Chicago, St. Louis and Seattle.





This beautiful chapel overlooks the Pacific ocean on a hillside on the Palos Verde Peninsula. It was conceived in the 1920's by Elizabeth Schellenberg, a member of the Swedenborgian church who lived in the area. It was her wish to have a church for Wayfarers to stop, rest, meditate and thank God for his blessings including the wonder and beauties of nature. Narcissus Cox Vanderlip, a neighbor and also a communicant of the church kindly donated the land.


Preliminary plans for a Spanish mission type chapel were prepared by Ralph Jester, a young architect to acquaint the church members of the project. Unfortunately, further progress was delayed due to the depression and World War II. Jester reviewed his earlier sketches of the church thereafter and was dissatisfied and accordingly interested his friend Lloyd Wright, son of the celebrated Frank Lloyd Wright, to design a more appropriate chapel. Church members pledged $25,000 towards the project and Mrs. Vanderlip generously deeded 3.5 acres for the site. The cornerstone of the chapel was laid and the church dedicated on July 16, 1949. It was based on a glass motif utilizing Palos Verde stone and redwood beams. The tower was completed in 1954 and contained chimes with sixteen bells which peal every quarter hour, at weddings and other significant events. The stele is surmounted by a cross which when lighted at night is a welcome beacon to sailors miles at sea. A colonnade followed and plans for the glass loggia reception area were completed before Wright's death in June 1978. The walls of the visitors center are replete with exhibits relating to the church, Helen Keller and Lloyd Wright together with services and programs of the chapel.


Coincidentally, there was a Swedenborgian Church in Riverside, California, my place of residence for many years, having been organized in 1885. Although active, it never had more than forty members. Unfortunately, the congregation dwlndled during the years to four in 1990 consisting of Alfred Bentley, Church President, 71; his wife Evelyn, 60; Alice Van Buren, 90 and her daughter Betty, 65 both of Pedlands. Church rules decreed congregation must disband when the membership drops below ten. Accordingly, the church property was sold at that time and most of its library was sent to the Swedenborgian seminary at Newton, Massachusetts.


It was my good fortune to meet Mr. and Mrs. Bentley on several occasions. They were most helpful in providing me with much information and material on the Swedenborgian church together with sources for additional data. I also had an opportunity to visit the Swedenborgian Church in Portland, Maine on a trip to see my sister in 1992, where I was able to find many further references as to church activities in Maine and the Northeast.


I had talked to Rev. Pasqual King from Findlay, Ohio, Grand Registrar of the Grand College of Rites concerning my interest in the church and its educational affiliations. He kindly visited Urbana University at Urbana, Ohio, including the library and sent me much interesting and most helpful material.





It was Harry Carr's opinion, in The Freemason of October 3, 1925, that Swedenborgian Rite had been established by the Marquis de Thome in 1783 as a modification of the Illuminati of Avignon founded at that city in 1760 by the Benedictine monk Anton Joseph Pernetti (nee February 13, 1716) and a Polish nobleman Gabriela. About this time another Masonic Lodge "Les Amis Reunis" adopting Swedenborgian principals had been founded in Paris. It was reorganized subsequently by Pernetti in 1786 as the Academy of the Illuminated Philosophers. It is said to be the first documented evidence between Freemasonry and Swedenborg.


Pernetti had joined the Benedictine Order in 1763 and shortly after traveled to Bougainville then to the Maloreenlan Islands to take possession of them in the name of France. He became disenchanted with the Order, subsequently, resigned and became Chief Librarian to Frederick the Great in Prussia. He was a member of the Royal Academy of Science and Arts in Berlin and the Academy at Florence. Pernetti resigned from his office in Berlin in 1783, returned to Paris, then to Valence and returned to Avignon, residing there during the Revolution, put in prison and died in 1801.


Benedict Chastonier, a physician was born in 1739, educated at the College of St. Barbe in Paris and practiced medicine thereafter at Hotel Dieu one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. He read an English translation of Arcana Coelesta Vol. II in 1768 and barely missed meeting in the summer of 1769. He did not, however, learn the name of the author of the above book until visiting a book shop in 1776. He had returned to England in 1774 where he was to remain for forty years, and began to translate Swedenborg's works in 1778.


Chastonler was master of the Parisian Lodge Socrate de Ia Parfaite in 1776 and modified the Swedenborgian system introduced by Pernetti in 1786, naming it the "Illuminated Theosophists". He added a seventh degree to the original six, three of which had been appended to degree as follows: 1) Apprentice theosophist, 2) Companion theophist, 3) Master theosophist, 4) Illuminated theosophist, Green Brother, 5) Illuminated theosophist or Blue Brother, 6) llluminated theosophist or Red Brother, 7) Sublime Eccossais or the Heavenly Jerusalem. The body met with limited success, was abandoned and Chastonier spent his remaining years in the translation and publishing of Swedenborg's works.


The Rite was introduced into America by Samuel Beswick a Swedenborgian minister in February 1859. The majority of information concerning this Masonic body can be found in a book he authored The Swedenborg Rite and the Great Masonic Leaders of the 18th Century. It is readily available in most Grand lodge Libraries and an occasional copy may be purchased from antiquarian book stores. It was summarized with comments together with the ritual in Collectanea 1934-5 and 1966, the official publication of the Grand College of Rites, U.S.A. Unfortunately, no additional records of the parent body have been discovered at the time of Voorhis' contributions or since. The ritual reprinted in 1938 was a copy in possession of John Yorker and the Emmanuel Egyptian Lodge and Temple No. 1-2 Manchester, England and received previously from G. C. Longly of Ponita-au Basil, Maltland, Ontario, Canada in July 1876. Voorhis had access to another copy of the ritual reprinted in 1966 which was identical in a book now in the archives of the Supreme Co., 33 degree in Canada.


There is still another surviving copy of the original ritual used by the Supreme Council of Canada in a manuscript now in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. It is initialed by its officers, W. B. Macleod Moore and T. D. Harrington and contains fifty-two, 4 1/2 X 7" pages; the last five of which were blank. The degrees are numbered, first, second and third corresponding to the fourth, fifth and sixth degrees of the rite as reprinted in Collectanea. There is a sketch of the apron and jewel of the officers, inserted between pages 48-49. This ritual is quite similar to that reproduced in Collectanea with only slight differences. This reproduction too is quite comparable to that of the Supreme Grand Junior Warden's Jewel now in the archives of the United Grand Lodge Museum and Library in London, England.


Due to the availability of the complete ritual in Collectanea, Vol. I, No. 1, 1934-1935 in addition to a subsequent reprint, it will not be reproduced here. It would be appropriate, however, to include Section 17 consisting of a "Brief Analysis of the Three degrees" which was given to the candidate at the conclusion of the sixth degree immediately before the charge and closing.






The ancient and original Ritual of Phremasonry refers to events which occurred in the first ages of the world, and the study of its symbols carries us back to the most remote antiquity. It makes us familiar with the habits and customs of our Ancient Brethren, who worshiped the Deity, in the spirit of a genuine, primitive simplicity; it contains the revealed memorials of the most ancient times, which are hoary with an antiquity which precedes the beginning of even ancient history and which belongs to our common nationality and to the common origin of our race. It constitutes the background of all history, sacred and profane. By whatever method these revealed memorials were handed down; whether orally, or by tradition, or pictorially by monumental representation, or by short fragmentary characters, when language was in its infancy, they bear upon their face a stamp of the highest antiquity, when acts were more expressive than words, and when time, language and the want of monumental and written tablets, limited the Ritual to short fragmentary records, which gave nothing but the barest outline of the facts so recorded. One universal religion appears to have prevailed in primitive times, for all ancient religions have the same group of symbols, and although each nation has located this group of symbolic events within its immediate locality, yet every form, in which the group appears, bears marks of having migrated from Egypt, the land of wonders and mother of truth, and of having been carried over the Earth - E., W., S. and N., in every conceivable manner, as the first religious ideas ever held by our race. The work of building God's Temple in nature and the incidents connected with the introduction of our race and its first dwelling place formed that primitive and original Ritual, which embodies the symbolic facts of the first revelation. The age of Rituals, Mysteries, or Religions, may be classed as follows: Egypt, India, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Phoenicia, etc Egypt was the cradle of the mysteries and, at one time, in possession of all the learning and religion that was to be found in the world, and it extended into other nations the influence of its sacred rites and secret doctrines. All other Rituals, and ceremonies, however ancient they may be; whether of Assyria, India, Phoenicia or Greece, have originated from it, as the first model Ritual and the only original one. It records the labours of the Gt. Master Builder in Creation, as the only model worthy of our imitation; being wise and good without spot or blemish, whose perfections are the same yesterday, today and forever and whose attributes and works will be models of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty to the nations of the Earth and to every successive generation thereof until the end of time.




In concluding my remarks, on this 6th degree, I have pleasure in greeting you on behalf of this Temple, as a Perfect Phremason. This name will ever remind you that you must not only study and understand the lessons which the light of those degrees will reveal to you, but you must practically apply them, so as to perfect your moral preparation for that solemn event, which the symbols of this degree are eminently designed to teach - the day and hour of which is known to none, but the Supreme Gd. Master alone. You are now admitted, by the unanimous consent of the Temple, a Fellow of our ancient and honorable brotherhood; ancient as having subsisted in varied forms from time immemorial, and honorable, as tending to make a man pre-eminent in practical virtue by the adoption of its precepts.


You have entered the Temple three times, and at each entrance the first words of your guide revealed to you the first lesson of all symbolic teaching, that the impressions made upon your body and senses are symbols of impressions made, upon your mind; and all you have seen, or may discover hereafter, will only the more fully reveal to you the same great moral truths in another form. Throughout the journey of life, from childhood to old age, whatever may be its character, the same lesson is taught to all, but they will teach you unerring lessons of wisdom if you carefully note them as a Perfect Phremason.


The World's Great Architect is our Supreme Master and the unerring rule which he has given us, is that by which we are striving to work: "To do unto others as we would they should do unto us." Our universal Religion is Love. This is the sentiment which unites men of the most discordant principles into one Temple; bringing together the most diverse natures and customs and making one brotherhood, or family, out of the nations of the Earth.


Phremasonry inculcates these duties to God, our neighbours and ourselves; to God, by never mentioning His Holy Name in vain, or in a manner unbecoming a creature to his Creator, and to look upon Him always as the highest standard and model of Perfection. To govern ourselves accordingly; to our neighbours, by acting upon the Level, Plumb and Square, and thus doing as we would be done unto by others; to ourselves, in avoiding intemperance and excess, whereby we may be led into the committal of deeds which will destroy all our cardinal virtues, and the standard measurements of manhood.


The solemnities of our ceremonies will ever require from you an attentive and serious deportment and an observant eye and ear to the exposition of those emblems under which our light is veiled. You are to act as a peaceable and dutiful citizen, conforming cheerfully to the gov ernment under which you live, and pay a due deference to your superiors. You are to behave with decorum in the Lodge and Temple, lest the beauty and harmony thereof should be disturbed; you are to give cheerful obedience to the Master and presiding officers, and apply yourself to the business of Phremasonry, that you may the sooner become proficient therein. If you recommend a friend for membership in the Temple, you must vouch that he is really one whom you fully believe will conform to the aforesaid duties.


Invested, as you are, with that noble and ancient badge, which yields preference to no honor or order in the universe, you must determine to abhor every act that may lessen the dignity of your profession, which to this hour is the glory of the greatest men on the face of the Earth. So shall the laws of virtue and of moral order reign supreme in the world of mind within you, bringing good out of seeming evil, whilst the hand of the Supreme Master will scatter His blessings and mercies, with unmeasured profusion, along your symbolic journey to that Grand Temple above, where virtue will meet its like in points of true fellowship and the upright, Perfect Phremason receive his due reward.


Although the Rite had been attributed to Swedenborg based upon Beswick's statement that he had received the craft degrees while attending the University of Lund in 1706 and generally accepted as late as 1924, this theory has been disproved subsequently. Further research indicated that Freemasonry had not been introduced into Sweden until 1736.


Voorhis (1933-35?-1966) was of the opinion that the Rite originated in New York through Samuel Beswick due to its similarity to American Craft ritual. Yarker was of the same opinion. Waite in his Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry described the six degree system as having first originated in Canada circa 1860. It was felt to be a version of the craft degrees revised on an astronomical basis. He stated it was more likely the work of Dupuis or Volney as it contained elements of the Swedenborgian system. It had been attributed also to Chastonier's Rite of illuminated Theosophists. Waite expressed still a further opinion in his Secret Tradition in Freemasonry in which he felt the Rite could have been the invention of Kenneth Mackenzie.


The Supreme Council of the Rite was composed initially of members of the Swedenborgian Church and met in the old Kane Lodge No. 454 room on Broadway, New York City, in February 1859 as Menei Temple No. 1. It moved subsequently to the Egyptian room in the Odd Fellows Hall from May 1861-1862 and later to Montauk Lodge No. 286 in Brooklyn.


Beswick stated that the genuine Swedenborgian Rite was known as the "Primitive and Original Rite of Symbolic Masonry". It consisted of six degrees:


I. Temple Masonry or York Rite:


a. Entered Apprentice

b. Fellow Craft

c. Master Mason


2. Primitive and Original Rite of Symbolic Masonry:

d. Enlightened Freemason, or Green Brother

e. Sublime Freemason, or Blue Brother

f. Perfect Freemason, or Red Brother

All the officers of high rank were members of the Swedenborgian Church, but all masons were welcome to join regardless of their religious background.


Beswick spelled Freemason "Phremason" referring to a poor blind candidate, or one in darkness, who is feeling his way in search of light, derived as follows: "P:-The, Re-light; Mason-blind man feeling". Therefore, Phremason means a blind man searching for the light. This word is explained also in considerable detail to the candidate in the fifth degree of Sublime Phremason.


Beswick emphasized that the principal objective of the Swedenborgian Rite is the symbolic teaching of our ancestors. He stated, "To our ancient brethren, the science of symbols was the science of sciences". Quoting a definition given in an English lecture: "Freemasonry is a science of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols". Beswick indicated the same was true in his rite "the science of holy truth veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols". Waite has given his interpretation of the three appended degrees of the Rite in his The Secret Tradition of Freemasonry to which the interested reader is referred.


Voorhis (1935?-1966) has related all that is known of the personal life of Beswick. In a letter written to George C. Longley on August 22, 1876 from Shathroy, Ontario, Beswick stated that he had received the craft degrees in a Swedish Lodge in England and subsequently affiliated with Beaver's Lodge (possibly Beaver Lodge No. 234 in Thombury). He had been a civil engineer in the English Coast Survey on the northern Irish coast, a Reverend Swedenborgian Minister in New York City and subsequently a professor of astronomy and experimental science in Patterson, N. J. He was living at the latter location when a charter had been issued for a Supreme Council in the Swedenborgian Rite in Canada in 1873. He had served also in the Union Army during the Civil War.


Voorhis, in his 1966 article, also indicated that additional correspondence had been reviewed without further details induding letters from Beswick to Shadwell H. Clerke, London, England and George C. Longley in Ontario from Harington, Ontario 8-24 and 8-28-1876 respectively, with additional correspondence from Shathroy through June 4, 1877 indicating he had moved to Canada. There was also an undated memorandum from Beswick briefly summarized:


Our present Grand Secretary of Blue Masonry, of N. Y. State, took the degrees by dispensation. So did Robert Macoy, Dan Sickles and John Sheville, all 33 degree Men, and within a few weeks of each other. These high Masons care little for the whole ceremony, so I initiated them by putting the three degrees of our Order into the form of a Lecture, and giving them the signs, words, grips, etc. at successive stages of the ceremony.


We started a Lodge or Temple with a Master, S.W. and J.W. calling it Menci Temple No. 1, and we worked it as a common Lodge our selves, then left it in the hands of others, and from others made our Grand Lodge of the State of New York.


I have corresponded with the libraries of the Grand Lodge of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Iowa and the Supreme Council 33 degree, A.A.S.R., SMJ, and A.A.S.R., N.J. and have received photo copies of many helpful articles regarding the Rite. Unfortunately, no additional information could be found on Beswick or the American Lodges and Temples beyond that given already by Voorhis. Ms. Kathleen M. Haley, Librarian of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, Grand Lodge Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge, F.&A.M., State of New York was particularly helpful in the latter respect in attempting to find further material. She did forward a copy of the Fundamental Constitution of the Primitive and Original Rite of Freemasonry or Swedenborgian Rite for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland published under the authority of the Supreme Grand Council by Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie as Supreme Grand Secretary, London, 1877. This included the constitution and Articles relating to the Supreme Grand Council, its officers, the Grand Lodge and Temple as well as subordinate Lodges and Temples, the electoral College, data regarding petitions for warrants, jewels, clothing, fees and the Grand Seal.


Voorhis had willed his year books and remaining Masonic library to his Craft Lodge at Red Bank, New Jersey. I called and wrote Lewis J. Birt, a member of the Lodge and familiar with the library. He, too, was unable to provide any additional information on Beswick or the Rite in the United States other than that given in Collectanea (1935?-1966). I will make a further effort in the future to see if I can obtain a copy of the notebook with the ritual and letters mentioned by Voorhis (1966) now in the archives of the Supreme Council 33 degree, Canada.


Beswick issued a charter to introduce the Swedenborgian Rite into Canada on May 1, 1872, but this was not activated in that there were only ten of the necessary twelve petitioners. The warrant was delayed therefore until 1873 with the headquarters of the Supreme Council being at Maitland, Ontario. Voorhis included a complete list of the petitioners both in 1872 and 1873. The officers included William J.B. McLeod, M.W. Supreme Grand Master; Thurman D. Harington, R.W. Supreme Grand Senior Warden and George C. Longley, R.W. Supreme Grand Junior Warden. The charter was issued in New York and signed by: Samuel Beswick, S.G.M.; C.S. Wescott, S.G.S.W. and O. N. C. Shach, S.GJ.W.


The system was introduced subsequently into England from Canada when a petition was forwarded to the Supreme Council of Canada on October 1, 1876 to establish a similar body in England signed by John Yarker as Supreme Grand Master, Francis G. Irwin, Supreme Grand Senior Warden, Charles Scott, Supreme Grand Junior Warden, Kenneth Mackenzie and Thomas L Shore. A charter was issued subsequently with the original Emanuel Lodge and Temple No. 3 on the register of Canada becoming No. 1 at Bristol on the English registry which divided its membership into two additional bodies: Egyptian No. 2 at Manchester and St. John's No. 3 at Baildon.


The Rite grew slowly but steadily during the succeeding years, per haps reaching its zenith as reflected by the No. 19 issue of its official publication The Balustre for May 1902:






This Rite consists of Three Degrees, to which Craft Master Masons, in lawful and regular possession of Symbolical Masonry, can alone be admitted.


It makes no pretense to supersede any other Rite, but is independent and self-contained, offering philosophical explanations of Masonic Science of deep significance. The doctrines contained in certain sections of the Arcana Coelestia of Emanuel Swedenborg - after who the Rite is named, and by whose immediate and Masonic friends it was accepted and restored a century ago - receiving ample illustration, and to all Brethren interested in the more recondite spaces of its Great Temple, this Rite will be welcome.




Grand Officers

M. W. Bro. John Yarker, P.M. 1 and 2, Supreme Grand Master.
R. W. Bro. W. Wynn Westcott, M.B., P.M. 1 and 8, Supreme Grand Senior Warden.
R. W. Bro. Robert Smith Brown, P.M. 3, Supreme Grand Junior Warden.


(Who form the Supreme Council)

V.W. Bro. Henry Hawley, P.M. 2, Supreme Grand Treasurer.
V.W. Bro. Richard Higam, P.M. 2, Supreme Grand Registrar.
V.W. Bro. W. Wynn Westcott, M.B., P.M. 1, Supreme Grand Secretary
V.W. Bro. W. H. Quilliam, P.M. 6, Supreme Grand Chaplain
V.W. Bro. Gerard Encausse, Supreme Grand Marshal.
V.W. Bro. H. Kennedy Melville, S. W. 5, Supreme Senior Grand Deacon.
V.W. Bro. W. S. Hunter, J. W. 5, SupremeJunior Grand Deacon.
V.W. Bro. A. W. Peeples, Sec 5, Supreme Grand Standard Bearer.
V.W. Bro. Theodore Reuss, Supreme Grand Sword Bearer.
V.W. Bro. Sholto Henry Hare, P.M. 2, Supreme Steward.
V.W. Bro. L. P. Hespiradoux, S.W. 2, Supreme Steward.
V.W. Bro. S. C. Bingham, J.W. 1 and 3, Supreme Pursuivant.
V.W. Bro. Alfred Molony, J.W. 13, Supreme Asst. Purst.


Grand Masters of Provinces

Bro. W. Wynn Westcott, P.M. I and 2, London.
Bro. W. M. Quilliam, P.M. 6, Lancashre.


Foreign and Colonial Representatives

Bro. Capt. Constantine Moriou, to G.L. and .T. of Roumania.
Bro. Col. Henry S. Olcott, to G.L. and T. of Bombay.
Bro. Charles Sotheran, to G.L and T. of New York.
Bro. George F. Fort, to G.L and T. of New Jersey, U. S. A.
Bro. Alexander Duncan, to G.L and T. of Cape Town, S. Africa.
Bro. M. V. Portman, to G.L and T. of The Andamans.
Bro. Theodore Reuss, to G.L and T. of Germany.
Bro. Sydney C. Bingham to G.L and T. of New Zealand.
Bro. Gerard Encausse, to G.L and T. of Paris




1 . Emanuel. Warrant, at Bristol, dated 13th January, 1877. Removed to Weston-super-Mare, 30th May 1877. Wm. Wynn Westcott, P.M. Amalgamated, 1895 with No. 2.
2. Egyptian, Manchester. Warrant dated 13th January 1877. J. S. Taylor, W.M.; Henry Hawley, P.M.; S. H. Hare, I.P.M.; Richard Higham, P.M.; John Yarker, P.M., etc.; L P. Hespiradoux, S.W.; John P. Osbome,J.W.
3. St. John's Baildon, Shipley, Yorkshire. Warrant dated 6th February, 1877. Thomas Wynn Holmes, P.M. and W.M.; Thomas Michael Holmes, S.W.; Louis Holmes, J.W.
4. Swedenborg, Havant, Hants. Warrant dated 6th January, 1877. Josiah Clay, W.M. Thos. Frances, P.M.
5. Edina, Edinburgh. Warrant dated 5th ofJune, 1877. Robert Smith Brown, P.M.; A. K. Melville, M.D., P.M.; W. S. Hunter, P.M.; J. MacNaught Campbell, W.M.; A. W. Peeples, Sec.
6. and 9. Royal Oscar, Liverpool. Warrant dated 15th ofJune and 13th August, 1877. Henry B. Brown, P.M.; W. H. Quilliam, W.M.; Henry Hawley, P.M.
7. Cagliostro, Keynsham, Somerset. Warrant dated 16th June, 1877. John Thomas Hallam, W.M.; Alfred G. Williams, S. W.
8. Hermes, London. Warrant dated 13th August 1877. W. Wynn Westcott, P.M.; A. Howell, P.M.; Rev. Dr. T. W. Lemon, W.M.; Fredrick Leigh Gardner, S.W.;Sholto H. Hare, P.M.
9. Liverpool. Meets at a L and T. of Instruction, at 128 A. Mount Pleasant
10. Brittania, Sheffild. Warrant dated 17th April, 1879. Thomas Blair, W.M.; John Eadon Reaney, S.W.; S. B. Ellis, I.P.M.
11. Pythagorean (lodge of Instruction), London. Warrant dated 1st November, 1879. W. Wynn Westcott, W.M.; F. Leigh Gardner, Sec.
12. St. Hilda, Lofthouse in Cleveland. Warrant dated 9th December, 1879. Thomas Allen, W.M.; R. D. Nutt, S.W.; John Oates, J.W.
13. Eri, Limerick. Warrant dated 18th December, 1886. Alfred Moloney, W.M.
14. Inn at Paris. Gerard Encausse, W.M.; Pierre Deullin, S.W.




Prov. Grand Master, Theodore Reuss.
Prov. Grand Dep. Master, Leopold Engel.
Prov. Grand Asst. Dep. Master, August Weinholz.
Prov. Grand S. Warden, Arthur Boerner
Prov. Grand J. Warden, Herrnann Fuegner.
Prov. Grand Chancellor, Sigmund Miller.
Prov. Grand Treasurer, Max Heilbronner.
Prov. Grand M. of C., Erich Walter.
Prov. Grand Librarian, Christoph Marstens
Prov. Grand Secretary, Max Suppas.
Prov. Grand Steward, Robert Gross, M.D.
Prov. Grand Steward, Reinhold Augsburg.
Prov. Grand Marshal, Franz Held.
Prov. Grand Guardian, Max Leichnitz.





W. Master, Theodore Reuss.
S. Warden, Arthur Boerner.
J. Warden, Hermann Fuegner.



W. Master, Leopold Engel.
S. Warden, Sigmund Miller.
J. Warden, George Gierloff.



W. Master, Franz Held.
S. Warden, Otto Hermes.
J. Warden, August Engel.
Treasurer, Albert Paash.


Swedenborg lodges are also to be found in Kattowitz, Zittau, Rudolstadt and Prague. All communications should be addressed to Bro. Arthur Boemer, Grand Provincial Senior Warden, Berlin, S.W.


The present Grand Officers were formally appointed at London by the Supreme Grand Council in 1901. The Accounts of the Supreme Grand Treasurer's last Audit show a balance of £6 11s. 6d.


Jewels of the Order may be had at Kenning and Son.

Warrants on Parchment, and under Seal, £3.


Annual Registration Fee, One Shilling per Member.
Private Lodge fix their own subscriptions, with a minimum Initiation Fee of £1 (including Certificate of Registration, for which 7s. 6d. charged by the Supreme Council).


Declaration Books for each Lodge, containing fifty declaration forms, price 2s. &L, may be had of the Supreme Grand Secretary as also the Fundamental Constitution of the Rite, price One shilling.


By order of the Supreme Grand Council, W. Wynn Westcott, Past Grand Deacon, England. 30th degree, S.G.SW. Swedenborg Rite, and Acting Supreme Grand Sectetary, London N.


The Rite declined thereafter and became extinct as in the United States and Canada. Its history and ritual have taken their place in the Archives of the Grand Coilege of Rites organized in 1934 for the distinct purpose as serving as a repository and publisher of extinct masonic rites in its periodical Collectanea.


The author obtained considerable additional material through the years on numerous visits to London from the library and Museum of the United Grand Lodge of England through the courtesy of its librarian, John Hamill. This included much correspondence between Yarker, his officers and members and numerous copies of the Balustre. An extensive summary of these data is beyond the scope of this article.

Presented to the Maine Lodge of Research

on the occasion of Brother Peacher's reception as its 10th Fellow, 1992


Copyright © 1987 by Maine Lodge of Research & William Peacher

All Rights Reserved.