I have always found sacredness of place to be very important in my personal spiritual development. I have also always appreciated hearing or reading about a physical place, hoping and dreaming of seeing it one day, and then finally arriving. It is very magical. This experience happened when the group and I traveled to see Swedenborg’s Summer House. The house is located in a park that has an outdoor zoo and serves as a protection of Swedish heritage. Swedenborg’s Summer House was moved to this location in order to protect and preserve it since the original location was no longer able to support it’s safety as Stockholm grew into modernity. There it stood, resting on the icy ground, surrounded by green plants, an icy imitation of the garden that we know once surrounded it. Cory gave an amazing presentation that helped us center ourselves, grounding us in an imaginative space where we could almost see Swedenborg tending his plants and writing his theological works. I was able to take my gloves off and place my hand on the front door. The windows were frosted over so we could barely see inside. I was able to peer in and see Swedenborg’s organ, where he played music when he needed a respite from his writing.
Stockholm is amazing in that it the city is a mix of modern buildings, such as Starbucks and 7-11s, in addition to structures that have been in businesses since 1450 CE. This combination of the old and new makes the city feel dream-like, almost timeless. Before we went to the Summer House, we had a chance to see the Lutheran cathedral, where Swedenborg was baptized and where his father preached to the Royal Guards. This was my first European cathedral and it was truly amazing. Paintings depicting Christ and Hell, in addition to statues of St. George Slaying The Dragon. Apparently St. George is popular in Stockholm as I have been more than one statue depicting him. I had this feeling of awe as I entered this space and almost burst into tears as I stared in wonder.
We also visited the Swedish Swedenborgian church located at The Swedenborg Memorial Church. It is very close to Strindberg’s apartment where he lived, wrote, and worked on his alchemical laboratory. Strindberg was a reader of Swedenborg and had a very interesting spirituality in his own right, that I found it fascinating to discover how close the Swedenborgian is to his former residence. The church is rooted in both the General Conference and the General Church, with congregants from both branches represented. They have symbolism and artwork in the sanctuary that invokes the New Jerusalem, God as the Sun, and correspondences. The congregation has an antiquarian bookstore, library, and apartments rented out to people on the top floors. Their collection contains first editions of Swedenborg’s writings and even one copy was signed by the author. The congregants who were our guides at the church treated us to a lovely lunch and good conversation. I felt very connected to them and felt a sense that they appreciated seeing younger students entering into the ministry and found it fascinating how we all came to be Swedenborgians.
Today’s adventures consisted of visiting the Royal Academy of Science where the collection of many of Swedenborg’s original documents is kept. I was able to handle with my own hands The Spiritual Diaries in additional to the originals of Divine Love and Wisdom, Apocalypse Explained, Philosopher’s Notebook, and Rational Psychology. It was so exciting to see Swedenborg’s original works, to feel the paper, smell their scent of age. Truly an amazing experience. I found my intellect tickled with a great sense of appreciation that these documents have survived and we can still handle them with great care.
In the evening we journied to the Swedish Museum of Modern Art and met with two aristists who do experiential art. They are attempting to induce participants in an experience that will simulate timelessness and no space, essentially a mystical experience or altered state of consciousness. It was an amazing experience, one that I will not go into detail in the event that anyone reading this has a chance to experience this first hand. I marveled at not only that experience but the art that was in the musem. This place has some of Jackson Pollack, Cindy Sherman, and Salvador Dali. I truly believe, at least in Sweden, that while the churches are becoming empty, places like this will be the new temple of spirituality. People are still looking for a sacred space with which they can express or experience the spirit. Aristists modern and old are helping to facilitate this experience. It is no wonder that Swedenborg inspired, and continues to inspire, people of the arts. Perhaps they are new Prophets of the New Age, the continuing shepers of the New Jerusalem?