The Swedenborg Library in Chicago, Illinois is dedicated to practical spirituality and explores the spiritual and philosophical implications of the brilliant 18C Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg's thought. In Chicago, members of the Swedenborg Library (founded in 1877 and originally known as the Western New Church Union) include architect Daniel H. Burnham, lyricist George F. Root, and Chicago History Museum founding board member, Jonathan Scammon. Other notable Americans who read and wrote about Swedenborg include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James Sr., John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) and Helen Keller.
The Swedenborg Library offer books for loan on spiritual topics by contemporary authors and by Emanuel Swedenborg.A primary message found in Swedenborg's theology is aptly summarized by psychologist Wilson Van Dusen:
"The simplest and most powerful method for personal spiritual development in Swedenborg's theology lies in the idea of usefulness, or "uses" as he called it. Part of its beauty is its simplicity, which permits carrying it out in the midst of ordinary duties and labor, indeed in any human act. It can be applied anywhere, anytime, by anyone. Part of its power lies in its wonderful concreteness.
"Much of religion has to do with masses of words and ideas. Use lies in concrete acts. Words are unnecessary. The very concrete immediacy of useful action takes us out of ourselves, out into circumstances, out toward others and a larger world."
Swedenborg's mystical experiences led him to discover a heaven where human beings live happily engaged in their use with other like-hearted individuals. These experiences are recorded in Heaven & Hell and other volumes.
The Library is located at 77 W. Washington St. (at Clark) in downtown Chicago, on the 17th floor. Events are frequently held in our location, or in other, larger venues, depending upon the topic.
The Library's collection of books on spiritual topics may be accessed Wednesdays and Fridays from 12 Noon – 4 PM, during scheduled events, and by appointment. Call for more information, 312-346-7003 or use the "Contact Us" page on this site to send us an inquiry via Email.
The Library's book holdings include contemporary books on spiritual development, books related to event topics, as well as the published works of Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18C Swedish scientist and mystic, and biographies on Swedenborg. Swedenborg's works are also available via a computer text-search program for scholars and the public.
The Swedenborg Library is also the downtown Chicago host of the ecumenical learning organization Common Ground(Deerfield) programs. Common Ground programs at the Library are typically held from 7-9 pm on the second Friday of the month. See the "New News" tab above for upcoming programs.
GETTING TO THE SWEDENBORG LIBRARY
We are located in room 1700 in the Chicago Temple Building, 77 West Washington St., on the southeast corner of Washington & Clark St., Chicago (across the street from the Daley Plaza.)
The Library is accessible by numerous CTA bus lines serving the Loop, by all Rapid Transit lines, and is an easy walk from both Metra and Amtrak stations.
Red line: Exit at Washington and walk two blocks west.
Blue line: Exit at Washington and walk one half block west.
Brown or Orange lines: Exit at Washington/Wells and walk two blocks east, or at Lake/Clark and walk two blocks south on Clark St.
Green Line: exit at Lake, walk two blocks south along Clark Street.
Metra terminal: Walk three blocks east along Madison, one block north along Clark.
Union Station: Walk three blocks east along Adams, two bocks north along Clark.
PARKING FOR SWEDENBORG LIBRARY
There are numerous parking garages within a three block walk of the Chicago Temple Building. Here is one which is markedly less expensive:
Self-Park at 172 W. Madison (mid-block on the north side of the street, between LaSalle Street and Wells St., on the north side of Madison.)
Discounted parking coupons are available from the Library for that Self-Park for those visiting or attending a program, at $9 for parking from 4 pm to midnight weekdays, or Saturday and Sunday. (Normal rate is $14; you must enter after 4 pm for the $9 rate on weekdays.) The lot is two blocks west and one block south of 77 W. Washington St.
ABOUT EMANUEL SWEDENBORG:
Swedenborg was a Swedish scientist, engineer, and theologian. After studying at the University of Uppsala (1699-1709), he journeyed to England, Holland, France, and Germany (1710-1715) to study and work with leading scientists. He apprenticed as an engineer under Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem (1661-1751) and worked on engineering projects for Sweden's King Carl (Charles) XII (1682-1718), who gave him a salaried position as an overseer of Sweden's mining industry (1716-1747).
Swedenborg was a member of the Swedish House of Nobles, where he remained an active participant in the Swedish government throughout his life.
A member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, he devoted himself to scientific studies and philosophical reflections that culminated in a number of publications, most notably a comprehensive three-volume work on mineralogy (1734) that brought him recognition across Europe as a scientist and philosopher. After 1734 he redirected his research and publishing to a study of anatomy in search of the interface between the soul and body, making several significant discoveries in physiology.
From 1743 to 1745 he entered a transitional phase that resulted in a shift of his main focus from science and philosophy to theology. Throughout the rest of his life he maintained that this shift was brought about by Jesus Christ, who appeared to him and opened his perception of this life and the life after death.
He devoted the last decades of his life to studying Scripture and publishing eighteen theological titles that draw on the Bible, reasoning, and his own spiritual experiences. His perspectives address theological issues of his day, and the nature of God, the spiritual world, the Bible, the human mind, and the path to salvation. A Christian theology, Swedenborg's works present a loving God, advocate regeneration of the spirit and usefulness in this life and the next. Swedenborgianism is ecumenical in spirit; Swedenborg witnessed to there being people of all religions in the spiritual dimension.
Swedenborg died as he had predicted, of natural causes in London on March 29th, 1772, at the age of eighty-four. His work is available on loan through the Swedenborg Library or for purchase through the Swedenborg Foundation in West Chester, PA (see Swedenborg.com)