Milk or Sugar? : In Search of a Swedenborgian Sanctuary

Two years ago, I first walked past Swedenborg House. Two years later, I hold the position of the Swedenborg Society’s Publishing and Publicity Assistant.

For such an important London landmark, Swedenborg House did not resonate with me at first, when, for several weeks in September 2012, I worked as an intern next door at Pickering & Chatto—two weeks spent behind a desk in the editorial department formatting monographs, standardizing bibliographies and making a fair few cups of tea for the ever-stressed office workers.

I moved to London a year later, embarking on a postgraduate course at UCL, and came across Swedenborg House once again when exploring the local area. Upon entering, I was fascinated by the bookshop. An overwhelming display of beautifully bound antique books in huge, towering old-fashioned bookcases. I thought I’d stepped into the world of Mr Dickens.

 

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I began an internship there, one day a week, taking on tasks of proof-reading, research, analysis and publicity. I was given responsibilities which I had not experienced in any previous internships, including the project of organising the society’s Christmas event. Too often before I had been used as a tea-making, note-taking assistant-to-an-assistant (as other publishing interns will no doubt understand), but the Swedenborg Society gave me something I had yet to experience in this industry: independence.

Being welcomed into this small, tight-knit community was unlike anywhere else I had worked. A sanctuary which is relaxed, friendly and open, the Swedenborg Society is surely somewhere unique.

Yet how does one little acquainted with Emanuel Swedenborg, the eighteenth-century Swedish philosopher and mystic, cope in such an intellectual and theological environment. The truth? My knowledge expanded over the period of my internship, but I could hardly proclaim myself to be a Swedenborgian scholar at the end of it. Do not be put off by this philosophical society; everyone is welcomed, no matter the depth of their knowledge.

 

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I had worked at the Society for 7 months when I got offered the position of Publishing and Publicity Assistant. An amazing opportunity at such a unique location was a fantastic achievement. I look forward to going to work here—and I know not many people can say that. A bit of a step up from being the tea-maker next door…

The Swedenborg Society is not somewhere you should walk past. Stop, come inside, and see how this isn’t a place reserved entirely for intellectuals, philosophers and scholars whose intellectual capacity seems incomprehensible to the standard Londoner. The works and philosophies of Emanuel Swedenborg are fascinating, insightful and yes, at times, complicated, but this doesn’t mean we can’t read and enjoy them. At the same time, there is more to the Society than this. Come inside, and you may find your first visit is most certainly not your last.

 

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 Victoria Rood

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