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Schuchard, Swedenborg and Freemasonry

by Patrick L. Johnson

As mentioned in our 5th Issue, Dr Marsha Keith Schuchard, an American student of Freemasonry, Literature and the Occult, has been researching Swedenborg's early manhood for some decades and finding previously unexpected information. While interesting, it is not of great significance to anyone interested in the achievements of his mature years.

For many years Dr Schuchard has been propounding the plausible theory that Swedenborg was a Mason, as his brother-in-law Eric Benzelius, and some of the members of the London Royal Society, whom Swedenborg knew, were Masons. She also alleged that the Freemasons were hand in glove with Louis XV, who was plotting in England to surplant the Hanoverians with the Stuarts, and in Sweden to replace the house of Hesse with Holsteins. Swedenborg, she claims, was acting as an undercover agent for Louis and the Holsteins, using his genuine cover as a scientific researcher.

From a Swedenborgian point of view this did not seem totally impossible, although the fact that Swedenborg's family were ennobled when the house of Hesse took over in Sweden, hardly tied up. The link with the Masons was interesting however. So when I learnt that Dr Schuchard was to lecture to the Quatuor Coronati Freemasons Lodge in London I was pleased to learn the event was open to the public.

The Quatuor Coronati Lodge specialises in Masonic History and has historically well informed scholars among its members. Dr Schuchard was made very welcome and listened to with interest. In the long discussion that followed, however, her conclusions were largely rejected. The Masons generally agreed that English Masons had showed no interest in politics until well after the time of Swedenborg's early travels. It was also pointed out that the membership registers of the 18th century English Lodges were reasonably complete, yet did not record Swedenborg's name.

Dr Schuchard had promised new evidence. This turned out to be that Swedenborg's reports from the spiritual world were, she claimed, cunningly disguised messages to fellow agents. For instance, his discussion with Pope Sixtus V in Apocalypse Revealed 752 about the riches in the Catholics treasuries, was saying that they could provide funds to pay rebel mercenaries.

Dr Schuchard's compilations of half truths, rumours and guesses make diverting gossip, but are not, I think, much use for establishing fact.

Published in Things Heard and Seen, the Newsletter of the Swedenborg Society, London, No. 7 (Spring 2002) p. 9.


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