I recently received a note from a Swedenborgian minister about this post. He posted these two comments (one, two) clarifying the proper understanding.
From the second comment:
Swedenborg was not, in fact, a modalist, despite that doctrine being sometimes attributed to him by traditional Christians. He explicitly rejected Sabellianism as a heresy, among many other heresies, in True Christianity #378.
Though Swedenborg rejected the Nicene/Athanasian Trinity of Persons, considering it unbiblical and false, his version of the Trinity did not, as the modalist Trinity does, consider Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be various "modes" of a single God, or different ways that a single God appears to humans. Rather, Swedenborg saw Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as "essential components" (Latin: essentialia) of a single Person of God, equivalent to the soul, body, and actions of human beings--whom, according to Genesis 1:26-27, God created "in the image and likeness of God."
For more on the difference between Swedenborg's Trinity and the modalistic (Sabellian) view, please see my article, "What is the difference between the Swedenborgian and Oneness Pentecostal doctrines of God?"From the linked article at his site:
However, Swedenborg’s theology rejects the defining characteristic of modalist doctrine, which is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different modes of God, or three different ways that God manifests himself to humans.
Instead, Swedenborg’s theology states that:
1. The Father is the transcendent, unknowable soul of God, of which we can have no direct knowledge or experience at all.
2. The Son is the human body or visible appearance of God—and, since the Incarnation, is the sole avenue by which the Father is known to human beings.
3. The Holy Spirit is the divine truth and power flowing out from God, and in effect is the manifestation of God to human beings.
Swedenborg calls this a Trinity of “essential components” (Latin essentialia) of one God.
These three are not different modes or manifestations to us of some underlying divine Spirit.
In Swedenborg’s system, the Father is the underlying divine being, and is not perceivable by us at all. We finite humans are incapable of grasping or comprehending the infinite divine being of God. Only through the Son can we have any knowledge of God. And the Holy Spirit is the knowledge and power of God as it flows out from the Son, enlightening us and giving us spiritual life.When I first read this, I wondered whether instead of understanding God as the modalists do -- three different forms or modes of one God -- Swedenborg's position was the Trinity is three different functions of one God. Three different functions not forms.
I'm not sure if that's right. Three different components is more like a Voltron like dynamic. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not, individually, fully God, but rather together are fully God. By the way, Swedenborg viewed God as one Person and Jesus Christ is that Person (that is JC IS the Father, Son AND Holy Spirit).