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Athanasian Creed, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1759], tr. by Samuel H. Worcester [1885] at

Athanasian Creed


It has been said that the chief essential of the church is to know and recognize its God, and that without this chief essential there is not any conjunction with God, and thus there is not heaven and eternal life; the reason of which is, that in the spiritual world thought and will have their conjunction with him who is regarded and loved; He turns Himself in that direction, and then also all things belonging to the man; wherefore the direction of all heaven is towards the Lord. (Concerning which conjunction, see Heaven and Hell n. 141- 153.) (Experiences concerning the turning according to the thoughts, and according to the love; and concerning enlightenment when the turning is toward the Lord.)


There are many other arcana concerning man's turning and the enlightenment therefrom. All have societies to which they turn when they are in obscurity; there is presence when they are thinking of anyone; there is conjunction with him whom they love; they who acknowledge other gods, turn themselves to their own loves; they who to the Father, turn in various ways; but the greater part towards the summit of heaven, whence there is no turning; wherefore they who do not acknowledge the Lord cannot be with the angels of heaven; etc., etc.


The ancients, when they represented God in their pictures, represented Him as Man, surrounded about the head with a radiant circle, as if the rays of the sun were round about it. So is the Lord represented by those of the present day; and this from the common idea which all have from heaven, that the Divine is like the sun, or that God is encompassed with a sun.


In like manner the ancients represented God as Man in their pictures; and the same is done at the present day, as may be seen by consulting paintings; and this, too, from the common idea concerning God that comes from heaven. But still, the idea of the Divine as in the Human form has at this day been destroyed; and the reason is that they draw conclusions from space, since there is an extension of the sphere from the Divine into the universe, like that of the sun; and indeed the sphere proceeding from angels extends itself into much of heaven. The cause of such a conception is that men are too external, and hence are limited like the sensual. The inhabitants of all the earths perceive God to be in the Human form. The wise men of old, as Abraham, had such perception; men of interior wisdom of the present day, as the Africans, have the same; not so our wise men; but the simple-minded only, with whom the common idea of God that comes from heaven has not been extinguished by perverted reasonings.


Let those things also be seen which have been said and which have been adduced from the Word in Apocalypse Explained (n. 684), showing that the Lord alone as to the Divine Human was united to Jehovah, because in Him was the Divine good of the Divine love, which is signified by "oil," and which was represented by anointing. Passages from the Word may there be seen also; and thence it may be seen that His Human is Divine.


A canon which will be explained more particularly: That the Lord is "the Anointed of Jehovah," "the Messiah" and "the Christ," also "the Son of God," as to the Divine Human, from the fact that the Divine good of the Divine love, which is Jehovah and the Father, was in Him from conception, from which His Human was made the Divine truth when He was in the world, thus such as is heaven; but afterwards it was successively made the Divine good of the Divine love by unition with the Father, which was the esse of His life, and was His soul, which is called Jehovah. Hence the Lord became one with Jehovah, and thus the Father as to each. The Divine truth which makes heaven and is called the Holy Spirit then proceeds. They who receive it from the Lord are "sons of God." From these considerations it may also be manifest that the Lord in time was not only conceived of Jehovah, but was also born of Him; and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him. (See the passages adduced in Apocalypse Explained, n. 684.) That the Anointed, the Messiah, the Christ, and the Son of God are synonymous terms, how also He was king, and that they are the Lord as to the Divine Human, may also be seen in Apocalypse Explained (n. 684).


The Divine Human is "the Holy One" (spoken of in Luke 1, and elsewhere in the Word; from Psalm 89:4-5, 20; also Dan. 9); "the Holy of Holies" (as in many passages); "the Holy One of Israel." (Let passages be freely quoted.) That "the Holy One" is the Divine Human, is plain in Luke (1:35).


That "the Spirit" is the proceeding Divine, is made plain in Isaiah (11:2-3), where the Lord is treated of.


In the doctrine of our Faith it is also said that the Lord overcame death, and ascended with triumph into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father. What else is meant by "death" which He overcame, and by "triumph," than the subjugation of the hells? For "death" signifies hell, because all who are there are called "dead." And what else is meant by "sitting at the right hand of the Father," than the Divine omnipotence? For how can a human which is not at the same time Divine, sit at the right hand of the infinite Divine?


They who separate from the Lord the Divine which is called the Father, and who place the Divine of the Father outside of the Human of the Lord, should be named Philippians from Philip, who asked of the Lord that he might see the Father; to whom the Lord made answer that He saw Him, and that he who seeth Him seeth the Father, because the Father is in Him and He in the Father.


That the Lord put off all the maternal in the sepulcher, and rising therefrom glorified Himself, and that for this He died, is manifest from considering that the Lord spoke concerning the seed cast into the earth, that first it dies; also that He said to the woman that she should not yet touch Him, because He had not yet ascended to the Father; for in the sepulcher all such was to be dissipated.


That the Lord, in the sepulcher, and thus by death, rejected all the human from the mother and dissipated it (from which he underwent temptations and the passion of the cross, and whereas this could not be conjoined with the Divine Itself), and that so He assumed the Human from the Father, thus that the Lord, thoroughly and clearly glorified, rose with the Human - this also is from the faith of the church, that He overcame death, that is, hell, and rose with triumph. The "third day," on which He rose, also signifies full, and the whole; and "the Passover" signifies that glorification.


That the Lord carried sins, signifies that He endured the hells and properly that He represented the falsities and the evils of the church, for the representatives are many, especially those which belong to His passion (which may be enumerated, and confirmed by those things which the Prophets underwent and whereby they represented the church; which, on account of their number, need not be adduced; it is there said of Isaiah that he carried sins, Isa. 20:3). That thus, also, they are taken away, is an arcanum which may be explained; here, by temptations admitted into himself, etc.


The words in the Creed of Athanasius sound as if it were permissible to think of three Gods but to name only one God. Let the words be quoted.


What it is to carry iniquities: (1) That it is to endure all the hells, by temptations; (2) In order that in Him might be represented the states of the church; as in the case of the prophet who was to take a harlot to wife, who was to go naked and barefoot, who was to eat a cake prepared with dung, and was to lie on the right side and on the left, and carry iniquities. So it was with the Lord, in the particulars of His passion.


It was permitted to say three Persons, for the reason that at the beginning there could be no thought unless of Jehovah God, the Father, the Creator of the universe, and it could scarcely be thought that the Lord was He; wherefore it was useful. This seemed to them to be a thing that could not be received, that the Creator of the universe so descended and became Man; simply the idea of Jehovah as filling all heaven and all the world from His presence and His providence, would stand somewhat in the way of that. Wherefore in the sense of the letter of the Word three are named for that reason; as if they were three Persons into whose names they were to baptize. Hence also it was permitted that similar things should be said in the Athanasian Faith, which was to be received for Christianity; but still, so that it should be possible for the trine of one Person, thus of the Lord, to be received by those who are in enlightenment; and likewise so that in the end of the church it might be received. The Athanasian Faith is such as to be incomprehensible, and thence incredible, and likewise contradictory. (Let things that are therein be adduced.) This truth is laid open, and that Faith does not preclude anyone from receiving it; but this may be done by those who wish to understand what they believe; let those, however, who do not wish to understand what they believe, remain in their own opinion; but let them know that in the spiritual world no one receives anything which he does not see, that is, understand; for he says, "Perhaps it is not true."


(1) Mohammedans have not acknowledged three Persons, but one God; they have therefore denied the Divinity of the Lord, and have acknowledged the Father alone as God. (2) The Socinians, also, do the same, and for the same reason; they say that there is one God, and that He is the Father. (3) For the same reason many others, both learned and simple, silently acknowledge the Father only, and the Lord but as a common man. Let each one examine himself to see whether he has the idea of Divinity in respect to the Lord; and yet there must be belief in Him, that men may have eternal life. (4) On the same grounds the Jews revile the Christians, as having three Gods. (5) For the same reason, the greater part in the other life, when they are explored, are found to worship the Father only, or the Holy Spirit, and not the Lord; and, yet, without faith in the Lord there is no safety. (6) All these things, because among us they have distinguished divinity into three Persons.


To say three Persons and one God is contradictory, for the term "person" involves something distinct and different from another. The distinction and the difference, also, is itself laid down in the doctrine of the church; and because the distinction differs among the persons, it follows that each is a separate God from another; and if separate, it follows that there are three Gods. That the substance or essence makes one God therefrom, this falls within the idea of no one, when the essence or substance is itself distinguished by the attributes of the one not proper to the other; for so one is worshiped for this attribute and another for that.


But if you think that the substance or essence is what is called person, then there necessarily results one Person and the Trine in that; and thus Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.


And still further, each attribute by which one Person is distinguished from another, is Divine. The attribute of the Father is Divine, the attribute of the Son is Divine, the attribute of the Holy Spirit is Divine; and whatever Divine there is in the three Persons is a distinct Divine substance or essence; and because Athanasius saw this, he took care that the three should all be in each single attribute. From these considerations it follows that the substance and essence also is not one unless it be in one Person.


That the Human of the Lord is Divine is manifest from this also: that it is said in John that it was the Word by which all things were made and created, and that the eternal Word is called God (John 1:1, 2); and that it is also said that this was made flesh; consequently, that God, who is the Word, was made flesh, that is, Man. Hence it follows that the Lord's Human is Divine.


That in the world the Lord accomplished a Last Judgment, is manifest from all the passages in the Prophets where His Coming is spoken of; which is called "the terrible day," "cruel," etc., etc., etc.


The Coming of the Lord is revealed, in the end of the church. At the end of the Jewish church, the Lord Himself came into the flesh, and He then revealed Himself as being God or Jehovah who was to come, as told in the Prophets, and still further, that He it is who rules heaven with the earth, and who is the one only God. This, in the Gospels (Matt. 24), is also called His Coming. Hitherto, however, He has been almost neglected, because in thought and in idea He has been like a common man; in regard to whom there has been almost no thought of anything Divine, for the reason that men have in their idea placed the Divine outside of Him and not within Him, as nevertheless He teaches that it is; and by the Divine outside of Him, most have understood the Father, and thus another person; so that the Lord has been almost neglected in the world, at the end. Consequently His new and second Coming is made.


That the Lord is the Creator is manifest in John: "By the Word were all things made that were made"; and also that He is the proceeding Divine because He is "the Light."


That the Lord is so often called the Father, was because the Lord before His Advent was Himself the one who is called the Father; and then the Son was the proceeding Divine, or the Word; this was then the Son, and this was then the Divine Human; and they who are mentioned in the Old Testament, before the Lord was born, and before He was called the Son of God as to the Divine Human, knew no other Father, for there was no other. He therefore so frequently speaks of the Father. But afterwards the Lord was made the Father as to the Divine Human also, and from this is the proceeding Divine.


The proceeding good is called by the Lord "the Father in the heavens"; to see this is to be in love and in innocence. But the proceeding Divine truth, the Lord calls "the Son of Man."


The proceeding Divine before the Coming of the Lord, is described as to its quality by circles and by degrees, through the heavens and through the interiors of man. The degrees are successive (concerning which, see Heaven and Hell); wherefore while it is in every degree, they correspond with each other, and they thus as it were transfer to each other; but when in the ultimate degree there is no longer a reception of the Divine, as was the case in the church with the Jews, then the proceeding Divine could not be extended thither. Wherefore the Lord Himself took on the Human, from which the proceeding Divine would go forth; and this can also be in ultimates, and so can preserve the heavens and save the human race. Thence is the omnipresence of His Human in the Holy Supper. He spoke of His omnipresence in Matthew.


The proceeding Divine, however, is such that in things greatest and in things least it is Man. For such as it is in what is greatest, such it is in every least thing, and this in nature where the proceeding Divine is in ultimates. For all things were so created that affection which is of good, or love which is of good, or good which is of affection and love, clothes itself with what is human in the several degrees from first to last. Hence angels are human forms; and so it is in nature; whence the human form is there. This arcanum has been hitherto unknown in the world. That there is such a disposition in the several degrees, that is, that affection clothes itself with a body, and this from the proceeding Divine, is for the reason that what proceeds from the Lord proceeds from the single things of His body, interior and exterior. It is in consequence of this that the proceeding Divine is the Lord in the heavens, and is called "the Son of Man," and likewise "the Paraclete," and "the Holy Spirit." From this it is evident what His omnipresence is. Since affection and love put on that human form in every heaven or in every degree, it follows that the human which is put on is Divine truth, and that they are in the proceeding Divine and are truly men who are in love and the truth therefrom. Hence, also, love is the complex of all truths, and love is the being [esse] whose existence [existere] is the human in form, in every particular of which must be the being from love.


(The cause of the Lord's Coming: because strength is in ultimates, and so in the material body. Let the causes be investigated, whence it is that strength is in ultimates; see Psalm 68:28-30; otherwise it has no power over the natural man, where all evil is; "the wild beast of the reed" (verse 30) is the natural man. From this the Lord is called "Strength," also "Right hand," by which is signified all power.)


The Lord is the only God, Isa. 45:13, 14; there concerning the Lord.


The whole life of the Lord was representative, so that He might be in ultimates, and so from things first by things ultimate might subjugate the hells and reduce all things into order; in ultimates is all strength. It is for this reason that by all things of His passion, also, was represented the state of the church; how it is against the Divine, and against the truths and goods of heaven and the church. It is an arcanum that spirits do not see the man, but only his affections; and the evil are wholly opposed to the affections of truth and good, and have them in hatred, and attempt to destroy them utterly. So did the Lord admit temptations into Himself, for the reason that He was at the same time in ultimates. And so it is to be understood that He fulfilled all things of the Law.


Concerning the temptations of the Lord, with which may be compared the temptations with man - namely, that the temptations with man cause the hells to be removed, and man to become spiritual and an angel; what then was done by the temptations of the Lord, who from conception was God, and who brought them to their completion from His own Divine? Does it not follow that He subjugated all the hells, and glorified His Human?


Let it be considered whether one and the same essence or substance, in which are like properties and like attributes, can be called otherwise than one, and without distinction into persons; otherwise, when specific properties and specific attributes are of the same essence or substance, it may then be distinguished into persons; but still it is not then the same essence which from three makes one.


Purity coming from an imputation of the merit of the Lord can be understood by no one, if the man be not purified as to the life. Can the imputation of the Lord's merit reform, alter and change a man, and from a devil make him an angel? Must not the evil of life be removed? Can this be done by the imputation of merit, and by condoning sins, and by justification through faith alone, so that God gives no attention to the evils? The evils remain, and they infect and infest societies.


According to the common idea, the Divine is distinguished into three Persons; but according to the idea drawn from the Creed of Athanasius, the second Person is not only Divine, but is Human also; so that in the second Person there is more than there is in the first or the third, namely, the Human; and this can in no wise be saved unless there be a Trine in the Lord, and unless His Human be Divine.


When it is said that God became Man; also that God was willing to be born of the virgin Mary; then that the Word, which was God, was made flesh; also as stated in the Creed of Athanasius, that the Divine took to Itself the Human; does it not then clearly follow that the Human is Divine? (Let this be taken up again and shown.)


That the Lord was not Mary's son, is also evident from the words of the Lord to the Pharisees, that He was not David's son (Matt. 22); wherefore neither was He Mary's.


In the Creed of Athanasius it is said that the Divine took upon Itself the Human. Hence it follows that the Human is the Divine Human; otherwise the Human could not be assumed by the Divine, when they are as soul and body. And consequently there is not commixture, but union; like that of soul and body.


There is the idea of the Divine Human concerning God in all the earths in the universe (references); it also exists with the Gentiles of our earth, as with the Africans; and this from the influx of heaven. But this idea has been destroyed with Christians, especially the intelligent, for the reason that they think from space, and thus from extension; when nevertheless, He as Man is girded about with the Divine love; this appears about the Lord as Man, like a sun.


This love, or sun, is His Divine love that proximately proceeds from Him; the radiant circles are devolutions of the infinite, so that it may be applied to the angels in their order; for an angel can bear the presence of the Divine love no more than a man can bear the presence of the fire of the sun.


The proceeding Divine is what is extended into the universe; and it is the Divine truth, and the light of that sun. Hence it is the inmost of the spiritual world; and it is this from which nature had its origin; this is also extended in the created universe; it is afterwards formed successively into spheres, the last of which is the atmosphere of the natural world.


(Let it also be described how He could expel the maternal human - namely, that the maternal human was infirm which adheres to nature; and because that is evil, it was in correspondence with hell. When this is expelled, then succeed those things which are concordant with the Divine and in correspondence with it. For the body is only a correspondence of the soul or spirit of man; and there is correspondence with heaven so far as this is removed; so also, what is new is set in its place, and thus man is regenerated and is made spiritual and an angel. The Lord, however, whose soul was the Divine Itself, made His body correspondent with the Divine Itself that was in Him; and thus above heaven. But evil, with man, cannot be expelled, but is removed. Because he is not in life in himself, and because he is not the Divine as to soul, but is only a recipient of the Divine, therefore man dies, as to the body. But the Lord from the Divine in Himself expelled the evil which was from the mother; wherefore He rose with the whole body. He retained the infirm while He was in the world because in no other way could He be tempted, and least of all on the cross; there the whole maternal was expelled.)


Following the Athanasian doctrinal concerning the Trinity, the thought must necessarily be that three Gods together make one Divine; for of three that are consentient there can be the thought of one thing, but not of God as a Person. Since this is so, and this was foreseen by Athanasius, it was said that although there are three, still according to the Catholic faith it must not be said otherwise than one God. But the thought and the speech must be alike and the same; nor can they be otherwise.


That the Lord made His Human Divine, is also evident from this, that He subjugated all the hells. For the evils with man are from no other source than hell, or from influx therefrom through evil spirits; and when these are removed, man is as it were without evils. But the Lord from His Divine so removes the hells that they do not gape open to look at Him, nor are they able to name Him; thus He removed them by separating the hells and their crews from Himself; and He continually separates them; and when these are removed, evils also are removed, for to remove the hells and to remove the evils is the same thing. But the Lord, because from the Divine, and being the Divine as to the life and soul, completely separated them from Himself. And from this also it is evident that He made His Human Divine.


When it is said that God the Father assumed the Human, it is perceived by the man of the church as a thing too exalted to be thought of, and greater than could possibly be done. But still, it is according to the faith concerning the Divine of the Lord, that His Divine is altogether equal to the Divine of the Father, and no one greatest or least, prior and posterior; and that as the one is eternal, uncreate, almighty, God, and Lord, so is the other; thus there is likeness, nor is one more exalted than the other; wherefore to think otherwise is only from the idea of man who is such.


That the Lord's Divine is what He calls the Father, is evident from the Word, and also from the Faith of the church; but that He calls this the Father has not been thought hitherto.


(Let passages concerning the Father be adduced, and let the Gospel of John be read, from beginning to end.)


The idea of Europeans, especially of the learned, is also a fallacy; it comes from this, that it cannot possibly be thought that man, or what is human, can be Divine; when, nevertheless, they who are in the third heaven, cannot at all have any other idea, and this from the influx of heaven (of which elsewhere).


Also the wise men of old, as is evident from the Word throughout, when angels were seen, called them Jehovah, and Creator of the universe. (Let passages be adduced, also, from Revelation.)


(Also let the many passages concerning the Lord be quoted, which are found in Revelation, where many Divine things are said concerning the Lord or the Lamb.)

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