By Stephen Muires, Feb 26, 2014, Stockholm, Sweden.
Article originally submitted to www.newchurchperspective.com, but they rejected it for publication. So here it is on my own blog.
In Swedenborg you’ll find hundreds of references to the rather mysterious concept of “the divine human.” This could also be “a divine human,” the Latin allowing for either translation. I remember being sucked in by this concept when I first started reading Swedenborg about 10 years ago, the mysticism of it, the inherent paradox, and the tantalizing non-explanations that Swedenborg came with. The divine human is presented as a very central theological concept, especially in the large book Arcana Coelestia. At the same time it escapes the grasp of the mind, not surprising since it contains two incompatible terms: divine and human.
There is an easy way out. Swedenborg seems to have chosen this way himself, judging by the endless repetitions of the same phrases, language constructs and cross-references when the term divine human is discussed. It’s almost hypnotic, just keep repeating the same set of words and in the end the reader thinks he or she knows what they mean. What is the easy way out of the dilemma? Equating the divine human with Jesus Christ. They’re just synonyms, end of story.
There is only one small problem with this easy way. Actually it’s not so small. If the divine human is Jesus Christ then the life of Jesus on earth, all the healings and teachings, the dialogs and developments, the crucifixion and the resurrection do not make any sense. It would be like saying that the process of life that Jesus went through was a setup, a circus act. Because it would imply that God walked the earth and left it in just as big a mess as before, like a king visiting a slum, accompanied by body guards, throwing some coins to the poor and then quickly leaving again. Fat lot of good that did.
It would also be saying that our lives are a setup and fake. The process of development that is implied in “the divine human” is: the human can become more and more divine. But if Jesus Christ is the only divine human, there would be no development, you lowly human are what you are born to be, and that’s it.
The enlightenment process that Swedenborg calls regeneration can be stated simply. A human being gets born and then develops a union with the divine. Swedenborg emphasizes that this was indeed the case for Jesus. The situation gets muddied by other teachings that imply a divine soul, but then we’re back to the setup, the rigged scenario. So we’ll keep it simple. Divine human means a human develops or awakens in him or herself a part that is divine, and does so in such a way that the two become one.
All of this wouldn’t be such a big mystery if Swedenborg had only focused a bit more on the how, the practical side of this process. But he didn’t. When I was in my first year in theological school I submitted a paper in the first term of the first year that contained the comment, “The writings of Swedenborg leave much to be desired.” I was clobbered by the professor, who pounced on this line and absolutely demanded I take it out. So I took it out, all the while watching my dear professor carefully, because I really thought he’d lost it, gone over the edge and maybe someone should call the men with the white coats. But now, free of the restrictions of theological school, let me state it once more: the writings of Swedenborg leave much to be desired. They don’t tell me how to regenerate. That seems like a critical omission to me.
Now let’s drop all the theological boohah and complications for a moment. If we knew nothing, had no pre-knowledge about the Bible, history, theology, and we heard the words the divine human, what would we hear? Exactly, we would hear: a human being that is divine, that had developed an aspect of divinity. Now why do all the clever intellectual scholars and students of Swedenborg interpret this term in every other way except the obvious one? I don’t know the answer. Maybe they’re stupid, maybe they’re brainwashed, or maybe they’re afraid of the implications.
What are the implications? And what or who is the divine human?
The gospel of John says: “No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6) A terrible, terrible line in the Bible, as I’m sure you agree. It has been taken to mean that unless you’re a Christian you are doomed. And if you’re not a Christian then it’s alright to kill you. That is not what it means. God forbid.
Nevertheless, let’s assume that Jesus really said these words and let’s assume that they contain truth. Here is how Swedenborg comments:
AC 3441: The joining of a human being to the Divine Himself, called the Father, is effected through the Divine Human, called the Son, and so through the Lord.
Now isn’t that simple? We still don’t know how to do this, but we now know that we’re in the picture. We also know that a human being can be either male or female. Therefore the silliness that permeates the issue of whether to allow women to become priests in certain branches of the New Church, can be dissipated by using a mere 3 or 4 brain cells. For Christ’s sake, it’s 2014, people!
Back to the how? How do we come to the father through Jesus? Swedenborg restates it by saying, we come to the divine through the divine human. The divine human in its obvious and simple meaning is an intrinsic feature of being human, an intrinsic potential that each person has. Jesus was saying, I have something that you also have and you might want to activate it. But clearly a person cannot “have” a divine human, a person can only “be” a divine human. Have is the wrong verb. So again, restating it: Jesus was saying, I am something that you also are, and activating who you are is your divine purpose.
Now that’s a powerful teaching.
Yet, this is exactly the implication that the theologians don’t like. Who is a/the divine human? You are. It’s OK to regard Jesus Christ as special and chosen. But what would happen if everybody, including women, started to see that they had Christ consciousness in them?
God forbid :)
All the enlightened masters of history have somehow given this one message: I am something that you also are, and activating who you are is your divine purpose.
Added footnote April 2014:
There’s the idea that the the infinite and the finite cannot be compared nor mixed. This is a very good example of the hypnotic repeating mechanism. Just write/read/say it often enough and in the end it is believed to be the truth. It is like what we learn in school about oil and water. We all “know” that they don’t mix, right?
Wrong. It just depends on the conditions. “Under standard conditions, hydrocarbons and water do not mix; however, at high temperatures and high pressures near the critical point of water, they freely mix.” Source: http://www.chemistryviews.org/…/Mixing_Water_and_Oil_A….
It is the same with the infinite/divine and the finite/mortal/human.
Or take this approach: so the infinite and the finite cannot join/mix/compare? How do you know? How do you really know? Have you verified it? Have you tried to combine them? What do those words “infinite” and “finite” even mean?
Break it down, and you will find that all we are talking about is a belief that has no basis in experience.