Divine Human

By New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth

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In short, this term is about the connection of what is Divine with what is created and especially to what is human. Since the Divine Itself is, in its essence, beyond human comprehension, we see and know it from its visible forms which are the Word, the person of Jesus, the created world, the human body. These and other things express the Divine Human.

To understand this further, imagine that you are completely paralyzed, to the point that you can’t make a sound or even move your eyes or the muscles of your face. Someone you love walks up to you. Inside, you feel a surge of affection. But how can you show it? You can’t say it, can’t smile, can’t even form an expression in your eyes. It can’t be done; you have no communication at all.

To be expressed, then, love needs a vessel, something capable of communication. That vessel is what Swedenborg calls the “human.”

For us, in the physical world, that “human” is in the form of our physical bodies. Through them we can smile, laugh, speak, hug, kiss, write - and can also strike out, shout in anger and criticize. Our bodies are the vessels that let us share what’s inside with the people around us. Through our bodies we also see, hear and feel the things inside others. They are the mode through which we interact.

But imagine if you could read minds, and could allow your mind to be read by others. You would no longer need your body as a vessel, but the things you shared would still be human; they would be human thoughts, human feelings, human ideas, still distinctly your own and reflective of the kind of person you are. You’d still have a “human,” but it would be your mind instead of your body.

That can give us some idea of what the Lord’s “human” is: it is the vessel through which we can receive His love and His guidance. It’s not something physical, like our human bodies, but is spiritual, as our minds are spiritual. And it puts His love into feelings, images and ideas, just as our minds do.

Put that way, it’s easy to see that the Lord’s humanity has always been, and was indeed an agent of creation: in creating the universe, the Lord used his human to give form to His love, forms that would be separate from Him, forms that He could love. It’s also easy to see that His humanity will always be: He is love itself, and that love will always need a vessel.

The Lord’s “human” also fills another great need. We are finite; the Lord is infinite. We live in a world of dead physical matter; the Lord is life itself. We are born into selfish loves; the Lord loves us infinitely. We live in time and space and can only think in terms of time and space; the Lord is outside of time and space, uncontained and uncontainable. For these and many other reasons the Lord, in His essence, is inconceivable to us; we have no mental tools to form an idea of the infinite. We can, however, think of the Lord as a human, and can thus worship him in the form of His divine human. By relating his love to us, his humanity makes it possible for us to relate to Him.

That leaves one great question: what about Jesus? He was human, but also kind of God, too. How does that relate to the idea of the divine human?

The answer lies in how we receive what the Lord gives us, and how that reception has changed over the millennia.

The Lord’s love is conveyed to us through the divine human in the form of what Swedenborg calls “divine truth,” which is essentially the Lord’s thoughts, His ideas. These thoughts are, of course, all about love, and are filled to overflowing with His love.

The earliest people, those of what Swedenborg calls the “Most Ancient Church,” could receive those thoughts directly, and accept the love in them directly. From this they were pure and innocent to a degree we can barely imagine, with wisdom and insight that sprang from the love they shared.

As people drew away from the Lord, though, their ability to accept the love contained within the divine truth began to degrade. In what Swedenborg calls the “Ancient Church” people received it in the form of love of one another, and accessed it through powerfully symbolic stories and the symbolism of nature. Finally, with the Children of Israel, the love and the truth were almost completely separated, with the Lord’s ideas contained within ritual, but His inspiration to be good operating in a disconnected way. Ultimately those people grew so evil that the desire for good was in danger of being choked off forever.

So the Lord rendered his “human” into physical flesh, born as a child to the virgin Mary. As always, that human was a vessel for the Lord’s love, but it was a vessel that could share divine truth in a tangible way. Swedenborg’s works say that Jesus spent his life stripping away His mortal aspects by battling temptations, and was a form of divine truth when He began His ministry. During His ministry he stripped away his mortal loves, until in the final temptation on the cross he was fully reunited with the divine love that was His soul. In His ministry, then, he shared His deepest ideas, and in His death He shared the love that formed and filled those ideas. It was enough to save humankind forever.

In doing this the Lord also changed His relationship with us. He gave us deeper truths about how to be loving, and taught us that love is more important than ritual. He also opened for us the idea that the Bible is full of deeper and richer meanings: that it is itself a form of divine truth. With these tools we now have the ability to use the Lord’s ideas as a key to accept His love. By knowing what’s right, knowing what the Lord teaches, we can compel ourselves to act in loving ways even if we don’t feel the love, and the Lord will use that to reform us so that we come to actually love what is good.

So the Divine Human is still a vessel for the Lord’s love, as it has always been. It’s a vessel that has adapted according to our needs and the paths the Lord can use to draw us toward heaven.

(References: Apocalypse Revealed 613; Arcana Coelestia 2716, 3061 [2-3], 4180 [5-6], 4687 [2-3], 4724 [2-4], 4735 [2-3], 6280 [1-6], 6804 [4], 6831, 7211, 9303, 10067 [3], 10267, 10356; Divine Love and Wisdom 14, 52, 285; Heaven and Hell 80, 101; On the Athanasian Creed 27, 62, 209; The Apocalypse Explained 26, 151)