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

Athanasian Creed


(But this is an arcanum that is very fully unknown.)


In the Old Testament the Lord is called "the Redeemer," "the Holy One of Israel." (Here quote from Apocalypse Explained, n. 328f).


It is contrary to the Divine that God the Father alienated from Himself the human race, and that He made reconciliation through the blood of the Son (see Apocalypse Explained, n. 328f).


The Lord is life Itself, because from the Divine which is life itself; from which life all in the heavens and the earth live. Men and angels are not life, but are recipients of life. (Here it is useful to present an explanation concerning life itself, and concerning reception of life; also from the Word.)


Moreover, who in any wise knows what it means that He was born from eternity? And that He was born, and yet is equally eternal with the Father, and that no one of them is prior nor posterior? Wherefore no one can think this; but can only hold to the words, without any perception.


Who, also, knows what Unity in Trinity is, and Trinity in Unity, if the explanation must be that Unity in Trinity means that one essence is in three, and that Trinity in Unity means that there are three in one essence?


Whereas from the Athanasian faith they make one essence of three things, and those three are attributes of one essence, it is thence evident that they make the attributes themselves to be Gods, and call them three Persons, or three Gods, from the three attributes; calling the Father Creator, the Lord Intercessor and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit Regenerator and Enlightener. Thus they make creation, redemption and enlightenment, which are attributes of one Divine essence or of one God, to be three Gods, because three Persons. Because they are attributes, and that their statements may agree, they say that all are as in His own body (see the words in the Creed). So also did the ancients; when the church declined, they made Gods of the attributes; hence they worshiped God Shaddai, and others also. So, too, the Gentiles; whence they had so many gods; they made a God of every Divine attribute.


In matters of theology, concerning everything whatever, the idea is formed according to each person's understanding; and this is the case, also, with those things of which it is said that the understanding must be kept under obedience to faith; such things, especially, are those which are from the Creed of Athanasius respecting the three Persons. The idea which is formed concerning a thing, is the understanding of it; if there be no understanding of it, there is merely a knowing, and they are but empty words which are thought of. The idea is manifest in the other life. Such ideas as are formed by man respecting the Trinity, and concerning the union of the Divine and the Human in the Lord, are many, and they are such as rather destroy than build up; I am not willing to recount them, because they are for the most part full of incongruities; when nevertheless the thought of God as being one, and that one the Lord, is the principal and fundamental in all things in the doctrine of the church; without that, no one can be saved.


What is said by Athanasius, that the Human consists of the rational soul and the body, involves the idea that the rational soul is from the mother; when yet nothing is from the mother but the clothing, and the soul which is to be rational is from the father. Thence there is a contradiction.


Nevertheless it was so written in the Creed of Athanasius, of the Lord's providence, in order that faith concerning the one only God and concerning the Lord might still be saved. (Let certain things therein be compared, and this will be seen.)


They were permitted to write thus, for the reason that they knew nothing of the spiritual sense of the Word, and therefore remained in the sense of the letter; also because it was foreseen that faith alone would be assumed as the essential of the church, with which believing in the Lord alone does not harmonize.


That the Son from eternity was the Divine Human from eternity - also that it was the proceeding Divine, from which is heaven, and was thus the Divine that forms heaven - is plain from the Lord's words, that they saw not and heard not the Father; also from considering that all things were made by the Divine truth; then that the Lord appeared as Man before the sons of Israel, and that they saw under the soles of His feet, as a sapphire and as heaven as to clearness; that it is said, "This day have I begotten thee"; and that the Lord said, "Such as I was with thee from the foundation of the world"; that He also is the Son of Man, spoken of in Daniel, and that the Lord became the same as to His Human; also that in Luke, He is called the Son of God, for it is said that "the Word was made flesh." Hence it is plain that it was the same and the one Divine.


To make three Persons because it is said, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit," is to falsify the Word. In the Word there are appearances of truth; and if these are made to be truths actually and really, they become falsities; but otherwise, they are truths in both senses, namely, in the sense of the letter and in the spiritual sense, which sense comes from the Lord through the enlightened rational. (As was shown concerning the sun's progression and its rest, in Apocalypse Explained n. 719.) (Here let many passages be quoted where the Father and the Son are named - that they are truths in both senses, if they are viewed from doctrine; otherwise the sense of the letter is falsified.)


That the first and primary thing of the church is to know its God, thus the Lord, and so the one God, is because the other things of the church, both doctrine and perceptions, depend thereon. Man cannot otherwise understand the Word; as may be manifest from the case of the ancients who were Gentiles, although they likewise had altars and offered sacrifices, and had other things also that belonged to the rites of the church, but who still did not worship Jehovah, but some of them Shaddai, and others some other God; nevertheless they were extirpated, because they had nothing of doctrine and of worship that was then accepted in heaven. It was from this cause that the Lord inquired of those with whom He did miracles whether they had faith, and said that it was done according to their faith, in order that it might be acknowledged that He was the Son of God and had power over all things, and thus that He was God descending out of heaven. This was the first and primary thing in the conjunction of God with man.


This is now the first thing of the church which is called the New Jerusalem.


Of the pontifical religion, all those are accepted who adore the Lord, and who do not acknowledge the Pope except as the chief priest. They are accepted because they rarely worship the Father and separate the Lord from the Father, although they are empty, from their doctrine which is empty of truths.


What is the quality of the idea concerning the Lord, with those who are in the doctrine of a Trinity of Persons; that they place His Divine above and also outside of Himself; the causes of which are, that they think of the Human as they think of a common man (and so they make a separation); then they think of the Divine of the Father with whom He is conjoined; and so they speak of the conjunction of the Father with the Lord, and not concerning the conjunction of the Lord's Divine Itself, and of the conjunction of this with the Human. Hence they go to the Father, that He may be merciful for the sake of the Son; and by so doing, their thoughts ascend above the Lord, and they think not at all concerning the Lord's Divine according to the Athanasian faith; and nevertheless this is clearly contrary to the faith of the church; for in the Athanasian faith the Divine is conjoined to His Human, as the soul to the body, and in Himself, etc.


The idea can with difficulty be held by Christians that the Divine which is called the Father is in the Lord, for the reason that they think that the Divine of the Father, because it created the universe, cannot be in the Human; and then (because of their idea of the entire heaven and the entire world) that it cannot be conceived of as in the human body. They think from the idea of extension and space; when yet the Divine Itself is not to be thought of from the idea of extension or space; for thus, instead of God, the purest of nature and of the visible universe is thought of, from which idea a man becomes a natural man, and at last an atheist, acknowledging nature as creator. And nevertheless the idea of extension and space does not exist in the spiritual world, where spaces are only appearances of space (concerning which, see Heaven and Hell). But of God there should be no other idea than that of the Divine Man; and of the creation of the entire heaven and the entire world, no other than as from the sun which is the Divine love; and of the proceeding Divine, from which was the entire heaven, and the entire world, the idea of extension can be held, especially in the natural world.


Of God, that is, of the Lord, there should be no other thought than that He is life itself; and of created beings, as angels and men, no other than that they are forms recipient of life. The Lord's life is the Divine love; and this alone has life, and it alone is life. Whence it is plain that to no one is there life except from Him; also, that men believe that life is in themselves, is for the reason that in the recipient form life is felt as if it were its own; as the principal [is felt] in the instrumental, which act together as one cause. And because the Divine love is such that it wishes that which is its own to be another's, it has been granted that life should be perceived as if it were man's, so that he may receive it as if it were from himself; nor is there reception in any other way, for there is no reciprocal (of which, however, elsewhere).


Man was so created as to be a heaven in the least form, corresponding to the greatest; and it is to be known that the Lord was heaven itself as to the life of all, and that angels and men as to reception in finite forms; because the Lord was conceived of the Divine Itself, thus of life itself; and concerning life itself there cannot be held the idea of extension and space, as concerning receptacles of life; hence it is evident that the Lord was Man as being the life, as every other man is [a receptacle] of life; and thus that from Him, as from the very fountain of life, is the all of the life of heaven, concerning the extension of which there can be no thought, but from the extension of the forms of life.


That the Lord was made life thence even as to the Human, will be told elsewhere; the Divine Itself, and the soul, can dwell only in life.


The things which have now been said, are to be related as the ideas of angelic thoughts concerning the Lord. It has been said by angels that such also are the ideas of their thoughts concerning the Lord, but that those which have been related are most general; also that they know and think things innumerable on these subjects, which are their particulars; and that they are not perceived by men, nor told in human words, even to the thousandth part. Hence it was evident that those things which they say to each other concerning the Lord, are ineffable and incomprehensible to man; also that such things are in the inmost sense of the Word, where it treats of the Lord alone.


Let those who have an idea of the Lord's Divine as above the Human, weigh well the idea which those in heaven have concerning Him; whether the Human is there where the Divine is; whether the Divine is separate and with the Father, and the Human in heaven, for thus the Lord would be two, not one. Hence it may be manifest whether it is allowable for anyone to have such an idea concerning the Lord.


It is said that there is one substance or essence, when yet there is specific difference, because the attribute in the specific case belongs more to one than to another. Consider whether it be not so when you are speaking of the Father as the Creator, of the Son as the Redeemer, of the Holy Spirit as the Enlightener; does not the thought then attribute to one what it does not attribute to another except in a general way? Then let it be considered whether their being one, or one substance, means that the work of creation proceeds from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Holy Spirit, thus in that order; whether or not the idea can be formed of its proceeding reciprocally; that the work of creation proceeds reciprocally, from the Holy Spirit to the Son, and from the Son to the Father. This is contrary to the idea which proceeding carries with it; when, nevertheless, that there may be one substance to the three, there must also be the idea of reciprocal proceeding, which cannot be given; otherwise, there are three substances, etc.


There was a trial made, to see what kind of an idea they have when they are saying and thinking, and while they are asking the Father to be merciful for the sake of the Son; and it was perceived that they had an idea wholly repugnant to the doctrine of faith and to the Word, namely, that they think of the Father, and think of the Son as a common man who suffered the cross; and that they then wholly separated the Son from the Father and placed him below; and because they were asked how at the same time they think of the Lord's Divine, it was perceived that they think nothing about it; or else that they think of it also as one with the Father; that it was brought forward for the sake of the Human or the Son; and if they think in any other way, that they supplicate the Divine above, and place the Human separate. In a word their idea is plainly contrary to the doctrine of Athanasius, that the Divine and the Human is one Person; thus that the human also is with the Father, and one with the Father, which cannot be thought, unless the Human also is Divine; for the Father is the infinite, uncreate, almighty God; and the Human cannot be of the true and one substance with the Father, unless the Human also be Divine.


There is contradiction in saying that Christ is rational and perfect Man from the mother alone; there is also contradiction in saying that the Lord as a Man can be the Father with the Father, or with the Divine; when nevertheless if there be one Person, and so a Divine Human, the case is otherwise; it is a contradiction to say that God and Man can be one Person, unless the Human be Divine.


The ideas of the learned wholly wander from the Athanasian faith concerning the Lord's Human. They were examined as to the quality of their ideas, and it was found that they are not acquainted with those things in Athanasius.


An examination was made with spirits, who in the world were learned, to ascertain whether it were possible for them to think of one God while thinking of three Persons, and each Person God; and it was clearly found that they could not possibly do so, except that they could think of three as unanimous - thus still as three. An examination was next made with reference to the origin of a Son from eternity, that He was born of the Father; and they were asked whether they were able to think of His having been born from eternity; but it was found that they could think from no other thought than that of the speech, which is the lowest thought, belonging to the body. An examination was made whether they were able to think of the origin of the Holy Spirit from eternity, by considering that it proceeds from the two; with this it was the same; and it was found that there cannot be the thought that thus God who is a Person exists through Himself, besides that God is from Himself, and that He Himself is of Himself.


Nor did the learned spirits understand what I had said, that the Lord in the world was the Divine truth, and that afterwards He was the Divine good, and then one with the Father. It was therefore granted to explain this; namely, that the Divine truth is the same with Divine intelligence and wisdom, for understanding is from truths; and also while man is being regenerated by the Lord, his understanding is being formed from truths, and so far as it is formed so far he is intelligent; also, that the Divine good is Divine love, and love is of the will; wherefore, so far as a man is regenerated from truths, which are of the understanding, and they become of good, namely of the love, so far he is regenerated; and, to speak now of the Lord, so far He was glorified, or made Divine, because from the Divine Itself. It is here said Divine truth and Divine good, for the reason that it is said concerning God that He is good itself and truth itself; and this is from the consideration that all the good of love and the truth of intelligence, with angels and with men, are from Him.


Let the whole Creed of Athanasius, respecting the Trinity, be explained from beginning to end, in accordance with the truth concerning the Trine of the Lord; and it will be seen that it can be explained; also, that thus, of the Lord's Divine Providence, that Divine truth has been saved or preserved, so that, concerning the Infinite, the Eternal, the Almighty, it may be found that there are not three, but one; that there is one substance, and that there is Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity; that God and Man is one Person; that the Divine took to Itself the Human. But that the Father is the greater; how is that to be understood? If in any other way, heaven could not have been present with man.


The simple think of God as of Man. Those of the most ancient people did the same; moreover, they who were of the church, from Adam even to Abraham, to Moses, and the Prophets, saw Him, and as Man, and called Him Jehovah; and He whom they saw was the Lord, as is evident from John (8:58), where it is said that the Lord was before Abraham. The wise Gentiles thought of Him in like manner; thence their idols; and at the present day the Africans especially also the inhabitants of all the earths; and all the angels in the heavens also, who can have no other thought, from the very form of heaven. The idea comes thence, by influx; and thus it is as it were implanted; but it is lost among the learned in the Christian world. (See Apocalypse Explained n. 808.) Let him who is willing reflect whether he thinks of the Divine of the Lord when He is named alone; and thus, whether His Divine is approached. When three Persons are named, the case is different; then many think of three Gods; can He alone ever be approached in this manner?


They who think of the Lord while they think of God, have a determinate idea; but many who think of God the Father have an indeterminate idea, and they easily acknowledge nature as God; and on this account it is granted them in the other life to see someone on high, sitting upon a throne, who calls himself God the Father; and who calls some spirit, either near him or elsewhere, his Son. This is permitted, that they may not become fools or insane through their indeterminate idea concerning God; and I can affirm that many who can reason intelligently determine their idea to him who is on high, and take commands from him. He is some bearded person from one place or another; for the most part from those who have wished to be worshiped as divinities; but still among those who do not acknowledge the Lord. In a word, their thoughts at length become such that they believe that there is no God, and so they are sent into hell. Some say that God is everywhere; but it was shown that the proceeding Divine is everywhere, like light and heat from the sun; but still, to say that the sun as to its body is everywhere is folly.


Almost all who pass from the world into the other life regard the Lord as a mere man, and very few have an idea of His Divine. This is meant in Luke: Shall He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8). The reason is, that they say three Persons and one God, and make the Lord's Human to be distinct from His Divine; and then to say and to believe in one God is impossible; it is almost impossible to believe that God is God; for the idea of Divinity is thereby destroyed to that extent. The case is otherwise when it is said that the Lord alone is the one God. (See Isaiah 40:9, 10; and explain that the Lord is Jehovah; also that He came to execute judgment.)


The sin against the Holy Spirit is the denial of the Divine in the Word; for they who deny this, tacitly and in the heart deny all things of heaven and the church, for these are all from the Word; they also deny the Divine of the Lord. Wherefore in the other life all are taught that there is a spiritual sense in all things and in every particular of the Word, so that they may know and acknowledge the Word; and this, that they may not be led away by evil spirits, from all the passages of the Word which in the sense of its letter appear paradoxical, and likewise as if they were not Divine.


The Divine which the Lord called the Father - some, from their own idea, understand the Lord so spoke from His Divine, thus as born from eternity; but that He thus spoke from His Human, is plain from his words to Philip: He that seeth Me, seeth the Father (John 14:9); also in John: And we beheld His glory of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14).


That "to smite with hands," and "to give the face to shame and spitting," signifies to do to the one Divine even as it was done to the Lord, is clearly manifest in Isaiah (50:6-7), where Jehovah says this concerning Himself.


(Let those things be taken up which are of experience, concerning the Gentiles who acknowledged God under a human form, in various ways, and who have been saved according to this.)


(Let it be shown from the Word that the Lord's riding on an ass, and a colt of an ass, was a sign of royalty.) Man ought to think of the Lord when he thinks of God, and he ought to think from Him; for otherwise man cannot think with angels, and thus be with them; the reason of this is that the angels think of God as of Man, because heaven is in the human form; and unless they do so, they are not able to think of God. On account of this, also, the Lord is to be approached, and not God the Father entreated for the sake of the Son.


They who, concerning the Human of the Lord, have the idea of a Human alone, make two Persons of the Lord, which they call natures; and they seek Him in two places in heaven, and thus not the one Lord. It is wonderful that from the beginning of the church they have not attended to the words of the Athanasian confession, that God and Man is as soul and body.


They have given no attention to those words, for the reason that the Christian church became Babylonia and Philistia.


How reciprocal union is effected, such as that of good and truth and of truth and good; and that thus the Divine took upon Itself the Human, and the Human conjoined Itself to the Divine just as a man becomes spiritual and an angel, from the Lord. Of the reciprocal, the Lord said that: The Father was in Him, and He in the Father (John 14:10); He also said: Glorify Thy son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee (John 17:1, 5).


If the Lord had not now executed the Last Judgment (and this is His Coming), no one in the church could have been saved any longer; for all are in falsities, and all the Word has been falsified, as may be evident in the work concerning spiritual faith. It is because of this that the Lord has now revealed the spiritual sense as truth of doctrine; as was done also in His Coming when He assumed the Human.


(There are arcana which are to be presented respecting His incarnation.)


All who deny the Lord's Divine have separated themselves from heaven, and they have placed as it were a covering over themselves, and they also appear to themselves to be without strength in the praecordia, which hang down, and pendulous swing to and fro; and indeed they fall into falsities of every kind; and when they are thinking of God the Father, it is some spirit from the lowest heaven, and sometimes an evil spirit, that makes answer and inflows into their thoughts. (Many things besides may be seen in the extracts.)


That to deny the Lord's Divine, and thus the Word, is the sin against the Holy Spirit, will be shown from the Word.


All are examined in the other life, what their quality is as to their spiritual faith and life, by means of influx from heaven concerning the Divine Human of the Lord. They who receive it, see and acknowledge, these have been conjoined with the angels. The reason of this is, that all heaven is in that acknowledgment; wherefore the operation of heaven is received only by those who are in the life of faith, which is charity.


It may possibly, indeed, be received by others; but by those only who care not whether they think and do wickedly or falsely; as for example, by dissemblers, who can be in any affection; but this, in the state in which they are while listening; and afterwards they likewise take their allotted places in hell, according to their lives.


The Lord lived in so humble a way as scarcely to be distinguished from an ordinary man, and not in splendor as God, that the Jews might not acknowledge Him as the Messiah from externals, but from internals; and for the same reason He was not willing to give them signs from heaven; for if they had acknowledged Him in any other way, and afterwards had not seen themselves exalted to be the lords of earth, they would have fallen back, and so would have become profaners; it was for this reason that He was not willing to give them a sign (concerning which see . . .). That He was the possessor of all things, may be manifest from this: that He fed the five thousand, then the four thousand, also that He gave them wine to drink at Cana, and that He was able to pay the tribute money from the mouth of a fish. But that He willed to seem poor, was for the reason already given.


That He was a carpenter's son, was because "a worker in wood" signifies the good of life from the doctrine of truth.


In the Creed of Athanasius it is said that the Lord as Man is less than the Father; when nevertheless His Divine was as the soul; and the Divine cannot so dwell in what is not Divine that they are one.

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