Polytheism arises in every case from separating the Divine Attributes
into different Divine Persons, as has been done by the First Christian Church.
In the Ancient Church, as was said, the Divine Attributes had their various
names and representations, but still only one God was worshiped. But as the
Church grew more external this was forgotten, and their posterity began to consider
each Divine name as the name of a separate Divine Person.
Concerning this we read in Arcana Caelestia, 3667 :
"From ancient times they designated the Supreme God, or the Lord, by various
names, and this according to the attributes, or according to the goods that
were from Him, and also according to the truths, which are manifold. Those who
were of the Ancient Church by all these denominations understood but one God,
namely, the Lord, whom they called Jehovah, but after the Church had descended
from good and truth, and at the same time from that wisdom, then they began
to worship so many gods as there were denominations of the one God, even to
such a degree that every nation and at last every family acknowledged as their
god one of these."
Another cause of Polytheism was the custom of adding something to the name
of Jehovah, as may be seen from Arcana Caelestia, n. 2724:
''Thence it came that those who placed worship in the name alone, acknowledged
so many gods, . . . hence, also, the nations began to be distinguished by the
name of the god whom they worshiped."
Again, it will be found that the worship of many gods arose from a perversion
of the habit of personating spiritual and intellectual things, "as it were conversing
together, such as Wisdom, Intelligence, Sciences, etc., and also to give names
to these, which signified such things; the gods and demigods were nothing else"
(A. C. 4442.)
Another cause may be seen in the universal custom of venerating kings, saints,
or living men, who were thought to incorporate and represent in themselves Divine
qualities and attributes.
It was, also, the habit to give the names of historical persons to these
spiritual things, in order that sacred narratives might thus be composed in
an historical form (A. C. 4442).
'That they distributed the Divine into so many persons, was because, from
what was insown, they saw God as a man, and they, therefore, regarded as persons
all the attributes and qualities of God, and thence also virtues, affections,
inclinations and sciences" (A. E. 1118).
"Many gods of the Gentiles were no other than men, such as Baal, Astaroth,
Chemosh, Milcom, Beelzebub, and at Athens, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto,
Apollo, Pallas, and others; some of whom they worshiped first as saints, afterward
as Divinities, and lastly as gods. That they also worshiped living men as gods
is evident from the edict of Darius, the Mede, in Daniel vi" (T. C. R.
292; A. E. 955, 1118).
As to the adoration of kings, see Arcana Caelestia, n. 5323.
An example of the gradual rise of Polytheism from these causes is found in
the worship of Shaddai, as described in Arcana Caelestia, n. 1992:
"The interpreters render Shaddai 'the Omnipotent,' or 'the Thunderer,' but
it properly signifies 'Tempter,' and after temptations, 'benefactor.' The word
Shaddai itself signifies 'vastation.' . . . The origin of this worship was from
the nations in Syria; hence He is not called Elohim Shaddai, but El Shaddai,
and in Job only Shaddai. The worship of Shaddai had this origin, that with those
who were of the Ancient Church, spirits were very often heard, who rebuked,
and afterward also [other spirits] who consoled. The spirits who rebuked were
perceived at the left side under the arm; angels then approached from the head,
who ruled these spirits, and moderated the rebuke; and because they [the men]
did not think anything that was said to them by these spirits to be Divine,
therefore they named that rebuking spirit' Shaddai,' and because consolation,
also, was afterward given, they called him ' God Shaddai.' "
This God Shaddai was the family god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was
worshiped also in Assyria under the name "Sedu," and, perhaps, the Egyptian
"Seti" is derived from the same source.
Another example is the name Adonai, "my Lord," whom, it is stated
in Coronis, n. 51, the ancients worshiped as the Lord who was to come.
This god was worshiped throughout Syria and Phoenicia as Adon, and from this
source comes the Greek fable of Adonis. It may be, also, that the name Odin,
the supreme God of the Scandinavians, is to be traced thence. Another name of
the Lord was Baal, which means simply master. Prom this comes the god Bel of
Babylonia, the various Baalim of Phoenicia, Apollo of Greece, and Balder of
From the changes of the name Jehovah, further, many names of heathen gods
arose. Thus we know distinctly from the Doctrines that the name Jove is derived
from Jehovah (T. C. R. 275; De Verbo 15 S. S. 117). Prom this
name probably arose also the names Ea or Hea of Babylonia, Iao of Phoenicia,
Iacchus and Io in Greece, Janus and Juno in Rome; the Egyptian moongod, who
is known under the various names of Aah, Ioh, Hoh, Hih; the Sanscrit Yah, and
Yagernout, the Japanese Jakusi, the Fannish Ju-mala, the Scandinavian Jafur
and Jalkr, the Keltic Hu, the Sclavonian Jaga—Baba, Jutrbog, and Iawinna, and—if
we are liberal—the Caraibean Houjou, the Polynesian Jamae, and the American
and Mexican gods Jawas, Jeouinnou, and Jukateuctli.
Other examples as to this origin of Polytheism we find enumerated in the
Writings in the cases of the Cherubim and Theraphim and Dagon.