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Polytheism

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 Scandinavia.

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.


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Polytheism

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