People often explain (and lament) the idea of anthropomorphism as the result of selfish psychological motives in humanity. But the cause of anthropomorphism is not psychological; though the effects of this can be seen everywhere in a psychological way. In essence the origin is spiritual; it intrinsically comes from God because God is in the human form.
This does not mean humanity has cart-blanch to dominate nature. On the contrary it means man is to be a good steward of nature. The master statement showing why the human form is a universal form comes from this statement in the Bible, “God made man in His image”. Of course many people don’t recognize the authority of the Bible (I do – as one can see on my post on the nature of the Word). I will describe the subject including Swedenborg, science, philosophy, and spiritual psychology, and the Bible too.
Everyone has experienced how we commonly refer to ships as women, earth as living and a mother, how children feel their dolls and toys are human and alive, how trees and plants have sap that run inside and have little viens in their leaves, which is like blood in the veins of humans. God is referred to as a Father, Mother, friend, king, lover, guardian, warrior, champion, redeemer. Angels always appear as kind, powerful, super wise humans in the Bible and in thousands of stories and personal experiences. All this and millions of more examples come from the human form being a universal form in the universe.
One can begin from many angles on the subject; I will simply begin by giving a straight forward description of Swedenborg’s revelatory writings on the subject, and then look at it from science and spiritual psychology. The whole universe is in the shape of a human. This is because the Divine human is the innermost of all things, and what is the innermost is also in the outermost and universal. Similarly, it is a universal truth that the macro is reflected in the micro. The universal human is the divine human who is infinite and the source of life itself, and is called the Grand man.
The Grand man is utterly particular in all of its parts. His infinity is a real infinity – meaning He is omnipotent and omnipresent to all things in a spiritual way. (Yet He must follow his own laws! But that it a paradox we will pursue another day.) All things are in relationship to each other and of use to each other the way all the organs and systems of the body relate to each other, and are of use to each other. Swedenborg tells how all the societies in the spiritual world relate to the organs and systems of the body in the most particular way, far beyond are ability to even conceive. The form of the human body on earth actually comes from of the spiritual world, and ultimately the Lord. (The understanding of this will be deeply reinforced by reading the article in this blog on Correspondences and the one on Equilibrium).
Now, here is a way we can see how the human form is intrinsic to the structure of the universe. As we talked about in the post on equilibrium, life for people is held in the balance between heaven and hell. The Lord with his divine might maintains a balance between the two, and at the pinnacle of this balance is human freedom. Equilibrium is freedom because if either heaven or hell is dominant in effecting the natural world – freedom would be compromised. The Lord holds freedom as sacred, for it is the only means to salvation. From this one can see that the whole structure of the universe serves human life, for freedom is the very essence of our life. Indeed the whole purpose of life is to populate the heavenly kingdom with angels.
Angels are in the human form also, and all angels are former humans. Angels are in a more perfect human form, and the Lord is perfection itself. In a lesser way we can see this progression toward the human form in the natural world; first suns are the source of all the materials of the universe and life. The materials from the sun form the planets, and then life (on earth and some other planets) gradually develops from cells, plants, animals, and finally humans. Animals, plants, and even the earth are remote forms of the human form. It is well known that evolution culminates in the human from, for the human form is the highest form in all the universe. God is the divine human, and all people are receptacles of the divine. Just as the eye is an organ that receives light and processes it, or the ear is an organ that receives sound and processes it to the brain – the human soul is an organ that receives love and wisdom from the divine human and in the person it is processed in an individual way.
Astrophysicists are mapping out the parts of the universe to the extent they can see with the most advanced telescopes, and the picture that is forming they call the cosmic web. Many have commented (and you can see at the second link below) that the cosmic web looks like microscope pictures of the nervous system, or the synopsis of the brain. Here from earth what can be seen is no doubt only a small view of the whole. Swedenborg writes that even the wisest angles cannot see the whole of the grand man, but only a portion according to the extent of their wisdom. It is significant that scientist and lay people are noticing the comparison between the human nervous system and the cosmic web. This could be helpful to scientific research, especially when we consider how science is using Biomimicry to further their knowledge and practices. The organic patterns of the ‘Fibonacci Spiral’, and ‘Flower of Life’ are compared to shapes of galaxies and galaxy clusters, and may also help one to see how the remote aspects of the human form exist in nature. You can see this at: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0SO8x0cg9BUJ5oAYldXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0NmMyMWlsBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1NNRTc1NV8x?_adv_prop=image&fr=yfp-t-901&va=%27Fibonacci+Spiral%27%2C+and+%27Flower+of+Life%27
On the website below one can see several pictures making the comparison of the cosmic web to microscopic images of brain synopses, the nervous system, and other parts of the body. There are pictures showing a spiders web, cells, glands, and organs of the body that compare to the images from the universe:
Swedenborg makes the comparison between the structure of the natural universe, and the glands and fibers of the nervous system very distinctly in the following statement in ‘Divine Love and Wisdom’: But the medullary or fibrillary substances everywhere begin in and proceed from the cortical; and from this come the nerves, and from them all things of the body. That this is true is proved by dissection. They who know these things, either from study of the science of anatomy or from those skilled in it, can see that the beginnings of life are nowhere else than the commencements of the fibres, and that fibres cannot go forth from themselves, but from those beginnings. These beginnings or origins, which appear as glands, are almost countless; their multitude may be compared to the multitude of stars in the universe; and the multitude of fibrils from them can be compared to the multitude of rays going out from the stars and bearing their heat and light to the earths.
The multitude of these glands may also be compared to the multitude of angelic societies in the heavens, which also are countless, and, as I have been told, are in the same order; and the multitude of fibrils going out from these glands can be compared to spiritual truths and goods, which in the same way flow down therefrom like rays. Hence it is like a universe and like a heaven in its least form, as has frequently been said and shown above. From these things it can be established that such as life is in beginnings, such it is in derivatives; or, such as life is in its first things in the brains, so is it in the things arising therefrom in the body (DLW 366).
Here is an amazing thought: If all this is true, than the view our scientist are seeing of the universe is so small we can only see little microscopic fibers in the Grand man. Swedenborg makes the connection between the number and look of the multitude of glands, fibers, and the fobrils of the nervous system – to the stars, and the rays from the stars; and he further connects both of these to the multitude of societies in the spiritual world, and the light and influx from those societies. He explains that both the human form and the universe, and all the things in them that connect, are in the same order as angelic societies in the heavens and the things in them that connect.
Now I would like to introduce a different angle on this subject for your consideration, that is, the spiritual psychology of it. To fully grasp an idea or belief the human brain needs to see it in a natural sense and in the abstract or spiritual sense together. In terms of God this means we intrinsically need to see him as both divine and human. It is impossible to really be in relationship with a person or God that is amorphous, cloud-like, or purely etherial. It is the nature of the the relationship of the natural and spiritual that the natural is the foundation of the spiritual, and neither can ultimately exist without the other. The human body and soul is the means of all perception. Similarly, love, wisdom and all the virtues (and vices) can only be expressed through a body, or a person. They do not exist in the purely abstract; they only exist in relation to the human body. These things are extremely significant because they have great impact on our relationship with the divine, and ultimately our salvation. Here is how Swedenborg describes the necessity of the human form in having a relationship with God.
No angel in the heavens ever perceives the Divine as being in any other than a human form; and what is remarkable, those in the higher heavens are unable to think of the Divine in any other way. The necessity of thinking in this way comes from the Divine itself that flows in, and also from the form of heaven in harmony with which their thoughts spread forth. For every thought of an angel spreads forth into heaven; and the angels have intelligence and wisdom in the measure of that extension.
Because the angels have no perception of an invisible Divine, which they call a Divine devoid of form, but perceive a visible Divine in Human form, they are accustomed to say that the Lord alone is Man, and that they are men from Him. Because such a perception of the Divine exists in the heavens, to think of God as in a human form is implanted in every man who receives any influx from heaven. Thus did the ancients think of Him; and thus do the moderns think of Him both outside of the church and within it. The simple see Him in thought as the Ancient One in shining light. But this insight has been extinguished in all those that by self-intelligence and by a life of evil have rejected influx from heaven. Those that have extinguished it by self-intelligence prefer an invisible God; while those that have extinguished it by a life of evil prefer no God.
In a nutshell, it is apparent that the human mind, body and soul are wired to be in relationship to the divine in the human form. I can not help but feel that it is a matter of submitting to this relationship for in a state of innocence we receive this without effort, just as a child believes its toys are alive, or a child believes in Santa Clause. It is not hard, but can become hard when external ideas get in the way.