Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Charlene P. E. BurnsEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_327

Literally, the act of being “made flesh”; the earliest and most common usage is in reference to the Christian doctrine about the divine nature of Jesus.

Historical Overview

Belief that the divine manifests in human form is as old and diverse as religion itself. Cave art from the late Paleolithic Age depicts masked figures thought to represent the divine animal spirit; sacred heavenly visitors are portrayed in the art of premodern societies. Many Native American religions teach that souls of the dead return to earth in human or animal form and also that the divine incarnates itself from time to time. Some Australian indigenous peoples teach that the human has two souls: one mortal and the other immortal and believed to be a particle of the totemic ancestral beginnings.

Ancient Greek Gnostics believed that the human being is a duality of material body and immortal soul. The souls turned away from contemplation of the One and fell from the divine realm to be incarnated and imprisoned in...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-Eau ClaireEau ClaireUSA