By the word of the Lord were the heavens made ; and all
the host of them by the breath of his mouth.— Psalm xxxiii. 6.
THERE is but little said in the letter of the Word concerning the creation of the universe, except the bare announcement of the fact that the Lord is the Creator of all things, and that all things were created by “the word of the Lord” or the Divine truth. The conclusions we form concerning the creation, from this declaration, will depend upon the idea that we have of “the word of the Lord” and “the breath of his mouth.” If by “word” we understand a mere vocal expression, we shall come to the conclusion generally entertained upon the subject, that the Lord spoke the universe into existence. He said, Let it be, and it became. “He spake, and it was done ; he commanded, and it stood fast.” According to this idea the universe was created without any modes or processes from cause to effect. There were no steps in it. It is true, science demonstrates pretty clearly that our earth has been gradually evolved from a chaotic state, and for many thousands of years continued to advance towards a condition suitable for the habitation of man. But the theologian evades the difficulty by supposing that the act of creating was speaking into existence the elements out of which the universe was gradually formed.
This idea of the creation practically severs the universe from any living, present connection with the Creator. It implies that He once created it and committed it to the keeping of certain laws which men call the laws of nature, and now He stands as it were aloof from it, watching its operations somewhat as a man makes a machine and then watches its movements.
But this is not the idea of the New Church. Our doctrines teach us that the Lord is an everlasting or continual Creator, and that He creates all things from Himself. The universe is a perpetual creation, continually renewed and increased and held in existence by the same power which first gave it being. The universe was not created out of nothing by a vocal expression, but from the Lord Himself by the continual operation of His Divine love and wisdom. It is not in any sense fixed and independent of Him. It is not cut off or severed from Him and held in form and existence by laws. Laws have no power. They are merely the Divine method of working. The Lord works in, through, and by them. There is not a single thing in the universe that can maintain itself a moment when severed from the Lord. The hardest metal or stone would vanish from sight and from existence as quickly as light vanishes from the room when you remove the luminous body from which it flows, if its connection with the Lord were severed. The outflowing of light from a luminous body well illustrates the momentary dependence of every created thing upon the Lord for its continued existence.
According to this idea the universe is a constant creation. All its forces are continually derived from the Lord. Nothing acts of itself The force of gravity is not inherent in matter. It does not originate in the earth or the sun. It comes momentarily from the Lord. The attraction of cohesion is not a power of itself, but the Divine method of forming individual things and holding them together, and the exercise of power is as constant as the effects of it. Suppose the power we call cohesive attraction should be in part withdrawn from solid substances, they would all fall asunder, and there would be no individual forms or things. The earth would be a fluid mass. Withdraw it still further and there would be nothing but gases, and if the process were still continued matter would be annihilated. This truth is perfectly illustrated by an analogous process in the human body.
The body is organized by the soul and kept in existence as an organized form by it. If you sever any part of the body from its connection with the soul, disorganization begins to take place, and the severed part is dissipated. So it would be with the material universe, only more fully and instantaneously, if it could be severed from the evercreating power of the Lord. We arrive, then, at this important truth, that the universe is a perpetual creation from the Lord, and has a living connection with Him. Such being the case, the question naturally arises, What is there in the Lord from which or out of which the universe can be created ? The Lord in His essential being is love and wisdom or goodness and truth. It must be from or out of goodness and truth that the universe is created. Most persons conceive of love or goodness as a mere affection or state of the soul, and of wisdom or truth as knowledge or simply knowing. But this is not the true idea. The Divine love and wisdom are substance and form itself. The Lord exists in Himself, not from another. He must be substance itself, for He gives subsistence to everything. If substance is that which stands under, is the origin and support of all things, surely the Lord must be that substance ; and if He gives form to everything, there must be something in Him that gives the form. He must be the Former of all forms. He must be form itself The inmost essence of the Lord is Divine love, and the form of that love is Divine wisdom or truth, and from Divine truth all things were created. The declaration of the Sacred Scriptures, then, that “by the word of the Lord were the heavens made,” is literally true, when we have a correct idea of what “the word of the Lord” or Divine truth is.
It is true we can form no adequate conception of what the Divine goodness or truth is in itself The intensity, power, and perfection of the Divine are altogether above the conception of the highest angel, much more that of man. We are so weak and ignorant that we do not know what anything, even the most common object that is daily before our eyes, is in itself We should find it as impossible to define what matter is as what spiritual or Divine substance is. It is enough for us to know that all things have their origin in the Lord and flow from Him as the only real and essential substance.
When we say the universe is an emanation or outbirth from the Lord, it must not be understood that gross material forms come directly from Him, but those substances and forms from which the material universe was created. The creation proceeds from the Lord by distinct steps or degrees. This may be illustrated by the creation of the planets from the sun. Granite and iron and diamonds do not proceed immediately from the sun. The first emanation from the sun is matter in its purest forms, as an aura or ether ; then it becomes a gas, a fluid, and finally a solid. A part of this process we know from actual observation. For instance, oxygen and hydrogen gases by combination form water, and water becomes a solid in ice. Here we can trace the formation of a solid down three steps. We do not yet know much about light and heat and electricity, or those substances which are called the imponderable agents in chemistry. But we know that they act a most important part in all the changes and activities of matter. They are doubtless to the grosser forms of matter what the soul is to the human body, and from analogy and experiment there is good reason to believe that the grosser forms of matter are created from them, as water and all other fluids and solids are created from gases. Solids are the last step in the creation, where the living forms and substances become inert and dead.
The first emanation from the Lord is not matter, nor even spiritual substance in its lowest forms, but a sun so intense and glowing with the Divine love and wisdom that even the angels cannot bear its heat and light except as it becomes modified and adapted to their states. This Divine sun flows from the Lord and encompasses Him, as light and heat flow from our sun and encompass it. This sun is pure love and wisdom as they flow from the Lord. It is also the substance from which and out of which the spiritual world is created, in the same manner relatively as material worlds are created from the material sun. That sun appears to the angels remote, as our sun does to us. It is also the centre of the whole universe, both spiritual and natural. From it the spiritual world is created, and the souls of men are formed. Thus man is a being organized of spiritual substances derived from the Lord, and is kin to all things in the spiritual world.
As the spiritual world was created from the spiritual sun, of spiritual substances, it is a more substantial and real and living world than this. But it is not a simple world in which all parts are alike ; it exists in various forms and degrees. The Divine substance ever flowing from the Lord descends in distinct degrees. The first emanation from the Lord is the spiritual sun by which He is encompassed ; the first emanation from the spiritual sun is the celestial heaven, in which the highest angels dwell, who can receive the Lord’s love and wisdom in their highest degree and in the purest created forms. This heaven is as distinct from all the others as the air is from the solid rock.
The next remove from the spiritual sun is the spiritual heaven, which is a degree lower than the celestial heaven, and is distinct from that heaven as it is distinct from the spiritual sun, or as our earth is from our sun. This heaven is the abode of spiritual angels. They are called spiritual angels in whom a degree of life has been opened corresponding to the substances of which the spiritual heaven is composed.
The next remove from the spiritual sun is the natural heaven, which is the lowest form of the spiritual and is only one degree above the material. Thus there are three heavens, each distinct from the other, and formed of spiritual substances in three distinct degrees. The main truth I wish to present now is that the creation proceeds from the Lord by distinct steps, each lower plane being formed from and through the next higher and thus all from the Lord.
From spiritual substances matter is formed- Not gross and solid matter, but matter in its purest forms. The first step from the spiritual to the material is the suns of the various systems in the material universe. According to the philosophy of the New Church, these suns are pure fire, from which issue light and heat. This pure fire is the most subtle form of matter ; so subtle and pure that we can obtain but little if any knowledge of it through our gross and material senses, and yet it is inert and dead compared with spirit. From the suns the various planets or earths are formed by a process exactly analogous to that by which the various spiritual worlds or heavens are formed. The Divine love and wisdom, which we must remember are not names but real substances and forms, flow down from the Lord by distinct degrees, until that which was Divine and infinite and above all created reception and comprehension, becomes dead and solid matter, as the metal and stone. Thus there is a living connection between the rock and the inmost Divine of the Lord ; there is a chain of causes and effects running from the highest to the lowest, binding all together into one whole.
Reasoning from analogy and from the very nature of the Divine love and wisdom, I think we are forced to the conclusion that the material universe is not yet complete, and never will be. The Lord is now creating new worlds. and will continue to create them to eternity. There are discoveries in astronomy which seem to confirm this conclusion. The Lord is not idle. Life must continually flow from Him. He is continually creating new souls, must He not be continually creating new worlds ? The truth that the universe is a perpetual creation from the Divine sun answers the question which is often asked, and which has been supposed to be unanswerable. What keeps up the heat of the sun ? It is known that all heated bodies gradually give off their heat and grow cooler. And it has been argued from this that the sun must eventually cease to shine and give off heat, and become opaque like the earth. Others have imagined that the comets supply the sun with fuel, and in some unknown way keep its fires continually burning. But the truth is, the fire of the sun is perpetually created by the Lord from the spiritual world. The suns themselves are an emanation from Him, as light and heat are an emanation from them, and they cannot cease to shine, for they are perpetually fed from the exhaustless fountain of the Divine life. Thus the stability and perpetuity of the universe does not depend upon any laws or relations of matter, but upon the immutable order and infinite sources of Him who is life and substance and form itself. This sublime truth, that the universe is a continual creation from the Lord, reveals to us, if we can correctly understand it, how the Lord is everywhere present in the universe. There is not a stone in the street that is not connected with the Divine by the presence within it of living forces from Him. As the universe descends from the Lord, or, what is the same thing, recedes from Him by distinct steps or degrees, it always retains a vital connection with Him, upon which all its activity and life and its very existence depend. It is a common idea that the Lord created the first plant, and gave to it the power of propagating itself, and then His direct agency ceased. But this is an entire mistake. Power cannot be communicated in that way. A machine can only be kept in motion by the continual application of the motive power.
The Divine agency is just as necessary to the creation of the last plant as the first. The actual presence of a substantial and living element from the Lord through the spiritual sun and the spiritual world forms the plant in every part of its progress. It is the same in the animal kingdom. The organization of the animal form, and all its instincts and life, are also the effects of the spiritual element from the Lord working from within. One animal cannot create another. No animal can form its own instincts. I repeat, therefore, that the creation of the material universe, as a whole and in all its parts, is due to the spiritual presence and agency of the Divine sphere of the Lord through the spiritual world. The spiritual world, then, in its relations to this, is the world of causes, not only as a whole, not only as a first cause, but in each particular and at every moment. Wherever you see a form or motion, growth or change, you may know that there are spiritual substances and forces at work, just as certainly as you know when you see a machine in motion that some power is moving it.
The very deadness and inertness of matter fit it to serve an essential use in the Lord’s creation. The material world forms the basis on which the spiritual world rests, and from which it reacts. Creation requires a passive and an active. There must be something to act and something to receive the action,—to be acted upon. We see this principle clearly in exercise in this world, and the Lord always works like Himself in all parts of His creation. The earth was first created from the sun, and now the sun acts into it and sets all its forms in motion. It acts upon the atmosphere and causes all its currents and winds. It acts upon the water and lifts it from the ocean and the land into the heavens, in the form of clouds, which descend in rain and form rivers, and thus the element of water is kept in perpetual play. It acts upon all vegetable and animal forms, and keeps them in a state to be acted upon and moulded by the spiritual forces which reach them from within. If there were no earth the sun’s rays would be dissipated in space, and, like a blow upon the empty air, produce no effect. The spiritual world is the real and substantial world, the world of causes and forms, and is everywhere present and operative ; and the material world was created to be a basis for its operations, to arrest the outflow of living forces from the Lord, and reflect them back towards their original fountain. They flow from Him as love and wisdom in substance. They return towards Him in human souls, organized in His own form and likeness, and capable of receiving His love and wisdom in ever-increasing fulness and joy.
The truth that the Lord is an ever-living, present, and perpetual Creator is one that men are very slow to learn. Men will not believe that the Lord is now doing what He has always done, that He is unchangeably active. ” My Father worketh hitherto,” said our Lord, “and I work.” This truth brings the Lord near to us as a present, living God, and not merely an historical being. The whole universe is the effect of His working to-day, is made up of the forms which His love and wisdom have assumed and do assume to-day ; and they are as truly tokens and messages of His love as the work which any man does is an evidence of his present, living power and of his wisdom and skill. It is the Lord who feeds the blazing furnace of the sun by emanations from Himself, and every ray of light and heat that falls upon our world comes from the Lord through the sun, and is a message of the Lord’s love and wisdom. It is the Lord who creates from a living, spiritual sun the innumerable hosts of stars that gem the heavens and fill the immeasurable space. With this truth in our minds we look up to the sky on a cloudless night, and our thoughts do not travel back vast ages to admire and wonder at a mighty power once exerted, but we are filled with amazement and awe at what He is now doing. The stars are now creating and created from Him. He now marshals them in their harmonious order, and sends them on their shining way. ” See, ” says the devout soul, ” what my Father is now doing. ” As he looks over the earth in the spring and sees the bare trees and dead mould clothed with the beautiful garment of organized forms ; as he sees the beautiful flowers bursting from the cold clod, and delicate petals gently unfolding from the hard, woody stems until the valleys are clothed with a new beauty, and the hills with a new glory, ” See,” he says, ” how my Father works.” It is His hand that weaves the delicate texture of leaf and blossom. It is His hand that distils the farina of wheat and the sweet juices of the various fruits, and rounds them into such beautiful and graceful forms, and paints them with such delicate and various hues. It is not dead nature ; it is not primal and abstract law ; it is not gas or electric fires. Matter is but the thin veil beneath which He works. Galvanic forces are but the swift shuttles with which He weaves the web of organic forms. The falling stream falls not of itself, but runs and sings in sweet accord with His attractive power. The dewdrop does not round itself, but the fine particles ofmist leap and cling to each other’s embrace by His will. The bird does not organize itself, or sing an idle, senseless song. It sings His praises in a voice which is one chord in the harmonies of His nature.
Look up, the worlds are not rushing on aimless errands by self-impelled forces, but each pursues its swift and shining way by certain paths for certain ends. Look around you, the whole earth is tremulous and living with His all-pervading presence. He speaks to you in the loving voice of wife and child ; He smiles upon you in their sweet lips ; He ministers to you in their gentle hands. Look, I pray you, my brother; look through the thin veil of nature and the sweet disguises of material forms and see the presence and power of your Heavenly Father. For He is present and working there. From Himself, by instruments formed from Himself, He now creates all.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895