38 Substance and Form


Edward Madeley



From the Intellectual Repository for Dec., 1844.

CREATION is an outbirth of the Creator, and in all its parts which are according to divine order, is illustrative of his infinite Love, Wisdom and Power. The old hypothesis, ” that all things were created out of nothing, ” is now for the most part exploded as a groundless fancy, irrational and absurd. Those who still cling to this old fancy, prove that they have not attained to a knowledge of what is truly philosophical and spiritual. This idea of a creation out of nothing, if such an idea can be possible, is supposed to have some ground to stand upon in an assertion of the apostle : ” The things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Heb. xi. 3.) These words, however, by no means teach that the things which are seen were created out of nothing, but that they were created out of things which do not appear to the bodily sight ; and the things which do not thus appear, are the things which exist in the spiritual world, and which are substantial, and the proximate cause of the creation and existence of things in the natural world, which are material.

Without a knowledge of the spiritual world, and of its relation to the natural ; and likewise without some discernment of the nature of the substances and objects which exist in that world, and also of the laws by which they are governed, it is impossible to have proper ideas concerning the creation of all things by God. The natural universe is as a theatre representative of the spiritual and heavenly things which exist in the spiritual universe, and especially in the Lord’s kingdom ; and the things which exist in this latter are representative of the infinite things of Love, Wisdom and Power which exist in the Lord Himself. Thus ” the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” (Horn. i. 20.) The WORD by which all things were made, is the DIVINE TRUTH acting as one with the DIVINE LOVE or GOODNESS. Truth is not a mere conception of the mind in conformity with the true nature of things ; still less, is it a mere fiat or declaration of the mouth, but it is the very essential substance of all things. When therefore the Lord said, ” I AM THE TRUTH,” He declared that Truth is a substance and a form, which in its divine origin, or in the Lord, is the divine and infinite substance and form, from which all other substances and forms, both in the spiritual and natural worlds, are only derivations and formations. A. C. 7270.

In the spiritual world these substances and forms constituting the infinite variety of objects and scenery there beheld, are called spiritual and substantial ; and because they exist from the Sun of the spiritual world as their proximate origin, they are of a different nature, and are governed by laws essentially different from those by which objects in the natural world are governed ; because these latter objects are from the sun of nature as their proximate origin, and hence they have a nature, and are governed by laws peculiar to themselves. To think, therefore, of the substances and forms of the spiritual world with the same ideas as we think of the substances and forms of the natural world, is to think erroneously ; hence the cause why people in general, when they hear of a spiritual world filled with objects in varieties infinitely greater than can be seen upon earth, recoil at the idea, and treat it with ridicule, because they can only think of them in the same manner as they think of material objects. Arid, indeed, before they are instructed how the case is, they must needs be excused.

Let us take the spiritual body and the natural body of man as a basis of our contemplation and reasoning on this subject. These two forms of man, the one spiritual and the other natural, exist simultaneously, the one is the form of his mind, by which he is an inhabitant of the spiritual world; and the other is his bodily material organization, by which he is an inhabitant of the natural world. That these two forms of man exist simultaneously, is plainly declared by the apostle Paul, when he says, ” there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body ; ” the apostle speaks in the present tense, ” there is,” in order to show that these two forms exist simultaneously. And such is the uniform testimony of Swedenborg. This spiritual form is the seat of all man s mental life, but the natural form is the seat of all his bodily life. Man does not enter consciously into the possession and enjoyment of his spiritual form or body, until he has left the natural body by death ; no more than the chrysalis, so long as it is in the pupa-state, is in the conscious enjoyment of the power which it has, by virtue of its golden wings, of rising, when it becomes an imago or perfect butterfly, from the ground, and winging its flight in the aerial regions, skimming over the flowery meads, and feeding on ambrosia and nectar. Before it can do this, the pupa-state which bound it to the earth must be put off. So long as man is in a material body, he is comparatively in this pupa-state, bound by the laws of space and of time, shackled as to his mental powers, earthbound as to many of his conceptions and ideas, and gross as to his affections and pursuits. The laws of creation and of order require him to pass through this state, which, although indispensable, is not intended to last long ; because, as the apostle says in the same chapter, ” that which is natural is first, and afterwards that which is spiritual.” In this state we are trained and prepared for the heavenly world ; and thrice happy are they who suffer themselves to be duly prepared, that is, to be regenerated.

It is of the utmost importance that we should have correct ideas of the nature of spiritual substances and forms, since otherwise there can be no genuine intelligence and philosophy concerning anything above the mere senses. Now, the spiritual body, or the spiritual form of man which is the seat of all his mental life and activity, is evidently subject to a different order, and to different laws from those which exist in the natural world, and to which the natural body is subject. When speaking of mind we use terms taken from natural objects ; and we say that the mind is greater little, enlarged or contracted, high or low, acute or obtuse, etc. ; but we never think that these properties literally belong to the mind, except only in a remote and figurative sense. Hence we think of mental states and activities independently of the laws of nature ; and we form, in some measure, spiritual ideas of mind and its phenomena.

By the term spiritual, we mean what is separate from the laws and conditions of nature, and what is peculiar to the laws and conditions of the spiritual world. The spirit or mind of man, when in perfect freedom of thought, thinks already to a certain extent in agreement with the laws of that world which it is destined to inhabit forever. It thinks of departed friends as being exempt from the laws of matter and of space, and as existing in a state and world in which other laws are applicable and operative ; it also thinks of them as being in the human form, infinitely more lovely and perfect than when upon earth. When, however, these things are brought in Swedenborg’s ” Heaven and Hell” as facts and truths directly under the mind s eye, and especially if they are urged upon the attention by various arguments, they are in general denied, and considered to be merely imaginary. This arises from the fallacy of the senses, which would fain persuade us that there are no other substances and forms, and consequently no other objects, than those which we behold in external nature around us. We are liable to be led by these fallacies and their false persuasions, (unless the mind is grounded in genuine doctrine and philosophy,) in proportion as our selfish principle is excited, which in controversy is unhappily too often the case. One great means of being elevated above the fallacies of the senses and their false persuasions, is to cherish a disinterested love, a love, void of selfish regard for the object of investigation and discussion.

The doctrine of Discrete Degrees a doctrine which belongs in a peculiar sense to New Church philosophy teaches us that spiritual substances and forms, although existing in material substances and forms as the cause of their existence and preservation, may be separated from them and continue their existence in a more perfect state,in a world more fully accommodated to their nature and activity. But merely natural forms when separated from their spiritual forms, can no longer exist, but are dissolved into earthly elements and enter into new combinations, serving as new forms for the activities in nature of spiritual substances, and for the reception of the influx of life from God. This is evident from the case of the natural body which dies and is dissolved when the spiritual form or body leaves it at death. Nature plainly shows us that there are forms within forms, as in the wonderful transformations of insects ; and also that an interior form can live in a higher state of perfection than the exterior which is dissolved when the interior quits it. Thus when the imago emerges from the pupa, as in the case of the common butterfly which sports over our fields, the latter is abandoned and the former needs it no longer. And this is not only the case in many provinces of the animal kingdom, but it is more general in the vegetable kingdom. Every fruit has its husk, its shell, or its rind, and every seed has its capsule. Nor does the fruit or the seed properly put forth its own use, or manifest its proper vegetative life until the husk, the shell and the capsule are removed. These latter are necessary for the formation of the butterfly, and for the maturing of the fruit and seed, just as the material body is necessary for the substantiation, formation and regeneration of the spirit ; nor can this latter properly put forth its spiritual and heavenly life in all its beauty, loveliness, wisdom and bliss, until the former is laid down by death.

Thus even in nature we are instructed that there are forms within forms, and that the interior forms may continue to exist in a more perfect state when the exterior are put off and dissolved. But all these facts, evident to our observation, are intended to instruct us, or to illustrate the case when we are instructed, that in man there is a spiritual substance and form which continues to exist after the death of the material body. Man, however, is the sole subject which continues to exist in the spiritual world after the death of the external form, because he possesses rational and spiritual forms for the reception of spiritual and rational life from God, which no animal possesses ; he is thereby immortal. The doctrine of Discrete Degrees shows the laws by which interior or spiritual forms and exterior or natural forms are connected together, not by continuity, but by correspondence and influx. (See D. L. W., Part iii.)

It was a maxim of ancient wisdom ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, that ” all things in the spiritual world exist also in the natural world in a natural form ; and that all things in the natural world exist also in the spiritual world in a spiritual form.” These spiritual forms, says Swedenborg, are, as to their appearance, similar to natural forms, but in every other respect, both as to their origin and the laws by which they are governed, entirely dissimilar. They exist also in the spiritual world in infinitely greater variety than in the natural. The law of their existence is, that they should be the correspondents and exponents of the internal or mental states of the inhabitants whom they surround ; so that in those objects as in living emblems, the real states of the spiritual inhabitants may be seen. The frogs, together with the other plagues of Egypt, were correspondences to the infernal states of a degraded church, and striking exponents of the evil lusts which actuated its perverted members. Loathsome objects and horrible scenes are beheld as surrounding the wicked in those nether regions of the spiritual world called hell ; and we are instructed that the same history is still and forever applicable to a fallen and perverted church, and to every member who remains unregenerate and wicked. Whereas, the sheep and lambs lying down in green pastures, and feeding beside the still waters (Ps. xxiii.), are objects which correspond to a heavenly state, and are exponents of the peace and happiness of the faithful who live in the acknowledgment that the Lord is their shepherd. It is plainly evident from the prophets, especially from Ezekiel, Zechariah, and John (in the Revelation), that nearly all the scenery and objects which they beheld and describe, were not in the natural but in the spiritual world ; for they expressly state that they were ” in the spirit,” and that they described the things which in that state ” they heard and saw.”

Now, there are two universal principles or conditions which characterize nature, and consequently all things in nature. These are space and time ; the former is extended, and consequently measurable ; the latter is successive, that is, existing from moment to moment, and consequently determinable. But space and time as conditions of nature, have no existence in the spiritual world, any more than inches or feet are predicable of mind ;. and if certain phrases, such as deep thoughts, high ideas, etc., are frequently predicated of mind, yet no one ever thinks of taking them in their literal sense, but merely as expressions which emphatically and accurately convey the meaning intended [because of the correspondence between natural and spiritual height and depth, of which every one has a perception].

But although space and time and their conditions have no existence in the spiritual world, yet as objects there for the most part resemble objects in this world as to appearance, it follows that spiritual objects likewise appear to exist as in space and time. The laws of their proximity and remoteness are not those of mensuration, but those of mental affinity and repugnance. Similitude of affection causes their attraction and proximity, and dissimilitude causes repulsion and distance, corresponding to the laws of attraction and repulsion in nature. Objects in this world proceed from their beginnings, either as seeds or eggs, according to the laws of succession in nature. They successively grow, arrive at maturity, decay, and perish. But this law of succession is peculiar to natural objects only, and does not obtain in respect to spiritual objects, which do not gradually grow from seeds or eggs, but exist instantaneously according to the changes of state in the minds of the inhabitants. Nor does this appear more strange to them than the succession of growth to maturity in terrestrial objects does to us, because they think not from objects but from states of mind ; whereas we think from objects and not from states. Objects in nature are at the same time the subjects of our thoughts ; whereas with them objects are only the external representatives and exponents of their thoughts ; and states of mind are the subjects in and from which they think. (See A. E., Vol. vi., pp. 396, 397.) To understand this rightly, will enable us to see the difference between natural and spiritual objects, the laws by which they are respectively governed, and also the relation which they respectively sustain to the inhabitants of both worlds.

But if spiritual substances and forms are totally exempt from the laws and conditions of space, time and matter, and if to think of them from those laws is to think materially and erroneously, how much more is this the case in respect to divine substances and forms, which are infinitely exempt from the laws of matter, time and space ! That God is the infinite and self-existing substance and form, from which all finite substances and forms both spiritual and natural are derivations and formations, is the primary and fundamental truth upon which all human and angelic intelligence must be based. Admit this, and you begin to emerge from the darkness of materialism, atheism, naturalism, into the light of genuine intelligence. When the apostle called God a SUBSTANCE, npozasiz (Heb. i. 3), he did not mean to instruct us that God is such as material substances are, but that there are other substances besides those in nature, which are in finitely exempt from the laws of matter, space and time. And when the Athanasian Creed, employing in Greek the same term as the apostle, calls God a substance ” being of one substance with the Father” it did not mean to inculcate the gross idea that the substance there meant is similar to natural substance ; consequently, both the apostle Paul and the Athanasian creed teach, not only that there are spiritual substances, but also a divine substance.

Now, it is impossible to think of a substance without a form, since the former cannot exist without the latter ; hence God as a substance must be in a form which is infinite and divine. The apostle accordingly says that God has a form : ” Jesus Christ being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (Phil. ii. 6.) Here it is plainly asserted that the human form in which Jesus appeared, especially after his resurrection when He was fully glorified, is THE FORM OF GOD ; this divine form is also called by the apostle the Lord’s ” glorious body” and he states that ” in Him all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth BODILY.” Hence it is that ” He is equal with God,” that is, God Himself brought forth to the intellectual view of angels and men in a Divine Human Form, or as a Divine Man, all good, all wise, and everywhere present. The ” form of a servant,” which, as the apostle says, ” He also took upon Himself, in which He made Himself of no reputation, and in which He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ” (Phil. ii. 7), was the humanity taken from the mother, which was in the ” likeness of sinful flesh.” (Rom. viii. 3.) Hence the apostle teaches that the Lord had the form of God and the form of a servant, both were human ; but the form of a servant was the merely human form taken from the mother, which He entirely put off, and the other the Divine Human Form taken from the Father or the essential Divinity, with which form ” He ascended far above all heavens that He might fill all things ” (Eph. iv. 10), and in which He is the only Object of worship to angels in heaven, because in that form ” He is over all, God blessed forever ; ” and the Lord’s divine will can only be done upon earth as it is done in heaven, and his true Church be established, in proportion as He is thus acknowledged and worshiped. APEX.