Substance, Form and Process



Over the ages, in their attempt to discover the essence of Reality, some philosophers have concluded that Reality is pure substance, others have speculated that it may be pure Form or Idea, while others believed that the universe could simply be a process that is becoming. But when we observe the universe more closely, we discover that every single thing in the universe has substance, form and use. And this is not a coincidence. Everything has substance, form and use because everything is an image of God who is Divine Love (substance), Wisdom (form) and Power (process).

God generated the universe as a reflected image of Himself in order to realize His substance or Divine Love. The universe exists by necessity because this is how Love is realized or put into effect. All substances, forms and processes in the universe must be derived from God by correspondence and influx because God is the only self-existent Substance (Love) Form (Wisdom) and Action (Power) in the universe. And, if God generated the universe to realize His substance or Divine Love, every thing in the universe must be purposeful, meaningful and useful. The purpose of each object or being is its substance, its form is its meaning and its action in the universe is its use. Usefulness produces delight within every created being in the universe. And this delight or joy returns to God as real Love. This is how God shares the delight of Love or reciprocal conjunction with all created beings in the universe.

In the mineral world, we know that all physical elements are very useful. For example, plants feed on the minerals in the soil to grow into healthy trees. Elements such as oxygen in the air allow us to breathe. And we use all kinds of material elements such as iron, copper, silicon, sodium, chlorine, carbon, silver and gold to produce useful objects such as houses, cars, jewelry, utensils and computers. Chemists and physicists also combine certain atomic elements to produce useful chemical reactions and compounds. Trees and plants are also very useful because they provide nutrients such as grasses, fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains for many animals and human beings. Cotton is used to make garments and the wood of many trees is employed to produce furniture and other useful objects. Finally, gentle animals such as cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, elephants, camels, horses, cats and dogs provide food, leather, wool, transportation and companionship for many human beings all over the world.

If everything in the universe must have substance, form and use, man is no exception. Man’s natural substance is his flesh and blood, his natural form is the human form and his use is his power or action in the world. But man is not purely natural like animals; he is also spiritual. And he has the potential to become a complete image of God. In fact, the human form is the form of Divine Love or Heaven. This is also why all created beings evolve toward this form. And man has the potential to realize a spiritual body that has capacity to subsist in the higher-dimensional fields of Heaven or the Divine-Human body of God. Man’s spiritual substance is what he loves, his spiritual form is what he thinks or believes and his process is what he intends, says and does in the world. Therefore, man’s purpose in the universe is to perfectly reflect the image of God. And this is accomplished by intending and loving Good (God), understanding and believing Truth (The Word of God) and doing what is Useful to all.

From the fact that God is the intrinsic underlying reality, it follows that God is love in itself, wisdom in itself, and life in itself. It also follows that God is the Absolute from which all things come and to which all things are connected so that they may exist. God is God because he is life in itself, as the Lord’s words in John 5:26 make clear. Likewise in Isaiah: “I, Jehovah, am the maker of all things. I alone stretch out the heavens. I extend the earth by myself” (Isaiah 44:24); and he alone is God, and there is no God except him (Isaiah 45:14, 21; see also Hosea 13:4).

God is not only the intrinsic underlying reality but is also an intrinsic capacity to become manifest. For unless the underlying reality is capable of manifesting, it is nothing. It is equally true that the capacity to become manifest is nothing without the underlying reality. Neither one can exist without the other. The same is true for substance unless it takes a form. A substance without a form has no properties or attributes, and something that has no quality is in fact nothing. Emanuel Swedenborg [TCR 21]