The Order of Creation

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)

Everyone who believes in God, no matter what the details of their faith may be, also believes that God is the creator of everything. The difficulties that we have with the concept of creation begin to arise when we try to understand the process of how He created the universe. We want to know things like, "What is our relationship as created beings to our Creator?" and "Are people fragments of God that will eventually return to unity with Him?" and "Where did the matter of the universe come from in the first place?" These are some of the questions we will address today.

The first thing we must establish is that humans are not part of the "cosmic oneness" of God, but in fact depend on a degree of separation from Him to allow for individual development of personality and character. In order for people to live in freedom, able to respond to God's leading each in his own unique way, it is absolutely essential that each person be separate from the Divine, while at the same time be of such a form as to be able to receive and use the constantly inflowing Divine life.

God created the universe because He is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom itself, and the nature of Divine Love is to continually seek to express itself, to go forth and give pleasure to others. Therefore, unless there were human beings to love, the Divine Love could not be received and it was frustrated, so God's whole effort was directed to correcting this situation, to creating individual human beings whom He could love. In the same way, the Divine Wisdom of God also continually seeks to express itself, but it expresses itself in the forms of the created world, it represents God's infinite knowledge. We can think of an example from our own experience. We feel a need for something, we desire to have it to enable us to perform some use. We then think about the steps that are required for us to make or buy that thing. The desire is like the Divine Love, the steps required to get it and use it, stand for the Divine Wisdom.

Another way to illustrate the Divine Love and Wisdom in God is to think of them like the heat and light that proceed from the sun. We are told that God appears to the angels in the spiritual world as a sun, as the sun of heaven itself, to represent this truth about His nature. When we think of God as the sun of the spiritual world, we can then think of the Divine Love proceeding from Him as heat, and the Divine Wisdom proceeding as light.

Such symbols are commonly used in the world today. When we are loved by someone, we say we feel the 'warmth' of their love. When someone explains something to us, we say that they have put a little 'light' on the subject. These common illustrations of human relationships are derived from their correspondence with God as He appears in the spiritual sun of heaven.

In the world of nature, the sun provides all the energy (except that which is provided by nuclear reaction). The sun shines on an innumerable variety of green plants which then use that energy to make their food. The sun's energy is stored in the plants, and is later released when eaten by animals, or when burned in fires, or when turned to coal or petroleum over the passage of time. Even the electricity provided by a hydroelectric plant comes from the sun, for the sun causes the water to evaporate, clouds to form, and rain to fall into the reservoirs, thus the sun lifts the water from the sea into the mountains, and we collect some of the energy released as it rushes back to the sea. Everywhere we turn, we see that the very power to move and live in the natural world is provided by the sun, and if we lift our minds out of the world of nature just for a moment, we can see that this is so because God Himself is the sun of Heaven, and He created the natural sun to correspond to and represent His relationship to all of His creation.

The spiritual sun, and its heat and light are "a proceeding" from the Divine Love and Divine Wisdom of God (DLW 290). The Divine Love proceeds from the Lord as heat, and the Divine Wisdom proceeds from the Lord as light, and these two, taken together, are perceived as the sun of the spiritual world. This sun enlivens spiritual beings by its heat, and renews spiritual objects by its light (DLW 93), that is to say that it is by means of the Divine Love and Wisdom proceeding from the Lord as a sun that the spiritual world and its inhabitants have their life and their continual creation or renewal.

We know that the natural sun is incredibly active, and gives off strong radiation over a wide range of frequencies. In fact, the only reason the sun is life-giving instead of life-destroying is that it is 150 000 000 kilometers away, and the earth's atmosphere blocks and filters out most of the harmful frequencies of radiation. In the same way we need to have some spiritual distance and spiritual atmospheres between God and us in order to survive His presence with us. The Lord's Divine Love and Wisdom flow out from Him as a sun, with fierce power. But the first things that He created were spiritual atmospheres to soften and moderate His Divine power so that it could be received by the highest angels. He also created the spiritual world so that it itself acted like atmospheres, receiving the Lord's Divine presence, softening, changing, and passing it on to the next level in a form particularly suited for the states of those who were to receive it. The warmth of that sun warms the will, and the light of it is the light of the understanding (DLW 96). But although the Divine Love and Wisdom proceed from God as the heat and light from a sun, and although the angels see Him above the heavens as a sun, we must also hold to the clear, repeated teaching of the Heavenly Doctrines that God is not a sun, but a Man: it is just that "The first proceeding from His Love and Wisdom is that fiery spiritual (substance) which appears before the angels as a sun" (DLW 97). In Himself He is not anything but Divine Man (See DLW 97).

The Lord cannot be present with us as He is in Himself, any more than we could live on the surface of the sun. Therefore, the Lord is present with us by means of those things which a person may receive from Him without harm, such as: love, wisdom, and use. Neither love nor wisdom can go out from God and be received by a person except by means of something that conducts it, any more than light and heat can travel from the natural sun to earth without something to carry them. For example, electricity must travel through its proper conductors — it cannot travel through an open switch. Sound and heat must have air (or some other substance) to carry them. Every form of energy that we know about must travel through its proper medium. In the case of love and wisdom, that thing that carries them from the Lord to mankind is use, for the Heavenly Doctrines teach that the spiritual atmospheres carry the effects of the spiritual sun to heaven, and then through heaven to men in the world, making "the Lord's presence everywhere manifest" (DLW 299). And where the Lord is present, there uses are being performed.

The creative force flowed out from God and a spiritual atmosphere was formed. His power then flowed into that atmosphere which changed it and a lower atmosphere was formed, and so on until the heavens, and the world of nature were created. And, all these degrees and layers of creation continue to exist moment by moment because Life from the Lord is continually flowing into them, renewing them, and maintaining their existence.

Even though in themselves they are dead, each of these degrees of creation has something of the Divine within it, and therefore has a drive (or "conatus") to return back to the Lord, to rise up in higher uses wherever and whenever the opportunity is present. The material substances of the world are dead in themselves, but there still is life in them from the Lord through the spiritual sun and atmospheres. The Lord has reached out and created level after level of substances and forms, until they are so far from Him that they seem to us to be inert and lifeless, yet they are capable of responding to the influx of life.

In this way, layer by layer, the Infinite was finited, and the material "stuff" of the universe was created. Then having reached the bottom, the most ultimate things of the natural world, the Lord then directed His life into these things so that they began to combine with each other and become more complex forms capable of receiving more life, and performing higher uses. From the basic matter of the universe, He created the mineral kingdom. With that as a foundation and basis, He then added a new level of life and created the vegetable kingdom. When that was well established and could support a new form of life there was another distinct jump and the animal kingdom was added as another kingdom capable of perform even higher uses. Then, when all was in readiness, He drew things together from the whole of creation and created human beings. This creation was unique and remarkable in that it could receive influx immediately from God into an eternal, human soul, it could receive the inflowing life from God into a conscious, rational mind, and it could receive an inflowing life into the material substances of the world and so build a body of natural substances which could serve as a means for acquiring and learning sensual knowledges from the world which would serve as a basis for the intellectual processes of the growing spiritual mind.

But the point of creation was not for the human beings to live for a few years in the natural world, but that there could be eternal, spiritual life for us, and to this end the Lord created people with an internal spiritual form to receive His life which could never be harmed and never die. It is difficult for us to sense this for ourselves, because the feeling of life from the soul has been hidden from people in the world as a protection for them. If people were able to become conscious on the level of the soul, they might choose to do something that would damage it, or make it no longer capable of receiving life from the Lord — certainly people make choices in the natural world that destroy their ability to be rational, so the same principle would apply on the spiritual level. If a person were to do damage to his soul, it would be the end of his eternal life, and so this is why the soul is particularly protected by the Lord — for the sake of man's eternal life and happiness.

Creation descends from God to the ultimates of nature, and then ascends back to heaven, or as the Heavenly Doctrines say, "from firsts to lasts and thence into intermediates." (ref.?) God created the universe not from nothing, but from Himself (DLW 55, 56, 291-306). He did so by successive degrees of accommodation until He had created all the material things in the world. These materials were from Him. He then built up the various degrees of creation until He had a vessel that could contain a living soul: a human being. He could inflow directly into this creation, giving it the gift of life, and with it the gift of the feeling that life is one's own.

Although this treatment has barely touched the surface of this rich doctrine, it should be plain that the Lord created the universe for the sake of mankind. He created it from Himself in such a way that it is not continuous with Him, but that it is in order and thus responsive to Him. From the spiritual sun, life and truth descend by degrees through the spiritual atmospheres, taking on layer after layer of appropriate forms that clothe them. Yet every level is created to receive life or truth, and pass it on, or hold it, so that through his life, each person has the opportunity to act freely as of himself within the spiritual and natural environment created for him by the Lord. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. AMEN.

Lessons: Genesis 1:1-19, Rev. 4, AE 739

1st Lesson: Genesis 1:1-19,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. {2} The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. {3} Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. {4} And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. {5} God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. {6} Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. {9} Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. {10} And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. {11} Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so. {12} And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {13} So the evening and the morning were the third day. {14} Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; {15} "and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. {16} Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. {17} God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, {18} and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. {19} So the evening and the morning were the fourth day. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Rev. 4,

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." {2} Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. {3} And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. {4} Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. {5} And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. {6} Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. {7} The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. {8} The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" {9} Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, {10} the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: {11} "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." Amen.

3rd Lesson: A. E. 739:2-4

[2] … Every man at his birth is altogether sensual, so that even the five senses of his body must be opened by use; he next becomes sensual in thought, since he thinks from the objects that have entered through his bodily senses; afterwards he becomes more interiorly sensual; but so far as by visual experiences, by knowledges (scientiae), and especially by the practices of moral life, he acquires for himself natural light (lumen), he becomes interiorly natural. This is the first or ultimate degree of man's life. [3] … But if he goes on further, namely if he lives according to these knowledges from the Word, the interior degree is opened in him and he becomes spiritual, but only so far as he is affected by truths, understands them, wills them, and does them; and for the reason that evils and the falsities thence which by heredity have their seat in the natural and sensual man, are removed and as it were scattered in this and in no other way. … The interior degree with man can be opened in no other way, because the evils and falsities that are in the natural man keep it closed up; for the spiritual degree, that is, the spiritual mind, contracts itself against evil and the falsity of evil of every kind … On the other hand, when … Divine truths from the Word that derive their essence from good, approach that mind, it opens itself; yet the opening is effected not otherwise than by the reception of the good of love flowing in through heaven from the Lord, and by its conjunction with the truths that man has stored up in his memory, and this conjunction is only effected by a life according to Divine truths in the Word, for when these truths come to be of the life they are called goods. Thence it may be clear how the second or middle degree is opened. [4] … The third or inmost degree is opened with those who apply Divine truths at once to life, and do not reason about them from the memory, and thus bring them into doubt. This is called the celestial degree. Amen.