The Divine Proceeding to Create
by George deCharms
The Divine Proceeding, although it interpenetrates all things and extends to the outmost bounds of the universe, remains infinite and uncreate. The teaching is that the "finite cannot proceed from the Infinite; to say that it can is a contradiction; yet the finite can be produced by the Infinite, but this is not to proceed, but to be created." (DP 219) The Divine Proceeding, therefore, is the Infinite in and with the finite. Because it is infinite it is the same everywhere. Thus we read: "The Divine is not various and mutable; as everything is which belongs to space and time, or everything which belongs to nature, but is invariable and immutable; and hence is everywhere and always the same." (DLW 77; AR 961; TCR 366)
In creation, on the other hand; "there is no least thing which is the same with any other." (DLW 226) Yet these diverse created things all receive the Divine; wherefore it is said that "the Infinite is in finite things as in its receptacles." (TCR 33) It inflows into all things the same, but is differently received by each one, whence comes the law of reception; namely, that influx is according to the form of the receiving vessel. (HH 569)
From this it follows that variety exists only in created forms; yet the origin of variety must be not in created forms, but in the Lord Himself, who alone is the Creator and Former of all things. It is evident, therefore, that the law of reception, namely, that influx is according to the form of the receiving vessel, cannot be the law of creation. It does not explain how the forms which receive the Divine Proceeding came into existence in the first place. They had to be created before they could receive. Creation must precede in order that reception may follow.
In creating different forms of use the Divine cannot operate everywhere the same. In creating a plant, an animal or a human being it must operate differently, not only in general, but as to every least particular that goes to make up each one. This it must do in spite of the fact that it is everywhere the same. How can this be?
II. The Origin of Variety Is in God
God is one and indivisible. He is the same from eternity to eternity. Yet the oneness of God is not simple, but infinitely manifold. "In God Man infinite things are distinctly one." (DLW 17) "He is not infinite by virtue of this alone, that He is very Esse and Existere in Himself, but because there are infinite things in Him. The Infinite without infinite things in Him is not infinite except in name only." (ibid.; TCR 366) The Divine Proceeding, although it is everywhere the same, even to the outmosts of creation, contains within itself infinite things which are distinctly one: This is possible because in the Divine Proceeding distinctions are not actual but potential. They are present only as a conatus or endeavor, from which the various forms of uses derive their origin.
III. The Divine Proceeds by Means of Atmospheres
"There are in the Lord three infinite and uncreate degrees of altitude, because the Lord is love itself, and wisdom itself . . . [and] also use itself." (DLW 230) The Divine of love is spiritual heat, and the Divine of wisdom is spiritual light. "The light and heat which proceed from the Divine Sun cannot proceed in nothing, thus not in a vacuum, but in a continent which is a subject; and this continent is the atmosphere which surrounds the sun, and takes Him up in its bosom, and carries Him to the heaven where the angels are, and then to the world where men are, and thus makes the presence of the Lord everywhere." (DLW 299) The spiritual atmospheres, we are told, "are discrete substances, or least forms, which originate from the [spiritual] sun." (DLW 174) These least forms are not the Divine Proceeding because they are finite and created; but they are carriers of Divine love and wisdom, so tempering them that they may be received by men and angels as spiritual heat and light.
There are, we are told, three degrees of spiritual atmospheres surrounding the sun of heaven, and three degrees of natural atmospheres surrounding the sun of the world, these latter conveying natural heat and light to men on earth. (DLW 179, 302) The spiritual atmospheres are called "living" because they serve to convey love and wisdom, as spiritual heat and light, from the sun of heaven; and the natural atmospheres are called "dead" because they convey natural heat and light from the sun of the world. The spiritual in its essence is love, and love is life. The natural sun in its essence is "pure fire," which is mechanical energy; and this is called a "dead force" because it has no life or power in itself, but is impelled by the life forces of the spiritual sun. The mechanical forces of nature, originating in the sun of the world, tempered by the three natural atmospheres, are conveyed to the surface of the earth; but they all are dead forces. Yet they are empowered and directed by the living activities of the Divine love and wisdom, because the units of the natural atmospheres surround those of the spiritual atmospheres as a shell surrounds a kernel. (TCR 76) Also, they are environed by the spiritual atmospheres. (DLW 175) Thus the natural atmospheres are activated by the spiritual atmospheres both from within and from without.
IV. Why the Spiritual and Natural Atmospheres Together Are Called the Divine of Use
The atmospheres are called the Divine of use because they convey in their bosom not only the Divine of love as heat and the Divine of wisdom as light, but also the living forces by means of which all the forms of use are created. Concerning this we read in number 1209 of the Apocalypse Explained:
It is evident that by "everything spiritual" in which these three forces - the "active," the "creative" and the "formative" - exist, the spiritual atmospheres are meant. The active force is the Divine love, the love of a heaven from the human race, and this contains within itself the love of producing all the means whereby that ultimate end may be attained. Thus it is the love of use, the love of producing forms of use, in which lies the origin of all such forms. The creative force is that whereby this Divine purpose to produce forms of use is focused and determined toward the creation of specific forms. It is the force that produces seeds, which are the souls of plants, and animals, and men. But the formative force is that which actually builds the bodies of plants, and animals, and men out of substances and matters in the earth. In this process the mechanical and the chemical forces of nature are employed, but only as tools which are constantly and minutely directed by the "formative forces" in the spiritual atmospheres.
Moreover, there is an answering or co-operative endeavor or conatus in the substances and matters of the earth which disposes them to become forms of uses. They derive this conatus from the fact that they
V. As the Atmospheres, in Successive Steps, Carry the Heat and Light of the Spiritual Sun down to the Surface of the Earth, They Carry also the Divine of Use, in Corresponding Degrees of Perfection
The units of the atmospheres are discrete forms. These individual forms are pictured in Swedenborg's philosophical works as bullae. The individual forms or bullae, of which the highest atmosphere consists, are extremely minute, but intensely active. The forms of which the lower atmosphere consists are more compounded, more limited, larger in size but very much less active, and therefore less perfect. This is the case with each atmosphere in succession; each is more compounded, more limited, less active, and less perfect than the one above it, and as the forms decrease in perfection, so also do the forces; that is, the active forces, the creative forces, and the formative forces. Thus we read: "Perfection of forms and perfection of forces make one; with this difference only, that forms are substances, but forces are their activities; wherefore to both belong similar degrees of perfection." (DLW 200)
As has been noted above, the "creative forces" are those which produce souls or seeds. The most perfect of these creative forces produce the souls or seeds of human beings; the less perfect produce the souls or seeds of animals; and the still less perfect produce the souls or seeds of plants. That the human soul is also formed within the Divine Proceeding is clear from the statement in TCR 103 that this "soul is woven of such things as are in the spiritual world." Because man is a being distinctly superior to any animal, his soul must be formed by the most perfect creative forces.
That the plants and animals which exist in the spiritual world are produced in a similar way by the creative forces in the Divine Proceeding, is plainly taught in number 1210 of the Apocalypse Explained, as follows: "From the spiritual, by means of these forces, both plants and animals, both those that appear in heaven and those in the world, have their existence. Such things exist also in heaven because these forces are in the spiritual in things greatest and in things least, in its firsts and in its ultimates, thus in the spiritual both in heaven and in the world." By this we understand that creative forces in the spiritual atmospheres produce the plants and animals that appear in the spiritual world, while these same forces, operating in conjunction with the natural atmospheres, create the living organisms of the natural world. From this it would follow that the plants and animals which appear in the spiritual world are Divine creations just as truly as are those that exist on earth. How they are created, and in what way they differ from natural creations, will be described presently.
VI. How Seeds Are Created
The forces present in the atmospheres can produce nothing by themselves. The forces present in the atmospheres are merely potential. They are but a conatus, effort or endeavor to produce forms of use. Production takes place only when an active force meets something passive or reactive. Thus a hammer produces nothing without an anvil. In order that seeds may be created, the creative forces in the atmosphere must come into contact with substances and matters which are passive and reactive. These must come, in the last analysis, from the ultimates of nature because of the universal law that "the Divine operates from primes through ultimates, thus from Himself through things that are from Himself in ultimates." (AE 328) And again we read: "When the Lord operates He operates not from first things through mediates into ultimates, but from first things through ultimates and thus into mediates. This is why the Lord is called, in the Word, the First and the Last." (AE 1086)
Before seeds can be produced, therefore, there must be provided in the atmospheres substances and matters reactive to the creative forces there. It must be to these that reference is made in DLW 310, where it is said that there are in the atmospheres substances and matters "exhaled from earths." "That the atmospheres are full of such things is well known," the number continues. These substances contain within themselves a conatus to clothe uses, a conatus which they derive from their Divine source. By virtue of this, they as it were possess life in themselves, and exercise something analogous to freedom of choice. "There would be no such thing as metal, stone, or indeed grain of sand unless there were something analogous to freedom of choice in every metal and in every stone, or even a grain of sand; for even this freely absorbs the ether, emits its natural exhalations, throws off its worn out elements and restores itself with new. From this there is a magnetic sphere about the magnet, an iron sphere about iron, a coppery sphere about copper, a silver sphere about silver, a golden one about gold, a stony sphere about stone, a nitrous sphere about nitre, a sulphur sphere about sulphur, and a different sphere about every particle of dust. From this sphere the inmost of every seed is impregnated, and its prolific principle vegetates; for without such an exhalation from every least particle of the earth's dust, there would be no beginning of germination, and no continuance of it." (TCR 499; Documents 302 16)
That all the material substances of the earth are radioactive in varying degree is well known to modern science. That such emanations are essential to the creation of seeds, as well as to their germination, is clear from the number quoted above. The creative forces in the atmospheres select these substances, and form from them an inmost vessel called a seed, through which they may act to produce a plant. In the Writings, the atmosphere in which are the creative forces that produce vegetable seeds is called the "ether." Modern science tends to question or to deny the existence of such an atmosphere, but if the Writings are true there must be such a medium of Divine operation. It must be a natural atmosphere within which there are spiritually creative forces, an atmosphere by means of which the Lord Himself, the Divine Proceeding, is immediately present with the infinite power, the infinite love and the infinite wisdom to create the seeds of all manner of vegetation.
The Michelson-Morley Experiment seemed to prove that there was no such atmosphere as the ether. But I have been greatly interested in certain findings in the realm of atomic physics which indicate discrete planes of force or energy. The force of gravitation, when compared to the force of electrostatic repulsion, is found to be something on the order of 1 to 3 X 1035. It has not been possible to get a similar comparison with nuclear forces because the inner structure of the atomic nucleus has not been discovered; but the phenomena of nuclear fission demonstrate the existence in the nucleus of a degree of energy far exceeding that present in the electrons. It can confidently be assumed, therefore, that there must be forces in the nucleus incomparably greater than in the electron. When fission takes place, the energy released represents only a small fraction of that present in the nucleus, and yet it produces forces of unimaginable impact and velocity. These are all dead forces, and the discrete planes of such forces thus indicated are at least reminiscent of what Swedenborg says in his philosophical works concerning the three natural atmospheres.
The seeds of animal forms are created in a manner similar to that described in regard to the seeds of plants, as is clearly indicated in number 1209 of the Apocalypse Explained above quoted; and in DLW 200 it is certainly implied that this must take place in a higher and more perfect atmosphere, in which are creative forces of greater perfection: this because animals more fully reflect, and more perfectly represent, the Divine qualities of the Infinite. But here again there must be substances and matters originating in the ultimates of creation, yet so refined that they may be reactive to these more perfect creative forces. Although I know of no direct teaching to that effect, it appears to me that these substances must be derived from the exhalations, the spheres given off from the vegetable kingdom. This would explain why, in the process of creation, the vegetable kingdom had first to be created before animals could come into existence.
Since the mode of Divine creation is evidently the same in the case of human beings, it would seem to follow by unanswerable logic that exhalations or spheres from both the vegetable and animal kingdoms must first be provided in order that a still higher and more perfect atmosphere may create the primitives of human life, or the souls of men. What else can be implied by what is said in CL 183, as follows: "All fructification, all propagation, and all prolification are originally from the influx of love, wisdom and use from the Lord; from immediate influx from the Lord into the souls of men; from mediate influx into the souls of animals; and from still more mediate influx into the inmosts of plants; and all these effects are wrought in ultimates by the primes. That fructifications, propagations, and prolifications are continuations of creation, is evident; for creation cannot be from any other source than from Divine love through Divine wisdom in Divine use; wherefore all things in the universe are procreated and formed from use, in use, and for use." In AE 1201 it is specifically taught that the souls of human beings are formed in a higher atmosphere than are the souls of animals. To quote: "The souls of beasts are not spiritual in the same degree in which the souls of men are spiritual, but in a lower degree. For there are degrees of things spiritual; and although affections of a lower degree, regarded in their origin, are spiritual, they must be termed natural. They must be so called because they are like the affections of the natural man."
The same is clearly implied in Divine Wisdom XII 5. Note also the following from "The Angelic Idea of the Creation of the Universe by the Lord:" "[The angels] said that from [the spiritual] sun as a great center proceed circles, one after another, and one from another, even to the last where their end is subsisting in rest. The circles, of which one is from another and one after another, appearing as spread out in breadth and length, are spiritual atmospheres, which are filled with the light and heat of their sun, and through which the light and heat extend themselves to the last circle; and in this last circle, by means of these atmospheres, and afterwards by means of the natural atmospheres from the sun of this world, the creation of the earth, and of all things on it which are of use, was accomplished, and this creation is afterwards continued by generations from seeds in wombs or in eggs."
We take this to mean that the creative forces which produce plants and animals are in the third or lowest spiritual atmosphere. When these forces act through or by means of the highest natural atmosphere, they create the seeds of animals; and when they act through or by means of the lower atmosphere called the "ether" they create the seeds of plants. This conclusion would seem to be confirmed by the following from 346 of DLW: "Both the animal and vegetable kingdoms, as they are led forth into their forms, draw their origin by spiritual influx and operation from the sun of heaven, where the Lord is, and not out of the influx and operation of nature and her sun: although they get their fixation from nature.... All living creatures, great and small, draw their origin out of the spiritual in the ultimate degree, which is natural; man alone from all the three degrees, the celestial, spiritual and natural."
This teaching would seem to imply that perpetual creation, through propagation and procreation, is provided for this, that the growth of a plant, from the first shoot through the production of branches, leaves, flowers, fruit, and finally seed, provides within itself those substances and matters which may react to the creative forces in the ether, and thus offer the material from which new seeds may be created. So also animals, by growth, maturation and development, so refine the gross substances of the earth that they may at last serve to provide substances and matters reactive to the creative forces of the higher natural atmosphere, and thus make possible the procreation of offspring; and it would also seem to follow that in both cases, that is, in the case of both plants and animals, the creative forces are those present in the ultimate spiritual atmosphere; the difference being that these forces operated in the one case through the ether, and in the other through the higher natural atmosphere.
In the creation of human beings, however, all three spiritual atmospheres would seem to be involved. This would seem to be confirmed by the representative description of "the primitive of man" in the last number of Divine Love and Wisdom:
Certainly here the "two interior degrees" would seem to represent the celestial and the spiritual atmospheres surrounding the sun of heaven, whereby the Lord's love and wisdom are accommodated to human reception. The outmost degree can refer only to the organic covering formed from the substances and matters derived from the earth, for these alone could be perverted by human sin and rendered opposite in structure to the order of heaven.
We conclude, therefore, that the creative forces in the ultimate spiritual atmosphere are directed to the creation of forms of use for the natural world; that is, animals and plants. But the creative forces in the higher spiritual atmospheres are directed to the creation of forms of spiritual use; that is, forms of human love and human wisdom whereby man may be eternally conjoined with the Lord, and thus continue to live in the spiritual world after the death of the body. It is these spiritual forms of love and wisdom that are represented by the visible and tangible objects that surround spirits and angels. From this it follows that such objects could not come into existence until men had been created. Thus without angels there could be no visible, tangible or objective heaven. Yet these spiritual objects are actual creations, produced by the creative and formative forces in the higher spiritual atmospheres, operating through the minds of human beings. In heaven they are not phantoms, but realities. In the hells, on the contrary, they are phantoms or "mere appearances" arising from spiritually insane and distorted minds.
VII. Spiritual Creations
The Divine end in creation is a heaven from the human race. We are told that the Divine of the Lord, that is, the Divine Proceeding, makes heaven, while the angels constitute it. (HH 7) But the heaven, which the Lord "makes" by means of the Divine Proceeding, consists not only of angels but also of a whole world of spiritual objects. What would heaven be without an objective world in which the angels might live? The objects of heaven - its lands and seas, its mountains and plains, its plants, and animals and birds, its homes, its cities, its temples - all these are spiritual creations. Thus we read:
We would emphasize that these spiritual objects are real creations. Although it appears as if they were produced from the angels, they are not created by the angels, but by the Lord, through the creative and the formative forces in the higher spiritual atmospheres. They are just as truly Divine creations as are the objects of nature. The "things" to which they correspond and which they represent are all "uses" potentially present in the Divine Proceeding. They were present there, in potency, before there were any angels. In essence they are uses foreseen by the Lord, and provided by Him from the first beginning of creation. They were present in the Divine Proceeding, not in tangible or visible form, but in the Divine will, the Divine endeavor or conatus to use. Thus they are outside of the angels, and are independent of them, just as truly as the objects of nature are outside of men, and independent of them here on earth.
There is, however, this vital difference: the objects of nature, not only as to their essence but also as to their form, are fixed, constant, and independent of human states; but the objects of the spiritual world, while as to their essence they are completely independent of the angels, are entirely dependent upon them for their form. The reason is that they are created by the Lord, even as are the objects of nature, from primes through ultimates. just as there had to be in the natural atmospheres passive and reactive substances and matters in order that the creative forces in the ultimate spiritual atmosphere could produce seeds, so also there must be provided passive and reactive substances in the higher spiritual atmospheres in order that the creative forces in them may produce seeds, and from seeds, plants and animals. These passive things are necessarily derived from nature, but they are not material. They are sensations, ideas, imaginative pictures and thoughts produced in the minds of men through sensual contact with their material environment.
Thus they carry over the forms of nature but not their material qualities or attributes. They are forms of love and wisdom, created in human minds by the creative forces in the higher spiritual atmospheres. They are spiritual "seeds" through which the formative forces in those atmospheres create spiritual objects, which the angels see, and hear, and touch with exquisite sense. Because they are immaterial they are not fixed or constant, but change as the states of reception change with the angels. Yet they are real because the "things," that is, truths and goods, which they represent are real and have existence independently of the angels. They are real because they represent and correspond to "uses" present in the Divine Proceeding of the Lord. If we reflect upon it we may perceive that the objects of nature are real, not because they are fixed and constant, not because their forms are independent of human states, but solely because they, too, represent and correspond 'to uses present in the Divine Proceeding.
From this we may see that the law of creation is the same in both worlds. This law is, that when the creative forces present in the Divine Proceeding come in contact with substances and matters that are reactive to them, they produce seeds, and through seeds the formative forces there present then create forms of use that are visible and tangible to human beings. Thus we read: "All things which are created by the Lord are uses; and they are uses in that order, degree, and respect in which they are related to man, and through man to the Lord their origin." (DLW 327)
This applies to things created in the spiritual world just as truly as to things created in the natural world. Both are "uses" and both are "real" because they have their source in the Divine of the Lord, and thus are things eternal, completely independent of either men or angels. Both are created by the Lord, operating through the Divine Proceeding. The fact that in the spiritual world such creations are produced in spirits and angels, and take form according to their states of reception, does not detract in the least from their reality. Only in the distorted minds of evil men and spirits are they turned into unreal fantasies that have no basis in the Divine of the Lord. That the law of creation in the spiritual world is similar to the law of creation in the natural world - except that on earth creations are fixed and permanent, while in the spiritual world they are not - is specifically taught in Number 1211 of the Apocalypse Explained: