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 The Divine Function for Which
 the Natural World Has Been Created

by George deCharms

The thesis of this paper is that all things of nature, including all mechanical forces and inert substances, are irrevocably dead, and despite the appearance to the contrary, never become living. They are created to become not the embodiment but the clothing of living forms of use. Every embodiment of use is receptive of life, corresponds to life, and represents it. Mechanical forces and material substances do not. They serve only as a succenturiate aid. They are indeed within the sphere of Divine life. If it were not so they could have no existence. They are created by God for a purpose, and are perpetually animated as it were from below by the Divine will to perform their intended function. This is manifested by what the Writings call a conatus or endeavor to clothe living forms of use. It is most important to distinguish between a living body and the clothing which envelops it. The body is a form receptive of life; the clothing is not. The difference we will explain at length later.

There is only one source of life, namely the Infinite God who is Life Itself. This life is Divine love, the love of a heaven from the human race. It contains within itself the Divine wisdom whereby to achieve its purpose, and indeed to create everything which may in any way conduce to the attainment of that purpose. Every such creation is called form of use. Use in its essence is Divine. It is the will of God, operating by Divine wisdom to provide for the formation and the eternal perfection of a heaven from the human race.

Creation proceeds from primes to ultimates. The first of the Divine proceeding is the spiritual sun. It is Divine love, within which is Divine wisdom, focused or directed toward the production of a heaven from the human race. From this proceed three successive spiritual atmospheres in discrete degrees, so tempering the heat and light of heaven that it may be received and enjoyed by the minds of angels and men.

The highest spiritual atmosphere is the abode of all celestial angels; the second spiritual atmosphere is the abode of all spiritual angels; and the third spiritual atmosphere is the abode of all natural angels. Though there is no specific statement in the Writings to that effect, we are disposed to believe that below the third spiritual atmosphere, there is a universal atmosphere, embracing the whole of the starry heaven, which serves as a limbus or border between the spiritual and natural worlds. Being an intermediate, it partakes of the qualities of both worlds: viewed from above it is spiritual, and viewed from below it is natural. We conceive of it as the medium within which all natural suns are created. These suns are the source and origin of all material things, raised to incandescence by immense natural heat called fire. This heat is tempered by a series of discrete atmospheres, the first embracing a solar system of planets, the second extending for a considerable distance around each planet and called ether, and a third called air, constituting the life-supporting element in which all living creatures on the surface of a planet live. How these natural atmospheres are related to the findings of modern science with reference to outer space, we have no idea. But they provide a rational basis for the successive degrees of altitude binding the two worlds into a one, with God Himself at the center of all.

The fire of the natural sun is the source of all atomic energy, and thence of all the mechanical forces of nature. These are dead forces, moved, directed, and governed by living forces of the spiritual world, under the direct control of the Divine Providence. Because this inner motivation is completely hidden from human sight and sense, they appear to be self-originating and self-moving, and for this reason present an image of life, and a representation of God. For this reason the invisible forces of nature are effects, not causes. No one looking at them from ideas of space, and time, and matter can possibly discover the presence of the Divine life within. This is a most important provision of the Creator in order that man may be free either to acknowledge God or to deny Him. The possibility of discovering God exists solely in the Word of which we shall speak presently.

The series of atmospheres, in their descent, cease at last in the inert substances and matters of which earths consist, and they are all immanently, although invisibly, present in all the mechanical forces of nature. Through them the Divine Creator governs minutely all these activities, causing them in mysterious ways to promote the eternal ends for the sake of which they were brought into being and are perpetually maintained. Because man is completely unaware of this governing Providence, he is created into the image of God, that is, into the appearance that he has life in himself, that his will is the only law, that whatever gives him pleasure and delight is good, and whatever affects him with pain or distress is evil. Because of this he is said to be born natural, and is imbued from birth with a tendency to evils of every kind. That this inevitable sense of self-life may be removed, God has revealed Himself and His constant presence with man by means of the Word.

From most ancient times the Lord has spoken through the medium of an angel, as through a passive instrument. He has spoken in the spiritual world to men on earth whose spiritual eyes were opened, so that they could see, hear and understand. He has spoken in their own language, teaching them His love, His truth, His Divine law; and thus showing them the way to heaven. He has taught them how to worship Him, not only by prayers, songs of praise, and thanksgiving, but also by a life of use to the neighbor, finding joy in rendering them every benefit which opportunity offered. This is the source of all the life of religion which has existed among men from the very beginning of the human race. The acknowledgment and worship of the Lord as He reveals Himself in the Word brings man into conjunction with God. It enables the Lord to lift him out of the appearance of self-life into which he is born, and elevate him by degrees into the love and wisdom of the angels. Every created thing contributes to this end because it is a form of use which corresponds to and represents the things which constitute the Lord's heavenly kingdom. For this reason it is said that "nature is a theater representing the kingdom of heaven...." Nature exists for no other end than to produce such forms, and to perpetuate them from one generation to another.

In essence all such forms are Divine, celestial and spiritual, and therefore living; but they become visible and sensible only because they are clothed by dead substances drawn from the mineral kingdom.

When we speak of dead substances as a clothing we do not refer merely to an outer skin enveloping a living body. Every organ and viscus of the body has its own clothing. Every artery and vein, even the most minute, has its clothing. Every nerve in the body and every nerve fiber in the brain has its own clothing. Every cell, both of the body and of the brain, has its own clothing. When the spirit or soul is withdrawn at death, this clothing is what remains as a corpse, in the complete outward form of the body. This successively disintegrates, and returns to its original elements, to be used again, in new ways, for the clothing of living forms of use. With all things of the vegetable and the animal kingdoms, the inflowing life, having achieved its purpose, also returns to the Divine Source from which it sprang. There it is by no means lost, but is diverted by the Divine will into new channels for the perpetuation of new uses. Life itself is eternal and unceasing, but its manifestations are forever changing, because needs are infinitely various and ever new. For this very reason the dead forces and the inert substances of the mineral kingdom are perpetually being re-combined and re-ordered by inflowing life; but they never become living. They never enter into the spiritual world. Their characteristic qualities of time and space and mechanical motion are merely tools in the living hand of the Divine Creator, and whatever appears to be accomplished by a tool is not the work of the tool but of the hand that wields it.


AE 1207. Why nature was created

DLW 310. Conatus to use in nature

Love viii. Minerals for use

HH 432. The body is dead

HH 108. Use of nature to clothe

AE 1218. Matter an over-garment

Docu 302(6). Emanations from minerals

DLW 388. Body not form

DLW 302. Atmospheres cease in matter

DLW 5. Man not conceived of life

HH 106. Divine in nature

DLW 310. Conatus to use

DLW 315. Nat. atmospheres are dead

DLW 340. The spiritual drives the material

HH 104. Mineral kingdom is dead

SS 66. How metals are formed

DLW 370. Organs fixed by matters

DLW 307. Dead substances for clothing

DLW 165. Use of nature to fix

-New Church Life 1981; 101:409-412





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