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The Creation of Man:
A Divinely Ordered Evolutionary Process

by Rev. Lloyd D. Edmiston

It is, of course, impossible for a Swedenborgian or any Christian to be an evolutionist in the ordinary materialistic use of the term. Of necessity we must reject both the materialists' godless concept of the origin of the first living cells of protoplasm, and also their godless explanation of each upward step in the evolution of ever higher forms of plant and animal life. Rejecting all thought of a creator, and of a spiritual world of active substances and forces from him, their world of nature is as a body without a soul. Such a universe is interiorly dead because it lacks any creative principle possessed of intelligence and purpose. Everything that happens in their universe is thus the "fortuitous" result of blind and purposeless material and mechanical forces.

According to the materialists' theory, the origin of the first living cells of protoplasm must have been the result of a "fortuitous concourse of atoms." They likewise can have no explanation of subsequent developments in the evolving series of living forms, except that of accidental variations from parental types, with the survival of those accidental variations that happen to be better fitted to survive in the struggle for existence. It should be evident that the law of "natural selection or the survival of the fittest" in no way explains the origin of organic changes and improvements in a given offspring that did not exist in either parent of the improved individual. Dead matter accidentally produced the first simplest forms of life which accidentally possessed the faculty of reproduction. Then, part of the progeny of those first forms of life by a series of accidental improvements in structure, occurring in succeeding generations through millions of years, finally produced man as the culminating accident of mindless material causation. Such, in the last analyses, is their irrational and impossible explanation of things as they are.

The initial difficulties confronting the materialistic scientist in explaining the origin of life and the evolution of higher forms is repeated when it comes to explaining the present day reproduction of living forms. The parental germ in egg or womb, with infinite skill and precision, takes to itself the materials needed and builds them up into complex organs until the parental form is reproduced. No materialistic theory of mechanical structure in the germ cell can explain its ability to produce a form so infinitely more complex than itself. Neither can the materialist explain the transmission by means of the germ cell of all the marvelous faculties and instincts possessed by the untaught offspring. Equally impossible of materialistic explanation are the mental and affectional powers possessed by humans. So the materialist runs into a blind alley whenever he approaches the first cause of any fundamental phenomenon of physical or mental life.

The Christian evolutionist, on the other hand, having an altogether different explanation of life and its development, is confronted by no such difficulty. The starting point and qualifying principle in all his thinking is summed up in the first four words of divine revelation, "In the beginning God." The scientist who is completely Christian in his thinking sees God back of every fact and phenomenon of nature. If, in the ooze of primeval oceans, the first simplest forms of living protoplasm were produced, that advent of life in a previously dead world was wholly the result of an influx of purposive and intelligent creative power from God, through the sun and atmosphere of his spiritual world. If those first forms of undifferentiated protoplasm possessed an impulse and power for subdivision and multiplication, that power also was from God. If, in a long series, improvements began to appear in the progeny, or part of the progeny, of those first forms of life, each such improvement over parental forms of structure was also the result of the immediate influx of divine life creating the spiritual world beginnings of such improved forms. Every natural world organism has a soul organized of active spiritual world substances, receptive of life from God, and thus alive with forming and organizing power from him. This inner receptacle of life from God is the "invisible artist" that with unerring hand swiftly sketches both the outline and every detail of material structure in exact conformity with itself.

I have said enough to make it clear that a great gulf separates the thinking of the materialistic evolutionist from the philosophy of those Swedenborgians who believe with me that the creation of the human physical organism was the result of a divinely ordered evolutionary process.

It may be asked: If the materialistic evolutionary philosophy is so irrational in its inability to explain either the origin of life or the origin of any of the deeper phenomena connected with life, why need we concern ourselves with the subject of evolution at all? The answer is that while we reject the materialistic theories and explanations, we are not free to reject the data and evidence on which the evolutionist builds his false superstructure. His facts, in so far as they are facts, are God's own truths on the material plane. The same Lord who gave us the Bible and our revelations also gave us the book of nature. Rightly interpreted every fact of nature testifies to the wisdom and goodness of God. Every sound mind sees there can be no real conflict between genuine spiritual truth and the facts of the Lord's outer universe. Every reverent mind further sees that the facts of nature cannot explain themselves, and that their true explanation can be found only in the revealed principles of spiritual truth.

Within the last one hundred years, the Lord's providence has allowed an immense volume of new facts concerning astronomy, geology, embryology and biology to become the common property of scholars and students the world over. Where these facts are being considered independently of the truths of revelation they are leading to the destruction of all faith in God and his Word. There is a vast need for the clear grasp and effective spread of the spiritual principles that alone explain all the new facts of the scientists and make rational and evident the harmony of those knowledges with the truths of revelation. It is the greatest privilege of the New Church so to apply the rational truths of her God-given revelations as to meet fully this great and growing need of the world. It was a realization of this need and opportunity that led to the studies and conclusions that are embodied in this paper.

In partial outline, what are the new facts in geology, biology and embryology that suggest and make plausible the thought that the creator has used some sort of evolutionary process in providing the structure of the higher animals and of human beings? The earlier geologic strata bear evidence of the existence of only the simplest microscopic forms of life. As we investigate the later and superimposed layers and strata of the earth's formations, we find the fossil remains of ever more complex and higher forms of life. The mute witness of these remains, deposited during countless millenniums, testifies to the fact that animal life has appeared on earth in a long series, beginning with the simplest forms and progressing ever upward even to the highest or human form. This evidence is so complete as to make exceedingly plausible the conclusion that the lower forms of life, for some reason, have been used by the Lord in the creation of the higher forms, from the first amoebas up to the human-like apes, and to humans themselves. The evidence seems to show that God has related all his animal creation, including us, as far as physical form and parentage is concerned. The accumulated facts of the embryologists and the biologists tend further to confirm and establish this evolutionary logic of geologic evidence.

The trend of natural evidence is indeed impressive; but as we have seen, natural facts are utterly inadequate to explain their own deeper origins and meanings. We must look primarily to our God-given revelations of spiritual truth for any satisfying explanation of the evidences of an evolutionary process in human creation....

Now, I believe, the ground is fully prepared for the presentation, from the heavenly doctrines, of the spiritual principles of truth that will fully illuminate established facts of scientists, and harmonize that data with the teachings of revelation.

To begin with, we must establish from these doctrines the fact that all things of God's creation have primary relationship to humans and the human form. We read:

Everything in nature has relation to the human form and has significance thence. (A 9555)

Whatever proceeds from God is of the human form. (Inv)

As [the heat of the spiritual sun] essentially breathes the generation of man, it induces a certain likeness of man on whatever it generates (T 855)

The forms of the animal kingdom are all according to the flux of spiritual forces, which flux from the endeavor that is in all things is into the human form and into each and every thing of it, thus to produce the organs of sense, motion, nutrition, and of prolification. This animal form derives the endeavor to such things from the First , who is a Man. (E 1200)

These passages with wonderful force bring home to us the fact that there is something of human quality as to form in all creation, pervading and uniting it, and relating all of God's lower creatures to humans, his highest creation.

Instead of our deriving our form from our animal ancestry (if we had such ancestry), it was rather that animal ancestry that derived its shape and structure altogether from the aspiration of the divine creative life toward the production of the human form. Though humans were created last, still being the chief end and object of creation, all prior animal forms aspire toward this form, which is the form of the First Cause, the Divine Man. The fact that the outflowing creative warmth of the sun of heaven has in it such an ever-present urge toward the creation of the human form is most suggestive and illuminating. Here we are given a living spiritual principle that furnishes a rational explanation of all the geological and biological data of the evolutionists. This truth, that all lower forms of life aspire toward the human form, does what no materialistic theory could do; it reveals the divine source of the inner urge and potency that enabled lower forms of life to give birth to forms higher than themselves in an ever-ascending series.

Further and, I believe, conclusive proof that animals were produced in series beginning with the lower and ending with humans, will be given later. But the premise, vital to our argument, that humans were created last, we will set forth at once. We read:

Man was created last, and what was created last is the basis of all things which go before. Creation commenced from highest and inmost things, because from the divine, passed to ultimates and outermosts, and then first subsisted; the ultimate of creation is the natural world . . . With all things on it. When these had been finished, man was created. (J 9)

That there is an aspiration of all lower forms of life toward the production of the human form and that people were created last as the summit of all creation are knowledges wonderfully suggestive of a divinely ordered evolutionary process in the creation of the physical person; still there are several links in the chain of proofs yet to be provided.

When the evolutionary concept of a process of creation extending through vast ages is suggested, the challenging thought may arise: why should the Almighty use such a long drawn out method when it was easily within his power to produce the earth and all things upon it in an instant of time? Why the millions of years of slow evolution beginning with the amoeba and ending with human beings?

There are at least two great and all sufficient reasons. The first reason is suggested by the words of the Psalmist: "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself." A similar thought is contained in the Savior's parable of a man who left his goods in the hands of servants and then traveled to a far country. In other words, it is of divine providence that God should veil or hide himself and the operations of his providence in such a way as to protect us from any sense of compulsion to believe in him. If the process of creation and the evidence of geology had been such as to indicate unmistakably that all the animals and plants as we have them today had suddenly appeared on a previously lifeless world, such overwhelming evidence of miracle in creation would have left everyone with no choice but to believe in a divine creator. There would have been no other way to explain such a sudden appearance of innumerable highly complex and unrelated forms of life. Thus with infinite love and self-restraint our heavenly father provided for our spiritual freedom.

The second great reason why it was in accordance with divine order that there should be a gradual and progressive manifestation of life in a long series upon earth, is found in the law of correspondences. According to this law, lower or earthly things are so created as to image forth spiritual things and spiritual processes. Everything of the animal creation reflects something of the human form and structure. Every part and function of the material body by a perfect analogy of use corresponds to human mental and spiritual organization and activity; and humans as regenerate spiritual beings are a type, or image and likeness, of God the divine man. Thus we see that this law of correspondence relates into a harmonious unity all the discretely different things and planes of activity that the Lord has made. It is because of this harmonizing and relating law of divine order and activity, that the method by which the human race's physical organization was produced should exactly reflect the spiritual process of his new creation or regeneration. To possess clear knowledge of the process of man's regeneration is thus to have access to exact and authoritative information concerning the procedure by which the physical form of the first people was produced. In other words in such knowledges we have conclusive answers to all questions relative to the creation of the human race.

The first question whose answer we shall seek by the first application of this knowledge of correspondence will relate to the time involved in the process of creating the first people. Were they created instantaneously or were they the product of a divinely ordered evolutionary process? The very statement of this question in the light of revealed truth concerning the time element in our spiritual re-creation, makes the answer evident. In prevailing creeds and theologies of Christendom it is commonly assumed that regeneration takes place by the miraculous operation of divine power and grace in an instant of time. But from our doctrine we believe that this idea is altogether false, and that our spiritual creation is according to a divinely ordered evolutionary process. Every step of this evolution is so ordered that our will may not be forced; we are led forward only so fast as we are prepared to go in freedom; our liberty and our sense of consent and of a cooperative part in the process are most sacredly guarded.

Many quotations could be given to show that humans in their unregenerate state are essentially animal as to natural affections and inclinations. Under an inner urge of influx from the Lord, our regeneration is thus an evolution from a state in which our spiritual part becomes master. The regenerate person alone is truly human.

In T 583, we read: "From all this it is clear that regeneration is effected in a manner analogous to that in which man is conceived, carried in the womb, born and educated." This correspondence of the development of the embryo to the process of regeneration is so significant as to be worthy of further confirmation. In DLDW 71, we read: "The formation of the embryo and of a human infant in the womb is an image of creation and is called generation." In DLDW 84 we find: There is a likeness and analogy between the formation of man in the womb and his reformation and regeneration. The reformation of man is altogether similar to his formation in the womb.

This statement from our writings has important bearings on the subject of evolution. Biologists tell us that there is an exact analogy between the evolution of created life from germ beginnings, and the evolution of the embryo from its germ origin. They say that the human embryo in its stages of development reproduces the forms of the lower animals that were used by the creator in the evolutionary production of the human form on earth. Then if the process of our spiritual regeneration is exactly imaged in our prenatal development, it is also exactly imaged in the evolutionary method by which the human form was produced. Thus we have further confirmation from our doctrines of the proposition that our creation was by means of a divinely ordered evolutionary process.

Another impressive confirmation of the evolutionary hypothesis is found in the Genesis story of creation and in its explanation by Swedenborg. In the Genesis account of creation the animals are mentioned as being created in a sequence which images forth the order in which the corresponding faculties in humans are opened. The Genesis account is a spiritual allegory; still it is most suggestive and confirmatory of the evolutionary concept to find that the order in which the animals are mentioned as being created exactly corresponds with the order that the modern science of geology has proved to have been followed. In other words it shows that the Genesis parable, in following the sequence relative to the production of the different animal forms required to image forth human regeneration, followed the actual sequence of their creation. This identity of sequences in which the animal series was created, as given in the Genesis account and as established by geology, to my mind shows conclusively that the animals were produced in an order imaging forth the opening of the corresponding mental and spiritual faculties in humans; thus in an evolutionary and progressive series from least things up to the human form.

One more point and then we must close. Though the evolutionary sequence of the creation of the animals as revealed in the Genesis account and as established by geology may be conceded, the question may still be raised: does this prove that the lower forms in their order were used by the divine creative influxes in the production of the higher? In other words, it may be urged that each in its turn might have been a separate and instantaneous creation.

For answer we must turn again to the law of correspondence, and from the facts in regard to human re-creation or re-birth ascertain whether or not any of the things in humans minister to the reception of the new life from the Lord. We have already shown that our natural disposition is essentially animal. Are there elements in our animal or natural disposition capable of being used by the Lord in leading us freely to consent to the reception of ever higher elements of spiritual truth and good? Allow me to quote a few passages which would seem to establish that there is in our animal or natural disposition elements of self-love that are so regulated by the Lord so as to make possible free reception of his life in ever higher and fuller measure. We read:

 

While man is unregenerate . . . Angels use his own unregenerate desires to divert him toward good. (A 50)

In the spiritual man . . . In his first state there are delights of the love of self and of the world; . . . These things excite this affection of truth in him, and also enkindle it; and yet they are not good, but evil. Nevertheless the Lord permits that such things should influence him in that first time, because otherwise he could not be regenerated. (A 3330)

It is an arcanum of heaven, that the Lord uses those things that are man's own?oth his illusions of the senses and his desires?o lead and direct him toward things that are good and true. Every single movement of regeneration is accordingly a progression from evening to morning?rom external man to internal. (A 24)

"Evening" in general means all things that are man's own, whereas "morning" means all those that are the Lord's. (A 22)

 

Concerning the perfecting of the angels we read:

The concupiscences into which they who are in heaven are reunited when it is evening with them are not concupiscences that are opposite to heavenly food, for they are delights of conferring benefits in a large way and consequently something of glory . . . They are also the delights of magnificence in the embellishments of home, and of ornaments of dress, and many similar delights. (A 8487)

 

From these passages we have it demonstrated that from the beginning of regeneration, and on in ascending series of states as to good, the Lord makes use of the more orderly elements of human animal or natural delights, as the only means by which people can be led forward and upward in freedom. It is obvious that this fact in relation to regeneration perfectly corresponds to the use of the lower forms of animal life by the creator when higher orders were to be produced.

Before concluding our argument we must guard our thought concerning the animal derivation of the first human beings. The materialists hold to the idea that the higher apes, from themselves, or from nature, or by accident, produced human beings. This degrading theory, which makes humans to be simply a more intelligent animals, we of course utterly reject. The final step from animal to human, from that which is mortal to that which is immortal, like every other step in the creation and evolution of life, we see as the result of the molding and life-giving activity of the divine.

From God's creative providence the immediate animal ancestors of human beings possessed bodies and natural faculties and affections that were approximately human. Their bodies were essentially human bodies, because they were the all but supreme product of the aspiration of all creative influx from the divine toward the production on earth of the human form and the human race. Swedenborg taught that the affections of the higher animals lack only a subtle essence of being human:

 

Man in himself is . . . But a beast. He has very similar . . . Desires. His good, nay even his best, loves are very similar, as the love of companions . . . The love of his children, and of his wife; so that they do not at all differ. His being more than a beast consists in his having an interior life which beasts never have. (A 714.)

 

This immortality conferring capacity for interior life, is inwrought by the Lord into the inmost structure of the souls of people. Thus from him the souls of the first people were discretely and absolutely different from the souls of their animal parents. So we see that every detail of evolutionary philosophy from a Christian point of view is different and opposite to the earth-blinded ideas of materialists.

Concerning the first people, the logical assumption from an evolutionary standpoint would be that the first human progeny of the human-like animals would be animal-like people; that is, people of an exceedingly rudimentary moral as well as intellectual development. If such were the case, it would require generations of improvement before people capable of celestial regeneration would be possible. Remembering Swedenborg's term, "most ancient church," and his description of the heavenly character of the people of that church, some may be overly hasty in denying the thought of the gradual development of the fully celestial type of being. The passages in Swedenborg's writings that tend to prove such evolution are few and brief, but still they are conclusive. In the Spiritual Diary we have several references to "pre-Adamites." Consider the following:

 

A certain one [pre-Adamite] spoke with me. . . . I heard that he was not evil, but had a little of life remaining, so that he was an external man; . . . Internals were within, though but little. . . . Such were the pre-Adamites. (D 3390.)

 

Again in the Arcana Coelestia, n. 284, we read:

 

This and the preceding chapters treat of the most ancient people and their regeneration: first of those who lived like wild animals, but at length became spiritual men; then of those who became celestial men, and constituted the most ancient church.

 

Here we have the evolutionary series: first the primitive people who lived like wild animals; then those who became spiritual; and finally those who became celestial.

Let us summarize the argument thus far. We have seen that there is an impulse to the production of the human form in all the outpourings of divine life; that from an inner urge in all life, there is an aspiration after the human form operative in all animal forms. As is required by the evolutionary theory, we have found that human beings were created last. We have noted the fact that it is of divine providence that all evidence of miracle should be avoided in the method of human creation. Further we have seen that the divine law of correspondence establishes the exact order in which all lower things were produced. Thus we find that a gradual and evolutionary creation of life in series up to humans is required to foreshadow perfectly the method of human new creation or regeneration. The order of creation as given in outline in Genesis, conforming to geologic evidence, establishes the correspondence of the order of the entire series, and furnishes further proof of the divine use of an evolutionary method in the creation of people. The use of lower parental forms in the production of the bodily structure of the next higher order in series, we have seen reflected in the fact that human regeneration requires divine supervision and use of some of our natural affections and delights to gain our free consent and cooperation in each upward step in the regenerate life. The fact established concerning the evolution of Adam, or the fully celestial person simply adds another link in the doctrinal evidence presented.

Now this chain of evidence derived from our God-given revelations seems to me to be conclusive. We have given no primary importance to the data of natural science. We have disproved the reasonableness of the theories that materialists advance to account for modern evidence of the geologists and biologists. The evil logic and trend of the materialistic form of evolutionary philosophy, when applied in other fields of thought, we have thus nullified. This spiritual line of argument and proof takes the evidence of the materialists and turns it against the atheistic deductions that they support.

If I am right in my conclusions, neither we nor our young people need fear or avoid the study of those sciences whose evidence points to the evolutionary method in the creation of human beings. Instead of fearing the light, we may rejoice in the wisdom and beauty of the Lord's past providence, and thank him anew for the divine adequacy of the new revelation he has given to open every door in both his outer and his inner temple of truth.

-Th e New Church Review Jan. 1932, pp. 38-53 (reprinted in Studia Swedenborgiana 1993; 8:1-22)

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Creation of Man

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