The Spiritual Sun
In our introductory essay the central teaching was brought out that God created the universe out of His own substance which is Love itself. It was however shown that the process of formation by which matter arose out of its eventual source in the Infinite was not a process which could be perceived by any mechanical modes, nor by any spatial ideas of geometry or by any material rational concepts; but was a complex process, involving the intermediation of spiritual causes, which can be understood only when the spiritual light of Divine Revelation is shed into our thoughts. It was then shown from the Writings that all things of the natural world are only effects produced by the Spiritual as a cause. The spiritual world is thus to be regarded as a world of causes, and spiritual substance as prior to natural substance.
The creation of the universe consequently involves a spiritual creation as well as a natural one; and in the Writings accounts are given of such a spiritual creation. One of these accounts leads up to this statement
"All these things are from a spiritual, and none from a natural origin. A spiritual origin is life from the Lord. To correspond to these [spiritual] things are created all the things which appear in the natural world, where similar things therefore exist, with the difference that these, [although] they are likewise from a spiritual origin, are simultaneously from a natural origin. A natural origin is added, that they may be at the same time material, and thence fixed, to the end that the human race may be procreated, which could not occur except in ultimates where there is fullness; and so that there might - from the human race as a seminary - exist inhabitants of the spiritual world, who are the angels: this is the first and last end of creation.
"But a complete idea of creation, or of the existence of all things in their order from Life which is the Lord, cannot be given, on account of arcane (secret) things, which are known in heaven and which indeed [have been] communicated to me; but because they are full of such things as are deeply hidden (recondite) in the sciences, they cannot be described except by volumes, and scarcely then so as to be understood."
The suggestion is here conveyed to us that there are angelic truths about creation which in the present state of man's knowledge can scarcely be intelligibly revealed. Nevertheless, the following sentences are appended as the sum and substance of these matters
"The Sun of heaven, in which is the Lord, is the common center of the universe; all things of the universe are peripheries, and peripheries even to the ultimate. These He rules from Himself alone, as one continuous thing, but the mediates from the ultimates. He also perpetually animates and activates these things, as easily as a man, from understanding and will, animates and activates his own body. Influx takes place into uses and from these into their forms."
This statement is amplified in the paragraphs which conclude the manuscript, and stand under the title "The Angelic Idea concerning the Creation of the Universe by the Lord"
Such is the general idea which the angels have about creation; an idea which contains some of those arcana which they disclosed to Swedenborg. And since it is the spiritual Sun which is here spoken of as the source and center of creation, it is to the teachings about that Sun that we shall next turn.
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The spiritual Sun is presented in the Writings under two aspects. On the one hand we are taught that the Lord is the Sun of heaven, to which all the angels turn as to the source of their life, and this whether they see this Sun as a blazing orb, or in relatively less brilliant aspect, as a moon, or simply as light.
Yet all the angels know that the Lord is not a Sun; even though His Divine effulgence so appears, as if localized in their sky. They do not need the warning of the Writings, "Let everyone beware lest he think that the Sun of the spiritual world is God Himself. God Himself is Man." They worship Him as the Divine Human, and see Him as such when He manifests Himself to them. They know indeed that "as to His Person, the Lord is constantly encompassed with the Sun." But their ideas are not of space. However they turn their bodies, the Lord is ever present before them. They know that the spiritual Sun is omnipresent in all creation.
But the angels are also aware of the second aspect under which the Sun of heaven is spoken of in the Writings, namely, as a substance which is not God, but is the first substance of creation, nay, the one substance out of which all created things, spiritual as well as natural, are inmostly composed.
The spiritual Sun is therefore said to be "the first of creation." "God," we read, "first finited His infinity by means of substances emitted from Himself, from which there came into existence His proximate compass, which makes the Sun of the spiritual world." "All posterior things" - i.e., all things of later creation - "are receptacles of prior things, and . . . so in order of the primitives of which the Sun of the angelic heaven consists . . ."
There is therefore a universal substance which is directly derived from the Divine substance, or from the Infinite. It is presumption to attempt to define its qualities, unless we adhere closely to the very words of our Revelation. Yet these words are meant to be understood. The qualities of the first created substance are so elusively perfect that the spiritual Sun is sometimes not distinguished in thought from the Divine which acts through it.
Thus it is written: "That Sun is not the Lord, but is a proceeding from His Divine love and Divine wisdom. It is called a proceeding because that Sun is produced out of Divine love and Divine wisdom which are in themselves substance and form, and the Divine proceeds through it.'"
When angels think of their Sun they think of the heat and light which proceed through it, not of the finite substance which composes it. And this heat and this light are the Divine accommodated to reception and perception; or, what is the same, they are the Divine proceeding. We can have no idea whatsoever of the Divine in its proceeding, unless we hold in our thought the idea of something not Divine, something finite, into which the Divine proceeds !37 Not that the finite "proceeds" from the Lord, but that the Lord's infinite life proceeds into and through the finite!
How, then, did the finite arise, if it did not "proceed" from the original Infinite? The question is important. The answer is fundamental to our religion, and determines our whole attitude to God.
For the Writings show that what "proceeds" from God is God. If the universe proceeds from God, the universe would be God! The love and wisdom of God which inflow into creation, are God, are the Lord present with men. The Word, or the Divine truth proceeding by revelation, is the Lord Himself with men. In other words, the Divine Proceeding is the Lord present with His creation. And nothing can be said to be Divine with men except what is of the Divine proceeding.
The word ‘proceed,' however, simply means ‘come forth'; and. thus the Writings when at times they speak in the language of appearances, say of finite things, that they proceed from the Lord. But strictly, ‘proceed' means to go forth while remaining the same. Hence a definite doctrine is laid down: "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 ‘proceeding' but ‘creating.' This is a universal law in the light of which everything else said in the Writings must be viewed, if we are to understand it. It is the philosophical truth, involved in the first commandment: 'Thou shalt have no other gods...' Nothing finite is Divine, or God. Nor is there anything infinite except the Lord.
The finite arose by being produced or created. And the only cause of this ‘production' was the Divine. But the Divine must proceed in order to create!
In order that we may understand this, we are allowed to distinguish between the Divine as Love and the Divine as Truth. Truth is the same as the law or the mode by which Love operates and the form by which it expresses itself. Love creates by means of truth, by proceeding as truth, or law. The Divine order or wisdom which is the essential law maintaining the universe, is therefore the Divine Logos - the Word which "was in the beginning with God, and which was God, and which made all things" (John i.1). And when the Psalmist says, "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth," the meaning is the same as when the Writings state: "The Divine truth, proceeding from the Divine good, is the very Reality and the very essential itself in the universe; which makes and creates . . ." It is "the unique substantial, the derivations being nothing else but the successive forms thence resulting!" (AC 7004). From the truth proceeding from the Divine "are all the essences of things in both worlds, the spiritual and the natural"; it may even be said that the Divine truth proceeding "was afterwards formed successively into spheres" or descending atmospheres.
The Divine truth standing forth and proceeding, is thus called, in the Apocalypse, "The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God" (iii. 14). It is the beginning, i.e., the principle or law of creating. It gives substantiality to finite things. But it is not itself finite.
The spiritual Sun is, then, the very focus of creation, the first finiting of infinity. Yet the Infinite is deprived of nothing, loses nothing in the process, does not - except in appearance - impose limits upon itself. The human mind is itself too limited to understand this. We are warned to think not naturally but spiritually - in spiritual terms of life, love, wisdom - about the matter. Yet illustrations are given, as parallels which enable us to think in correspondent ideas about creation.
The things which constitute the Sun of heaven "are from the Lord, but are not the Lord . . . They are not life in itself, but are deprived of life in itself." They go forth as "a sphere" from the Lord: but the comparison here is with the spheres of angels and men. For from every man and angel go forth substances set free and separated from their bodies, even as all natural objects also have their exhalations - as waves of effluvia. Thus it is said of every angel, that from everything of his spiritual body there go forth such spheres which closely environ him and are moved continually in rhythm with the motions of his heart and his lungs: and that these spheres convey these activities to the atmosphere and proclaim and convey his quality; for this is a spiritual sphere, not a material one. In the angel, these substances were forms of his life; but when they become spheres, they are devoid of his life, yet are concordant with it. This suggests that the angel no longer controls the action of such spheres, and that they are now subject to changes from other influences. This comparison is called an arcanum which men cannot express by merely natural ideas. For men inevitably think of space in connection with the life of the angels. The spheres of the angels, however, are non-material, and thus are only apparently "in space." The things which constitute the spiritual Sun are said to be "devoid of life in itself." Only the Infinite has life in itself. But this does not mean that the things of this Sun are dead, like the things of nature. Instead we learn that "all that comes forth from the spiritual Sun is living and spiritual." They are living, but their life is not in se, not their own; but comes from the Lord.
Throughout the Writings there is contrast between the living Sun and the dead sun. The natural sun is said to be "pure fire," "entirely dead," yea, "death itself." It is "material," has "nothing whatever of life in it." Its essence is "elementary fire," its activity is mere "dead" motion - motion in space and time. Its forces are "dead forces." The same is true of all the things of nature which spring from it. But the spiritual Sun is "alive." And since this cannot mean that its substances are infinite, it must mean that they are - not forms of motion - but forms of life, finite receptacles of life. This is true of all spiritual things, all things of the entire spiritual world; for all receive their essence from the Sun of heaven. "The angelic idea ... is that the Divine life is inwardly in the fire of the Sun of the spiritual world, but outwardly in the fire of the sun of the natural world. "
Whether our comprehension of this quality of the "living Sun" be clear or vague, depends less on close definitions than on the reality we ascribe to spiritual things, as they are in themselves. This reality, we conceive, has nothing to do with spatial existence. For as the Divine is not in space, and is the same in greatests and leasts, so "this is true also of that Sun which is ... the one only substance of creation." It is because "this only substance . . . is not in space, that it is all in all, and is in the greatest and least things of the created universe."
The substances of the spiritual Sun are not in space. Its presence "is not in the extense of space and time." And the same is said of the whole spiritual world: "Because spaces and times cannot be predicated of love and wisdom, but states instead . . . [therefore] the expanse around the Sun of the angelic heaven is not an extense, but still is in the extense of the natural sun, and is with living creatures there according to reception; and the reception is according to forms and states." "The extension of space is not predicable of spiritual things, which are derivations of the spiritual Sun."
Thus the "things" or "primitives," of which the Sun of heaven consists, are presented in a unique light. They cannot be described by any natural terms - unless by a distant comparison. They are spiritual things; and we cannot think of spiritual things in terms of space. They do not belong to a universe of mechanics. They belong rather to a world of incipient endeavors, living potentialities such as the mind of man is made of : a world of substantial spiritual force which is the seed and beginning of every possible variety.
The thought of space moves men easily to think of the world as made up of simple elements, which, like building-blocks, are all alike; and from the differing combinations of which the various forms and patterns of nature would arise. But certain teachings in the Writings discourage this idea:
"Many admit that there is an only substance which is the first substance and source of all things; but . . . they believe it to be so simple that nothing is simpler; so that it may be compared to a point with no dimension; and that from an infinite number of such the forms of dimension came into existence. This, however, is a fallacy originating in the idea of space; for the idea of space makes the least to appear such. But the truth is that the simpler and purer a thing is, the more and fuller it is. It is for this reason that the more deeply an object is examined, the more wonderful, perfect, and beautiful are the things seen in it; and thus, that the most wonderful, perfect, and beautiful of all are in the first substance. This is true, because the first substance is from the spiritual Sun, . . . and as this substance is not in space, it is the all in all, and is in the greatest and the least things of the created universe. Since that Sun is the first and only substance from which all things are, it follows that infinitely more things are in that substance than can appear in the substances that spring from it, which are called substantiate and, at length, material . . ."
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It is interesting to note, that even in his scientific period, Swedenborg went counter to current ideas, in that he derived the ultimate things of the world not from more and more simple constituents, but from elements more and more complex and perfect. He indeed describes the first substances as "simples," even "the pure simples"; but in idea they were far from simple. Even in the Principica, he speaks of the first elements as having the form of a tremendously complex gyre. And in later developing his so-called "Doctrine of Forms," he shows that the origin of all forms was the Infinite Form; and this begot the Spiritual Form, and this in turn was the origin of the first natural form, which was described as a sort of perpetual vortex of perfect adaptability and perfection, containing in it the power and potentiality to form the lower and more imperfect and limited natural forms - the vortical, the spiral, the spherical, and, lastly, the inert angular form. (Fibre, 261-273) Afterwards, when Swedenborg had been introduced into communion with angels and spirits, he was led by the Lord Himself into the perception of forms "entirely transcending all geometrical forms," yea, "forms almost entirely void of limits," but which nonetheless were still "within nature," and were thus "without life." And he commented: "Consequently as long as the mind detains itself or is detained in such forms, it still is without life; but the things that are within or above them, are living from the Lord, but still organic (because in themselves they have nothing of life, even as the forms within nature). Wherefore no one, by any sort of abstractions, can have any conception of the forms which are within the natural: as I now perceive . . . being forced to confess that within the most subtle forms of nature there are spiritual forms which are altogether inconceivable."
Such spiritual forms are those substances that constitute the entire spiritual world and especially the spiritual Sun whose perfections and potentialities for use are beyond any imagination. Thus we read, that "there are infinite things in God Man, and thence indefinite things in the spiritual Sun ... These things indefinite stand forth as in an image in the created universe . . . Thence is the variety of all things" in both worlds! Diversity springs from infinity!
Spiritual things are not "infinite." The spiritual, such as it is in itself, cannot be grasped by any natural ideas or images. Thus we are told that the soul - whether of a man or an animal - is a spiritual substance, and because of this it "has not extension, but impletion" - and can therefore reproduce itself without loss. But this does not mean that it is infinite! Each soul is finite. Other spiritual things - like human states - are also finite. The love and the wisdom of the angels are finite and have no power to comprehend the infinite, and bear no finite ratio to the love and wisdom of the Lord! And although the Divine, in its holy proceeding, contains infinite goods and truths, yet truths and goods, with angels and men, are only capable of being multiplied and increased indefinitely; "indefinite" meaning what cannot be defined and comprehended by number. Yet the "indefinite" is finite in respect to the infinite. As in the Lord everything is infinite, so in heaven everything is "indefinite."
The spiritual Sun is the source of all finite powers and varieties. In this one ground substance of creation are comprehended all these indefinite varieties, as potencies; yet there they seem as if they were one, or undistinguished. In lower creation these varieties are made apparent, and thus it seems and can be said, that variety arises and increases toward ultimates - or that variety arises, not from the influx, but from reception.
As a matter of fact, as creation proceeds, the one universal substance is formed by discrete steps into more and more limited, or more and more finite, substances. It loses something of its perfection, in each lower degree; becomes more general, more gross, more inert; its potentialities become less universal, its range narrowed down, its uses more confined and specific. In the lower degrees its changes of state and its adaptability become less capable of variation. The image of the Divine and infinite is obscured with each step. So confined, the one universal substance has indeed - in ultimates - taken on a marvelous variety of forms unperceived beforehand. For no two things in the created world are alike! Yet all this variety is but a remote image of the powers of that original substance. For thousands of thousands of things in the spiritual world there corresponds only some single thing in the natural!
The varieties within man's mind - the states of his mind - are incomparably greater than those of his body. For the unlocking and releasing of the varied powers of life tied up in the substance of the Sun of heaven, it is necessary that man climb back on the ladder of life - upwards towards the Source of life! By creation, the Lord as it were lowers that ladder of degrees toward man - yea, a different ladder for every man! But by regeneration, the Lord suffers man to climb the ladder, to enjoy the increasing varieties of heavenly life.[67a]