The Creation of Organic Forms
We have attempted to outline the teachings about the creation of the spiritual world as a prior world of causes, and of the natural world as a posterior world of effects; each arising from its own sun whence atmospheres issued in a series of three discrete degrees; and each, through these atmospheres, forming its own threefold ultimates. It was also suggested that the stages of elemental natural creation were always the correspondent result of the successive steps of spiritual creation.
Yet we must understand that these two distinct creations operated together, the spiritual within the natural, for one common purpose. The end of creation was that the spiritual might express itself and form itself in and by the natural. Although utterly distinct in themselves, the spiritual and the natural were to be conjoined in the accomplishment of uses.
The end of creation is use. And the final use or the eventual end of creation, is the formation of a heaven from the human race - an eternal heaven in which the infinite ends of the Divine love which were from the beginning involved in the things of spiritual creation, might again be evolved, and thus sensed and consciously received by finite human minds, as Divine blessings.
Creation is therefore looking to man as its plane of fulfillment. Yet man had to be created last, as the basis of all that preceded. In man was to be collated everything of Divine order, from firsts to ultimates : "into his inmost were collated those things of that order which are primary; and into his ultimates those which are ultimate." He was to be an epitome of creation, a focus of all its forces, a replica of the world and also of heaven; yea, an image of God. Everything created was to prepare for his formation. The final use of every created thing was to be a use to the human race.
To imagine the creation of mankind on a barren globe is indeed impossible. The earth must be prepared for man. And this was done by the appearance of the vegetative and animal kingdoms, which prepare the globe for man and serve him for a source of nourishment and protection, and this for the mind as well as for the body.
Whence came these first forms of uses - vegetation and animal life? That they came from a spiritual cause, is of course certain: for that which is dead cannot be the cause of that which is living. Matter, which is so inert and dead, is of course not entirely inactive, and even a grain of sand has its inner activity and its exhalation or sphere. Yet the only conatus present from creation in a material particle, is an endeavor to motion - a conatus which maintains the particle as a unit. Matter has no creative power within it - it is a form of inertia, it tends to entropy. It contains only a "non-living conatus," which is "the conatus of life's ultimate forces." It is motive-less, purposeless, and thus blind and general. Each unit of matter such as exists on the earth is therefore in itself opposed to change, and mostly tends to remain such as it is, unless acted upon by outer forces.
Clearly, then, material substance, from its own proper conatus, cannot become changed into living substance. Changes are, however, promoted from a different source: for the heat from the natural sun expands the material units and "actuates the conatus that they have from creation"; and thus, even in the minutest forms of nature, there arise acting forces which cause matters to combine and recombine in different ways, producing a variety of composite substances and chemical combinations, acting and interacting, but tending as a whole into a balanced state, or into an equilibrium of forces. Yet even from the most vast production of complicated chemical substances, no development of life can possibly arise, nor any forms of living uses be created.
Life comes only by influx from the spiritual world, and this is mediated by the spiritual atmospheres. The spiritual is not in space, nor is it confined by the natural; but it is present within and around the natural, in all its degrees. Yet it can act by influx only according to correspondences; or, what is the same, it can inflow only according to reception.
There is only one Life - the Divine and Infinite God. But this One Life, in order to animate the universe, is transmitted through spiritual media which are the substances and forces of the spiritual world. Through the spiritual Sun and its atmospheres and substantial degrees, this one infinite Life finites and directs its infinite purposes into special ends of use, into definite endeavors, into finite and specific qualities. The whole spiritual world, in its range of degrees, contains these endeavors toward uses in substantial potency. It is a world of conatus, in ordered variety; and thus contains the causes of all natural creations and formations. It is the source of the formative substance or "soul" of every organic thing in nature.
The most general effect of life, mediated by the lowest spiritual, would be merely a conatus to motion, such as is the formative principle of matter. But in order that life - sensitive and endowed with something of freedom, and with an aspiration towards growth - might be manifested in nature, as it is in the vegetative kingdom, the spiritual must act from a higher conatus than a mere endeavor to motion!
The Spiritual, present in the natural, is always manifested only as conatus, whether in the intelligent speech and act of a man, or in the instinct of an animal, or in the vegetative effort of a seed in the earth. But we must recognize that there are degrees of all things, and thus also of this conatus. Each degree of conatus has a distinct source in the spiritual world of causes. And, moreover, the higher conatus inflows into, and dominates the lower, and sometimes overrules and displaces it. This is a universal law of life, both spiritual and natural.
Thus a conatus to motion, such as is the origin of material substance, can be the focus of living forces from the spiritual world which can begin to direct that conatus and determine that motion towards a use. When this is first done, the first point of life begins on the young earth, the first living seed is produced, the first plane is formed into which the Spiritual can inflow to reveal some of its manifold powers.
Thus it can be said that in the mineral kingdom - in the soils of the earth - there lie concealed, and as it were involved, the ends and beginnings of all uses which spring from life. These ends are the conatus to perform uses; use is the spiritual soul from which they come and which now assumes a clothing, by associating material substances to itself in order to use the physical energy tied up in these matters for productions of organized and growing forms of ever increasing complexity and perfection. This is the first conatus visible in vegetation. Inwardly in this there is again present a conatus to perform uses for the animal kingdom, to serve it for food; and this also causes plants to take on a certain semblance to the animal form. But inmostly in the vegetative soul there is a conatus to be of use to mankind.
As we understand the teachings of the Writings, it is only when matters are acted upon by a source of energy outside of themselves, such as heat or radiation, that they can come into a state in which an influx of life can occur to change the quality of their conatus. Yet it is strongly stressed that the heat of nature merely gives the opportunity for the forces of spiritual heat, conveyed through spiritual substances, to exert a guidance and direction over nature. And we are warned not to think "that God implanted in nature from the beginning a power to produce such things" as animals or plants, for "no power is implanted in nature." But it is "an unceasing influx out of the spiritual into the natural world" which effects such creations. Form, or the "image of creation," is spiritual. Nature contributes nothing to the forms of uses, but is merely led by the spiritual to "infill" that form with matters to render it permanent and fixed. For spiritual substances are not in themselves constant, since they are apart from time. Therefore there is within everything spiritual a conatus to clothe itself with a body out of homogeneous or corresponding things on earth.
This was illustrated to a learned man, Sir Hans Sloane, in the other life, in Swedenborg's presence. Sir Hans was permitted to handle and examine a bird in the spiritual world - a bird which was a spiritual creation corresponding to some affection in the mind of an angel; and which vanished in his hand when the affection ceased. The experience caused the savant to admit that nature contributed nothing to the image and form of creation: "If that bird," he exclaimed, "were to be infilled in its minutest parts with corresponding matters, and thus be fixed, it would be a lasting bird!" No sudden materialization is here meant or expected. But in the normal procreative process, the male seed of a bird contains the codepattern which conveys the spiritual form of the species to the ovum where it is clothed or infilled with "corresponding matter" to fashion an individual bird which can reproduce its kind on earth.
When it is said that "within everything spiritual there is a conatus to clothe itself with a body," this also implies that the spiritual, in its greatests and its leasts, its primes and its ultimates, contains not only an active force and a creative force, but a formative force. This formative or plastic force operates in ultimates - especially mediated by the atmospheres, both spiritual and natural - affecting the substances and imbuing them with the power of impregnating seeds and guiding their growth. This formative force thus gathers the substances of nature into a complex form imbued with a living purpose of use. It builds the inanimate things of nature into fibers and cells, and orders these into connected structures of organic life.
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The forms of uses are brought forth by the Lord out of ultimates. But uses themselves are spiritual. Uses - we are therefore assured - existed before the organic forms through which these uses are brought forth. Nothing is formed unless there is a need for it - a use. And unless something spiritual existed which had a need to be clothed in natural forms, no organic life would have been formed.
But the Writings show that there are many degrees of what is spiritual, and that the formative force lodges "in each degree thereof, but with a difference of perfection." It is therefore explained that "the souls of beasts are not spiritual in the same degree in which the souls of men are spiritual."
That there are three degrees of spiritual substances and forces, is generally taught, and is testified to by the fact that there are three spiritual atmospheres and three heavens. But we are also taught that besides these three degrees "there are also as many degrees of things spiritual below the heavens, that is, in nature; which are lower degrees of things spiritual . . ." This is illustrated by the fact that man's mind, while he lives on earth, grows up in a physical environment, and this natural mind, which is of course a spiritual and living thing, is of three degrees - rational, intermediate, and sensual; or, rational, imaginative, and sensual. Man therefore enjoys natural affections; and indeed, his natural mind, as distinguished from the spiritual mind, is composed or organized of natural as well as of spiritual substances. Thought is from the spiritual substances, yet is conducted in his earthly brain, organized of natural substances.
That there is such a set of lower spiritual degrees operating in the body is also consistent with the teaching that there are, properly speaking, six spiritual atmospheres: "three above the sun of the world, and three below it"; "the three below the sun . . . closely accompany the three natural atmospheres, and enable a man in the world to think and to feel."
It is important to note that the formative force is present not only in heaven, but also in the lower degrees of the Spiritual, which operate into nature. For the souls of animals and of plants are distinguished from the souls of men, in that the human soul is formed from all the spiritual degrees, while those of animals are formed of the lower spiritual degrees only. On this account animals all represent natural affections, and thus picture forth the various inclinations of human nature and parody the possibilities of human types, with their passions and fears and instincts.
In the spiritual world, the exterior or natural affections of spirits and angels are therefore continually imaged, by the formative and plastic power that lies inherent in such affections, as animal forms as real as those on earth, but not permanent except as long as the affection is active. And the same affections can be represented in equally evanescent creations of plant-life which instantaneously germinates from the ultimates of heaven "which are the lands there."
Thus the things which appear in the other life are the correspondential forms of the states of what angels and spirits receive from the Divine. It was very different in the first creation of plants and animals in the natural world. These were not created to represent the states either of spirits or men: for man was not yet in existence. Yet they were created from the same spiritual degrees and formative origins! origins in the spiritual world, in those degrees of it whereby it extended itself into the natural world. They originated as the first formations from the spiritual-natural; from ends latent in the spiritual. These ends were the Lord's ends, determined, in the spiritual-natural degrees, into endeavors toward more specific uses. Hence it is stated: "The affections of His love are infinite, and the perceptions of His wisdom are infinite; and of these, all and every thing that appears upon the earth are correspondences ... Such correspondences of His love and wisdom are in the whole natural world, . . . but in ... the spiritual world there are similar correspondences with those who receive affections and perceptions from God."
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Creation - to the view of puny man - seems like a work of infinite patience. If we look at the record of the unhurried process of developing forms of life as it is impressed in the rocks of the globe, we must see that the stages of creation are counted not in days, but in millions of years. Yet we also observe a certain order - an ascent from lowly and imperfect forms of life by the addition of the more perfect. This ascending order is indicated even in the Mosaic account of creation. But in the Writings it is described as an ascent of uses, a progress looking always to Man, through whom creation might as it were meet its Creator and be conjoined to Him.
The whole creative act may be seen to contain two phases, a descent and an ascent. The first substance of creation was finited more and more by descending into lower forms, or lower discrete degrees, where its action was generalized; and in nature the final imprisonment of the active forces of creation occurred in fixed matter, which is in itself dead. But the ascent began when forms of life were created. The fact that the commencing plant life and animal life represented very complicated structures, organic orders as it were freed from some of dead nature's forces, might make it appear as if the ascent lay in the perfecting of the forms which material substances assumed. But the truth is that the ascent lay, not in the physical constructions - for matter remains matter even if it is compounded - but in the uses which could be served through these perfected organisms. Such uses are indeed obvious in retrospect. The earth's energies are released for our use through the plants and animals of the past and the present; the ground has been stored with oils and coal; the air has been charged with gases proper for our purpose of life. Inmostly, every use of the lower kingdoms of life, as of the earth itself, prepares for the eternal uses attained through mankind.
In the descending series or process of creation, perfection by degrees decreased. In the spiritual Sun, considered as the first and original substance of which all other finite things are composed, "there are infinitely more things," more potential varieties, and more "innumerable" perfections, "than can appear in the substances that spring from it, which are called substantiates (or composites), and at length material." The image of the Divine "becomes less and less apparent" in the successive formations.
But the reverse occurs in the progressive steps of organic creations. The lowest forms of vegetable and animal life manifest only a few general functions of life, and invite the influx only of the most external spiritual endeavors, which can be received in the kind of matters which are at hand. But when these simpler organisms have, by their living activity, and their cell-products, produced more complex organic chemicals in their little laboratories, then higher forms of life, with more complex organs and specialized uses, can be formed, and receive an influx of more varied spiritual endeavors, which guide their life as the soul guides a slumbering body.
We shall not here enter into the question as to the steps whereby the plant kingdom developed into its full perfection, and how the animal kingdom achieved its wide diversity of genera and species. Both these kingdoms "have the same origin, and thus the same soul," which is spiritual-natural affection. Being from that spiritual which is operating within nature, these souls are not immortal, but "the influx passes through their organic forms out into the world, and there terminates and vanishes and never returns"; and because the spiritual - which cannot die - is not appropriated, "the recipient forms . . . cannot but be dissipated" and return to nature. There is indeed an image of immortality in their faculty to generate and reproduce their species. But the only lasting immortality lies in their uses - to mankind.
Here we may remark on the fact that while plants and animals have the same spiritual origin, the difference between them is due to "the forms into which the influx passes." Thus, in the spiritual world, the same natural affection, when it inflows into "intermediates," produces animals, but if it inflows into "ultimates," which are the lands there, it produces plants. In the natural world, it is the same; but plants are subject more directly to the flow of atmospheric forces, and thus assume the form which the Writings name "the natural form," while animals retain "the spiritual form," from the conatus and flow of spiritual substances.
If nature cannot as yet supply the materials for the formation of higher forms of life, only lowly orders of plants and animals can be created. Life acts into nature "according to induced changes of form." Influx is according to reception. But this does not mean that nature acts upon life, or that the external accidental mutations of nature determine the development of life. For there are no purely accidental happenings in a universe created by God. The courses of the atoms and the clustering of stars, obey laws which to human eyes are indifferent to consequences, but which are, nonetheless, the tools of the Divine hand - governing from below as well as blessing from above.
And indeed, the matters are not what determine the quality of the life which shall inflow to form them into a bodily vessel. But it is the spiritual - the soul - which, by influx, selects the materials which are proper for its use, proper to clothe its particular purpose, express its specific varieties of endeavor.
Such as this soul is, in degree and quality, such is the body, in essence and potentiality: yet how much of the potentialities of the soul is expressed through the body, depends on many qualifying factors, and also on the physical environment of the body, and its chemistry of nourishment.
The "soul" of vegetation and animal life is spiritual-natural affection. As the ages go on, the generations of organic species have enriched the earth more and more with varieties of natural substances, the by-products of life, which allow an increasingly greater variety of species to be formed; and thus are revealed the vast variety of the uses of natural affection, or, what is the same, the potential uses of natural and bodily life. Therefore we find animals of different degrees of perfection, but also intermediate types merging one into another, of inexhaustible variety, and always held in a biological balance which leaves room for these varieties to exist and for many species to survive.
Yet the lower kingdoms only represent the natural affection, instinct, or "appetite" which is their soul. Beasts are not able to understand their affections from which they act, as if in freedom yet without reason, nor to govern these affections, or to analyze them, or reverse them. They cannot reject the order of their life, and thus are not free to appropriate it as their own. Instead, when animals die, "the recipient forms of their life cannot but be dissipated; for with them the influx passes through their organic forms even into the world, and there terminates and vanishes and never returns." In other words, the end of creation - which is that the spiritual might form itself in the natural - could not be accomplished through animals.
Neither animals nor plants can pervert the order into which they are born. Evil came with the hells, thus with men. But the natural affections of evil spirits can and have become the pervert medium by which the earth may bring forth animals or plants which are obstacles to the uses of man, and thus hurtful and evil.
It is strange that the reason why man could thus introduce evil even into the lower kingdoms is because he is created in the image and likeness of God - and because his soul, different from that of the beasts, is from the higher spiritual degrees.