The Creation Of Heaven and Earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Gen. i. 1-5.
In the words I have read we have what has generally been understood, and what, in fact, seems at first view to be, an account of the creation of the natural heaven, the earth, and light; and the separation of light from darkness; and that this was the work of a natural day. And our catechisms have taught us that these and all other things were made out of nothing, somewhat less than six thousand years ago.
It is not proposed to criticise too closely this materialistic view of the subject. For after the degeneracy of mankind from their primeval state and the loss 6f the science of correspondences, there were many centuries in which the whole race was shrouded in deep spiritual darkness. Not only in spiritual things were the people of that age ignorant, but likewise in the natural sciences. They were profoundly ignorant of the sciences of astronomy, geology, chemistry, and the operations of physical as well as of spiritual laws. While they remained in this state the literal sense of the account of the creation was adapted to their wants. They could not comprehend spiritual truth, for they had become wholly natural. But it was good for them to read and believe it, and reverence it even in the letter, as they thereby acknowledged the Lord in His divinity as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and could therein regard Him as their heavenly Father. This was what they needed, and was all that they could receive.
But men were not always to remain in this state of ignorance, for they were constituted for a higher life than the natural; and the Divine Providence was ever striving to elevate man again to that better state from which he had receded. But the Divine order is, first that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual. It is doubtless for this reason that mans existence must commence in a material world, through which alone he can pass to, and become a resident in, that which is spiritual. For the same reason, spiritual ideas can only be reached through the material symbols that represent them. Before men could advance then to spiritual knowledge, the foundation had to be laid in nature itself. And as men investigated nature and saw therein certain uniform processes, they began to perceive the laws by which the phenomena that surrounded them were produced. In this way our natural sciences, so far as our knowledge has progressed, grew up. As the knowledge of these sciences and the operations of natural laws became understood, men relied upon them with absolute confidence, for they saw that they were without variableness or shadow of changing. Thus arose the fierce and fruitless conflicts between the disciples of science and those who held literally to the truths of revelation.
But in the midst of this conflict a strange sweet voice is beginning to be heard by both parties. It says, Science and revelation are alike Gods own books.
Men of science catch a glimpse of the light of correspondence and, behold, the truths of the Word beam with a Divine radiance through its symbolic language, and they see that both books are true. And some from the theological side of the controversy, cautiously and with many misgivings, hear and read and ponder, and as the science of correspondences unfolds to them, they, too, are relieved of their doubts and difficulties, and are compelled to exclaim that nature and revelation have met together; that science and theology have kissed each other; that both books are true.
In these first chapters of Genesis is handed down to us a sacred narrative from the most ancient times. Whose hand first put these chapters into writing perhaps we may never know. Nor is it of the least possible consequence for us to know. It is the wisdom contained in these ancient writings that should really interest us, and not at all who wrote them, or in what age they were written.
Controversies arise even in our own day as to who first made certain discoveries in science, philosophy, and the arts. Even the authorship of modern books is disputed. These controversies are interesting no doubt to the ambitions of those immediately concerned, and may be matters of curious speculation to a few others; but the real questions which interest us and society are not, who made the discovery or invented the machine, but, is the supposed discovery an advance in scientific knowledge, and the machine of any practical utility in the affairs of life? These practical questions answered in the affirmative, it is well to give honor to whom honor is due, but the resulting benefits in no case need to depend upon our knowledge or our ignorance of those through whom the benefits were conferred. The operations of the law of gravitation, the circulation of the blood, the effects of vaccination, the steam-engine, the telegraph, and the sewing-machine, would be just as true and as useful to the world if the names of Newton, Harvey, Jenner, Watt, Morse, and Howe were forgotten forever. The truth of their theories and the utility of their inventions are proved and accepted upon their practical working alone.
It is the same with these ancient records. Their truth and practical value in no possible degree depend upon our knowledge or ignorance of the persons who placed them upon record, or the date of their first recording. They must be judged by what they are, by the power which is in them to uplift and strengthen, and by the wisdom which the science of correspondences discloses in their pages. It is supposed that Moses wrote the account of the creation, as we now have it in these earliest records, and there is no doubt that this was among the rolls or books that he left. But the truth or value of it in no degree depends upon his authority. Indeed, if anything at all proper to him attaches to them, then they are the words of Moses and not at all the Divine Word of the Lord. If the record is the proper work of Moses, then indeed may it have been intended to convey what he supposed to be the order and process of the natural creation, but which time and culture have proved to be a mistake throughout. But if it be indeed the Divine Word of the Lord it must be like everything else emanating from Him, infilled with His infinite love and wisdom. Treating of spiritual and eternal verities, yet clothed in natural language, it is suited to mans spiritual nature, which is clothed like the Word in a natural form.
If this narrative was recorded as a part of the law by Moses, and if it is in its origin the Word of God, it is interesting to inquire how it was transmitted to the writer. That Moses did not receive it by direct revelation from God is clearly to be inferred from the total absence of any claim that it was so received; while from the time of his call at the burning bush while acting the shepherd in the land of the Midianites all his writings profess to be a record of communications from God, and of events guided and controlled by the manifest and open interposition of Providence with him and his people. Up to that time in the history there is not the slightest intimation that any revelations were made to him, or that he received a knowledge of what preceded his own day by revelation.
A more reasonable view, and the one which is confirmed by the teachings of the New Church, is that this narrative was copied by Moses from a more ancient Word. The art of writing was familiar in the days of Moses; indeed, the art was then a very old acquirement. In the very nature of things the first writings must have been purely pictorial. And although specimens of that primitive style no doubt existed in very ancient documents, or in copies of them, yet the language even then had been changed into the alphabetic style. How long this style of writing had been in existence we do not, of course, know, but there is nothing to indicate that it had not existed for indefinite ages. The truth is, the supposed chronology of these ancient records no more describes literal years than the days of creation mean days of twenty-four hours each. Without at all doing violence to these ancient records, therefore, the astronomer, the geologist, the chronologist, and the ethnologist may safely make their deductions from the records of the stars, the rocks, the fossils, and the varieties of the races of men, even if it should carry them back incalculable ages, even beyond the real or pretended eras of the sacred books of the Hindus. They may be assured that no true deduction drawn from any fact or process of nature can ever contradict or conflict with any true interpretation of the Divine Word. Writings then existed of very ancient date in the times of Moses. And among those which had come down to his day, if such a thing ever existed in primitive times, was, no doubt, the Divine Word of the ancient Church; and there can be no church without a Divine revelation. Such a Word would of necessity have been written in the style of pure correspondences, for we have seen in a former lecture that the people of that golden age had, and could have, no other language, the roots of all language being in nature, and there being no other way to express mental ideas than by the names, qualities, actions, relations, and circumstances of natural things. In these all mental processes and spiritual verities would be symbolized in natural terms.
That there did exist such an ancient Word we have several intimations in our present Scriptures. References are made to the Book of Jasher, the Book of Enunciations, the Book of the Wars of Jehovah, the Book of Enoch, and perhaps others, which are lost, at least to us for the present. But that they once existed seems to be beyond a doubt. And that Moses, either by Divine prompting or because he acknowledged it, as we do our Scriptures, to be of Divine authority, copied these first chapters of Genesis from it, is not difficult to believe. And in this it need not be assumed that Moses understood it to be anything more than a literal history of creation. Probably he did not. The science of correspondences was even then lost. And although the writings of Moses and the prophets are in accordance with that science, it is be-cause what they wrote is the Divine Word of the Lord through them, and not in any sense their own production. That Moses copied from these older records Ave have this further and confirmatory testimony. Swedenborg tells us that men who had passed into the spiritual world from the interior of China assured him there that they possessed on earth a Divine Word written wholly in symbols; and he says that on reading to them from our Word they declared that Genesis, down to the call of Abraham, was identical with their ancient Word, was, in fact, an exact copy of it. They further told him that that ancient Word was still extant somewhere in the interior of that country; but probably it is not understood by the people of this age.
That relics of the ancient knowledge of correspondences did exist in the time of Moses, but that the true understanding of their meaning had been lost, is illustrated by the fact and the universality of idol-worship in that day; for mankind, with rare exceptions, so far as we have any account, were then idolaters. But how they came to be so is the unsolved mystery of theologians and philosophers alike. No one ever gave a rational account of the origin of idol-worship, and until the science of correspondences was restored no one could account for it. That men could have conceived the idea of worshipping idols as an original thought or impulse is so absurd that it is only made more so by every attempt to explain it as so originating.
If you will think clearly you will see that what is evil and false could not emanate from God; could not, in fact, exist at all but as a perversion by man of that which is good and true. The sun forever sends out its heat and light to all things alike, and they affect all substances according to their forms and qualities. Cold and darkness are negative terms only, not expressing things that actually exist, but the absence of heat and light, and these are caused wholly by the relative position of objects with reference to the sun. The same heat and light that paints the lily and perfumes the rose and ripens the fruit and grain distils the poison in the cells of the nightshade, exhales the miasma of the marsh, and returns to putrefaction and decay all organic substances. The different effects are produced by the difference of the forms into which the heat and light flow.
So the Lord, who is the sun of the spiritual world, is ever giving out His love and wisdom, or His goodness and truth, which are spiritual heat and light, to all with a Divine impartiality. But each one will receive them according to his spiritual state, some to grow into the beauty of angels and some into the deformity of fiends. And this, because man could not have been made man without that spiritual freedom which gives him a power over his recipient forms which minerals, vegetables, and animals have not.
Evil and falsehood, therefore, like cold and darkness, are not emanations from God, but are the perversions of the good and the true by men. The good and the true must, therefore, have first existed before the evil and the false could have place, and these only as man degenerated from true order. False systems of religion and idol-worship could only come in as men became ignorant and degraded, as perversions of a true religion and the worship of the true God.
By the law of creation everything in nature symbolized a divine idea, and the people of the golden age, or of the most ancient Church, called Adam, pictured the objects of nature, arranging them in the form of seeming natural history, but so as to convey by correspondence mental processes and spiritual development; the divine influx or inspiration in their unperverted state, giving them an intuitive perception of the relations that exist between the natural object and the spiritual idea which it symbolizes. Therefore, when natural things were seen or named, or natural processes described, the spiritual principles to which these corresponded were at once understood. And no doubt the homes, the gardens, the groves, and the temples of this primitive people were adorned with pictured symbols in great variety. We know in fact that the ruins of all very ancient cities as well as tombs of Egypt are full of strange statuary and paintings which are known to be symbolical. These all add their unimpeachable testimony to the fact that at some remote period in the history of the race a long-forgotten language of symbols existed. Idol-worship unquestionably arose gradually and only as mankind degenerated, and, forgetting the meaning of the symbols, at last came to worship them as gods. And as everything in nature was necessarily a symbol of some spiritual principle or mental process, so everything in nature became an object of worship. The classic Greeks in the days of their greatest culture had classified deities until it is said their altars numbered thirty thousand, one doubtless for every significant word in their language, and, not yet fully satisfied, an altar was erected To the unknown God.
We have, then, in these first chapters of Genesis not the theory of Moses or any other man as to the time when, or the manner and order in which, the natural universe was made, but the Divine Word of the Lord, in which is enshrined in the simplicity of the seeming natural history of the letter, His Divine love and wisdom as revealed to the ancient Church for its spiritual instruction, and for the instruction of the Church in all times.
It is, therefore, unnecessary to my purpose to repeat or to refute the many conflicting theories that have been advanced by late writers in their attempts to defend their theological dogmas from destruction by the deductions of modern science, or so to modify their theology as to reconcile it in some measure with such scientific truths as could neither be ignored nor denied. The simple truth is, that the narrative in Genesis was not given to teach men natural science. Its message is spiritual and was so understood by those who first received it, and it tells of natural things at all only because there is the relation of correspondence between spiritual phenomena and those of nature.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Whatever view we may take of the subject, it is equally evident that God created whatever is signified by the terms used, as He is the only Creator. And in the beginning not only means the original creation of material things, but the first motion to any process is in the beginning in reference to that subject. It applies in spiritual affairs to the commencement of mans regeneration, which everywhere in the Word is called a creation or a new creation, and is the real subject treated of in these ancient documents, as well as in innumerable passages throughout the Scriptures. If you will turn to the seventh verse of the forty-third chapter of Isaiah, you will find it written as the declaration of the Lord by the prophet, Every one that is called by my name, I have created him for my glory; I have formed him; yea, I have made him. This evidently does not mean physical creation, but regeneration, for to be called by the name of the Lord is to be recognized as imbued with His qualities, name in the Word everywhere meaning the qualities of the thing named; and man is created, formed, and made into the Divine likeness or quality only by the process of regeneration. The heaven and the earth so created does not mean the starry universe and the natural earth, but the internal and the external of man. This is susceptible of abundant and satisfactory proof from the Word, but I can only cite a very few of the passages. The human mind, as we have demonstrated in a former lecture, is the world in miniature, the whole universe and each portion of it corresponding to things or principles within the mind. The heaven and the earth, therefore, in the aggregate mean the human mind in the aggregate, the heavens the internal or spiritual man, and the earth the external or natural. Man is so constituted that in true order his internal or spiritual part holds communion with spiritual things, while his external holds like communion with natural things. But the earth here was without form and void. To be without form is to be destitute of truths, and to be void is to be destitute of good or charity, and this is the state of man before regeneration commences. The steps which follow in this and the next chapter, as we hope to show in other lectures, are the steps of the Divine process of creating this mental heaven and earth and what is in them until man arrives to the image and likeness of his Creator. It is this image and likeness or the Divine good and truth with man which constitute the kingdom of heaven within, and which constitute him a member of the Lords true Church, which is the Lords kingdom of heaven upon the earth. Because the heavens and the earth signify the human mind, and consequently the church and heaven; and because the Word in its internal sense treats not of natural things, but of men's minds, the Church, and spiritual things, and heaven; therefore the same phrase so often occurs in the Word, and always with the same meaning. Thus the Lord says, through the prophet Isaiah, Behold I create a new heaven and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. There is much said in various parts of the Word, of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Those who have been wholly unable to elevate their thoughts above merely sensuous ideas have supposed that the natural earth and the starry heavens or universe were to be destroyed and new ones to be created in their stead. But this childish idea is happily dying out of the Church. But if it does not mean this, what can it mean but a new state or condition of the human mind, or man restored again to the lost image and likeness of his Creator ? For the prophet, as the medium of the Lords declaration, immediately adds, Behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy. By Jerusalem is not meant the city of that name nor its natural inhabitants, but the Lords true Church, which is symbolized by Jerusalem, and was to be created a rejoicing, and her people a joy. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth; and repentance is the first step towards the ever-open gates of the new Jerusalem.
Again, the Lord says, through another prophet, I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of heaven were fled. It is plain that this does not refer primarily to the natural things named, but, like the same expressions in our text, it refers to that state of man and the Church in which the internal man, or heaven, had no truth or spiritual light, and the external no good or charity, and all the birds of heaven, or pure thoughts, had left men's minds. In this sad state it might well be added, as it is, I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, for true manhood is in the image and likeness of God.
In this state of mind the mental earth is not only without form and void, but, in very truth, darkness rests upon the face of the deep. By the deep, or sea, here, as in other places, is meant the knowledges in the human mind or the general memory. By water everywhere is signified truth or its perversion, which is falsehood. As the deep, or sea, is the general reservoir into which all waters are collected, and thence drawn up by evaporation to be by the clouds distributed over the earth to beautify, adorn, and make it fruitful, and to be again returned to the sea, so the faculty of the memory is the general reservoir for the reception and storing up of all the truths, or their perversions, which men acquire from every source, and from which they draw what serves them in the prosecution of their purposes. But when the things that the mind has so acquired and stored away are only evil and false, or chiefly so, then, indeed, spiritual darkness rests upon this sea or deep. For truth is spiritual light, and good or charity is spiritual heat; and when these are absent then indeed is this mental earth without form and void, the mental heaven without light, and the mental deep or sea, covered with darkness.
But even in this sad state the spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters. All may see that it is upon something of mans mind that the spirit of God moves lovingly to and fro, and that something is the simple truths and states of charity that are mingled with the evils and falses in the mass of waters, or his memory. For in the most abandoned and wicked there have been some faint perceptions of some forms of truth, and at least some states of kindness or charity. All these have gone into the sea, or general memory, and remain there, although they may have been apparently forgotten or denied in after-life. Were it not for this, regeneration would be wholly impossible, for out of absolute evil nothing good can ever be evolved. Unless there were some seeds of the good and the true in man his reformation could not begin. Whatever truths had been learned in infancy, childhood, and youth, and whatever states of kindness and affection had been then felt, are never wholly lost in this life. These are called tenths, tithes, remnants, and remains in the Word, and form a feature as prominent as the subject is interesting and important. But there is not time to go into the subject now. Simply, it is upon these “waters that the spirit of God moves or hovers, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings. So that in the darkest hour and most desperate deed that man commits, there sometimes comes up to his recollection the remembrance of one of these early truths or innocent states, and arrests his attention he knows not how. If he yields to the silent monitor and refrains from the evil deed, then God says, Let there be light, and there is light.
Man first sees light when he begins to perceive that goodness and truth are of a superior nature. In his natural state whatever he loves is to him good, and whatever favors the gratification of his loves is to him true. But he is in inverted order, and, as the prophet expresses it, he puts darkness for light and light for darkness, and evil for good and good for evil. In this state, although the light shineth, the darkness comprehendeth it not, and he loves darkness because his deeds are evil. But when these remains are called back to his consciousness he begins to see his evils, and this truth is light.
And God saw the light, that it was good. It is good, because it is from the Lord who alone is good. He is the way, the truth, and the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
And God divided the light from the darkness. This means that by the teaching of the Divine Word God enables man to begin to distinguish between these states of good, or charity, and the faint glimmerings of genuine truths which are in him as remains, and the self-love and sensuous lusts in which they are immersed and almost smothered. This perception of the higher nature of the good and true, this dividing of the light from the darkness, is the beginning of progress in the regenerate life.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. Yes; and He so calls them throughout His Divine Word. In it, by the term day, is nowhere meant merely the portion of time occupied by a revolution of the earth, nor has the term night merely a literal meaning in the Word. Both terms mean, not only here but throughout the Word, states of the minds of men and of the Church. Truth is light and light is day, while error is darkness and darkness is night. Hence, those who are imbued with truths are, as the Lord says, children of light and of the day, while those imbued with falses are the children of darkness and of the night.
And the evening and the morning were the first day. The evening always precedes the morning in spiritual processes, and because the Divine Word treats of spiritual processes and not primarily of natural things, therefore, throughout the Word, evening always precedes the morning. The reason is that evening symbolizes, and therefore in the Word means, a state of mental obscurity, of doubt, of darkness in spiritual things, just as the shadows of the natural evening obscure the natural vision and shut out the view of natural things. Whenever additional truths are received and accepted then it is morning to the mind. But the first state or evening necessarily continues until the opening of the next, and hence it requires the evening and the morning to constitute a full day, or to complete a spiritual state.
In this Divine composition are described the several states through which man passes in the regenerate life. I have tried as I could in a single lecture to give you a faint idea of the beauty and rationality of the internal meaning of the work of the first day of creation. But I am fully conscious of my inability to present it in a very clear light. It is so full, so infinite in its correspondences, that were whole volumes devoted to it the subject would still be like the stars in the heaven, which ever increase in numbers as the powers of the telescope are multiplied. And if the most sustained thought of the astronomer should start where the revelations of his telescope end, it must still come back wearied with the vain effort to reach the limits of the boundless universe of our Father in the heavens. So it is here. Man may bring all his resources of intellect, study, and culture to the elucidation of the text, and angels take up the theme where mans advancement terminates and pursue it to eternity, and like the starry heavens which symbolize it, its Divine wisdom would never be exhausted, and for the reason that it is Divine.