The Ideal and the Actual Universe

The cause of the creation of the world is God, the Ancient of days, eternal and ever-continuing the same, both ageless and unchangeable. The world, therefore, is dependent upon certain conditions and does not exist without them, unlike God. It depends upon the creative will of God who made it and placed it together, who maintains and governs it. The world, as the product of a nature dependent upon certain conditions, had a beginning of existence which is found in the instant of its creation, the moment when God resolved to create and to give existence, which God from all eternity thought of in Himself as existing, but which did not yet exist eternally outside Himself.

Before the world received its origin and existence outside God, it was non-existent non-being outside God. And God was without any handiwork or creation, although He is eternal and unchangeable. It existed, however, in the mind of God as a thought and as a plan, but it was without substance (hypostasis) or actual existence. The world, in the mind of God, was ideal and existed as a plan, but not as an actual fact. It was a design capable of conversion into fact in time. The possibility of conversion into fact depends upon the will of God. God desired to make the world, and He did so. But had He so willed, He could have declined to create it. Herein lay the likelihood and possibility of the existence of the world, or of the product of creation.

God, as perfect intelligence possessed of equally perfect Logos and Spirit, in His Logos and Spirit thinks of everything that may receive existence, be developed and perfected and attain its destiny. The world is one gigantic and amazing work, and with a loud, clear voice bears witness to the fact that He who made it is an all-wise, all-powerful intelligence, and that it is the handiwork of supreme wisdom and power.

The world is a multitude of beings, of beings set in order and provided with purpose. Each of these beings, as well as all considered together, aims at a final goal. These goals are pursued in ways which correspond to the resources of each of them. We find goals, targets, and means in each being, as well as in the whole world. Hence we infer that the world came into being according to a carefully considered plan which a finite intelligence could not have conceived, nor could limited power have put into practice.

In the plan for the world, the all-wise Mind thought of all the beings that could exist, the nature of all these beings, their composition and strength, their relationships and connections, their destiny, and the appropriate means whereby they may attain it successfully. This plan has been considered carefully because it is a plan of reason; it is a product of the Logos. The world is His work as it comes into being in time.

On the one hand, in the thoughts of God we find the eternal plan of creation; we find the eternal existence of the ideal world. On the other hand, outside God. we find the world when created according to the plan in His mind as His handiwork and creation, perfect and in harmony in every way with the plan in God’s mind, with the ideal world in God’s thoughts.

The ideal world exists in the mind of God as an eternal world. When this comes into being, it becomes an actual world, a work of creation, and an exterior act by God. This work is derived from God’s free will and is dependent upon His will in that it is its handiwork and creation. The ideal world which has eternal existence within God is given external existence through creation-through the activity and action of God by which He makes the non-existent exist, by which He puts the idea into practice and gives it reality.

But consider the important steps which lie between the eternal existence of the ideal world in the mind of God, and its creation and coming into being! The ideal, insubstantial (non­hypostatic) existence of the world in the mind of God is the first step. After this comes the decision to create and to give reality to the ideal world which still does not actually exist outside God. Then the decision becomes action. It is accomplished. The second step is the fulfillment of God’s decision to make and create the world according to the best and most excellent plan in His intellect, according to the eternal ideas in His mind. After this comes the implementation and enactment or bringing into being and creation.

We think, we decide, we bring to pass. These are the three stages on the path through which the creation of the world passes until it becomes a fait accompli. The first two stages are within God; they are interior. The third stage is exterior, because it occurs outside God. Therefore, the creation of the world is an occurrence which proceeds from an all-wise intelligence and an almighty, benevolent will.

Cognition concerning what is to come into existence is the birth and development of its ideal form. The decision to give reality to what is yet non-existent, but merely thought of as being able to exist, is the steadfast, determined volition to bring what has been conceived into being. The positive action that follows the decision is the implementation of the decision; it is the conversion of the ideal world which the will of God determined to create and establish outside itself, into fact. Therefore, creation is bringing into being and conversion into fact, of the plan and ideal world that exist eternally in the mind of God.

God thought; God decided; God created. These three statements direct attention to the three operations of God. Two of them are interior and eternal, while the last is exterior and temporal. God directed His thoughts to the non-existent. He thought of the ideal world as actual. He conceived the whole plan of the world and of creation in all the stages of its development. He foresaw the sum total of beings, their nature, goal, and means of attaining the goal. In His mind He envisaged the whole organization and mechanism of the universe. He pictured to Himself the beginning, the end, and the progress of all beings even before they came into existence.

Just contemplate the thoughts of God! How great! How deep the ocean of God’s mind! In God’s mind all things are numbered even before they come into being. In the thoughts of the heavenly Father lies hidden the great mystery of the universe. This mystery is revealed to us in time and through time, and in it we are initiated and learn the will of God, and its manifestation and realization through creation.

God decided that He would create and give being to the non-existent, which in His mind was thought of as existing. He decided to make the ideal world actual outside Himself. He decided to make what was in His mind eternally, a being and a fact outside Himself. His decision, being steadfast, un­changeable, and unaltered, was followed by the performance and realization of what was thought in His mind and decided in His will. It is the special character of a perfect intellect to think correct and perfect thoughts, and so it is the character of a perfect will and determination to abide by its decisions firmly and steadfastly.

God not only decided, but also created and brought to fulfillment all that He thought of and decided. He made the whole world according to the plan which His infinite wisdom conceived. He created the beings, and for each He appointed both a goal suitable for its nature, and the means suitable for its goal. He created each separate being and the whole taken together, for an end. He empowered them to fulfill and achieve that end. Consequently, it is the special character of perfect power to have the might and the ability to give being to the non-existent.

The world as it exists is the work of a perfect intellect and a perfect will possessing perfect might and perfect ability. If it is admitted that God, even before the world came into being, thought of it as existing, it may be concluded that He also could make this non-existent exist. That is because perfect intelligence entails perfect might and complete wisdom implies almighty power, for where there are wisdom and knowledge, there also are might and power.

The world is the handiwork and creation of God, and lies outside the being and nature of God. It is the handiwork of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Father or perfect intellect because it received existence from Him and possesses it even now, though it is not of the same essence as that of the perfect intellect.

It is the work of the Son or Logos because it came into being according to a carefully reasoned plan, and not without purpose or haphazardly. It is the work of the Logos because it came into being through Him, as St. John the Theologian stated, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). It is the work of the Spirit also, because it came into being through His power, and by this power it is held together and maintained. Consequently, the world is the work of God, the one in three, or Holy Trinity.

As the handiwork and creation of God, the world is an icon. It represents its author and creator. It is complete and perfect, because in the world there is nothing superfluous, nor anything lacking. For God created efficiently that which was necessary – many beings, of various abilities and orders – but all able to help forward the goal of the world’s creation, with nothing superfluous, nothing lacking. Excess and scarcity are evidence of imperfection in intelligence and lack of power. If either scarcity or excess existed in the world, it would be a sign that the maker did not have sufficient intelligence and power to conceive of perfection which excludes both excess and scarcity.

When we say that the world was made perfect, we understand that it received and still possesses a structure well adapted to its destiny, as well as suitable means for attaining this destiny. We understand that the world was made as it was necessary for it to be made, and in harmony with the plan which in eternity God had in His mind for it. All that was made and had its origin from God and was not used for the creation of the world, is called matter. This matter, however, when it has been put in order and fashioned, is called world. The origin of matter is called creation or coming into being, and after this comes the creation of the world.

When God fulfilled His decision to bring the ideal world into being and make it actual, He proceeded step by step, in order. Firstly, He caused being. Secondly, He created the world. Thirdly, He maintains the world. Consequently, three activities of God in relation to the world may be distinguished:

  1. The production of being;
  2. The creation of the world;
  3. The control and maintenance of the world.

In the first of God’s activities, the production of being, matter is created and given being, and from it spring all beings. This matter contains everything that may exist and be born in the world. Thus to begin, God does not create beings and bodies, but matter, and from this matter, all these may come into being and exist.

An architect who intends to build a magnificent house or a royal palace according to a plan in his mind, first collects all the building materials for an exact estimate of what will be used in the building. So also, the architect of the world, God Himself, who intends to make the world according to a carefully planned thought in His mind, creates and produces the matter from the non-existent by the power He possesses. Out of this matter, when it has been brought into existence, He makes the world by giving kind, character, and form to the disorganized, shapeless matter.

Consequently, it is in the first of God’s movements and actions toward creation that we find the origin of the matter of the world, without kind, form, or beauty. This is the reason for which Holy Scripture declares that the earth, the matter of the world before it was organized and marshalled without friction in an orderly fashion, was invisible and without form: ” … Darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the water” (Genesis 1:2; LXX).

The matter was invisible, because in the beginning it was transparent and rarefied, but in time it became an organized whole, arranged as it appears today. It also was without form, because it did not have the form of the world. The things in it were not yet in order, nor did they have a regular formation such as they were given in the second activity of God, His action of creating the world. It still was unfashioned and shapeless, not having the kind and form of the world which it received later.

This matter incorporated the substances (hypostases) and particles of a single nature ready for the composition of bodies and the foundation of the whole world and of each individual being. Out of this matter all the world was to be made, heavenly and earthly, spiritual, natural, and moral. Single units of atoms as well as a multitude, the sum total of particles, in fact, were present in the matter of the world when it was made, and out of it were to come beings, bodies, and a whole world of essences. Nothing too much, nothing too little existed in the matter, only what was to be of service for the foundation and orderly arrangement of the world from its beginning to its end.

This is the special quality of an all-wise intelligence that knows all, and knows the composition of each being, its goal, and the means of attaining it. This is no less than a miracle. Not only were the substances (hypostases) of all other beings then brought into being, but man’s substance also. It already was in the matter which was given being by God.

Consequently, whatever is born and comes into the world, is not created now, nor does it receive its existence now, but only its nature through the law of birth by which it makes its appearance in the world of visible creatures. Hence our existence dates not from our birth, but from the creation of primordial matter. For therein, unconscious, inert, as single particles of matter, even our substances (hypostases) dwelt, and later through birth assumed their nature and appeared in the world as individual existences, as souls united with bodies and spirits.

Therefore, let all men recognize and acknowledge how truly marvelous are the great wisdom and power of God. The heavenly Father knew of all that could be born and exist. He created everything that was to be useful for His purposes and plans. The one exception is evil, for almighty God, good both by nature and in will, did not create evil, nor could He have created it.

The ideal world in the mind of God becomes the actual world. It receives existence and substance (hypostasis) by the action of God in causing being in the beginning as matter, and subsequently becomes the world by His action of creating the world.

The preceding thoughts and observations are formulated and expressed in the following diagram:

The ideal world, found eternally in the perfect and limitless mind of God, is given being in time and outside of God, by His own omnipotent power. In the beginning it was as matter, without form or kind, but it nonetheless was available and suitable for creation of the world according to the law of progress from the less perfect to the more perfect.

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