After the primordial matter of the world was created by God and was shapeless, without form, and unfinished, it remained so until the time when God spread over it His special activity for fashioning and creating the world. For when everything that the beneficent will of God could create as the product of its workmanship, had been made out of the nonexistent by God’s activity in causing being, the activity of God in causing being gave place to the revelation of another activity of God, that of creating the world.
The special characteristic of this activity is the forming and fashioning of the unformed and the shapeless, and the giving of quality and form to the formless and shapeless matter of the world. By His activity in causing being, God made matter, the matter of the world, and gave it a nature that reflects and displays His own nature.
God could not have made a work of His hands unworthy of His character and nature. When God Himself is eternal, allwise, almighty, and all-good, how could He who caused being and produced the matter of the world from nothing, make it susceptible to destruction and annihilation, perishable, and capable of reduction to non-existence? How could the imperishable God have made perishable matter? How could the everlasting God have made perishable matter in order to tum it back again into something without being, to non-existence?
Such a notion makes nonsense of the concept of an everlasting God, of an all-wise, almighty, and all-good God. For neither the complete wisdom nor the full power or goodness of God, permit this accusation at the time of the coming into being out of what was non-existent. Therefore, the primordial matter of the world has the nature of eternity, in order to remain in existence forever, without being reduced to nothing. It has the nature of incorruptibility and immutability. In fact, it came into being in order to become incorruptible and remain in existence forever, and never to be subject to decay.
Thus the fundamental nature of what comes into being is one of incorruption and eternity, so that what has been created and come into being may remain eternal and incorruptible. This is the nature that God gave to the work of His hands and grants to all His works, for God who is incorruptible, never creates a work that is perishable. The eternal God never creates a work that is short-lived, an impermanent work of creation. God’s handiwork bears the seal of incorruptibility and eternity, and by this it is known to be the work of God.
What is the purpose of the creation of matter? The purpose is revealed by the activity of God in creating the world, which followed His activity in causing being. The purpose of the creation of matter is the utilization by and the creation from it, of many beings and essences – the creation of a world that reflects the majesty of God and bears unequivocal witness to the sublime nature and power of its creator and to His honour and glory.
Matter has not been brought into existence in order to remain always formless and shapeless, but so that it might take form and kind, and that out of it might arise the world of many diverse beings according to the carefully formulated plan for the creation of the world, the plan in the mind of God. When God, by His activity in causing being, produced the matter of the world, the matter for every being and every creature, He proceeded to the fashioning of what comes to birth and to the skillful construction of the world and of the beings in it according to the law of progress. This is the law of movement forward from the less perfect to the more perfect, which God ordained as the all-embracing law in the development and perfecting of every being and creature.
The second activity of God, when matter was given being, is the activity of creating the world, the work of fashioning and shaping. By it, every substance (hypostasis) of being receives form and kind, and is distinguished from every other substance (hypostasis) by an individual characteristic which it receives at its formation. During the period when God is giving form and kind to matter, dividing beings into classes by their individual characteristics and placing each in its own category or department, He is not creating or causing being. Whatever is useful for the creation and establishment of the world, was given being once and for all, and has come into existence by His power.
If God’s work of creating the world were compared with His work of causing being, it would appear far superior in worth, just as wisdom is superior to power. Just as in the manufacture of being the amazing power of God is predominant, so in the creation of the world the amazing wisdom of God is predominant. For the wisdom of God has knowledge of the nature of all beings, and placed in each of them the nature that is best for the destiny for which it came into being. Nevertheless, both activities of God contributed to the producing of creation as it came into being and as it is – one by giving being to the world, the other by fashioning it.
From the time when God caused matter to exist until He set it in order and gave it form, He proceeded in obedience to the law which He observes in all His works, in the spheres of nature and morality. This law of God is the creation of every work of His hands so that each work has a nature and a destiny. God creates first the less perfect and then the more perfect; the work of God that comes into being lastly, is the most perfect. He bestows upon each being a nature that is suitable for its destiny, and in doing this He begins from the most imperfect being, the one that has the humblest destiny in creation.
This law is also the law of orderly arrangement by which, of necessity, the inferior becomes the foundation for the superior, and progresses to the existence of that being after whose creation God makes nothing more in creation. This law which God applied, and still applies in all His works, is a law of progress, of gradual development and perfection of His works. According to it, God moves from the imperfect to the more perfect, from the small to the great, from unimportant to noteworthy and momentous works. The world of matter, as the inferior, precedes the world of beings, which is superior.
Matter possesses imperfect being; the world of beings possesses more perfect being. Hence, because it is superior, God’s activity in creating the world follows the activity of causing being, which is inferior. Yet both are necessary for the creation of the world, since both the matter and the kind or form are equally necessary for the creation of the world. Each has its position in the plan of God – first the one, and then the other.
Matter is one, of one and the self-same nature, destined for the creation of the world of beings and essences according to the will and plan of the creator. God intends to fashion from it a multitude of beings according to the law of orderly arrangement and progress. He begins with the imperfect and proceeds to the more perfect, even as far as the creation of that being for whose sake He created everything, and who was destined to reflect and represent perfectly God Himself in creation.
Matter is without form, possessing neither kind nor form, but it was destined to become visible by means of its kind and form. It was destined to be given kind and form, and it was intended that the ultimate aim of its creation should be made intelligible. Its purpose was to supply God, as He fashioned beings, with the substances (hypostases) of the beings and the means for putting together each separate being, as well as the sum total of all beings of which the entire world is comprised.
Nevertheless, God had in His thoughts the kind and form of each being, and He took the being from the shapeless matter that was brought into existence by His power. Then He fashioned it and placed it in its proper order, distinguishing it from other beings by a special characteristic of its own. When God created the world of beings, He did not create the existence of their beings, but only their kind. He laboured with the fashioning of beings, giving them form and kind. This kind is the concept which God had in His mind for each of the beings. By it He shaped and fashioned the formless matter just as the potter shapes and fashions the clay, or the sculptor the statue, according to the pattern for the work of art which he has in his mind.
The law of the formation of matter is the law governing the creation of beings and their setting in order as they have been placed according to function and routine, and according to the goal that befits them. This law is the law of the orderly arrangement of races and kinds, the law by which unadorned matter dons a splendid garment. By it, it takes its nature and appears possessed of beauty, form, and splendour. By it, at creation, all beings are endowed with the position, movement, activity, and life that are most suitable for each of them.
As it rises from the darkness, shapeless matter appears in the light wearing the mantle of the beautiful world. It becomes visible and gladdens the eye that beholds it with its brilliant phenomena, movement, activity, and life. From suspended animation it is promoted to movement, from immobility and inertia to activity, from lack of feeling to feeling, from lack of life to life, from ignorance to knowledge.
Hence we see movement, activity, feeling, life, consciousness, and knowledge – all appear at creation as a garment with which God clothes the immobile, lifeless, and insensible matter. Thus He makes it the sum total of beings which move, do their work, increase, live, feel, and think – in fact, the world operating by rule and with a goal toward which it may develop and progress.
By the law which governs the fashioning of matter, God moves on to raise it from inertia to activity, from immobility to movement, from stagnation to growth, from insensitivity to life and feeling, and from ignorance to consciousness and knowledge. Wherefore, to the inert He gives activity; to the motionless, movement; to the static, growth; to the unfeeling, feeling and life; and to the unthinking, conscious thought. All of this occurs according to the law governing the progress and perfection of beings, which is expressed in the following diagram:
Another diagram may be utilized to illustrate the movement forward by the law which governs the progress and perfection of beings:
If we also apply the law by which God proceeds from the formation of imperfect beings to the formation of those more perfect, we may express it thusly:
Hence beings are moving, active, growing, living, and thinking. All beings are moving, because everything in the world moves. Some move by themselves and are self-moving or self-propelling, while others require foreign stimulus and are incapable of movement by themselves. The active ones are those that have the special quality of doing something. Those beings that grow are those that are susceptible to growth. Those that experience joy and pain are the sensitive ones. The thinkers are those who have intelligence, because by intelligence they learn and possess knowledge.
Movement is a quality that is common to all beings. The same is true of activity. Here, too, are found two kinds of activity: self-motivated activity and activity which stems from an outside stimulus. Consequently, some beings are active on their own initiative, such as man and animals, while others need an outside stimulus for their activity, as a knife or a hammer, because they function only with the aid of a cutter or striker, or someone performing something with them.
Growth is a quality peculiar to those who make what they do not have, their own, by the power of growth or increase which they possess, as is the case with plants and animals. Feeling is a quality of living creatures, and where there is life, there is also feeling. Conscious thought is the quality of man and of the angelic world. The world of angels will be discussed hereafter in the examination of the law of the formation and orderly arrangement of matter, relative to the formation of the spiritual, natural, and moral worlds.