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. Gen. 1:2
We come now to the second verse of the opening chapter of the book of Genesis that introduces us to the conditions that serve as the basis from which the spiritual man is created and brought forth into existence. Remembering that the Text is a spiritual work or revelation whose contents is solely concerned with conveying spiritual realities, its subject is the creation of what is truly human through the regeneration of the human mind. This being the case it is important, particularly if we are to maintain a spiritual focus, that we remove our thinking from any associations the letter of the Text excites related to the creation of a material universe in space and time. This is not what is being described here, rather what the Lord is providing through His Word are insights into the inner processes and states of consciousness involved in bringing into existence a spiritual being called Man who is created male and female in the image and likeness of God.Read more
In verse two we have laid out before us the condition of every natural mind or man prior to its regeneration. Of this mind, we read that the earth was without form and void, and that darkness was upon the face of the deep. Every word is pregnant with meaning. Earth or “erets,” as it is called in the Hebrew Text, provides us with the natural image that corresponds to the mental earth or the external mind. We see that it is described as formless and void, which indicates that prior to its regeneration the external mind is devoid of what’s needed to give it a spiritual or celestial quality. The external mind, being natural, serves as a kind of ground, or the basis and foundation of which things of a spiritual and celestial origin can be planted and take root. So when the earth is said to be “without form,” what is meant, as it relates to the mental world, is that it has nothing of truth present within it while the state of being “void” means that there is nothing of good present.
The next statement describes the quality of the unregenerate self or person when viewed from a spiritual perspective in the light of what the Word teaches. This is said to be, “a deep or an abyss, upon the face of which is darkness.” When there is nothing of truth and good present in the mind, then evil and falsity invariably reign as the leading principles from which that person lives. This, of course, is not something acknowledged by those in whom evils and falsities reign, for in this state all regard their evils as goods and their false thinking as true, but regardless, this verse does describe the state of every mind prior to its regeneration by the Lord/Word whether this be acknowledged or not. The spiritual regeneration of the natural mind can only begin from an acknowledgment that what we call our self is nothing but evil and falsity and that the Lord alone is the source of all that is good and true. If this acknowledgment is genuine, a state of humility is induced through which truths and goods can be received. Without such an acknowledgment nothing can be received because the state of mind is such that it rejects anything that challenges its own authority to be the sole determiner of what is good and true. But the mind presented here in the Text is one disposed to making this acknowledgment, which can be seen in the statement that, “the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters.” The waters here are the preregenerative substance from which what is genuinely human, or a spiritual man can be called forth into existence by the creative activity of the Word.
The terms “formless and void” describe a state of non-existence, for to be without form means that there is nothing of truth, and to be void is meant there is nothing of goodness, and as it is truth and goodness that constitutes what is truly human, what is termed a spiritual man, their absence means that in the pre-regenerative phase nothing genuinely human or spiritual yet exists. We see then that the term human, strictly speaking, refers to truths and goods organised into the image and likeness of God or into the human form. This form, the human form, is the Divine form and, if the Scriptures are to be understood in terms of their application to the regeneration of the human mind, it must be realised that the human form is primarily a spiritual form, or an organised mental form made up of goods and truths from the Word that, through their practise, have been integrated into its life. From a spiritual perspective, no one is human due to their physical organisation, shape, or natural attributes. What exists on the physical plane as to human bodies merely represents the human form, the body is simply a physical extension that corresponds to the mind. And it is not until that mind has been made subject to the regenerative activity the Word, that what is commonly spoken of as a human being, a person, or self, is nothing but falsity and evil, which is to say that it is nothing but formless and void. To be regenerated, to be invested with goods and truths from the Word and to have these form the mind is what it means to become, human. Prior to its spiritual creation man is only human in potential, yet even this, as we shall see, is not a potential that exists in what is its own. Being void of good this pre-regenerative state, spiritually speaking, is void of life, i.e. it has no life in itself, for love, which is good by another name, is life, and life is solely a Divine quality, in other words, there is and can only ever be one life and that life is God.
So what is this pre-regenerative state? Can we give it a name? Well, if it is not life, it must its opposite, it must be death. If it is intrinsically without good or truth, being described as being without form and void then it can only be evil and falsity. And if this is what the preregenerate human self is, then it must be a form of hell, and if hell, then it is proprium. This is what “man” is in and of itself, it is quite literally all that is other than what God is, and therefore it is opposed to the Divine Love that is God. Here in this verse, this state of mind is called, ‘the deep’ or ‘abyss,’ upon the faces of which is darkness. This is the human proprium, or self, prior to the new birth that all must undertake to become a spiritual being. From the Arcana Coelestia, we see it described thus…
The “faces of the deep” are the cupidities of the unregenerate man, and the falsities thence originating, of which he wholly consists, and in which he is totally immersed. In this state, having no light, he is like a “deep” or something obscure and confused. AC 18.
To look into the abyss that is the proprium of man is to see nothing but darkness, for there is nothing in man, in and of himself i.e. apart from the Lord, that is not evil and false. Now, this state of evil arises out of believing the appearance, that man has life in itself, to be real. To believe that the feeling that life arises from ourselves means that we believe that we are in fact the source of that life, but this is directly contrary to what Divine revelation teaches. For there we find time and time again that the feeling of life, as something sourced in, and therefore intrinsic to one’s self, is merely an appearance, for as was stated a few moments ago, the Lord alone is the only Being that has life in Himself.
There are two things needed for the creation of the spiritual mind out of a natural mind that lacks anything good and true in itself. The first is self-consciousness or a sense of personhood, or that which can provide the experienced of having life-in-one’s-self. Having a sense of possessing life in oneself provides for the necessary conditions by which what is other than the Divine can, at least to itself, have a conscious sense of a separate existence. And while this sense of an independent autonomous self is but an appearance, it is one that is so fully and completely convincing, and necessarily so if regeneration is to be possible, that the abyss that is this proprium believes itself to be in possession of real qualities that give it actual substance and form. Believing that feeling of life within itself to be its own, those immersed in this proprial delusion of possessing an autonomous independent self are oblivious to the implications of this fallacious belief. For if true then it would mean that they would be Divine. This is the thick darkness from which all who are to be regenerated or spiritually recreated are called forth from. The essential mistake made in religion is that the self is being saved, where the truth of the matter is that we are actually being saved from what we mistakenly call our self.
The second thing needed if this call to life is to be responded to is something upon which the Spirit of God can work with within the mind. In our Text this is called, the waters upon the faces of which the Spirit of God moves. Without the presence of these waters all hope of a spiritual man ever coming into being would be lost, no one could be regenerated. These waters are what are of the Lord in man that are given to him as if they were his own and from that through which higher heavenly influences can be received in a way whereby the one receiving them can respond as if from themselves. This is necessary because what man is in itself, as to its proprium, is so antagonistic toward what is good and true he must be given the means for his regeneration in such a way that he believes that it is something he has within his own power to bring about. We see then that the appearance of a natural self is provided as a strictly provisional means whereby man can be brought into a new sense of self that is grounded in the Lord as the acknowledged source of its life. The processes of regeneration involve the casting off of the old self so that the new can be put on. The implications of this are clear, the process involves dying to who we think we are, of giving up our sense of person, or proprium. This is much more easily said than done, for that person, that sense of being an autonomous independent being that has its own life, is something we love above all else.
The Spirit of God moving upon the waters is the mercy of the Lord that inflows into the inmost part of the soul. It describes the constant attention given by the Lord to the spiritual wellbeing of all, by working to raise all who are caught in the hell of their proprial sense of person into what is higher so that they might receive a new self, created in the image and likeness of God. The Spirit of God is the Divine Truth that proceeds from the Lord that draws in, organises, and protects every sense impression, concept, idea, and affection that registers within the human mind, and to which good can be adjoined. These things form the waters or the means by which the Lord can regenerate the human mind. Because such things are essential to the processes of regeneration the Lord ensures they are stored up in the most internal regions of the external mind in preparation for when the mind becomes receptive to heavenly influences. When the mind is in a receptive state these waters, or remnants, or remains, are then able to provide what’s needed within the external man so that the Lord, along with higher heavenly influences, can be present and the process of regeneration begun. Here is the teaching on this from the Arcana Coelestia…
By the “Spirit of God” is meant the Lord’s mercy, which is said to “move” or “brood” as a hen broods over her eggs. The things over which it moves are such as the Lord has hidden and treasured up in man, which in the Word throughout are called remains or a remnant, consisting of the knowledges of the true and of the good, which never come into light or day, until external things are vastated. These knowledges are here called “the faces of the waters.” AC 19.
So in summary what we have described in this verse is the state of the external mind prior to its regeneration. It consists of three aspects, the earth which is said to be without form and void, the deep upon the faces of which is darkness, and the waters upon the faces of which the Spirit of God moves. By the earth is meant the external mind or man in general, a mind that has nothing of truth or good planted within it and therefore is described as being without form and void. By the deep is meant the proprium, or sense of self, our self-consciousness, or sense of person-hood, which is nothing but thick darkness or evil and falsity. By the waters is meant what Word refers to as the remains of good and truth, and these are those things through which the new spiritual creation called Man is brought into being. These remains, while in the natural are not of the person, for they are from the Lord and as such are that by which the Lord can be present in the mind. They are provided by the Lord so that the regeneration of the natural can take place and the salvation of the human race brought about. Without these remains, our salvation from the hell that is the proprial sense of self, or sense of natural personhood, would not be possible.
Finally, note what is created by the Lord and what is not. The Lord creates the heaven and earth, he does not create the waters or the Spirit of God, nor does he create the deep or the darkness. The heaven and earth form the new creation, the new man, both as to its internal (heaven or rational/spiritual aspect) and external (earth or sensual or scientific) dimensions. This new man is created from what the Lord has implanted and stored up within the interiors of the external mind. These are the remains of goods and truths, or the waters upon the faces of which the Spirit of God or the Word is moving. The deep along with the darkness describes the human proprium, or self-consciousness encased in a sense of personhood. This constitutes what is unregenerate, and because it is non-regenerate it is non-created, for the term creation, spiritually speaking, only applies to the work of regeneration. The sense of self-consciousness that exists prior to regeneration is an appearance and nothing more. It has no reality in itself and, being nothing but evil and falsity, it is without substance and form, and is in fact that which arises in the absence of good and truth. The Lord is not the source of what is evil or false. In short, the Lord does not create the new spiritual man from the proprium or from what is a person’s own, in fact there isn’t anything of what constitutes the personhood or self of the old man to be found in the new creation as is clear from the following…
Such a man (i.e. one who is unregenerate) also, when seen from heaven, appears like a black mass, destitute of vitality. The same expressions likewise in general involve the vastation of man, frequently spoken of by the Prophets, which precedes regeneration; for before man can know what is true, and be affected with what is good, there must be a removal of such things as hinder and resist their admission; thus the old man must needs die, before the new man can be conceived. AC 18.
To be continued…