Friday, June 27, 2008
Ein Sof - A Matter Of Semantics?
There is a well developed understanding in LDS theology that:
“There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes...” (D&C 131:7)
I wonder if our firmness in this teaching can prevent us from understanding a fuller understanding of this teaching? What I mean is if we out-of-hand reject the apostate teaching of "creatio ex nihilo" without understand the possible origins, we may be missing something.
Some of the so called “church fathers” of the first few century A.D. propagated the idea of “creatio ex nihilo”, meaning "creation out of nothing."
This topic has been hotly debated over the centuries, and laid to rest by Joseph Smith in the minds of many fine LDS folks. But a mind at rest is not always the sharpest. Theophilus, Justin Martyr, and Origen believed matter was pre-existant with God, while Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc. believed otherwise.
I submit that only a highly inspired mind could have seen beyond “creatio ex nihilo.” But to swing from there to a fundamentalist view that the mud of the universe always existed in it’s physical form, is an unnecessary swing.
Joseph Smith taught that matter “can not be created nor destroyed” but that it only changes form. In short, the prophet taught matter is simply stored energy (long before Einstein came to the same conclusion). And that matter is only one of the forms energy can take. The LDS view is often, in my opinion, mistakenly reduced to thinking the physical matter is used and reused, but I believe it is the eternal underlying energy that always existed (and perhaps eventually recycled), not necessarily the mud.
The bones of dinosaurs are not left over from other worlds, this is a silly, childish, and pedestrian view.
I further submit that much of the centuries of debate stem from misunderstanding the intent of words like “creation,” “beginning,” “matter,” and so on.
In ancient Hebrew thought they had the same problem. And in-fact I suspect it was their problem that spilled over to the “church fathers.” The Hebrew term “ein sof” is often thought of on one level to mean “nothingness,” a shapeless, lawless, non-physical, immaterial existence that God resided in prior to creation. It is from here that Irenaeus and Tertullian believed creation began.
But on another level, a fuller understanding of Hebrew thought resembled the prophet Joseph’s teaching that in Celestial spheres a highly organized being, a material being of “fine or pure” matter created our physical world. He is a being of light, intelligence, or energy. Where He lives is “ein sof” or the “Endless,” the “Eternal,” the “Boundless.”
That when He extended His arm downward it created the lower kingdoms of existence. The Cabalists describe this with the idea of the “sephirah” which create the Tree of Life (which is the pattern of creation and the path of return. The pattern of temple architecture).
When God extended a portion of His light into our sphere it created the big bang, or creation. That light carried with it all the laws of physics we now observe and experience.
So, was the creation from something or nothing?