"When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it." So begins the incomparably majestic Prologue to the Fourth Gospel. Indeed, at the beginning of the creation story in the Book of Genesis, when God created heaven and earth, when darkness covered the face of the abyss and God's Spirit hovered over the chaos, God said "Let there be light". The Word effected the primary creative act by the power of his Spirit. The light was the primary effulgence that heralded the creation of the cosmos out of the chaos. The uncreated light of God working through the Word contributes its essence to the creative act by which material light was then to illumine the universe as it differentiated into form, life and will.
The Word was the wisdom of God, which not only made the cosmos but was also bestowed on it so that God gave of himself unsparingly for the creation, growth and development of the world. While the Spirit gave life, the Word endowed that life with purpose, so that it could attain self-awareness, ultimately to choose to know the Creator by an act of unclouded will. The primary energy of God was love: he gave of himself unsparingly so that the void might become populated with creatures that could respond to that love and grow in awareness as they participated with joy in the act of creation. God's free self-giving was not undertaken so that he might experience self-awareness, since supreme awareness is the primary quality of the Deity; without awareness there can be no love. But until that awareness filled the cosmos, God's uncreated light could never fulfil its work of creation which finds its end in the illumination of all forms to attain integration and manifestation as beings in their own right. Love does not seek its own advantage; its joy is to share its essence with all who will receive it, and its end in the raising up of all that exists, so that all that is aware may partake of that love and enter the full experience of the Word.
The Word is so close to God, bound by love to the Creator, that it is compared with a Son to his Father. By the Word God's creative power is made known, available and accessible to all who will receive him, so that they may ultimately identify the Father by the Word. What the Word shows in the world is the nature of God in eternity, or, as we read in the Fourth Gospel, anyone who has seen the Son has seen the Father (John 14:9). The Word, though beyond finite form, is intimately involved in the world; he illuminates the reason of all living creatures that are capable of coherent thought and independent action. The purpose of the act of creation is that each creature capable of response may know God, approach him in joyous anticipation, and participate in the life of abundance that has no ending. In our small world it was the human who was created definitively in the divine image. He was given the supreme privilege of knowing God while in intimate communion with him, an experience common to the greatest mystics of all the religious traditions, and with this knowledge to grasp the divine will so as to assist God in the maintenance of the cosmic order. Creation and maintenance are part of the same activity; the work of creation will continue until the divine love has been fully sent out into the world, after which it will return to its Source, intensified by the rational creature, with all that its creative energies have effected.
When creation was accomplished, the love of God was evinced in the soul of each sentient creature by an inrush of joy. Conscious life brings joy with it, the categorical acceptance of independent existence and the emergence of the creature into an environment that is infinite in its potentiality for growth and understanding. Whatever is given love and is able to respond to that love, accepting it freely and without reserve, flows out in love to all around it, and manifests joy that brings the promise of fulfilment to all it touches. Thus Job, who complains so volubly about his afflictions, trivial as they are in the face of the living cosmos, is asked by God in the tremendous theophany that concludes the futile intellectual debate that precedes it, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? ... Who settled its dimensions? ... Who stretched his measuring-line over it? On what do its supporting pillars rest? Who set its corner-stone in place, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted aloud?" (38:4-7). They sang with the joy of creation and shouted praise to the supreme Creator. The Spirit gives life, while the Word informs the creature of the nature, meaning and end of that life. The Word, God's Son, is the effulgence of the divine splendour, the very stamp of God's being, and the sustainer of the entire universe (Hebrews 1:3). God's supreme gift to all his creatures is the knowledge of himself that he has implanted in them and among them. In this way they come to understand their origin in God and their end in union with him. This is indeed the supreme knowledge, not simply rational, let alone manipulative, but rather unitive in its thrust and transfiguring in its intensity.
But love is not merely unitive, it is also directive; it accepts us for what we are in order to direct us to what we are to become. Neither the acceptance of love in our present situation, nor openness to its onward impetus are spontaneous responses of the soul, let alone unconditional acts of will. We were all created in God's image, in so far as we have the ability to respond to the divine invitation and the power to follow the directive to fulfilment of life. But we are also unique creatures; the essence of that uniqueness is the capacity to follow our own inclination and choose what we believe is to our own ultimate advantage. In the creation story, our two primeval ancestors Adam and Eve choose the way of selfish advancement so that they can usurp, and finally replace, the divine prerogative with their own stamp of authority. At once the soul of these two human creatures sets itself up in competition with the divine source instead of in collaboration with it. In so doing they establish their own separate identity incontrovertibly in the face of a universe that assumes a neutral, and eventually hostile, disposition. But they sacrifice their intimate knowledge of God, who becomes merely one of a number of forces in an increasingly impersonal cosmos. This exclusion, willed and selfish as it is, from the divine source brings with it impermanence and death; life resides only in the power of the Holy Spirit who is progressively excluded from the environment of self-centred, grasping humans. As materialistic self interest grows, so does the knowledge of the Word, the understanding of the overall purpose of existence, recede until it is completely over-shadowed and occluded by the impenetrable darkness of incomprehension and meaninglessness. Life now assumes the character of a series of apparently unrelated events that punctuate time until decay and death close the scene.
And yet could the Creator have been unaware of the sequence of this cosmic tragedy? Though its participants are traditionally portrayed in human form, it is more than probable that their precursors inhabited the intermediate psychic realms as members of the vast angelic hosts of eternity by whom the Spirit of God is brought down to the physical dimension. We read in Isaiah 45:6-7; "I am the Lord, there is no other; I make the light, I create darkness, author alike of prosperity and trouble. I, the Lord, do all these things." That there is one primary source of all things, whether good or evil, is an article of belief in all monotheistic religion; it is not so much that God creates evil out of nothing as that he allows its emergence as part of his magnanimity. This is indeed a curious word to use in connection with demonic, destructive forces, but without their impingement on the psyche of all evolving creatures, there can be no growth. God, in his love, has enabled his creatures to grow into such self-knowledge that they can choose their own style of life to the end that they may come back to him as responsible adults and not as thoughtless, fickle children. Only thus can they bring back to him in heightened intensity the love that he has expended on them, or, as the Parable of the Talents would put it, "For the man who has will always be given more, till he has enough and to spare; and the man who has not will forfeit even what he has" (Matthew 25:29). God's greatest gift to us is his love; his greatest power implanted within us is the unimpeded action of the soul which is the free will. It could indeed be argued that, had our ancestors eschewed the selfish knowledge of good and evil and remained in unselfconscious union with God, they would have lived in an eternal paradise unaware of their privilege in much the same way as a loved infant takes the maternal breast for granted. It is only when he ceases to be dependent on his mother's constant attention and begins to live his own life, that the child learns that love bears its own responsibilities and requires a positive response.
Nevertheless, the law of separation from conscious union with God is death. All things of their own have a finite existence; only in union with the divine is eternity known. In this respect it is important to distinguish between eternity and immortality. Immortality describes an existence that knows no ending, as likely to be hellish as heavenly, whereas eternity is conscious union with God, a state that transcends time and brings with it a transformation of the creature so that it participates fully in the life of the Creator. When God consigned Adam and Eve to a finite span of life that ended in death, he once again showed his infinite compassion; for them to have continued in a state of separation from him forever would have been a punishment beyond endurance. Death, on the other hand, at its very least brings with it oblivion, whereas there is always the abiding hope of growth and development in supramundane spheres beyond our rational comprehension. And so the light of God which is the life of men shines on in the darkness of human ignorance, and an inextinguishable spark illuminates the way of even the most intransigent creature. The life-giving wisdom of the Word may be spurned amid the meretricious glitter of the attractions of the world, but a spark of divinity lies in the depth, or ground, of the soul. It does not consent to sin for its nature is divine, but it is like the lamentation heard in Ramah, and bitter weeping: Rachel weeping for her sons and refusing to be comforted because they are no more (Jeremiah 31:15-16). However, just as Rachel's children are eternally alive in the love of God even as she mourns for them, so the person who has submitted to sin and soiled his birthright with filth and loathing is still held in God's loving light by that very spark of divinity where the Word is imperishably printed.
In our small portion of the mighty cosmos it is a privilege to be born human, for we are thereby given the power to know God in conscious recognition, to work with him, and to penetrate the most intimate secrets of the creation. We can think the thoughts of God, but also have the power to use that knowledge selfishly for what we shortsightedly believe to be our own interests, or else we can give that knowledge to the world for its greater blessing. The first way leads us to death, a termination unforgettably indicated in the story of the Fall, whereas the second way shows us, as a glimpse, the resurrection of all forms in the eternal life of the Spirit. On a cosmic level we see the way of this truth in the words of St John's Gospel, "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life" (3:16). He goes on to observe that the Son came into the world not for its judgement but that it might be saved. It is this incarnation of the divine and its transformation of the cosmic order that is the subject of our meditation. In this respect the cosmos embraces the entire created universe, and the cosmic order includes all physical realms tangible to astronomical investigation as well as the intermediate psychic realms that are populated by the angelic hierarchy and the souls of the deceased. The cosmic Christ is the Word of God who is also his Son, who fashioned the universe when it was brought into existence out of the Chaos of non-existence, and who stands even more supremely as its ruler since the event of the resurrection of the incarnate Christ of human history.