Spirit in Matter
Hebrews 11:3
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…

The whole order of the natural world and man's physical being may be said to be the expression of chemical combination, and of the various forces resulting therefrom. The whole is presented to us, after scientific examination, as a most elaborate and exquisite piece of mechanism. Some would also explain man's mental and moral life as only a higher development of this same mechanism. To prevent misunderstanding, I may state that, while I am willing to admit that these higher parts of man's life are affected by, and partly dependent upon, this mechanism of things, it seems to me certain that the phenomena of human life require us to believe that there is, over and above that which is mechanical, a "free spirit." What I seek at present is a common ground with scientists, from which to start in an inquiry; and that I find in admitting the mechanism of all physical being. This mechanical and orderly system of being is generally known as the material world. All parts of the universe are in an intimate relation with each other. This relation is commonly conceived of as government by laws. There are, for example, what are termed the laws of gravitation and magnetic attraction, and the laws of combining proportion. Now, it is necessary to keep before us the strictly scientific idea of the laws of nature; that they are in fact nothing more than the observed mode of action of the forces in nature. They have no real existence of themselves, apart, that is, from the things in which they are observed. For example, there is, so far as science teaches, no material bond between the stone and the earth which are attracted to each other; no link like a string reaching from the one to the other. The stone is not drawn by an elastic-like band which connects it with the earth; but something in the inner nature of the matter causes them to approach. The same is true of magnetic attraction, and also of chemical affinity. So far we have kept strictly to the results of science. It is now that we proceed a step further by inference from what science has taught explicitly to something which its teaching implies. We find that the stone and the earth, the magnet and the iron, and also chemical atoms, enter into those relations which result from attraction or affinity only by reason of what is in them. What, then, is in them by which they can do these things? The earth attracts the stone which has been thrown a distance from it, and the stone, instead of continuing to ascend, comes back of itself towards the earth. This attraction is because the stone is affected by the earth, by a body of matter which is in a certain direction. The effect of the earth's presence is sufficient to direct the stone to itself; i.e., the earth so affects the inner state of the stone that it is sensible of an attraction of a certain degree and in a particular direction. It knows it is attracted, and its movement is the result of that consciousness. And it knows in what direction it is attracted, and so takes the right path. The phenomena of gravitation and magnetism evidence therefore a degree of conscious life in matter. But the most comprehensive and fundamental kind of attraction is chemical affinity, since all material organisation is built up from it. And it is also the most wonderful, and even skilful, in operation. The atoms which combine by affinity to form water must have a sense of affinity sufficient to cause them to unite; they must be aware of the effect upon them of the other's presence, or they would remain unmoved. And so with all chemical combinations, both of atoms and molecules; they must have a degree of consciousness to enter into union, to remain in union, and also to allow them to be disunited chemically. The action and reaction of all parts of the physical universe, because it is from the inner states of matter, necessitates the existence of a certain measure and kind of consciousness and intelligence in all matter. We have thus crossed the boundary into a spiritual sphere; but we must advance yet further. That these inner states of atoms, which we find to be conscious states, are not separate and independent of each other, science shows most clearly. All atoms of any given element act exactly alike and are affected exactly alike. There is then one conscious mind in each kind of element. But to go another step" we observe in the chemical combinations of various elements that they have all an inner relation to each other, according to which each element is affected, and affected in one particular way, by its combinations with others. There is, in other words, a necessity in the relations of all chemical elements to each other — a necessity which is the ruling of their inner states. All these inner states and their movements and combinations are in some sort Of unity. And as it is the unity of conscious being in manifoldness, there is a large consciousness which is inclusive of all. But we must examine these atoms a little closer. What they are we have seen to some extent. Can we find out more about them? Can we discover their origin? We are informed that atoms — all atoms — are vortices of ether. Ether is something which pervades all space and permeates all things. It is, and yet is itself non-phenomenal — it has none of the properties of matter. It is therefore the invisible substans, or that which stands under all atomic being as its cause and foundation. It is a living entity, with consciousness and will, and the power to create out of itself an order of life different from itself. Here we come to the fact of spiritual Being as the basis and origin of the vast mechanism of nature; for mechanism never makes mind, but always proceeds from mind. And yet we do not say that ether is God, or that God is ether; but we say that it is essential to those functions which ether is credited with, that it shall be pervaded by that living and moving consciousness which demands the idea of God. We see, then, how science permits us, and indeed requires us, to believe that "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear"; and that the position to which faith leads us is borne out by the facts of science — that "the worlds were framed by the word of God." "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," is still, and ever will be, true for us; as also that " He upholdeth all things by the word of His power." His works rivet our gaze and excite our wonder; yet not they, but He is the object of our worship and our chief good. Before Him, higher than all creation, yet present in all, so that He is not far from any one of us — before Him we bow in deep adoration.

(R. Vaughan, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

WEB: By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible.

Of the Work of Creation
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