By Rev. William Woofenden
The first book of the Bible is "Genesis", which means "creation". It's a very, very ancient story - one of the oldest stories of humankind, and it's full of symbolic meaning that - still - gets to the core of what it is to be truly human.
The first three days of creation describe the development of the natural degree of man's life. They come first as a preparation for the opening of the spiritual degree of our minds. The creation of the grass, herbs, and trees took place on the third day, and constitutes the third step in regeneration. The creation of the fowl and fish was on the fifth day. Between these on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars were created.
From the beginning man had light, for all light is from the Lord, but it was not direct light. He was not at first in the clear light of the sun, moon, and stars, which are set in the firmament. The firmament is the internal man. There is a preparation that has to be made before the internal man is opened. At first we think we see the truth and do good from ourselves. Hence only inanimate things are produced. All truth and good are from the Lord who alone is truth and goodness, and only when we come to acknowledge this can we have true love from him, true faith in Him, and true knowledge of spiritual things. These are not seen from the external or natural degree of life.
Again we should note a change of language. It was said, "Let the earth bring forth" the grass, herb, and fruit trees. Now and through the remaining days it is said that "God created." Man has a part to play in his regeneration. There must be in his mind forms into which the warmth of love and the light of faith and of spiritual truths can flow.
When the mind is so prepared, influx from the Lord can be received, with greater power. "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." It should be noted that it is the waters that are commanded to bring forth the moving creature that hath life, and that it is not the seas but the waters which are to produce the living creatures. The seas represent the gathering together of knowledges, but by the "waters" are meant the spiritual truths in the mind. So in the Lord's words to the woman of Samaria, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:14). In Ezekiel it is the "waters" issuing from the sanctuary that give life (Ezekiel 47:1). The Psalmist writes, "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters" (Psalm 104:3). It is not in natural waters that the Lord lays the beams of His chambers. His chambers are the interior principles of His church; the beams give them support and strength. These are said to be laid in the waters because they rest and have their foundation in the genuine truths of the Word. So in Revelation the Word itself is described as a pure river of water of life.
The will faculty in man embraces all his affections and is the internal man. When the sun, moon, and stars—love, faith, and knowledges of spiritual truth—are set in this heaven and begin to impart their warmth and light to the external man, enabling him to think and act from these higher and purer principles, then the external man is gifted with a new life. There may be no apparent change in his outward conduct—he may already be living a moral life—but the motives that direct his acts will be wholly different. And it is the motive that gives character to the act as well as to the actor. He no longer thinks of the truths that he has learned, either natural or spiritual, as the product of his own mind nor of the good, that he does as the result of his own efforts, but thinks of them as wholly from the Lord, who alone is the source of all true light and life.
Before one recognizes clearly that all good and truth come from the Lord, he can bring forth only inanimate things, the grass, herb, and fruit tree, however good and useful these may be. But when he is enlightened by genuine love and faith, his knowledges become the basis for the development of spiritual life and God can create in him the living creatures that have life. First the fishes are created; then the fowl of the air. There is a difference between fishes and birds. The fishes, living in water, represent our affections for natural truths. The great whales, the largest of living creatures, are affections for the great general principles that control the mind. The principle may be either true or false. Of Pharaoh or Egypt it is written, "Thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou earnest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouled at their rivers" (Ezekiel 32:2) Here is pictured a ruling false principle from the natural degree of the mind — Egypt. That is, when the ruling principle is false, it will be a monster making the truths in the mind obscure like filthy or muddy waters.
Another example of the meaning of the whale in a bad sense is in the story of Jonah. When the principle is false it swallows up for a time all the truths that are in the mind. This is the whale swallowing Jonah the prophet. But Divine truth cannot be used by a false principle so as to become a part of its organic structure. Nor can the Divine truth perish. So the whale could not digest Jonah, nor could the prophet perish, but the whale vomited him up.
Spiritually there are whales trying to swallow prophets today, evil principles that try to use Divine truths to attain their ends. In the creation story, however, the whales are affections for the principles of natural truth for the sake of uses to the spiritual man. There is one source of genuine love. The creatures of the fifth day are living because they are animated by this love. Birds fly in the air above the earth. They have the power of flight and enjoy broader views. They represent affections for truth that rise above the natural. They are the thoughts that look at life from the heights of spiritual perception, ideas about the Lord, heaven, and spiritual things. Isaiah writes, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31). Birds represent spiritual intelligence, the power to lift us up to understand spiritual truth in heavenly light, through which truth the Lord can impart to us something of the Divine intelligence. So at the baptism of the Lord "The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him" (Matthew 3:16). So a new knowledge of heavenly life is given, a new perception of our possibilities, and in this higher intelligence a basis for further development is laid. This further development is pictured in the creation of the living creatures upon the earth. These are symbols of the affections. Here, too, it is said, "Let the earth bring forth" and also "And God made the beast of the earth." The creation of living animals on the earth and of man in the image and likeness of God marks the completion of the six days of creation—the six stages in regeneration. Man has first to learn what is to be believed and done and then to do it.
It is the office of the understanding to hear the Word and of the will to do it. In this way the truths are made our own, and the will and understanding make one mind. And when one begins to act from love as well as from faith, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image of God, and is given dominion over all things. Thus all things natural and spiritual come to be a delight to him and serviceable to him. To be an image and likeness of God one must act from impulses similar to those of God. This he cannot do until he comes into the final state of regeneration. Then he will not act from selfish motives, as does the natural man, nor from mere obedience to truth, but from love to the Lord and the neighbor. When these loves are developed and rule, to them is given the dominion over all subordinate affections and the fruits of all the growths of intelligence. These are what make man to be a man and cause him to be in the image and likeness of his Maker. Each step in the formation of a truly human character the Lord saw and pronounced good, but of the work of the sixth day it is said, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."