Angels and Non-Physical Complexity

There are those who maintain that angels are a unique creation and are distinct from the human race. This needs to be given further thought, not just from what our faith teaches, but pondered with some scientific reasoning thrown in.

An interesting new science that is moving into the forefront of research deals with complexity—the emergence of complicated systems in nature. Complexity finds its ultimate expression in the structure of the human brain.

It is a big mystery to science why nature shows an incessant striving towards self-organization and complexity. Naturalism, which does not believe in a divine author, sees complexity as coming into existence from simple molecules, which in turn came from more simple fundamental particles, like atoms and quarks. This is called scientific reductionism.

Physicist David Bohm was one of the first to challenge the idea that things get simpler the deeper you probe nature. His version of quantum physics theorizes that elementary particles become increasingly more complex, and contain subtle inner structure. This would suggest that large systems acquire their complexity from prior or implicate orders of reality.

I find Bohm’s position suitable for theology. If God existed before the creation of the physical world, it would mean that infinite complexity was already established and functioning in a pre-space condition. Since God is infinitely alive, bio-structure started from infinite perfection and always existed.

It is easier to envision God as Infinite Love and Infinite Wisdom than equating these divine attributes to a corresponding level of bio-complexity. Furthermore, how does God’s ineffable organic structure exist abstracted from space, time, and matter?

Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg has offered the best explanation I have yet to come across. He claimed that fundamental substance was non-physical. Even more startling, this primal formative substance was LOVE, the causal agent and first principle of the universe. Love was God’s living substance and Wisdom was the Divine embodiment, or form love takes in all its expressions.

Therefore, complexity in the physical world emerged out of complexity from a non-physical world. That LOVE is the key to agency in the universe is evidenced by nature’s ongoing endeavor towards self-organization. With organization comes unity through utility. Unity through structure is an analog of love, because the very essence of love is to unite. Everything finds coherence by mutually serving some unifying purpose. This is unity through utility. Utility is also a derivative of love. It is a physical analog of goodness.

So what does all this have to do with angels? Angels are finite beings. Therefore, in spite of all their good will, their ideas are finite as well. Finite ideas cannot be formed outside of time and space (which is a problem in heaven).

All finite reasoning must come from ideas formed from living in a world of time and space. Living in a physical world allows a finite mind to detect distances and ratios between things and distinguish the past from the present. This is why Swedenborg maintained that all angelic beings were once a part of the human race.

God’s purpose in creation was to form a heaven from the human race. Of all earth’s creatures, humans have carved out a niche as an information-gatherer. We each take this information and internalize it. That is, we take ideas from the physical world and turn it into “us” through our subjective preferences and dispositions. If love is primal creative substance, then the values we choose in life will self-organize into the bio-complexity that reflects our true spirit or innermost life.

Without living in a physical world first, where there is time and space, angels would have had no lawful means for forming mental relationships and making distinctions. From learning physical relationships, the mind can then form ideas about non-physical relationships. For instance, a person who shares different values and opinions from ours becomes psychologically viewed as being “far” from us (no matter how physically close he or she may be). It is this change from physical standards of measurement to psycho-spiritual measurement that is needed for angels to discern relationships in the non-physical realm of heaven.

So, in God’s providential and ultimate scheme, when we depart from our physical bodies at the time of death, we will still retain our spiritual bio-complexity. This provides us with the proper organic vehicle to take our acquired ability to discern non-spatial and non-physical relationships with us into the other world.

I have left out many things that relate to this subject. Not everyone’s spiritual bio-complexity is properly formed for eternal life in heaven. I will touch on some of these additional topics in other posts and more completely in my next book, Proving God. I will announce on this blog when the book will be available.

About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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6 Responses to Angels and Non-Physical Complexity

  1. Bad says:

    “It is a big mystery to science why nature shows an incessant striving towards self-organization and complexity.”

    I would say that this is dead wrong. Some areas of the universe have ended up complex, primarily because they happened to hit upon certain “ratchet” mechanisms that led to particular sorts of patterned organization. And some natural forces tend to lead to particular patterns, such as gravity and QM leading to clumping, and hence stars, star systems, galaxies, and clusters and so on. But by and large, the universe is extremely chaotic, without any overall pattern of self-organization.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Bad,

    Thanks for the response. You have steered clear of brain organization and the even deeper realm of human consciousness where one’s ideas, values, and experiences become truly structured (non-physical complexity). This inner complexity is formed from our subjective preferences and values, which are all derivatives of LOVE.

    The purpose of religion is to extend the biosphere into a non-local and non-temporal realm. Religion calls this realm heaven. The tenets of religion directly address the interiority of humans and serves to guide the growth and organization of non-physical structure. Evolution is the exaltation of love and its directionality is towards goodness.

    But if you insist on focusing on the galactic universe I must remind you that scientists believe the universe is UNIFIED. This is why they are pulling their hair out trying to figure out how to unify Einstein’s relativity theory with quantum theory. They instinctively know that the universe can not be the outcome of two conflicting laws.

    Furthermore, physicists will admit that they do not understand gravitational order, that is, the thermodynamics of gravitating systems which tend towards growing structure spontaneously. Also, your claim that QM leads to clumping is not something that the Schrodinger equation can tackle. It is a mystery to science how the indeterminate laws of the micro-world give birth to the determinative properties of large systems.

    Whereas current physics believes in irreducible chance, I believe in irreducible order – going all the way to a God of infinite love and wisdom.

    Spiritually yours,

  3. enreal says:

    Thank you for enlightening me on “complexity” . Sounds fascinating… your essay was also saturated with interesting information. I have read Bohm, he was one of the physicists whose theories were referenced in Michael Talbot’s Holographic Universe. Great essay.

    p.s. interesting view on angels… finite beings? is it your view that only God can be infinite?
    been fascinated with angels my whole life… love them 🙂

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear enreal,

    Swedenborg is also mentioned in Michael Talbot’s book. If you would like to learn more about angels I suggest you get a copy of Swedenborg’s most famous work entitled, “Heaven and Hell.”

    Yes, angels are finite. Everything “created” is finite. God is uncreate and Infinite. My next book, “Proving God,” will provide many details concerning this topic, including the causal link and nexus between the Infinite and the finite – to show how God works in the temporal world.

    Spiritually yours,

  5. Bad says:

    With all due respect, I haven’t steered towards or away from anything. You stated that nature has an “incessant striving towards self-organization and complexity” and I pointed out that it’s not clear that it does at all. The fact that some parts are complex and that there are some mechanisms that create organization is not evidence that there is any such overall drive, let alone any teleological “striving.”

  6. thegodguy says:

    Dear Bad,

    You most certainly have STEERED in the direction of skepticism! But I guess psychical (non-physical) trajectories have no ontological status in your world-view.

    Your claim of their being no purposeful “striving” in the universe is not to be associated with science – but with scientism.

    Current physics falls way short of explaining the richness of the universe. In fact, their efforts to explain everything have created theories which can no longer be tested – like multidimensional string theory.

    A materialistic philosophy has yet to identify the true nature of agency in the universe.

    When one turns time backwards before the creation event, when the whole universe was squeezed into a condition with a perpetually shrinking radius, we end up with a singularity, where there is no time and space. Without time and space there are no PHYSICAL LAWS. Therefore, the special initial conditions of our prenatal universe must have consisted of non-spatial and non-temporal dynamics.

    There are serious researchers who are looking into the possibility that the physics ruling the universe on its most fundamental level comes from a “pregeometric” realm. There are also serious quantum physicists who promote a science based on CONSCIOUSNESS. This opens the door for non-material or spiritual dynamics within the conversation.

    I will be addressing these issues in my next book, “Proving God.”

    I don’t mind skeptics, but the idea that fundamental reality consists of irreducible chance has no real or rigorous scientific basis.

    Spiritually yours,

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