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On the Creation of the Universe: Before the Creation, There Was Nothing But God

Continuing in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, III, 2:

Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27)  And of what do I speak to you, O Lord? By where can I better begin to speak with you than the place where you began to speak to men? I open your Scripture and I find first these words: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) I do not find that God who has created all things, had need like a vulgar worker to find a material prepared with which he worked and from which he made his workmanship.  But only having the need to act from his own power, he made all of his workmanship.  He is not a simple maker of forms and figures in a pre-existent material: he made the material and the form, that is to say his work is entire.  Otherwise his work would not owe him everything, and basically it would be independent of its worker.  But there is no worker so perfect as God.  He who is the form of forms and the act of acts, he made all according to who he is, and as much as he is, that is to say, as he made the form, he made also that which was capable of being formed, because the same was something which could not be formed by itself, neither could it be formable from itself.

It is why I read here in your always true Scripture: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was useless, unformed, void, invisible, confused, and the shadows covered the face of the abyss which was the sea.  And the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit in figure, according to the first meaning of the letter, a wind, an air which God agitated, was carried on the waters, or placed on them.  See this confused material, without order, without arrangement, without distinct form.  See this chaos, this confusion, of which the tradition is kept in the human kind and is seen in the most ancient Poets.  Because it is that which should be called shadows, this immense abyss which covered the earth, this confusing mix of all things, this lack of form, if one can speak in this way, of the void and sterile earth.  But at the same time, all of this was not without beginning, all of this was created by God.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  This spirit, this shadowy air which carried itself on the waters, came from God, and was only made and agitated by his hand.  In one word, all this mass, as much as we understand, was nevertheless his creature, the beginning and the outline, but always from the same hand as his great work.

O God, what was the ignorance of the wise of the world, who were called Philosophers? Having believed that You, perfect architect of the universe, absolute former of all that is, you found under your hands a material which was co-eternal with you: unformed nevertheless and waiting for your perfection.  Blind ones! Who has not heard that, to be capable of forms, there is already a form; that is some perfection that is capable of perfection; and if the material had from itself this beginning of perfection and form, it would have soon had the entire work done.

Blind and the leaders of the blind, who fall off the cliff and take those with them who follow! Tell me, who has subjugated God to that which he has not done, he who is himself also well as God, he who is independently the same as God? By where has he found taken that which is foreign and independent of his power?  By what art or by what power is he submitted? How is he taken to be moved? Or if he moves of himself, then confusedly and irregularly as one would imagine in the chaos, how will he give order to these movements, he who does not give moving force? This indomitable nature would escape from his hands; and, never imparted in its entirety, she cannot be formed in its entirety according to the power and the art of her maker.  But what after all is this material, so perfect that she has from herself the essence of her being and so imperfect that she awaits the perfection of another?  Her adorning and her perfection are only an accident, because she is eternally unformed.  God will have made the accident and not have made the substance? Will God have made the arrangement of letters which make up words and not have made the letters to be able to be arranged?  O chaos and confusion in the spirits, more than in this material and these movements which one imagines to be eternally irregular and confused! This chaos, this error, this blindness is still in all spirits, and it is not dissipated except by these words: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and by this: God saw everything he had made and they were very good, because he alone made them in all goodness: all goodness, in one blow, and not only perfection in the end but also at the beginning.


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