“All spiritual substances, that is to say, of angels, and human souls, and devils, were made by the Creator innocent and perfectly simple. The fact that some of them turned to evil was an after-effect of their free will. It was by their own choice that they departed from the right way of thinking. If we say that they were so made by the Creator, we say that God is un unjust judge for sending Satan to the fire.
“There are certain heretics who say that matter is without beginning, and that matter is the root, and that the root is power, and an evenly matched power. To this you may fairly reply, ‘Which then is the conquering power? Certainly that of God. Then the vanquished is no longer a match, either in duration or in power.’ Those who say that evil is a substantive thing, know nothing. To God there is no substantive evil, according to His divine freedom from passion; but in us it works with full force and makes itself felt, suggesting all foul concupiscences. It is not mixed up with us, however, as some say, like the mixture of wine with water; it is as corn by itself and tares by themselves, though both are in the same field, as in a house, the thief in one part, and the master in another.” ~St. Macarius the Egyptian
To me it seems contradictory to say “spiritual substances” since we generally think of substances as being material rather than spiritual. But it is also part of the definition of substance that it can mean the essence of a thing, or its fundamental characteristics. So I guess that if we use that definition, it is appropriate to call spiritual things, spiritual substances. Still, spiritual beings might be more appropriate. But for this post, we will stick with the terminology of St. Macarius.
Categories of Spiritual Substances
St. Macarius puts the spiritual substances into three categories: angels, souls, and devils. But like most other things, every member of a category is not equal or identical to all others. We know that in the case of angels, all religions have indicated that there is a hierarchy of these spiritual beings. The same is true of devils. For starters, there are the devils that used to be angels and dwelt in Heaven. Then there are the offspring of those devils who have never been to Heaven and are, therefore, lesser devils, but often more evil because they don’t remember what a life in Heaven was like. In addition to that, we can assume there is a complex hierarchy of devils and demons just as with the angels.
The third category is human souls. Here things are not so obvious. Is their a hierarchy of souls? Is one soul more important, or of a higher rank than another? I have heard of no evidence that there is. An awakened soul is better than a dormant one, but that isn’t a hierarchy. And we often here of “old souls” in spiritual groups found on social media. But since souls are spirits and spirits exist outside the limitations of time and space, no soul can claim to be any older than any other. Being spirits, souls were not born and they don’t die, they just are.
Evil and Free Will
St. Macarius says that God did not create evil. What he did create is free will. Why? Because in order for doing good to actually be good, it has to be done by choice. If you have no choice, no alternative, it isn’t truly good when you do it. God isn’t like Henry Ford saying “You can get a Ford in any color you want, as ling as it’s black”. God wants us to do good. But he wants us to do it by our choice. That is true of angels as well as humans. God created angels as divine spiritual beings, so they had free will just as He did. While we humans may have a more limited free will, we still have it. It is only because we have free will that we can do good or evil. If we had no choice, what we did would be always just neutral, neither good or bad. There are some foolish people who believe that is how it truly is, that there is no good or evil. The only ones who ever promote that belief are those on the side of evil.
Made by the Creator
Another source of confusion is regarding what God created and what he didn’t. Many think that because God is the creator, He must have created everything. That is simply not true. If God created a tree, and humans cut down that tree and build a house from it, God did not build the house, man did. Those who say it is still God, even if indirect are being foolish. That is like saying the home goods store is responsible if a crazy person uses a kitchen knife he bought there to kill someone.
What God did create is spirit. And he created all spirits, including human souls, in his image. What that means are two things. One, He created everything by forming an image of it in His mind. That is how creation works. Two, he created spirits that are much like Himself, if on a somewhat smaller scale. Smaller meaning less powerful since physical size has no meaning in the realms of spirit. So all spiritual substances are created by God, in His image. But if one of those spirits create something, that is not God’s creation. And that is what happened with the Great Fall that resulted in the creation of the universe of matter.
The Fallen Realm
The universe of matter is not a spiritual substance. It was, therefore, not created by God. It was created by the fallen angels, collectively known as the Demiurge in Gnostic scripture. Because it was not created by God, or even under his direction, it is flawed. Death exists in the physical realm. While there are some who insist there is no death, there is according to the definition of what we consider a living being in the physical sense. When your physical body dies, your spirit and soul may continue on eternally, depending on what you did to prepare for death. But on the physical level, you are still dead. On the physical level, you can get ill or injured, you can feel pain and suffer. None of those things happen in the spiritual world created by God. Those who complain, “Why did God create disease and pain?” don’t understand that such things DO NOT EXIST in the spiritual realms or among the spiritual substances created by God. If you want to complain about the evils of the physical realm, you should address your complaints to the Demiurge, the false god, not to the real God who created ONLY the spiritual substances or beings.