Suddenly God-or the demiurge- has entered the conversation! The exciting thing about running this blog-post is I have ideas as to where I might like to take them but nothing is pre-determined. It is all a rather exciting journey. I did somewhere early on promise an evolving series. If we have evolved towards God that may seem to be the wrong direction to go about things. If, however, we are discussing the demiurge we might be on the right track. Because whoever God is he is not the demi-urge.

The “demiurge” is here because recently I have posted late poems of D. H. Lawrence on the nature of creation which brought in Lawrence’s idea of the demiurge. Lawrence’s poems distrust an-all- planned- in- advance creation and suggests God is an urge working through creating seeking incarnation. It is a polytheistic vision of God. I was also interested in it as we have been looking at the connection between creative activity, divine and human, raised by Coleridge (see post “Let There Be Light” )

Well the word “demiurge” sent me into further exploration. I turned to a theological writer I have found brilliant, David Bentley Hart. His work The Experience of God Yale University Press 2013 lays the basic understanding of God the great faiths agree on in opposition to what he considers to be a weakness of modern thinking; we have come to rely -under pressure from the arguments of scientific naturalism, mechanistic thinking , scientism- on a stereotype of God which is not the reality the major faiths proclaim. Our “world-view”, that is, has increasingly since Newton (again see post “Let There Be Light”) become dominated by the idea of scientific process: how did things start, get going, what was the originating cause. The argument has become framed by science which is seen as providing the answers and the arguments theists make are therefore often conditioned to be made within this framework. If God exists, western theists assert he directs the process; the argument of thinkers like Dawkins and the new atheists is that such a god does not exist. Hart’s argument is that the subject of such an argument is not God merely the demiurge :

he is the god who made the world “back then”, at some specific point of time, as a discrete event within the course of cosmic events, rather than the God whose creative act is an eternal act of being to the whole of space and time, sustaining all things in existence in every moment. It is certainly the demiurge about whom Stenger and Dawkins write; neither has actually written a word about God. And the same is true of all the other new atheists as far as I can tell.”

That strong, critically alert, combative power is one aspect of Hart’s style. He combines philosophical assurance, expansive knowledge of the spiritual works of the various theistic traditions, with a confident and knowledgeable critical appraisal of the limitations of modern scientism. But he is not simply cerebral. Elsewhere he has a marvellous passage introducing the significance of the sense of wonder, which both Plato and Aristotle recognised as the starting point of all true philosophy. However, I shall explore Hart’s work more widely in a future post. For the moment with our eyes focused on the word “demiurge” let us return to Hart’s discussion. Here is a passage from Hart’s first chapter, entitled “God is not a proper name”

The most pervasive error one encounters in contemporary arguments about belief in God-especially, but not exclusively, on the atheist side-is the habit of conceiving God simply as some very large object or agency within the universe, or perhaps alongside the universe, a being among other beings, who differs from all other beings in magnitude,power and duration, but not ontologically [ Ed. ontology: the study of the nature and essence of being ie. the assumption is God does not differ in being; he is simply another thing given a proper name] and who is related to the world more or less as a craftsman is related to an artifact.…….

As it happens, the god with whom most modern atheism usually concerns itself is one we might call a demiurge (demiourgos): a Greek term that originally meant a kind of public technician or artisan but that came to mean a particular kind of divine world-maker or cosmic craftsman.. In Plato’s Timaeus the demiurge is a benevolent imtermediary between the realm of eternal forms and the realm of mutability [ed.ie change] ; he looks to the ideal universe-the eternal paradigm of the cosmos-and then fashions lower reality in as close a conformity to higher as the interactable resources of the material nature allows. He is , therefore, not the source of the existence of all things but rather only the Intelligent Designer and causal agent of the world of space and time, working upon principles that lie outside and above him. He is an immensely wise and powerful being, but he is also finite and dependent upon a larger reality of which he is only a part.

In following this characterisation of the demiurge Hart demonstrates the inadequacy of the conception of God in much of the kind of debate we hear around us in which we become aware God is seen to be or not seen to be the Great Originator of Things. But to see God in this way is not to see him as God, simply as the demiurge. Hart’s work is not, however, simply focused on the negative aspect of our conceptual understanding but in raising our eyes to an understanding going back to Plato and shared within the spiritual understanding of theistic thinkers from all the major faiths :

God, is not in any of the great theistic traditions, merely some rational agent, external to the order of the physical universe, who imposes some kind of design upon an otherwise inert and mindless material order. He is not some discrete being somewhere out there, floating in the great beyond, who fashions nature in accordance with rational laws upon which he is dependent. Rather, he is himself the logical order of all reality, the ground both of the subjective rationality of mind and the objective rationality of being, the transcendent and indwelling Reason or Wisdom by which mind and matter are both informed and in which both participate.

Futher explication of this is required for a future discussion of Hart but in the meantime if someone argues with you about God make sure it is God you are talking about and not the demiurge!


Here are two further “Last Poems” of D. H. Lawrence on the subject of the demiurge:

They say that reality exists only in the spirit 
that corporal existence is a kind of death
that pure being is bodiless 
that the idea of form precedes the form substantial.

But what nonsense it is! 
as if any mind could have imagined a lobster 
dozing in the under-deeps, the reaching out a savage and iron claw!

Even the mind of God can only imagine 
those things that have become themselves: 
bodies and presences, here and now, creatures with a foothold in 
even if only it is a lobster on tip-toe.

Religion knows better than philosophy.
Religion knows that Jesus was never Jesus 
till he was born from a womb, and ate soup and bread 
and grew up, and became, in  the wonder of creation, Jesus, 
with body and with needs and a lovely spirit.

For the contemporary reader puzzled by the idea of the spirit preceding the body Lawrence is reacting to neo- platonic ideas and the bodiless spirituality of his upbringing suppressing the body in favour of the spirit. Ever a non-Christian (though raised on the Bible, a Congregationalist) he had yet hopes in his last years that the Christian idea of the resurrection as the risen body might become empowering for the generation, which following 1914 had known so much sacrifice and death.

                            THE BODY OF GOD

God is the great urge that has not yet found a body
but urges towards incarnation with the great creative urge,

And becomes at last a clove carnation: lo! that is god!
And becomes at last Helen, or Ninon: any lovely and generous 
at her best and her most beautiful, being god, made manifest,
any clear and fearless man being god, very god.

There is no god
apart from poppies and flying fish,
men singing songs, and women brushing their hair in the sun.
The lovely things are god that has come to pass, like Jesus came.
The rest, the undiscoverable, is the demi-urge.  


“D. H. Lawrence Complete Poems (ed. V. de S. Pinto) Penguin Books 1977.


Demiurge(Gk. craftsman). The intermediary that makes the physical world in the cosmology of Plato’s Timaeus.

neoplatonism…..Plotinus concived of the universe as an emanation or effulgence of the One, the omnipresent, transcendental Good derived from Plato’s Parmenides. The One gives rise to the realm of nous (ideas, intelligence), and that in turn to soul, or souls, some of which sink into bodies(others remain celestial)….

From Blackburn, Simon Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy O.U.P 1996.


Shortly before D. H. Lawrence died his medical specialist stated, “an ordinary man with those lungs would have died long ago; but with a real artist no normal prognosis is ever sure; there are other forces involved”. (D. H Lawrence Penguin Critical Anthologies ed. H. Coombes 1973). His friend, Aldous Huxley, writes of him: “He looked at things with the eyes, so it seemed, of a man who had been on the brink of death and to whom, as he emerges from the darkness, the world reveals itself as unfathomably beautiful and mysterious. For Lawrence, existence was one continuous convalescence, it was as though he were newly reborn from a mortal illness every day of his life. ( Huxley: Introduction to Letters of D. H. Lawrence. Henemann 1932). Living with tuberculosis for years, dangerously ill on several occasions it is amazing how much he packed into his life of forty-four years. In his “Last Poems” Lawrence writes marvellous poems ( including “The Ship of Death” and Bavarian Gentians) about preparing for death: he writes about God as he conceives God and about the Demiurge.

Here is a poem that fits interestingly, following our recent discussion of the Coleridge quotation on God’s activity and the way in which the poet, working from his creative imagination, reflects, at a lesser level, the greater creative activity of the divine.


Imagine that any mind ever thought  a red geranium!
As if the redness of a red geranium  could be anything but 
a sensual experience
and as if sensual experience could take place before there were
any senses. 
We know that even God could not imagine the redness of a red 
nor the smell of a mignonette 
when geraniums were not, and mignonette neither.
And even when they were , even God would have to have a nose
to smell at the mignonette.
You can't imagine the Holy Ghost sniffing at cherry -pie heliotrope.
Or the Most High, during the coal age, cudgelling his mighty brains
even if he had any brains : straining his mighty mind
to think, among the moss and mud of lizards and mastadons 
to think out, in the abstract, when all was twilight green and
"Now there shall be tum-tiddly-um, and tum-tiddly-um,
hey presto! scarlet geranium!"
We know it couldn't be done.

But imagine, among the mud and the mastadons
God sighing and yearning with tremendous creative yearning, in that
dark green mess
oh, for some other beauty, some other beauty
that blossomed at last, red geranium, and mignonette.  

It is as if Lawrence is seeking to see God in creation as reflecting the creative “yearning” or imagination of the artist. For Lawrence, who wrote, “one has to be terribly religious to be an artist” (ibid. Huxley), the wondrous creation he himself so vividly evokes in his work, needed God, but could not have been created pre-formulated, designed beforehand. Beauty emerges from the struggle resulting from a striving to go beyond what is. Here, is another of his “Late Poems” making the comparison directly between divine creativity and human.


The mystery of creation is the divine urge of creation, 
but it is a great, strange urge, it is not a Mind.   
Even an artist knows that his work was never in his mind,
he could never have thought it before it happened.
A strange ache possessed him, and he entered the struggle, 
and out of the struggle with his material, in the spell of the urge
his work took place, it came to pass, it stood up, and saluted 
his mind.

God is a great urge, wonderful, mysterious, magnificent 
but he knows nothing beforehand.
His urge takes shape in the flesh, and lo!
it is creation! God looks himself on it in wonder, for the first
Lo, there is a creature formed! How strange!
Let me think about it! Let me form an idea!

Although this sounds different from creation in the Hebrew Bible, it is intriguing how Lawrence’s saying”God looks on in wonder, for the first time” relates to God in Genesis 1 at the end of each day of creation looking at what he has created and seeing that “it was good” and at the end of the week, “it was very good” . Note too the use of the Biblical phrase “it came to pass” and the wonderful further development of Genesis with “it stood up and saluted his mind”

Theologically, we may say Lawrence is writing about the Demi-urge (and indeed Lawrence has another lovely Last Poem entitled “The Demiurge” ) and not God, but that the demiurge- like the Holy Spirit- inspires the aspirational embodiment that develops within evolution; but I leave that for students of theology to consider. However, as we have recently been considering Coleridge’s quotation (see the post “God said, ” Let Newton Be!”) linking the creative activity of the infinite I AM with the lesser finite creativity of the artist, it is fascinating that Lawrence transfers the kind of experience of creativity, he knew as a great writer, to the activity he recognises as God-like: the creation of the wondrous phenomenal world.

( Poetry quotations from D.H. Lawrence Complete Poems Penguin Books 1993)


Replies to my blog-posts are very welcome. The following written is a very thoughtful and well-argued response to my most recent post. I add a reply. Further contributions are welcome.

“Thanks, Alan, for a well written and argued piece, ably outlining the development of an important process of enquiry and understanding in the realms of Science, Religion, Philosophy and the Arts, which I much enjoyed working my way through. And now, of course, you’re waiting for the “but”-so I won’t disappoint you.

What I find difficult with the piece arises from its dualism. You suggest, I think, that the eternal and infinite God is separate from all he has made – that his creation is outside himself. Being eternal, he must indeed be “outside” Einstein’s space-time. My problem is that, being infinite, there cannot be anything “outside” of what is infinite, or it would no longer be infinite! Additionally, you are, I think, suggesting that as well as being “outside” his creation, God is simultaneously “inside it”, and I find it difficult to make sense of this immanent/transcendent connundrum. It seems to me the equivalent of saying that “a” is simultaneously “not-a”, in which case old Aristotle, with his logician’s hat on, must be vehemently protesting from his grave!

I’m reminded of the difficulty Descartes ran into, when he separated mind from matter, and declared them to be different “substances”. His problem then was how to explain how they can interact with one another. A brain is a piece of matter, which has weight, shape and occupies space. The thoughts, feelings and experiences of a mind are utterly different, being weightless, shapeless and occupying no space. Where, then, is the link between mind and matter? Descartes settled for the pineal gland in the brain, the function of which was unknown at that time, a piece of nonsense that dented his philosophical reputation.

We can experience the problem for ourselves by putting a pebble on a table in front of us. We can then introduce into our mind the thought of moving the pebble without touching it. We can’t do this, however, there being no link between the two categorically different “substances”. If God, as John 4:24 says, is Spirit-invisible and intangible (compare, above, mind as “weightless, shapeless and occupying no space”), how can he interact with the material realm? One way of addressing this issue is simply to state the paradox of God being both transcendent and immanent is only to be expected, since we are dealing with what lies beyond the limits of human understanding. It might be argued, however, that this is more of an evasion than an explanation.

Interestingly, Newtonian physics has been, not replaced, but greatly enhanced by Quantum physics, one outcome of which, surprisingly, (and strongly resisted by some) has been a “re-introduction” of mind and consciousness into the objective realm of matter. Out of this, there has arisen a growing interest in , and exploration of , the age-old concept of Panpsychism, which leaves dualism behind. Mind is the inwardness of matter, and matter is the outwardness of mind. There can be a head and a tail but still only one coin. One is tepted to say that, “In the beginning there was Mind”- and therefore matter as its correlative outward expression. There is here, perhaps, a possibility for a re-marriage of religion and science, because, although, Panpsychism can be “Godless”, it can also be a foundation for Pantheism, if one wishes to travel in that direction- Spinoza’s alternative to Descartes or, picking up on your own references to Romantic literature, my favourite lines from Wordsworth:

                    "....... a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is... in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things."      

My concluding thought is that Creation is not a one-off event, but an ever-ongoing unfolding of all that is, which one may wish to call God-as more of a verb than a noun, more of a process than a person as such-although a process that has given rise to life, mind, consciousness, self-awareness and personality. “Salvation” may then have less to do with the dualism of the restoration of a relationship between the categorically different-God and Humanity-and more to do with the realisation of an identity that transcends dualism. This takes us into the every bit as important and relevant realm of the religions and philosophies of the East-but space and time, alas, have now run out!

So, thanks again, for writing a splendidly thought provoking piece, and for stimulating a too often idle brain to respond with not just a provoking reply.

Ray Inkster.

Reply from Editor

Good to get your response Ray and a very thoughtful well considered argument it proves to be! I enjoyed reading and learned much from what you have written. Nevertheless I feel you have tended to use argument as a springboard for your own preoccupation, criticising dualism as an illogical connundrum. I have to ask the question after some re-readings how is it are you connecting your argument with mine? The question you deal with may be in the background but because background it is not really what I am focusing on: the challenge raised to an earlier world-view (based on Newtonian physics and empirical philosophy and celebrated by Pope’s epigram ) by the Romantic movement ( Blake and Coleridge in particular). You do not comment on this. The high point of my argument was the Coleridge quotation. The connection between God’s infinite creativity and that of the creativity of the great poet/ artist is to me fascinating and deeply relevant to how we conceive God today. But again there is no comment on this.

In my post, I relate three Biblical understandings of how God’s power of creation manifests itself. These might be worth your consideration. As it is, it seems clear to me that Coleridge’s quotation emphasises the primary significance of “emanation” a link which I would like to have seen you explore further.

On the Transcendence/ immanence connundrum you diagnose so well you advance one unsatisfactory explanation as mystery which we just have to accept. This you call “evasion”. My understanding is Christian theologians have sought to balance the two, though with differing emphases. Some mystics emphasise the transcendence so that there is little emphasis on God’s immanence. Others like Paul Tillich, who speak of God as the “ground of our being,” emphasise this so much there is little emphasis on the transcendent God. Perhaps those of us not theologically or philosophically minded can get by satisfactorily by accepting the mystery -“we know only in part”.

That said I must again acknowledge my gratitude to you. Your reply has encouraged me to get involved in reading David Bentley Hart’s very wonderful work “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Yale University Press 2013). Of this work Rowan Williams has said, ” David Hart can always be relied on to offer a perspective on Christian faith that is both profound and unexpected. In this materpiece of quiet intellectual and spiritual passion, he magnificently sets the record straight as to what sort of God Christians believe in and why.”

As you know Hart, belonging to the Eastern Orthodox persuasion is among the foremost theologians of the U.S. and is extremely well-read in the scriptures and mystical works of all the faiths and he discusses these in this work. He is a brilliant philosopher and sharp-minded critic of what was once called the New Atheism.

A challenge of mine to you would be to write a review of this work, yourself, as a guest-post! Something to keep your brain working in your retirement!

Yours ever,


God said “Let Newton be, then there was Light”


Genesis begins ” In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the waters. And God said, Let there be light.

In that very confident age when the creation appeared to have been satisfactorily explained by Newtonian science Alexander Pope expressed it in an epigram:

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night
God said, " Let Newton be, then there was light".

The orderly , law-governed cosmos demonstrated by Newton’s science was seen as justifying natural religion. Newtonian science seemed successfully to marry science and religion: having demonstrated scientific laws mathematically, he concludes: “It is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions” (Bk2 Principia 1687 ) thus pointing to theism. (Blackburn Dictionary of Philosophy O.U.P. 1996.). Natural religion lessened dependence on revelation. God’s workings could be studied by the empirical methods , so well advanced by eminent philosophers, like John Locke (1632 -1704) who, as well as his great philosophical work Essay Concerning Understanding 1689 also wrote The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695).

All this prepared for a rational-minded belief in a God who set off creation, whose intentions, in what had been shown to be an ordered universe, were benevolent. But God did not necessarily intervene within human affairs and any claim of mystical understanding or of visionary revelation was regarded with suspicion, the cause of the troubles of the recent past, that had led to the Civil War, and the superstition of the Middle Ages. John Toland, a radical thinker, wrote a work entitled Christianity Not Mysterious 1696( Blackburn ibid. on Deism). God became distant, religion became formalised, ethical, common-sensical and well -regulated.

Deism expressed faith in God as a watchmaker or clock-maker who set the universe into operation and left it to follow the given laws. This attitude affected the eighteenth century church, where rational minded common sense, a spirit of moderation and good -will guided followers away from extremism but not, it might be said, from complacency.

During the pre-Romantic and Romantic periods, however, reaction developed against the limitations of the rule of reason; the kind of experience it tended to distrust and deny, including emphasis on salvation and the visionary became re-emphasised. In religion there was the Methodist revival started by the Wesley brothers. The poet and artist, William Blake exemplifies the reaction against conventional thinking and practice. Brought up within one of the many non-conformist sects in London, he despised the conformist religious establishment and he loathed empirical philosophy which was sceptical of the visionary and revelatory spiritual experience which he knew to be real. Similarly, Coleridge, although continuing Church of England, rejected empiricism for idealism. Idealism was a rejection of a materialist philosophy that treated the action of the spirit as a development from the material base , rather than the organising principle from the beginning.

Blake and Coleridge in their poetry were concerned, though in a very different way from Pope, with the meaning of “creation” and the ways in which poetic creation mirrored or exemplified the divine process. The word “create” ( along with its derivatives” creation” and ” Creative”) were vital to them and the imagination was seen to be the source of creativity. Coleridge sees the imagination of the artist as reflecting the divine process of creation: “a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM”. Here Coleridge is drawing on the answer given to Moses in his encounter with the divine presence in the Book of Exodus.(see Exodus 3:13-14)

How does this fit in with Christian theological conceptions of “Creation”? I looked this up by checking the New Lion Handbook of Christian Belief (ed. Alastair McGrath2006. Lion Hudson).

But how are we to understand this idea of “creation”? What does it mean to speak of God “creating” the world? Three main ways of conceiving the creative action of God became widely established in the Christian church.

1.Emanation. This term was widely used by early Christian writers to clarify the relation between God and the world. The image that dominates this approach is that of light or heat radiating from the sun , or from a human source such as fire. This image of creation (hinted at in the Nicene Creed phrase “Light from Light”) suggests that the creation of the world can be regarded as an overflowing of the creative energy of God. Just as light derives from the sun and reflects its nature, so the created order derives from God and expresses the divine nature. There is, on the basis of this model, a natural or organic connection between God and the creation. (See Gospel of St. John 1.1,4, 8-9) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…..In him [the Word of God] was life; and the life was the light of men” and “He[John the Baptist] was not that Light but sent to bear witness of the Light, that men through him might believe. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”.)

2. Construction. Many Biblical passages portray God as a master builder, deliberately constructing the world according to a definite design The image expresses the ideas of purpose, planning and a deliberate intention to create. (See Psalm 8. 3 “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained” or Job38.4 “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”)

3. Artistic expression. Many Christian writers, from various periods of the history of the church speak of creation as the “handiwork of God”, comparing it to a work of art, which is both beautiful in itself as well as expressing the the personality of the creator. (see Psalm 19.1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork” or Psalm 104.2 “Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain”.)

Of these, it can be said that both Blake and Coleridge see in God the action of emanation in the “overflowing of His creative energy”(see above definition) making creation possible. They see God not primarily as architect or designer as in (2), nor as in (3) presenting a finished creation but as in (1) in emanation moving within, involved in, His creation. For Blake there is continuity from the energy of the creative God for whom “eternal energy is creative delight” (from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”) to the energy of the creative artist. To Coleridge there is continuity between God the great I AM expressing His being continuously through His creation to the secondary, more limited but also greatly creative imagination of the great poet. As I understand the Coleridge quotation, I see him meaning, that God sustains creation through every moment as a continuous presence, permanently involved. In great poetry and great art, in general, this kind of imaginative involvement, is reflected in a more limited way, in the human world but in one that is inspirational pointing us to the greater creative action of God. To me this God, so variously pointed to in Blake and Coleridge, is more inspiring than the God of Newtonian science.

However, sadly, in the meantime, the marriage between religion and science has become a divorce; and the result has been the decidedly messy consciousness of our age.

But there is more to be said on that later.