De Sacramentis 1.1.5

1.1.5. “That all things, that is, visible and invisible, were created simultaneously.” In De Sacramentis 1.1.3 Hugh of St. Victor had said that the angels had “already existed at the very beginning of the world” such that they were able to witness and be instructed by God’s first creating matter unformed and then afterward giving it form. The present chapter seems to clarify, however, that the angels were not created before but simultaneous with the unformed matter: “in the beginning both the matter of visible and corporeal things and the essence of the invisible things in the angelic nature were created simultaneously.” It may be worth clarifying here that Hugh’s distinction here between things visible and invisible is not the distinction made in Gen. 1:1 between heaven and earth, for as the following chapter implies, both the heaven and earth of Gen. 1:1 would actually fall under the category of things “visible,” physical, or corporeal. Hugh’s purpose here, however, seems to go beyond a mere assertion of the concurrent creation of unformed matter on the one hand and angels on the other, when he makes the further, ambiguous and undeveloped suggestion that the form to be later bestowed on the unformed matter was also created in a sense and thus pre-contained in and along with the creation of the angelic beings. On the one hand, Hugh repeats the distinction between visible and invisible things when he says that “both the matter of visible things and the nature of invisible things were created simultaneously in essence,” or when he goes on to say that “nothing was made afterwards of which either the matter as in bodies or the likeness as in spirits did not precede in this first beginning.” However, Hugh would seem to blur the distinction somewhat between invisible and visible realities and suggest that in some sense the essence or forms of the corporeal creatures to come were also created in and with the angelic natures: “For even if new souls are still created daily, yet no new creature is made, because its likeness preceded already in the angelic spirits at the time when they were created.” When Hugh says that “no new creature is made,” I take him to mean that no new created species is made, including, presumably any corporeal creature, and the reason he gives for this is that the “likeness” (essence, form, or nature) of these creatures are “preceded already in the angelic spirits.” This makes it sound as though the likenesses of corporeal creatures, even if not the corporeal creatures themselves, were created in the angelic spirits, making the angels comparable, one is led to suppose, to Plato’s ideal forms. If this is what Hugh means, one hopes he will clarify and defend this doctrine more clearly in subsequent chapters.


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