16. The Purpose of Creation
What are you trying to attain?
Section 1: Fundamentals of Existence
Chapter 2: Purpose of Creation
Before we begin Chapter 2, let's take a moment to discuss the title of the chapter: "The Purpose of Creation."
We know that the Ramchal's goal in writing The Way of G-d was to give us a deep insight into this world and G-d's relationship to it. In fact, most people who study this book do so for exactly that reason – to have a better understanding of the world around us and what makes it tick. We know that if the affairs of the world and the circumstances of life make sense to us, it gives our own lives a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
So although we spent a lot of time in chapter 1 gaining a deeper grasp of the infinite nature of G-d, that pursuit only has some value if it leads to us a deeper grasp of our own lives. This being the case, we can now begin the quest of a more down-to-earth topic: understanding creation, and our purpose within it.
In fact, having finished chapter 1, the question of "purpose" takes on a deeper dimension altogether. When we contemplate the nature of "infinite," that is has "no limits, no needs, nothing lacking," it really begs the question: Why would such a G-d create at all? Let's imagine if we could transport ourselves back to the moment before creation, when G-d was the only existence. No time, no space, no molecules, no energy, not even black emptiness.
And now let's pose a question: What makes more sense: (a) to suppose that G-d will go ahead and create a world of space, time and matter, or (b) that G-d won't bother?
If you grasped Chapter 1 properly, you will logically conclude (b). It's clear that G-d can't "gain" by creating. (It's a divine example of "What do you get for someone who has everything?")
Since G-d can't "change" or "benefit" at all by creating, it would seem more logically consistent for Him not to create at all!
However, we have very strong evidence that G-d should create: the fact that we're here! So we have to work in retrospect, to understand what purpose could possibly be served by G-d creating.
"Why?" Misses the Mark
When we ask a question like "Why did G-d create?", we should immediately notice an inherent flaw in the question itself. In what situation do we ask the question "why?" For example:
- Why did you eat lunch today?
- Why did you yell at that guy?
- Why did you go on a diet?
- Why are you breaking your diet?
Notice that all these questions share one common denominator. They all imply that the doer was seeking to achieve something, whether it's to satisfy hunger, relieve aggression, look thinner, etc. Interestingly, both the dieter and the diet-breaker are pursuing desires. They're both battling the desire to lose weight versus the desire to eat what they want, and are determining if desire A should come at the expense of desire B, or not.
Each of the above examples illustrates that we have needs and desires, and that we spend our time pursuing ways to satisfy those desires. In other words, the question of "why" could easily be replaced by "what are you trying to attain?"
So then, how does the question of "why" apply to G-d? Can G-d attain anything? Of course not. There's no way to apply the concept of "why" to any of G-d's actions, including creation itself! The very question presumes the G-d was fulfilling a need or desire, which by definition an infinite being cannot have. Asking "why did G-d create?" is as incongruous as asking "what color is G-d?" The question simply doesn't apply.
So instead of focusing on "why," the Ramchal focuses us on a better question: For what purpose did G-d create the finite world? Hence the title of this chapter, The Purpose of Creation. We can talk about G-d having a purpose in creating, without having to imply that G-d needed to do it.
It's also more consistent with our understanding of infiniteness to say that G-d had a purpose, rather than considering that creation may have been some accident. Accidents imply a lack of control, and as we've discussed earlier, ascribing to G-d any "lack," violates our definition of G-d's infiniteness.
- How do we know that G-d's purpose in creation was to bestow of His good? Why can't we posit that creation is an act of evil?
- Can you think of any example where a human being does an act that does not contain any motivation of self-benefit?
- In what way is "What's the purpose?" a better question to ask about G-d creating than "Why?"
- Why is it more accurate to say that G-d's act of creation was 'deliberate' rather than 'accidental'?