Chain of being is a theory or Elizabethan era in which the Elizabethans had belief. They believed that everything had its place in the chain of being, from god down to minerals. Thus, it can be defined down to a Christian concept which explains and give details about the strict religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life in Elizabethan era.
Composition of the chain of being starts from the very basic elements and goes up to the very highest, almighty God. There is a very crucial difference laid up in this concept. God and angels, both existing in spirit form sit at the top of the chain. Spirit is permanent and unchanging. On the other hand, Earthly matter is ever changing and mutable which are below the angels in this chain.
This difference in the chain of being has a moral associated with it. If one tries the spirit way, which was considered to be the noble one, then he becomes closer to the highest point of perfection, that is, God. On the contrary, the desire for flesh moves on away from God.
The chain of being is a religious one because the Elizabethans had placed their almighty God at its top. Moreover, it is very strict because it was impossible to change the position of an object in the hierarchy in it.
Elizabethan Era Chain of Being Theory
Earth or, rock formed the very basic and bottom of the chain. This element was considered at the bottom because it possessed only the quality of existence. Every element possesses the positive attributes of its predecessor and adds at least one more quality to it as the chain moves upward. Therefore, above the rocks are plants as they possess the quality of existence and life. Animals, which are above the plants as well, add motion and appetite in addition to life and existence.
Briefly; the chain of being starts from the highest point, the almighty God, progressing downwards to angels, demons (fallen angels), stars, moon, kings and queens, princes, noble, men, wild animals, domesticated animals, tress, other plants, precious stones, precious metals, other minerals, and finally, rock. This is the complete chain of being which was believed in the days of Elizabethan era.
Queen was at the top of the chain among human beings. Each component of the chain might be divided further into more sub components. For instance, among trees, useful tree such as oak was at the top and demonic tree such as yew tree was at the bottom. Among humans, the chain was as follows; queen – aristocrat lords – peasants.
Concluding the doctrine of chain of being in Elizabethan era, it is seen that everything imaginable fits in to somewhere or the other, and, thus, this division gives order and meaning to the universe.