Expansions of God
This is evidenced by the Hebrew text, which uses אלהים ('elohiym) to describe God in the plural sense. Does this mean the text is referring to multiple gods? Were the Hebrews worshipers of the multiple 'gods' as were the Greeks?
No. The word אלהים (‘elohiym) or Elohim, refers distinctly to the Supreme Being. There can only be one Supreme Being. The plural simply indicates that the Supreme Being has the capability to expand Himself.
The Hebrew עשה (`asah), which means to ‘make’ or ‘fashion’, translates to ‘let Us make’ with the plural use of God. This indicates that God and His associates are involved in this process. Both God's expansions and separated expansions will participate in creation projects. Therefore, the appropriate use is plural.
The Supreme Being has three forms of expansion. The first is His Personal Expansions. The Supreme Being can expand Himself personally in countless ways - which can include various forms and appearances. Each of these Expansions are still Himself, as He has His complete substance and power within each Expansion.
The Supreme Being can also produce direct expansions that are from Him, but with differentiated personality. These direct separated expansions enjoy personal relationships with the Supreme Being. These direct expansions also enjoy many of the powers of the Supreme Being.
This was confirmed by Jesus in one of the Gospels found in the desert of Egypt:
The perfect Savior replied, “Please understand that He was eternally manifest prior to the universe – the Unborn Creator, complete within Himself. When He, Effulgent and Spiritual, chose to expand His appearance, immediately the Effulgent Source manifested as the immortal spiritual being. This immortal spiritual being, subject to the deficiency of illusion, may attain salvation and wake from forgetfulness through the messenger – who will be with you until the end of the hardship of thieves. His consort is the Great Sophia initially had the purpose of relationship with the unborn Creator. This is manifested by the spiritual being - initially manifested with divine authority from the Creator – who is called ‘Supreme Being.’(The Wisdom of Jesus, Texts 31-32)The Supreme Being also produces separated indirect expansions with free will. Each of us - our spiritual selves, not our physical bodies - fall into this category. These expansions each have the ability to enjoy a personal loving relationship with the Supreme Being, but we also are given the freedom to reject that relationship. We also do not have the powers the Supreme Being and His personal expansions have.
Expansions of expansions
It also should be noted that we - His separated indirect expansions - are expansions of His direct separated expansions. In other words, we are expansions of those whom God enjoys eternal personal relationships with. We are expansions of His separated expansions.
Each of God's direct separate expansions enjoy a unique type of relationship with the Supreme Being. For each, their loving relationship has a particular flavor, and their type of relationship is different. And thus we - the spiritual person within the physical body - each also have a unique relationship with the Supreme Being, according to our line of expansion.
We might compare this to how each of us has a slightly different relationship with different people. If we have a male body on, we have a mother-son relationship with our mother, and a father-son relationship with our father. Then we might have a best-friend relationship with someone. Then we might have a conjugal relationship with a woman. Then we might have a relationship with our pet, and then another with our work-mates and yet another with those we play basketball with. Each of these relationships is unique, and though some relationships may fall into a similar grouping (like multiple work-mates or basketball players), each relationship with each person is slightly different.
In our pure state, we are spiritual beings with spiritual form, personality and character. However, those of us who have chosen not to embrace our relationship with God have been put into a physical body in the physical world to give us a chance to exercise our freedom away from God.
The reason nature and society is set up so that we can have these various relationships is because the physical world is a reflection (albeit perverted) of the spiritual world.
In other words, the Supreme Being also enjoys this kind of variety of relationships with innumerable living beings - His direct and indirect expansions - within the various 'houses' or planets of the spiritual realm.
The perverted reflection
This world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual realm because while the physical world maintains a myriad of relationships just as the spiritual realm does, the relationships of the physical world are all based upon self-centeredness, while the relationships of the spiritual realm are all based upon love.
In the physical realm, we are all focused on what we get out of a relationship. If we are cared for, we will care back. But if we are not cared for, then we will not maintain such a relationship. In the spiritual realm, love is unconditional. Care is unconditional.
It is like comparing two different dinner tables. At one, as the food is passed around, everyone seeks only to make sure they get enough on their plate, sometimes at the cost of others not getting any.
At the other dinner table, as they pass around the food, everyone is making sure that everyone else got their food before taking theirs.
In the same way, the citizens of the spiritual world are only interested in pleasing their beloved, the Supreme Being - within their particular relationship with Him - along with assisting (and caring for) the other citizens - who are also engaged in their own relationship with Him. It is one big happy family, with the Supreme Being at the center.
In contrast, in the physical world we are primarily interested for our own well-being, or the well-being of our extensions - our family, our country, our race. Either we are out-and-out self-centered in our activities (most of the time) or we are looking out for our family, nation or particular religious sect. This is can be at the cost of others being harmed.
The bottom line is that the reason the physical bodies of humans were created "in our image" in a plural sense is because, as mentioned above, this creation involved the Supreme Being and His expansions, and what was created is a perverted reflection of the spiritual realm and the relationships of the spiritual realm.
But there are two points of clarity to be made here. What is being discussed here is the organism, "man," not each of us. Beneath these bodies we are each spiritual beings, created by God as expansions of His expansions. The human organism is a temporary physical body. It is made of atoms and molecules combined to make flesh and bones, which eventually decompose to earth after we leave them.
We are temporarily occupying these physical bodies, just as a person sits down in a car and drives a car around.
His image and likeness
Yet the Supreme Being states that these physical bodies were created in His image and likeness. Thus we can know that the personal image and likeness of the Supreme Being resembles that of a man - standing with two arms and two legs. This gives us a window into the spiritual realm and the Supreme Being.
This might be compared to seeing a person's shadow as they approach from around a corner. We might not yet see their body, but we can tell from their shadow that they might be, say, overweight or short or something. While the shadow is not the person, the shadow creates an "image" or "likeness" that reflects the person approaching from around the corner.
This verse also tells us that the Supreme Being's creative process is not performed alone. Just as a person will often work collectively with others, or will hire others to do a job, the Supreme Being also delegates certain creative processes to others - which can include both His direct and indirect expansions.
We must remember that this physical world - and the physical forms we occupy - are all temporary. These bodies are temporary vehicles. They are also changing around us. For example, our baby body was not the same body we have on now. That body was tiny, and our current body is much larger. And every atom and molecule has changed. So we have changed bodies even during this lifetime.
Our physical body is constantly changing. It is like looking at a waterfall: The water is always changing. Scientists have determined that every atom and molecule is recycled within five years, meaning we have a different body every five years.
We are driving this physical body just as a person drives a car.
So why do we occupy these physical bodies? We, the spiritual living beings who decided we wanted to be away from God did so because we became envious. We desired to enjoy like God. Instead of loving and serving God, we wanted to be like God. So God set up a virtual universe that not only allows us to feel independent of Him, but allows us to attempt to enjoy like He does.
This is confirmed by the root Hebrew word רדה (radah) in this verse, which means to dominate or rule over (“and let them rule over”). The human body was designated to be able to rule over the other creatures of the planet, including, as stated here, the fish, birds, mammals and so on. In other words, the human form was designed to emulate God's dominance.
God's design, however, does not give complete dominance. Nor does it give complete independence. Surely God could have given us a facility where each of us could have a more perfect ability to control others around us. But this would defeat the main purpose of the physical world.
The fact is, we are not God. We are not in control. We are not independent of God. In fact, we need God. We need our Best Friend and Companion in order to be complete. This is why we are all constantly looking for that perfect friend or lover. We'll never be happy away from God, trying to pretend being like God. And God knows this.
A place of education
The physical world, while it may give some illusion of some independence and some dominance, is primarily a place of education. Here we are slowly and gradually educated. Here we are taught that we all need love. Here we are taught that when we hurt others, we are hurting our closest family members. Here we are taught that we need a protector — and we can't do it alone.
So why did the Supreme Being and His associates create the physical world? Remember that His indirect separated expansions - expansions of His expansions - were created with the freedom of choice: We can choose to love the Supreme Being or not.
Quite simply, the physical world and these temporary physical bodies were created to house those of us who chose NOT to love and care for the Supreme Being. Each of us individually rebelled against the Supreme Being, and this caused each of us to fall to the physical world, away from the spiritual realm.
And this is why the physical world is full of lessons, and physical suffering.
In fact, many will ask: If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world?
Or they will ask: If God exists, why is there so much suffering?
Or they might ask: If God loves me, why is there so much suffering?
Or another version: If there is a God, why did my ______ (insert wife, parents, friend, pet) have to die and leave me?
In other words, we question God's existence or love for us because of the suffering of the physical world.
But we have to remember two things:
1) that these physical bodies are not us. They are like cars, that might get fender-benders or might break down. Our eternal spiritual selves are not touched by the suffering of the physical body (other than the lessons we might learn).
2) that the Supreme Being set this world up as a rehabilitation center in hopes that we might some day decide to return to Him and His world. He ultimately wants us to be happy, and we'll never be happy away from Him and His world. So He created this world as a learning center.
After all, we know scientifically speaking that life cannot originate from DNA. The living being is spiritual in essence. Thus the living beings were, in fact, impregnated into the physical dimension, and have individually been evolving through the different species of physical bodies.
We might compare the consequential sufferings of the physical world to how a child might be properly disciplined by caring parents. Parents do not want to, nor like disciplining their child. But they do it out of love. They do it because they ultimately want the best for the child.
If the Supreme Being had set up the physical world to be this perfect place where there is no pain or suffering, we'd never want to go home to the spiritual realm.
But He also set it up so that we only come home if we decide we really want to. We must make a commitment to go home. We can stay as long as we want, cycling through body after body. If we want to stay away from Him, He allows that. But at the same time, He also encourages us to decide (on our own) to come home. It is rather perfect, actually.
Just consider, for example, a person whose consciousness was so dark that he only thought of himself, and considered others as objects of his enjoyment. So he hurts others, abuses others, even kills others without concern. What is needed to rehabilitate such an individual?
First they need to recognize that there are others outside of himself, and that he isn't the only person who exists. He also needs to realize what it feels like to be hurt, because he has no concern for the hurt of others. He also needs a little dose of humility to realize that he's not so great after all. This person is a candidate for being attacked in a moment of weakness at some point - if not in this lifetime, perhaps in a future lifetime.
Education that teaches understanding and love
In the same way, our education process requires us to have a strong foundation of understanding the nature of love, compassion, care and nurturing. Why? Because this is part of our rehabilitation process for returning to the spiritual dimension. As we graduate up the 'grades' and evolve spiritually once within the human form, we begin to learn 'post-graduate' lessons, such as how to care for and nurture others who are less fortunate, or from lower species. In the higher human species, we begin to learn the finer lessons of love, such as how to serve others, and how to remain humble even when others admire us or need us.
The spiritual world is replete with these aspects to the absolute degree. God's world is full of love and relationships. It is a blissful world where everyone loves each other and cherishes God and His associates. It is the place where we yearn for (and people like John Lennon sang about), but could never have in the physical world - because the physical world is full of 'works in progress.'
Here everyone is looking desperately for fulfillment. Fulfillment, however, is only available when we return to our eternal relationship with God as one of His loving servitors.
And the emptiness we all feel here in the physical world can be immediately resolved by our deciding to return to Him. He wants us back in His loving arms because He knows that only this will make us happy. Only loving Him and caring for Him, and returning to our unique relationship with Him will give us the happiness and fulfillment we seek.