05 February 2010

Origin beliefs - Limits to the Ontology of Creation?

While many scenarios are proposed by religion and science to identify 'first cause' and the origin of creation (ontology), there are some fundamental limits to the knowledge of humankind that present a barrier to finding any definitive answer.

Post-modern philosophy currently holds that there is nothing that one can know for certain. Kant put a good case to show that because we view the universe through the lens of the mind, which is 'shaped' by space, time, and the things embedded in space and time, it is not possible to see things-in-themselves (noumena) - the real objects that lie behind the subjective objects (phenomena) we recognise. If true, it is beyond the mind of humankind to perceive a condition that has no space or time. Many other philosophers, most recently Popper have all shown that there is precious little one can be sure of that would provide a starting point to determine the 'first cause' that led to creation.

Modern physics is an empirical science based on experiment and observation that characterizes how things happen through scientific theories and physical laws, but ultimately does not answer the question of 'why' things happen at the foundational (ontological) level. For example, the existence of the Big Bang is not predicated on a reason for its occurrence. What's more, the modern physics breaks down at the Planck time/Planck length, where both the influences of quantum mechanics and gravity are required to be combined in order to characterize the interactions that occur. As such, there is no model available that has been tested at this level, and so any attempt to theoretically probe beyond this regime in search of a more fundamental appreciation of the nature of the universe is hampered.

Religion has philosophy and oral testimony available to it to demonstrate a God or a separate "first cause" that called the universe into existence. As such it is dependent on faith in God or the specific "first cause" to which it ascribes.

Origin belief - Creation within various belief systems

Some creation beliefs are part of a named system of beliefs and are labeled as such below. Some creation beliefs seem to be better characterized according to time and/or place as they are part of a human culture in a time/place.

Origin belief - Babylonia
The Babylonian creation myth is described in Enûma Elish. It existed in various versions and copies, the oldest dating to at least 1700 B.C.E.

In the poem, the god Marduk arms himself and sets out to challenge the monster Tiamat. Marduk destroys Tiamat, cutting her into two halves which become the Earth and the sky. Later on, he also destroys Tiamat's husband, Kingu, and uses his blood to create mankind.

Origin belief - Buddhism
Buddhism generally ignores the question regarding the origin of life. The Buddha regarding the origin of life has said "Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it." AN IV.77, and in regard to ignoring the question of the origin of life the Buddha has said "And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me." MN 63.

Origin belief - China
Version 1: Tao is described as the ultimate force behind the creation. With tao, nothingness gave rise to existence, existence gave rise to yin and yang, and yin and yang gave rise to everything. But it could, like its antithesis, be explained in a way to better fit the modern scientific view of the creation of universe.

Version 2: Pangu. This was an explanation offered by Taoist monks hundreds of years after Lao Zi; probably around 200 CE. In this story, the universe begins as a cosmic egg. A god named Pangu, born inside the egg, broke it into two halves: The upper half became the sky, the lower half became the earth. As the god grew taller, the sky and the earth grew thicker and were separated further. Finally the god died and his body parts became different parts of the earth.

Origin belief - Christianity
According to the book of Genesis, God eternally pre-existed the created order. As Genesis' first recorded act in reference to the world we know today, "God created" (Gen. 1:1). All the created order, from the luminaries of the sky to the fish of the sea, to the mingling of dust and divine breath that is humankind (Heb. adam, covering both male and female humankind), were created by God to embrace and enjoy the optimal living environment that is earth. Man and woman were made to reflect God's authority, love and good government into the world as stewards, and to offer up the praises of creation back to God.

Unique in all the created order, humanity, male and female, are the sole bearers of the imago Dei, the image (Heb. tselem - as in a child in the image of a parent) of God among animate and inanimate creation. As image-bearers, human beings have a mandate to walk in community with God, community and care for one another, and as caretakers of this good world. Resisting the invitation to the "We" of community with God and one another, human beings chose to live in the "I" of individualism and self-actualization.

At this point in the Genesis origins narrative, human beings became, as Francis Shaeffer put it, "indisputably bent." This self-made isolation moves the human soul toward self-preservation and self-absorption. This "falling into shadow," has unleashed destructive patterns within and without the human race, and the need for a redemptive adam to choose to live a human life in community with God, thereby reversing the effects of the fall, was exposed.

In Christian belief, Jesus, the Christ of God, was the new adam sent to us "at the fullness of time." Humanity's search to return to the Eden of our origin will culminate in a new and amplified Eden in the age to come, manifest in a new heaven and a new earth.

References to God in the New Testament vary, however, overall they demonstrate an incorporation of the first cause. It should be noted, however, that the Chrisitian conception of God, the holy trinity, is more complex. The following examples illustrate this:

Revelation 1:8 - I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end... that which is, which has been, and that which is yet to come, Almighty God.

John 1:1-4 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Origin belief - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe that physical reality (space, matter and/or energy) is eternal, and therefore does not have an absolute origin. The Creator is an architect and organizer of pre-mortal matter and energy, who constructed the present universe out of the raw material.

Origin belief - Creek
The Creek believe that the world was originally entirely underwater. The only land was a hill, called Nunne Chaha, and on the hill was a house, wherein lived Esaugetuh Emissee ("master of breath"). He created humanity from the clay on the hill.

Origin belief - Egyptian
Image:Nun.gif There were at least three separate cosmogenies in Egyptian mythology, corresponding to at least three separate groups of worshippers.

The Ennead, in which Atum arose from the primordial waters (Neith), and masturbated to relieve his loneliness. His semen and breath became Tefnut (moisture) and Shu (dryness), respectively. From Shu and Tefnut, were born Geb (earth), and Nuit (sky), who were born in a state of permanent copulation. Shu separated them, and their children were Ausare (Osiris; death), Set (desert), Aset (Isis; life), and Nebet Het (Nephthys; fertile land). Osiris and Isis were a couple, as were Nepthys and Set.

The Ogdoad, in which Ra arose, either in an egg, or a blue lotus, as a result of the creative interaction between the primordial forces of Nu/Naunet (water), Amun/Amunet (air), Kuk/Kauket (darkness), and Huh/Hauhet (eternity). Ra then created Hathor, his wife, with whom they had a son, Hor (Horus; in the form known as Horus the Elder), who was married to Isis. This cosmogeny also includes Anupu (Anubis) as lord of the dead, amongst others.

The third group, for whom Ptah was eternal and everlasting, and he spake the world and all the gods into existence, in a similar manner to Judao-Christian belief about their concept of God.
Over time, the rival groups gradually merged, Ra and Atum were identified as the same god, making Atum's mysterious creation actually due to the Ogdoad, and Ra having the children Shu and Tefnut, etc. In consequence, Anubis was identified as a son of Osiris, as was Horus. Amun's role was later thought much greater, and for a time, he became chief god, although he eventually became considered a manifestation of Ra.

For a time, Ra and Horus were identified as one another, and when the Aten monotheism was unsuccessfully introduced, it was Ra-Horus who was thought of as the Aten, and the consequent cosmogony this inspired. Later, Osiris' cult became more popular, and he became the main god, being identified as a form of Ptah. Eventually, all the gods were thought of as aspects of Osiris, Isis, Horus, or Set (who was by now a villain), indeed, Horus and Osiris had started to become thought of as the same god. Ptah eventually was identified as Osiris.

Origin belief - Classical Greece
Plato, in his dialogue Timaeus, describes a creation myth involving a being called the demiurge.

Hesiod, in his Theogony, says that Chaos existed in the beginning, and then gave birth to Gaia (the Earth), Tartarus (the Underworld), Eros (desire), Nyx (the darkness of the night) and Erebus (the darkness of the Underworld). Gaia brought forth Ouranos, the starry sky, her equal, to cover her, the hills, and the fruitless deep of the Sea, Pontus, "without sweet union of love," out of her own self. But afterwards, Hesiod tells, she lay with Heaven and bore the World-Ocean Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and the Titans Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and Phoebe of the golden crown and lovely Tethys. "After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire." Cronos, at Gaia's urging, castrates Ouranos. He marries Rhea who bears him Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Zeus and his brothers overthrow Cronos and the other Titans, then draw lots to determine what each of them will rule. Zeus draws heaven, Poseidon draws sea, and Hades draws earth.

Origin belief - Hinduism
The Mahaa-Vishnu, into whom all the innumerable universes enter and from whom they come forth again simply by His breathing process, is a plenary expansion of Krishna. Therefore I worship Govinda, Krishna, the cause of all causes. (Brahma-samhitaa 5.48)

In Hindu philosophy, the existence of the universe is governed by the Trimurti of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Sustainer) and Shiva (the Destroyer). The sequence of Avatars of Vishnu- the Dasavatara (Sanskrit: Dasa—ten,Avatara—incarnation) is generally accepted by most Hindus today as correlating well with Darwin's theory of evolution, the first Avatar generating from the environment of water.

Hindus thus do not see much conflict between creation and evolution. An additional reason for this could also be the Hindu concept of cyclic time, such as yugas, or days of Brahma in approximately 4.3 billion year cycles (unlike the concept of linear time in many other religions). In fact, time is represented as Kaala Chakra — the Wheel of Time.

In Hinduism, nature and all of God's creations are manifestations of Him. He is within and without his creations, pervading the entire universe and also observing it externally. Hence all animals and humans have a divine element in them that is covered by the ignorance and illusions of material or profane existence.

Origin belief - Hopi
The Elders say that the first Hopi had chosen to live in the barren desert so that they would always need to pray for rain. Thus, they would not lose faith in their ceremonies, which maintain their bond with the Mother Nature and Creator. They said that the True Hopi people represent the Red race through the authority vested in them by the Creator, Maasaw.

Origin belief - Hmong
According to Hmong tradition, a long time ago the rivers and ocean covered the Earth. A brother and sister were locked in a yellow wooden drum. The Sky People looked out and saw the Earth. Everything was dead. Only a yellow wooden drum was left on the water.

"Punch holes in the Earth so the water will drain away," said the King above the Sky.

The water went down. Finally, the drum bumped against the ground. The brother and sister came out of the drum and looked around. Everything was dead.

"Where are the people?" asked the sister.

But the brother had an idea. "All the people on Earth are gone. Marry me, we can have children."

"I can't marry you, we are brother and sister."

But he asked her again and again and she said, "No."

Finally the brother said, "Let's carry the grindstones up the hill and roll them into the valley. If the stones land on top of each other, then you shall marry me."

The sister rolled her stone and then, as soon as the brother rolled his stone he ran as fast as he could down the hill and stacked the stones on top of each other.

When the sister saw the stones she cried. Finally she said, "I will marry you, because it was meant to be."

A year later the wife gave birth to a baby, but the baby was not a real baby. It had no arms or legs. It was just round like a pumpkin. The husband cut it up and threw the pieces away. One piece fell on the garden and it became the "Vang" clan because "Vang" sounds like the word for "garden" in Hmong. One piece fell on the goat house. Some pieces fell on the leaves and grass and they became the other Hmong clans. The Nhia, Mhoua, Pao, Ho, Xiong, Vue, and so on.

The next morning the village was full of houses. Everyone came to the husband and wife and said, "Mother and father, come have breakfast with us."

The husband said to his wife, "I asked you to marry me because all the people on Earth were dead. Now these people are our family -- our sons and daughters."

Origin belief - Inca
The Incan account of creation is known based on what was recorded by priests, from the iconography on Incan pottery and architecture, and the myths and legends which survived amongst the native peoples. According to these accounts, in the most ancient of times the earth was covered in darkness. Then, out of a lake called Collasuyu (modern Titicaca), the god Con Tiqui Viracocha emerged, bringing some human beings with him. Then Con Tiqui created the sun (Inti), the moon and the stars to light the world. It is from Inti that the Sapa Inca, emperor of Tawantinsuyu, is descended. Out of great rocks Con Tiqui fashioned more human beings, including women who were already pregnant. Then he sent these people off into every comer of the world. He kept a male and female with him at Cuzco, the "navel of the world."

Con, the Creator; was in the form of a man without bones. He filled the earth with good things to supply the needs of the first humans. The people, however, forgot Con's goodness to them and rebelled. So he punished them by stopping the rainfall. The miserable people were forced to work hard, drawing what little water they could find from stinking, drying riverbeds. Then a new god, Pachacamac, came and drove Con out, changing his people into monkeys. Pachachamac then took earth and made the ancestors of human beings..

The founder of the first dynasty of the kingdom of Cuzco was Manco Capac. In one legend he was brought up from the depths of Lake Titicaca by the sun god Inti. In another he was the son of Tici Viracocha. However commoners were not allowed to speak the name of Viracocha, which is possibly an explanation for the need for two foundation legends.

In one myth Manco Capac was the brother of Pachacamac, both were sons of the sun god Inti who is also known as Apu Punchau. Manco Capac himself was worshiped as a fire and sun god. According to the Inti legend, Manco Capac and his siblings were sent up to the earth by the sun god and emerged from the cave of Pacaritambo carrying a golden staff, called ‘tapac-yauri’. They were instructed to create a Temple of the Sun in the spot where the staff sank into the earth, they traveled to Cusco via underground caves, and built a temple in honor of the sun god Inti, their father. During the journey to Cuzco, one of Manco’s brothers, and possibly one of his sisters, were turned to stone (huaca). In another version of this legend, instead of emerging from a cave in Cuzco, the siblings instead emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca.

In the Tici Virachocha legend, Manco Capac was the son of Tici Viracocha of Pacari-Tampu (today Pacaritambo, 25 km south of Cuzco). He and his brothers (Ayar Anca, Ayar Cachi and Ayar Uchu) and sisters (Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Raua and Mama Cura) lived near Cuzco at Paccari-Tampu, and united their people and ten ayllu they encountered in their travels to conquer the tribes of the Cuzco Valley. This legend also incorporates the golden staff, which is thought to have been given to Manco Capac by his father. Accounts vary, but according to some versions of the legend, the young Manco jealously betrayed his older brothers, killed them, and became the sole ruler of Cuzco.

Origin belief - Islam
In Islam all creation is attributed to Allah (the proper name for God in Arabic), the one and only God for Muslims. He is clearly identified as the "first cause" at numerous places in the Qur'an. Three instances follow:

(13:16) … Say: Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Supreme

(57:3) … He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He is Knower of all things

(112:1) … Say: He, Allah, is One

(112:2) … Allah is He on Whom all depend

Referring to the first cause argument the Qur'an addresses the non-believers:

(52:35) … Or were they created without a (creative) agency? Or are they the creators?

(52:36) … Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, they are sure of nothing

Origin belief - Japan
The god Izanagi and goddess Izanami churned the ocean with a spear to make a small island of curdled salt. Two deities went down to the island, mixed there, and bore main islands, deities, and forefathers of Japan. See Japanese mythology#Creation of the world.

Origin belief - Jainism
This universe has not been created by God; but has been revealed by him. He does not create this universe.. he does not rule it; does not govern it; and does not direct it and "the creation is such". God surely reveals to us the real nature and form of the universe. Seeing with his divine eyes, he reveals the essential and real form of the universe. The Tirthankar Bhagwant has said: The world is without a beginning. It has no beginning. It has no end. This creation is boundless being devoid of a beginning and an end. But it is present in the flow and flux of time. The universe sometimes grows small. Creation and destruction; production and disposal are always going on. Behind this eternal process there does not exist anyone's planning or organization. The whole universe is a self-regulated one. But in this organization, Karma plays an important role. In this process the effect of Karma is emphatically evident.

Origin belief - Judaism
The notion of "Tzimtzum", or God's retraction to make way for space and time, is a core element to the Jewish approach to the First Cause notion.

Origin belief - Maya
The Maya of Mesoamerica creation story is recounted in the book "Popol Vuh". In the beginning there is only sky and sea, personified as a trinity of gods called Heart-of-Sky. They decide that they want someone to praise them. They begin by saying "Earth", which appears on demand from the sea. This is followed by mountains and trees, and Heart-of-Sky establish that "our work is going well". Next for creation are the creatures of the forest: birds, deer, jaguars and snakes. They are told to multiply and scatter, and then to speak and "pray to us". But the animals just squawk and howl. They are consequently humbled and will become servants to whoever will worship Heart-of-Sky. So Heart-of-Sky try to make some more respectful creatures from mud. But the results are not great, and they allow the new race to be washed away. They call upon their grandparents, who suggest wood as an appropriate medium. But the wooden people are just mindless robots, so Heart-of Sky set about the destruction of this new race by means of a rain-storm. This causes the animals to turn against the wooden people; even their pots and querns rebel, and crush the peoples' faces. The wooden people escape to the forests and are turned into monkeys. Heart-of-Sky then make yet another attempt at creating a suitably respectful race, and finally succeed by fashioning humans out of maize-corn dough.

Origin belief - Māori
The Māori creation myth tells how heaven and earth were once joined as Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, lay together in a tight embrace. They had many children who lived in the darkness between them. The children wished to live in the light and so separated their unwilling parents. Ranginui and Papatuanuku continue to grieve for each other to this day. Rangi's tears fall as rain towards Papatuanuku to show how much he loves her. When mist rises from the forests, these are Papa's sighs as the warmth of her body yearns for him and continues to nurture mankind.

Origin belief - Navajo
In the beginning there were Holy People, supernatural and sacred, who lived below ground in four lower worlds. A great flood underground forced the Holy People to crawl to the surface of the earth through a hollow reed, where they re-created the world each time they entered a new one. In the later worlds, Changing Woman gave birth to the Hero Twins, called "Monster Slayer" and "Child of the Waters" who had many adventures in which they helped to rid the world of much evil. Earth Surface People, mortals, were created in the fourth world, and First Man and First Woman were formed from ears of white and yellow corn. The gods gave them ceremonies, which are still practiced today.

Origin belief - Norse
Odin and his brothers used Ymir's body to create the universe. This universe comprises of nine worlds. They placed the body over the void called Ginnungagap. They used his flesh for creating the earth and his blood for the sea. His skull, held up by four dwarves (Nordri North, Sudri South, Austri East, and Vestri West), was used to create the heaven. Then using sparks from Muspelheim, the gods created the sun, moon and stars. While Ymir's eyebrows were used to create a place where the human race could live in; a place called Midgard. The first humans, Ask and Embla, were created from logs.

Origin belief - Polynesian
Forever has always existed. So has Darkness, and so, too, the Sea. Soaring over the endless sea, The Old Spider fond a giant clam and opened it and crawled inside. It was totally dark, and cramped inside but she found a snail, whom she asked to open the shell a bit so she could have more room.

The snail obliged. Then the Old Spider took the snail and placed it in the west and made it into the Moon, shedding some light into the darkness. With the help of another snail, The Old Spider pushed very hard on the top of the shell, raising it up, and it became the Sky, called Rangi.
With great effort, the Old Spider then pushed down on the lower part of the clam shell, and it widened and became the earth. The earth was called Papa, or Mother Earth. This basic myth of creation is told roughout Oceania, from two different points of view: One, a supreme deity (Po or Io) creates everything; in the other, a mythical entity (the Old Spider) or a goddess (Lukelong) creates the heavens and then the earth.

Origin belief - Hawaii
The Kumulipo, the source of life, is an ancient Hawaiian mele oli, or chant, consisting of over 2000 lines. The ancient Hawaiian kahunas, or priests, would memorize every word and recite the oli at important events such as the festival of the god Lono. This is the oli that tells of the origin of the Hawaiian people.

"At the time when the earth became hot, when the heavens turned inside out, when the light of the sun was weakened causing the moon to shine, the time of the rise of the Pleiades, the time of night darkness, the realm of Gods, the time of Po...

The slime was the source of the earth, the source of deep darkness, the source of the darkness born of darkness, the depth of darkness, darkness of the sun, darkness of the night. Nothing but darkness.

The night gave birth. Born in this night was Kumulipo, the source of life - male. Born was Po`ele, night blackness - female... "

Night followed night and born to the darkness were the eternal spirits. This was the beginning of the earth...

Born were the plants...born were the fishes of the sea and the animals that swam the air. Born were the creeping things, the birds and the crawlers...

Still it was night. For such was the time of Po, where it was still dark. Tranquil was the time as night pressed...

"It was calmness then when the wombs gave birth. So was born the ancestor of the race and well formed was the child. The first chief of the dim past who dwelt in the cold uplands. This was the time when men multiplied, when men came from afar, born of woman, of man and of gods. They were born in the hundreds and in ever increasing numbers. It was the time of Ao. It was day."

Origin belief - Randomness
Some philosophers like Hakim Bey and occultists like Peter Carroll think randomness, chaos or the Uncertainty principle is the prime mover according to science, and should accordingly be treated as divine.

Origin belief - Sami
The Sami creation myth, directly related to their harsh environment, tells the story of a monstrous giant named Biegolmai, the Wind Man. In the beginning of time, Biegolmai created the Sapmi region by taking two huge shovels, one to whip up the wind and the other to drop such huge amounts of snow that no one could live there. One day, however, one of Biegolmai's shovels broke, the wind died down, and the Sami were able to enter Sapmi.

Origin belief - Surat Shabda Yoga
Surat Shabda Yoga cosmology depicts the whole of creation (the macrocosm) as being emanated and arranged in a spiritually differentiated hierarchy, often referred to as eggs, regions, or planes. Typically, eight spiritual levels are described above the physical plane, although names and subdivisions within these levels will vary to some extent by mission and Master. (One version of the creation from a Surat Shabda Yoga perspective is depicted at the Sant Ajaib Singh Ji Memorial Site in “The Grand Scheme of All Creation”.) All planes below the purely spiritual regions are subject to cycles of creation and dissolution (pralya) or grand dissolution (maha pralya).

The constitution of the individual (the microcosm) is an exact replica of the macrocosm. Consequently, the microcosm consists of a number of bodies, each one suited to interact with its corresponding plane or region in the macrocosm. These bodies developed over the yugas through involution (emanating from higher planes to lower planes) and evolution (returning from lower planes to higher planes), including by karma and reincarnation in various states of consciousness.

Origin belief - Taoism
Tao is the namelss void, the mother of the Ten Thousand Things. Tao is considered by Lao Tzu to be that which eternally gives without being depleted, and eternally receives without being filled. That which does not exist for its own sake is able to endure.

Origin belief - Zen
Everything and nothing are all interconnected, inseparable, a whole. Zen denies that the person is the first cause. If it speaks of origins at all, it says that the ground of being is the real first cause.

Origin belief - Zoroastrianism
The Zoroastrianism story of creation has Ahura Mazda creating 16 lands, one by one, such that each would be delightful to its people. As he finished each one, Angra Mainyu applied a counter-creation, introducing plague and sin of various kinds.

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