Thursday, March 3, 2011

Creation Essay

For my comparative civilizations class, we had to write an essay comparing some creation stories. I thought mine turned out decently, and I would post it here. Recently I was alerted I was not posting often enough, so here is some filler as I finish the post I started last flex block.

Every civilization has its own explanation on what existed before humans or even Earth, how Earth was formed, and how humans were made along with their purpose. These explanations, which are often called creation stories, have several similarities in what existed before the earth was created, who existed then; the creation of earth, its features, and often even the creation of the celestial bodies; and the creation of humans and their roll in existence. A very common creation story is the Judaeo-Christian story of creation that can be found in Genesis (the first book of the Bible), which is easy to relate in theme or individual events to many other creation stories; whether it be the Islamic creation story found in the Koran, the Greek or Roman creation story that is found in Mediterranean mythology, or the Mayan creation story which has been deciphered through the findings of ancient cities and artifacts.

The book of Genesis is said to be written by prophets that had the story bestowed upon them from God, so it is often considered to be written by God rather than a human being. In this story, it is assumed that God already existed and nothing else. On the first day of creation, he created light, along with the Heaven and the Earth. In this process, light was divided from darkness and time was also created. The second day was spent with separating the sky from the water, which was complemented by the third day’s production of land and vegetation being created. With the Earth and all its land masses now assembled, the celestial bodies of the sun, moon, and stars were then formed. The fifth day of creation included the creation of birds and ocean dwelling creatures. It was not until the sixth day that animals were made, and then, finally, humans were made in the image of God. Humans were given control of the Earth and all the creatures that now existed. The story then goes on to tell about about Adam and Eve, the first humans whom were created. By the consumption of a fruit from the tree of knowledge (what the fruit actually is up for speculation, but a common perception is it may have been a pomegranate) the first sin, or act against God, had been made. Of course, this was not done without inspiration from Satan in the form of a serpent. This was considered sinfull because God said they may consume any other fruit in Paradise, also known as the Garden of Eden, they were placed in, except for the fruit off the Tree of Knowledge. Due to their disobedience they were cast out of Paradise.

A creation story that has many similarities to Genesis, is the Islamic story of creation. It too was said to be sent from God, also known as Allah, to be written down; however, the time frame this happened it was written is much more recent. In the early seventh century, A.D., the prophet Muhammad received this story during meditation. The story he received assumed Allah and Earth existed already, unlike Genesis which states only God existed initially. In this absence of light Allah mixed the gasses which caused the creation of almost everything. As for humans, they were made after out of dust of many colours that was found all over the Earth and then left this mould to sit for one hundred and twenty years. During this time Satan, also known as Ibis, put a black mark on the mould. Once Allah came back to the mould he breathed the Holy Spirit into it, giving it life. By doing so the human was given a position higher than Ibis and Ibis was instructed to bow down because of this. The punishment for refusing this was banishment. In his time away from Heaven, Ibis created a plan to enact revenge on the newly created humans. Just as Satan tempted Eve in Genesis, Ibis tempted Adam and Eve to consume the forbidden fruit. They too were cast out of Paradise, the shell-like covering form by the mould split open and everything fell off except for their fingernails and their toenails. The angel Gabriel took pity on Adam, who fell to Earth at a different location than Eve, and taught him farming, spinning, weaving, mining, medicine, music, and geometry. Eventually Allah accepted Adam’s repentance and sent him to Mecca where he was reunited with Eve and they became the parents of humanity. In this story, specific events form Genesis is expanded on. The concept of there being only one god, the concept that that all creation came from God and a general peaceful sense is also similar. The largest differences to be found relates to the creation of humans. In the Koran it is a gradual event, spanning over one hundred and twenty years. This is quite contrasted to Genesis which has everything coming into creation with the will of God.

The idea that everything simply comes into existence is also not found in the Graeco-Roman (Greek and Roman) mythology surrounding creation. In this story there is nothing before the creation of Earth, except for a bird named Nix. This bird laid an egg, that when hatched, split into the sky and the Earth. In the void of chaos emerged Gaea, the great Earth-Mother. Behind her was Erebos, the darkness; Aether, the light; Pontus, the sea; and Eros, who was love. During sleep Gaea gave birth to several more beings, of whom were given tasks. This lead to the creation of the features on the world, and the animals on them as well. As more generations of beings were given life, some of the older beings became cautious and afraid of the new generation. A prophesy was made that one of Cronus’s own children will seize his sovereignty from you, for he had come to rule the world. In an attempt to prevent this, he swallowed all but one of his children. This child, Zeus, who was not swallowed, was hidden by his mother, Rhea. He gave Cronus a mixture to drink that caused him to spit forth all his children, who were now all fully grown as was Zeus. The children took up arms against Cronus, eventually leading to Zeus becoming the father of humanity. He also ruled over the three levels of existence; the world of the gods on Mount Olympus, the earth and all who resided there, and the dark menacing underworld. Humans came shortly after this, who were made of clay by the god of fire, Promethus. Athena enjoyed these figures, and breathed life into them, despite Zeus’s displeasure with this. He could not destroy them, so rather he denied them immortality and confined humans to Earth. In this story there is a spontaneous creation of the sky and earth, with the breaking of the egg, however the concept of sudden creation is found much less than in Genesis. Everything comes to be over time, and it is made rather than simply summoned. There are multiple gods, instead of one supreme being. Even the individual who eventually becomes the father of humanity is not placed in that position right away. There are moments of peace, but much of this story contrasts the gentle acts in Genesis with the swallowing of children, the poisoning of a god, and an eventual war leading to the downfall of the once ruler, Cronus.

If one is looking for a violent story, they could look to the Mayan creation story which also features a tale of destruction. The Mayan’s believed that creation had occurred several times prior to the most recent creation. Each time the Earth was destroyed by a calamity, only to be created again. This was done by Itzamn’a, whom was the creator of human life along with the inventor of books, writing, and the patron of science and learning, as well as ruler of the day, night, heavens, Earth, and sky. He was not the only god, but rather the head god to several who existed under him such as Ah Kindril, the sun god; Ah Puch, the lord of death; Ek Chua, the guardian god of merchants and travelers; Xaman Ek, the ruler of the North Star; and Chac who ruled over the four domains of rainmaking, thunder, lightning, and storms. Before Itzamn’a caused the most recent creation, there was only the sky and the sea. He did this by summoning the Earth, mountains, and trees all from the water. The Earth was believed to be resting on the back of a giant crocodile, floating on a lily pond. From there it was divided into three levels of existence, all stacked upon each other. These would be the underworld, the Earth, and the sky. Within the sky there were thirteen heavens. Within the underworld there were nine layers. The Earth was placed between all of this. On this layer, humans were created not just once, but three times. The first time they were too stupid, and destroyed. The second attempted featured slightly more intelligent beings, however they were annoying to the gods. In punishment the gods turned the tools against these beings, and chased them into the forest where they became the creatures which resemble humans; monkeys. This story has a few features which are found in few other stories, such as multiple creations of everything and humans in specific. This story is peaceful on the most part, if you are to turn a blind eye to the tools who wanted to do what the humans had done to them. This can be compared to Adam and Eve being removed from paradise. The final attempt to create humans created the beings that exist now, humans with souls, knowledge, and free will.

Free will is something that is found in all of these four stories that have been described, along with the creation of humans to worship God or multiple Gods. How many beings there are who make for creation varies in many civilizations. One thing that is consistent is there is always at least one being, rather than some modern theories regarding the creation of the world which feature a lack of any omnipotent beings. The similarities in these stories give our modern civilization to view what the opinions of the people before us thought about their world and universe. Most of the stories relate to aspects of where the story was created, such as Genesis featuring a fruit which may have been found in the region where the story was first formed. Many of the stories also feature an underworld, or after life. With that concept, the only way to be sure that any of the stories are accurate is to wait for death and see if our consciousness continues on to be greeted by a being; whether it be God, Allah, Zeus, Itzamn’a, or any of the hundreds of other beings who appear in other creation stories that are found where ever civilization is found.

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