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Creation Myths

Updated on January 30, 2015

How have various cultures explained the creation of the world?What are the similarities among these myths?What do these similarities illuminate about the human condition regardless of time and setting?What are the core values throughout the majority of these myths?

For this discussion I decided to answer the questions on the similarities among the myths of creation and what these similarities illuminate about the human condition regardless of time and setting. Many of the different myths have certain aspects that make them similar to each other such as: a separation between heaven and earth, the inclusion of multiple gods/goddesses, and death/destruction. I found that most of the myths had some form of death or destruction in them; the myths titled: Creation in Uganda, Creation in Memphis, and Brahma Create the World all show aspects of death. In Creation in Uganda Warumbe (the god of disease and death) follows Kintu and Nambi to Earth and after Kintu refuses to give Warumbe any of his multiple children Warumbe states, “I shall kill them all. Not today, not tomorrow, not this year, not the next, but one by one I shall claim them all” (Powell 520). Warumbe makes good on his threat as from that day on there is death on Earth. In the Creation in Memphis myth there is a God, Osiris who is the lord of the dead and whose purpose is to judge the dead based on the weight “of the heart on a scales against the feather of Truth” (Powell 80). In the Brahma Create the World myth where “the world is a part of a cycle of birth and destruction” (Powell 229). In this myth Brahma lives for 311.04 trillion human years and then the universe and all human life are destroyed and the world is remade in accordance with the Karma by Brahma.

Regardless of time and setting the similar theme of death and destruction through many of the myths show a disregard of human life in comparison to the Gods. In Creation in Uganda Kintu is forced to face numerous tests created by Mugulu in order to be allowed to retrieve his cow, be declared a man, and be returned to Earth with Nambi. Each test Mugulu creates is made to be impossible to complete and if Kintu fails a test his penalty for failure is death. In Creation in Memphis Geb, lord of the Gods split Egypt between Horus and Seth and then later regretted his decision and gave Horus all of Egypt. The way that Geb gave part of Egypt to Seth and then decided to take it back and give it to Horus even though he had already ruled that Seth was to have half of Egypt demonstrate how Geb and the Gods have a disregard for humans. In the Brahma Create the World myth the disregard for humanity is shown in how Brahma reduces “a human life to a speck of dust in the wind” (Powell 232) when the world is destroyed.

Works Cited

Powell, Barry B. World Myth. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print.

One of the most common questions to be asked and, of course, answered in any culture’s mythology is that of creation of the world. Every culture has attempted to explain the world around them, and almost every culture has recorded a version of this creation in some sort of narrative. This particular branch of mythological studies is often called cosmological mythology—creation of the cosmos.
Mythological cosmology deals with the world as the totality of space, time, and all phenomena. Historically, it has had quite a broad scope and in many cases was founded in religion. The ancient Greeks did not draw a distinction between this use and the ancient Greek model for the cosmos. However, in modern use, mythological cosmology addresses questions about the universe that are beyond the scope of science. It is distinguished from religious cosmology in that it approaches these questions using philosophical methods, although many culture’s religions and mythologies overlap in content, characters, and setting. In completing research on creation myths from a cosmological stance, two major terms are used: monism and creationism. Both stances strive to answer the question, what is the origin of the universe? Some cultures use science to answer this question, some use religion, and some mythologies sometimes get muddled into one of the two categories. Two dictionary definitions are provided here. Students of mythology should be familiar with these in order to assimilate these characteristics in their analysis or refute them. Monism, as defined by Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, is a term from philosophy that asserts that creation and reality are entirely of one substance. As students study creation myths, many cultures will refer to existence as being a product of monism (or ultimately originating from one source). Monism is thus opposed to both dualism and pluralism. Three basic types of monism are recognized: materialistic monism, idealistic monism, and the mind-stuff theory. According to the first doctrine, everything in the universe, including mental phenomena, is reduced to the one category of matter; in the second, matter is regarded as a form of manifestation of mind; and in the third, matter and mind are considered merely aspects of each other. Although monistic philosophies date from ancient Greece, the term “monism” is comparatively recent. It was first used by the German philosopher Christian von Wolff to designate types of philosophical thought in which the attempt was made to eliminate the dichotomy of body and mind. The earliest thoroughgoing monism appears in the writings of the seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who taught that both material and spiritual phenomena are attributes of one underlying substance that constitutes the monistic reality. Spinoza’s doctrine thus strongly anticipated the mind-stuff theory. Another monistic philosophy is the monadology of the seventeenth-century German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, in which the underlying reality of the universe is said to be represented by monads, individual entities that reflect within themselves the order and harmony of the entire cosmos. Creationism, as defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, is the belief that the universe and the various forms of life were created by God out of nothing (ex nihilo). Creationism is a response to modern evolutionary theory, which explains the emergence and diversity of life without recourse to the doctrine of God or any other divine power. Mainstream scientists generally reject creationism. Biblical creationists believe that the story told in Genesis of God’s six-day creation of all things is literally correct. Scientific creationists believe that a creator made all that exists, but they may not hold that the Genesis story is a literal history of that creation. Both types of creationists, however, believe that changes in organisms may involve changes within a species or downward changes (negative mutations), but they do not believe that any of these changes can lead to the evolution of a “lower” or simpler species into a “higher” or more-complex species. Thus, the theory of biological evolution is disputed by all creationists. As students examine the various creation myths in Module Two, they will see how both beliefs hold credence. We are not attempting to dispute theories by looking at the theme of creation and origin, but rather, we are attempting to gain insight into a culture’s values by looking at these myths side by side. Cultures and civilizations themselves have disputed the accuracy of creation as it has been assigned through myths (our society still does this in the intelligent design versus evolution dispute), but the role of the student here is to identify and classify the common threads of these stories throughout different cultures. Module Three will explore how different cultures preserved their myths (creation and otherwise) in their art. Students will see how individuals within cultures and civilizations were so dedicated to various themes seen in myths that they solidified that dedication in permanent (or what constitutes near permanence) artistic representations.

References

“Creationism.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., n.d. Web. 21 July 2014.
“Monism.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia Online. Funk & Wagnalls Corporation, n.d. Web. 22 July 2014.

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