By Stefan Stenudd
I'm a Swedish writer and historian of ideas, researching the thought patterns in creation myths. I've also written books about Tao Te ching, the Taoist classic, and other East Asian traditions. Here's my personal website: stenudd.com
My Other Websites:
The many life force beliefs all over the world, ancient and modern, explained.
The ancient Chinese cosmology and philosophy of life, based on Tao, the Way, and its source texts explained.
All about the old deck of Tarot cards traditionally used for divination, and the archetype symbolism of each card.
Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared, by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained
The great Chinese classic, translated and extensively commented by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
This book presents an imaginative reading of the divination cards, which is the most appropriate for the Tarot since it consists of symbolic images. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
How Stories of the Beginning Might Have Begun
Although a creation myth is rarely comparable to a law, the society that confesses to it tends to read it as the primary reason for the order to which it subjects its citizens. The creation myth is not their constitution, but proclaims the principles to which a constitution must conform, in order to work in the world as they know it.
Knowledge, too, is greatly influenced by the ideas presented in the creation myth. What can be known, and how it can be understood, are set out by it. The perspectives that are absent from the creation myth are unlikely to be explored by the culture loyal to it. The same is true for the line of reasoning fathomable within that culture, as well as the reach of its language, and the directions of its thoughts.
The ideas on how the world was formed shape the very patterns of any other ideas, and the paths that they will pursue. The creation of the world sets the rules for how the world can be perceived and explored. It forms the boundaries of what the world is, and what it is not.
He may be the very goal of creation, or he may be just a lesser ingredient in it. Both cases are found in creation myths around the world. In several myths man is nothing but a persistent disturbance, annoying his maker.
This is of vast importance in how man relates to nature and the world around him. It is also instrumental in how he regards himself, his potential, his rights and obligations.
Indeed, the creation myth of a society sets the stage for all the thoughts nurtured by it. The myth also influences what perspectives are at all possible to conceive and comprehend. This is true for our modern world, too. For example, the Big Bang theory does not deviate greatly from the creation of the world by its divinely distant maker simply pronouncing: “Let there be!”
Fiat - Let there be.
When the mind ventures as far as to the very beginning of the world, it performs a feat that must be at the height of its capacity. So, what the mind manages to envision on that quest draws from the outmost borders of its reach. The creation myth is one of the greatest achievements of the human mind, in any given cultural situation. That may be one of the major reasons for such myths being praised so highly in the cultures of their emergence.
Since the creation myth can reveal so much about man’s thoughts, it's an excellent material for studying the nature of the human mind. It reveals essential things about the patterns of human thought: how physical experience leads to intellectual conclusions, how the mind makes up for missing pieces in the puzzle of understanding the world we live in, and how the mind relates to its own conclusions.
There is a lot about the human nature to be revealed through the creation myths – provided we learn to interpret them accurately.
Actually, several myths have such a distant origin that these same myths are the only clues to the thoughts of the cultures from which they sprang. So, we have to track their thoughts through the myths, in order to get any understanding of their minds, by which to get the meanings of the myths revealed.
Of course, that easily leads to walking in a circle – but not necessarily. The inner logics of a myth, the cosmology it implies and presents, as well as what we do know about the environment in which that people lived, are pieces of the puzzle.
There is seldom ground to be absolutely certain about conclusions made from these ingredients, but just as with the puzzle: If the pieces fit and make a complete picture, then we should have reason to trust the result. At least, the conclusion must be regarded as likely.
That’s all to hope for.
This text was written as an introduction of sorts to my ongoing dissertation on creation myths, at the Lund University History of Ideas and Learning.