From Around the World
How Stories of the Beginning Might Have Begun
Ideas about the birth of the world are at the very core of any culture’s
definition of itself and its view on its role in the world. This is
quite evident when looking at a creation myth and the society in
which it is upheld.
rulership of that culture claims its right through the myth, its
priesthood forms the rules of worship and celebration around it, and
the members of that society define their roles and aspirations based
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.
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.
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
creation myth also proclaims the role of man in the world. The myth
fixes his destiny and in what way he will find meaning in his
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.
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.
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 (Latin for "Let there be"), the word by which God creates. This is a symbolic depiciton of how God's spirit in the form of a dove creates light. Illustration from Utriusque Cosmi Historia, by Robert Fludd, 1617.
above makes the creation myths extremely rewarding in examining the
thoughts and thought patterns of any culture. In addition, it's
usually the most spectacular and splendid example of imagery and
imagination of its culture.
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.
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
is a lot about the human nature to be revealed through the creation
myths – provided we learn to interpret them accurately.
comprehend creation myths we must try to understand the minds of the
people who originally invented them. But many of those myths are so
old that very little can be known for sure about their makers.
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.
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.
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.
all to hope for.
- Man, Too
- Human Thought Revealed
- Trusting Creation Myths
- Time and Place
- Inner Story Logics
- Triangle of Functions
- The Relief of Tragedy
- Homo Rudis
- Present Day Tribes
- The Evolution of Creation Myths
- Subconscious Creation
- Simplicity and Urgency
- The All Was Born in the Past
- Religion, Science, or Art
- What Can Be Reached
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.
© Stefan Stenudd 2011
How stories of the beginning began.
Theories through history about myth and fable.
The mythological symbols and what they stand for.
Patterns of creation.
The paradox of origin, according to an Indian myth.
The first creation story of the bible scrutinized.
The ancient Babylonian creation myth.
The insoluble solitude of gods and humans.
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I'm a Swedish author and historian of ideas, researching the thought patterns in creation myths. I've also written books about Taoism, the Tarot, and life force concepts around the world. Click the image to get to my personal website.