The notion that somebody literally made the world—that is what is known as artificialism. It is the child’s way of thinking: the table is made, so somebody made the table. The world is here, so somebody must have made it. There is another point of view involving emanation and precipitation without personification. A sound precipitates air, then fire, then water and earth—and that’s how the world becomes. The whole universe is included in this first sound, this vibration, which then commits all things to fragmentation in the field of time. In this view, there is not someone outside who said, “Let it happen.” In most cultures there are two or three creation stories, not just one. There are two in the Bible, even though people treat them as one story. You remember in the Garden of Eden story of Chapter 2: God is trying to think of ways to entertain Adam, whom he has created to be his gardener, to take care of his garden. That is an old, old story that was borrowed from ancient Sumer. The gods wanted somebody to take care of their garden and cultivate the food that they needed, so they created man. That’s the background of the myth of Chapters 2 and 3 in Genesis. But Yahweh’s gardener is bored. So God tries to invent toys for him. He creates the animals, but all the man can do is name them. Then God thinks of this grand idea of drawing the soul of woman out of Adam’s own body—which is a very different creation story from Chapter 1 of Genesis, where God created Adam and Eve together in the image of himself as male and female. There God is himself the primordial androgyne. Chapter 2 is by far the earlier story, coming from perhaps the eighth century or so B.C., whereas Chapter 1 is of a so-called priestly text, of about the fourth century B.C., or later. In the Hindu story of the Self that felt fear, then desire, then split in two, we have a counterpart of Genesis 2. In Genesis, it is man, not the god, who splits in two. The Greek legend that Aristophanes tells in Plato’s Symposium is another of this kind. Aristophanes says that in the beginning there were creatures composed of what are now two human beings. And those were of three sorts: male/female, male/male, and female/female. The gods then split them all in two. But after they had been split apart, all they could think of to do was to embrace each other again in order to reconstitute the original units. So we all now spend our lives trying to find and re-embrace our other halves.

Joseph Campbell (from The Power of Myth)

 

Advertisements