in the Beginning - A question of belief

Reflections on the emergence of the Universe/Creation.

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In the Beginning', what happened? According to current scientific thinking the 'Big Bang' is what happened, which means that the Universe emerged out of a super-dense fireball at a specific moment, estimated to have occurred some fifteen plus billion years ago. The evidence for this was established in the 1920's, when it was noticed by astronomers that all galaxies seemed to be moving away from us. Moreover, it was noticed that the further away the galaxy the faster it appeared to be moving away from our own. The implication of this phenomenon gave rise to the notion that the Universe is expanding, and it followed, that if it is expanding then it must have begun its expansion at some point in time and from a common source.

Einstein's equations demonstrated that this common source must have been a single point, otherwise known as a Singularity. His equations further demonstrated that there must have been an instant when individual stars were merged, together with all Space, Time, and Energy, in one huge cosmic egg. That at a certain moment this super-dense fireball exploded sending unimaginable amounts of energy and matter out from its centre, which, as it moved away from that centre began to cool, and in doing so precipitated the large masses of matter and gas we call galaxies. Hence the term 'Big Bang'.

Now it is generally accepted by much of the scientific community that this moment of Creation, this 'beginning', could only have occurred 'but once' (although ongoing developments in quantum physics seem to challenge this theory) from which point the evolutionary process of development by accident began; a chemistry of blind unconscious matter becoming whatever it becomes purely by chance. How such a belief can be substantiated has never been made clear, for it is impossible to be certain about events that occurred long before humanity could have existed. Inevitably then we can only see these events through a mind's eye conditioned by beliefs and assumptions, around which we generally make the facts fit. Thus, our present theories about Creation are just as likely to be forming the basis of future myths.

Over the last century or so the consensus of scientific opinion has evolved around the concept that this Universe happened by accident, but there are now signs that this entrenched viewpoint is changing. Some scientists[1] are beginning to assert the idea that our Universe is a fully conscious entity that was to all intents and purposes 'born'. The begging question is of course; of what, or from what, was it born?  In the scientific circles of the 1930's the moment of 'Creation' was likened to that of an egg hatching. This concept was far from being new; as a matter of fact, it has a very long track record, for as we shall see, although the emphasis was different, many of our ancestors saw the birth of Creation in very much the same way. According to Hindu tradition, The Laws of Manu,[2] state;

"Once upon a time this Universe was made of darkness, without anything that could be discerned, without any distinguishing marks, impossible to know through reasoning or understanding; it seemed to be entirely asleep. Then the Lord who is self-existent, himself unmanifest, caused this Universe to become manifest; putting his energy into the great elements and everything else, he became visible and dispelled the darkness. The one who can be grasped only by what is beyond the sensory powers, who is subtle, unmanifest, eternal, unimaginable, he of whom all creatures are made - he is the one who actually appeared.

He thought deeply, for he wished to emit various sorts of creatures from his body; first he emitted the waters, and then he emitted his semen in them. That semen became a golden egg, as bright as the sun with his thousand rays; Brahma himself, the grandfather of all people, was born in that egg. 'The waters are born of man,' so it is said; indeed the waters are the children of the primordial man. And since they were his resting place in ancient time, therefore he is traditionally known as Narayana. The one who is the first cause; unmanifest, eternal, the essence of what is real and unreal, emitted the Man, who is known in the world as Brahma. The Lord dwelt in that egg for a whole year, and then just by thinking he himself divided the egg into two. Out of the two fragments he made the sky and the earth and the atmosphere in the middle, and the eight cardinal directions, and the eternal place of the waters. And out of himself he grew the Manas (mind-and-heart), the essence of what is real and unreal, and from the Manas came the sense of 'I'..."

In Egyptian mythology there are several different accounts of Creation, each established by the succession of different cults that became politically dominant during the long period of Egyptian civilisation. The first was the Heliopolitan cosmogony, which taught that the first event in the creative process was the emergence of Atum out of the chaotic wastes of Nun; whose name means something like the 'Completed One', and who was later identified with the sun-god Ra. It was taught that Atum was Self-created, and in the further acts of creation was often referred to as the 'Great He-She' or Father-Mother God. Atum gave birth to his son Shu (the Life-principle) and his daughter Tefnut (the principle of world order) via his mouth, which has a particular significance for those who have the eyes to see. Shu and Tefnut were the parents of Geb - the Earth and Nut - the sky, his sister and wife. These in their turn were the parents of four children; Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Set. The second, the Memphite cosmogony, was established in the city of Memphis, which taught that Ptah the Great God, created Atum in his creative role of Nun - the Father, and Naunet - the Mother. Thus Atum was seen to be the agent of Ptah's will.

The third was the Hermopolitan cosmogony, established in the city of Hermopolis, it maintained that the world originated in a cosmic egg laid by either a celestial goose known as the 'Great Cackler' or, according to another version, was laid by an Ibis - the bird sacred to Thoth. This egg contained Ra, the bird of light, who was to be the creator of the world.  Another version tells of the emergence of a Lotus flower out of the Ocean. When its petals open the calix of the flower reveal Ra, the divine child. There are other Egyptian cosmogonies that bear examination, however, they are at best variations of the themes expressed above; the exception being that of the Theban cosmogony which replaces Ptah with Amon, who is associated with the invisible dynamic power of air, from and in which it is said that he created himself.

Generally speaking, the Ancient Egyptians imagined that in the beginning the Universe was filled with a primordial ocean[3] called Nun. This ocean was thought to fill the entire Universe. It was believed that the primeval spirit formed out of this primeval watery abyss an egg, from whence issued the light of day in the form of Ra[4], the god of the Sun, or Atum who created all life in the world.

From ancient Greece another myth concerning the beginning of things was passed down in the sacred writings of the followers of the Orphic tradition[5], and is as follows;

"Chaos[6] was and Night[7] and black Erebos[8] at first and broad Tartaros[9], but there was no earth nor yet air nor sky. Then in the infinite bosom of Erebos first of all black-winged Night bore a wind-sown egg, from which in the circling seasons came Eros[10] the much desired, his back gleaming with twin golden wings, swift as the whirling winds. He mingled in broad Tartaros with winged and gloomy Chaos hatched out our race, and brought us first to see the light. Before that there was no race of the Immortals, until Eros mingled all things together. Then from their mingling with each other was born Heaven and Ocean and Earth and the deathless race of the blessed gods. Thus are we far the oldest of the gods. . ."[11]

Is it possible to know when something like the above is, or is not, an allegory rather than a tale? Who are we to say that the creation myths outlined above refer to 'primitive' perceptions of events in mundane terms? We have difficulty enough knowing whether the ideas that were current in the scientific circles of the 1930's were considered as metaphors or not! So, to speculate about these so-called myths in terms of our current model of the Universe does neither culture any justice, because their cosmological models were not based on the same principles as our own scientific model; thus without a shift in the way we perceive the world it would be almost impossible to evaluate them properly. The difficulty lies in the conflict between the rationalist type of ‘mind’ as portrayed by the 'Evolutionist', and the idealist type of ‘mind’ as typified by the 'Creationist'; where the attitudes and beliefs of the two factions outlined therein will not willingly or easily be reconciled, which thankfully is not here our main concern!

Current scientific thought accepts as gospel the 'Darwinian' theory that Humanity, like every other life form, evolved from the single cell. Thus, the modern creation myth, as defined by Hawking and his fellows, follows the same pattern of thinking in terms of a linear process of development; yet though it may appear to be both obvious and logical it is not necessarily true, that in both cases is a matter of belief.

Comparing the creation myth of Ancient Egypt with the current myth it is possible to see many similarities. But the most significant factor from my point of view lies in understanding that our ancestors recognised consciousness to be the substrate of existence, not energy or matter. Consider the following:

"I was the creator of what came into being,
That is to say, I formed myself out of the primeval matter,
And I formed myself in the primeval matter,
My name is Osiris who is the primeval matter of primeval matter."

In this instance it is Osiris who transforms himself from the essence of primeval matter into the active principle of creation. A notion expressed, but only with different gods, in the canons of the different cults that dominated Egypt. Creation then was perceived as an act of pure consciousness operating on a cosmic scale, rather than a function of insentient matter. Moreover, it is through the will of this consciousness that the act of Creation continues in a never-ending symphony of becoming.

The same appears to be true for the Ancient Greeks. The beautiful account of the act of Creation, in The Birds by Aristophanes, also tells of the emergence from primal matter of a self-creating god.

"Chaos was and Night and black Erebos at first and broad Tartaros, but there was no earth nor yet air nor sky. Then in the infinite bosom of Erebos first of all black-winged Night bore a wind-sown egg, from which in the circling seasons came Eros[13]...

The most significant difference between the understanding of our ancestors and that of our own civilisation is that our science is based upon the fallacy that consciousness is an effect of the chemistry of matter, whilst the science of our ancestors was based upon the understanding that matter is an expression of consciousness, an understanding implicit in the last quotation.

What our culture considers to be science excludes consciousness, what our ancestors understood to be science was knowledge of consciousness, thus, where science believes that we are evolved apes, our ancestors believed that we are spiritual beings deriving from a divine source. Modern science teaches that the 'Big-Bang' theory explains the beginning of the Universe. Our ancestors understood the beginning of the Universe to be the emergence of consciousness itself. What science teaches us about existence is that it is all about developing the gene pool, and that in all probability individual life ends at death; that at best the meaning of our existence is either in fulfilling the ideals of Epicurus or perhaps in the sacrifice of the individual for the good of the community, or in the personal aspiration to create the Super (Darwinian) man.

What our ancestors taught concerning existence was that our sojourn here on Earth is temporary, that our real estate transcends the mundane world, and that our evolution is an evolution of consciousness, and that the meaning of our existence is to be found in the conscious awareness of, and involvement with, the underlying substrate of our ‘Being’ which is Consciousness itself - that is God. What science teaches today about the cosmos mainly concerns material events such as seeking evidence to support the 'Big-bang' and other such theories, which is all well and good. This science is now called Astronomy, but what our ancestors taught as Astronomy was a science of Cosmic Consciousness, and its influence upon human existence. This astral science was not merely an intellectual exercise in theoretical cosmology. It was deeply rooted in the understanding that consciousness is of the same substance and nature as the stars, and unto them it is destined.

The ancient Greeks taught that Dionysos was the son of Zeus by Persephone. Zeus’ wife Hera resented Dionysos and sought to destroy him. This was accomplished with the aid of her own children the Titans, who, with childish toys, lured him away from his seat to a place of ambush, where they tore him apart and ate him. Upon discovering this heinous crime Zeus destroyed the Titans with his thunderbolts. They were burnt to ashes, and from these self-same ashes the race of Humanity sprang up. Thus, our ancestors recognised that the dual nature of humanity consisted of the dark destructive nature of the Titans, and the light creative and divine nature of Dionysos – the begging question is, is this a myth or is it an allegory?

This dual nature of humanity is clearly expressed today in the polarised beliefs of the Creationist and Evolutionist; the former expressing something of the Dionysian nature, and the latter expressing something of the Titanic nature. It is probably true that human nature is partly ape, and as such has evolved just as Darwin and his successors have described. However, this aspect of human nature is destined to return to the dust whence it came, whilst there remains, arguably, a creature of light (Dionysos) destined for higher things beyond the reach of the mundane world and the instinctive nature.

Thus, we can safely leave the combatants and their conflict as it is, for we pilgrims know that our ancestors were not primitive fools, they merely had different standards based upon a model of the Universe that is very different to our own. Nor did they leave us a collection of redundant ideas summed up in what we commonly refer to as myths, legends, fables and folk-tales. Nor did they define Truth 'once and for all' fixed forever in one form. Their interest was the same as ours is today – SELF KNOWLEDGE, through which, we may understand the nature of consciousness and the purpose of our existence. In this one thing there is a commonality of aspiration and purpose that has been universally shared for as long as any can remember. Through the continuity of this profound aspiration the legacy of our ancestors is no mystery, it speaks eloquently to an eager and willing audience, and it matters little if many of our peers deny or belittle such wisdom, it exists anyway, being forever available to those with an open mind. Even if that legacy were to be destroyed here in the mundane world, the wisdom found therein would still be accessible – for such are the ways of the creature of light we call the Soul.

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[1] e.g.; Dr. John Gribbin, physics consultant to the New Scientist, see his book In The Beginning. [2] In the Hindu tradition Manu is believed to be the originator of the human race, and who framed a code of living and government, which are more correctly known as teachings rather than laws. [3] Which was also likened unto a cosmic egg, see Egyptian Mythology p27 published by Paul Hamlyn [4] Budge, Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p291 [5] of the teachings of Orpheus, a pre-Pythagorean reformer (7-8th. Cen. BC) and founder of the Orphic Mysteries. [6] Originally this word meant the ‘yawning’ or Abyss. [7] Nyx. [8] Darkness. [9] The darkest part of Hades, which eventually came to be the place of torment and punishment for sinners. [10] God of Love. [11] The Birds, Aristophanes. [12] Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. 1 p.300. Quote from version B [13] sometimes referred to as Thanes.