Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cosmogony (from the Greek Juismos, signifying order, and hence "the universe," and gonos, birth) is applied to any theory of the origin of the world. Though, almost at the dawn of intelligence, man is likely to be impressed with the orderly or regular and inevitable sequence of natural phenomena, a sequence without his or his fellows' interference and beyond their control; yet it seems that in the lowest stages of culture, as among the Eskimos, no comprehensive theory of the kind is conceived. Where we find, among primitive and ancient races, such a theory to exist, it may be explained either, as by the late Earl Crawford, as a traditionary and more or less corrupt survival of a Divine revelation, or, as in the speculations of the so-called "science" of religion, as man's earliest and unaided gropings after truth.

"There is a consensus of opinion that, before the present order of things, water held all things in solution" (Cheyne); but it is by no means clear that the earliest views imply the pre-existence of matter before the creative act. Though the Hebrew word for "create" did originally mean "carve," whatever may be the relation of the second verse in the Bible to the first, and though the interpretation of them as "creation out of nothing" may have originated late in the history of Jewish thought, we have more explicit statements in early Hindu literature. Though it is stated that in the S'atapatha Brahmana of the White Yajur Yeda, which dates at latest from the 12th century B.C., primeval waters and the world-egg produce Prajapati, the Creator, Professor Wilson, a high authority, states that "the general tendency of the Yedas is to show that the substance as well as the form of all created beings was derived from the will of the Self-existing Cause." In this same Brahmana we find the first mention of the curious myth that the world is supported on a tortoise, the tortoise on an elephant, the elephant on another tortoise, and so on. The Institutes of Manu (about 900 B.C.), though more mythological, are still distinctly monotheistic. "The Self-existing Power, having willed to produce various beings from his own Divine substance, first with a thought created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed" which became a golden world-egg in which the Supreme Being was Himself born as Brahma, the Creator.

The world-egg, ridiculed by Aristophanes in the Birds, is a natural fancy common also to Phoenicia, Egypt, China, Polynesia, and Finland. The dome-like appearance of the sky might well suggest it, as the mud of a pool teeming with aquatic life might suggest the procreant nature of water. In both Phoenician and Egyptian cosmogony we seem to have the concept of sexual generation, at least as a simile. The deity is one, a spirit or wind which "makes pregnant" a chaos black as night, which was represented in Phoenicia as a woman. In Egypt Ra, the sun-god or soul of the world, stirs the primeval waters of chaos with his divine breath (Chnum), and creates by a word, while Thoth, "the moon-god, is the tongue of Ra" or demiurge, the creative intelligence and light-giver. The Japanese, the Santals of Bengal, the Accadians and the Babylonians agree in having a primitive deluge; but the concept of repeated cataclysms (q.v.), alternating flood and ecpyrosis, belongs to a later and more philosohpically speculative age.

It is unnecessary to do more than allude to the absence of the extravagance of materialistic mythic fancy from the narrative in Genesis. The idea of sex is also absent. The spirit or breath of God hovered over the flood (masculine) . . . and God said, Let there be light.

The cosmogony resulting from the conclusions of modern science has, if the First Cause be excluded, no more satisfactory basis than the Hindu chain of tortoises and elephants. Matter, we are told, because indestructible by us, is eternal, though only manifesting itself by the energy it exhibits. Our so-called chemical elements may be derived from one primitive element, and throughout the universe we have movement, of unknown origin, resulting in a steady dissipation of energy (q.v.).