English Essay about Creation Stories
Where do we come from? Why are we here? What happens when you die? Why are things the way they are? In this essay I am going to try to answer these questions by showing... Okay, enough jokes, many smarter and better than I tried to answer these questions. Did they succeed? Well, that depends on what religion (if at all...) you subscribe to. These questions lie in the subconscious of every human being, anywhere (from Antarctica to the moon).
Religions sprung up from these questions. They attempted to answer all these questions with stories of gods and goddesses and other supernatural forces that were beyond the understanding of humans. Magic, in its essence, were the powers wielded by these superior beings that caused the unexplainable to happen.
All of the religions have their own creation stories, of which many are strikingly similar. These similarities occur in civilizations not only far from each other but also in cultures separated by seemingly impossible to traverse oceans of water. Many of these similarities occur in the cosmological or creation myths of the various religions.
I am going to discuss some general similarities I have found in creation accounts of some religions (based mainly on my research of the Vodun religion of the Yoruba tribe of West Africa, my familiarity with stories of the Old Testament and our class discussions about Gilgamesh). Many theories developed from observing some general similarities. I will shed some light on two of the more adventurous, therefore more interesting, theories of why are some of these accounts so similar.
The first similarity between almost all religions is their polytheistic nature. There are many gods and goddesses in their folklore, and they behave like humans. They argue and cry and get punished for certain deeds. There usually appears to be one entity that is the main god of them all - the big chief - who is in charge of judging and supervising all the gods. He is usually their creator or father, sometimes along with a goddess.
The examples for that are numerous, but I would like to point out a polytheistic aspect that I have found in the three monotheistic religions known to me. The existence of the devil. Especially in the book of Job in the Old Testament. The devil is presented there as an equal counter-part of God (at least more than anywhere else), making a bet with Him. What is monotheistic about that? The existence of the devil and God may symbolize the everyday struggles we go through in our souls as human beings, between bad and good. So in a way, it's only natural to have an entity such as the devil.
There are also some examples in the book of Genesis that may suggest the development of the Jewish belief from polytheism. There are the Cherubim, who are put by God to guard the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve's deportation. At the beginning of Noah's story of the flood the Nephilim are mentioned, and the sons of God, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward - when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them." (Genesis 6:4).
Another similarity we find is that humans are related to their creators. In Genesis, "So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;" (there 1:27).
In the Vodun religion, all of the gods and goddesses are sons and daughters of Olodumare, and the line distinguishing gods from humans is very fine. Some gods, like Oduduwa (whose gender is unclear) who supposedly created the earth (he may have been cheated out of it by Orisa-Nla...), may have been human beings who had an exceptionally strong personality, and were later elevated to the degree of gods in the folklore. Then they had gotten their credentials.
In the story of Gilgamesh, which is the oldest creation story that survived, the gods are all related, being the sons and daughters of the two serpents Lakhmu and Lakhamu, who were born to Aspu and Tiamat. The descendants of these "husband and wife" brought human beings, and Gilgamesh, who's half god half human, to the world. It's much easier to believe in something that is related to us, it makes more sense in our human brains. We feel closer to the creator if we were created in his image, or if we are actually the descendants of him. The polytheism also makes it easier for us to identify with gods, because then it is much easier to personify them. They can be joyous, can have feuds and mishaps.
The next phase which is similar in some religions is the occurrence of a big destruction, usually by a flood. The characteristics of flood stories are very similar. The human race (or the race of lesser gods) disturbs the gods, either in their sleep (like in the story of Gilgamesh) or by sinning in some unclear fashion (like in the Old Testament).
The punishment is almost total destruction. A human survivor and every kind of animal are chosen, also for unclear reasons, to keep the race. Then the gods feel remorse about their actions, and they swear never to do it again. A few questions come to mind about these similarities. What really evoked the destruction? What were the criteria for becoming a survivor? Why is there remorse in the gods? Why couldn't they destroy everything and start all over from scratch, as opposed to sampling from every kind?
There are two interesting theories about the similarities of different religions, one tries to explain these internally, and the other externally. The first one belongs to Carl Gustav Jung, a leading psychologist and contemporary of Freud, who came up with a theory involving the collective unconscious of a person's psyche. The collective unconscious, according to Jung, is made up of what he called "archetypes", or primordial images. These correspond to such experiences such as confronting death or choosing a mate and manifest themselves symbolically in religion, myths, fairy tales and fantasies.
I believe that major events did happen in Earth's history, that were witnessed by human beings. Events of destruction that had no logical explanation, the last ice-age that occurred when human beings were around already. These things happened globally, and had to be accounted for. This is where Jung's theory fits, people would react generally the same way to such big events. This is how evolution stories developed.
Erich von Daniken's theory, presented in his infamous book, "Chariots of the Gods", is a little more far-out. He believes the gods that most folklore stories are referring to are really astronauts from other distant, more advanced civilizations. He cites many places in the Bible and in other creation stories of many distant and different religions. He uses archeological discoveries and historical landmarks like pyramids and Stonehenge to facilitate the main theme in his theory that is basically, how could all of this been possible without some external help? Naturally similarities of the kind discussed above are referred to time and again in his theory.
At some point humanity will probably have the means to find out what exactly happened, and why all these stories are so reminiscent of each other. I can only try to imagine what these means would be, from special chemicals that will restore more out of archeological debris, through advanced mathematics and physics which would enable the other sciences to make perfect recreations of the past, to maybe time-travel, which will enable witnessing of the creation (however, then we get into a whole new ballpark of hypotheses, because time-travel by definition is already interference with history, and that would mean that at other dimensions there are other worlds just like ours with different creation stories and traditions, and that we are just one of infinite versions).
Indeed, until then, these things will remain unexplained, and I think it is magical and beautiful.