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Early Creation Stories

Early Creation Stories

Author: Ted Fairchild
Description:

This lesson presents select creation stories from different religions, with an eye toward showing their role in religion and in religious thinking generally.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome. In this tutorial, we'll look at the idea of creation stories as they offer foundations for religion itself and how they tell of the unfolding development of civilization. We'll use some clear examples to demonstrate this.

These creation stories often address life's ultimate questions, big ones that have broad application and many possibilities. Not questions about the nature of a horse, for example, although mythologically, questions into the nature of a horse might be very interesting and revealing.

But what we're generally getting at are questions having to do with, where did I come from? Where did humans in general come from? Are we sparks of the divine like many of the religions put forth? What is the nature of this relationship, and the nature of the separation between the creator and the created, a relationship that was once so intimate? And it was once so clear and apparently unmuddled.

And furthermore, what about our creations? The material world that we engage with and manipulate, how might this fit into the stories of religion and of the spiritual traditions?

Very broadly, what we're referring to is the idea of technology. And with our handmade philosophy, we'll take a look at this idea of technology and how it links into our discussion of creation stories.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is a fairly well-known creation story in the book of Genesis, the book where Adam and Eve appear in the garden of Eden. According to this story, God created heaven and earth and man in perfect paradise. Everything is divinely available. The real toil of existence as we know it is as yet unknown.

The tree appears, temptation arises, the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is consumed and sin emerges. God extends his further judgment and punishment. Human existence is now under the guidance of its own free will with the choice to follow one road or another.

Now, in the world, in the midst of making decisions and acting for survival, et cetera, humankind manipulates, manufacturers, and creates a world. Civilization, institutions, and technology, in application of his intellect, tools that will help him understand the nature of the world, his life, and if he chooses, the nature of God and the role that he might play in guiding the work of technology.

In spite of the condemnation and suffering of punishment outside the eternal bliss of the garden, Adam and Eve, representing humanity, nevertheless build and grow and wonder about it all, ultimate questions.

Well, philosophy can help. As it's been said, philosophy is the handmaiden of theology. And the German philosopher Martin Heidegger in the 20th century had a lot to say, albeit cryptically sometimes, about technology and what it really means for us as a species.

In his book, or a short book/long essay, the question concerning technology, he refers often to ancient Greek thinking in philosophy. In the context of understanding mankind's ability to grasp the often confounding relationship between essence and substance, he employees the Greek term "poiesis." Poiesis essentially means to make, and we get our word poetry from this.

But poiesis is also a verb. It's a verb in the former sense too, but it's a verb that signifies a process of transformation, some kind of continuation of a process. Heidegger uses it to explicate or lay out how human production, technology, is a bringing forth of something that has up till now been concealed or hidden. And the goal might be to accurately represent truth, in fact, representing truth through this process of poiesis and technology.

Now we can apply this philosophical interpretation and understanding of human technology to our paradigm of the garden and humanity's expulsion. We can see Adam and Eve toiling in the mortal, earthly realm, constructing languages and cultures, towers of Babel, and what have you.

So our making of things, our technology, is not, says Heidegger, a romantic longing for some past truth, but an effort that might accurately reveal truth through some very authentic process. He says it is the sober readiness to be astounded before the coming of the dawn.

The creation story in the book of Genesis offers this engagement with time and the timeless and the space in between, requiring the making of decisions according to our understanding. What will we do in this predawn light?

So now we can review creation stories. We started with the idea that creation stories offer a foundation for a religious tradition and that they also offer the story of the development of civilization. We used the example from the book of Genesis in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the story of Adam and Eve, and the creation of the world, and creation of humanity, and the subsequent responsibility that humanity is given once cast out of the garden.

And we used the term "technology" to demonstrate this idea that mankind is constantly creating something, and that there's a choice, and the choice of understanding this relationship between the creator and the created. And again, referring back to the creation stories, this is often what religious tradition allows is an insight into the purpose of technology, the purpose of creating, the purpose of doing in the world.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Notes on “Early Creation Stories”

Source: Music by Handel; "Concerto for Organ and Orchestra Op 7 no1" http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Advent_Chamber_Orchestra/

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Ultimate Questions

    Questions that aim not at a particular understanding, but at a universal one. E.g., "What is the nature of the universe?" is an ultimate question, whereas "What is the nature of a horse?" is not.

  • Technology

    The application of human intellect to the natural world.