What's in a creation story?

Disturbance? Secretion? Building? Poofing?

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What's in a creation story?

#1  Postby lpetrich » Jun 11, 2017 8:08 pm

Scott Leonard's book Myths and Religion has some classification of creation-story motifs, like Marta Weigel's detailed one. She in turn worked from the work of Mircea Eliade, Charles Long, Marie-Louise von Franz, and Anna Birgitta Rooth, finding:
  1. Primordial elements meet or mingle or otherwise get disturbed.
  2. A god creates by secreting something, like sweat or blood or semen or a parthenogenetic child or a spun web or excretions.
  3. A god either sacrifices him/herself or gets sacrificed to form the raw materials for creation.
  4. The hatching of a cosmic egg or dividing a closely-embraced earth and sky.
  5. Someone dives into the primordial ocean to get some sand or mud to create land with.
  6. The first people emerge from a small, cramped world into our larger world.
  7. There are two creators who either cooperate or compete.
  8. Deus faber is the "divine maker"; where a god forms something out of some material.
  9. Ex nihilo is "out of nothing", often creation by a god's command. Poof! and it exists.
It is easy to recognize these motifs in familiar creation stories.
  • The first Genesis story has #9, of course, though it also has a vestige of #3 in the form of God doing three separations.
  • The second Genesis story has #8, with God forming Adam out of dust and Eve from Adam's side or rib. It also has a bit of #2 in God breathing the dust Adam into life.
  • Hesiod's Theogony starts off with #1 and continues with #4 (Kronos separating Ouranos and Gaia) and lots of #2 (gods having children). It also has some #8 in Epimetheus and Prometheus creating humanity and animals.
  • The Norse one in the Elder Edda starts off with #1, and contains #3 (the dismemberment of Ymir to create our Universe) and #8 (creation of the first people, Ask and Embla, from wood).
The Universe according to modern science fits these motifs surprisingly well.
  • Biological evolution is #2, where the kind of secretion is ordinary reproduction.
  • The origin of the Solar System is #1, where an interstellar cloud collapses under its own weight. Likewise for the origin of galaxies, which originated in that fashion about a billion years after the Big Bang.
  • The origin of the Universe remains a mystery, but the common speculation of origin from a quantum fluctuation is essentially #1. The Big Bang itself is vaguely like #4 (the hatching of a cosmic egg).
How do other creation stories fit in?
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Re: What's in a creation story?

#2  Postby THWOTH » Jun 11, 2017 10:15 pm

Jung would call them architypes. I'd call them just-so-wish-fulfilment-fantasies.
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Re: What's in a creation story?

#3  Postby lpetrich » Jun 12, 2017 12:04 am

THWOTH wrote:Jung would call them architypes. I'd call them just-so-wish-fulfilment-fantasies.

Just-so stories? Certainly. But it's interesting to see what such stories feature.

Wish fulfillment? I don't get it.
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Re: What's in a creation story?

#4  Postby THWOTH » Jun 12, 2017 7:11 pm

csmt.uchicago.edu wrote:The word fantasy is most often referred to as a term in psychology as a "mental apprehension of an object of perception; the faculty by which this is performed" and further as "the fact or habit of deluding oneself by imaginary perceptions or reminiscences" or "a day-dream arising from conscious or unconscious wishes or attitudes." These definitions present an obstacle between reality and desire, and define fantasy as the mediator. "Fantasy" and its many derivations originate in the Greek word, 'phantasia,' which literally means "to make visible."...

http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/fantasy.htm
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Re: What's in a creation story?

#5  Postby Cito di Pense » Jun 13, 2017 3:42 am

lpetrich wrote:But it's interesting to see what such stories feature.


The stories themselves are pattern-matching exercises, but omitting the task of reality-checking in a systematic way. Stories are for entertainment, not edification. It's the religious nuts who claim that stories educate you.

The classification of stories is also a pattern-matching exercise, but then once-removed from reality-checking. How is it that someone purports to tell me what content I should find in a story? After we've read a few stories ourselves and dabbled in a little literary criticism, we don't need their fucking help, so the conclusion is that literary critics are just entertaining one another.

I got her telephone number. How d'ya like them apples?


Suggesting that the modern theories of science match up against ancient myths, is, well... don't make me state it explicitly. I'll just say that some people have meta-theories that the theories of science are also just 'narratives', but I don't think the term 'reality-checking' much impresses them.

This kind of pud-yanking plays both ends against the middle of establishing the content of stories, and is for folks who want to be impressed by the very last clever thing they've read.

lpetrich wrote:That aside, successful new paradigms tend to include old paradigms. Steven Weinberg may be right that Kuhnian revolutions in the strict sense may be rare. A new paradigm often extends an old paradigm, and sometimes marks out its limits of validity.


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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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