Probably - and justly - one of the most famous texts in all of human history, the beginning of the Biblical Book of Genesis outlines the creative work of the Creator - referred to in the text as Elohim - over six days: -
A number of the Hebrew terms used in this brief text are of particular significance within (and, to some extent, without) Judaism. Foremost among these are תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ ("Tohu vBohu"), translated above as: "without form, and void." While tohu appears most frequently in the Hebrew Bible, where it commonly signifies a wasteland, bohu features only thrice, associated with tohu on each occasion. In addition to Gen. 1:2, the formula appears in the books of the prophets Isaiah [34:11] and Jeremiah [4:23].
Jeremiah is describing a return to primordial conditions brought about by the LORD's anger at his people's nefarious ways, having had a frightening vision of this scenario [4:23-27]: -
Isaiah likewise describes a vision, in which YHWH intends to bring punishment to the nations, which results in the formation of a great desert populated by natural (and supernatural) faunal life [34:6-15]: -
Thus, the primordial universe is envisaged as being something of a chaotic, swirling mass of waters, much the same as other cosmogonies. This section is the primary creation account which features YHWH's Word ("logos" in Greek) as being instrumental in His bringing about the creation of the cosmos.
The work of the Spirit of God on the first day of creation is described by the Jewish Encyclopedia in terms of a preparatory action: "God's spirit hovered over the form of lifeless matter, thereby making the Creation possible" (cf Isaiah 32:15: "Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest"). This particular image would prove highly influential across the ages, with heterodox Jewish and Christian - and even Muslim - sects positing that the reflected image of a primordial figure held particular significance. The orthodox Christian depiction of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove [Mat 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32] is also reflected in Jewish tradition: the tanna Shimon ben Zoma is quoted in the Babylonian version of Ḥagigah [15a] as stating that the Spirit hovered over the waters "like a dove which hovers over her young without touching [them]."
The text of Genesis 1 describes the creation over six days, which can be grouped thematically into three (Days 1 and 4 cover the creation of light, day, night and the lights to govern the latter two; Days 2 and 5 cover sea and sky; Days 3 and 6 the land): -
The heavens and the earth; light; day and night [1:1-5];
A dome to divide the upper and lower waters, i.e. the sky [1:6-8];
Bringing forth land from the lower waters (named earth and sea): grain and fruit-bearing plants [1:9-13];
The "greater" and "lesser" lights in the sky, as well as the stars [1:14-19];
Sea monsters, other sea creatures and birds [1:20-23];
Terrestrial animals and man [1:24-31].
YHWH rests on the seventh day, instituting the concept of the Sabbath day [2:1-4]. This should not, however, be understood as a necessity, but rather represents the appearance of the Deity within His primordial sanctuary: reading this account together with that presented by the Yahwist in Gen. 2-4, one would naturally understand this sanctuary to be identical with the Garden of Eden, in which YHWH places the first couple, Adam and Eve. A more restrictive reading, however, would place this first seat of the God within the Heavens.
Genesis 2:4-9 depicts a barren primeval earth: -
In order to rectify the situation, YHWH creates the Garden of Eden and forms Adam from the earth, breathing life into him. Adam is placed in Eden.
The Garden of Eden is watered by a river which divided into four [2:11-14]: -
Eden contained the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil [Gen. 2:9; 17 - cf 3:3 ff., where only one tree is noted]. The creation of Eve from Adam's rib [Gen. 2:21-25] and Eve's temptation by the wily serpent [Gen. 3:1-5] follows, and leads to the fall of humanity into the time of sin and mortality, denoted by the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Garden and the prevention of their ingress by Cherubim and a "flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" [Gen. 3:24].
Another major difference between these two accounts comes in the form of the creation of the animals: the creation of Eve follows a scene in which YHWH, determining that Adam would require a helpmeet [2:18], forms "every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air" from "out of the ground" [2:19], bringing them to Adam for the first man to furnish them with names [2:19-20]. Adam obliges, but finds none of them adequate to serve as his helpmeet, so YHWH, bringing sleep upon the man, fashions Eve from a rib extracted from Adam's side [2:21-22].
It should be noted that the process of naming things in the ancient world differed from ours: a name denoted a function, and was given as a means of explaining the use of the object named.
One phrase which generated a good deal of speculation among later Jews and Christians is the description of Adam and Eve being "naked [but] not ashamed" at Gen. 2:25. This becomes increasingly important during the scene of Eve's temptation, when, having eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - expressly forbidden by YHWH [2:17; 3:3] - at the behest of the serpent, the couple realise that they are naked, and weave rude clothing from fig leaves [3:7]. While the fruit of the Tree gave them awareness of their state, it also condemned humanity to a mortal lot [2:17; 3:19], with pangs of childbirth [3:16] and the promise of toil in the fields in order to eke out a living [3:17-19].
Interpretations of the nudity of Adam and Eve range from a primeval golden age of innocence to their existence as spiritual beings, whose fall led to human corporeality. Of these, the former seems the most parsimonious reading. It is supported somewhat by the lack of references to the consumption of meat, which would be seen as a corollary of the advent of death and bloodletting, with the population of the "golden age" of mythology throughout the world being able to sustain themselves on the bounteous produce brought forth from the earth with little effort on their part.
The account of Adam and Eve in Eden has other interesting features, not least the serpent. While the similarities with snakes is obvious, not least from YHWH's condemnation of the creature at Gen. 3:14, where it is condemned to go limbless, the Hebrew term nachash has a number of other meanings, suggesting some clever subtextual punning. Michael Heiser notes that the term can be a noun, verb or adjective. As an adjective, nachash means "bronze" or "brazen," meaning that this entity can be understood as a "shining one," which would easily denote a rebellious member of YHWH's Divine Council (compare, for instance, the description of the dragon in the Book of Revelation as "that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan" [20:2]).
One could also read the episode of the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - and its companion the Tree of Life - as anti-pagan polemic: one famous scene in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgameš has the hero Gilgameš, mourning for his great friend Enkidu, on a quest for a certain herb which has the power to confer eternal life. This "Plant of Heartbeat" is eventually retrieved by the hero, but, before he can make use of it in order to restore his youth, it is stolen, appropriately enough by a serpent, which sloughs its skin as it escapes.
The Bible contains traces of an alternative to the standard account of creation in Genesis. These short passages appear to be vestiges of mythological tales in which, at the beginning of time, YHWH was opposed by watery forces of chaos, viz. a personified Tehom or "deep," as well as various monstrous forms such as Leviathan, Behemoth, Rahab and the tannin. These passages - which also have cosmogonical and mythological significance beyond the fight against the waters - appear in a number of locations in the Bible. Prominent examples include the passages listed below: -
Aside from this extensive passage in Job, Leviathan also appears in the Psalms (Ps. 74:14; 104:26), as well as at Isaiah 27:1. There, Leviathan appears as a great enemy of YHWH: Ps. 74:14 describes how YHWH smashes the heads of Leviathan and uses his body to feed creatures of the wilderness; while the interesting passage in Isaiah describes the day when YHWH brings His sword to bear on Leviathan - described as a writhing, twisting serpentine form - and slays the tannin within the sea. This latter is an eschatological projection of what would originally have been a primordial Chaoskampf.
John Day, in his survey of the agon material, notes the well-known equasion of Leviathan with the Ugaritic ltn, described as an ally and amenuensis of the sea god Yam during his battle with Ba'al. Another ally of Yam, the ox-like Arš, is compared by Day with Behemoth.
In contrast to the marine monster Leviathan, Behemoth is depicted as a land animal. Nevertheless, Day sees aquatic tendencies and equates Behemoth with Arš (as noted above) and El's calf Atik from the Ugaritic corpus.
It is also interesting to note that Behemoth's watery associations (esp. Job 40:21-23) appear to be of a fresh, rather than a salt, water variety. Coupled with the hills in Job 40:20, I would suspect that Behemoth may represent a freshwater counterpart to Leviathan, perhaps in a similar fashion as the Apsû of the Akkadian Enûma Eliš represents the primeval freshwater mate of the saltwater Tiâmat.
The sea-borne primordial demon also appears under the names tannin and Rahab.
Whilst the Book of Genesis describes the creation of the tannin during the fifth day [Gen. 1:21], they appear as enemies defeated by YHWH in several places [Ps. 74:13; Isa. 27:1; 51:9]. Rahab, meanwhile, is associated with Egypt in particular [Isa. 30:7], and appears alongside the tannin in Isa. 51:9, where she[?] is cut by YHWH.
The Egyptian connection is highly suggestive with an association with the events of the Exodus from that country, which famously culminated in the drowning of the Egyptian hordes in the Yam Suph, an event celebrated in a very early poem which suggests Chaoskampf connotations [Ex. 15:1-12]: -
The vast body of Jewish legends - collectively termed the Haggadah - covers all of the historical narrative contained within the Tanakh and beyond, detailing the lives and careers of the great Rabbis who led the Jewish community from their return from exile in Babylon down through antiquity into medieval and modern times.
Of course, this vast sea of material also includes troves of Rabbinic speculation and myth-making on the various accounts of the creation of the universe contained within the Tanakh, adding further detail and providing a synthesis of the various traditions from the Jewish holy text. This page provides a very simple overview of some of these stories.
This world was not the first to be created: YHWH had previously brought up to a thousand worlds into being, only to find them displeasing, leading Him to destroy them. These prior creations provided the raw materials needed in the formation of the present cosmos.
Some two thousand years before the beginning of creation, YHWH brought a number of prerequisites into being, seven in all. These were: -
Despite this precise dating, however, time is properly understood as having begun at the point of the creation of the present universe.
The current world was produced from six primordial elements which were brought into being on the First Day of Creation: -
The creation of the earliest humans - who are depicted as living an idyllic life of "Golden Age" vegetarianism in a world whose fecundity ensures their provision - is described twice in the Biblical Book of Genesis, as noted above. This duplication has led to speculation, both ancient and modern, some of which posits the existence of an earlier race of humans created in the Image of Elohim, whose creation is described in Gen. 1:27, who predated the creation of Adam from the earth at Gen. 2:7. These populations are generally given the name of "Preadamites."
There are various ancient and more modern interpretations of these passages: -
In contrast to Philo's exegesis, the Pharisees and their Rabbinical successors aimed to reconcile the two passages, with striking results: -
Jewish lore also preserves traditions of the "first Eve," a primordial wife of Adam who existed before Eve. Whilst the Midrash understands the statement that Elohim "created [humans] male and female" [Gen. 1:27] to mean that Adam possessed the characteristics of both sexes or perhaps two bodies, subsequently separated in the manner of conjoined twins, other scholars posit the existence of an earlier wife of Adam: -
The Hebrew term chokhmah, signifying "wisdom," appears some 149 times in the Tanakh (the Old Testament), with a particular bias towards the so-called (appropriately enough) "wisdom literature," especially the books of Proverbs (in which it appears 39 times) and Ecclesiastes (with 28 occurrences).
Whilst Ecclesiastes often focuses on the downside of wisdom, in terms of the world-weariness of the author, who calls himself qôheleth (translated as "Philosopher" in the GNB, philosopher being derived from the Greek for "lover of wisdom"), the Book of Proverbs [esp. 8:11-31] is among the earliest texts in which Wisdom comes to be personified, in the manner of a "proto-hypostasis" of YHWH.
Wisdom's role, outlined in the preceding quote, is perhaps best emphasised in Sirach 24, a wonderful passage expounding on Wisdom and her work. In it, she is identified as the Shekhinah, the sign of YHWH's presence on earth, which first appeared in the pillar of cloud during the Exodus.
Her exalted position is made clear in Wis. 8:3, in which "She glorifies her noble birth by living with God, and the Lord of all loves her," which is paralleled somewhat by the explicit statement by Philo Judaeus that God is "the husband of wisdom" [On the Cherubim 14:49].
By Philo's day, the understanding of Wisdom's role in the cosmos was developing, particularly under the influence of Greek philosophy. By the early Christian period, Wisdom, as [Pistis] Sophia, gained an important role within Gnostic thought, in which she represented the errant Aeon whose misdemeanours resulted in the creation of the Demiurge (the creator of the physical cosmos, often identified with YHWH of the Tanakh) in what would be a spectacular failure to live up to her name. Another figure, Ennoia, the first female principle, represents higher wisdom, whilst the impetuous Sophia was lower wisdom incarnate.
According to Philo, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher and older contemporary of Jesus Christ, the act of creation was one in which God was eternally engaged. The universe came into being through His Will, while He made use of His Logos ("Word") as a type of Demiurge tasked with bringing order to the cosmos. The
In Philo's interpretation, the Logos is a primordial entity occupying a middle position between the uncreated (i.e. YHWH) and the created (the universe). This Logos is the "second deity" [Questions on Genesis 2.62], and the "eldest son [...] firstborn" [On the Confusion of Tongues 63], as well as the "shadow" of God. The Logos first existed in the incorporeal universe which is seen as the Logos in the act of creating the material universe. Within this pre-matter cosmos, two things are given an exalted status: -
The First Day ends with the separation of the light from the darkness by twilight, which marks the beginning of time. The Second Day represents the creation of the visible heavens, whilst the Third sees the drawing off of the salt water from the earth, leaving the fresh water within, while the origin of plants coming before the creation of the luminaries on the Fourth Day being purposefully done in order that people would not attribute the fruitfulness of the earth to the powers of sun and moon. The creation of man "in Our image, after Our likeness" is not seen as the creation of physical humans, but is instead the creation of the human mind. Man is seen as a microcosmic analogue of heaven, and, as such, the incorporeal aspects of the species ought to precede the creation of the human body. In some wise, the image of the Logos, as the οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος or "heavenly man," is understood as this initial, non-corporeal human form, and would influence Jewish notions of the Adam Kadmon which developed during the course of the following centuries.
The opening lines of the Gospel according to St. John are some of the most beautiful, poetic text in the New Testament, and represent something of a study on the Genesis 1 creation account.
Particularly exhalted in St. John's text is the Logos ("Word"), which is identified with Jesus Christ: -
Of especial interest from a Trinitarian perspective are the lines 1:1-5, wherein the WORD was "the light of men," which "shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" [John 1:4-5], which can easlily be compared to Gen. 1:3: "God said, Let there be light: and there was light." Thus, Christ, one of the three hypostases of YHWH, represents the divine utterance in Genesis, which dispelled the initial "darkness [which] was upon the face of the deep," whilst the Holy Spirit is identifiable with "the Spirit of God [which] moved upon the face of the waters" [Gen. 1:2]. It is through the combined agency, therefore, of the three Persons of the Trinity that the first semblance of divine order is brought to bear on the chaos of Tohu vBohu.
Within the pages of Raphael Patai's fascinating study The Hebrew Goddess, there is a Jewish Gnostic myth which depicts Chokhmah ("Wisdom") as an important figure or aspect of YHWH during creation: -
There are a few points of interest to be gleaned from this text: -
In the beginning, God, the First Creator, made a single angel - the Angel of the LORD - whom He appointed as His assistant. This angel took the role of the Demiurge and created the entire cosmos, perfect, complete within the immediate dawn of creation. It was through this angel that the LORD appeared to Moses, revealing the Law, and by whom He spoke to the prophets.
Another version suggests that this angel was chosen from all those in the Divine Presence to serve as YHWH's apostle, who represented Him within the cosmos.
This legend, similar to the Logos in Philo and, to some extent, the Christian conception of the Messiah, is supposed to have arisen from objections to the anthropomorphising philosophy of the Sadducees.
The Simonians were a sect of Samaritan origin affiliated with the "gnostic" movement which claimed as its founder the infamous 1st century AD Samaritan mountebank Simon Magus. Simon was said to have been the student of an early Samaritan heresiarch by the name of Dositheus (perhaps identical with the Dostai of Kefar Yatmah mentioned among the students of the great rabbi Shammai), who was heavily influenced by - or, at least, held notions in common with - the priestly Jewish faction of the Sadducees. Following Dositheus, Simon is alleged to have claimed the mantle of godhood, the status of Māšîaḥ or some other status of theological significance, referring to himself as the "Standing One." His followers developed an early aeonology which pre-empted the likes of Valentinus, and bore influence from Hellenic sources such as Heraclitus.
For the Simonians, the first principle was fire, based upon statements in the Torah such as Deuteronomy 4:24. Pseudo-Clementine literature portrays Simonian belief as containing material derived from the Samaritans (such as the priority of Mount Gerizim over Jerusalem) and Sadducean doctrine (like Dositheus, Simon is portrayed as denying the resurrection of the flesh). The origins of the sect was said to have been in the group circulating around St. John the Baptist, who gathered around himself a group of thirty disciples, whose number included one Helen, who quickly became a figure of some significance among the group, as well as Simon, who claimed to be the foremost follower of St. John. Eventually, after Simon left for Egypt, Dositheus emerged as the leader of the sect, only for Simon - who Dositheus had claimed was dead - to return and swiftly oust Dositheus. Dositheus took to an extreme ascetic life and died shortly thereafter of starvation, leaving Simon as the unopposed leader of the baptists.
Eventually, the group developed a series of doctrines, many of which would come to define groups under the rubric of "gnosticism." Foremost among these was the speculation on the nature of the supreme being and the development of the universe. The later Simonians are represented as believed in the following: -
As noted above, the first principle is identified as fire: this was considered as possessing intelligence, and was termed a "Boundless Power," which dwelt in humans. Fire was regarded as having a dual nature, with hidden qualities causing the manifest nature of fire within the universe. From this Boundless Power emerged the six roots of the universe, which correspond to the six days of creation from Gen 1: -
In addition to these, there was a seventh power, identified with the Spiritupon the face of the waters [Gen. 1:2]. This was termed "He who has stood, stands, and will stand" or "Standing One," which is one and the same as the Boundless Power which exists within everyone and can potentially be developed (akin to the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31).
The Boundless Power also had a female aspect, named Ennoia ("Thought" or "Idea"). This aspect came to be identified with Simon's lover Helen - who, it appears, was said to be a reincarnation of her famous Spartan namesake. Ennoia was manifested below Dynamis ("Power"), the male principle, with the pair meeting in the Middle Distance (archetypal air).
Another interesting facet of Simonian doctrine is the radical interpretation of the Garden of Eden. According to the group, Eden was seen as a uterus, with the river going forth from out of the garden representing the umbilical cord. The four rivers produced from this outflow represent two air ducts and two blood vessels (the umbilical arteries and veins respectively).
Two distinct accounts of the cosmological system of Basilides and his followers are extant. That of Hippolytus posits a creation ex nihilo with three emanations or "sonships": -
The cosmology features some interesting names: -
Sts. Irenaeus and Epiphanus render a slightly different account of Basilidean thinking, adding further details of their theology and polemic: -
An important figure in Basilideanism is Abrasax or Abraxas, which is most likely the name of the first and highest Archon, produced by the interaction of Sophia and Dynamis.
In comparison with the Sethian system of Aeons as set out in the Apocryphon of John in particular, the scheme attributed to Valentinus, as reported by the Orthodox heresiologist St. Irenaeus is nebulous and difficult. It must be borne in mind, however, that, by St. Irenaeus' day, generations of Valentinian thinkers would likely have added to Valentinus' original scheme.
The Apocryphon of John is a text ascribed to the Sethian group, one of a number usually designated as "gnostics." The creation and early evolution of the cosmos is described in a number of steps.
The first principle is the Monad, described as existing in a form which is truly beyond the comprehension of the human mind. From his thought, the Monad produces the oldest of the Aeons, a female principle named Barbelo: despite Barbelo representing femininity, she is also described in male terms as a Sethian Adam Kadmon. Barbelo requests boons from the Monad, which are duly afforded: these are the other Aeons, namely Foreknowledge, Indestructability, Eternal Life and Truth. Along with Barbelo - identified as Forethought - these make up the "androgynous pentad of the aeons, which is the decad of the aeons, which is the Father." Subsequent Aeons are created, Light and Mind, from the Monad's reflecting on Barbelo. The Mind brings forth the Word, which is glorified by the Light, which is "Christ the divine Autogenes," who "created everything." Light/Christ/Autogenes and Indestructibility bring forth four other lights to attend him: three are Will, Thought and Life, whilst the four lights are named as Understanding, Grace, Perception and Prudence: -
The Monad and Autogenes bring forth the perfect Man, Pigera-Adamas, who is placed alongside Armozel. His son Seth is brought into the presence of Oriel, whilst his seed are placed over Daveithai, along with the saints. The souls of "those who do not know the Pleroma ("fullness," being the highest realm in these mystery cults) and who did not repent at once, but who persisted for a while and repented afterwards" are by Eleleth.
Sophia of the Epinoia ("afterthought," i.e. the lower wisdom) attempts to create something via her own thoughts, without the agency of the Monad: this is "imperfect and different from her appearance." She hides this lion-faced serpent whose eyes "were like lightning fires which flash" outside of the Pleroma, inside a "luminous cloud" on a throne: she names this creation Yaltabaoth, who is the first Archon (and who is inevitably identified with YHWH of the Tanakh). Yaltabaoth - who is also known by the names Saklas and Samael - creates other Archons through "a flame of luminous fire which (still) exists now": these are Athoth (also known as the reaper); Harmas; Kalila-Oumbri; Yabel; Adonauou or Sabaoth; Cain (the sun); Abel; Abrisene; Yobel; Armoupieel; Melceir-Adonein; and Belias, who is "over the depth of Hades."
There are seven firmaments, each ruled by an Archon, and five other Archons in the abyss. The Archons create seven powers (i.e. the days of the week in Gen. 1?), which create six angels until 365 angels are created in total: -
Manichaeism is a dualistic religion founded by Mani, an Arsacid Persian, who claimed the mantle of the Paraclete ("Comforter") promised by Christ. His gnostic religion was heavily influenced by his native tradition of Zoroastrianism.
The Manichaeans boasted a highly elaborate cosmogony, featuring several different "calls" or "creations."
Originally, the cosmos featured a World of Light ruled by the Father of Greatness and his five Shekhinas, and a World of Darkness, under the aegis of the King of Darkness. At some point, the latter notices the former and stages an attack, prompting the Father of Greatness to call upon the three Creations: -
Eventually, Mani appears in another attempt by the forces of the World of Light to remind humanity of the true source of the light trapped within their material forms.
Unlike many of the early Syro-Egyptian "gnostic" sects, such as the Sethians, Basilideans and Valentinians, the ancient Iraq-based Mandaeans do not possess - or, perhaps more aptly, have not chosen to reveal - a systematic and elaborate cosmogony.
In terms of their beliefs, the Mandaeans are Johannites, who revere St. John the Baptist and regard Jesus Christ as a false messiah. Early Mandaean texts reveal a dualistic outlook, influenced (as was Manichaeism) by Iranian religions of the macro-Zoroastrian group. Light is divided from darkness, the latter being ruled by Ptahil, a figure with some similarities with the Demiurge of the ancient gnostic sects. The ruler of the light is ineffable, described as "the great first Life from the worlds of light, the sublime one that stands above all works."
There are three demiurgic beings, of whom Ptahil is the lowest ranking: the others are Abatur (who judges the souls of mortals); and Yushamin, the highest of the trio, who wished to create a world but was punished for his rebellion against the King of Light. His name is likely derived from Iao (or YHWH) "of the heavens" (i.e. shamayim).
Abatur is also known as the Ancient of Days and Yawar: the name Abatur derives from his status as father of the celestial entities. He has two hypostases: Abatur Rama (the celestial Abatur); and Abatur of the Scales, who weighs the souls of the dead. These human souls are known as Adam Kasia or Adam Qadmaia, in honour of "the hidden Adam," the soul of the primordial man.
The Kabbalistic interpretation of God is something of a negative theology: God can only be understood in terms of what He is not. This is primarily due to the inability of the human mind to truly comprehend the scale and majesty of the Godhead. God is infinite and, as such, emanates from a realm beyond the visible, experiential universe. His origins are sought in the realm of Ayin (effectively symbolising "Nothingness"). Within the Ayin. The Ein Sof ("Endlessness" or "Infinite;" also known as she-en lo tiklah or the "Endless One") produces the emanations which will become the ten Sefirot. The Ein Sof is also known as the Atik Yomim ("the Ancient of Days").
The first result of this work of creation is the development of the Ohr Ein Sof ("endless light"). It is from this potentiality that the creative work can begin. The various stages of preparatory work in the Ohr Ein Sof are listed as follows: -
Within this fullness of infinite brightness and boundless light, a small vortex of sorts appears. This will become the realm of creation. The "contraction" of His infinite light produces the Tzimtzum, created by a self-withdrawal from that particular region of Ohr Ein Sof to produce a Khalal or "vacuum."
There are three stages in this Sod HaTzimtzum ("secret of contraction"): -
Thereafter, the image of the Primordial Man is projected into the vacuum. This is the Adam Kadmon, the blueprint for the creation of mankind. The Adam Kadmon possesses both Divine and created characteristics. He serves as either the concentrated essence of, or as the mediator between Ein Sof and, the ten Sefirot. The Adam Kadmon is of the rank of Keter (the highest Sefirah), and possesses light unbounded into vessels, though maintains the potential to emanate vessels.
The Adam Kadmon stage of creation has three sub-periods: -
The interactions of the various lights associated with and emanating from the Adam Kadmon result in three further stages, which lead progressively from a stable form of Tohu ("chaos") to Tikun ("rectification"): -
One unfortunate result of the Tohu stage in creation is known in Hebrew as Shevirat HaKeilim, meaning the "shattering of the vessels." This results in the exile of the created worlds from the essence of God.
As a result of the connection between the ten lights initiated in the stage of Berudim, bringing about the act of Tikun, the first of the Four Worlds of the created cosmos, Atzilut ("the world of emanation") comes into being. The ten Sefirot appear on the Tree of Life: these are understood as vessels for the Divine Light which has emerged from the Ein Sof via Tzimtzum and Adam Kadmon.
The various worlds - Atzilut, Beriah ("creation"), Yetzirah ("formation") and Asiyah ("action") are envisaged as descending from one another, with the lowest Sefirah, Malkhuth ("kingdom") or the upper becoming the Keter ("crown") of the lower.
In addition, these four worlds are associated with particular Sefirot: these correspondences are outlined in tabulated format below, as well as other associations between Sefirot and Names of God, archangels, angelic choirs, parts of the cosmos, and parts of human anatomy.
It must also be borne in mind that, rather than Asiyah, the realm which we inhabit is a lower world still: Asiyah Gashmit ("the world of physical action").
The Sefirah Keter in the world of Atzilut has special properties connecting it with the higher realm of Adam Kadmon. These are expressed in terms of the following titles: -
The following are associated with the uppermost Sefirot in Arich Anpin: -
Below them, Dikna ("Beard") causes the light from Arich Anpin to be contracted through the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy: -
These names (associated with the Keter of Atzilut) are termed partzufim or "divine countenances." Others are associated with the world of Atzilut itself: -
The meanings of these partzufim will appear in the table below.
The Qur'ān generally agrees with the creation narrative presented in Genesis 1, in that the Islamic god Allāh is said to have created the universe over the course of six days [11:7]. However, there are a number of differences.
The fullest account of creation given within the Qur'an appears in Sura 41, entitled Fussilat/Ha Mim, which presents the creation as follows: -
As the Qur'ān differs from the Bible in the manner in which it is composed, namely as a dialogue with sporadic references to prior events, the account of creation also appears in a number of other places: -
The creation of Adam (and his unnamed wife) is dealt with in several passages. Interestingly, according to Sahih al-Bukhari 55:4:543, Adam was sixty cubits tall. The career of Adam and the subsequent fall or dealt with in the following passages: -
The Qur'ān itself is said to have existed from time immemorial in paradise with Allāh [43:2-4], though there is some disagreement among Muslims as to whether the Qur'ān is itself eternal or created.
The Mughīriyya were an early ghulāt group within Islām founded by one al-Mughīra ibn Sa'īd during the Umayyad dynasty's rule over the Arab empire. Al-Mughīra had something of a reputation as an adept in occult matters, adn the cosmogony ascribed to him by the later heresiographer al-Ash'arī reflects this, containing material which parallels to some extent earlier "gnostic" motifs from Judeo-Christianity. The initial stages of creation are as follows: -
William F. Tucker translates al-Ash'arī's synopsis of the subsequent development as follows: -
Al-Mughīra's pro-'Alid leanings are made clear in the next stage, which vilifies the early community leaders Abū Bakr and 'Umar - held by the Shi'a to have usurped 'Alī's rightful rule of the Muslims - in excoriating terms: -
The cosmology of the various Sufi traditions can be boiled down to a series of emanations, through which Allāh - named as Hu or Huwa ("He") - reveals himself and his purpose in stages, commencing with a stage expressed by the boundlessness of Allāh. The various planes of existence and their attributes can be expressed as follows: -
|Plane of existence||Definition||Spiritual stage||Associated terminology|
|Hahut||Unmanifest Absolute, world of Huwa ("He")||Ahadiyah ("oneness")||Dhat ("essence")/tr>
Ghaib ul-Ghaib ("mystery of mysteries")
|Yahut||First Manifestation||Wahdah ("divine solitude")||Noor-e-Muhammad ("light of Muhammad")|
|Lahut||Manifest Absolute||Wahidiyah ("divine uniqueness")||Ruh al-Qudsi ("the Holy Spirit")|
Aql-i-Awwal ("first intellect")
Aql-i-Kulli ("universal intellect")
|-||Creative energy expressed through names and attributes||Nafs-i-Kulliya ("universal soul")|
Nafs-i-Rahmani ("breath of mercy")
|Jabarut (Arwah)||The world of power/spirits||Ruh-i-Sultani ("the kingly soul")|
|Malakut (Mithal)||The world of angels/similitudes||Ruh-i-Noorani ("the soul of celestial light")|
|Nasut (Ajsam)||The world of humanity (physical plane)||Ruh-i-Hewani ("the soul of the physical body")|
The Druze are a strictly unitarian sect, derived from the Isma'ili branch of Shi'ism, who believe that God is both transcendent and immanent. God has no attributes separate from his essence. They also believe in reincarnation.
An important figure in the beliefs of the Druze is Al-Hakim bin Amr Allah, the sixth caliph of the Fatimid dynasty, a figure renowned for his liberality, tyrannical leanings, cultivation of a personality cult of sorts - and his mysterious disappearance whilst walking alone on a hill. The Druze afford him the name al-wahda ("the divine unity"). Al-Hakim was, according to this sect, the last of up to seventy incarnations of God who appeared throughout history.
The Druze, in common with their fellow Isma'ilis, regard religious texts as having three particular registers: -
Additionally, followers of the Druze faith are divided into two groups: -
The Alawites believe in a divine triad, which is made up of three hypostases of one god whose supreme aspect is known as Ma'nā ("Essence"), as well as two lesser emanations: Ism ("Name") or Hijāb ("Veil"); and Bāb ("Gate").
These emanations have appeared in different configurations at various points of history, the most recent of which was during the time of the revelation of Islām: -
Originally, according to the Alawites, they were divine lights cast from heaven through their disobedience, who are forced to undergo metempsychosis in readiness for their return to heaven. If they continue to sin, they reappear in lower forms (non-Muslims through sin or animals via apostasy).
Interestingly, in stark contrast to the Islamic proscription on alcohol, the Alawites use wine as a sacrament at a secretive form of male-only Mass.
The cosmology of the Bahá'í tradition is based to a great extent of that of the Sufis, but with some elaboration. The scheme is produced in tabular format below: -
|Plane of existence||Definition||Stage of creation||Associated colour|
|Hahut||Unmanifested essence of God: the "Hidden Mystery" of the Primal Oneness||-||-|
|Lahut||The Glorious Horizon, the Heavenly Court, the Throne of God, the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the Primal Intellect||Mashiyat ("will")||Brilliant white|
|Jabarut||The Highest Paradise, the Realm of Command: here, the manifestations of God receive individuality||Iradah ("purpose")||Gold|
|Malakut||The Glorious Paradise, the World of Angels, the World of Souls||Qadar ("predestination")||Green|
|Nasut||The physical world, divided into four kingdoms: -||Qada ("fate")||Crimson|
The most significant feature of Yezidi religious belief is their veneration of Melek Taus, the "peacock angel." They are regarded with suspicion, as "devil-worshippers" by their non-Yezidi neighbours on account of Melek Taus' refusal to bow down to Adam. The Yezidi also record that Melek Taus was rejected by the vast majority of humanity subsequent to this fall - all barring the Yezidis.
They believe in a divine triad, formed of emanations from the transcendent god of the universe. The three emanations are: -
Including Melek Taus, there are six other Angels (also known as Heft Sirr, the "Seven Mysteries"): -
During the creation, God first created Melek Taus, then the other members of the Heptad, before creating Adam from dust brought to him by the archangels. As mentioned above, the angels were ordered to bow down before Adam (who was given life by God from His own breath), only for Melek Taus to refuse. However, rather than condemn him for this act of disobedience, God exalted him above all other beings, making Melek Taus his deputy on earth.
The Yazidis are descended from Adam not through Eve, but via his son Shehid bin Jer. Before they engaged in congress, they experimented with creating offspring asexually at Melek Taus' instigation: whilst Eve's offspring was largely of the insect kingdom, Adam's experiment produced Shehid bin Jer.
The Yarsani - members of a secretive religion also known by the names Ahle Haqq or Kaka'i - believe in four epochs of universal evolution: -
The Divine Essence has successive mazhariyyats ("incarnations"), with one primary and seven secondary manifestations in angelic or human form, the latter being known as the Haft Tan ("Seven Persons"). The primary and secondary mazhariyyats of each era are as follows: -
|Era||Primary mazhariyyat||Haft Tan|
|Shari'at||Khawandagar, the creator of the world.||Gabriel, Michael, Israfil, Azrael, two other males and a female, appearing in pure angelic form.|
|Tariqat||'Alī ibn Abī Tālib, regarded as a divine figure.||Salman, Qanbar, Muḥammad , Nusayr (either Jesus Christ or Theophobus), Bahlool and Fatimah (the incarnation of the female angel).|
|Marefat||Shah Khoshin.||Shah Fazlullah Veli, Baba Sarhang Dudani, Baba Naous and others.|
|Haqiqat||Sultan Sahak (most probably).||Pir Benjamin (Gabriel) - the Master of the Pact;|
Dawud Koswar (Michael) - the Eternal Guide;
Pir Musi (Israfel) - the Holder of the Golden Pen;
Baba Yadegar, a.k.a. Ahmad and Reza;
Shah Ebrahim or Shah Husain; and
Khatun-e Razbar, Sultan Sahak's mother (the incarnation of the female angel).
Sultan Sahak was born of a Kurdish virgin, Dayerak Rezbar or Khatun-e Rezbar, who was impregnated when a piece of fruit from a pomegranate tree fell into her mouth after a bird had pecked at it. Having finished giving his esoteric message to his disciples among the Guran, he vanished, reappearing some years later as Haji Bektash Veli, before returning to the Guran country after a century, which was experienced as but an hour by his disciples.
In common with the other Kurdish cults in question, the Yarsani believe in metempsychosis.
Alevism is a heterodox form of Islām propounded by Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî. Commonalities with the beliefs of Yezidism and Yarsanism have led to its classification as a Kurdish angel religion descended from a proposed Yazdânism.
The Mormon - also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - view of the universe is similar to that presented in Christianity, but with some noteworthy differences.