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Home » Creation stories » Creation stories from Central Asia and West Asia

CREATION STORIES FROM CENTRAL AND WEST ASIA

Written by Graham | Created: Tuesday 6th October 2020 @ 1142hrs

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THE "ABRAHAMIC" TRADITIONS

GENESIS 1:1-2:3

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: -

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
- Genesis 1:1-5 [KJV].

TOHU vBOHU

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]: -

I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.
I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.
I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.
For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.

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]: -

The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.

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 SPIRIT OF GOD

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 SIX DAYS OF CREATION

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): -

DAY 2

The heavens and the earth; light; day and night [1:1-5];

DAY 2

A dome to divide the upper and lower waters, i.e. the sky [1:6-8];

DAY 3

Bringing forth land from the lower waters (named earth and sea): grain and fruit-bearing plants [1:9-13];

DAY 4

The "greater" and "lesser" lights in the sky, as well as the stars [1:14-19];

DAY 5

Sea monsters, other sea creatures and birds [1:20-23];

DAY 6

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 2:4-3:24

Genesis 2:4-9 depicts a barren primeval earth: -

  • There was no rain: instead, water emerges from beneath the surface of the earth as an aquiferous mist or vapour;
  • There were no plants: no seeds had sprouted and there was no creature to engage in agriculture.

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

The Garden of Eden is watered by a river which divided into four [2:11-14]: -

  • The Pishon, which runs through the gold-bearing land of Havilah;
  • The Gihon, which drains through Cush;
  • The Hiddekel (Tigris), which goes east of Assur;
  • The Perath (Euphrates).

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].

ADAM NAMES THE ANIMALS

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.

AND THEY WERE BOTH NAKED...

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.

WHEN IS A SERPENT NOT A SERPENT?

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]).

FORBIDDEN FRUIT

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 HEBREWS AND THE CHAOSKAMPF - DIVINE BATTLE

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: -

  • Job 9:5-14 - "He crushed his enemies who helped Rahab, the sea monster, oppose him."
  • Job 38:4-24 - "It was I who covered the sea with clouds and wrapped it in darkness. I marked a boundary for the sea and kept it behind bolted gates. I told it, 'So far and no farther! Here your powerful waves must stop.'"
  • Psalms 74:12-17 - "With your mighty strength you divided the sea and smashed the heads of the sea monsters; You crushed the heads of the monster Leviathan and fed his body to desert animals."
  • Psalms 89:6-12 - "You crushed the monster Rahab and killed it; with your mighty strength you defeated your enemies."
  • Psalms 104:1-10 - "When you rebuked the waters, they fled; they rushed away when they heard your shout of command. They flowed over the mountains and into the valleys, to the place you had made for them. You set a boundary they can never pass, to keep them from covering the earth again."
  • Proverbs 8:22-31 - "I [Wisdom] was there when he set the sky in place, when he stretched the horizon across the ocean, when he placed the clouds in the sky, when he opened the springs of the ocean and ordered the waters of the sea to rise no further than he said. I was there when he laid the earth's foundations."

LEVIATHAN: THE SLANT AND TWISTING SERPENT

Can you catch Leviathan with a fishhook or tie his tongue down with a rope? Can you put a rope through his snout or put a hook through his jaws? Will he beg you to let him go? Will he plead with you for mercy? Will he make an agreement with you and promise to serve you forever? Will you tie him like a pet bird, like something to amuse your servant women? Will fishermen bargain over him? Will merchants cut him up to sell? Can you fill his hide with fishing spears or pierce his head with a harpoon? Touch him once and you'll never try it again; you'll never forget the fight! Anyone who sees Leviathan loses courage and falls to the ground. When he is aroused, he is fierce; no one would dare to stand before him. Who can attack him and still be safe? No one in all the world can do it. Let me tell you about Leviathan's legs and describe how great and strong he is. No one can tear off his outer coat or pierce the armor he wears. Who can make him open his jaws, ringed with those terrifying teeth? His back is made of rows of shields, fastened together and hard as stone. Each one is joined so tight to the next, not even a breath can come between. They all are fastened so firmly together that nothing can ever pull them apart. Light flashes when he sneezes, and his eyes glow like the rising sun. Flames blaze from his mouth, and streams of sparks fly out. Smoke comes pouring out of his nose, like smoke from weeds burning under a pot. His breath starts fires burning; flames leap out of his mouth. His neck is so powerful that all who meet him are terrified. There is not a weak spot in his skin; it is as hard and unyielding as iron. His stony heart is without fear, as unyielding and hard as a millstone. When he rises up, even the strongest are frightened; they are helpless with fear. There is no sword that can wound him; no spear or arrow or lance that can harm him. For him iron is as flimsy as straw, and bronze as soft as rotten wood. There is no arrow that can make him run; rocks thrown at him are like bits of straw. To him a club is a piece of straw, and he laughs when men throw spears. The scales on his belly are like jagged pieces of pottery; they tear up the muddy ground like a threshing sledge. He churns up the sea like boiling water and makes it bubble like a pot of oil. He leaves a shining path behind him and turns the sea to white foam. There is nothing on earth to compare with him; he is a creature that has no fear. He looks down on even the proudest animals; he is king of all wild beasts.
- Job 41:1-34 [GNB].

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.

In Ps. 74:14 and Isa. 27:1, 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.

BEHEMOTH: "THE FIRST OF GOD'S WORKS"

Look at the monster Behemoth; I created him and I created you. He eats grass like a cow, but what strength there is in his body, and what power there is in his muscles! His tail stands up like a cedar, and the muscles in his legs are strong. His bones are as strong as bronze, and his legs are like iron bars. The most amazing of all my creatures! Only his Creator can defeat him. Grass to feed him grows on the hills where wild beasts play. He lies down under the thorn bushes, and hides among the reeds in the swamp. The thorn bushes and the willows by the stream give him shelter in their shade. He is not afraid of a rushing river; he is calm when the Jordan dashes in his face. Who can blind his eyes and capture him? Or who can catch his snout in a trap?
- Job 40:15-24 [GNB].

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.

RAHAB AND THE TANNIN

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]: -

I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

THE CREATION IN JEWISH MYTHOLOGY - AN ELABORATION OF THE TANAKH

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.

BEFORE CREATION

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: -

  • The Torah;
  • repentance;
  • Paradise;
  • Gehenna;
  • the Throne of Glory;
  • the Heavenly Temple; and
  • the name of the Messiah, which is engraved upon a stone which sits upon the altar in the Heavenly Temple.

Despite this precise dating, however, time is properly understood as having begun at the point of the creation of the present universe.

THE SIX PRIMORDIAL ELEMENTS

The current world was produced from six primordial elements which were brought into being on the First Day of Creation: -

אוֹר
LIGHT

תֹּהוּ
CHAOS

רוּחַ
WIND (SPIRIT)

חֹשֶׁךְ
DARKNESS

בֹּהוּ
VOID

מַיִם
WATER

the primordial light differed from that given by the sun and moon (which were created on the fourth day). This light "would have enabled man to see the world at a glance from one end to the other." Initially, the light was fashioned as a garment enveloping YHWH, and was later used to create the angels, which surround Him in a similar fashion: the Christian doctrine of the Heavenly Father can be understood in a similar manner: God the Father is always in heaven, but this is mainly due to heaven defined as the area around the point where He is located;
the darkness was the domain under the control of the Prince of Darkness, a figure described as "black as a bull": he was gripped by fear upon YHWH's declaration that He would create by means of light, and suggested instead that He use darkness. As a result of this impertinent act, the Prince of Darkness will eventually claim parity with YHWH by virtue of having an equal share in creation as lord of darkness and Sheol;
the chaos (tohu) is described in Jewish lore as "a green band which encompasses the whole world, and dispenses darkness";
the void (bohu) is envisioned as "consist[ing] of stones in the abyss, the producers of the waters";
the wind is more commonly rendered as the Spirit, and has a crucial position within the context of creation: the Spirit above the waters is seen as enabling this unitary primordial mass to become receptive to the ensuing differentiation and ordering; and
the waters are conceived in legend as being twofold, male and female, being the upper and lower waters respectively. They remained comminmgled until the second day, when YHWH ordered their separation. This caused them much grief, which meant that an Angel of the Firmament was installed with orders to keep the pair apart.

THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH

To these six elements are added four other things created on the first day: -

  • the heavens;
  • the earth;
  • the duration of the night; and
  • the duration of the day.

There are seven heavens and seven corresponding earths described in Jewish sources.

THE SEVEN HEAVENS

The seven heavens are described in the following manner: -

  • the first heaven covers the light during night time;
  • the second heaven is that upon which the planets move;
  • the third heaven is dedicated to creating manna for the people in the hereafter;
  • the fourth heaven contains the Heavenly Jerusalem and its Temple, with Michael as High Priest;
  • the fifth heaven is the home of the angelic hosts;
  • the sixth heaven is a quite frightening place: here originate the trials and tribulations, as well as visitations; and
  • the seventh heaven contains YHWH's throneroom.

In addition to these, some sources posit the existence of an eighth heaven, perhaps analogous to the "gnostic" concept of the Pleroma ("fullness") and Plato's hyperouranion, the realm of pure forms. It is described as being located above the heads of the Ḥayyot ("living creatures"), as an expnse gleaming like crystal, and is the home to the hidden mysteries. More specific information is sparse, due to the moratorium on discussing these mysteries, coupled with the extreme difficulty associated with gaining any information or access.

THE SEVEN EARTHS

Corresponding with the seven heavens are the seven earths, each separated by the abyss, tohu, bohu, a sea and waters: -

  • 1. Ḥeled - our world;
  • 2. Tebel - inhabited by 365 species of odd creatures, animals with human heads and vice versa, as well as humans with two heads and four of each limb;
  • 3. Yabbashah, "the mainland" - contains rivers and springs;
  • 4. Ḥarabah, "the dry" - contains brooks and streams;
  • 5. Arḳa - contains Gehenna, Sha'are Mawet, Sha'are Ẓalmawet, Beër Shahat, Ṭiṭ ha-Yawen, Abaddon and Sheol, with the souls of the wicked guarded by Angels of Destruction;
  • 6. Adamah, scene of the magnificence of God; and
  • 7. Eretẓ.

Also, this earth is not the only such system which is in existence: there are, in total, some 196,000 other worlds.

ḤELED

Our inhabited world exists at the centre, with the following in the cardinal directions: -

  • East - Paradise, comprised of seven divisions;
  • West - the ocean, with a great many islands inhabited by diverse peoples. Beyond this are steppes full of snakes and scorpions with no vegetation;
  • North - supplies of hell-fire, snow, hail, smoke, ice, darkness and wind and populated by malign entities. Beyond it lies hell over a land which would take half a milennium to cross; and
  • South - the chamber containing fire, a cave of smoke, the forge of blasts and hurricanes. The angel Ben Nez, the Winged, holds back these winds to prevent the earth from being consumed.

The northern portion was left unfinished, so that God may furnish anyone claiming such an exalted status with a tast appropriate to the role.

THE EIGHT SEAS

The earth is surrounded by the great see, named Okeanos, which rests in turn on seven other, more rareified, bodies of water: -

  • Okeanos - stands on the fins of Leviathan: the Place of Swallowing is in the Okeanos Sea, and this is where the waters are swallowed. Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua came there. The sun is extinguished in this river, but is renewed in the Nehar di-Nur, the "River of Fire," in the east;
  • the Lower Waters - Leviathan is a dweller in the Lower Waters, in which he is but small fry;
  • the Waters of Ocean;
  • the Waters of Creation;
  • the Weeping Waters;
  • the Abyss;
  • Tohu, chaos;
  • Bohu, void.

This is all suspended from God's arms. Other stories suggest that the earth is held upon the horn of a great bull, which was the product of a union between a bull which appeared when Aaron made the first Yom Kippur sacrifice and a certain cow. This bull grew to such a prodigious size that YHWH decided to place it beneath the cosmos to hold it up. Earthquakes, in this scenario, arise from the bull's tossing the earth from one horn to the other.

GENESIS 1:27, GENESIS 2:7 AND THE QUESTION OF THE "PREADAMITES"

Then God said, "And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. They will have power over the fish, the birds, and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small."
So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, blessed them, and said,
"Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals.
"I have provided all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit for you to eat; but for all the wild animals and for all the birds I have provided grass and leafy plants for food" - and it was done.
- Genesis 1:26-30 [GNB].
Then the LORD God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live.
Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the East, and there he put the man he had formed.
He made all kinds of beautiful trees grow there and produce good fruit.
- Genesis 2:7-9 [GNB].

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: -

  • The Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo maintained that: "[t]here are two types of men; the one a heavenly man, the other an earthly. The heavenly man, being made in the image of God, is altogether without part or lot in corruptible and terrestrial substance; but the earthly one was compacted out of the matter scattered here and there, which Moses calls 'clay.'"
    Philo's "heavenly man" - who is pictured in contradiction to Gen. 1:29 as having no part in the world - is an early exemplar of what would become the Jewish concept of the Adam Kadmon;
  • The 17th century French scholar Isaac La Peyrère, a Calvinist reputed to be of Marrano (Jews forced to convert to Christianity in Spain) stock who later became a Catholic, developed a theory in which Adam and Eve were the ancestors of the Jews, with the Gentile races springing from Preadamic stock.
    Adam himself was - rather than being formed from clay as the Bible states - descended from one Preadamite group, whilst Cain's wife and the population of the first city he created in the land of Nod [Gen. 4:16-17] represented another Preadamite lineage;
  • Another, preserved in Jewish legend, describes a strange creature called the "'man of the mountain,' Adne Sadeh, or, briefly, Adam. His form is exactly that of a human being, but he is fastened to the ground by means of a navel-string, upon which his life depends."
    The Adne Sadeh, otherwise known as the Jeduah or Faduah, enjoyed a long lifespan, as long as the umbilical connection with the earth remained in place. The navel cord could be up to a mile in length.
    According to Howard Schwartz: "this species continued to exist until the last members were drowned in the Flood."
  • In Islamic tradition, the Nasnas were a type of Djinn who existed prior to the creation of Adam. Today, according to the popular teachings of Islām, the Djinn live lives very like those of humans, albeit in a different dimension.

In contrast to Philo's exegesis, the Pharisees and their Rabbinical successors aimed to reconcile the two passages, with striking results: -

  • Adam was originally created as a hermaphrodite, with the subsequent division of the sexes taking place as a result of YHWH's surgery to create Eve;
  • The Talmud reports that the great Rabbi Akiva held that the statement that man was created "in the image of God" is something of a misnomer: instead, he was created according to the pattern of a pre-existing image, something of a template of a human, again calling to mind the Adam Kadmon.

EVE'S PRECURSORS

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 best-known tradition of an earlier wife of Adam is that of Lilith, who becomes the infamous demoness who is also occasionally named as a wife of both YHWH and the nefarious angel Samael. Objecting to Adam's favouring the missionary position during intercourse, Lilith - whose refusal to submit to Adam has made her something of a feminist icon - invoked the Ineffable Name and sought refuge in the Red Sea district, emerging as an implacable enemy of humanity and the cause of infant mortality;
  • Another story, recounted by Schwartz, states that: "God wanted to create a helpmate for Adam. So God created the first Eve right in front of him. As Adam watched, the first Eve was created from the inside out - first her bones, then her flesh, and finally she was covered with skin. But when God offered her to Adam, he fled in disgust and hid in the Garden.
    "So the first Eve was taken away, never to be heard from again. Nothing is known of her fate."
  • Another account related by Schwartz - which preserves some of the protofeminism of the Lilith tale - states that: "Adam's first wife was a clever woman who was stronger than he was. Therefore Adam said to God, 'Please God. I don't want this woman. Take her and give me another one instead.'
    YHWH prepares to take her and throw her into the sea, but she makes a request:
    "'When a baby boy is born, let me come to him on the fifth day after his birth and reveal the future that is awaiting him.'
    "God agreed to this request, and every time that a son is born, the first Eve comes to him on the fifth day after he is born, and whispers the future in his ear."
    A century elapses between the creation of this Eve and her canonical successor.

WISDOM AS AGENT OF CREATION

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 is among the earliest texts in which Wisdom comes to be personified, in the manner of a "proto-hypostasis" of YHWH: -

"I am Wisdom, I am better than jewels; nothing you want can compare with me.
"I am Wisdom, and I have insight; I have knowledge and sound judgment.
"To honor the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil ways and false words.
"I make plans and carry them out. I have understanding, and I am strong.
"I help kings to govern and rulers to make good laws.
"Every ruler on earth governs with my help, officials and nobles alike.
"I love those who love me; whoever looks for me can find me.
"I have riches and honor to give, prosperity and success.
"What you get from me is better than the finest gold, better than the purest silver.
"I walk the way of righteousness; I follow the paths of justice,
"giving wealth to those who love me, filling their houses with treasures.
"The LORD created me first of all, the first of his works, long ago.
"I was made in the very beginning, at the first, before the world began.
"I was born before the oceans, when there were no springs of water.
"I was born before the mountains, before the hills were set in place,
"before God made the earth and its fields or even the first handful of soil.
"I was there when he set the sky in place, when he stretched the horizon across the ocean,
"when he placed the clouds in the sky, when he opened the springs of the ocean
"and ordered the waters of the sea to rise no further than he said. I was there when he laid the earth's foundations.
"I was beside him like an architect, I was his daily source of joy, always happy in his presence -
"happy with the world and pleased with the human race."
- Pro. 8:11-31 [GNB].

POST-BIBLICAL TEXTS

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.
Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets...
- the Wisdom of Solomon [7:24-27].

Wisdom's role, outlined in the preceding quote, is perhaps best emphasised in Sirach 24, a wonderful passage expounding on Wisdom & 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: -

Wisdom will praise herself, and will glory in the midst of her people.
In the assembly of the Most High she will open her mouth, and in the presence of his host she will glory:
"I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.
"I dwelt in high places, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
"Alone I have made the circuit of the vault of heaven and have walked in the depths of the abyss.
"In the waves of the sea, in the whole earth, and in every people and nation I have gotten a possession.
"Among all these I sought a resting place; I sought in whose territory I might lodge.
"Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent.
"And he said, 'Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.'
"From eternity, in the beginning, he created me, and for eternity I shall not cease to exist.
"In the holy tabernacle I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion.
"In the beloved city likewise he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my dominion."
- Sirach [24:1-11].

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.

CREATION ACCORDING TO PHILO

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 Logos divided the primordial universe to make use of the space created to shape the earth, which will continue to exist throughout time. The notion of creation within the space of six days is interpreted allegorically by Philo as representing order and productivity, the two paramount notions governing the creation.

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 Breath of Life, given the designation of the רוח אלהים, the "Spirit of God"; and
  • the Light, which is seen by God and pronounced to be "good."
And air and light he considered worthy of the pre-eminence. For the one he called the breath of God, because it is air, which is the most life-giving of things, and of life the causer is God; and the other he called light, because it is surpassingly beautiful: for that which is perceptible only by intellect is as far more brilliant and splendid than that which is seen, as I conceive, the sun is than darkness, or day than night, or the intellect than any other of the outward senses by which men judge (inasmuch as it is the guide of the entire soul), or the eyes than any other part of the body. And the invisible divine reason, perceptible only by intellect, he calls the image of God. And the image of this image is that light, perceptible only by the intellect, which is the image of the divine reason, which has explained its generation.
- Philo, On the Creation [30-31].

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.

Now, Bezaleel, being interpreted, means God in his shadow. But the shadow of God is his Word, which he used like an instrument when he was making the world. And this shadow, and, as it were, model, is the archetype of other things. For, as God is himself the model of that image which he has now called a shadow, so also that image is the model of other things, as he showed when he commenced giving the law to the Israelites, and said, "And God made man according to the image of God." as the image was modelled according to God, and as man was modelled according to the image, which thus received the power and character of the model.
- Philo, Allegorical Interpretation [3.96].

A CHRISTIAN CREATION TEXT - THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
- John 1:5 [KJV].

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 creation account.

Particularly exhalted in St. John's text is the Logos ("Word"), which is identified with Jesus Christ: -

  • The Logos is preexistent: it is both with God and is God;
  • The Logos is the agent of creation;
  • The Logos contains life, which is identified with light;
  • The light shone in the darkness of the nascent cosmos;
  • The Light (Phos) appeared in the world - was "made flesh" - amongst his own people, the Jews;
  • St. John the Baptist was sent prior to the Light to bear witness;
  • Those who follow the light are given the power to become sons of God, and are described as having been born from God.

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.

CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED GNOSTICISM

A JEWISH "GNOSTIC" ACCOUNT OF CREATION

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: -

Out of the primeval Chaos God created the seven archons through the intermediacy of his Wisdom, which was identical with the "dew of light." Wisdom now cast her eidolon, or shadow-image, upon the primeval waters of the Tohu wa-Bohu, whereupon the archons formed the world and the body of man. Man crawled about upon the earth like a worm, until Wisdom endowed him with spirit. Satan, in the shape of the serpent, had intercourse with Eve who thereupon bore Cain and Abel. Thus sexuality became the original sin. After the Fall, the sons of Seth fought the sons of Cain. When the daughters of Cain seduced the sons of Seth, Wisdom brought the flood upon the earth. Later, in her efforts to help mankind, Wisdom sent seven prophets, from Moses to Ezra, corresponding to the seven planets. In the myth Wisdom, acting like a female deity, clearly resembles the Gnostic concept of the anima mundi, the "world soul."

There are a few points of interest to be gleaned from this text: -

  • The concept of the archons differs from that common in Christian Gnosticism: here, they appear as amenuenses of YHWH, who is understood as the True God. Christian Gnosticism, by contrast, generally regards YHWH as the Demiurge, the creator of the universe of matter, who is ignorant of the unknowable Monad existent within the pleroma and his aeons, of whom Wisdom (generally named "Sophia" or, more in garbled Semitic form, "Achamoth") is but one;
  • The concept of Wisdom casting a shadow-image upon the face of the Abyss is paralleled in various Christian "gnostic" texts, for example: the Hypostasis of the Archons ("[a]s incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters, her image appeared in the waters"); and On the Origin of the World ("Pistis revealed her likeness of her greatness in the waters"); as well as a text associated with the early Islamic sect, the Mughīriyya ("[Allāh] [...] gazed into the sea and saw His shadow. And he went forth to seize it, but it flew away.").
  • These texts also resemble Gen. 1:2: "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." The equasion between the Holy Spirit and the Shekhinah, the brilliant Presence of YHWH, as well as Wisdom, seems apparent from Patai's treatment.

THE MAGHARIAN CREATION STORY

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 RISE OF ANTINOMIANISM IN EARLY SECTARIAN CHRISTIANITIES

While many cosmogonies associated with early sectarian Christianity retain many aspects of the Biblical creation narrative - in particular with regards to the focus on the Spirit moving over the waters [Gen. 1:2] - it is noteworthy that many of these sects are regarded as "antinomian," in that their doctrines held that the figure of YHWH, the god of the Israelites, was not the supreme being, but rather a rather petty, capricious lord of the world of matter, from which the righteous were bound to seek escape.

MARCIONISM

This position can be traced back in particular to the 2nd century figure Marcion of Sinope. Marcion, apparently a successful merchant by trade, came into conflict with the orthodox leadership within the early Christian church (he was excommunicated in AD 144), which led him to develop an alternative vision.

Of paramount influence upon Marcion's christology was the concept of Docetism, a belief that Jesus, rather than being human, was, in fact, a phantasm with the appearance of bodily reality. Docetism probably emerged half a century before Marcion's time, and it was possibly to combat this position that led to the statement in John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."

Eventually, Marcion developed a canon which excluded the entire Old Testament/Tanakh and much of the New, with the exception of a truncated Gospel of Luke and the writings of St. Paul, whom he admired. Marcion's theology proposed a dualistic system, with YHWH - as noted above - reduced to the status of Demiurge, the maker of the visible cosmos, and the jealous, legalistic tutelary deity of the Jews. Indeed, like his creation, YHWH also possessed a physical form. In support of this, Marcion cited Genesis 3:8, which depicts YHWH walking in the Garden of Eden.

Over and in opposition to this conception of YHWH was the Heavenly Father preached of by Jesus Christ, the Son of this figure. Marcion maintained that Jesus' tidings of the loving, ever-patient and forgiving Heavenly Father at best sat uneasily alongside the depiction of YHWH in the Tanakh, leading him to conclude that an identification of the two was impossible.

BAR KOCHBA AND THE CHRISTIANS

The Chronicle of Jerome, in an entry which dates to AD 133, notes that: "Barcocheba, leader of a party of the Jews, because the Christians are not willing to help him against the Roman army, murders them with every sort of torture." The emergence of Marcion, with his antinomian (and, to some extent, Antisemitic) rhetoric shortly after this date has not gone unnoticed, and it is possible that these events, and the rejection by the Christians of Bar Kochba's messianic claim which resulted in their persecution, led to Marcion (and others) hardening their view of the Jews and their god.

MARCION'S INFLUENCE ON GNOSTIC THOUGHT

The Marcionite conception of a dualistic system would prove highly influential in "gnostic" circles, which would take up his ideas and develop them. A number of later sects are typified by their concepts of aeons (from the immaterial world of Pleroma) and materialistic archons, led by the ignorant figure of the Demiurge, with a number of instances in which specific archons are named betraying an antinomian outlook.

THE CAINITES

Of all the antinomian "gnostic" sects, the one which took Marcion's ideas to their absolute conclusion were undoubtedly the Cainites. This group - which first appeared shortly after Marcion embarked upon his career in theological speculation - took their name from the antediluvian figure Cain, who was the first of a number of figures regarded as villains in the Tanakh who they would come to revere. Cain, the murderer of Abel, was the first victim of the Creator, i.e. YHWH, and was claimed by the Cainites as having some connection with the Supreme God. Other heroes of the Cainites were: -

  • the Sodomites;
  • Esau, brother of Jacob and father of the Edomite nation; and
  • Korah and his allies, Levites and Reubenites who fomented rebellion against Moses during the desert wanderings of the Israelites.

The Cainites held that, rather than suffering eternal condemnation at the hands of the Demiurge, these were instead spirited away by Sophia without any harm coming to them.

Another figure held in high regard was Judas Iscariot, the villain of the piece in the orthodox account of Christ's arrest and Passion. Judas' role was particularly significant in that his actions forced the hands of the archons, who were unwilling to kill Jesus. The Gospel of Judas, known from fragments, is associated with Cainites, and has Jesus tell Judas: "[y]ou will exceed all of [the disciples], for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." In this respect, Judas proved himself aware of the true mission of Christ, of which the remainder of the disciples were totally ignorant, and it is through his facilitation of Jesus' sacrifice that enabled salvation.

THE SIMONIANS

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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: -

THE "BOUNDLESS POWER" AND THE SIX ROOTS

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: -

  • Mind;
  • Voice;
  • Reason;
  • Reflection;
  • Name; and
  • Thought

In addition to these, there was a seventh power, identified with the Spirit upon 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).

ENNOIA, MOTHER OF THE AEONS

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).

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

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).

THE BASILIDEANS

Two distinct accounts of the cosmological system of Basilides & his followers are extant. That of Hippolytus posits a creation ex nihilo with three emanations or "sonships": -

  • The first sonship is the subtle part of substance, in which the seed-mass burst through to the negatively-existent Godhead;
  • The second sonship is the coarse part of substance, which could not ascend as did the first of its own accord, but became a wing of the Holy Spirit;
  • The third sonship is the part which needs purification. Its coming into being brought about the advent of the Great Archon, who ascended to the firmament and, in his ignorance, imagined himself the most exalted of all beings. His son, better than himself and wiser, was created and placed at the Great Archon's right hand.

The cosmology features some interesting names: -

  • The Ogdoad is the place where the Great Archon sits;
  • The heavens extend therefrom down to the circuit of the moon and was made by the Great Archon, at the inspiration of his son;
  • Below this, another Archon arose, inferior to the first. He also made a son wiser than he was and became the creator and ruler of the aerial world, known as the Hebdomad.

Sts. Irenaeus and Epiphanus render a slightly different account of Basilidean thinking, adding further details of their theology and polemic: -

  • The great ruler of the cosmos is the Unbegotten, the Only Father, who projected forth Nous, which in turn bore Logos;
  • Logos produced Phronesis, who gave issue to Sophia and Dynamis, who in turn brought about the principalities, powers and angels, who made the first heaven;
  • These gave birth to a second set of angels who made a second heaven, which in turn bore a third, and so on, for 365 generations, creators of 365 heavens;
  • Each heaven came under the sway of a named Archon, with the name having a magical significance;
  • The earth and humankind were the creation of the angels of the lowest, visible heaven: they produced prophecies, whilst the Archon of that heaven, the YHWH of Judaism, inspired the Law;
  • After some time, the Only Father, distressed at the state of creation, dispatched Nous, a.k.a. Christ, into the world;
  • Christ took on the appearance of a human, though was not human: He was never crucified; instead Simon of Cyrene was crucified in His place.

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.

THE VALENTINIANS

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.

  • In the beginning, there was Pleroma ("fullness"), at the centre of which was Bythos, the Monad and primeval father;
  • Long ages passed before Bythos projected fifteen syzygies (male-female pairs) or Aeons;
  • Among the Aeons was Sophia Achamoth, whose curious nature led to her fall from the Pleroma and the creation of the material universe (Sophia Achamoth represents the "lower wisdom": the "upper wisdom," also known as Sophia, represents the preeminent female principle);
  • Both of these Aeons rebel, though only Sophia Achamoth - the premature offspring of Sophia - is removed into the matter substrate: Sophia repents and is allowed to remain within the Pleroma;
  • Outside of the Pleroma, Sophia gives birth to the Demiurge, who proceeds to create the realm of matter. The Demiurge is identified with YHWH of the Tanakh;
  • Adam is created by the order of the primordial Anthropos (who emerged as a hypostasis of Bythos and is made of pure mind);
  • Christ is the son of Sophia Achamoth: after her fall, she develops a longing for Bythos and, from that desire, bears an Aeon greater than herself. Subsequently, this Aeon rises into the Pleroma, where Christ, something of a cipher for the primeval Anthropos, gives it form and essence;
  • Otherwise, Christ and Sophia are brother and sister, higher and lower elements. Christ, along with the Holy Spirit, are created by the Aeons Nous ("mind") and Aletheia ("truth"), working on the orders of Bythos, who proceed to restore order to the Pleroma, which enables all of the Aeons to join their efforts to create from their finest qualities another new Aeon, variously known as Jesus, Christ, Logos ("the Word") or Soter ("Saviour");
  • The Aeon Christ unites with Sophia and descends into the body of Jesus of Nazereth at His Baptism, anointing Him as the Saviour of men;
  • The Valentinians are depicted as children of Sophia, within whom she has placed a divine spark which is, as it exists outside of the Pleroma and within Heimarmene, subject to the wiles of evil forces;
  • The fallen Aeons are separated from the Pleroma via the agency of a figure called Horos, who assists in the creation of the material realm in order to bring order from Sophia Achamoth's chaotic emotions. He is also known as Stauros ("cross");
  • Valentinus the heresiarch is recorded as having written a treatise on the triune nature of man, in which humans are regarded as being simultaneously spiritual, psychical and material: -
    • the pneumatici are the highest, being purely spiritual: they will be freed from the malign influence of the Demiurge and will enter the Pleroma without body and soul, along with Soter and Sophia Achamoth;
    • the psychici, whose master remains the Demiurge, will enter a species of limbo which is neither pleroma nor hell (i.e. matter);
    • the hylici are the material, and will return to matter, before being consumed by fire at the end of time.
THE AEONS OF THE VALENTINIANS

As noted above, this particular has the most elaborately-developed system of Aeons. In general, it is possible to divide the Aeons of the Valentinians into three distinct groups: the first is the Ogdoad, made up of Bythos and the seven uppermost Aeons; then comes the Decad, ten hypostases of the third generation of the Ogdoad; followed by the Dodecad, twelve hypostases of the fourth generation: -

The Ogdoad
Bythos ("depth")
=
Sige ("silence") or Ennoia ("idea")
|
 
Nous ("mind")
=
Aletheia ("truth")
|
 
Logos ("word")
=
Zoe ("life")
|
 
Anthropos ("man")
=
Ekklesia ("church")
The Decad (offspring of Logos & Zoe)
Bythios ("deep")
=
Mixis ("comingling")
Ageratos ("unaging")
=
Henosis ("union")
Autophyes ("self-existent")
=
Hedone ("pleasure," "bliss")
Akinetos ("immovable")
=
Synkrasis ("blending")
Monogenes ("only-begotten")
=
Makaria ("happiness")
The Dodecad (offspring of Anthropos & Ekklesia)
Parakletos ("comforter")
=
Pistis ("faith")
Patrikos ("paternal")
=
Elips ("hope")
Metrikos ("maternal")
=
Agape ("love")
Ainos ("praise")
=
Synesis ("understanding")
Ekklesiastikos ("ecclesiastical")
=
Makariotes ("child of happiness")
Theletos ("longed for")
=
Sophia ("wisdom")
PTOLEMY AND COLORBASUS' VERSION

The Church Father St. Irenaeus reports that two of Valentinus' followers, Ptolemy & Colorbasus, developed a slightly different configuration of the Aeons: -

Bythos or To Hen ("the one")
=
Sige
|
 
Ennoia
=
Thelesis ("will")
|
 
Nous or Monogenes
=
Aletheia
|
 
Anthropos
=
Ekklesia
|
 
Logos
=
Zoe
The Decad (offspring of Logos & Zoe)
Bythios
=
Mixis
Ageratos
=
Henosis
Autophyes
=
Hedone
Akinetos
=
Synkrasis
Monogenes
=
Makaria
The Dodecad (offspring of Anthropos & Ekklesia)
Parakletos
=
Pistis
Patrikos
=
Elips
Metrikos
=
Agape
Ainos
=
Synesis
Ekklesiastikos
=
Makariotes
Theletos
=
Sophia

In this scheme, the second generation (Ennoia & Thelesis) are conceived by To Hen (and form part of the Tetrad along with To Hen & Sige). They give birth to the third generation, who produce the fourth, who go on to produce the fifth. The Decad & Dodecad are combined as the "sixth generation," though their parentage remains the same.

THE MARCOSIANS

The Marcosians were an esoteric "gnostic" sect active in southern Europe during Roman times. Their founder was Marcus, a disciple of Valentinus.

THE LETTERS OF THE GREEK ALPHABET AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE

One of the most striking features of Marcosianism was the significance which the group placed in the letters of the Greek alphabet - ideas derived from the Pythagoreans, which are also present in some strands of Jewish and Islamic mysticism. Particularly illuminating is the description written by St. Irenaeus of the hieros gamos of the primordial Anthropos with the Tetrad, which descended upon him in the form of a woman: -

I wish to show thee Aletheia (Truth) herself; for I have brought her down from the dwellings above, that thou mayest see her without a veil, and understand her beauty—that thou mayest also hear her speaking, and admire her wisdom. Behold, then, her head on high, Alpha and Omega; her neck, Beta and Psi; her shoulders with her hands, Gamma and Chi; her breast, Delta and Phi; her diaphragm, Epsilon and Upsilon; her back, Zeta and Tau; her belly, Eta and Sigma; her thighs, Theta and Rho; her knees, Iota and Pi; her legs, Kappa and Omicron; her ankles, Lambda and Xi; her feet, Mu and Nu. Such is the body of Truth, according to this magician, such the figure of the element, such the character of the letter. And he calls this element Anthropos (Man), and says that is the fountain of all speech, and the beginning of all sound, and the expression of all that is unspeakable, and the mouth of the silent Sige.
THE OGDOAD

Marcus posits the existence of a first and second tetrad, together forming the Ogdoad. The members of each are as follows: -

First Tetrad Second Tetrad
The Unspeakable (ἄῤῥητος) The Word (λόγος)
Silence (σειγή) Life (ζωή)
Father (πατήρ) Man (ἄνθρωπος)
i.e. Anthropos
Truth (ἀλήθεια) Church (ἐκκλησία)

To these figures are associated the various letters of the Greek alphabet: -

  • the nine mutes are associated with the Father and Truth;
  • the eight semivowels are associated with the Word and Life; and
  • the seven vowels are associated with the Anthropos and Church
  • as their names suggest, the Unspeakable and Silence remain unaffiliated.

The sounds of particular letters were also associated with the seven heavens, with the harmony created by them causing the appearance of the cosmos.

VALENTINIAN INFLUENCE

In addition to these points, the Marcosian cosmology retained a number of ideas from Valentinianism, albeit using different terminology: -

  • instead of the thirty aeons of the Valentinians, the Marcosians posited the existence of thirty entities collectively known as Greatnesses; and
  • the mythology appertaining to Sophia and her fall also appear, but are termed a "Divine Deficiency."

THE OPHITES AND THEIR DIAGRAMS

ST. IRENAEUS

St. Irenaeus describes the beliefs of the Ophites - a sect who revered the serpent from the Garden of Eden - with regards to cosmogony as representing a series of emanations: -

  • Bythos ("depth");
  • the Father of All (an Adam Kadmon figure termed the First Man);
  • Ennoia, the Son of Man (the Second Man);
  • The Holy Spirit (the First Woman).

These are followed by: -

  • Water;
  • Darkness;
  • the Abyss;
  • Chaos.

Both the First and Second Men fall in love with the Holy Spirit and generate an Incorruptible Light, Christ, on her right hand side, whilst a drop of light from her left falls into the world of matter: this is Sophia or Prunikos, here an androgyne. Prunikos assumes a body and becomes fascinated by the primordial waters, eventually arching over them and forming the visible heavens. Some time later, she is freed from the body, which remains below, whilst she ascends to a higher plane.

Due to her contract with the waters, a son, Ialdabaoth, comes into being. The remnant of his mother's power enables him to create a son, who creates another, until they number seven Archons, ruling the seven heavens: with the addition of Prunikos, they form an Ogdoad. The seven Archons are named as: -

  • Ialdabaoth;
  • Iao;
  • Sabaoth;
  • Adonaios;
  • Elaios;
  • Astaphanos; and
  • Horaios.
CELSUS AND ORIGEN

The Ophite Diagrams were used by the sect and are differently described by the pagan Celsus and his opponent Origen. Celsus describes ten circles surrounded by another, Leviathan, functioning as an anima mundi. These are divided by a black line, Tartarus, and a square, the gates of Paradise; whilst Origen describes only two circles, inscribed with the words "Father" and "Son," with another beneath inscribed as Agape ("love"). Below these, there is a wall which separates the realm of light from the middle realm. Light and shadow are depicted in circles, with a double circle beneath and another inscribed Zoe ("life"), with two intersecting circles inside forming a rhomboid, within which was written Sophias physis ("widsom's nature"), gnosis ("knowledge"), and sophia ("wisdom"). The seven archons are named as: -

  • Michael (lion);
  • Suriel (bull);
  • Raphael (dragon);
  • Gabriel (eagle);
  • Thauthabaoth (bear's head);
  • Erataoth (dog's head); and
  • Onoel/Thartharaoth (donkey's head).

THE SETHIANS AND THE APOCRYPHON OF JOHN

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: -

  • Grace "belongs to the light-aeon Armozel, which is the first angel," who is accompanied by Truth and Form also;
  • The second light is Oriel, accompanied by Conception, Perception and Memory;
  • The third light is Daveithai, along with Understanding, Love and Idea;
  • Eleleth is the fourth, accompanied by Perfection, Peace and Wisdom (Sophia);

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.

THE DEMIURGE AND THE MATERIAL WORLD

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: -

  • Athoth has a sheep's face;
  • Eloaiou has a donkey's face;
  • Astaphaios has a hyena's face;
  • Yao has a serpent's face with seven heads;
  • Sabaoth has a dragon's face;
  • Adonin has a monkey's face;
  • Sabbede has a face of shining fire.

THE MANICHAEANS

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: -

  1. The First Creation is a call to the Mother of Life, who dispatches her son, the Original Man, to combat the forces of Darkness, who include the Demon of Greed. The Original Man has the worst of it, losing his five shields of light and finding himself trapped among the enemy hordes.
  2. The Second Creation ensues, in which the Father of Greatness calls upon the Living Spirit, who calls his five sons to call the Original Man, who answers: Call and Answer are then deified. The Mother of Life and the Living Spirit and his sons create the universe from the bodies of the fallen denizens of Darkness, forming ten heavens and eight earths made up of darkness with the occasional glimmer of light: the sun, moon & stars are formed from light recovered from the World of Darkness.
  3. During the Third Creation, demons or archons are hung over the heavens, whereupon the Father of Greatness recommences his creative work. More light is recovered by causing the evil beings to lust after beings of light (the Virgins of Light and Third Messenger in particular), though this light immediately falls to earth, which creates the fallen angels. Having swallowed vast amounts of light the evil beings engage in coitus, producing Adam and Eve, which prompts the Father of Greatness to dispatch the Radiant Jesus to awaken and enlighten Adam as to the true source of the light. However, Adam and Eve in turn engage in coitus, producing ever more humans, in whose bodies is trapped the light from above.

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.

THE MANDAEANS

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.

KABBALAH

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: -

  • Atzmut ("God's Absolute Essence");
  • Yachid ("The Single One");
  • Echad ("The One");
  • Sha'ashuim Atzmi'im ("The Delights of Self");
  • Aliyat Haratzon ("Rose in His Will");
  • Ana Emloch ("I will reign");
  • Ein Sof;
  • Kadmon ("Primordial One");
  • Avir Kadmon ("Primordial Atmosphere"); and
  • Adam Kadma'ah Stima'ah ("Concealed Primordial Man").
THE TZIMTZUM

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"): -

  • Tzimtzum;
  • Reshimu ("Impression") - this represents the residue of Ohr Ein Sof within the Khalal; and
  • Kav ("Ray"), the ingress of a new flash of Divine Light.
ADAM KADMON

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: -

  • Ratzon Kadum ("Original Desire");
  • Adam Kadmon; and
  • Orot Ozen-Chotem-Peh (five lights emanating from the eyes, forehead, nose, mouth and ears of Adam Kadmon).
TOHU AND TIKUN

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"): -

  • Akudim ("binding") - stable Tohu - ten lights in one vessel;
  • Nekudim ("points") - unstable Tohu - ten isolated lights in ten vessels; and
  • Berudim ("connection") - start of Tikun - ten interconnected lights in ten vessels.

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.

COMPLETING TIKUN

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").

KETER OF ATZILUT

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: -

  • Atik Yomin ("Ancient of Days") - upper Keter;
  • Arich Anpin ("Vast Face"; "Infinitely Patient One") - lower Keter;
  • Reisha D'lo Ityada (RaDLA) ("Unknowable Head");
  • Reisha D'Ayin ("Head of Nothingness"); and
  • Reisha D'Arich ("Head of Infinity").

The following are associated with the uppermost Sefirot in Arich Anpin: -

  • Keter: Gulgalta ("Skull"); and
  • Chokhmah: Mocha Stima'ah ("Concealed Brain").

Below them, Dikna ("Beard") causes the light from Arich Anpin to be contracted through the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy: -

  • YHWH - compassion before sin;
  • YHWH - compassion after sin;
  • El - giving to all creatures according to need;
  • Rachum - merciful;
  • VeChanun - and gracious;
  • Erech appayim - slow to anger;
  • VeRav chesed - and plenteous in kindness;
  • VeEmet - and truth;
  • Notzer chesed laalafim - keeping kindness unto thousands;
  • Noseh avon - forgiving iniquity;
  • VaFeshah - and transgression;
  • VeChata'ah - and sin;
  • VeNakeh - and pardoning.
ATZILUT

These names (associated with the Keter of Atzilut) are termed partzufim or "divine countenances." Others are associated with the world of Atzilut itself: -

  • Keter - Atik Yomin (upper) and Arich Anpin (lower);
  • Chokhmah - Abba (general), Abba Ila'ah (upper secondary) and Yisrael Sabba (lower secondary);
  • Binah - Imma (general), Imma Ila'ah (upper secondary) and Tevunah (lower secondary);
  • Hesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod - Zeir Anpin or Ben; and
  • Malkhuth - Nukvah D'Ze'ir Anpin or Bat (general), Leah (upper secondary), and Rachel (lower secondary).

The meanings of these partzufim will appear in the table below.

THE SEFIROT

The following table gathers correspondences between the various Sefirot and classes of being from various sources.

כתר חכמה בינה דעת חסד גבורה תפארת נצח הוד יסוד מלכות א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת Sorry, your browser does not support inline SVG.
Sefirah Partzuf[im] YHWH Divine Name Archangel Angelic host Heavenly sphere Body part
Keter Atik Yomin ("Ancient of Days")
Arich Anpin ("Vast Face")
Cusp of Yod EHYEH ASHER EHYEH Metatron Chayot ha Qodesh ("Holy Living Creatures") Rashith ha Gilgalim ("Primum Mobile") Skull
Chokhmah Abba ("Father")
Abba Ila'ah ("Higher Father")
Yisrael Sabba ("Israel the Elder")
Yod YAH Raziel Ophanim ("Wheels") Mazzaroth ("Zodiac") Right brain
Binah Imma ("Mother")
Imma Ila'ah ("Higher Mother")
Tevunah ("Comprehension")
Heh YHWH ELOHIM Tzaphkiel Erelim ("Valiant Ones") Shabbetai ("Saturn") Left brain
Da'ath Da'ath ("Knowledge") corresponds to the unity of all Sefirot. It represents the Abyss. Mid-brain
Hesed Ze'ir Anpin/Ben ("Small Face"/"Son") Waw EL Tzadkiel Hashmallim ("Shining Ones") Tzedeq ("Jupiter") Right arm
Gevurah ELOHIM GIBBOR Chamael Seraphim ("Burning Ones") Ma'adim ("Mars") Left arm
Tiferet YHWH ELOAH VE-DA'ATH Michael Malachim ("Angels") Shemesh ("Sun") Torso
Netzach YHWH SABAOTH Haniel Elohim Nogah ("Venus") Right leg
Hod ELOHIM SABAOTH Raphael B'nei Elohim ("Sons of Elohim") Kochab ("Mercury") Left leg
Yesod SHADDAI EL CHAI Gabriel Cherubim ("Mighty Ones"?) Levanah ("Moon") Genitals
Malkhuth Nukvah D'Ze'ir Anpin/Bat ("Distaff of Small Face"/"Daughter")
Leah
Rachel
Heh ADONAI Sandalphon Ishim ("Human-like creatures") Eretz ("Earth") Mouth/feet
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL: A KABBALISTIC SOLUTION

Kabbalah posits the emergence of evil in the form of Qliphoth, i.e. "husks" or "shells" of the ten Sefirot. These then embody the polar opposite of the Sefirot. Another explanation is that they emerge from an imbalance associated with the Sefirah Gevurah ("strength" or "power"), a.k.a. Din ("judgment"). This list of Qliphoth and their correspondences comes from non-Jewish arcana: -

Inner form Outer form ("cortex") Chief demon(s) Corresponding Sefirah
Thaumiel Cathariel Satan, Moloch Keter
Chaigidel Ghogiel Be'elzebub, Satan, Adam Belial Chokhmah
Sathariel Sheiriel Lucifuge Rofacale (Lucifer) Binah
Gamchicoth Azariel Astaroth Hesed
Golachab Usiel Asmodeus, Samael the Black Gevurah
Thagirion Zomiel Belphegor Tiferet
Kharab Serapel Theumiel Ba'al, Tubal Cain Netzach
Samael Theuniel Adrammelech Hod
Gamaliel Ogiel Lilith Yesod
Nehemoth   Naamah Malkhuth

THE QUR'ĀN

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: -

  • Allāh creates the world in two days [41:9];
  • The features of the earth - specifically mountains - as well as provisioning for creatures, are created in four days [41:10]: these include the two days in which the world is created;
  • The sky - which had formerly had the appearance of smoke or vapour [41:11], as well as the seven heavens, are formed in two days [41:12].

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: -

  • 21:30 describes how Allāh parted the heavens and the earth, which had formerly been as one, before creating living creatures from water;
  • 21:31-32 depicts the creation of mountains, ravines and the sky;
  • 21:33 represents the creation of night, day, the sun and the moon.

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: -

  • Adam is created from mud or clay [7:12; 38:76];
  • Adam is placed in the Garden [2:35; 7:19]. The Gardens of Eden are depicted at 18:31-36;
  • Adam is appointed viceroy over the earth [2:30-31];
  • Iblis - identified as a Jinn in 18:50 - refuses to join the remainder of the angels in bowing to Adam (the angels are created from fire) [2:34; 7:11-16; 17:61-64; 18:50; 20:116];
  • The fall of Adam as a result of his eating the fruit of the tree of immortality & power [7:20-25; 20:115-123];
  • The sons of Adam [5:27-31]. This presages the famous declaration at 5:32 that whosoever kills one, "it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind" [trans. Pickthall].

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.

A MUGHĪRIYYA COSMOGONY

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: -

  • Wishing to create the cosmos, Allāh utters the "Greatest Name";
  • This flies up to his head, becoming a Tāj ("crown").

William F. Tucker translates al-Ash'arī's synopsis of the subsequent development as follows: -

He [i.e. Allāh] then wrote with his finger on His palm men's deeds of obedience and disobedience, and he was angered by the [deeds of] disobedience and he sweated, and two seas were formed from His sweat, one salt and dark and the other sweet and bright. He then gazed into the sea and saw His shadow. And he went forth to seize it, but it flew away. He then plucked out the eye of His shadow and from it created the sun. He then annihilated the shadow and said: "There should not be another God besides me." He then created all creation from the two seas. He created the unbeliever from the salt, dark sea and the believers from the bright, sweet sea. And He created the shadows of men. The First shadow he created was that of Muhammad, may God's prayers and peace be upon him. He said, and that is His saying [i.e., in the Qur'ān], "say: 'If the merciful had a son, then I am the first of the worshippers'" (Qur'ān, 34:81).

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: -

He then sent Muhammad who was [still] a shadow to all mankind. He then proposed to the heavens to protect 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib, may God's approval be upon him, and they refused. He then proposed to the earth and the mountains [to protect 'Alī], and they refused. And then he proposed to all men [to protect 'Alī], and 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb went to Abū Bakr and ordered him to undertake his ['Alī's] protection and to betray him. And Abū Bakr did so. And this is [the meaning of] His saying, "[w]e proposed the trust to the heavens and to the earth and to the mountains" (Qur'ān 33:72). He [al-Mughīra] stated: And 'Umar said, "I shall assist you against 'Alī provided you arrange to give the Caliphate to me after you." This is [the meaning of] His saying "Like unto Satan when he says to a man, 'Be an infidel'." The devil according to him [al-Mughīra] is 'Umar.

MYSTICAL ISLĀM - A SIMPLIFIED TAṢAWWUF COSMOLOGY

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")
Amma ("darkness")
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 & 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")

DRUZE COSMOLOGY

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.

DRUZE SYMBOLISM

The symbolism of the Druze includes a flag and five-pointed star, both of which contain five colours of great significance within the faith, representing distinct aspects of the divine, known as ḥaad ("limit"). These are related to key figures in the early history of the Druze as follows: -

Concept Definition Associated individual Associated colour
'Aql The Universal Mind; the True Adam Hamza ibn Ali Green
Nafs The Universal Soul Isma'il ibn Muhammad al-Tamimi Red
Kalima The Word Muhammad ibn Wahb al-Quraishi Yellow
Sabiq The Right Wing; Potentiality; Cause Salaam ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab Blue
Tali The Left Wing; Immanence; Effect Baha' al-Din al-Muqtana White
DRUZE HIERARCHY

The Druze, in common with their fellow Isma'ilis, regard religious texts as having three particular registers: -

  • the exoteric, accessible to all;
  • the esoteric, accessible to those who study them using methods of exegesis;
  • the anagoge, the "hidden of the hidden," only accessible to those with a profound understanding of the universe.

Additionally, followers of the Druze faith are divided into two groups: -

  • the 'Uqqal - the sages and initiates; and
  • the Juhhal - the remainder of the believers, the "ignorant" ones.

ALAWITE COSMOLOGY

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: -

  • 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib is the Maʿnā;
  • Muḥammad is the Ism; and
  • Salman the Persian - an early convert to Islām and partizan of 'Alī's cause - is the Bāb.

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.

YAZIDISM

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: -

  • Melek Taus;
  • Sheikh Adi; and
  • Sultan Ezid.

Including Melek Taus, there are six other Angels (also known as Heft Sirr, the "Seven Mysteries"): -

  • Melek Taus or Azaz'il;
  • Gabra'il;
  • Mikha'il;
  • Rafa'il or Israfil;
  • Dadra'il;
  • Azrafil; and
  • Shamkil or Shemna'il.

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.

YARSANISM

The Yarsani - members of a secretive religion also known by the names Ahle Haqq or Kaka'i - believe in four epochs of universal evolution: -

  • Shari'at - the period of Adam and Eve to Muḥammad (the "prophetic" era);
  • Tariqat - the period from 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib to Shah Khoshin (the "doctrinal" era);
  • Marefat - from Shah Khoshin to Sultan Sahak (the "mystical" era); and
  • Haqiqat - from Sultan Sahak until today (the "truth" era).

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;
Mustafa'Dawudan (Azrael);
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

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.

  • Allāh, Muḥammad and 'Alī form a unity, with Muḥammad and 'Alī representing Allāh's light, neither of whom were independent of Allah or particular hypostases of him. This unity is described in Alevi prayers as Ḥaqq-Muḥammad-'Alī;
  • the Alevi believe that the twelve Imāms represent different aspects of the universe, realised as twelve services performed by the Alevis;
  • each Imām is a reflection of 'Alī, and are referred to as the first to twelfth 'Alī;
  • the twelfth 'Alī is the Mahdī, presently in occultation, awaiting the end times before he reappeard to usher in the Messianic age;
  • there are two distinct aspects of the universe: the spiritual centre and plurality, separated as if by a veil: these are the exoteric and esoteric aspects of reality;
  • a figure known as the Insan al-Kamil represents the perfect human. Most commonly, 'Alī and Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî are referred to in this manner.

BAHÁ'Í COSMOLOGY

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: -

  • human;
  • animal;
  • vegetable; and
  • mineral.
Qada ("fate") Crimson

CREATION IN MORMONISM

This page is designed to provide an in-brief overview of the prevailing cosmological beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. The Mormon view of the universe is similar to that presented in Christianity, but with some noteworthy differences.

  • human spirits pre-existed their incarnation in flesh, being the offspring of spiritual, heavenly parents;
  • The Three Persons of the Christian Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are worshipped: however, other gods and goddesses exist within the cosmos;
  • God the Father, known as Elohim, is a being with a physical body. Certain leaders have posited that he was once a mortal man much the same as you, dear reader, or I;
  • Jesus Christ is the physical son of Elohim: before His incarnation, he was known as Jehovah (i.e. YHWH);
  • in contrast to the other Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit does not possess a physical form;
  • in addition to the Trinity, the existence of a Heavenly Mother is an important feature of Mormon belief: she represents the other heavenly parent of the pre-human spirits;
  • Elohim and the Heavenly Mother created the physical bodies of the first "spirit intelligences" to be incarnated in flesh;
  • Elohim produced a plan by which His children might emulate Him, in taking physical form. To this end, a council was convened in Heaven to develop a plan of salvation;
  • Jehovah offered to serve as the Saviour via His sacrifice on the cross;
  • This offer was countered by Lucifer, who also hoped to become the chosen one: Lucifer proposed that free will be abrogated in favour of obediance without question, in order to redeem the entire human population;
  • Lucifer also suggested that all of Elohim's power and glory be transferred to him. Needless to say, Lucifer's plans were rejected;
  • subsequently, Lucifer led a rebellion against Elohim, being joined with a third of the spirit intelligences, who were subsequently cast out of Heaven;
  • the earth was created by Jehovah, acting on the orders of Elohim as a demiurge: this was not done ex nihilo; instead, it was created from pre-existing matter. The earth was designed as the place in which the remaining spirit intelligences might take physical form;
    Adam and Eve were created and fell having eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil at the instigation of the fallen Lucifer, now known as Satan;
  • according to the significant early LDS church leader Brigham Young (a belief now repudiated by the main Church of Latter Day Saints), Adam was, before his incarnation, a god identified with Michael the archangel;
  • the earth is not alone in being inhabited: numerous other worlds have also been formed in order to enable spirit intelligences to take flesh and thus be saved.

HURRIAN-HITTITE

THE HITTITE MYTH OF DIVINE SUCCESSION

The Kingship in Heaven or Song of Kumarbi is a Hittite account of the myth of divine succession. It describes the following succession of ruling deities: -

  • Alalu rules nine years and is overthrown by Anu, who also reigns nine years, before being deposed by Kumarbi;
  • Anu's genitals are bitten off by Kumarbi, who, as a result, becomes pregnant with Tešub, Tigris and Tašmišu;
  • Kumarbi spits out the semen, which results in the latter two embryonic gods being transferred to the earth;
  • eventually, Kumarbi must be cut open in order to deliver Tešub;
  • making common cause with Anu, Tešub overthrows Kumarbi, who has ruled nine years in his turn.

The text is particularly interesting in terms of its influence on the culture of classical Greece: Hesiod's Theogony, with its Uranus-Cronus-Zeus succession myth, shows heavy influence from this Hurrian-Hittite tale.

THE SONG OF ULLIKUMMI

A sequel to the myth of Tešub's deposition of Kumarbi, the Song of Ullikummi represents the former ruler of all's machinations against his successor.

  • Kumarbi sired a child on the daughter of the sea god;
  • this child, Ullikummi, had the form of a column of rock which, though unable to communicate, retained sentience;
  • Kumarbi hid Ullikummi in the underworld, placing it upon the shoulder of the dreaming god Upelluri or Ubelluris - who, due to his slumbers, remained unaware of these shenanigans;
  • Ullikummi proceeds to grow at an alarming rate, reaching the heavens in no time;
  • alarmed, Tešub proceeds to assault Ullikummi with the forces at his disposal - thunder, lighting and torrential rain - all to no avail;
  • Tešub renounces his claim to the throne and is dispatched to a "little place." His brother and vizier Tašmišu informs Hebat, Tešub's wife, of the state of play;
  • Tešub seeks aid from Ea in the subterranean realm of the Apsû. Ea gains the saw with which heaven and earth had been separated in the hours after creation;
  • Ea then pays Upelluri (who complains of a pain in his shoulder due to the burden) a visit in the Netherworld, taking the opportunity to make use of the weapon to cut off Ullikummi's feet, causing him to collapse;
  • this marks the beginning of the end for Ullikummi: some time afterwards, normal service is resumed and Tešub regains his crown. What happens to Kumarbi after this episode is unknown. He may well be the leader of the šiunēš karūiliēš ("Former Gods"), perhaps analogous to the Greek Titans.

Again, the influence of this Hurrian-Hittite myth on the Greeks is evident, in particular with reference to the myth of Typhoeus or Typhaon, and the character of Atlas. The character of Ea, meanwhile, attests to the long-standing Mesopotamian (from the form of the name, specifically Akkadian) influence on the region.


MESOPOTAMIA

THE ENÛMA ELIŠ

When the heavens above did not exist,
And earth beneath had not come into being -
There was Apsû, the first in order, their begetter,
And demiurge Tia-mat, who gave birth to them all...

The Enûma Eliš is the longest and most comprehensive Mesopotamial creation myth we know of. It appears on seven tablets recovered from the Library of Ashurbanipal, and is written in the Old Babylonian language. These tablets were discovered in 1849 by A.H. Layard and have long since had an important impact on Biblical studies. The initial creation myth can be summarised as follows: -

THE FIRST GODS

Apsû and Tiamat (personifications of the fresh and salty primordial waters) exist before the heavens and earth come into being. Upon joining their waters, the first of the gods are fashioned within them: these are Laḫmu and Laḫamu, who go on to sire Anšar and Kišar, the parents of Anu, the god of the heavens. Anu became father of Nudimmud (i.e. Enki or Ea).

by this stage, the noise of their increasingly-mighty god children caused Apsû and Tiamat a great deal of annoyance, leading to much distress. Eventually, Apsû dispatches his vizier Mummu to complain about the noise. Mummu counsels Apsû to take action and, as a result of Mummu's counsel, Apsû plans to kill the gods. Tiamat, however, warns Ea, who induces Apsû to fall asleep, before killing him and imprisoning Mummu.

Ea is thus installed as lord of the Apsû, the subterranean source of all fresh water. He marries and has a son, Marduk.

MARDUK'S CONFLICT WITH TIAMAT

Some time later, at the instigation of the gods, Tiamat rises in an attempt to avenge Apsû, to which end, she brings forth eleven monsters: -

  • Bašmu ("Venomous Snake");
  • Ušumgallu ("Great Dragon");
  • Mušmaḫḫū ("Exalted Serpent");
  • Mušḫuššu ("Furious Snake");
  • Laḫmu ("Hairy One");
  • Ugallu ("Big Weather-Beast");
  • Uridimmu ("Mad Lion");
  • Girtablullû ("Scorpion-Man");
  • Umū dabrūtu ("Violent Storms");
  • Kulullû ("Fish-Man"); and
  • Kusarikku ("Bull-Man").

Additionally, Tiamat marries her associate Kingu, and grants him the three "Tablets of Destiny," which confer upon him the supreme power. The gods prove powerless to oppose Tiamat's forces - all apart from Marduk, who extracts a promise of supremacy, before agreeing to sally forth on the gods' (those, that is, who haven't defected to Tiamat's cause) behalf.

Marduk defeats Tiamat and her retinue with the various special weapons at his disposal, and proceeds to tear her cadaver in two, from which he forms the earth and the heavens, before proceeding to order the newly-founded cosmos. Tiamat's erstwhile allies are forced to labour on behalf of those loyal to Marduk's cause: their toil is brought to an end when Marduk slays Kingu and, from the blood, fashions the first humans to serve as the gods' labour force.

Notably, some of Tiamat's creations feature in myths relating to subsequent eras: the Girtablullû are set as guardians at the entrance to the cosmic axis Mount Mašu in the Epic of Gilgameš, while the Kulullû may be associated with Uanna, the first of the Abgal/Apkallu who brought knowledge to prediluvian mankind. Significantly, Uanna - known in Greek as Oannes, is said to have "finished the plans for heaven and earth."

THE ERIDU GENESIS

The Eridu Genesis (so named by Thorkild Jacobsen) is a Sumerian account of creation, covering the period from the creation of the "black-headed people" to the time of the great Deluge during the time of the king Zi-ud-sura: -

I will [...] the perishing of my mankind; for Nintur, I will stop the annihilation of my creatures, and I will return the people from their dwelling grounds.

The "black-headed people" are created by An, Enlil, Enki and Ninḫursaĝa shortly before the text picks up the story (animals too are created). In the account, mankind is assigned the task of labouring on the gods' behalf. Kingship then "descend[s] from heaven," and cities are allocated to particular deities: -

  • "The first of the cities, Eridug, was given to Nudimmud the leader;
  • "The second, Bad-tibira, was given to the Mistress;
  • "The third, Larag, was given to Pabilsaĝ.
  • "The fourth, Zimbir, was given to the hero Utu.
  • "The fifth, Šuruppag, was given to Sud."

Eventually, An and Enlil decree that they will send a flood, seemingly to wipe out humanity and all other life: Enki, however, apparently manages to warn Zi-ud-sura (in contravention of a vow), who builds a boat and, eventually, manages to survive the cataclysm, along with animals. Zi-ud-sura is subsequently made immortal, and takes his place as "king in an overseas country, in the land Dilmun, where the sun rises."

THE DEBATE BETWEEN SHEEP AND GRAIN AND THE DEBATE BETWEEN WINTER AND SUMMER

Among other notices of creation from ancient Mesopotamian sources are those contained within the Sumerian class of "Debates," viz. the Debate Between Sheep and Grain; and the Debate Between Winter and Summer.

In the former, the scene begins with an assembly of the gods on the Harsag-anki ("Mountain of Heaven and Earth"), and describes a time when "[a] tree of Ezinu had not been born, had not become green," and "[l]and and water Takku had not created." The sun god Shamash appears and plans the creation of mankind, which is subsequently carried out.

THE BARTON CYLINDER - AN ENIGMATIC TEXT FROM NIPPUR

Those days were indeed faraway days.
Those nights were indeed faraway nights.
Those years were indeed faraway years.
The storm roared,
the lights flashed.
Heaven talked with Earth.
Earth talked with Heaven.

With the "Grand-Good-Lady-of-Heaven,"
Enlil's older sister,
with Ninhursag,
with the "Grand-Good-Lady-of-Heaven,"
Enlil's older sister,
with Ninhursag,
he had intercourse.
He kissed her.
The semen of seven twins
he impregnated into her womb.

In the beginning, according to the Barton Cylinder, a Sumerian document dating back to the Ur III dynasty, there was An ("Heaven") and Ki ("Earth"), whose matings led to cataclysmic storms between them. They gave rise to a second pair of gods, Enlil and, most probably, Ninhursag (more often seen as Enki's bride). They gave birth to seven sons, whilst a variety of watercourses came into being, borne of the Supreme Divine River. The world is then made abundant.

Some time later, there is a crisis at Nibru (Nippur), with droughts and famines causing an interruption of the food supply for the temple there, a crisis which is resolved by Ninurta, the hero-god who is, most likely (based on other sources), one of Enlil's sons.


PHOENICIAN

THE COSMOGONY OF TAAUTUS

The cosmology ascribed to the Phoenician Sanchuniathon appears in the work of Eusebius of Caesarea, who reports that, between himself & the original author, the material had been transmitted via Philo of Byblos. Sanchuniathon himself is, according to the Neoplatonist Porphyry, said to have gotten information from Hierombalus, priest of the god Ieuo during the reign of Abibalus of Berytus.

One creation account is ascribed to a certain Taautus, almost certainly none other than the Egyptian god & culture hero Thoth. This version - which bears some similarity to that given at the beginning of the Bible - features the following: -

  • the first principle was "a dark and condensed windy air, or a breeze of thick are and a Chaos turbid and black as Erebus." Eusebius reports that "these were unbounded";
  • this primordial picture remained in place for a span of time, before the wind and the Chaos engage in a union called Pothos, generating Môt or Ilus (mud or a stagnating watery mixture);
  • the Zophasemin ("watchers") were "animals without sensation, from which intelligent animals were produced" in the form of an egg;
  • the sun, moon and stars emerged from Môt;
  • the air and light produced winds and clouds, separating heaven from earth;
  • stormy conditions ensued, with thunder and lightning. The thunder awoke the intelligent animals (on earth and sea, male and female).

GENERATIONS BEFORE THE GODS

According to "Sanchuniathon," the wind Colpias and his wife Baau ("Night") sired two mortals: Æon (who discovered food from trees) and Protogonus. Succeeding generations are named as follows: -

  • Genus and Genea, who experienced droughts and worshipped Beelsamim (the sun god);
  • Phôs ("Light"), Pûr ("Fire") and Phlox ("Flame"), who discovered the art of fire;
  • their sons were gigantic and lent their names to the mountains Cassius, Libanus, Antilibanus and Brathu;
  • Memrumus and Hypsuranius were born to these men by wanton mothers. The latter lived at Tyre but became the enemy of his brother Usous, who was the first to make clothing and to create a log canoe: Usous raised two pillars to Fire and Wind (there were violent rainstorms at that time);
  • Agreus and Halieus were the descendants of Hypsuranius: they discovered hunting and fishing;
  • Chrysor (= Hephaestus) was one of two brothers, discoverers of iron. Subsequent to his death, Chrysor received divine honours as Diamichus;
  • two youths called Technities and Geïnus Autochthôn, inventors of mud brick and tiling;
  • Agrus and Agrouerus or Agrotes, great builders who were venerated after their deaths as the Aletæ or Titans;
  • Amynus and Magus;
  • Misor and Sydyc;
  • Misor was the ancestor of Taautus (i.e. Thoth), whilst Sydyc was ancestor to the Dioscuri, Cabeiroi, Corybantes or Samothraces: these were the first to build a ship;
  • a generation who discovered medicinal herbs: they were contemporary with Elioun or Hypsistus and his wife Beruth.

ZOROASTRIAN

The Zoroastrian religion posits an essential Dualism between two competing opposites: Ahura Mazda (later: Ohrmazd), the good god; and Angra Mainyu (later: Ahriman), the origin of evil.

THE BUNDAHISHN

The Middle Persian Bundahishn recounts that Ahura Mazda (who knew of his nemesis' existence, while Angra Mainyu was ignorant of his) made the first move, creating a spiritual world in order to stymie Angra Mainyu's nefarious intentions. The material world (getig) was formed three thousand years later. In turn, he formed: -

  • the sky;
  • water;
  • earth;
  • plants;
  • animals; and
  • mankind.

With regards to the luminaries, they were created in the following order: -

  • "illumination between the sky and the earth, the constellation stars and those not of the constellations," forming the celestial sphere, followed by the twelve Zodiacal constellations and filling out the 28 astronomical regions;
  • the moon; and
  • the sun.

The primitive earth was inhabited by Gayomart, the first man, as well as the "uniquely created bull" (Goshorun), a gigantic white bovine. Subsequently, Angra Mainyu breaks through the outer shell containing the nascent cosmos and crosses the outer sea, causing the passage of time (the sun begins to move), whilst the topography of the earth is changed.

Angra Mainyu's actions result in the death of the bull, whose soul cries out to Ahura Mazda for justice. Gayomart also dies.

Afterwards, battle is joined between the forces of good and evil, waged in the following order: -

  • with the sky;
  • with water;
  • with the earth;
  • with plants;
  • with animals;
  • with mankind; and
  • with fire.

THE PRE-EMINENCE OF TIME - THE ZURVANIST HERESY

Zurvanism was a heretical form of Zoroastrianism which posited the existence of time - Zurvan or Zruvan - as the first entity in existence and father of both Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu.

The Zurvanite account of creation, as reconstructed by R.C. Zaehner, proceeds as follows: -

  • in the beginning, the androgynous Zurvan was alone;
  • he desired offspring to form the cosmos, and so sacrificed for a millennium;
  • beginning to doubt that sacrifice could bring about his desire, a seed was planted within his mind;
  • this seed became the twins Ohrmuzd (on account of the sacrifice) and Ahriman (because of Zurvan's doubts);
  • Zurvan decided to grant his first-born mastery over the coming creation;
  • Ohrmuzd understood Zurvan's intentions and communicated them to Ahriman;
  • in order to secure his place of dominion over creation, Ahriman made the first move, tearing open the womb and emerging ahead of Ohrmuzd;
  • realising the implications of Ahriman's dominion, Zurvan stipulated that, as he intended, Ahriman would be the dominant force over creation;
  • however, he also placed a limit on Ahriman's rule of 9,000 years, after which Ohrmuzd would rule for the remainder of time.

Zaehner also gleaned three particular schools of Zurvanism: -

AESTHETIC ZURVANISM

Zurvan ("time") is divided into reason (male) and lust (female): this idea shares similarities with Indic cosmology and gnostic ideas;

MATERIALIST ZURVANISM

proposed that nothing could come from noting, but that there must be a first cause: one caveat of this belief system is that the spiritual realm did not exist per se, but represented that which had not yet acquired material form; and

FATALISTIC ZURVANISM

took the idea that, given the 9,000 year limit on Ahriman's rule commanded by Zurvan, there was nothing which could alter this preordained course of the cosmos.

ZURVANISM CONDEMNED

The Bundahishn declares that "one is he who is independent of unlimited time, because Ohrmazd and the region, religion, and time of Ohrmazd were and are and ever will be" [1.3] in what must be understood as an anti-Zurvanite statement.

MAZDAKISM - AN EGALITARIAN HERESY

Mazdakism was an extreme egalitarian form of Zoroastrianism developed by the mobad ("priest") Mazdak, which was fiercely opposed by the Sassanid rulers. Mazdak's worldview has come down to modernity only in distorted form. A brief synopsis follows: -

Light and darkness are two primal principles and "modes of being" which exited before the world. In common with the standard Zoroastrian interpretation, light acts with intent and through the agency of knowledge, perception and reason, whilst darkness acts blindly and arbitrarily. At the end of the world, these principles will be separated by chance rather than through free will.

Furthermore, and somewhat bizarrely given the origins of this sect, the "object of veneration" is comparable with the king. This object has four particular powers (i.e. four "'generals' of the heavens"): -

  • discernment;
  • understanding;
  • memory; and
  • joy.

These are comparable with the four great Sassanian court offices: -

  • the high priest;
  • the great teacher;
  • the commander of the army; and
  • the court musician.

These four powers rule the world through the agency of seven ministers (perhaps the classical planets): -

  • the commander;
  • the provost;
  • b'lwn;
  • brv'n (the messenger?);
  • the expert;
  • the statesman; and
  • the page.

These ministers "revolve" within twelve spiritual beings, most likely the zodiac, and the ruler of the upper world exercises governance through the "letters that represent the sum of his name."

Sir Graham ATLANTIS WITCHES CREATION VOYAGES