World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
This section gathers passages on God as the Creator. Included are various accounts of the creation of the world, some beginning with a word and some from a desire within the primoridal Absolute. Some teach creation out of nothing (ex nihilo), affirming the distinction between creator and creation. Others teach that the world originated and exists as an emanation of the Absolute which nevertheless remains distinct and transcendent--a view termed panentheism. There are no Buddhist or Jain texts in this section because these religions deny a Creator God.1 Additional Hindu, Native American, Zoroastrian, and Shinto texts on creation by the agency of one or several deities can be found scattered throughout this anthology.2
We begin with accounts of how the universe was created. Then shorter passages explain the method of creation, and the section concludes with passages describing God's continuing creative activity which sustains the cosmos.
This do I ask, O Lord, reveal unto me the truth! Who is the first begetter, father of the Cosmic Law? Who assigned orbit to the sun and the stars? Who causes the moon to wax and again to wane? Who other than Thee? This and else I wish to know!
Who is the upholder of the earth and of the sky? Who prevents them from falling down? Who maintains the waters and also the plants? Who yoked speed to winds and clouds? Who is the creator of the creatures?
1. The Buddhist dialogue Agganna-sutta (Digha Nikaya iii.84-92), and its Mahayana version Ekottara-agama, p. 430, give an account of the creation of human beings. But there is no creator god, and the theme of the dialogue is the degeneration of humankind. It has biblical parallels with the fall of Adam and Eve. Cf. Surangama Sutra, p. 387.
2. Rig Veda 10.90.6-16, pp. 868f., 275; Aitareya Upanishad 1-3, p. 306f.; Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.3, p. 252; Vishnu Purana 1, p. 82; Okanagan Creation, p. 298; Mohawk Creation, pp. 438f.; Videvdad 1.3-11, p. 438; Kojiki 4-6, p. 431; Maori Tradition, p. 311a; and others.
Who is the architect of light and darkness? Who created sleep and wakefulness? By whom exists dawn, mid-day and night, Which monitor the duties of men?
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 44.3-5
God it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six days. Then He mounted the throne. You have not, beside Him, a protecting friend or mediator. Will you not then remember? He directs the ordinance from the heaven to the earth; then it ascends to Him in a Day, whose measure is a thousand years of your reckoning. Such is the Knower of the invisible and the visible, the Mighty, the Merciful, Who made all things good which He created. And He began the creation of man from clay; then He made his seed from a draught of despised fluid; then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His spirit; and appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Small thanks you give!
Islam. Qur'an 32.4-9
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
Yasna 44.3-5. In this text from the Yasna there is only one true Creator, the Lord Ahura Mazda. Other Zoroastrian texts give dualistic accounts of creation, attributing diseases and other natural evils to the creations of the Evil One; thus Yasna 30.3-5, p. 388; Vendidad 1.3-11, p. 438. 'Who is?' cf. Rig Veda 10.129, p. 130. Qur'an 32.4-9: The Qur'an, like the Bible, affirms that God made all things good. These verses describe God as a craftsman who molds and shapes the things of creation, finishing in six days and then ascending the throne to rest. He then directs the affairs of earth from heaven, and predicts the coming Day of Judgment, when all will be dissolved and return to Him. The Qur'an's description of God's creation should elicit thanksgiving, but most people take the existence of the world and of their very bodies and souls as a matter of course.
And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, "let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds, cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea a nd over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 1.1-2.3
We created man of an extraction of clay, then We set him, a drop, in a receptacle secure, then We created of the drop a clot then We created of the clot a tissue then We created of the tissue bones then We garmented the bones in flesh; thereafter We produced him as another creature. So blessed be God, the fairest of creators!
Islam. Qur'an 23.14
The All-merciful has taught the Qur'an. He created man and He taught him the Explanation.
The sun and the moon to a reckoning, and the stars and the trees bow themselves; and heaven--He raised it up, and set The Balance. (Transgress not in the Balance, and weigh with justice, and skimp not in the Balance.) And the earth--He set it down for all beings, therein fruits, and palm-trees with sheaths, and grain in the blade, and fragrant herbs O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny?
He created man of a clay like a potter's, and He created the jinn (spirits) of a smokeless fire. O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny?
Genesis 1: This is the preeminent creation account in the Western tradition and a source for the accounts in the Qur'an. God creates by his word: 'Let there be...'; compare Qur'an 2.117, p. 108. The six 'days' or stages of creation have been compared to the epochs of geologic time, since 'with the Lord a thousand years is as a day,' cf. 2 Peter 3.8, p. 122; Qur'an 32.6, p. 126. Thus we have the big bang (first day), the ordering of the cosmos (second day), the solidification of the earth (third day), the clearing of its atmosphere so that the stars can be seen (fourth day), the beginnings of life in the oceans (fifth day), the emergence of land animals, and finally, man (sixth day). Yet even though the general account of the stages of creation may be shown to correspond with the account of creation put forward by modern science, the Bible should not be taken as a source of scientific knowledge. It was revealed to people who held to an ancient cosmology in which the earth was at the center and a solid dome, the firmament, formed the sky above and held back its waters. Compare the account of creation from a cosmic egg in Laws of Manu 1.12-13, p. 131.
Lord of the Two Easts, Lord of the Two Wests O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny? He set forth the two seas that meet together, between them a barrier they do not overpass. O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny? From them come forth the pearl and the coral. O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny? His too are the ships that run, raised up in the sea like landmarks. O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny?... Whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth implore Him; every day He is upon some labor. O which of your Lord's bounties will you and you deny?
Islam. Qur'an 55.5-30
Great Spirit! Piler-up of the rocks into towering mountains: When you stamp on the stone The dust rises and fills the land, Hardness of the precipice; Waters of the pool that turn Into misty rain when stirred. Vessels overflowing with oil! Father of Runji, Who sews the heavens like cloth: May you knit together that which is below. Caller-forth of the branching trees: You bring forth the shoots That they stand erect. You have filled the land with mankind, The dust rises on high, O Lord! Wonderful One, you live In the midst of the sheltering rocks, You give rain to mankind: We pray to you; hear us, Lord! Show mercy when we beseech thee, Lord. You are on high with the spirits of the great. You raise the grass-covered hills Above the earth, and create the rivers. Gracious One.
African Traditional Religions. Shona Prayer (Zimbabwe)
Qur'an 55.5-30: Vv. 5-25, 29-30. This hymn depicts God's provision for man, connecting His creating the physical world and its laws with His establishing morality and religion: giving the Qur'an and setting 'the Balance.' Each creative act is an act of God's bounty, which should elicit gratitude and submission to the Lord of the Universe--see Qur'an 6.95-99, 30.20-25, pp. 76f.; 16.10-18, p. 141. The 'Two Easts' and 'Two Wests' refer to the northernmost and southernmost points of the sunrise and the sunset at the winter and summer solstices. The surah goes on to give a lengthy description of the joys of paradise. Shona Prayer: Cf. Ashanti Verse, p. 293.
He was. Taaroa was his name. He stood in the void: no earth, no sky, no men. Taaroa calls the the four corners of the universe; nothing replies. Alone existing, he changes himself into the universe. Taaroa is the light, he is the seed, he is the base, he is the incorruptible. The universe is only the shell of Taaroa. It is he who puts it in motion and brings forth its harmony.
South Pacific Traditional Religions. Tahitian Tradition
At first was neither Being nor Nonbeing. There was not air nor yet sky beyond. What was its wrapping? Where? In whose protection? Was Water there, unfathomable and deep?
There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness; of night or day there was not any sign. The One breathed without breath, by its own impulse. Other than that was nothing else at all.
Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness, and all was Water indiscriminate. Then that which was hidden by the void, that One, emerging, stirring, through the power of ardor (tapas), came to be.
In the beginning Love arose, which was the primal germ cell of the mind. The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom, discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.
A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing. What was described above it, what below? Bearers of seed there were and mighty forces, thrust from below and forward move above.
Who really knows? Who can presume to tell it? Whence was it born? Whence issued this creation? Even the gods came after its emergence. Then who can tell from whence it came to be?
That out of which creation has arisen, whether it held it firm or it did not, He who surveys it in the highest heaven, He surely knows--or maybe He does not!
Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.129
Rig Veda 10.129: In this account of the formation of cosmos out of chaos (represented by the Waters), 'that One,' tad ekam, is void of reality prior to the creation. The appearance of mind precedes creation; its motive is 'Love,' the desire of the One to find fulfillment with a partner; cf. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.17, p. 252. The first act of creation, dividing being from non-being, resembles the first creative act in the Genesis account, above.
This universe existed in the shape of darkness, unperceived, destitute of distinctive marks, unattainable by reasoning, unknowable, wholly immersed, as it were, in deep sleep. Then the Divine Self-existent, himself indiscernible but making all this, the great elements and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible power, dispelling the darkness. He who can be perceived by the internal organ alone, who is subtle, indiscernible, and eternal, who contains all created beings and is inconceivable, shone forth of his own will. He, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them. That seed became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that egg he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of the whole world.... The Divine One resided in that egg during a whole year, then he himself by his thought divided it into two halves; And out of those two halves he formed heaven and earth, between them the middle sphere, the eight points of the horizon, and the eternal abode of the waters. From himself he also drew forth the mind, which is both real and unreal, likewise from the mind ego, which possesses the function of self-consciousness and is lordly. Moreover, the great one, the soul, and all products affected by the three qualities, and, in their order, the five organs which perceive the objects of sensation. But, joining minute particles even of those six, which possess measureless power, with particles of himself, he created all beings.
Hinduism. Laws of Manu 1.5-16
For millions upon millions, countless years was spread darkness, When existed neither earth nor heaven, but only the limitless Divine Ordinance. Then existed neither day or night, nor sun or moon; As the Creator was absorbed in an unbroken trance. Existed then neither forms of creation, nor of speech; neither wind nor water. Neither was creation or disappearance or transmigration.
The 'bearers of seed' and 'mighty forces' are the male and female principles--see Prasna Upanishad 1.4-5, p. 176; Rig Veda 1.185, p. 177, Shiva Purana, p. 179. Yet ultimately the miracle of creation remains a mystery: 'who really knows?'--cf. Rig Veda 3.54.5, p. 72. Even the Vedic gods are ignorant of their origin, since they emerged after Being differentiated itself. Laws of Manu 1.5-16: This passage describes creation from a cosmic egg. Creation of heaven and earth out of the two halves of the egg echoes the creation myths of Mesopotamia, in which the creator deity slays the dragon of chaos and splits it in two: the top half of the carcass forming heaven and the bottom half forming the earth; compare Maori Tradition, p. 311a. The god Brahma, creator of heaven and earth, is only a manifestation of Ultimate Reality, the 'Divine Self-Existent,' as with Rig Veda 10.129, above. 'Those six' are understood by traditional commentators to mean the five sense organs and the mind. The idea of creation from an egg has resonances with creation from a woman's body in the Okanagan Creation, p. 298.
Then were not continents, neither regions, the seven seas, nor rivers with water flowing. Existed then neither heaven or the mortal world or the nether world; Neither hell or heaven or time that destroys. Hell and heaven, birth and death were then not--none arrived or departed. Then were not Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva: None other than the Sole Lord was visible. Neither existed then female or male, or caste and birth-- None suffering and joy received.
Unknowable Himself, was He the source of all utterance; Himself the unknowable unmanifested. As it pleased Him, the world He created; Without a supporting power the expanse He sustained. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva He created and to maya-attachment gave increase. (To a rare one was the Master's Word imparted.) Himself He made His Ordinance operative and watched over it: Creating continents, spheres and nether worlds, the hidden He made manifest.
Creating the universe Himself, He has remained unattached. The compassionate Lord too has made the holy center [the human being]. Combining air, water, and fire, He created the citadel of the body. The Creator fashioned the Nine Abodes [of sensation]; In the Tenth [the superconscious mind] is lodged the Lord, unknowable, limitless.
The illimitable Lord in His unattributed state of void assumed might; He, the infinite One, remaining detached: Displaying his power, He himself from the void created inanimate things. From the unattributed void were created air and water. Raising creation, He dwells as monarch in the citadel of the body. Lord! In the fire and water [of the body] exists Thy light; In Thy [original] state of void was lodged [unmanifest] the power of creation.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Maru Sohale, M.1, pp. 1035-37
As the web issues out of the spider And is withdrawn, as plants sprout from the earth,
As hair grows from the body, even so, The sages say, this universe springs from The deathless Self, the source of life.
The deathless Self meditated upon Himself and projected the universe As evolutionary energy. From this energy developed life, mind,
Maru Sohale, M.1: For Sikhism, God is first formless, without attributes, and thence manifesting attributes as he creates, preserves, and dissolves the universe through his Maya (his 'might'). As the unattributed Supreme Being, God is beyond time and space. In His manifestation god creates and appears to Mankind through the Word (Nam).
The elements, and the world of karma, Which is enchained by cause and effect.
The deathless Self sees all, knows all. From him Springs Brahma, who embodies the process Of evolution into name and form By which the One appears to be many.
Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.7-9
The Great Primal Beginning (t'ai chi) generates... the two primary forces [yang and yin]. The two primary forces generate the four images. The four images generate the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams determine good fortune and misfortune. Good fortune and misfortune create the great field of action.
Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.11.5-6
Tao gave them birth; The power (te) of Tao reared them, Shaped them according to their kinds, Perfected them, giving to each its strength. Therefore of the ten thousand things there is not one that does not worship Tao and do homage to its power. Yet no mandate ever went forth that accorded to Tao the right to be worshipped, nor to its power the right to receive homage. It was always and of itself so.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 51
Vast indeed is the sublime Creative Principle, the Source of all, co-extensive with the heavens. It causes the clouds to come forth, the rain to bestow its bounty and all objects to flow into their respective forms. Its dazzling brilliance permeates all things from first to last; its activities, symbolized by the component lines [of the hexagram], reach full completion, each at the proper time. [The superior man], mounting them when the time is ripe, is carried heavenwards as though six dragons were his steeds! The Creative Principle functions through Change; accordingly, when we rectify our way of life by conjoining it with the universal harmony, our firm persistence is richly rewarded.
Confucianism. I Ching 1: The Creative
Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.7-9: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 10.39-41, p. 117; Rig Veda 10.190.1-3, p. 150; Aitareya Upanishad 1-3, pp. 306f.; Rig Veda 10.90.6-10, pp. 868f. I Ching, Great Commentary: The creative interaction between the polarities of yin and yang is fundamental to Oriental philosophy; see pp. 176-79. The 'great field of action' includes both the phenomena of the world and the laws discovered by the sages in order to obtain good fortune and to avoid danger. Tao Te Ching 51: The passage continues that humans should act likewise in exercising dominion, whether over nature or over people; see p. 294. 'Power'(te) means the force of virtue which arises from unity with cosmic law. I Ching 1: This commentary describes the creative principle in terms of its hexagram Ch'ien. The 'six dragons' are the six strong lines of the hexagram. Cf. Chuang Tzu 12, p. 589. In Taoism the creative power of spirit is known as Ch'i (Qi); see Chuang Tzu 15, p. 841.
My shape is unmanifest, but I pervade the world. All beings have their being in me, but I do not rest in them. See my sovereign technique: creatures both in me and not in me. Supporting beings, my person brings beings to life, without living in them. I am omnipresent as the storm wind which resides in space. All beings exist in me. Remember that. All creatures enter into my nature at the end of an eon. In another beginning I send them forth again. Establishing my own nature, time after time I send them forth, This host of beings, without their will, by dint of that nature. This activity does not imprison me, O Fighter for Wealth! I appear as an onlooker, detached in the midst of this work. Nature gives birth to all moving and unmoving things. I supervise. That is how the world keeps turning, Son of Kunti!
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 9.4-10
If God removes His hand the world will end.
African Traditional Religions. Proverb
Nothing whatsoever exists without me or beyond me. The atoms of the universe may be counted, but not so my manifestations; for eternally I create innumerable worlds.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.10
Bhagavad Gita 9.4-10: Cf. Rig Veda 6.47-4, p. 77. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.10: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 7.4-7, pp. 97f.; 10.39-41, p. 117; Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.2-4, p. 98; Vishnu Purana 1, p. 82.
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