World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
Although we humans are part of the natural world, we have a unique position in it that makes us superior to all other beings. This is not a matter of physical size or strength, for on that scale of things we are only infinitesimal specks on a planet that is itself but a speck in the infinite reaches of the universe. Rather, the reason humans are regarded as the crown of creation is due entirely to our unique spiritual endowment. Humans have the ability, unparalleled in the natural world, to know God and to attain the transcendent purpose. In the special intimacy which we share with God, humans are potentially of more value than the entire world of creation. In this light, the bounty of creation has been regarded as a gift of divine love.
In the Abrahamic religions, humans are said to have been created as God's "viceregents" and granted the blessing of dominion over all things. All things exist for our benefit, by which we can develop ourselves to become co-creators with God. Furthermore, humans are uniquely able to have dominion because we can understand the nature of all other creatures--symbolized by our giving them names. The blessing of dominion was not originally sanction for developing technology to extract wealth and a comfortable artificial environment at the expense of nature; in the agricultural societies for which this mandate was first given, human creativity was seen as essentially in harmony with natural processes. Today it may be interpreted as a call for artistic and creative projects to enhance the beauty and productivity of nature and the quality of human life.
Do you not see that God has subjected to your use all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made His bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, both seen and unseen?
Islam. Qur'an 31.20
I will create a vicegerent on earth.
Islam. Qur'an 2.30
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 and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 1.28
When I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established; What is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 8.3-6
God is He who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down rain from the skies, and with it brings forth fruits to feed you; it is He who made the ships subject to you, that they may sail through the sea by His command; and the rivers He has made subject to you. And He made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day He has made subject to you. And He gives you of all that you ask for. But if you count the favors of God, never will you be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude.
Islam. Qur'an 14.32-34
The whole world was created only for the sake of the righteous man. He weighs as much as the whole world. The whole world was created only to be united to him.
Judaism. Talmud, Shabbat 30b
Truly do I exist in all beings, but I am most manifest in man. The human heart is My favorite dwelling place.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2
Qur'an 2.30: See the complete passage, Qur'an 2.30-33, p. 313; see also Sun Myung Moon, 10-13-70, p. 313. Genesis 1.28: Cf. Shabbat 33b, p. 1014.
We did indeed offer the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid of it. But man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish.
Islam. Qur'an 33.72
His movement is of Heaven, his stillness of Earth. With his single mind in repose, he is king of the world; the spirits do not afflict him; his soul knows no weariness. His single mind reposed, the ten thousand things submit--which is to say that his emptiness and stillness reach throughout Heaven and Earth and penetrate the ten thousand things. This is what is called Heavenly joy. Heavenly joy is the mind of the sage by which he shepherds the world.
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 13
Man, as the manifestation of God, is the leader of all things, and no creature is more honorable than man. All things upon the earth, following their own individual names, fashioning their true way, will know that Thou hast brought them to sight for man's sake. All things whatsoever, forgetting not their source, deviating not from their determined pattern, are made to work as well as to understand their part; humbling themselves and honoring man, without anger, without haste, without anxiety, without grief, neither linked nor parted, they are made to work out their true personality.
Perfect Liberty Kyodan. The Ritual Prayer
Having created the world and all that lives and moves therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him--a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation.... Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He has shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He has focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man has been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.
Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 27
Qur'an 33.72: The 'Trust' means the responsibility to choose good and reject evil, to live by God's purposes. Among all created beings, only humans have free will and the responsibility it confers. Yet we have abused it. Cf. Shabbat 886-89a, p. 313. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 27: Cf. Aitareya Upanishad 1.1-3.12, pp. 306f.; Sun Myung Moon, 9-30-79, p. 307; 10-13-70, p. 313.
Rangi and Papa, or Heaven and Earth, were the source from which, in the beginning, all things originated. Darkness then rested upon the heaven and upon the earth, and they still both cleave together, and the children they had begotten were ever thinking amongst themselves what might be the difference between darkness and light. Hence the ancient saying, "There was darkness from the first division of time, unto the tenth, to the hundredth, to the thousandth."
At last the beings who had been begotten by Heaven and Earth, worn out by the continued darkness, consulted amongst themselves, saying, "Let us now determine what we should do with Rangi and Papa, whether it would be better to slay them or to rend them apart." Then spoke Tumatauenga, the fiercest of the children of Heaven and Earth, "Let us slay them." But Tane-mahuta, the father of forests and all things that inhabit them, said, "Nay, not so. It is better to rend them apart, and to let heaven stand far above us, and the earth lie beneath our feet. Let the sky become a stranger to us, but the earth remain close to us as a nursing mother." Five of the brothers consented to this proposal, but not Tawhiri-ma-tea, the father of winds and storms. He, fearing that his kingdom was about to be overthrown, grieved greatly at the thought of his parents being torn apart.
Then Rongo-ma-tane, the god and father of cultivated food, rises up to rend apart the heavens and the earth; he struggles, but is unable to rend them apart. Next Tangaroa, the god and father of fish and reptiles rises up; he struggles, but he is unable to rend them apart. Next Haumia-tikitiki, the god and father of the food which springs up without cultivation, rises up and struggles, but he, too fails. At last, slowly rises Tane-mahuta, the god and father of forests, birds, and insects, and he struggles with his parents. With his head firmly planted on mother earth and his feet upraised and resting against the skies, he strains his back and limbs with mighty effort and rends apart Rangi and Papa, all the while insensible to their shrieks and cries. Thus it is said, "It was the fierce thrusting of Tane which tore the heaven from the earth, so that they were rent apart, and darkness was made manifest, and so was the light."
Then there arose in the breast of Tawhiri-ma-tea, the god and father of winds and storms, a fierce desire to wage war with his brothers, because they had rent apart their common parents without his consent. So he rises, follows his father to the realms above, and hurries to the sheltered hollows in the boundless skies; there he consults long with his father, and as the vast Heaven listens to the suggestions of Tawhiri-ma-tea, thoughts and plans are formed in his breast, and Tawhiri-ma-tea also understands what he should do. Then by himself and vast Heaven were begotten his numerous brood: the mighty winds, squalls, whirlwinds, dense clouds, massy clouds, gloomy thick clouds, fiery clouds, clouds reflecting glowing red light, and the wildly bursting clouds of thunderstorms. In the midst of these, Tawhiri-ma-tea sweeps wildly on. Alas! alas! then rages the fierce hurricane; and while Tane-mahuta and his gigantic forests stand unconscious and unsuspecting, the blast of the breath of the mouth of Tawhiri-ma-tea smites them, the gigantic trees are snapt off right in the middle. Alas! they are rent to atoms, dashed to the earth, with boughs and branches torn and scattered, lying on the earth, left for the insect, for the grub, and for loathsome rottenness.
Tawhiri-ma-tea next swoops down upon the seas, and lashes in his wrath the ocean. Ah! ah! waves steep as cliffs rise, with tops so lofty as to make one giddy; these soon eddy into whirlpools, and Tangaroa, the god of the ocean and father of all that dwell therein, flies affrighted through the seas....
Tawhiri-ma-tea next rushed on to attack his brothers Rongo-ma-tane and Haumia-tikitiki, the gods and progenitors of cultivated and uncultivated food, but Papa, to save these for her other children, caught them up and hid them in a place of safety; and so well were they concealed by their mother Earth that he sought for them in vain.
Tawhiri-ma-tea, having thus vanquished all his other brothers, next rushed against Tumatauenga, to try his strength against his; he exerted all his force against him, but he could neither shake him nor prevail against him. What did Tumatauenga care for his brother's wrath? He was the only one of the whole party of brothers who had proposed to kill their parents. Now, against the storm winds, he shows himself brave and fierce in war. His other brothers had been broken or fled or had been hidden, but Tumatauenga, or man, still stood erect and unshaken upon the breast of his mother Earth.
Tumatauenga reflected upon the cowardly manner in which his brothers had acted, in leaving him to show his courage alone, and he determined to turn against them. To injure Tane-mahuta, he collected leaves and made snares--ha! ha! the children of Tane fell before him, none could any longer fly in safety. To take revenge on his brother Tangaroa, he sought for his offspring leaping and swimming in the water. He netted nets with flax, dragged with them, and hauled the children of Tangaroa ashore. To be revenged upon his brothers Rongo-ma-tane and Haumia-tikitiki, he soon found them by their distinctive leaves, and scraping into shape a wooden hoe and plaiting a basket, he dug in the earth and pulled up all kinds of plants with edible roots.
Thus Tumatauenga deposed four of his brothers, and they became his food. But one of them, Tawhiri-ma-tea, he could not vanquish by eating him for food, so this last-born child of Heaven and Earth was left as an enemy for man, and still this brother ever attacks him in storms and hurricanes, to destroy him alike on sea and land.
Maori Religion. On the Origin of the Human Race (New Zealand)
Maori Tradition: On the primordial androgyne, cf. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.3, p. 252. On separating light from darkness as the first act of creation, compare Genesis 1, p. 126. This story is also interpreted to show the origin of evil: from the parricide of the primordial family has come division and strife between man and man.
Download entire book in ZIP format
Table of Contents