By Ankita Gupta
Theologians describe “creatio ex nihilo” as creation from nothing- in a space over space, at a time before time. Many mythological stories identify the universe as being born out of an infinite void. It happened because God, the ultimate being, willed it. Several fascinating speculations exist in support of the ex-nihilo theory- some believable, some bizarre. Here is exploring some of these incredible creation myths from all corners of the world:
Analysing God’s word and work
The opening line of the Bible reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). This remarkable sentence is gravid with possibilities: Primarily it tells us that God preceded the universe. God transcends the dimensions of space and time. Secondly, it apprises us that everything owes its existence to God. B?r?’ is the special Hebrew word that describes this phenomenon. It means the act of creation by God. Thirdly, it implies that God created everything “out of nothing.” The English Version of the Genesis states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void.” This biblical testimony postulates that in the beginning there existed nothing apart from God, and what exists apart from God was created by God. The theory of Ex-Nihilo appears in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. According to these narratives, God created the universe in six days (by harnessing willpower) accompanied by the famous words, “Let there be light.” It is the Abrahamic religions from the Mediterranean belt that source their existence to a bottomless void.
Egyptian, Kono and Kuba mythology posits the ex nihilo theory
The ancient Egyptians of Memphis offer a deep explanation to our existence. They have credited our creation to their chief deity Ptah, who is the God of art and architecture. Now, the imagination of a master artisan must be potent enough to envision the perfectly finished artifact before modelling the raw materials. Legend has it that Ptah’s mastery in craft was so supreme, that as he began to imagine the elements of the universe and give them a name- they started to materialise into existence. This myth might have spawned the Masonic belief that God is a master builder or architect.
In one creation legend from Kono citizens of Sierra Leone, it is believed that Death (nicknamed Sa) along with his wife and daughter resided in darkness before all creation. Death was hailed as the one constant of the universe. There existed nothing else. There was no place for the family to live spaciously. So using his cosmic powers, Sa created an endless sea of mud. And in the state of mud, he built a house. When the mighty God Alatangana visited Sa’s new abode, he was vexed by the abounding dark and dirt. “Nothing can live here”, said Alatangana, “Everything is too dark.” Saying this, Alatangana turned the mud solid and this was how Earth was formed. But the Earth appeared to be forlorn and sad to the God. “I will make plants and animals to live on it,” and that is how life came to be. This theory tries to connect the most vast elements around- the sky and the sea, stating that they have existed from the beginning of time and before time itself.
The Kuba people of Central Africa have their own unique theory of Ex-Nihilo creation. They surmise that before the universe, only water and darkness was there. It was tenanted by the giant, pallid God- Mbombo. The myth expounds that eventually, an intense pain that appeared from nowhere gripped Mbombo, and he vomited out the sun, stars and their moons into existence. The sun evaporated some water, and the clouds and land were born. After a short period of recovery. Mbombo was believed to have been afflicted by another malady- this time retching out all of the animals. In the mythological faboffrom Kuba, spontaneity (in the form of nausea) is hailed as the reason for creation.
The big bang theory and the Mayans’ complex theories
The Mayans of Guatemala have postulated one of the most difficult theories of creation, which is recorded in the epic Popul Vuh, or The Book of the Community. They advocate that the world began several years ago, at a place named Quiché. Only the Quiché people existed. There were no animals, nor birds, nor plants. The face of the earth was invisible without soil and the sky was separated from it. There was silence. The sea existed but was calm and alone. Darkness abounded with the only rippling of the sea. And within this realm existed the Maker and the Feathered Serpent. They formed an alliance and united their individual worlds using their thoughts- and Earth was formed. By uttering these thoughts they created features like the trees and mountains followed by wild animals. It is believed that since the first animals were dumb and could not speak the name of the Maker and the Feathered Serpent in praise, the first creation was a failure. So, the Maker had to redo creation. Four times over. The Mayan theory explicates the superiority of humans over all other animals, because they have been gifted with the power of speech and thought.
Even the Big Bang hypothesis, which is one of the most researched scientific theories, draws parallels from ‘Creatio Ex Nihilo’. In his seminal work, The Universe is a Green Dragon, author Brian Swimme writes: “Imagine that furnace out of which everything came forth. This was a fire that filled the universe – that was the universe. There was no place in the universe free from it. Every point of the cosmos was a point of this explosion of light. And all the particles of the universe churned in extremes of heat and pressure, all that we see about us all that now exists was there at the beginning, in the great burning explosion of light.”
Even though the Big Bang theory abstains from mentioning God or water, it describes an origin event similar to the ‘creation out of nothing’ concept. Like the other mythologies, it describes light emerging from darkness and cold stemming from heat.
Loopholes in the Ex Nihilo theory
The ex nihilo theory is very unsettling because it attributes origin to absolute void or nothingness. Some of the major complications enveloping the myth are:
In theory, nothingness cannot be conceived. There is no empirical evidence to support the ex nihilo postulates. The history of this theory is vague as the early Wesleyans who first supported it, regarding creation as evil, now reject it.
Ex nihil, nihil fit: Out of nothing emerges nothing. The theory assumes God as the only and ultimate powerful Being. But power is a social concept which finds meaning only in the presence of others. Even the Bible branches out into several other theories of creation, which hint that creation emerged from chaos, depth or water.
There are many other stories that claim that God only moulded the world out of the pre-existing matter- as an architect. A wider sect of theologians believe that the world was created from chaos, and God modelled it into something meaningful and beautiful. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Whether we believe the ex nihilo theory or not is up to us, but the truth is that we have a long way to go in uncovering the beginning of existence.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
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