Religious cosmology

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For other approaches to the study of the Universe in its totality, see Cosmology. For other approaches to the origin of the Universe, see Cosmogony.

A religious cosmology (also mythological cosmology) is a way of explaining the origin, the history and the evolution of the cosmos or universe based on the religious mythology of a specific tradition. Religious cosmologies usually include an act or process of creation by a creator deity or a larger pantheon.

Biblical cosmology[edit]

Main article: Biblical cosmology

The Bible was formed over many centuries, by many authors, and reflects shifting patterns of religious belief; consequently, its concepts of cosmology are not always consistent.[1][2] Nor should the Biblical texts be taken to represent the beliefs of all Jews or Christians at the time they were put into writing: the majority of those making up Hebrew Bible or Old Testament in particular represent the beliefs of only a small segment of the ancient Israelite community, the members of a late Judean religious tradition centered in Jerusalem and devoted to the exclusive worship of Yahweh.[3]

The universe of the ancient Israelites was made up of a flat disc-shaped earth floating on water, heaven above, underworld below.[4] Humans inhabited earth during life and the underworld after death, and the underworld was morally neutral;[5] only in Hellenistic times (after c.330 BCE) did Jews begin to adopt the Greek idea that it would be a place of punishment for misdeeds, and that the righteous would enjoy an afterlife in heaven.[6] In this period too the older three-level cosmology was widely replaced by the Greek concept of a spherical earth suspended in space at the centre of a number of concentric heavens.[4]

Christianity/modern Judaism[edit]

See also: Ex nihilo and Creationism

Around the time of Jesus or a little earlier, the Greek idea that God had actually created matter replaced the older idea that matter had always existed, but in a chaotic state. This concept, called creatio ex nihilo, is now the accepted orthodoxy of most denominations of Judaism and Christianity. Most denominations of Christianity and Judaism claim that a single, uncreated God was responsible for the creation of the cosmos.[7]

Mormon cosmology[edit]

Main article: Mormon cosmology

The Earth's creation, according to Mormon scripture, was not ex nihilo, but organized from existing matter. The faith teaches that this earth is just one of many inhabited worlds, and that there are many governing heavenly bodies, including a planet or star Kolob which is said to be nearest the throne of God. According to the King Follett discourse, God the Father himself once passed through mortality like Jesus did, but how, when, or where that took place is unclear. The prevailing view among Mormons is that God once lived on a planet with his own higher god.[8][9]

Islamic cosmology[edit]

Islam teaches that God created the universe, including Earth's physical environment and human beings. The highest goal is to visualize the cosmos as a book of symbols for meditation and contemplation for spiritual upliftment or as a prison from which the human soul must escape to attain true freedom in the spiritual journey to God.[10]

Below here there are some other citations from the Quran on cosmology.

"And the heavens We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander." 51:47 Sahih International

"Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" 21:30 Yusuf Ali translation

"The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books (completed),- even as We produced the first creation, so shall We produce a new one: a promise We have undertaken: truly shall We fulfil it." 21:104 Yusuf Ali translation

Buddhism[edit]

Main article: Buddhist cosmology

In Buddhism, the universe comes into existence dependent upon the actions (karma) of its inhabitants. Buddhists posit neither an ultimate beginning or final end to the universe, but see the universe as something in flux, passing in and out of existence, parallel to an infinite number of other universes doing the same thing.

The Buddhist universe consists of a large number of worlds which correspond to different mental states, including passive states of trance, passionless states of purity, and lower states of desire, anger, and fear. The beings in these worlds are all coming into existence or being born, and passing out of existence into other states, or dying. A world comes into existence when the first being in it is born, and ceases to exist, as such, when the last being in it dies. The universe of these worlds also is born and dies, with the death of the last being preceding a universal conflagration that destroys the physical structure of the worlds; then, after an interval, beings begin to be born again and the universe is once again built up. Other universes, however, also exist, and there are higher planes of existence which are never destroyed, though beings that live in them also come into and pass out of existence.

As well as a model of universal origins and destruction, Buddhist cosmology also functions as a model of the mind, with its thoughts coming into existence based on preceding thoughts, and being transformed into other thoughts and other states.

Hinduism[edit]

Hindu units of time on a logarithmic scale. Units are seconds.
Main article: Hindu cosmology

The Hindu cosmology and timeline is the closest to modern scientific timelines and even more which might indicate that the Big Bang is not the beginning of everything but just the start of the present cycle preceded by an infinite number of universes and to be followed by another infinite number of universes. It also includes an infinite number of universes at one given time.

The Rig Veda questions the origin of the cosmos in: "Neither being (sat) nor non-being was as yet. What was concealed? And where? And in whose protection?…Who really knows? Who can declare it? Whence was it born, and whence came this creation? The devas (demigods) were born later than this world's creation, so who knows from where it came into existence? None can know from where creation has arisen, and whether he has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, he alone knows-or perhaps does not know." (Rig Veda 10. 129)

Large scale structure of the Universe according to one Hindu cosmology.
Map 2: Intermediate neighbourhood of the Earth according to one Hindu cosmology.
Map 3: Local neighbourhood of the Earth according to one Hindu cosmology.

The Rig Veda's view of the cosmos also sees one true divine principle self-projecting as the divine word, Vaak, 'birthing' the cosmos that we know, from the monistic Hiranyagarbha or Golden Womb. The Hiranyagarbha is alternatively viewed as Brahma, the creator who was in turn created by God, or as God (Brahman) himself. The universe is considered to constantly expand since creation and disappear into a thin haze after billions of years.[citation needed] An alternative view is that the universe begins to contract after reaching its maximum expansion limits until it disappears into a fraction of a millimeter.[citation needed] The creation begins anew after billions of years (Solar years) of non-existence.

The puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma, the creator or kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Human Years) that represents Brahma's lifespan. Similarly at a given time there are an infinite number of Brahma's performing the creation of each of these universes that are infinite in number. Brahma is the creator but not necessarily regarded as God in Hinduism. He is mostly regarded as a creation of God / Brahman.

We are currently[when?] believed to be in the 51st year of the present Brahma and so about 156 trillion years have elapsed since He was born as Brahma. After Brahma's "death", it is necessary that another 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Years) pass until a new Brahma is born and the whole creation begins anew. This process is repeated again and again, forever.

Brahma's day is divided in one thousand cycles (Maha Yuga, or the Great Year). Maha Yuga, during which life, including the human race appears and then disappears, has 71 divisions, each made of 14 Manvantara (1000) years. Each Maha Yuga lasts for 4,320,000 years. Manvantara is Manu's cycle, the one who gives birth and governs the human race.

Each Maha Yuga consists of a series of four shorter yugas, or ages. The yugas get progressively worse from a moral point of view as one proceeds from one yuga to another. As a result, each yuga is of shorter duration than the age that preceded it. The current Kali Yuga (Iron Age) began at midnight 17 February / 18 February in 3102 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar.

Space and time are considered to be maya (illusion). What looks like 100 years in the cosmos of Brahma could be thousands of years in other worlds, millions of years in some other worlds and 311 trillion and 40 billion years for our solar system and earth.

Jainism[edit]

Main article: Jain cosmology

Jain cosmology considers the loka, or universe, as an uncreated entity, existing since infinity, having no beginning or an end.[11] Jain texts describe the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with legs apart and arm resting on his waist. This Universe, according to Jainism, is narrow at the top, broad at the middle and once again becomes broad at the bottom.[12]

Mahāpurāṇa of Ācārya Jinasena is famous for this quote: "Some foolish men declare that a creator made the world. The doctrine that the world was created is ill advised and should be rejected. If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now? How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression."

Chinese mythology[edit]

Main articles: Chinese creation myth and Tian

There is a "primordial universe" Wuji (philosophy), and Hongjun Laozu, water or qi.[13][14] It transformed into Taiji and multiplied into everything.[15][16] The Pangu legend tells a formless chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg. Pangu emerged (or woke up) and separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang). To keep them separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the Sky. After Pangu died, he became everything.

Yoonir, symbol of the Universe in Serer religion.[17][18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bernstein 1996, p. 134
  2. ^ Berlin 2011, p. 188
  3. ^ Wright 2002, p. 52
  4. ^ a b Aune 2003, p. 119
  5. ^ Wright 2002, pp. 117,124–125
  6. ^ Lee 2010, pp. 77–78
  7. ^ One of the severest critics of religious cosmologies from the standpoint of physics was Adolf Grünbaum, 'The Poverty of Theistic Cosmology' (2004), now in his Collected Works (edited by Thomas Kupka), vol. I, New York: Oxford University Press 2013, ch. 7 (pp. 151-200); some earlier papers on the same subject can also be found in this volume
  8. ^ "An explanation of Mormon beliefs about God", BBC – Religions, 2009-10-02.
  9. ^ Jana Riess and Christopher Kimball Bigelow, Mormonism for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, ISBN 978-0-7645-7195-4) ch. 3.
  10. ^ http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e459?_hi=10&_pos=2
  11. ^ “This universe is not created nor sustained by anyone; It is self sustaining, without any base or support” “Nishpaadito Na Kenaapi Na Dhritah Kenachichch Sah Swayamsiddho Niradhaaro Gagane Kimtvavasthitah” [Yogaśāstra of Ācārya Hemacandra 4.106] Tr by Dr. A. S. Gopani
  12. ^ See Hemacandras description of universe in Yogaśāstra “…Think of this loka as similar to man standing akimbo…”4.103-6
  13. ^ 《太一生水》之混沌神話
  14. ^ 道教五方三界諸天「氣數」說探源
  15. ^ 太一與三一
  16. ^ 太極初探
  17. ^ Gravrand, Henry, "La civilisation sereer : Pangool", vol. 2, Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines du Senegal, (1990) pp 20-21, 149-155, ISBN 2-7236-1055-1
  18. ^ Clémentine Faïk-Nzuji Madiya, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, International Centre for African Language, Literature and Tradition (Louvain, Belgium). ISBN 0-660-15965-1. pp 5, 27, 115

Bibliography[edit]