The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion

Contents:
Author: Eliza Burt Gamble

Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation.

"Daughters of Jove, All hail! but O inspire The lovely song! the sacred race proclaim Of ever-living gods; who sprang from Earth, From the starred Heaven, and from the gloomy Night, And whom the salt Deep nourished into life. Declare how first the gods and Earth became; The rivers and th’ immeasurable sea High-raging in its foam; the glittering stars, The wide impending Heaven; and who from these Of deities arose, dispensing good; Say how their treasures, how their honors each Allotted shar’d: how first they held abode On many-caved Olympus:—this declare, Ye Muses! dwellers of the heavenly mount From the beginning; say, who first arose? First Chaos was: next ample-bosomed Earth, Of deathless gods, who still the Olympian heights Snow-topt inhabit. . . . Her first-born Earth produced Of like immensity, the starry Heaven: That he might sheltering compass her around On every side, and be forevermore To the blest gods a mansion unremoved."[92]

[92] Hesiod, The Theogony.

So long as human beings worshipped the abstract principle of creation, the manifestations of which proceed from the earth and sun, they doubtless reasoned little on the nature of its hitherto inseparable parts. They had not at that early period begun to look outside of Nature for their god-idea, but when through the peculiar course of development which had been entered upon, the simple conception of a creative agency originally entertained became obscured, mankind began to speculate on the nature and attributes of the two principles by which everything is produced, and to dispute over their relative importance in the office of reproduction. Much light has been thrown upon these speculations by the Kosmogonies which have come down to us from the Phoenicians, Babylonians, and other peoples of past ages. In the Phoenician Kosmogony, according to the Mokh doctrine as recorded by Philo, out of the kosmic egg Toleeleth (female) "sprang all the impregnation of creation and the beginning of the universe." In this exposition of the beginnings of things, it is distinctly stated that the spirit which in after ages came to be regarded as something outside or above Nature, "had no consciousness of its own creation." Commenting on the above, Bunsen is constrained to admit that it is usually understood as being "decidedly pantheistic." He suggests, however, that the writer may HAVE INTENDED TO SAY (the italics are mine) that "the spirit who was heretofore the Creator was the unconscious spirit."

Berosus, the scholar of Babylon, who, until a comparatively recent time has furnished all the information extant concerning Babylonian antiquities, in his account of the creation of man and of the universe, says that in the beginning all was water and darkness; that in the water were the beginnings of life; but as yet there was no order. Men were there with the wings of birds and even with the feet of beasts. There were also quadrupeds and men with fishes’ tails, all of which had been produced by a twofold principle. Over this incongruous mass a woman presided. This woman is called Omoroka by the Babylonians and by the Chaldeans Thalatth. The latter name, signifies, "bearing" or "egg producing."

In the Babylonian Kosmogony, according to Endemus, the pupil of Aristotle, the beginning of the universe was called Tauthe, which being interpreted means "Mother of the Gods." Associated with her sometimes appears the male principle—Apason. In the history of Berosus, there is given an account of Oaunes—a mythical teacher of Babylon, who appeared with the head of a human being and the body of a fish or serpent. This personage brought to the Babylonians all the knowledge which they possessed. Oaunes wrote "concerning the generation of mankind, of their different ways of life, and of their civil polity." He it was who gave the above account of creation. He says that finally Omoroka, or Thalatth, the woman who existed before the creation, was divided, one half of her forming the heavens, "the other half the earth." "All this," Berosus declares, "was an allegorical description of Nature."[93]

[93] Prof. Smith, Chaldean Account of Genesis, pp. 34, 35.

In the following legend will be observed the groundwork for the story of the flood. Xisuthrus was a king of Chaldea. To him the deity, Kronos, appeared in a vision and warned him that upon the fifteenth day of the month Daesius there would be a flood, by which mankind would be destroyed. He therefore enjoined him to write a history of the beginning, progress, and conclusion of all things down to the present time, and to bury it in Sippara, the City of the Sun. He was commanded also to build a vessel, and take with him into it his friends and relations, and to convey on board everything necessary to sustain life, together with all the different animals, both birds and quadrupeds, and trust himself fearlessly to the deep. Having asked the deity whither he was to sail, he was answered: "To the gods"; upon which he offered up a prayer for the good of mankind. He then obeyed the divine admonition, and built a vessel five stadia in length and two in breadth. Into this he put everything which he had prepared, and last of all conveyed into it his wife, his children, and his friends.

"After the flood had been upon the earth, and was in time abated, Xisuthrus sent out birds from the vessel, which not finding any food, nor any place whereupon they might rest their feet, returned to him again. After an interval of some days, he sent them forth a second time; and they now returned with their feet tinged with mud. He made a trial a third time with these birds; but they returned to him no more: from which he judged that the surface of the earth had appeared above the waters. He therefore made an opening in the vessel, end upon looking out found that it was stranded upon the side of some mountain, upon which he immediately quitted it with his wife, his daughter, and the pilot. Xisuthrus then paid his adoration to the earth: and, having constructed an altar, offered sacrifices to the gods, and, with those who had come out of the vessel with him, disappeared. Him they saw no more, but they could distinguish his voice in the air, and could hear him admonish them to pay due regard to the gods. He informed them that it was on account of his piety that he had been taken away to live with the gods, and that his wife and daughter had obtained the same honor."

It is more than likely that this story, which as we have seen has extended to the remotest corners of the earth, has an esoteric meaning, and that it embodies the doctrines of the ancients relative to reincarnation and the renewal of worlds. Doubtless it portrays not only the end of a cycle, but that by it is prefigured the fortunes of a human soul, which in its ascent, is from time to time forced into a human body.

All the early Kosmogonies are intermingled with the history of a great flood, from the ravages of which an ark which contained a man was saved. The Gothic story of creation indicates that the Scythians belonged to the same race as the Chaldeans. At the beginning of time when nothing had been formed, and before the earth, the sea, or the heavens appeared, Muspelsheim existed. A breath of heat passing over the vapors, melted them into water, and from this water was formed a cow named Aedumla, who was the progenitor of Odin, Vile, and Ve, the Trinity of the Gothic nation.

There is also another tradition, probably a later, which asserts that from the drops of water produced by the primeval breath of heat, a man, Ymer, was brought forth. The son of Ymer was preserved in a storm-tossed bark, his father being dragged into the middle of the abyss, where, from his body the earth was produced. The sea was made of his blood, the mountains of his bones, and the rocks of his teeth. As three of his descendants were walking on the shore one day, they found two pieces of wood which had been washed up by the waves. Of these they made a man and a woman. The man they named Aske and the woman Emla. From this pair has descended the human race.

The marked resemblance between the characters of the Gothic Ymer and the Chaldean Omoroka, from each of whose bodies the universe is created, has been observed by various writers. After referring to Mallet’s conclusions upon this subject, Faber remarks:

"They are indeed evidently the same person, not only in point of character, but, if I mistake not, in appellation: for Ymer or Umer is Omer-Oca expressed in a more simple form. The difference of sex does by no means invalidate this opinion, which rests upon the perfect identity of their characters: for the Great Mother, like the Great Father, was an hermaphrodite; or, rather, that person from whom all things were supposed to be produced, was the Great Father and the Great Mother united together in one compound being. Ymer and Omoroca are each the same as that hermaphrodite Jupiter of the Orphic theology."

We have observed, however, that in all the older traditions this hermaphrodite conception is accounted as female, it is the Great Mother within whom is contained the male; in later ages, however, it is represented as male, the female being concealed beneath convenient symbols.

The Trinity of the Goths was male; yet as Odin could not create independently of the female energy he is provided with a wife, Frigga, to whom "all fair things belonged, and who had priestesses among the early German tribes." Frigga when worshipped alone was both female and male. According to one German tradition, Tiw (Zeus), which in its earliest conception was female, was the parent of the first man. This man begat three sons who became the fathers of the three Deutsch tribes. Ish (or Ash) was the parent of the Franks and Allemans; Ing was the progenitor of the Swedes, Angles, and Saxons; and Er, or Erman, was the eponymous leader of the tribes called by the Romans Hermiones.

The Kosmogony of the Chinese is similar in all respects to that of other countries. The first man, Puoncu, was born from an egg.

The Chinese say that this egg-born Puoncu, who is identical with Brahm, Noah, and Adam, is not the great Creator or God, but only the first man. Their great God or Tien is a Unity which comprehends three, and their human triad—a triplicated being who is the parent of the human race—is a lower expression of the same power, and to him has finally been ascribed the office of Creator.

The Kosmogony of the Japanese begins with the opening of the sacred egg from which all things were produced. This egg is identical with the ark, and from it the diluvian patriarch was born. He was "Baal-Peor or the lord of opening; and, from an idea that the Ark was an universal mother, he was considered as the masculine principle of generation, and was adored by his apostate descendants with all the abominations of phallic worship."

In the Theogony of Hesiod, Uranus is represented as being the parent of three sons, and the same legend repeated in the story of Cronus portrays him also as a triplicated deity. According to the Peruvian Kosmogony all things sprang from Viracocha who is said to be identical with the Greek Aphrodite. Besides this superior God they venerated a triad which was closely connected with the sun. These gods were called Chuquilla, Catuilla, and Intyllapa. They say that as their ancestors journeyed from a remote country to the Northwest they bore the image of their god in a coifer or box made of reeds. To the four priests who had charge of this box or ark he communicated his oracles and directions. He not only gave them laws but taught them the ceremonies and sacrifices which they were to observe. "And even as the pillar of cloud and fire conducted the Israelites in their passage through the wilderness, so this Spanish devil gave them notice when to advance forward, and when to stay."[94]

[94] Faber, Pagan Idolatry, book i., ch. v.

According to Marsden, the New Zealanders believe that three gods created the first man, and that the first woman was made from one of his ribs.

Among the Otaheitans and various tribes of Indians, the belief prevails that all created things have proceeded from a triplicated deity who was saved from the ravages of a flood in an ark or ship.

The fact is observed that the Theogonies and Kosmogonies of all peoples have reference to a flood or to the renewal of life after the destruction of the world, and that the Great Father who is preserved, and who comes forth from an ark or ship with the seeds of a former world, represents the beginning of a new era. Adam with his three sons, Cain, Abel, and Seth, Noah with his triad, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Menu and his triple offspring, and so on, all mean exactly the same thing, namely, the renewal of life at the close of a cycle, or manwantara.

From the traditions extant in nearly every quarter of the globe, it would seem that, prior to the socalled flood in the time of Noah, man, as a Creator, had not to any extent been worshipped, but, on the contrary, that the great universal dual principle which pervades Nature and which is back of matter and force, for instance Tien among the Chinese, Iav among the Hebrews, and Aum among the Hindoos, had been the Deity adored; but with the decline of virtue and knowledge, this God was gradually abandoned for a lesser one, a deity better suited to the comprehension of "fallen" man.

In the Elohistic narrative of creation which appears in the first chapter of Genesis, a dual or triune God, female and male, says, Let us make man in our own image, and accordingly a male and a female are created. In the Jehovistic account, however, in the second chapter of the same book, a document of much later date, man is made first and afterward woman. In fact, in the latter narrative she appears as an afterthought and is created simply for his use; she is taken from his side and is wholly dependent upon him for existence. This fact is recognized by Bishop Colenso in the following words:

"Thus in the second account of creation, the man is APPARENTLY created first, and the woman is CERTAINLY created the last, of all living creatures; whereas, in the older story the man and woman are created last of all, as the crowning work of Elohim, and are created together—’and Elohim created man in His own image, in the image of Elohim created He him; male and female created He them.’ This ancient Elohistic narrative, then, the Jehovist had before him; and he enlarged and enlivened it by introducing a number of passages recording additional incidents in the lives of the patriarchs before and after the flood, and especially by inserting the second account of the creation, ii., 4-25."

Colenso observes that verse four of chapter second belongs to the Elohist, and that it was removed from its original position at the beginning of Gen. i., in order to form the commencement of the Jehovistic account of the creation.[95]

[95] Lectures on the Pentateuch, p. 32.

Quoting from Bishop Browne in the New Bible Commentary, the same writer remarks that in the Elohistic account of the creation "we have that which was probably the ancient primeval record of the formation of the world."[96]

[96] Ibid. p. 16.

The oldest or Elohistic portion of Genesis is, at the present time, seen to conceal great wisdom and a knowledge of Nature far surpassing that of later times.

According to Higgins, the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, if properly translated, would not declare that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but that Wisdom "formed" the earth and the planets. In none of the ancient Kosmogonies can there be a word found regarding the creation of matter. From the facts which have come down to us respecting the speculations of the ancients, it is plain that the original conception was, that within the primeval beginnings described in their Kosmogonies, in chaos or unorganized matter, was contained primeval force; no attempt, however, was made by them to account for the creation of either motion or matter.

As soon as human beings began to speculate on the attributes of their Deity; when the two principles composing it began to separate, and the idea was gaining ground that the male was the only important factor in reproduction, the sun became male, the earth and sea female. Still, even then the doctrine seems not to have been questioned, that the creative agency had proceeded from matter, or that it was developed in and through it. The belief that something can be made from nothing was reserved for a later age.

In the oldest Semitic Kosmogonies, we are assured that the self-conscious God who is manifested in the order of the universe, proceeded out of the great abyss, and out of unorganized, dark, primeval matter. During the earlier historic period, however, by both Jew and Gentile, the belief was entertained that spirit is material. It is the essence of fire—a substance akin to the galvanic or electric fluid. This masculine element, the manifestation of which is desire, or heat, and which was finally set up as an eternal, self-existent, creative force, or God, was originally regarded as a manifestation of matter, and as having no independent existence. In an earlier age, this so-called creative agency is associated with a force far superior to itself, namely, Light or Wisdom. Minerva, who is the first emanation from the Deity, "formed" all things. She it is who discriminates all things and gives laws to the universe. "She represented to the Greeks that spiritual element which lifts knowledge into wisdom, and talent into genius."[97] But with the importance which began to be assumed by man when he began to regard himself as a creator, and when through ignorance and sensuality the principles of a more enlightened race were forgotten, desire, or heat, was separated from matter and came to be regarded as an independent entity, which itself had created matter out of nothing. Thus is noticed the extent to which the god-idea has been developed in accordance with the relative positions of the sexes.

[97] L. T. Ives, Art Words.

According to the Grecian mythology, much of which was a comparatively late development, mortal woman was the handiwork of Vulcan the Firegod, who, being commissioned by Jove to execute "a snare for gods and man," moulded the beauteous form of woman. This is a worthy example of the contempt and scorn shown by the Greeks for women during the later period of their career as a nation. That such contempt was a later development is shown in the fact that woman was originally the gift of Pallas Athene, or Wisdom. When she first appeared on the scene she was crowned by the gods, in fact she was the first object honored with a crown. Concerning the conceptions regarding women as held at an earlier age, and those which came to prevail after she had become "the cause of evil in the world," we have the following from Tertullian:

"If there was a Pandora, whom Hesiod mentions as the first woman, hers was the first head the Graces crowned, for she received gifts from all the gods, whence she got her name Pandora. But Moses, a prophet, not a poet-shepherd, shows us the first woman Eve having her loins more naturally girt about with leaves than her temples with flowers. Pandora then is a myth."[98]

[98] Tertullian, vol. i., p. 341.

Woman, who was originally the gift of Wisdom, or Minerva, and who when created was garlanded with flowers as the crown of creation, became, in course of time, an accursed and wicked thing who must henceforth cover herself with leaves to hide her shame. Tertullian, who, with the rest of the early fathers in the Christian church, had imbibed the latter doctrine concerning her, could not believe the tradition set forth by Hesiod; therefore Pandora was a myth, while the corrupted fable, that of Eve as the tempter, was accepted as a natural representation of womanhood.

When woman was created, "all the gods conferred a gifted grace."

"Round her fair brow the lovely-tressed Hours
A garland twined of Spring’s purpureal flowers:
The whole attire Minerva’s graceful art
Disposed, adjusted, form’d to every part."[99]

[99] Hesiod, Works and Days.

Later, however, Pandora herself becomes the pourer forth of ills on the head of defenceless man.

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Chicago: Eliza Burt Gamble, "Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation.," The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion, trans. Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946 in The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831), Original Sources, accessed February 4, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FF6FEHCQX18DQ7.

MLA: Gamble, Eliza Burt. "Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation." The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion, translted by Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946, in The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion, London, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831, Original Sources. 4 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FF6FEHCQX18DQ7.

Harvard: Gamble, EB, 'Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation.' in The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion, trans. . cited in 1831, The God-Idea of the Ancients, or, Sex in Religion, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. Original Sources, retrieved 4 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FF6FEHCQX18DQ7.