origin story

Science, origin stories and creation myths: Biblical text, other cultural stories, and scientific thoughts on the beginning of the cosmos, time, and humanity

D’ou venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Ou allons-nous? Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? — Paul Gauguin (title of 1897 painting above)

The root of this possibility of doing good –
that we all have – is in creation. — Pope Francis

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.— Charles Darwin
Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists.
            I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become the victor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known. I keep on dancing then it is the eternal dance or creation. The creator and creation merge into one wholeness of joy. I keep on dancing…and dancing…and dancing. Until there is only…the dance. ― Michael Jackson

How did everything begin? This is the first question faced by any creation myth and … answering it remains tricky. … Each beginning seems to presuppose an earlier beginning. … Instead of meeting a single starting point, we encounter an infinity of them, each of which poses the same problem. … There are no entirely satisfactory solutions to this dilemma. What we have to find is not a solution but some way of dealing with the mystery …. And we have to do so using words. The words we reach for, from God to gravity, are inadequate to the task. So we have to use language poetically or symbolically; and such language, whether used by a scientist, a poet, or a shaman, can easily be misunderstood.— David Christian


Mythology of Creation:


Creation myths, or origin stories, tell us what a culture believes about how humans came to be. They can also tell us much about what that culture values. These are often religious or spiritual explanations for human life. — Kate Harris, Smithsonian Institute’s Learning Lab

A creation myth or cosmogonic myth is a type of cosmogony, a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it. While in popular usage the term myth often refers to false or fanciful stories, members of cultures often ascribe varying degrees of truth to their creation myths. In the society in which it is told, a creation myth is usually regarded as conveying profound truths – metaphorically, symbolically, historically, or literally They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths – that is, they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.
Creation myths often share several features. They often are considered sacred accounts and can be found in nearly all known religious traditions. They are all stories with a plot and characters who are either deities, human-like figures, or animals, who often speak and transform easily. … Creation myths address questions deeply meaningful to the society that shares them, revealing their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context. — Wikipedia.com

Creators aren’t gods. They make places, which is quite hard. It’s men that make gods. This explains a lot.— Terry Pratchett

Myths are funny. Unlike histories, they are symbolic narratives; they deal with spiritual rather than fact-based truths. They serve as foundations for beliefs, illustrating how things came to be and who was involved, but they’re often sketchy about when or why. — Lisa Hannett, The Atlantic

Myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in primordial Time, the fabled time of the “beginnings.” In other words, myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality – an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution. — Mircea Eliade

The earth-diver is a common character in various traditional creation myths. In these stories a supreme being usually sends an animal (most often, a type of bird, but also crustaceans, insects, and fishes in some narratives) into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land. WIkipedia.com

When he, whoever of the gods it was, had thus arranged in order and resolved that chaotic mass, and reduced it, thus resolved, to cosmic parts, he first moulded the Earth into the form of a mighty ball so that it might be of like form on every side … And, that no region might be without its own forms of animate life, the stars and divine forms occupied the floor of heaven, the sea fell to the shining fishes for their home, Earth received the beasts, and the mobile air the birds … Then Man was born:… though all other animals are prone, and fix their gaze upon the earth, he gave to Man an uplifted face and bade him stand erect and turn his eyes to heaven. ― Ovid, Metamorphoses

In emergence myths, humanity emerges from another world into the one they currently inhabit. The previous world is often considered the womb of the earth mother, and the process of emergence is likened to the act of giving birth. The role of midwife is usually played by a female deity, like the spider woman of several mythologies of Indigenous peoples in the Americas. Male characters rarely figure into these stories, and scholars often consider them in counterpoint to male-oriented creation myths, like those of the ex nihilo variety. WIkipedia.com

Ve and Vili and Odin looked at each other and spoke of what was needful to do, there in the void of Ginnungagap. They spoke of the universe, and of life, and of the future.
Odin and Ve and Vili killed the giant Ymir. It had to be done. There was no other way to make the worlds. This was the beginning of all things, the death that made all life possible. — Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology

There are two types of world parent myths, both describing a separation or splitting of a primeval entity, the world parent or parents. One form describes the primeval state as an eternal union of two parents, and the creation takes place when the two are pulled apart. The two parents are commonly identified as Sky (usually male) and Earth (usually female), who were so tightly bound to each other in the primeval state that no offspring could emerge. These myths often depict creation as the result of a sexual union and serve as genealogical record of the deities born from it.
In the second form of world parent myths, creation itself springs from dismembered parts of the body of the primeval being. Often, in these stories, the limbs, hair, blood, bones, or organs of the primeval being are somehow severed or sacrificed to transform into sky, earth, animal or plant life, and other worldly features. WIkipedia.com

The Way gave birth to unity; unity gave birth to duality; duality gave birth to trinity; trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures. — Daodejing

Who really knows,
and who can swear,
How creation came,
when or where!
Even gods came after
creation’s day,
Who really knows and
who can truly say,
When and how
did creation start?
Did He do it?
Or did He not?
Only He, up there,
knows, maybe;
Or perhaps,
not even He.
Rig Veda

On Divine and Human CREATION

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. —  attributed to Pablo Picasso and/or  e.e. cummings

Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation. — Rabindranath Tagore

You aren’t your work, your accomplishments, your possessions, your home, your family… your anything. You’re a creation of your Source, dressed in a physical human body intended to experience and enjoy life on Earth. — Wayne Dyer

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists. — Charles Dickens

The key to nature’s therapy is feeling like a tiny part of it, not a master over it. There’s amazing pride in seeing a bee land on a flower you planted – but that’s not your act of creation, it’s your act of joining in. — Victoria Coren Mitchell

Every moment there is creation, every moment destruction. There is no absolute creation, no absolute destruction. Both are movement, and that is eternal. —  Ramana Maharshi

Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story. — Miguel Ruiz

Love is anterior to life, posterior to death, initial of creation, and the exponent of breath. — Emily Dickinson

The creation continues incessantly through the media of man. — Antonio Gaudi

The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails. — James Joyce

If God gave the soul his whole creation she would not be filled thereby but only with himself. —  Meister Eckhart

In each individual the spirit is made flesh, in each one the whole of creation suffers, in each one a Savior is crucified. — Hermann Hesse

All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you. Life itself is truth, and this will never change. Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together. — Morihei Ueshiba

The eyes of the cheerful and of the melancholy man are fixed upon the same creation; but very different are the aspects which it bears to them. — Albert Pike

An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an originals motivated be necessity. It is marvelous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human. — Man Ray

Man is a creation of desire, not a creation of need. — Gaston Bachelard

Every thread of creation is held in position by still other strands of things living. — Don McLean

I know that you are part of me and I am part of you because we are all aspects of the same infinite consciousness that we call God and Creation. — David Icke

The art of creation is older than the art of killing. — Ed Koch

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. … In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery. ― Cormac McCarthy, The Road


When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. God is not a demiurge [demigod] or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. Evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve. — Pope Francis

Was the big bang really the beginning of time? Or did the universe exist before then?… developments in theoretical physics, especially the rise of string theory, have changed their perspective. The pre-bang universe has become the latest frontier of cosmology… In one form or another, the issue of the ultimate beginning has engaged philosophers and theologians in nearly every culture.
… We can trace our lineage back through the generations, back through our animal ancestors, to early forms of life and protolife, to the elements synthesized in the primordial universe, to the amorphous energy deposited in space before that. Does our family tree extend forever backward? Or do its roots terminate? Is the cosmos as impermanent as we are? … The ancient Greeks debated the origin of time fiercely. Aristotle, taking the no-beginning side, invoked the principle that out of nothing, nothing comes. If the universe could never have gone from nothingness to somethingness, it must always have existed. For this and other reasons, time must stretch eternally into the past and future. Christian theologians tended to take the opposite point of view. Augustine contended that God exists outside of space and time, able to bring these constructs into existence as surely as he could forge other aspects of our world. When asked, What was God doing before he created the world? Augustine answered, Time itself being part of God’s creation, there was simply no before!
… So, when did time begin? Science does not have a conclusive answer yet, but at least two potentially testable theories plausibly hold that the universe–and therefore time–existed well before the big bang. If either scenario is right, the cosmos has always been in existence and, even if it recollapses one day, will never end. — Gabriele Veneziano, Scientific American (full article: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-myth-of-the-beginning-of-time-2006-02/)

In essence, String Theory describes space and time, matter and energy, gravity and light, indeed all of God’s creation… as music. — Roy H. Williams

The capacity to be puzzled is the premise of all creation, be it in art or in science. — Erich Fromm

Creation is a process that is still happening and we’re in on it! We are a part of this endless creativity of God. — Fr. Richard Rohr

Believing as I do in evolution, I merely believe that it is the method by which God created, and is still creating, life on earth. — Rachel Carson

The environment selects those few mutations that enhance survival, resulting in a series of slow transformations of one lifeform into another, the origin of a new species. — Carl Sagan

I believe God did intend, in giving us intelligence, to give us the opportunity to investigate and appreciate the wonders of His creation. He is not threatened by our scientific adventures. — Francis Collins

Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures, God chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. — Francis Collins

Evolution is amazingly versatile in adapting the materials at hand to other uses. — George Gaylord Simpson

Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random. —Richard Dawkins

From the paramecium to the human race, all life forms are meticulously organized, sophisticated aggregates of evolving microbial life. Far from leaving microorganisms behind on an evolutionary ‘ladder,’ we are both surrounded by them and composed of them. — Lynn Margulis

Today, I believe that humanity is at a critical crossroad. The radical advances that took place in neuroscience and particularly in genetics towards the end of the twentieth century have led to a new era in human history. Our knowledge of the human brain and body at the cellular and genetic level, with the consequent technological possibilities offered for genetic manipulation, has reached such a stage that the ethical challenges of these scientific advances are enormous. It is all too evident that our moral thinking simply has not been able to keep pace with such rapid progress in our acquisition of knowledge and power. Yet the ramifications of these new findings and their applications are so far-reaching that they relate to the very conception of human nature and the preservation of the human species. So it is no longer adequate to adopt the view that our responsibility as a society is to simply further scientific knowledge and enhance technological power and that the choice of what to do with this knowledge and power should be left in the hands of the individual. We must find a way of bringing fundamental humanitarian and ethical considerations to bear upon the direction of scientific development, especially in the life sciences. By invoking fundamental ethical principles, I am not advocating a fusion of religious ethics and scientific inquiry. Rather, I am speaking of what I call “secular ethics” that embrace the key ethical principles, such as compassion, tolerance, a sense of caring, consideration of others, and the responsible use of knowledge and power – principles that transcend the barriers between religious believers and non-believers, and followers of this religion or that religion. — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama



As God has not made anything useless in this world, as all beings fulfill obligations or a role in the sublime drama of Creation, I cannot exempt from this duty, and small though it be, I too have a mission to fill, as for example: alleviating the sufferings of my fellowmen. — Jose Rizal

Religion is essentially the art and the theory of the remaking of man. Man is not a finished creation. — Edmund Burke

I confess that I am a Christo-centric universalist. What that means to me is that, whatever God was accomplishing, especially on the cross, that Christological event, was for the restoration and redemption and reconciliation of all things and all people and all Creation – everyone. Whatever God was getting done there, that is for everyone. How God manages to play that out through other religions, other symbol systems, I will never understand. I have to allow for the idea that God is actually nimble enough and powerful enough and creative enough to do that. — Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber

They define virtue thus—that it is a living according to Nature, and think that we are made by God for that end; they believe that a man then follows the dictates of Nature when he pursues or avoids things according to the direction of reason. — Thomas More

What is Man? Man is a noisome bacillus whom Our Heavenly Father created because he was disappointed in the monkey. — Mark Twain

For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. — Desmond Tutu

That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.Martin Luther King Jr., from “Loving Your Enemies”

The intention that man should be happy is not in the plan of Creation. Sigmund Freud

… God who created the universe out of ‘nothing,’ that can put flesh on dry bones ‘nothing,’ that can put life in a dusty womb ‘nothing.’ I mean, let’s face it, ‘nothing’ is God’s favorite material to work with. — Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation. — Maya Angelou

I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking. ― George MacDonald

Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. It is not about closed minds, supernatural interventions, a fallen creation, guilt, original sin or divine rescue. — John Shelby Spong

Creation exists first of all for its own good sake; second to show forth God’s goodness, diversity, and beneficence; and then for humans’ appropriate use. Our small, scarcity-based worldview is the real aberration here, and I believe it has largely contributed to the rise of atheism and the “practical atheism” that is the actual operative religion of most Western countries today. The God we’ve been presenting people with is just too small and too stingy for a big-hearted person to trust or to love back. — Fr. Richard Rohr

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God. ― Sidney Sheldon

We could not become like God, so God became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed God to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried God in the ground, Got got up. ― Rachel Held Evans

God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings, not endings. Just as graduations are not terminations, but commencements. Creation is an ongoing process, and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease. — Bernie Siegel

It is the spirituality of creation—our affinity, our care, for the rest of creation—that really stretches us to the wholeness of ourselves and to the wholeness of God, as well.
Only when we see ourselves, humans, as part of creation, rather than as the crown of creation, will we ever be able to come anywhere close to really grasping the greatness of God and God’s gifts to us. Only then will we begin to see the glowing face of God everywhere. Only then will we begin to understand that we are all meant to come to fullness of life together—plants, animals, planet, and humans in one great reciprocal circle of a common creation. Until we do, all of us will go on living life with spiritual blinders.
What we do not do to save the whole of creation will shrink our own spiritual vision and separate us, starved and emaciated in soul, from the wholeness of life. We will look at forests and, like the loggers destroying the rain forests on this earth, fail to see the living gift of them. We will take for granted the devotion of our pets and fail to recognize that real human relationships are about more than sex or social comfort or authority. We will watch our children grow up in cement jungles, denied the right to plant tomatoes or the wonder of picking flowers. We will find innocent enemies and set out to destroy them rather than protect them as sisters and brothers and make them our friends.
What we do to the rest of creation we do to ourselves. What we destroy in the rest of creation makes it even easier to destroy in our own.
But God sees the despoliation of all that is “good” and comes closer to those who are its saviors. And therein lies the secret of both the quality of our “dedication” and the depth of our relationship with God. Why? Because it’s profitable to steward the world well? No. Because it is holy to care for the world as God cares for the world. Because co-creation is the task of being human.— Joan Chittister, from The Monastic Way

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