Almost every culture and faith has a creation story (and often more than one) to explain how the world began. A good place to find the various creation myths is www.crystalinks.com/creationcountries. The most widely known creation story in the western world is the one from the Book of Genesis - well actually, even Genesis relates two creation stories. In the first story God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness . . . . So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:26-27).
In the second creation story "the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being." Eve was created from Adam's rib a little later, unlike the first story in which man and woman are created at the same time.
I don't know how Bible literalists explain the difference between these two stories, but metaphysical interpreters say the first story symbolizes the creation of our spirituality - the part of humanity that is godlike. The second story deals with the creation of our physical bodies and brains which came later and still don't remember our connection to Spirit.
Most ancient creation myths concern only the world that was known to the storyteller, and so these myths do not address the creation of the entire universe - or even the entire globe.The Genesis story describes the sky as a dome in which God placed lights to separate the day from the night. Obviously the storyteller could not imagine a world or heavens larger than what he could see. Today we need a new story, based on our expanding knowledge of the universe.
This past Sunday the minister of the Unitarian-Universalist Society of Oneonta took The Cosmic Walk that's been all the rage among UU churches in recent years. The Walk follows a series of markers around the perimeter of the sanctuary which note the highlights of the universe and earth's evolution according to modern science. It starts with “the Great Flaring Forth of the Emerging Universe” some 15 billion years ago, and demonstrates the great expanse of time that elapsed before humanity emerged on this planet a mere seven million years ago.
I thought this sermon was an interesting coincidence since I am currently reading a book I received for Christmas: Journey of the Universe by Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, which presents this same cosmic story in greater detail. The story boggles the mind with its vast stretches of time and the inconceivable sizes of supernovas and single-cell lifeforms.
When I read that two billion years passed before the more complex cells with nuclei appeared, I realized that I should try to be more forgiving of the human race, considering how very young it is. If it took two billion years for one cell to grow a nuclei, why do I expect the human race to recognize its oneness and be peaceful and loving after only seven million years?
An interesting spiritual twist on The Cosmic Walk can be found at: http://www.diarmuid13.com/the-cosmic-walk. Diarmuid O'Murchu weaves the creation of the seven chakras into the scientific creation story, reminding us that, if we believe in a Divine Spirit, it must be a part of the the cosmic journey. O'Murchu's concluding reflection is worth repeating here. The following is a quote from The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry:
"What is particularly striking is the lack of repetition in the developing universe. The fireball that begins the universe gives way to the galactic emergence and the first generation of stars. The later generations of stars bring into being the living planets with their own sequence of epochs, each differentiating itself from the rest. Biological and human history, with the ever fresh expressions of creativity, continue the differentiation of time from its beginning.
Indeed all 15 billion years form an epic that must be viewed as a whole to understand its full meaning. This meaning is the extravagance of the creative outpouring, where each being is given its unique existence. At the heart of the universe is an outrageous bias for the novel, for the unfurling of surprise in prodigious dimensions throughout the vast range of existence."
The story of the universe and the cosmic walk demonstrate for us our commonality as children of the stars, and the desire of our cosmos to birth an infinite variety of creations within itself. The scientific discoveries that have led to this modern version of the creation story demonstrate our oneness, not only with one another, but with every particle of the cosmos. Now that we are aware of this I hope we can evolve a bit faster toward peaceful co-existence.