Taoist Mythology of Creation
There are five major views of creation in China: The first, and most consistent historically, is that no myth exists. This is not to say there were none existing at all, only that there is no evidence showing an attempt to explain the world’s origin.
The second view is very indirect. It is merely based on a question of a dialog in an earlier reference. The idea in the question implies that the heavens and the earth separated from one another.
The third view is the one perpetuated by Taoism by the nature of its philosophy. It appears “relatively” late in Chinese history. In it, Tao is described as the ultimate force behind the creation. With tao, nothingness gave rise to existence, existence gave rise to yin and yang, and yin and yang gave rise to everything. Due to the ambiguous nature of this myth, it could be compatible with the first myth (and therefore say nothing). But it could, like its antithesis, be explained in a way to better fit the modern scientific view of the creation of universe.
The fourth view is the relatively late myth of Pangu. This was an explanation offered by Taoist monks hundreds of years after Laozi; probably around 200 CE. In this story, the universe begins as a cosmic egg. A god named Pangu, born inside the egg, broke it into two halves: The upper half became the sky, the lower half became the earth. As the god grew taller, the sky and the earth grew thicker and were separated further. Finally the god died and his body parts became different parts of the earth.
The fifth view would be tribal accounts that vary widely and not necessarily connect to a system of belief. Phan Ku – P’an Ku Of various creation stories which evolve in China, the most striking is that of P’an Ku. He is hatched from a cosmic egg. Half the shell is above him as the sky, the other half below him as the earth. He grows taller each day for 18,000 years, gradually pushing them apart until they reach their appointed places. After all this effort P’an Ku falls to pieces. His limbs become the mountains, his blood the rivers, his breath the wind and his voice the thunder. His two eyes are the sun and the moon. The parasites on his body are mankind.
Another version … In the beginning was a huge egg containing chaos and a mixture of yin-yang (female-male, cold-heat, dark-light, wet-dry, etc). Also within this yin-yang was Phan Ku who broke forth from the egg as a giant who separated the yin-yang into many opposites, including earth and sky. With a great chisel and a huge hammer, Phan Ku carved out the mountains, rivers, valleys, and oceans. He also made the sun, moon, and stars. When he died, after 18,000 years, it is said that the fleas in his hair became human beings.
In summation, the Chinese say that everything that is – is Phan Ku and everything that Phan Ku is yin-yang. Pan Gu In the beginning , the heavens and earth were still one and all was chaos. The universe was like a big black egg, carrying Pan Gu inside itself. After 18 thousand years Pan Gu woke from a long sleep. He felt suffocated, so he took up a broadax and wielded it with all his might to crack open the egg. The light, clear part of it floated up and formed the heavens, the cold, turbid matter stayed below to form earth. Pan Gu stood in the middle, his head touching the sky, his feet planted on the earth. The heavens and the earth began to grow at a rate of ten feet per day, and Pan Gu grew along with them. After another 18 thousand years, the sky was higher, the earth thicker, and Pan Gu stood between them like a pillar 9 million li in height so that they would never join again. When Pan Gu died, his breath became the wind and clouds, his voice the rolling thunder. One eye became the sun and on the moon. His body and limbs turned to five big mountains and his blood formed the roaring water. His veins became far-stretching roads and his muscles fertile land. The innumerable stars in the sky came from his hair and beard, and flowers and trees from his skin and the fine hairs on his body. His marrow turned to jade and pearls. His sweat flowed like the good rain and sweet dew that nurtured all things on earth. According to some versions of the Pan Gu legend, his tears flowed to make rivers and radiance of his eyes turned into thunder and lighting. When he was happy the sun shone, but when he was angry black clouds gathered in the sky.
One version of the legend has it that the fleas and lice on his body became the ancestors of mankind. The Pan Gu story has become firmly fixed in Chinese tradition. There is even an idiom relating to it: “Since Pan Gu created earth and the heavens,” meaning “for a very long time.” Nevertheless, it is rather a latecomer to the catalog of Chinese legends.
First mention of it is in a book on Chinese myths written by Xu Zheng in the Three Kingdoms period (CE 220-265). Some opinions hold that it originated in south China or southeast Asia. There are several versions of the Pan Gu story. Among the Miao, Yao, Li and other nationalities of south China, a legend concerns Pan Gu the ancestor of all mankind, with a man’s body and a dog’s head. It runs like this:
Up in Heaven the God in charge of the earth, King Gao Xin, owned a beautiful spotted dog. He reared him on a plate (pan in Chinese ) inside a gourd (hu, which is close to the sound gu ), so the dog was known as Pan Gu . Among the Gods there was great enmity between King Gao Xin and his rival King Fang. “Whoever can bring me the head of King Fang may marry my daughter, ” he proclaimed, but nobody was willing to try because they were afraid of King Fang’s strong soldiers and sturdy horses. The dog Pan Gu overheard what was said, and when Gao Xin was sleeping, slipped out of the palace and ran to King Fang. The latter was glad to see him standing there wagging his tail. “You see, King Gao Xin is near his end. Even his dog has left him,” Fang said, and held a banquet for the occasion with the dog at his side. At midnight when all was quiet and Fang was overcome with drink, Pan Gu jumped onto the king’s bed, bit off his head and ran back to his master with it . King Gao Xin was overjoyed to see the head of his rival, and gave orders to bring Pan Gu some fresh meat. But Pan Gu left the meat untouched and curled himself up in a corner to sleep. For three days he ate nothing and did not stir. The king was puzzled and asked, “Why don’t you eat? Is it because I failed to keep my promise of marrying a dog?” To his surprise Pan Gu began to speak. “Don’t worry, my King. Just cover me with your golden bell and in seven days and seven nights I’ll become a man.” The King did as he said, but on the sixth day, fearing he would starve to death, out of solicitude the princess peeped under the bell. Pan Gu’s body had already changed into that of a man, but his head was still that of a dog. However, once the bell was raised, the magic change stopped, and he had to remain a man with a dog’s head. He married the princess, but she didn’t want to be seen with such a man so they moved to the earth and settled in the remote mountains of south China. There they lived happily and had four children, three boys and a girl, who became the ancestors of mankind.
The Legend of Tan’gun The Wei Shu tells us that two thousand years ago, at the time of emperor Yao, Tangun Wanggom chose Asadal as his capital and founded the state of Chos’circon. The Old Record notes that in ancient times Hwanin’s son, Hwanung, wished to descend from heaven and live in the world of human beings. Knowing his son’s desire, Hwanin surveyed the three highest mountains and found Mount T’aebaek the most suitable place for his son to settle and help human beings. Therefore he gave Hwanung three heavenly seals and dispatched him to rule over the people. Hwanung descended with three thousand followers to a spot under a tree by the Holy Altar atop Mount T’aebaek, and he called this place the City of God. He was the Heavenly King Hwanung. Leading the Earl of Wind, the Master of Rain, and the Master of Clouds, he took charge of some three hundred and sixty areas of responsibility, including agriculture, allotted lifespans, illness, punishment, and good and evil, and brought culture to his people. At that time a bear and a tiger living in the same cave prayed to Holy Hwanung to transform them into human beings. The king gave them a bundle of sacred mugworts and twenty cloves of garlic and said, “If you eat these and shun the sunlight for one hundred days, you will assume human form.” Both animals ate the spices and avoided the sun. After twenty-one days the bear became a woman, but the tiger, unable to observe the taboo, remained a tiger. Unable to find a husband, the bear-woman prayed under the alter tree for a child. Hwanung metamorphosed himself, lay with her, and begot a son called Tangun Wanggom. In the fiftieth year of the reign of Emperor Yao, Tangun made the walled city of P’yongyang the capital and called his country Choson. He then moved his capital to Asadal on Mount Paegak, a lso named Mount Kunghol, whence he ruled for fifteen hundred years. When, in the year kimyo [1122 BC], King Wu of Chou enfeoffed Chi Tzu to Choson, Tangun moved to Changdangyong, but later he returned and hid in Asadal as a mountain god at the age of one thousand nine hundred and eight. The Lay of King Tongmyong In the third year of Shen-ch’ueh of Han, in early summer, when the Great Bear Stood in the Serpent, Haemosu came to Korea, a true Son of Heaven. He came down through the air in a five-dragon chariot, with a retinue of hundreds, robes streaming, riding on swans. The atmosphere echoed loudly with chiming music, and banners floated on the tinted clouds.
From ancient times men ordained to rule have come down from Heaven, but in daylight he came from the heart of the sky – a thing never before seen. In the mornings he dwelt among men, in the evenings he returned to his heavenly palace. The ancients have told us that between heaven and earth the distance is two thousand billion and eighteen thousand seven hundred and eighty ri. A scaling-ladder could not reach so far, flying pinions could not bear the strain, yet morning and evening he went and returned at will. By what power could he do it? North of the capital was the Green River, where the River Earl’s three beautiful daughters rose from the drake-neck’s green waves to play in the Bear’s Heart Pool. Their jade ornaments tinkled, their flowerlike beauty was modest — they might have been fairies of the Han River banks, or goddesses of the Lo River islets. The King, out hunting, espied them, was fascinated and lost his heart, not from lust for girls, but from eager desire for an heir. The three sisters saw him coming and plunged into the water to flee, so the King prepared a palace to hide in till they came back: He traced foundations with a riding whip: A bronze palace suddenly towered, silk cushions were spread, bright and elegant, golden goblets waited with fragrant wine. Soon the three maidens came in, and toasted each other until they were drunk. Then the king emerged from hiding; The startled girls ran, tripped, and tumbled on to the floor. The oldest was Willow Flower, and it was she whom the king caught. The Earl of the River raged in anger, and sent a speedy messenger to demand, “What rogue are you who dares behave so presumptuously?” “Son of the Heavenly Emperor,” replied Haemosu, “I’m asking for your noble daughter’s hand.” He beckoned to heaven: the dragon car came down, and straightaway he moved unto the Ocean Palace where the River Earl admonished him: “Marriage is a weighty matter, needing go-betweens and gifts. Why have you done these things? If you are God’s own heir, prove your powers of transmogrification!” Through the rippling, flowing green waters the River Earl leapt, transforming into a carp; the king turned at once into an otter that seized the carp before it could flee. The earl then sprouted wings, flying upward, transformed into a pheasant; but the king was a golden eagle and struck like a great bird of prey; the Earl sped away as a stag, the king pursued as wolf. The Earl then confessed that the king was divine, poured wine, and they drank to the contract. When the king was drunk, he was put in a leather bag, set beside the girl in his chariot, and set off with her to rise to Heaven together. But the car had not left the water before Haemosu woke from his stupor and, seizing the girl’s golden hairpin, pierced the leather and slid out through the hole, alone to mount the car beyond the crimson clouds. All was quiet; he did not return. The River Earl punished his daughter by stretching her lips three feet long, and throwing her into the Ubal stream with only two maidservants. A fisherman saw them in the eddies, creatures disporting themselves strangely, and reported the fact to King Komwa. An iron net was set in the torrent, and the woman was trapped on a rock, a monster of shocking appearance, whose long lips made her mute. Three times they were trimmed before she could speak. King Komwa recognized Haemosu’s wife, and gave unto her a palace where she might live. The sun shone in her breast and she bore Chumong in the fourth year of Shen-ch’ueh. His form was wonderful, his voice of mighty power. He was born from a pottle-sized egg that frightened all who saw it. The king thought it inauspicious, monstrous and inhuman, and put it into the horse corral, but the horses took care not to trample it; it was thrown down steep hills, but the wild beasts all protected it; its mother retrieved it and nurtured it, till the boy hatched. His first words were:”The flies are nibbling my eyes, I cannot lie and sleep in peace.” His mother made him a bow and arrows, And he never missed a shot. Years passed, he grew up, getting cleverer every day, and the crown prince of the Puyo began to grow jealous, saying, “This fellow Chumong is a redoubtable warrrior. If we do not act soon, he will become trouble later.” So the king sent Chumong to tend horses, to test his intentions. Chumong meditated, “For heaven’s grandson to be a mere herdsman is an unendurable shame.” Searching his heart, he sought the right way: “I had rather die than live like this. I would go southward, found a nation, build a city — but for my mother, whom it is hard to leave.” His mother heard his words and wept; but wiped her glistening tears: “Never mind about me. Rather I fear for your safety. A knight setting out on a journey needs a trusty stallion.” Together they went to the corral and thrashed the horses with long whips. The terrified animals milled about, but one horse, a beautiful bay, leapt over the two-fathom wall, and proved itself best of the herd. They fixed a needle in his tongue that stung him so he could not eat; in a day or two he wasted away and looked like a worn out jade. When the king came around to inspect, he gave this horse to Chumong, who took it, removed the needle, and fed the horse well, day and night. Then he made a compact with three friends, friends who were men of wisdom; they set off south till they reached the Om, but could find no ferry to cross. Chumong raised his whip to the sky, and uttered a long sad complaint: “Grandson of Heaven, Grandson of the River, I have come here in flight from danger. Look on my pitiful orphaned heart: Heaven and Earth, have you cast me off?” Gripping his bow, he struck the water: Fish and turtles hurried, heads and tails together, to form a great bridge, which the friends at once traversed. Suddenly, pursuing troops appeared and mounted the bridge; but it melted away. A pair of doves brought barley in their bills, messengers sent by his mysterious mother. He chose a site for his capital amid mountains and streams and thick-wooded hills. Seating himself on the royal mat as King Tongmyong, he ordered the ranks of his subjects. Alas for Songyang, king of Piryu, why was he so undiscerning? Was he a son of the immortal gods, who could not recognize a scion of Heaven? He asked Tongmyong to be his vassal, uttering rash demands, but could not hit the painted deer’s navel, and was amazed when Tongmyong split the jade ring; he found his drum and bugle changed and dared not call them his; he saw Tongmyong’s ancient pillars, then returned home biting his tongue. Tongmyong went hunting in the west, caught a tall snow-white deer, strung it up by the hind feet at Haewon, and produced a great malediction: “Let Heaven pour torrents on Piryu, and wash away his capital. I will not let you go till you help me vent my wrath.” The deer cried with great sounds so piteous they reached the ears of Heaven. And from the horrible music of the deer, a great rain fell for seven days, floods came like Huai joined with Ssu; Songyang was frightened and anxious. He had thick ropes stretched by the water, knights and peasants struggled to clutch them, sweating and gaping in fear. Then Tongmyong took his whip and drew a line at which the waters stopped. Songyang submitted and thereafter there was no argument. A dark cloud covered Falcon Pass, the crests of ridges were hidden, and thousands upon thousands of carpenters were heard hammering there. The king said, “Music from Heaven is for me preparing a great fortress up yonder.” Suddenly the mist dispersed and a palace stood out high and splendid, where Tongmyong ruled for nineteen years, till he rose to heaven and forsook his throne. Nuwa Makes Men Nuwa is the goddess who separated the heaven from the Earth, creating the Divine Land (China). She is the original ancestor of the Chinese nation. According to legend, Nuwa was also the younger sister of Emperor Fuxi (said to have lived during the third millennium BC) and she herself was an empress. The historical records say: Nuwa had the surname Feng; she had the body of a snake, a human head and the virtue of a divine being. She is also known as Mixi.
The name Nuwa first appears in one of the Elegies of Chu entitled Tian Wen: Nuwa loved peace and delighted in making things. She moulded figures from the yellow earth and gave them life and the ability to bear children: this is how humanity was created. When demons fought a terrible war, they broke the pillars which held the heavens up. The firmament cracked open and the human world was put in mortal peril. To save the lives of those she had created, Nuwa worked unceasingly, melting down the five-coloured stones to mend the breach. When the firmament was whole again, Nuwa, exhausted by her toil, lay down on the earth and was transformed into a vast mountain range. In this way, she nurtured the growth of the Chinese nation by providing a rich and fertile land. This well-known tale is known as ‘Nuwa Mends The Firmament.’ Amongst China’s ethnic minorities, another story has survived concerning how Emperor Fuxi came to take his sister Nuwa as his bride. This tale is known as A Brother And Sister Marry. The ferocious God of Thunder was captured by Fuxi’s father and imprisoned deep within a mountain cave. No one was allowed to visit him. Fuxi and N�wa could no longer bear to hear the Thunder God’s pitiable entreaties for water, but they dared not bring him any water. Eventually, the two of them shed tears which the god drank out of their cupped hands. The Thunder God was so strengthened by the tears that he burst out of his mountain prison. To repay Fuxi and Nuwa for their part in the rescue, the Thunder God pulled a long canine tooth from his mouth and gave it to them saying: “In three days, mankind will suffer a terrible calamity. You may use this tooth to keep yourselves safe from harm.” Having said this, the Thunder God leaped into the sky and disappeared. Three days later, the sky was filled with thunder and lightning. A tremendous storm broke out. Rain fell incessantly and the flood waters rose; huge waves swept across the earth and the entire human race was destroyed. As the flood began, the Thunder God’s tooth transformed itself into a boat. Safe aboard this vessel, Fuxi and his sister rode the waves and drifted with the tides. Only when the waters had subsided did Fuxi and Nuwa realise that they alone had survived the desolation. When they had grown into adults, Fuxi and Nuwa became husband and wife in order to bear descendants and establish a new human race.
This second story reflects the custom of intermarriage between blood relations in ancient China. It also shows why Nuwa is known as the mother of the Chinese nation. It is said that there were no men when the sky and the earth were separated. It was Nuwa who made men by moulding yellow clay. The work was so taxing that her strength was not equal to it. So she dipped a rope into the mud and then lifted it. The mud that dripped from the rope also became men. Those made by moulding yellow clay were rich and noble, while those made by lifting the rope were poor and low. – from Tai ping yu lan (Taiping Anthologies for the Emperor) Nuwa Mends the Sky In ancient times, the four corners of the sky collapsed and the world with its nine regions split open. The sky could not cover all the things under it, nor could the Earth carry all the things on it. A great fire raged and would not die out; a fierce flood raced about and could not be checked. Savage beasts devoured innocent people; vicious birds preyed on the weak and old. Then Nuwa melted rocks of five colours and used them to mend the cracks in the sky. She supported the four corners of the sky with the legs she had cut off from a giant turtle. She killed the black dragon to save the people of Jizhou, and blocked the flood with the ashes of reeds. Thus the sky was mended, its four corners lifted, the flood tamed, Jizhou pacified, and harmful birds and beasts killed, and the innocent people were able to live on the square Earth under the dome of the sky. It was a time when birds, beasts, insects and snakes no longer used their claws or teeth or poisonous stings, for they did not want to catch or eat weaker things. Nuwa’s deeds benefited the heavens above and the Earth below. Her name was remembered by later generations and her light shone on every creation. Now she was traveling on a thunder-chariot drawn by a two-winged dragon and two green hornless dragons, with auspicious objects in her hands and a special mattress underneath, surrounded by golden clouds, a white dragon leading the way and a flying snake following behind. Floating freely over the clouds, she took ghosts and gods to the ninth heaven and had an audience with the Heavenly Emperor at Lin Men, where she rested in peace and dignity under the emperor. She never boasted of her achievements, nor did she try to win any renown; she wanted to conceal her virtues, in line with the ways of the universe.
Jiang Taigong Meets King Wen When King Wen decided to go hunting, Bian, his official historian, burnt a tortoise shell to forecast the result. After reading the cracks he said, “Hunting on the north side of the Wei River is bound to bring a great gain. It will not be a dragon or a Chi, nor will it be a tiger or a bear. It will be a wise man sent by Heaven to be your minister and mentor.” King Wen got on his carriage, started the horses, and set out for the place. There he saw Jiang taigong sitting on the grass and fishing. – From Liu tao (Six Tactics) Zhou Xibo went hunting and on the north bank of the wei River he met Jiang Taigong. After talking with him, Xibo was very pleased, saying, “Before he died, my father had anticipated that Zhou would become prosperous when a sage came to us. Are you the sage? My father had long expected your arrival!” So he called him Taigong Wang (Father’s Expectation). He returned with Taigong, sharing his carriage with him, and was to treat him as his mentor. – From Shi ji (Records of the Grand Historian) King wen made Taigong the magistrate of Guantan. During the year Taigong was there, there was never a wind that was strong enough to disturb the leaves of the trees. Once in his dream, King Wen saw a beautiful woman weeping before his carriage. When asked the reason, she replied, “I am the daughter of the god of Mount Taishan and married to the god of the East sea. Now I want to go home, but the virtuous magistrate of Guantan makes the trip difficult. For my movements are always accompanied by a violent storm, which damage his good name.” After waking up, the king summoned Taigong to ask what had happened. He was told that a violent storm with pouring rain had swept areas outside Guantan that day. King Wen then promoted Taigong to the position of Chief General. – From Sou shen ji (Stories of Immortals)
Lord Brahma, Hindu God of Creation
Within the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Brahma is recognized as the creator of the Universe. Brahma is regarded as the Supreme Being, the god of gods. Lord Brahma is the originator and the generator of the mankind. Brahma symbolizes the universal mind, as creation is the work of the mind and the intellect. The daily alternation of light and dark is attributed to the activity of Brahma.
Brahma was born by being grown in a lotus out of the navel of the sleeping Vishnu. Brahma possesses greater than normal powers than most of the Hindu gods except for Vishnu and Shiva. He has superhuman strength, stamina and resistance to injury. He has extra-ordinary clairvoyance on a nearly omniscient level as well as the ability to tap into and manipulate mystical and cosmic energies equal to Vishnu, Odin or Zeus. Brahma is also credited with riding Hamsa, a great cosmic goose across the sky.
In order to create the world and produce the human race, Brahma made a goddess out of himself. One half was woman and the other half was man. Brahma called the woman Gayatri, but she also became known by many other names such as Saraswati.
Brahma sprouted five heads, so that he could watch Gayatri at all times. To restrain Brahma’s lust, Shiva wrenched off one of Brahma’s five heads. This helpedBrahma come to his senses, and he took Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, as his consort. With her help, he regained control of his mind. Brahma was later seen as having four heads. Brahma can be seen as a four-faced, four-armed, bearded deity. He carries a rose and a book in the upper hand; a water pot (Kamandala) in the lower hand and one hand is always there to bestow grace. The four faces represent the holy knowledge of the four Vedas (Riga, Yajur, Sama and Atharva). It symbolizes that Brahma is the foundation of all the knowledge required for the creation of the universe. The four arms represent the four directions and therefore symbolize that Lord Brahma is the omnipresent and the omnipotent.
The four Veda’s are said to have sprung from his heads. In the Life of Ganga, Brahma advised Bhagiratha to ask the help of Shiva in containing the power of Ganga (goddess of the Ganges river).
Although Brahma is one of the three major gods in Hinduism, few Hindus actually worship him. For creating the universe, Brahma became known as the lord of progeny. But he is not worshipped because he is responsible for distracting the mind away from the soul and towards the cravings of the flesh. India today has very few temples dedicated to Brahma alone as opposed to the tens of thousands of temples dedicated to the other deities in the Trimurti, namely Vishnu and Shiva.
There are various stories in Hindu mythology that talk about curses that have supposedly prevented Brahma from being worshipped on Earth.
Egyptian Creation Myths
Lower Kingdom Creation Myth Only the ocean existed at first. Then Ra (the sun) came out of an egg that appeared on the surface of the water. Ra brought forth four children, the gods Shu and Geb and the goddesses Tefnut and Nut. Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere. They stood on Geb, who became the earth, and raised up Nut, who became the sky. Ra ruled over all. Geb and Nut later had two sons, Set and Osiris, and two daughters, Isis and Nephthys. Osiris succeeded Ra as king of the earth, helped by Isis, his sister-wife. Set, however, hated his brother and killed him. Isis then embalmed her husband’s body with the help of the god Anubis, who thus became the god of embalming. The powerful charms of Isis resurrected Osiris, who became king of the netherworld, the land of the dead. Horus, who was the son of Osiris and Isis, later defeated Set in a great battle and became king of the earth.
(Upper Kingdom creation story) At first there was only Nun, the primal ocean of chaos that contained the beginnings of everything to come. From these waters came Ra who, by himself, gave birth to Shu and Tefnut. Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture gave birth to Geb and Nut, the earth god and the sky goddess. And so the physical universe was created. Men were created from Ra’s tears. They proved to be ungrateful so Ra, and a council of gods, decided they should be destroyed. Re created Sekhmet to do the job. She was very efficient and slaughtered all but a few humans, when Ra relented and tricked her into stopping. Thus was the present world created. Against Ra’s orders, Geb and Nut married. Ra was incensed and ordered Shu to separate them, which he did. But Nut was already pregnant, although unable to give birth as Ra had decreed she could not give birth in any month of any year. Thoth, the god of learning, decided to help her and gambling with the moon for extra light, was able to add five extra days to the 360-day calendar. On those five days Nut gave birth to Osiris, Horus the Elder, Set, Isis, and Nephthys successively. Osiris became the symbol of good, while Set became the symbol of evil. And thus the two poles of morality were fixed once and for all.
Judeo-Christian Mythology on Creation
Genesis 1-3King James Version (KJV)
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. 6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. 9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13 And the evening and the morning were the third day. 14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. 20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. 4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. 15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
3 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. 9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. http://crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/genesis.htm
In the Quran, Allah (God) tells us at many places about His power that created this universe. Allah mentions His perfect ability and infinite authority, since it is He Who has raised the heavens without pillars by His permission and order. He, by His leave, order and power, has elevated the heavens high above the earth, distant and far away from reach. The heaven nearest to the present world (first heaven) encompasses the earth from all directions, and is also high above it from every direction. Each of the heavens encompasses the one below it and the distance between each of the seven heavens is enormous. This shows the enormous size of the universe that is visible to us. The following are some of the verses from the Quran on universe:
Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then, He Istawa (rose above) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty). He has subjected the sun and the moon (to continue going round)! Each running (its course) for a term appointed. He regulates all affairs, explaining the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail, that you may believe with certainty in the meeting with your Lord. Quran, Surah Ar-Raad (Verse 2)
He also says: We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them for a (mere) play. Quran, Surah Al-Anbiya (Verse 16) See you not that Allah has subjected to you (mankind) all that is on the earth, and the ships that sail through the sea by His Command? He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except by His Leave. Verily, Allah is, for mankind, full of Kindness, Most Merciful. Quran, Surah Al-Hajj (Verse 65) Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? Quran, Surah Al-Anbiya, Verse 30 The Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it : “Be!” – and it is. (Quran 2:117) Reflections from these verses
- Allah’s ability and power is best affirmed when we wonder at the creation of the heaven that is elevated (above the earth) without pillars.
- Allah keeps the myriads of heavenly bodies in space without any visible and perceptible support.
- Though there is nothing apparent and visible supporting these bodies, there is an invariable and imperceptible Power which is not only holding and keeping them – including the earth we inhabit – in their proper places and orbits, but also prevents any collision between them.
- The whole universe belongs to Allah alone, and none besides Him has any right to service and worship.
- This world has been created with a definite purpose and not as a plaything.
- Allah does not put man to trial and conflict for the sake of mere fun.
- The purpose of the creation of this world is to stage a conflict between the Truth and falsehood.
- Falsehood has always been defeated and destroyed: this reality should be considered seriously.
- If one builds the system of life on the false presumption that it is mere fun, one will meet with the same consequences as the former people did, who presumed that the world was a mere show and pastime.
- A warning should be taken from the fate of the former peoples and the Message of Allah should be seriously.
- The Ayats refute the conception of life which was based on the assumption that man was free to do whatever he liked, and there was none to call him to account or take him to task: that there was no life in the Hereafter where one’s good deeds would be rewarded and evil deeds punished. In other words, this meant that the whole universe had been created without any serious purpose and therefore there was no need to pay any heed to the Message of the Prophet.
(References: Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an, and Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
“And Allah has created every moving creature from water” (Q. Ch. 24, V. 45) ü “And He (Allah) it is Who created man from water…. (Q. Ch. 25, V. 54) “Certainly, (it is Allah) Who splits the grain and the date stone (seed). He brings forth the living (animate) from the dead (inanimate) and He is the bringer forth of the dead from the living. That is Allah then how are you turned away (from the truth)?” (Q. Ch. 6. V. 96). “And there is not an animal in the earth nor a bird that flies on its two wings but (they are) communities (species) like those of yours…” (Q. Ch. 6. V. 38) Creation of Man: If the principle of organic evolution is valid, man as a physical being has a succession of ancestors extending far back to the history of life on earth and in common with other plants and animals might have evolved from one or few simple living beings, having passed through various stages of plant and animal life, taking millions of years to reach his present form. This conclusion is based on indirect evidences such as, fossils, similarities in embryos and other biological aspects of man and some animals. Biologically, man is regarded as a vertebrate, a mammal and a primal. Let us see what the Quran states on the subject of origin of man: Substance of Creation: 1 “He (Allah) it is Who created you from clay…” (Q. Ch. 6, V. 2) 2 “And We had created man from mud (containing sand and clay) with black (carbon particles) which had traversed…” (Q. Ch. 15, V. 26) 3 “And We have created man from something taken out from wet clay:…” (Q. Ch. 23, V. 12) 4 “…and He began the creation of man from clay.” (Q. Ch. 32. V. 7). 5 “…We certainty created them (men) from sticking clay.” (Q. Ch. 37, V. 11). 6 “And Allah created you from the soil.” . (Q.Ch.35.V.11) 7 “He created man from mud (containing sand and clay), like (that used in) pottery.” (Q. Ch. 55, V. 14) 8 “When your Fosterer said to the angels I am creating man from clay, so when I set him in balance and I breathe into him of My spirit, then fall bowing down before him.” (Q. Ch. 38, V. 71-72) The Arabic words used for indicating the material from which man’s creation was started are teen, turab etc., which have been translated as clay, soil, mud etc. probably to emphasise on the degree of fineness of the material used. Atoms, molecules and colloids such as clays, are finest materials known to science. Do the Quranic verses cited above, convey the meaning that man’s creation was started from matter existing in a very fine state such as atoms, molecules or colloids? While discussing the origin of the universe, we will see that the material from which the universe was created was hydrogen according to the science and smoke or vapour according to the Quran. Terms like smoke, dust, mud etc. are easily understood by common man, whereas the understanding of the terms like hydrogen, atoms, molecules, colloids etc., requires a scientific background, besides such words in Arabic language, were not in existence at the time of the revelation of the Quran. In a book like the Quran, which is to be read by people of all standards and all times, including those of the past generations when the knowledge of scientific subjects was definitely less than what it is now, general terms such as smoke, clay etc., are bound to be used. The reason applied for considering vapour or smoke to mean hydrogen can be applied in the case of origin of man and the terms clay, dust, mud etc., could be taken to mean atoms, molecules or colloids. If, this reasoning is correct, then the material from which man was created would be the same both according to the Quran and science. Besides, clay or mud also contain organic matter and all are composed of atoms and molecules. We are, however, not sure whether the clay, or mud from which man’s creation was started, belonged to the earth or some other heavenly body where according to cosmo-chemistry, atoms and molecules of various chemical elements including some organic compounds, have been found to occur.
The Quran on the same subject further states; ü “And He (Allah) Is is Who created man from the water..” (Q, Ch. 25, V. 54) ü “And Allah created every moving creature from water…” (Q. Ch. 24, V. 45). Do these verses indicate, that the creation of all living beings, including man, started in and from water which contained atoms, molecules and colloids of different elements and thus confirms the inference drawn by science that life originated in water or it refers to water which all living beings contain in their bodies or water that sustains life? Place of Creation On the subject of place of creation of man, following verses of the Quran deserve consideration: ü “From it (ie earth) We created you and into it We shall send you back and from it will We raise you a second time.” (Q. Ch. 20. V. 55) ü “…He knows you best when He brings you forth from the earth and when you are embryos in the wombs of your mothers, so do not attribute purity to your souls…” (Q. Ch. 53. V. 32). ü “And Allah has made you grow out of the earth as a growth, then He returns you to it, then will He bring you forth a (new) bringing forth.” (Q. Ch. 71, V. 17 & 18) These verses may refer to mankind in general. Parents take food which is a product of the earth and which is converted to sperm in man and egg in a woman, which again on combining give birth to human offspring. This would not only mean that mankind has been created from earth but also that mankind grew out of the earth as a growth, in a manner similar to plants which grow out of the earth by taking their food from the earth. Contrary to this, if the above Quranic verses refer to the original creation of man, then clay, soil or mud from which man’s creation was started, belonged to the earth. Manner of Creation: Let us try to find out from the Quran, the manner in which man reached his present physical state, whether through evolution i.e. bypassing through various stages of plant and animal life as earlier believed by scientists or by first being moulded in the form of a statue of mud and life being put into him later, as narrated in various Islamic traditions other than the Quran. Following verses of the Quran deserve consideration in this regard; ü “There surely came over man a period of time when he was not a thing that could be spoken of. ( Q. Ch. 76. V. 1 ) ü “Say: Travel in the earth and see how Allah began the creation, then Allah produces the later generation; surely Allah has power over all things.” (Q. Ch. 29. V. 20) Do these verses refer to past life and fossils which made scientists believe in the evolution of life? ü “And indeed He has created you through various grades.” (Q. Ch. 71, V. 14) This verse could refer to various stages encountered during the birth of human beings or to stages of knowledge and civilization. One thing is definite: ALLAH CREATED MAN. http://quranicresources.com/Life.htm
Was Woman Created from Man’s Ribs – Explanation of a Hadith
- What is the meaning of the following hadith?
Sahih Bukhari Volume 4 Book 55 #548
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Treat women nicely, for a woman is created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion, so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked.Â So treat women nicely”
The Bible says that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, but the Quran does not say this.Â Was the Prophet (sAas) saying that the Torah is correct, so that it is just that the Qur’an did not mention this part of the story?Â Or is this a saying that has been incorrectly attributed to the Prophet (sAas)?
And what does it mean that women will ‘remain crooked’ if left alone?Â Surely women are not crooked by nature!
Timeline: Human Evolution
55 million years ago (MYA)
First primitive primates evolve
8 – 6 MYA
First gorillas evolve. Later, chimp and human lineages diverge
Orrorin tugenensis, oldest human ancestor thought to have walked on two legs
Ardipithecus, early “proto-human” shares traits with chimps and gorillas, and is forest-dwelling
Australopithecines appear. They have brains no larger than a chimpanzee’s – with a volume around 400 – 500 cm3 -, but walk upright on two legs. First human ancestors to live on the savannah
Lucy, famous specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, lives near what is now Hadar, Ethiopia
Paranthropus, lives in woods and grasslands, has massive jaws for chewing on roots and vegetation. Becomes extinct 1.2 MYA
Homo habilis appears. Its face protrudes less than earlier hominids, but still retains many ape features. Has a brain volume of around 600 cm3
Hominids start to use stone tools regularly, created by splitting pebbles – this starts Oldowan tradition of toolmaking, which last a million years
Some hominids develop meat-rich diets as scavengers, the extra energy may have favoured the evolution of larger brains
Evidence of Homo ergaster, with a brain volume of up to 850 cm3, in Africa
1.8 – 1.5 MYA
Homo erectus is found in Asia. First true hunter-gatherer ancestor, and also first to have migrated out of Africa in large numbers. It attains a brain size of around 1000 cm3
Neanderthals appear and are found across Europe, from Britain in the west to Iran in the east, until they become extinct with the advent of modern humans 28,000 years ago
Our own species Homo sapiens appears on the scene – and shortly after begins to migrate across Asia and Europe. Oldest modern human remains are two skulls found in Ethiopia that date to this period. Average human brain volume is 1350 cm3
Mitochondrial Eve, the direct ancestor to all living people today, may have been living in Africa
“Great leap forward”: human culture starts to change much more rapidly than before; people begin burying their dead ritually; create clothes from animal hides; and develop complex hunting techniques, such as pit-traps.
Colonisation of Australia by modern humans
Oldest cave art. Later, Stone Age artisans create the spectacular murals at Lascaux and Chauvet in France
Homo erectus dies out in Asia – replaced by modern man
Homo Floresiensis, “Hobbit” people, found on the Indonesian island of Flores. They stand just over 1 metre tall, and have brains similar in size to chimpanzees, yet have advanced stone tools
Stone Age ends and Bronze Age begins. Humans begin to smelt and work copper and tin, and use them in place of stone implements
Earliest known writing
4,000 to 3,500 BC
The Sumerians of Mesopotamia develop the world’s first civilisation
What is the basic timeline of the Old Testament?
The following timeline of the Old Testament has been compiled with the assumption that the genealogies are literal and complete. If so, God created the world about 6000 years ago. All years are approximate.
Creation to the Flood
The Big Bang and the formation of the Universe
The Big Bang
The universe begins with a cataclysm that generates space and time, as well as all the matter and energy the universe will ever hold. For an incomprehensibly small fraction of a second, the universe is an infinitely dense, hot fireball. The prevailing theory describes a peculiar form of energy that can suddenly push out the fabric of space. At 10-35 to 10-33 seconds a runaway process called “Inflation” causes a vast expansion of space filled with this energy. The inflationary period is stopped only when this energy is transformed into matter and energy as we know it.
The Universe Takes Shape
After inflation, one millionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe continues to expand but not nearly so quickly. As it expands, it becomes less dense and cools. The most basic forces in nature become distinct: first gravity, then the strong force, which holds nuclei of atoms together, followed by the weak and electromagnetic forces. By the first second, the universe is made up of fundamental particles and energy: quarks, electrons, photons, neutrinos and less familiar types. These particles smash together to form protons and neutrons.
Formation of Basic Elements
Protons and neutrons come together to form the nuclei of simple elements: hydrogen, helium and lithium. It will take another 300,000 years for electrons to be captured into orbits around these nuclei to form stable atoms.
The Radiation Era
The first major era in the history of the universe is one in which most of the energy is in the form of radiation — different wavelengths of light, X rays, radio waves and ultraviolet rays. This energy is the remnant of the primordial fireball, and as the universe expands, the waves of radiation are stretched and diluted until today, they make up the faint glow of microwaves which bathe the entire universe.
Beginning the Era of Matter Domination
At this moment, the energy in matter and the energy in radiation are equal. But as the relentless expansion continues, the waves of light are stretched to lower and lower energy, while the matter travels onward largely unaffected. At about this time, neutral atoms are formed as electrons link up with hydrogen and helium nuclei. The microwave background radiation hails from this moment, and thus gives us a direct picture of how matter was distributed at this early time.
Birth of Stars and Galaxies
300 million years
Gravity amplifies slight irregularities in the density of the primordial gas. Even as the universe continues to expand rapidly, pockets of gas become more and more dense. Stars ignite within these pockets, and groups of stars become the earliest galaxies. This point is still perhaps 12 to 15 billion years before the present.
Birth of the Sun
5 Billion Years Before the Present (BP)
The sun forms within a cloud of gas in a spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. A vast disk of gas and debris that swirls around this new star gives birth to planets, moons, and asteroids . Earth is the third planet out.
3.8 Billion Years BP
The Earth has cooled and an atmosphere develops. Microscopic living cells, neither plants nor animals, begin to evolve and flourish in earth’s many volcanic environments.
Primitive Animals Appear
700 Million Years BP
These are mostly flatworms, jelly fish and algae. By 570 million years before the present, large numbers of creatures with hard shells suddenly appear.
The First Mammals Appear
200 Million Years BP
The first mammals evolved from a class of reptiles that evolved mammalian traits, such as a segmented jaw and a series of bones that make up the inner ear.
Dinosaurs Become Extinct
65 Million Years BP
An asteroid or comet slams into the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This world-wide cataclysm brings to an end the long age of the dinosaurs, and allows mammals to diversify and expand their ranges.
Homo Sapiens Evolve
600,000 Years BP
Our earliest ancestors evolve in Africa from a line of creatures that descended from apes.
Supernova 1987A Explodes
170,000 Years BP
A star explodes in a dwarf galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud that lies just beyond the Milky Way. The star, known in modern times as Sanduleak 69-202, is a blue supergiant 25 times more massive than the Sun. Such explosions distribute all the common elements such as Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Calcium and Iron into interstellar space where they enrich clouds of Hydrogen and Helium that are about to form new stars. They also create the heavier elements (such as gold, silver, lead, and uranium) and distribute these as well. Their remnants generate the cosmic rays which lead to mutation and evolution in living cells. These supernovae, then, are key to the evolution of the Universe and to life itself.
Crab Supernova Appears
A new star in the constellation Taurus outshines Venus. Chinese, Japanese, and Native American observers record the appearance of a supernova. It is not, however, recorded in Europe, most likely as a consequence of lack of study of nature during the Dark Ages. The remnants of this explosion are visible today as the Crab Nebula. Within the nebula, astronomers have found a pulsar, the ultra-dense remains of a star that blew up.
Galileo Builds the First Telescope
Five years after the appearance of the great supernova of 1604, Galileo builds his first telescope. He sees the moons of Jupiter, Saturn’s rings, the phases of Venus, and the stars in the Milky Way. He publishes the news the following year in “The Starry Messinger.”
Isaac Newton Describes Gravity
At the age of 23, young Isaac Newton realizes that gravitational force accounts for falling bodies on earth as well as the motion of the moon and the planets in orbit. This is a revolutionary step in the history of thought, as it extends the influence of earthly behavior to the realm of the heavens. One set of laws, discovered and tested on our planet, will be seen to govern the entire universe.
Albert Einstein Publishes Theory of Relativity
The first of his many seminal contributions to twentieth century science, relativity recognizes the speed of light as the absolute speed limit in the universe and, as such, unites the previously separate concepts of space and time into a unified spacetime. Eleven years later, his General Theory of Relativity replaces Newton’s model of gravity with one in which the gravitational force is interpreted as the response of bodies to distortions in spacetime which matter itself creates. Predictions of black holes and an expanding Universe are immediate consequences of this revolutionary theory which remains unchallenged today as our description of the cosmos.
Edwin Hubble Discovers that the Universe is Expanding
Edwin Hubble discovers that the universe is expanding. The astronomer Edwin Hubble uses the new 100-inch telescope on Mt. Wilson in Southern California to discover that the farther away a galaxy is, the more its light is shifted to the red. And the redder a galaxy’s light, the faster it is moving away from us. By describing this “Doppler shift,” Hubble proves that the universe is not static, but is expanding in all directions. He also discovers that galaxies are much further away than anyone had thought.
Discovery of Quasars
Allan Sandage and Thomas Matthews find sources of intense radio energy, calling them Quasi Stellar Radio Sources. Four years later, Maarten Schmidt would discover that these sources lie at the edge of the visible universe. In recent years, astronomers have realized that they are gigantic black holes at the centers of young galaxies into which matter is heated to high temperatures and glows brightly as it rushes in.
Discovery of Microwave Background Radiation
Scientists at the Bell Telephone Laboratories discovered microwave radiation that bathes the earth from all directions in space. This radiation is the afterglow of the Big Bang.
Discovery of Pulsars
A graduate student, Jocelyn Bell, and her professor, Anthony Hewish, discover intense pulsating sources of radio energy, known as pulsars. Pulsars were the first known examples of neutron stars, extremely dense objects that form in the wake of some supernovae. The crab pulsar is the remnant of the bright supernova recorded by Native Americans and cultures around the world in the year 1054 A.D.
Light from Supernova 1987A Reaches Earth
The light from this supernova reaches earth, 170,000 years after is parent star exploded. Underground sensors in the United States and Japan first detect a wave of subatomic particles known as neutrinos from the explosion. Astronomers rush to telescopes in the southern hemisphere to study the progress of the explosion and perfect models describing the violent deaths of large stars.
Hubble Space Telescope Launched
The twelve-ton telescope, equipped with a 94-inch mirror, is sent into orbit by astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Within two months, a flaw in its mirror is discovered, placing in jeopardy the largest investment ever in astronomy.
Big Bang Confirmed
Astronomers use the new Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE) to take a detailed spectrum of the microwave background radiation. These studies showed that the radiation is in nearly perfect agreement with the Big Bang theory. Two years later, scientists used the same instrument to discover minute variations in the background radiation: the earliest known evidence of structure in the universe.
Hubble Space Telescope Repaired
Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor succeed in correcting Hubble’s flawed optics, ushering in a spectacular new age of astronomy from space. Hubble’s greatest legacy so far: detailed images of galaxies near the limits of the visible universe.
Discussions in Part 2