Monday, October 26, 2015

Origins: Cosmogony

Magnum Chaos represented by Lorenzo Lotto, at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo.

Cosmogony: a theory or story of the origin and development of the universe, the solar system, or the earth-moon system. (Source)

In the Theogony the initial state of the universe, or the origin (arche) is Chaos, a gaping void(abyss) considered as a divine primordial condition, from which appeared everything that exists. Then came Gaia (Earth), Tartarus (the cave-like space under the earth; the later-born Erebus is the darkness in this space), and Eros (representing sexual desire - the urge to reproduce - instead of the emotion of love as is the common misconception). Hesiod made an abstraction because his original chaos is something completely indefinite.

By contrast, in the Orphic cosmogony the unaging Chronos produced Aether and Chaos and made a silvery egg in divine Aether. From it appeared the androgynous god Phanes, identified by the Orphics as Eros, who becomes the creator of the world.

Some similar ideas appear in the Vedic and Hindu cosmologies. In the Vedic cosmology the universe is created from nothing by the great heat. Kāma (Desire) the primal seed of spirit, is the link which connected the existent with the non-existent. In the Hindu cosmology, in the beginning there was nothing in the universe but only darkness and the divine essence who removed the darkness and created the primordial waters. His seed produced the universal germ (Hiranyagarbha), from which everything else appeared.
In the Babylonian creation story Enuma Elish the universe was in a formless state and is described as a watery chaos. From it emerged two primary gods, the male Apsu and female Tiamat, and a third deity who is the maker Mummu and his power for the progression of cosmogonic births to begin.

In Genesis, the world in its early state after its creation is described as "without form and void". Elohim commanded that there be light, while the spirit of Elohim moved upon the face of the waters.
Norse mythology also describes Ginnungagap as the primordial abyss from which sprang the first living creatures, including the giant Ymir whose body eventually became the world, whose blood became the seas, and so on; another version describes the origin of the world as a result of the fiery and cold parts of Hel colliding. (Source)

One of the most enduringly successful Arabic geographies of the Islamic Middle Ages is the Ajaib al-Makhluqat(The wonders of creation) by the Persian author Zakariya Qazwini (d. 1283 or 1284). Two of the many copies known to exist are reproduced here. The first, from a manuscript copied in Turkey circa 1553, depicts a map, oriented to the south, with an angel holding a bowl of water that contains a fish on whose back is the globe-bearing ox. The second, a testament to the work's continuing popularity, portrays the mythical bird, the Anka(Phoenix), in a Chagatai Turkish edition lithographed in the Central Asian city of Tashkent in 1917. (source)

Cosmogony can be distinguished from cosmology, which studies the universe at large and throughout its existence, and which technically does not inquire directly into the source of its origins. There is some ambiguity between the two terms. (source)

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model accounts for the fact that the universe expanded from a very high density and high temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure and Hubble's Law. If the known laws of physics are extrapolated beyond where they are valid, there is a singularity. Modern measurements place this moment at approximately 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies. (source)
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