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The Creation Hymn of Rig Veda

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There was neither non-existence nor existence then.

There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.

What stirred?


In whose protection?

Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?

There was neither death nor immortality then.

There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day.

That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse.

Other than that there was nothing beyond.

Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning,

with no distinguishing sign, all this was water.

The life force that was covered with emptiness,

that One arose through the power of heat.

Desire came upon that One in the beginning,

that was the first seed of mind.

Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom

found the bond of existence and non-existence.

Their cord was extended across.

Was there below?

Was there above?

There were seed-placers, there were powers.

There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.

Who really knows?

Who will here proclaim it?

Whence was it produced?

Whence is this creation?

The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.

Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whence this creation has arisen

– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not –

the One who looks down on it,

in the highest heaven, only He knows

or perhaps He does not know.

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Yes. the Indo-European religions typically do not have creator gods. Here are excerpts from another expression from the late Western side of the culture area, Ovid's Metamorphoses, opening of Book One, written for Imperial Romans at the turn of the Common Era. The headings are mine for navigation, and mark omitted text. The translation is in the public domain.

In another current thread here at UM, there is discussion of the different structures and themes of creation myths. The typical Indo-European creation is free of divine conflict, and metaphorically depicts the emergence of consciousness from an unconscious ground. Since the creator isn't part of the religion's pantheon, there is uncertainty about the agent's identity.

Pre-existing Chaos

Before the seas, and this terrestrial ball,

And Heav'n's high canopy, that covers all,

One was the face of Nature; if a face:

Rather a rude and indigested mass:

A lifeless lump, unfashion'd, and unfram'd,

Of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos nam'd.

No sun was lighted up, the world to view;

No moon did yet her blunted horns renew:

Nor yet was Earth suspended in the sky,

Nor pois'd, did on her own foundations lye:

Nor seas about the shores their arms had thrown;

But earth, and air, and water, were in one.

Thus air was void of light, and earth unstable,

And water's dark abyss unnavigable.

No certain form on any was imprest;

All were confus'd, and each disturb'd the rest.

For hot and cold were in one body fixt;

And soft with hard, and light with heavy mixt.

But God, or Nature, while they thus contend,

To these intestine discords put an end:

Then earth from air, and seas from earth were driv'n,

And grosser air sunk from aetherial Heav'n.

Thus disembroil'd, they take their proper place;

The next of kin, contiguously embrace;

And foes are sunder'd, by a larger space.

The force of fire ascended first on high,

And took its dwelling in the vaulted sky:

Then air succeeds, in lightness next to fire;

Whose atoms from unactive earth retire.

Earth sinks beneath, and draws a num'rous throng

Of pondrous, thick, unwieldy seeds along.

About her coasts, unruly waters roar;

And rising, on a ridge, insult the shore.

Thus when the God, whatever God was he,

Had form'd the whole, and made the parts agree,

That no unequal portions might be found,

He moulded Earth into a spacious round:

Then with a breath, he gave the winds to blow;

And bad the congregated waters flow.

Echo of the creation of the gods

High o'er the clouds, and empty realms of wind,

The God a clearer space for Heav'n design'd;

Where fields of light, and liquid aether flow;

Purg'd from the pondrous dregs of Earth below.

Scarce had the Pow'r distinguish'd these, when streight

The stars, no longer overlaid with weight,

Exert their heads, from underneath the mass;

And upward shoot, and kindle as they pass,

And with diffusive light adorn their heav'nly place.

Then, every void of Nature to supply,

With forms of Gods he fills the vacant sky:

New herds of beasts he sends, the plains to share:

New colonies of birds, to people air:

And to their oozy beds, the finny fish repair.

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Ah, Ovidius' Metamorphoses according to Garth's translation !

Maybe I should have added that I only posted the hymn because of it's beauty, not because I wanted to discuss it.

Also because I found it kind of amazing that such a 'broad-minded' vision existed milllennia ago.

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