BLS 300 – Visions of the Creation
August 5, 2010
Vision of Humanity
Human beings like things to be explained; they like to feel like they understand the world around them. Because of this, we have myths, created by cultures all over the world to explain the unexplainable. Many of these myths describe how humanity came to exist in the first place. Myths of this nature deal with some very basic concepts, and form the basis of a vision of humanity. Creation myths attempt to explain why man exists and what man’s purpose is. In the last century or so, science has also attempted to explain the unexplainable, though doing so under the guise of hypotheses and facts rather than belief. In each instance however, the goal is the same: to explain how we came to exist, why we continue to exist, and what we should be doing while we’re here. The question we ask ourselves is: do the various visions with all their differences still speak to a common answer regarding mankind’s place and purpose?
There have been many cultures throughout the known history of our planet, and each of those cultures has had their own vision of humanity, their own concept of how mankind came to exist and what mankind’s purpose should be. Some of those visions were strikingly similar, such as the visions of the African tribal religions, the Indian religions, the visions of the North American tribes, and of the East Asian and Pacific Islands cultures. In these cases we found that man’s place was as part of Nature, perhaps unique in it but still with a need to live in harmony with it. Others, such as the Mesopotamian, Christian/Hebrew, and the South American Indian cultures are also similar in the way they express their visions, where mankind is a special creation, superior to the Natural world, and his purpose is to serve God’s will.
With these very noticeable differences, is it possible to say that there is a common vision through all the world’s cultures and religions? It is true there seem to be two very distinct types of visions, visions which seem to be split between the simple, more tribal cultures and the more complex city-state type of civilizations. But there are similarities even between the two that I feel support the idea that a common vision can be found. One of these ideas is that mankind is special in some way. The creation myths in the majority of the areas we have examined describe mankind’s creation as being a separate event from that of the rest of the world. This supports the notion that according to most if not all of the religions of the world, mankind’s place is unique among the rest of the natural world. Along with this, there is common ground in the existence of a separation between the Divine in whatever form it takes and mankind. Even in the Indian religions, where it is mankind’s goal to reunite with the Divine, and in the visions of Plato and the Stoics, mankind is separated from the Divine, though not in the same was as is seen in the Christian ‘fall’.
There might seem to be fewer similarities when it comes to mankind’s role or purpose in the world, but even though the details may be different, I think the majority of the visions express a need to learn and establish proper connections. In some visions, such as the Near East, the Indian religions and the South American civilizations, the learning must be done in order to appease the Divine; in other visions, such as the African, North American, and Pacific Island and Australian religions, the learning simply helps mankind live in this world. All of these visions, as expressed through their myths, still focus on the connections required to live a proper life; connections with each other, with the natural world, and with the Divine. The need for balance is a stronger connection, and can be seen throughout most of the cultures we have examined, from the Hebrew and Christian concept of good and evil, to the Indian visions which seek balance and harmony in order to reconnect with the Divine, to the Chinese and Japanese thought of Yin and Yang or In and Yo, and even in the African and North American view that mankind must live in harmony with the natural world.
These details support a common vision between the world’s many religions; everything else is details. A religious vision of mankind’s place and role in this world is therefore as a unique creation of the Divine, a creature who must simply work to find balance and knowledge within himself, among his community and in the natural world.
Science tells us similar things regarding our place and purpose in the world. Science tells us that we are not special in creation, though we are likely unique. It tells us that we are connected to all things, and that it is important that we find and strengthen those connections where we can, and that we not try to assert our will, our dominance on the natural world; when we do that, bad things happen. The vision of science proposes a need for learning, for harmony and balance, and that we all came from the same ‘stuff’ of creation. This vision is not too terribly dissimilar from the vision of the world’s many religions, and not dissimilar from the common visions between them.
If mankind can come to accept that belief and fact are not mutually exclusive, then I believe that the time will come that these two visions can be reconciled. In such a vision, belief and fact would have their own place within the sacred reality, and mankind would have the ability to form its own individual vision from a pool of common ideas. In such a vision it would not matter if one believed that the world and all existence were created by a Divine being, a Sacred Fire, or a sudden explosion. In such a vision mankind would know that he must use all the tools available to him in order to create harmony and balance in all aspects of his life.