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Practical Basis of Cosmogony


In this section, Livingston’s makes the point that myths of cosmogony are not primarily concerned with idle speculation about how the world began or with what we would call scientific explanations of the origin of the cosmos. Rather, myths of cosmogony function to re-establish contact with the sacred time of original beginnings, and in so doing, to model for us how the world, society, and individual lives are supposed to be ordered

Basically, Livingston is following Eliade’s ideas about myth. It may also be helpful to keep in mind my earlier suggestion that we could use the term “foundational story” in place of myth. The myth may or may not reflect what “really happened.” That, however, is not the point of foundational stories. To put it simply, foundational stories provide humanity with what science cannot: they provide meaning and purpose. They tell us what life is supposed to be like; how time and space should be organized; why things are the way they are. At this point in time, science simply cannot address these issues. Science can tell us what happens in certain circumstances; it cannot tell us why in terms of meaning and purpose. Eliade’s point (as well as Livingston) is that myth or foundation story’s are concerned with meaning. According to Eliade, that meaning is found in stories of origins.