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Overview


In this brief unit, we will delve further into the question of cosmogony. A cosmogony can be defined as a myth (or foundational story) that provides an “an account of the emergence or creation of world order.” In other words, a cosmogony can be thought of as a particular kind of myth. It might be helpful at this point to review some of the main points that were made about myth and sacred language in an earlier unit. While Livingston could have explored cosmogony in the general context of myth, he has chosen to explore this particular type of story in a separate unit. There is logic to placing the study of cosmogony at this point in our study. On the one hand, almost every cosmogony assumes some sort of conception of the divine. In other words, in cosmogonies, the leading characters are usually a deity. Thus, the cosmogony reflects one or more categories of the divine that were discussed in the previous unit. On the other hand, cosmogonies deal with fundamental question of good and evil, right and wrong, as well as the status of humankind and the sacred. Each of these questions will be dealt with in the subsequent units when we turn our attention to theodicy, anthropology, ethics, etc. The unit on cosmogony thus serves as an introduction to the important topics that arise from these “creation stories.”

This unit is organized so that the practical importance of cosmogonies in introduced first. Then, we will consider several types of cosmogonies. Again, you will need to keep in mind that these categories are not always mutually exclusive. In many cases, elements of one kind of cosmogony will be found within another type. You should also be mindful of the fact that many religious traditions have more than one cosmogony; that is, their scriptures may contain more than one type of creation story.