An Introduction to Mythology
Page: 70After giving an account of the creation, or rather the evolution of the elements, the Vishnu Purana goes on to say: "Then (the elements) ether, air, light, water, and earth, severally united with the properties of sound, and the rest existed as distinguishable according to their qualities as soothing, terrific, or stupefying; but possessing various energies, and being unconnected, they could not without combination create living beings, not having blended with each other. Having combined, therefore, with one another, they assumed, through their mutual association, the character of one mass of entire unity; and from the direction of spirit, with the acquiescence of the indiscrete principle, intellect, and the rest, to the gross elements inclusive, formed an egg, which gradually expanded like a bubble of water. This vast egg, compounded of the elements, and resting on the waters, was the excellent natural abode of Vishnu in the form of Brahma; and there Vishnu, the lord of the universe, whose essence is inscrutable, assumed a perceptible form, and even he himself abided in it in the character of Brahma. Its womb, vast as the mountain Meru, was composed of the mountains; and the mighty oceans were the waters that filled its cavity. In that egg were the continents and seas and mountains, the planets and divisions of the universe, the gods, the demons, and mankind.
"Affecting then the quality of activity, Hari the lord of all, himself becoming Brahma, engaged in the creation of the universe. Vishnu, with the quality of goodness and of immeasurable power, preserves created things through successive[Pg 163] ages, until the close of the period termed a Kalpa; when the same mighty deity, invested with the quality of darkness, assumes the awful form of Rudra, and swallows up the universe. Having thus devoured all things, and converted the world into one vast ocean, the supreme reposes upon his mighty serpent couch amidst the deep: he awakes after a season, and again, as Brahma, becomes the author of creation."
Turning to ancient Egypt, that dark ocean of myth and mystery, we find in papyrus 10,188, housed in the British Museum, an account of the origin of things written for a priest of Panopolis, called Nes-Amsu, about the year 312 B.C. This papyrus contains many things, chiefly of magical import, but its interest for us is that it introduces two varying accounts of the Egyptian idea of the creation, both of which are a little vague and obscure. In the first, the god Neb-er-tcher, a form of Ra the sun-god, tells how, through his godlike might, all things came into being. Taking upon himself the shape of Khepera, the deity symbolizing creation, he made himself and other "new things," in fact, a whole world, "out of his mouth." The place where he performed this feat was the watery abyss of Nu, from which certain considerations lead us to suppose he took his materials. Says Khepera:
"I found no place there (in Nu) whereon I could stand. I worked a charm upon my own heart. I laid a foundation in Maa. I made every form. I was one by myself, I had not emitted from myself the god Shu, I had not spit out from myself the goddess Tefnut. There was no other being who worked with me."
Thus Khepera alone was creator; nor did he have any solid surface to stand upon during the performance of his creative act. To remove the difficulty he worked a charm upon, or made a foundation in, his own heart—that is, by some magical act he found a foothold in the abyss while he produced all things. "There came into being multitudes of things from the things of what was produced"—that is, the objects which had emanated from Khepera continued the work of creation of their own[Pg 164] accord. Khepera then produced the god and goddess Shu and Tefnut. Men and women then appeared from his tears. The sun was manufactured from an eye of the god, as was the moon. Plants and creeping things began to grow and move on the surface of the earth, so that they cannot have been included in the original 'things' created by the god. Finally Shu and Tefnut produced the pantheon of the elder gods, and these deities multiplied offspring in the earth.