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Perhaps the essential myth of all those that exist is that of the cosmogony, or the birth of the universe. This myth has taken incredibly many forms in the course of history, but it should be noticed that all of these forms postulate the existence of a divine will behind the creation of the world, be it a single God as in Christian doctrine or many divinities as in the ancient eastern or western mythologies: "Always related to a "creation," it tells how something came into existence, or how a pattern of behavior, an institution, a manner of working were established; this is why myths constitute the paradigms for all significant human acts. (Eliade, 18) the essence of the cosmogonic myth is the fact that it recreates the origins of the universe, explaining its roots: "Myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in primordial Time, the fabled time of the "beginnings." In other words, myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality -- an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution. Myth, then, is always an account of a "creation;" it relates how something was produced, began to be. Myth tells only of that which really happened, which manifested itself completely."(Eliade, 5-6) the Biblical myth of creation is obviously an instance of the cosmogonic myth, since it attempts to explain the origins of the universe, referring at the same time to the creation of the different categories of things. The Biblical creation of the world is thus a typical cosmogonic story which explains how everything appeared on earth, insisting on the basic roles established for each thing in the beginning.
7. What exactly are the three approaches to natural theology? Be specific.
Natural theology emphasizes a different approach to reality, which attempts to bridge the gap between religious and scientific knowledge. According to the natural theology, God has natural attributes and his manifestation is also available through the natural world. Not looking for means to transcend the real world, natural theology posits the existence of God as part of the natural world. Thus, the deists believed that God needs to be found in nature and revealed through its perfection. Next, natural theology was centered around the belief that everything in nature was marvelous and therefore everything was a token of God's existence. This second approach was proper of the Cambridge Platonists. The third approach is that of Acquinas, who revealed God to be the prime mover of all things in the universe, without however acting directly in nature.
8. What exactly is the essential ethical theme that emerges from myths of cosmic cataclysms, with respect to the judgment of humankind before and after the cataclysm?
The myths of cosmic cataclysm seem to be curiously recurrent in many religions and cultures. The myth of the flood is probably one of the most famous instances of this type of sacred story. Its ethical purpose is clear: it emphasizes the need for purification and a return to the original innocence, away from sin and perversion. Thus, this intervention of the sacred into the profane brings the world to its beginnings again: "Hence myths disclose their creative activity and reveal the sacredness (or simply the "supernaturalness") of their works. In short, myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the "supernatural") into the World. It is this sudden breakthrough of the sacred that really establishes the World and makes it what it is today. Furthermore, it is as a result of the intervention of Supernatural Beings that man himself is what he is today, a mortal, sexed, and cultural being."(Eliade, 5) Thus, the essential ethical idea behind this myth is the fact that the human world requires purification and purging from time to time. The story of a natural cataclysm is probably given a sacred connotation in order to ease the acceptance of such natural disasters, as part of God's will on earth.
9. Does Barbour's notion of religious story as a model support Eliade's notion of religious story as a cosmogonic myth? That is, are the two notions compatible with each other? Include clear accounts of both Barbour's notion (and understanding) of a religious story and Eliade's notion (and understanding) of a religious story.
Eliade understood the myths as the stories that attempt to explain the origins of the universe and of most of the things the universe is made of. According to Eliade, myth was at first the only valid form of explanation for the origin of the different natural phenomena. Later however, the discovery of history led to the partial denigration of myth as fable or a fantasy: "It is only through the discovery of History -- more precisely by the awakening of the historical consciousness in Judaeo-Christianity and its propagation by Hegel and his successors -- it is only through the radical assimilation of the new mode of being represented by human existence in the world that myth could be left behind. But we hesitate to say that mythical thought has been abolished. As we shall soon see, it managed to survive, though radically changed (if not perfectly camouflaged). And the astonishing fact is that, more than anywhere else it survives in historiography! (Eliade, 113) One of the first things that the scientific modes of thinking have in common with the mythical or religious modes, is their main purpose- to interpret or explain the universe and our own existence in it, or to give meaning to the world in order to escape chaos, as Mircea Eliade observed. Mythical structures and symbols could be an indicative of the human fear of chaos. Also, the existence of the sacred in the world has the same function- the world is seen by the religious man as a divine creation, therefore as something ordered, harmonious and meaningful. Ian Barbour's notion of a religious story is very similar to that of Eliade's cosmogonic myth. Thus, like Eliade, Barbour emphasizes the basic structure of the religious story as one that is meant to reveal the origin of a certain thing or of the whole itself, emphasizing the concern with the interpretation of origins.
10. Explain how the notion of linear Time, which is familiar to scientific descriptions of physical events, must be abandoned for a mythic understanding of certain ritualistic practices. In other words, explain how certain religious practices rely on a notion of non-linear Time.
Time is one of the concepts which has always troubled philosophers and men of science to the greatest extent. According to the scientific approach, time flows along a unique axis, from the past to the future. Recent scientific developments have somewhat changed this linear perception of time, curiously intersecting the paths of religion and science. For Mircea Eliade, the violation of the time sequence or of the time flow is the one way to touch the sacred. According to Eliade, the historical time must be violated so as to reach the sacred. Man has to abstract himself from the line of historical events that entrap him, and thus reach his illumination. The linear time entraps the common people in its net, distancing them from the ultimate truth and from the eternal perception of things. If time is violated, then man manages to stay above the petty, historical events and live in a different reality of his own. The violation of time signifies also the ability to disconnect from the narrow, earthly circumstances and take part in the extra-temporal world. Consequently, a detachment from the historical perspective is necessary so as to achieve a higher experience of life. This is why the mythical stories are cyclical rather than linear in time, involving a return at a certain point, and thus forming a perfect circle where the past coincides with the present and the end with the beginning. According to Eliade, the eternal return refers precisely to the ability to return to the myth and be contemporary with it. It is thus Eliade's belief that the myths' preoccupation with origin and return to the beginnings is due to the fact that knowing the origin of something means acquiring a magical power over that thing: "Knowing the origin of an object, an animal, a plant, and so on is equivalent to acquiring a magical power over them."(Eliade, 15) Thus, there is what Eliade calls "the terror of history," the modern man's inability to escape his historical circumstances, and touch the sacred: "In our day, when historical pressure no longer allows any escape, how can man tolerate the catastrophes and horrors of history -- "from collective deportations and massacres to atomic bombings -- "if beyond them he can glimpse no sign, no transhistorical meaning; if they are only the blind play of economic,…[continue]
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