A Hebrew Cosmogony
This world came into existence out of a chaos of fluid driven by a divine blast: This is the epic beginning of the Book of Genesis.
From this primeval matter, in a process of subsequent creations, was born the home of the living.
Already before the birth of our earth, worlds were shaped and brought into existence, only to be destroyed in the course of time.
This earth, too, was not created from the beginning to satisfy the Divine plan. It underwent re-shaping: Six consecutive remouldings; the primeval creation did not delight the Creator; destruction was called upon the ungainly world of flesh and when it did not ameliorate, another destruction was sent to chastise it and still another.
Six times this earth was rebuilt - without entire extirpation of life upon it, but with major catastrophes New conditions were created after each of these catastrophes; new chances were given to men to improve their inclinations, evil from the beginning.
This is the seventh creation, the time in which we live.
The description permits an interpretation that all the seven heavens and earths exist simultaneously; but a deeper insight will allow us to recognize that the original idea did not admit seven concurrent and separate firmaments and worlds in space but only consecutive in time, and built one out of another:
The separation of one world from another by abyss and chaos primarily means, it seems, the fiery nearness to the precipice and primeval matter which it encountered and into which it could be—by only a hairbreadth—reduced forever.
The heavens and the earth were changed at every catastrophe. This idea is concealed in the legend of the wandering of Man (Adam).
In the myth of Man (Adam) travelling through all the seven earths is a transparent allegory of the physical and human history of the earth. It is even provided with a suggestion which makes it possible to recognize the periods.
The generation which built the Tower of Babel inhabited the fourth earth; but it goes over to the fifth earth, where the men became oblivious of their origin and their home: those who built the Tower of Babel after the catastrophe are told to forget their language.
In accordance with this scheme the catastrophe which destroyed Babel and dispersed the nations was the fourth one. How are the three previous ones pictured or symbolized?
The first catastrophe was symbolized by the expulsion of Man from the
blessed land of Eden. It was not a single human pair; the tradition ascribes
to Adam the invention of seventy languages.
Hebrew mythology ascribes to the period preceding Adams expulsion different physical and biological conditions.
The sun was shining permanently on the earth and the Garden of Eden, placed in the East, it must be conceived, was under the permanent rays of the dawn. The earth was not watered by rain, but mist was ascending from the earth and falling as dew upon the leaves.
Man was of exceedingly great stature.
His appearance was unlike that of the later men.
But Man did not keep the precepts of his Creator and a day came, and
The flames of the ever-turning sword terrified Adam. In another legend it is told that celestial light shone a little while in the darkness. And then
The illumination of the first period never returned.
The sky that Man saw never appeared before him again.
The moon was bigger before, and suddenly grew smaller,
The moon, says the Aggada, was envious and desired to be brighter than the sun. According to another legend:
The earth, too, had to suffer punishment.
Man (Adam) shrank in size.
The punishment of Adam was manifold:
and he lost his horny skin.
It was but since the fall of Man, according to the Aggada, that the sun set for the first time.
It was also since the same time that the days began to grow shorter and again longer. And this is told in the following story:
The narrator adds: This is why the heathens celebrate the calends and the saturnalia in honor of their gods, though Adam had consecrated those days to the honor of God.
The myth presents the foe of Man in the form of a fallen angel, Satan, who was dismissed from the heavenly host, and whose representative on earth, and the cause of the disgrace, was the serpent.
The serpent had previously another appearance.
Not only the dragon and Man, whom he had brought into distress altered their ways, but the whole of nature as well. Thistles and thorns were generated by the soil. The variety of species diminished. The change was brought about partly in connection with the sin of Cain.
The third generationthat of Enoshwas also told to have been visited by disgrace.
Since that time came a greater change in the habits of human beings:
It was in the celestial harmony and disharmony that the secrets of the upheavals were conceived to lie; this was known to mankind already in the Adamite age, according to the Aggada.
In Hebrew mystic teachings there is the story of the book of the Angel Raziel.
Adam of the Aggada invented seventy languages, Cain his son built cities and monuments and ruled over kings. They were representatives of generations. It is also said that the measure of the Genesis— a day —is meant to be a Gods day, or a thousand years. Thus Adam, who lived 930 years, did not live even one day:
The science about the times in which calamity could return and fall on our earth was cultivated among populations that had a vivid remembrance of days of misfortune or of lucky escape.
It is told about the children of Seth, the son of Adam that
This means that stelae with calendric and astronomical calculations were made public knowledge in the second or third era. According to the Aggada it was the pious Enoch (the seventh generation) who achieved the deepest knowledge of the celestial secret. He was the man who
In this ascension to heaven was taken away the man who more than any other knew the plan of the world, and of its creation. He had already visited heaven in his vision
He saw all the seven heavens.
In another variant of the Book of Enoch it is said:
Enoch in his prophetic vision reached the seventh
The Book of Enoch recites the vision that visited him,
Enoch assembled his sons and instructed them faithfully about all the things he had seen, heard, and written down, and he gave his books to his sons, to keep them and read them, admonishing them not to conceal the books, but tell them to all desiring to know.
He was a great man in his generation.
The story of his ascension is drawn also in these features: Enoch predicted the disaster.
What the Aggada means to tell is that a human being -and one gifted with the greatest wisdom concerning the heavenly bodies and their order, was brought away in a fiery storm, which killed many, brought snow and meteorites, and which had been predicted by that one who disappeared.
In this story the seven heavens correspond to seven millennia; the six changes, those that have occurred or are still to occur, correspond to the six gates of the sun and the moon; the eighth revolution and the eighth millennium will have no end, no years, no time; this millennium means endlessness in chaos.
Some exact knowledge of the revolutions of the bodies in the sky is ascribed here to the antediluvian generations.
The myth says that Enoch was transformed into one of the celestial host.
It was with the last day of the long age of Methuselah, the long-living son of Enoch, that the next catastrophe began. Seven days before the deluge
After these seven days of grace when frightful sights and sounds were seen and heard, began the deluge. The deluge and its time had already been predicted by Enoch, and even more ancient generations were said to have erected tablets with calendric and astronomical calculations predicting the catastrophe.(1)
It is said that the real period of grace endured for 120 years. During this time the flood was over mankind as a threat.
But men did not abandon their evil ways; the very favorable conditions under which they lived contributed to their sinfulness.
In the last seven days before the deluge, when the terrifying signs and commotion filled the heavens, in those last days of respite. God changed the way of natureas already stated.
Then began the deluge.
The water was extracted from the earth and driven to the surface, and at the same time a rain pourednot out of the clouds, but out of heaven, even out of a definite direction.
These upper waters were hot, not as waters of a common rain.
Since the day when the waters flooded through the windows of heaven and during the deluge, the sun was veiled, and the earth trembled and volcanoes erupted.
The story of the ark is well known from the biblical tale. The Aggada adds details; The waters were in no way quiet; it was dark outside; the inside of the ark was illuminated by a precious stone.
The duration of the flood is described differentlyforty days and also much longer.(3)
Like the former catastrophe of the fall of man, this catastrophe of the deluge, according to the Hebrew cosmogony, changed the nature of herb, animal, and man. The prosperity of the time before the great flood was gone without return; the world lay in ruins. The earth was changedeven the sky was not the same.
The continents changed their places in the former and in this catastrophe. The areas where now the shores of the Mediterranean sea are, were once the shores of an open ocean: this may be concluded from the following statement, if true:
The constellations of the sky in this part of the world, it seems, moved after the deluge from their place.
Before the deluge there were peoples of gigantic size. The first man grew smaller after the fall, but his dimensions were still great, and after each catastrophe the giants became increasingly rare.
A myth of the Hebrews and of many other peoples knows to recite the story of some beings called the sons of God who came from the universe, or from another planet, and whose offspring with the women of the earth were giants.
There is nothing new under the sun. The fancy about the men from Mars of modern novelists was already a legend and a tradition of old. Enoch was brought away in a cyclone of stones. The sons of God of the heaven reached the earth.
The Emim, Rephaim, Zamzumim or Anakim, races of giants, were supposed to be the descendants of these sons of heaven. Few of them succeeded to survive the later catastrophes, those that followed the deluge, and were destroyed entirely shortly afterwards.
From the huge species that were found on the earth in former times, fewer and fewer specimens survived through the ages» and those only in remote countries, where they were still said to be seen, and were described by the travellers of Biblical times. Their fantsy was impressed especially by the greatest sea-animal, leviathan, the greatest mammal Behemoth,(4) the greatest of the reptiles reem, and the greatest among volata, ziz.
When the leviathan and the behemoth will enter a duel with each other
With these descriptions (sometimes exaggerated like all travelers stories), the cosmogony and natural science of the Hebrews belabor a field which seems to be restituted by the excavations of fossils.
The combat of the monsters was verified by the finding of their bones together, from the position of which a duel and a devouring of one by the other was imagined.
The question was asked, what could have been the defensive or offensive weapon of the brontosaur, the largest of these animals? ; no horns, no strong teeth, no nails to attack. In the above description the answer, and a plausible one, is delivered: they struck with their mighty tails, about thirty feet long.
The peer of the leviathan and behemoth between the reptiles was reem, a giant animal which was so rare in the time it was described that the traveler stated: only one couple, male and female, was in existence.
In the realm of birds ziz is the king.
The travelers reported that:
Its wings are so huge that unfurled, they darken the sun.
Even greater exaggerations were composed, e.g., that it is able to protect the earth against the storm of the south. The huge animal, the narrator agrees, could not be placed in the Ark of Noah. The survival of one of them is explained in a childish manner: it was tied to the ark and swam behind it.
Other animals were described. In the name of Enoch was told about the existence of
Leaving aside the color, which cannot be proved from the fossils, the bones of an animal of this description may be identified with the fossils of the Pterodactyl.
Through time only a few of these huge animals remained, and these even were deprived of the desire to propagate their kind ; they were not equipped to bear their monstrous mass upon the earth, when the conditions of gravitation changed with the change of the orbit. Only with great difficulty could they support themselves on their hind legs; in a state of pregnancy they were not able any more to erect themselves.
The places from where the travelers brought the stories of these animals were situated beyond the ocean.
The Hebrew history of developments in the animal knows also to relate about other changes, occurrence of which belongs to the period of the deluge.
Before the catastrophe of the deluge
The impurity was abandoned; but the sentiment of repulsion of one species against other species grew, and developed into cruelty.
A legend connected with the sojourn of the animals in the ark brings the belief that
It was asserted that the mole lost its eyes, the frog its teeth, and the mouth of the mouse became widened, and a fable connected with the sojourn in the ark was appropriated to this alleged metamorphosis.
Lesser changes in the haircover of the steer were described in another tale.
Before the deluge the animals that are impure (for food) were in large majority; after the deluge the proportion was inverted. This tradition might be the source of the legend about the presence of seven pairs of pure and only one pair of impure animals in the ark.
As in animals, so in the human being, the sexual inclination to unite himself with not of his kind was said to have been changed into a hostile attitude towards his own kind and sex.
According to this cosmogony and natural history, the hunger for flesh and the thirst for blood was an obvious result of the catastrophe. Was it a sudden anemia, due to changes in the atmosphere, the oxygen of which, with the exogenous hydrogen became the water of the flood? It is said:
And every moving thing that liveth became meat of the human being like the green herb of the soil.
Restriction was to be put upon the vampirous lust:
Those animals and men who escaped the catastrophe with their lives were rescued, only to start a struggle of annihilation among themselves.
This stimulated lust of sadism is a corollary of the inversion of the sexual impulse. The story is told in Genesis. Ham tried to execute on his father the act of castration, or an indefinite act also belonging to the complex of inversion.
But another Aggadic story ascribes the carnivorous lust to the impulse implanted in the generations of the giants by their forefathers, who had once come as sons of God from the sky to this earth. Together with the longing for blood they are said to have brought their knowledge in every field of science, and especially in astronomy and astrology. This legend is in discord with the legend about the book of the angel Raziel brought to the first generation.
A civilization was destroyed the real value of which is incalculable. In the next age the whole population of the earth amounted to a few millions. Even this number if brought forth from a few rescued families is very large, but the Aggadist admits this amount:
The knowledge of astronomy and the secrets of its reckoning were rescued and it is said in this manner and variant:
This might even have been the knowledge of months, years and periods of comets that the remote generations had acquiredand the hope grew into faith that no such or similar destruction would come any more to decimate mankind.
A new and till then unknown atmospheric phenomenon was said to be the rainbow. In this colored reflection of the sun in small and suspended drops of water the rescued believed to see the divine promise not to repeat the flood.
The next destruction was that of the tower of Babel. A strong commotion caused that a part of the tower sank into the earth; another part was consumed by fire. Remained only a rest...
(In Arabic traditions the destruction and the subsequent confusion of memory was related to the south of Arabia: it was a paramount catastrophe).
In the Aggadic cosmogony this generation is called the people of men who lost their memory ; the earth they inhabited was the fifth earth, that of oblivion.
Whether the Hebrew cosmogony reckoned one more destruction of universal character to occur between the time of the deluge and the Exodus depends on the following:
Altogether six catastrophes are supposed to have occurred, and we live on the seventh earth. The later catastrophe of the time of Joshua is not reckoned. The catastrophes of the Exodus could be numbered as two: one in Egypt and one at the shores of the Red Sea. If they were thought of as one, the fifth catastrophe would have been either in the time of Abraham, when in an upheaval the earth swallowed the tetrapolis, or, more probably, in the time of Peleg, about whom it is said: in his days was the earth divided. (Genesis 10:25.) The meaning is likely to be: when the continents were separated.
It is some lost knowledge that is concealed in these few words. In antiquity the traditions were vivid, were guarded as precious knowledge, and transmitted from generation to generation. It is said that Serug son of Reu taught his son Nahor the arts of the Chaldeans and the signs of the heavens; a legend told that when Abraham was born one great star came from the east and ran athwart the heavens and swallowed up the four stars at the four corners. It is said that in the days of Abraham the planet Jupiter appeared in the east instead of in the west;(5) it is said that Abraham during his sojourn in Egypt
The sixth earth is called Ziah, the earth which thirsts for water; her inhabitants rush to any place where they hope to find a well. This description is in accord with the stories of the patriarchs, the wells being the object of dispute. But with even more justification the earth Ziah or the sixth earth would fit the time following the Exodus, when brooks disappeared, the populations of entire countries wandered to find pastures.
The description of the catastrophe of the Exodus was narrated in extenso in Worlds in Collision; here it will be only mentioned in short.
The destruction of the world in the days of the Exodus was not smaller than in the days of the deluge. It closed, in the conception of the Hebrews, the age of creation. The hurricane that twice during five or six weeks crossed the orbit of our earth signified the end of the time when the earth and men were to be shaped and reshaped;
the old covenant was kept only in its promise not to bring a paramount flood upon the earth: a flood of fire came instead of the flood of water. The covenant, according to the moral conception of the Hebrews, was a reciprocal deed. The one partner, that who was obliged not to shed the blood of the fellow-man was in no way a fair accomplisher of his part of the covenant.
The Israelites were tortured in Egypt. More than one legend insists that the Israelites when behind the imposed number of bricks, were punished in a cruel manner which had to horrify them and keep them in a steady check: Israelite children were put into the mortar and inserted into the walls, between the rows of bricks. There is nothing improbable in this story.
The world was shattered, and it reeled to and fro as a reed in the wind. In a crescendo came the ten plagues.
First came the thin red coloring dust; the hot blast brooded the insects and small reptiles, quick in multiplying. Unquietude seized all creatures, and they began to migrate. Then, when the earth was deeper in the trail of the comet, meteorites flew and killed everything in the field; then followed the neck of the comet and a touchable darkness that endured for three days; when the head of the comet passed just at its closest approach to the surface of our earth in darkness of charcoal and night, an earthquake of immense power ruined every house everywhere.
When six weeks later the Hebrews were .at the Red Sea the head of the comet was approaching on its return from perihelion. The last night before its arrival darkness again draped the world.
The Aggada says: the darkness at the Red Sea was the same darkness of Egypt that returned once more.
The atmospheric and hydrospheric parts of the planet are the most likely to be driven towards a new gravitational field. Just as in the days of the deluge when the waters of the deep and lava were driven out of the core of the planet to its surface, the waters of the ocean and of every sea were heaped high in double tides; on the other side of the planet the waters ran asunder to find the nearest possible place to the celestial body that was passing close by; and the air moved still swifter, tossed and driven in the encounter of two celestial bodies: it was a hurricane, this strong East wind all the night (Exodus 14:21).
Lava flowed like in the days of the deluge; the earth trembled; the mountains melted; lands rose and others submerged; springs disappeared in one place and appeared in another; cultivable land, desert and sea, all changed their places. The desert was showered with inflammable fluid, and months and years later ignited over and again; the earth cracked and swallowed men and beasts.
The Hebrew tradition ascribes to Moses the prediction of most of these phenomena, especially of those which took place in Egypt. The Hebrew legends ascribe to him also the knowledge of the celestial movements and the art of prediction. If the periods were known to him, he could prophesy guided not only by his spirit, but also by his knowledge.
In the pitiless destruction by tempest and fire the Israelite refugees were graced; they saw nature keep the old faith and old covenant with them; not only were they graced, they were saved by the destructions. A few weeks later they stood around the mountain of Horeb and heard in a stormy night of a roaring desert the ten commandments. A new covenant was closed between the Creator of the universe and a people roaming around in a trackless desert, in a time when the entire world became once more void and waste. For them it was a rebirth of freedom.
The work of creation and the repeated reshaping of the earth and man were accomplished. It began the seventh day which lasts up to today and will last up to the final destruction.
According to the initial Hebrew conception of the creation, which I tried to reconstruct here, the six ages were terminated by six destructions; the world of today is the result of six metageneses. The story of the first chapters of the Bible is of a later, mythological, and very probably alien origin. The six-day creation is a mythological remodeling of an historical knowledge or belief. The whole of ancient history preceding the Exodus is the time of genesis, and therefore is also included in the book of Genesis.
With the Exodus, the end of Genesis, and the new flow of time, a new calendar was to be established.
The seventh age which started since then shall not be interrupted until the end of the world; the world in the perception of the remainder was by a hair breadth near to peril, and the next time it would not survive.
The sabbath, the seventh day, is a symbol and an assurance that no other metagenetic catastrophe will come. In keeping this solemn day of rest on the seventh day, the creator is implored to refrain from reshaping the earth similarly.
The seventh day was simultaneously the symbol of the grace displayed by Providence to slaves chased by their pursuers and a memorial to the Exodus. It had to become the day of freedom to all who work, man and animal.
The prayer of the Jews on the evening of Saturday, composed of two old fragments, brings together: the end of creation and the final harmony among the heavenly host, stars and planets; the beginning of a new time-reckoning from the last act of genesis, and the leaving of Egypt, house of bondage.
The assembling of three different causes for the establishment of the sabbath would seem to be a confusion, had they not been simultaneous occurrences: the last act of creation, the new flow of time, the Exodus from Egypt.
Some fifty years passed since the morning at the Red Sea. The world was once more in flames. Once more it was brought out of its path. But what happened in the days of Joshua, when the sun and the moon stood in the heaven and hot stones in myriads fell on this earth -was minimized in the Hebrew tradition. A combustion of the world was an episode, though a main episode, in the life of this disciple of Moses, who was said to be the successor of the knowledge of Enoch, and who could know what may happen after the rain of stones announced the approached of the still unvanished errant planet; on his grave was inserted a memorial inscription to the event, which was emphasized as of no equals the Lord listened to the wish of a mortal who ordered the sun and the moon to stop and fulfilled his wish.
But this time the Israelites were the offenders; therefore the link of
ethos and pathos lacked between the cosmic event and the assault by the