Agency in Three Creation Stories

This blog post was written by students in Carolyn Ross’s Writing and Rhetoric course, “Writing Nature: Discourses in Ecology, Culture, and Technology,” at Stanford University in California, USA, in response to their reading of two creations stories:  Genesis 1-3 from the biblical Old Testament and a Pomo (California) Indian creation story, “Marumda and Kuksu Make the World.”  In addition, it considers a third creation story of the students’ choosing to expand and enrich our discussion of these texts.  Comments posted are from students in Mark Michael’s Rhetoric 102 course at The American University in Cairo, Egypt, and by other students in the Stanford class.  The American University, Cairo, students have posted their own blogs, addressing the Judeo-Christian creation story, the Pomo Indian creation story, and other creation stories of their own choosing.  For more on this exchange, visit this introductory post.

Do our choices exist before we make them, or do we truly control our own destiny? To what extent is the creator of reality still involved in deciding how our lives play out? These are questions that are a natural part of the human condition, and all of the creation stories we have considered paint a picture of a world in which the agency of humans is discrete from that of the creator.

For example, in Marumda and Kuksu Make the World, after Marumda and Kuksu craft the earth out of their armpit wax and hair, create day and night, and create the basic conditions for human life, Marumda “[throws] the earth out into space”(Ross351). After the initial state of earth and life on earth has been established, Marumda and Kuksu send it on its way. They do not appear to continue to monitor or control the choices that people make about the destiny of the planet, but, rather, are content to return to their previous state and leave the earth and its inhabitants to steer their own futures.

In Genesis, the creator again begins by establishing the basic conditions for life as we know it, but unlike in Marumda and Kuksu Make the World, he initially tries to assert his will over the will of his creations. He tells Adam and Eve “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Ross 346). However, the separate agency of Adam and Eve is evident in their decision to disobey God. Genesis creates a situation in which the creator and the creation have distinctly separate and even conflicting wills.

Lastly, in the creation story told by Seth, a personality “channeled” by Jane Roberts in the mid seventies, “All That Is” creates reality as it seeks to escape “a state of agony in which the powers of creativity and existence were known, but the ways to produce them were not” (Roberts 240). It grew to love the consciousness’ it imagined, and eventually chose to give them agency separate from itself in order to allow them to achieve potential they could not while constricted by the framework of it’s own mind. Although this creation story does not veil its messages in as much personification or symbolism, the result is very similar to that of Genesis and Marumda and Kuksu Make the World. God is involved in the initial creative impetus that creates the world and human consciousness, but then steps back and lets its creations steer themselves.

The idea of human consciousness having agency separate from that of the creator raises some interesting issues. Does separate agency necessitate linear time? Does the separation of human consciousness from god-consciousness imply god-like characteristics in humans? Are we perhaps related to god in the same way the characters in our dreams are related to us?

Sarah Evans

Stanford University

This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Stanford-AUC, Fall 2010: Creation Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

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