THE COSMOS/RELIGIOUS COSMOLOGY
What is the Cosmos all about? How are we impacted by the Cosmos and Cosmology? This is but a look into this fascinating field.
Cosmos is the Universe regarded as an ordered system.
The word derives from the Greek term kosmos, literally meaning “order” or “ornament” and metaphorically “world,” and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the Latin loanword “Universe” (considered in its orderly aspect). The word cosmetics originates from the same root. In many Slavic languages such as Russian, Polish, Bulgarian and Serbian, the word kosmos also means “outer space.”
Cosmology is the study of the cosmos in several of the above meanings, depending on context. All cosmologies have in common an attempt to understand the implicit order within the whole of being. In this way, most religions and philosophical systems have a cosmology. In physical cosmology, the term cosmos is often used in a technical way, referring to a particular space-time continuum within the (postulated) multiverse. Our particular cosmos, the observable universe, is generally capitalized as the Cosmos.
In theology, the term can be used to denote the created Universe, not including the creator. In Christian theology, the word is also used synonymously with aion to refer to “worldly life” or “this world” as opposed to the afterlife or World to Come. The cosmos as originated by Pythagoras is parallel to the Zoroastrian term asa, the concept of a divine order, or divinely ordered creation.
A religious cosmology (also mythological cosmology) is a way of explaining the origin, the history and the evolution of the cosmos or universe based on religious mythology of a specific tradition. Religious cosmologies usually include an act or process of creation by a creator deity or a larger pantheon.
The Bible was formed over many centuries, by many authors, and reflects shifting patterns of religious beliefs; consequently, its concepts of cosmology are not always consistent. Nor should the Biblical texts be taken to represent the beliefs of all Jews or Christians at the time they were put into writing: the majority of those making up Hebrew Bible or Old Testament in particular represent the beliefs of only a small segment of the ancient Israelite community, the members of a late Judean religious tradition centered in Jerusalem and devoted to the exclusive worship of Yahweh.
The universe of the ancient Israelites was made up of a flat disc-shaped earth floating on water, heaven above, underworld below. Humans inhabited earth during life and the underworld after death, and the underworld was morally neutral; only in Hellenistic times (after c.330 BCE) did Jews begin to adopt the Greek idea that it would be a place of punishment for misdeeds, and that the righteous would enjoy an afterlife in heaven. In this period to the older three-level cosmology was widely replaced by the Greek concept of a spherical earth suspended in space at the centre of a number of concentric heavens
Around the time of Jesus or a little earlier, the Greek idea that God had actually created matter replaced the older idea that matter had always existed, but in a chaotic state. This concept, called creation ex nihilo, is now the accepted orthodoxy of most denominations of Judaism and Christianity. Most denominations of Christianity and Judaism claim that a single, uncreated God was responsible for the creation of the cosmos.
The Earth’s creation, according to Mormon scripture, was not ex nihilo, but organized from existing matter. The faith teaches that this earth is just one of many inhabited worlds, and that there are many governing heavenly bodies, including a planet or star Kolob which is said to be nearest the throne of God. According to the King Follett discourse, God the Father himself once passed through mortality like Jesus did, but how, when, or where that took place is unclear. The prevailing view among Mormons is that God once lived on a planet with his own higher god.
Islam teaches that God created the universe, including Earth’s physical environment and human beings. The highest goal is to visualize the cosmos as a book of symbols for meditation and contemplation for spiritual up-liftment or as a prison from which the human soul must escape to attain true freedom in the spiritual journey to God.
Below here there are some other citations from the Quran on cosmology.
“And the heavens We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander.”
“Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?”
“The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books (completed), – even as We produced the first creation, so shall We produce a new one: a promise We have undertaken: truly shall We fulfil it.”
In Buddhism, the universe comes into existence dependent upon the actions (karma) of its inhabitants. Buddhists posit neither an ultimate beginning or final end to the universe, but see the universe as something in flux, passing in and out of existence, parallel to an infinite number of other universes doing the same thing.
The Buddhist universe consists of a large number of worlds which correspond to different mental states, including passive states of trance, passionless states of purity, and lower states of desire, anger, and fear. The beings in these worlds are all coming into existence or being born, and passing out of existence into other states, or dying. A world comes into existence when the first being in it is born, and ceases to exist, as such, when the last being in it dies. The universe of these worlds also is born and dies, with the death of the last being preceding a universal conflagration that destroys the physical structure of the worlds; then, after an interval, beings begin to be born again and the universe is once again built up. Other universes, however, also exist, and there are higher planes of existence which are never destroyed, though beings that live in them also come into and pass out of existence.
As well as a model of universal origins and destruction, Buddhist cosmology also functions as a model of the mind, with its thoughts coming into existence based on preceding thoughts, and being transformed into other thoughts and other states.
The Hindu cosmology and timeline is the closest to modern scientific timelines and even more which might indicate that the Big Bang is not the beginning of everything but just the start of the present cycle preceded by an infinite number of universes and to be followed by another infinite number of universes. It also includes an infinite number of universes at one given time.
The Rig Veda questions the origin of the cosmos in: “Neither being nor non-being was as yet. What was concealed? And where? And in whose protection?…Who really knows? Who can declare it? Whence was it born, and whence came this creation? The devas (demigods) were born later than this world’s creation, so who knows from where it came into existence? None can know from where creation has arisen, and whether he has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, he alone knows-or perhaps does not know
The Rig Veda’s view of the cosmos also sees one true divine principle self-projecting as the divine word, Vaak, ‘birthing’ the cosmos that we know, from the monistic Hiranyagarbha or Golden Womb. The Hiranyagarbha is alternatively viewed as Brahma, the creator who was in turn created by God, or as God (Brahman) himself. The universe is considered to constantly expand since creation and disappear into a thin haze after billions of years. An alternative view is that the universe begins to contract after reaching its maximum expansion limits until it disappears into a fraction of a millimeter. The creation begins anew after billions of years (Solar years) of non-existence.
The puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 (one day of Brahma, the creator or kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Human Years) that represents Brahma’s lifespan. Similarly at a given time there are an infinite number of Brahma’s performing the creation of each of these universes that are infinite in number. Brahma is the creator but not necessarily regarded as God in Hinduism. He is mostly regarded as a creation of God /Brahman.
Each Maha Yuga consists of a series of four shorter yugas, or ages. The yugas get progressively worse from a moral point of view as one proceeds from one yuga to another. As a result, each yuga is of shorter duration than the age that preceded it. The current Kali Yuga (Iron Age) began at midnight 17 February / 18 February in 3102 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar.
Space and time are considered to be maya (illusion). What looks like 100 years in the cosmos of Brahma could be thousands of years in other worlds, millions of years in some other worlds and 311 trillion and 40 billion years for our solar system and earth.
Jain cosmology considers the loka, or universe, as an uncreated entity, existing since infinity, having no beginning or an end. Jain texts describe the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with legs apart and arm resting on his waist. This Universe, according to Jainism, is narrow at the top, broad at the middle and once again becomes broad at the bottom.
Mahapurana of Ācārya Jinasena is famous for this quote: “Some foolish men declare that a creator made the world. The doctrine that the world was created is ill advised and should be rejected. If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now? How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression.”