Before and beyond (Creation 1.1-8)
Hey, Willow here. As we start out on this journey together called "Through the Clear Recital," I had some serious struggle inside me as to whether I should include this piece of text called the "Creation" and its sequel, the "Holy Mythos." The authenticity of these two texts is something I question seriously, especially considering the flow of the story and its contents bearing some uncanny resemblance with the Christian Bible. I have heard from a few people in the past that these two pieces of literature were added fairly later as a counterpart to the Christian mythology -- something unsurprising given the origin of the Clear Recital in the historic Anglican bastion of Oxford.
As literature, these two texts are a sort of mashup of Christian creation and salvation stories and various pre-Christian mythologies (Greek and Mesopotamian). It is because of this I suspect that the "Creation" and the "Holy Mythos" were added later to satisfy the prevailing cultural needs in the context of the 1970s England still steeped in its Christian heritage.
On the flip side of all this, is that it only highlights our needs for a mythos. Every nation has its own founding mythos -- much of it, not necessarily historical facts but are widely believed as such -- and every community has its own lore that ties its members together and helps sustain its continuity.
I have ultimately decided to include these two texts in this "Through the Clear Recital" series. It is, however, very important for everyone to understand that they should be understood and interpreted metaphysically and we look for the meanings beneath the plain, literal readings of the texts. As a student of New Thought, this would be the same approach I take with any other holy writings.
Today, we read the first eight verses of the Creation:
Before and beyond all things is the Mistress of All Things, and when nothing was, She was. And having no solid place that Her feet might rest upon, She divided the sea from the sky and made a dance of solitary splendor upon the crested deeps. And She was pure force or energy, and therefore pure delight, and the crashing of the waves was the overflowing of Her joy. And the white force of Her superabundant joy grew so great that it must take shape in laughter, and Her laughter was the shape of all things. For each peal of Her voice became a silver fragment, broken from the Whole and yet complete in itself. And She loved each fragment with all the joy of Her being, and Her hands knew cunning. And She stretched forth Her hands and gave a shape to each fragment, and no one was like any other. And She parted the vasty waters that there might be a place to set them down. And She laughed.
"Before and beyond all things is the Mistress of All Things..."
From the Greek words for "beyond" and "things", we get the word metaphysical. Here, at the very opening of the Clear Recital, it starts with "before and beyond" (unlike the Jewish and Christian scriptures, "in the beginning")... and uses the present tense word "is."
The point of this verse is the pre-physical (before) and metaphysical (beyond) nature of this universe, in the present tense (thus it is the truth that is presently applicable and is thus a timeless principle). "When nothing was, She was" could be taken in two different ways: first, the Mistress of All Things existed when nothing was yet to be created; but another way of seeing it is that she was "nothing" -- as in being the great nothing, the shapeless, unmanifest potential.
"And having no solid place..."
This part clearly comes from the Eurynome myth. The Eurynome creation myth was part of the Pelasgian mythology. "Eurynome was born from Chaos, and her first work was to separate the water from the sky. When she had accomplished this, she began to dance across the water. It was a beautiful, sensual dance of creation." (Paleothea) In the original myth, it is said that Eurynome danced nude. Her name (Εὐρυνόμη) is believed to mean "distributing widely" or "distributor of law." Ancient depictions of Eurynome were sometimes represented by a likeness of a mermaid. As the one who divided the water from the sky and land from water, she was likely seen as an amphibious being.
What is curious here is the idea of solidity as in solid place. The motion from the pre- and metaphysical (shapeless, unmanifest) to the physical, solid, manifest world here underscores the source of all creation coming from the absolute "no-thing" of the original metaphysical state to a non-solid, fluid, and dynamic state in the dance of solidarity splendor (on the surface, this also appears to parallel an idea that the world moves from chaos to order, but such an assertion ignores where the divine order resides, which is not in the physical state but in the metaphysical state).
"And the white force of Her superabundant joy grew so great that it must take shape in laughter, and Her laughter was the shape of all things."
Here in this creation narrative, joy is the driving force of creativity. Inner delight manifests into creation as it expresses itself in the form of laughter.
"For each peal of Her voice became a silver fragment, broken from the Whole and yet complete in itself."
One of the common teachings in New Thought is that we all embody and express the divine nature -- that is, we are a unique but perfect expression of Goddess -- and we often use the analogy of how an ocean wave contains the entirety of the nature of the ocean. In this creation narrative, the same truth is communicated. Each creation is a fragment of the whole (the divine nature) and yet contains all aspects of the divine. Hence we affirm: everything that is true about Goddess is true about me.