From the cosmic egg burst forth the demiurge and his mate. Then begins the creation of the world as we know it, including human beings. Sometimes in myths, Joseph Campbell states, the demiurge is left to create the world and humans, like God in Genesis, with “a miraculous spontaneity.” Sometimes, however, the initially created humans or gods have to be more proactive. Campbell tells us the force they use isn’t what it seems because it’s all part of the plan (though the gods/humans don’t know it).

Earth and Sky Forced Apart

Often, the cosmic egg breaks to create two parts, sky and earth, seen as male and female. They might be gods or another image of the demiurge and his mate. They come together to create other gods and/or humans through their mating.

However, sky and earth remain stuck together. Their created offspring can’t do anything. They grow restless. One solution is to split earth and sky up. Campbell recounts a charming myth from the Maoris of New Zealand where the lord of the forest pushes Mother Earth down with his head and keeps Father Sky up with his feet. Thus Mother Earth nurtures us while Father Sky is a stranger to us.

The photo below is a more elaborate version of a picture in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In Egyptian mythology, the sky is personified as a goddess, Nut, and the earth is personified as a god, Seb. An air or wind god, Shu, forces them apart, thus allowing life to form in the manifest world. This myth doesn’t involve rebellion from the the “offspring” of the earth and sky, but there’s still the dynamic of force to create the world.

Egyptian picture of sky goddess and earth god being separated by wind god.

“The God Seb supporting Nut on Heaven” Seb is the earth god and Nut is the sky goddess. Shu, a wind god, forces them apart. From the book “The Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. II” by E. A. Wallis Budge. In the public domain

The Demiurge Dismembered

Sometimes, the creation of the world, including humans, takes a more violent form. The offspring of the demiurge or created beings of the void must fight and dismember the creator in order to get things going. In such cases, the creator is seen as something dark and sinister because it hinders the independence of the created beings.

The created beings slay the creator in a horrific battle. They then have to dismember the body, which becomes part of the created world. The total dismemberment is necessary to rob the creator of its power.

This is the pattern for victory of all our later slayings of the dragon, the beginning of the age-long history of the deeds of the hero.

Recall that Campbell wrote, when discussing the relationship between world creation and the hero, that the Hero’s Journey was a sort of parallel to the creation of the world. In making his way from the world he knows to the mysterious center of the world (World Tree, World Mountain, World Axis, etc.), the hero tracks the journey of world birth through layers of consciousness to the source.

In the dismemberment myths, we see another parallel. When the hero slays the enemy, whether it be dragon, worthy opponent, or army, he replays the creator slaying. That which is slain represents a force that fights consciousness expansion. The creator would have kept the world from expanding. The dragon/worthy opponent/army would have kept the hero from nirvana or realizing eternity within time.

The Paradox of the Dual Focus

Campbell has one more fascinating thing to say about the separation or slaying of the creator(s) by the created. There are two ways to view this conflict, and its interpretation depends on whether you’re looking from the point of view of the created or from the point of view of the creating (also called in this chapter the Unmoved Mover).

From the point of view of the created world or the created beings, this is a terrible deed. There’s this powerful force that hinders freedom, whether from good or bad intentions. It has become Other and must be robbed of its power or dismembered altogether to stop it.

But from the point of view of the creating or Unmoved Mover, it’s all part of the plan because it is defeated by that which it has deliberately created.

From the perspective of the source, the world is a majestic harmony of forms pouring into being, exploding, and dissolving.

What these myths are telling us is that conflict and destruction aren’t always avoidable. Sometimes, they fit into the universal plan. At the same time, this is not justification for destruction or to stop working to resolve conflict through nondestructive ways. There’s a difference between bowing to the destruction of a hurricane and bowing to the destruction of a nuclear war. One is the force of nature, which no human can control; the other is fully within human control.

The story of the Fall, Campbell tells us, demonstrates this portion of the cosmogonic cycle. Recall that in order for the world to manifest, our knowledge of our true nature had to be wiped out from consciousness. When Adam and Eve eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they shift from the point of view of the Unmoved Mover to the point of view of the created beings. Knowledge of their true nature is wiped out and they experience heartache. But had that not happened, the manifest world wouldn’t have happened either, according to Campbell. Whether that’s good or bad is beside the point for it simply is.