Creation myths show us space emerging from eternity, that great mystery that we can only guess at. Within that space is the potential for creation of the world, including vegetation, animals, and humans. The space is the platform for the emergence of life as we know it. It’s commonly depicted as a cosmic egg, and from within it a male figure begins the creation of the world, including his female mate.
The cosmic egg, Campbell writes, is a well-known image in mythology to represent the birth of creation.
The shell of the cosmic egg is the world frame of space, while the fertile seed-power within typifies the inexhaustible life dynamism of nature.
Many species, including humans, emerge from eggs. Recall that the void is infinite. Space, though, isn’t, although the human eye can’t see beyond its vastness. The creation of the world stretches throughout the space available in the cosmic egg’s shell.
At the same time, the cosmic egg isn’t pure creation because the same power that creates also destroys. The “fertile seed-power,” therefore, is also the power to destroy what is created. The energy that drives the universal round is part of it. This destructive energy increases in power until the point where poof! The material world has dissolved into eternity, from whence it came. And eventually, out of the void emerges another cosmic egg!
Often in creation myth cycles, a single being emerges from the cosmic egg who’s identified as the creator. Campbell also calls this figure the demiurge.
This is the anthropomorphic personification [having human characteristics] of the power of generation.
We already see here the element of unconsciousness that Campbell discussed in the section on moving from psychology to metaphysics. In order for manifestation to happen, ignorance of our true nature is necessary. The demiurge isn’t the creator of the world; he just thinks he is because, like us, he’s in a state of unknowing.
Nevertheless, he’s in a position to create the world. This is sometimes depicted in myths as coming from himself. For instance, his body parts create different elements of the world. Or his semen creates it. Or his visions during meditation create it.
“Cosmic Egg” by Rainbow Gryphon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Most of these demiurges are, of course, represented as male figures. Often, they get lonely and create a female figure and then go on to create all species of animals and other gods or human figures. Some mythological traditions promote the romantic vision of a “soulmate” in connect to this process, the idea being that we all have a male or female partner from whom we’re separated when we are manifested. Marriage is supposed to unite us with this other and thus make us whole.
There’s something very beautiful in this concept of the “soulmate.” The idea is that when brought together, the two parts of the one fulfill a cosmic purpose. Not only do they bring forth children and thus copy the process of creation but they also bring their energies together, energies that are essentially one but were divided even before birth. So in a sense, they restore a portion of the cosmic order.
However, the concept of the “soulmate” isn’t above criticism. It doesn’t serve the reality most people live with. Most of us recognize in our partners a human being who is less than a perfect fit. Two people rarely fit perfectly, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a healthy relationship. We can’t ignore an important social function of the myth–to maintain the social structure. These myths grew out of societies where divorce was nonexistent. It seems to me that the “soulmate” was one way to take care of unhappy marriages (as in, there were none, from a social point of view).
And let’s not forget the GLBT community, which forces us to question our assumptions about gender, gender roles, and gender relationships. Plenty of gay couples have harmonious, healthy relationships that demonstrate the emotional aspect of “soulmates.”The “soulmate” concept that emerges from these myths is based on the concept of life creation. Although gay couples can’t create new life biologically, plenty nurture the growth of new life through adoption or simply raising one or the other’s biological children.
My point is that the concept of the “soulmate” as a reflection of human relationships through these myths can’t be taken too literally anymore. For those fortunate enough to experience it, they can find something beautiful beyond the joy of a loving relationship: a cosmic purpose (whether they have children or not–another necessary update). The “soulmate” concept that emerges from these myths, however, is not a requirement for healthy human relationships these days. Nor should we obsess over it, as so many people do.
Male and Female
I feel that we can also look upon the demiurge and his mate metaphorically. This is the birth of duality. Recall that the eternal is undifferentiated, the All or the Nothing. The space of manifestation (the cosmic egg) is already a differentiation–One from the All/Nothing. From the One comes duality, the Two, which in human terms is conveniently represented as male and female, terms we can relate to because we live them.
We can see these myths, then, as really being about the oneness that underlies gender. It’s not that each pair is a split unit that emerged from the One that emerged from the All/Nothing. It’s that all males and females are the All/Nothing, seeing as how the One/demiurge is also the All/Nothing (but doesn’t know it). Gender is only meaningful on the manifest plane.
So, from a cynical modern point of view, we get the following story: Once the void spits out the cosmic egg, we have a theater for the dynamic play called life. Out of the egg emerges the deluded demiurge, convinced he’s the creator. He illogically gives birth to a female companion, which leads to the dubious concept of the “soulmate.” Underlying all of this, though, are two rather beautiful ideas:
- The harmonious relationship (regardless of the genders involved or the presence or absence of children) fulfills a cosmic purpose
- Stripped of manifest reality, gender is meaningless because our true nature is the All/Nothing.