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Why is separation of earth and sky so common in different mythologies?

by tarekatpf
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DavidSnider
#19
May2-14, 03:12 PM
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Quote Quote by tarekatpf View Post
But the two halves of an apple look more or less exactly similar, while no such thing between the sky and earth.
tarekatpf
#20
May2-14, 09:00 PM
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Hahaha, you almost go me there. Thanks.

However, I'm still not convinced since it's just reflection, not the original thing. For example, no fish swim in the sky.
zoobyshoe
#21
May4-14, 05:21 PM
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Quote Quote by tarekatpf View Post
Why is separation of earth and sky so common in different mythologies around the world?

EDIT: Sorry about my poor phrasing of the question. My question is actually why people would assume earth and sky were joined once. Which observation/ reasoning led them to make up such a non-obvious story? I thought, for two things to be separated, they have to be joined first, and the idea of the earth and sky's being joined once would bring questions to people's minds spontaneously.
The separation of earth and sky in creation myths is probably shakey, tentative groundwork in an attempt to explain gravity and buoyancy. I base that on Aristotle, who worked it out most elaborately:

Aristotle held that the universe was divided into two parts, the terrestrial region and the celestial region. In the realm of Earth, all bodies were made out of combinations of four substances, earth, fire, air, and water,* whereas in the region of the universe beyond the Moon the heavenly bodies such as the Sun, the stars, and the planets were made of a fifth substance, called quintessence.
*Here the elements are denoted by italics. Thus, earth is a pure element, whereas Earth is a planet made mostly of earth but also containing some of the other elements; air is a pure element, whereas the air we breathe is mostly air, but with some other elements mixed in.

Heavy material bodies like rocks and iron consisted mostly of earth with small parts of the other elements. Less dense objects were thought to contain a larger admixture of the other elements along with earth. For instance, humans consisted of a complex mixture of all the elements: earth, which gave material strength and weight; fire, which provided warmth; water, which accounted for blood and other bodily fluids; and air, which filled the lungs and provided the breath of life. Of course, some people were more earthly, fiery, airy, or watery than others. The Sun, planets, and stars were made of quintessence, a pure, perfect substance, quite unlike the elements found on Earth. The Moon, marking the boundary between the sublunary earthly region and the supralunary heavenly region, was mostly quintessence, but because of its proximity to Earth it was contaminated with a small admixture of earthly elements, which accounted for the visible imperfections on its surface.

The fundamental assumption in Aristotelian physics was that the natural state of sublunary matter is rest. Earth, air, and water must seek their natural place at rest in the center of Earth unless stopped by an impenetrable surface like the ground or a table. The natural place of rest of the element fire is somewhere above us (but well below the Moon). The air we see around us is a mixture of the elements air and fire (after all, air, at least in Greece, has warmth), so its behavior is complicated by the competition between the tendency for fire to rise and air to fall. Except in very complicated situations such as when air and fire were mixed together, motion was not a natural state of affairs.
http://aether.lbl.gov/www/classes/p1...e-physics.html

So, the separation of earth from sky probably doesn't arise from any natural or obvious hint they must once have been joined, rather, it makes sense in explaining the observation that some things have an upward reaching propensity while others have a downward one.

The process of separation of things that are mixed together; wheat from chaff, metal from ore, and so on, was directly experienced daily by people in early societies, and they might well project the process onto the creation of any two things regarded as dichotomous. They wouldn't have to have an inkling of what mixed sky/earth, or, undifferentiated up/down, would be like to propose they were the result of a separation process.

As we know, Aristotle doesn't work very well, and has been supplanted by better descriptions. I would imagine that most of these creation myths that contain a separation of earth and sky were once more elaborate but fell apart at some point and were edited back to the basic indisputable, that there is up and down, and these are fundamental. The notion that earth and sky were separated is probably mankind's first groping toward explaining gravity, as it is in Aristotle.
Simon Bridge
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May5-14, 01:12 AM
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The main reason I am asking the questions I did is because your comments appear to have been taking an approach which is the opposite of science in a scientific forum - i.e. you have obtained an aidea from personal experience (reading material etc) - generalized from it (so far so good) looked for more evidence that confirms that idea (still OK) but then, crucially, there is no indication that you have attempted to find any counter-examples.

Deliberately and energetically trying to disprove your own theories is probably the defining characteristic of scientific thought. iirc Gregory Benford wrote extensively on the subject of science vs mythological thinking.

Counter-examples abound.

i.e. Egyptian mythologies (there are several) include water, sky and air being formed together with the Earth/ground appearing later. Even the Genisis reference I gave earlier is not as clear-cut as starting with Earth and sky together and then separating them - Gen. starts with water and earth together - the firmament of heaven is interposed to separate the waters into "below" and "above" and then the water below is caused to collect in one place. The "sky" is, then, an effect of the waters above sitting on the firmament ... i.e. there is no sense of separation, in the sense of post #1, at all.

Therefore - I think you need to work harder at attempting to disprove your own hypothesis.

Aside: from a human-centric POV I think it is very clear that the sky and the earth are closely related - the Earth touching the sky is something that will occur to anyone who takes a look at the horizon on a clear day - and this leads a lot of people to ask why the sky does not touch the Earth everywhere at once but only at the edges, so to speak. It's the same sort of question as "what holds the Earth up" and so on.

You don't seem to be happy with the replies you are getting. It will help us help you if you would explain why you find a particular style of mythologies surprising. Which stories seem more obvious to you?
tarekatpf
#23
May5-14, 11:22 AM
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Quote Quote by Simon Bridge View Post
The main reason I am asking the questions I did is because your comments appear to have been taking an approach which is the opposite of science in a scientific forum - i.e. you have obtained an aidea from personal experience (reading material etc) - generalized from it (so far so good) looked for more evidence that confirms that idea (still OK) but then, crucially, there is no indication that you have attempted to find any counter-examples.

Deliberately and energetically trying to disprove your own theories is probably the defining characteristic of scientific thought. iirc Gregory Benford wrote extensively on the subject of science vs mythological thinking.

Counter-examples abound.

i.e. Egyptian mythologies (there are several) include water, sky and air being formed together with the Earth/ground appearing later. Even the Genisis reference I gave earlier is not as clear-cut as starting with Earth and sky together and then separating them - Gen. starts with water and earth together - the firmament of heaven is interposed to separate the waters into "below" and "above" and then the water below is caused to collect in one place. The "sky" is, then, an effect of the waters above sitting on the firmament ... i.e. there is no sense of separation, in the sense of post #1, at all.

Therefore - I think you need to work harder at attempting to disprove your own hypothesis.

Aside: from a human-centric POV I think it is very clear that the sky and the earth are closely related - the Earth touching the sky is something that will occur to anyone who takes a look at the horizon on a clear day - and this leads a lot of people to ask why the sky does not touch the Earth everywhere at once but only at the edges, so to speak. It's the same sort of question as "what holds the Earth up" and so on.

You don't seem to be happy with the replies you are getting. It will help us help you if you would explain why you find a particular style of mythologies surprising. Which stories seem more obvious to you?
Thank you very much for pointing out an important thing I was not doing much. Trying to disprove my own hypothesis. I should do it more.

About different versions of Egyptian mythologies. I was particularly talking about the one which starts with Nun (chaos), and then Atum ( the god that created itself ), followed by Shu ( air ) and Tefnut ( moisture. ) Shu and Tefnut gave birth to Geb and Nut ( Earth and sky, respectively. ) They were first inseparable, but then were separated by Atum.

I agree that there are different Egyptian mythologies, but why did this one have to be like this?

I have mentioned some other mythologies earlier in which at first the earth and the sky were together, and then separated. Of course, there are several mythologies which are vastly different. I never said all mythologies have the same story. I just noticed that several mythologies that have a common element in their stories which is not very intuitive, at least to me. ( Even if it's intuitive to everybody else out there, I would like to know why it's so obvious to them. ) I can't just accept the idea that it was all co-incidental.

And about considering different mythologies, such as the Genesis one. Actually, I thought about it. If I can find something common in all those societies/ their geography who have this same element in their mythology, but cannot be found in the society/ their geography who made up the Genesis, I might find an answer.

I did not understand that horizon idea. It's obvious that earth and the sky are closely related, but they were joined together is not such an obvious thought to me.

I found this idea of the earth and the sky joined together surprising, because it doesn't seem an obvious idea to me ( I can hardly picture this without thinking of the Big Bang. ) The kind of story that would be more obvious to me is like this: "In the beginning, god created Earth ( which contains water bodies such as oceans ) and heavens, and air in between."
jim hardy
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May5-14, 01:01 PM
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I will duck after this post.

You might enjoy Velikovsky's "Worlds in Collision" which delves into myths. Some include fire raining from the sky and fire engulfing earth.
One even talks of "A time before the moon".

But he's rejected by scientific community.

This is a physics forum... so you'll have to go to any of several Velikovsky blogs to discuss him .

Have fun.

taking cover now,



old jim
Bandersnatch
#25
May5-14, 01:50 PM
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Quote Quote by tarekatpf View Post
And about considering different mythologies, such as the Genesis one. Actually, I thought about it. If I can find something common in all those societies/ their geography who have this same element in their mythology, but cannot be found in the society/ their geography who made up the Genesis, I might find an answer.
How would you ever be sure you've got the actual source society pinpointed? Genesis story can be traced through Hebrew bible to Babylonian Enuma Elish(http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studie...-145/lecture-3) and further back to Sumerians. Does it mean the Sumerians came up with the story? Who could ever tell if there wasn't an earlier version?

Tracing origins of myths is like tracing your ancestry. You can be sure your great-great grandmother existed, if you find the relevant sources, but it sure as hell doesn't mean she was the first woman in your family.

The ultimate origins of ancient myths are lost in the mists of time and oral tradition. We can only speculate.
Simon Bridge
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May5-14, 09:16 PM
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Quote Quote by tarekatpf View Post
I agree that there are different Egyptian mythologies, but why did this one have to be like this?
The fact that there are other mythologies which are not like that mean that the story does not have to be like that.
In my original reply to you have I have suggested a number of lines of inquiry to try.
I don't think I can reply any other way because you have steadfastly refused to explain the problem... which would be the first step in scientific method.
You have yet to examine your ideas in relation counter-examples.

The best I can see is that you may have a model for human sociology which leads you to expect a different kind of story to dominate in the social narrative from much earlier on.

If this is the case, then what you are discovering is that you need to discard this model.

Please understand: It is not my aim to do your thinking and/or research for you.
I can only provide you with suggestions for likely lines of inquiry. It is up to you to follow them.
Good luck.
Evo
#27
May5-14, 09:27 PM
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tarekatpf, Simon and the others are correct, if you wish to continue this thread, you need to answer the questions that have been asked of you. What is your point, if any? There are many creation myths, only a few are similar, as you yourself are aware, and are likely to have been borrowed going back through history, as has been mentioned.

So, please answer the questions that have been asked.

Thank you.
tarekatpf
#28
May7-14, 03:27 AM
P: 138
Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
The separation of earth and sky in creation myths is probably shakey, tentative groundwork in an attempt to explain gravity and buoyancy. I base that on Aristotle, who worked it out most elaborately:



http://aether.lbl.gov/www/classes/p1...e-physics.html

So, the separation of earth from sky probably doesn't arise from any natural or obvious hint they must once have been joined, rather, it makes sense in explaining the observation that some things have an upward reaching propensity while others have a downward one.

The process of separation of things that are mixed together; wheat from chaff, metal from ore, and so on, was directly experienced daily by people in early societies, and they might well project the process onto the creation of any two things regarded as dichotomous. They wouldn't have to have an inkling of what mixed sky/earth, or, undifferentiated up/down, would be like to propose they were the result of a separation process.

As we know, Aristotle doesn't work very well, and has been supplanted by better descriptions. I would imagine that most of these creation myths that contain a separation of earth and sky were once more elaborate but fell apart at some point and were edited back to the basic indisputable, that there is up and down, and these are fundamental. The notion that earth and sky were separated is probably mankind's first groping toward explaining gravity, as it is in Aristotle.
Sorry about my late reply. Though I replied to a later post by Simon Bridge, I waited to reply to your post, because so far your explanation ( "The separation of earth and sky in creation myths is probably shakey, tentative groundwork in an attempt to explain gravity and buoyancy." ) seemed most reasonable to me. ( I wrote something similar in the post number 18 ). I was busy and didn't have time to read your post with proper concentration.

And thanks a lot for the link to Aristotle's Physics. It really helped me.
tarekatpf
#29
May7-14, 03:35 AM
P: 138
Quote Quote by Bandersnatch View Post
How would you ever be sure you've got the actual source society pinpointed? Genesis story can be traced through Hebrew bible to Babylonian Enuma Elish(http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studie...-145/lecture-3) and further back to Sumerians. Does it mean the Sumerians came up with the story? Who could ever tell if there wasn't an earlier version?

Tracing origins of myths is like tracing your ancestry. You can be sure your great-great grandmother existed, if you find the relevant sources, but it sure as hell doesn't mean she was the first woman in your family.

The ultimate origins of ancient myths are lost in the mists of time and oral tradition. We can only speculate.

Thank you very much for pointing out an erroneous aspect of my reasoning. The idea that the myth of Genesis has to arise from the society in which Jesus was born may not be helpful to get the real picture. Studying geography or their society may not be helpful, if they were inspired by some physical properties which are observed throughout the world: such as gravity.

However, though we can never be sure, it's very likely that Egyptian god Khnum was inspired by their observation of the effects of Nile on Egyptian lands.
tarekatpf
#30
May7-14, 03:45 AM
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Quote Quote by Simon Bridge View Post
The fact that there are other mythologies which are not like that mean that the story does not have to be like that.
In my original reply to you have I have suggested a number of lines of inquiry to try.
I don't think I can reply any other way because you have steadfastly refused to explain the problem... which would be the first step in scientific method.
You have yet to examine your ideas in relation counter-examples.

The best I can see is that you may have a model for human sociology which leads you to expect a different kind of story to dominate in the social narrative from much earlier on.

If this is the case, then what you are discovering is that you need to discard this model.

Please understand: It is not my aim to do your thinking and/or research for you.
I can only provide you with suggestions for likely lines of inquiry. It is up to you to follow them.
Good luck.
I'm sorry, as my English is not good, but what I wanted to describe by saying" but why did this one have to be like this?" is just that every story should at least partially be based on some observations. I was trying to figure out what they observed that inspired them to make up mythologies.

And thank you for correcting me, as I agree that studying sociology may not be fruitful to find out the origins of a mythology. As I agreed with Zoobyshoe, their trying to understand the properties of nature may be a better candidate to explain such mythologies.
zoobyshoe
#31
May8-14, 12:09 AM
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Quote Quote by tarekatpf View Post
Sorry about my late reply. Though I replied to a later post by Simon Bridge, I waited to reply to your post, because so far your explanation ( "The separation of earth and sky in creation myths is probably shakey, tentative groundwork in an attempt to explain gravity and buoyancy." ) seemed most reasonable to me. ( I wrote something similar in the post number 18 ). I was busy and didn't have time to read your post with proper concentration.

And thanks a lot for the link to Aristotle's Physics. It really helped me.
Glad you liked the post. (I'm sorry I didn't notice your prior mention of Aristotle.)

There's another possibility, which is that "sky" might stand for a mystical concept in some of these myths, not the literal sky. Genesis begins, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...". Notice "heavens" is plural. In some mystical traditions the "heavens" are non-corporeal planes of existence. There are 7 heavens, 7 different levels of spiritual refinement. "Earth" would be everyday reality, while the "heavens" would be mystical, spiritual planes of existence accessed only by the spiritually advanced (i.e. distinctly separated from mundane earth). A word that has been translated as "sky" might have been better translated as "heaven" or more specifically, "spirit plane". The separation of sky and earth would refer to a separation of the spirit plane from mundane reality. I think it's a possibility.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Heavens
tarekatpf
#32
May8-14, 01:52 AM
P: 138
Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
Glad you liked the post. (I'm sorry I didn't notice your prior mention of Aristotle.)

There's another possibility, which is that "sky" might stand for a mystical concept in some of these myths, not the literal sky. Genesis begins, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...". Notice "heavens" is plural. In some mystical traditions the "heavens" are non-corporeal planes of existence. There are 7 heavens, 7 different levels of spiritual refinement. "Earth" would be everyday reality, while the "heavens" would be mystical, spiritual planes of existence accessed only by the spiritually advanced (i.e. distinctly separated from mundane earth). A word that has been translated as "sky" might have been better translated as "heaven" or more specifically, "spirit plane". The separation of sky and earth would refer to a separation of the spirit plane from mundane reality. I think it's a possibility.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Heavens
Yes, that's a possibility, too. Like, the heaven they saw ( the lowest one ) always followed strict orders ( apart from those occasional comets, perhaps, which they interpreted as the wrath of gods ), whereas things on land were less predictable.


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