This article first appeared in ancient-code.com and is written by Simon E. Davies
According to many religious schools, the universe was created by a divine force that endowed it shape and order.
This divine structure can be evidenced by the clockwork motion of the heavens, whereby the sun sets and rises without fail, the seasons move in a constant cycle, and the moon waxes and wanes to a regular pattern. Many world cultures believe this divine order permeates all things, from the traits of animals to the moral impetus of humans, and even the trends of the weather. This divine force is said to be perfect and eternal, regulating the universe, endowing it with motion, purpose and structure.
The Dreaming was a moment of creation in Aboriginal history. This creation event brought shape, life and order to the world. It gave rise to sacred landscapes, humans, animals and plants, as well as the laws and customs which maintain its existence. These traditions were set in the Dreamtime by the ancestral spirits who are said to have given the Aborigine the laws they live by today. Simply put, the law and the land were one.
Dao signifies the primordial essence of the Universe. It represents the underlying forces of nature, from which all things are physically manifest. Dao can be thought of as the stabilising pattern behind the natural world that helps keeps it balanced and ordered. Those who follow the Tao are said to follow a ‘way’ or ‘path’ of cosmic enlightenment. The religion of Daoism is a metaphysical practice that allows the individual to connect directly with the divine forces of the cosmos.
Ma’at is a governing principle that regulates all things and is regarded as the essence which holds the cosmos together. The Egyptians personified Ma’at as a goddess and believed she governed the coming of rain in the dry seasons, as well as the ethics and morals of humanity. Because mortals have a tendency to create chaos, the rule of Ma’at was made into a law by the pharaohs. Every citizen was expected to follow these laws, or else bring anarchy into the world. Farmers to kings were expected to act with honour, truth, and integrity, anything less could unbalance the cosmic harmony, and bring famine, plague or rebellion into the world.
In Hinduism, Rta is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe. Rta governed both the natural world and the moral world. It is closely allied to the divine laws which uphold it, known as Dharma, and the actions of the individual in relation to those commands, known as Karma. Rta is the spiritual essence of law, order, truth, and regularity, which holds command over all things. Even the Gods were made to serve Rta, by commanding the weather, fertility, healing, religious customs, and other such forces.
Teotl is a central concept in the Aztec religion, which was personified as a god. However, it also symbolised a more a mysterious and supernatural force that endowed leaders and kings with divine energy. It is properly understood as ever-flowing and ever-changing energy that creates and empowers life. In effect, Teotl permeates all things in the physical world and helped shape the elements of the natural world, from earth and rain, to animals and trees. Teotl is said to vivify the cosmos and all its contents, penetrating into every detail of the universe.
The cosmic harmony that regulates the universe was said to be perfect and eternal. However, behind this governing influence lay a darker force known as chaos. This destructive medium was said to erode and weaken the divine order of things, bringing droughts, earthquakes, war and anarchy. One of the problems the gods seem to have was the nature of free will of humans. We mortals had the power to do great and heroic things, but sadly, we also committed many wicked and monstrous deeds, bringing chaos into the world. In order to keep the chaos at bay, the gods developed two ways of governing our civilised world.
‣ DIVINE LAW
The Gods developed a number of laws and customs for mortals to follow. If these laws and traditions were not adhered to, the gods would be displeased, and abandon humanity to the forces of chaos. This could manifest as a Tsunami, an invasion, or an earthquake. To avert such chaos, humans were expected to perform rituals, meditations, and follow the laws outlined by their gods. This then placed them in accordance with the divine order which preserved the universe, ensuring that the sun always rose in the morning, plants grew in the spring, and the food was always plentiful.
The Sacred World
According to the Aborigine, The Dreaming (creation event) was encoded in the landscape and manifest as a divine energy known as Songlines. The tribes-people could read and understand this sacred verse, which contained the law of the land. These laws were ordained by their ancestral spirits and instructed them on the rituals, customs and traditions which helped govern their community. This law is met when the Aborigine practice its initiations, sing its songs, tell its stories, and paint the Songlines and Dreamings for others to learn from.
Confucianism is a philosophical practice that helps to uphold the cosmic order of the Dao. This involves meditative and moral practices, aimed at increasing a person’s virtue. It is shared by a system of philosophical teachings, consisting of ethical arguments about proper behaviour. Confucianism was a moral and political system that helped to fashion a moral and ethical society. Confucius believed our moral impetus was anchored to the divine order of Dao.
Whereas Rta is the underlying order of the universe, Dharma is the practice which helps a person to live in accordance with Rta. This can be achieved through several practices, such as rituals, meditation, adherence to the law, or by undertaking spiritual duties, such as Yoga. Rta manifests in all beings, engendering them with a specific nature, whether it be a protector, teacher, entertainer, engineer, etc. Dharma is the art of following your personal calling, and fulfilling your true nature. Daoists believe that failure to follow this divine ordinance is responsible for the appearance of various forms of calamity and suffering in our lives.
In the Zoroastrian religion, Ahura Mazda (creator), conceived the universe in his mind and set it in motion using his Eternal Law, Asha. Zoroastrians believed that Asha was the root of morality, embodying righteousness, justice, and the celestial laws which govern our universe. According to the prophet Zoroaster, moral conduct and divine energy are one and the same. The ancient Persians believed that there was also an opposing force of evil which rendered the world weak and ineffective. By practicing Asha, a person conforms to the path of truth, law and morality, which in turn helps preserves the integrity of the cosmos.
The Mosaic Law was believed to have been shared to Moses from a divine origin. These laws provided the Israelites with rites and traditions for worshiping God. The first of these laws were the Ten Commandments, which many of gods people failed to adhere too. Because of their transgressions, Moses drew up hundreds of more laws to govern his people toward morality, including social conduct, cleanliness, diet, and religious ceremony. These laws were designed to educate people on the nature of sin, but it did not provide them with instant salvation. The Israelites still had to adhere to its principles if they to uphold their virtue, and gain entry into heaven.
In all the above cases, these divine laws were set in place to ensure that humanity lived in alignment with cosmic order. Yet, even with these laws in place, the gods still struggled to guide humanity, due to that one vexing human flaw, free will. Despite these laws, humans still practiced greed, theft, extramarital affairs, and murder. However, the gods had one last trick up their sleeve; the creation of fortune. According to world myth, everyone is born with a divine trait built into their personage from birth. This subtle force hold’s sway over their future, and regulates their actions toward good rather than evil.
‣ PERSONAL FORTUNE
A person’s fortune helps to govern and regulate their lives, even shaping their destiny. Many religions believe that we are born with a predestined character, which bestows us with a unique set of talents, such as creativity, leadership, problem solving, medicine, etc. By acting in accordance with these traits, we can draw positive experiences to our lives while going against our destiny can have negative consequences. This path is given to us by a higher power, and it determines the general trend our lives will take. Some people call it fate while others consider it an energy that can be used to generate positive or negative outcomes.
From a mythical point of view, luck is a supernatural force that creates a meaningful experience. It is considered to be a prescriptive energy that ordains certain events to occur. Many cultures believe that luck is a resource that can be influenced through spiritual means, such as by performing rituals or making a sacrifice to the gods. Such offerings were believed to gain the favour of a god, bestowing them with Divine Grace or Blessings. In this sense, luck was a commodity that could be earned and utilised by devout followers.
In the Polynesian religion, Mana is a spiritual energy that endows all things with effectiveness, influence and prestige. It is a power that radiates from a person, place or object, increasing its potential and shaping its destiny (similar to luck). This invisible force is like a resource that can be shared, depleted, or even taken by force. If a ruler devoted himself to the gods, society prospered, but if he failed to show them respect, disaster would ensue (a sign that a leader had fallen out of favour with the gods). In turn, he would be killed or replaced. Mana could be increased or preserved by sexual union, warfare, or wearing charms.
Karma is a self-regulating law that governs the actions of an individual. It quite literally is the causality of an individual’s thoughts, words and deeds. By performing good acts, an individual will draw upon a positive outcome while more wicked acts will eventually lead them to more harmful consequences. These effects are not necessarily immediate but can be visited upon a soul in future lives through reincarnation; additionally, good or bad fortune experienced in life may be the result of good or bad actions performed in a past life.
Wyrd is a concept in the Anglo-Saxon religion, which roughly corresponding to fate or destiny. It is associated with three goddesses in Germanic mythology, known as the Norns. Their names were Urdr (past), Verdandi (present), and Skuld (future). They weaved the fate of all individuals on a spinning wheel, and were the only deities in the Germanic pantheon said to be beyond the law. Because a person’s life-thread is already woven, it cannot be changed, although some say it can be expanded into new forms. In effect, the individual’s life-thread only determines a general outline of their life, and additional patterns can be added, thus enriching their life experience.
Akin to the Norns of Norse myth, the Moria were three sisters who resided over the power of fate. Just as the sun and the moon moved to a predictable pattern in the night sky, so too were humans and gods governed by a predictable pattern known as fate. According to the Greek legends, humans and gods were composed of a divine thread, spun by the three fates, who determined their birth, lifestyle, and even the time of death. It was like having a map of your life drawn up, even before you were born, determining all facets of your life. They watched each individual, ensuring the fate assigned to them took its course without obstruction.
Simon is a freelance writer for the Human Odyssey and Ancient Origins.