On Phoenician Cosmogony that predated the most reputed scientific theories on the creation of the world by thousands of years!
Written by Shady B. Zoghby
August 11, 2017
At the birth of consciousness, a mind asks two questions: Where did I come from? And where am I going? The latter, being the catalyst for contemplation upon death, re-incarnation, and the afterlife, is not the subject of this article.
Cosmogony is that branch of knowledge that deals with the origin of existence / the creation of the universe. It is the answer our mind seeks for The First Question ever asked: Where did we come from?
It is what occupies Astronomy and Physics today, building models of the cosmos and theories about its nature and origin… It is what makes Einstein and Hawking famous, what fires debates between string theorists, what inspires sci-fi futuristic movies, and what tells us today that it – The Cosmos – started with a Big Bang.
However, there was an age, when modern science and smart phones did not exist, and it was up to philosophy and religion to tell the stories.
. Phoenician Cosmogonies
The mind, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and always tends to fill it. Horror Vacui. That’s why every civilization had to have a story to answer this question. The Phoenicians had two:
- The Cosmogony of Sanchoniaton
- The Cosmogony of Mochus
To test the truthiness of the two stories is never the intent herein, nor it is to make a comparative study between the two to extract similarities or analyze the differences.
Over the millennia, societies change, and so do their stories. Therefore, for a civilization such as the Phoenician, spanning over at least 6 thousand years, it is no surprise to have more than one story of creation.
However, when it comes to the divine genealogies, multiple Phoenician stories can be extracted from the nations of the oikoumene: Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, Mesopotamian, Persian, etc… These genealogies constitute an essential part of ancient cosmogonies, but remain outside the scope of this article.
A Phoenician Cosmogony story survived the millennia, reached us through Eusebius of Caesarea’s work “Praeparatio Evangelica “(PE). Eusebius quoted Sanchoniaton, a 13th century B.C. (fn1) beacon of Phoenician History from a surviving text of Philo of Byblos (fn2).
With the quote, came the testimony of Porphyry of Tyre (fn3) stating that:
” … the truest history, because the most in accordance with their places and names, is that of Sanchoniaton of Berytus, who received the records from Hierombalus the priest of the god Ieuo; he dedicated his history to Abibalus king of Berytus, and was approved by him and by the investigators of truth in his time. ” (fn4)
Eusebius interpreted Philo’s translation of Sanchoniaton as an origin of polytheism, yet he contradicts himself by acknowledging that the Phoenician gods were in fact mortal men and women who were regarded as gods by the neighboring nations.
Sanchoniaton’s records originate from Tauthus – Hermes – Enoch, thus they reflect the Phoenician Cabalistic cosmogony received on the summit of Mt. Haramon (Hermon):
” The first principle of the universe was air dark with cloud and wind, or rather a blast of cloudy air, and a turbid chaos dark as Erebus; that these were boundless, and for many ages remained without a boundary. But when the spirit fell in love with its own principles, and they were interblended, that interweaving was called love; and this love was the creation of all things. ” (fn5)
A note-worthy aspect of this Phoenician Cosmogony, is that its protagonists are “principles” not “personalities”. These “principles” are abstract un-manifested “logi”, first of which – the first Logos is ‘Love’.
The quote continues…
” But Chaos did not know its own creation. From its embrace Mot (fn6) was born. From Mot it was that every seed of creation came, the birth of all cosmic bodies.
First, there were (Great) Lives devoid of all sensation, and out of these came subsequently (Great) Lives possessed of intelligence. The latter were called Zophashamin (Overseers of the Heavens).
They were fashioned in the forms of eggs, and shone forth as Mot, the Sun (عَين) and Moon (لَيل), the Stars and the great Planetary Spheres.
Now as the original nebula began to lighten, through the heat mists and clouds of sea and earth were produced and gigantic downpours and torrents of the waters in the firmament. Even after they were separated, they were still carried from their proper places by the heat of the sun.
All the watery and earthy elements met together again in the nebula, one with the other. They dashed together amid thunder and lightning; and at the rattle of the thunder the Zophashamin already described woke up, and were scared at the sound, and began to move both on land and sea, male and female. ” (fn7)
An origin of alchemy is clear, as the primordial elements and energies set the scene of this cosmogony. The link between Astronomy and Alchemy is witnessed, therefore, in the process of creation in this story, which has a philosophical expression rather than a mythological one.
Strabo (fn8) also testifies that Mochus was older than the Trojan war, and originator of the Atomic theory, and was identified by Diogenes Laërtius (fn9) as a proto-philosopher.
Mochus’s cosmogony, also known as “The Sidonian Cosmogony” was transmitted to us through Damascius (fn10).
In this story of creation…
” Ether and Air are the first principles. From them is produced Ulomus: who, by commerce with himself (fn11) begets Chusorus (fn12) the first ‘opener’ (fn13) and afterwards an egg ‘olam’ – ‘Toleeleth’ (the ‘female’ out of which sprang all the impregnation of creation and the beginning of the universe). The egg is heaven: but, when it is broken in two, both heaven and earth are formed of its parts.”
In this story we find the origin of the cosmic egg, the pan-civilization mother of existence found in Vedic, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Finnish, and Plynesian mythologies.
We also find a parallel in the scene of the spirit (ruh – wind) floating over the waters.
The Big Bang was silent.
Sound waves do not propagate in space, and it must have been a flash – a silent explosion of Light.
To us today, this idea is not any less poetic than the stories of the ancients.
Both Phoenician cosmogonies can be traced to texts dated before the Trojan Wars. But the stories themselves must have originated in much older times – the times of Titans and Pre-Adamites.
This knowledge tree itself, in which the two branched Astronomy and Alchemy can be found, is a gift we received through our ancestor Tauthus – Hermes – Enoch on a summit of Mt. Haramon (Hermon), who accepted the knowledge. This occurred in the 3rd Millennium BC, the first “age of light” (fn14) of the Phoenician civilization.
Perhaps the 3rd branch, that of Writing and the Alphabet, holds the key to unlock the forgotten knowledge and come closer to quench the curiosity of our minds.
Where did we come from? We might never know. Our minds seek an answer, and demand a story. Horror Vacui.
The Phoenicians gave us two.
fn1 “older than the Trojan times” PE, b.1, ch.8
fn2 also known as Herennius Philon, an historian (64 BC – 141 AD)
fn3 a Neoplatonic philosopher (234 AD – 305 AD)
fn4 PE, b.1, ch.8
fn5 PE, b.1, ch.9
fn6 In one account, the translated word is ‘Moch = Mind’ instead of ‘Mot=Death’, and was shaped as an egg.
fn8 geographer, philosopher, and historian; died 23 AD.
fn9 biographer of ancient philosophers, 3rd century AD.
fn10 “the last of the Neo-Platonists” and the last scholarch of the School of Athens (458 AD – 538 AD)
fn11 i.e. with his female half after he has divided himself in two
fn12 relation to Chusor – wa – Khasis of Ugarit ?
fn14 Lebanon-Phoenicia: Land of El, May Murr