Cycle of Life Myths as a Basis for Cultural Morality
One overarching theme between myths from cultures all around the world is the idea that mankind, as a whole, has had multiple lives. In fact, some of these myths have a number for how many times mankind has been reborn as well as what happened during each era. Interestingly, these myth’s ultimate conclusion parallel each other: when mankind forgets where they came from, when they decide to disconnect and lose appreciation for their creator, mankind will fall. God will recognize this failure and eliminate humans and their evils, leaving only what is good, to start anew. Even so, each myth tells its own unique story riddled with distinctive lessons composed for their specific culture. But above any other teachings, these myths are meant to embed in people a basis for morality, to instill good values in their people, by forcing them to believe that the existence of humanity is explicitly dependent on human’s recognition and appreciation of God.
The mesoamerican Aztec civilization believed in the Five Suns. Each section of time, or sun, has something associated with it. The first was “the Sun of the Ocelot” (Bierlein, 104) or Jaguar, a time when everything was enveloped in darkness and humans were equal to animals. Because of this, the human race was eaten by ocelots(or jaguars). Then came the second sun, the Sun of Air, and the third was the Sun of Fire. In both of these ages, humans were destroyed because they were “ignorant of the gods”, in that they “did not understand the necessary principles to be redeemed from their sins”. The current world is the fifth sun. J.F Bierlein in his book, Parallel Myths, explains the fifth sun to be a balanced combination of the “other four principles, animal energy, air, fire, and water” and that the Aztecs believed that “our continued existence is dependent upon” recognising the gods and if they “are again ignored, then this sun too will die and all of us with it.” Another explanation of the fifth sun is that it is called the Earthquake Sun and it is prophesied that “it will be destroyed by one gigantic earthquake or multiple earthquakes”(Sutherland). It is here that the true takeaway is defined: if you stop worshiping and forget who made you, which ultimately is shown through the way one conducts themselves and the morals they hold, God will, again, destroy humankind.
In the Hindu version of the cyclic creation and destruction of man, it is told that “the world has been created and destroyed many, many times”(Bierlein, 100) and the creator god, Brahma, is the only one who knows how many times this cycle has happened. Within every cycle are four yugas, where each is marked by certain characteristics. Like the Aztecs, each period of time is associated with, what Bierlein calls an “essential element”(101). In order, there is the golden age, a time of goodness and generosity where self-discipline, godliness, ethicality and meditation are the most important parts of life. This is followed by the age of energy, where knowledge is of the highest importance, and ethicality begins to fade. Then, a mixture of the first two, is an age where the godliness of the people is half of what it used to be. And, finally, the worst yuga, a time of darkness and hypocrisy. Godliness is now a quarter of what it originally was and people’s values are backwards. This is the Kali yuga.
Disturbingly, in The World of Myth by David Leeming, the Kali Age is described to mirror modern day, explaining that “the destruction of the world will occur because of the departure from virtue and profit... Money alone will confer nobility. Power will be the sole definition of virtue, Pleasure will be the only reason for marriage.”(Leeming, 77) Many values that were once considered of the utmost importance will become insignificant. Anything considered to be godly will no longer be a virtue in the eyes of the people. They will have forgotten their gods commit sins without thinking twice. But, rather than the gods recognising this