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Among the legends and myths, however, none is more interesting than the myths of creation. These myths of creation, I think, have wide scope and bear philosophical significance. In this chapter I wish to consider three myths of creation: namely, the creation and origin of the universe, the creation of mankind, and the origin of Javanese inhabitants and their religion. Along with these myths I also include in this chapter the prevailing eschatological views especially those relating to the idea of calamity, life after death, the problem of human destiny, and attempts to resolve the mystery of life through the numerological system. I start with the first myth.[6]

Creation and Origin of The Universe

It is among the Cirebonese Court circle, particularly within the circle of Pengguron Krapyak led by Pangeran Sulaeman Sulendraningrat, that this myth of the creation of the universe prevails. It relates that once upon a time there was an alam awang-uwung (ghoibul-ghuyub), a world of nothingness: no limit, no edge, no line, no boundary, no light, no sound. There was absolute quietness, nothing existed except God, the One, the Living, the Powerful and the Willing; at this stage His power and will were la ta’yun, not manifested. This is the earliest stage of the universe, the stage before creation, called Martabat Ahadlah, the stage when only One existed, only God. After an immeasurable duration came the second stage called Martabat Wahdah, the stage where the One God began to show His power and will in the form of bright light called Nur-Allah, the light of God which shone far brighter than a thousand suns. This stage is ta’yun awal, the first reality, in the sense that His intention to create was expressed in reality. The next stage occurred after another immeasurable duration, when a golden bright light called Nur Muhammad, the light of the praiseworthy, sprang up within the still shining brighter light, like an eggyolk within an eggwhite. The presence of Nur Muhammad, also called Ruh al-A’zhom, the greatest soul, constituted the ta’yun-tsani the second reality in which the intention of creation turned into a master design or master seed. It was the embryo of the complex universe from which everything emerged. This latter stage is calledMartabat Wahidiyah, the stage of the Greatest Union.[7]
The light of the praiseworthy (Nur Muhammad) was motionless for about 60,000 years until finally the light of the praiseworthy claimed to be God: “I am the God”. Immediately Allah responded: “No, you are not God, you are the embryo of the whole universe I have created”. Hearing God’s decree Nur Muhammad trembled with fright and his whole body was covered with sweat; this event led to the next stage, the presence of the Ruh Idhoft, when the Nur Muhammad’s sweat became Durratul Baidla, white pearl gems, the source of all souls of the universe. The sweat in his nose turned into the souls of angels; the sweat of his face turned into the souls of ‘Arsy, Laukh Mahfud, Qalam, and other heavenly creatures; the sweat of his chest turned into the souls of prophets, messengers, saints, scholars, and other selected individuals; the sweat of his back turned into the souls of Bait al-Ma’mur, Bait Allah, Bait al-Mukaddas and other prayer houses all over the world; the sweat of his eyebrows turned into the souls of faithful males and females; the sweat of his ears turned into the souls of infidels; the sweats of his legs turned into the souls of the whole universe. This is the stage when Nur Muhammad, the abstract design of creation, turned into a real one, Ruh idhoft, just as a developing photograph turns from a blur into a clear image. It is at this stage that the creation of every being became mungkin, or possible, depending on whether or not God Wills it.[8]
The next stage was the period of physical creation, that is the stage when God constructed the whole universe and its contents. The overall construction was completed within six divine days,[9] from Sunday through to the dawn on Friday. As each divine day is equal to 50,000 years, the six-day process was thus equal to 300,000 years. Within the first two days the globe of bare and bald earth was constructed; Over the next two days the earth was perfected giving it its finished structure and form furnished with continents, hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, flora and fauna. The last two days was the completion of the galaxies; of the sun, moon, stars, other planets; of heaven and other heavenly things. In this stage God had created, among other things, 70,000 planets, each planet being 70 times the size of the earth. On each planet there were 70,000 inhabitants who were not angels, jinns, or humans. They worshipped God, but then they rebelled and God wiped them out. God created another 80,000 more planets, but these were smaller than the first 70,000 being only about ten times the size of earth. There were some kinds of birds living on the planets, but they finally vanished. After that, God created 20,000 human-like creatures out of light, but finally, they also vanished. After a pause of about 70,000 years, God created Qalam, Laukh Mahfud, ‘Arsy, angels and finally, paradise and Hell. Thus, the creation of the whole universe was complete.[10]
Seventy thousand years after completing the universe, God created a human being called Adam, but not the Adam of our ancestors. He was the first Adam who lived on the earthly world long before the Adam of our ancestors was born. This earlier Adam gave rise to descendants but all were vanished; the last descendant died 10,000 years after the first Adam was born. God then created another Adam, but, again, he and his descendants vanished after 10,000 years. This was repeated again and again until 10,000 Adams had been created (the last one, the ten thousandth, was the Adam of our ancestors). It is unclear whether they lived here on our earth, or somewhere else. Supposing they really did live on this earth, it follows that since there had been 10,000 Adams (each Adam and his descendants lasting ten thousand years), our earth, according to this myth, has already been in existence for about 100,000 million years; whereas, the history of mankind since (our) Adam has been less than 10,000 years.[11]

Creation of mankind

The notion that the microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm appears in Cirebonese myths of human creation. Within the court circle, the seven stages (martabat pitu) in the creation of the universe are used to describe the creation of human beings.[12] According to this tradition, long before people are born, they are in Alam Ahadiyat, the first stage. At this stage the existence of a person is still unthinkable because person is physically nonexistent. The second stage Alam Wahdah is reached when impregnation occurs, that is, at the moment when an ovum is fertilised by sperm. The third stage Alam Wahidiyah is then entered; at this stage the fertilised ovum multiplies and turns successively into a clot of thick liquid, then into a clot of blood, and then into a clot of flesh. The fourth stage, Alam Arwah, comes when the flesh-clot shows signs of movement, signifying that God has breathed life into the soul making it alive.[13] The fifth stage, Alam Mitsal, is when the flesh-clot becomes an embryo containing potential parts that will develop into specialised body parts. Then comes Alam Ajsam, the sixth stage when the embryo develops a complete physical structure with specialised body parts and organs: head, hair, body, hands, legs, finger and toe nails. On the whole it is still weak, until finally, at the seventh stage it reaches its final form and enters Alam Insan Kamil, the stage of a perfectly formed human being. At this last stage the new human is ready to emerge from the womb and the mother is ready to give birth.[14]
Our species, humankind, is said as to be descended from Adam, who came to earth from heaven. Adam himself was created from clay and the process of his creation is another subject of mythology.[15] Mang Amin (54 years), a Batik factory worker said that the creation of Adam started when God ordered Gabriel to make a kind of seed by mixing the four elements (earth, fire, water and air) which he then planted in the soil of paradise. For a long time the seed grew steadily, just like an ordinary plant, but later it gradually turned into the human figure of Adam. When it reached about 30 metres high, God blew a spirit into it and Adam became animated. He moved and walked about, looking around the paradise as if surveying and recognising his environment. In the meantime God taught him the names of everything he found, and Adam mastered them well. Once, God introduced him to other heavenly creatures and ordered them to bow down to Adam. To show them Adam’s worth, God ordered Adam to list the names and characteristics of a number of heavenly things which angels and other creatures knew nothing about. The angels were fascinated and respectfully bowed down to Adam. Iblis, another heavenly creature, was reluctant to do so; instead he looked down upon Adam, boastfully claiming himself to be superior to Adam. Due to this rebellion God pronounced His curse on Iblis and banished him to Hell forever. Nevertheless, God granted Iblis’ plea for postponement of his punishment until the day of judgement; Iblis then swore to deceive Adam in order to lead him and his descendants astray.[16]
Adam had proved himself to be a clever being when God ordered him to name a number of heavenly things; the pity was, however, that he never talked because he had no one with whom he could talk. But when he was fast asleep in paradise, God ordered Gabriel to pull out one of Adam’s left ribs, from which God created another being, Eve. After her creation was completed Adam woke up. He was surprised to see a lovely companion standing before him. He felt glad and thanked God for her presence. Adam and Eve then talked to each other, played together and started a new life until the time came when they had to leave paradise, and were thrown onto the earth because they had succumbed to Iblis’ temptation. Adam was believed to be thrown down onto Gunung (Mount) Surandil (Adam’s Peak in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka), while Eve was thrown down into Jeddah. After a long search for each other they finally met together at the Plain of Arafah in Saudi Arabia. With God’s grace granted after their immediate repentance, Adam and Eve then started their earthly life, giving birth to descendants and becoming Khalifa, God’s representatives on earth, to establish order, firstly among animals and later among both animals and their descendants.[17]

Origin of Javanese Inhabitants and Religion

The notion that mankind is descended from Adam is recounted in another myth that relates the link between the present generation and their ancestors.[18] According to this myth, the first time Adam begot descendants was when he was about 130 years old; Eve bore twins, a male and a female named Kabil and Aklima. In total Eve gave birth forty-two times, each time producing twins (a male and a female), except for the sixth time when she bore only one male child, Syis, and the forty-first time, when she bore only a female, Hunun. In all then, Adam and Eve’s direct descendants numbered eighty-two. When Eve gave birth to the fifth set of children, Adam set a rule of marriage that said that a good-looking son had to marry an unattractive girl whereas an unattractive son had to marry a good-looking girl. Since both twins of each set borne by Eve were either good-looking or unattractive this rule ensured that no one could marry his or her twin.[19]
At this stage, Iblis who had caused them to be thrown from paradise, was ready with a new plan. He tried again to intrude on Adam and Eve, but could not do it in the same way as he had done in paradise, because their natures had become so different. Adam and Eve were physical beings, whereas he himself was a spiritual one. Iblis then entered Eve’s heart and whispered to her to rebel against Adam by disagreeing with Adam’s rule of marriage and imposing a contrary rule; that is, a good-looking person should marry another good-looking one, and an unattractive one should marry another unattractive one. To support their respective assertions, both Adam and Eve claimed rights over their children and, therefore, also the right to set the marriage rule. Each insisted that the children really originated from his or her own body; in the case of Adam, from his semen and in the case of Eve from her eggs. To solve the problem they agreed, however, to pour these substances into two different pitchers and to pray for God’s guidance. After praying several days, a strong wind arose blowing away Eve’s pitchers. When Adam was about 160 years old, there grew from his pitcher a nice boy baby. They understood then, that all this had happened from God’s will and gave the baby the name Syis. Since then, the marriage rule set out by Adam became effective. The entire human population of the world, therefore is descended from Adam through his children (except for Hunun, who did not marry because she was born without a twin, and Habil, who was killed before having children), including Syis, who got his wife in a different way.[20]
Failing with Eve, Iblis did not stop intruding; he moved on to her children. As a result of his efforts, out of the forty marriages between Adam’s children, three couples were rebellious and married their good-looking twin partners. They were: the-first born, Kabil, to Aklima; the fifth-born, Harris, to Dayuna; and fifteenth-born, Lata, to Ujiah (‘Uzza). Kabil married Aklima after killing her husband, Habil. To affirm their rebellion they left Adam’s place; Kabil and Lata, with their partners, went separately south-westward to Africa, and Harris went eastward to China.[21]
Without specifying from which couple the Javanese population originated, the myth says that the first sea expedition to Java was made by the west Asian vizier of Alexander the Great. He intentionally sent as many as two thousand men and women to occupy Java. Unfortunately they encountered unfriendliness and most were killed by the native inhabitants, including several kinds of wild beasts, lelembut and dedemit (ghosts).[22] Fewer than one hundred people were left and these went back to west Asia. A second expedition was sent but with great caution, incorporating a number of wise elders and different ethnicities, particularly the people from south and south-east Asia (Keling and Campa). There were as many as 20,000 men and women, led by Syeikh Subakir who landed in Java. Soon Subakir went to Gunung Tidar where he met Semar and Togog,[23] the leaders of Javanese spiritual beings and negotiated with them. They finally reached an agreement allowing the newcomers to stay in Java on the condition that they should be aware that Java had, in fact, been inhabited by many spiritual beings so that both sides, especially the new settlers, had to make all possible efforts to sustain a peaceful coexistence (rukun) with each other. Since then Java has been inhabited by spirits as well as human beings.[24]
The position of Adam’s descendant, Syis, is of specific significance. The myth says that Syis had been one of the most beloved children, and to him important legendary figures of later generations are attributed. He married Dewi Mulat, yet who she was, where she came from, and how Syis met her, are not described. Syis, on the other hand, is described as a nicely behaved child who later, after Adam had died at 960 years of age, inherited his prophecy. This provoked both admiration and jealousy of Idajil, king of jinns. Idajil wanted, and then attempted, to have descendants who could take over or, at least, bear honour both Adam and Syis. He wanted Syis to marry his daughter, Delajah. Unfortunately, Syis had already married Dewi Mulat. Idajil however, did not despair; instead, he made all possible efforts to manifest his firm will. He insinuated his daughter, Delajah, into Dewi Mulat and secretly put her beside Syis. At the same time he took Dewi Mulat away. After knowing with certainty that Delajah had been impregnated he released her and immediately replaced Dewi Mulat for fear of eventually being caught.[25]
From her marriage to Syis, Dewi Mulat gave birth to twin children. One was a perfect human being named Anwas, the other was a light image of a human figure, a spiritual baby who was really the son of Delajah and Syis, named Anwar (the Arabic plural form of Nur meaning ‘light’). The two babies (one human being and the other one, in fact, a jinn), were cared for with love and affection even when Adam realised that Idajil had interfered in the affair. During their childhood, they respected their parents and grandparents very much, and were proud of them, but later Anwas and Anwar showed markedly different habits and preferences. Anwas who clearly followed the wisdom of his father and grandfather, grew into a devout believer, being fond of learning the true faith. Anwar, however, was fond of wandering to seek wisdom through contemplation in quiet and strange places such as on mountains, in jungles and, in caves. Prior to his death Adam told Syis to be careful as his sons Anwas and Anwar would take different paths. This prediction came true after Adam died. Anwar was grieved upon seeing that human beings would finally die, become motionless and be buried. Syis told him that it was quite natural and that it would happen to everyone without exception. But Anwar’s grief was unbearable and he made up his mind to leave his parents and to take any action that would enable him to avoid illness and death. He wandered in search of something that would ensure his wish. Idajil instantly took advantage of the opportunity; he met Anwar, really his grandson, and told him that his decision was good and he promised to help him. He led Anwar northward to Dulmat.[26] Here Idajil performed a magical act, first by producing thick clouds wrapping their bodies together. As the cloud disappeared, a spring of water appeared in front of them. He asked Anwar to drink as much as he could, and to bathe in the water called tirta marta kamandalu (or banyu penguripan, in Cirebonese), the water of everlasting life. He also gave Anwar Eve’s pitcher, called cupu manik astagina, the gem pitcher of eight virtues, which he had found after it had been blown away by a strong wind. He asked Anwar to fill it with the water, as it might have some use in the future. One virtue of the pitcher was that the water in it could never be used up. Idajil then led him out of this place and told him to take a dying rewan plant he would find on his way; its roots, called latamansadi, were a useful remedy for any disease. He then disappeared, leaving Anwar alone and undecided about where to go. But at last Anwar found the rewan plant and he cheerfully took some of the roots, latamansadi, with him.[27]
By then Anwar had already found the important things he really wished for: the avoidance of illness, by possessing latamansadi, and the avoidance of death by drinking and bathing with the water of everlasting life. He had even more: the gem pitcher of eight virtues and some spare water of everlasting life. However, he wished for still more. The myth continues with the story of how Anwar, under Idajil’s guidance, moved toward becoming a super spiritual being. For example, he was led to further adventures: to the sea of Iraq, where he met the banned angels Harut and Marut, who taught him to use astrology to learn what would happen in the future.[28] In Africa he met Lata and Ujiah (‘Uzza), the rebellious son and daughter of Adam who taught him how to obtain a safe living with abundance. At the Cauldron Mountain at the upper end of the Nile River, he again met Idajil but without recognising him. Idajil gave him the mystical experience of seeing heaven; taught him to move faster than the wind; gave him the precious gift, ratnadumilah, a lamp-like shining diamond which could lead him to brighter paths; taught him, and authorised him, to teach the doctrine of everlasting life achieved through ‘reincarnation’, and the means to reach heaven for those who did not want to be reincarnated. Idajil also asked him to pursue further advanced knowledge as well as enlightenment in Maladewa, an island in the Indian Ocean, south-west of India.[29]
After following all of these instructions, Anwar moved on to his highest achievement; in a short clash with Nuradi, the king of jinns on the island of Maladewa, Nuradi surrendered to him and confessed that he, Anwar, was much more powerful. Nuradi surrendered his throne to Anwar. He asked his people to worship Anwar and to regard him as the true god. The people called the new king god Anwar, Sang (H)yang Nur Cahya meaning The Spirit of Super Light. Since Anwar gained power, the ‘religion of Sang (H)yang’ was formally established with reincarnation as its main doctrine. He married Nuradi’s daughter, Dewi Rini, with whom he produced descendants. This Sang (H)yang religion was then brought to Java by Batara Guru, the fourth descendant of Sang (H)yang Nur Cahya. Batara Guru came to Java from India, married a Javanese woman and produced a son. When he went back to India, his position was taken by his native Javanese son. When Bhagawan Abiyasa and Pandu Dewanata, the 13th and 14th Javanese descendants of Nur Cahya from Bhatara Guru, took the leadership, this religion was spread more intensively. The religion was adopted by the Javanese until Islam came.[30]
Unlike Anwar, who was born as a spirit and who set up his own religion after long contemplation and a long search for wisdom under the guidance of Idajil, the jinn, Anwas was born as a real human being, who followed the prophetic religion of his father and grandfather. He produced descendants some of whom were also prophets, including Muhammad, the last prophet (peace be upon him). They passed on the religion of Allah to those willing to accept it.
According to the myth, Idajil’s scenario did not end with Anwar, as his main concern was to have descendants who maintained Syis’ honour among jinn or humans. From the intermarriage of Anwar’s later generations with humans came the descendants who were either jinn, human, or half-jinn half-human. Some of them were honourable figures: among the jinn are the Sang (H)yang, among humans were the Sang Prabu, Pandhita, etc., and among the half-jinn half-human are the Bhatara, and Bhagawan. It was these descendants, with their religious tradition (religion of Sang Hyang), who occupied Java predating Islam.
In the Cirebonese court circle, the whole myth constitutes part of the literary tradition in which the link with their founding father, Sunan Gunung Jati, to Adam can be traced from both sides: Anwar’s and Anwas’. Sunan Gunung Jati’s mother, Rarasantang, was the daughter of Prabu Siliwangi, King of Pajajaran, the forty-first Javanese descendant of Batara Guru, and the forty-fifth descendant of Sang (H)yang Nurasa, son of Syis, son of Adam. Sunan Gunung Jati’s father is Syarif Abdullah, vizier of the Turkish Empire in Egypt, the twenty-first descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, while the Prophet Muhammad himself is the thirty-seventh descendant of Anwas, son of Syis, son of Adam.
The message behind the myth is therefore clear: on the one hand, Sunan Gunung Jati and his descendants have a legitimate right to exercise leadership, both political and spiritual, over the Javanese population, be they Sang Hyang followers, Muslims, spirits, or human beings, as long as they are descendants of Adam or the jinns. Thus they all have to live in harmony (rukun) under his descendants’ leadership. On the other hand, the myth implicitly asserts that Allah is the sole Supreme God. Other deities which are largely of Sang H(yang) type are nothing but our ancestors who deserve to be respected but not to be worshipped. They are powerless in the sense of having real and independent divine power. If they do have power, it is because God gives it to them. Their power can be repealed any time God wills it. Moreover, just like us, they are only descendants of Syis, son of Adam. Adam himself was God’s creation, who once had been punished. He survived after repenting and was granted a position as God’s representative on earth, after being granted His grace. Still, he eventually died because he was only a creature.
Idajil, the powerful super jinn, who had contributed to the birth of Sang H(yang), was nothing but a creature, whose position was below Adam’s, even below Syis’. Their common enemies are the devils, Iblis and setan, who always offer temptations to do evil and cause harm. Idajil however had fallen into this temptation.