Yesterday, I read that scientists had finally solved the mystery of the chicken and the egg. An age old question that baffled people more than the all elusive value of x: Which came first?
The Answer: The chicken came first because there is a particular protein in the egg that can produced only by a hen. Without it, the egg cannot exist. So the mystery was closed not directly, but indirectly, by proving the impossibility of the other option.
On not so dissimilar lines, I wondered about the same question about the phoenix and the flame: Which came first? The beauty of the answer lies in the fact that there can be none, for the Phoenix is a mythological creature of fire.
Its a question of opinion and background of a person. A staunch believer in ancient Greek/Egyptian/Persian mythology may chose to not answer the question claiming that there is none, and that its a truly infinite circle. Some believe that it rose from an erupting volcano or something. But in claiming its existence, they leave the doors open to scientists for doing what they do best: ask where the infinite loop started and answer the question.
One answer could be that neither the phoenix, nor the flame came first. Ok, not exactly neither. But the ashes of something else gave rise to the phoenix. Not that plausible, but hey, this is mythology. Magic and Mythology go hand in hand. You'll need to have a decent imaginative range for that.
The other answer is that the Phoenix came first... as an evolved creature. Even for a mystical creature to rise from the ashes, it should have been the burnt remains of a phoenix in the first place. How can a phoenix just rise from ordinary ashes?? This is in compliance with the indirect technique. Disprove the possibility of the opposite and there you have it. Scientifically, it makes more sense than the previous option.
Personally, I subscribe to the first option. Let the aura of the magic of a mythological creature remain. It also helps to maintain the beautiful mystery of its origin.
The rest, as I said, is a matter of opinion.