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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

'Babylonian' matters.

When William Tyndale translated the bible (New Testament from Greek and began the Old Testament from Hebrew) he was translating myths and history from the Middle East.

These myths were old.
Translated in some cases from Sumerian, into Akkadian, into Aramaic, into Hebrew...into Greek, into English.

Each translation adding and subtracting from the original
Each transmission changed superficially.

The interpretations of the meanings of the stories are myriad.

The core transmission remarkably in tact.

Babylonian myth is easily recognisable in Biblical stories.
Simplest examples:
  • Shamhat for Eve
  • Atrahasis for Noah
Human culture is remarkably robust.
Babylon wasn't destroyed, just fractured and scattered.

In the light of this fact
Religion is fundamentally not concerned with removing fears and tensions from the community, instead religion functions as a way to brings order. How it does this is by directing deep, primal feelings towards symbols, providing structures for the energy to flow safely through...

Now Jane Harrison would say:
Myth is ritual, misunderstood.

And Robertson Smith that:
Myth depends upon ritual.

Whilst the behaviourists would say that:
Ritual is a re-direction of archaic, fundamental behaviour patterns...with a displaced referent. And that when the symbols stop working, there is a regression from symbolism to reality.

Ritual in this case is described as displacement activity
Of birds pulling up grass in a violent way, at each other
Instead of fight...

When the birds forget to pull up the grass
Or pulling up the grass stops working
They will have lost 'their religion' and begin to fight...

Joseph Campbell described myth as:
An energy-evoking and energy-directing sign, or system of signs...

Every advertising agency does its best to exploit this.

The strongest expression of government or kingship is seen in the light of some myths, as the right to kill; to execute prisoners and to wage war.

In the light of other myths, the strongest government treats its enemies with compassion....

You could see this in terms of the bible. The New Testament representing a more humane approach to kingship, superseding the old 'Babylonian' eye for an eye laws of Hammurabi, But if that was the case it took an awful long time for the death penalty to be removed, in Britain.

Death penalty ended in 1965,
Abolished in 1969..

It could be that the cause of change was British contact with India, and the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.

The New Testament certainly doesn't stop executions in America.

The beginning of the bible transmits the message of order as the prime function of religion.

From the chaotic void, god created division and light.
Tiamat (Tahom, the abyss..)
So it is understandable that religion is defined as creating order via ritual...

But it was the human mind that created the church.

To prevent life being overwhelming, human beings place a layer of insulation between themselves and the inevitable terror, shock and awe; the numinous..to function. And that something is a web of meaning that gives the user a sense of control, a belief in structure.

The attribute of meaningful by the mind to an experience allows it to be accessed by a symbol.
And experience can only be controlled when it is clothed in symbol.

The sense of living in a meaningful, as opposed to chaotic universe
Creates a belief in an underlying structure to life.
Purpose and predictability.
Manageability.

A church represents that structure.

In the same way that the statues in the Babylonian temples
Were the deity....

As they still are in Tibetan shrine rooms
And upon many pagan alters.

Is it true then, that order out of chaos is indeed the very first creation story?

The specifics of Marduk and Tiamat
And poor little Kingu
Is old.

But it is not the oldest creation story.

The creation of the heap
Seems older
Of the flow of water creating an island
And on that island there grows a tree....

But desert folk had little experience of floods and rivers and no time for that story.