Mythemes II

June 28, 2020 Category: History


{1  As stated in the previous essay: One needn’t resort to quasi-mystical conceptions like Carl Jung’s “collective unconscious” to recognize a human nature–nor the existence of common threads running through the world’s widely variegated myths.  There are, of course, treatments of archetypes other than the Jungian variety.  Jung’s insight was that there is a psychological explanation for these universal patterns.  Little did he know that evolutionary psychology would provide all the explanation we need; no mysticism required.}

{2  She was a derivative of Ishtar, other variants of which were Attar (Aramaic / Ugaritic), Astar (Abyssinian), Ashtar (Moabitic), Asherah (Canaanite).  I adumbrate the ramification of this prominent goddess in part three of “The Empowerment Of Women”.}

{3  It might be noted that in the oldest surviving EXPLICIT monotheism, Zoroastrianism, the godhead is conceptualized as the quintessence (one might say, the Platonic form) of “light” and “wisdom”: “Ahura Mazda”.  Sikhs followed suit, dubbing their godhead “Waheguru”: the ultimate teacher who brings light wherever there is darkness (see footnote 4 below).  This cosmic scheme (Light vs. Darkness) was made most explicit by the Manichaeans and Mandaeans.  I explore this topic in my essay: “Nemesis”.}

{4  The other Sikh monikers are “Akal Purakh” (for “timeless One”) and “Nirankar” (for “incorporeal One”).}

{5  Equating the godhead–or divinity in general–with LIGHT is common through most cultures.  For example, “Amita[bha]” [“Amida Butsu” in Japanese], the quintessential manifestation of the Buddha in Mahayana Buddhism, is defined as the Source of Infinite Light.  In ancient Egypt, Horus represented daylight, and thus the forces of good.  In Assyria / Babylonia, the sun-god “Shamash” was equated with justice.}

{6  Shams[um] was a prominent Arabian goddess, and the godhead of the Himyarites.  It seems that she had a Semitic background–as she was referred to as “Shemesh” by the Hebrews and as “Shemsha” by the Aramaeans.  She was likely inspired by the Assyrian / Babylonian sun-god, “Shamshu” [alt. “Shamash”].  During its Sabaean period, the Aksumite goddess L-M-Q-H (now rendered “Al-Maqah”) was sometimes associated with the sun.}

{7  Barring control over the weather, the Koran’s protagonist does not incorporate the above themes.  The Mohammedan conception of divinity appropriated elements from other popular leitmotifs–most notably the patriarchal deification that is emblematic of Judeo-Christian theology.  After all, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic theology favors the masculine over the feminine in virtually every way.  Rather than a nurturant female deity, the Yahweh / Allah is a machismo, authoritarian ruler (vindictive instead of beneficent, tyrannical instead of maternal) for whom humans are all slaves.  Moreover, rather than a solar deity, the Mohammedan godhead co-opted the extant Arabian LUNAR deification of the Hijaz–in the vein of the Akkadian / Assyrian /Babylonian moon-god “Sin” (himself based on the Sumerian “Nanna”)–a deity that became popular in northern Arabia (esp. at “Tema”) during Classical Antiquity.  His counterpart in Urartu was a female: the moon-goddess, “Selardi”.  Moreover, there was the Sabaean moon-god, “Almaqah” as well as the Qatabanic moon-god, “Amm” in southern Arabia (the latter was also seen as a thunder god).  The result of this syncretism was a moon god (à la Hubal / Aglibol) cum FATHER god (à la Yahweh).  The by-product was the Semitic derivative, “Allah”.  Also note the Himyarite variation, “Rahman” [the Merciful], who was often equated with the Abrahamic godhead. (See footnote 8 below.)  There were other lunar deities in the Middle East–notably the feminine “An-a-melekh” [“An is King”; based on the Mesopotamian sky-god, An(u)], who was worshipped at Sippar(a).  Of course, MOST memes are derivative–a topic I explore in “The Progressive Case For Cultural Appropriation”.}

{8  The spoken Himyarite language was Semitic; yet, when written, it used the Sabaean script (alt. Old South Arabian).  A similar process occurred with the development of Classical Arabic from its Syriac precursors (with respect to the Nabataean alphabet, basis for the Kufic script).}

{9  The godhead as a shepherd (and followers as his flock of sheep) is a common idiom–as I discuss in part one of this essay.}

{10  Hinduism offers a triune conception of the divine: Devi (Truth; supreme power) from whom proceeds Lakshmi (wealth / fortune) and Saraswati (wisdom).  An alternative formulation is the “tri-devi”, comprised of a triad of goddesses: Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Parvati / Kali.  In Shaktism, these three goddesses are deemed manifestations of the godhead, Maha-Shakti (see footnote 16 below).  Buddhists conceptualize three ways of understanding Reality in terms of the three turnings of the celestial “Wheel of Dharma”.  In Tibetan Buddhism, this “triple gem” is the “triratna”.  Tibetan Buddhists also posit the three bodies of Buddha (the “trikaya”): Dharma-kaya, Sambhoga-kaya, and Nirmana-kaya.  Meanwhile, the Three Roots (“Tas Sum”) of the Faith are Lama, Yidam, and Khandroma (see footnote 17 below).  Prambanan (alt. “Rara Jonggrang”) is a 9th-century Hindu temple in Indonesia dedicated to the Trimurti: god as the creator (Brahma), the preserver (Vishnu), and the transformer (Shiva).}

{11  Note that the notion of a Holy Spirit can also be found in Judaic lore, as the “Shechinah” (divine presence); and alternately the “rua[c]h hakodesh” / “rua[c]h kadshkha” (divine inspiration; literally, “divine breath”).  We even encounter “The Spirit” of god [“ruh”] (the divine breath, with which we are all infused) in the Koran–as in 5:110, 15:29, 16:102, 19:17, 21:91, 26:193, 32:9, 38:72, 66:12, 70:4, 78:38, and 97:4.  2:87 and 16:102 refer to the divine breath as the “Q-D-S” (as in “al-qudusi”).  The earliest of this concept is found in Zoroastrianism–with the Avestan “spenta mainyu”: the “holy spirit” with which the godhead (Ahura Mazda) infused all of Creation.  It could also be found in Ancient Greek philosophy, as the “pneuma”…as well as in the mystical versions of neo-Platonism.  Regarding the coming of the so-called “paraclete”: Naturally, when a trinitarian Christian reads John 16:7-13, he thinks it is referring to the Holy Spirit; yet when a Muslim reads the same verse, he thinks it is referring to MoM.  Such is the nature of prognostication: We see in it whatever we wish; and are at liberty to do so simply by reading between the lines.  Alas: Prophetic verbiage is fertile ground for eisegesis.  The problem with claiming that this term (“parakletos”) was an oblique reference to MoM is that the New Testament claims BOTH that god shall send it AND that JoN (qua Christ) shall send it, thereby insinuating that JoN WAS god.  From the wording, it is clear that it is not referring to a person, but to something that shall permeate mankind (that is: something ETHERIAL that, as it were, both dwelled within each of us and IN WHICH we might dwell).  The notion of a “Holy Spirit” pervading all things was likely a spin-off of the Neo-Platonist / Gnostic ideation of “Aeon”: an emanation of the divine (conceptualized as a kind of illumination).  This beguiling yet vague notion has timeless appeal.  In the 19th century, German philosophy had its own spin-offs: Hegel posited a “World Spirit” that governs–or is made manifest by–the course of human events.  In marrying Buddhism with Kant, Schopenhauer posited a cosmic “Will” (inspired by the Vedic notion of “Brahma”).  Then, of course, there is the Tao.}

{12  To say that we are “part of the body of Christ” and that he “abides within us” is simply to say we are “partaking in” (alt. “empowered by” / “redeemed by”) the divine; and doing so by way of Jesus’ message; and by what he embodies.  This communion effects atonement for original sin, thereby enabling salvation-by-proxy.  Christology PER SE renders the ineffable tangible–giving corporeality to that which has already been anthropomorphized in the abstract.  Hence the Abrahamic deity incarnated as a literal person.  The benefit of doing so is to make Yahweh more relatable, more accessible (i.e. more HUMAN).  Vicarious atonement offers a simple solution to a vexing cosmogenic problem…a problem that is manufactured by that same cosmogony.  (It’s a gimmick as old as time: Create the sickness, then offer the cure.)  It is no wonder it caught on so well.}

{13  It is commonplace for hidebound ideologues to read sacred texts literally in cases where they were clearly written idiomatically.  Note, for example, the use of the terms “God” and “Creator” in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, as well as in the writings of George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine (all non-religious Deists).  Such men articulated themselves using the prevailing idiom of their era, as doing so would most resonate with their target audience.  To take what was clearly idiomatic expression as a literal declamation–and thus explication of the architecture of the cosmos–is asinine.  Yet religionists in the United States TODAY are eager to interpret such language as testament to the (necessarily) Judeo-Christian foundation of the Republic.  It was nothing of the sort.}

{14  The Mohammedans actually had a poor understanding of the Christian “trinity”.  They misconstrued the Nicene ternion as father (Yahweh), mother (Miriam), and son (Jesus of Nazareth).  The authors of the Koran even thought that Jews considered Ezra [Uzayr] the son of god (9:30).  This comes as no surprise, as such misconceptions seem to have been common in the Middle East around the time the “Recitations” would have been composed.}

{15  Where there IS a valid grievance is with Roman Catholics’ quasi-deification of the “Theotokos” [“god-bearer”] pursuant to the Council of Ephesus c. 431.  This depiction was championed by Cyril of Alexandria, and became the basis for the “Virgin Mother” / “Madonna” motif that became so popular throughout the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.  (One might even call the Roman Catholic Mariology a kind of Madonna-fetishism.)  Here’s the catch: “theotokos” (one who bears GOD) was a mal-adaptation of “kristokos” (one who bears Christ), the latter of which was the more accurate translation of the original Aramaic.  This adjustment was made in Nicene Christianity so as to render JoN not merely the Christ (Jewish Messiah), but as GOD INCARNATE, in keeping with the Pauline letters.  Another version of the “Holy Mother” motif was “Hodegetria” [she who knows the way], which had purchase in Byzantine iconography; and the “Mediatrix” [holy mother as intercessor], which held sway in Maronite circles (where Miriam was seen as a mediator in salvation).  The “mother of god” theme can be traced back to ancient Egypt–with the virgin-mother Isis and her god-infant Horus.  Marian sects are prototypical examples of idolatry.}

{16  There is also a four-fold conception of the proper way of life.  This “sila” consists in dharma, artha, karma, and moksha.}

{17  In Mark 1:11, when god says to JoN, “you are my son” (at the baptism), it is idiomatic.  The line is repeated in Luke 3:22.  This becomes clear when we consider the rest of the statement: “With you I am very pleased.”  Lest we suppose god was expressing approval with HIMSELF, it is plain to see that the “son” locution was being used in the traditional Judaic sense.  This is further attested by the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is tempted by Satan immediately thereafter.  Obviously, Satan was not testing the Abrahamic deity.}

{18  “Tiamat” was the name used for the (celestial) primordial waters; and associated with chaos (which was feminine) in contradistinction to order (which was masculine).  We encounter the same dichotomy in Egyptian myth (with Ma’at and Apep, mentioned in part one of this essay).}

{19  He is also known as “Manu-Vaivasvat[a]” / “Vaivasvat[a]-Manu” of Dravida.  He was purportedly the son of Ravi Vivasvat[a] (a.k.a. Vivasvana / Surya / Aditya / Bhanu) of Navagraha.  His son was the fabled King Ikshvaku (a.k.a. “Okkaka”).}

{20  Fuck the flamingos.  (Though, it seems, aquatic animals would be spared.  Hence manatees and manta rays were given a free pass.)  Drowned animals across the entire planet were to be added to the deaths of countless, unsuspecting women and children.  The method was ridiculously inefficient; as well as outrageous.  The Judaic version of the Great Flood was the epitome of a gratuitously outlandish spectacle.  We’re expected to consider all the dead horses and giraffes–and all the dead mothers and infants–to simply be collateral damage in a grand cosmic reprimand.}

{21  Viracocha, the Incan creator-god, initially created a race of giant people analogous to the Torah’s “Nephil-im” (giants who were allegedly the progenitors of homo sapiens).  When he saw that they were disobedient to his laws, he wiped them out with a great flood.  They were then replaced by the Inca’s descendants, who obeyed his laws and so were blessed.  Sound familiar?}

{22  The discrepancies between the Hebrew and Mohammedan versions are very telling.  In the Koran (29:14), the authors state that Noah was 950 years old at the time of the flood.  Genesis 7:11 stipulates that he was 600.  Was this an attempted correction?  An honest mistake?  Or was it simply based on what the Koran’s authors had been told by others–themselves illiterate–who had misheard through word-of-mouth?  In the Koran, we are also told that the alluvion was Noah’s idea, not god’s idea.  When Noah proposes that virtually the entire human race be eradicated (71:26), god thinks it’s a swell idea; and so acts accordingly.  This is an odd twist on the traditional Flood myth.  According to the Koran, the wiping out of mankind is the result the Creator of the Universe honoring a rather drastic request.  “Nuh” wasn’t warned; he was the source of the idea.  The Abrahamic deity simply obliged.  Such garish modifications belie the authenticity of the Koranic account.}

{23  Nowruz was celebrated in Persia for over a thousand years until it was banned by Islamic powers.  It is now a festival for Bektashis, Alawites, Alevis, and Baha’i.  Only recently has it been re-incorporated into some Muslim majority countries–as an innocuous celebration of springtime, shorn of its pagan origins (see footnote 24 below).}

{24  The secularization of formerly pagan holidays is not un-common.  Even most Christian fundamentalists celebrate the pagan (Celtic) All Hallows Tide (alt. “All Hallows Eve” or “Hallow-mas”; a.k.a. “Halloween”), an auspicious occasion with roots in the Gaelic “Samhain”…which, in turn, inspired the Brythonic (Welsh) “Calan Gaeaf”.  Notably, “Christmas” has become a primarily secular holiday for the majority of people in “the West”–thereby bringing it back to its pre-Christian origins (as a commemoration of the winter solstice, as with the Germanic “Yule-Tide”).  Only Christian fundamentalists now insist that Christmas is necessarily about the nativity of Jesus of Nazareth.  (To wit: Christmas is only a religious holiday for those who happen to be religious.)  As a point of comparison: Few who celebrate Saint Patrick’s day now think of it as a religious occasion.  I explore this topic at length in my essay: “The Progressive Case For Cultural Appropriation”.}

{25  Caspar was likely a variation on “Gaspar”–who was, in turn, based on the Indo-Parthian king, Guda-paras[h]a (Romanized as “Gondo-phares”).  These figures are rendered in Syriac as Larvandad [a distortion of “Vendidad”], Hormisdas [a distortion of “Ahura Mazda”], and Gushnasaph [as found in the “Cave of Treasures” by Ephrem of Nisibis].}

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