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Lugulbanda and the Mountain Cave

While working with the Epic of Gilgamesh, I have found a ‘prequel’ or story which was not in the Sandars book. This is covered by my post on Inanna and the Huluppa Tree, which sees a ‘young’ Gilgamesh doing Inanna’s bidding. Gilgamesh really depicts humankind in an era of ancient history. In the Epic itself, Gilgamesh has an interesting dream about his father Lugulbanda, who represents an era long before that of Gilgamesh, going back to the earliest of times, the stone age. It is important to understand the nature of Lugulbanda, who he was and what he achieved, in order to understand Gilgamesh, who had been so influenced by his ‘Father’. Our knowledge of Lugulbanda, the father of Gilgamesh is very sparse. In this we learn that he was a leader in the army of his father King Enmerkar (son of Utu / Shamash) on an expedition against Aratta, the mountain of ‘holy divine power’.

Aratta was a source of valuable gems, in particular Lapis Lazuli, as well as minerals, including gold. The smiths and stonemasons of the city worked with the stones and gems. It was an early sacred site for the goddess Inanna who resided there. As Queen of Heaven, she particularly loved the blue flecked with gold, of Lapis Lazuli, which symbolised the Heavens. Aratta is now thought to have been the world’s most ancient (known) civilisation. Some believe that it developed long before the Sumerian civilisation originated, and from there its culture and influence spread into India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Western China and across Europe.

It is thought that Aratta was situated in the Zagos mountains in North Eastern Iran and could have been part of the early gem trade route of the “Great Khorasan Road” from the Himalayan Mountains. It was a great civilisation where the Goddess Inanna originally was worshipped, until Uruk replaced it in her favour and her great Temple and precinct were built there. There was great rivalry between the two cities – Uruk needed stone and Aratta needed barley. The Kings of both these cities were at one time also in competition for the favours of Inanna.

The expedition with Lugulbanda against Aratta included seven young heroes, overseers and captains of 25,200 men. This number, using the Sumerian base of 6 is made up of 6 X 60 X 70. Looking at the symbolism of these numbers six is the number of the world having been made in 6 days. Sixty symbolises periods of time, i.e. 60 minutes makes the hour and 60 seconds make the minute; it is a round number as three score and is often used in sagas. Seventy is the allotted span of human life. In effect this number represents a very large number of men.

But Lugulbanda was the eighth son. This has been interpreted as being the youngest son of many, but the number eight spiritually symbolises the goal of the initiate, who has passed through the seven stages or realms of spiritual evolution. It is thus the number of paradise regained or of resurrection. We see from this that Lugulbanda was clearly a sage and a mystic.

Interestingly, eight is the magic number of Nebo who was a major god in the Sumerian pantheon and was the patron of writing – his symbols being the clay tablet and the stylus. Mount Nebo is an elevated ridge in Jordan, where Moses was granted a view of the promised land, although God said that he could not enter. He is said to be buried on this mountain.[1] The story of Moses is interlinked with that of Gilgamesh and the coming prominence of the God Shamash, to whom he was devoted, and the God of the old testament.

Lugulbanda and his brothers and companions, on their way to Aratta, had climbed high up on the sacred holy mountain. It was said that here Lugulbanda was bathed in water, probably as part of an initiation rite; then
‘in awed silence, he went forward’. What an awesome image! As Lugulbanda was a spiritually evolved being, this was to bestow kingship from heaven on him as the next God King of Uruk. After this Lugulbanda is always referred to as holy Lugulbanda.

They then continued on their journey but
‘When they had covered half the way, a sickness befell him – a ‘head’ sickness. He jerked like a snake dragged by its head; his mouth bit the dust. He could no longer return a hand grip, nor could he lift his feet high. His teeth chattered.’[2]

This ‘head’ sickness was probably a kind of seizure. The Babylonians emphasized the supernatural nature of epilepsy, with each seizure type associated with the name of a spirit or god. Treatment was therefore a spiritual matter. Epilepsy was considered a sacred disease. The word epilepsy means ‘to take hold of’ or ‘to seize’ by a god.

His brothers and companions could not help Lugulbanda, so they brought him to a warm place. They made him an arbour like a bird’s nest, and they left him food: dates, figs and sweetmeats suitable for the sick to eat. They also laid out food as if for a funerary offering; water, incense resin, beer and many provisions. They wrapped up his dagger by his chest and placed an axe by his head. They could detect no breath, so his brothers and friends abandoned holy Lugulbanda in the mountain cave, with tears, moaning, grief and lamentations, thinking that he was dead. They set off again into the mountains and continued on their way to Aratta.

The cave which Lugulbanda stayed in was possibly the Yafteh Cave, a famous and well known cave dating back to the Palaeolithic period and located between Susa and Godin Tepe (possibly Aratta).

For two days and then a half day Lugulbanda lay ill, but his consciousness slowly returned. For the Sumerians, numbers were used as symbols, but two and a half days was at first puzzling, until we realised that this makes sixty hours. Sixty was the base of Sumerian mathematics and their trigonometry and measurements of time. It was from them that we have sixty seconds making up a minute and sixty minutes in an hour. Sixty hours was thus a sacred unit of time.

As he came to himself, a tearful Lugulbanda prayed to Utu, who was later worshipped as Shamash god of the sun, justice, morality and truth, and was the primary protector of both Lugulbanda and of Gilgamesh. His main characteristics were kindness and generosity. Utu accepted Lugulbanda’s tears and bestow upon him sustenance and fortitude. Tears would have shown his sincerity and deep feeling.

His prayer to Inanna refers to:
‘the little stones of it, the shining stones in their glory, sajkal stones above, —below.  —– may my limbs not perish in the mountains of the cypresses’.[3] Note that the —- represents missing words or parts of the tablet which are undeciphered.
Inanna loves the shining gemstones as mentioned earlier, the brilliance of Lapis Lazuli, but also it seems the ‘sajkal stone above’ (the earth) was important. Perhaps it was granite? The stones below could have been the shiny gemstones from under the earth.  Lugulbanda prays that he doesn’t perish in the mountains.

To understand the role of stone in this society, there is an ancient story of King Ninurta (son of Enlil, god of earth, wind and spirit) who classified all stones – he stood before them and decreed their uses or otherwise. The sajkal stone was among the first mentioned; as he stood before it he said:
Sajkal stone, since you flew up against me ……’ ‘The sajkal stone will smash you‘[4].
Perhaps the hard stone was used as a weapon. For ancient peoples like the Australian Aboriginal, every rock is animate and sentient, known and understood. Stone arrangements mark the movement of the sun throughout the year, they make the moon rise and the alignment of the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – along the same path on an Equinox.[5] Across the world there are stone monuments like this e.g. Newgrange in Ireland, and Stonehenge in England. There are stories about the stones, who are equated with people, with attributes such as certain powers, strengths and weaknesses; indeed in Aboriginal stories people were sometimes turned into stones and recognised, just as in the story of Ninurta mentioned above.

Lugulbanda prayed to the goddess Inanna in tears. She was the twin sister of Utu or Shamash. Inanna accepts Lugulbanda’s tears and with her lifegiving power, she lets him sleep and envelopes him in the warmth of her heart’s joy.

The glorious moon shone its light on Lugulbanda in his cave. Lugulbanda raised his eyes to heaven, to Suen the moon, the Sumerian Nanna, who was the father of Utu and Inanna.  Lugulbanda entreated him tearfully, as if he was praying to his father and Suen accepted his tears giving him life. The god who had smitten him then left him.[6]

Lugulbanda came out of the cave and found lifesaving plants and water nearby. He then hurriedly left this place and came down from the mountain. That night he set off again hurrying through the mountains, which looked like a wasteland in the moonlight. He was alone and  there was not a single person to be seen. ‘With the provisions stocked in leather pails, put in leather bags, his brothers and his friends had been able to bake bread on the ground, with some cold water. Holy Lugulbanda had carried the things from the mountain cave.’[7]

So we could say that Lugulbanda represents humankind in a previous era (before Gilgamesh). He discovered fire by repeatedly striking flintstones together. Not knowing how to bake bread, and having no knowledge of an oven, he baked the dough on the hot coals and garnished the bread with date syrup, and so he kept himself alive in that strange and remote place. It has been suggested that mountain acorns were roasted and ground to make the first flour, long before ‘wild grasses’ or grains were used.[8]

Lugulbanda sees a fine wild bull who is very hungry. It was chewing aromatic cimgig (cedar resin) as if it was barley; it was grinding up cypress wood and eating shrubs as if they were grasses. Lugulbanda catches this bull and tethers it to a tree. Then he sees a brown goat and a nanny goat; ‘flea-bitten goats, lousy goats, goats covered in sores’. They were also eating the resin, wood and shrubs instead of grasses. This signifies that it was mid-winter, when there was no available grass. It would also have been very cold. The hungry goats symbolise Capricornus (the constellation of the goatfish). In the early bronze age, the winter solstice occurred in this constellation. Lugulbanda also catches these goats and tethers them to a tree.

Lugulbanda now prepared himself to dream by performing a sacred ritual; and lay down on a bed of aromatic herbs, spread out a garment and a linen sheet. He then drank strong beer and settled down, not to sleep, but to dream.

The god of dreams asks:
‘Who will slaughter a brown wild bull for me? Who will make its fat melt for me? He shall take my axe whose metal is tin, he shall wield my dagger which is of iron. Like an athlete I shall let him bring away the brown wild bull, the wild bull of the mountains, I shall let him like a wrestler make it submit. Its strength will leave it. When he offers it before the rising sun, let him heap up like barleycorns the heads of the brown goat and the nanny goat, both the goats; when he has poured out their blood in the pit — let their smell waft out in the desert so that the alert snakes of the mountains will sniff it.’[9]

This is quite extraordinary. First he is asked to wrestle the bull and to overpower and kill it with his own strength. Then he should roast it and offer it to the rising sun (the god Shamash).

With his tin axe (this is prior to the bronze age) and his dagger he must kill the goats, heap their heads into a pit and pour out their blood into it; to offer them to the alert snake of the mountains. This describes a powerful ritual sacrifice; the head of the sacrificed animals contained their life force and fertility. The Sumerian god El was depicted with two heads, symbolising the beginning and the end, past and future, solar and lunar and most importantly the descending and ascending power of the sun. Blood was regarded as the life principle and rejuvenating force hence the blood sacrifice. There is also a relationship between blood and fertility.

The snake here probably represents the early Sumerians of the Eridu period, who worshipped the serpent goddess Tiamat.[10] She was the goddess of the salt sea, who mated with the god of fresh water to produce the younger gods. She was also the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation and the first creator goddess. Lugulbanda needed to appease these people on whose land he was living. But the sacrifice was also about gratitude for the sparing of his Life.

At sunrise, Lugulbanda invokes the name of Enlil the god of earth, wind, and spirit in his prayers. By invoking Enlil he enforces or compels the other gods, that is An (father of the gods), Enki (god of water and knowledge) and Ninhursaja (fertility goddess of the sacred mountains), to sit down to a banquet at a pit in the mountains where he had made his preparations. Note that it was Ninhursaja goddess of the holy mountain, who is present, rather than Inanna, as this is Ninhursaja’s domain. The banquet was set, and the libations were poured — dark beer, alcoholic drink, light beer, wine for drinking which is pleasant to the taste. The best of drink.  Over the plain he poured cool water as a libation. He put the knife to the flesh of the brown goats, and he roasted their dark livers. He let their smoke rise like incense put on the fire. So, An, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursaja consumed the best part of the food prepared by Lugulbanda.
The liver is a powerful symbol – it was believed to be the centre of the whole human being, the origin of life and the seat of the soul. It was thought to be the principle instrument of blood production.[11] So this blood sacrifice was a powerful sacrament to the gods, for Life, Power, and Success.

Now Lugulbanda prepares two great holy altars, one for Suen / Nana god of the moon; a shining place of pure strength, and one for Shamash the sun god. He decorated the two altars with the lapis lazuli of Inanna and he bathed the a-an-kar, a weapon of strength for Inanna. When he had done this, ‘he set out all the cakes properly’.[12]

This last sacrifice is in preparation for war. Inanna is the fierce and powerful goddess of war and her great weapon, a-an-kar, is purified in preparation. However it seems that the mountain tribes show her no respect. So in her fury she prepares arrows in her quiver, slingshots with rope, polishes her lance, prepares throwstick and shield. She wears cornelian rosettes around her throat and lapis lazuli straps on her feet.[13] She also uses fire and flood as weapons against her enemies.

These are powerful descriptions of sacred rituals and sacrifices to the gods. They were meticulously prepared and executed. The outcomes were vitally important to Lugulbanda and his people.

The following fragments are broken, and they are difficult, if not impossible, to decipher. There seem to have been terrible demons, perhaps using guerrilla tactics, to wreak havoc amongst the townspeople of the mountains.  A battle against evil.

The following is an example:

‘They lie up during all the long day, and during the short night they enter …… houses (?); during the long day, during the short night they lie in beds ……, they give ……. At dead of night they sing out ……, in the breeze …… swallows of Utu; they enter into house after house, they peer into street after street, they are talkers, they are repliers to talkers, seeking words with a mother, replying to a great lady; they nestle at the bedside, they smite ……, when the black …… are stolen, they leave …… the doors and tables of humans, they change ……, they tie the door-pivots together. The hero who ……, Utu who ……, the heroic youth Utu of the good word’[14]

This is where this story ends.

[1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount Nebo

[2] http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1821.htm 71 – 140

[3] http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1821.htm 183-196

[4] http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr162.htm l

[5] Tyson Yunkaporta. Sand talk. Text Publishing. Melbourne. Australia 2019

[6]  http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1821.htm 141 – 239

[7] Ibid 276

[8] http://oldeuropeanculture.blogspot.com/2014/11/acorns-in-archaeology.html

[9] Ibid 351-360

[10] https://lost-history.com/gilgamesh.php

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6078213/

[12] http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1821.htm 371-393

[13] http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr132.htm

[14] http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1821.htm 394-432

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree – Preamble to The Epic of Gilgamesh

This story is a preamble or prologue to the great Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest examples of literature ever found: it was written over five thousand years ago. This Epic probably existed in much the same form told orally recorded many centuries earlier, but were written on clay tablets in the first centuries of the second millennium B.C. These stories reflect the period that separated Abraham from Noah.

But before we delve into the Gilgamesh Epic I want to write about the story of the goddess Inanna and the Huluppu Tree, as this story is important and helpful in the understanding of the background history of Gilgamesh, of the beliefs and culture of the peoples in this distant time past.

The story of Inanna and the Huluppa Tree is really a form of creation myth which predates the Epic of Gilgamesh but sets the scene for it.

It is written in symbolic language which needs to be interpreted rather than taken literally. Each word and number have a symbolic meaning, so this is about de-coding the ancient history of human-kind. The story reflects both inner and outer aspects of life and is not linear but rather reflects the cycles of life, nature and history.

The story begins:
‘At the very beginning, in the first days and nights and years, just after everything was created, a Huluppu (willow) tree was planted by the banks of the Euphrates. The whirling South Wind arose, pulling at its roots and ripping its branches until the waters of the Euphrates carried it away’.[1]

The wind represents the spirit or vital breath of the universe and the power of the spirit in sustaining life. As the south wind, it represents the heat and fire of summer. Summer was the season of dry heat and was the most difficult season for the people to survive. A young woman, the goddess Inanna, plucked the tree from the river so as to plant it in her holy garden, in Uruk. This garden can be understood as the ‘garden of Eden’ or the original garden of Inanna, who was the fertility goddess. What she has done is to take a young sapling which had been uprooted in a summer storm and replanted it where she wanted it. It could thus be the earliest record of planting and of agriculture. The tree was useful as we shall see. It provided shade and wood for the people.

‘I shall bring this tree to Uruk.
I shall plant this tree in my holy garden.’

Inanna planted the tree, settling the earth around it with her foot. She tended and cared for this tree. Inanna was the goddess of fertility, so this becomes part of her brief. Her foot can be seen as analogous to the root of the tree itself, but the print of her foot in the soil around the tree symbolises her Divine presence, her form impressed on the universe.

The years passed, five years, and then ten years, and the tree grew thick and strong. Five is the number of ‘man’ forming a pentagon with outstretched arms and legs. The pentagon being endless, shares the symbolism of the perfection and power of a circle. Like the circle, the pentacle symbolises the whole, the number of the centre and the meeting point of heaven and earth, and the four cardinal points plus the centre. In other words, the five years symbolised the evolution of humankind.

Ten is the number of the cosmos, the paradigm of creation. The tenth day of the spring festival was celebrated by a procession comprising of all the gods. ‘The southern part of Mesopotamia was and is, a flat hot land of marsh and plain, very productive when drained, but apart from the date-palm, it was without timber and without metals.’[2] Thus, it is fundamental to this account that Inanna brought the Huluppa (willow) tree to Uruk. The willow would have provided shade in the heat of the sun, and wood for building.

It was the wood from willow trees which was used in the early building of the city of Uruk. The Huluppa tree flourished in Inanna’s sanctuary. Many ancient precincts had sacred groves complete with sacred trees including the Huluppa.

But now Inanna wanted a shining throne to sit on and a shining bed to lie on, made from this tree.

‘How long will it be until I have a shining throne to sit upon?
How long will it be until I have a shining bed to lie upon?’

This tree represents the ‘Tree of Life’ or the ‘World Tree’ which connects heaven, earth and the underworld. The great fertility goddess, Inanna/Ishtar was worshipped in the great temple in Uruk. This was her home and where she resided – where she had her throne and her sacred marriage bed! She was the Queen of Heaven, and the goddess of Love and War. Note that Inanna originally had her great Centre and Temple in the city of Aratta but the King of Uruk pleased her more than the King of Aratta, so she transferred her allegiance to Uruk, as we learn from the story of Lugulbanda in the Mountain Cave, and Lugulbanda and the Anzu-bird. In those times Inanna was loving and helpful to the Kings of Uruk, she managed the agriculture and aquaculture of the city and the trade in grain to the cities in the mountains. She gave good advice and the city prospered.

But in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Inanna / Ishtar is an equivocal character; an awful and lovely goddess, who we see only in the terrible and darker side of her nature. In the Epic, Gilgamesh rejects her advances and accuses her of all the terrible things that she has done to her consorts. He has no wish to become like them. In fact, I believe that this story is a history of those ancient times, which shows the decline of Ishtar and the rise of the patriarchy with the worship of the god Shamash, the Divine Light, being very much like the God of Moses and the Old Testament.

‘Then the serpent who could not be charmed
Made it’s nest in the roots of the Huluppu-tree.’[3]

If we understand the Huluppa tree as being the World Tree, it would be no great surprise to find a serpent in its roots and often a bird in its branches. Snakes had connections with earth and the fecundity goddesses, indeed these beings of earth and underworld often lived under such goddesses’ shrines. There is a vast symbology relating to snakes or serpents. Associated with the Tree of Life, the aspect of the serpent is beneficent however, with the Tree of Knowledge it is seen as the poison of the evil of the world of manifestation. In the Babylonian Talmud, Tiamat, ‘the footless’, the serpent of darkness signifies chaos, the undifferentiated, undivided, guile and wickedness. The telling words are that ‘the serpent who could not be charmed’. The snake is a generative force of nature which cannot be controlled or used.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a priestess of Inanna / Ishtar, who was the Temple Harlot or sacred prostitute, sometimes named as Shamhat, which literally means ‘luscious one’, was sent to tame and civilise the wild and natural man Enkidu, using her power of sexuality / sensuality to charm and seduce him. She taught him language, how to eat bread, to drink beer, wear clothes and to live with humankind. This was the role of the Feminine, of the goddess Ishtar. In this case the ‘snake’ was charmed, but Inanna could not allow the chaotic forces of darkness and the underworld to go uncontrolled.  Interestingly Ishtar, the great goddess, is portrayed with a serpent, but I suspect this is a serpent which can be ’charmed’. The serpent amongst the roots of Inanna’s tree was not one who could be charmed.

The snake is also a symbol of death, destruction, and, as it renews its skin periodically, it is life and resurrection. It is indeed an upsurging life-force, uncontrolled and undifferentiated. It lives in an in-between place, an edge place between the depths of the earth and the land. The snake is a boundary creature able to move in the earth and the entrances to the underworld.

The serpent can also be seen as the umbilical cord, the vaginal snake emerging from the dark womb, the dark earth. Serpents live in the ground and shed old skin to grow and renew.

Inanna as goddess of fertility seduces and renews the month and the year. It is because of her and through her that everything is born, comes to life, and eventually dies. She is the Earth itself, which is fertilised by her consort. She is Nature and the seasons. Inanna is called the ‘first snake’ by her high priestess and poet Enheduanna, the daughter of Sargon circa 2300 BC.[4] New life arrives in a gush of sea water held by the vaginal snake. Tree roots also resemble snakes.[5]

Inanna clearly sees the snake in the roots of the tree as a dark and negative force. It could be that an ancient religion related to the snake has become established in Inanna’s domain.

The snakes who were banished from Ireland were the Druids who lived in the forest and practiced their arts including healing. They were banished by St. Patrick, a Christian, but there were never any actual snakes in Ireland, so where did the idea of the snake come from. In ancient Irish fairy tales, the centre of their Spirituality was in Syria, which is a fascinating thought. There is a mountain in Ireland called Croagh Patrick where the druids used to live and from where the Christians banished them – clearly they were feared and considered demonic.

The snake here probably represents the early Sumerians of the Eridu period, who worshipped the serpent goddess Tiamat.[6] She was the goddess of salt sea, who mated with the god of fresh water to produce the younger gods. She was the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation and the first creator goddess. Again, this snake was considered as uncontrollable by Inanna. She did not want her in her tree.

In the story of ‘Lugulbanda (the father of Gilgamesh) in the Mountain Cave’, Lugulbanda is left for dead by his brothers to live or die in a cave in the high mountains. He was part of an expedition to overcome the holy city of Aratta, where Inanna used to reside. Lugulbanda prays to Shamash, Inanna, and Nanna (the Moon) to be healed of his sickness and is eventually healed by them.

Lugulbanda dreams that he should sacrifice a wild bull and two wild goats, one brown goat and the other a nanny goat to his gods. He heaped up the heads of the goats and poured out their blood in the pit so that their smell wafted out over the mountain, so that the alert snake (peoples) of the mountains sniffed it and partook of the sacrifice.  What are these snakes which are mentioned? Are they followers of this old Sumerian religion that Lugulbanda is trying to appease? Are these the snakes that Inanna dislikes and wants rid of them from her tree of life?[7]

The Tree of Life has been transformed into a Tree of Knowledge, with the snake at its roots becoming demonic. Hazrat Inayat Khan, speaking of Optimism, says that optimism represents the spontaneous flow of love, and also that optimism represents trust in love. It is love trusting love which is optimism. Cleverness does not reach far, it can only go so far, for cleverness is knowledge which belongs to earth. When we trust in our experience, which is earthly, we are stuck. Experiences of Life and Love become Knowledge. Things which were once judged to be good become rejected because they are now considered bad, and vice versa. Spiritually nothing can be judged as being good or bad. We can find good in the bad, and bad in the good. We must not judge; in judging and rejecting, much is lost, as we shall see.

‘The Anzu-bird set its young in the branches of the tree.’

The Anzu is a divine storm-bird and personification of the south wind and thunder clouds, with its lion’s head and massive wings. It was seen to be a storm demon but was also seen as ‘the wise one of heaven’.  According to Plato, the material world was created not directly by the Father of All but by a lesser divinity called the Demiurge or ‘craftsman’; this craftsman took guidance from an abstract mathematical pattern that Plato described as the ‘soul’ of the cosmos or ‘world soul’. When the ‘Craftsman’ created the material world he took guidance from a mathematical pattern that determined the ratios in which he measured out a series of ‘portions’ that he drew from an initial metaphysical blending of Being, Sameness and Difference. A true artist or world maker would take guidance from the World Soul itself.[8] The priests of Uruk were great mathematicians, so the Tablet of Destinies could be a pattern or matrix for the creation of Kingship and the Kingdom. This Tablet of Destinies was stolen from Enlil, god of earth, wind and the universal air, ultimately spirit, and hidden on the mountain top, by the Anzu-bird, who now held this powerful knowledge and authority.

The Tablet of Destinies was a sort of divine template and the wearer of this tablet had the full control of the universe and fates of all. [9]

We now come to the story of ‘Lugulbanda and the Anzu-bird’.[10] Lugulbanda has recovered from his illness on the mountain top and finds an Anzu-bird chick hungry in its nest and feeds it with every good thing that a bird would love. Lugulbanda treats the Anzu-bird chick with the greatest respect, as a Divine Being. He identifies with the chick and becomes the ‘child’ of the bird’s parents. So, we learn that the Anzu-bird was considered Divine and positive by Lugulbanda.

In return the Anzu-bird parent helps Lugulbanda find his brother warriors; and his destiny is foretold; a destiny which he must never share with anyone. This would be the destiny of Kingship which would eventually come down to him, and Lugulbanda does indeed become the next king of Uruk. The Anzu-bird offers him whatever he wants, but  he asks for and is given the ability to travel at super speeds, so that he can reach his army quickly.

Eventually, after meeting up with his brothers, Lugulbanda volunteers to visit Inanna in Uruk, so as get her help in overcoming the city, which his army was besieging. Inanna loved Lugulbanda and was happy to offer him assistance and advice, knowing that he had been helped by the Anzu-bird.

Things had clearly changed from the time of Lugulbanda, when we compare this to the early reign of his son Gilgamesh. Now Inanna no longer accepts the Anzu-bird. The Anzu-bird has no place in her garden in Uruk, but belongs on the mountain tops in the wilderness, from whence it came. The followers of the Anzu-bird were most probably the followers of a religion which worships the great Lion-headed Eagle in the mountain regions and among the hill tribes. A shrine had been built to worship the storm god Adad, with an eagle settling on its crown and a snake settling in its roots. The eagle almost certainly symbolises the Elamite culture centred in the mountains of northwest Iran, in the Zagros mountains. Excavations of their capital Susa have shown the eagle totem to be the dominant religious motif of the city.[11] It is interesting to note that the Zagros mountains were the home of both to Early Man (Neanderthals) and some of the first villages of the Neolithic Period (c.8000-4000 BCE). This is important when we see the coming of Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

So it is the followers of the Anzu-bird religion, and its adherents or devotees which Inanna is objecting to and trying to get rid of. She wants to send them back to the high mountains, together with the snake people. Perhaps they are refugees in her city and she cannot tolerate them.

‘And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk.’

Lilith is said to be a dark and dangerous spirit of the night. She is a maid or virgin who exists as one of the three lawless creatures who live outside the bounds of Inanna’s community. As a virgin she would not be accepted by this goddess of fertility and sexuality. Lil can also be translated as ‘sacred place’, ‘spirit’, ‘water-spirit’, but also simply as an ‘owl’, given that the ‘lil’ is building a home in the trunk of her tree. The bird-footed woman in the Burney Relief shows a woman with bird like features, with wings and bird-feet, standing on top of two lions, between two owls. Some think she is Lilith and others that she is a representation of Inanna herself.

Lilith is a figure in the Babylonian Talmud (3rd – 5th century AD), so from a time several centuries after the Gilgamesh tablets were written. Lilith was depicted as Adam’s first wife. It was written that Adam and Lilith were created from the same clay at the same time and were created equal. They had the same attributes of strength and character. [12] This is also seen in Genesis 1. But Lilith would not be submissive to Adam and so left the’ garden’ to go into the wilderness, or it could be that she was banished. I think that Lilith is synonymous with the goddesses of old, like Hestia before the coming of the patriarchy. Hestia was the goddess of the hearth, the heart centre of the home and of feminine dominion. Hestia was known for her kindness and gentleness.  Most interesting is that she rejected marriage with Poseidon and Apollo, so as to prevent war between them. Had she married either one, there would have been war. She swore herself to perpetual virginity, so rejecting Aphrodite’s values.[13] Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus and so of the patriarchy, was likewise a goddess of love and war, as was Inanna, and is in fact an aspect of the same goddess. Hestia like Lilith refused to submit to male domination, so Lilith would be akin to Hestia. The virgin is the prima matria or matrix, the bearer of light and she is symbolised by the tree. She is unwed, whole and complete in herself and therefore free. She does not need a male partner.  Her symbol is the moon and the serpent. The virgin birth is the union of the divine and the human, heaven and earth, which results in the birth of a god or superior being. It also symbolises the birth of intelligence or higher faculties in man. Eve, who was Adam’s second wife, was submissive to Adam, and would be akin to Inanna who also eventually served mankind, as we shall see.

‘The young woman who loved to laugh wept. How Inanna wept!
(Yet they would not leave her tree.)’

These three great archetypes, The Snake, Lilith and the Anzu-bird – were powerful symbols of religious cults who lived outside the bounds of Inanna’s domain. They lived in the wilderness, in the forests and high mountains. For Inanna they were parasites which needed to be vanquished. Inanna was distraught and wept because they would not leave her tree. The weeping could mean that there were great storms and rains at that time. It is interesting that all the creatures in her tree were somehow related to the south wind and the summer heat – the summer solstice perhaps. A difficult time of heat and drought in Uruk. The coming of autumn and the cooling of the sun would have been a powerful symbol of hope for rain and fertility. There would have been great festivals at this time as there were in Stonehenge at mid-summer.

Inanna called her brother Utu (Shamash) god of Light and the Sun; she told him her story and complained bitterly to him. But Utu would not help his sister rid herself of the three dark spirits in her tree. He was right to refuse her. All spirituality, nature and creation were and are sacred – there needed to be balance and harmony in all things. This balance and harmony were the basic premise of their religion. Here is a story about Yellowstone National Park in the United States which illustrates this beautifully:

‘It starts with the wolves who disappeared from Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, in the 1920s. When they left, the entire ecosystem changed. Elk herds in the park increased their numbers and began to make quite a meal the aspens, willows, and cottonwoods that lined the streams. Vegetation declined and animals that depended on the trees left. The wolves were absent for seventy years. When they returned, the elks’ languorous browsing days were over. As the wolf packs kept the herds on the move, browsing diminished, and the trees sprang back. The roots of cottonwoods and willows once again stabilised stream banks and slowed the flow of water. This in turn, created space for animals such as beavers to return. These industrious builders could now find the materials they needed to construct their lodges and raise their families. The animals that depended on the riparian meadows came back, as well. The wolves turned out to be better stewards of the land than people, creating conditions that allowed the trees to grow and exert their influence on the landscape.[14]

Shamash was principally the judge and lawgiver, with some fertility attributes, as the brother of Inanna. He was the god of wisdom, the son of Sin the moon and ‘greater than his father’. He really became the principle god of the Sumerians and of Gilgamesh in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Since Utu / Shamash would not help her, Inanna called her ‘brother’ Gilgamesh and asked him for help in clearing away the ‘parasites’. Gilgamesh was king and high priest of Uruk, but he also represents humankind in these stories. It was the job of Inanna’s priests to appease her when things went awry. So Gilgamesh, as her high priest and king, agreed to help her. He therefore prepared for battle.

Gilgamesh fastened on his armour which weighed fifty minas. He lifted his bronze axe, which weighed seven talents and seven minas, to his shoulder, and entered Inanna’s holy garden.

The mina was a unit of weight equivalent to 1.25 pounds, so fifty minas (62.5 lbs) would be a mighty weight to carry – powerful armour. But the number fifty indicates a return to the beginning and the primordial state, after the completion of the 7 x 7 cycle of years. He was ready to defend Inanna and go to war for her.

His bronze axe weighed seven talents and seven minas. The talent was a unit of weight which was introduced later – there were 60 minas in a talent (56.9 pounds). Thus, seven talents and seven minas were symbolic of great might and weaponry. Seven is the number of the universe and symbolises completeness or totality. For the Sumerians there are seven lunar divisions and seven days of the week. Seven was a magical number,

Gilgamesh was perfectly prepared both physically, materially and spiritually to do battle with the three ‘demons’ and rid Inanna of the parasites in her tree.

‘Gilgamesh struck the serpent who could not be charmed.
The Anzu-bird flew with his young to the mountains;
And Lilith smashed her home and fled to the wild, uninhabited places.’

Gilgamesh struck the snake – we are not told what happened to it, but we assume that it was vanquished.  Seeing the snake overcome, the Anzu-bird flew off into the mountains from where it came, thus saving its chicks. Lilith fearing for her life, smashed her home and fled to the wilderness. So Gilgamesh had successfully ‘cleared’ Inanna’s tree of its ‘demons’. He was now free to give Inanna what she craved for – her throne and her bed.

‘Gilgamesh then loosened the roots of the Huluppa-tree;
and the sons of the city, who accompanied him, cut off the branches.’

Gilgamesh then uprooted the tree and the young men of the city stripped the tree of its branches and bundled them up. Perhaps this was the first time that wood was used as a commodity. From the sacred Tree of Life, Gilgamesh built a great Temple for Inanna in Uruk:  The Throne and the Bed for the Sacred Marriage between god and man.

From the trunk of the tree he carved a throne for his holy sister.
From the trunk of the tree Gilgamesh carved a bed for Inanna.

In the time of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Inanna’s temple was a magnificent building decorated with reliefs and mosaics, comprising a great court and an inner sanctuary, with a Ziggurat behind. This was a holy mountain in miniature: an antechamber between heaven and earth where the gods could converse with men. The temples were served by a perpetual priesthood, in whose hands was almost the whole wealth of the state, and amongst whom were the archivists, teachers, scholars and mathematicians. The whole temporal power was theirs, as servants of Inanna whose estates they managed. [15]

Inanna’s bed represents the ‘Sacred Marriage’ or hieros gamos originally between Heaven and Earth, with the rains from the male heaven fertilising mother earth, so that green vegetation sprung from her. In Sumer Inanna and her first consort Dumuzi re-enacted this relationship: Ceremonially the marriage between Inanna and Dumuzi was re-enacted between the goddess (her high priestess) and the Sumerian king. The result of this consummation was to be the happy sound of churning of milk in the dairy.[16]


‘From the roots of the tree she fashioned a pukku for her brother.
From the crown of the tree Inanna fashioned a mikku for Gilgamesh
the hero of Uruk’.

What is it that Inanna gives Gilgamesh in return for her great temple and precinct?

Pukku and Mikku have originally been translated as drum and drumstick, but it is now thought that Pukku is a round solid wooden ball carved from the base or roots of the tree. Boys play Pukku, girls skip, so Mikku could have been a skipping rope.  Pukku was mentioned in connection with Inanna, as goddess of war, in relation to a bloody sport. To her the fray of battle was just a game. She revelled in hand to hand combat. To quote:

‘O Inanna, make fight and combat ebb and flow like a skipping rope’.

‘I send heads rolling like heavy Pukkus,
I play with my skipping rope whose cord is specked (with blood).’[17]

In another poem of Gilgamesh and the Netherworld, Gilgamesh makes playthings for himself and involves young men from his city in a game that lasts all day. As play was about to resume one morning the womenfolk complained to the gods and the playthings disappeared into the bowels of the earth. This reflects the opening situation in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the poem it shows the pukku as a ball and the mikku as a mallet. This makes more sense:

‘As for himself he fashions its base into a ball,
he fashions its branch into a mallet.
Playing with the ball he took the ball out in the city square,
playing with the —- he took the —- out in the city square.
The young men of his city were playing with the ball,
with them riding piggyback on each other among a band of widows sons’[18]  as they competed for the ball.

Note that the — represent missing words on the tablet.

In this case the Mikku is a mallet, used to play a form of polo or croquet. They were used to playing rough and violent war games in the city square. They played from morning till evening, with the young men breaking into teams.

In cutting down the sacred Tree of Life and using the wood to make the throne (temple) and bed (sacred marriage) for Inanna, could demonstrate the first act of using nature – the beginning of agriculture, growing barley and making beer. Of harvesting the wood from the trees for building and for manufacturing. Natures own balance was being destroyed. Thus some things become parasites or weeds, rather than being accepted as part of nature. This was the setting for the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which led to the ‘creation’ of Enkidu, to contend with Gilgamesh, his expedition to the mountains to kill Humbaba, the protector of the great cedar forest, to fell the cedar, build the great gates of Uruk and the Ziggurat and thereby causing devastating ecological disaster. The Tree of Life became the Tree of Knowledge, this was the ‘sin’ of Inanna, not of Eve. Or did Inanna become Eve, the submissive wife of mankind? Goddess of love / sex, and war in service to mankind.

The cyclic nature of birth, death and rebirth, reflected in the being of the Tree of Life, is now replaced by the linear birth / death scenario. There is no hope of resurrection or an afterlife. No wonder Gilgamesh were so obsessed with death, and the search for eternal life.

[1] http://jewishchristianlit.com/Texts/ANEmyths/gilgamesh12.html

[2] N. Sandars. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics, London 1977

[3] http://jewishchristianlit.com/Texts/ANEmyths/gilgamesh12.html

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enheduanna

[5] Sandra Bart Heimann, The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth and almost everything. Balboa Press 2016

[6] https://lost-history.com/gilgamesh.php

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugalbanda_in_the_Mountain_Cave

[8] John Bigalow. The Song of the Grasshopper.

[9] http://www.ancientpages.com/2016/12/10/babylonian-story-of-bird-god-anzu-the-wise-one-and-his-underworld-realm/

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugalbanda_and_the_Anzud_Bird

[11] https://lost-history.com/gilgamesh.php

[12] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/lilith-lady-flying-in-darkness/

[13] Nuria Daly, The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press, 2017 p 104

[14] Peter Wohlleben. The Hidden Life of Trees. What they feel How they communicate. Black Inc. Australia, 2015

[15] Sanders, N. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics, London, 1977 p15

[16] https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/books/9781614512639/9781614512639-032/9781614512639-032.pdf

[17] http://newatlantistheory.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-pukku-and-mikku-of-gilgamesh.html

[18] ibid

Gilgamesh after his return.

It has been established beyond a doubt that a man, a king, named Gilgamesh lived and reigned in Uruk at some time during the first half of the third millennium. The Sumerian King-List has Gilgamesh as being fifth in line from the founding of the first dynasty of Uruk after the flood and that he reigned for 126 years. His son reigned a mere thirty years, and thereafter kings lived and reigned an ordinary human term. This is very significant as the early kings reigned for very many years, perhaps the years were measured differently (by a lunar calendar perhaps), or that as god-kings their reign was measured by their spiritual influence. Methuselah was one of these kings, so we say, as old as Methuselah.

Gilgamesh is remembered for building the walls of Uruk with superior ‘plano-convex’ bricks used in the construction of the fortifications. The city was known as ‘Uruk of the strong wall’, and Gilgamesh was traditionally known as a great builder. Excavations have shown the magnificence of the temple buildings, but Gilgamesh was also remembered as a just judge, and like Minos of Crete, a judge in the Underworld, the one to whom prayers were addressed and who was invoked by incantation and ritual. One prayer begins, ‘Gilgamesh, supreme king, judge of the Anunnaki (gods of the Underworld)’.[1] In other words Gilgamesh returned to Uruk as a great Teacher or Prophet after having learned the Mysteries on his great journey. We should note that his teacher and guide, Urshanabi, returned to Uruk with him. I believe that Gilgamesh brought a new ‘religion’ or spiritual belief system to his people.

Each city was dedicated to a god or gods, and so Uruk had its temples of the gods. These temples were magnificent buildings with reliefs and mosaics, comprising a great court and an inner sanctuary, with a ziggurat behind. This was a holy mountain in miniature: an antechamber between heaven and earth where gods would converse with men. My feeling is that the Ziggurat or holy mountain was a replica of the mountain through which Gilgamesh passed on his great journey to find Utnapishtim. People could make the pilgrimage in the holy mountain much like today when we symbolically walk the Labyrinth.

One third of Uruk was the city itself, one third garden and one third field, within which the precinct of the goddess Ishtar was located. These all comprised the great city state of Uruk after the return of Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh had great knowledge of the countries of the known world. He was a wise king with an insight into the mysteries and secrets of the sacred and inner realms. He travelled on this great journey which was an exhaustive and challenging one. He never wavered in his pursuit of truth and of eternal life.  He has gifted us with the knowledge of the great flood. We know this as his exploits and heroic deeds were engraved on a series of clay tablets.[2]

 

In my next blog post we will go back to the beginning and deal with the coming of Enkidu.

I had planned to work on the Feminine in the Gilgamesh epic next but realise that there are some aspects of the Feminine which are part of the Enkidu story and which need to be addressed.

[1] Sanders, N.K., The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics, London 1977 p21

[2] Ibid p 117

Gilgamesh – the final loss and rebirth

After having found the magical and mysterious plant – like a rose with thorns, at the bottom of the sea and bringing it t o the surface, Gilgamesh feels he has achieved everything that he has sought. It was this plant which restores lost youth to man.

Gilgamesh and Urshanabi then returned by the gate through which they had come. They travelled many leagues before stopping for the night.

Gilgamesh saw a well of cool water and he went down and bathed. The well symbolises the feminine principle – the womb of the great mother and the psyche. Having contact with the underworld, the well often contains magic waters with powers of healing and wish-fulfilling. The well gives rise to the Living Waters and the four rivers of Paradise.

In immersing himself in the holy and sacred well, Gilgamesh is completing himself in this final ritual. It is reminiscent of the final act in the story of The Little Humpbacked Horse, where the hero Ivan, after having dived into three separate cauldrons of cold water, boiling water and boiling milk, emerges completely transformed, into a wonderfully handsome youth. [1]

‘But deep in the pool there was lying a serpent, and the serpent sensed the sweetness of the flower. It rose out of the water and snatched it away, and immediately it sloughed its skin and returned to the well.’[2]

Deep in the pool – the realm of the great mother, lay a serpent. The well and the serpent have a symbolic relationship. It is said that the serpent often holds the fruit or herb of immortality, and in ancient Celtic mythology it is associated with healing waters or wells. Ishtar (Sumerian Inanna), great goddess of love and war, who was worshipped in the great temple of Uruk, together with Anu, is portrayed with a serpent.  The serpent is a highly complex and ancient symbol.

We are told that the serpent sensed the sweetness of the flower and snatched it away, immediately sloughing its skin. To slough the skin, as serpents do, is to put off the ‘old man’ and put on the new, to recover youth, to attain a higher state, immortality. It is the sweetness of the rose which allows the serpent to transform. The rose grows on the Tree of Life, which implies regeneration. The rose in the centre (of the cross) is the quaternity of the elements and a point of unity.

So in fact, Gilgamesh has achieved what he had been searching for Spiritually in his inner life! Immorality was never meant to be literal or physical. Gilgamesh wanted an earthly immortality ‘with its opportunity for heroic action, and for glory on earth like that of the gods in heaven’[3]’ And yet we are told that Gilgamesh sat down and wept, the tears rolling down his face. He felt that he had gained nothing and that a ‘beast of the earth’ now had the joy of the mystical plant of immortality. Only after the return of the snake to its pool does, he at last accept the futility of struggling for what cannot be had, ‘searching for the wind’ as Siduri had said’[4].

Already the stream had carried the serpent back twenty leagues to the channels where it had been found. These twenty leagues back to the channels, symbolise man’s journey in life.

These ancient stories were teaching tales – teaching the mysteries which only illuminated and evolved beings can understand. In a way, one can say that the story is deliberately misleading. I know of people who have actually tried to find this plant of immortality.

Another way of understanding the story is, that to gain unity and illumination, we must give up everything that we have gained, even our understanding of the Divine and the Mysteries. We must become nothing to achieve Unity. There can be no ‘I’ and Thou, only the One. This is the main premise of Sufism and mysticism.

This loss is painful and devastating – it is no wonder that Gilgamesh weeps. ‘I have found a sign and now I have lost it’, he says. He knows that the plant was a sign or symbol, but can a symbol be lost?

Gilgamesh decides to leave the boat on the bank and go back to his own land. His inner journey to gain immortality is over. But I do believe that he has found illumination.

Sanders remarks that the return is very summarily described and leaves much unexplained, like the breaking of a spell —- when everything returns to ordinary and we are back where we started. But this is how we do feel when we return to our normal lives after a great inner journey. In fact there is a formulaic feel to the words used, which have been repeated previously.

After twenty leagues they broke their fast, after thirty leagues they stopped for the night; in three days they had walked as much as a journey of a month and fifteen days. When the journey was accomplished, they arrived at Uruk.’[5]

The human part of the journey is done whilst fasting, and then the fast is broken.  When the spiritual journey is complete, they stop for the night, perhaps to contemplate and meditate. As we know, the Sumerians counted in threes and sixes, so that in three days they had walked as much as three half months. They achieve much – in one day they travel what would have taken fifteen days! In fact this symbolises a very long time indeed on the inner plane.

Having returned, Gilgamesh shows Urshanabi his city of Uruk – the walls, its foundation terrace. He explains that one third of the whole is city, one third is garden, and one third is field, with the precinct of the goddess Ishtar. These parts and the precinct are all Uruk, he says.[6]

‘Gilgamesh, the king, knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us the tale of the days before the flood. He went on a long journey, was weary, worn out with labour, returning engraved on a stone the whole story’[7].

In the next blog posting, I will discuss what Gilgamesh, an illuminated being,  achieved after his return to Uruk.

 

[1] Daly, Nuria, The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press. 2017 p207

[2] Sanders, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh Penguin Classics London 1977 p 117

[3] Ibid p43

[4] Ibid p43

[5] Ibid P117

[6] Ibid p117

[7] Ibid p117

Part 7 The return of Gilgamesh

Having received his great initiation, a transformed Gilgamesh, with his teacher and guide Urshanabi, launched their boat in the water and boarded it, ready to sail away. But the wife of Utnapishtim, The Faraway, said to him; ‘Gilgamesh came here wearied out — what will you give him to carry back to his own country?’  Utnapishtim responded by ‘speaking’ to Gilgamesh, so that Gilgamesh took a pole and brought the boat back to the bank.

‘The elevation of Utnapishtim to the divine realm makes one think of the special place in Islam for the Prophets, assigned to guide humanity toward the One’. (Comment by Nawab)

Utnapishtim is a prophet who has led his people and saved them from the deluge.

Utnapishtim reflects that Gilgamesh has come to this ‘far away’ place, wearied out and ponders what to give him to take back to his own country:  Utnapishtim says: ‘I will reveal a secret thing, it is a mystery of the gods that I am telling you. There is a plant that grows under the water, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man.’[1]

This is what Gilgamesh has been searching for – the plant of renewal and rebirth. It is Utnapishtim’s  wife, the Divine feminine, who suggests this to Utnapishtim – we notice that he always follows her suggestions and she follows his. They work together in the harmony of a sacred marriage.

This magical and mysterious plant is like a rose with thorns, but which grows in the depths of the ocean. The primordial waters were associated with wisdom by the Sumerians. All life arose from the sweet ground waters, while the salt water of the ocean symbolised the power of the waters, the feminine principle.

The rose with thorns is a very powerful symbol, especially when it is to be found in the depths of the ocean. It is indeed a mystery – a secret thing.  The rose is a powerful symbol of the central point – the point of Unity. It portrays eternal spring, eternal life and resurrection. It also represents secrecy and discretion and is the rebirth of the spiritual after death of the temporal. It can be seen as the divine light of the universe with its thorns representing the world of pain and sacrifice. In the symbolism of the heart the rose occupies the central point of unity.

When Gilgamesh heard about this mysterious plant, ‘he opened the sluices so that a sweet water current might carry him to the deepest channel; he tied heavy stones to his feet and they dragged him down to the depths of the water bed. There he saw the plant growing and although it pricked him, he took it in his hands; He cut the heavy stones from his feet and the sea carried him to the shore.’[2] For the Sumerians the hand was an attribute of the Great Mother as bounteous giver and protector. It is interesting that the thorns did indeed prick his hands. It is painful and difficult to reach the depths of the ocean to bring up the rose. The thorns signify pain, blood and martyrdom. As we saw in the story of The Little Humpbacked Horse, the tsar maid’s signet ring had to be found in the depths of the ocean, by a very feisty perch and brought to the surface by the noble sturgeon. The hero could not carry it by himself.[3] Here Gilgamesh has achieved this task as a great hero.

The sluices suggest a system of canals, which somehow remind me of Plato’s description of Atlantis. I have often wondered if Atlantis is the sacred place where great Teachers such as Utnapishtim and his family have journeyed to after saving his people from the flood.

Gilgamesh then tells Urshanabi to come and see this marvellous plant. By its virtue, he says, a man may win back all his former strength. He plans to take it back to his city of Uruk and give it to the old men to eat, then he will take it himself so as to retrieve his lost youth. Many have questioned why Gilgamesh did not take this plant himself first, but I believe that having achieved his great initiation and illumination, Gilgamesh was now in service to his people. He wanted to share his experience and the plant of youth, with the wise old men of his home city first. He was no longer acting on his own ego. In some ancient tales, the hero, after winning ‘the water of life’, uses it to bring fresh spring water to the village.[4] It was an act of service to the community.

So Gilgamesh returned by the gate through which he had come; Gilgamesh and Urshanabi went together.

Regarding the return of Gilgamesh through the gate by which he came, that is also a phrasing that surfaces several times in the teaching of Inayat Khan. When someone takes the spiritual quest as something to solve in the mind or according to certain concepts, they also emerge ‘from the door by which they entered.’ (Comment by Nawab)

There are three ‘gates’ which correspond to chakras: the gate at the perineum is thought to be the ‘gate through which we come’. The next gate is at the base of the sternum, and the third at the occiput (base of the skull). We can become blocked at these gates.

Love has its limitations when it is directed to limited beings, but love that is directed to God has no limitations, God alone deserves all love, and the freedom of Love is in giving it to God. Devotion to the Teacher is not for the sake of the Teacher, it is for God. Even in the case of a Teacher, the devotee may make a mistake by halting at the feet of the Teacher and not progressing to God. The Teacher is a shield covering God, a gate through which one has to go. As it is necessary to enter the gate, so to reach God it is necessary to have devotion to the Teacher first. But the ideal of real progress is that man, through his devotion, arrives to God, freeing himself from all limitations and bondages. For the Teacher, one has gratitude, but love and devotion is for God.’[5]

So the Teacher can be the gate on the journey to the Divine and that the he  has gone through that gate to be transformed as The Teacher.

It is interesting that we build our own container by doing our practices. When the container is strong, we can ‘fly’ without losing contact with our ‘ground’. We remain grounded, even as we soar in the heavens.

After having returned by the gate through which he had come, Gilgamesh and Urshanabi ‘travelled twenty leagues and then they broke their fast; after thirty leagues they stopped for the night.’[6]

Twenty signifies the whole man, as the sum of the fingers and toes; the human part of the journey. After achieving this they rest and break their fast.; It is then that we realise that they had been fasting while on this part of their journey. Thirty represents the trinity of the great Goddess times ten, being the number of the cosmos and the paradigm of creation. Thirty is thus the perfect number and signifies a return to unity within the feminine.  It is a most sacred and cosmic part of the journey.

At this point they stopped for the night.

To be continued:  Conclusion –  The final loss and rebirth.

[1] Sanders N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics.  London 1977 p 116

[2] Ibid p 116

[3] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, The Little Humpbacked Horse. Balboa Press, 2017

[4] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales. Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram Balboa Press, 2017

[5] Hazrat Inayat Khan. Sangatha III privately circulated

[6] Sander, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh P117

Part 6: Gilgamesh in the land of Utnapishtim.

At the end of part 5 of this story,  Enlil, God of earth, wind, and the universal air (ultimately spirit) has raised Utnapishtim and his wife, into the realm of the Gods where they will live ’in the distance at the mouth of the rivers’ for ever. This is the earthly paradise of Dilmun.

Gilgamesh has arrived there wanting desperately the secret of eternal life.  But now Utnapishtim asks Gilgamesh, ‘Who will assemble the Gods for your sake, so that you may find that life for which you are searching?’ Gilgamesh has come all this way and experienced so much but he cannot be given eternal life. H has done nothing to deserve it.  This is the fate of humankind. Often when we come to the goal of our inner journey, we want to stay in that place, but the goal is really at the same place as the beginning;  we must return to our outer world. Utnapishtim was raised to immortality, because he showed mankind the way to an earthly paradise and saved them from the deluge. He gave them a vision and a structure; the sacred geometry of the ‘boat’ which carried them to the sacred place. Gilgamesh has not done this. He is not ready to belong to or live in this sacred place for ever.

But, says Utnapishtim, ‘if you want to put it to the test, only prevail against sleep for six days and seven nights’. This is a very long time to stay awake, and it is a special kind of wakefulness – of being conscious and in the moment – for six days and seven nights. It is an almost impossible task for a mortal, but perhaps not impossible for an evolved being or mystic at the highest level of evolution. Six, as we know, is a special number for the Sumerians – there were six days of creation. Seven is the number of the universe and signifies completeness. This is the time to be alert and wakeful, a time of learning, of doing the inner work of completing oneself.

Even as Gilgamesh sat resting, a mist of sleep came over him. This ‘sleep’ is mysterious and has happened to Gilgamesh before in ‘The Forest Journey’. It may be that he is entering another realm, or level of consciousness. On the inner journey we move through various realms towards the Centre where there is Unity with the Divine.

Castaneda describes three levels of heightened awareness or attention, and it is only when in the deeper levels that one can remember everything that has happened in all levels. In other words, when we are in our normal day-to-day awareness, we do not remember what has happened in the other levels. It can be very frightening to enter these levels without having the training of a mystic and this requires supreme discipline and concentration. For instance, learning to become aware that we are dreaming while in the dream, and of having volition to change the outcome of the dream. Gilgamesh is seemingly asleep and unaware, but my own feeling is that that he has received teachings in that deep state but was unaware of them. He would have access to these teachings at a later stage, when he is ready.

When Utnapishtim sees him sleeping, he is very disparaging and says to his wife. ‘Look at him now, the strong man who would have everlasting life, even now the mists of sleep are drifting over him.’ His wife replied, ‘Touch the man to wake him, so that he may return to his own land in peace, going back through the same gate by which he came.’ Utnapishtim’s wife, the feminine and sacred Sophia, has sympathy for Gilgamesh, and suggests that he be wakened and allowed to return to his own land, interestingly through the gate by which he came. I think that this means an inner gateway. Utnapishtim’s wife had been raised to Godhead together with her husband, so she is a Goddess although unnamed and has an important part to play.

However, Utnapishtim tells his wife that ‘all men are deceivers’ and that Gilgamesh will try to deceive even her. So he tells her to ‘bake loaves of bread, each day one loaf, and put it beside his head; and make a mark on the wall to number the days that he has slept.’[i][1]
This is what she did as he slept; ‘there came a day when the first loaf was hard, the second loaf like leather, the third soggy, the crust of the fourth had mould, the fifth was mildewed, the sixth was fresh, and the seventh was still on the embers.’[2]

Bread symbolises life and is feminine in nature; it was thought to be food for the souls of the dead by the Sumerians. The bread and water of immortal life was kept in heaven by Anu, the supreme God.

Utnapishtim then touched Gilgamesh to waken him. Gilgamesh did not believe that he had been asleep for so long – it felt like he had not slept at all. But Utnapishtim showed him the loaves indicating the passage of time that Gilgamesh had slept. Gilgamesh, on realising that he was not able to have the everlasting life that he sought, and feeling that death was ‘in his room’, asked Utnapishtim what he should do. Everywhere he looked he found ‘death’. Finally, Gilgamesh accepts that he as a mortal human being, cannot have eternal life, and he asks for help. This is important – it is only when we ask for help that we receive it.

The response to this request is interesting: Utnapishtim first turns on Urshanabi and banishes him from that place as he had become hateful to him for bringing Gilgamesh there, ‘covered with foulness, the grace of his limbs spoiled by wild skins’. Urshanabi will now serve Gilgamesh as his Teacher and guide.

Utnapishtim tells Urshanabi to take Gilgamesh to a washing place, where he must wash his long hair clean as snow, in the water, he threw off his skins and let the water carry them away, so that the beauty of his body be shown, the fillet or band used to encircle the hair of the head, on his forehead to be renewed. He was to be given clothes to wear to cover his nakedness, clothes which would show no sign of age, till his journey to his own city be accomplished. This Urshanabi did. Hair on the head represents life-force, the higher powers and inspiration. By washing his long hair clean as snow, means that Gilgamesh is spiritually cleansing the life-substance of his higher powers. Even the band holding his hair back, like a halo, is renewed.

Gilgamesh wore the skins of lions which he had defeated and killed. By wearing these skins, he took on the power or mana of the lion – the king of beasts, but by casting them off, he puts off the ‘old’ animal side of himself and takes on the new, as in a spiritual re-birth. The beauty of his body was shown, washed clean of his animal nature. The skins that he wore showed his nature before this great initiation ceremony. Then he was given new clothes to wear; clothes which would show no signs of age. Wearing these ritual new clothes symbolises transformation. They show the new re-born and transformed Gilgamesh.

So we see that the response to Gilgamesh’s request as to what he should do, Utnapishtim asked Urshanabi, who was the guide and teacher of Gilgamesh, to prepare an initiation ritual for Gilgamesh: a ritual by which he left his human animal side behind to be reborn pure in spirit. Thus, he was able to return to his city and ‘rule’ as a spiritual leader. His own teacher was to go with him, never to return to the sacred garden. His journey was accomplished.

The next and final episodes will follow.

[1] Sanders N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books, London 1977 P114

[2] Ibid p114

The Inner Journey – Carl G. Jung’s Near-Death-Experience

I would like to share with you another more modern account of an Inner Journey, in what is now described as the Near-Death Experience of Carl Jung.

In a hospital in Switzerland in 1944, the world-renowned psychiatrist Carl G. Jung, had a heart attack and then a near-death experience. His vivid encounter with the light, plus the intensely meaningful insights led Jung to conclude that his experience came from something real and eternal. Jung’s experience is unique in that he saw the Earth from a vantage point of about a thousand miles above it. His incredibly accurate view of the Earth from outer space was described about two decades before astronauts in space first described it. Subsequently, as he reflected on life after death, Jung recalled the meditating Hindu from his near-death experience and read it as a parable of the archetypal Higher Self, the God-image within.[1]

The following account is from Jung’s book’ Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in a chapter titled Visions.[2]

‘The beginning of 1944 I broke my foot, and this misadventure was followed by a heart attack. In a state of unconsciousness, I experienced deliriums and visions which must have begun when I hung on the edge of death and was being given oxygen and camphor injections. The images were so tremendous that I myself concluded that I was close to death. My nurse afterward told me:

“It was as if you were surrounded by a bright glow,”

That was a phenomenon she had sometimes observed in the dying, she added. I had reached the outermost limit, and do not know whether I was in a dream or an ecstasy. At any rate, extremely strange things began to happen to me. 

It seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below I saw the globe of the Earth, bathed in a gloriously blue light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents.  Far below my feet lay Ceylon, and in the distance ahead of me the subcontinent of India. My field of vision did not include the whole Earth, but its global shape was plainly distinguishable, and its outlines shone with a silvery gleam through that wonderful blue light. In many places the globe seemed coloured or spotted dark green like oxidized silver. Far away to the left lay a broad expanse – the reddish-yellow desert of Arabia; it was as though the silver of the Earth had there assumed a reddish-gold hue. Then came the Red Sea, and far, far back – as if in the upper left of a map – I could just make out a bit of the Mediterranean. My gaze was directed chiefly toward that. Everything else appeared indistinct. I could also see the snow-covered Himalayas, but in that direction, it was foggy or cloudy. I did not look to the right at all. I knew that I was on the point of departing from the Earth. 

Later I discovered how high in space one would have to be to have so extensive a view – approximately a thousand miles!  The sight of the Earth from this height was the most glorious thing I had ever seen. 

In this extraordinary inner journey, Jung found himself in the farthest place from his normal existence in the world. He was at the farthest edge, in boundless consciousness. It was experienced by Jung, as being high above the earth, floating in space. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim was also described as being ‘Faraway’ or in the Land between the Rivers, Dilmun, or Paradise. In the story of Muhamad, he too found himself in ‘the farthest Masjid’. This place which Sufis describe as the Alam-al-Mithal is the Centre of All, a realm where we are united with the Divine, where all potentialities are possible and where we are not in our usual bodily ‘place’. It is at the extreme edge of consciousness and understanding.  The farthest Place.

The experience of flying, or travelling through the realms, is a common feature in Fairy Tales, myths and legends: like the Flying Horse or psychopomp as discussed previously. A few months ago, I experienced something similar in a dream. I found myself flying through ‘space’ and feeling totally free and ecstatic. I knew / remembered how to fly, even though I was a bit rusty at first, and realised that I hadn’t done it for a long, long  time. There was nothing around me and I was simply soaring higher and higher. It was wonderful to be free of the world, there were no attachments or even desires. This was so like Jung’s experience. I have realised that the ‘element’ that I was flying through was what Sufis would describe as ether – no colour or all colours, but experienced by me as a brightness. It is the highest and finest element. In our practice we move from the densest element earth which is yellow, through water which is green, then fire (red) and air (blue) until we soar off into the ether towards the stars.

To continue with Jung’s experience:

After contemplating it for a while, I turned around. I had been standing with my back to the Indian Ocean, as it were, and my face to the north. Then it seemed to me that I made a turn to the south. Something new entered my field of vision. A short distance away I saw in space a tremendous dark block of stone, like a meteorite. It was about the size of my house, or even bigger. It was floating in space, and I myself was floating in space. 

I had seen similar stones on the coast of the Gulf of Bengal. They were blocks of tawny granite, and some of them had been hollowed out into temples. My stone was one such gigantic dark block. An entrance led into a small antechamber. To the right of the entrance, a black Hindu sat silently in lotus posture upon a stone bench. He wore a white gown, and I knew that he expected me. Two steps led up to this antechamber, and inside, on the left, was the gate to the temple. Innumerable tiny niches, each with a saucer-like concavity filled with coconut oil and small burning wicks, surrounded the door with a wreath of bright flames. I had once actually seen this when I visited the Temple of the Holy Tooth at Kandy in Ceylon; the gate had been framed by several rows of burning oil lamps of this sort. [3]

Jung’s experience of the ‘tremendous dark block of stone, like a meteorite’, which was larger than his house, floating in space near him, is so mysterious. What could this mean? I am immediately reminded of the Kaaba which is described as follows: –

‘A mysterious dark rock rests in a corner of the Kaaba, a square black building found at the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Each year devout Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca, circling the Kaaba and giving a nod or a kiss to the meteorite that is said to rest inside. — The worship of the Black Stone goes back to pre-Islamic shrines, when Semitic cultures used unusual stones to signify sites of reverence. According to Muslim belief, the stone originates from the time of Adam and the Islamic prophet Muhammad set the Black Stone in place after it fell from the skies.’[4] Jung continues:

As I approached the steps leading up to the entrance into the rock, a strange thing happened: I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed away; everything I aimed at or wished for or thought, the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell away or was stripped from me – an extremely painful process. Nevertheless, something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me. I might also say: it was with me, and I was it. I consisted of all that, so to speak. I consisted of my own history and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am. I am this bundle of what has been and what has been accomplished. 

This experience gave me a feeling of extreme poverty, but at the same time of great fullness. There was no longer anything I wanted or desired. I existed in an objective form; I was what I had been and lived. At first the sense of annihilation predominated, of having been stripped or pillaged; but suddenly that became of no consequence. 

Everything seemed to be past; what remained was a “fait accompli,” without any reference back to what had been. There was no longer any regret that something had dropped away or been taken away. On the contrary: I had everything that I was, and that was everything. 

Something else engaged my attention: as I approached the temple I had the certainty that I was about to enter an illuminated room and would meet there all those people to whom I belong in reality. There I would at last understand – this too was a certainty – what historical nexus I or my life fitted into. I would know what had been before me, why I had come into being, and where my life was flowing. My life as I lived it had often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning and end. I had the feeling that I was a historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing. My life seemed to have been snipped out of a long chain of events, and many questions had remained unanswered. Why had it taken this course? Why had I brought these particular assumptions with me? What had I made of them? What will follow? I felt sure that I would receive an answer to all the questions as soon as I entered the rock temple. There I would meet the people who knew the answer to my question about what had been before and what would come after.’[5] 

This is clearly a symbol of the most sacred, holy place that Jung could conceive of. He reveals his experience of this Divine Symbol, by comparing it with the massive stones of granite which had been hollowed out into a temple, that he had seen in Bengal. On the right of the anti-chamber sat a dark holy man wearing a white robe in a deep meditation, Jung knew that he was expected.  On his left was the gate to the temple, the holy of holies. As he entered he experienced a complete ‘sloughing off’ of everything related to his outer physical life. Everything was stripped away and he was left with a feeling of completeness. The annihilation did not matter at all. In his own words, he had everything that he was, and that was everything. He had an experience of Unity with the Divine, where everything is One, and One is everything. That the Hindu holy man was seated on the right of the anti-chamber symbolises the outer experience of the sacred in the first stage of transformation. He was described  as black which symbolises the ‘prima matria’ of alchemy – the first stage of turning base metal (lead) into gold. The Holy man was wearing a white robe, representing the undifferentiated, transcendent perfection – the final stage of alchemy bringing Light, Sun, and illumination. So the black holy man in his white robe represents the whole process of transformation from the base ‘element’ transformed and illuminated.

Jung felt that he was expected which is such a wonderful feeling. Knowing that he was on the right path and that everything was exactly as it should be. He was expected. What a wonderful and particular feeling it is to be expected.

We are told that we have to be able to journey through the realms while in this life, so that we know and understand the journey when our body dies, and we pass over.

There were two steps which led up into the anti-chamber. Two symbolises duality – All that is manifest in duality is in pairs of opposites. Everything is contained in its own opposite. So, it is through this duality that we enter the Temple. Inside and on the left was the gate of the temple. Left represents the inner world. The Temple is the Centre of All, it is the holy of holies – the place of Unity with the divine. We come from Unity into manifestation (duality) and return to Unity in the most numinous of experiences.  In this experience there is indeed a sloughing off of everything that is related to the outer life, into a feeling of completeness which is Unity. It is Fana fi Allah – an annihilation into Allah. It is interesting that Jung retained a sense of himself and his identity and history, while being detached from it.

Just as in the Prophet Muhammad’s inner journey, where The Prophet was raised with the Angel Gabriel beyond time and space, he spoke with the earlier prophets – Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Aaron, John the Baptist, and Jesus. It is said that his vision of the heavens and of the beauty of those horizons permeated his being. Jung had the certainty that as he was about to enter the illuminated room, that he would meet, those beings that he ‘belonged’ to. In other words, beings like himself – fellow mystics perhaps. There he would discover his own meaning and purpose and how this was to fit with the Whole. He would know and understand his life from the perspective of the past, present and future, which in fact do not exist in that space. There is only the eternal now.

 ‘For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I –  along with everyone else – would again be hung up in a box by a thread.’ 

‘While I floated in space, I had been weightless, and there had been nothing tugging at me. And now all that was to be a thing of the past!’[6] 

Jung did not want to return to this world, of being separate and disconnected. Of being in a little box. But he knew that he had to return to fulfil his destiny and show his world and us, what the reality of inner life is about. He was a great mystic – and mysticism is at the core of all religions and belief systems.

Jung goes on to say:

‘I would never have imagined that any such experience was possible. It was not a product of imagination. The visions and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity’.

‘We shy away from the word “eternal,” but I can describe the experience only as the ecstasy of a non-temporal state in which present, past, and future are one. Everything that happens in time had been brought together into a concrete whole. Nothing was distributed over time, nothing could be measured by temporal concepts. The experience might best be defined as a state of feeling, but one which cannot be produced by imagination. How can I imagine that I exist simultaneously the day before yesterday, today, and the day after tomorrow? There would be things which would not yet have begun, other things which would be indubitably present, and others again which would already be finished and yet all this would be one. The only thing that feeling could grasp would be a sum, an iridescent whole, containing all at once expectation of a beginning, surprise at what is now happening, and satisfaction or disappointment with the result of what has happened. One is interwoven into an indescribable whole and yet observes it with complete objectivity.’[7]

I really think that Jung says it all here. What an amazing experience for us to contemplate.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.near-death.com/experiences/notable/carl-jung.html

[2] Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe. Collins and Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1963 p 270

[3] ibid

[4] http://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/falling-stars-and-black-stone-humanity-s-worship-meteorites-001901

[5] Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe. Collins and Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1963

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

The Inner Journey – The Night Journey and Miraj of the Prophet

The great journey of Utnapishtim, as told in the Epic of Gilgamesh, has a parallel in the story told about the Prophet Muhammed.  This is the story of the Prophet’s night journey, and subsequent Miraj (which is an Arabic word which means ladder), where he rose to ‘heaven’ and experienced the Divine – he was in discourse with God!

We are told that the Prophet liked to go to the Kaaba enclosure at night. He would stand absorbed in prayer for many long hours. One evening he suddenly felt tired and in great need of sleep. He therefore lay down near the Kaaba and fell asleep. The angel Gabriel than came to him and shook him twice to awaken him, but Muhammad remained asleep: the third time the angel shook him, Muhammad awoke, and Gabriel took him to the doors of the mosque, where a white animal (looking like a cross between a mule and a donkey, but with wings) was waiting for him. He mounted the animal which was called Buraq and started to journey to ‘the farthest Masjid’, which was thought to have been in Jerusalem.[1]

This mysterious ‘sleep’ which overcomes the Prophet – a sleep, from which he cannot be woken until the third attempt, sounds like an experience of deep meditation, or Samadhi, where even the angel Gabriel could not waken him. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, during his forest journey, Gilgamesh was also overcome by a strange ‘sleep’, after felling the giant cedar of the forest. His beloved friend and companion Enkidu, too, could not awaken Gilgamesh from this mysterious sleep until the third time of trying.  It is only after coming out of this long and deep meditation, that Gilgamesh confronted the ‘monster’ Humbaba. We are not sure, who or what, Humbaba was. He seems to be some form of nature spirit and guardian of the cedar forest. But Humbaba is also referred to as ‘evil’, so this forest journey is an allegory for the inner journey, where Gilgamesh, is similar to the knight who slays the dragon. The forest itself represents the country of the living and appears to be like Dante’s deep dark forest.  This mysterious sleep can be understood as being the experience of Samadhi or deep meditation, from where the inner sacred journey begins. In both cases, it is a beloved guide or companion who guides our hero on his path. In the case of Muhammed, the steed is Buraq and the guide is Gabriel.

It is interesting that the psychopomp in the form of Buraq, the flying ‘horse’, is present in this story, just as it is in the fairy tales of The Fairy of the Dawn, The Little Hump-backed Horse, and Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, which are mentioned in my book, The Witch as teacher in Fairy Tales.[2] The psychopomp is a steed and guide of souls, carrying them  from one realm to the other; they serve as guides through the various transitions of life. In the fairy tales, the little horse, for instance, is both the steed and guide for the hero, whereas in the story of the Prophet’s journey, Buraq is the steed, while Gabriel is the guide. I find it fascinating that that the little humpbacked horse, in the story of the same name, had long floppy ears like a donkey, and Buraq was said to be part donkey and part mule. The donkey is a symbol of humility and patience, and of course there is a strong connection with Jesus: Christ’s nativity and His entry into Jerusalem.

The ‘farthest Masjid’ is thought to be a location, rather than a physical structure. A place of prostration; a place where Muhammad prostrated before God and worshipped Him, in the Blessed Region. I find it interesting that it is described as the ‘farthest place’, while Utnapishtim is taken by the gods to live forever at the ‘mouth of the rivers’ and given the epithet ‘Faraway’ – a paradise like the garden of Eden called Dilmun.

Muhammad stated that “The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying.”

Many believe that this place of prostration was in Jerusalem, where the al-Aqsa Mosque now stands. But spiritually it is the farthest inner place that one can be in. It is at the very Centre of our universe, where the Divine One  or God, is to be encountered.

After alighting from Buraq, the prophet performed prayer, and was tested by Gabriel on God’s command. Muhammad said: “Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine, a vessel of water and a vessel of milk, and I chose the milk”. Gabriel said: “You have chosen the Fitrah (natural instinct).”[3] This is a really beautiful symbol! Milk is divine nourishment and is used in initiation ceremonies as a symbol of rebirth. Milk is of the spirit, where water is of matter. Muhammad chose well and properly, so that the second part of the journey could then be undertaken.

At the same time also, we are told that Muhammad’s chest was opened and water from the well of Zamzam was poured on his heart giving him wisdom, belief, and other characteristics to help him on his ascent. This purification is also seen in the trial of the drinks.[4] It was the angel Gabriel who, in the time of Abraham, when Hagar was thirsting in the desert with her baby son Ishmael, that Gabriel brought forth water by hitting the ground with his wing. Fresh pure water emerged, and they were saved. This is sacred water of Life which comes from the Well of Zamzam and was used to purify him spiritually before his ascent.

The Prophet was raised with the Angel Gabriel beyond time and space. Indeed, Samadhi takes us to an inner realm which is outside of time and space.  Here Muhammad toured the ‘seven stages of heaven’ and spoke with the earlier prophets – Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Aaron, John the Baptist, and Jesus. One could say that he became one with the Spirit of Guidance. It is said that his vision of the heavens and of the beauty of those horizons permeated his being. Some accounts say that Muhammad meets four angels, as he travels through the heavens and that he is shown death and what hell looks like. The meeting with four angels is very significant. Four is the Divine Quaternity and for Jung was more powerful as a symbol than the number three. There are four cardinal points, seasons, winds, sides of a square, arms of the cross, rivers of Paradise, and many more. There are four streams of immortality.

Muhammad meets angels called cherubim who instil fear in him, but he later sees them as God’s creation, and therefore not harmful.[5] I find this interesting as it carries the same feeling with it, as Petru’s encounter with the Fairy of the Dawn, in the story of the same name. In that story Petru travels through the various realms, overcoming ‘monsters’ and gaining helpful guides, deeper and deeper towards the Centre, where, as he progresses, he must overcome The Fairy which could be likened to a powerful angel, in her terrible and powerful aspect. The hero was told not to look at her, and indeed he almost loses himself, when he does look at her. It was only when he played his little flute that she went back to sleep again, thus allowing him to continue his quest[6]

Muhammad was then taken to a holy tree in the seventh heaven that Gabriel was not allowed to pass.[7] In the story of the Fairy of the Dawn, the hero Petru, also must leave his horse and guide at the point in the road where the final realm begins. When we enter the Divine space, we must go alone, without anything at all from any other realm, even the angelic.  This a strange and frightening realm.

It is here that Muhammad meets with God, who tells him that his people must pray fifty times a day. I was fascinated with this part of the story: – to pray fifty times a day would mean to be in continual prayer – in other words, wherever we are on this earth is a place of prayer and of unity with the Divine. But the number fifty represents a Jubilee, after the completion of the 7×7 cycle. It is in the forty ninth room that Petru finds the Fairy of the Dawn, and the Water of Life. Fifty represents a return to the beginning and the primordial start. There is a strong relationship between the quaternity (four), and the number fifty, as there are fifty lunar months in four years. Fifty is a divine number. Five is the number of man – forming the pentagon. It also represents the marriage between heaven and earth. and so it is that five daily prayers which are decided on. By praying five times a day, God will reward humankind tenfold, by raising humankind to heaven. This experience shows us the deep significance of prayer, which through the Eternal Word, enables us to liberate our consciousness from the contingencies of space and time, and fully comprehend the meaning of life and of Life.[8] Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam.

There is a so called ‘primitive version’ of the Miraj, by Ibn ‘Abbas, where Muhammed meets four angels as he travels through the heaven showing him fire, ice, hell, and the process of death. But Ibn Abbas describes Muhammad’s encounter with God as a human who touches and speaks to Muhammad as a human would. I find this very touching and illuminating from a spiritual perspective. As we have seen in the story of Golden Chisel, we create for ourselves an Ideal of God – an Ideal which, when complete, speaks to us and relates to us in a very human and personal way. When the Divine becomes a personality for us, we have achieved the final stage of integration into the One, of Fana fi Allah. At this level we are able to talk with Allah and feel this great Love and Guidance in our lives. It is said that God made man in His own Image, and we make our own Ideal of God in our own image according to our understanding and beliefs.  This is ever changing as we evolve. We are part of the One, and the One is part of us. As we say in our Zikar: La El La Ha, El Allah Hu which means, none exits save God, God alone is.

In the story of Gilgamesh, just after he meets Utnapishtim the Faraway, Gilgamesh says ‘I look at you now, Utnapishtim, and your appearance is no different from mine; there is nothing strange in your features. I thought I should find you like a hero prepared for battle, but you lie here taking your ease on your back.—‘.[9] Gilgamesh experiences Utnapishtim, who was raised to Godhead, as a human being just like himself, and who relates to him as such. This is a very profound understanding of our relationship with the Divine and helps us to understand this relationship. We expect our encounter with the God to be extraordinary, and so when we actually experience it, we can miss this true experience by not recognising it. We are expecting something else. We expect enlightenment to be mind-blowing but it not.  It is something pure and simple – something which can bring us to tears, in the knowing of Love and how we too have been guided. Enlightenment can creep up to us without our being aware.

It is said that Muhammad was then returned to Jerusalem by the angel Gabriel and Buraq, and from there to Mecca. On the return journey, he came upon some caravans that were also travelling to Mecca. It was still night when they reached the Kaaba enclosure. The angel and Buraq left, and Muhammad proceeded to the home of Um Hani, one of his most trusted Companions, and with whom he had been staying.  He gave her an account of what had happened to him, and she advised him not to tell anybody about it, but which Muhammad refused to do, so when Muhammad reported his experience at the Kaaba, he was met with disbelief. They thought that he was mad. But his most faithful followers simply said that if the prophet said that this is what happened, then it must be true.

A few weeks later, facts confirmed some elements of his account; the arrival of the caravans whose coming he had announced, having seen them on his way back, and of which he had given a precise description.

This demonstrates that the prophet’s night journey and Miraj or ascent, are both a spiritual journey as well as a physical one. There is a state of rising to an inner realm where there is a counterpart of the physical body. This state is called the Alam-e-mithal by Sufis.[10] This can be achieved by intense meditative practice under guidance by a Teacher.

This story of the Prophet’s Night Journey and Miraj are the most profound and revealing insight into the inner journey – into the realm of Alam-al-mithal. Accounts of this journey are to be found in so called Fairy Tales, and ancient stories like the Epic of Gilgamesh.

In my next blog, we will delve into the near-death experience of C. G. Jung, which can be understood as such a journey.

[1] http://www.islamicity.org/5841/the-night-journey/

[2] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press 2017

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isra_and_Mi%27raj

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] Daly, Nuria The Witch as Teacher in Fairy Tales, Balboa Press. 2017

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isra_and_Mi%27raj

[8] http://www.islamicity.org/5841/the-night-journey/

 

[9] Sandars, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books 1972

[10] Hazrat Inayat Khan. The Mystical Meaning of the Resurrection

The Quest for Immortality: Part 5. Utnapishtim – before the Flood

At the end of the last chapter, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he will reveal to him a mystery; a great secret of the Gods. Gilgamesh already knows the story of the flood, as it follows the creation story in the Sumerian belief system, and Gilgamesh is on this quest for immortality precisely because Utnapishtim was the one, who, on saving humankind from the deluge, was raised to immortality by the gods.

Who is Utnapishtim?  His father Ubara-Tutu was a king of Shurrupak and the only king named in the prediluvian King-List apart from Utnapishtim himself, who was known as a wise king and priest. The king- priests were in direct contact with their gods by scared ritual, where they would use trance to communicate with their god. It is probable that this was how he was ‘given’ this immense project of saving humanity.

Before the flood:
We are given the scenario of where and why the deluge came upon the earth; – It was at the city of Shurrupak, on the banks of the Euphrates, just north of Uruk. Gilgamesh is told that the city had grown old and the gods in it had also grown old. Perhaps we can understand this to mean that there was a social, economic and spiritual decline at this time.

Utnapishtim explains the relationship between the specific gods who sat in judgement over humankind. First and most supreme, was Anu, the lord of the firmament and ‘father’ of all the Gods. My feeling is that this god is like our own concept of the Divine One or Unity – everything is part of the One, and nothing exists which is not part of this One, yet this Divine Being is more than the sum of His parts.

There then was Enlil, described as the counsellor of the gods, but known as the god of earth, wind, and air, ultimately spirit, and subservient to Anu. Also mentioned are Ninurta, the helper, who was the god of wells and irrigation, and Ennugi watcher over canals. These gods of earth, air, and the water ways, are the gods who sat in council and who were very  displeased with humanity.

‘In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull.’[1]
Clearly there was a problem of overpopulation with the earth being unable to sustain so many people, as well as the population’s total disregard for the earth, air or environment. The cities had become very populous; in those days, Uruk had a population of 50,000 to 80,000 residents living in 6 square kilometres – the largest city in the world at that time. Both the cities of Shurrupak and Uruk were situated on marshlands, so it would have been difficult to sustain so many people in this environment.

The gods mentioned; Ninurta and Ennugi, were of wells, irrigation and canals, so their displeasure would be related to the cleaning and irrigation of small rivers and water ways. The first trials wrought on humankind, were drought and pestilence, but these failed to exterminate the humans, so Enlil then prevailed with his weapon of storm, to finish the job. This could be seen as the result of climate change, in how the people basically raped the land. This could have been the mythological rape that is talked about n ancient stories. It is also clear that humankind was responsible and blamed by the gods, for the destruction of the balance of the earth and the pollution of the water ways. In an earlier poem the flood follows pestilence, famine, and drought, each designed to exterminate humankind.

But Ea, the child of Anu the supreme One, was the god of sweet waters and of wisdom – the creator of humankind; he warned Utnapishtim of the coming deluge in a dream.
‘Reed house, reed house! Wall O wall, harken reed house, wall reflect; — tear down your house and build a boat, abandon your possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods, and save your soul alive.’
This tells us that these people lived in reed houses, in the marshes on the banks of the Euphrates river, as well as houses in the walled city. But the message here is a spiritual one – to abandon their possessions and save their souls.

Utnapishtim was given the exact measurements of the boat that he was directed to build and how to build her. It was a massive undertaking. The boat’s beam was to be equal to her length, and her deck roofed like the vault that covers ‘the abyss’. He was told to take into the boat the seed of all living creatures.

The ground space was to be one acre, with each side of the deck measuring one hundred and twenty cubits, making a square.
The square signifies the earth, as opposed to the circle of the heavens, with God manifest in creation. The square also represents the perfect type of enclosure – in sacred architecture it symbolises transcendent knowledge. It signifies the mystical union of the four elements and the attainment of unity. A square is made up of two equilateral triangles, which is also symbolic – three within four. Thus the significance of the square is a powerful and sacred symbol – sacred geometry.

In our Sufi spiritual practice there is a pattern of breathing, known as the ‘square breath’ which has its own purpose and meaning. Sufis also have a breathing practice known as the element breath, which is done to acknowledge and balance the elements within us.

That each side of the square measures one hundred and twenty cubits is also significant.
Twelve indicates a complete cycle, or cosmic order. Three times four represents both spiritual and temporal order: One hundred and twenty is thus a complete cycle times ten. Ten is the number of the cosmos and the paradigm of creation. The decad contains all numbers and therefore all things and possibilities. It is the perfect number and return to unity.

The detail of the structure of the boat reflects the structure of a belief system, of an understanding of the inner realm. Without this structure, the inner journey cannot be made. The boat is both an inner and an outer structure and demonstrates a profound understanding of the Sacred and the inner realms and of the journey through them.

There were to be six decks below the water line, one deck above, so seven decks in all. After seven days the boat was complete. The magical number seven, the number of the universe is symbolic of completeness – a totality. With the number three of the heavens and the soul, and number four of the earth and the body, seven is the first number which contains both the spiritual and temporal. The structure of the boat reflects the structure of the inner world, with the part or level above the ocean, reflecting consciousness, and the six levels below taking us deeper into the structure of the depths or layers of the unconscious towards the centre which is unity with the Divine. It is very much like the description of the realms in the story of The Fairy of the Dawn[2].

The seven levels of decking on the boat could depict the seven grades of initiation into the mysteries and I think that this is a reflection of the levels of initiation taken when journeying into and through those inner realms towards the depths in the ocean of the unconscious. Sufis believe that Ocean represents the Unconscious. Note that the time it took to complete the boat was seven days, so even the time frame reflects the meaning of the number seven – totality and completeness, as well as reflecting a very long period of time.

Utnapishtim divided the decks into nine sections with bulkheads between. As we commented on before in an earlier blog, the Sumerians counted in threes and sixes – they did not have a binary system of counting as we do. Therefore, the six lower decks were symbolically important, as are the nine sections of the bulkhead. Nine, of course is comprised of the powerful 3 x 3 and indicates completion, fulfilment, and attainment. It is a celestial and angelic number which points to the Earthly Paradise, which for these people was Dilmun.

Most importantly, nine is the number of the circumference, hence its division into 90 degrees and into 360 degrees for the entire circumference. It is symbolised by the figure of two triangles, which in turn is a symbol of male and female, fire and water, mountain, and cave principles. So we are given an image of a circle within a square. The ‘squaring of the circle’ is an archetypal motif which could be called the archetype of wholeness. Jung, in working with mandalas, realised that his own life had been a series of meandering paths that bent back upon each other and yet always leading back to the centre. The mandala symbolically represents the path to the centre, to wholeness. Jung says that unless the Symbol is ‘ungraspable’, it is ineffective. If it is ‘understood’ it dies. The core of the individual is a mystery of life, which dies when it is ‘grasped’. That is also why Symbols want to keep their secrets. They are mysterious, not only because we are unable to clearly see what is at their bottom. It is like an archetypal dream – if we interpret it, we destroy it. When the symbol is a mystery it cannot be destroyed by the ego.[3]

We also realise that the boat is in fact a cube – a very powerful image and symbol to contemplate for the seeker. Within the cube we have the tetrahedron, and a circle. To visualise and feel into these forms and facets, take us deep into a part of ourselves, deep into the inner realm, on the journey to wholeness – to our Centre and unity with the Divine.

For a very interesting Jungian analysis of the triangle, tetrahedron and cube see:  http://www.cgjungpage.org/learn/articles/analytical-psychology/589-tetrahedral-geometry-and-the-psyche
Try to visualise into the sacred form of the tetrahedron! It is a multidimensional image of the Trinity.

We are given great detail as to how this project was managed, how the boat was built, the supplies, the pouring of the pitch, the slaughtering of the bullocks and sheep to feed the builders, and wine for them to drink. Nothing was spared as he knew there would be nothing left after the flood. The launching was difficult because of the shifting ballast above and below. He loaded everything he had into boat – gold, living things, his family and his kin, beasts of the field both wild and tame and all the craftsmen. This was a whole community of beings who would survive the flood.

Finally, the time came when Shamash the sun gave him the sign that the mighty deluge was about to begin. After battening and caulking, Utnapishtim handed the tiller to Puzur-Amurri, the steersman, with the navigation and care of the whole boat. So the tiller is set for Syria (Puzur-Amurri represents Syria).  This new colony was heading to Syria – an inner and an outer place.

The structure of the boat and how it was built, its meaning and purpose, as a spiritual structure and belief system, is in fact the great secret and mystery, which Utnapishtim teaches Gilgamesh. This is the main point of the story. At the end of the last episode, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he will tell him a great secret and mystery. Here it is hidden within the story of the flood. The boat is the means by which the seeker can make that inner journey to the centre of all and thus find ‘immortality’, just as we have seen in the tales explored in The Witch as teacher in Fairy Tales.

Many years ago, while taking part in a workshop, I had a dream, which I took to the Jungian analyst who was leading the workshop. In this dream I was on a great ocean liner, with the date of the 1950’s written on the funnel. In the hold of that ship were many, many dead babies. I was told that this was an initiation dream, and that I should go into a Jungian analysis, and bring all those dead babies back to life again. This led to an almost seven year Jungian analysis, in which I had many dreams of boats or liners, and of babies. Often the babies were twins or two sets of twins, which takes us to the sacred quaternity that Jung speaks of. Sometimes the babies were born fully able to communicate, and full of wisdom. The Divine children.

To me the boat or liner, meant the collective means of crossing the great ocean of the unconscious, in other words the ‘religion’ or belief system of the ‘people’ I had been brought up with.  Clearly this structure or belief system, did not serve me well. All the potentialities in my life at that time, were dead. In the 1950s I would have been between seven and seventeen years old. A time when I was indeed exploring life and what it meant. I I did not get the answers to so many of the questions which I pondered at the time. I could not find anything that satisfied me on a deep level. Now all those years later, I feel that I have resurrected many, if not all of those babies in the hold of the liner, and that everything that I have experienced in my life has led to these resurrections. The boat which Utnapishtim made to save his people from the deluge, is such a boat.

There follows a detailed description of the mighty storm and the rising of the flood waters., the releasing of the birds, first the short flight of the dove, then the longer flight bird, the swallow, and finally the raven, who saw that the waters had retreated, ate, cawed, and never came back. Utnapishtim made sacrifice to the gods in gratitude for their survival, but on seeing this sacrifice, Enlil realised that Utnapishtim and his companions had survived and  was angry when he saw the boat. No-one was meant to have survived. But Ninurta, the god of wells and canals said that it is only Ea the supreme god of all, who knows all things and that nothing can be devised without him. So Ea reproaches Enlil for so senselessly bringing down the flood and further states that it was not he, who revealed the secret of the gods, but that the wise man learned it in a dream. Yet Ea as god of wisdom could well have given Utnapishtim the knowledge he needed in a dream. So, we learn that Utnapishtim knew from his understanding of the world and the environment, what was about to happen and devised the plan from his own intuition and wisdom. One could say that he was perhaps a great sage.

In those days the temples were served by a perpetual priesthood, in whose hands was almost the whole wealth of the state and amongst whom were archivists and teachers, scholars and mathematicians. In the early times the whole temporal power was theirs, as servants of the god whose estates they managed.[4] Utnapishtim could have been one of these priests or mathematicians, whose vision saved humankind. I do think that he was a great Teacher, prophet and leader. Mathematics has always played a fundamental part in the human psyche. Jung talks about primary mathematical intuitions in geometry.

Mathematics are no longer the beginnings of philosophy, or the science of Being in its true appearance, but is instead the science of the structure of the human mind.”[5] The mathematician priests of old would have known this.

The gods again take council and Enlil comes to the boat and takes Utnapishtim and his wife by the hand, entering the boat between them, bids them kneel either side of him, and blesses them, saying “In times past Utnapishtim was a mortal man; henceforth he and his wife shall live in the distance at the mouth of the rivers.”[6] This feels like the final ‘raising up’ of a mortal man, to the highest realms of Being, into Enlightenment.

Thus, it was that this colony of humans could establish themselves far away, in a paradise on earth, at the mouth of rivers. Where this place on earth is, we do not know. I think that the raven probably found land on the Taurus mountains which are now in southern Turkey, but my feeling that this place at the mouth of the rivers is indeed far away – perhaps on the shores of the Mediterranean, even Sardinia, Malta, or Southern Spain.

In the next episode we explore the inner journey or near death experience of C G Jung and the black cube, and of the Miraj of the Prophet, or night journey of the Prophet Mahomed.

 

Sacred Geometry
“Fundamentally, sacred geometry is simply the ratios of numbers to one another: 1:2, 2:3, 4:5. When such numerical ratios are incorporated into three-dimensional form we have the most graceful and alluring architecture in the world. When those very same ratios are expressed in the domain of sounds they yield the transcendental and transformative music of Indian ragas, Tibetan overtone chanting, Gregorian chanting, African drumming, and the masterworks of Bach, Mozart and other European classical composers. Goethe once said, “Architecture is frozen music.” By this statement Goethe was describing the relationship between musical ratios and their application to form and structure.

While not all the forms found in geometry and nature are harmonic in nature, those that we find most beautiful to the eye do indeed adhere to harmonic series. In particular, forms that express ratios based upon the octave (2:1), fourths (4:3), fifths (3:2), and thirds (5:4) create forms that are visually harmonious. The knowledge of how to use these harmonic ratios to create architecture was basic to the ancient mystery schools of Egypt and Greece. Pythagoras, who got his knowledge of these matters from thirty-three years of wandering and studying in Mesopotamia and Egypt, was especially influential in introducing this sacred geometry to the Greeks, and thereby to Western civilization.

One sacred geometrical proportion, known as the Golden Mean or the Golden Section, was immensely important to ancient architects. The Golden Section is a geometric proportion in which the ratio of the whole to the larger part is the same as the ratio of the larger part to the smaller. Thus a:b = b:(a-b). The Golden Section often involves proportions that relate to the ratios found in the major sixth (3:5) and the minor sixth (5:8). Atomic physicists, chemists, crystallographers, biologists, botanists and astronomers have found these same ratios to be the underlying mathematical framework of the universe. The ratios are also present in the human body and mind, perhaps accounting for the profound and transformative effects of sacred architecture and sacred music upon the human organism. An ancient Hindu architectural sutra says “The universe is present in the temple in the form of proportion.” Therefore, when you are within a structure fashioned with sacred geometry, you are within a model of the universe. The vibrational quality of sacred space thus brings your body and mind into harmony with the universe.”[7]

 

 

 

[1] Sandars, N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Books 1977 P 108

[2] Daly, Nuria. The Witch as teacher in Fairy tales, Balboa Press 2017

[3] C G Jung letter to Hans Schmid 1915

[4] Sandars N K, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics, 1977, p 15

[5] Quoted by Shane Eynon in the Jungian Book Club. FB

[6] Ibid p 113

[7] https://sacredsites.com/sacred_places/sacred_geometry.html

Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. part 4. Utnapishtim

I would like to include a comment which Nawab has made on my last post, as it is very insightful and important:-

‘Very dear Nuria,
Many heartfelt thanks for the very interesting exploration of the saga of Gilgamesh. It is very insightful. Some thoughts that came up while reading this portion: Gilgamesh smashing the ‘stone things’ and the snakes brings to mind the Buddhist mantram, Gate gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi svaha! Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond beyond, hail the Goer! The path of Gilgamesh to find immortality does not allow him to be beholden to any ‘method’ – perhaps that is why in his crossing, he himself becomes the mast, and he takes the skin off his body for a sail (though admittedly a skin borrowed from another creature). And reflecting on the Urnu-snakes and the stone things, of course snakes can also make us think of the power spiralling up the spinal axis, which yogis call kundalini. In that light, maybe the ‘stone things’ represent the radiant psychic centres, which in some conditions shine like jewels. So why does Gilgamesh smash this ‘system’? Perhaps because every form must some day be scattered, and the ultimate crossing means to leave them all behind. Experience of the various centres can take us to the margin of the ocean, but to cross the ocean we leave them on the shore.’
I love the idea that the ‘stone things’ represent the radiant psychic centres, which shine like jewels, especially as everything in the garden of Dilmun – the flowers and the thorns, described as being made of precious stones or crystals. It is a powerful image and concept to ponder.

For Gilgamesh the night sea journey is almost complete. He himself has become the mast and his skins, the sails, which power the boat towards that sacred place at the mouth of the rivers. The garden of Dilmun, the Sumerian paradise – the place where the sun rises and the Land of the Living.

‘Now Utnapishtim, where he lay at ease, looked into the distance and he said in his heart, musing to himself, ‘Why does the boat sail here without tackle and mast; why are the sacred stones destroyed, and why does the master not sail the boat? That man who comes is none of mine; where I look I see a man whose body is covered with skins of beasts. Who is this who walks up the shore behind Urshanabi, for surely he is no man of mine? ‘[1] He asks himself all the questions that Gilgamesh has had to answer before when faced with Siduri and then Urshanabi.

Gilgamesh replies ‘Gilgamesh is my name. I am from Uruk, from the house of Anu.’ This is a very short and focussed reply! His name, his city and his spiritual lineage. Anu is the Sumerian father of the gods – the god of the firmament – ‘the great above’. In a sense, one could say that it is like our idea of ‘the One’ or God – who is everything. Nothing exists save Allah, Allah alone exists. In the Sumerian cosmology there was first, the primeval sea, from which was born the cosmic mountain consisting of heaven (An), and earth (Ki). Anu had an important temple in Uruk: He was a supreme and remote deity.

Note. In Sumerian theogony, An (heaven) was the first-born of the primeval sea. He was the upper heavens, the firmament, not the air that blows over the earth. He was united to earth (Sumerian Ki) and begot Enlil, the god of the air. At this time the world was still in darkness and Enlil the air, was imprisoned between the dark ceiling of heaven, a night sky without stars, and the earth’s surface. So Enlil begot the moon Nana (Semitic Sin), who travelled in a boat bringing light  to the lapis lazuli heavens; and Nana in turn begot the sun Utu (Semitic Shamash), and Inanna (Semitic Ishtar) goddess of love and war.[2]

Utnapishtim is portrayed as lying at ease and seems very human in his attributes. He was last on the king list before the flood, where Gilgamesh was said to be fifth on the king list after the flood. Therefore, Utnapishtim could be seen as a forefather of Gilgamesh. He does not recognise Gilgamesh, so Gilgamesh again tells Utnapishtim at great length, about his terrible journey, his grief for Enkidu, his fear that the same fate awaits him, and of his desperation to avoid it if possible. The old man asks Gilgamesh why he grieves about mortality when nothing lives forever? The old man says the gods established that men would suffer death, and that when the gods give life, they also decide the day of death. He says that death is our certain destiny, even if we don’t know when it will happen.

Gilgamesh then says ‘I look at you now, Utnapishtim, and your appearance is no different from mine; there is nothing strange in your features. I thought I should find you like a hero prepared for battle, but you lie here taking your ease on your back. Tell me truly, how was it that you came to enter the company of the Gods and to possess everlasting life?’

Utnapishtim tells him that he will reveal the secret of the gods and this ends the tablet or section, which tells of Gilgamesh’s search for everlasting life.

The story of the flood has been inserted at this point in the Epic of Gilgamesh, but I do not believe that it belongs here. Some think that it does not belong in the Epic of Gilgamesh at all. We are not told what the secret of the gods in. However, there is a comment by Enlil, god of the air, which I find revealing. ‘It was not I that revealed the secret of the gods; the wise man learned it in a dream. This wise man was Utnapishtim, who was the only one with his wife, to survive the flood, and he was warned by a dream.

So in my understanding, Utnapishtim as a great Teacher and enlightened being, spends time teaching Gilgamesh. He passes on his secret knowledge of the mysteries of Life and of Light.

In the next episode we learn more of the tests which  Gilgamesh endures, while with Utnapishtim, and of his transformation.

.

 

 

[1] Sandars, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics 1977 P105

[2] Ibid P 24