FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 'Ignorance is an outlook on life.'
YOU ARE IN DARKNESS.
by Mudarras Kadhir Gaznavi
WHEN DID HISTORY BEGIN?
You must have heard the statement that 'history has begun at Sumer.' The evidence we have today indeed show that it actually had begun between 4000-1000 BC.; If history had started with writing then the first page was written in Mesopotamia about 6000 years ago! Sumerians started keeping record of their times in the form ofpictograms on clay tablets, and around 3000 BC. a form of cuneiform writing and a full syllabic alphabet appeared. Peoples in the neighbouring lands has adopted, amended and used this alphabet according to their needs.
WHERE WAS THIS SUMER? WHO WERE THESE SUMERIANS?
The land called Sumer was in the Middle East in between and along the rivers Euphrates and Tigris (in present day Iraq). Have you ever asked yourself?
Why and how did this Sumerian civilization appeared out of nowhere?
Who were these Sumerians?
Where were they before establishing themselves as the 'initiators' of history?
Have they migrated? If so, from where?
And what made them 'shine' suddenly like a light bulb in the long history of mankind and civilization?
According to the story on clay tablets of the SumerianLu-dingir-ra (could be translated as 'God's man') who lived 4000 years ago, this is the answer to 'where they had come from?' :
"We migrated to where we are living now thousands of years ago, but they were unable to write down from where because they did not know how to write then. Later on inquisitive scribes and the archivists in the royal palace studied the orally transmitted information in an attempt to find out about the past. Our people came to this land from a mountainous country to the northeast. But it is also said that some of them had come via sea from a land called Dilmun in the east. And the reason behind this migration is said to be the onset of an unexplained drought in their warm and rainy country. Great Enlil had some of us 'darkheads' settle here... According to the rumours and results of my research as to why we have called ourselves 'darkheads,' I found out that before our forefathers migrated here, people with blonde hair and blue eyes were living next to their country. They may have adopted this name to separate themselves from their neighbours. I cannot visualize a person with blonde hair and blue eyes. And I don't think it would be nice. I haven't seen any person like that in my country."
This is what Lu-dingir-ra had written on a clay tablet. The area where the Sumerians established themselves is actually a crossroads of peoples, cultures, and trade routes; it is right in the middle of the 'old world'. So there must have been all kinds of influences passing right through this region before Sumerians and also in their time. In order to find out these influences and the cross fertilization they have led to we have to look into this region. First centres of high culture were flourishing 5000 years ago along great rivers: Egyptian culture on the Nile, Babylonian in the Land of the Two Rivers, and the Indus civilization. Indus civilization was almost twice the size of the Kingdom of Egypt and four times the size of Sumer-Akkad Empire. Sumerians were in between these two great centres of that age. S. Radhakrishnan even came to the conclusion that the Indus culture was linked with that of Sumer, which has transformed itself into Babylonian culture, thereby established a tradition that Europe has inherited. Seals originating from the Indus valley (some of them dated to at least 2000 B.C) were found during the excavations at former Babylonian cities. At Ur they found a seal dating from pre-Sargonid times (2500 B.C.) which is a local imitation of an Indian seal. Some scholars think that the basic elements of the Babylonian astrology were possibly derived from the Harappa culture. A large quantity of Indus seals were found along the Euphrates. People called Elamites are an important link between the Mesopotamian and Indus civilizations. They lived to the north of the confluence of Euphrates and Tigris, in the region which is shared between Iran and Irak today. Archeological discoveries have now shown that an early Elamite culture flourished in the 4th millenium B.C., 200-400 years before the oldest Indus valley culture - the Amri culture - in centres, only 600 miles away from the later high civilization of Harappa. All these finds should be taken as evidence of important contacts between India and a high culture to the west (immeasurably far away for those times) over 4000 years ago. Celtic god Cernunnos sitting in the Buddha position corresponds to a Harappa seal from the Indus valley. Numerous analogies and correspondences between Celtic and Celto-Iberian religion and India are to be found in the idea of reincarnation, a vegetarian diet, the tree cult and the Swastika - a symbol that is still found today on the door-posts of Basque farmhouses. A Buddha's head from the same period has even been found in a Celto-Iberian burial chamber in the south of France. Speculation is that at an early stage of the Amri culture (4th millenium B.C.), a unified population group, to which the Sumerians belonged had spread over a large part of the Asia Minor. We know that Aryan tribes that invaded Indus valley originally lived in Anatolia and northern Iran. The cuneiform contractual documents relating to the Hittite kings of Mitanni found at Bogazkoy in Anatolia (dated around 1400 B.C.) stand as witnesses to the exchanges within a few centuries. They contain invocations of deities Mi-it-ra, Ur-w-na, Indar, Na-sa-at-ti-ia. These are the deities worshipped in ancient India under the same names: Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatyas. Ancient Persians called themselves 'aryans' and their language differed little from Sanskrit. The Avesta, the holy scripture of ancient Iran is in part almost identical with the Rig-Veda, the oldest Indian text. One could come across the Indian God-King Rama in the Avesta as well as the divine potion 'soma' ('haoma in ancient Iranian), and the holy river Saraswati (Haraquati in ancient Iranian). Dr. B.G. Siddhart from Hyderabad attributes Avesta and Ramayana an inconceivable date of 7000 B.C. That is not all! In his opinion the Rig-Veda had originated in Asia Minor (Anatolia), 1000 years earlier than these two books. A research team from Heidelberg University in Germany has found the remains of a highly developed urban culture dating from the 7th millenium B.C. at Nevali Cori (Nevali Çeri) in Anatolia. The sculptures there include the life size depiction of a man displaying all the characteristics of a priest from the time of the Rig-Veda.
Civilizations came and gone in this region since the Stone Age right up to the golden age of Greco-Roman culture. Peace and prosperity must have reigned supreme in those years along the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates because nothing is discovered which points to a large scale warlike activity in this region, which has been a fertile crescent and a centre for many civilizations - it is a semi-circle bordering on the south the Arabian desert with Yerushalim, Tyre, Sidon, Damascus (Dimişk-eş Şam) in the west, Haran and Nineveh in the north, and Ashur (Aşur), Babylon, Ur in the east. But one day, 'suddenly', a horde of nomadic tribes of semitic stock from the heart of the Arabian desert launched violent assaults on the north and northwest, on Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. These nomads, called Amorites, attacked the kingdoms of the fertile crescent. They have adopted the Sumerian culture and cuneiform writing but not the Sumerian language. Their language was known as Akkadian, one of the languages of the Semitic family. In the end, Empires of Sumer and Akkad collapsed in 1960 B.C. Amorites founded a number of states and dynasties. One of them was eventually to become supreme: The first dynasty of Babylon, a great centre of power between 1830-1530 B.C. Its sixth King was the famous Hammurabi the law-giver. Then came the Assyrian Empire. That is why Mesopotamian myths came to us in Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian.
This is a very very short summary about Sumerians, their extremely important geographical position, their land at the crossroads of the cultures and how it all ended with the Amorite attacks. We all know that Sumerians have invented many things which were all 'firsts' in the history of mankind. But only one of those inventions, a belief system is in our field of interest. Mankind has left behind all of those inventions and made tremendous improvements on them. That is only natural when one thinks of the thousands of years which separate us from them. But in spite of all the developments in the intellectual, technological, and psychological fronts that Sumerian invention - the belief system - still perplexes the educated and uneducated minds alike and leads them inevitably to the concepts of 'subservient mankind,' and the 'supreme creator' with all the accompanying 'accessories.'
So, we come to the crucial question:
What did the Sumerians invent then, which has captured man's conscience and made him a 'servant' in his (man's) 'kingdom'?
In order to give an answer to this question we have to look into the Sumerian pantheon of gods and cosmogony.
How did the universe came into being?
How is it organized?
How does it function?
Sumerians have thought about and debated these questions. There are valid reasons to think that there had been scholars and teachers who proposed a fairly clever and convincing cosmology and a theology to find a solution to this riddle in 3000 B.C. These ideas became popular later in much of the Middle East. None of these scholars had the capacity to think logically and coherently on these matters. Sumerian thinkers believed that their perception of things were beyond dispute and what was known about the creation and functioning of the universe was definite. There was no contradiction and discussion. Sumerian thinkers have started with the things which they could observe in their environment. That was why the observable universe for them was a hemisphere the dome of which was the sky and the base was the earth. The name they had given to this formation was applicable to the whole of the universe: An-Ki (Sky-Earth). The earth appeared to them as a disk surrounded by water (sea). They called this sea Apsu-Abzu (This sea from the shores of the Mediterranean to the end of the Persian Gulf was the boundary of their world). And this disk (Ki) was floating freely on this sea which was also the diametrical plane of an endless sphere. The dome of the sphere above the earth was the sky. The unseen canopy underneath the sea was considered to be an 'opposite-sky' which covered the nether-world (hell) Sumerians called their hell, 'Kur'. They believed in the existence of a third component called 'Lil', the meaning of which is air, breath, spirit. But we can accept 'wind' as a reasonably close meaning. According to the Sumerians the Sun, planets, stars and even 'brilliance' were made of the same substance. And beyond the boundaries of the observable universe existed in every direction a mysterious and endless cosmic ocean. The stationary 'sphere of universe' was in the centre of all this.
Then scholars have felt the need to explain the source of the cosmic components and to establish a lineage among them: There was a beginning. The first thing that existed in the beginning was the endless primeval 'mother-ocean'. Sumerian thinkers have invented from this 'mother-ocean' a first-cause, a 'first-mover.' This 'sea' (Apsu-Apzu) gave birth to the Universe. An-Ki (Sky-Earth) was born. An-Ki has created the Sky and the Earth. Sky and Earth have brought into being other gods. No Sumerian thinker was able to explain fully this mixture of cosmology and theogony in the beginning. To find the reality one has to consult what the mythographers had written. On the tablet which gives the list of the Sumerian gods, goddess Nammu, whose name is written with the pictogram denoting 'sea' is described as the 'mother who gave life to Sky and Earth.' The god who separated Sky and Earth is Enlil.
Here is the Sumerian cosmogony: There was the primeval ocean (Mother-Sea) in the beginning (There is no information on its origin and how it came into being). This Mother-Sea produced the Cosmic-Mountain which was formed by the un-separated Sky and Earth, An-Ki. Sky (An) was male and Earth (Ki) was female, the union of which produced Enlil. Enlil separated sky and Earth. An took the sky. Enlil took his mother Ki (Earth) to himself. The union of Ki and Enlil established the basis for the ordered universe. This union was the starting point and the source of man, animals, plants and the institution of civilization. Which means that Universe was created by these supreme entities. The first gods were mixed with cosmic elements: Sky, Earth, Air, Water. These cosmic gods brought into being other 'lesser' gods. The 'lesser' gods eventually have produced everything that filled even the tiniest corners of the Universe. Only the first gods (sky, earth, air, water) were 'creators'. Since they were the organizers of the Universe they hold it in their hands. The existence, development and survival of vast kingdoms have depended on them. This was the fundamental 'truth of itself' for the Sumerians. These gods did not reveal themselves to the mortals. Each god was in charge of a different corner of the universe. Sumerians have started with the human society they knew and progressed to the super human level of supreme overseers. In other words they have invented these 'kingdoms in the sky' (There may be real kingdoms in the sky of the extraterrestrials but it is not our subject) with assorted supreme beings in charge of this or that. For the Sumerians Universe was necessarily supervised, cared for, administered and controlled by the living superior beings resembling humans. They made plans and carried them out like man did. Even the most powerful ones were acting like humans. They were eating, building families, employing a large number of servants. They were subject to humanly passions and weaknesses. All the gods were invisible but they had their statues in the temples. Priests were showing great respect to these statues and the gods they represented. They never thought of the contradiction between the resemblance of gods and humans and the immortality of the gods. The gods were immortal but they needed food. They were thought of as very powerful because they governed the universe. They were thought as immortals because their death may mean the loss of the order of the universe and consequently life may come to an end.
So, this must be how the Sumerians have decided on the existence, nature and functions of these super human and immortal beings they calleddingir (supreme creator, god). In none of the Sumero-Babylonian creation stories were the gods actually creators in a transcendental sense, because they were an integral part of the universe and a product of its creative process.
There was a hierarchy among these supreme beings. (Of course there should be! A god in charge of a pickaxe and a brick could not be on par with the god who is in charge of the sun.) On the top was theking-god. He was the head of the council of gods. In the forefront of this council there were four 'creator' gods together with the seven most eminent gods who were the 'determiners of destinies.' Then there were fifty 'great gods'. Creator gods were called An, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. There are reasons to believe that in the beginning Sumerians considered An as the top-god in their pantheon. But in later sources going back to 2500 B.C. we see Enlil as playing the role of the chief deity. How and why and when Enlil had taken An's place is not clear. The oldest comprehensible documents describes him as the 'father of gods', 'king of sky and earth', 'king of all countries'. Later myths and hymns tell us that Enlil was a benevolent god who was responsible for the design and creation of the universe and also furnishing it with all the best things. He was the source of almost everything. In the Sumerian tablets which were read and published since 1930s hymns and myths present Enlil as friendly and fatherly god who safeguarded the security and well-being of mankind generally and Sumerians especially. Ninhursag who is also known as Ninmah (Magnificent Lady) was the fourth of the four 'creator gods.' She was higher up the scale previously, coming before Enki in the list of gods. She was the one who gave life to all the gods. She was called Nintu (Fertile Lady). She was the mother of all living beings. Enki, the God of Apsu-Abzu (God of unfathomable deep) and the god of wisdom was looking after earthly affairs working harmoniously with Enlil. Enlil was designing the general plan and Enki was carrying it out. [In all the 'religions of the book' there has always been a chief deity with lesser deities or angels, and archangels around him starting with Zoroastrianism]. Nowhere in Sumer was there the anxiety to search for the origins of the concrete events and progress towards civilization. All of these were tied to Enki's creative effect. The judgement was 'Enki did it' or 'Enki did it and organized it so'.
According to the Sumerian wise men, gods preferred morality to immorality. Goodness, equity, candidness and honesty of gods were exalted in all the hymns. The Son God Utu had a basic function of overseeing the moral order. But at the same time Sumerians believed that gods have embedded in mankind equal amounts of evil, lie, cruelty and tyranny. Gods have invented 'Me's. A 'me' is a principle invented and signed by the gods with the aim of ensuring the trouble-free functioning of the universe. 'Me's are seen as very effective in the formation of mankind, and civilization. Gods had many important things to do, and no one would have expected them to involve themselves with the affairs of mortals down on earth. Like a subject needing an intermediary to request something from a king, mankind needed a mediator to make himself heard by gods. This mediator should be in favour with the gods. This belief undoubtedly led to consulting personal supreme overseers. These personal supreme overseers have become the protective angels connected to the leader of the family. One pleaded with and saved from disasters by the 'personal' supreme overseer.
In short, Sumerian belief system waspolytheistic. Their supreme entities were like humans. But they were immortal and had super human powers. They had families. They lined up under a king-like chief deity. These supreme entities would fall in love experience sadness, become jealous, fight with each other, etc. like human beings. They were malicious. They fell ill, and received wounds as well. The supreme entities of Sky, earth, water and air are creators and the others are administrators and protectors. There were about 1500 supreme entities each in charge of something. The Sumerian supreme overseers were anthropomorphic 'gods' symbolizing the natural phenomena and the forces of nature. Sacrificial offerings were made to these deities in the temples called Ziggurats. Deities were believed to be organizing and controlling everything. Sun-god Utu (Babylonian Shamash) was an all-seeing supreme entity ensuring justice and equity, and helping mankind. Enki the God of Wisdom and Water is the protector of mankind and magicians. Goddess Inanna, the symbol of planet Venus, is the protector of lovers and hunters. All the supreme beings in Sumer did as they pleased. They never told humans what their wishes were. Humans had to ask these supreme entities if they wanted to know their wishes. Moreover the signs in the livers of the sacrificed animals made known the wishes of the supreme entities. Another way these supreme overseers have made their wishes known was dreams. In order to know what a supreme overseer thought about a certain action, one had to go to the temple, make an offering, pray and go to sleep (Many cultures of the Middle East, especially devout Muslims jeep this Babylonian practice of praying and going to sleep, hoping to dream, which will be a pointer as to whether a certain action or an event would be beneficial or harmful). Sumerians have believed that everything could be known beforehand by consulting 'oracular' material. This belief continued until the 1st. millennium B.C. The polytheistic belief system of Sumer gradually became monotheistic with all the supreme entities - accept the chief deity - turning into angels, demons, satans, and jinns in the later belief systems (one can see these 'entities in the 'belief systems of the book').
There are three basic myths. They are so widespread that we have no choice but to call them 'basic.' All of these myths appear in the Semitic mythology but their origin is Sumerian. They arethe myth of Dumuzi and Inanna. The myth of Creation. The myth of the Flood.
sumerian myths page 2