THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 5, March, 1928
(Pages 194-201; Size: 28K)
(Number 26 of a 59-part series)
BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA
TO whom does not "the Garden of Eden" bring instant thought of an actual paradise on earth? The Old Testament depicts it as the abode of Adam and Eve, who were driven out because they ate of "the forbidden fruit." The word Eden in the Sumerian dialect means simply a plain, and we find that the sandy plain north of the Persian Gulf was the birthplace of a people who were to found the great civilizations of Babylonia and Assyria. The Greeks called the region above the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers Mesopotamia -- meso meaning in the midst of or between, and potami, rivers. More than 6,000 years ago a colony settled at Eridu and built the "Holy City of Ea," then on the water's edge, but now over one hundred miles inland, owing to the silting down of the soil into the Gulf. This part of the country was called Sumer, a name pointing to Indian origin (Su-Meru) and corroborated by the Secret Doctrine which states that adepts on their way to Asia Minor tarried to teach and civilize a barbarian people. The oldest texts are in Sumerian, but about 2,000 B.C. the hymns and liturgies began to be supplied with interlinear translations in the Semitic tongue -- one of many indications that the Wisdom-Religion of the Sumerians was the source of the Babylonian and, through it, of the still later Israelitish worship and belief. From its beginning -- it seems probable that it was an offshoot of Eridu -- Babylon was the seat of Sanscrit and Brahman learning.(1)
Until recent years our knowledge of these people was gained mostly from the Bible, which led us to suppose they were all idolaters and savages; but the unearthing and deciphering of monuments and clay tablets, particularly those composing the great library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh, reveal a very different and startling story.(2) Before Abraham(3) who, we used to think, lived at the very dawn of history, so great was the learning and culture of Babylonia that its influence extended throughout Western Asia, while before the time of Moses the language of this country was used for international correspondence, even the Egyptian Pharaoh (Amenophis IV) using it instead of his own tongue. The great antiquity claimed for this people both by Berosus(4) and Herodotus has not been credited, but a Sumerian tablet gives a period of 32,234 years between the deluge and the last king of Isin, who lived 2,000 B.C. This carries us back more than 36,000 years!
Ziggurats, or terraced temples, consisting of one to seven stories, built upon an elevated mound of earth, were common throughout Babylonia, the ziggurat of Babylon being the famous Tower of Babel. The fortunes of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated followed the fortunes of the city, the rise of a city to supremacy involving the supremacy of that particular deity. Thus, when Eridu was the chief city, Ea was the principal god, but with the rise of Babylon, Marduk (the Merodach of the Bible) became the Bel or lord of the whole pantheon, the attributes and deeds of the former being ascribed to the latter. This custom accounts for the different names of gods and heroes found in the various versions of the same story.
Around the entire country was a great moat filled with water, serving the double purpose of keeping out the enemy and also filling the vast network of irrigating canals. The larger canals were used as highways of commerce, one extending from Assyria to the Gulf, so old in the time of Nebuchadnezzar that he pointed with pride to having cleaned it out and restored it. There was also a tunnel under the river-bed, showing that modern engineering feats are but a reëmergence of the past.
The province of Akkad, north of Sumer,(5) came into prominence under the leadership of Sargon, who styled himself King of Sumer and Akkad. He is the Babylonian Moses, as indicated by the following inscription:"Sargon, the powerful king, King of Akkad am I.Of Moses' mother it is said (Exodus ii, 3): "And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink." Agade was near Sippar(7) and Zipporah is the name of the wife of Moses -- another strange coincidence. Since Sargon lived long before Moses, it is but logical to infer that the story of the former was known to the author of Exodus, who applied it to the Israelitish leader. Babylonia had its great law-giver in Hammurapi (2123-2086 B.C.) whose famous Code, it is now definitely known, was based upon an earlier Sumerian code, again pointing to India and the laws of Manu as source.
My mother was a princess, my father I did not know...
She placed me in an ark of rushes, with bitumen my
exit she sealed up.
She launched me in the river, which did not drown me.
The river carried me, to Akki, the water-carrier,(6) it
As time went on the Assyrians in the north, who took their name from their chief god Ashur,(8) rose to power. Their military ensign was the great red dragon, always carried on the field of battle, which became a terror to all the surrounding nations. At the fall of Assyria "the cedars of Lebanon" (Initiates) are said to have leaped for joy. The prophet Isaiah calls the nation "the rod of God's anger" -- his axe and saw. Sennacherib, "the wolf who came down on the fold" (II Kings, xix), conquered Babylon and utterly destroyed it by turning the waters of a canal across its site. He then made Nineveh his capital, and so identified it with the fortunes of the nation that we never think of Assyria without thinking of "that great city."(9) Babylon, however, was destined to have a renaissance under the famous Nebuchadnezzar, who built the hanging gardens and made the city much more magnificent than it had ever been before. He it was who captured Jerusalem (II Kings, xxv) and led the king, whom he first blinded, and a large part of the inhabitants to Babylon. The 137th Psalm is the Israelites' lamentation over their captivity. Like all other calamities, the sojourn of the Jews among the Babylonians was not an unmixed evil; for there they became acquainted with the wisdom of the Chaldees,(10) the Chaldean Book of Numbers, with the Sumerian literature, its account of creation and the deluge, the Babylonian psalms and poems, all of which served as models for many of the books which later formed part of the Old Testament.
The Chaldean Book of Numbers is taken from the same "old book" which was used as the basis of the Secret Doctrine. The original of it served as the basis of the Kabbalah of the Jews. In it is stated that "The one Universal Light, which to man is Darkness, is ever existent." Again, "The Blessed Ones have nought to do with the purgations of matter." "In the beginning of time the great invisible one had his holy hands full of celestial matter which he scattered throughout infinity; and lo, behold! it became balls of fire, and balls of clay; and they scattered like the moving metal (quicksilver) into many smaller balls, and began their ceaseless turning; and some of them which were balls of fire became balls of clay; and the balls of clay became balls of fire; and the balls of fire were waiting their turn to become balls of clay; and the others envied them and bided their time to become balls of pure divine fire." An epitome of the arts and sciences, not only of the Chaldeans, but also of the Assyrians and Canaanites of pre-historic ages, by a Babylonian Adept, Qu-tamy (who said he was instructed by the idol of the moon)(11) has been published under the title Nabathean Agriculture. The Nabatheans were descendants of Ham, who settled in Babylonia under the leadership of Nimrod (the mighty hunter of Genesis x, 9-10) and the sect is similar to the Nazarenes, whose city Nazareth was the birthplace of Jesus.
The Seven Tablets of Creation, greatly mutilated and incomplete, found at Nineveh by the Assyriologist George Smith in 1872, read as follows:When above were not raised the heavens:In time a brood of monsters arose, all sorts of combinations of animals and men, with Tiamat at their head. At last Marduk says he will undertake to dispose of them. Follows the forging of weapons and then, after a long encounter,
And below the earth was not called by name,
The primeval deep (Apsu) was the source of both,
The chaos of the sea (Tiamat) was the mother of them all.
Their waters were embosomed in one place,
The corn-stalk was ungathered, the marsh-plant was ungrown.
Time was when gods had not been made,
No name was named, no destiny determined:
Then were created the gods in the midst [of heaven]
Lakmu and Lakhamu burst forth.
Anshar and Kishar were created,
Days grew long...
Anu, [Bel and Ea were created.](12)Bel(13) trampled on the underpart of Tiamat,(14)After this victory
With his blows unceasing he smote the skull.
And he brake her like a dried fish in two pieces;
He took one-half of her and made it the covering of the sky;
He stretched out the skin, and caused a watch to be kept,
Enjoining that her waters should not issue forth.He established the stations for the great gods;But the gods complain to Marduk that they are lonely and unhappy because there is no one to worship them.
The stars, their likenesses, he set up as constellations;
He fixed the year, and marked the divisions.
The twelve months he divided among three stars,(15)
From the beginning of the year till the close.
He established the station of Jupiter(16) to indicate their boundary,
So that there might be no deviation nor wandering from the course.
He established with him the stations of Bel and Ea.
He made the moon appear illuminating the night.
["On the 28th day] thou shalt approach the sun-god."
At that time the gods in their assembly created [the beasts],
They made perfect the mighty monsters.
They caused the living creatures [of the field] to come forth,
The cattle of the field, [the wild beasts] of the field, and
the creeping things.Upon Marduk's hearing the utterance of the gods he wasTurning now to the Old Testament, we find in Genesis I:
prompted to carry out [a clever plan].
He opened his mouth and unto Ea [he spake],
"My blood I will gather and bone [I will take],
I will create man to inhabit the earth,
That the worship of the gods may be established."1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.The similarities between Genesis and the far older Chaldean records are so striking that one cannot escape the conclusion that Babylonia was the source of the Old Testament writing. In both accounts darkness precedes light, all is chaos, "without form, and void," and water fills the great deep of Space. "The Spirit of God" that "moved upon the face of the deep" in Genesis is the same as the Chaldean Ea, the god of wisdom. The "waters" are the divine Akasa, or Æther, which in course of time became the visible waters of earth, at first pure, but later on befouled -- the abode of Tiamat (sinful, gross matter). The struggle with this monster is not given in Genesis, but is the original of the war in heaven (Revelations xii) where "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon." Berosus gives a curious legend of a Man-Fish, Oannes.(17) His body was that of a fish, but under the fish's head was a human head and under the tail were feet, human also was his voice and his speech. During the day he lived among men and instructed them in arts and sciences, in everything that would tend to soften their manners and humanize their lives; but at night he would retire into the deep, for he could live both on land and in the water. He it was who wrote about these hideous beings, the progeny of Tiamat. Oannes also said that Bel cut off his own head and from a mixture of his blood with that of earth, human beings were formed. On this account they are rational and partly divine. We see that this story was applied to Marduk, and that it is only another way of showing the union of the higher with the lower nature.
2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4. .....and God divided the light from the darkness.
7. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.
9. And God said ...... let the dry land appear;
11. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself.
14. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days, and years:
16. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: and he made the stars also.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
20. And God said: Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth...
21. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth....
25. And God made the beast of the earth ... and cattle ... and everything that creepeth upon the earth after their kind: and God saw that it was good.
26. And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female (i.e., androgynous) created he them.
The account of the establishment of the moon and stars is fuller in the Tablets than in Genesis, predominance being given to the moon. The Chaldeans were renowned astronomers and held the moon in deep reverence, as it was the basis of their calendar and the chief planet of measurement. The Chaldean name for the moon-god was Sin, also called Nannar.(18) Genesis speaks of the "lights in the firmament" being for "signs and for seasons," that is, for astronomical calculations and the measurement of cycles. The word translated "God" in the first chapter of Genesis is the Logos, the Elohim -- a plural word, and refers to the host of builders -- the Dhyan Chohans or angels, of whom there were many orders, some high and some low. The lower angels, among whom was Jehovah, made the animal form of man, the man of dust, mentioned in the second chapter. The higher angels, represented by "Light" in Gen. i, 3, made the ethereal man, sometimes spoken of as the "archetypal man," or Adam. This is the immortal first race of Theosophy. The first animals (belonging to what is called the Primal Creation) are the sacred animals of the zodiac, the "great whale" of verse 21 referring to the zodiacal sign of Capricorn -- the leviathan of the Hebrews.
It is possible to trace in Genesis the orderly development of the elements -- not the elements of science, but their originals. Since there are seven planes there must be seven elements, of which ether is the fifth, the "waters" of space. The element of fire is represented by light (verse 3). The word "firmament" (verse 7) should be translated "expanse," the word used to express the idea of "air" which passes everywhere unobstructed. After this appears the water and lastly the earth. The elements having been evolved for the building up of forms, we may now trace the various kingdoms. The earth undoubtedly answers to the mineral kingdom, the basis for all the rest. In verse II, we have the three divisions of the vegetable kingdom, corresponding to the three geological periods known as the age of cryptogams, the phænogams, and the fruit trees. "The moving creature that hath life" (verse 20), should be "swimming and creeping creatures," agreeing with the zoological order of fishes (mollusks) and reptiles. Then come the birds, the beasts and cattle of the field. We must remember that Genesis has been incorrectly translated and tampered with, just as happened to the Chaldean tablets, and without the key which Theosophy furnishes, it cannot be understood or properly interpreted.
While in the first chapter of Genesis what is there called man is created after the animals, in the second chapter man, that is, the human form, is created first: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul." Now there were two versions of creation among the Babylonians; and Prof. Jastrow points out that the resemblance of the second Babylonian version to the second chapter of Genesis extends even to certain phrases which they have in common. "And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up" (verse 5) might serve almost as a translation of the second line of the Babylonian counterpart. Read in its true esoteric sense, chapter one of Genesis contains the history of the first Three Rounds, as well as the first Three Races of the Fourth, up to the moment when Man is called to self-consciousness by the Sons of Wisdom. In chapter two, Adam comes first, so at the beginning of the Fourth Round on Globe D, Man is the first to appear. Even the state of mental torpor and unconsciousness of the first two races, and of the first half of the Third Race, is symbolized in Genesis ii, by the deep sleep of Adam.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THE PRICE OF KNOWLEDGE
Power belongs to him who knows; this is a very old axiom: knowledge, or the first step to power, especially that of comprehending the truth, of discerning the real from the false -- belongs only to those who place truth above their own petty personalities. Those only who having freed themselves from every prejudice, and conquered their human conceit and selfishness, are ready to accept every and any truth -- once the latter is undeniable and has been demonstrated to them -- those alone, I say, may hope to get at the ultimate knowledge of things. --H.P.B.
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
(Part 27 of a 59-part series)
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EIGHTEEN (18) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) Gradually a mixed Sumerian (Aryan) and Semitic population came into existence, producing the Babylonian of history.
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(2) All the records, books, business documents and letters were written on clay, the most important were baked; but the unbaked tablets, water-soaked for ages, when taken out and dried, often look as if just written.
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(3) About 2,300 B.C. The names of 100 rulers of Babylon before Abraham are now known.
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(4) Berosus wrote a history of Chaldea for Alexander the Great, compiled from records preserved in the temple of Belus, covering a period of 200,000 years. See Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, 649-650; 654-655 for the Chaldean divine dynasties.
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(5) See Genesis xi, 1-9. Shinar is a corruption of Sumer.
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(6) This probably refers to the zodiacal sign of Aquarius, the whole story being symbolical.
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(7) Sippar was the chief seat of the sun-god Shamash, and shared with Agade the prestige of being the capital of Sargon's kingdom.
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(8) When the city of Ashur extended its bounds and became co-equal with the domain of Assyria, its god, Ashur, was transferred to the entire northern district of Mesopotamia. The religion of Assyria is not distinguishable from that of Babylonia until it becomes a distinct empire. Compare Ashur with the Asuras of the Secret Doctrine.
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(9) Nineveh is written with the same ideogram as the goddess Nina, which means "house of the fish."
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(10) H.P.B. says the Chaldees were a caste rather than a race. The name Chaldean is applied to that empire established by Nebuchadnezzar's father.
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(11) See S.D., I, 394-5; II, 452-457. Nabu or Nebo, is god of Wisdom, identical with Mercury. Moses, dying on Mt. Nebo, shows him to have been an Initiate and priest of that god under another name. The Hebrew word for prophet is Nabi.
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(12) Three pairs of creative gods appear before the triad, Anu, Bel and Ea: Anu, the passive deity, or En-Soph; Bel, the Creator, the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters; Ea, Universal Soul, or wisdom of the three combined. Anu means atom in Sanscrit, "the smallest of the small," the name of Parabrahm. See also Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, 170.
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(13) Name of the ancient Bel finally applied to Marduk. In this version, which is a glorification of the great "political deity" of Babylon, the powers of all the older gods are transferred to Marduk.
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(14) See S.D., II, 52-56, "The water-men terrible and bad." It would seem that the Hebrews called Tiamat, Rahab. Isaiah (li:9) says, "Is it not thou that didst cut Rahab in pieces, that didst pierce the monster?" In Psalm lxxiv:13-14, "Thou breakest the heads of the sea-monsters in the waters. Thou breakest the heads of the leviathan in pieces." It symbolizes the eternal feud between spirit and matter; the struggles between the Aryan adepts of the nascent Fifth Race and the sorcerers of Atlantis -- the demons of the deep; also it relates to the gradual drying up of immense territories by the fierce sun at a certain prehistoric period, which ended by a gradual transformation of once fertile lands into sandy deserts. During the age of reptiles and mammals there were lizards with the wings of birds, and serpents' heads on animal bodies, so it is not impossible that nature ages ago produced many forms now extinct. Even now-a-days we have occasional freaks of nature, which are merely reversions to these primeval types.
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(15) The spheres of the three gods correspond to thirds of the ecliptic.
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(16) "Jupiter, whose course keeps closer to the ecliptic than that of any other planet, served as an important guide in calendrical calculations. As additional guides, Bel is identified with the north pole of the equator, and Ea with a star in the extreme southern heavens, perhaps in the constellation Argo." (Jastrow.)
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(17) The same as Ea. See S.D., II, 578, also S.D., I, 653-654. Pisces, the constellation of the Fish is the constellation of the Messiah. The Brahmans also connect their Messiah, the eternal Avatar Vishnu, with a fish and the deluge. When the Pharisees sought a sign from heaven, Jesus said "there shall no sign be given but the sign of Jonas." (Matt. xvi, 4). The sign of Jonas is that of the Oan, or fisherman of Nineveh. The fish's head was also the mitre worn by priests and gods, made in the form of a fish's head; the tail, the train of a long, stiff mantle, as depicted on some Assyrian tablets. His amphibious nature shows he was both a physical and a spiritual being.
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(18) Ur was the oldest seat of the worship of Nannar. We will remember that Abraham went out of Ur of the Chaldees. The Babylonian day began with sunset, showing the preference given to the moon which illumines the night. Later this order was changed. That Sinai is derived from the name of the moon-god, Sin, is evidenced by the finding of statues at Tel-loh in Lower Babylonia, made out of green diorite, which can only be had in the Peninsula of Sinai.
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