Tiamat of Babylon
(A Political Lecture)

The Enuma Elish is the Babylonian creation epic A sad and violent story, reflecting the changing times, both politically and psychically, it’s changing tone was caused by the seemingly endless war Of the Iron Age. It tells the tale of the conquest and murder of the original mother goddess—Tiamat, by the god—Marduk, her great-great-great grandson.  This is the new myth, the myth of matricide.

The Iron Age saw the completion of the process begun in the Bronze Age, where the numinosity, the holiness, was transferred from the Mother Goddess to a Father God, and warrior heroes replace the Goddess of Life. Sacred unity becomes sacred separation. The Enuma Elish is the first story of the replacing of a Mother Goddess who generates creation as part of herself by a god who "makes" creation as something separate from himself. All the myths of the Iron Age in which a sky or sun god— a hero, conquers a great serpent, or snake, or dragon can be traced to this Babylonian epic, in which humanity was created from the blood of a sacrificed god and no longer from the womb of a primeval goddess.

In the Bronze Age, the son was Bios—the-part-emerged-from-the-whole—through which the whole might come to know itself. As the son "grew up" in the course of the Bronze Age, he came to be the consort of the goddess and sometimes co-creator with her. But in the Iron Age, the image of relationship enacted in the sacred marriage disappears. The god grows up and away, to a place of isolated hierarchy, often in the sky rather than on earth, and the balance of female and male energies is lost.

Now the father god establishes a position of supremacy in relation to a mother goddess and is gradually transformed into the consort-less god of the 3 patriarchal religions known to us today. He then is the sole creator, where before the goddess had been the only source of life.

The god becomes the MAKER of heaven and earth whereas the goddess WAS heaven and earth.  The concept of "making" is radically different than the concept of "being", in the sense that what is made is not necessarily of the same substance as its maker, and may be inferior to its maker, while what emerges from the goddess mother is necessarily part of her and she of it. That’s what made all of creation holy, in the beginning.

In this way, the essential identity between creator and creation was broken, and a fundamental dualism was born from their separation, the dualism that we know as spirit and nature, or spirit and matter.  (Matter, which is derived from the word for Mother). In the Myth of The Goddess, these two terms have no meaning in separation from each other. Nature is spiritual and spirit is natural, because the divine is immanent as creation. In the myth of the god, nature is no longer spiritual and spirit is no longer natural, because the divine is transcendent to creation. Spirit is not inherent in nature, but outside it or beyond it—it even becomes the source of nature. So, a new meaning enters the language—spirit becomes creative and nature becomes created. In this new kind of myth, creation is the result of a divine act that brings order out of chaos.

Our contemporary religions today have inherited only the myth of the god, which implicitly presents the duality of spirit and nature as inherent in the way things are, as the only truth.  Yet, this dualism was not always there. And it's origin in human history has been lost to consciousness because, in the patriarchal cultures, no memory of the earlier imagery of the mother-goddess-as-creator survived in recognizable form.

The Enuma Elish was recited annually for over 1,000 years, to assist the victory of the lord god Marduk in his defeat of the great serpent-dragon, Tiamat. This tale offers a complete inversion of the mythology of the earlier era. Instead of the goddess sacrificing her son-lover, the goddess is herself sacrificed by a being of her own creation, the young god, her great great great grandson.  

The story, briefly, is that Tiamat gave birth to the gods, and then the gods rebelled against her, signaling the rise of patriarchy. She is finally conquered by the sun-god-hero Marduk, who had been promised supremacy over all the other gods. He kills her in the form of the great dragon, or cosmic serpent. And then she surrenders her body for the building materials of the universe.

The father-god world is essentially created through male conquest and an act of matricide. Marduk creates the cosmos, AGAIN, from the torn fragments of Tiamat's body. The clear social implications of this murder are that the slain body of Tiamat represents the chaos of the un-controllable orders of nature, conquered by the hero.

There are many classic dragon stories in world mythology. The death of the world snake, one of the holiest symbols of the goddess, supports male world- building. The sun worshipping Pharoh slays the dragon, Apollo slays Gaia's python. The hero, Perseus, slays Medusa with snakes writhing from her 3 heads. St. George slays the dragon in England, and St. Patrick is supposed to be driving the snakes out of Ireland. In Hebrew genesis, the serpent is doomed to be forever the enemy of the human race. In Christian prophesy—in revelation, the final king-messiah will kill the watery cosmic snake. And in Psalms it says "thou breakest the heads of dragons in the waters".

This epic coincides with the final stage of Sumerian/Babylonian civilization, which was marked by the decline of culture and an ever increasing emphasis on war and conquest—the growth of a patriarchal empire. Marduk is set up as the new ruler of the gods, which symbolizes the transfer of power from the old Sumerian mother kingdom to the new Babylonian kingdom of the-son-who-becomes-the-father. The transfer of political control from Sumer to Babylon, and the religious power from the mother goddess to her young grandson symbolizes patriarchy.

The Enuma Elish is the earliest example of "priestly politics", whereby inversion takes over the original story, and what was divine is named demon, while a new world order is exalted to a position of supremacy.  

The Enuma Elish replaces the old lunar goddess image with a solar sky god so radically that it prevents any possibility of relationship with the old order of consciousness. Her body (representing female power, the world and everything in nature) is shredded in dismemberment. The defeat of the serpent goddess marked the end of a culture, and also the end of the Neolithic way of perceiving life, which very soon becomes almost inaccessible, for the victory of this god creates a new way of living and of relating to the divine by identifying with the god's power of conquest.  And the goddess is taught by the story to have become so reviled and hated that She becomes the source of evil—the metaphor for the dark enemies outside the walls of civilization, like Lilith.  This is the validation for a new psychology, a new structure of human thought and feeling, a new cosmic reach.

We enter a new theatre of myth that the rational mind can comprehend without aid, where the art of politics, the art of gaining power over men, received for all time its celestial model.” (J. Campbell)

From now on, it's all about mastery and control, the desire to shape and order what has been created. The king, leader, or outstanding individual personifies this new sense of identity. The experience and voice of women has never been as audible as it was in the Bronze Age, still flickering, still sharing power, and begins to wane. In the new patriarchal order, the lion (Leo) symbolizes the sun. The lion kills the bull, symbol of the moon and the goddess. This metaphor signifies the gods of the solar religion overcoming the lunar religion of the goddess. The sky becomes exalted over the earth, and the paradigm of conflict and opposition grips the consciousness of humanity.

Dualistic Thought—This is the philosophical and psychological explanation of the change in Myth. And now, we must interrogate our world Politically, in terms of Power—At some point between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, human began to adopt a dualistic philosophy that orders the world into antagonistic opposites.This was a developmental evolution of our psyches. Dualism is a very simple, yet powerful strategy that helps us make sense of complex reality. (The Republican Party and FOX news have used this strategy for years.)  It’s appealing because it’s a simpler explanation than a more nuanced translation of the world. We call it “black and white thinking”, and it’s become very popular in our time. You’re with us or the Terrorists/ you love Trump or you’re the enemy.

This is the start of the Social Construction of Difference. Everything is simplified into black and white, good and evil, us and them.  Maybe such dualities emerge from the self/other split and our refusal to enter into relationship with others—women, people of color, immigrant populations, all of Nature. Our psychological division is then projected onto the world. Look at what we've done to carnivores.  We decide that cows are good and wolves are bad, and so there is war declared on wolves and the deep balance of the land is destroyed by our preferences. These are also, more deeply, economic choices and rationalizations. Look at what we do to immigrants and to the indigenous, and to the earth itself.

(From Derrick Jensen) "The best way to guarantee that you won't be in relationship with something is to not see it.  The best way to make certain you won't see it is to destroy it, and, completing the awful circle, it's easiest to destroy something you refuse to see." And,

"This is the key to our civilization's ability to work it's will on us, on other cultures, and on the world—our power derives from the steadfast refusal to enter into meaningful and mutual relationships. Look at Columbus, the Founding Fathers, multi-national corporations, and WAR.  Today we say about the new white supremacy ruling Amerika, “This isn’t us, say many liberals. We want our country back—(from racist conservative Republicans), and the Republicans say the justice we’re finally giving to people of color and women “isn’t us” and they also “want their country back”.  But This IS us. We stepped onto this soil as conquerors 500 years ago.  Columbus arrives, native people greet him: “Hi, who are you—” Bang!  Puritans arrive. “Hi, who are….”—Bang! And then Slaves stolen from Africa and bred in America as slaves build the rest for the white men.

It's o.k., we're told constantly, to utilize resources— trees, rivers, vaginas, labor, oil, but one must never enter into relationship with this other who owns or IS this resource. This is just one of many things the enslaved would tell us, if only we asked them. Or zoo animals.  Or rainforests. We are increasingly unable to confront trees or animals or other humans with no thought of how to best turn them into profit.  

Our perception of the world is broken in two—those others like us, and those to be used. Increasingly, we minimize our perception of that which cannot be controlled or used, and then we use what we can and destroy what we cannot.  Industrial Capitalism is the system of organized-for-profit patriarchy, and fully exploits this mind-set to the fullest.  Look around.

We see the world split into Two—us and them. One half is superior and identified with self, the other half is just Other, and therefore inferior, unknown, suspect, either an enemy to be conquered or an object to be exploited.The natural, physical world, material resources like water, trees, oil, the air, along with our bodies, sexuality, and wilderness, is downgraded, rejected as "not me". Women and Nature are especially seen by white men in particular as Not Me. That’s why the worst insult a boy child can call another boy child is a girl. Otherness begins with this separation.  Sexism, racism, oppressions start here. Here is where we’ve evolved/devolved to, in our psyches.

Dualistic thought helps teach us that the sacred is elsewhere—that this life is either about suffering (Western thought), or illusion (Eastern thought). This extends to all sorts of abstractions, including Freudian psychotherapy, Marxism, and Post-Modernism, as well as all patriarchal religions. The Truth is now given to humankind in a revelatory text via the agency of A Great Man.  (A tweeting president). Salvation is only achieved by following the teachings of the master, which can only be fully understood and translated down to the masses by his chosen disciples.

Patriarchal Dualism is a really difficult philosophy to counter. There are different strategies.  

Some feminists adopted a strategy of Reversal—that women are good and men are bad. They elevate Nature above Culture, Intuition above Reason as sources of truth to try and find a balance, but structurally, the system remains the same. It's still hierarchical. It's still half the story, and therefore, unbalanced. This opposition was crudely over-simplified and the divinely- sanctioned opposition led to the idea of the Holy War, the war of the forces of good against the forces of evil. The tales of the Old Testament. All classic Westerns. The Hobbit.  Star Wars. The War on Terror (TWOT), the current war between the two political parties of the United States.

The importance of the change in humanity’s mythic imagery cannot be overemphasized, for it influenced our views of nature, matter, and whatever else was identified as female—softness, compassion, cooperation, intuition, communication, spontaneity, sharing.  Also, it structured our images in myth, religion, literature, science, politics, and psychology. The beliefs formulated back then still govern human consciousness today.

When the despised values are banished, they do not cease to be, they become unconscious, where they continue to influence the conscious psyche as the Shadow, as Projection, and they become extremely distorted. In our culture, there still exists the prejudice against the deeper, instinctive layers of the psyche on the grounds that they are non-rational, chaotic, and uncontrollable. This is what was feminine.The dragon mother, the earth and moon, darkness, wonder (as opposed to knowing), and Nature are emptied of spirit. What was masculine was seen as the sky father, the heaven and sun, light, order, clarity, spirit as freed-from-nature.

The 3 Principles of the Enuma Elish—The supremacy of the father god over the mother goddess, the paradigm of opposition implicit in the struggle between god and goddess, and the association of light, order, and good with god, and of darkness, chaos, and evil with the goddess.

This opposition was extended to the categorization of gender in all aspects of life, which then polarized into conflicting opposites, instead of following the earlier, possible-model of differentiation and complementarity. The world changed drastically. First the human world, soon followed by the natural world, as men began to exploit and fear it, rather than worship and love her. The emotional climate of the Iron Age is one of acute anxiety and fear of disaster.  This, more than anything else, created a compulsion to aggression. The majority of men HAD to be warriors. The king, in particular, had to be a mighty warrior.  

In Sumeria, the king was seen as a shepherd to his people, but the model of Hammurabi and Alexander— of the mighty conqueror, became the ideal. Cruelty became a virtue, and barbarism a way of life. War was regarded as natural and right, and brought men together in the shared aim of a heroic purpose, whose intensity was such that no tilling of the soil or herding of animals could emulate it. The ideal of conquest forged the bond of tribal consciousness, with no respect for the enemy or sympathy with his fate.

The five great empires of the Iron Age were Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Taken together, these patriarchies imposed themselves on an immense area of land, practically the whole populated world, and this imperial expansion changed everything, again.The organic growth of the psyche was cut off as was people's relationship with a specific soil. Whole tribal groups were uprooted or seized into slavery. Women and children were slaves— these empires’ agricultural prosperity depended upon the labor of slaves and the unequal distribution of wealth, which still exists and is worse than ever. Diaspora and massacres followed. Brutalized people create brutal gods and goddesses, who then endorse the brutality of men. Erra, for example, was the Assyrian god of death, riot, and indiscriminate slaughter. He leads the way into the politics of massacre. The more people lost touch with the values that had instinctively guided them in an earlier era, the more they became possessed by the rage to kill, and the blood-thirsty-ness of their gods corresponds to this possession.

The hero becomes the embodiment of the archetypal masculine in all humans— the questing consciousness in search of a goal. This is exemplified by The Hero’s journey, which is archetypal – the same story in all the stories, and very contracted energy. Me against the elemental forces of evil.  Contracted because it’s so polarized.

The Hero’s journey is one story, the most familiar story. But imagine Inanna’s descent, or the symbolic journey of dark-of-the-moon cycle. It’s not about fighting against an enemy, but a willingness to go down into the questions, the wound, the darkness. It’s about reclaiming your life by going through the scariest things you can imagine, where we willingly wrestle—not with an enemy but with all the terribly difficult things that have hurt us. Myth isn’t history, it’s a narrative of the self, the journey of the psyche. Death is a metaphor—we have to learn to keep dying. Your own authentic journey is asking questions—where didn’t you fit in as a child?  What didn’t you cry about? How small did you make yourself in response? The key is learning to love your dragon, and stop fighting yourself.  On the journey, you meet your own wild soul— this is the real call to adventure, where the quality of your life is determined by the questions you ask.

1. Life is committed to you waking up.  We hear the call internally to take the journey.
2. Where’s the path?  We deepen inner conversation to build self-awareness: what do I want? What don’t I want? Journal. Be in nature. Listen.  Enter.
3. Meeting the threshold guardians. Find your tribe and build it stronger.  Fight against the fear that’s inner and outer –all the “what if’s”- all the contracted parts of us that keep us safe, or distracted.  Show up.  Don’t let your old patterns hold you back.
4. Say yes and leap.  This is transformation; go right off the cliff, jump into the fire and become something you haven’t been yet. 
Shed what you are and be Re-born.  A very intense process and rooted in not-knowing…in wonder.’  The key is to love the dragon, and stop fighting yourself.  To embrace the dragon and feed them and you by claiming your own inner resources. Find the missing piece.  The next piece.
5. Return with gratitude, appreciation, and wonder.  Return, different.  Celebrate, teach and share, offer your service to others.

back to list