The Semitic Influx

   The arrival of the Bronze Age, of course, heralded the coming of the invaders, with their weapons and their male-oriented mythologies.  In Mesopotamia, this was signaled by the arrival of the Semitic Akkadians.  The first great Semitic monarch was Sargon 1, who ruled around 2300 B.C.  His story will sound familiar: His mother was a simple woman who lived on the river, and when her son was born, she prepared a little basket of rushes, which she sealed from the water with bitumen.  Then she put her baby into the little basket, and it floated down the stream to the king’s gardens. 

   He was pulled out of the river by the gardener in the estate of the emperor, and the goddess Ishtar loved him.  The emperor regarded him with respect and he grew up to be Sargon 1.  

  Hammurabi ruled as the lord of the new city-state of Babylon until his death in 1750 B.C.  In one of the stelae that recorded his famous code of laws you can see Hammurabi receiving the law from the god Shamash, the god of the sun, from whose shoulders rays of light are rising.  In the mythologies of the warrior people, for the first time, we find that the sun is male and the moon female.  G 85

They were ruthless fighting people.  They were not going to ask the stars, “Is it time for me to go into the grave?”  They were going to let somebody else do it for them and offer substitute offerings and assume a commanding role themselves. 

   Now, the appearance of the Semites in this old world of the Goddess is expressed in a new kind of mythology: the great story of Marduk, the masculine solar and sky god who goes against the goddess of the abyss, Tiamat, who is the grandmother of all the gods.  The male pantheon has assumed control, and now they are the ones who are going to create the world.  And what happens?  Tiamat comes out of the abyss, Marduk goes against her, and she is called a demon.  She is actually the Mother of the Gods.  He kills her, cuts her up, makes the heavens out of the upper part of her body and the underworld out of the abyss.  He creates men from her blood, and so forth and so on. 

   Well, that’s a nice thing to do to Grandma.  This is the beginning of the masculine assumption of the creator role. 

   When I first read that, I thought, “Well, if he waited a couple of minutes, she was going to do it anyhow.”  She does become the world; she gives her body willingly, but makes it look as though he were doing it.  But the next interesting thing about this – and this is something else we learned from psychology – is that where the male come in, you have division, while where the female comes in you have union.  For instance, it’s the wife of the buffalo who unites what appear to be opposites – the human and the animal worlds.  The mother brings together all her children.  It’s with the realization that the father is different from the mother that separation and differentiation come in. 

   And so, with these masculine Semitic mythologies, we have for the first time a separation of the individual from the divine, and this is one of the most important and decisive motifs in the history of mythology: that the eternal life and oneness with the universe are no longer ours.  We are separated from God, God is separated from his world, man is turned against nature, nature is turned against man.

   You do not have this separation in the mythologies of the Great Mother.  

   Now, there’s another interesting thing about the Semitic mythologies:  All other mythologies that I know have as their primary divinities those representing nature – the gods of the heavens and of the Earth, and the powers of nature, which are within us as well as out there.  And in those mythologies the tribal ancestor is always a secondary god. 

   In the Semitic mythologies, this situation is reversed.  The prime divinity in all the Semitic traditions is the local, ancestral divinity.  As I pointed out, when you have the same divinities as everybody else, you can say, “He whom you call Zeus we call Indra.”  But when your principal divinity is your local tribal divinity, you cannot say this.

   And so we have a pattern of exclusivism here; we have a pattern of social emphasis or social laws, and we have an antinature accent.  The whole history of the Old Testament is Yahweh against the nature cults.  The Goddess is called the Abomination, and she and her divinities are called demons and they are not given the credit of being divine.  And along with that comes the feeling that the divine life is not within us; divinity is out there.  The attitude of prayer now is outward, whereas in the old days it was turning inward to the immanent divine.  After this change, how do you get to the divine?  By means of this particularly endowed social group: the tribe, the caste, the church. 

   Now this is the masculine emphasis against the Goddess emphasis; when this occurs in individual psychology you’re emphasizing the father role: you repudiate nature, you repudiate women.  This is what Nietzsche calls the Hamlet experience, bowing to the father and saying, “Ophelia, you can go drown yourself.” 

  “Oh, that this too sullied flesh would melt” – one hates one’s body, one hates nature, one wants to get away from it.  This is completely opposite to the attitude of the Goddess cults.  In the biblical tradition, which is the last great tradition of this Semitic line, there is not even a goddess in the tradition.  Here’s a Father God with no Mother Goddess – a very strange thing. 

   What happens to the Mother Goddess?  She is reduced to the elemental level.  She is the cosmic water; that’s there where God’s spirit hovers, above the water.  He is given the human personification, and she is not.  The Chaos is exactly Tiamat, the goddess of the abyss, who now has been deprived even of her personality.  This places a terrific stress on our culture. 

   Then you realize also that within the Jewish tradition, the covenant is symbolized by the circumcision.  You can see that woman is out altogether. 

   And so we have the most radical split here in the history of civilizations and mythologies anywhere between the masculine principle, which is deprived of it, and her world of nature and its beauty is impugned.  Even beauty is rejected in this tradition as a distraction, as something seductive.  G 87