Allegro, John Marco - The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross


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the sacred mushroom and the cross a study of the nature and origins of christianity within the fertility cults of the ancient near east by john m allegro doubleday company inc garden city new york


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piracy notice in order to keep this information available to the public this book has been pirated a message to those who ve taken this book out of print this book will forever circulate you will never be able to remove it from the public light as you the vatican and anheuser busch attempted to do in such a case as 2000 years of intellectual hijacking this book will now remain forever free online though allegro s theories seemed extreme at the time philology today knows he was right see a publication by piotr michalowski in cambridge encyclopedia of the world s ancient languages edited by roger d woodard to the reader enjoy a once banned book to the suppressors fuck you original characters of sumerian cuneiform and other hierogliphic characters were lost by the character recognition software used in the piracy of this book please seek an original copy of the sacred mushroom and the cross to reference missing letters and other posible errors made by the recognition software 150 pages of reference notes at the back of the book have been omitted footnote numbers have for the most part been left intact some zeros 0 and ones 1 were not recognized primary errors made by allegro are highlighted in red allegro did not understand the growth cycle effects and bitterness of the amanita muscaria allegro overlooked some references to both a pantherina and p cubensis and wrongfully classified rue as an abortifacient not recognizing acacia and rue as an ayahuasca analogue allegro also wrongfully assumed that the mushrooms and not


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religion and government themselves were the cause of the shaman to protest against their suppression by the churches and governments with that said allegro was a pioneer in the field of ethnomycology and founded many of the ideas many researchers use today though most deny it enjoy your read author s note this book is the first published statement of the fruits of some years work of a largely philological nature it presents a new appreciation of the relationship of the languages of the ancient world and the implication of this advance for our understanding of the bible and of the origins of christianity it will be appreciated that such a statement has to be furnished with the technical data even though much of it must be outside the scope of the general reader for whom the book is primarily intended in order to leave the text as unencumbered as possible these notes have been gathered in a body at the end of the book and the numbered references within the text may be safely ignored by the non-specialist acknowledgements quotations from the revised standard version of the bible copyrighted 1952 and 1956 are used by permission quotations from the homeric hymns pliny s natural history and josephus jewish wars and antiquities are used by permission of the loeb classical library the frontispiece photograph is used by permission of rex lowden the photograph facing page 74 is used by permission of photographe thuillier contents introduction page xi i in the beginning god created i ii sumer and the beginnings of history 8 iii the names of the gods 19 iv plants and drugs 29 v plant names and the mysteries of the fungus 36 vi the key of the kingdom 44 vii the man-child born of a virgin 54 viii woman s part in the creative process 63 ix the sacred prostitute 76


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x religious lamentation 83 xi the mushroom egg and birds of mythology 91 xii the heavenly twins 97 xiii star of the morning 109 xiv colour and consistency 118 xv mushroom cosmography 133 xvi david egypt and the census 141 xvii death and resurrection 151 xviii the garden of adonis eden and delight zealots and mus1im 177 xix the bible as a book of morals 191 notes 207 indices 308 illustrations colour plates amanita muscaria frontispiece a christian fresco showing the amanita muscaria as facing page the tree of good and evil in the garden of eden 74 figures page 1 the near east 2 sumer and accad 10 3 section through the calyx and fruit of henbane 58 4 diagrammatic section of i a volva before birth 92 ii a mature mushroom 92 5 zion and the valleys of kidron and hinnom 136 6 jerusalem to the dead sea 138


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introduction no one religion in the ancient near east can be studied in isolation all stem from man s first questioning about the origin of life and how to ensure his own survival he has always been acutely conscious of his insufficiency however much he progressed technically making clothes shelter conserving food and water supplies and so on the forces of nature were always greater than he the winds would blow away his shelter the sun parch his crops wild beasts prey on his animals he was always on the defensive in a losing battle out of this sense of dependency and frustration religion was born somehow man had to establish communications with the source of the world s fertility and thereafter maintain a right relationship with it over the course of time he built up a body of experiential knowledge of rituals that he or his representatives could perform or words to recite which were reckoned to have the greatest influence on this fertility deity at first they were largely imitative if rain in the desert lands was the source of life then the moisture from heaven must be only a more abundant kind of spermatozoa if the male organ ejaculated this precious fluid and made life in the woman then above the skies the source of nature s semen must be a mighty penis as the earth which bore its offspring was the womb it followed therefore that to induce the heavenly phallus to complete its orgasm man must stimulate it by sexual means by singing dancing orgiastic displays and above all by the performance of the copulatory act itself however &r man progressed in his control of the world about him there remained a large gap between what he wanted at any one time and what he could achieve on his own account there was always some unscalable mountain some branch of knowledge which remained unpenetrable some disease with no known cure it seemed to him that if he had managed painstakingly to grope his way to a knowledge and dexterity so far above the animals then in some mysterious way his introduction thinkers and artisans must have been tapping a source of wisdom no less real than the rain that fructified the ground the heavenly penis then was not only the source of life-giving semen it was the origin of knowledge the seed of god was the word of god the dream of man is to become god then he would be omnipotent no longer fearful of the snows in winter or the sun in summer or the drought that killed his cattle and made his children s bellies swell grotesquely the penis in the skies would rise and spurt its vital juice when man commanded and the earth below would open its vulva and gestate its young as man required above all man would learn the secrets of the universe not piecemeal painfully by trial and fatal error but by a sudden wonderful illumination from within but god is jealous of his power and his knowledge he brooks no rivals in heavenly places if in his mercy he will allow just a very few of his chosen mortals to share his divinity it is but for a fleeting moment under very special circumstances he will permit men to rise to the throne of heaven and glimpse the beauty and the glory of omniscience and omnipotence for those who are so privileged there has seemed no greater or more worthwhile experience the colours are brighter the sounds more penetrating every sensation is magnified every natural force exaggerated for such a glimpse of heaven men have died in the pursuit of this goal great religions have been born shone as a beacon to men struggling still in their unequal battle with nature and then too have died stifled by their own attempts to perpetuate codify and evangelize the mystic vision our present concern is to show that judaism and christianity are such cultic expressions of this endless pursuit by man to discover instant power and knowledge granted the first proposition


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that the vital forces of nature are controlled by an extra terrestrial intelligence these religions are logical developments from the older cruder fertility cults with the advance of technical proficiency the aims of religious ritual became less to influence the weather and the crops than to attain wisdom and the knowledge of the future the word that seeped through the labia of the earth s womb became to the mystic of less importance than the logos which he believed his religion enabled him to apprehend and enthuse him with divine omniscience but the source was the same vital power of the universe and the cultic practice differed little introduction to raise the crops the farmer copulated with his wife in the fields to seek the drug that would send his soul winging to the seventh heaven and back the initiates into the religious mysteries had their priestesses seduce the god and draw him into their grasp as a woman fascinates her partner s penis to erection for the way to god and the fleeting view of heaven was through plants more plentifully endued with the sperm of god than any other these were the drug-herbs the science of whose cultivation and use had been accumulated over centuries of observation and dangerous experiment those who had this secret wisdom of the plants were the chosen of their god to them alone had he vouchsafed the privilege of access to the heavenly throne and if he was jealous of his power no less were those who served him in the cultic mysteries theirs was no gospel to be shouted from the rooftops paradise was for none but the favoured few the incantations and rites by which they conjured forth their drug plants and the details of the bodily and mental preparations undergone before they could ingest their god were the secrets of the cult to which none but the initiate bound by fearful oaths had access very rarely and then only for urgent practical purposes were those secrets ever committed to writing normally they would be passed from the priest to the initiate by word of mouth dependent for their accurate transmission on the trained memories of men dedicated to the learning and recitation of their scriptures but if for some drastic reason like the disruption of their cultic centres by war or persecution it became necessary to write down the precious names of the herbs and the manner of their use and accompanying incantations it would be in some esoteric form comprehensible only to those within their dispersed communities such an occasion we believe was the jewish revolt of al 66 instigated probably by members of the cult swayed by their drug-induced madness to believe god ad called them to master the world in his name they provoked the mighty power of rome to swift and terrible action jerusalem was ravaged her temple destroyed judaism was disrupted and her people driven to seek refuge with communities already established around the mediterranean coastlands the mystery cults found themselves without their central fount of authority with many of their priests killed in the abortive rebellion or driven into the desert the secrets if they were not to be lost for ever had to be committed to introduction writing and yet if found the documents must give nothing away or betray those who still dared defy the roman authorities and continue their religious practices the means of conveying the information were at hand and had been for thousands of years the folk-tales of the ancients had from the earliest times contained myths based upon the personification of plants and trees they were invested with human faculties and qualities and their names and physical characteristics were applied to the heroes and heroines of the stories some of these were just tales spun for entertainment others were political parables like jotham s fable about the trees in the old testament while others were means of remembering and transmitting therapeutic folk-lore the names of the plants were spun out to make the basis of the


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stories whereby the creatures of fantasy were identified dressed and made to enact their parts here then was the literary device to spread occult knowledge to the faithful to tell the story of a rabbi called jesus and invest him with the power and names of the magic drug to have him live before the terrible events that had disrupted their lives to preach a love between men extending even to the hated romans thus reading such a tale should it fall into roman hands even their mortal enemies might be deceived and not probe farther into the activities of the cells of the mystery cults within their territories the ruse failed christians hated and despised were hauled forth and slain in their thousands the cult well nigh perished what eventually took its place was a travesty of the real thing a mockery of the power that could raise men to heaven and give them the glimpse of god for which they gladly died the story of the rabbi crucified at the instigation of the jews became an historical peg upon which the new cult s authority was founded what began as a hoax became a trap even to those who believed themselves to be the spiritual heirs of the mystery religion and took to themselves the name of christian above all they forgot or purged from the cult and their memories the one supreme secret on which their whole religious and ecstatic experience depended the names and identity of the source of the drug the key to heaven the sacred mushroom the fungus recognized today as the amanita muscaria or fly agaric had been known from the beginning of history beneath the skin of its characteristic red and white-spotted cap there is concealed a powerful xiv introduction xv hallucinatory poison its religious use among certain siberian peoples and others has been the subject of study in recent years and its exhilarating and depressive effects have been clinically examined these include the stimulation of the perceptive faculties so that the subject sees objects much greater or much smaller than they really are colours and sounds are much enhanced and there is a general sense of power both physical and mental quite outside the normal range of human experience the mushroom has always been a thing of mystery the ancients were puzzled by its manner of growth without seed the speed with which it made its appearance after rain and its as rapid disappearance born from a volva or egg it appears like a small penis raising itself like the human organ sexually aroused and when it spread wide its canopy the old botanists saw it as a phallus bearing the burden of a woman s groin every aspect of the mushroom s existence was fraught with sexual allusions and in its phallic form the ancients saw a replica of the fertility god himself it was the son of god its drug was a purer form of the god s own spermatozoa than that discoverable in any other form of living matter it was in fact god himself manifest on earth to the mystic it was the divinely given means of entering heaven god had come down in the flesh to show the way to himself by himself to pluck such a precious herb was attended at every point with peril the time before sunrise the words to be uttered the name of the guardian angel were vital to the operation but more was needed some form of substitution was necessary to make an atonement to the earth robbed of her offspring yet such was the divine nature of the holy plant as it was called only the god could make the necessary sacrifice to redeem the son the father had to supply even the price of redemption these are all phrases used of the sacred mushroom as they are of the jesus of christian theology our present study has much to do with names and titles only when we can discover the nomenclature of the sacred fungus within and without the cult can we begin to understand its function and theology the main factor that has made these new discoveries possible has been the


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realization that many of the most secret names of the mushroom go back to ancient sumerian the oldest written language known to us witnessed by cuneiform texts dating from the fourth millennium bc furthermore it now appears that this ancient tongue provides a bridge between the indo-european languages which include greek latin and intr0duction our own tongue and the semitic group which includes the languages of the old testament hebrew and aramaic for the first time it becomes possible to decipher the names of gods mythological characters classical and biblical and plant names thus their place in the cubic systems and their functions in the old fertility religions can be determined the great barriers that have hitherto seemed to divide the ancient world classical and biblical have at last been crossed and at a more significant level than has previously been possible by merely comparing their respective mythologies stories and characters which seem quite different in the way they are presented in various locations and at widely separated points in history can now be shown often to have the same central theme even gods as different as zeus and yahweh embody the same fundamental conception of the fertility deity for their names in origin are precisely the same a common tongue overrides physical and racial boundaries even languages so apparently different as greek and hebrew when they can be shown to derive from a common fount point to a communality of culture at some early stage comparisons can therefore be made on a scientific philological level which might have appeared unthinkable before now suddenly almost overnight the ancient world has shrunk all roads in the near east lead back to the mesopotamian basin to ancient sumer similarly the most important of the religions and mythologies of that area and probably far beyond are reaching back to the mushroom cult of sumer and her successors in biblical studies the old divisions between old and new testament areas of research never very meaningful except to the christian theologian become even less valid as far as the origins of christianity are concerned we must look not just to intertestamental literature the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha and the newly discovered writings from the dead sea nor even merely to the old testament and other semitic works but we have to bring into consideration sumerian religious and mythological texts and the classical writings of asia minor greece and rome the christian easter is as firmly linked to the bacchic anthesteria as the jewish passover above all it is the philologian who must be the spearhead of the new enquiry it is primarily a study in words a written word is more than a symbol it is an expression of an idea to penetrate to its inner meaning is to look into the mind of the man who wrote it later generations may give different meanings to that symbol introduction extending its range of reference far beyond the original intention but if we can trace the original significance then it should be possible to follow the trail by which it developed in doing so it is sometimes possible even to outline the progress of man s mental technical or religious development the earliest writing was by means of pictures crudely incised diagrams on stone and clay however lacking such symbols may be in grammatical or syntactical refinement they do convey in an instant the one feature which seemed to the ancient scribe the most significant aspect of the object or action he is trying to represent love he shows as a flaming torch m a womb a foreign country as a hill because he lived on a plain and so on as the art of writing developed further we can begin to recognize the first statements of ideas which came later to have


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tremendous philosophical importance life god priest temple grace sin and so on to seek their later meanings in religious literature like the bible we must first discover their basic meaning and follow their development through as far as extant writings will allow for example as we may now understand sin for jew and christian had to do with the emission to waste of human sperm a blasphemy against the god who was identified with the precious liquid if to discover this understanding of sin seems today of only limited academic interest it is worth recalling that it is this same principle that lies at the root of modern catholic strictures against the use of the pill as far as the main burden of our present enquiry is concerned our new-found ability to penetrate to the beginnings of language means that we can set the later mystery cults as those of judaism of the dionysiac religion and christianity into their much wider context to discover the first principles from which they developed probe the mysteries of their cultic names and invocations and in the case of christianity at least appreciate something of the opposition they encountered among governing authorities and the measures taken to transmit their secrets under cover of ancient mythologies in modern dress our study then begins at the beginning with an appreciation of religion in terms of a stimulation of the god to procreation and the provision of life armed with our new understanding of the language relationships of the ancient near east we can tackle the major problems involved in botanical nomenclature and discover those features of the xvii xviii introduction more god-endued plants which attracted the attention of the old medicine men and prophets the isolation of the names and epithets of the sacred mushroom opens the door into the secret chambers of the mystery cults which depended for their mystic hallucinatory experiences on the drugs found in the fungus at long last identification of the main characters of many of the old classical and biblical mythologies is possible since we can now decipher their names above all those mushroom epithets and holy invocations that the christian cryptographers wove into their stories of the man jesus and his companions can now be recognized and the main features of the christian cult laid bare the isolation of the mushroom cult and the real hidden meaning of the new testament writings drives a wedge between the moral teachings of the gospels and their quite amoral religious setting the new discoveries must thus raise more acutely the question of the validity of christian ethics for the present time if the jewish rabbi to whom they have hitherto been attributed turns out to have been no more substantial than the mushroom the authority of his homilies must stand or fall on the assent they can command on their own merit what follows in this book is as has been said primarily a study in words to a reader brought up to believe in the essential historicity of the bible narratives some of the attitudes displayed in our approach to the texts may seem at first strange we appear to be more interested with the words than with the events they seem to record more concerned say in the meaning of moses name than his supposed role as israel s first great political leader similarly a century or so ago it must have seemed strange to the average bible student to understand the approach of a modernist of the day who was more interested in the ideas underlying the creation story of genesis and their sources than to date locate and identify the real garden of eden and to solve the problem of whence came cain s wife then it took a revolution in man s appreciation of his development from lower forms of life and a clearer understanding of the age of this planet to force the


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theologian to abandon the historicity of genesis now we face a new revolution in thought which must make us reconsider the validity of the new testament story the break-through here is not in the field of history but in philology our fresh doubts about the historicity of jesus and his friends stem not from new discoveries about the land and people of palestine of the first century but introduction about the nature and origin of the languages they spoke and the origins of their religious cults what the student of christian origins is primarily concerned with is what manner of writing is this book we call the new testament and in particular just what are the narratives called the gospels trying to convey is it history this is certainly a possibility but only one of many the fact that for nearly two thousand years one religious body has pinned its faith upon not only the existence of the man jesus but even upon his spiritual nature and the historicity of certain unnatural events called miracles is not really relevant to the enquiry a hundred years ago this same body of opinion was equally adamant that the whole of the human race could trace its origin to two people living in the middle of mesopotamia and that the earth had come into existence in the year 4004 bc the enquirer has to begin with his only real source of knowledge the written word as far as judaism and christianity are concerned this means the bible there is precious little else that can give us details about what the israelite believed about his god and the world about him or about the real nature of christianity the sparse references to one christus or chrestus in the works of contemporary non-christian historians tell us nothing about the nature of the man and only very dubiously despite the claims often made for them do they support his historicity they simply bear witness to the fact never in dispute that the stories of the gospels were in circulation soon after ad 70 if we want to know more about early christianity we must look to our only real source the written words of the new testament thus as we have said the enquiry is primarily philological the new testament is full of problems they confront the critical enquirer on every side chronological topographical historical religious and philological it is not until the language problems have been resolved that the rest can be realistically appraised when in the last century a mass of papyrological material became available from the ancient world and cast new light upon the nature of the greek used in the new testament scholars felt that most of the major obstacles to a complete understanding of the texts would be removed but in fact to the philologian the thorny questions remain firmly embedded in the stories and they have nothing to do with the plot of the narratives or the day-to-day details which add colour to the action the most intransigent concern the foreign presumed aramaic transliterations in the introduction text coupled often with a translation which does not seem to offer a rendering of the original like the nickname boanerges supposed to mean sons of thunder or the name barnabas said to represent son of consolation try as they will the commentators cannot see how the translations fit the names to the general reader and particularly to the christian seeking moral or spiritual enlightenment from the new testament such trivia have meant little to many scholars too details like these are of less importance than the theological import of jesus teaching it has been assumed that


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somewhere along the line of transmission some textual corruption occurred in the names or that the translations were added by later hands unfamiliar with the original language used by the master and his companions as we can now appreciate these aberrations of the proper names and their pseudo translations are of crucial importance they provide us with a clue to the nature of original christianity concealed within are secret names for the sacred fungus the sect s christ the deliberately deceptive nature of their mistranslations put the lie to the whole of the cover story of the man jesus and his activities once the ruse is penetrated then research can go ahead fast with fitting the christian phenomenon more firmly into the cultic patterns of the ancient near east many apparently quite unrelated facts about the ubiquitous mystery cults of the area and their related mythologies suddenly begin to come together into an intellectually satisfying whole in any study of the sources and development of a particular religion ideas are the vital factor history takes second place even time is relatively unimportant this is not to underestimate the importance of political and sociological influences in the fashioning of a cult and its ideology but the prime materials of the philosophy stem from a fundamental conception of the universe and the source of life certain highly imaginative or inspired men may appear from time to time in a people s history and affect the beliefs and manner of life of their contemporaries and successors they adapt or develop what they find and give it a new impetus or direction but the clay they are freshly modeling was there already and forms the main object of enquiry for the student of the cult s development we are throughout this book mainly interested in this clay and the very strange shapes it assumed in the mystery religions of which we xx introduction xxi may now recognize christianity as an important example of course history now and again forces itself on our attention did abraham isaac and jacob ever exist as real people was there ever a sojourn in egypt of the chosen people or a political leader called moses was the theologically powerful conception of the exodus ever historical fact these and many other such questions are raised afresh by our studies but it is our contention that they are not of prime importance far more urgent is the main import of the myths in which these names are found if ware right in finding their real relevance in the age-old cult of the sacred mushroom then the nature of the oldest israelite religion has to be reassessed and it matters comparatively little whether these characters are historical or not in the case of christianity the historical questions are perhaps more acute if the new testament story is not what it seems then when and how did the christian church come to take it at its face value and make the worship of a single man jesus crucified and miraculously brought back to life the central theme of its religious philosophy the question is bound up with the nature of the heresies that the church drove out into the desert unfortunately we just have not sufficient material to enable us to identify all these sects and know their secrets the church destroyed everything it considered heretical and what we know of such movements derives largely from the refutations of the early fathers of their beliefs but at least we no longer have to squeeze such aberrations into a century or two after ad 30 christianity under its various names had been thriving for centuries before that as we may now appreciate it was the more original cult that was driven underground by the combined efforts of the roman jewish and ecclesiastical authorities it was the supreme heresy which came on made terms with the secular powers and became the church of today we are then dealing with ideas rather than people we cannot name the chief characters of our story doubtless there were real leaders exercising considerable power over their fellows but in the mystery cults they were never named to the outsider we cannot like the christian pietist,


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conjure for ourselves a picture of a young man working at his father s carpentry bench taking little children in his arms or talking earnestly with a mary while her sister did the housework in this respect our study is not an easy one there is no one simple answer to the problems of the new testament discoverable b anyone just reshuffling the introduction gospel narratives to produce yet another picture of the man jesus ours is a study of words and through them of ideas at the end we have to test the validity of our conclusions not against comparative history least of all against the beliefs of the church past or present but against the overall pattern of religious thought as it can now be traced through the ancient near east from the earliest times the question we have to ask is does the christianity as now revealed for the first time fit adequately into what went before the first century not what came after in its name i in the beginning god created religion is part of growing up the reasoning that taught man that he was cleverer than the animals made him also aware of his own deficiencies he could catch and kill beasts stronger and fleeter than himself because he could plan ahead seek out their paths and construct booby traps later that same foresight led him to the art of farming and conserving his food supplies against the seasonal dearths in the lands of marginal rainfall he learnt eventually the technique of digging and lining cisterns and civilization began nevertheless vast areas of natural resources were outside man s control if the animals did not breed there was no hunting if the rain did not fall the furrowed earth remained barren clearly there was a power in the universe that was greater than man a seemingly arbitrary control of nature which could make a mockery of man s hunting and farming skills his very existence depended upon maintaining a right relationship with that power that is on religion interesting as it is to speculate on the precise forms prehistoric religious thought and ritual may have taken we have in fact very little direct evidence the cave drawings found in france spain and italy tell us little more than that man some ten to twenty thousand years ago was a hunter and that he may have enacted some kind of sympathetic ritual of slaughter to aid him in the hunt this practical use of the graphic arts is paralleled today by australian aborigines who accompany their symbolic portraiture with ritual mime dancing and recitation of traditional epics doubtless primitive man of the paleolithic periods did much the same but the oral part of his rituals which alone could adequately explain the drawings is lost for ever the relics of his plastic arts relief carving and clay modeling emphasize his interest in fecundity the gravettian culture extending widely over south russia and central europe and spreading to italy france and spain abounds in the sacred mushroom and the cross examples of the so-called mother goddess figurines these clay models of women with pendulous breasts huge buttocks and distended beffies have obvious sexual and reproductive allusions as do their male counterparts 1 doubtless all these had magical or religious purposes but it is not until man has learnt the art of writing that he can communicate with a later age only then can we with any real assurance begin to read his mind and thoughts about god unfortunately this only happened comparatively late in


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his development in terms of evolutionary time barely a minute or two ago by then he was by no means primitive the first known attempts at connected writing were crude affairs registering no more than lists of objects and numbers but theiƧvery existence points to an advanced stage of economic administration hich is amply supported by archaeology the wonder is that man had been able to progress so far without writing the one facility we should have thought essential for social progress how we are inclined to ask in our jotting pad age was it possible to administer a region farm out temple lands collect revenues fight wars and maintain communications over long distances without easy means of documentation we are apt to forget that in those days they still had memories the kind of superhuman results promised the modern subscriber to correspondence courses in memory-training must have been commonplace among intelligent people six thousand years ago even today it is not uncommon to find a muslim who can recite the whole of the qur an koran or a jew who knows long sections of the bible and talmud by heart the first books then were the brain s memory cells the first pen was the tongue it was the ability of homo sapiens to communicate with his fellows to organize community life and transmit hard-earned skills from father to son that raised man far above the animals it was this same means of communication that brought him in touch with his god to flatter cajole even threaten to obtain the means of life experience showed that as in his human relationships some words and actions were more effective than others and there arose a body of uniform ritual and liturgy whose memorizing and enactment was the responsibility of the holy men of the community when around 2500 bc the first great religious poems and epics of the near east came to be written down they had behind them already a long history of oral transmission the fundamental religious conceptin the beginning god created tions they express go back thousands of years yet there were still another fifteen hundred years to go before the earliest text of the old testament was composed it is not therefore sufficient to look for the origins of christianity only within the previous thousand years of old testament writing nor to start the history of judaism with a supposed dating of the patriarchs around 1750 bc the origins of both cults go back into near eastern prehistory the problem is how to relate specific details of these comparatively late religions with the earliest ideas about god our way into the mind of ancient man can only be through his writings and this is the province of philology the science of words we have to seek in the symbols by which he represented his spoken utterances clues to his thinking the limitations of such study are obvious the first is the insufficiency of the early writing to express abstract ideas even when the philologist has collected all the texts available compiled his grammars and dictionaries and is confident of his decipherment there still remains the inadequacy of any written word even of the most advanced languages to express thought even direct speech can fail to convey our meaning and has to be accompanied with gesture and facial expression a sign imprinted on wet clay or even the flourish of the pen on paper can leave much uncommunicated to the reader as every poet and lover knows nevertheless the written word is a symbol of thought behind it lies an attitude of mind an emotion a reasoned hypothesis to which the reader can to some extent penetrate it is with words and their meanings that this book is largely concerned the study of the relationship between words and the thoughts they express is called etymology since it seeks the true greek etumos meaning of the word the etymologist looks for the root of the word that is the inner core which expresses its fundamental or radical concept for example if we were to seek the root of a modern barbarism like de-escalate we should immediately remove the de and the verbal appendage ate slice off the initial e as a


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recognizable prefix and be left with scal for further study the latin scala means ladder and we are clearly on the right track but at this stage the etymologist will look out for possible vocalic changes occurring between dialects one of the more common is between 1 and n and we are not surprised to find that an early form of the root has n in place of i so that sanskrit 3 the sacred mushroom and the cross one of the earliest dialects of indo-european has a root skan with the idea of going up sibilants can interchange also such as s and z and short vowels can drop out in speech between consonants like i between s and c in fact we can break down our indo-european root scan ascend still further into two sumerian syllables zig rise and an up 1a or again should we wish to track down the root of our word rule meaning control guide exercise influence over etc we should find that our etymological dictionaries will refer us through an adaptation of old french back to the latin regulo direct connected with regno reign rex king and so on the root here is plain reg or the like and its ultimate source we can now discover by taking our search back another three or four thousand years to the earliest known writing of all that of ancient sumer in the mesopotamian basin there we find a root rig,2 meaning shepherd and by breaking the word down even further we can discover the idea behind shepherd that of ensuring the fecundity of the flocks in his charge this explains the very common concept that the king was a shepherd to his people since his task was primarily that of looking after the well-being and enrichment of the land and its people here etymology has done more than discover the root-meaning of a particular word it has opened a window on prehistoric philosophic thought the idea of the shepherd-king s role in the community did not begin with the invention of writing the written word merely expresses a long-held conception if then in our search for the origins of religious cults and mythologies we can trace their ideas back to the earliest known written texts we can use etymological methods to probe even further into the minds that gave them literary form having arrived back at the primitive meaning of a root the philologist has then to work his way forward again tracing the way in which writers at different times use that root to express related concepts for of course the meanings of words change the more often they are used the wider becomes their reference today with faster and easier means of communication it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain control over the meanings of words and this at a time when the need for understanding each other is most crucial in antiquity people and ideas did not move quite so fast travel was not easy remote areas would stay remote over generations and their languages would pre4 in the beginning god created serve old words and linguistic forms long lost in places more open to foreign influence religious terminology which is the special interest of this work is least susceptible to change even though day-to-day words must develop their meanings to accord with social conditions and the invention of new crafts communication with the god required a precise unchanging liturgy whose accurate transmission was the first responsibility of the priesthood in the study of ancient literatures the scholar has to bear in mind that the language of the hymns and epics may well differ considerably from the common tongue of the same period one of the problems facing the


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student of old testament hebrew is the probability that the classical tongue of the bible does not accurately represent the spoken language of the ancient israelites certainly the vocabulary of the bible is far too limited in extent to tell us much about the workaday world of ancient canaan when it comes to analyzing the linguistic and phonetic structure of biblical hebrew in terms of actual speech the conviction grows that what we have is not the spoken dialect of any one community living in a single place at one time but a kind of mixed artificial language composed perhaps of a number of dialects and used specifically r religious purposes the importance of a liturgical language from our immediate point of view is that it will have been essentially conservative it is in such writing that we can expect to find words used in their most primitive sense if religious terminology in general tends to resist change this is wen more the case with proper names particularly those of the gods and epic heroes it now appears that in many cases these have survived unfaltered over centuries even millennia of oral as well as written transmission in this one category of words ies the greatest scope for present and future researches into the nature and meaning of the old mythologies to be able to decipher the name of the god will tell us his prime function and thus the meaning of the prayers and rituals by which he was worshipped the difficulty in this study has always been that the names are often very much older than the literature in which they occur and are in decipherable in that language so often the commentator on some greek myth for example has to confess that the hero s name is prehellenic of uncertain origin and meaning all that he can do in such cases is to gather together all the references he can find ta that character and see 5 the sacred mushroom and the cross if there is some common denominator in the stories or epithets which will give a clue on the meaning of his name anyone who has tried this procedure on his own account or studied in detail the efforts of others will know too well that the results are often at best tenuous and the exercise to say the least frustrating one problem is that the same god or hero is differently described in different places zeus merits distinctive epithets and worship in athens and in crete for example what you expect of your god depends on your physical and spiritual needs in the immediate situation and the stories you make up about him will reflect the social and ethnic conditions of your own time and place clearly the mythologist can best estimate these local and temporal factors in his material if he knows the god s original place in the order of nature that is if he knows the source and meaning of his name the dramatic step forward that is now possible in our researches into the origin of near eastern cults and mythologies arises from our ability to make these decipherments we can now break down god-names like zeus and yahweh/jehovah and hero-names like dionysus and jesus because it is possible to penetrate the linguistic barriers imposed by the different languages in which their respective literatures have reached us we can reach back beyond the greek of the classics and the new testament and the hebrew of the old testament to a linguistic source common to all furthermore as might be expected in such a limited geographical area as the near east we find that not only have the names a common derivation but many of the religious ideas variously expressed by the different cultures stem from the same basic ideas the forms of worship as far as we can reconstruct them from our limited literary and archaeological evidence may appear quite unrelated and the stories that circulated about the gods and heroes may reflect different social and ethnic backgrounds but the underlying themes are turning out often to be the same.



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