Epic of Gilgamesh: The Awakening and Debasement of the Human Mind

By: Ranilo Abando (Manila, December 7, 2020) ****

One blog post got one Like from me after more than 4,000 years.  The monumental epic poem was posted not in a tablet computer, but in clay tablets.  Encoded in the post are wide-ranging information about the nature of a human being, his origin and destiny.  It was intended by the author to be decoded by a future generation with individuals who are open-minded and well-informed enough to appreciate its hidden message.  I believe that such generation is our present one.

The Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Mesopotamia is a grand allegory about the journey of the human spirit from the darkness of ignorance to spiritual enlightenment.  It presents a detailed map of the obstacles, dangers, opposing forces, and strong spiritual will required towards attaining the ultimate goal of a human being.  I think the story is based on the author’s experiences and memories during his own spiritual journey.  When a sage from earlier than 2,000 B.C. explains to us how to find spiritual enlightenment, I suggest we better listen to what he had to say.

Enkidu and the Temple Prostitute

The Epic of Gilgamesh starts with the story of Enkidu.  Enkidu lives in the wilderness with the animals.  His most prominent physical feature is his hairiness.  One day a hunter sees him at a watering hole.  Terrified, the hunter rushes back to his house to tell his father he has seen a giant man, the most powerful in the land.  The hunter says the man has unset his traps and filled in his pits, and that now he cannot be a hunter.

The hunter’s father tells him he should go to Uruk and ask Gilgamesh to lend him a temple prostitute, whose greater power will suffice to conquer Enkidu.  The hunter follows his father’s advice and soon travels back to the wilderness with the prostitute.  They wait by the watering hole for three days.  When Enkidu finally appears, the hunter tells the prostitute to lie down on a blanket and show Enkidu her breasts.  Enkidu comes to her and they copulate for six days and seven nights.  When Enkidu’s lust is finally sated, he returns to the animals, but they no longer regard him as their kin. They run away from him.  Enkidu tries to pursue the animals, but he has become weaker and can no longer gallop as he did before.  His mind has awakened.  Troubled and confused, he goes back to the prostitute, who consoles him by telling him about the pleasures and wonders he will find in the city of Uruk.  She tells him about music, food, festivals, and Uruk’s strong, terrible king, Gilgamesh.

The temple prostitute gives Enkidu his first clothes to wear and leads him toward the city of Uruk.  Along the way, Enkidu learns that though King Gilgamesh is not the groom, he will lie with the bride before her husband does. Whatever Gilgamesh desires, he takes.  Enkidu is outraged and decides to go to Uruk to challenge him.  When Enkidu arrives in a wedding ceremony in Uruk, he blocks Gilgamesh when he tries to force his way in.  They lock together in combat and the two men grapple through the streets.  Gilgamesh, who is stronger, eventually wrestles Enkidu to the ground. They immediately forget their anger.  Enkidu concedes that Gilgamesh is the rightful king of Uruk and pledges his fidelity.  Gilgamesh declares his undying friendship to his former rival. The two men kiss and embrace.  Since then, the two become close friends and companions in facing many challenges during their journeys.

Discussion:

Enkidu represents the mind of the savage humans before the introduction of civilization on earth. His pre-civilization existence is similar to the existence of the metaphorical Adam and Eve in an Eden-like natural world before they ate the “fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil” which represents the knowledge of civilization, awakening their long-dormant thinking minds.  However, the side effect of the knowledge acquired is humanity’s expulsion from a harmonious and idyllic natural existence, albeit in the extremely slow lane of intellectual evolution.

In the case of Enkidu, the temple prostitute represents the excessive pursuit of material wealth, worldly pleasures, and mundane powers associated with the awakening of the thinking mind in humans.  These are the seductive attributes and dark side of the acquisition of knowledge, which is otherwise a liberating tool for humanity from the prison of ignorance.  Those seductive worldly pursuits after the awakening of the human thinking mind led to the metaphorical break-up of Enkidu’s close bond with the wild animals, representing the departure of the human mind from the peaceful and harmonious existence in the natural world.  This metaphor of the temple prostitute in the Epic of Gilgamesh is similar in meaning to the metaphor of the Seductive Prostitute in the Book of Revelation.

Book of Revelation: The Seductive Prostitute

In the first five verses in Chapter 17 of the Book of Revelation, it is written:

1. And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:  2. With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.  3. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  4. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:  5. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Discussion:

The “great whore that sitteth upon many waters” represents the seductive power of worldly pleasures, material wealth, and mundane powers being offered by the lower mind, builder of this virtual physical world, whose high chaos matter composition represents the “many waters”. The word “great” commonly denotes possession of social or political power.  In the Old Testament, “fornication” is a metaphor for idolatry, which in the broad sense means giving power to external things, such as possessions or money.  The “kings of the earth” represent thinking humans, because man’s power to think gives it power over the animals and all the earth’s natural resources.  The “wilderness” is a metaphor for the spiritual world (wilderness = absence of limiting rules).

The “scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” is obviously the “beast” aspect of the human lower mind that host the programs that produce such dark passions as greed, fear, hate, sorrow, jealousy, lust, vanity, anger, and pride.  I have mentioned before that scarlet or red is the color of passion.  The woman sitting upon it is, as I have already mentioned above, the “seductive prostitute” representing worldly pleasures, powers, and material wealth being dangled by the lower mind, and passionately pursued by its “beast” aspect.  “Blasphemy” is often translated as slander, verbal abuse, or evil speaking, which are actions motivated by uncontrolled passion.  The seven heads of the scarlet beast refer to the various kinds of dark passions – greed, anger, sorrow, jealousy, lust, etc.  The ten horns refer to the various kinds of knowledge that even a passion-hijacked thinking mind can acquire and use for its iniquity.

In Verse 4, scarlet is used as a symbol of material wealth, while purple is a symbol of social and political power or prominence. Ancient writers often used the word “abomination” to denote practices that are derived from idolatry (materialism).  In Verse 5, “Babylon” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Babel, which means confusion (ignorance) — because of immersion of the spirit in this virtual physical reality.  “Mystery” is a translation of a Greek word that sometimes means hidden, essentially meaning lack of knowledge.  So the name in capital letters essentially translates like this:  “The spiritual darkness of this physical world breeds excessive pursuit of worldly pleasures, powers, and material wealth”, which hinders the liberation of the spirit.

(Thanks to pixabay.com for the photos above, except the ones with attribution at their lower portion. Thanks also to http://www.sparknotes.com for the extracts from Epic of Gilgamesh cited above.)

Published by rabando

I am a Filipino and a geologist by profession but I have also been an ardent searcher for answers to the fundamental questions of human existence ever since 42 years ago. It has been a long, lonely and difficult journey. Why are we here? Where did we come from? What on earth is this world where I found my self in? Surprisingly, I found out that the answers are right there under our noses. There just need to be some adjustments in the way people think.

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