MAN THE SYMBOLIC CREATURE

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“The past is preserved only in darkness, the future is not raised to the level of an image, as something which can be anticipated. It is the symbolic expression which first creates the possibility of looking backward and looking forward… What occurred in the past, now separated out from the totality of representations, no longer passes away, once the sounds of language have placed their seals on it and given it a certain stamp.”

Ernst Cassirer

Goebekli_Tepe Oldest Pictograph

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe could be the earliest known writing. A 12,000-year-old pictograph was found within the ancient settlement of Gobeklitepe in southeast Anatolia, Turkey.

The pictograph, chiseled into an obelisk, reportedly depicts a traditional sky burial whereby bodies are left outdoors to be picked apart by scavengers.

There is speculation that astrology of some form appeared in the Sumerian period in the 3rd millennium BC.

By the 16th century BC, the extensive employment of omen-based astrology can be evidenced in the compilation of a comprehensive reference work known as Enuma Anu Enlil. Its contents consisted of 70 cuneiform tablets comprising 7,000 celestial omens. Texts from this time also refer to an oral tradition – the origin and content of which can only be speculated upon.

Babylon Walls

Enuma Anu Enlil is the principal source of omens used in the regular astrological reports that were sent to the Neo-Assyrian king by his entourage of scholars. There are well over 500 such reports published in volume 8 of the State Archives of Assyria. A majority of these reports simply list the relevant omens that best describe recent celestial events and many add brief explanatory comments concerning the interpretation of the omens for the benefit of the king.

A typical report dealing with the first appearance of the moon on the first day of the month is exemplified by Report 10 from volume 8 of the State Archives:

If the moon becomes visible on the first day: reliable speech; the land will be happy.

If the day reaches its normal length: a reign of long days.

If the moon at its appearance wears a crown: the king will reach the highest rank.

From Issar-šumu-ereš.

Babylon Astrologers

The series was probably compiled in its canonical form during the Kassite period (1595–1157 BCE) but there was certainly some form of prototype Enuma Anu Enlil current in the Old Babylonian period (1950–1595 BCE). It continued in use well into the 1st millennium, the latest datable copy being written in 194 BCE. It is believed that the first 49 tablets were transmitted to India in the 4th or 3rd centuries BCE and that the final tablets dealing with the stars had also arrived in India just before the start of the common era.

Arabic Astrolabe

At this time Babylonian astrology was solely mundane, and prior to the 7th century BC the practitioners’ understanding of astronomy was fairly rudimentary. Because of their inability to accurately predict future celestial phenomena and planetary movement very far in advance, interpretations were done as the phenomena occurred or slightly before. By the 4th century, however, their mathematical methods had progressed enough to calculate future planetary positions with reasonable accuracy, at which point extensive ephemerides began to appear.

Chaos_Monster_and_Sun_God

Otto Eduard Neugebauer (May 26, 1899 – February 19, 1990) was an Austrian American mathematician and historian of science who became known for his research on the history of astronomy and the other exact sciences in antiquity and into the Middle Ages. By studying clay tablets, he discovered that the ancient Babylonians knew much more about mathematics and astronomy than had been previously realized. The National Academy of Sciences has called Neugebauer “the most original and productive scholar of the history of the exact sciences, perhaps of the history of science, of our age.”

Otto E. Neugebauer

And what this great  original thinker has to tell us?

In a nutshell, that the Babylonians discovered Algebra, a symbolic, simple today, but at the time a revolutionary Human discovery, and furthermore he thought this discovery was due to the fact the Babylonians were the product of two different people the Sumerian, and the Acadian, two totally different cultures, the Acadians were Semite,.

Most historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a West Asian people who spoke the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc., as evidence), a non-Semitic and non-Indo-European agglutinative language isolate. It was not an inflected language, contrary to its Semitic neighbors.

They had a hell of a time to understand each other, the usual language and text of the Sumerians, so in order to understand each other they got to acquire new mental skills, and thanks to these efforts Babylonians were the first  in getting to understand the meaning and use of an abstract symbolism.

Assyrian Room Pergamon Museum

Every Algebraic operation says Neugebauer, presupposes to understand certain fixed symbols, both for mathematical operations and for the mathematical quantities to which they apply.

In the absence of this conceptual symbolism, it would not be possible to combine quantities that are not numerically determined and designated, nor to derive new combinations from them, but a symbolism presented itself immediately necessary in the writing of the Acadian texts … Therefore the Babylonians had a more important instrument for proper and adequate Algebraic development.

Babylonian Map of the World 700-500BC

I am aware that Science today its dismissive of the Symbolic thought, however it escapes them how these accomplishments of the Babylonians, not only provided the basic Algebraic for mathematics, but also a rich Symbolism that escapes them on the Ontological subjective nature of Man.

That like a undercurrent submerged within our psyche, it pours a torrent of symbolic images into our dreams, desires, and behaviors to which, no matter the amount of objectivity, and concrete mind it is impossible to bury forever, in the annals of time, since It is an integral and inseparable part of our Human nature. Just as the eternal feminine is the counterpart of the masculine, and our right cerebral side, the counterpart of the left.

 

Babylon Lives Pergamon Museum Berlin