History and Mystery
Religion: History and Mystery
Published by Steve Copland at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 by Steve Copland
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Religion. When you hear this word, what comes to mind? War, power, greed, brainwashing? Maybe other words which have their place in history: inquisition, witch-hunting, burning, torture? Or words we hear in our own history: jihad, extremist, suicide bomber? And there are other words spoken by dreamy-eyed gurus: peace, love, unity, consciousness, or words from those who consider themselves above religion: science, evidence, delusion, superstition, myths and fairytales. Religious history is full of such words.
It was only about 150 years ago that the world believed religion would die, but since then millions have died because of religion and thousands continue to die in religious wars. Today you can't walk back to your barracks on a quiet London street, climb a mountain in Pakistan, or run a marathon in Boston without wondering if some crazy fanatic will mutilate or blow you to pieces defending his perverted version of 'God'. The war against terrorism is a war against religion, a war that may never end. What drives such people to put aside mercy, to be filled with hatred for those who refuse to submit to their god or goddess?
And those who tried to wipe out religion have done no better towards their fellow men. Scientific atheism murdered around 120 million people in the last century, and still religion survived. For thousands of years wars have been fought on behalf of the gods whom people served. History is a bloody trail of hatred and intolerance, conquest and slavery, raping and pillaging. Will it never end?
If the history has any chance of making sense, the answer may lie in mystery, in the unseen forces which drive people to forms of religious insanity. The world is full of mysteries, stories, myths, legends and folk-lore, most with enough evidential truth to warrant investigation - lost cities which sunk beneath the waves, a Great Flood which changed the continents and climates of the world, huge creatures whose skeletal remains adorn our museums, footprints of giants embedded in stone, and stories of gods who rode great chariots and ruled powerful civilizations.
Why are these stories found in every ancient culture, in every civilization? The supernatural works of sorcerers, enchanters and magicians; the dreadful power of shamans and priests who claim that creatures from another dimension enter and control them; the hunger for blood and sacrifice; the altars and circles of stone where thousands were offered to appease beings whose origins are not of this world? Is there an unseen war which is played out in the world that is seen? Are those who are driven to madness driven by powers who seek to destroy any possibility for peace? Is there one common root of evil which manifests itself in religion, a force of evil which marches under the banner of death, a bloodstained flag which has been carried by those who have been deceived and seduced by their own desire for power?
The mysteries of religion reveal common threads which may open our eyes to understanding our bloody and evil history. Perhaps we can find an answer to why a man can nurse his child on his knees, laughing and loving before he tucks her into bed, and then rise, have breakfast, and go to the camps where he shoves another's naked child into a gas chamber, shutting his ears to the screams beyond the steel doors. A human life may be regarded as the most precious thing and yet be discarded in a passion of hatred so vile as to wipe away any trace of its existence.
In this book we will take a walk through history, examining the religions of both ancient and modern people in separate chapters. We will ask questions of each in turn, seek the common threads which bind them together, reveal the contradictions, and seek to uncover the mysteries which hold the keys to understanding who we humans really are.
Chapter One: Antediluvian World
Throughout the ancient cultures of the world there are approximately 250 stories, myths and legends about a great deluge, a flood which destroyed all or part of the early civilizations of the world. There is also a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that such an event occurred. Fossils which have been found in terrestrial deposits are often those of birds and animals which have been trapped in huge mudslides, their bodies whole and preserved. Science calls the evidence of the flood 'catastrophism'.
The majority of geologists agree that at some point in our ancient past the land masses we now have were split away from perhaps one huge continent. Creation scientists believe that this happened at the time of The Great Flood. In this chapter we will examine the writings of ancient peoples who told stories of this time in human history, who spoke of The Flood and the earth being torn apart, of great islands that sunk beneath the waves and others which were born of volcanoes. It is in this context that we can attempt to understand the beginnings of organized religious practices.
Origins of Civilization
In the 21st Century there are two common explanations given for the origin of human life. Macro-evolution theorizes that life began without the intervention of any god or plan. The 'big bang' theory suggests that our universe came into being quite by accident; however, a fundamental law of nature insists that where there is an effect there must also be a cause. Stephen Hawking, the English professor who first postulated the big bang theory, admits that his theory is really impossible without a catalyst, something or someone to begin the process. However, Hawking, who is himself an atheist, has put forward another theory in order to try and nullify the obvious conclusions of the big bang theory and do away with the need for God as the 'first cause'.
He suggests that the universe was a great black hole in which there was no time, and from this came the seed of the universe. His conclusion is that God cannot exist because there was no time before the big bang for Him to exist within. Most Christian theologians would laugh at such a hypothesis. According to the Bible, God has made it very clear that He was the one to invent time; in His essence He exists outside of it. One may also argue that if nothing can exist outside of time, as Hawking suggests, then neither can his black hole exist either. The problem of God as the first cause of the universe hasn't gone away, despite the best efforts of those we consider intelligent.
Apart from that particular problem is the fact that since the invention of extremely high powered microscopes and other data-collecting technologies, scientists in various fields have been confronted with the most intricate and complicated evidence for Intelligent Design in even the most simplistic of life forms.
The single cell is a case in point. Once thought to be a simple thing, it is now marveled at, for it is more complex than about 150,000 computers all linked together, indeed, more complex than anything yet designed by humanity. Cells are the building blocks of life; they need proteins to come into being, and those particular proteins can only be manufactured by cells themselves. This raises the obvious question of where the first cell came from.
Those who reject the proposition of an Intelligent Designer are silent on this question, except for those who turn to the idea of alien beings seeding our planet - a desperate solution, for the aliens themselves would have to have been designed, or be the intelligent designers which macro-evolutionists reject. In this book we are not going to spend a lot of time debating evolution versus intelligent design, but rather study what ancient peoples themselves believed.
The Hebrew Bible records the story of God creating the universe and the earth. In the first two verses of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, an explanation is given and an order of creation which is remarkably similar to our modern understanding of the formation and expansion of the universe in which we live. The Bible tells us that God created humanity in His image and likeness. What does that mean? Basically, that human beings are different to all other creatures on the planet for several reasons, including the fact that we are self aware. Humans use words like 'me' and 'I'. We know that we exist; we recognize ourselves as creatures, whereas, as far as we can tell, all other creatures simply act out of instinct and are not aware of themselves as creatures.
Within several other cultures, such as Chinese and Sumerian, there are similar creation stories of humans being created by one God and placed in a beautiful garden. The Babylonian text, Enûma Elišh is quite similar to the biblical account. The first humans were mostly monotheistic, they believed in one God. His name was Elohim, but to the Sumerians who wrote of Him He was simply El. The stories differ in the details, and it is difficult to distinguish between myth, legend and fact. Keep in mind that if there was anything written or recorded before The Flood, these records have been lost to us; therefore, all of the stories we have were handed down orally from generation to generation until they were eventually recorded.
The oldest writings found date back to about 2600-2000BC. There are other forms which are older, but these are simple glyphs or depictions, and it is debated if they are a real written language at all. Some ancient civilizations used carved pictures in a sequence to tell a story, but of course such pictures can be read to mean any number of things and, therefore, may only be useful for the people who created and recorded them. Pictures of men wielding spears and other weapons may tell the tale of a war, but which war?
Alphabets and readable writing occurred with the invention of cuneiform and is best known in the Sumerian, Akkadian, and Egyptian peoples of the Bronze Age. One of, if not the oldest piece of religious writing, dates back to about 2000BC. It is written about the last Sumerian king who lived before the Great Flood and contains laws and advice on living morally, quite like the Bible's book of Proverbs. In another Sumerian text, The Kesh Temple Hymn, there is an account of a god and goddess creating human beings, a similar text to Atra-Hasis, an Akkadian epic.
One common theme throughout much of ancient literature is that of giants ruling the world before the Great Flood. Many texts record creatures called by various names, including the 'Watchers'. The Watchers are said to be angels, creatures who witnessed the creation of humanity from their place in the cosmos or 'heavens'. These angels/gods were all male and incapable of producing children of their own. About 250 of them, according to the Book of Enoch chapters 7-20, changed their form to flesh and blood and seduced or took human women and produced various races of giants known as the Nephilim and Elioud. The names of twenty of the Watchers are given, and also that they were of different heights.
In the Pyramid Texts of the Egyptians, the Pharaoh believes that the Watchers will meet him on his afterlife journey. In the Bible (Genesis 6) the Watchers are referred to as the 'Sons of God', angels who fell from grace because they left their created forms and co-habited with human women. The Nephilim were mighty creatures. The Epic of Gilgamesh speaks of men living after the Flood who were sometimes 5-10 times stronger than normal human beings and were said to range in height from 3-7 meters. In the Book of Enoch, the Nephilim bred with each other and, like humans of that era, lived for hundreds of years.
The Nephilim were soon ruling the world and demanding worship of themselves, demanding people bring them vast amounts of food, and fighting for dominance among themselves. Plato's account of the giants of Atlantis also mentions these wars. They are said to have slaughtered the great beasts of the earth, a reference to creatures far bigger than domestic animals, such as cows and sheep, and possibly to dinosaurs. Enoch gives very precise details of what they did to humanity. In chapter 8 he writes:
Moreover (1) Azazyel taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered; (2) Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways; (3) Amazarak taught all the sorcerers, and dividers of roots; (4) Armers taught the solution of sorcery; (5) Barkayal taught the observers of the stars, astrologers; (6) Akibeel taught signs; (7) Tamiel taught astronomy; (8) And Asaradel taught the motion of the moon; (9) And men, being destroyed, cried out; and their voice reached to heaven.
Enoch goes on to say that "Azazyel has done, how he has taught every species of iniquity upon earth, and has disclosed to the world all the secret things which are done in the heavens".
The idea that Enoch expresses is that these angels instructed their children about knowledge that was known only to them, secrets which were known in the cosmos. The result of the Nephilim influence was war, rape, violence, bloodshed and eventually human sacrifice and cannibalism. The Nephilim taught sorcery and supernatural powers, forms of magic which can only be performed by creatures who are outside of the natural world. Enoch tells us that God decided to destroy the world, and the Hebrew Bible tells us that God chose Noah to build a huge boat.
In chapter 5 of the Epic of Gilgamesh we learn of another boat that was built. Gilgamesh was also a giant, but according to the previous chapters, there were giants much greater than he who wanted him and his brother dead. Gilgamesh was told in a vision by his own god, that the great God or Goddess was going to destroy the world in a flood. He was told to build a boat. The instructions are in the text. He hired a great amount of people to help him, and a large group got on board when the rains came. He speaks of water coming from the skies and up from the ground to destroy everything. Later in the chapter he describes how his boat stopped on a mountain. There is a poem in the text that describes how angry El is when he discovers that Gilgamesh and his people have survived. They were all supposed to die.
The story of Gilgamesh is very similar to the Hebrew Bible's story of the Flood, but also different in many ways. Yet, perhaps it answers a lot of questions. If a group of giants survived the Flood, it would explain many things. The Akkadian king, Naram-Sin, who ruled in the area of Babylon (Iran), is pictured in a battle (Stele of Naram-Sin) as at least twice as tall as his opponents.
There are also stories from after the Flood of ancient tribes north of Turkey who were giants, cannibals and terrible warriors. People built high walled cities to protect themselves from these tribes.
Apart from all of these strange stories are those forms of worship connected to astrology. The ancient god Mitra, or Mithra (also Mithras) is represented as slaying a bull in Roman Mithraism. This event was thought to move history from the Age of Taurus to the next age.
Mithra is spoken of in many ancient texts we will examine. In later religious history he is associated with worship of the 'unconquered sun'. In one depiction he is the ancient serpent who has bound humanity, such as described in the Bible. He has the wings of an angel and is surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. He is the king of the Watchers, the gods and the Nephilim.
The Watchers demanded the worship of this being, the most powerful of the Watchers, the arch-angel and Lord of the Cosmos who, in Judeao/Christian tradition, is called the Devil, Lucifer or Satan.
It would seem from all of these writings and more, that before the Great Flood human beings were bred with angelic creatures that ruled and were worshipped. They are written about by the Greeks and Romans and lived in various areas of the world after the Flood also. These writings may raise as many questions as they answer; however, their similarities cannot be simply ignored as superstitious nonsense. As we shall see, these people were not 'cave men' talking about imaginary sky beings, but rather describing living creatures that walked upon the world.
For further reading:
Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Lawrence Boadt, (Paulist Press, New York, 1984)
Bible, Genesis Chapter 6,9,11
Available for downloading on public websites.
The Book of Enoch
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Interesting YouTube videos.
Chapter Two: Sumerians, Babylonians
In this chapter we will examine the religion of the Semitic-speaking people who lived in the Near East lands which are now Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and their neighbors.
We do not know exactly when the Flood occurred, but it was most likely about 6000 - 4500 yrs BC, although some place it as early as 2600BC. The Hebrew Bible says that Noah was a God-fearing man, but the same is not said of his sons. One of his sons, Ham, was the ancestor of the nations which are later, once again involved with the Nephilim (Numbers 13). In Genesis 9 there is a strange story of Noah getting drunk and Ham going into his tent to look at him. There is a strong connotation that Ham was looking at his father with lustful intent. Noah curses Ham for his intentions and his descendents become the religious enemies of the Jews. It is Ham's descendents who later moved south into what is now Israel and founded the homosexual cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The people from whom the Epic of Gilgamesh came were all, according to the Hebrew Bible, descendents of Ham. Their history is that of the Sumerian/Akkadian and Babylonian people who, it is believed, settled in Mesopotamia, the area which includes the Euphrates and Tigris river basin, around 4500-3500BC. From this group we have the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires, all warlike people who display incredibly similar characteristics to the people before the Flood.
The Hebrew Bible says that people began to spread out and that all spoke the same language. One of Ham's sons, Cush, had a son called Nimrod. He was a 'mighty warrior' who led his tribe east and decided to build a great city on a wide plain beside the river Euphrates, the city of Babylon. This city was situated in what is now modern day Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad. This was around 2000BC. Nimrod's intentions were to stop his large tribe from being scattered and to build a walled city and great tower to use for astrology. Perhaps Nimrod's intentions were to make Babylon the center of Nephilim worship again. God intervened in the process and confused their languages.
Lawrence Boadt in his Reading the Old Testament, tells us that Near East ethnic groups at this time were connected by different languages, the two main ones being Semitic and Indo-European in the Near and Middle East. Through the study of languages we can get a fairly good indication of the movements of various civilizations. By this time the Egyptian civilization was well founded by one of Ham's sons, Mizraim, and had been growing for over 2000 years, but was quite isolated because of the deserts which surrounded the rich Nile Valley. We will study Egyptian religion in a separate chapter.
The descendents of Ham were polytheistic, as we would expect from a man who rejected his father's beliefs. The Sumerian's gods numbered around 2000. Some of them were associated with rivers, trees, the weather, etc., much like the people who lived in the same area before the Flood.
The most powerful god of these people was called Anu. Anu was the god of the cosmos, the one who controlled the demons, monsters, goddesses and people. Anu was believed to have taken a wife called Ki and produced a child who became the most important god, the one spoken of mostly in their literature. His name was Enlil. This powerful god was believed to have raped a goddess and produced a child called Ninlil. In the stories of the Sumerian gods there are many similarities to what we know of life before the Flood. Violence and war, rape and seduction are the actions of their gods.
The Sumerians, like the Babylonians after them, considered their gods to be human in form, although much larger than normal, and to have supernatural powers, such as the sun god pictured below.
They claimed that their gods walked among them, coming and going as they pleased. They also have a great deal to say about demons, which are often portrayed as part human and part animal or bird. These mythical winged creatures could be both large and small, and are even said to live in the houses and temples where worshippers fed and served them.
Demons always tried to drive people to evil behavior, and it was also believed that these demons simply served the greater gods.
Sumerian and Babylonian cultures had what we might consider a glaring contradiction. On the one hand they had some of the first written moral codes and laws, not unlike the Bible's commandments of the Old Testament. On the other hand, the practices of the temples and ziggurats (large flat-topped pyramids) were shocking, at least to modern minds. Sacred prostitutes served Inanna, a goddess who was a contradiction in herself. She was the goddess of war, of female fertility, and sexual love.
The Sumerians built temples and ziggurats for the purpose of worship and sacrifice, as in the one pictured below in which the outer walls have been rebuilt.
The temples served various gods and goddess. In most cases the ziggurat stood in the center of the city and was dedicated to a particular god. The priests were considered mediators and mediums between the people and the deity and had the power of life and death over the people. When disaster struck, such as famines, floods, wars or disease, the priests demanded sacrifices to appease the angry gods. When enemies were captured in war, often the entire population of survivors was taken as slaves and eventually all sacrificed as offerings for the victory. In their art, sometimes a giant is seen depicted as standing beside the priests when these sacrifices occurred. It also became common for people to offer their firstborn child as a sacrifice to ensure future children.
Ziggurats were multifunctional. On the flat top surface sacrifices were made, and in the rooms underneath, temples to various goddesses provided worshippers the opportunity to serve the goddess of fertility in sexual practices. Smaller temples were dotted around the cities for people to offer grain, flowers and food to less powerful gods, but the entire culture was dominated by the idea that the gods must be served, kept happy and satisfied, or the consequences would be terrible. The gods are often depicted as humans with wings in the same way as the Watchers were said to appear.
The practice of sorcery, magic, astrology and channeling spirits was an everyday thing. Priests were chosen for their ability to perform supernatural acts, such as producing fire from their hands and healing diseases. Priests had the power to bless or curse, and the curse of a priest could bring instant and excruciating death to the victim. Priests were feared because of the power they wielded, but the priests were subject to those gods which roamed from city to city, creatures of greater stature than the majority of people.
The Babylonian Empire followed the Sumerian and included the god Marduk. Babylonian religion was very similar to Sumerian, but Marduk was the chief god of the Babylonians. Marduk was believed to have gone to battle against the goddess of chaos and, after defeating her, put the cosmos into order and created human beings. His exploits are told in the epic Enûma Elish.
Most Near Eastern cultures had similar religious practices to the Sumerians and Babylonians, but a change begins to occur with the development of the Amorites and Canaanite people who included the 'Sons of Anak', a Nephilim. The Amorites and Anakites were said to be ruled by giants, and many of them were considered twice as high as normal people. They are closely related to the Canaanites, all being descendents of Ham. In the Book of Numbers (Bible), chapter 13, we read about the Jews coming to the land of Canaan and finding the Nephilim there. This is the land that God gave to Abraham about 500 years earlier. Abraham went to live there, taking his nephew Lot with him. There is no mention of giants in the land, although it seems that Abraham kept to one particular area, the hill country, whilst his nephew went to live near the Dead Sea close to the immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Hebrew Bible records that the Canaanites were already living there and, from the description of the cities, were well established.
Canaanite religion is almost a mirror image of the pre-flood era. In the Valley of Hinnon, near modern day Jerusalem, was a statue of the god Molech. This god was depicted as a man with a bull's head and associated with the astrological sign of Taurus and the worship of Mithra. This valley was a terrible place, a place Jesus later used as an analogy of hell, the final destiny of those who reject His gospel. The god Molech demanded child sacrifice, and in this valley thousands of children were burned alive. Leviticus 18:21 mentions this practice and the name of the god, forbidding the Israelites to be involved in the worship of Molech.
Aside from the obvious horrors of child sacrifice were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities were the homosexual centers of the world at this time, and dedicated to sex gods and goddesses. These two religious practices lived side by side, one in the valley and the other on the plains near the Dead Sea. Pre-flood religion was predominant here, as in a few other places in the world - a religion of extreme immorality and violence controlled by the Nephilim and their offspring.
Molech was believed to be the Lord of the Raphaim, a line of giant creatures who have only human women in their ancestry. The Raphaim were thought to be exactly as the original Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and human women. In the books of Joshua and Deuteronomy, the giant king Og, who was defeated by an Israelite army under Moses' command, was said to be the last surviving descendent of these original hybrids. Og's bed was made of iron and about 4.5 meters long. The Israelites kept the bed in Jerusalem as a reminder of the victory.
The worship of Molech spread to the Phoenician people and into Egypt and North Africa. When the Romans conquered the city of Carthage in 149BC and destroyed the city, they discovered a statue of Molech which was used daily for child sacrifice. According to Roman historians, when the residents of Carthage realized that the Romans were going to defeat them, they believed that the gods were displeased with them for sacrificing low-born children. Therefore, they sacrificed 200 noble children to Molech along with 300 others.
The Canaanite god Baal is also closely associated with Molech. Baal is connected to the bull, a symbol of strength and fertility. Baal worship could be associated with the weather, agriculture, breeding animals and anything connected to fertility, but was also a predominately sexual religion connected to Sodom and Gomorrah and the bull-headed Molech.
The religions of the near and Middle East for thousands of years after the Flood are all very similar. In many ways they resemble the practices which occurred before the Flood, especially within the borders of Canaan, which is now modern day Israel. When God called Abraham and took him to Canaan, he said that this particular land would belong to Abraham's descendents for all time. He also told Abraham two other interesting things. God told him that from Abraham all of the nations of the world would be blessed, a reference to the coming of the Messiah in Jewish tradition. This child was prophesied (Genesis 3) to be the one who would destroy the work of the fallen angel Lucifer, and that Satan's offspring (seed) would be at war with the woman's child, a reference to Christ. God also warned Abraham that his descendents would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, a prophesy which was fulfilled after the Jews went into Egypt, and were delivered 400 years later under the guidance of Moses.
Is it just a coincidence that the greatest number of Nephilim creatures and pre-flood religions were concentrated in the land of Canaan? Many biblical scholars believe that the Nephilim who ruled before the Flood were Satan's attempt to destroy humanity before the Messiah could be born. That plan ended with the Great Flood. Perhaps Satan brought his offspring and their pre-flood religion into Canaan after the flood to try and destroy the Jewish people from whom the Messiah would come. The Epic of Gilgamesh claims that some of the giants survived in their own version of the Ark.
Much of this is mere speculation, but be assured, the evidence for giant creatures living and ruling on this planet is vast and very difficult to dismiss.
For further reading see:
Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Lawrence Boadt, (Paulist Press, New York, 1984)
© Copyright 2016 SteveCopland. All rights reserved.