Ancient myth stories have a depth of understanding into the human condition, and a profound knowledge of the world, an understanding and knowledge that can be lost within modern interpretations of the human condition and the cosmos that we inhabit.
Take the Babylonian story of the goddess Tiawath. Her desire is to overthrow the higher gods of light and happiness, and so declares war upon the gods of heaven. Now, who knows how old this myth story is in origin, but what we do know is that it is very, very old. The writers of these myth stories understood only too well that there is a conflict of good and evil, and this conflict is cosmic in scale. In other words, the ancients knew that humanity was capable of acts of great terror and evil, that our capacity for violence and the destruction of others was only too real.
Tiawath, in her desire for war, creates monsters of every variety; gigantic serpents with fangs dripping with deadly poison; huge dragons with razor teeth; giant dogs of ferocious savagery; men that were part scorpion. These monsters rise from the waters of the great abyss over which Tiawath resides.
What can all this mean? Well the waters and the abyss represent chaos. We see this in the Genesis myth story with the waters and the deep. Chaos is that place of unknowing and destruction, the abyss of our own capacity for evil and violence, and the desire, sometimes unconscious and sometimes conscious, to inflict pain upon others, to hinder others in their journey towards becoming human; chaos is the abyss, the depths of our consciousness that has yet to be awakened, and so our behaviours, attitudes and beliefs rise up from the abyss of chaos. In Genesis the Spirit comes to bring order out of chaos; She breathes life and an awakening to the celebration of life; She creates, and in her creativity there is a sense of creation flourishing, life springing forth in joy. The Spirit evokes a sense of fluidity and wonder, the waters that She hovers over vibrant and life giving.
Compare Tiawath and the waters she resides over; brimming with ongoing chaos, menace, poison, and violence. The monsters that emerge from the waters represent our deepest fears of being killed and torn apart by a merciless beast. Tiawath herself is a giant serpent, and the monsters she calls up are all brimming with poison and teeth. Recent studies have show that 60 million years ago when we lived in trees, our greatest predator were snakes, and so we developed incredible vision according to the reality of that which would kill us; our sight has evolved from those early days as a result of our need to see our predators. To “see” then is to notice the serpent of chaos, the abyss of unknowingness and ignorance, lives that live out of destruction of ourselves and others, and to seek order, compassion, flourishing. Not only that, but notice that one of the monsters Tiawath calls up from the abyss are men who are part scorpion; scorpions represent total danger, unnamable inhumanity. The fusion of men with scorpions is symbolic of pure, uncontrollable terror, and how that terror will ultimately destroy us if we refuse to move beyond the chaos into a greater consciousness; scorpions cannot control their body temperature and when they get too hot they spasm and eventually die. To those viewing it looks as though the scorpion is killing itself with its stinger; men will destroy themselves with their own fear if they remain in the chaos.
Within our own modern lives we need to reclaim these insights. The 20th Century taught us that the dividing line of good and evil cuts through each of us, and when we pursue Utopianism, such as Stalin and Hitler did, then we enter into the abyss of murder, chaos and untruth where Tiawath resides. What is birthed are the monsters of our deepest fears, our ignorance, and our refusal for joy and the betterment of humanity. The evil within each of us refuses the pursuit of our humanness, and the joy of that humanness, and so desires the chaos to consume. Part of that journey towards order out of chaos, towards the gods of light and joy that Tiawath wanted to destroy, is the pursuit of truth and authenticity.
The ancients describe that journey as along came Merodach to slay the mighty Tiawath. . .