So if, by the luck of the genetic draw and kismet, you’d been born as one of the proud line of ancient Mesopotamians, you would have had a structure of belief of their time. We’re wired to try and explain the world around us and, curious as by the nine lives endowed cats, we’re seeking to understand everything around us, ourselves and our role in the world, or at least try and represent and depict what eludes understanding.
We might in the arrogance of nowness call the beliefs of ancient civilizations and polytheistic religions naive or primitive but they were not in the least. Much of our understanding, dogma and systems of thought and belief (conscious or not) were derived and translated through eons and social structures to this day, maybe mutated enhanced or watered down but they still carry the same key principles. We’re not that different from Mesopotamians if you take away the technologies. The core of humanness is still clinched in the eternal battle of order and chaos.
So the Mesopotamians believed that there were two highest deities – Tiamat and Abzu. Tiamat was feminine, a force of chaos and unbridled nature, the goddess of salt water, while Abzu was eternally linked to her as the male counterpart and the god of fresh water and order. The world was conceptualized as a disk with a dome above floating on fresh water surrounded by salt water all around. Tiamat and Abzu started a whole line of children which were something as elder gods but less wise than their mother and father – chaos and order. These goods are like subpersonalities, representations of absolutes such as love, aggression, passion, anger. The lack of their wisdom had a consequence where this first line of children wanted abundance so they killed Abzu and decided to feast and live on his corps. This represents a thing which still echoes today – we all inhabit a corpse of the dead past which is culture, built by those who are no longer here. This culture is stagnant and not attune to new circumstance so we, as the first children, rebel and try to kill the old order which we no longer see fit to rule.
In the absence of old order a thing that always happens follows – chaos reemerges. The first children may be gods themselves, but Tiamat is above them all, their mother, mother nature herself and she wakes up to see order in ruins and decides to do away with her creation, introducing the story that repeats through most of the world’s cultures – something akin to the flood myth. The creation is broken, so the one who created it returns with vengeance to eradicate it. Tiamat therefore creates 13 monsters, puts an army behind them and sets Kingu, an early representation of Satan, as their leader. The elder goods send multiple gods to go and fight the chimera army but they all fail and cannot decide who among them is the king of gods aka the one who can fight chaos and win, meaning – reestablish order again. The gods continue to multiply and fail while fighting the masters of chaos until Marduk appears. So as the Mesopotamians were trying to figure out how to make order out of chaos on a level of culture through this teomachy, they figured it out and embodied it in a god Marduk. His powers are that he can speak magic words and has eyes all around his head. This is the first time articulated speech is recognized as a force of creation and reordering, which translates to this day as the “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Eyes around his head mean he can see. He is not blind to reality but willingly opens its eyes and pays attention to what is lurking so he can combat it. You can’t fight what you can’t (won’t) see.
Marduk decides to go and fight the monsters but before demands to be pronounced as the king of gods and to be in possession of the Tablet of Destiny if successful. So they figured out that the one who has the right to lead the destinies of all is the one who is able to see more, have vision, and is able to communicate, organize and speak the world into being. So Marduk goes to fight Tiamat and her monsters and captures her into a net of wind (symbolizing the air necessary in speech) and cuts her up into pieces, that is – breaks the chaos down into smaller pieces that can be grasped conceptually in language. He creates the world for humans from the pieces of Tiamats body – so life came from the sea – and kills Kingu and he creates human beings from Kingu’s blood. Therefore, human beings are made out of chaos and the bloods of daemons. There is a satanic element to our nature since we all have the capacity for malevolence on purpose (animals don’t) but there is a choice to be different and rise up from it. The king of Mesopotamians was a representative of Marduk in real life. For the whole year they lived in walled of ordered cities, and all outside the walls was chaos. But as it goes another one of Mesopotamians customs is still alive. On New Year’s Eve all bets are off, all rules fall away and the inhabitants of cities went outside of the walls of cities and reenact the war of goods after which their king had to take of all of his official garments and a priest slapped him, asking from the king to tell the people why he wasn’t a good Marduk that year and how he intends to do better next year. This is the reordering, restating a goal, and renewal we still do today when we assess the year gone by and decide upon New Year’s resolutions.
So no, they were not primitive. We’re still playing the same gig, trapped somewhere between order and chaos. Always.