Friday, January 18, 2013
Vendredi: Chthonian Histories
In her wonderful book of the Sumerian priestess Enheduanna's poems Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart, Jungian psychoanalyst Betty De Shong Meador makes some very insightful - and, as it turns out, surprisingly timely - comments on the vast chasm that has grown between human perception of the origins of evil in the days of Inanna's worship and now. Meador's comments on the out-sourcing of evil under the modern "big three" religions should read as an indictment of our willingness to follow unthinkingly along the path of least resistance. Instead - and to her credit - Meador's writing is thoughtful, and thought provoking, and very much worth sharing.
Enheduanna's poetry can be seen as a reassertion of the religion of "the old, old gods." Her Inanna combats any attempt to call into question the primacy of nature as the body of the goddess. In the poem "Inanna and Ebih" this conflict is explicit. An Edenic paradise on the slopes of the mountain Ebih threatens to defeat Inanna. The god of heaven, An, Inanna's great supporter, bends toward Ebih's unnatural, idealized, conflict-free world. An's seduction by Ebih anticipates Yahweh's persuasion of Adam and Eve that his garden paradise could be theirs for the price of their obedience. This garden is not the nature Inanna rules at all...
At the beginning of a new millennium, humanity still suffers as a result of the separation of spirit from matter that took place in antiquity. Yahweh's split and Greek-influenced Christianity's additions to the separation of good and evil provide divine sanction for the dark/light oppositional mentality that pervades our psychology. Dominant monotheistic religions effectively taught generations that evil is outside ourselves, with Satan over there, in others. We learned to deny our own potential for evil.
In Enheduanna's time, the evil was within us all and each individual was obliged to keep that portion of him or herself in check for the good not only of his own psyche but of the civilization around him. Now the chthonian, the dark, the evil is out there somewhere else and therefor our responsibility is absolved. Or is it?
Do read Enheduanna's poems, and Meador's book, if you have a chance. You won't be disappointed.
Header: Cover of the 2000 publication of Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart from University of Texas, Austin; find the old fashioned book version here