posted on Jan, 10 2007 @ 06:38 PM
I'm by no means an expert, and have not studied this academically. I spent some of last year doing online and library research into the history of
cultural and religious evolution and "mutation" over time. I was just curious.
My understanding (while by no means conclusive or particularly reliable) is that the earliest mystical or spiritual practices were animistic in
nature. Divination is speculated to have been carried out using natural markers, slaughtered animals, the behavior of animals, etc. The
proto-indo-european culture is believed to have included a caste system with rulers, clerics and other priest-like roles, warriors and hunters, and
peasant or animal husband castes.
It is my understanding that at this time appeared the first conceptualization of a “tiered” view of reality. The heavens “above,” physical
living Earth “in the middle,” and the underworld “beneath” Earth, together were supported and connected by a “world tree” in some
conceptions, and in others, the primordial sea or “abyss” from whence everything else came. These were perceived not only as being the source of
life and all divine and human (and animal) beings, but also as the “network” or “medium” in which all else in the universe – Gods, humans,
animals, Earth, etc. – existed. It was a tree connecting the various “tiers” of reality, while simultaneously being a “sea” or “abyss”
holding everything within itself; the underlying “stuff” or “structure” of existence.
It is theorized that in time the proto-indo-european culture became the proto-indo-iranian and indo-european cultures. Elements of distinctly Indian
and Persian cosmology such as Mitras and Mithra may have shared common lineage with the proto-indo-iranian culture. There was a shared indo-Iranian
deity known as Mitra. This was not merely a deity, but an archetype of sorts; the notion of oaths, contracts, agreements, covenants, laws, and order.
Among the indo-Iranians, this concept was closely associated with one group of divinities over the other – the ansu (which may be the original form
of the Indian asuras associated with heat, fire, light, and Varuna, a solar deity of sorts) rather than the deiwo (which may be the original form of
the Indian devas.) Mitra was apparently one of the original “law giver” deities, responsible for order, equity, equality, fairness, justice, and
agreements, promises, oaths, etc. The Indian Mitras is likewise closely associated with the asuras, and would later be closely identified with a
subsequent Vedic take on the asuras, Varuna.
As the Indian and Persian "branches" of this shared or closely related cosmology diverged, the Indian version appears to have applied benevolence or
usefulness to the devas, while applying menace (or at least destructiveness) to the asuras. Conversely, the Persian incarnation appears to have
venerated the asuras, which may also be the source of Zoroastrian (and Zoroastrian forebears') Ahura.
Around (if memory serves) 6,000 years ago, a city known as Ugarit had its own cosmology which may be historically significant. In it, El was the name
given to the supreme, paternal, heavenly God. El was the being who, to those of Ugarit, co-created the heavens and Earth with the primordial abyss or
“cosmic sea” which the Ugarit cosmology describes as a prototypical Earth Goddess. Serving El directly on Earth were lesser deities, the Elohim.
Ruling the Elohim was Hadad, various described as a shepherd. The Elohim dwelled on a holy mountain, and their leader was El’s Earthly
representative on the holy mountain, Hadad. The lawgiver deity of Ugarit was Yamm. Just as Mitra was associated with ansu/asuras, Yamm was one of the
lesser divinities (Elohim) serving El, the “host of lesser Gods” who dwelled on the holy mountain. Like Sumerian Enlil, he was appointed prince
and king over the other Gods (including Hadad) by El. Importantly, he was also appointed judge and arbiter over the other deities. This is important,
because it signifies that he was indeed a law giver deity of sorts, and was associated with equity and fairness. In order to keep his position as
judge and prince of the Gods, he would have to defeat Hadad. Hadad defeated Yamm, and cast him into the primordial abyss. Yamm was often characterized
as a sea serpent. The God of the underworld was Mot, who like Sumerian Sin, was associated with change, birth, death, and rebirth. Hadad was said to
have descended into the underworld and to have contended with Mot, emerging three days later. This has (in my mind at least) very obvious similarities
to subsequent cosmology surviving today.
An was Sumeria’s El. An was the heavenly God and was supreme, while Nammu was the name given to the primordial abyss or “sea.” She too, as in
Ugarit, was viewed as a Goddess, but was more a heavenly Goddess; a feminine counterpoint to An. Earth itself was represented by Ki (later also called
Ninhursag, Niman, and Nintu in various iterations and forms.) Enki was the closest Sumerian equivalent of Hadad, and with Ki was one of the
co-creators of humanity. The Sumerian equivalent of Yamm was Enlil. Enlil, like humanity, was co-created by Enki and Ki, however he was granted a
higher rank (like Yamm was.) He was given the rank of “king of the Gods,” and it was said that human cities could not rise without his blessing.
He was considered a city ruling deity, and thus law giver as well. He was inventor of agricultural tools, and was banished to the underworld by Enki
for his rape of a human woman, Ninlil. The offspring of this rape was a being called Sin. Sin was also a law giver, and decreed human rulers. Sin
begat Utu, the sun God representing justice. Utu is variously associated with sun, fire, heat, flame, justice, and the power of human rulers.