MAN THE SYMBOLIC CREATURE

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“The past is preserved only in darkness, the future is not raised to the level of an image, as something which can be anticipated. It is the symbolic expression which first creates the possibility of looking backward and looking forward… What occurred in the past, now separated out from the totality of representations, no longer passes away, once the sounds of language have placed their seals on it and given it a certain stamp.”

Ernst Cassirer

Goebekli_Tepe Oldest Pictograph

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe could be the earliest known writing. A 12,000-year-old pictograph was found within the ancient settlement of Gobeklitepe in southeast Anatolia, Turkey.

The pictograph, chiseled into an obelisk, reportedly depicts a traditional sky burial whereby bodies are left outdoors to be picked apart by scavengers.

There is speculation that astrology of some form appeared in the Sumerian period in the 3rd millennium BC.

By the 16th century BC, the extensive employment of omen-based astrology can be evidenced in the compilation of a comprehensive reference work known as Enuma Anu Enlil. Its contents consisted of 70 cuneiform tablets comprising 7,000 celestial omens. Texts from this time also refer to an oral tradition – the origin and content of which can only be speculated upon.

Babylon Walls

Enuma Anu Enlil is the principal source of omens used in the regular astrological reports that were sent to the Neo-Assyrian king by his entourage of scholars. There are well over 500 such reports published in volume 8 of the State Archives of Assyria. A majority of these reports simply list the relevant omens that best describe recent celestial events and many add brief explanatory comments concerning the interpretation of the omens for the benefit of the king.

A typical report dealing with the first appearance of the moon on the first day of the month is exemplified by Report 10 from volume 8 of the State Archives:

If the moon becomes visible on the first day: reliable speech; the land will be happy.

If the day reaches its normal length: a reign of long days.

If the moon at its appearance wears a crown: the king will reach the highest rank.

From Issar-šumu-ereš.

Babylon Astrologers

The series was probably compiled in its canonical form during the Kassite period (1595–1157 BCE) but there was certainly some form of prototype Enuma Anu Enlil current in the Old Babylonian period (1950–1595 BCE). It continued in use well into the 1st millennium, the latest datable copy being written in 194 BCE. It is believed that the first 49 tablets were transmitted to India in the 4th or 3rd centuries BCE and that the final tablets dealing with the stars had also arrived in India just before the start of the common era.

Arabic Astrolabe

At this time Babylonian astrology was solely mundane, and prior to the 7th century BC the practitioners’ understanding of astronomy was fairly rudimentary. Because of their inability to accurately predict future celestial phenomena and planetary movement very far in advance, interpretations were done as the phenomena occurred or slightly before. By the 4th century, however, their mathematical methods had progressed enough to calculate future planetary positions with reasonable accuracy, at which point extensive ephemerides began to appear.

Chaos_Monster_and_Sun_God

Otto Eduard Neugebauer (May 26, 1899 – February 19, 1990) was an Austrian American mathematician and historian of science who became known for his research on the history of astronomy and the other exact sciences in antiquity and into the Middle Ages. By studying clay tablets, he discovered that the ancient Babylonians knew much more about mathematics and astronomy than had been previously realized. The National Academy of Sciences has called Neugebauer “the most original and productive scholar of the history of the exact sciences, perhaps of the history of science, of our age.”

Otto E. Neugebauer

And what this great  original thinker has to tell us?

In a nutshell, that the Babylonians discovered Algebra, a symbolic, simple today, but at the time a revolutionary Human discovery, and furthermore he thought this discovery was due to the fact the Babylonians were the product of two different people the Sumerian, and the Acadian, two totally different cultures, the Acadians were Semite,.

Most historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a West Asian people who spoke the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc., as evidence), a non-Semitic and non-Indo-European agglutinative language isolate. It was not an inflected language, contrary to its Semitic neighbors.

They had a hell of a time to understand each other, the usual language and text of the Sumerians, so in order to understand each other they got to acquire new mental skills, and thanks to these efforts Babylonians were the first  in getting to understand the meaning and use of an abstract symbolism.

Assyrian Room Pergamon Museum

Every Algebraic operation says Neugebauer, presupposes to understand certain fixed symbols, both for mathematical operations and for the mathematical quantities to which they apply.

In the absence of this conceptual symbolism, it would not be possible to combine quantities that are not numerically determined and designated, nor to derive new combinations from them, but a symbolism presented itself immediately necessary in the writing of the Acadian texts … Therefore the Babylonians had a more important instrument for proper and adequate Algebraic development.

Babylonian Map of the World 700-500BC

I am aware that Science today its dismissive of the Symbolic thought, however it escapes them how these accomplishments of the Babylonians, not only provided the basic Algebraic for mathematics, but also a rich Symbolism that escapes them on the Ontological subjective nature of Man.

That like a undercurrent submerged within our psyche, it pours a torrent of symbolic images into our dreams, desires, and behaviors to which, no matter the amount of objectivity, and concrete mind it is impossible to bury forever, in the annals of time, since It is an integral and inseparable part of our Human nature. Just as the eternal feminine is the counterpart of the masculine, and our right cerebral side, the counterpart of the left.

 

Babylon Lives Pergamon Museum Berlin

About theburningheart

Blog: KoneKrusosKronos.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Ancient Civilizations, Ancient Religions, Astrology, Babylonian Astrology, Consciousness, Cosmology, Critical Thinking, Cuneiform Tablets, Historical Evolution, Human Nature, Inspiration, Knowledge, Language, Language of Signs, Symbology, Symbols, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to MAN THE SYMBOLIC CREATURE

  1. “It is hard indeed to notice anything for which the languages available to us have no description.”
    ― Alan Wilson Watts

    Interesting… I’d argue that the use of symbols is what makes humans unique. That one thing can stand-in for another allows humans to contemplate potential realities in far more complex ways than material reality allows as practicable. Symbols can be combined to produce language, to plan, to contemplate and to mark relationships, to relate values, to utilize mathematics…

    Symbols can also stand-in for and create their own realities. Merely shouting, “Tiger!” might elicit an even more powerful and lasting response within one’s subjective experience than might be evoked by actually seeing one. Our social structures are based in symbols… fashion and uniforms, religious iconographies, political affiliations, philosophies, “conspicuous consumption”, nationalism, money… It’s difficult to imagine much of “humanity” beyond our most coarse of animal behaviors that doesn’t somehow revolve around the use of or response to symbols, or their influence upon our cognitive responses.

    I also think that looking past, or perhaps through those symbolic representations to *experience* directly is the underlying objective of Zen. It’s about noticing the qualia of “redness” as opposed to color “red”. So that despite Mr. Watts’ suggestion above, it is at least momentarily possible… just counter to how we spend lifetimes learning how to think.

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes , language and symbols are interwoven, however a Symbol remains as a testimony through History, meanwhile languages evolve, and perish.
      We may struggle to find meaning to ancient symbols, disconnected today from our current language, and zeitgeist, but always the studious, could find a key to unlock its secrets, or by mere luck like finding the Rosetta stone, but there is even more to it, the fact we never stop dreaming, and when we remember what we dream, it come to us more in symbols than words, even if words are expressed they posses a hidden meaning, that we may be force to search for it in order to understand the message in our dream.
      As for example once over my life when trying to mend my relationship to an ex, she appeared to me in a dream and she said only one word:

      “Connecticut.”
      I woke trying to figure why she would mention a State with no relation to our lives, until it downed on me!
      So symbols and language are linked, but ultimate Symbol can be the key for our understanding of those things that are beyond reasoning, like the Buddha holding a flower, and smiling to Mahākāśyapa.

      As a note the Stars= Astrology, its known by the cognoscenti; as the only book that men can’t burn, and the reason of my post, but please do not misunderstand, horoscopy, its just or Judicial Astrology its just a small part of the real study of it, who has to do more our subjective being, and diverse fields as Psychology, Symbology, Ontology, Anthropology, Art, and many other derivations in numerous fields, too long to mention here.

      Thank you for your thoughtful and great response. 🙂

  2. Pam Lazos says:

    I often wonder just how much civilization has been lost throughout time due to the turnover of power to conquering armies. The mathematics and engineering skills that it took to build the pyramids, for example, not just in Egypt bit in the Central Americas, seem to be have been lost when the civilization was conquered. The lost books from the library in Alexandria. What could they tell us. Similarly, the ones Hitler burned. The gigantic Buddhist statues in the dessert that the Taliban blew up some years ago. What secrets did they hold. Imagine how much more advanced mankind would be if we didn’t have part of the population denigrating and denying science and by extract, knowledge and wisdom. Maybe we’d be talking about physics in the cafe instead of the Kardashians. Lovely post. 👏

    • theburningheart says:

      Yes, but not only that, time and our short memory, are as guilty as well, in Iran somewhere in the desert there’s one of many lost cities which name I forgot, Its inhabitants wanted to perpetuate their history by building great monuments and steles, commemorating their great conquests and achievements, the irony of the matter, is that it has not been possible for our scholars, unable still decipher their written language!

      Thank you for your insightful comment. 🙂

  3. Pam Lazos says:

    I often wonder just how much civilization has been lost throughout time due to the turnover of power to conquering armies. The mathematics and engineering skills that it took to build the pyramids, for example, not just in Egypt bit in the Central Americas, seem to be have been lost when the civilization was conquered. The lost books from the library in Alexandria. What could they tell us. Similarly, the ones Hitler burned. The gigantic Buddhist statues in the dessert that the Taliban blew up some years ago. What secrets did they hold. Imagine how much more advanced mankind would be if we didn’t have part of the population denigrating and denying science and by extract, knowledge and wisdom. Maybe we’d be talking about physics in the cafe instead of the Kardashians. Lovely post. 👏

  4. Don Ostertag says:

    Another thought provoking post. Thank you.

  5. smilecalm says:

    enjoyed this historical commentary!
    perhaps someday we’ll communicate
    what we really mean to say 🙂

    • theburningheart says:

      Now, that is a tall order!
      Be happy with with more or less catch up with what your better half its trying to communicate, with subtle hints, or worst, attitudes! 🙂

  6. Truly amazing facts. Everything exists and existed whether we know about it or no. Interesting article, and I had not read about these phenomenal discoveries yet.

    • theburningheart says:

      One o f the problems with today Scholarly knowledge its very specialized, and narrow, few people study, and the most (people in general) do not care, together with the prolific avalanche of new studies of all sorts, some of these discoveries are of little interest to many, and the sole province of a few specialist.
      As for example Mathematics and History are academic subjects were you need to get a degree in Mathematics, and one on History. Also, you probably need to have some understanding of languages like Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Arabic etc. And only you can go for teaching jobs. You may be a teacher in school or college with this both the subjects. Only some posts available for higher studies in history and some research work can be allotted by the government in their archaeological department and museums.

      For starters who its even aware you can study a career in the History of Mathematics?
      And with your prospective employment, not very likely you will choose such a career.

      So unless you have a great passion for it, well, its no wonder most people never heard of it, when in fact Neugebauer publish it on 1934. “Vorgrieschische Mathematik” Vorgriechische Mathematik en vorlesungen über die Geschichte der antiken mathematischen Wissenschaften.

      Thank you Inese for your comment. 🙂

  7. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Fascinating, so interesting!
    If the pyramids are older than Babylonia, though, by thousands of years, wouldn’t the Africans in Northern Egypt have had to delve into all levels of math and astronomy along with engineering in order to get the exacting measures and placement of those colossal stones? The pyramids couldn’t have been built without math, right? So maybe the knowledge went out of Africa and disseminated upward…as so many things from Africa (which academia to this day is reluctant to admit) did. Just curious here, trying to orient myself in time…..
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    • theburningheart says:

      Your point its very valid, however we know they had mathematics.

      We just not posses too many found documents, or stones engravings about it.
      Here:
      “Ancient Egyptian mathematics is the mathematics that was developed and used in Ancient Egypt c. 3000 to c. 300 BC, from the Old Kingdom of Egypt until roughly the beginning of Hellenistic Egypt. The ancient Egyptians utilized a numeral system for counting and solving written mathematical problems, often involving multiplication and fractions. Evidence for Egyptian mathematics is limited to a scarce amount of surviving sources written on papyri. From these texts it is known that ancient Egyptians understood concepts of geometry, such as determining the surface area and volume of three-dimensional shapes useful for architectural engineering, and algebra, such as the false position method and quadratic equations.

      They have little bit an pieces of information all around like the The Moscow Mathematical Papyrus, the Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll, the Lahun Mathematical Papyri which are a part of the much larger collection of Kahun Papyri and the Berlin Papyrus 6619 all date to this period. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus which dates to the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1650 BC) is said to be based on an older mathematical text from the 12th dynasty.

      The Moscow Mathematical Papyrus and Rhind Mathematical Papyrus are so called mathematical problem texts. They consist of a collection of problems with solutions. These texts may have been written by a teacher or a student engaged in solving typical mathematics problems.”

      Also in other posts I had talk about the Zodiac of the temple of Dendera, proof enough of their Astronomical achievements, It is now on display at the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

      Thank you for interest and your comment, we appreciate it. 🙂

  8. ptero9 says:

    Strangely, or not, it seems that there’s only the symbolic when it comes to trying to express what we moderns refer to as reality. Perhaps it is the modern view that assumes that we know something we call reality, that wonders what a symbol is? Isn’t the body itself the veil?

    Thank you for the thought provoking post, as always!

    • theburningheart says:

      Ferdinand De Sassure destroyed the idea that Language it is fixed in meaning through words, being malleable in Nature, and meaning through times, language and cultures, not even the same word can have a specific meaning to two persons who know each other well, then come Jacques Derrida, with deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. … The purpose of deconstruction is to show that the usage of language in a given text, and language as a whole, are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible.

      Symbol on the other hand remains as the only fixture we can use not to fix language, but to provide an understanding, about a complex idea, that can provide individual, and collective meaning when its secret its revealed, or understood.

      About the body, well yes its the veil of True Self. ask Nisargadatta Maharaj, that casually I am just reading.

      Thank you Debra for your comment. 🙂

  9. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Lots of information. Thank you! So much more documentation with Babylonia, I guess, so that we’re much clearer on what was going on there. Who knows what knowledge has been lost? It boggles the mind. A reader mentioned above all the information lost (destroyed) in the Library at Alexandria….can you even imagine what might have been in there? I can’t…..

    • theburningheart says:

      Well, yes in fact so much papyri wast lost at the Alexandria famous library fire, that its possibly the reason why we do not know more about Egyptian mathematics. 😦

  10. mesabele says:

    El conocimiento, bendición de los tiempos.

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