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3 Lessons ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ Can Teach Us About Life

According to Wikipedia, the Epic of Gilgamesh is described as:

The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is considered the world’s first truly great work of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about ‘Bilgamesh’ (Sumerian for ‘Gilgamesh’), king of Uruk. These independent stories were used as source material for a combined epic. The first surviving version of this combined epic, known as the “Old Babylonian” version, dates to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipitShūtur eli sharrī (“Surpassing All Other Kings”). Only a few tablets of it have survived. The later “Standard” version dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC and bears the incipit Sha naqba īmuru (“He who Saw the Deep”, in modern terms: “He who Sees the Unknown”). Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve-tablet version have been recovered. Some of the best copies were discovered in the library ruins of the 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.

The first half of the story discusses Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to stop him oppressing the people of Uruk. After an initial fight, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends. Together, they journey to the Cedar Mountain and defeat Humbaba, its monstrous guardian. Later they kill the Bull of Heaven, which the goddess Ishtar sends to punish Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. As a punishment for these actions, the gods sentence Enkidu to death.

In the second half of the epic, Gilgamesh’s distress at Enkidu’s death causes him to undertake a long and perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. He eventually learns that “Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands”.[1][2] However, because of his great building projects, his account of Siduri‘s advice, and what the immortal man Utnapishtim told him about the Great Flood, Gilgamesh’s fame survived his death. His story has been translated into many languages, and in recent years has featured in works of popular fiction.

Some of you may be familiar with the text because it was required reading in high school (and certain colleges), and while at the time of study it may have had a different significance, if approached with an alchemical understanding, we can learn a lot about life, death, reincarnation and the destiny of man’s evolution. The three specific passages below, in particular, are worth revisiting with a new understanding.

1. “Oh, father Utnapishtim, you who have entered the assembly of the gods, I wish to question you concerning the living and the dead, how shall I find the life for which I am searching?” Utnapishtim said, “there is no permanence. Do we build a house to stand forever, do we seal a contract to hold for all time? Do brothers divide an inheritance to keep forever, does the flood-time of rivers endure? It is only the nymph of the dragon-fly who sheds her larva and sees the sun in his glory. From the days of old there is no permanence. The sleeping and the dead, how alike they are, they are like a painted death. What is there between the master and the servant when both have fulfilled their doom? When the Annunaki, the judges, come together, and Mammetun, the mother of destinies, together they decree the fates of men. Life and death they allot but the day of death they do not disclose.”
2. Facing the reality of his own death, he begins a desperate search for immortality. He travels to the end of the Earth, where he encounters Siduri, a female tavern keeper, who advises him: “Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.”

3.  “Utnapishtim, son of Ubartutu, abandon your house, abandon what you possess. Abandon your house and build a boat instead. Seek life instead of riches, save yourself. Take with you, on the boat you build, an instance of each thing living so that they may be safe from obliteration in the flood. Perform the construction of the boat with care. Let the length of the boat and the width of the boat be equal. Roof over the boat as the abyss is roofed.”

The past shaped our present, but also shapes our future. Grasping the knowledge of the ancients is key in our guided ascension.

To learn even more, look to the work of Joseph Campbell to unlock an even higher level of gnosis.

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  • Raginmund
    March 1, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    The Day we enter the path (circle of live). Live needs to end, to enable the new entering (circle), The Spirit and Soul (Energy Data Saiving system (think like you body is a Memory card), goes on tot the new form of Data disk. (new body form). Realze ! No one serves the “old” gods by there “old” names. But look at the ark of Noah to this story. The same Spirits of God(s)