preview

Myths, Dreams and the Epic of Gilgamesh

Satisfactory Essays
The Epic of Gilgamesh, a masterpiece of world literature, is considered to be one of the oldest epics in the world. It is called an epic, but it is really a myth. In order to be able to understand a myth, it is necessary to have an historical point of view from two perspectives, so to speak, an outer and an inner one. The outer one concerns the necessity to understand the historical form in which the archetypes appear, the historical background to which the myth is related - in our case, the Babylonian culture and religion. The inner aspect concerns the essential problems of the time, with which that particular epoch struggled consciously, or in which it was unconsciously involved. Although this is primarily a scientific task, I believe that it is nevertheless a matter of immediate necessity for us to understand such documents humains in relation to our own life, for all the ages live in us, and we cannot really understand ourselves unless we know our spiritual roots.

What particular age and what spiritual contents are evoked in us by the unconscious is, to a certain extent, a question of individual fate. Since Western culture is based to a great extent on Judaism and Christianity, Babylonian culture as one of their roots may be looked upon as of immediate psychological interest to us all. The archetypes live in their realm, beyond time and space. This builds the bridge of understanding between men of all ages, and makes it possible to realize that we ourselves with our essential problems are bound up in the continuity of the eternal problems of mankind, as they are mirrored in myths. But the form in which the archetypes appear, their garments so to speak, depends on the historical conditions: the symbols in which they appear change. In the human being these changes correspond to the development of human consciousness. Thus the myths, in my opinion, represent not only eternal archetypal events, but a certain level of the development of human consciousness. During my work on this remarkably rich material this connection thrust itself more and more into my mind, so that I should like to define it as the basic idea, as the starting point of my attempt to explain this myth.

It was only in 1872 that scholars first became aware of this myth, when the English Assyriologist George Smith made public "The Chaldean Account of the Deluge," as he titled his translation of the eleventh tablet of the epic.
Get Access