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Ancient Myth Articles
Note: The author of this site knows David Talbott very well, and considers him to be the foremost mythologist in the world, if not the foremost scholar. He is a polymath of extremely high intelligence and integration capability. More importantly, in scholarship his integrity and valuation of the truth is at the highest level.
"The discovery of
truth is prevented more effectively, not by the
Human Nature and Saturnian Ritual
These thoughts might be subtitled, "On Avoiding Reductionist Approaches to the Saturn Model."
Reductionism is the practice of assimilating more to a single theoretical principle than that principle can accommodate or explain. Two classic examples of reductionist approaches are the hypotheses of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Each of these theorists is identified with a particular principle taken to the extreme and offered as a unified explanation of human motivation and behavior.
It's difficult for me to imagine any critically-minded person not saying much the same thing about the Saturn model.
Is the Saturn model reductionist? Actually, it's not, though most of the suspicions expressed are perfectly understandable in the early stages of communication. The model simply claims that there was an extraordinary myth-making epoch: the patterns of myth, symbol, and ritual originated in a unique phase of human history, one dominated by awe-inspiring planetary forms in the sky. I do not believe that critically minded folks, after assimilating the full range of evidence, would still suggest that the theory is reductionist. I base this observation on actual experience. Again and again, I've watched the suspicion disappear as people realized that the global patterns, the only field of evidence we are concerned with in the historical argument, REQUIRE the celestial forms.
As a rule, it will be the new enthusiasts who run the risk of falling into the reductionist trap. I've often noticed, for example, a tendency for enthusiasts to suggest psychological interpretations which do appear to exceed the explanatory power of the model.
I would make a critical distinction between "living in Saturn's shadow" and "being human." When individuals get in a fight, or nations drop bombs on each other, are they being Saturnian, or just being human? Generally, I would say that they're just being human, though one can often find echoes of Saturnian images, particularly where fierce religious concepts dominate. In more ancient times, however, warring nations were consistently Saturnian: through warfare, they sought to replicate on the battlefield the devastation formerly wrought by the gods themselves. And in no sense is it reductionist to observe this pervasive influence on human memory.
Consider, for example, the words of Assurbanipal describing his military campaigns against neighboring Arabians: "Ishtar, who dwells in Arabia, who is clothed with fire and bears aloft a crown of awful splendour, rained fire over Arabia. The warrior Irra, engaging them in battle struck down my foes. Urta, the lance, the great warrior, son of Enlil, pierced my enemies to the life with his sharp arrow. Nusku, the exalted messenger of the gods, who makes my rule glorious, and who, at the command of Assur and Ninlil, the valorous lady, goes at my side, guarding my kingship, took his place before my armies and brought low my foes." Clearly, this is not just being human, but also living in Saturn's shadow.
In essentially the same terms, the Egyptian king Seti described his devastation of neighboring tribes as the activity of the warring "majesty" of Amon (in the Saturn model the royal "majesty" means the discharge streamers of Venus–the effusive, terrifying "radiance" or "splendor" of the Great Star/Great Comet)–"I have caused them to see thy majesty as lord of radiance... I have caused them to see thy majesty like a circling star, which scatters its flame in fire... I have caused them to see thy majesty like a flame of fire, like the very being of Sekhmet, in her tempest." Etc. etc.
In the most explicit terms, the king sought to repeat the tempest of the Venus goddess Sekhmet, the majesty, the eye of Re, which had vanquished the rebelling enemies of Re, the chaos fiends, when celestial confusion and darkness had overtaken the world.
It seems quite clear to me that, while countless echoes of the Saturn myth surround us still, one can be human without necessarily being Saturnian. Often, when an individual is going through a transforming experience, he will experience a sense of imminent disaster. Generally, I don't see that experience today as a symbol of Saturn, though various Saturnian influences might be considered. If one looks for signs in the sky, or trembles at the approach of a planetary conjunction, THAT is Saturnian. The Saturn experience is not the cause of human anxiety, though it can still affect the forms of anxiety (and presumably the scale of anxiety under certain circumstances, such as the end of a millennium.)
Belief in God is not Saturnian. But viewing God as a merciless, bearded man on a mountain top, periodically destroying the world IS Saturnian. And of course any tendency to cling to ancient myth as the word of God is by definition Saturnian, though people often cling to non-Saturnian ideas as the word of God as well.
To feel guilty is not Saturnian per se. To want to blame others is not Saturnian either. That's just being human. To clutch at a crucifix, an Ankh, or praying wheel in response is being human AND Saturnian.