FLYING SERPENTS AND DRAGONS
By R. A. Boulay 1990
Editorial Comments By Roberto Solàrion 1997
THE PERCEPTION OF THE SERPENT AS EVIL
Besides Adam and Eve, the other important denizen of the garden of Eden was the serpent. He is given qualities which rival and surpass those of Adam. Even Genesis concedes the point when it asserts that "the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that God had made." The Haggadah describes the serpent as tall, two-legged and with superior mental powers. He was lord over all the beasts of Eden: "God spoke to the serpent, íI created you to be king over all the animals. I created you to be of upright position.í" In the Haggadah there seems to be little doubt that he walked like a man.
In Genesis, the serpent was severely punished for his role in the downfall of Adam and Eve. His fate was henceforth to crawl on his belly. In this way, Genesis implies that at one time the serpent was a legged creature and lost his limbs as a result of the eating of the forbidden fruit. The Haggadah is more explicit and plainly states that "his hands and feet were hacked off."
In appearance, the legged-serpent must have been a fearsome creature, dominating all the animals as well as Man. In fact, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, they wore "shirts of skin." But since Adam and Eve were vegetarian during this period and Man was not allowed to eat meat until after the Deluge, these "skins" must have been those sloughed off by the reptiles. Many ancient sources verify this.
Ancient Jewish legends indicate that the clothes worn by Adam and Eve were not only made of reptile skins but that they protected them from predators: "When they wore the coats, Adam and Eve were told, all creatures on earth would fear them." The serpent skins were symbolic of the ruling race, and not only reminded Adam and Eve of their origin but also acted as a talisman to protect them from wild creatures.
[Comment: Even today we still wear reptile skins - snakeskins, alligator skins, crocodile skins - many of which are quite expensive and set the wearer apart from the general multitude. And the serpent, primarily the cobra, was highly revered in such ancient cultures as those of Egypt and India.]
The notion of the serpent as evil is a fairly recent one, for it is one that developed during the early Christian era. In actuality, the Biblical serpent is often connected with godly knowledge, healing and immortality. The Hebrew word for the creature who tempted Eve is "nahash" which is usually translated as serpent but literally means "he who solves secrets."
Even in ancient Greek the word serpent posed problems in translation. In the Septuagint, the early Greek version of the Old Testament, the serpent is called "drakon." In ancient Greece the word "drakon" was used for all large fearsome creatures such as serpents, large reptiles, and other terrifying animals. Thus the term "drakon" carried over through semantic channels to the association of a large winged, legged serpent as dragon in Western literature and culture.
[Comment: Today the Greek currency is called a "drakma." It would be interesting to investigate the etymological source for this modern term.]
In all probability, the dragons and other fabulous creatures of mythology are but distorted forms of the serpent-god. It is a semantic problem fostered by manís revulsion in linking his ancestry to a saurian god. Two streams of understanding seem to have contributed to the legend of the serpent as evil and repulsive.
The first is the master-slave relationship. Man replaced the Anunnaki as workers and began to perform all the menial and distasteful tasks. The memory of this domination by cruel and merciless reptiles was further exacerbated by the descent of the Nefilim in the days before the Deluge. These space men intermarried and lived among Mankind, and both Scriptures and Sumerian sources reveal that they were a barbarous and cannibalistic race.
By the time of the advent of the Deluge, Man had come to despise and even to persecute these saurian offspring. Ancient sources strongly suggest that anyone showing signs of serpent-god ancestry was hunted down and destroyed.
The second major factor in the evolution of the idea of them as evil was the enmity between Enlil and Enki. When the lands were reclaimed after the Deluge, Enlil saw to it that his sons were placed in charge of the lands of the Middle East and that Enkiís sons were allotted foreign lands such as Egypt and the Indus Valley. The sons of Enki returned to the Middle East, however, and his oldest son Marduk seized control of Babylon and claimed the coveted title of "fifty."
Enki is remembered as the creator and benefactor of Mankind and is associated with godly knowledge, healing, and immortality - exactly the qualities attributed to the serpent in the garden of Eden. Thus, the Biblical "Fall of Man" takes on the character of a confrontation between Enlil, the Elohim of the Old Testament, and Enki, the usurper serpent-god.
[Comment: Curiously in the book The Stellar Man by John Baines, the duplicitous Archon of Destiny, who tricked Moses and subsequently thereby became the usurper of power on this planet from the more "people-friendly" former Archon ruler, was known by the letter Y. Does this Y refer to Yahweh and therefore to Crown-Prince Enlil?]
The same conflict is seen in the Tale of Adapa when Enki prevented An (Enlil later came to represent An as he became the senior god) from tampering with his creation. There are echoes of this dissension in the Third Book of Enoch, when this Patriarch was to be given godhood and immortality. The "angels" representing the older order protested that God was revealing divine secrets to Man. They remind him that "did not the primeval ones give you good advice when they said ídonít create maní?"
To the conservative and older gods, man was considered to be an inferior animal, for time and time again he is criticized for his sweaty and dirty mammalism. In the Third Book of Enoch man is scorned by the minor gods or angels who characterize him as "mankind born of woman, blemished, unclean, defiled by blood and impure flux, men who sweat putrid drops." This disgust of the angels towards their sweaty and hairy mammal cousins is reiterated throughout the Old Testament where this dislike is masked under the imagery of the "weakness of the flesh."
The Anunnaki delighted in their reptilian appearance - their sleek, lustrous, and gleaming bodies - and mammal traits were repugnant to them. From an objective point of view, the elegance and beauty of the reptile form has much to recommend it. It is difficult to see how physical repugnance to these creatures developed.
The problem of revulsion is a difficult one, and better left to psychoanalysts. It seems largely to be a learned experience, a result of what we are taught when we are young. On the other hand, the lingering memory of the brutish and barbarous treatment by the reptilian ancestors may exist in our subconscious and contribute to the dislike of reptiles.
[Comment: Again we can single out another difference between the cultures of the Ancient Greeks and Hebrews. In Greece the gods and goddesses were considered to represent the ultimate in physical beauty and perfection. And as has been noted earlier, one of the primary reasons for the creation of Judaism in the first place was a rebellion against all things Greek. Thus, this revulsion to Saurian Gods may have originated at the same moment in time when Moses and his priests had to deal with the consequences of his pact with the "evil" Archon, ultimately leading to the Judaic religious traditions and this notion of the "repulsiveness" of anything reptilian.]
IMMORTALITY AS ACHIEVED BY REGENERATION
In ancient legends, Man seems to always achieve some sort of "knowledge" yet he loses immortality. It is as if the two are mutually exclusive.
Adam gets "knowledge" but is banned from the garden and from partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life. So it is with Adapa, who is given "knowledge" by Enki but is cheated of the drink and food of life that would have made him immortal. Many of the adventures of Gilgamesh are attempts to achieve immortality. He is denied a trip up to the heavens to plead to the gods for long life. He is then refused it when he reaches Utnapishtim, his grandfather. He finally obtains the magical plant that heals and extends life, but it is stolen from him by a serpent, no doubt an imagery of the serpent-gods.
In world mythology, the serpent has been the symbol of long life, of cure and regeneration, and of immortality. Serpents have everywhere been associated with healing. For example, the Mayan Chilam Balam relates that the first inhabitants of Yucatan were the Chanes or "People of the Serpent" who came across the water from the East with their Leader Itzamna who was called the "Serpent of the East." He was a healer and could cure by laying on of hands and even revived the dead.
[Comment: Even today, the symbol for the American Medical Association contains the image of a coiled serpent around a pole. As for Itzamna, that is undoubtedly the Mayan name for Crown-Prince Enlil, whose son Prince Nannar led the first expedition of Anunnaki (or Olmecs) from southern Africa to the Americas. Nannar was known to the Mayans as the legendary Quetzalcoatl, the flying serpent god. For additional information, see The Lost Realms by Zecharia Sitchin.]
In the Old Testament, the role of the serpent as healer is illustrated in the incident of the "brazen serpent" or "seraph" which was raised on a pole and became a cure for the ailments of the tribes during their Exodus from Egypt.
The duality of knowledge and immortality, as represented by the two trees in Eden, is not generally found in ancient sources. Aside from the brief references in the Tale of Adapa, ancient literature concentrates on manís efforts to achieve immortality and extended life. The symbolic tree of life and the magical food and drink were popular subjects among the various cultures of the Middle East and often appear in their art forms.
The opposite is true of the Old Testament where immortality is all but forgotten, and the emphasis is on the sins of man caused by his downfall when he achieved knowledge. An exception is found in the pseudepigraphic document called The Life of Adam and Eve, which narrates episodes in the life of Adam and Eve after these two left Eden.
Dated to the First Century AD, it is available in both Greek and Latin versions. It provides a little known even of Adamís attempt to obtain some of these rejuvenative remedies. According to the text, Adam was old and sickly and near the end of his life. He requested Eve and his son Seth to return to Eden for the "oil from the tree of mercy" with which he might be anointed, relieved of his pain, and have his life extended. At the gates of Eden, they are met by the angel Michael who refuses the plea of Seth with the argument that the magic elixir is not for man.
The Hebrew concentration on a view opposite that of the ancient secular traditions would suggest that the emphasis on "knowing" by the early priesthood was a deliberate deviation, in order to force on their people a doctrine of "original sin" and the "fall of man" and thus achieve a large degree of control over their minds and behavior.
The search for regeneration, a form of immortality, has been a common theme of ancient literature and mythology. It is a sub-theme in the Gilgamesh Epic where, after telling his grandson that the gods had refused him immortality, Utnapishtim has compassion for his grandson; and in order not to let him return empty-handed, he is informed of a magical plant that restores youth and vitality and where to find it.
[Comment: And we have been looking for "the fountain of youth" ever since!]
Thus on his return home, Gilgamesh follows the directions of his grandfather and manages to obtain this magical plant. He decides, somewhat unwisely, not to partake of it immediately but rather to take it back to the city of Uruk and there share it with his friends. This turns out to be a mistake, for when Gilgamesh stops by a pool of water to bathe, the plant is stolen from him.
In order to wash the grime from his long journey, Gilgamesh decided to take a much needed bath. He foolishly leaves the magic plant on shore unattended. As he is bathing, and much to his consternation, a snake or "seru" smelled the fragrance of the plant, came up through the water and carried it away. As the serpent left, it threw off its skin. In this way, the story represents the regenerative ability of the serpent to extend its life by shedding its skin periodically.
In manís search for the panacea of long life and vitality, science has yet to provide the answer. As a natural process, regeneration is not very developed in man and the higher mammals, being capable of regenerating only hair, skin, nails, liver, and certain other tissues. It is much more pronounced in the lower animals, for example, salamanders and lizards which can replace their tails, lobsters and crabs which can grow new limbs, and the flatworm which will form a number of new individuals when it is cut into pieces.
While regeneration has been forbidden by the gods throughout the ages, veiled references are often found in the literature. When the snake stole the magical plant of Gilgamesh and immediately shed its skin, it was demonstrating a form of immortality. Shedding of the skin has in this way entered the theology of the Hebrews and Christians in the form of the rite of circumcision.
As part of the covenant between Abraham and his god, and later reinforced by being repeated many more times to his descendants, he is told,
Just as the serpent achieves long life through sacrificing and leaving off part of himself, so man may also be saved by ritually sacrificing part of himself. The rite of circumcision also served as a perpetual reminder to man that his true origins lay in the serpent-god creator and that he existed at the forbearance of these gods.
[Comment: While wishing to avoid the often heated argument about the pros and cons of circumcision, it should be noted that while this was perhaps the original intent of the custom, many of the later Christian cultures of Europe rejected this practice, which has by now all but disappeared from modern European life. Among the Jews and Moslems it is still universal, as is it is also among many of the traditionally animist peoples of Africa. It is also still quite commonplace in the United States, although more from a cultural than a religious tradition. Elsewhere in the world, the custom of male circumcision is practically nonexistent.]
Of those who achieved true immortality and joined the gods, only two are recorded in the ancient literature. The gods made it clear that it was not granted lightly. Utnapishtim is one of the few who was given immortality.
After the Deluge, Utnapishtim and his wife were taken up into the space ship where Enlil placed him through a ritual process:
He was sent to live "at the source of the two rivers where Shamash rises," in the land of Dilmun. Unlike his counterpart, Noah did not achieve immortality. The gods of the Old Testament were much more jealous and uncompromising gods.
One of the Patriarchs before the Deluge achieved this distinction. It is passed over cryptically in Genesis which states that "Enoch walked with God. Then he vanished because God took him." Nonetheless, the three apocalyptic books of Enoch provide the full story - details which were omitted from the Bible.
Enoch was not only made immortal but also deified so that he became second in power to the chief deity himself. This unusual metamorphosis was done in order to provide an objective magistrate who could preside over the trial of the Nefilim who had been accused of committing all sorts of crimes on Earth.
ARE LONG LIFE SPANS POSSIBLE?
Longevity among the ancients is proverbial. The name of the Patriarch Methuselah has been synonymous with an extra long life span. If the ancient records, both religious and secular, are to be believed the antediluvian Kings and Patriarchs enjoyed an unusual long life span. These claims are so consistent, and even allowing for exaggeration, one is forced to concede that there must be some truth in them. Tacitly, modern man is beginning to take these claims seriously, for today he is toying with the possibilities that aging can be brought under control, even reversed, and that life spans can logically be extended to a remarkable degree.
Theories of aging currently studied by modern science range from the concept of purely genetic control of aging to the concept of reducing environmental onslaughts on the human organism. Scientists now believe that the mechanisms that cause aging are extremely complex and variable, and rather than a single cause, may be many phenomena working in concert.
Most theories of aging can be placed into two general categories: error theories and programming theories. Error theories are based on the premise that random events, such as environmental assaults, cause damage to the body cells. This damage accumulates over time resulting in cellular, molecular, and organ malfunction. Programming theories are based on the assumption that aging is programmed into the cell itself and is the expected result of a purposeful sequence of events written into the genes.
One of the oldest theories of aging is the wear and tear theory that states that at the molecular level, DNA is continuously damaged but the body cannot repair the damage, and it accumulates, leading to molecular and finally organ malfunction. The metabolic theory argues that the faster an organism lives, the quicker it is to die. Caloric restrictions appear to be the only factor repeatedly shown to alter the rate of aging in animals, and nutrition would seem to control the change in certain hormones controlling metabolism.
The free-radical theory focuses on the damaging effects of free-radicals, highly unstable chemical fragments produced during normal metabolism that react and damage other molecules. Age-related accumulation of free-radical damage may interfere with the vital work of key cell structures.
Thus, all the various proponents of the error theory state that the body will produce faulty chemicals and proteins which will be synthesized and accumulated. This process leads to damaged cells, tissues, and organs resulting in death.
On the other hand, the programmed senescence theory states that aging and death are due to programmed events, a result of the sequential switching on and off of certain genes. Some may act as a biological clock, such as those controlling puberty and menopause. If aging is programmed, the endocrine or hormone system and the immune system are the two likely candidates which control aging.
Events occurring in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands may be responsible for some important aging processes. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, secretes hormones that in turn stimulate other glands to produce hormones. It is possible that a biological clock in the hypothalamus (a region of the brain) instructs the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that interferes with the ability of the body tissues to respond to thyroid hormones. This theoretical hormone, referred to by some as the "death hormone," has never been isolated.
The immune system defends the body against bacteria, viruses, and other invading organisms. The thymus gland, located in the chest, is an essential component of the system. It reaches maximum size during adolescence and declines to the point where it is barely visible at age 50. Proponents of the immune system theory believe that by reducing the bodyís ability to fight infection, fend off cancer, and even repair DNA damage, the decline in the system may be the single most important event in the aging process.
As can be seen, the study of aging is yet in its infancy, although it seems to be an energetically growing discipline. Understanding the mechanism of aging will presumably help to eliminate diseases and disorders associated with old age and presumably lengthen the active life process. Science is also on the threshold of making changes in the gene itself.
Perhaps some day we will achieve the technical sophistication of our ancestors, the serpent-gods who seem to have solved these perplexing scientific problems.
It is a most superb irony that a race of intelligent beings may really exist in our neighborhood of space who are reptilian and repulsive, and yet have founded human civilization. Yet these "loathsome" creatures must have a technology sufficiently advanced to enable them to travel between the stars. A race that could traverse space would certainly have achieved genetic engineering and the ability to regenerate themselves and thereby achieve long and extended life.