Monday, March 31, 2014

Positive Affirmation Babylonian Style

Ruins of ancient Babylon

Part of late twentieth century 'New Age' thinking, positive affirmation refers to a positive mental attitude accompanied by a carefully worded written statement or 'affirmation', spoken confidently to one's self repeatedly. For example, one can think, write down and say over and over - "I am confident my environment is safe and divinely guarded". According to this thinking, doing so makes the words true.

Processional Way, Aibur-shabu: attribution: Jackie Craven

But there's nothing new about positive affirmation. The ancient Babylonians practiced positive affirmation to an even greater degree. The 'doctrine of the name' asserted that as long as anything had no name, it didn't exist. Once named, the name of the object or person was an image or representation of it much like a shadow or reflection is a representation.

Speaking the name can evoke the almost perpetual power that the knowledge of the name confers, though it is limited in practice by the impossibility of perpetual repetition. (1)

Since giving the name and speaking the name wasn't sufficiently powerful, writing it down could project the name indefinitely, giving it perpetuating power. That is why a single proper name came to be the god Ningirsu, in the temple of Uruk, spoke favourably on the subject of Urukagina with the goddess Baba. (1)

Anyone who repeated his name reinforced the action described, causing benefit to the man himself. City gates and walls in Babylon would have names designed to ensure good influences for the city, like, Bel hath built it, Bel hath shown it favour.  

god Marduk: attribution

The famous Processional Way in Babylon bore the name Aibur-shabu which meant 'the enemy shall never pass'. King Nebuchadrezzar's own name meant 'O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son'. Nabu is the Babylonian diety of wisdom and son of the god Marduk, Babylon's patron god. Powerful stuff.

Every time a person used the proper names for people or objects they reinforced the positive affirmation so not only could an individual benefit himself by speaking his own affirmation, so could anyone using the name, affirmation being built right into the name.

Unfortunately, positive affirmation wasn't too effective for the Babylonians. The confident positive affirmation given to the Processional Way by King Nebuchadrezzar, the enemy shall never pass, proved unsuccessful. In 539 BC the enemy definitely passed over the Processional Way, overthrew the government of Babylon and took the city, putting an end to the neo-Babylonian empire.

Demon Pazuzu: Although himself an evil spirit, he drove away other evil spirits and was frequently buried beneath household threshholds for protection: Wikimedia Commons
(1) Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria by Georges Contenau

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