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Observations placeholder

Mesopotamian - Means of achieving spiritual experience 08 Believing in the spiritual world



Type of Spiritual Experience


The Mesopotamians believed that they were created in order to serve ‘the gods’ – the Intelligences.  They thus not only believed in a spiritual world, but the Great Work, Destiny, and Fate

Babylonian Theodicy is a poem written within ancient Babylonia.  The poem is an example of wisdom literature, which is a form of writing which shows two people providing contrary positions on a subject, in the form of a dialogue.  The poem is a dialogue between two people who are friends. One of the persons is suffering, and the poem shows him revealing the acts of ‘evil’ done by people in the society around him, while the other person is shown attempting to add perspective on these acts of dubious morality, by him stating the nature of the occurrence of justice within the order of everything that exists (in the universe), an order that exists because it was made by divinity.

The purpose of the poem is to demonstrate the problems with defining ‘good and bad’ or ‘good or evil’.  It also introduces the idea that any occurrence has to be seen within the context of the Great Work

A description of the experience

Babylonian Theodicy

by W. G. Lambert

Sufferer I
1~O sage [.......] come, [let] me tell you.
2~[............ let] me inform you.
3~[.....]......[.....]... you,
4~I [....] the suffering, will not cease to reverence you.
5~Where is the wise man of your calibre?
6~Where is the scholar who can compete with you?
7~Where is the counsellor to whom I can relate my grief?
8~I am finished. Anguish has come upon me.
9~I was a youngest child; fate took my father;
10~My mother who bore me departed to the Land of No Return.
11~My father and mother left me without a guardian.

Friend II

12~Respected friend, what you say is gloomy.
13~You let your mind dwell on evil, my dear fellow.
14~You make your fine discretion like an imbecile’s;
15~You have reduced your beaming face to scowls.
16~Our fathers in fact give up and go the way of death.
17~It is an old saying that they cross the river Ḫubur.
18~When you consider mankind as a whole,
19~... it is not ... that has made the impoverished first-born rich.
20~Whose favourite is the fattened rich man?
21~He who waits on his god has a protecting angel,
22~The humble man who fears his goddess accumulates wealth.

Sufferer III

23~My friend, your mind is a river whose spring never fails,
24~he accumulated mass of the sea, which knows no decrease.
25~I will ask you a question; listen to what I say.
26~Pay attention for a moment; hear my words.
27~My body is a wreck, emaciation darkens [me,]
28~My success has vanished, my stability has gone.
29~My strength is enfeebled, my prosperity has ended,
30~Moaning and grief have blackened my features.
31~he corn of my fields is far from satisfying [me,]
32~My wine, the life of mankind, is too little for satiety.
33~Can a life of bliss be assured? I wish I knew how!
Friend IV

34~What I say is restrained ....[..]
35~But you [...] your balanced reason like a madman.
36~You make [your ....] diffuse and irrational,
37~You [turn] your select .. blind.
38~As to your persistent unending desire for ..[..]
39~[The former] security ..[..] by prayers.
40~The appeased goddess returns by .[..]
41~[....]. who did not uphold takes pity on .[..]
42~Ever seek the [correct standards] of justice.
43~Your .., the mighty one, will show kindness,
44~[..........] will grant mercy.

Sufferer V

45~I bow to you, my comrade, I grasp your wisdom.
46~[.........].. the utterance of [your words.]
47~[.........].. come, let me [say something to you.]
48~The onager, the wild ass, who filled itself with ..[.]
49~Did it pay attention to the giver of assured divine oracles?
50~The savage lion who devoured the choicest flesh,
51~Did it bring its flour offering to appease the goddess’s anger?
52~[..]. the nouveau riche who has multiplied his wealth,
53~Did he weigh out precious gold for the goddess Mami?
54~[Have I] held back offerings? I have prayed to my god,
55~[I have] pronounced the blessing over the goddess’s regular sacrifices, ....[...]

Friend VI

56~O palm, tree of wealth, my precious brother,
57~Endowed with all wisdom, jewel of [gold,]
58~You are as stable as the earth, but the plan of the gods is remote.
59~Look at the superb wild ass on the [plain;]
60~The arrow will follow the gorer who trampled down the fields.
61~Come, consider the lion that you mentioned, the enemy of cattle.
62~For the crime which the lion committed the pit awaits him.
63~The opulent nouveau riche who heaps up goods
64~Will be burnt at the stake by the king before his time.
65~Do you wish to go the way these have gone?
66~Rather seek the lasting reward of (your) god!

Sufferer VII

67~Your mind is a north wind, a pleasant breeze for the peoples.
68~Choice friend, your advice is fine.
69~Just one word would I put before you.
70~Those who neglect the god go the way of prosperity,
71~While those who pray to the goddess are impoverished and dispossessed.
72~In my youth I sought the will of my god;
73~With prostration and prayer I followed my goddess.
74~But I was bearing a profitless corvée as a yoke.
75~My god decreed instead of wealth destitution.
76~A cripple is my superior, a lunatic outstrips me.
77~The rogue has been promoted, but I have been brought low.

Friend VIII

78~My reliable fellow, holder of knowledge, your thoughts are perverse.
79~You have forsaken right and blaspheme against your god’s designs.
80~In your mind you have an urge to disregard the divine ordinances.
81~[.........] the sound rules of your goddess.
82~The plans of the god [........] like the centre of heaven,
83~The decrees of the goddess are not [.............]
84~To understand properly .[................]
85~Their ideas [.............] to mankind;
86~To grasp the way of a goddess [............]
87~Their reason is close at hand [............]

Friend XII

125~[I] ..[..
126~[I] made white ..[...
127~[I] cared for ..[...
128~[I] looked after the young [ones ...
129~[I] made the people prosperous [...
130~[I] gathered ..[...
131~[I] gave heed to the god [...
132~[I] sought that which was necessary [...

Sufferer XIII

133~I will abandon my home .[.............]
134~I will desire no property .[............]
135~I will ignore my god’s regulations and trample on his rites.
136~I will slaughter a calf and .... food,
137~I will take the road and go to distant parts.
138~I will bore a well and let loose a flood,
139~Like a robber I will roam over the vast open country.
140~I will go from house to house and ward off hunger;
141~Famished I will walk around and patrol the streets.
142~Like a beggar I will [....] inwards [...........]
143~Bliss is far away ..[ ...............]

Friend XIV

144~My friend, [your mind] dwells on [........]
145~Human activity, which you do not want [.........]
146~In [your] mind there are [...........]
147~Your reason has left you [...........]

Sufferer XV

159~The daughter speaks [......] to her mother.
160~The fowler who cast [his net] is fallen.
161~Taking everything, which one [......] luck?
162~The many wild creatures which ..[........]
163~Which among them has [....?]
164~Should I seek a son and daughter [......]
165~May I not lose what I find ..[........]

Friend XVI

166~Humble and submissive one ...[......]
167~Your will ever submits [......] precious.
168~[..]. your mind ....[.......]

Sufferer XVII

181~The crown prince is clothed in [....,]
182~The son of the destitute and naked is robed in .[.....]
183~The watchman of malt..[.] gold,
184~While he who counted his shining gold in a bushel measure is carrying ..[...]
185~The vegetarian [devours] a noble’s banquet,
186~While the son of the notable and the rich [subsists] on carob.
187~The owner of wealth is fallen. [His ....]. is far away.

Sufferer XIX

199~.[...............] wisdom.
200~You embrace the totality of wisdom, you counsel the peoples.

~~ * * * * *

Friend XX

212~You have let your subtle mind go astray.
213~[.........]. you have ousted wisdom,
214~You despise propriety, you profane ordinances.
215~[........] head a mitre, the carrying-hood is far away from him.
216~[.........]. is made a person of influence.
217~[..........] is called a savant;
218~He is looked after and obtains his wishes.
219~Follow in the way of the god, observe his rites,
220~[.........]. is counted as righteousness.

Sufferer XXI

221~[..............].... rogues,
222~[..............]. all are cheats.
223~They amass goods .................

Friend XXII

235~As for the rogue whose favour you seek,
236~His ....... soon vanishes.
237~The godless cheat who has wealth,
238~A death-dealing weapon pursues him.
239~Unless you seek the will of the god, what luck have you?
240~He that bears his god’s yoke never lacks food, though it be sparse.
241~Seek the kindly wind of the god,
242~What you have lost over a year you will make up in a moment.

Sufferer XXIII

243~I have looked around society, but the evidence is contrary.
244~The god does not impede the way of a devil.
245~A father drags a boat along the canal,
246~While his first-born lies in bed.
247~The first-born son pursues his way like a lion,
248~The second son is happy to be a mule driver.
249~The heir stalks along the road like a bully,
250~The younger son will give food to the destitute.
251~How have I profited that I have bowed down to my god?
252~I have to bow beneath the base fellow that meets me;
253~The dregs of humanity, like the rich and opulent, treat me with contempt.

Friend XXIV

254~O wise one, O savant, who masters knowledge,
255~In your anguish you blaspheme the god.
256~The divine mind, like the centre of the heavens, is remote;
257~Knowledge of it is difficult; the masses do not know it.
258~Among all the creatures whom Aruru formed
259~The prime offspring is altogether ...
260~In the case of a cow, the first calf is lowly,
261~The later offspring is twice as big.
262~A first child is born a weakling,
263~But the second is called an heroic warrior.
264~Though a man may observe what the will of the god is, the masses do not know it.

Sufferer XXV

265~Pay attention, my friend, understand my ideas.
266~Heed the choice expression of my words.
267~People extol the word of a strong man who is trained in murder,
268~But bring down the powerless who has done no wrong.
269~They confirm the wicked whose crime is .[...,]
270~Yet suppress the honest man who heeds the will of his god.
271~They fill the [store house] of the oppressor with gold,
272~But empty the larder of the beggar of its provisions.
273~They support the powerful, whose ... is guilt,
274~But destroy the weak and drive away the powerless.
275~And as for me, the penurious, a nouveau riche is persecuting me.

Friend XXVI

276~Narru, king of the gods, who created mankind,
277~And majestic Zulummar, who dug out their clay,
278~And mistress Mami, the queen who fashioned them,
279~Gave perverse speech to the human race.
280~With lies, and not truth, they endowed them for ever.
281~Solemnly they speak in favour of a rich man,
282~"He is a king," they say, "riches go at his side."
283~But they harm a poor man like a thief,
284~They lavish slander upon him and plot his murder,
285~Making him suffer every evil like a criminal, because he has no protection.
286~Terrifyingly they bring him to his end, and extinguish him like a flame.

Sufferer XXVII

287~You are kind, my friend; behold my grief.
288~Help me; look on my distress; know it.
289~I, though humble, wise, and a suppliant,
290~Have not seen help and succour for one moment.
291~I have trodden the square of my city unobtrusively,
292~My voice was not raised, my speech was kept low.
293~I did not raise my head, but looked at the ground,
294~I did not worship even as a slave in the company of my associates.
295~May the god who has thrown me off give help,
296~May the goddess who has [abandoned me] show mercy,
297~For the shepherd Šamaš guides the peoples like a god.

The source of the experience

Mesopotamian system

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Explanatory Notes: 

This acrostic poem of 27 stanzas is a very original composition in both form and content. Each stanza has 11 lines; 19 stanzas are sufficiently preserved to yield a meaningful translation. The acrostic itself can be restored and reads: “I, Saggil-kīnam-ubbib, the incantation priest, am adorant of the god and the king.” The poem probably was written about 1000 BC and received much attention until the late periods, as a fair number of manuscripts have turned up from different places in Babylonia and Assyria.


W.G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Winona Lake:Eisenbrauns 1996 (2nd ed.), p. 63-89.


c. 1000 BC




clay tablet