Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lost Cities: Islamic State's Idols of the Future

Detail of an Assyrian relief from Nimrud showing horses and horsemen of the royal chariot, 725 BCE. Image Source: Steven Vidler/Eurasia Press/Corbis via The Guardian.

Breadcrumbs in the forest: last fall, while looking for Indian silk fabric on eBay, I noticed Syrian daggers for sale, scattered creepily in between the silk listings. Were they antiquities? For some time, reports that the Islamic State have been selling and destroying the precious archaeological and historical cultural heritage of the Near East. On 26 February 2015, after pledging a year ago that they would not do so, they destroyed Mosul's antiquities museum and library, displayed in sickening videos (below). In early March 2015, after looting the ancient palace, they bulldozed the antique city of Nimrud. The Guardian:
"Nimrud, about 20 miles south of Mosul, was built around 1250 BC. Four centuries later it became the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire – at the time the most powerful state on Earth, extending to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran."

Ruins of Hatra.
This is a radical Islamic "cultural cleansing" of ancient history. Islamic State militants are eradicating Iraq's and Syria's past, a cultural history shared with other ancient societies. It is that common heritage, as well as the anachronistic destruction of so-called idolatry, which these fighters are erasing. Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University in New York, commented:
"Hatra of course will be next," he added, referring to a 2,000-year-old UNESCO-listed site about 100 kilometres south of Mosul known for its beautifully preserved temples blending Hellenistic, Roman and Eastern influences."
And on 7 March 2015, BBC reported that Hatra had just been demolished by Islamic State. Shortly after, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS. Their "artifacts mafia" are making millions upon millions through the sale of antiquities: in Tel Abyad on the Syrian-Turkish border; in Kilis, Turkey; in London, Munich and Brussels; and in other European capitals. With cold hard cash from antiquities sales, the Islamic State fighters are arming themselves to the teeth. They have scrounged weapons originating from China, Russia and the United States ("some were even made at a major U.S. munitions plant in Missouri"). They are buying weapons in black markets in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Eastern Europe and Iran. There is much stock-taking of their military equipment. Regular munitions and tanks: reports hereherehereherehere and here. Chemical weapons: here, here and here. Nuclear materials: here, here and here. And, with a twist on US weapons airdrops, here - is the real story this, or this?

The Telegraph suggested  on 6 March 2015 that the price of oil has been manipulated down to cut off Islamic State's oil refinery revenues, and in desperation IS are turning more and more to the plunder of antiquities to make money.

Screen grab from IS's Al Hayat Media Center. Image Source: Yahoo.

That's entertainment: Former German rapper Deso Dogg, sporting
rumoured Illuminati hand signals on the left in his musical days,
may run Al Hayat Media Center. Or not? He was weirdly
reported dead in 2012.
Conspiracy theorists insist that Islamic State is an arm of America, and stories about ancient plunder are false flags. This is naïve. For those who believe that western peoples and powers can be blamed for every act of savage violence that occurs in the world, I must sound naïve. To them, I would say: please reconsider your infinitely media-fied gnosticism, your stubborn conviction that there must be a higher power, a secret superior force controlling every outrage. Perhaps these videos are exactly what Islamic State propagandists say they are: the naked bid of Islamic State for higher power in the region, laying the foundations for full-scale attacks in Europe. Because media reports can be so easily manufactured today, and the IS publicity machine is so slick, people never believe a report is just a report; an event is just an event; an account is just an account; and that history is just history. We can't really be living this nightmare, can we? This must be Hollywood. Vice reports on IS's competitive new pressroom:
videos are distributed by Al Hayat Media Center, the new media arm for ISIS that was established in May [2014]. It is unclear exactly who is behind Al Hayat, but it is thought to be an initiative of Abu Talha Al Almani, a former German rapper also known as Deso Dogg, who left Europe to fight alongside ISIS in Syria, according to MEMRI.

"The new media branch follows ISIS's general media strategy of distributing diverse materials in several languages, including new videos and subtitles for existing videos, and also articles, news reports, and translated jihadi materials," said MEMRI in a report about Al Hayat.

Almani explained his motivation for joining ISIS in one video, saying, "That's why I pledged allegiance [to ISIS], in order to help the brothers and sisters of ISIS ... and teach them how to make da'wa [preach] to people who have long lived in humiliation and do not know the laws of Allah."

Al Hayat's first video was released June 19[, 2014] and quickly received widespread attention. It is entitled "There is No Life Without Jihad" and depicts Western jihadis explaining why they left their homes to fight with ISIS and encouraging other Muslims to join them.

Conspiracy theorists believe anything other than what is in front of their own eyes. Youtuber comments on the video recording ISIS destruction in the Mosul museum show a range of responses:
  • "THEY ARE NOT ISIS!! ISIS ARE WEARING BLACK MASK! they are fucking terrorists. These are true Muslims. Muslims do not blindly kill people, they just destroying statues. again, they are NOT ISIS! ISIS are Israel's. They just took this video and admit this are their doing to gain trust of Muslims."
  • "ISIS doesnt exist, it was supposed to topple Assad (Omar the Chechen) but they fought Al Nusra instead. Now Al Nusra has been destroyed by Assad and Omar the Chechen is on the run. Bagdadi, the intel op, who used to run with Al Nusra was called upon to declare a caliphate to draw in the foreign fighters inted was busy recruiting. The original IS got dismantled in 2009 when the original Baghdadi was droned. Let the British clean up their own mess!"
  • "Фигуры внутри музея - гипс (некоторые) . Часть - литьё из известняка . То есть если судить по материалам - 9/10 подделки . Есть из песчаника - эти похоже на настоящие . Есть серый гранит , тоже похожи на настоящие . Но это видео заставляет задуматься : правда ли то , что нам выдают за историю ?" ["Figures inside the museum - plaster (some). Part - casting of limestone. That is, if judged by the content - 9/10 forgery. There are sandstone - like these are real. There is a gray granite, also similar to the real. But this video makes you wonder: is it true that we give for the story?"]
  • "Savages! Parthenon in Athens will be the next victim, if we keep allowing them enter Europe! The dark entities responsible for the existence of these monsters, should first eliminate them, and then compensate humanity for the crimes that were committed by their Frankensteinian creature."
  • "La historia es mejor preservada en museos en Europa. Menos mal el código de Hamurabi está en Paris!" ["The story is better preserved in museums in Europe. Luckily the code of Hammurabi is in Paris!"]
  • "How sad is that.. We are lucky its all fake.. 10 000 BC they did not discovered reinforced concrete and steel rod like you see at 1:22 and you probably don't want to keep it all on the middle of the room like that. they probably sale the real deal to there masters the Rothschild."
  • "But look at other comments, don't you love these blind sheep?"
  • "Yes! Great! Now only if people all around the world would do the same everyone will be Free."
  • "niszczenie wielowiekowej kultury = barbarzyństwo" ["destruction of centuries-old culture = barbarism"]
  • "GREAT JOB i support this action!!!!"
  • "Not one fucking bulldozer so you may be lying fuck!"
Video Source: Youtube.

"ISIS militants have destroyed Mosul Public Library burning over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents." (26 February 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

"Iraq -- While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned. In a related incident, ISIS kidnapped 90 Christians as hostages." Video Source: Youtube.

The genealogy of Mesopotamian gods. Image Source: Great Dreams.

Today's Assyrians claim to be heirs to Nimrud's ancient culture; they are a minority group who make up most of Iraq's Christians. But the real irony is that the ancient Assyrians worshiped within the Mesopotamian religion, a faith derived from the much older Sumerian mythology (see the distinctions explained here). This collection of faiths had a pantheon of human gods - Asshur (king of the gods), Ishtar (goddess of love, sex and war), Shamash (the Sun god, god of Justice), Elil (god of storms and air), Ea (god of water) and many others - and the whole lot of them survived as mystical sources in esoteric Islam. Wiki:
Polytheism was the only religion in ancient Mesopotamia for thousands of years before entering a period of gradual decline beginning between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE. This decline happened in the face of the introduction of a distinctive native Eastern Rite (Syriac Christianity such as the Assyrian Church of the East and Syriac Orthodox Church), as well as Judaism, Manicheanism and Gnosticism, and continued for approximately three to four centuries, until most of the original religious traditions of the area died out, with the final traces existing among some remote Assyrian communities until the 10th century CE. ...

Mesopotamian religion is thought to have been a major influence on subsequent religions throughout the world, including Canaanite, Aramean, ancient Greek, and Phoenician religions, and also monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Mandeanism and Islam.
Even more ironically, the medieval achievements of Arab astronomy were grounded in the Neo-Assyrian combination of astrologyastronomy, and divine law, when all three were once intimately part of religion (you can read a sample tablet showing that combined perspective here). The ancient sources clarify why celestial physics, religious faith and sacred law abide together in the radical Islamic Millennial mind.

Islamic fears of the Antichrist (whom evangelical Christians claim will be an 'Assyrian,' while others do not), who will arrive at an appointed time, setting off a chain of events toward a final battle. The video features anti-Saudi interpretations and anti-Illuminati conspiracy theories. Video Source: Youtube.

Islamic State actions in Iraq and Syria are justified by radical Sunni Islam, parts of sharia law, and above all, religious eschatology. Some Muslim critics describe the Islamic State as renegade apostates - Kharijites. But it is the elaborate Islamic millenarian prophecy, the mystical tradition, that propels Islamic State's mounting drive toward apocalypse beyond internal Sunni problems and the Sunni-Shia divide. In July 2014, Islamic State were reported to have killed Sunni clerics in Mosul and destroyed the grave of the biblical figure Jonah (the prophet Younis; see the video here).

The Islamic State militants believe in a prophecy of end times, which predicts a future in which crusader western powers will be cataclysmically defeated by Muslim armies in a final war in the Syrian town of Dabiq. It's an exciting story, featuring the Antichrist (Dajjal) and his nemesis (the Mahdi), the Day of Judgment (Yawm ad-Dīn) and reckoning, awakening, and final Resurrection:
In their book The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection, Jane Idleman Smith and Yvonne Yaybeck Haddad, State University Press of Albany, New York (1981[; later edition 2002]) quote from an earlier work [from 1966], The Religion of Islam, by Ahmad Galwash:
"It has been well known (and generally accepted) by all Muslims in every epoch, that at the end of time a man from the family (of the Prophet) will without fail make his appearance, one who will strengthen the religion and make justice triumph. The Muslims will follow him, and he will gain domination over the Muslim realm. He will be called the Mahdi. Following him, the Antichrist will appear, together with all the subsequent signs of the Hour (the Day of Judgment), as established in (the sound tradition) the Sahih. After (the Mahdi), Isa (Jesus) will descend and kill the Antichrist; or, Jesus will descend together with the Mahdi, and help him kill (the Antichrist), and have him as the leader in his prayers."
In September 2014, International Business Times reported that Islamic State were circulating photos of babies born with cyclopean birth defects due to the cancer drug Cyclopamine; they were using these photos to win recruits, by 'proving' that their one-eyed Antichrist arrived and an epic war between Messiahs and False Messiahs is coming:
Isis' mission to establish an Islamist caliphate across the Middle east is steeped in eschatological thinking.

"Issa (Jesus) will come down here, and al-Dajjal will come out here, it is the land of epics and the land of resurrection," said the leader of the Chechen Isis contingent in December last year, reports the Jamestown Foundation.

In a press conference recently chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Martin Dempsey warned that Isis was an "apocalyptic" organisation.

"They can be contained, but not in perpetuity. This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated," he told reporters.

Though Isis has not yet proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the Mahdi, experts believe it is only a matter of time.

"Once the caliphate is firmly established, then the likelihood of a Mahdiyah being proclaimed increases," notes jihadism expert Timothy Furnish on his blog.

Other Muslims though have warned that al-Baghdadi is ad-Dajjal.

"One should also beware of the likelihood of a false messiah claimant appearing among them, who would in fact be the ad-Dajjal," writes the author of the Wahhabism Unveiled blog.
In line with selected prophecies, Islamic State leaders are ramping up their violence and aggression to bait western powers into full, open conflict. Eurasian Review cites the Hadiths (sacred sayings of the prophet Muhammed) which Islamic State's Dabiq magazine has quoted as justification for their end-of-world plans for war:
  • “Allah’s Messenger said: Indeed the camp of the Muslims on the day of al-Malhamah al-Kubra will be in al-Ghutah, next to a city called Damascus, one of the best cities of Sham.” (Narrated by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and Al-Hakim)
  • “Allah’s Messenger said: I saw as if a pillar of the Book was taken from underneath my pillow, so I looked and it was a shining light extending towards Sham. Verily faith, at the time of tribulations, is in Sham.” (Narrated by Al-Hakim)
  • “Allah’s Messenger said: Sham is the land of congregation and dispersal [meaning resurrection].” (Narrated by Al-Bazzar and others)
  • “Allah’s Messenger said: The Hour will not be established until the Romans land at al-A`maq or Dabiq (two places near each other in the northern countryside of Halab). Then an army from Madinah [made up] of the best people on earth at that time will leave for them. When they line up in ranks the Romans will say: Leave us and those who were enslaved from amongst us so we can fight them. The Muslims will say: Nay, by Allah, we will not abandon our brothers to you. So they will fight them. Then one third of them will flee; Allah will never forgive them. One third of them will be killed; they will be the best martyrs with Allah. And one third will conquer them; they will never be afflicted with fitnah. Then they will conquer Constantinople. While they are dividing the war booty, having hung their swords on olive trees, Shaytan [satan] will shout: The [false] Messiah has followed after your families [who were left behind.] So they will leave [for their families], but Shaytan’s claim is false. When they arrive in Sham, he comes out. Then when they are preparing for battle and filing their ranks, the prayer is called. So `Isa Ibn Maryam will descend and lead them. When the enemy of Allah sees him, he will melt as salt melts in water. If he were to leave him he would melt until he perishes, but he kills him with his own hand, and then shows them his blood upon his spear.” (Narrated by Muslim)
  • “Allah’s Messenger said: You will have a treaty of security with the Romans until you both fight an enemy beyond them. And you will be victorious, you will gain war booty, and you will achieve such without losses. Thereafter you will return until you lodge at a pastureland full of rocky mounds. A man from the Roman Christians will then raise the cross. He will say: The cross has prevailed! A man from the Muslims will then say: Rather Allah has prevailed, and then he will angrily rise and crush the cross, which is not at a distance from him. Then the Romans will betray the treaty by rising against the breaker of the cross and striking his neck. The Muslims will then rise and rush to their arms. They will then battle. Allah will bless this party of Muslims with shahadah [martyrdom]. The Romans will say to the Roman leader: We are sufficient for you against the Arabs. They will then gather for the Malhamah (the grand battle before the Hour). They will come for you under eighty banners, with each banner there will be twelve thousand people.” (Narrated by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim)
  • “`Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud said: The Last Hour will not come until the people stop dividing inheritance and rejoicing over booty. Then he said, while pointing towards Sham: An enemy shall muster strength against the Muslims and the Muslims will muster strength against them. Yusayr Ibn Jabir asked him: You mean the Romans? He said: Yes, and there will be a great raddah (fleeing) and the Muslims will prepare a detachment for fighting unto death so that they may not return but victorious. They will fight until night will intervene between them; both sides will return without being victorious and the detachment will be wiped out. The Muslims will again prepare a detachment for fighting unto death so that they may not return but victorious. They will fight until night comes upon them; both sides will return without being victorious and the detachment will be wiped out. When it is the fourth day, a new detachment from the remnant of the Muslims will be prepared and Allah will decree that the enemy would be routed. And they will fight such a fight the like of which will not be seen (or which has not been seen), so much so that even if a bird were to pass their flanks, it would fall down dead before reaching the end of them. (After the battle), when relatives count each other, they will find that after one hundred, only one man is left from them. So what can be the joy at the spoils of such war and what inheritance can be divided! While they are in this very state, they will hear of a calamity more horrible than this. And a cry will reach them: The Dajjal has taken your place among your families. They will, therefore, throw away what is in their hands and go forward sending ten horsemen as a scouting party. Allah’s Messenger said: I know their names and the names of their fathers and the color of their horses. They will be the best horsemen on the surface of the earth on that day or amongst the best horsemen on the surface of the earth on that day.” (Narrated by Muslim)
However, one tricky thing about the Islamic State's purist Muslim return to the Armageddon-type messianic malahim is that this jihadist belief derives from the very mythologies of the ancient society whose monuments and cities IS are bulldozing and whose treasures they are looting. Behind the rigid monotheism, the apocalyptic prophecies of Islam return to pre-Islamic beliefs. And to achieve this metaphorical return to idolatrous mythologies, IS fighters are erasing said idolatry. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell presented the totalitarian INGSOC motto: Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past. Wittingly or unwittingly, Islamic State action moves beyond that: He who controls the past, becomes the past, destroys the present, and controls the future.

To revive the ancient beliefs under the guise of eradicating all signs of them from this planet is not such a surprising mental turn, because it is the oldest stories of the deep past which resonate the most in times of great stress. The oldest stories are primal and bloody, uncompromising and complete. They come from times when savage acts could be executed with utter ruthlessness. Plots were not necessarily less complicated than they are now, but lacked today's lacklustre remorse.

In the hands of the fighters of the Islamic State, these ancient myths become old wine in new bottles, disguised and revived, bringing a sense of direction in a time of chaotic upheaval, when immediate traditional values and ways of life are being challenged. This apocalyptic frame of mind is similar to the way Christians, and especially post-Christians, are mired in the Christian heresy of gnosticism, which has ancient roots emphasizing dualism's conflict between evil matter and divine light, hailing back to the 6th century BCE, and probably earlier.

Islamic State magazine, Dabiq #2 (2014). Image Source: Daily Mail.

Will Islamic State turn from burning Mosul Library to other libraries? How long before Islamic State jihadists make their way to western libraries and museums? According to the Kurds who are fighting them on the Turkish border, not long: Islamic State have set their sights on Rome. This action in Rome is part of the religious prophecy that IS claim to believe. Newsmax:
“You will invade the Arabian Peninsula, and Allah will enable you to conquer it,” says the second issue of Dabiq, called “The Flood,” which has an image of a Noah’s Arc-type boat on the front, possibly indicating the end of mankind as the world knows it.
“You will then invade Rome, and Allah will enable you to conquer it. Then you will fight the [false messiah], and Allah will enable you to conquer him,” continues the Islamic State columnist.
Kurds - and western volunteers of all kinds (reports here and here) - are fighting ISIS (IS also have western volunteers) right on the border with Turkey. Image Source: Daily Mail.

Image Source.
Modern Syria and Iraq more or less currently occupy the territory of Old Assyria, an empire which lasted 19 centuries until 612 BCE. Wiki confirms the incredible durability of this civilization, which pushed on after the capital Nineveh fell to the Babylonians:
"For a further thirteen centuries, from the end of the 7th century BC to the mid-7th century AD, it survived as a geo-political entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers, although a number of small Neo-Assyrian states such as Assur, Adiabene, Osroene and Hatra arose at different times between the 1st century BC and late 3rd century AD."
That means that the ruins at Nimrud and Hatra which Islamic State fighters just destroyed came from the tail end and last surviving vestiges of a geopolitical power that lasted well over three thousand years. In a society that old, they had a taste for the end of the world. The most obvious end-of-times myths which chime with today's eschatologies and originate directly from ancient Babylonia and Assyria are, firstly, the story of Asshur "'the Beneficent One,' or 'the Merciful One,'" a deified reigning king who, after death, became a spiritual god of his people, whose vengeance was felt through a scourge of fire. There is a flood myth which brings about the end of the world. There are seven gods who decree the fates of different cities. There is a complicated story about a virgin fertility goddess in the Underworld. There is another legend of a shepherd-king who resurrects after death.

Other ancient Assyrian derivations present in the modern Islamic Millennial apocalpyse are jumbled and weird. These continuities almost certainly have hermetic lineage, referring to the thinker Hermes Trismegistus, a possible contemporary of Abraham, thrice-great, potentially because he was priest, philosopher and king:
An account of how Hermes Trismegistus received the name "Thrice Great" is derived from the The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, wherein it is stated that he knew the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe. The three parts of the wisdom are alchemy, astrology, and theurgy.
This was the distant and remote author of the Hermetica (which likely, in fact, had many authors). Despite the ancient connotations, the Hermetica writings date from around the 2nd or 3rd century CE, and Hermes Trismegistus became a figure who symbolically helmed a wild fusion of ancient Egyptian, Persian and Greek thought on the divine, the cosmos, the mind and nature. He did so during major synthetic and syncretic periods, including the time of Alexander the Great up to the era of the purported birth of Christ. Wrap your mind around it all if you can: Hermes Trismegistus is associated with the Egyptian god Thoth, the Greek god Hermes, and the Islamic prophet Idris. These are different characters from different times, who came to occupy the same symbolic role and space, uniting different strands of thought. Wiki explains how religion, astronomy and alchemy once merged in hermetic thinking to produce precursors of Jewish, Christian and Islamic mysticism:
The Hermetic literature added to the Egyptian concerns with conjuring spirits and animating statues that inform the oldest texts, Hellenistic writings of Greco-Babylonian astrology and the newly developed practice of alchemy... . In a parallel tradition, Hermetic philosophy rationalized and systematized religious cult practices and offered the adept a method of personal ascension from the constraints of physical being, which has led to confusion of Hermeticism with Gnosticism, which was developing contemporaneously.

As a divine source of wisdom, Hermes Trismegistus was credited with tens of thousands of writings of high standing, reputed to be of immense antiquity. Plato's Timaeus [dated circa 360 BCE] and Critias state that in the temple of Neith at Sais, there were secret halls containing historical records which had been kept for 9,000 years. Clement of Alexandria was under the impression that the Egyptians had forty-two sacred writings by Hermes, encapsulating all the training of Egyptian priests. Siegfried Morenz has suggested ... "The reference to Thoth's authorship... is based on ancient tradition; the figure forty-two probably stems from the number of Egyptian nomes, and thus conveys the notion of completeness." The Neo-Platonic writers took up Clement's "forty-two essential texts".
Hermeticism is a major source of Islamic mystical eschatology. From MuslimPhilosophy.com:
By nature this whole philosophical tradition was esoteric in character and identified philosophy itself with the inner, esoteric and therefore mystical dimension of religion. It was concerned with the hermeneutic interpretation (ta'wil) of sacred scripture and saw authentic philosophy as a wisdom which issues from the instructions of the Imam (who is identified on a certain level with the heart-intellect), the figure who is able to actualize the potentialities of the human intellect and enable it to gain divine knowledge. The cosmology, psychology and eschatology of Isma'ilism are inextricably connected with its Imamology and the role of the Imam in initiation into the divine mysteries. ...

Two of the notable philosophical elements associated with Shi'ism in general and Isma'ilism in particular during the early centuries of Islamic history are Hermetism and Pythagoreanism, the presence of which is already evident in that vast corpus of writings associated with Jabir ibn Hayyan, who was at once alchemist and philosopher. The philosophical dimension of the Jabirian corpus is certainly of a mystical nature, having incorporated much of Hermeticism into itself, as are later works of Islamic alchemy which in fact acted as channels for the transmission of Hermetic philosophy to the medieval West. When one thinks of the central role of Hermeticism in Western mystical philosophy, one must not forget the immediate Islamic origin of such fundamental texts as the Emerald Tablet and the Turba Philosophorum, and therefore the significance of such works as texts of Islamic mystical philosophy. Obviously, therefore, one could not speak of Islamic mystical philosophy without mentioning at least the Hermetical texts integrated into Islamic thought by alchemists as well as philosophers and Sufis, and also Hermetic texts written by Muslim authors themselves. It should be recalled in this context in fact that the philosopher Ibn Sina had knowledge of certain Hermetic texts such as Poimandres and the Sufi Ibn al-'Arabi displays vast knowledge of Hermeticism in his al-Futuhat al-makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations) and many other works.
That is why the March 2015 destruction of Nimrud carries added mythical dimensions. The demolition and plunder of ancient towns lays the groundwork for a huge new Millennial mythology, concocted out of a wrecked past, made to suit our times of extreme change and globalization.

"A look at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud before it was looted and bulldozed by Islamic State fighters." Video Source: Guardian.

"A relief of a lamassu, a mythological creature with the body of a lion, wings and a bearded human head, in the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, Iraq." Lamassus were deities which guarded entrances. Image Source: NYT

On 5 March 2015, Nimrud was leveled by IS bulldozers, constituting what UN official Irina Bokova called "a war crime." What was destroyed there? The British Museum describes the city's Victorian excavations and a visit to the lost city by writer Agatha Christie in 1949:
All that remains today of the great Assyrian city of Nimrud is a string of mounds stretching along the east bank of the River Tigris in northern Iraq. Occupied from prehistoric times, it reached its real prominence in the reign of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC), who made Nimrud the capital of the Assyrian Empire.

The first proper excavations at Nimrud were made by the great archaeologist and traveller Sir Henry Layard, who worked there between 1845 and 1851. Layard discovered the royal palaces ornamented with the famous stone reliefs displayed in The British Museum, among others. After him a number of other archaeologists worked there, including Hormuzd Rassam, W. K. Loftus and George Smith, but from 1879 onwards the site was effectively abandoned.

Max Mallowan must have recognized that the vast mounds still had huge potential when in 1949 he decided to apply for permission to re-open the excavations. In addition, both he and Agatha [Christie] were enchanted by the site and its environs. On her first visit to Nimrud (when they were working with Campbell Thompson at Nineveh), Agatha had found it

'... a beautiful spot .... The Tigris was just a mile away, and on the great mound of the Acropolis, big stone Assyrian heads poked out of the soil. In one place there was the enormous wing of a great genie. It was a spectacular stretch of country - peaceful, romantic and inpregnated with the past.'
Nimrud's treasures and importance included:
  • "Buildings at Nimrud 'have yielded thousands of carved ivories, mostly made in the 9th and 8th centuries B.C., now one of the richest collections of ivory in the world.'"
  • "The city of Nimrud (Kahlka), was founded more than 3,300 years ago. It was one of the capitals of the Assyrian empire. Its frescos and works are celebrated around the world and revered in literature and sacred texts."
  • Architectural achievement: "Assyrian palaces of the Iron Age, especially at Kalhu/Nimrud, Dur Sharrukin/Khorsabad and Ninuwa/Nineveh, have become famous due to the pictorial and textual narrative programs on their walls, all carved on stone slabs known as orthostats. These pictorial programs either incorporated cultic scenes or the narrative accounts of the kings' military and civic accomplishments. Gates and important passageways were flanked with massive stone sculptures of apotropaic mythological figures. The architectural arrangement of these Iron Age palaces were also organized around large and small courtyards. Usually the king's throne room opened to a massive ceremonial courtyard where important state councils met and state ceremonies were performed."
  • 2,800 year old royal treasure hoard (see it here and here), which was removed to Baghdad in 1990, includes artifacts which were antiques preserved by the royal family 2,800 years ago; there were some 175 pounds of solid gold jewellery which belonged to four "queens [who] were the Cleopatras of the Assyrian world"; they lived 600 years before Cleopatra's time.
  • A royal throne made entirely of rock crystal.
  • A 3,000 year old rock crystal lens (750-710 BCE), which some experts believe may have been the world's earliest surviving telescope.
  • Refinement of language, preserving great epics such as Enûma Eliš (the creation myth), Atra-Hasis (the creation and flood myths), and the Epic of Gilgamesh: "Neo-Assyrian cuneiform is the final stage of the long evolution of the cuneiform script. The number of glyphs was reduced, and the glyph shapes were standardized and simplified, so that modern cuneiform sign inventories are usually based on the Neo-Assyrian glyph shapes. Neo-Assyrian cuneiform remained in use alongside the Aramaic alphabet well into Parthian times."
In 2005, World Archaeology reported the wording of the stone tablet curse of Nimrud's Queen Yaba against anyone who desecrated her resting place:
By command of the great gods of the underworld, mortal destiny caught up with Queen Yaba in death, and she travelled the path of her ancestors.

Whoever in time to come, whether a queen who sits on the throne, or a lady of the palace who is a favourite concubine of the king, removes me from my tomb, or place anyone else with me, or lays hand on my jewellery with evil intent, or breaks open the seal of this tomb, let his spirit wander in thirst in the open countryside.

Below, in the Netherworld, let him not receive any libation of pure water, beer, wine, or flour as an offering! May the great gods of the underworld impose on his corpse and spirit, restlessness for all eternity.
Omens: in Nimrud, a stone tablet in the tomb of Queen Yaba, the wife of Tiglath-Pileser III (ruled 744 to 727 BCE), cursed forever anyone who desecrated her resting place and stole her treasure. Image Source: Assyrian Treasures.

What it looked like at its height: Digital reconstruction of the northwest palace, Nimrud, Assyria, 9th century BCE. Video Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Youtube.

What the same site looked like before its destruction on 5 March 2015. Video Source: UNESCO via Youtube.

The Treasure of the northwest palace, Part 1 of 3. The site featured graves of four Assyrian queens; anyone who takes the royal gold is cursed by stone tablets in the royal tomb. Presentation by Donny George on the ancient Assyrian artifacts found in Nimrud (2012). Video Source: Youtube.

The Treasure of the northwest palace, Part 2 of 3. Presentation by Donny George on the ancient Assyrian artifacts found in Nimrud (2012). Some designs are still made in wedding crafts around Mosul today. Video Source: Youtube.

The Treasure of the northwest palace, Part 3 of 3. Presentation by Donny George on the ancient Assyrian artifacts found in Nimrud (2012). The video includes George's description of the German design of the Central Bank of Iraq Baghdad vault where the artifacts were kept; National Geographic's preservation of the artifacts after the First Gulf War; an account of what happened to the treasure in Baghdad after 2003, when looters tried to steal the royal treasure from the bank vault. The treasure was briefly shown to a private audience in the Baghdad National Museum in 2003 to confirm its whereabouts. Video Source: Youtube.

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer with Lisa Ling report on the 2003 fate of the treasure of Nimrud. Video Source: National Geographic via Youtube.

How the ancient Assyrian language sounded, spoken by Dr. Irving Finkel of the British Museum. For my earlier post with Dr. Finkel, go here. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Have you ever wondered how does the ancient Assyrian language sound? In this video you would hear two scripts read by Dr. Irving Finkel. Dr. Finkel is the curator in charge of cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia, of which the Middle East Department [at the British Museum] has the largest collection- some 130,000 pieces -- of any modern museum. This work involves reading and translating all sorts of inscriptions, sometimes working on ancient archives to identify manuscripts that belong together, or even join to one another. The first script is the words of Cyrus the Great (سخنان کوروش کبیر), the Persian King and the King of Babylon. The second script is a piece of poetry about the Story of the Flood."

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