THE THEME OF PARADISE
NOTE: For a synopsis of this document and more information about the history of Alamut please refer to my Index to the History of Alamut.
THE THEME OF PARADISE
Origins in the Old Testament
"...The English word paradise derives from the Old Persian pairidaeza, which means 'walled enclosure, pleasure park, garden'. This term entered Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek while still retaining its original meanings."
"There is good indication that the Biblical paradise, which is described as a garden planted eastwards of Eden, from whose waters flow the four world rivers including the Tigris and Euphrates, may have been originally identical with Dilmun, the Sumerian paradise-land."
"The idea of paradise as a place of rest and refreshment in which the righteous live in the presence of God appears in Judaism and thence in both Christianity and Islam... The word itself is said to derive from Old Persian pairidzaeze, meaning an enclosed area, usually a royal park or pleasure garden, although some derive the word more simply from the Persian firdaws or garden. Whichever is the case, the origin is undoubtedly Persian."
"...The Biblical tree symbol came from pre-Biblical Mesopotamian works, such as one showing a snake wrapped around the trunk of a tree, identical to later portrayals of the snake in Eden. From the tree in the Mesopotamian depiction hang two pieces of fruit. To the right of the tree is the half-moon symbol of Ea, to the left is the planet symbol of Anu."
"Adapa [the name of an early man], thou art going before Anu, the King; "The road to Heaven thou wilt take. "When to Heaven thou has ascended, and hast approached the gate of Anu, the 'Bearer of Life' and the 'Grower of Truth' at the gate of Anu will be standing."
One of the five attested sources of the first five books of the Old Testament "calls Number One 'Yahweh', and so he is widely known as the Yahwist (j): he is the source of the story of the Garden of Eden. The most optimistic datings of his work extend to c. 950 BC, but even then, more than three hundred years would have passed since supposed dates for the Exodus, let alone for the doings of Jacob or Abraham. These narratives were composed from unwritten stories whose status as true history is non-existent."
A Babylonian tablet in the British Museum "speaks of the beginnings of a group of people who were ploughmen, which corresponds to the biblical 'tiller of the land.' They are called Amakandu - 'People Who In Sorrow Roam', it parallels the condemnation of Cain: 'Banned be thou from the soil which hath received thy brother's blood... a restless nomad shalt thou be upon the earth.' And, most remarkably, the Mesopotamian chief of these exiled people was called Ka'in! Also, just as in the biblical tale:
'He built in Dunnu a city with twin towers. Ka'in dedicated to himself the lordship over the city.'"
"The Semites of the steppes had seasonal grazing rights in the settled land after harvest, as they still have in the Near East. This is recognized in an ancient Sumerian myth where the shepherd Dumuzi and the farmer Enkiu sue to the hand of Inanna the queen of heaven... Eventually Innana and her farmer-husband allow seasonal grazing rights to the shepherd, saying:
'I against thee, O shepherd, against thee, O shepherd, I against thee Why shall I strive? Let they sheep eat the grass of the river bank In my meadowland let thy sheep walk about, In the bright fields of Erech let them eat grain, Let thy kids and thy lambs drink the water of my Unum canal.'"
"This text may have left a trace in the biblical story of Cain the farmer and Abel the shepherd (Genesis 4:2ff). This story is favorable to the shepherd Abel, although he is the sufferer."
"His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of  bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah."
"The expulsion of Cain to 'the land of Nod' ('wandering') accounts for the wide-wandering habits of castes of nomad smiths (Hebrew qayin means 'smith') with their traditional skills, metallurgy and music (Genesis 4:21-22), and their safe-conduct in the paces where they sojourned (Genesis 4:15)."
"But the LORD said to him, 'Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.' Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him."
"The mark of Cain was probably a tattoo mark, which often in the ancient Near East signified one's religion. Those nomad smiths, known in the Old Testament as Kenites, with whom the Israelites intermarried, helped to transmit Mesopotamian traditions to Palestine, particularly in the myths of origins and social relationships before they were incorporated in the first great narrative source of the Pentateuch in Genesis ch 2-11, dating from the tenth century B.C., when they were made the vehicle of theology."
"The Koran refers to paradise in terms that are reminiscent of the Judaic or Christian garden. The abode of the just is called the Garden, al-janna, often described as a Garden through which rivers flow but also as the 'Garden of Eden' or the 'garden of delight'. Curiously, in view of Moslem prohibition of alcohol...these fortunate blessed recline on couches, eat fruit and have wine served to them 'by ever-youthful boys'. In addition, the milk, honey and springs of the Christian paradise are also present. But the most important aspect is that they 'experience forgiveness, peace and the satisfaction of the soul in God'."
"At the gate of paradise stand two mighty trees, lovelier than any ever seen on earth. Their fragrance, the richness of their foliage, the beauty of their blossom, the perfume of their fruit, the luster of their leaves - nothing could ever surpass. The birds on their branches sing in sweet harmony with the rustling of the leaves...at the foot of either tree there springs a fountain of the purest water, clearer than beryl, cooler and whiter than freshly melted snow..."
"In his study of Islamic influences on Dante, Palacios [Islam and The Divine Comedy] demonstrated that this most complete and classical form of the description of paradise, of which a very brief passage is quoted here, is so close to Dante's description in his divine comedy that its derivation is obvious."
"The infernal regions, the astronomical heavens, the circles of the mystic rose, the choirs of angels around the focus of divine light, the three circles symbolizing the Trinity - all are described by Dante exactly as Ibnu'l-Arabi [the Sufi mystic] described them [in a poem a century earlier]. Dante tells us how, as he mounted higher and higher in Paradise, his love was made stronger and his spiritual vision more intense by seeing Beatrice grow more and more beautiful....It may be added that Ibnu'l-'Arabi too had a Beatrice - Nizlam, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Makinu'ddin... Muslim religious legends, e.g. the Miraj or Ascension of the Prophet, together with popular and philosophical conceptions of the after-life - derived from Muslim traditionalists and such writers as Faragbe, Avicenna, Ghazali, and Ibnu'l-'Arabi - must have passed into the common stock of literary culture that was accessible to the best minds in Europe in the thirteenth century. The Arab conquerors of Spain and Sicily repeated, though on a less imposing scale, the same process of impregnation to which they themselves had been subjected by the Hellenistic civilization of Persia and Syria."
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