“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The realization dawned upon the Biblical God pretty early (Genesis 6: 5). It didn’t take too many generations down from Adam and Eve for God to come to the regret that “he had made man on the earth” (6: 6). So God decided to “blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”Gods are not known for rationality, whatever their religion. The Biblical God is as whimsical as any counterpart of his. Having condemned the creatures as unworthy of existence and fit only to be drowned in a deluge, God decides to save Noah and his family as well as “seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth.” (7: 2-3; emphasis added)
Was God implementing some population control strategy rather than purifying the earth of “wickedness”?The Biblical God is not alone in rushing to such a whimsical condemnation of man. A similar flood had befallen the people of the ancient India much before the Bible was written. According the Indian Puranic accounts, the earth was ruled by the Manus, of which the first was Manu Swayambhu who was born directly of the god Brahma, even as Adam was later created directly by the Biblical God. In the time of the seventh Manu came the Indian deluge. Manu was warned of the flood by god Vishnu who told him “to build a boat to carry his family and the seven sages of antiquity. Vishnu took the form of a large fish, the boat was fastened to its horn and it swam through the flood until the boat was lodged on a mountain peak.” (Romila Thapar, The Penguin History of Early India)
Noah’s ship was lodged on another mountain peak. Noah and Manu became latter day Adams, forefathers of a race of creatures who failed to learn any lesson from the deluge meant to disinfect their souls.Both the Indian and the Biblical floods might have been nostalgic reproductions of an earlier flood that attempted a similar purification of the human soul during the Mesopotamian civilisation. Ziusudra, king of Shuruppak (ancient Sumerian city), managed to save himself from the flood by taking flight on a huge boat. The whole of mankind was destroyed in the flood except Ziusudra who had won the favour of a god. Mankind and other living things were re-created again.
The Gilgamesh epic of the Mesopotamian period tells the story of yet another deluge according to which Utnapishtim survived cosmic destruction by heeding the divine instruction to build an ark.Three different civilisations envisaged the destruction of the entire human race so that a better race would be born. Man’s longing for a better world, a world without evil, is very deep-rooted indeed.
Interestingly, man looks forward to some external force – particularly a divine action – to bring about the ritual deluge. In the Indian mythology, we have made god Vishnu take ten avatars in order to rid the world of some evil or the other and are still waiting for the final one to come and put an end to all the wickedness that we keep amassing day after day.Sambhavami yuge yuge. We want some god to come again and again and do the cleaning act for us. Didn’t the gods do whatever they could in the past? And ended up, each time, with a world that became more wicked? Gods are helpless because it is only man who can cleanse his own soul.
As long as we keep imagining that some god or another will come to give us a better world, as long as we only keep praying and offering aaratis, as long as we believe that redemption is a religious affair, we will be condemned to live in a world governed by the darkness of illusions.
PS. This post is dedicated to the seven year-old girl in Delhi who became the latest victim of human illusions.