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It is widely presumed that myth and religion are two different things. To the extent that religion involves a whole array of non-myth elements – a moral code, a faith in a supreme being, and an obedience to the Church – this is true. However, if we focus on the primary element in religion, namely the Supreme Being (or God), then religion and myth become synonymous. Indeed, the conclusion of my life-long study of religion is that God is actually the personification of myth.

God – the personification of myth? The idea will sound weird to modern ears, and many people will think that I am denigrating the Supreme Being. After all, the word ‘myth’, in modern linguistics, is held to be synonymous with a fiction or a lie. But this is not my definition of myth. Far from it.

In fact, the word ‘myth’ derives from the ancient Greek word muthos, which meant simply an ‘utterance’ or a ‘traditional tale’. And these utterances, or traditional tales – usually concerning Gods and heroes – were generally considered to be true stories.

But in what sense can a myth be true?

For the past two centuries, mythologists have been fixated by the idea of historical truth. They have sought to understand ancient myths as poetic portrayals of events in human history. But this is a fundamental mistake.

Prior to Greek times, ancient civilisations had very little interest in history as we understand that term. Rather than seeing the past in terms of a linear history, they saw it as a repeating pattern of cycles – the day, the month, the year, the reign of the king, and the periods of the planets and stars. At the beginning of each of these cycles, the creation was renewed and time began again. As for human beings, their machinations served only to validate this great cosmic mystery play. As Mircea Eliade writes in 'The Myth of the Eternal Return':

The past is but a prefiguration of the future. No event is irreversible and no transformation is final. In a certain sense, it is even possible to say that nothing new happens in the world, for everything is but the repetition of the same primordial archetypes; this repetition, by actualizing the mythical moment when the archetypal gesture was revealed, constantly maintains the world in the same auroral instant of the beginnings.

History and historical truth were thus alien concepts to the ancient mind. For the ancient myth-makers, truth lay rather in the primordial cosmic drama in which the Universe had been created and brought to life. The only true story in town was the myth of the genesis of the earth, the heavens, and all living things. In short, the myth of creation.

All ancient civilisations had their creation myths. The stories in the Old Testament Book of Genesis are but a reflection of much older myths that were told in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia from at least 3000 BC. Indeed, the further back we go, the more dominant the creation myth becomes – to an extent that has yet to be fully apprehended by scholars.

Behind the creation myth lies the Supreme Being, who was worshipped by the ancients under a variety of names and guises. This Great God – or indeed Goddess – was the Creator of all things, and thus the cognate of Religion in the sense that He-She bound mankind back to its origins (the word ‘religion’ derives from the Latin religare ‘to bind back’).

Who, or what, was this Supreme Being? In what sense was He-She the Creator of the Universe and mankind?

Put out of your mind all those images of God as an Old Man with a beard. That’s just absurd. Consider instead the evidence from the world’s oldest civilisations – Egypt and Mesopotamia. Here, in the creation myths, the Great God, or Goddess, personifies the formative cosmos. He, or she, is identified with the death of the old cosmos; with the fall of the sky and the seeding of the earth; with the chaos of the primeval earth and waters; with the separation of the heavens from the earth; and with the new-born Sun, Moon, and stars. In short, the God and Goddess personify the entire myth of creation and the entire created Universe.

Here lies the key to the modern concept of God. As the Creator, God by definition becomes his creation. He becomes a Sun-god, a Moon-god, a star-god, a nature-god, a god of this river and that river, a god of this tribe and that tribe. But He is always much more than his visible manifestations, and he is mysteriously greater than the sum of his parts. His pure essence is thus said to be the Divine Soul, or Spirit, or Intelligence. In this aetheric and quintessential form, God stirred himself to life, created the Universe, filled it, and surrounded it. Thus He became immortal, invisible, omniscient, and omnipresent – visible and yet invisible, closer than we can possibly conceive, and yet further away than we can possibly imagine.

So, God is not a person. Rather, he is a personification. He personifies the ‘true’ story of the creation of the Universe. In this sense, God is the personification of myth.

Now, the ancients worshipped God under many different names and guises, since each region or city had its own local traditions. Thus in Egypt the Creator-God was known variously as Atum, Re, Khnum, Amun, Osiris, Horus, and Thoth, whilst in Mesopotamia He was known variously as Anu, Enlil, Enki, Utu, and Nannar. And for each God there was a corpus of myth which described how he had created the Universe. The same went for the Goddess too, who was known in Egypt as Hathor, Isis and Neit, and in Mesopotamia as Ninharsag, Mami and Inanna. This is only to mention the most popular names.

But behind this multiplicity there was only ever One God, One Goddess, and One Creation – by definition. The ancients knew this well, and would have much to say about the modern-day bickering between the devotees of Judaeo-Christianity and Islam.

Here lies the key to the future unity of all Gods and all religions.

God did not appear with the establishment of Judaism, nor with the establishment of Islam, nor with the earlier cults of Egypt and Mesopotamia. No, as the Creator of the Universe, God existed from the beginning of time, by definition.

By knowledge of this eternal, ever-unchanging axiom, the chasm between pagan religions and modern religions can be bridged, and the scattered ‘truths’ of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can be reunited into the One Great Truth of the One Great God – a God who by definition cannot be the God of one tribe or the other but must be the God of all humanity.

This principle is straightforward enough, and many people intuitively will know it to be the truth.

The difficult part, though, is to resolve specific points of disagreement between the religions. For example, was Jesus Christ the Son of God, as Christianity maintains, or just another prophet, as Islam maintains?

To do this, there is only one way forward and it involves going backwards – into the past. If we can understand how religion evolved over the millennia, then we stand our best chance of reconciling the modern-day differences.

Since 1997, my work has focused on deciphering the meaning of the world’s ancient religions, notably those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. It has become apparent to me (as it has to many scholars) that Judaeo-Christianity and Islam stem in very large part from these older religions. But it has also become apparent to me that all of these religions can be unified if we look beyond their differing exoteric forms to perceive the sameness of their innermost esoteric meanings. And the key to this potential unification is the understanding that God, in all of his many names, personifies the myth of creation, in all of its many forms.

One God, One Creation.

Not a myth in the sense of a fiction or a lie, but a myth in the sense of a true account of the most glorious concept imaginable to the ancient mind – the creation of the Universe, of life, and of mankind.

In the linked articles, I summarise the results of my pioneering research into the meanings of ancient religions and mythologies (for much lengthier discussions, see my books) and invite you to compare and consider:

My expressed aim, in making this information available, is to lay the groundwork for an eventual unification of all the world’s religions.

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'These pages are the copyright of Eridu Books 2004. The images and diagrams are the copyright of Alan Alford or of other photographers, where indicated. Eridu Books welcomes the reproduction and dissemination of these pages, in original, unaltered form, for non-commercial purposes, but permission must be sought for any other usage, other than 'fair dealing' quotations.'

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