Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Soulmaking within the destructive side of God seeing through monotheism's holy warrior 9/11 to prehistory
by Wilday, Deborah, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014, 417; 3637921
Abstract (Summary)

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America was reeling on multiple fronts. While experiencing a collective wave of bereavement, Americans struggled to understand a phenomenon that they had been uniquely shielded from—that of holy war or the Islamic variant, jihad. Demonizing the enemy was a defensive reaction in the aftermath of 9/11, but cultural projections of "us versus them" fuel terrorist mindsets increasing the likelihood of further conflicts.

While it is typically assumed that holy war emerges in monotheism, the dissertation argues the custom arises in the polytheistic ancient Near East where indigenous ideologies view deities foremost as warriors. The Babylonian Enuma Elish is an exemplar of polytheistic divine warrior mythologies expressing cultural ideals about warfare as an existential struggle for order over chaos, equated to life over death. The earliest generation of deities fights to the death in epic battles that result in the creation of the cosmos and the human race. The work of humans is to toil for the gods, most particularly in warfare, as earthly conflicts have lethal cosmic consequences.

The human world of ancient warfare was saturated in the supernatural. Divination determined war strategies and warrior kings were viewed as divinely selected. Immanent deities lived in temple cultic statues carried to the battlefield where they actively adjudicated disputes through war. Warfare is ongoing because polarization between "good and evil" is perpetual. These indigenous customs migrated into monotheistic holy war. While single God religion influences ideas about holy war, polytheistic customs and rites remain surprisingly intact and can be detected in the 9/11 attacks.

This dissertation engages an interdisciplinary approach that includes mythological studies, depth psychology, religious studies, cultural-military history, archeology, political science, interviews with suicide killers, and field research in the Middle East.

The dissertation's findings alter concepts about modern jihad, positing that its central tenets are rooted in polytheistic customs and rituals. To the modern mind, the connection between religion and warfare is often viewed as pathological. From the perspective of human history, invoking deities to legitimize warfare is normative and typical.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Slattery, Dennis Patrick
Commitee: Shalit, Erel, Wright, Jacob L.
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Social psychology, Near Eastern Studies
Keywords: Ancient near east, Depth psychology, Holy war, Jihad, Mythological studies
Publication Number: 3637921
ISBN: 9781321213263
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