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PMA and Stoicism are both Sumerian Mindsets.

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“When you have a problem, don’t ask the storm, ask the wind” – Sumerian Proverb

In my search to learn more about Stoicism, Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), and Psychology, I found that this method of thinking was very much used by the Sumerians. On their tables, we can find a lot of interesting information about them and much more. Below is just something that I’m sharing with you.

The ancient Sumerians were one of the earliest civilizations in human history, flourishing in Mesopotamia from approximately 4000 BCE to 2000 BCE. They were known for their innovations in language, writing, law, and governance, among other things. Despite their distant existence, the Sumerians left behind valuable insights into human thought and behavior that are still relevant to contemporary society. This blog post will explore the relevance of Sumerian thinking to modern society using stoicism, positive thinking, and psychology as a framework.

Stoicism is a philosophy that emphasizes self-control, rationality, and the pursuit of virtue. It teaches that one can find happiness and fulfillment by focusing on what is within one’s control and letting go of what is not. This philosophy has roots in ancient Greek thought, but it has also been influenced by Sumerian and Babylonian ideas. For instance, the Stoic belief that one should accept things beyond one’s control can be traced back to the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, in which the hero Gilgamesh learns to accept his mortality.

Sumerian tablets and Acadian records contain numerous examples of Stoic-like wisdom. For instance, the “Instructions of Shuruppak,” a Sumerian text from the 3rd millennium BCE, offers advice on how to live a good life. It instructs the reader to be patient, kind, and humble, and to avoid anger and violence. These are all values that align with Stoicism.

Similarly, the Acadian “Counsel of Vizier Ptah-Hotep,” an Egyptian text from the 25th century BCE, promotes the idea of stoicism. It advises the reader to remain calm in the face of adversity, to accept what cannot be changed, and to focus on what can be controlled. Ptahhotep wrote The Maxims of Ptah-Hotep during the Egyptian 5th Dynasty (2500 BCE–2350 BCE). The book is a set of moral advice and proverbs for young men. Ptahhotep’s proverbial sayings promote obedience to a father and a superior as the highest virtue, but also emphasize humility, faithfulness in performing one’s own duties, and the ability to keep silent when necessary.

Positive thinking is a modern psychological concept that emphasizes the importance of maintaining an optimistic outlook on life. This approach emphasizes focusing on one’s strengths, developing a growth mindset, and cultivating optimism. While positive thinking is a relatively new concept, there is evidence to suggest that it has roots in Sumerian and Babylonian thought. The idea that positive thinking could lead to a better life dates back to ancient times, with evidence of its philosophy being found in the writings of Sumerian and Babylonian authors. This concept was then further developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who highlighted the importance of positive thinking in order to achieve a happy and successful life. In more recent times, positive thinking has been further developed in the fields of psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. Furthermore, Aristotle, the Greek philosopher taught his students subjects such as logic, physics, public speaking, politics, and philosophy. The book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill published in 1937 popularized a Positive Mental Attitude.

The “Lament for Ur,” a Sumerian text from the 21st century BCE, provides an example of this type of thinking. The text describes the destruction of the city of Ur and the subsequent rebuilding of the city by its citizens. Despite the devastation, the text emphasizes the resilience and determination of the people of Ur, highlighting their positive outlook and their ability to overcome adversity. The people of Ur were Sumerian speakers for much of the city-state’s history, but from 2450 to 2250 BC, Ur—and most of Sumerian Mesopotamia—was dominated by the Semitic speakers of the Empire of Akkad.

Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes. While psychology as a discipline is relatively new, many of its concepts have roots in ancient thought. For instance, the concept of the unconscious mind, which is a central idea in psychoanalytic theory, has been traced back to Sumerian and Babylonian thought. Even though the idea of the unconscious mind was not articulated in terms of psychology, ancient civilizations recognized the power of the mind and its influence on behavior. They believed that they unconsciously held secrets, fears, and desires that could not be accessed by the conscious mind. This concept is still a core part of psychoanalytic theory today.

The term psychology is derived from two Greek words: psyche, meaning the mind, soul, or spirit, and logos, meaning discourse or study. Combined, these words produce the term “study of the mind.”

The Sumerians believed that the gods influenced human behavior and thought. They believed that dreams were a way for the gods to communicate with humans and that these dreams could reveal profound insights about one’s unconscious mind. This belief in the power of dreams to reveal unconscious thoughts and desires has been echoed in modern psychology. In Gilgamesh’s first dream, a meteor lands in a field outside Uruk. Gilgamesh is drawn to the rock as if it were a woman. After lifting it with great effort, he carries it to his mother, Ninsun.

In conclusion, the ancient Sumerians left behind valuable insights into human thought and behavior that are still relevant to contemporary society. Their emphasis on stoicism, positive thinking, and psychology provides a framework for modern individuals to cultivate resilience, positivity, and self-awareness. From the Instructions of Shuruppak to the Lament for Ur, the Sumerians offer valuable wisdom that can help us navigate the challenges of modern life. For instance, the Sumerian proverb “When you have a problem, don’t ask the storm, ask the wind” speaks to the importance of focusing on solutions rather than the source of the problem.

Want to learn more about the Sumerians? Read here.

As we can see, nothing is really revolutionary, Stoicism, Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), and Psychology have always been with us, and the Sumerian Tablets can give us insights into them.

Cheers,
Jay Pacheco

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