The Gilgamesh Complex: The Quest for Death Transcendence and the Killing of Animals

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Independent Scholar (formerly of New Jersey City University), L4C Pinetree Boulevard; Old Bridge, NJ 08857, USA;, Email: jchristman@post.harvard.edu

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Abstract

Because the fauna of the world possess a blood-driven vitality so comparable to that of people, they serve as an unwitting resource in the anthropocentric quest to ward off the ravages of death and decay, to create a cornucopia of human life amid the caprices of the cosmos. Fueled by the human fear of the grave, the “Gilgamesh complex” is the ensemble of beliefs and desires underlying a spectrum of zoocidal practices ranging from religious immolation to scientific experimentation. The name of the complex draws its textual inspiration from the Babylonian epic of the warrior-king Gilgamesh, who lays waste to beasts of forest and field in his quest for immortality. From a psychological perspective, the epic of Gilgamesh pierces the veil of submerged desires and muddled behaviors that most people in modern society are loath to recognize. The Gilgamesh complex is also among the most culturally and historically encompassing of psychological complexes, penetrating to the barest of human existential concerns—the preoccupation with death.

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