Exploring the First Concept of Freedom in Ancient Times—'Amagi' or 'Return to Mother'
The Ancient Cradle of Freedom
In the echoes of ancient Sumer, amidst the dust of Mesopotamian history, emerged the first word ever recorded to reference the meaning of freedom: Ama-gi. This ancient Sumerian word, crafted in the cuneiform script typical of the Sumerian language (see image above), represents one of the oldest languages spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to at least 2900 BC in the area that is now modern-day Iraq.
What is rather interesting is the literal meaning of the word Ama-gi, discovered to mean ‘return to mother.’ This casts an enigmatic hue upon the concept of freedom, prompting the questions:
How did the notion of freedom become entwined with the metaphorical act of returning to the source, to the maternal embrace?
Perhaps the inquiry should focus on the reverse, how returning to mother equates freedom?
And what exactly does returning to mother mean?
This inquiry beckons the exploration, not merely of linguistic roots, but also into the psychodynamic underpinnings nestled within this ancient expression that tethers freedom to the poignant notion of returning to mother.
At its core, the meaning of Ama-gi encapsulated a profound release in ancient times—Sumerians used it to refer to the release from the shackles of slavery, obligation, debt, taxation and punishment. Its essence, etched into the annals of time, resonating through millennia, symbolizing the yearning for emancipation from societal burdens. Making the connection to the meaning of return to mother even more intriguing.
Return to Mother in Psychodynamic Theory
Sigmund Freud's Mother-Child Dynamics
In the realm of psychoanalysis, the mother-child relationship has been a focal point across various schools of thought. Sigmund Freud, the pioneering figure, emphasized the significance of early experiences, particularly the mother-child bond, in shaping an individual's psyche. Freud's now contested Oedipus complex highlighted the child's psychological dynamics, including developing healthy attachment and identification with the mother figure after successfully navigating this stage. Freud's theories of early childhood development echo in the symbolism of 'returning to mother' as a fundamental pull towards an innate source of comfort and security.
Donald Winnicott's 'Good Enough Mother'
Donald Winnicott, an influential psychoanalyst, introduced the notion of the ‘good enough mother,’ emphasizing the mother's role in facilitating a secure environment for a child's development. He accentuated the significance of the mother's attunement and responsiveness in fostering a child's sense of security and autonomy. In the context of Winnicott's insights, 'returning to mother' could signify the quest for an environment (transitional space) that facilitates a sense of being truly oneself—a secure and nurturing space where one can authentically exist without pretense.
Melanie Klein's 'Good Object' and 'Bad Object'
Melanie Klein, another prominent psychoanalyst, delved into the early stages of a child's mental life, emphasizing the child's internal world and the interplay of unconscious phantasies. Klein's concepts of the ‘good object’ and the ‘bad object’ illustrate the child's early experiences and the primal connections formed with the maternal figure. Klein's exploration of the internal world and the primal connections formed with the mother could elucidate the psychological implications of 'returning to mother' as a quest for reconciling with the early experiences that shape one's sense of self.
Carl Jung's Mother Archetype
Carl Jung, while diverging from Freudian psychoanalysis, acknowledged the archetypal significance of the mother archetype—the nurturing, protective, and transformative aspects symbolized by the mother figure in human consciousness. Jung's recognition of the mother archetype underlines the archetypal significance of 'returning to mother'—a symbolic journey toward a universal symbol of nurturing, transformation, and authenticity.
Intersection of Ancient & Modern Concepts
When we intersect these psychoanalytic perspectives with the ancient Sumerian concept of 'returning to mother,' a multifaceted depiction emerges. The act of returning to the mother, beyond a literal interpretation, embodies a psychological quest for the primordial source of security, nurturing, and authenticity, deeply embedded in the collective labyrinthine corridors of the human psyche. In essence, the ancient Sumerian concept of Ama-gi, intertwined with the psychoanalytic insights of these luminaries, transcends linguistic boundaries. It becomes a profound psychological pilgrimage—a yearning to return to the sanctuary of core existence, a quest for the quintessential essence of self, reconciling with the primal source of nurturing and authenticity—the mother.
The Paradox of Freedom
The meaning of freedom as return to mother evokes a profound tension as well, reflecting a dichotomy inherent in the human experience—the balance between autonomy and dependence. On one hand, freedom represents the pursuit of independence, the desire to break free from constraints and forge one's own path. It encapsulates the psychological struggle for emancipation, the quest for individuality and self-determination.
However, nestled within this concept of freedom lies a paradox—a simultaneous longing for rootedness and connection. The idea of returning to the maternal embrace suggests a desire for safety, comfort, and a sense of belonging. It embodies a desire for a nurturing and secure foundation, a place of origin or source that provides a sense of identity and stability.
This juxtaposition of autonomy and dependence encapsulates the complexity of freedom. It mirrors the psychological tension between the drive for liberation and the innate need for security and connection. It represents the delicate balance individuals seek between asserting their independence while also longing for the emotional safety and attachment associated with being rooted to something familiar and nurturing.
The word ‘Ama-gi,’ therefore, not only serves as a linguistic representation but also acts as a profound symbol that encapsulates the intricate interplay between the human quest for autonomy and the deeply ingrained need for connection and belonging—a tension that lies at the heart of the paradox of freedom.
Conclusion: In Pursuing Freedom
In the broader context of human history, this ancient Sumerian notion transcends temporal bounds and echoes in modern ideologies, serving as a beacon of hope and as a potential catalyst for emancipatory movements across civilizations. It is perplexing to think that this notion of returning to mother as the meaning of freedom was developed in ancient times prior to any modern-day psychology or philosophical ideals. Perhaps then, if individuals prioritized seeking this kind of freedom—returning to the nurturing, inherent essence within themselves, reclaiming their unadulterated, unburdened self unmarred by external influences, returning to the essence of their existence, freedom in its most innate form, essentially returning home to themselves — instead of pursuing freedoms that come at the expense of others in our modern society, the world could experience a profound transformation towards a better state.