Saturday 21 October 2017

The magic of the ancient Egyptians

Ancient Egypt was a civilisation that lasted 3000 years, which is astonishing - most astonishing is that for more than a hundred generations they did not self-destruct.

The answer lies not in The System, but in the cohesion of the spirit of the people; in a word the religion. Religion kept the AEs cohesive - and the religion was headed by a god and priest-magicians.

It was a religion based-upon magic: magic that worked.

How do we know Egyptian magic worked? 3,000 years - and the surviving artifacts, which are of a greater scope, finish and precision than was again attained until the Renaissance.

Ancient Egyptian technology is literally incredible by mainstream historical understanding - therefore a vital explanatory factor is missing. And that factor (since there is no survival of technologies that could plausibly have made the artifacts) was presumably magic.

Even the Old Testament acknowledges that there was real magic:

Exodus 7:

And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
10 And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
11 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

The account in Exodus takes it for granted that the Egyptian priests could do magic, and turn their 'staffs' into serpents - the difference between Aaron and the priests was that Aaron's rod made a more powerful serpent that consumed the others.

In other words; the Egyptian civilisation could only survive three millennia because it was (overall) reality based; therefore its essential knowledge claims were essentially correct: Pharaoh was a god (or demi-god), the Egyptian gods were real, and their priests really were magicians.

The account of Aaron's rod tells us that all these were subordinate to the One God, the creator and Father of the Hebrews - and the Ancient Egyptians knew that fact only implicitly and imperfectly; yet they knew a great deal about ultimate spiritual realities, and apparently fulfilled their destiny with great integrity.


Neal said...

I know you've spoken of Naydler's work before. Are there other books you would recommend to become more informed on Egyptian religion?

(I found _Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation_ to be too scholarly and dry.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Neal - I can't recall particular ones as especially good: I bought a few from a secondhand shop and read several other library copies. I also looked carefully and repeatedly at the collection of AE artifacts and displays at my local museum.

William Wildblood said...

Paul Brunton's A Search in Secret Egypt, though published in the 1930s I think, is still a good read as a kind of spiritual travelogue. You don't necessarily have to believe everything he says to appreciate it.

Dexter said...

IIRC we do not today have cranes capable of moving the stone blocks used to make the pyramids.

rolo said...

Really?Magic? What scholarly evidence is there that the Egyptians had magic? I've had some reading in Ancient Near East scholarship but have never heard of this idea.

Bruce Charlton said...

@rolo - You could start with Jeremy Naydler's books - but magic is surely *everywhere* in the Ancient Egyptian historical record? I can't understand how you could have missed it. My local museum displays an AE 'magic wand', labelled as such and used in healing - such wands look like a boomerang (made from a hippo tusk) covered in symbols.

rolo said...

Thanks for the links.I know the AE had "magic", I'm just wondering where you get the idea that this magic was truly supernatural in nature.

Chiu ChunLing said...

"Any sufficiently advanced technology"...but what is sufficiently advanced?

A technology is sufficiently advanced when the vast majority of people would be incapable of learning how it works even if you really tried to teach it to them. How does a smart phone work? The average person can't construct a basic binary adder from transistors, or program a working application without blindly following the template in a textbook or tutorial. The etymology of the word "magic" proves Clark's definition, our modern day society proves it again.

The key is that the Egyptians distinguished those able to learn their technique and selected them to be a special and sacrosanct part of the ruling class. Our society, working from the flat lie that anyone can be taught the most sophisticated arts, allows them to be managed by people who lack the requisite mental capability but instead are claimed to have learned "management", the supposed ability to tell whether people are doing their work well or not (and then motivate them to do better) when you have no idea how the work is actually done.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Fair points, this is very probably a major reason why The West is autodestructing; yet the failure of management ought to be perfectly easy to notice, since it is so clear that it is almost conclusively empirical. Yet we fail to notice, fail to take action... Much the same applies to other very obvious auto-destructive policies in the modern West such as bureacracy-in-general.

This is evidence of a very deep and serious problem, namely that we have replaced individual moral judgement with group-evaluations; and have come to internalise the belief that committees (including the votes of parliaments, supreme courts, elections and the like) have greater authority than personal judgment (whereas in fact, and indeed even by mathematical analysis - such as that of Kenneth Arrow, they have no intrinsic authority *at all*).

But why can't we perceive this... the trail goes back to the loss of religion. We have deleted our belief in God and made ourselves mad. And because we become mad, we cannot understand why.

Actually, its worse than that - because there is culpability - there is a definite sense of awareness of the deep problem, and the rejection of God is substantially a pretence, an excuse; because we implicitly know that to acknowledge God (any God) would be to give-up the rationale for our favourite sins (whatever they may be, often sexual); give-up our life-delusion. It's a kind of addiction.

Neal said...

@WW: Brunton's book came in today, so I'll read it through. Thanks. (By the by, also just enjoyed _Meeting the Masters_ as well.)

Chiu ChunLing said...

I don't believe that everyone fails to notice and take action. The masses may be asleep, but there are some awake.

Of course, the point of human society in the first place is that the average human doesn't have problem solving intelligence, the ability to imagine and rationally evaluate different possible responses to a novel problem and select one that has a high probability of success. The average human must be instructed on what to do or resort to trial and error with possibly fatal results for each failure. Thus the mass of people have little choice but to follow some leader. If they do not know this individual personally, but rely only on propaganda, they have no real basis for estimating the leader's benevolence.

For small societies, below the natural limit on how many people a typical human can really know personally (about 150), everyone can simply know the various claimants to leadership and guess their real benevolence from their personal history. But a civilization requires that leaders be selected by open and devoted adherence to some high moral standard. Certainly civilizations have been built and prospered for a time using moral measures other than Christianity as such, but I do not believe any superior measure of moral benevolence than Christian teaching exists in this world, or is even possible for humans. So of course a civilization that is in the process of abandoning or distorting Christianity is rejecting the best measure of morality, and thus ruining every alternate moral system in proportion to the degradation of the best.

But there are still Christians, and among them leaders. There are a few preparing for the inevitable failure of our current civilization.

Then again, there are also enemies preparing to exploit that failure for their own unholy ends.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - That has been the case in the past - but may not be the case in the future.

One defining feature of the situation now is that the entirety of leadership class are (more-or-less, to differing degrees) devoted to subversion and destruction.

(It isn't that they are selfish or incompetent - that has often been the case: the problem is their motivation to destroy Good, to destroy even their own selfish interests.)

Therefore, there are no good choices of leaders. This time we will either do it without leaders, or it won't be done.

I don't suppose this is altogether an accident - and quite possibly we are being compelled into a situation when the next necessary and effective step is made as clear as possible to as many as possible; although it must, of course, be chosen freely.

William Wildblood said...

@ Neal, Brunton did a book on India as well, A Search in Secret India, which is also worthwhile. They are both of their time (the '30s) but he manages to be both interesting and entertaining I think. Again, you don't have to go along with everything he says to enjoy it. He has an easy style but is not superficial.

I'm glad you enjoyed Meeting the Masters.