Category Archives: Cultures

The Radical Philosophy of Egypt: Forget God and Family, Write!

by Dag Herbjørnsrud

New research indicates that Plato and Aristotle were right: Philosophy and the term “love of wisdom” hail from Egypt.

Full Article here

“A remarkable example of classical Egyptian philosophy is found in a 3,200-year-old text named “The Immortality of Writers.” This skeptical, rationalistic, and revolutionary manuscript was discovered during excavations in the 1920s, in the ancient scribal village of Deir El-Medina, across the Nile from Luxor, some 400 miles up the river from Cairo. Fittingly, this intellectual village was originally known as Set Maat: “Place of Truth.”

The paper containing the twenty horizontal lines of “The Immortality of Writers” is divided into sections by rubrication. They seem composed to be read aloud, as the Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson points out in his new Penguin Books translation.

The existential message of the “The Immortality of Writers,” written by Irsesh¹, echoes through the centuries and millennia, over sand dunes and oceans, before finally reaching us now in the 21st century. Thinking and writing is more important than religion, materialism, and – even more controversial – one own’s family:

Man perishes; his corpse turns to dust; all his relatives return to the earth. But writings make him remembered in the mouth of the reader. A book is more effective than a well-built house or a tomb-chapel, better than an established villa or a stela in the temple!

This 12th BCE century Ramesside papyrus, from the 19–20th dynasty, is the oldest and most authoritative excuse philosophers and intellectuals of today have for prioritizing reading and writing over securing offspring or respecting priests. Because “the writer is chief.”

For the last decades, the only copy of Irsesh’s manuscript, formally known as “Chester Beatty IV” (EA 10684, verso) and also named “Be a Writer”, has been stored at the British Museum in London. In 1997, it was removed from public display. New translations from hieratic – Egypt’s ancient cursive writing system – have made the text accessible to the public. Yet “The Immortality of Writers” and other significant Egyptian philosophical manuscripts await detailed scrutiny by dedicated philosophers.

After all, Irsesh’s text is symptomatic of the era during and following the revolutionary pharaoh Akhenaten (died 1336 before the common era, BCE) and his wife Nefertiti (1370–1330 BCE). These two New Kingdom rulers abandoned Egypt’s traditional polytheistic religion and introduced a rather monotheistic worship of the Sun, Aten, instead. Shortly after Nefertiti’s death, their successors returned to polytheism.

The ideological upheavals in Egypt caused new ideas and philosophy to flourish. In the tomb of Neferhotep (ca. 1300 BCE) three different perspectives on death are presented in the “Harpist’s Song,” a text initially stating that the ancient tombs were “extolling life on earth and belittling the region of the dead.” A skeptical view on the after-life is also witnessed in the tomb-chapel of Paatenemheb at Saqqara, dating from the era of Akhenaten. This harpist text argues in a rather hedonistic way, a thousand years prior to Epicurus:

Follow your heart as long as you live! … Heap up your joys, Let your heart not sink! Follow your heart and your happiness. Do your things on earth as your heart commands!

One of the most vibrant eras in Egyptian history was this period spanning the two hundred years from Akhenaten and Nefertiti in the mid-14th century until the economic and political decline from the mid-12th century BCE; ancient Egypt’s last “Golden Era.” We can discover this in the love poetry of the middle-class village Deir El-Medina. Based on a reading of these poems from ordinary women and men, Renate Fellinger concludes that the “fairly equally distributed freedom of speech, action and movement as reflected in the poems may suggest that gender roles were perceived as equal.”

After all, women owned property, could buy land, and were equal to men in the ancient Egyptian court. One evidence of this, is the will – dated November 1147 BCE – of the woman Naunakht, who described herself as “a free woman of the land of Pharaoh.” She owned an impressive library of papyri; including the Dream Book, the world’s oldest interpretations of dreams. In Naunakht’s will, presented for a court of fourteen witnesses, she disinherits three of her adult children as they did not care enough for her. One of the disinherited was her workman son; she also rejected to give him any property from her first husband.

Furthermore, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history was the woman Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BCE) of the 18th Dynasty. While the female pharaoh Twoseret (d. 1189 BCE) was the last ruler of the 19th Dynasty, as Kara Cooney attests in her new book When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt.

When it comes to writing, the Egyptian texts are “often consciously intellectual, making abundant use of wordplay through homophones and homonyms, in which the Egyptian language is particularly rich,” as Wilkinson underscores. Metaphors, idioms, and epigrammatic utterances are some of the other literary techniques applied.

The Seated Scribe. By Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 frLink

Hence, it should come as no surprise that not only the oldest but also some of the most original ancient philosophical texts in writing stem from Egypt. A similar point was also made by the foremost of the Greek philosophers: Isocrates (b. 436 BCE) states, in Busiris, that “all men agree the Egyptians are the healthiest and most long of life among men; and then for the soul they introduced philosophy’s training…”

Isocrates was 16 years Plato’s senior, a founder of the rhetoric school in Athens, and he declared that Greeks writers traveled to Egypt to seek knowledge. One of them was Pythagoras of Samos who “was first to bring to the Greeks all philosophy.”

These Greek descriptions of Egypt have often been disregarded in the past couple of hundred years. But the scholarship of the 21st century has opened up a new possibility: the founding Greek word philosophos, lover of wisdom, is itself a borrowing from and translation of the Egyptian concept mer-rekh (mr-rḫ) which literally means “lover of wisdom,” or knowledge.

In 2005, The Book of Thoth was finally collected and translated into English. This text originates partly from the 12th century BCE, as Egyptologist Joachim Quack has pointed out. And in this book, “the-one-who-loves-knowledge” (mer-rekh) is a central figure. The philosopher (mer-rekh) is the scholar who desires to know the wisdom of Thoth, the author of books.

The translators of the Thoth book, Richard Jasnow and Karl-Theodor Zauzich, note the word mer-rekh and its “striking Egyptian parallel to Greek Philosophos.” As Ian Rutherford pointed out in 2016, Quack has demonstrated that the Pythagorean concept of akousmata is indebted to Demotic wisdom, arguing “even that the Greek term ‘philosophos’ is based on Egyptian.”

The Greek respect for the Egyptian love of wisdom, philosophy, is a context that can explain Plato’s statement in Phaedrus that the Egyptian Thoth “invented numbers and arithmetic… and, most important of all, letters.” This also makes it easier to understand Socrates, who in Plato’s Timaeus quotes the ancient Egyptian wise men when the law-giver Solon travels to Egypt to learn: “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children.”

In addition, Aristotle attests to Egypt being the original land of wisdom, as when he states in Politics that “Egyptians are reputed to be the oldest of nations, but they have always had laws and a political system.”

In 2018, projects are under way to translate several ancient Egyptian texts for the first time. Yet we already have a wide variety of genres to choose from in order to study the manuscripts from a philosophical perspective:

The many maxims in “The Teaching of Ptahhotep”, the earliest preserved manuscript of this vizier of the fifth dynasty is from the 19th century BCE, in which he also argues that you should “follow your heart”; “The Teaching of Ani”, written by a humble middle-class scribe in the 13th century BCE, which gives advice to the ordinary man; “The Satire of the Trades” by Khety, who tries to convince his son Pepy to “love books more than your mother” as there is nothing “on earth” like being a scribe; the masterpiece “The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba” of the 19th century BCE – in which a man laments “the misery of life,” while his ba (personality/soul) replies that life is good, that he should rather “ponder life” as it is a burial that is miserable – recently discussed by Peter Adamson and Chike Jeffers in their “Africana Philosophy” podcast series.

Or we can read Amennakht (active in 1170–1140 BCE), the leading intellectual of the scribal town Deir El-Medina, whose teaching states that “it is good to finish school, better than the smell of lotus blossoms in summer.”

enlightenment

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“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness.
The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy.
The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.”

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Interesting article! I hadn’t thought about these issues in exactly this way. We each have a responsibility to heal ourselves and release our baggage. This is one of the ways of turning things around.

“I know that people are exhausted of the state of the world, especially those who have been fighting the longest and hardest, but I’m talking about the very heart of the issues that allowed America’s current government administration to do all that they are doing, and with the issues that affect us globally it won’t just be Americans who are in trouble, but the rest of the entire planet. Climate change alone has become a huge part of this, and it will literally kill us all if we don’t do something. We have 10-15 years left to be able to do anything about it. Toxic Christianity won’t care because toxic Christianity wants to usher in the end times and bring back Jesus. Toxic Christianity doesn’t think women should have rights let alone vote. Toxic Christianity only likes white people, heterosexuals, and cis men. The rest of us are deemed unworthy, unacceptable, and less than human.”

via Toxic Christianity, Patriarchy, White Supremacy, Toxic Masculinity And Its Impact On Pagans And Occultists | Scarlet Magdalene

 

 

 

Gen X

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Fun article on Generation X. We’re all middle aged now! As an astrologer, I find it interesting to watch my generation as they travel through life. We are meant to shake things up. We were born during the tumultuous 1960’s, when Uranus and Pluto were in a conjunction in Virgo. We are redefining technology, communication, service, health, habits, and what it means to achieve a dream.

“The tech, music, style, books, trends, rules, films and pills that made Gen X … so so-so.”

“Like many things considered “cool,” Gen X is pretty exclusive. You had to be born between 1965 and 1980 to get in to this gloomy, goofy club of forgotten middle children, and only about 65 million of us were. (Both boomers, at 75 million, and millennials, at 83 million, far outnumber us.)

The idea behind that “X” was about coming between. Gen X supposedly didn’t know what they were, or what they wanted. All they knew, they were told, was what they didn’t want — marriage, money, success — and then they shrugged and popped a Prozac.

And you know what else Gen X is? Getting older. Its oldest members are 54; its youngest are preparing for 40. As we try to make sense of that fact, here’s a look at the stuff we loved and hated, as well as a re-evaluation of things like “The Rules,” grunge, CK One and 1994; an appreciation of John Singleton; a quiz to figure out which generation you actually are; and a visit with Evan Dando, plus some dynamite for the myths that have always dogged Gen X. So put on your headphones, click on that Walkman below (surprise!) and let’s travel through this time machine together.” — Anya Strzemien

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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Bring back the snakes (i.e. the ancient Celtic religions) to Ireland. Let today be a celebration of the snakes returning 🙂

From Niall O’Riordan:
“I believe St Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland is an allegory. In many cultures the snake is a symbol of wisdom. Therefore, this could be interpreted as him driving out the ancient wisdom of the Celts. And you know where that got us…
Ireland is a holy land, it has a rich heritage, wisdom and magic waiting to be reclaimed. My beautiful country is slowly recovering from the abuse, oppression and superstition the Roman Catholic church has inflicted for hundreds of years.
So, today I will be celebrating all that is good about Ireland and dedicating my magical work towards Ireland rediscovering those snakes!
May she awaken!
Have a great Paddy’s Day!”

Marigold

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For Dia de Muertos:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.
~unknown

 

Mountain of Truth

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Monte Verita, Ascona Switzerland

I came across the most amazing piece of history the other day: the free spirits of the art community at Monte Verita in 1915. These people created an open society of artists and philosophers; people that wanted to explore the potential of the human spirit.

What strikes me are the huge similarities between this story and our current society in 2018. These people that escaped to the mountains of Switzerland were rebelling against mass consumerism, war, intolerance, and celebrity culture. They created the first alternative community, assimilating all groups of people under the banner of pacifism and free thought. Many accomplished philosophers and radicals joined them – including Hermann Hesse.

This movement is one of the catalysts for the original hippie movement in 1967. It’s not about obliterating your mind with drugs, or trying to escape reality, it’s about creating a free, human, utopian society on earth. Article below.

There’s a movie about it that came out in 2014 called “FREAK OUT!” if you’re interested in learning more about it!

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Article:  “Monte Verità: “The place where our minds can reach up to the heavens…
In the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth, the Ticino republic became a gateway to the south, and favourite destination of a group of unconventional loners who found in the region, with its southern atmosphere, fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of the utopia they were unable to cultivate in the north.
The Ticino came to represent the antithesis of the urbanised, industrialized north, a sanctuary for all kinds of idealist. From 1900 onwards Mount Monescia above Ascona, Switzerand, became a pole of attraction for those seeking an “alternative” life. These reformers who sought a third way between the capitalist and communist blocks, eventually found a home in the region of the north Italian lakes.

The founders came from all directions :
Henry Oedenkoven from Antwerp
the pianist Ida Hofmann from Montenegro
the artist Gusto
and the ex-officer Karl Gräser from Transylvania.

United by a common ideal they settled on the “Mount of Truth” as they renamed Monte Monescia. Draped in loose flowing garments and long hair, they worked in the gardens and fields, built spartan timber cabins and found relaxation in dancing and naked bathing, exposing their bodies to light, air, sun and water. Their diet excluded all animal foods and was based entirely on plants, vegetables and fruit. They worshipped nature, preaching its purity and interpreting it symbolically as the ultimate work of art: “Parsifal’s meadow”, “The rock of Valkyrie” and the “Harrassprung” were symbolic names which with time were adopted even by the local population of Ascona who had initially regarded the community with suspicion.
Their social organization was based on cooperation, and through it they strove to achieve the emancipation of women, self-criticism, and new ways of cultivating mind and spirit with the unity of body and soul.

The intensity of the single ideals fused in this community were such that word of it soon spread across the whole of Europe and overseas. Gradually over the years the community itself became a sanatorium frequented by theosophists, reformers, anarchists, communists, social democrats, psyco-analysts; followed by literary personalities, writers, poets, artists and finally emigrants of both world wars: Raphael Friedeberg, Prince Peter Kropotkin, Erich Mühsam. They declared Ascona “the Republic of the Homeless”: Otto Gross who planned a “School for the liberation of humanity”, August Bebel, Karl Kautsky, Otto Braun, even perhaps Lenin and Trotzki, Hermann Hesse, Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow, Else Lasker-Schüler, D.H Lawrence, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Isadora Duncan, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Hans Richter, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej von Jawlensky, Arthur Segal, El Lissitzky and many others.
After the departure of the founder for Brazil in 1920 there followed a brief bohemian period at the Monte Verità which lasted until the complex was purchased as a residence by the Baron von der Heydt, banker to the ex-Kaiser Willhelm II and one of the most important collectors of contemporary and non European art. The bohemian life continued in the village and in the Locarnese valleys from then on.

The Mount, now used as a Hotel and park, still maintains its almost magic power of attraction. Along with the proven magnetic anomalies of geological formations underlying Ascona, it is as if the mount preserves, hidden away out of sight, the sum of all the successful and unsuccessful attempts to breach the gap between the “I” and “we”, and the striving towards an ideal creative society, thus making the Monte Verità a special scenic and climatic micro-paradise.

Monte-Verità

The Monte Verità is also however a well preserved testimony for the history of architecture. From Adam’s hut to the Bauhaus. The ideology of the first settlers demanded spartan chalet-like timber dwellings with plenty of light and air and few comforts. Shortly after 1900 the following buildings began to spring up: Casa Selma (now museum), […]1, Casa Andrea with its geometrical façade, the sunniest of the buildings (now converted), Casa Elena and the Casa del Tè – Tea House (now demolished) and the Casa dei Russi (hideout for Russian students after the 1905 revolution and now undergoing renovation). The Casa Centrale was built for the community and allowed for maximum natural light. Ying-Yang symbols were worked into windows and balconies. (In 1948 this building was demolished to make way for a restaurant and only the curving flight of steps remains).
Henry Oedenkoven built Casa Anatta as living quarters and reception rooms in the theosophist style with rounded corners everywhere, double timber walls, sliding doors, domed ceilings and huge windows with views of the landscape as supreme works of art, a large flat roof and sun-terrace.

Origins of Magicians

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Well here’s a fascinating article by Robert Sepehr.

Article

“The Medes were people of Indo-Iranian (Aryan) origin who inhabited the western and north-western portions of present-day Iran. By the 6th century BC (prior to the Persian invasion) the Medes has established an empire that stretched from Aran (the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan) to Central Asia and Afghanistan. Today’s population of the western part of the Iranian Plateau (including many Persian-speakers, Kurds and Azeris) consider themselves their descendants.

Apart from a few personal names, the original Aryan language of the Medes is almost entirely unknown, but it was most likely similar to the Avesta and Scythian languages (photo-Indo-European/Iranian). Herodotus mentions that” “The Medes had exactly the same equipment as the Persians; and indeed the dress common to both is not so much Persian as Median”.

Eventually, the older tribes of Aryan Iran lost their district character and amalgamated into one people, the Iranians. In Arabic texts, as in the Greco-Roman tradition, Zoroaster is the “founder” of the Magicians, Arabic ‘Majusya’. There are many views on the timeline for Zoroaster’s life. The traditional Zoroastrian date for Zarathustra’s birth and ministry is around 600 BC Green sources placed him as early as 6000 BC. Zoroaster spoke of duality and ceasing balance at the end of time; his goal, was to show humans their connection to one source of light and consciousness. According to the Zend Avesta, the sacred book of Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster was born in Azerbaijan, in northern Persia.

A Magus was a Zoroastrian astrologer-priest from ancient Persia, and was also referred to as a sorcerer or wizard. The terms magic and magician derive from the word “magus”. The English term may also refer to a shaman. The Greek word is attested from the 5th century B.C., as a direct loan from the Old Persian “magus”.

Professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, Victor H. Mair, provides archaeological and linguistic evidence suggesting that the Chinese “wu” (shaman; witch, wizard; magician) was also loanword from Old Persian magus “magician; magi”:

The recent discovery at an early Chou site of two figurines with unmistakably Caucasoid or Europoid features is startling prima facie evidence of East- West interaction during the first half of the first millennium Before Current Era. It is especially investing that one of the figurines bears on the top of his head the clearly incised graph (cross with potents) which identifies him as a “wu” (shaman; witch, wizard; magician).

The Aryan, or Indo-European, root appears to have expressed power or ability. This meaning continued, e.g. in Greek “mekhos” (see mechanics) and in Germanic magan (English may), magts (English might, the expression “might and magic”). The original significance of the name for Median priests, thus, seems to have been “the powerful”. The modern Persian “Mobed” derived from an Old Persian compound magu-pati “lord priest”.

The plural “Magi” entered the English language ca. 1200, referring to the Magi mentioned in Matthew 2:1. The singular following only considerably later, in late 14th century, when it was borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.

In Farsi, Magi is ‘meguceen’, which meaning “Fire Worshipper”, and it is the origin of the word “magician”. While, in Herodotus, “Magos” refers to either an ethnically Aryan member of one of the tribes/peoples (ethnous) of the Medes, or to one of the Persian priest  who could interpret dreams, it could also be used for any enchanter wizard.

In Hellenism, “Magos” started to be used as an adjective, meaning “magical”, as in magas techne “ars magica” (e.g. used by Philostratus). Sources from before the Hellenistic period include Xenophon, who had first-hand experience  at the Persian Achaemenid court. In his early 4th century BC Cyropaedia, Xenophon depicts the Magicians as authorities for all religious matters, and imagines the Magicians were responsible for the education of the emperor-to-be.

According to to Robert Charles Zaehner, author of the book, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism:

We hear the Magi not only in Persia, Parthia, Bactria, Chorasmia, Aria, Media, and among the Sakas, but also in non-Iranian lands like Samaria and Egypt. Their influence was also widespread throughout Asia Minor. It is, therefore, quite likely that the sacerdotal caste of the Magi was distinct from the Median tribe of the same name.”

Extracts from the book Occult Secrets of Vril (chapter 7: Magicians)

About the author:

Robert Sepehr is an author, producer and anthropologist living in Los Angeles, CA.

He specializes in linguistics, paleogenetics and archeology.

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