Ancient Egypt - Amun and the One, Great & Hidden

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<p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>Amun, the Great God : Hidden, One and Millions.AMUN : unbegotten preexistence double-concealed in transcendence and immanence and the unity of Ancient Egyptian theologiesby Wim van den Dungen</p> <p>"O You, the Great God, whose name is unknown."Pharaoh Unis (PT 276c - ca. 2350 BCE)</p> <p></p> <p>Page 1 of 55</p> <p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>"None of the gods knows His true form, His image is not unfolded in the papyrus rolls, nothing certain is testified about Him."Hymns to Amun, Papyrus Leiden I 350, chapter 200, lines 22- 24. ca.1213 BCE (end of the reign of Ramesses II)</p> <p>Table of ContentsIntroduction 1 Amun in the Old and Middle Kingdoms. 1.1 Amun as hidden, primordial god in the Pyramid Texts. 1.2 Amun, hidden of name in the Coffin Texts. 2 The crisis of polytheism in the New Kingdom. 2.1 The New Solar Theology and early Amun-Re theology. 2.2 Amarna, the Restoration &amp; late Amun-Re theology.</p> <p>FIVE HYMNS TO AMUN-REI Philological remarks. II Text in English with Commentary. III Text in French IV Hieroglyphic Text. Epilogue Bibliography INTRODUCTION</p> <p></p> <p>Page 2 of 55</p> <p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>The importance of the state cult of Amun (later Amun-Re), initiated in the Middle Kingdom, is undisputed. The cult of Amun-Re, the "king of the gods", was outstanding, as archaeological, monumental, textual, ritual &amp; funerary evidence shows. So powerful was the name : "Amun", that Akhenaten tried to erase it from the records (scriptoral as well as monumental). This outrage was immediately restored by Tutankhamun after the heretical king died. In the Ramesside era, after the Amarna episode, Amun rose to even more formidable resplendance. In the Third Intermediate Period which followed the New Kingdom, civil stife occured &amp; a double monarchy ruled : a military dictatorship of the high priests of Thebes (with Amun-Re as Pharaoh) versus the Kings of Tanis in the Delta. But, Amun's cult remain active as far as Upper Nubia ... "A papyrus furnished the number of persons in the service of Amun during the reign of Ramesses III (ca.1198 - 1166 BCE) -priests, peasants in the fields, hunters, boatmen, administrators, and workers of all sorts- a total of 81.322 persons ! We also learn from this papyrus that this fortunate god owned 433 gardens, 591.320 acres of fields, 83 boats, 46 construction sites, and 65 towns, all dedicated to the sole purpose of maintaining his sacred domains. Seeing these figures, we can easily imagine the astonishing number of priests and other staff who could be employed in the cult and the management of such an organism : we can count as many as one hundred twenty-five different posts among the personnel employed in the service of this all-powerful god."Sauneron, 2000, pp.52-53 (translated by David Lorton).</p> <p>The importance of the cultic, ritual and intellectual activities offered to Amun-Re, answered theological and philosophical answers posed by the confrontation between the monotheist, solitary &amp; Pharaonic solution of Akhenaten and the undisputed adherence of the people to a plurality of deities, acting in constellations (Assmann) and listening (during the festivals) to the voice-offerings of the commoners. These discussions and ideas were "secret", implying a limited access. The "inner" aspect of the Egyptian Sun-cult was only for an elite. The Books of the Netherworld are royal guides, i.e. the best of the best knowledge for the afterlife. "The 'inner aspect' of the Egyptian sun-cult, its mysteries, is constituted by a tradition that specifies what must be known, said and done during the enactment of it. The representatives of this tradition are a small circle of professional priests and scholars. They are in no sense identical nor should they be confused with the larger circle of sun-worshippers, which in the New Kingdom almost took on the character of a 'movement'."Assmann, 1995, p.17.</p> <p>ATHEISM : no supreme, creative principle or being (God) exists ; AGNOSTICISM : it is unknown and/or remains unknown whether a supreme, creative principle or being exists or does not exist ; THEISM : a supreme being exists (God) or supreme beings exist (gods Page 3 of 55</p> <p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>and/or goddesses) ; POLYTHEISM : a collection of such gods &amp; goddesses exists ; HENOTHEISM : one supreme principle or being (God) exists and is at the head of (abides in) a pantheon, or family of deities ; MONOTHEISM : one and only one supreme principle or being (God) exists ; PANTHEISM : there is only one supreme being and that is creation itself ; PAN-EN-THEISM : all happens in one supreme being (God) who transcends creation but who nevertheless is creation itself (with or without other supreme beings). Following themes run accross our philosophical study of Amenism :1. the synthesis of the main theologies : It became necessary to invoke Amun-Re</p> <p>as an all-comprehensive deity, who united the principle of creation (Re), verbality (Thoth), materiality (Ptah) and tenacity (Osiris-Pharaoh). How to realize this, without harming the integrity and uniqueness of each individual deity ? How to give form to such all-comprehensiveness and maintain the countless gods and goddesses of the constellational pantheon (rooted in mythical &amp; pre-rational thought - cf. Verb) ?2. the replacement of Pharaonic rule : In the Ramesside experience, the world had</p> <p>become unstable. The presence of (a heretic) Pharaoh could lead to the exodus of the deities ! Pharaoh no longer guaranteed order, but he lived by it because he followed the will of the god. The just follow Pharaoh, because Pharaoh follows the god. The notion of Pharaoh as source of order "sui generis" (as in the Old Kingdom - cf. Wenis) was discarded (although in the New Kingdom exceptions occur : Amenophis III, Akhenaten, Ramesses II).3. the democratization of mediation : From the Middle Kingdom onwards, deceased</p> <p>non-royals could assume the title "Osiris-NN" and, if justified by Maat (i.e. truthspeaking), enter the Osirian Field of Reeds. Although during festivals and in the open courts of the temple, common Egyptians made offerings, danced &amp; prayed, and hence participated in the cultic acts, they did not hope that the god would hear their voice-offerings directly and personally. This was reserved to Pharaoh and his priests. Akhenaten had been the last Pharaoh to have implemented this idea "de manu militari" with unbelievable tenacity &amp; zeal. This had taught the commoner to pray in silence, hidden from the social eye. Hence, in the Ramesside theology of Amun-Re, such a direct experience (called by Assmann "personal piety") was deemed possible, for Amun-Re (with large ears), heared the prayers of the poor and everything was in his omnipotent hands &amp; onmiscient heart. By placing Amun-Re in one's mind (a divine person rather than a divine energy, intimate rather than cosmic), one's voice-offering would be returned if he willed, and nothing in-between was longer necessary to mediate Page 4 of 55</p> <p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>the divine communication.4. the exodus of monotheism : The founding story of Judaism, the Exodus,</p> <p>probably took place under Ramesses II (Modrzejewski, 1995). If we accept that Moses was initiated in the Egyptian mysteries, we may put into evidence the resemblance between the Mosaic heritage (of memory) and Amarna theology (of history). By introducing an aniconic religion, Moses only took Akhenaten's Atentheology to its final step. Take away the "icon" of the Aten (and with it the realm of heliomorph proto-rationality and its contextual focus on light), reduce the role of Akhenaten to that of a "prophet" (one to whom the god reveals himself), and a more or less "rational" monotheism ensues. Furthermore, the ineffable, hidden &amp; unsaying aspect of "YHVH" is an aniconic transposition of the name "Amun", the "hidden", whereas the "ALHYM" or Divine presence (the "shekinah") refers to Re and the deities ("Elohim" is a plural word - cf. theonomy). Israel, "a people come out of Egypt" (Numeri, xxii, 5 -11) indeed drank deeply at the wells of Egypt (Williams, 1981), as would the Greeks later ... Following table broadly sketches the different phases to be noted in Ancient Egyptian theology. It also summarizes the ideas proposed in this paper. The elements of philosophy prevailing in each phase have been put in italics.</p> <p>1 Amun in the Old and Middle Kingdoms. the Predynastic roots of the sacred Evidence suggests that the domestication of cattle and the cultivation of cereals appeared in the Western Desert ca. 5000 BCE. Mid-Holocene aridity probably encouraged desert herders and farmers to settle along the banks of the Nile. The Neolithic period is the interval between the emergence of farming villages on the banks of the Nile and the initiation of the Egyptian nation-state (ca. 3000 BCE). The earliest evidence of Neolithic communities in the Nile Vally dates between 5000 and 4100 BCE (cf. Merimda Beni Salama). The Badarians (cf. Badari, Upper Egypt, about 4000 BCE) were a farming and herding community. These settlers raised cattle, sheep/goats and pigs. They cultivated barley and wheat and agriculture was supplemented by fishing and fowling. Pottery, glass, copper and glazed staetite were found at some sites. They provided their dead with food and placed female figurines in the graves. Funerary orientation was not yet fixed. Middle Predynastic Period (ca. 4000 - 3600 BCE) : with Amratian culture (cf. site of el-Amra, Sohag - Naqada I) agriculture inceased, hunting deceased and a marked techological change took place. Pottery not yet diffused from Mesopotamia was created, with geometrical and naturalistic designs, unstructured in layout. Concentration and centralization of power in its incipient stages with the formation of a managerial class. Transportation of goods along Page 5 of 55</p> <p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>the Nile. Social status evident in funerary cults. Clear proof of religious activity involving female deities such as Hathor. Graven images in tombs. Corpse on its left side, head of deceased pointing South, looking West. Late Predynastic Period (ca. 3600 - 3300 BCE) : in Gerzean culture (cf. site of el-Gerza, Fayum - Naqada II), fundamental changes happen and techniques were improved. Contacts with Mesopotamia. Cult centers and urban centers emerged, associated with chiefdoms, principalities, provincial states and village corporations united into regional kingdoms. Trade continued to flourish and wealth distinctions became more salient. Whole burial treasures. Sky &amp; cow goddess Hathor is very prominent ; Terminal Predynastic Period (ca. 3300 - 3000 BCE - Naqada III) : The rise of the Egyptian state was the result of wars and alliances. Over at least 250 years, fragmentation and reunification had occurred. In Upper Egypt, there had been the kingdoms of Naqada and Hierakonpolis, and in the Delta the petty kingdoms of Buto, Sais, Tell el-Balamoun, etc. The first major power emerged when the two Southern kingdoms of Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) and Naqada united. These kings from Hierakonpolis, later known as the "Followers of Horus" conquered and annexed the kingdom of Naqada (Seth) and later the Delta. FInally, Pharaoh Aha founded Memphis (or "Mennefer" in the North), to serve as a link between Upper and Lower Egypt (ca.3000 BCE) and initiated the Dynastic Period. Although polytheism is attested, it is likely that the tendency towards one divine principle was present from the start of the Dynastic Period (ca. 3000 BCE). I speak of a "tendency" rather than of a basic monotheism with polytheism as a faade. Nevertheless, an overarching, mythical &amp; pre-rational view was clearly present (cf. the figure of the Horus Falcon) and had formidable growth-potential, although the use of the word "monotheism" (cf. Otto's "Monotheistische Tendenzen in der gyptischen Religion" of 1955) should be considered misleading in the context of the Early Dynastic Period (the Archaic Period, Dynasties I &amp; II) and the early Old Kingdom (Dynasties III &amp; IV). a divine dual monarchy In the Archaic Period, this tendency to unite was clearly manifested in the figure of Pharaoh (Hebrew pronunciation of "pr Aa", "great house"), the divine king, who was a "Follower of Horus". He had come from the South and was an embodiment of the divine, celestial and supreme principle. By his sheer presence, he guaranteed the unity of the Two Lands and represented Egypt as a whole (with his Residence in northern Memphis). The Horus names of these kings suggest the use of pairings, possibly reflecting the binary structure of Egypt (with its Two Lands, the South Upper Egypt- and the North -Lower Egypt-). "The institution of kingship was projected as the sole force which held the country together, and the dual nature of the monarchy was expressed in the king's regalia, in his titulary, and in royal rituals and festivals. This concept -the harmony of opposites, a totality embracing pared contrasts- chimed so effectively with the Egyptian world-view that the institution of kingship acquired what has been called a Page 6 of 55</p> <p>ANCIENT EGYPT : Amun and the One, Great &amp; Hidden</p> <p>6/23/11 9:22 PM</p> <p>'transcendent significance'. This helps to explain the centrality of the institution to Egyptian culture, and its longevity."Wilkinson, 2001, p.185, quoting Frankfort, 1948).</p> <p>These early figurations of unity are mythical (Pharaoh assimilating the sacred power of the "Great Goddess" of Predynastic times) and pre-rational (Pharaoh overseeing everything as does the falcon, a bird of prey that glides high up in the sky on the hot air and with a watchfull eye overlooks its large territory, soaring down on its prey at a 100 miles per hour, combining speed with endurance). On the ivory comb of Pharaoh Djet of the First Dynasty, Horus is represented in three forms :1. as the celestial falcon, whose outspread wings are the vault of the sky ; 2. as a falcon traversing the sky in a celestial, solar bark and 3. as a falcon atop Pharaoh's "serekh".</p> <p>It is clear that Pharaoh was seen as Horus incarnate. Horus was the "great(est) god, lord of the sky", "he who is above", "face of heaven" (i.e. Horsemsu, "Hr-smsw" or Horus the elder and Heru-ur or "Horus the Great"). "The identification of the ruler with Horus, represented by a falcon, is apparent from late Predynastic times, and is given expression on royal monuments and in the serekhs of the kings from the period of state formation. It is possible that the worship of a cele...</p>