Category Archives: Egyptology

The Tale of Pharaoh Khufu and the Magician in Ancient Egyptian Literature

According to Ancient Egyptian literature, the Book of Thoth (see earlier post about this here ) was said to have the power such that anyone who found and read it would know how to enchant the earth and the sky, see the wind, how to hear the sun, know the secrets of the gods and the songs of the stars, and understand the language of the birds.

There is also a text in their literature (The Westcar Papyrus) that tells us that Pharaoh Khufu had for a long time been looking for the Sanctuary of Thoth, in order to make his own ‘horizon’, that is to say, for his own tomb, in the likeness of Thoth’s. Thoth, the God of Wisdom, was said to have a sanctuary (tomb) with a number of secret chambers, and the great Pharaoh wanted to know the number of secret chambers. Numbers were considered sacred or magical by the ancient Egyptians and therefore extremely powerful. Surely, the number of Chambers in the Sanctuary of Thoth would have been chosen wisely for their power.

Westcar
The Westcar Papyrus Egyptian, c. 1700 BC

 

The fourth story of the Westcar Papyrus is told by Hardedef, son of Khufu, and takes place during the reign of Khufu. Hardedef tells his father of a magician named Djedi who is a hundred and ten years old, who eats five hundred loaves of bread and a shoulder of beef for meat and drinks a hundred jars of beer a day. He knows how to mend a severed head; he can make a lion walk behind him with a leash on the ground; and he knows the number of chambers in the sanctuary of Thoth.

Khufu instructs Hardedef to bring Djedi to his court.

 

“It is told,” King Khufu said to the Magician, “that you can restore the head that is taken from a live creature.”
“I can indeed, Your Majesty,” answered Djedi.
The king said: “Then let a prisoner be brought forth and decapitated.”
“I would rather it were not a man,” said Djedi.

A duck was brought forth and its head was cut off, and the head was thrown to the right and the body to the left. Djedi spoke magic words. Then the head and the body came together, and the duck rose up and quacked loudly. The same was done with a goose.
King Khufu then caused a cow to be brought in, and its head was cut off. Djedi restored the animal to life again, and caused it to follow him.

His Majesty then spoke to the magician and said: “It is told that you possess the secrets of the dwelling of the god Thoth.”
Djedi answered that he did not possess them, but knows where they are concealed, and that is within a box in a temple chamber at Heliopolis.

And his majesty said “go and bring it to me” and Djedi said “it is not I who shall bring them to you.” and his majesty said “who will bring it to me?” and Djedi said “the eldest of the three kings who are in the womb of Reddjedet will bring it to you”.

 

When Khufu presses him further he states that the one to be granted access to the chamber is the first born of three future pharaohs (the first three kings of the fifth dynasty (Userkaf) who will be born to a Reddjedet, the wife of a priest of Ra. Thus this story forms part of the prophesy establishing the right to rule of Userkaf, Sahure and Neferirkara Kakai which is continued in the final part of the Westcar Papyrus with the story of the birth of the three pharaohs.

Djedi was honoured by His Majesty, and thereafterwards dwelt in the house of the Prince Hordadef. He was given daily for his portion an ox, a thousand loaves of bread, a hundred jugs of beer, and a hundred bunches of onions.

 The three future kings are confirmed as the offspring of Ra (Lichtheim 1975:215-22). The prophesy that they will be pious rulers contrasts with the rather bad reputation of the Pharaoh Khufu in later periods. In this papyrus Khufu is alleged to be seeking ancient knowledge to apply to the construction of his tomb (the Great Pyramid of Giza). Mackenzie translates the relevant phrase as the secrets of the dwelling of the god Thoth (1907:147) while Blackman translates the phrase as “the number of chambers in the sanctuary of Thoth” (Neederof 2008:37). Hornung confirms that there is considerable doubt as to the nature of the information he seeks but it seems clear that this act is considered impious and so the tale could be considered as an example of a morality tale documenting the fall of the royal house of Khufu as a result of his lack of peity (Kemp 2005:77).
djedo

 

 Sources:

The Tales from the Westcar Papyrus

Westcar Papyrus: Khufu and the Magician

 

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Hermetic Rebirth and the Cave of Initiation

 

Hermetism is often and wrongly confused with Gnosticism, which similarly originated in Egypt in roughly the same era. For present purposes, a few salient points of contrast will suffice. Like the God of Stoicism, the Hermetic God was omnipresent and omniscient through the material cosmos. In Gnosticism, by contrast, God was transcendent, and the physical universe was an evil place created by an evil Demiurge (van den Broek 1998). Hermetic ethics celebrated the divine within the world; Gnostic ethics were abstemious, ascetic efforts to escape from the world (Mahé 1998).

There were also differences in their valuations of visions. Jonas (1969) drew attention to the fact that the motif of heavenly ascension was originally intended, for example in Jewish apocalyptic literature, as an objective reality, but was subsequently transformed into an allegory of the mystical path. The mystical appropriation of the ascension motif was complete by the second century era of the Alexandrine Christian fathers, St. Clement and Origen (Danielou 1973).

The allegorical tradition was also present in the Gnostic literature of Nag Hammadi, although in a slightly different manner. Referring to experiences of visions in general, The Exegesis on the Soul 34 stated: “Now it is fitting that the soul regenerate herself….This is the resurrection that is from the dead. This is the ransom from captivity. This is the upward journey of ascent to heaven. This is the way of ascent to the father” (Robinson 1988:196). For the Gnostics, as for the Alexandrine fathers, ascension was one among several literary tropes that could signify mystical experiences of highly varied manifest contents.

So far as I know, the Hermetic system was the earliest in the West to propose a mystical initiation, consisting of multiple experiences, that is simultaneously a journey through places and a series of changes in the ontology of the self. Its ascension to the sky compares with Jewish and Christian apocalypticism; but its division of ontological states compares with Neoplatonic distinctions among sensibles, intermediates or divisible intelligibles, and indivisible intelligibles.

This sequence, which can already be discerned in Iamblichus, was eventually formalized by Proclus as three mystical stages of purgation, illumination, and union. However, the Hermetists slotted imaginals into the middle position that Neoplatonism limited to empirically demonstrable arithmeticals and geometricals.

This substitution brought Hermetism to a position on visions that differed from the reductive skepticism of Neoplatonism, which treated visions as ideas that were misrepresented by the senses in the form of images.

The Hermetic position also differed from the pure projections that Gnostics held visions to be. For Hermetists, the imaginal was not a projection whose ever various and impredictable content becomes increasingly pure as one’s mind purifies in its progress toward God. The imaginal was instead topographical, an actual and predictable itinerary in a visionary topos that had ontological integrity and coherence.

Although The Discourse was not transmitted to the West in the Corpus Hermeticum, the Hermetic concept of ontologically distinctive locations along an itinerary has been integral to Western esotericism for centuries. Because the Hermetic tradition survived without apparent interruption from late antiquity to be taught at least as late as eleventh century Baghdad, it is not surprising that a series of initiatory experiences were portrayed as an itinerary across nine mountains in Suhrawardi’s Treatise of the Birds (1982).

Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi (1154–1191)

To Suhrawardi, Sufism also owed the introduction of the ‘alam al-mithal, the “world of imagination” (Rahman 1964). The notion of an initiatory itinerary in the world of imagination was formalized, or at least made less esoteric, in the Sufism of Najm ad-Din al-Kubra (Merkur 1991:223, 234-35); and its passage from Islam to western Europe may be assumed.

Interestingly, Widengren (1950:77-85) demonstrated that the ancient motif of ascension to an audience before a heavenly god was replaced, in the Arabic Hermetic literature, by the motif of entering a subterranean chamber where Hermes sits enthroned, holding a book in his hand. Widengren suggested that the descent of Balinas (the Arabic Apollonius of Tyana) to acquire the Emerald Table of Hermes, along with variant narratives, blended the motif of an initiatory ascension with the motif, found in Egyptian and Hellenistic tales, of the discovery of a book in a subterranean chamber.

An illustration from an old collection of stories translated from Ancient Eyptian Literature. This scene depicts the character “Setna”, emerging from a tomb where he gambled to win a magical papyrus, known as the Book Of Thoth, the reading of which would empower him with all knowledge. Setna was based on a real person, Prince Khaemwaset, the fourth son of Ramesses II, who was a Holy Man of the highest order (Sem Priest) and credited as being a great magician. (It was this character from Ancient History that I give all credit to for embarking on my own Hermetic Journey – Jaq) Setna/Prince Khaemwaset

The motif of the cave of initiation, which found its widest audience through the tale of Aladdin in the 1001 Nights, may also have been influenced by Porphyry’s On the Cave of the Nymphs (Taylor 1969), in which a passage in Homer was allegorized as an image of the cosmos. Whatever its sources, the motif of an alchemical initiation by means of a subterranean itinerary is earliest attested in the writings of medieval Arabic Hermetists.

By this route, the motif of ascension in late antique Hermetism was likely historically antecedent not only to such celebrated European alchemical motifs as the Cave of the Philosophers, but also to the climactic encounters in Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen (1796) and Ferdinand Ossendowski’s Beasts, Men and Gods (1922).

Engraving from Baro Urbigerus Besondere chymische Schrifften, 1705.

Source: Stages of Ascension in Hermetic Rebirth

The Discourse on the 8th and 9th

The Corpus Hermeticum

Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi (1154–1191)

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The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

“The god Horus is a falcon (the word for which in hieroglyphs is qhr, the falcon’s cry). In the third surviving column of text, remarkably, the falcon is marked with a triangle, the hieroglyphic designation for the star Sirius. As if it were a mathematical proof unfolding before my eyes, I saw that if the falcon marked by the triangle is Sirius, the fire is the light of dawn in which the gods—the things marked holy by the hieroglyphic prayer flags—are stars. The baboon’s penis is in actuality a familiar sight: the Sword of Orion (the three stars under Orion’s belt), which rises directly before Sirius on the path of rising stars. The hieroglyphic lines on the wall express an immediate, visual moment in the physical world: the dawn rising of Sirius signaling the rising of the Nile, the key moment of the Egyptian agricultural year. The clear, repetitive, and simple hieroglyphic lines read not as a magic spell but as a finely machined poetic riddle: The Sword of Orion opens the doors of the sky. Before the doors close the gate to the path over the fire Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark, As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire, Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark. They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path. Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius. That this was the case was borne out by the text as I translated further. Beautifully constructed verses presented one vivid astronomical reference after another: Taurus (“Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns. / Come out. Rise.”), the full moon (“the face, the head, the eye”), the North Star (“the axis at the center of the wheel”), the Dippers (“the arms of night”), the Milky Way (“the ladder to heaven”). The verses of the Pyramid Texts map the night sky as a detailed seasonal clock reliably predicting the most critical resource of all: water. Egyptian civilization came out of radical climate change—cattle herders whose grazing land was rapidly becoming desert as the water dried up in the climate shift of the Neolithic, much as is happening in Texas and around the world today.

The verses present a sequence of poetic images in which the human body is transformed back into its elements in the visible universe of the turning sky. The remnant essence of a human life rises as a star in the east: “moses” (the hieroglyphic word for infant) in “the field of rushes” (the eastern stars at dawn). The infant star is the child of “she who gave birth but did not know it” (the sky). The sky is a flood of cool darkness across which sail the stars: Sirius and its evil twin, “the detested wild dog Set,” the second brightest star in the sky, Canopus, the rising of which signals the autumn rains with their deadly flash floods and thunderstorms. Through this glittering wetland of stars wanders the golden calf, the golden crescent horns of the moon.

This extraordinary convergence of poetry, science, and religion resides not only in the writing but in the pictures within the words themselves. Osiris is a phonetic rendering of a hieroglyphic rebus: the seat of the eye, the universal corpse in which resurrection is not a religious mystery but an inevitability of nature. In the Pyramid Texts, hieroglyphic vocabulary is rich with images: The body is a tree. The snake is the life in it. The fruit of the tree is the eye. What is being expressed is the intelligence of nature itself in the ongoing process of creation: the death, decay, and rebirth of plant and animal life in the cyclical year. One familiar religious trope after another appears not as literal historical fact used to proscribe, threaten, and dictate the parameters of human life but as poetic imagery used to bring to life the awareness of our fragile and beautiful world. The richness of these images is echoed in the Book of Job: “As for the earth, out of it cometh bread, and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath dust of gold.” The Pyramid Texts are not magic spells or religious prescription any more than this. Instead, the text takes up a key question: Where shall wisdom be found?

…over the fire
Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark,

As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire,

Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark.

They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path.

Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius.

 

Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns.

Come out. Rise.

Poetry and religion arise from the same source: the perception of the mystery of life. Early Egyptian writing belongs to this eternal language. The vehicle at work is associative thinking, in which metaphors act as keys to unlock a primeval human sense of the integrated living world. The meaning may not come across on the pedantic level, but on the poetic level it is transparent.”

Source: The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

Susan Brind Morrow

Susan Brind Morrow’s translation and analysis of the Pyramid Texts, The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts, was published in 2015. She received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 2006.

The Oracle of Delphi – Know Thyself

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.” – Richard Bach

I was watching a tv documentary last night by Michael Scott about the oracle at Delphi (link for UK readers http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w4jtx ) and he was explaining how those who visited the Oracle should have paid more heed to the motto at the site, which read “Know thyself”.

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, but many people don’t spend the time thinking about its meaning, and still less spend the time learning to “Know Thyself”.  It means understand yourself, but so much more than merely self observation.

The quote above from Richard Bach explains far better what Michael Scott was getting at – that the answers given by the Oracle were ambiguous, and could only be understood when a person interpreted them using their own intuition. It’s often said that we know the answers to our own questions, so why is it that we don’t trust our own answers?

Usually, this is because we have limiting beliefs about ourselves. We are basing our ideas about ourselves on what others say about us and others. A woman recently told me that her mother had always told her before a job interview that she wouldn’t be “what they are looking for”, regardless of the work. The mother’s limiting observations were not only related to interviews but to other areas of the woman’s life, and it was only many years later that she realised how much her mother’s words had affected her beliefs about herself.

We have all been affected by similar words from others, quite often without being aware of it, and we are also unaware that many of the beliefs we hold are not our own. So how do we undo this past conditioning? How does one “Know Thyself”?

We can start by listening to what we say, or write. Whenever you say “I am….” this or “I am…” that, stop for a moment and ask yourself if you really are, or if that is what you have come to believe, based on what others have said either about you or about other people.

What if you’re not sure? Start to become aware of your own emotions, your reactions to what people say or do around you – are those reactions genuine or conditioned? What pushes your buttons? When you notice what has pushed your buttons, then start to ask why?

You’ll be surprised at the answers you come up with. And when you begin to understand the answers, you’ll also begin to trust your own answers more, and will be on the way to understanding what the motto meant at the temple to the Oracle at Delphi. You already know.

For an earlier, more esoteric post on the subject of  to Know Thyself, see here: https://supersededotcom.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/stairs-of-gold-giorgio-tavaglione/

Was Akhenaten’s Atenism monotheistic or polytheistic?

In the 14th Century B.C. Pharaoh Akhenaten, (formerly Amenhotep iv) who is referred to as “The Heretic” ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty -the Armana Period.

He has been viewed as the first monotheist – the belief in the existence of only one god –  by many scholars and has been credited as the inspiration for the beliefs of Moses. He disbanded the priesthoods of Amun and the other major AE Gods, having their images removed from temples as much as possible and elevating the Aten, the sun disc to represent  his religion.

Akhat

Images of the gods were replaced by images from nature, and the pharaoh was shown as serene, smiling with his family rather than depictions of great war scenes with the pharaoh smiting enemies and foes.

What we do know, is that Akhenaten’s Atenism did not necessarily revolve around “One god”. The Aten was the symbol of his worship, but the Aten symbol always depicted both the Sun disc and the rays that emanated from it – each ray ending with a hand holding an ankh symbol, which represents the life force. The hands are usually holding the ankhs near the nose or mouth of Akhenaten and, if she is included in the depicted scene, to Nefertiti.

akhnef

These rays are very suggestive of the meaning of the Shekinah as a feminine aspect of divinity, also referred to as the Divine Presence, that occurs in other belief systems. The Shekinah, among other things, represents the majestic presence or manifestation of god which has descended to “dwell” among men, the presence of god on earth or a symbol or manifestation of the god’s presence. 

This is what the Jewish Encyclopedia tells us about the Shekinah.

The Shekinah as Light

“According to this view, the Shekinah appeared as physical light; so that Targ. to Num. vi. 2 says, “Yhwh shall cause His Shekinah to shine for thee.” A Gentile asked the patriarch Gamaliel (c. 100): “Thou sayest that wherever ten are gathered together the Shekinah appears; how many are there?” Gamaliel answered: “As the sun, which is but one of the countless servants of God, giveth light to all the world, so in a much greater degree doth the Shekinah” (Sanh. 39a). The emperor (Hadrian) said to Rabbi Joshua b. Hananiah, “I desire greatly to see thy God.” Joshua requested him to stand facing the brilliant summer sun, and said, “Gaze upon it.” The emperor said, “I can not.” “Then,” said Joshua, “if thou art not able to look upon a servant of God, how much less mayest thou gaze upon the Shekinah?”(Ḥul. 60a).

The Nature of Shekinah

“Maimonides regarded the Shekinah, like the Memra, the Yeḳara, and the Logos, as a distinct entity, and as a light created to be an intermediary between God and the world; while Naḥmanides (Maybaum, l.c.), on the other hand, considered it the essence of God as manifested in a distinct form. So in more modern times Gfrörer saw in “Shekinah,” “Memra,” and “Yeḳara” independent entities which, in that they were mediators, were the origin of the Logos idea; while Maybaum, who was followed by Hamburger, regarded the Shekinah merely as an expression for the various relations of God to the world, and as intended to represent: (1) the dwelling of God in the midst of Israel; (2) His omnipresence; (3) His personal presence, etc. (Maybaum, l.c. pp. 51-54).

That the Shekinah was not an intermediary is shown by the Targum to Ex. xxxiii. 15, xxxiv. 9 (Maybaum, l.c. pp. 5, 34), where the term “Shekinah” is used instead of “God.” The word often occurs, however, in connections where it can not be identical with “God,” e.g., in passages which declare that “the Shekinah rests,” or, more explicitly, that “God allows His Shekinah to rest,” on such a one. In short: in the great majority of cases “Shekinah” designates “God”; but the frequent use of the word has caused other ideas to be associated with it, which can best be understood from citations. In this connection the statements of the Talmud and Midrash are more characteristic than those of the Targumim, because they were spontaneous and were not made with reference to the text of the Bible. The Shekinah is frequently mentioned, even in the very oldest portions; and it is wholly unjustifiable to differentiate the Talmudic conception thereof from the Targumic, as has been attempted by Weber, although absolute consistency is observed neither in Targum, nor in Talmud and Midrash, since different persons have expressed their views therein.

Since the Shekinah is light, those passages of the Apocrypha and New Testament which mention radiance, and in which the Greek text reads δόξα, refer to the Shekinah, there being no other Greek equivalent for the word. Thus, according to Luke ii. 9, “the glory of the Lord [δόζα Ḳυρίου] shone round about them” (comp. II Peter i. 17; Eph. i. 6; II Cor. iv. 6); and it is supposed that in John i. 14 and Rev. xxi. 3 the words σκηνοῦν and σκηνή were expressly selected as implying the Shekinah.” Jewish Encyclopedia – Shekinah

 

Similarly, we have the Gnostic Barbelo, the first emanation of the Monad, Mother of the Aeons, the Perfect Glory, the image of the invisible spirit. In the Apocryphon of John, we have the passage:

“And his thought performed a deed and she came forth, namely she who had appeared before him in the shine of his light. This is the first power which was before all of them (and) which came forth from his mind, She is the forethought of the All – her light shines like his light – the perfect power which is the image of the invisible, virginal Spirit who is perfect. The first power, the glory of Barbelo, the perfect glory in the aeons, the glory of the revelation, she glorified the virginal Spirit and it was she who praised him, because thanks to him she had come forth. This is the first thought, his image; she became the womb of everything, for it is she who is prior to them all, the Mother-Father, the first man, the holy Spirit, the thrice-male, the thrice-powerful, the thrice-named androgynous one, and the eternal aeon among the invisible ones, and the first to come forth.” The Apocryphon of John – Nag Hammadi Library

 

In the Gnostic Gospel of the Egyptians, the Barbelo is described as virginal, yet “the uninterpretable power, the ineffable Mother. She originated from herself […]; she came forth; she agreed with the Father of the silent silence.

 

Was the feminine aspect in Atenism important? I believe it was, and Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt has also introduced this theory into understanding the Atenist religion. It has also been suggested that the feminine attributes that Akhenaten was depicted with and which became increasingly prominent – the pendulous breasts, rounded belly, broad hips and heavy thighs – represented the feminine side of his Divinity and fertile side of his kingship.

Who were the main opponents to the religion of the Aten and why? During the reign of the pacifist Akhenaten, Egypt’s power in the region was weakened. Because Akhenaten had denied the existence and prohibited the worship of any other gods, the priesthoods were no longer needed, no longer funded and became impotent. They wanted the priesthood to be as powerful as it had been previously, with many temples dedicated to the multiple gods these priests had served.

I’m not making the usual Moses was Akhenaten claim, but I am suggesting that the followers of the religion of the Aten, with its male and female promincence (reflected in the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and subsequently arguably by Akhenaten and his male co-regent with the feminine epithet) was the same religion..that of Amenhotep’s mother…that of the Hebrews.
“Even Redford assumes the possibility that the (monotheism) of Israel derives its origin from Amarnian religion ”
http://www.geroglifici.it/aton.htm

I’m actually suggesting that none were “monotheistic”, in view of the masculine/feminine aspect and others have argued for this, or philosophised over it, since antiquity.

The Language of the Birds and the Book of Thoth.

 

My interest in the esoteric began in earnest when I was studying Egyptology and came across some literature from the Ptolemeic period of Ancient Egypt; stories about one of the sons of Ramesses II, who had lived centuries earlier.  This prince, Khaemwaset, was already a fascinating historical character, as among other major works, he had overseen the founding of an important library in honour of his father, (the Ramesseum) and restored several pyramid complexes, including those at Giza which were already a couple of thousand years old when he was alive, and has led to him being hailed as the world’s first archaeologist, historian, and restorer of monumental architecture. So to discover that he should have been immortalised in stories as being the greatest magician that ever lived, in having discovered the Book of Thoth, and having travelled to the Underworld while still alive, suggests an oral history that was either designed to entertain, or more likely, to preserve the memory of what he had uncovered in both an entertaining and symbolic fashion.

The Book of Thoth was said to have the power such that anyone who found and read it would know how to enchant the earth and the sky, see the wind, how to hear the sun, know the secrets of the gods and the songs of the stars, and understand the language of the birds.

The box containing the Book of Thoth was said to be buried at the bottom of the Nile, guarded by snakes and scorpions and a mighty serpent who cannot be killed, in an iron box, in which there is a bronze box, in which there is a wooden box, in which there is an ivory and ebony box, in which there is a silver box, in which there is a golden box containing the Book.

Understanding The Language of the Birds is a term used to explain a deep understanding of symbolic language, but it can also be used to describe a person who is attuned with nature, or one who has achieved a certain level in some belief systems that explore so-called “higher states”.

The Egyptian God Thoth is associated with writing/scribes, and communication, as – among many of his other roles – he was the go-between between the gods and humankind. He created writing for this purpose; to issue humankind with the wisdom and wishes of the gods. He is often portrayed, in this guise, holding the instruments of a scribe

thoth1.jpg

NeferKaPtahbookofthoth1.jpg

The story about Khaemwaset – also known as Setna – and the Book of Thoth can be found here http://www.touregypt.net/godsofegypt/thebookofthoth.htm

Another legendary story about him is The Sealed Letter http://www.egyptianmyths.net/mythsealletr.htm

There’s also a short article (link below) that I find is a great introduction to the Language of the Birds:

“There is often mention, in diverse traditions, of a mysterious language called “the language of the birds”—a designation that is clearly symbolic, for the very importance that is attributed to the knowledge of this language, as the prerogative of a high initiation, does not allow us to take it literally. We read, for example, in the Qurʾān: “And Solomon was David’s heir. And he said, O mankind! Lo! we have been taught the language of the birds (ullimnā manṭiq aṭ-ṭayr) and have been given abundance of all things” (27:16). Elsewhere we read of heroes who, having vanquished the dragon, like Siegfried in the Nordic legend, instantly understand the language of the birds; and this makes it easy to interpret the symbolism in question. Victory over the dragon has, as its immediate consequence, the conquest of immortality, which is represented by some object the approach to which is guarded by the dragon; and this conquest essentially implies the reintegration into the center of the human state, that is, into the point where communication is established with the higher states of the being. It is this communication which is represented by the understanding of the language of the birds; and in fact birds are frequently taken as symbols of the angels, that is, precisely, of the higher states.”

Read the full article at the link below

http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/viewpdf/default.aspx?article-title=The_Language_of_the_Birds_by_Rene_Guenon.pdf

More on the Language of the Birds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_birds

Temporal and Eternal, Being and Non-Being – “false” time and “changeless” time

While reading ‘A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe’ (‘The Sleepwalkers’) by Arthur Koestler, there was a passage that gave me a “brain itch”; that feeling that something is really familiar, and you know you have definitely come across a similar idea before and you’re struggling to remember because it was in a completely different context. Then it came to me.

Kestler writes: “Herakleides, who died in 310 B.C. was inspired by the work of Philolaus. Herakleides created his so-called ‘Egyptian’ system in which the Earth remained at the centre of the Universe, but spun on its own axis, giving rise to the diurnal motion of the heavens. He explained the erratic orbits of Mercury and Venus by making them orbit the Sun, while Mars, Jupiter and Saturn still orbited the Earth.”

(Anyone know why this has been remembered as ‘his so-called Egyptian system’?)

Anyway, more to the point, Koestler writes:  “This splitting up of the Universe into two regions, the one lowly, the other exalted, the one subject to change, the other not, was to become a basic doctrine of medieval philosophy and cosmology. It brought a serene, cosmic reassurance to a frightened world by asserting its essential stability and permanence, but without going so far as to pretend that all change was mere illusion. [….]It was not a reconciliation of the temporal and the eternal, merely a confrontation of the two, but to be able to take in both in one glance, as it were, was something of a comfort.”

Having come across the early thoughts on ‘sub-lunary regions’, fixed and Vagabond lights in the sky- and Plato’s seeming disgust for change which he equated with degeneration – I couldn’t fail to notice a correlation with the two different ‘times’ of the Ancient Egyptians – nhh time and Dt time

index

The Hermetic texts of The Divine Pymander are very close to Plato’s philosophy, and it has been said that the Gnostics ‘disliked’ nhh time – it’s said that it was thought to be “false” time. ‘Dt’ was said to be changeless.

egyptian-hieroglyphics-eternity-eternal-symbol

Daniel R. McBride writes:   “Gnostic Texts, and Coptic texts in general invariably use sha enech or some Greek loan word as dt seems to have disappeared. However, the distinction remained, and the Gnostics were anti nhh-time as it was viewed to be a false demiurgic “eternity” as opposed to the dt female aeon Sophia.”

To quote McBride further:   “The general consensus is that time as nhh has an end as it is bound up with the cyclic phenomenology of this world; time as dt on the other hand denotes the stasis of Nonbeing, the changeless and formless primordial state – though “pregnant” – which is the backdrop for the dynamic nhh. It would seem that eternity was considered to be Nun in its most archetypal manifestation, using such suggestive qualifiers as “inert” or “hidden” to imply the impending theogonic development of the ennead.”  (quote ©Daniel R. McBride 2002)

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The Cartouche of Senwosret is followed by the hieroglyphs proclaiming him to be alive “for ever and eternity” using the symbols for nhh time and Dt time