The Pharaoh, the Two Lands, and The Apocalypse: An Analysis of the Breakdown of the Cosmological Order of Existence in Classical Egypt

HomeArticlesThe Pharaoh, the Two Lands, and The Apocalypse: An Analysis of the Breakdown of the Cosmological Order of Existence in Classical Egypt

Within the course of his writing of Order & History (itself a more than thirty year affair) Eric Voegelin wrote two sustained studies of Ancient Egypt. In O&H, v.1, Israel and Revelation, he included lengthy analyses of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilization as an expansive backdrop to his exegesis of the pneumatic breakthroughs of the prophets, priests, patriarchs, and judges of Israel. In our time and context, however, fully understanding and appreciating the uniqueness of that breakthrough requires a certain amount of context – even a foil. In effect, Voegelin needed to insure that his audience fully understand what was normal at the time that the distinctively Israelite experience was first being articulated in the world. And what was normal in the Near East was distinctly different from our current experience: it was a world full of gods and god-kings, in which meaningful personal existence was experienced as hinging upon the proper reflection of divine-immanent cosmic order in the little cosmos or cosmion of society. Reality, to paraphrase Voegelin, was experienced within the cosmological myth in terms of an immanent, quarternarian structure comprising the consubstantial partnership of men, society, gods, and the cosmos.

Egypt, as the grandest, most articulate, most venerable and unique exemplar of such a cosmological society, figured centrally in Voegelin’s study in O&H, v.1, as it would again when he composed O&H, v.4, The Ecumenic Age. At that time, his insight into historiogenetic myth led him to a study of the Egyptian historian Manetho, as well as the Sumerian King List. The upshot of that study was his thorough demonstration  that the idea that “pagan” or non-Abrahamic civilizations had no native concept of linear (or at least non-circular) time was unsustainable. That being said, in spite of his many breakthroughs and discoveries over the timespan of his writing O&H, to say nothing of his sundry other studies, meditations, and activities, Voegelin was not one to exhaustively retread familiar ground. As such, he never fully revised his earlier empirical work in light of later insights, particularly those of which he wrote, e.g., in Anamnesis and O&H, v.4-5.

This essay, excerpted from a longer study, attempts to do so, both by marshalling empirical materials not yet available to Voegelin (such as the metastatic Potter’s Oracle of the late Ptolemaic Era), and by applying aspects of his later discoveries to materials with which he was quite familiar but either did not include in his analyses or else did not revisit. For the sake of scope, I will be focusing upon one central constellation of Egyptian symbols – most notably the King or Pharaoh – and limiting myself to a representative sample of written materials.

The King as Creator and Horizon

4a. To say by Nut-Nekhbet, the great: This is (my) beloved, N., (my) son;

4b. I have given the horizons to him, that he may be powerful over them like Harachte.

4c. All the gods say: “It is a truth that thy beloved among thy children is N.,

4d. to whom one will do service of courtier for ever.” [i]

In the mythology of Ancient Egypt generally, but the Old Kingdom particularly, the figure of the king plays the part of both the center and the periphery of the drama of existence in the Nile Valley. In the self-understanding of the early dynasties, the king as Horus-Seth plays the central bulwark of political order as the manifestation of law and force.[ii]  As Horus-Harakhte, the Great God, he is the limits of the earthly stage of existence.[iii] As Horus-Re, he is the life-giving illumination of the Black Land. As Horus-Osiris, he is the god of all that becomes, and god of all which comes into its eternal completion in death.[iv] He is the lord of the two horizons, of life and death, outside of whose reach lies only meaningless chaos, oblivion, and un-true existence. Conversely, to subsist within the reach of his mediated divinity was to subsist in maat – to truly exist, and to exist truthfully.

In the Memphite Theology, whose first composition is conventionally dated to the 5th Dynasty, this all-encompassing presence of the king is even subtly extended to the creation of the world which is Egypt. The inscription preserved on the Shabaka Stone opens with a pious hymn to the greatness of the king, and proceeds to present the inscribing of the story of Ptah’s creation of the world as an act of filial piety:

“This writing was copied out anew by his majesty in the house of his father Ptah-South-of-his-Wall, for his majesty found it to be a work of the ancestors which was worm-eaten, so that it could not be understood from the beginning to end. His majesty copied it anew so that it became better than it had been before, in order that his name might endure and his monument last in the House of his father Ptah-South-of-his-Wall throughout eternity, as a work done by the son of Re [Shabaka] for his father Ptah-Tatenen, so that he might live forever.”

The inscription then continues by relating the story of the division of the land between Seth and Horus at the command of the elder earth-god, Geb:

“[Geb, lord of the gods, commanded] that the Nine Gods gather to him. He judged between Horus and Seth; he ended their quarrel. He made Seth the king of Upper Egypt in the land of Upper Egypt, up to the place in which he was born, which is Su. And Geb made Horus King of Lower Egypt in the land of Lower Egypt, up to the place in which his father was drowned which is “Division-of-the-Two-Lands.” Thus Horus stood over one region, and Seth stood over one region. They made peace over the Two Lands at Ayan. That was the division of the Two Lands.”

Upon reconsideration, though, Geb reverses the decision, and awards the Two Land to Horus, “the jackal of Upper Egypt”, and Horus stands triumphant as the “uniter” of the Land:

Then it seemed wrong to Geb that the portion of Horus was like the portion of Seth. So Geb gave Horus his inheritance, for he is the son of his firstborn son.

Geb’s words to the Nine Gods: “I have appointed Horus, the firstborn.”

Geb’s words to the Nine Gods: “Him alone, Horus, the inheritance.”

Geb’s words to the Nine Gods: “To his heir, Horus, my inheritance.”

Geb’s words to the Nine Gods: “To the son of my son, Horus, the Jackal of Upper Egypt /// Geb’s words to the Nine Gods: “The firstborn, Horus, the Opener-of-the-ways.”

Geb’s words to the Nine Gods: “The son who was born /// Horus, on the Birthday of the Opener-of-the-ways.”

 This odd legal quarrel over the proper ordering of the Land is then tied back to the shaping of the world in Ptah’s heart and on his tongue:

There took shape in the heart, there took shape on the tongue the form of Atum. For the very great one is Ptah, who gave [life] to all the gods and their kas through this heart and through this tongue, in which Horus had taken shape as Ptah, in which Thoth had taken shape as Ptah. . . .

He gave birth to the gods,

He made the towns,

He established the nomes,

He placed the gods in their shrines,

He settled their offerings,

He established their shrines,

He made their bodies according to their wishes.

Thus the gods entered into their bodies,

Of every wood, every stone, every clay,

Every thing that grows upon him

In which they came to be.

Thus were gathered to him all the gods and their kas,

Content, united with the Lord of the Two Lands.[v]

Thus is the meaning of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt illuminated by the myth. In the beginning, there was none but Ptah, in whose heart and upon whose tongue took shape the gods, their towns, and their “bodies” (cult statues) of every wood, every stone, every clay. A quarrel then breaks out between Horus and Seth, when Osiris is “drowned” in the river. With Osiris “dead” and departed to the throne of the underworld, the entitlement to rule the over-world is claimed by both his son and his brother. Under his dual authority as both father of Osiris, which made him elder to both gods, and his status as earth-god, Geb steps in to conciliate the parties.  He then does something which was never uttered by Ptah – he divides the land upriver from that down-river and assigns each god his part. Geb then quickly overturns his previous decision, however, when it seems to him that the division is “wrong”. Rulership of the united land is transferred to Horus, the first-born son of Osiris, who manifests his status as “uniter of the Two Land” by taking on the double-crown of Upper & Lower Egypt (“the Two Great Magicians”).

Clearly, though, this dense block of symbolism requires further unpacking in order to permit our comprehension. On a first approach, we must recall that the “Horus” referred to by the cosmological myth is not a name signifying some entity of a distant past – though the figure is certainly treated as such in the later, historiogenetic king-list of Manetho. Rather, the Horus of the Theology is a symbol of the living king of the Two Lands, much as Osiris is to be understood as a symbol of the dead king, who has passed-on into the underworld as an effective and vital ka (“vital force” often mistranslated as “soul”). In the cosmological myth of Egypt, any particular living king is a manifestation of the god Horus, whose essence and vitality are neither limited to the spatial extent of a king’s body, nor limited by that particular body’s duration. In effect the death of a king is  insignificant to the king Horus; Horus , the god, causally precedes his divine manifestation in a particular body.[vi]

In this , Horus is not unique, but rather typical of the gods of Egypt. In their plenitude of divine vitality the ba’s (“manifestations”) of a god may find  threefold expression in the form of a cosmic body, a cult body, and an animal body.[vii] Thus, for instance, might one speak of Ptah as cosmically embodied in the Risen Land, while simultaneously manifest in his cult-image in Memphis, and in the animal form of the Apis Bull. In the case of Horus, the animal manifestation simply happens to be the Egyptian king, whose mummified body, in death, then becomes a manifestation of Osiris. The king, by virtue of his status as a divine, consubstantial partner in creation, slides easily into the role of creator in life, and protector in death. In a significant sense, the king is the co-creator of cosmological order, who brings effective spatial and political unity to a “wrongly” divided world. Moreover, he brings effective order to the ranks of the cosmic gods through ritual activity – not the least of which is represented by the ritual submission of and integration of Seth, god of war and force, to Horus’ maat.

The founding king of Egyptian order is thus depicted as the Great God who mediates maat for society, men, the cosmos, and the gods, and thereby brings creation to its proper conclusion in a divine order. In addition, given that each lawful king is recognized as the “Horus” and “Great God” of his own period, it is to be understood that each fresh accession to the throne is a symbolic re-enactment of, and participation in, that final act of creation which is represented by unification. That much is evinced by the coronation rituals inscribed in the Pyramid Texts:

194a. The two doors of the horizon are open; its bolts slide.

I94b. He has come to thee, N.t (Crown of Lower Egypt); he has come to thee, Nsr.t (Uraeus);

194c. he has, come to thee, Great One; he has come to thee, Great-in-magic (Crown of Lower Egypt).

194d. He is pure for thee; he is in awe of thee.

195a. Mayest thou be satisfied with him; mayest thou be satisfied with his purity;

195b. mayest thou be satisfied with his word, which he speaks to thee:

195c. “How beautiful is thy face, when it is peaceful, new, young, for a god, father of the gods, has begotten thee!”

195d. He has come to thee, Great-in-magic (Crown of Lower Egypt).

195e. It is Horus, who has fought in protection of his eye, Great-in-magic.[viii]

When the ascending king approaches the “Great-in-magic” – the crown – he takes upon himself not only political rule in the modern sense, but also takes possession of the horizons, and responsibility for asserting maat both over force (manifested by Seth) and against isfet. His ascent is further ritually reinforced by his seating on the royal throne, which is itself the cult-body of the goddess Isis, herself the mother of Horus by the god Osiris.[ix] The king’s identification as the manifest Horus, together with his divine kinship with the deceased king, is thereby affirmed, even in such cases as when physical parentage cannot be demonstrated.

The status of the king as the ba of the creator-god is further asserted in Utterance 249 of the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, which evokes the symbolic imagery of the Heliopolitan cult of the sun-god Re – Ptah of Memphis’ summodeistic competitor[x] :

264a. To say: O ye two contestants, announce now to the honorable one in this his name:

264b .  N.  is this sasa-plant which springs from the earth.

264c. The hand of N. is cleansed by him who has prepared his throne.

265a. N. it is who is at the nose of the powerful Great One.

265b. N. comes out of the Isle of Flame,

265c. (after) he, N., had set truth therein in the place of error.

265d. N. it is who is the guardian of laundry, who protects the uraeus-serpents,

265e. in the night of the great flood, which proceeds from the Great.

266a. N. appears as Nefertem, as the flower of the lotus at the nose of R;

266b. as he comes froth from the horizon every day, the gods purify themselves, when they see him.[xi]

In a further hymn, on this occasion directed to Atum of Heliopolis, the king, as Horus-Harakhte, is credited with closing and controlling the doors of the horizon:

1593a. The doors stand fast upon thee like Inmutef;

1593b. they open not to the West; they open not to the East;

1593c. they open not to the North; they open not to the South;

1593d. they open not to those who are in the middle of the land;

1594a. (but) they are open to Horus. It was, he who made them; it was he who made them stand fast [xii]

In the compact, yet pregnant symbolism of the cosmological myths of the Old Kingdom, the king, as Horus, stands as the towering  mediator of all things from the Beginning and all things Beyond.[xiii] In his capacity as the legitimate heir of Osiris, he brings change and creation to its meaningful conclusion in maat. As Horus-Harakhte, he simultaneously manifests as the spatial and existential horizon, who secures the kingdom  in punitive expeditions against the “Nine Bows”(the traditional symbol of the foreign enemies of Egypt) and controls access to the underworld through the door to the West.[xiv] In his general capacities as Horus, the king is furthermore responsible for maintaining maat by upholding or performing cultic rituals which order and appease the gods who quiet literally embody the world.

Moreover, the effective mediation of maat throughout the Two Lands called for the refraction of the king’s divinity through a vast cosmological bureaucracy, in which each representative was expected to act as  a reflection of the king’s substance in all decisions and activities.[xv] In truth, however, all of these variegated activities and symbolic functions of the king are compactly implied in the very duty to uphold maat – a word which the more differentiated English language can only render sensibly with some difficultly, and much circumlocution. For maat is not a symbol referring to an inner quality of the king, in the manner in which Plato’s Socrates, for instance, suggests that dikaiosyne is a characteristic of the psyche of the philosopher. Rather, maat entails all proper performance of those meaningful activities which mediate and maintain the cosmological order of reality, with its four-fold, consubstantial structure of cosmos, men, society, and gods. Without the king and his orthopraxic activity, maat is simply absent from the world.

The King as Destroyer

Following the breakdown of central order towards the end of the reign of Pepi II, there irrupted forth a series of new symbols, which were intended to convey the meaning of the experience of the First Intermediate Period. Apparently, to a one, the judgment was  negative, and the letters, literature, and new forms of ritualistic materials of the age (like, for instance, the Coffin Texts), reflect varying experiences of loss and disorientation in the absence of an all-encompassing king. At the present, we will direct attention towards the issue of the institution and symbolization of the king as an expression of Egyptian order, in the wake of the disintegration of the cosmion after Dynasty VI.

With the dissolution of all practical authority to the local chiefs, nobles, and notable patrons, the kingdom entered, for the first time, into a period in which the practical matters of existence had profoundly disassociated from the paradigmatic. In practical terms, one could not count on any local authority to act as a reflection of the king’s maat, one could not even find protectors against ravaging barbarians:

“. . . Every man fights for his sister, and he protects his own person. Is (it) the Nubians? Then we shall make our (own) protection. Fighting police will hold off the barbarians. Is it the  Libyans? Then we shall turn away. The Madjoi fortunately are with Egypt. How is it that every man kills his brother? The military classes (xv 1) which we marshal for ourselves have become barbarians, beginning to destroy that from which they took their being and to show the Asiatics the state of land. And yet all the foreigners are afraid of them. . . . (10) . . .”

The grasping for power and local advantage has instead become the routine of the day, even as the struggle dissipates power among a thousand undeserving hands, and makes a mockery of maat:

“Why really, Elephantine, the Thinite nome, and the [shrine] of Upper Egypt do not pay taxes because of [civil] war . . . What is a treasury without its revenues for? The heart of the king (must) indeed be glad when truth comes to him!” But really, every foreign country [comes]! Such is our welfare! What can we do about it? Going to ruin!”

Indeed, the pragmatic situation is so chaotic that the creative energies of the gods are staunched: “Why really, women are dried up, and none can conceive. Khnum cannot fashion (mortals) because of the state of the land.” In spite of the evil conditions, however, the speaker, Ipu-Wer, can only proclaim bewilderment at what the Great God seems to have commanded to be set loose upon the Two Lands:

“. . .  Authority, Perception, and Justice are with thee, (but) it is confusion which thou wouldst set throughout the land, together with the noise of contention. Behold, one thrusts against another. Men conform to that which thou hast commanded. If three men go along a road, they are found to be two men; it is the greater number that kills the lesser. Does then the herdsman love death?”

The formulation of the problem is clear: hu (“authoritative utterance”), sia (“perception”), and maat lie with the king, who, as the manifest Horus, is the mediator between men, society, cosmos, and the gods. If the mediation of order (maat) is absent, it can only be understood to mean that Horus is absent, or that he has commanded isfet to be set upon Egypt. Within the boundaries of the established cosmological myth, it was inconceivable that men would choose disorder, as such would equate with non-existence. Utterly bewildering, though, was the thought that the king Himself would command that the pyramids and the monuments of the world fall to the depredations of time.

Even moreso, that he should wish that force, rather than law, should rule, and that the resulting dis-order should be subjected to the further disintegrating influence of the chaos of the peoples from over the horizon. The experiences and the thoughts are so disturbing that the speaker can only vacillate between laying blame on the heart of the Lord of All, and on the evil hearts of the people. He can only prevaricate  between exhorting the king to reverse his decision to wreck havoc upon creation, and wishing that the evil seed of men had been destroyed in the first generation. The only means of redressing the current calamity of existence which suggests itself to Ipu-Wer is to implore the king to restore the Land to its former glory:

Remember (xi 1) . . . how fumigation is made with incense, how water is offered from a jar in the early morning.

Remember fattened ro-geese, terep-geese, and sat-geese, how the divine offerings are made to the gods,.

Remember how natron is chewed and how white bread is prepared by a man on the day of moistening the head.

Remember how flagstaffs are set up and a stela is carved, while a priest purifies the temples and the house of god is whitewashed like milk; how the fragrance of the horizon is made sweet, and how offering-bread is established.

Remember how (ritual) regulations are adhered to, how (religious) dates are distributed, how (5) one who has been inducted into priestly service may be removed for personal weakness – that is, it was carried out wrongfully. . . .

. . .  It shall come that he brings coolness upon the heart.

(xii 1) Men shall say: “He is the herdsman of all men. Evil is not in his heart. Though his herds may be small, still he has spent the day caring for them.”. . .[xvi]

A similar recourse to words imposes itself in the case of another literary piece, now dubbed The Protests of the Eloquent Peasant. In that piece, one is presented with the tale of the honest peasant, Hunanup, who is unjustly robbed of his goods and his ass by the local official, Dehuti-Necht, while on the way to market. The official schemes to entrap the farmer under a legal pretense and seize his belongings. When Hunanup protests, the official beats him savagely, and Hunanup makes recourse to the court of the official’s superior, chief steward Meruitensi, thereupon to implore for justice and the restoration of his possessions. At first, the aggrieved peasant addresses the chief steward through an intermediary, who cynically reports:

“Lord, it is presumably a case of one of your peasants who has gone against another peasant near him. Behold, it is customary with peasants to so conduct themselves toward others who are near them. Shall we beat Dehuti-Necht for a little natron and a little salt? Command him to restore it and he will restore it.”

The steward makes no reply, and Hunanup finally presents himself in person before Meruitensi, and there entreats him, in a lengthy speech, to remember his station as a mediator of maat:

“Chief steward, my lord, you are greatest of the great, you are guide of all that which is not and which is. When you embark on the sea of truth, that you may go sailing upon it, then shall not the /////////// strip away your sail, then your ship shall not remain fast, then shall no misfortune happen to your mast then shall your spars not be broken, then shall you not be stranded – if you run fast aground, the waves shall not break upon you, then you shall not taste the impurities of the river, then you shall not behold the face of fear, the shy fish shall come to you, and you shall capture the fat birds. For you are the father of the orphan, the husband of the widow, the brother of the desolate, the garment of the motherless. Let me place your name in this land higher than all good laws: you guide without avarice, you great one free from meanness, who destroys deceit, who creates truthfulness. Throw the evil to the ground. I will speak hear me. Do justice, O you praised one, whom the praised ones praise. Remove my oppression: behold, I have a heavy weight to carry; behold, I am troubled of soul; examine me, I am in sorrow.”[xvii]

So impressed is Meruitensi with the supplicant’s eloquence, that he sends word to the king Nebkaure (c. Dynasty IX/X, c.2160-2040), who instructs his representative to keep silent, in order that the peasant will continue to appear at court to plead his case. Meruitensi, in the meantime, is to render no judgment, nor utter a word. Rather, he is to see to the necessities of the peasant, and his far-off family, in secret, and record his subsequent speeches before passing them on the the king. Many days follow, over the course of which Hunanup makes eight more speeches in which he cajoles the steward to remember his duties to set maat in the land and to despise isfet, pleading with him to break his silence. With the ninth speech, and with justice denied, the farmer vows to take matters into his own hands – he will storm out of court, and slay himself on Meruitensi’s doorstep. Thereupon, having traveled into the West under his own power, he will appeal to the gods themselves.

Having taken the game far enough, however, the steward orders two of his guards to bring the peasant back, and entreats the aggrieved man to become a guest in his house. He then sends word to the king, along with the recorded speeches. Nebkaure found the speeches “more pleasing to his heart than anything which was in his entire land”, and ordered his representative to render a verdict. At that point, Meruitensi issues orders for all of Dehuti-Necht’s property and possessions to be seized and transferred to the ownership of the much vexed Hunanup.

What, on first inspection, appears as quaint, homespun tale of a peasant’s triumph over his supposed betters reveals itself as something quite different when read from within the semantic web of early Egyptian symbolism. Firstly, one must consider the tacit connivance of King Nebkaure in the local corruption , represented by Dehuti-Necht. Rather than bringing a swift end to an affair which mocks the god’s maat, the god himself extends Hunanup’s problems for his own amusement. This is far from being a “typical” story of corruption and power, which is meant to inspire a knowing audience to cluck their tongues. The king, insofar as he is the manifest god of both power and spirit, is acting in a very a-typical manner for an Egyptian pharaoh; instead of ensuring the proper reflection of maat to every corner of the realm, Nebkaure rather allows isfet to continue for rather dubious reasons. Insofar as every representative of the king, at this stage of Egyptian order, should reflect his majesty as the mediator of the quarternarian cosmic order, the very fact that Dehuti-Necht corruption of that order is not dealt with promptly only suggests that his corruption is actually an accurate reflection of the head which wears the crown.

Secondly, one must be cognizant of the significance which the Egyptian myth placed upon silence, and thus the symbolic significance of the Silent Man in Egyptian culture. As Frankfort demonstrates in his seminal monograph, Ancient Egyptian Religion, a large literature of Egyptian formal, ethical, and religious advice circulated around that paradigmatic figure. Quoting from a selection of such “wisdom literature”, he remarks:

“But it was not only ignorance that threatened to lead man astray [in the Egyptian conception]. His passionate nature presented as great a danger. The Egyptian was well acquainted with the whole range of the seven deadly sins. Hence the “teaching” distinguish two temperaments: the ‘passionate man’ and the self-disciplined, the so-called ‘silent man’. The passionate man is garrulous, quarrelsome, grasping, arbitrary, overweening. The silent man is patient, modest, calm, up to a point self-effacing, but above all master of himself under all circumstances.” [xviii]

Lest, though, the silent man of the Egyptian paradigm be confused with the figure of humility of the Christian experience, Frankfort quotes one passage in particular which compares the silent man to the silent, and much feared Nile crocodile. Silence, for the ancient Egyptian, indicated self-control, education, patience, and an attunement with the divine order (maat). When speech became necessary, the silent man’s words should render maat plain, and not reflect a garrulous busybodiedness. In essence, by reflecting maat, the words of the silent man take on a sacred character. Comparing, then, that paradigmatic figure to the silence of Meruitensi and King Nebkaure is suggestive.

This is particularly so when one compares those two figure to the verbose eloquence of the peasant Hunanup, who pleads for maat. Here then, the audience is presented with the odd situation in which the proper roles and expressions of Egyptian order have turned upside down. It is not the king, but the peasant who struggles to “shine forth” (khay) maat, and must do so through a litany of words which is long enough to fill several papyri. In the end, though, it seems as if the rulers are only moved to act in the interests of order, piety, law, and justice (collectively maat) by Hunanup’s dire threat to take the case directly, and immediately, to the gods in the hereafter.

With the breakdown of pharaonic order, matters of maat were symbolically expressed as increasingly being of interest only to those whom felt themselves incapable of insuring it – figures such as Ipu-Wer and Hunanup. The lack of divine guidance and mediation from the king did not result in a radical break with the cosmological form of the myth. The disorientated existence of the First Intermediate Period did not result in a noetic quest for true existence as it did in Hellas, nor find reprise in something like the pneumatic experience of the Thornbush Episode, as it did within Israel. Rather, the Egyptian experience continued to identify the limits and possibilities of existence in accordance with the ground, with the pragmatic circumstances of the cosmological empire. As a result, the peculiar Egyptian response to existential disorder took the form of an appeal to the king to “remember” his former role, which amounted to an appeal for Horus to repeal history, and return Egypt to the myth – to return the divided Two Lands to their Beginning and resume his role as the mediator of the Beyond.

The King as Son of God and Savior

The collapse of the pharaonic mediation of divine order, which proceeded with the collapse of Dynasty VI, neither resulted in a similar collapse of the cosmological myth, nor culminated in a radical transfiguration of the symbolization and institutionalization of the cosmocentric experience. Though existence was sensed to be both disordered and unorderable under the one-hundred and fifty year interregnum, the cosmos itself did not become “profane” in the absence of an effective king. Neither did any pronounced effort seem to have arisen to re-found existence by an unseen measure beyond the cosmological gods and their divine mediator. The events of the First Intermediate Period issued forth neither a Plato, nor an Isaiah. Rather, the Egyptian response to disorder was to reinterpret the symbols of the myth. This occurred even as a human cry went out for Pharaoh, some Pharaoh, to resume the role of mediator of divine cosmic order. At present, we shall examine how the symbolization of the king and the king’s role came to reflect an increasing emphasis on their status as son of god, rather than god, and as savior, rather than creator. In essence, in the wake of the First Intermediate Period, and with increasing intensity following the Second and Third, the very effectiveness of the king in bringing about maat became a criteria for the formerly unthinkable: judging the god.

The restoration of centralized, pharaonic rule under Mentuhotep I (c.2066-2040), and his immediate successors  down to Amenhemet I (c.1991-1962) did not consign the experiences of the preceding time of troubles to an imaginative oblivion. Quite to the contrary, for, there is much indication that literate and high-ranking members of Egyptian society, at the very least, preserved memory of the disaster, and contributed thereby to the reconsideration of key details of the cosmological order. The Instructions of King Merikare, which are addressed to the king’s son, stand as a striking example.

The document begins in a rather pragmatic tone, with the king offering advice as to how one should secure rule:

“A talker is a mischief-maker, suppress him, kill [him], erase his name, [destroy] his kinsfolk, suppress the remembrance of him and his partisans who love him.”

“A violent man is a confuser of the citizens who always makes partisans of the younger generation. If now you find someone belonging to the citizenry [///] and his deeds have passed beyond you, accuse him before the entourage and suppress [him], for he is a rebel indeed; a talker is a mischief-maker. Bend the multitude and drive out hot temper from it; [///] will not rise [in] rebellion by means of the poor man when he is made to rebel.”

Then, on the heels of a great deal of less sanguine advice regarding court politics and the avoidance of covetousness, matters take a decidedly apologetic turn:

“The kingship is a goodly office; it has no son and it has no brother who shall make its monuments endure, yet it is the one person who ennobles the other; a man works for his predecessor, through the desire that what he has done may be embellished by another who shall come after him. A mean act was committed in my reign; the territory of Thinis was devastated. It indeed happened, but not through what I had done; I knew of it only after it was done. See, the consequences exceeded what I had done, for what is damaged is spoiled, and there is no benefit for him who restores what he (himself) has ruined, who demolishes what he has built and embellished what he has defaced; beware of it! A blow is repaid by the like of it, and all that is achieved is a hitting.”[xix]

From these two passages one might make three reflections. First, one should observe that the pragmatic status of the kingship has clearly fallen precipitously in Merikare’s time if “talkers” need be handled with bloody-handed suspicion; indeed, the paradigmatic “Quiet Man” effectively becomes the man of discretion. Secondly, however, one detects an odd dulling in the king’s aura, which is reflected in his apologetic reference to unfortunate incidents undertaken by his subordinates. One recalls to mind the haranguing of Ipu-Wer and wonders as to the degree to which the Great God had already suffered a loss of prestige. Thirdly, though, one is faced with the fact that the letter was not a unique copy, which was preserved by some quirk of fate. Rather, the existent copy dates from Dynasty XVIII, approximately seven-hundred years after the narrated events.

Furthermore, the extant copy is not only separated from the original by the entire span of the Middle Kingdom, but by the Second Intermediate Period as well. The memory of the breakdown of pharaonic order survived the restoration of central rule by deliberate acts of preservation. One may thus already speak of an Egyptian experience of history in Voegelin’s sense of a history of order – of a memory or experience of sequential periods in time which are seen to express meaningful differences as periods of relative order and disorder. In the context of its anonymous 15th-century B.C. copyist, The Instructions of King Merikare would have carried, at the very least, the weight and meaning of two periods of maat, followed by two eras of isfet, preceded only by a Beginning, and issuing into a third restoration of maat in the copyist’s present under the rulers of Dynasty XVIII.

The significance of the king in the order of Egypt did not simply diminish, however, though it may be tempting to posit as much. The centrality of the king in even such late documents as the metastatic Potter’s Oracle, itself first composed in the late Ptolemaic Era, belies such facile assumptions. That the king played the role of the creator of maat and the mediator of true existence, right down to the end of the cosmological order, rather suggests something else. That is, that one must look elsewhere to determine the means by which the preserved memory of the vicissitudes of order and time was incorporated into the myth.

What suggests itself from the sources is not a simple diminishment of the king’s status, but rather a re-conceptualization of Pharaoh’s symbolic significance and institutional position within the cosmic order of the empire. With later dynasties, particularly those which followed the second restoration, centrality of divine agency has markedly shifted away from the king, to the Theban creator-god, Amon:

“(I) . . . (The god Amon) — he is my father, and I am his son, He commanded to me that I should be upon his throne, while I was (still) a nestling. He begot me from the (very) middle of [his] heart [and chose me for the kingship… The is no lie], there is no equivocation therein — when my majesty was (only a puppy, when I was (only a newly) weaned child who was in his temple, before my installation as prophet had taken place. . .”

“. . . [He opened for] me the doors of heaven; he spread open for me the portals of its horizon. I flew up to the sky as a divine falcon, that I might see his mysterious form which is in heaven, that I might adore his majesty. (10) . . . I saw the forms of being of the Horizon God on his mysterious ways in heaven.”

“Re himself established me, and I was endowed with [his] crowns [which] were upon his head, his uraeus-serpent was fixed upon [my brow]. . . . I [was equipped] with the understanding of the gods, like Horus when he took account of himself at the house of his father Amon-Re. I was [perfected] with the dignities of a god. . . . [He established] my crowns, and drew up for me my titulary himself . . . .”

“. . . He made all foreign countries [come] bowing down to the fame of my majesty. Terror of me is in the hearts of the Nine Bows; all lands are under my sandals. He has given victory through the work of my hands, to extend [the frontiers of Egypt]. . . He is rejoicing in me more than (in) any (other) king who has been in the land since it was (first) set apart”

“I am his son, the beloved of his majesty. What I shall do is what his ka may desire. I bring forward this land to the place where he is.” [xx]

Here, the king is no longer the creator-god who emerges from the primordial isle of flame, as in Utterance 249 of the Pyramid Texts.[xxi] Nor does the king figure as the co-creator who brings order to creation by mediating the intracosmic divinities, society, and man, as in the Memphite Theology. Instead of the figure of the Great God and creator, the reader is presented with that of the Son of God, who was begotten in the heart of Amon. We find a similar proclamation of divine parentage in the inscriptions of Queen Hatshepsut, whose authority to rule, even faced with the rival Thutmose III , seems to have lain exclusively in the official recognition of her as the “son” of the god by the powerful cult of Amon in Thebes[xxii]:

Instructions of Amend

  1. Utterance of Amon, presider over Karnak: “GO, to make her,

together with her ka, from these limbs which are in me; go, to fashion

her better than all gods; rshape for me,le this my daughter, whom I

have begotten. I have given to her all life and satisfaction, all stability,

all joy of heart from me, all offerings, and all bread, like Re, forever.”

Reply of Khnum

201. “I will form this [thy] daughter [Makere] (Hatshepsut); for

for love of the beautiful. Her form shall be more exalted than the gods, in her life,

prosperity and health; for offerings mistress.

great dignity of King of Upper and Lower Egypt.” [xxiii]

Indeed, the significance of the myth of the king as the chosen son of god retained enough currency to have been of use to Alexander the Great nearly twelve-hundred years later.[xxiv] The new conceptualization of the king as creature rather than creator, and as servant of the god rather than equal, also came to be reflected in the epithet “the Good God”, which came to supplant “the Great God” early in the Middle Kingdom era. More importantly, the repositioning of the king in the semantic web of ancient Egypt reflected a shift in the experience of the ground of cosmic order. As such texts as the Admonitions of Ipu-Wer, The Instructions of King Merikare, and A Dispute Over Suicide exemplify, the downfall of the house of the king and the resulting unrest, rendered it impossible to conceive him or her as the bringer, creator, defender, and perfecter of the cosmos. When the king’s hu had been experienced as bringing disorder and disaster, the response was to simultaneously search for a “true” king, as well as to search for that ground of ordered existence by which the ruler was to be measured, all the while attempting to explain the mystery of kings who bring isfet. One remarkable Coffin Text from the Middle Kingdom reflects the new found search:

The All-Lord says in the presence of those stilled from the tumult on the journey to the court: “Pray, be prosperous in peace! I repeat for you four good deeds which my own heart did for me in the midst of the serpent-coil, in order to still evil. I did four good deeds within the portal of the horizon.

“I made the four winds that every man might breathe thereof like his fellow in his time. That is (one) deed thereof.

“I made the great inundation that the poor man might have rights therein like the great man. That is (one) deed thereof.

“I made every man like his fellow. I did not command that they do evil, (but) it was their hearts which violated what I had said. That is (one) deed thereof.

“I made their hearts cease from forgetting the West, in order that divine offerings might be given to the gods of the nomes. That is (one) deed thereof.

“I brought into being the four gods from my sweat, while men are the tears of my eye.” – All Men Created Equal in Opportunity, [xxv]

The text is tantalizingly suggestive of both the experiential problems of the Egyptian cosmological order, and of their symbolization within the context of the myth. Embedded within the formulation is the salient theodicic message – that all men have been created equal, and that it is the hearts  of men which do evil (isfet), not the god who commands it. While the Coffin Text itself cannot be demonstrated to have been in general circulation, it would seem to capture the larger trend in a few words. That is to say that maat came to be seen as the creation of the highest god in a Beginning, preceding its  installation in society, and that isfet was introduced by the hearts of men. The suggestive inferences towards the failures of kings are present with possibility, but never reach explicitness.

When, much later, under the Achaemenids and then the Ptolemies, revolts break-out against the king for the first time, the justification and purpose of the act does not stretch towards the goal of abolishing kingship as a profane office. Rather, the purpose would prove to entail the fulfillment of that sacred and sacerdotal station. The flash-point of revolt would invariably originate in the perceived failure of the king to mediate the divine, intracosmic flow of the gods  through the maintenance of temples, sacred spaces, animals and offices, and the proper performance of rituals.[xxvi] The king, in other words, would hold responsibility for staving off what had not been experienced as possible before the intervention of three collapses of the pharaonic order – the disenchantment of the Land and its abandonment by the gods.

The subtle re-conceptualization of maat as the creation of the highest god, rather than the king as Horus, did not alter the fundamental understanding of true existence as an attunement within the cosmos of gods. The relocation of maat with the creator-god – be it Amon, Re, Ptah, Khnum, or so forth – did not ever suggest that the ground of existence itself transcended cosmic reality. This was the case for the simple reason that the Egyptian creator-gods themselves did not transcend the sensual reality of the cosmos. Rather, the creative acts at the Beginning were always expressed as acts of begetting which brought the primeval oneness into a plenitude of divine forms.[xxvii] The creator-god, by this reckoning, is merely the mysterious entity which begets itself from the primordial soup, begat multiplicity from oneness, and brought multiplicity to order through either direct or indirect activity.

The demiurgic god of the Egyptian myth could thus only ever be the judge of immanent existence in terms of its conformance  to cosmic order. It could not, like the God of Israel, the Buddhas and boddhisatvas of Buddhism, the Brahma gods of India, or the Platonic Agathon, issue a call for existence which transcended the demands of the cosmos. Thus, the lowering of the rank of the king, relative to that of an Egyptian demiurge, could not and did not fundamentally represent a break with the cosmological myth in favour of an anthropological or soteriological order.

In practical terms, anxiety over a cosmic existence which was less than cosmic – let alone paradigmatic – actually increased both the prestige and the responsibility of the king in the new capacity of savior. The Prophecy of Neferrohu, written sometime in Dynasty XVIII, is particularly florid in its description of all the ills which the savior king will overcome:

“This land is helter-skelter, and no one knows the result which will come about, which is hidden from speech, sight, or hearing. The face is deaf, for silence confronts. I show thee the land topsy-turvy. That which never happened has happened. Men will take up weapons of warfare, (so that) the land lives in (40) confusion. Men will make arrows of metal, beg for the bread of blood, and laugh with the laughter of sickness. There is no one who weeps because of death; there is no one who spends the night fasting because of death; (but) a man’s heart pursues himself (alone). (Disheveled) mourning is no (longer) carried out today, (for) the heart is completely separated from it. A man sits in his corner, (turning) his back while one man kills another. I show thee the son as a foe, the brother as an enemy, and a man (45) killing his (own) father. . .”

“. . . (Then) it is that a king will come belonging to the south, Ameni, the triumphant, his name. He is the son of a woman of the land of Nubia; he is one born in Upper Egypt.16 He will take the [white] crown; he will wear the red crown; (60) he will unite the Two Mighty Ones;17 he will satisfy the Two Lords18 with what they desire. The encircler-of-the-fields (will be) in his grasp, the oar. . .”

“Rejoice, ye people of his time! The son of a man will make his name forever and ever. They who incline toward evil and who plot rebellion have subdued their speech for fear of him. The Asiatics will fall to his sword, and the Libyans will fall to his flame. The rebels belong to his wrath, and the treacherous of heart to (65) the awe of him. The uraeus-serpent which is on his brow stills for him the treacherous of heart.” [xxviii]

Similarly, the aforementioned Potter’s Oracle arises in the latter half (c.130-116) of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, long after Graeco-Macedonian  rule had lost its luster. By that time,  the Lagids had fallen to squabbling amongst themselves and ignoring their kingly duties to the cosmic order – even as they continued to campaign against the rival ecumenic empires of the Selucids, the Attalids, and Rome:

“. . . and lawless. The river will flow without enough water, with insufficient, so that the land … will be inflamed, but against nature. For in the time of the Typhonians they will say: “Wretched Egypt, you are wronged by terrible iniquities wrought against you.”

“The sun will be darkened, not wishing to look upon the evil things in Egypt. The land will not welcome the sowing of the seed. These . . . will be blasted by the wind. And the farmer did not sow on account of this, but tribute will be required of him. They are fighting in Egypt because of the lack of nourishment. What they till, another reaps and takes away.”

“In this generation there will be war and murder which will destroy brothers, and husbands and wives. For these things will come to pass when the great god Hephaistos wishes to return to the city, and the Girdle-wearers, being Typhonians, will destroy themselves . . .  evil will be wrought. He will go on foot to the sea in wrath, and will trample on many of them because of their impiety. And out of Syria will come he who will be hateful to all men, and being … he will come from Ethiopia . . .  and from the realms of the impious into Egypt and he will be established in the city which will later be laid waste.”

“And for two years our . . . well . . . The month of Amon and he said well. Their children will be defeated. And the land will be unsettled and not a few of those dwelling in Egypt will abandon their own land and go to a foreign place. Friends will murder friends. There will be weeping and their ills will be worse than those of the others. And men will perish at each others hands. Two of their number will pass on to the same place(?) because of the one help. Much death will fall upon pregnant women.”

“The Girdle-wearers being Typhonians are destroying . . . And then Agathos Daimon will abandon the city being established and will enter Memphis, and the foreign city which will be built will be emptied. And these things will take place at the conclusion of the evils when the falling of the leaves occurs in the Egypt of the foreigners. The city of the Girdle-wearers will be laid waste as in my furnace, because of the unlawful deeds which they executed in Egypt.”

The statues transferred there will return to Egypt. The city by the sea will become a drying place for fishermen because Agathos Daimon and Knephis will have gone to Memphis, so that some who pass through will say: “This city, in which every race of men dwelt, was all-nourishing.”

“And then Egypt will increase, when for fifty-five years he who is well disposed, the king the dispenser of good, born of the Sun, established by the great goddess Isis, is at hand, so that those surviving will pray for the resurrection of those who died before, in order that they might share in the good things. At the end of these things trees will bear leaves and the forsaken Nile will be filled with water, and the winter having been stripped of its natural dress, will run its own cycle. And then the summer will take its own course, and the winds shall be well-ordered and gently diminished.”

“For in the time of the Typhonians the sun was darkened, having shone forth on evil customs and having exhibited the poverty of the Girdle-wearers. And Egypt … having spoken up to this point he (the potter) fell silent. / King Amenophis, distressed by the many disasters he had recounted, gave burial to the potter at Heliopolis, deposited the book in the sacred archives there, and revealed it unstintingly to all men. Speech of the potter / to King Amenophis, (translated) as far as possible. Concerning [future] events in Egypt.” [xxix]

Here, quite amazingly, one is presented with a prophecy which is not merely florid in its expectations for a return to true order, but positively metastatic in its expectation of a wholesale transfiguration of the cosmos. The girdle-wearing Typhonians – the Hellenes – will first and foremost be destroyed, as will be Alexandria, their hated “city by the sea”. The gods of Alexandria will have abandoned it in the meanwhile, for the more respectable city of Memphis – the home city of Ptah and the site of the formal “creation” of the Two Lands under the legendary Menes. The savior-king, son of god, having been established on his throne (a manifestation of Isis, if we recall), the cosmos will be set right and will give bounty like never before. The sun shall shine more brightly, the Nile will be filled, and the earth will give its gifts without reservation. Most conspicuous in its absence, however, is any mention of the foreign empires nipping at the Land’s borders – particularly Rome.

The mysterious muteness on the clear and present pragmatic dangers of the age is, however, made verbose by the symbolism. “Thyphon”, in this instance, is the Hellenized name of the Egyptian god Seth, the rival of Horus. By the time of the New Kingdom, Seth had come to be seen not as the manifester of power and might within the cosmos of Egypt, who had submitted to the rule of Horus’ law (maat). Rather, the god had come to be identified with the aggressive, lawless (maat-less) forces of Asia – the lands beyond the Red Desert.[xxx] As such, foreign lands were recognized to subsist within a meaningful relationship to the cosmos, rather than to be a manifestation of meaningless chaos across the periphery of the horizon. The world outside of the Black Land and the Red Desert was thereby brought within the horizon of Egyptian consciousness, but only in the capacity of an obnoxious aggressor.

Within the narrative of the Potter’s Oracle, the “Typhonians” stand-in both as symbols of the obnoxious foreigner then currently disrupting the Land, but also for all such elements, past and present, within the expanded Egyptian horizon. The text, therefore, anticipates the savior god to not simply drive the local Greeks into extinction, but all of the “Typhonians”, the people of Seth, within the sun’s horizon. By implication, at the end of this business, the world will be left to the followers of Horus and maat. Indeed, one senses that, having tasted the disappointments of the rise and fall of cosmic order in time, that the authors of the oracle have elected for an imaginative leap out of history, into an End which mirrors the Beginning, and which makes manifest the Beyond – the god’s maat – on Earth and for good.

 

References

Augustine; Confessions (trans. Henry Chadwick); Oxford University Press, 1991

Austin, Michel; The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest (Second Edition); Cambridge University Press, 2006

Arrian; Anabasis Alexandri (trans. E.J. Chinnock); 1893 at http://websfor.org/alexander/arrian/intro.asp,

Assmann, Jan; The Mind of Egypt (trans. Andrew Jenkins); Harvard University Press, 2002

Assmann, Jan; The search for God in ancient Egypt (trans. David Lorton); Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2001

Assmann, Jan; Death and salvation in ancient Egypt (trans. David Lorton); Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2005

Day, Jerry, Voegelin’s Published Remarks on Schelling:  Variations and Themes, in Voegelin Research News, Volume VI, No. 1, February 2003, (http://alcor.concordia.ca/~vorenews/v-rnVI1.html)

Dodds, E.R; The Ancient Concept of Progress; Oxford University Press, 1985, c1973

Faulkner, Raymond O; The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (ed. Carol Andrews); University of Texas Press, Austin:Texas, 1972

Fowden, Garth; The Egyptian Hermes: a historical approach to the late pagan mind; Cambridge University Press [1986]

Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and The Gods; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948

Frankfort, Henri; Ancient Egyptian Religion; New York, Harper., 1948

Mead, G.R.S.; Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 2, [1906], at http://sacred-texts.com/gno/th2/th251.htm

Mercer, Samuel A.B; The Pyramid Texts; Longman, Green & Co; New York, London Toronto; 1952

Pritchard, James Bennett; Ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the Old Testament; Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1955

Voegelin, Eric; “Immortality: Experience and Symbol” in The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Jul., 1967)

Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, volume 1: Israel and Revelation, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2000

Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, volume 2: The World of the Polis, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2000

Voegelin, Eric, Order and History,  volume 3: Plato and Aristotle, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2000

Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, volume 4: The Ecumenic Age, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2000

Voegelin, Eric, Order and History,  volume 5: In Search of Order, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2000

Voegelin, Eric; Structures of Consciousness, Toronto: York University, 1978, (http://alcor.concordia.ca/~vorenews/v-rnII3.html)

Voegelin, Eric; The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, v.28: What is History? And Other Late Unpublished Writings

William Kelly Simpson (ed.), The Literature of Ancient Egypt, New Haven and London, 1973

Wilson, John A., The Culture of Ancient Egypt; Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1968

 

Notes

[i] From Mercer, Samuel A.B; The Pyramid Texts; Longman, Green & Co; New York, London Toronto; 1952; p.20-21, Utterance 6.

[ii] See Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods, p.21-23; and Assmann, Jan; The Mind of Egypt, p.75-77.

[iii] See Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods, p.36-40.

[iv] See Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods, p.40-47; cf. Assmann, Jan; The Mind of Egypt, p.57-61.

[v] From M. Lichtheim; Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.1, p.51-55.

[vi] See Frankfort, Henri; Ancient Egyptian Religion; p.102-103, Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods, p.40-47, and Assmann, Jan; The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, p.116-123.

[vii] See Assmann; The Mind of Egypt, p.57, 375. Cf. Frankfort; Ancient Egyptian Religion, p.8-15.

[viii] From Mercer, p.66, Utterance 220

[ix] See, Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods, p.43-44, 143, 245.

[x] “Summodeism” is a term employed, and presumably coined, by Voegelin to describe the peculiarly relaxed competition in cosmological orders which seek to present a “highest god” whom precedes all other gods as their creator. In the Egyptian instance, rival summodeistic gods included Ptah of Memphis, Amon of Thebes, Re of Heliopolis, and Khnum of Elephantine. In spite of what a modern mind might conceive as the logical inconsistency present in the coexistence of several “first gods”, the mythic experience of reality seems to have permitted for the coexistence of the rivals within the free form of speculative myths. For more on the issue, see Voegelin, Eric, O&H, v.1; p.267-268; cf., Frankfort, Henri; Ancient Egyptian Religion; p.16-19, and Assmann, Jan; The Search for God in Ancient Egypt; p.111-113, 119-123.

[xi]  From Mercer, p.76, Utterance 249

[xii] From Mercer, p.246-247, Utterance 587.

[xiii] The “towering figure” of the king was usually and literally depicted as such in Egyptian art, even at its foundation. In the protodynastic Narmer Palette, the gigantic figure of  the conquering King Narmer already dwarfs that of his enemies, and his army is conspicuously absent. Rather, the king himself is depicted as both the effective and formal agent of the conquest of Lower Egypt. The motif of the king as the manifestation of all political agency carries forward even many centuries later, and is present even in the pictographic records of the conquests of Thutmose III of Dynasty XVIII (c.1504-1450), in which the king assumes supernatural proportions. See Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods; p.6-12 and Appendix.

[xiv] By all indications, “the West” seems to have been a euphamism for the burial grounds in Abydos, on the western bank of the upper nile. Pharaoh’s ability to mediate grant or bar access to the afterlife is thus a direct function of the ability to bar access to burial.

[xv] See Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods; p.33-35. For more on the lack of a specific body of doctrine or law, and reliance upon maat as a guide for action, see ibid, p.80-82. Cf. Assmann, Jan; The Mind of Egypt; p.51-52.

[xvi] From Pritchard, James B; Ancient Near Eastern Texts (henceforth: ANET,); p.441.

[xvii] From ANET, p. 407-410.

[xviii] See Frankfort, Henri; Ancient Egyptian Religion; p.65-66.

[xix] Translation by R. O. Faulkner, William Kelly Simpson (ed.), The Literature of Ancient Egypt, New Haven and London, 1973, p. 180-192.

[xx] From ANET, p.446-447.

[xxi] The Isle of Flame is represented in the cosmogonic myth of Heliopolis to be the place from which the sun-god first arose to create the Land, and it is this association which is extended to the king in the Pyramid Text. To quote from Mercer, p.76:

265: N. is this (flower) at the nose of the Great Mighty One.

1. has come out of the Isle of Fire, after he has placed Truth there in the place of Falsehood.

2. is the guardian of washing, who watches over the Uraei on that night of the Great Flood which comes out of the Great One (sky).

266: N. appears as Nefertum, the lotus at the nose of Re, as he comes out of the Horizon (Ax.t) every day, and at the sight of which the gods purify themselves.

[xxii] For a period of time, Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose III seem to have been co-rulers of a sort, with the Queen taking on the role of king of the empire, and the younger man taking on the task of commanding the Egyptian expeditions against Asia. With Hatshepsut’s death, the kingship fell to Thutmose.

[xxiii] From Breasted, James Henry; Ancient Records of Egypt, v.2; §200-201.

[xxiv] In 332/331, having defeated the Persian King Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 and taken control of Asia Minor, Syria, and then Egypt, Alexander made a sojourn to the Oracle of Amon in Siwah (itself located in Libya). There, the oracle reportedly confirmed the young conqueror’s kinship as the son of the god, thereby allowing him to step into the role of Pharaoh. See Arrian; Anabasis Alexandri; III.3-4.

[xxv] From ANET, p.7

[xxvi] For more on the centrality of the king in the ritual mediation of the cosmos, see Frankfort, Henri; Ancient Egyptian Religion; p.102-106; Frankfort, Henri; Kingship and the Gods; p.53-60, 67-69; Assmann, Jan; The Search for God in Ancient Egypt; p.119-123; Assmann, Jan; The Mind of Egypt; p.57-61, 73, 75-77.

[xxvii] See ANET; p. 3-6, for instance, for two different variations of the Egyptian cosmogony respectively headed by Atum of Heliopolis and Ptah of Memphis.

[xxviii] From ANET, p.444

[xix] From Austin, Michel; The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest; §326

[xxx] See Assmann, Jan; The Mind of Egypt; p.198-200.

 

This is from Colin Cordner’s book tentatively titled, On The Process of the Disenchantment of Ancient Egypt.

Colin Cordner

Written by

Colin Cordner is an Associate Editor of VoegelinView and completed his Ph.D. at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada in 2016, where he is an instructor and occasional poet in the Department of Political Science. He is also owner of Fall's Edge Editing. His recent research focuses upon the works Plato and Michael Polanyi on scientism qua sophism, and the origins and therapies for the attendant spiritual crises and political disorders.