Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Egypt 21: Abydos IV

It seems appropriate, about now, as we come back through the temple and make our way out, that I include a caveat.  I've been making powerful claims regarding West's and Schwaller de Lubicz's thinking compared to those who espouse standard academic thinking on Egypt, (West likes to call those folks quack-a-demics.)  It's important to note that, even though we are on post number 21, in all of my posts I am just barely skimming the surface of the arguments I am presenting.  I am leaving out volumes of detail from all sides of the discussion.

This was shot wide open at ISO 2000.  This image makes the temple look a lot brighter than it really was.  The colors here on the ceiling have been restored.  They did not change the pigments at all, merely cleaned off centuries of soot.  The vulture shown here is a symbol of upper Egypt.  There is much more to its symbolism, of course.  It is the vulture and the cobra that we see on the crown of the pharaoh. 

Hopefully your interest in Egypt has been piqued enough to investigate further.  Should you decide to do that, my wish is that you be aware of the innate biases in so many of the writers on the subject of Egypt that you will encounter.  Read them all with an eye toward their biases.  Read West in the same way, and Schwaller.  Then go to Egypt and see for yourself.  All the time questioning everything.  Even me.  Then decide upon a position in this debate that feels reasonable to you.  I can assure you that, once done, your opinion will be just as valid as any other.

Still, should you decide to present some of the arguments presented here to those who take a more 'traditional' position, be prepared for a vitriolic response.  West enjoys those types of encounters.  You may not.

Melony took this.  I took similar ones but hers is best.  The lighting shown above is indicative of what the atmosphere was like when the temple was still in operation, except the color was probably a fair bit warmer.

All individual ancient Egyptian letters had meaning.  Words created from those letters amplified the individual meanings of the letters.  They also reversed the sequence of letters to create opposite meanings.  (For example, as West points out in Serpent in the Sky, "Akh = spirit, or to become spirit.  Khat = corpse.") They also liberally used figures of speech that make no sense to us.

A true modern example of this sort of translation error was the shock and horror of my soon to be German daughter-in-law when she found out I was planning on wearing a 'sports' jacket to her wedding.  Her English is excellent, but she happened to be unfamiliar with some of the idioms that I as a native English speaker take for granted.  She felt much better when she learned that the jacket I intended to wear was a form of suit jacket and not a sweatshirt with a zipper.

I took this series of shots as we left the temple.  Here one can see how much loving reconstruction was necessary to restore the temple.

What, for example, would archaeologists 4,000 years from now think of passages in our literature where we state that it rained cats and dogs?  Or, we stood around 'chewing the fat.'  They actually did that in middle age England.  But, now it is merely a figure of speech.

The problem for modern translators is much deeper, of course, because much of what we find on the temple walls or in tombs is written in a form of initiatic shorthand.  The language found on temples and in tombs was part of the ancient initiatic religion, in which meanings are further obscured because we are not initiates into their system.  What grinds West the wrong way is that many translators of hieroglyphs refuse to acknowledge this latest aspect of ancient Egyptian thought and so end up creating translations that, for all intents and purposes, make no sense at all.

At the end of the inner courtyard.  Notice the distortion caused by my wide angle lens. 

He cites 4 translated examples in Serpent in the Sky of a particular ancient Egyptian sacred text.  The translations are all very different.  I won't go into the details because, one, there is not space here, and two, it is not my story to tell.  The short story is that none of the 4 translations made any sense. 

However, once one took some of the initiatic principles discovered by Schwaller de Lubicz into consideration and incorporated the known ancient Egyptian mythology, and made allowances for the ability of the ancients to compress many different complex theological meanings into a very few words, it was possible to come up with a translation that made sense, both from a literal as well as a symbolic perspective.

Now we are standing a few feet behind where the last image was taken, at entrance to the inner courtyard.  Look carefully and you can see hieroglyphs carved into the pillars of this wall.

A modern example of something similar is the little song that I was taught as a child.  Ring around the rosey.  Remember that?  Pockets full of posey.  Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.  I sang that song, and I remember my kids singing that song in nursery school.  They sang it while dancing in a circle and then at the end, everyone fell down giggling.

If an archaeologist 4,000 years from now was attempting to piece together the ancient, lost language of English, what would they think of finding a song like that carved into the walls of a nursery school?  What would that song tell them about life in a nursery school?  It would be easy for them to chalk the song up to childish gibberish and dismiss it, as many adults do today.

Now, we're at the back of the outer courtyard.  The grand scale of the site begins to become more apparent.

However, it is claimed by some that the song tells a very different story.  The claim is the song relates the story of the plague.  Ring around the rosey describes the type of sores on the body that first manifested as part of the disease.  Pockets full of posey refers to the types of flowers placed in the pockets of those afflicted as a form of medicine.  We all fall down--and die.  Not too much fun.

Whether or not that meaning for the song is historically accurate, I think you get the idea that the archaeologist 4,000 years in the future could easily be clueless to the deeper meaning if he or she attempted to derive their understanding solely from the words of the song.

At the bottom of the steps leading up to the outer courtyard.

The above is a simple example of what archaeologists are up against when attempting to translate the ancient sacred texts of Egypt.  For West, and many of us who toured these sites with him, it is completely obvious that every aspect of temple construction was imbued with spiritual meaning by the ancients.   For him, attempting to translate the sacred texts without taking that spiritual meaning into consideration is, in his words, well...he can tell you himself when you book a trip with him.

Suffice it to say his disagreement with the academics will not end any time soon.

The image above this was taken at the base of the stairs above.  We are standing in the parking lot.  Sheahan looks on as a local hawker attempts to sell his postcards to a member of our group for the day.  

The man and his pregnant girlfriend/wife recognized John Anthony West as we entered the temple.  They expressed surprise and delight in meeting him in person, as it was his books that prompted them to visit Egypt.  He invited them to join us for the day, as long as they could secure their own transportation to Dendera, where we were headed next.  They did and were a welcome addition.  

We had a nice lunch at a local restaurant under a canopy behind me and to my left as I took this picture.  Then we headed off to Dendera.

I had read much of what I am relating here in books before I ever came to Egypt.  But the significance of it didn't sink in until I actually stood on the Egyptian sand and saw these things with my own eyes. 

Everywhere we went, we saw the theme of reconciliation and mastery portrayed.  Mastery of all our untamed aspects and natures.  Reconciliation of all our parts, reconciliation with our inner and outer selves.  We know the ancients had their own issues to deal with.  There was always greed, avarice, palace intrigues and like as we do now.  Still, a prominent Greek writer noted that of all the countries he had visited, the Egyptians seemed to be the happiest, most well adjusted, healthy culture of all.

Melony grabbed this shot and the next one from our van window as we made our way to Dendera.  I loved the mix of the old with the new that we saw everywhere we went.

I'm not advocating a return to a distant past by any means.  Still, I realized that the cultural war that we endure today between our science and our religion, and our right and our left, (whatever that means) also translates into a war within ourselves.  It makes the idea of reconciliation, of gaining mastery over all aspects of ourselves, especially our thought processes, that much harder for us to embrace as a culture, let alone achieve.

Another unfinished house along side the road.  Note the satellite dish. 

I wondered, as we drove north to Dendera, what it would be like for my culture to enjoy a happy marriage between our spiritual and scientific sides, as the ancient Egyptians had.  A marriage that is congruent on all counts and still rigorously and scientifically accurate.  Somehow, I believe we are poorer because we have lost that.

Continue on to Post 22: Dendera by clicking here.


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