Tag Archives: Egypt

Hieroglyphs without Mystery

Hieroglyphs without Mystery: An Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Writing by Karl-Theodor Zauzich, translated and adapted by Ann Macy Roth, from University of Texas Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. There is a more recently revised edition than the one in the collection.

Karl-Theodor Zauzic Ann Macy Roth Hieroglyphs without Mystery from University of Texas Press

“Marveling over the tomb treasures of Ramses II and Tutankhamen that have toured U.S. and European museums in recent years, visitors inevitably wonder what the mysterious hieroglyphs that cover their surfaces mean. Indeed, everyone who is fascinated by ancient Egypt sooner or later wishes for a Rosetta stone to unlock the secrets of hieroglyphic writing.

Hieroglyphs without Mystery provides the needed key. Written for ordinary people with no special language skills, the book quickly demonstrates that hieroglyphic writing can be read, once a few simple principles are understood. Zauzich explains the basic rules of the writing system and the grammar and then applies them to thirteen actual inscriptions taken from objects in European and Egyptian museums. By following his explanations and learning the most commonly used glyphs, readers can begin to decode hieroglyphs themselves and increase their enjoyment of both museum objects and ancient Egyptian sites.

Even for the armchair traveler, learning about hieroglyphs opens a sealed door into ancient Egyptian culture. In examining these inscriptions, readers will gain a better understanding of Egyptian art, politics, and religion, as well as language.” — back cover

How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs

How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself by Mark Collier and Bill Manley, illustrated by Richard Parkinson, from University of California Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. There is a more recently revised edition than the one in the collection.

Mark Collier Bill Manley How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs from University of California Press

“Can you imagine yourself visiting a vast Egyptian monument and puzzling over the hieroglyphs inscribed on its walls? Have you stood awestruck before an ancient tablet in a museum case, wishing you could read the inscription for yourself?

With the help of this practical step-by-step guide, museum-goers, tourists, and armchair travelers can learn the language and culture of ancient Egypt.

Mark Collier and Bill Manley’s novel and straightforward approach is informed by years of experience teaching Egyptian hieroglyphs to non-specialists. They use clear and attractive drawing of actual inscriptions displayed in the British Museum and concentrate on the kinds of monuments readers might encounter in other museum collections—especially funerary inscriptions, coffins, and tomb scenes. Each chapter introduces a new aspect of hieroglyphic script or Middle Egyptian grammar and provides practical exercises to improve reading skills.

The supporting notes led insight into the concerns, rituals, and daily experiences of the authors of ancient texts. The material touches on topic ranging from the pharaonic administration to family life in ancient Egypt to the Egyptian way of death. With this book as our guide, you will be able to confidently translate hieroglyphs found on Egyptian art and artifacts in museums around the world.” — back cover

Love Songs of the New Kingdom

Love Songs of the New Kingdom, translated by John L Foster, from University of Texas Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

John L Foster Love Songs of the New Kingdom from University of Texas Press

“What it was like to live and be in love in the time of the last great pharaohs of Egypt is re-created in this sparkling translation of ancient Egyptian love songs.

As one learns from the Introduction, ‘the speakers in these poems, so long dead yet perennially young, show us that the varieties and moods of love then and in that civilization do not differ from our own.’ The picture of daily life that the love songs preserve for us dates back to the later New Kingdom (ca. 1300–1100 B.C.), the last great flourishing of ancient Egyptian civilization. The original texts were handwritten in hieratic, the cursive form of the ancient hieroglyphic writing adapted to the use of brush and ink on papyrus. Many of the poems are accompanied by hieroglyphic transcriptions of the original texts on facing pages, and the book also contains reproductions of paintings showing scenes of daily life from Egyptian tombs.

These ancient verses sing as poetry to the modern ear, and the translations are faithful to the spirit and idiom of the Egyptian.” — back cover

Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol I

Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms by Miriam Lichtheim, from University of California Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Miriam Lichtheim Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol I from University of California Press

“The aim of the present volume is to provide, in up-to-date translations, a representative selection of ancient Egyptian literature in a chronological arrangement designed to bring out the evolution of literary forms; and to do this in a convenient and inexpensive format. It is meant to serve several kinds of readers: those who pursue studies within the broad spectrum of ancient Near Eastern civilizations; scholars in other humanistic fields and other readers for whom an acquaintance with ancient Egyptian literature is meaningful; and those who read ancient Egyptian. Translations serve two purposes. They substitute—inadequately—for the original works; and they aid in the study of the originals. It is my hope that this book of readings will be useful on both counts.”

“In preparing the translations I have of course made full use of existing translations and studies, especially the more recent ones, which are scattered throughout the scholarly literature. Evidently a book of readings is up to date only if it reflects the present state of the discipline. Those who are familiar with the texts, however, are aware of the limitations of our understanding, of the conjectural nature of much that is passed off as translation, and of the considerable differences between several translations of one and the same text. Hanec the ‘present state’ of the discipline is an intricate web of consensus and controversy. Agreeing sometimes with one, sometimes with another, interpretation of a difficult passage, I have frequently agreed with none and sought my own solutions. Only in certain cases are these departures from existing translations discussed in the annotations, for to discuss them all would have resulted in an all too heavy philological apparatus, which would not have been in keeping with the major aims of the work. […] If this calls for an apology, I offer the observation that the present state of academic learning is characterized by a vast expansion in the numbers of those participating in it, and hence calls for publications that attempt to reach beyond the confines of professional specialization while at the same time making a contribution to the specialized discipline.” — From the Preface

Egyptomania

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs by Bob Brier, introduced by Zahi Hawass.

Bob Brier Zahi Hawass Egyptomania

The subtitle of this book regarding “Our Three Thousand Year Obsession” with Egypt raises the irritating question: Who are “we”? Author Bob Brier encourages the reader to identify with Roman emperors and a Renaissance pope, as well as Napoleon and his team of scholars. Brier himself is a popularizing Egyptologist, and this book leverages his personal collection of Egyptophilic consumer artifacts along with research into the historical contexts of the various Egyptian “revivals” (or “manias,” as he would put it) in European and American taste. The result combines a survey of Egypto-kitsch with the cheeriest history of imperialist domination of northeast Africa you’re ever likely to read.

The considerable amplitude of the topic results in some evident omissions. Despite an account of mummy tunes from Tin Pan Alley, and an accessible survey of Egyptian themes in 20th-century cinema, there is nothing about operas such as Mozart’s Magic Flute or Verdi’s Aida. Brier briefly discusses the involvement of American Freemasons in the transport and installation of the New York obelisk, but he doesn’t touch on the high profile of ancient Egyptian religion in the movements of modern occultism. He does, however deliver the full goods on a history of relevant touring museum exhibits, and Egyptian-styled tobacco packaging.

The whole thing reads very quickly, and contains a host of amusing historical anecdotes. It’s a book that almost seems determined to avoid the importance of its subject matter, reducing cultural intercourse to issues of personal obsession and popular appeal. [via]


The Nag Hammadi Library

The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M Robinson, the 1990 paperback from HarperCollins, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. There is a newer revision The Nag Hammadi Scriptures which may be of more current interest.

James M Robinson The Nag Hammadi Library from HarperCollins

“This revised, expanded, and updated edition of The Nag Hammadi Library is the only complete, one-volume, modern language version of the renowned library of fourth-century manuscripts discovered in Egypt in 1945.

First published in 1978, The Nag Hammadi Library launched modern Gnostic studies and exposed a movement whose teachings are in many ways as relevant today as they were sixteen centuries ago.

James M. Robinson’s updated introduction reflects ten years of additional researcha nd editorial and critical work. An afterword by Richard Smith discusses the modern relevance of Gnosticism and its influence on such writers as Voltaire, Blake, Melville, Yeats, Kerouac, and Philip K. Dick.

Acclaimed by scholars and general readers alike, The Nag Hammadi Library is a work of major importance to everyone interested in the evolution of Christianity, the Bible, archaeology, and the story of Western civilization.” — back cover


The Mysteries

The Mysteries: Rudolf Steiner’s Writings on Spiritual Initiation, selected and introduced by Andrew Welburn, the 1997 hardcover from Floris Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Andrew Welburn Rudolf Steiner The Mysteries from Floris Books

“Rudolf Steiner wrote and spoke extensively on the lasting value of the ancient Mysteries as an essential source for understanding the Christian experience. His view was that modern rationality did not banish the deeper patterns of spiritual initiation but was rather, in the very foundations of our thought, a transformation of early Mystery structures and processes. We should therefore look to the Mysteries for an illumination of our spiritual, intellectual and religious history as well as for insight into our evolutionary future.

This collection of extracts from Steiner’s books and lectures includes his account of the mystical and mythical patterns of the ancient world, the pre-Socratic and the Platonic philosophers, the initiation Mysteries of Egypt and the Orient, and finally his commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John. Around this collection, Welburn examines the Mystery school against the background of their time, and their relevance to Christianity and the world today.” — flap copy

The Secret Lore of Music

The Secret Lore of Music: The Hidden Power of Orpheus by Hermetic Library figure Fabre d’Olivet, translated by Hermetic Library fellow Joscelyn Godwin, a new 1997 edition of Music Explained as Science and Art paperback from Inner Traditions, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Fabre d'Olivet Joscelyn Godwin The Secret Lore of Music from Inner Traditions

“Ever since Pythagoras demonstrated the mathematical basis of music and its profound effect ont he soul, the Western esoteric tradition has been deeply involved with the science and art of tone. Fabre d’Olivet (1767–1825) was the first to restate Pythagoras’s ideas in modern terms and to show the way for music to regain its spiritual heritage. He calls for a complete reevaluation of its nature and purpose. Fearless in his criticism of modern trivialization of music, d’Olivet recalls its ancient glory in China, Egypt, and Greece. He shows that music is sacred art rooted in the same principles as the universe itself and that it is intimately connected with the destiny of humankind.” — back cover

 

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Graeco-Egyptian Alchemy and The Occult Sciences in Byzantium

Graeco-Egyptian Alchemy in Byzantium” is a paper by Michèle Mertens which may be of interest [HT David Pecotic]. You can gander at this short paper via the University of Liége’s Open Access portal. But this is an excerpt from The Occult Sciences in Byzantium edited by Paul Magdalino and Maria Mavroud, which full volume may be of further interest. Joel T Walker reviews the entire volume in Aestimatio 5 if you want a survey of the papers within the book, and there is a limited preview via Google Books as well.

“The main concern of this paper will be with the problems raised by the reception of ancient alchemy in Byzantium. After a brief introduction, I will start from the study of a pre-Byzantine author, Zosimos of Panopolis, and deal with the following questions: How, from a purely material viewpoint, were Zosimos’ writings handed down during the Byzantine period? Did Byzantine alchemists have access to his works and did they resort to them? Was Zosimos known outside the alchemical Corpus; in other words, did Graeco-Egyptian alchemists exert any kind of influence outside strictly alchemical circles? When and how was the alchemical Corpus put together? In a more general way, what evidence do we have, whether in the Corpus itself or in non-alchemical literature, that alchemy was practised in Byzantium? Answers (or at least partial answers) to these questions should help us to understand and define to some extent the place held by the ‘sacred art’ in Byzantium.

It is now universally accepted that alchemy came into being in Graeco-Roman Egypt around the beginning of our era and that it originated from the combination of several factors, the most remarkable of which are (1) the practices of Egyptian goldsmiths and workers in metals who experimented with alloys and knew how to dye metals in order to simulate gold; (2) the theory about the fundamental unity of matter, according to which all substances are composed of a primitive matter and owe their specific differences to the presence of different qualities imposed upon this matter; (3) the idea that the aim of any technique must be the mimesis of nature; (4) the doctrine of universal sympathy, which held that all elements of the cosmos are connected by occult links of sympathy and antipathy which explain all the combinations and separations of the bodies. The encounter of these different trends of thought brought about the idea that transmutation ought to be possible, all the more so with the addition of mystical daydreams influenced by gnostic and hermetic currents and favoured by the decline of Greek rationalism.” (205-206)

“Before 500 A.D., alchemy appears to be a rather marginal activity, as suggested by the absence of evidence outside the alchemical Corpus. In the sixth century, references to alchemy become increasingly numerous in Byzantine literature, but some suspicion can be perceived with regard to the sacred art, a suspicion reinforced by the schemes of swindlers. From the seventh century onwards, alchemy seems to have been perfectly well integrated into the official learning, judging by the vogue it apparently enjoyed under Heraclius. The evidence of the Marcianus (10th or 11th c.), the sumptuous decoration of which suggests that it must have been made for a high-ranking person, points in the same direction.” (228)

Overthrowing the Old Gods

Overthrowing the Old Gods: Aleister Crowley and the Book of the Law by Don Webb, from Inner Traditions, is scheduled to be published on Oct 15, 2013.

Don Webb's Overthrowing the Old Gods from Inner Traditions

“New commentaries on Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law reveal how it is connected to both Right- and Left-Hand Paths

• Examines each line of the Book of the Law in the light of modern psychology, Egyptology, Gurdjieff’s teachings, and contemporary Left-Hand Path thought

• Explores Crowley’s identification with the First Beast of Revelations as well as his adoption of the Loki archetype for becoming a vessel of love for all humanity

• Recasts the Cairo Working as a text of personal sovereignty and a relevant tool for personal transformation

• Includes commentary on the Book of the Law by Dr. Michael A. Aquino, who served as High Priest of the Temple of Set from 1975 to 1996

Received by Aleister Crowley in April 1904 in Cairo, Egypt, the Book of the Law is the most provocative record of magical working in several hundred years, affecting not only organizations directly associated with Crowley such as the Ordo Templi Orientis but also modern Wicca, Chaos Magic, and the Temple of Set.

Boldly defying Crowley’s warning not to comment on the Book of the Law, Ipsissimus Don Webb provides in-depth interpretation from both Black and White Magical perspectives, including commentary from Dr. Michael A. Aquino, who served as High Priest of the Temple of Set from 1975 to 1996. Webb examines each line of the Book in the light of modern psychology, Egyptology, existentialism, and competing occult systems such as the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff and contemporary Left-Hand Path thought. Discarding the common image of Crowley formulated in a spiritually unsophisticated time when the devotee of the Left-Hand Path was dismissed as a selfish evil doer, Webb unveils a new side of Crowley based on his adoption of the Loki archetype and his aim to become a vessel of love for all humanity. In so doing, he shows how the Book of the Law is connected to both Right- and Left-Hand Paths and reveals how Crowley’s magical path of mastery over the self and Cosmos overthrew the gods of old religion, which had kept humanity asleep to dream the nightmare of history.

Providing in-depth analysis of Crowley’s sources and his self-identification with the First Beast of Revelations from a profound esoteric perspective, Webb takes his views out of the Golden Dawn matrix within which he received the Book of the Law and radically recasts the Cairo Working as a text of personal sovereignty and a relevant tool for personal transformation.” [via]