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7505Ground Zero

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  • fred60471
    Apr 11 10:03 AM
      Hi George,

      I think you might have something there. Tell me, was my last message
      connecting the Greek mystery cults with the myth of Osiris of any
      help? You know, you are right about there being no mention of the
      "body as a tomb" or as a prison, AFAIK, in the Osiris literature, but
      in Egyptian visual art, he was often depicted as a mummy, being all
      wrapped in a shell as it were. Also in some versions of the myth, he
      is said to be sealed up in a chest, or encased in a tree.

      I was thinking some more about evidence of a pessimistic world view in
      Egypt. If you go by the official pronouncements, everything was just
      hunky-dory in Egypt, but this was masking a basic pessimistic view of
      the world by the average Egyptian. Outside the boundaries of Egypt,
      the world was seen as being in a state of chaos and disorder, and it
      was only the rule of a wise king which kept things in order. This
      order was established according to the principle of "Maat," which can
      be loosely defined as Truth, Order, Justice. Maat was the food that
      nourished the creator god, and it was up to the king to maintain the
      world according to these principles. The divine Egypt was a reflection
      of the ordered cosmos in the sky, as is above so is below, but if you
      got some knucklehead king though, things would go to hell real quick.
      Maat, personified as the feminine principle of Wisdom would retreat
      from the world, like the Sophia of Gnosticism, leaving an inferior,
      disconsolate, emanation, Isis, below to wander the world trying to put
      the pieces back together again.

      In times of strife and turmoil, when Maat was absent, the scribes
      would attempt an explanation of why the gods have left. This gave rise
      to the so called Egyptian "Apocalyptic" literature, of which "The
      Oracle of the Potter" (P.Oxy.2332) is an example. Although this story
      is of Ptolemaic origin, scholars have long recognized its affinity to
      the famous prophecy section of the "Latin Asclepius" in the "Corpus
      Hermeticum." Copenhaver states that the story can be attributed to a
      "core incident in the 18th Dynasty," when there was a time of
      religious upheaval in Amarna.

      As far as Osiris being the epicenter, I not so sure. If Osiris was
      this year's model of the dying and resurrecting fertility god in
      Egypt, then last year's model may have been in ancient Sumeria as
      Dumuzi/Tammuz. I understand that it was Frazer's view in "The Golden
      Bough" that a vegetative/agricultural fertility god was the original
      form of the god in every culture, this is the view that I believe
      Joseph Campbell ascribed to also, but it had been falling into
      disfavor, for lack of evidence, but recent research by scholars is
      coming back to this point of view. John Crowley relates a story told
      by Plutarch in "De defectu oraculorum" which gives a moving account of
      when the year god may have passed away for good, when an old world
      died and a new one was about to be born:

      "Plutarch records that in the early years of the reign of Tiberius the
      pilot of a ship rounding the Greek archipelago passed a certain island
      at dawn on the solstice day and heard his name called from shore:
      'Thamus! When you come near the Palodes, tell them that the great god
      Pan is dead!' He thought at first to refuse, being afraid, but when he
      came opposite the Palodes, he called out the words as he had heard
      them: 'Pan is dead! The great god Pan is dead!' And then there arose
      from the island a lamenting and wailing, not of one voice but of many
      mingled, as though the earth itself mourned.

      To say that the great god Pan died in the early years of Tiberius is
      in a sense to say nothing at all, or a great deal too much. We know
      what god was born on a solstice day in those years; we know his
      after-history; we know in what sense Pan died at the approach of that
      new god. The shiver of fear or delight we feel at the story is the
      shiver Augustine felt at the same story: a world-age is passing, and a
      man, a pagan, is hearing it pass, and does not know it.

      But we know too-and Plutarch knew-that on those islands of the Greek
      archipelago the cult of the year-god, the god of many names-Osiris,
      Adonnis, Tammuz, Pan-was historically practiced. In all likelihood his
      murder and resurrection were still celebrated in imperial times, and
      the ecstatic female cults who each year tore in pieces and then
      mourned their god in wailing and shrieking and rending their garments,
      were still extant. Had Plutarch's pilot, Thamus, blundered into a
      ritual mourning for Tammuz? What is certain is that if he had passed
      the same islands the previous year, or any year for the previous five
      or ten centuries, he would have heard the same climactic event, and
      been shuddered by the same wailing; for the year, as those Greeks
      believed, could not have gone round without it."
      (John Crowley, "Aegypt")

      You know George, you are not the first scholar to postulate an
      Egyptian foundation of Gnostic thought. Take a look at this excerpt
      from D. McBride's PHD thesis which is entitled, "The Egyptian
      Foundation of Gnostic Thought":

      Basileides' very careful description of the almost blind and
      unconsciously directed attributes of the Creator god, curiously
      anticipates Schopenhauer's "Will":

      "Absence of all aim, of all limits, belongs to the essential nature of
      the will in itself, which is an endless striving."
      (Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I)

      Equally, the image comes directly from the ancient Egyptian view of
      the Primeval Void, the inert depths of Nun wherein the osmotic Atum
      finally manages to overcome his lassitude and create the ennead, very
      well described in Coffin Text 80:

      "While I was alone
      with Nut in innertness
      I could not find a place to stand or sit
      before Heliopolis had been founded in which I could exist
      before my throne was formed upon which I might sit
      before I made Nut that she might dwell above me
      that she might marry Geb
      before the first had been born
      before the Ennead had come into existence
      that they might dwell with me
      Atum said to Nun:
      'I am upon the flood-waters and becoming very tired
      and my patricans are inert....'"

      In Basileides we are witness to all the intellectual refinement we
      would expect from an Alexandrian schooled in Greek thought, one who
      employs rhetorical schemes and tropes in his writings if we are to
      take Hippolytus' transcription at face value. The conceptualizations
      and language employed are very much philosophical, and one senses a
      sophisticated caution in the handling of words with which to convey a
      rather abstruse line of thought: what is striking in this passage is
      the deconstruction of naïve verbal realism and a focus upon the
      limitations of language. Not so the author of "The Books of Jeu,"
      whose mind revels in the repetition of formulae, in the twists and
      turns of a ritualised passage through the underworld maze where
      diabolical forces are to be confronted with magical names and
      passwords. The difference in form and substance between the two
      passages, I would suggest, is on par with any passage from Kant's
      "Critique of Pure Reason" and the rulebook to "Dungeons & Dragons,"
      the modern gothic role-playing game.* Lest the image seem overstated,
      it should be mentioned that the Egyptians in fact had a board game
      named "Passage" in which the player had to find a path through 30
      inimical realms to attain the sustenance and justification of a god.
      The question of whether Valentinian Gnostic thought with its thirty
      aeons was itself directly descended from an Egyptian board game must
      be left open given the lack of hard evidence.
      (Daniel Richard McBride, "The Egyptian Foundations of Gnostic


      * "The topography of the hereafter [the Coffin Texts] described in
      these spells is so full of dangers because of the demonic creatures
      inhabiting it. The netherworld appears therein first and foremost as a
      social sphere, in which the deceased must move and, eventually,
      integrate himself by means of the spoken word: by appealing,
      conjuring, intimidating, beseeching, threatening, answering, etc...
      The accumulation of such an enormous body of knowledge based on pure
      speculation and meant to insure individual salvation (i.e. in the
      sense of overcoming death) reminds one of the Gnosis and must surely
      represent one of its roots."
      (Jan Assmann, "Death and Initiation in the Funerary Religion of
      Ancient Egypt,"in "Yale Egyptological Studies 3: Religion and
      Philosophy in Ancient Egypt," ed. William Kelly Simpson (New Haven,
      CT: Yale University, 1989), 143-44)

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