Cycle of Re: Abe to Albert
Egyptology is traditionally defined as the study of ancient Egyptian art, history, language, literature and religion from 5,000 BC until the 4th century AD, when Christian authorities closed the pagan temples, burned the libraries and disbanded the priesthood. Arab invasions in the 7th century and the introduction of Islam further eclipsed the old Egyptian ways.
When religions die, historians rename them “myths.” However, I would contend that the Egyptian religion and its central deity, the sun-god Re, never really disappeared, but continued in disguised form through other religions and even secular beliefs. The spirit of ancient Egypt permeates Western Civilization in art, music, war, economics and politics.
Thus spoke Re: "I am Khepera at the dawn, and Re at noon, and Tem in the evening." Khepera (or Khepri) rolls the sun across the sky like the scarab rolls a ball of dung. He has the power of resurrection and self-renewal, bringing the sun back to life after it "dies" at night. Re at noon, depicted as a falcon, conveys power and wisdom, but also brings an unforgiving heat as the sun descends to earth. Tem (or Atum), represented by the water lily, carried the god force through the night, assuring its return in the dawn.
Re is represented in earthly form, as a pharaoh or other an equivalent leader, and in spiritual form, in which he traverses the sky in a sun boat with various other deities who help defend the vessel against monsters of the underworld.
In later stories of Re, the aging god confronts rebellious and wicked subjects. Through the “Eye of Re,” he summons a daughter, the lioness Sekhmet, who devours his enemies. This “myth” may have been inspired by real-life insurrections against pharaohs.
The Re cycle is being repeated in modern history, with each god of the trinity representing a different era. Khepera brings rebellion, freedom and creativity, but in his later stages falls into decadence and economic speculation, such as witnessed in the "Roaring Twenties." When the bubble bursts, as in the stock market crash in 1929, Re at noon appears as a reactionary force, seeking to restore order and morality, often through war against internal or external enemies. After war, nations turn to Tem for rest and recovery, as Europe and Japan did during the 1950s.
Abraham Lincoln An incarnate of the Egyptian sun-god “Re at noon” can be found in Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), whose “falling sun” scorched the earth in the Civil War. The president had several dreams that placed him aboard a ship, his “Boat of Re,” just before several Civil War battles, including those at Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg and Vicksburg. In Egyptian lore, Re fought demons from his ship; Lincoln was in combat with Confederate “demons.”
On Friday April 14, 1865, Lincoln told his cabinet about another ship dream, in which the vessel, with the sun shining brightly in the background, was approaching a peaceful shore. One cabinet member reported Lincoln as recalling the ship was “badly damaged.” We can interpret the dream to mean that by reaching land, Lincoln had reached the end of his voyage and the end of his life. The next day he was assassinated.
Lincoln knew nothing of the “Boat of Re.” Although the Rosetta Stone, the key to interpreting Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, had been discovered in 1799 and extensively deciphered beginning in 1822, public knowledge and interest in Egyptology would not flourish until the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
The Lincoln Memorial honors the president who freed the slaves. At Abu Simbel in Egypt, a similar seated figure depicts Ramesses II. Some scholars believe he is the pharaoh who, according to the Book of Exodus, was forced to release the "children of Israel" from bondage.
The destructive “Re at noon” era commenced with the Panic of 1837, when a land speculation bubble burst. Out of 850 banks in the US, 343 closed entirely and 62 partially failed. The panic was followed by a five-year depression and record high unemployment levels. Bleeding Kansas, also known as the Border War, further pushed the nation toward destruction. This conflict, to determine if Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state, took place in both the Kansas Territory and Missouri between 1854 and 1858.
Re’s blood-thirsty daughter, Sekhmet, came to life as Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin aroused the passions of both pro-slavery and anti-slavery readers and divided the country. When Lincoln met the author in 1862, the president reportedly commented, "So this is the little lady who started this great war.”
The Re-at-noon era ended with the president’s death.
Claude Monet We can find the Egyptian god Tem if we step back into Europe of the late 19th century. The continent was in a relatively peaceful and sleepy stage, and monarchs still ruled in many countries. An incarnation of the evening god can be found in the French impressionist Claude Monet (1840 - 1926), whose specialty was the water lily, a symbol of Tem.
Impressionism was generally characterized by the play of natural light in the painting, a light originating with the sun. Impressionists worked on unprimed white canvas or a pale background to create a lighter, brighter effect. Their paintings celebrated the outdoors and the everyday life of people. The reign of Tem was a time of prosperity and political conservatism.
Monet first earned recognition with his 1866 portrait “The Woman in the Green Dress.” This depiction of his future wife, Camille Doncieux, bore a passing resemblance to some paintings of Mary Todd Lincoln, a fitting segue between the gods.
Impressionism came to the foreground in 1874 when 55 artists, including Cezanne, Pissarro, Renoi, Degas, Monet, Manet, and his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot, held their first independent group show. Their popularity increased in the 1880s and 1890s, boosted by sales to Americans.
Magical light Monet spoke of returning again and again to his water garden and water lilies: "Suddenly I had the revelation of how magical my pond is. I took up my palette. Since that time I scarcely had any other model . . . These landscapes of water and reflections have become my obsession . . . I must work a lot to find what I'm seeking: the instantaneousness, above all the envelope, the same light spread everywhere."
The small strokes used by Monet and the other impressionists to simulate actual reflected light look much like the granulation on the surface of the sun when viewed through an H-alpha filtered telescope, a technology that would not be available to amateur astronomers until the mid-1970s. Perhaps, through a collective unconscious that transcends time, the impressionists were “worshiping” the sun by trying to reproduce the surface of the sun in their paintings.
Monet's obsession concluded with a ten-year project: "The Water Lilies," a set of twelve life-size canvases he donated to France. Alas, when finally installed in 1926 at the museum of the Orangerthie in Paris, they drew little interest. The era of Tem was long over; the age of Khepera was in full swing. The calm of the late 19th century Europe had been shattered by rebellion and war. Monarchs fall but there would be new kings of thought and energy.
Jung & Einstein Europe awoke in the 20th century to a new dawn of mind and matter: the creative forces of psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875 - 1961) and physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), dual representatives of the Egyptian god Khepera.
Jung coined the terms "introvert," "extrovert" and "archetype" and emphasized the importance of dreams and the collective unconscious in understanding the human mind. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most widely used personality test in the world, is based on his work. However, Jung was eclipsed by his compatriot, Sigmund Freud, whose emphasis on sexuality trumped Jung's spirituality in the public's imagination.
Nevertheless, an incident in Jung's professional life suggests that he, not Freud, wore the mantle of Khepera. Jung was treating a woman whose overly rational approach to life made treatment difficult. The woman told Jung about a dream in which a golden scarab appeared. As she was talking, Jung heard a tapping at his window. He drew the curtain, opened the window, and in flew a gold-green scarab.
Jung showed the scarab to the women and from that point on their sessions together became more productive. I would submit that the scarab was there, not only to visit the woman, but to christen Jung with the identity of Khepera, the scarab god, and validate his spiritual approach to the mind.
When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of the globe, he doesn't realize that the track he has covered is curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it. — Albert Einstein
Hardly “blind,” Einstein, the scarab god incarnate, was certainly the master of light. In just one year, 1905, Einstein contributed three papers to the German Annals of Physics that would revolutionize science. In the first paper, Einstein suggested that light could be conceived as a stream of particles — an idea that contributed to quantum theory and the creation of photoelectric cells.
In his second paper, he presented his special theory of relativity, which demonstrated the relativity of time. Also, in 1905, Einstein created his famous equation, E (energy) equals m (mass) times c (the speed of light) squared, which led to the creation of the atomic bomb. The third major paper in 1905 confirmed the atomic theory of matter. Einstein addressed Browning motion, an irregular motion of microscopic particles suspended in a liquid of gas.
Looking at the sun validated the brilliance of the sun god. In 1919, a solar eclipse proved Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Observations confirmed that light rays were deflected by the gravity of the sun in just the amount Einstein had predicted. The "blind beetle's" track, the path of light, was curved by gravity.
The Great Depression signaled the end of the scarab era. I see a bad sun falling.
Images Abu Simbel Temple, Than217, Wikipedia Project, public domain; Lincoln Memorial, U.S. Government Printing Office, public domain; water lilies by Claude Monet (1897), public domain Carl Jung, public domain; Albert Einstein in 1921, by Ferdinand Schmutzer, public domain; gold-green scarab (Cetonia aurata), Creative Commons