In the company of gods & goddesses ...

by Wim van den Dungen


"netjeru" ("nTrw" - gods)
three flagpoles : wind is powerful but invisible

Although Egypt could boast of hundreds of deities, the number of deities receiving the service of established cults, was surprisingly small. Separate deities were often the same god or goddess, but called by different names in different localities or represented in various manifestations.

A major distinction may be drawn between, on the one hand, the "greater deities" figuring in cosmogonic and cosmographic myths and, on the other hand, the "minor" household gods and demons. The latter were the subject of popular religion, whereas the former stood at the heart of the five major "systems" of theology. To complicate matters, not all "greater deities" were functional. Of the company of nine of Heliopolis, none of the first five (Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb & Nut) received widespread dedication of cults. There is probably no clear connection between a deity's cosmic or popular role and the presence or absence of local centres of cult.

Underlying these differences, Egyptian theology cherished the notion of a universal and unified godhead. In the wisdom-teachings, the word "god" is used in a general sense, without any specification or reference to a particular deity. All deities participated in this universal divine stratum. In the Late New Kingdom, Amun would be called the great "hidden" deity, the "one and millions". Each deity being a manifestation of Amun.

The present studies underline the henotheist nature of Ancient Egyptian religion. With Amun-Re, the pinnacle of Ancient Egyptian theology is reached. The One and the Many are always simultaneously present. Behind the plurality of deities there is a basic unity but behind the unity there is also basic plurality. The deities are interchangeable and plastic. But Amun is hidden and one. Amun has will and hears all prayers ... This henotheism is not a monotheism, for the deity is not numerically one. It may be called a theomonism, for a variety of expression of the One are possible, each being another expression of this fundamental qualitative, not numerical unity. Solar henotheism is not a polytheism, for the various deities are all the same Great One.

The Ancient Egyptian pantheon is a series of natural differentials of a long tradition of practical, canonical, intersubjective and ante-rational interactions with nature and its forces. Their paraphysics is on a grand scale, derived from meditations on the revolutions of the stars and the Milky Way, the celestial Nile (in fact, our galaxy), the "first time" and an autogenetor "hatching" out of the "primordial egg".

Everything existing is part of nature. Ante-rational interaction with nature envolves a contextual, practical, localized approach of its crucial phenomena, such as water, air and light. Nature is divided between "before" creation and "after" creation. Some deities (or ante-rational representations of nature) are preexistent (like Nun), others belong to creation and its inherent order (like Maat). The distinction will prove to be fundamental, and returns in temple ritual, funerary rituals and the regeneration of the Ba of Re in the Amduat.

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN THEOLOGY 
a summary relevant to (African) philosophy

PRE-
DYNASTIC

Mythical figuration of the sacred in nature, cult of the Great Goddess and tribal polytheism with the associated "totem-talk" of each nome or conglomerate of nomes.

Several attempts to unify Egypt and the rise (in the Terminal Predynastic period) of sacred kingship, which eventually assimilated the sacred power of the Great Goddess instead of being justified and installed by her. Besides Horus, Seth, Hathor and Osiris were already of non-local importance.

The founding myths constitute a network of relationships between deified natural principles as they arise in (or are seen by) the mythical mind. Especially the dual structure evident in these relationships stands out (the Two Lands, Horus & Seth, Sky & Earth, etc.) and constitute the pre-logical, nonverbal "notion" of a totality embracing paired constrasts.

EARLY
DYNASTIC

Mythical figuration of the divine in (a) Pharoah, embodiment of Horus and a united Egypt and (b) a henotheist pantheon of unique gods & goddesses in various forms and shapes.

Pharaoh, the divine king, who assimilated the power of the sacred Great Goddess, was an embodiment of Horus, the supreme celestial deity, represented by a falcon. Horus was incarnate in the reigning monarch, who was a "Follower of Horus". His Horus name expressed which aspect of Horus the king wished to underline. Pharaonic rule was an explicit dual monarchy, for Pharaoh was the "king of the Two Lands". Kingship had thus a "transcendent significance" (Frankfort, 1979) in the context of a mythical mind with an archaic script (cf. Narmer palette). The pantheon and its constellational myths constituted the "mythical deposit" of the Predynastic religion and its hylezoistic (everything is alive) organicism of the natural scene in and around the Nile, in particular the inundation of the latter (basis of its economy).

The myth of the transcendent significance of Pharaoh became fundamental and introduced the notion (and pre-concept) of the extraordinary power of a single (albeit royal) male individual, who embodied the god of the sky. This power suggests the harmony of opposites realized by and in this individual, and this in tune with the divine order. Hence, a single individual became the channel of communication between the divine and the human spheres. This is the unifying force that kept the opposites from relapsing into chaos, which is always lurking in the dark.

OLD
KINGDOM

Mythical fugal monotheism (Atum), pre-rational primitive henotheism (the pantheon) and early proto-rational deification (of Pharaoh).

In the beginning, Atum self-engenders and rises out of the Nun (as Re). In oblivion and before anything else did Atum create himself. His creating himself is simultaneous with his spliting into the necessary elemental conditions of multiplicity (Shu, Air and Tefnut, Moist, who engender Nut, the light of the Sky and Geb, Earth). Atum-Re is the "father of the gods", the supreme celestial deity. But : complementary cosmogonies in Memphis (Ptah) and Hermopolis (Thoth) prevail. Pre-rational confusions between these views stand erect. Pre-rational conflicts between Heliopolitan and Osirian components remain present and unresolved.

The introduction of a creative principle "sui generis" (Re as "khepri", the scarab) and the filial interpretation of Pharaoh's extraordinary powers (Pharaoh as the "son of Re"), implying his deification and rise above all deities (by eating the deities), confirms his transcendent significance, underlined by the fact only Pharaoh (being a god) communicates with the gods and only he is a "god on Earth" (the spirits of the other deities existed in the sky and only their Ka's & Ba's could dwell in the temple). Furthermore, in this transcendent role, as well as in the three cosmogonies and the wisdom-literature of the period (in which a justified and truthful code of conduct was developed) we encounter the creative power of the spoken & written word, especially the great speech of Pharaoh who, through offerings and voice-offerings, returned order to the creator of order and in who's vincinity every truth-speaking individual wished to live (continuously in the Beautiful West). The (pre-rational) mind of powerful individuals such as the deities and Pharaoh created their objects (early logos-philosophy).

MIDDLE KINGDOM

Early provincial henotheism and religious humanism.

The (re)institution of Pharaoh as the guardian of order & unity, as well as the rising importance of Thebes (first politically, then religiously), reinforced the role of Amun-Re as the "king of the gods" and "divine judge". Early henotheism hand in hand with the popularity of Osiris in the funerary cult, with non-royals named "Osiris NN", i.e. assuming the form of the god Osiris.

The collapse of the Pharaonic ideal of the Old Kingdom caused a crisis (lamented over in the literature of the period) which re-equilibrated the cultural form by introducing a more "democratic" understanding of the conditions of the non-royal deceased. In principle, everybody could become a god, namely Osiris, and continue to live in his domain in the netherworld. This depended on being true of voice, i.e. an individual who had lived according to the rules of order (Maat). The contents of one's mind (the heart) were weighed against the feather of truth ... To assure save passage after death, and to guarantee health and safety during life on earth, the Egyptians reinforced the idea of the authorative power of words and rituals. Mental processes were able to erect barriers against the forces of chaos ("isefet") and create the conditions for a safe passage (magical logos-philosophy).  

NEW KINGDOM

New Solar Theology (Solar henotheism) and the maturation of proto-rationality - early henotheist Amun-Re theology.

A heliomorph naturalism prevailed, which disenchanted the pantheon. Royal afterlife literature described the course of the Sun in the underworld. Advent of a new (heliomorph) tendency towards one divine principle, the Sun-god Re. This Solar Theology was endorsed by none of the Pharaohs preceding Akhenaten and existed as a "movement" side by side with the old pantheon and its beloved Amun-Re.

The completion of the proto-rational discourse and its Solar syncretism, enabled the emergence of a non-constellational pattern of thought, a new theology, embedded in the internationalism which characterized the early New Kingdom. In the "Solar movement", the interactions between a variety of gods and goddesses were replaced by the course of the Sun, with its diurnal & nocturnal arc. The relationship between Re and the other deities was henotheist : Re is the supreme creator of them all, but each retained its own uniqueness and domain of divine indwelling. In the theology of Ptah, the creative verb is introduced, for Ptah created everything (in the form of Atum) in his mind and on his tongue, for indeed his word becomes flesh and rules the transformation of subtle into solid states (cf. mature proto-rational logos-philosophy).

Short period of Solar monotheism in Amarna Culture and the rejection of Amun-Re.

Unsuccessful but vigorous implementation by Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) of the Solar monotheism of the Aten against all deities, especially their "king" Amun. High priest of Amun expelled. The cult of the old pantheon is removed out of the temples and goes underground, as does magic. Even in the houses of Akhetaten ("Horizon or Place of the Light of Aten") figurines of Bes, Taweret, Sobek, Isis, Thoth, Ptah, Osiris, Mut and (even) Amun have been found, indicative of their continuing, albeit secret, worship (do these postdate the reign of Akhenaten ?).

The Aten-project (exclusive worship of the physical disk of the Sun) was the child of Akhenaten, an artistic man unprepared for kingship, but chosen to experience mystical states of consciousness remaining immature and fixated in his solitary, mad role of exclusive and sole "son of his father", the only one who knew the Aten against all other gods, i.e. a monotheist creator identified by Akhenaten with the actual, physical disk of the Sun (the Aten) ! This artist-king was also the first religious fundamentalist. His monotheist naturalism evidences a mature proto-rational discourse, with flights into the rational mode. However, these have no stability, for the mythical and pre-rational identification of his god with the physical disk of the Sun, unveil the contextuality of the discourse, and make us taste the everpresent limitations imposed by such concrete Solar monotheism.

The restoration : henotheism in a pan-en-theist format and the advent of the "god in the heart" in the Ramesside Empire.

The henotheist Amun-Re theology is picked up were it was left just before Akhenaten and perfected by stressing the all-comprehensive, hidden presence of his unity in all possible beings, including the commoners and the poor (Amenism). The interiorization of spirituality, caused by having moved underground, shaped a throne for the "inner god" to sit on and listen. Amun-Re heared everybody and was with every god and goddess. Furthermore, everything depended on his will alone, which had to be followed if life, prosperity and health were to be expected here and in the netherworld.

The finalization of theology as a pan-en-theist henotheism (all deities are forms of the one, supreme who is all in all), explained in a mature and rich proto-rational discourse, demanded the exploration of the limits of the concrete mode of thought. Evidently, the Hymns to Amun reveal a level of abstraction suggesting the transcendence of the concrete mode of thought by a limited number of kings, priests & scholars to be a fact. Although Ancient Egypt never attained this level as a cultural form, it is unmistaken the best of the best of the Ramesside period surely did. Moreover, these peaks of reason of the intellectual elite stood firm (as were the pyramids) on the broad base of perfected proto-rational discourse. But more than once, this pyramid was truncated too ... 

Ramesside theology perfects henotheism by stressing the hidden, transcendent unity and oneness of Amun-Re in all deities and beings. The latter are transformations of the Great One and the deities are perfected thanks to Amun-Re. They exist as his many faces. Moreover, Amun-Re is interiorized and universalized, for each human being can place his name in his mind. The "will of the god" is the only valid moral directive. Amun-Re theology, as it appears in the mysteries, is hence the first historical description of the concept of God and the Divine which satisfied the conditions of Divine bi-polarity.

Remark :

The use of capitals in words for the transcendent principle, such as "Absolute", "God" or "Divine", points to a rational context (i.e. how these appear in a theology conducted in the rational mode of thought - cf. theonomy). Hence, when these words are used in the context of Ancient Egyptian thought (which, as a cultural form, was mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational, i.e. ante-rational), this restriction is lifted. Hence, the words "god", "the god", "gods", "goddesses", "pantheon" or "divine" are not capitalized.

five interrelated "systems" of theology & cult

The earliest traces of stable "schools" of cognitive activity regarding the pantheon, were the mythical & pre-rational theologies of the Old Kingdom, developed in Heliopolis (or "Ôn"), Memphis (or "Men-nefer") & Hermopolis (or "Kemennu"). 

In the Old Kingdom, the Heliopolitan scheme is best documented (Pyramid Texts). This dominant theology justified divine kingship, for it dealt with the appearances of the divine. 

The Hermopolitan scheme was first known through early Ramesside sources (early XIXth Dynasty), although traces of it were found in the Pyramid Texts. It focused on precreation. 

The only clear-cut theological text of the Memphite school we have, is the inscription on the right hand side of the Shabaka Stone, the so-called
Memphis Theology, referring to a late New Kingdom original copy. Ptah is mentioned only three times in the Pyramid Texts, and is referred to as "the greatly noble" (Utterance 573, § 1482). These Memphites concentrated on divine kingship and the creation of the world through the divine word.

1. Heliopolitan theology : Re

Heliopolitan theology stressed the self-creation of Atum, i.e. the appearance of light. He "evolved" himself with his company (his children) and so the Ennead (his court) was generated (in four stages happening simultaneously). The evolution of Atum represented the active polarity of this overall passive, undifferentiated, liquid matter.

Atum is the Ba of Nun.
Atum is Nun as Re.
 

Atum manifests the active, lightening, generative potential hidden in the passive, darkening, inert principle. In his primordial egg, Atum is a pure divine act hidden in, floating on limitless dark waters. There, he represented the spark of creative activity locked in limitless inertia. The "Lord of All" caused himself to evolve beyond the limitations imposed by this inertia (break out of the egg and bring time & space into being : autogenesis). This "Lord to the Limit" actualized the active potential of creation. He brought about the virtual world of creation, which at first had been hidden in his "egg". The latter is to be viewed as an island of potential activity, which, before Atum's evolution, had been isolated and detained by Nun. Atum rose out of Nun like Re dawned and the first light struck the primordial mount. With this light, variety appeared
.

Atum, Shu, Tefnut  Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys :
the company of nine of Heliopolis (the Ennead)

The "first time" or "first event" ("zep tepy") came to be when Atum sprang out of this primordial ocean (Nun), instantaneously ({0} = 2) giving birth to Shu (air - life) and Tefnut (moist - order), Geb (Earth) and Nut (sky). With the fourth generation of gods (Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nephthys), a company of nine creative archetypes became operational (Atum included). The expression "Atum and the Ennead" being suggestive of a final tenth deity, namely Pharaoh Horus, the "Lord of the Two Lands" (a metaphor for Egypt, but also for the created order as a whole - cf. the fundamental duality of creation).

Self-creative Atum had understanding, wisdom (sia), authoritative utterance (hu, the Great Word), magic (heka), justice & truth (maat). His eternal rejuvenation was based on his being all-light, forever alife & mutating perpetually in his Bark, although at night, Re navigated on the Nile of the underworld, the depth of which touched the primordial chaos of pre-creation.

In Chapter 175 of the so-called Book of the Dead, called "Chapter of not dying a second time", Atum answers to Osiris, who asked him how long he will live :

"You shall be for millions on millions of years, a lifetime of millions of years. I will dispatch the Elders and destroy all what I have made. The Earth shall return to Nun, to the surging flood, as in its original state. But I will remain with Osiris, I will transform myself into something else, namely a serpent, without men knowing or the gods seeing."
Book of the Dead, chapter 175.

2. Hermopolitan theology : Thoth

In Hermopolis ("Khemennu" or "city of the eight"), Thoth was worshipped as the "vizier" of Re. As a Sacred Ibis, he dropped the creative & magical word. In doing so, he fashioned the world out of the primordial chaos of Nun, represented as a company of eight pre-creational, chaotic deities (the Ogdoad). Thoth was the head of this pre-creational Ogdoad, as such turned into an Ennead. Thus he organized the primordial matter by establishing the rules of its functioning, conceived in his heart. The Ogdoad is the soul of Thoth.

The mythical origin of creation is thus placed under the command of the divine mind, the word of Re and god of magic, writing, healing, time, mathematics wisdom and the like. In this scheme, the primordial realm of the original matter (water) was characterized & personified. The primeval chaos, before the emergence of Re on the "Island of Flames" (Hermopolis), contained all forces of life, represented by four couples, four males (frog-headed) and four females (snake-headed). These were deemed to exist in Nun and came into being there spontaneously.

The primordial waters were an integral part of creation, namely its background. The chaos-gods are mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, suggesting the Hermopolitan scheme was already in place in the Old Kingdom. In texts of the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom, we already meet four of these chaos-gods : Wateriness ("nwi"), Infinity ("HHw"), Darkness ("kkw") and Lostness ("tnm"). In the Late Period (cf. Medinet Habu), four pairs were formed, together as a single entity :

OGDOAD QUALITIES
NUN & NAUNET wateriness & inertness
HUH & HAUHET infinity
KUK & KAUKET darkness
AMUN & AMAUNET hiddenness

In the temples of Edfu & Esna, we read that the eight have made their seed germ. They instilled this seed in the lotus, deposited it in Nun, condensed it into a single form, so it took birth under the aspect of a child, the creator Re. 

T
he Hermopolitan scheme, with its emphasis on creation-through-the-word, is easy to combine with the Memphite theology, which became dynastic in the IIIth Dynasty (Memphis had become the capital of Egypt).

3. Osirian theology : Osiris

With Osiris, emphasis shifts from a cosmological to a soteriological perspective. The Solar cycle (Atum, Re and Horus), with its royal and universal ideas (as well as adjacent ante-rational conceptualizations of the mind as a creative agent), was complemented by a popular, rather anthropological and Lunar cycle (the Moon being associated with darkness and the sacred feminine, with fertility, birth & rebirth) : the mystery-drama of Osiris, continuously depicted for about three millenia.

Indeed, as early as 3.000 BCE, Osirian funeral artifacts appeared at Abydos. Within a few hundred years, the First Dynasty kings of a unified Egypt built tombs and cenotaphs at Abydos in order to be near the tomb of Osiris and to assure for themselves (and others ?) the gateway to the Land of the Dead. From then on, Abydos became the center of the Osirian mysteries. A place of pilgrimage.

Osiris - from the book of the dead of Pharaoh Pinudjem I
Thebes - XIth Dynasty - Papyrus

No other god was more intimately related with the afterlife than Osiris. The original home of Osiris was the temple city Per-Asar-neb-Tetu (the Greek Busiris), situated in the 9th nome of Lower Egypt. Here was preserved the backbone of Osiris, the  "tet", and grew the sacred Acacia etc. As his cult extended, Osiris assumed & assimilated the forms of the gods of the dead of other nomes and cities like Memphis (Ptah-Seker) and Abydos (Khenti-Amenti). Before Osiris had arrived at Abydos from the North, Khenti-Amenti ("Foremost of those of the West") had been one of the oldest gods of Abydos ... The Pyramid Texts evidence the assimilation of the Khenti-Amenti by Osiris.

The oldest form of the name of Osiris had two hieroglyphs : a seat, throne, place and an eye, i.e. the seat maker, he who takes his throne. His important role in the funerary rituals is testified by the ceremony of "Opening the Mouth" found in the Pyramid Texts, intended to "balance the mouth", enabling the deceased to speak and act in the afterlife.

In the Old Kingdom, Osiris was intimately related with the individual spiritual process of transformation happening after Pharaoh's physical body had died. For Osiris was the proto-type of a godman who had lived on the Earth, had been dismembered but who nevertheless remained everlasting in a fine condition, alife after natural death ... immortal (no second death). Later, Osiris was called "Lord of the Living" (i.e. of those living their afterlife). Osiris was the beneficient god of the dead, because he gave eternal life to the dead as a result of his own permanent state of divine existence in the afterlife.

In the classical account on Osiris, namely that found in Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride, we are not told whether Osiris returned from the netherworld in his natural body or in a subtle one. The latter had power of speech & thought as well as a posture recognizable by his son Horus. The core of the message being, his natural body had only been a sheet put on by the divine part of Osiris, a spiritual vehicle able to take on all forms (at first, of all Pharaohs and eventually of all justified human beings).

"A ladder is knotted together by Re before Osiris, a ladder is knotted together by Horus before his father Osiris when he goes to his spirit, one of them being on this side and one of them being on that side, while I am between them."
Pyramid Texts, utterance 305 (§ 472).

Osiris was the salvic archetype par excellence. He was the self-realized, completed, perfected superbeing. His passion had been so destructive, that his restoration (by Horus) and ascension were unmatched by no other deity. With Osiris, the fundamental Heliopolitan trinity (Atum, Shu & Tefnut) was anthropologized in the divine family and it drama (Osiris, Isis, Horus). The myth of the Single Eye got transposed in "human" terms as myth of the left Eye of Horus.

As from the Middle Kingdom onward, every human being was deemed to have a soul which could suffer a second death, namely exist in the netherworld for a short period before total annihilation (desintegration and return to the limitless waters), the judgment of Osiris was crucial to guarantee personal salvation. Although Pharaoh was the "son of Re", we already find a strong Osirian influence in the Pyramid Texts (introducing unresolved pre-rational tensions in the overall Heliopolitan inspiration of this corpus). The "popular" Osiris had to be assimilated by the royal ritual, but the syncretism never was a self-evident one (compared to, for example Atum and Re, or Amun and Re).

Those wretched souls deemed unfit to enter his realm (in the afterlife), existed in darkness, without means to sustain themselves. As bleek as Eliot's Hollow Men, they awaited the nightly return of the Solar superbeings in and around the "Bark of Millions of Years", for it is their own fading contact with light. Finally, they all perish, torturing and being tortured, walking on their heads and eating excrements ...

The heart of the commoner worshipped the Osirian trinity : Osiris, Master of Silence, Isis, Great in Magic, and Horus, Vindicator.

4. Memphite theology : Ptah

In the Old Kingdom, Ptah was called the "greatly noble", "speaking" on behalf of Pharaoh and providing the latter with supplies (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 573, § 1482). In his mythical form, Ptah (like the Ogdoad) fashions the primordial egg. As creative principle, he was the patron of artists & artisans.

Ptah - Thebes
XVIIIth Dynasty

The Memphis Theology (completed in the late New Kingdom) superceded the Heliopolitan doctrine on three accounts :

  • Ptah was all-encompassing : he was the "father of the gods" of pre-creation (Nun), but also the self-created, hatching out of the primordial egg and initiating the first event, occasion or time (Atum and the Heliopolitan Ennead) and the whole of creation (especially in the cult statue) ;

  • The great word spoken by Ptah created the Ennead, whereas in the Heliopolitan view, Atum created the deities through physical means. The Memphite "great word" is coherent with the rather mental Hermopolitan view (about which only Late Period records have been found) ;

  • the creative Great Word "in the heart" and the creative speech "on the tongue" are like the semen and the hands of Atum, i.e. the great word spoken is first cause here (and not Atum's act of taking semen in his hand and in his mouth.

The creation of the world by design and speech is remarkable and prefigurates Greek logos-philosophy.

The creative power of the mind and its spoken word always go hand in hand.

Just as Pharaoh was the only one facing the deities (everybody else had to face him), so was every member of the pantheon (the Enneads) a manifestation of Ptah.

In Memphis, a divine trinity saw the light : Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertem.

Ptah in his naos, Sekhmet and Nefertem

Ptah is one & all-comprehensive (Ptah is Nun, Atum & Re). He utters what is on his mind, namely the Great Word, and thus created everything therewith. Pre-creation, first time & creation are all put into one category, an exemplaric summation. Ptah was before creation, during the first time, at the moment of creation and in every created god & goddess, in all doubles & souls, in all temples and on every altar ...

5. Theban theology : Amun

In XVIIIth Dynasty of the New Kingdom, the so-called "New Solar Theology" (Assmann, 1995) caused a crisis in Solar henotheism. It promoted an all-comprehensive, numerically singular Re, leading to the shortlived radical monotheism of Amarna. Eventually, this strong tendency towards a greater integration of the pantheon, gave rise, in the Ramesside Era, to the Theban theology centered around Amun-Re. It would continue to dominate Egyptian religion.

 

"O You, the Great God, whose name is unknown."
 Pharaoh Unis (PT 276c - ca. 2350 BCE)

Amun would become the "king of the gods" and -as a state religion-, his cult would acquire more power than Pharaoh himself. The association of Amun with precreation (as part of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad), recalled the rejuvenating powers of the primordial waters (Nun), the abyssimal chaos surrounding life, but containing the dormant potential of the world-egg, inert in the Nun.

In the theology of Amun, a final step is taken. The priests of Amun superceded ante-rationality, for they conceptualized him as One, Hidden and Millions. Politically too, a decisive change occurs : Amun becomes Pharaoh, ruling Egypt through oracular divination.

These XIXth Dynasty Amun-Re "mysteries" explain the story of a mature henotheist concept of the divine. Ramesside Amun-Re theology predates the Judeo-Christian tradition, which, for the first time in history, would develop an abstract & monotheist cultural form, dogma or conceptualization of God based on written revelations (deemed final !). This concept of Amun-Re as the One Great God belonged to the "secret of secrets". 

Just as in Brahmanism today, the worshippers of Amun never relinquished the idea (as do the religions "of the book") that the One Creator has millions of forms, transformations & Divine manifestations ("xpr"). 

One God with millions of Persons and Principles.

Amun-Re of Thebes

So contrary to these monotheist, numerical religions, the cult of Amun-Re was not against other deities, for each and every god & goddess was a light-manifestation (Re) of Amun, who remained hidden. They were so many theophanies of Amun's names or attributes. Moreover, Amun was not opposed to the use of images in the cult (no iconical ban). And finally, everybody who invoked Amun, could be certain of being heard. There was no "final" prophetic dogma's (Moses, the kings & prophets of Israel & Muhammad) or an exclusive Divine Filiation (Christ, unique son of God - cf. Akhenaten) to cross the gap between Earth and heaven. There was no revelation. Everywhere, constantly, only Amun reigned, but hidden & far, as well as present & near (cf. pan-en-theism, also found in Qabalah, Christian mysticism, and Sufism).

Also in Thebes, a divine trinity was worshipped : Amun, Mut and Khonsu.

initiated : 23 VII 2003 - last update : 27 XI 2010

© Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp, 2003 - 2014.