Thursday, March 1, 2012
In light of the very serious situation in Egypt currently, and the high stakes with which the Egyptian people are gambling in an effort to achieve liberty and self governance, I thought it might be appropriate to look at the significant role in the development of Western culture in general that Egypt has played, and to remind us that in Egypt and Africa, the roots of our spiritual traditions were born and nurtured.
There have, over the past four centuries been several successive waves of Pharoah Phever, or as it is more respectfully called, Egyptian Revivalism. In all of those revivals, we can see at the very least, the shadows of Freemasons. It is enough to give David Icke apoplexy. The Masons are to blame, of course!
Well, maybe, or maybe the Fraternity was simply as susceptible to the lure of Egyptian art, legend, and mysticism as everyone else. After all, nobody can reasonably deny the great influence that Egyptian culture wielded over Greek and Roman civilization and its art, architecture, religion, and mysticism.
Of course, personal adornment was not left out, and in the 19th and early 20th century much lavish and exotic egyptian inspired jewelry was created. Artisans as famous as Tiffany created lavish Egyptian revival pieces in both Art Noveau and Art Deco styles and many cheap rhinestone imitations were made for those who could not afford the rarified prices fine jewelers charged..
In the late 20th Century,(1976 to 1979) a small number of treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb were displayed across the United States in a seven-city tour of Treasures of Tutankhamun, attracting eight million visitors. It was the most popular museum exhibition of all time. The allure of the King Tut exhibition mystified audiences and influenced everything from fashion, to food, to film - creating 'Tut-Mania' everywhere it travelled. Who can forget The Bangle's rendition of "walk like an Egyptian?"
Think we are safe? Well, no, you'd be wrong. The difference is that we have a much quieter and less obvious Egyptian Revival going on all around us. It got its start perhaps even before the Tut exhibit, and continues to quietly grow.
Why is this Egyptian Revival quieter and what is it about? Well, of course I was going to tell you. It is focused on Egyptian mysticism and religion. If Egyptian studies have been a quiet topic among masons in recent years, that only reflects the older generation of masons' lack of interest in masonic esotericism. But don't worry, I suspect we will see plenty of esotericists among the next generation of masons. So, if the masons are not spearheading this esoteric interest in Egyptian mysticism, who is?
In the later 20th century, there have been at least three strands of interest in Egyptian mysticism in the west. The trend toward conservative and fundamentalism in many parts of mainstream Islamic society has tended to temper the nationalist interest which might otherwise have developed in Egypt during this time, but it has not had an impact in the west. There are three major threads in modern Egyptian mystic revivals. These may be traced back to the 19th Century and even before, if one assumes that Cagliostro influenced Waite. In the 19th Century, Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant) and Alfred E. Waite probably did more to encourage an interest in Middle Eastern mysticism in the west, including Egyptian religion and magic. This re-infused an interest in the subject among masons, but more significantly gave birth to modern Western Ceremonial Magic, with groups such as the OTO and the Golden Dawn.
If such enthusiasm appeared to wane in the early years of the 20th century, the cultural revolutions of the 1960s breathed new life into ancient Egypt. The Ausar Auset Society is a Pan-African religious organization founded in 1973 by Ra Un Nefer Amen for the purpose of providing members a societal framework through which the Kemetic spiritual way of life can be lived and to promote Rosicrucian values. It is based in Brooklyn, New York, with chapters in several major cities in the United States as well as international chapters in London, England, Toronto, Canada and Bermuda, West Indies. The organization provides afrocentric-based spiritual training to the African American community in particular and to the African diaspora in general. The religion uses elements of Ancient Egyptian religion such as the Tree of Life (Paut Neteru) as the basis of its cosmogony and philosophical underpinning. Other writers, such as Assata Olugbala Shakur (JoAnne Deborah Byron) who as a result of her involvement with the Black Panthers, sought and gained asylum in Cuba, where she now lives, has written extensively on the subject from a more militant perspective.
The Author, Storm Constantine, a member of the fellowship of Isis, has created a modern initiatic system of magic and healing based upon the neteru or Egyptian Deities and Skhm Reiki in her book, Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System, while Jason Agustus Newcomb and Don Milo Duquette, himself a Freemason, have published The New Hermetics: 21st Century Magick for Illumination and Power. Molefi Kente Asante has written The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten, while Muata Ashby has written several books on the Egyptian origins of Yoga, and a suite of recordings based on traditional Egyptian music. Beyond this, several authors have published books examining the Egyptian roots of and influences upon not only the development of early Christianity, but the role Egypt played in both the old and new testaments of the Christian bible and Jewish history, though doubtlessly Egypt is viewed quite differently by Judaism and Christianity.
Of course, all these groups and more coexist, if not in everyday life, on the shelves of Internet marketplaces such as Amazon.com and Ebay. Check them out. Somewhere, Cagliostro is smiling.