Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Touring through the great temples along the Nile, I felt enormous respect for the stone carvers who knew precisely how to incise the columns and the walls of the temples with representations of the gods who dominated the various Egyptian cultures for three thousand and more years.

How, I asked myself, could the nation have sustained such a high level of skill among artisans for such a long time, and how could they all have known how to perfectly represent these gods? There is some slight variation, but not as much as several millenia might have been expected to produce. Maintaining the same religion and its implied social stability over such a period of time is certainly astounding.

Of course, just as astounding is the feeling that none of these gods, and none of the narratives that they inhabit, have any serious claim to being true. In other words, they are mythic and not real.

They are the creations of a profound religious imagination. And more than that,they are the source of the power of the extraordinary priests who wielded power over the Pharaoanic elite. The revolution of Akhenaten was undone by the Priests -- and so, probably, was the brief rule of Tutankhamun.

As I went from temple to temple, I realized religion is a powerful force capable of using whatever gods are available.

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