The Second Renaissance

Following the assassination of Julius Caesar on the steps of the Senate in 44 B.C., his two Roman successors, Octavian and Mark Antony, eventually split and had to tight each other in battle. When the two Roman generals faced each other in 31 B.C. at the port of Actium on the western shore of Greece, they were representing the two most important cities of the time. While Octavian was defending Rome, Antony was fighting for Alexandria. And although Rome won the war and became the supreme political capital of the entire civilized world, Alexandria remained the religious and cultural center of the Roman Empire. The temple of Serapeum, which included the Alexandrian Library, became the focus of international worship as well as the center of world wisdom and knowledge. Only when Rome finally destroyed the Serapeum, four centuries later, did the Roman Vatican replace the temple of Serapis as the religious center of the world, and the teaching of the Church replaced Egyptian philosophy.

Both the two major Israelite leaders, Moses (Akhenaten) and Joshua (Tutankhamun), had lived and died in Egypt during the fourteenth century B.C. After the end of the Amarna rule, however, their monotheistic religious revolution was suppressed and the old cults of Amun and Re regained their place as the official cults of the state. Nevertheless, from that time onward, the cult of Osiris and Isis gained more popularity until, by the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty in 300 B.C., it became the most powerful religion in Egypt. The king of the dead Osiris became the God of the living, and the religious importance of Isis rose accordingly. Little by little she absorbed and assimilated most of the religious and cultic functions of the other goddesses, and from the last centuries B.C. her position as the great mother-goddess of Egypt was unchallenged. She was universally revered throughout the country, and the ascent of the Ptolemaic dynasty meant the final acknowledgement of her official position in the new state cult.

From the last days of the Eighteenth Dynasty, a slow evolutionary process took place within the Osiris theology, to explain the significance of the life, death, and resurrection of Tutankhamun, who became identified as the risen Osiris. Any visitor to the tomb of the young king, in the Valley of the Kings, can see for himself the strongest pictorial evidence connecting Tutankhamun and Jesus Christ. The large painting of the Burial Chamber is subdivided into three separate scenes (see plates 17, 18 & 19). The first scene on the right shows Aye (Ephraim/Joseph of Arimathea) already wearing the blue crown with his cartouche above him, as a royal successor of the dead king. Aye, at the same time as being a king, uniquely is also officiating as a priest dressed in leopard skin, to perform the ritual of "the opening of the mouth," for resuscitation of the dead Tutankhamun, shown facing him as the risen Osiris.

The second scene, in the middle of the wall, shows the risen Tutankhamun entering the heavenly realm of the gods and being welcomed there by the sky goddess Nut. The third scene on the left depicts the king in three different forms. On the left of the scene stands Tutankhamun, in the form of the dead king Osiris, stretching his hands to touch a second Tutankhamun facing him, as the ruling king Horus, who is in turn stretching his arms to hold him, while he himself is being followed by a third Tutankhamun, representing the spiritual Ka, which also stretches its right arm to protect the king.

Undoubtedly, this is the scene that was at the root of the heated theological arguments that lasted for the whole first four centuries of the early Christian Church regarding the nature of Christ and the meaning of his trinity. For here we see Osiris the father, Horus the son and Ka the Holy Spirit, all being represented as one person—Tutankhamun—as three different aspects of the same person.

Thus on the north wall of Tutankhamun's burial chamber we find the three important theological points related to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the first scene represents his physical resurrection, the second scene represents his ascension and the third scene the trinity of his nature. This must have been the reason why King Aye himself officiated as a priest over the arrangements of the king's burial, for no other priest

244 Epilogue: The Second Renaissance would have been able to understand the new theology that stood behind the reformation introduced by Tutankhamun to the Amarna religious revolution. So the emergence of Christianity in the first century A.D., when the apostles declared their witnessing of the risen Christ, was not an abrupt event, but came as a result of a long process of evolution, out of the ancient cults of Osiris and Hermes Trismegistus.

Although the Egyptian contribution to Western civilization remained unrecognized through the Middle Ages, the new age of the Renaissance came as a result of Egyptian Neo-Platonic and Hermetic philosophy. As the movement of cultural revival spread all over Europe (particularly in Italy where it had its center in the city of Florence, between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries) ancient Egyptian wisdom was again recognized as the source of Christian philosophy. The general evolution that transformed the Middle Ages into the Renaissance gave rise to an entirely new conception of Ancient Egypt and its relation to Western culture. Florence became the early center of these efforts and studies, and the new ideas were, to a great extent, given form and shape by the members of its Platonic Academy, founded by Cosimo de' Medici about 1439. A new "historical" approach to philosophic and scientific problems had to be found, and the rediscovery of continuity in human existence was one of the immediate results of its activities. This movement created increasing interest in Egyptian culture, and people became acquainted again with the fact that many of the most prominent representatives of Greek genius, even Plato himself, had come to Egypt to learn and study, and had returned impressed by its culture and enriched by its learning. Works such as Plutarch's book on Isis and Osiris awoke the interest in Osirianism and Egyptian religion, while Iamblichus's demonological elucidations concerning the mysteries of Egypt, together with the Hermetic literature, fascinated the humanists, and became responsible for their conceptions of what they considered to be Egyptian philosophy.

According to Erik Iversen, the Danish Egyptologist, in his book The Myth of Egypt and its Hieroglyphs, Egyptian wisdom, Neo-Platonic philosophy and humanistic studies became in this way consecutive links in an unbroken chain of tradition, joined together and united with Christianity by their common aim: the knowledge and revelation of God. Seen from this point of view, the so-called heathen prophets, including Plato and Hermes, in having been born before the final revelation of this truth at the coming of Christ, were therefore merely "historical," that is, dependent on time, and therefore inessential. Pre-Christian revelations were regarded as anticipations of the final Christian message, and the truth to which the pagan philosophers unwittingly had borne witness was the cosmic truth of Christianity.

The general conception of the direct connections between Christianity, the Hermetic literature, and the Neo-Platonic philosophy was already formed by Marcilio Ficino (1433-1499), in his De Christiana Religione and his Theologia Platonica written 1473-1478. In 1471 he published a Latin translation of Plotinus and in 1497 an edition of lamblichus, and through his activity in the Platonic Academy he became one of the pioneers of the Neo-Platonic revival. According to Ficino, Hermes Trismegistus was a sage of the Egyptians, a contemporary or maybe even a predecessor of Moses. He had attained a knowledge of things surpassing even that which was revealed to the Hebrew prophets, and comparable only with that of the Evangelists. Pythagoras had become acquainted with his teachings in Egypt, and through his intermission they had been transmitted to Plato, who was a student of Egyptian wisdom himself and had eventually based his own philosophy on the doctrines of Hermes.

This situation, however, was to be completely reversed by the classicists of the Age of Enlightenment, who denied the Egyptian influence on European culture, and regarded Greece as the fount of modern philosophy. The Enlightenment movement appeared in England, France and Germany during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and was concerned with the interrelationship between God, nature and man. The philosophers of this movement thought that it was only through reason, rather than faith, that mankind could find knowledge and happiness. Even the Neo-Platonists and Hermetics became Greek according to this movement, which dominated the academic world and does so to this day. They completely rejected any possible Egyptian influence, either on Christianity or any other branch of knowledge. As the German classicist Rudolf Blum, in his book about The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliography, put it, not only the Alexandrian library was Greek, but in the Egyptian capital itself: "Greek culture was alive and well, while the old Egyptian culture which had been admired by many educated Greeks had long since been dead" (p. 98).

Thanks to modern archaeologists who began to reveal the remains of the past from the mid-nineteenth century, the Egyptian role in Western civilization can now be reestablished. This will be our next step.

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