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Notes on Moses the Egyptian

Jan Assmann

Jan Assmann

2,666 words

Translations: French, Spanish

Author’s Note:

The following text is an experiment. It is the first of a series of “notes” on select chapters of Jan Assmann’s Moses the Egyptian. My primary aims are to encourage more people to read the book and to shape how they read it.

Stylistically, these notes are denser, more repetitive, and contain more lists than I would normally permit in my published writing. 

They are dense because I do not have time to fully expand upon each point. (Although there are always the discussion threads.) They are repetitive and contain lists for pedagogical purposes. I find such writing useful on the first reading for driving its points home, but very annoying on subsequent readings.

Think of this as an online seminar on Moses the Egyptian. If this format works, I will apply it to other key texts as well. 

In the opening chapter of Moses the Egyptian, “Mnemohistory and the Construction of Egypt,” Jan Assmann sets forth the elements of his argument, which I discussed at some length in my previous article:

  1. religion vs. counter-religion
  2. religion being identified with with polytheism and cosmotheism, counter-religion being identified with Biblical monotheism
  3. normative inversion, referring to the process by which counter-religions create values by inverting (profaning, desecrating) the the values of religions
  4. Egypt vs. Israel, Egypt being the paradigmatic land of polytheism, Israel being the paradigm of monotheism whose concept of the sacred was arrived at through the normative inversion of Egyptian ideas of the sacred
  5. Akhnaton and Moses as the creators of monotheistic counter-religions who were associated in Egyptian myths and may have been connected in history
  6. religious tolerance and international law founded on the cosmotheistic idea of a common divine order behind different religions vs. religious intolerance and international enmity that follows from . . .
  7. . . . the “Mosaic distinction” between true and false religions (which must be suppressed)
  8. the transcendent creator god of Biblical monotheism vs. the immanent pantheistic or panentheistic god of “cosmotheism,” which teaches that a single hidden god — who manifests himself in the form of the diversity of particular gods, mortals, and nature as a whole — inhabits nature as a soul inhabits the body

Assmann likens his book to a kaleidoscope, in which all these elements are placed in a tube, and each chapter deals with a new “twist” which constellates these elements into a different pattern.

Chapter 2, “Suppressed History, Repressed Memory,” begins with Assmann’s fascinating survey of ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman accounts of the exodus that clearly contain occluded memory traces of Akhnaton’s reign, which was associated with two traumas.

  1. Akhnaton proclaimed that the god Aten, represented by the solar disk, was the one true god, and he closed the temples of the other gods and suppressed their worship, cutting the people off from the divine order as they had approached it for millennia.
  2. At the end of Akhnaton’s reign, a plague swept the Near East. This plague raged for 20 years, killed countless people, and destabilized the political order and international landscape.

After Akhnaton’s death, the old gods were restored, and Akhnaton’s name and deeds were so thoroughly expunged from Egyptian records that he was forgotten by history for more than 3,000 years.

However, Egyptologists have argued plausibly that trace memories of Akhnaton’s reign survived. Manetho was an Egyptian priest and historian who lived in the first half of the third century BCE under the Macedonian pharaoh Ptolemy II. Excerpts from Manetho’s history were preserved by Jewish writer Flavius Josephus (first to second centuries CE) in his Contra Apionem, a defense of Judaism from its Egyptian and Greek critics.

According to Manetho, Moses was an Egyptian priest from Heliopolis known as Osarsiph. King Amenhotep — which is the original name of Akhnaton as well as his father — wished to perceive the gods directly. The Egyptians believed that the gods were hidden, and the pharaoh as well as the religious cults were established as their visible representatives. The desire to see the gods directly, therefore, was implicitly revolutionary, since it would make both “church” and “state” no longer necessary.

To reveal the gods, the sage Amenhotep, son of Hapu (a known historical figure) advised the king to purify the land of lepers. The king had 80,000 lepers sent to work in the quarries of the eastern desert. Among the lepers were priests. It is not clear if they were lepers themselves or simply priests sent to minister to them. But the sage foresaw divine punishment for this treatment of the sick: they would receive help from outside, conquer Egypt, and rule for 13 years. Fearing to tell the king, the sage wrote down his prophecy and committed suicide.

After a while, the king allowed the lepers to move to the deserted city of Avaris, which had been the capital of the Hyksos, the Semitic invaders who had ruled Egypt for more than a century before they had been expelled, about 200 years before the time of Akhnaton. Once installed in Avaris, the lepers chose Osarsiph, a priest of Heliopolis, as their leader. Osarsiph then proclaimed new laws based on the principle of normative inversion. Everything that the Egyptians held sacred was now condemned, and everything they condemned was to be held sacred. His followers were also told to hold themselves apart from all other peoples. Osarsiph fortified Avaris, called for the Hyksos to return, and then attacked Egypt. King Amenhotep withdrew to Nubia with Egypt’s sacred animals. The lepers/Semites held Egypt for 13 years, committing every counter-religious abomination. Then king Amenhotep and his grandson Rameses returned and drove the lepers/Semites from Egypt. Osarsiph, their leader, took the name Moses, and so began the wanderings of the Jews.

In this story, three Egyptian historical traumas are recombined: the invasion of the Semitic Hyksos, Akhnaton’s heresy, and the great plague that followed it.

  1. The Egyptians naturally associated the Hyksos and the Jews, since both were Semites.
  2. Moreover, although the Hyksos worshiped Baal and other gods, one Hyksos king, Apophis, worshiped only Baal, which the Egyptians identified with Set and the Greeks with Typhon.
  3. Thus Avaris was associated in the Egyptian mind with Semitic invaders, storm gods, and monotheism (or at least monolatry — the worship of one god alone).
  4. After the time of Akhnaton, the Egyptians began to regard Set less as a god than as a counter-god — a demonic figure.
  5. Plutarch also records an Egyptian tradition that identified the Jews as the children of Set.
  6. It might even be the case that the Hyksos and the Jews were the same people, for the Hyksos domination could very well be the historical reality behind the Biblical story of Joseph, who rose to power in Egypt and summoned his people to strip the Egyptians to the bone, but whose power was ended by a patriotic pharaoh “who knew not Joseph” and freed his people from their alien parasites.

The story of Osarsiph also clearly relates to Akhnaton.

  1. The Amarna heresy took place between the reign of Amenhotep III (Akhnaton’s father) and the accession of Rameses I, the founder of the 19th dynasty.
  2. The two may even have been related as grandfather and grandson, although the foundation of a new dynasty indicates that it could only have been matrilineally.
  3. In any case, the restoration of the old gods did take place under the rule of a known grandson of Amenhotep, namely Tutankamun (whose name was later suppressed along with Akhnaton’s).
  4. It is also significant that there is no mention of Amenhotep’s son, as Amenhotep III’s son was the proscribed Akhnaton.
  5. Osarsiph was a priest of Heliopolis, a center for the worship of the sun, and Akhnaton’s Aten religion bears traces of the Heliopolitan solar theology.
  6. The move to Avaris corresponds to Akhnaton’s move from Thebes to found his new capital Akhnaton.

The association with leprosy calls to mind four things:

  1. the plague that began at the end of Akhnaton’s reign
  2. the grotesque representations of Akhnaton and his family — some of which were still visible to travelers on the defaced boundary stelae of his deserted capital
  3. the metaphorical sense of lepers as outcasts
  4. For Osarsiph’s followers, their outcast status was reinforced by his own commandment that they be a people that shall dwell alone.

After the end of the Amarna heresy, it would be natural to picture Akhnaton ruling over a leper colony engaged in systematic sacrilege and abomination. Even the period of 13 years is about right, since Akhnaton was the capital for the last 12 years of Akhnaton’s reign, plus the rule of two ephemeral successors Neferneferuaten and Smenkhkare, until the return to Thebes under Tutankhamun.

Assmann relates other overlapping Egyptian, Greek, and Roman versions of the exodus story:

  1. Hecateus of Abdera (Greek, 4th century BCE)
  2. Lysimachos (Greek, 2nd century BCE)
  3. Chaeremon (Egyptian, 1st century BCE)
  4. Pompeius Trogus (Roman, 1st century BCE)
  5. Atrapanus (Jewish, 2nd century BCE)
  6. Tacitus (Roman, 1st-2nd centuries CE)
  7. Apion (Egyptian, first century CE)
  8. Strabo (Greek, 1st century BCE).

All told, there are more than a dozen such accounts, which repeatedly speak of the expulsion of the Jews and associate them with disease, subversion, misanthropy, and the creation of a religion through “normative inversion,” meaning the profanation of all that the Egyptians held sacred.

When surveying this ancient consensus gentium about the Jews, Assmann rather absurdly sidesteps the question of truth, claiming that he is only dealing with memories: “The image of the Jew as the religious enemy par excellence — as atheist, iconoclast, sacrilegious criminal — turns out to be a matter not of experience, but of memory, that is, the return of the suppressed memory of Akhnaton” (p. 43).

In other words, none of these writers over a span of five centuries ever saw a Jew do something wrong, something that would support their reputation as a uniquely hateful and dangerous people. Nor had any of them peeked into Jewish scriptures, which are a long narrative of intrigues, crimes, and lovingly tended, luxuriantly attenuated hatreds. No, the only historical basis for the Jews’ ill-repute were the crimes of Akhnaton, who was forgotten by history and only dimly recollected in myth.

Assmann even goes so far as to suggest that in the 14th century CE, when Jews were accused of subverting a Christian kingdom at the behest of the Muslim king of Granada by allying themselves with lepers, this is no good reason to ask “What is it with Jews and lepers?” No, this too was simply the distant echo of Akhnaton’s crimes (p. 44).

The fact that Assmann feels constrained to offer such ludicrous apologetics for ancient Jews is, of course, proof that we still live under the shadow of Jewish hatred and intolerance today.

Assmann then changes the subject to ancient cosmotheism. When ancient polytheists encountered other religions, they did not regard them as false simply because they differed from their own. Instead, they sought to establish correspondences between the different religions, allowing mutual “translation” and understanding.

But just as languages are mutually translatable because they refer to a common reality, ancient polytheists could translate between religions only on the assumption that they were different ways of referring to a common divine order.

  1. Different religions may be relative to different peoples, but the divine order is absolute.
  2. Different religions are many, but the divine order is one.
  3. Since divine names are many and relative, the absolute one is beyond all names.
  4. Since all forms of manifestation are relative, the absolute one is hidden.

How does the absolute hidden one relate to the world of manifestation? He is its cause or creator, but not a transcendent creator, like the Jewish God, but an immanent creator who occupies, pervades, and sustains the world of plurality like the soul does the body. God is thus both one and all — the Greek “hen kai pan.” Thus the whole can be referred to as “god or nature” — the Latin “deus sive natura” — depending on whether one focuses on its hidden, creative, absolute, unitative aspect (god) or its manifest, created, relative, diverse aspect (nature).

Assmann gives two examples of the cosmotheist outlook in late antiquity.

First, is Lucius’ prayer to Isis in book 11 of Apuleius’ The Golden Ass and the goddess’s reply, in which both list the names the Queen of Heaven is called by the different peoples of the world. But she does assert that her “true name” (verum nomen) is Isis, thus stopping just short of an unnameable “one” — which would, of course, be beyond the distinction between god and goddess as well. Although Apuleius presents the syncretic Isis cult of late antiquity, Assmann again shows that such syncretism has authentic Egyptian sources, helpfully citing an Egyptian text from the 5th century BCE, i.e., before the Macedonian conquest.

The second example is the idea from Late Antiquity of the “Supreme Being,” who encompasses all divine beings but is preeminently called by the names of different sovereign deities, primarily Zeus, Serapis, Helios . . . and Yahweh (Iao). This ecumenical gesture toward the Jewish God was not, of course, reciprocated by the Jews, who correctly perceived it as a covert denial of one of Yahweh’s essential characteristics, namely his claim to be the one true God. Thus the syncretic Supreme Being was Yahweh in name only.

Although cosmotheist ideas are primarily known through texts from Greco-Roman late antiquity, Assmann shows that they are an accurate transmission of much older Egyptian ideas. In the form of the Corpus Hermeticum, they returned to Europe in the 15th century along with the writings of Plato, helping to spark the Renaissance. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were associated with deism and the pantheism of Baruch Spinoza and had an immense influence on the Enlightenment and Romanticism.

It is odd for Assmann to follow his summary of ancient accounts of the exodus with a discussion of cosmotheism. Why do these topics belong in the same chapter? At the end of the chapter, however, Assmann explains that an understanding of cosmotheism provides very sound reasons why “the antagonistic power of counter-religions like Judaism and Christianity was so much resented by pagan intellectuals” (p. 54).

Biblical monotheism was regarded with horror because it strikes at the root of the greatest intellectual and political achievements of pagan antiquity: cosmotheism and its practical implications, namely religious pluralism and international law.

Because different religions all refer to the same divine order, all of them can be respected. They are all true, insofar as they refer to the same truth. They just refer to the same truth in different ways, just as different languages use different words for the same realities. These different ways of approaching the divine reality are not, however, “merely human.” They too are expressions of divine creativity, accommodating itself to the plurality of different peoples and types — which are expressions of divine creativity as well. Thus the ancients did not merely “tolerate” (suffer) religious pluralism as a necessary evil. They could embrace it as a positive good.

The chief practical implications of ancient cosmotheism are religious tolerance and international law, since the idea of a common divine order can unite and harmonize peoples even as different religions and nations divide and oppose them. Biblical monotheism, however, denies the truth of other religions and seeks to suppress them. And since Biblical monotheism does not recognize a common divine order underlying all religions, it cannot appeal to this order as the foundation of international agreements. This order is not, of course, the only possible foundation for such agreements, but it certainly aided different peoples in establishing amicable relations in a time of almost universal war and strife. This common divine order is not, for instance, the same as the idea of natural law or natural right, but they are analogous. For Islam, which does not recognize ideas of natural right, peace can come only through subjection to Islamic law (conversion or dhimmitude).

Thus, after blaming Akhnaton and absolving Jews for anti-Semitism, Assmann explains why ancient polytheists had good reason to fear Biblical monotheism. This is a pattern with Assmann: he flatly disavows Semitically-incorrect conclusions while coolly assembling airtight arguments for them.

 

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17 Comments

  1. Michael Bell
    Posted July 3, 2014 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Did Zoroastrianism ever take on a monotheistic, dualistic form? George R. R. Martin seems to think so, as he claims it inspired his idea for the Red God religion in A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve been told by professors that it is an early form of monotheism, but a well-read comrade informed me that Zoroastrianism used to be polytheistic in that it recognized multiple aspects of the ultimate reality. It was not always Ahura Mazda versus Angra Mainyu, in other words.

  2. James White
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    What do you think of Ralph Ellis’ work Mr Johnson?

    I’ve read a couple and found the Hyksos\Jewish link compelling.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      I am not familiar with his work. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Michael Bell
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Up until a little while back, I always took it for granted that the Hebrews were just another group of Semites who, due to particular circumstances, took one god from the Semitic pantheon and made him supreme. However, things I’ve read over the last few years (i.e. the claim that Jews are descended from Typhon), including this article, raise some questions:
    1. Were the first Hebrews actually Semites, or members of some Egyptian Chandala class (lepers) that became Semiticized? Or, were they from somewhere else entirely, i.e. Asia Minor (the Bible says that Abraham came from Haran, or so I learned from my Jewish History professor many years ago).
    2. Is the Hebrew language a bastardized version of Semitic, as I have read somewhere? This would lend credence to the argument that the first Hebes weren’t actually Semitic.
    3. Exactly which Semitic deity was Yahweh? Some random storm god, sea god, or some serpentine consort of an Earth goddess, or something hitherto unknown?
    4. There have been oppressed underclasses since time immemorial. What prompted the Hebrews in particular to be the first to develop a religion that recognized only one supreme deity as a response to their 0ppression (if indeed this oppression existed)? I can’t see stone quarries and leprosy being the only catalysts necessary to prompt such a departure from normative spirituality.
    5. If Jews literally descend from a demonic being like Typhon or Set, how could such a lineage be substantiated?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 2, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      1. Abraham supposedly settled in Haran (or Harran) on his way from Ur to Palestine. I don’t know if he actually came from there or not. Harran was an important Mesopotamian Bronze Age city from the 3rd millennium BC on. It was also one of the last outposts of paganism in the early Middle Ages. If Abraham was originally from there, he would certainly have been a Semite.

      2. My own theory is that the Jews were descended from the Hyksos. When the Hyksos were forced out of Egypt, their leadership caste was certainly expelled, but many commoners probably stayed behind, much as the former Soviet republics are filled with Russians who were left behind after the fall of the USSR. The Hyksos who remained basically became a proletariat under Pharaonic rule. They were aware of their ethnic differences, resentful of the fallen status of their people, and a perpetual danger to Egypt as a potential Fifth Column for new Semitic incursions. Eventually, they found leadership — either indigenous or from an Egyptian rebel — and made enough trouble that they were expelled from Egypt. And it is tempting to speculate that they were expelled because they became infected with a disease — not leprosy, but Akhnaton’s monotheism — thus explaining the connections between the Hyksos, Akhnaton, monotheism, and contagion in the pagan accounts of the exodus.

      Not all the Hyksos remnants were proles though, if a theory of the 19th dynasty is correct. The 19th dynasty seems to have come from the area of Avaris, and Ramesses II built his capital near there. Two of the kings of that dynasty took the name Seti. They could have been native Egyptians from that region, but they could have had Hyksos roots as well.

      3. Yahweh seems to blend Akhnaton-style monotheism with a Semitic storm god like Baal. Set/Typhon is thus a good equivalent. And recall that the Hyksos king Apophis worshiped only Set/Baal. As I go further into Assmann, we will look at Freud’s Moses and Monotheism which contains a lot of interesting speculations that can somewhat organize and explain the data.

      4. One can be oppressed but still accept the value structure of society. Oppression/resentment is revolutionary when it gives rise to new values, as Nietzsche explains. Assmann shows that this process was at work from the very beginning of the Jews, with the normative inversion of the Egyptian ideas of the sacred. My theory is that Akhnaton’s destructive genius did not take with the Egyptians, but the seed found fertile ground among the Egyptian-hating Hyksos remnants of the Eastern Delta where it took root and spread until it had to be contained then expelled.

      5. I doubt if Jews literally descend from Typhon or Set, but they act that way, which is why the Egyptians believed it, and of course later peoples thought they were the children of Satan for the same reasons.

      • Michael Bell
        Posted July 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        What particular characteristics about Yahweh suggest that he was originally some storm deity? Also, of all the deities that exist in the Semitic pantheons, why choose a storm god to be the supreme deity? Do Assmann or Freud tackle these questions?

        Also, of all the Semitic and other polytheist religions (from what I can tell), why did the Hebrew elevation of this one deity lead to a religion with the most exhaustive texts and interpretations of texts, sets of rules and proscriptions, and other particularities that seem to only exist within Judaism? I don’t recall the Akkadians, Phoenicians, or Assyrians ever putting together anything as boorishly complicated as the Jewish religion.

        Sorry if I’m going off in a non-Egyptian direction. I just find the mysteries about this sinister people’s origins to be fascinating.

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted July 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          The Hebrew god is often associated with storms in the Old Testament, for example:

          The earth trembled and quaked,
          and the foundations of the mountains shook;
          they trembled because he was angry.
          Smoke rose from his nostrils;
          consuming fire came from his mouth,
          burning coals blazed out of it.
          He parted the heavens and came down;
          dark clouds were under his feet.
          He mounted the cherubim and flew;
          he soared on the wings of the wind.
          He made darkness his covering,
          his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.
          Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
          with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
          YHWH thundered from heaven;
          the voice of the Most High resounded.
          He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies,
          great bolts of lightning and routed them. (Psalm 18:7-14)

          It is an interesting question why Jews became people of the book, but surely one reason is that books are easily portable.

        • Miss Palindrome
          Posted July 3, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          My first reply to you is not visible. I included several links in it which you may find useful.
          I doubt that Jews’ addiction to inversion and subversion started in Egypt. If anything, they already had it by the time they settled in Egypt. Yahweh seems to have a Sumerian origin, as I already explained it. Yah(weh) comes from Ea, Semitic version of Enki (Sumerian god). Semites (Akkadians, Amorites) conquered Mesopotamia beginning the 24th century BC and borrowed a lot from Sumerians. Jewish cosmogony and anthropogony are obviously taken from Sumerian mythology. Enki created man from clay, advised Ziusudra to build a boat to escape the flood sent by higher gods and confused languages. Enki was the god of fresh/underground water, crafts, wisdom and creation. He was symbolized by goat-fish, fish, ram’s head.

          Notice that ethnonyms applied to Jews vary throughout their history. Before entering Egypt or the establishment of their monarchy on the shores of Eastern Mediterranean, they were known as Hebrews. Some say that ‘Hebrew’ comes from Eber, one of Abraham’s ancestors and a descendant of Shem (son of Noah).
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrews
          Eber/ivri may also come from a word meaning ‘to pass over’, ‘to cross’ in the sense that they were a transfluvial people who left Shinar (Sumer) aka Chaldea and settled on the other side of Euphrates after crossing it.
          ( http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001249
          Look at the explanation for verse 13
          http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/view.cgi?bk=0&ch=14
          Verse 29
          http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/view.cgi?bk=job&ch=21 )

          I think that the latter interpretation is better for explaining Gentiles’ memory of interaction with Jews. Why would Gentiles remember and define this Semitic people based on their rants about their ancestors, instead of the impression that Hebrews/Jews made on non-Hebrews/non-Jews when they met? I think that for both Egyptians and other Semites of the Middle East, Jews were the people from the other side of the river.
          They have always been the “other” looking for wealth and prosperity in Gentiles’ lands.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrews#Hyksos

          They were known as Israelites around the time of their monarchic period, but when the Northern Kingdom of the 10 tribes/Israel split from the Southern Kingdom of the 2 tribes/Judah, “Israel” became associated with idolatry and decadence, while Judeans/Jews of Judah saw themselves as “the true people of God”. To counter the influence of Jerusalem temple, Jeroboam, king of Israel after the Northern Kingdom expelled king Rehoboam, built temples where calves were worshiped. In 722 BC Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom and dispersed its population. Judeans, who worshipped Yahweh, saw this as divine punishment for Israel’s idolatrous transgression. Jewish kingdom,too, was destroyed in 586 BC, but since that moment ‘Jew’ became the main ethnonym used by both Gentiles and Jews themselves (Yehudim) to define the people which crossed Euphrates. Few languages retained the Eber/Hebrew reference.

          The Northern Kingdom was influenced by neighboring Canaanite culture. El was chief deity in Canaanite culture and, just like Baal, he was symbolized by a bull. So the El-Yahweh rivalry seems to be a family feud where the Semitized god Yah (originally Sumerian) fights for supremacy with other Semitic gods, El. It is said that Yahwists actually merged El and Yahweh
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henotheism#Canaanite_religion_and_early_Judaism
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monolatrism#In_ancient_Israel

          I think that your question cannot answer what you are looking for.
          Book of Obadiah 1:8, also part of Old Testament, puts it that Jews’ God must destroy Gentiles’ (Esau) wise men. Try this
          http://www.topverses.com/Bible/Obadiah/1/8
          Non-Jewish elites are obstacles to Jewish hegemony. This is the very reason why Jews poison through Tv, Hollywood, fake history, anti-culture, gender confusion, sterility, androgyny. Finance comes after.
          Jews really hate culture, they hate the superior because that reminds them of what they are not and cannot be.
          http://i9.photobucket.com/albums/a62/photohosting1234/OtherImages/sour_GWAPES.jpg
          Who would be that idiot to hate true culture and true art? I appreciate non-European cultures when it’s the case. Ancient non-Jewish people didn’t smear others’ identity. They often admired others.

          What do you expect from a group of petty shepherds living in a land of Great Civilization that Mesopotamia was at that time? They singled out a god whom they saw as beneficial, then used it to deny all other gods and vilify the very culture that they inspired from. Later on they moved to Egypt because of the famine in their land. They did it again. Aten was singled out as the “true god” and used to invert the Egyptian order. In my opinion, the question is not as to why Yahweh or Aten. These are effects, not causes. It could have been any other god.
          Jews hate Western Whites. From this hate you can infer that Whites have something which Jews resent as offensive and detrimental to their hegemonic agenda.
          The bourgeoisie destroyed monarchy for similar reasons. Nobility is offensive.

    • Miss Palindrome
      Posted July 2, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Check the Mesopotamian cosmogony.
      1. Their “holy” books say that Hebrews are descendants of Shem (thus Semites) who left Ur of Chaldees, Southern Mesopotamia, formerly known as Sumer. Sumerians were not Semites, but those who conquered Mesopotamia since the 24th century BC (Akkadians, then Amorites) were. So Hebrews may be a mix of Semites and non-Semites or descendants of Semites who conquered Mesopotamia. Haran was a place of temporary stay.
      Their connection to Mesopotamia is important for understanding
      3 how Yahweh evolved. It seems that Enki, Sumerian god of wisdom, fresh water and crafts, is the source of Yahweh. Enki was the patron of what is thought to be the oldest Sumerian city, Eridu. His temple was E-Abzu/ E-A, house of water.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enki
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abzu

      There are various accounts of how Enki created man from clay
      http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.1.2&charenc=j#

      http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Article/561290

      http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/enki/

      Enki also helped Ziusudra build a boat to escape the flood sent by Enlil
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziusudra
      and confused languages. When Semites conquered Sumer, they kept the stories, but changed the names. Enki became Ea, Ziusudra became Ut-Napishtim/ Atrahasis.

      I think this shows the origins of biblical Noah, tower of Babel and antropogony.

      Thus:
      “V. YAHVEH. Even Yahveh, despite his high Babylonian pedigree, formed no exception to the general law of upward development, but, like all the other θεοί επιχώριοι, passed successively from the polytheistic through the monolatric to the monotheistic phase, this last not being reached till some time before the captivity. The process itself is in accordance with the inflexible laws of nature, which does nothing in a hurry, since ‘ slowly and as by instinct mankind struggles towards the light ‘ (Matthew Arnold). Yahveh’s transition from Ea (read also Ag and Ia in the Cuneiform documents) presents no phonetic difficulty, such as that of Glaser’s break-neck jump from Dyaus to Ea and Yah. There are no troublesome initial dentals or sibilants (d, C) to be explained away, and we know that the form Yahu (nom. case) was already familiar to the Assyrians, one of the lexical Cuneiform tablets giving this word as meaning a god in Hebrew, and identifying it with the Assyrian word Yahu = ‘myself.’ ”
      http://archive.org/details/jstor-1450411

      4. The passage from politheism to monolatry and from the latter to monotheism may be linked to Akhenaten’s reform, but I think that other causes, both predating and postdating Akhenaten’s influence, are just as valid.
      Consider the Hebrew infighting centuries after Akhenaten. There were rivalries between the Northern Kingdom of the 10 tribes/Israel/Samaria/Bethel and the Southern Kingdom of the 2 tribes/Judah/ Jerusalem. The Northern IsraEL was influenced by Canaanite religion that worshiped El as the supreme deity. El was symbolized by a bull.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_(deity)
      Bear in mind that Rehoboam was the king of the 12 tribes before 10 of them rebelled against him and brought Jeroboam as their leader. Rehoboam remained king of Judah, but Jeroboam was afraid that his Davidic-line rival would return and reclaim power. To counter the influence of Jerusalem, Jeroboam established 2 altars at Dan and Bethel where calves were worshiped.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Israel_(Samaria)#Religion

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_calf#Jeroboam.27s_golden_calves_at_Bethel_and_Dan

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_calf#Other_mentions_in_the_Hebrew_Bible

      In 722 Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom. The Sounthern Kingdom saw this as an act of divine punishments against Israel’s idolatry. Judean Yahwists were convinced they were the legitimate bearers of the title of “God’s chosen”. They despised Samaritans whom they saw as a mixture of anyway-idolater Hebrews and other pagans subsequently colonized by Assyrians
      http://books.google.com/books?id=diPXx_t4IwAC&pg=PA172

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans#Tensions_between_the_Samaritans_and_the_Judeans

      http://www.jhsonline.org/cocoon/JHS/a047.html
      I think that today’s wars in the Middle East are fought to recreate a state which encompasses the land of the 12 tribes, because Jews/Judeans still think they have the right to rule over the land of the 10 tribes.

      A Jew explains your 4 and 5 very well. This Jew understands his fellows’ penchant for destructiveness/anachism/ terrorism. He says it all started with Abraham and I tend to believe him because Abraham predates Akhenaten by centuries. I think that their demonic nature and the religion they created is just an expression of their rejection of maleness and all that it implies.
      http://books.google.ro/books?id=4GEfKbCAI4IC&pg=PA5

      “An essential non-conformity is the primary characteristic of the Jewish people. The large number of Jews who take part in various protest movements is easily explicable against the background of Jewish history. As long as the Jews are living amongst their own people, their non-conformist streak finds its satisfaction in the collective non-conformity of the Jewish existence, as compared with the life of other nations. In isolation, the Jew first tends to become ultra-conformist, in reaction to his former non-conformism when he was still sharing in the customs of his people. He tries as fast and thoroughly as possible to assimilate into his environment—Christian, liberal or national—so that he may no longer stand out from the rest. Many have tried this course of merging into the multitude. While they personally may have failed, their descendants, usually after three or four generations, finally achieved total immersion. Yet as a rule the experiment does not work.”

      “This non-conformist tendency, whether directed solely against the Jewish father image or against contemporary society as a whole, is the psychological impulse that has caused so many Jews, in the past and in the present, to take part in a variety of revolutionary movements. Evidently these movements were of the Leftist brand”

      “The nonconformity of the Jewish collective, or the revolutionary character of the Jewish people, found its expression in all three stages of its existence—its prehistoric evolution or national mythology, the period of statehood that lasted some thousand years, and the two thousand years of exile.”

      “The term ‘mythology’ when applied to the ancestral tales of the Jewish nation, the story of Abraham, for instance, is somewhat of a misnomer. Ordinarily, national mythologies consist of biographies of gods and demi-gods, men of divine origin or men who have turned into gods. Not so the story of the evolution of the Jewish people, whose main theme is a constant revolt against mythology. The term can be applied only insofar as it is taken to denote the pithy depiction of ancient figures that have come to embody an ideal and have been preserved in the consciousness of a people as a lasting legendary force, transcending mere historical fact.”

      “A basic image of this kind in the consciousness of the Jewish nation is the figure of the patriarch Abraham. […] Abraham was the father of the Monotheistic revolution, the greatest of all rebels against the establishment, rising up against his own idol-worshipping father. Legend has it that he went so far as to smash all the idols on display in his father’s pagan department store. He was a rebel who resorted to violence […] On the altar of his new-found faith he is willing to sacrifice his son—a much more difficult ordeal than sacrificing his own life. What is more, in the name of this faith in a single God, the God of justice and law, he is willing to stand up to that very Godhead: ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Gen. 18, 25) says he in a violent argument about the imminent destruction of Sodom. This attitude of protest against a God in whom one yet never ceases to believe is a recurrent motif in Historical Books of the Bible, the Prophets and the Book of Job. It is an attitude that is completely at variance with the total submission demanded by all other religions, where such personal revolt, such claims and accusations against the Deity are quite inconceivable.”

      “Recent historical research has shown that Ur Kasdim, the birthplace of Abraham, was a land of flourishing culture. And again the very words of the Bible, when Abraham hears the voice of God saying unto him: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee,’ resound the call of revolt. Abraham is exhorted to break all his ties with the past on his way to something new and unprecedented; to break not the ties of slavery, but the ties of gold that hold him to a prosperous land and home, and the ties of blood. But this is no anarchistic, nihilistic breakaway out of despair. It is a deliberate dissociation from a multitude of false gods, leading to a positive, new spiritual and intellectual experience, the experience of a single invisible God that has neither picture nor image. At the beginning of the second millennium B.C. when Abraham is presumed to have flourished, this concept of Divinity must have appeared both odd and strange, and it continued to be so throughout the subsequent two thousand years.”

      • JHRP
        Posted July 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        >It is an attitude that is completely at variance with the total submission demanded by all other religions, where such personal revolt, such claims and accusations against the Deity are quite inconceivable.

        Putting aside how utterly wrong this statement is, I think it is truly fascinating how even the works of Jewish writers who superficially criticise their kinsmen is filled to the brim with national hubris like this, without exception.

        Regarding the notes themselves, I believe this format works well enough once in a while. The topic itself is very much interesting, looks like vital ammo against self-professed traditionalists adhering to an Abrahamic creed.

        • Miss Palindrome
          Posted July 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          Jews are attracted to subversion and inversion. You may not agree with how they explain and justify their otherness which consequently turns into pretension to rule over Gentiles, but the thing remains that they have this toxicity based on warping meanings. They break the relation between signifier and signified, they twist words to make them mean whatever they want (even the opposite of what they really mean).

          When you say that Jews are a race, Jews retort they are a religion. If you say they are a religion, they say they are a race.
          Their “holy” book says that Yahweh is jealous, yet you have the very example of inversion of reality/preemptive slander: they accuse others of the very things they commit.

          I think that one of the reasons why Jews hated Jesus was because they somehow saw in his actions towards them what they do to Gentiles. Jews have this comical idea that they can destroy others because Yahweh condones it. Jews are adept at securing privileges. They say “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, but it is false. Throughout their history they harmed others and when Gentiles fought back, they lamented “Goy started it.” They don’t like when Gentiles retaliate.

  4. Peter Quint
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I can’t get past his last name. Ha Ha Ha

  5. Br Evola
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    I think S. Devi, for all her wisdom, got this issue dead wrong.

  6. Carpenter
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting. I’m definitely interested in seeing more on CC about this.

    I found this blurb on the art of the Atenism period to be interesting: “Styles of art that flourished during this short period are markedly different from other Egyptian art, bearing a variety of affectations, from elongated heads to protruding stomachs, exaggerated ugliness and the beauty of Nefertiti. Significantly, and for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaten’s family was depicted in a decidedly naturalistic manner, and they are clearly shown displaying affection for each other. Greek influence may have resulted in some of the Amarna artistic characteristics.

    Images of Akhenaten and Nefertiti usually depict the Aten prominently above that pair, with the hands of the Aten closest to each offering Ankhs. Unusually for new-kingdom art the Pharaoh and his Great Royal Wife are depicted as approximately equal in size, which together with Nefertiti’s image used to decorate the lesser Aten temple at Amarna may suggest she also had a prominent official role in Aten worship.

    Artistic representations of Akhenaten usually give him a strikingly feminine appearance, with slender limbs, a protruding belly and wide hips. Other leading figures of the Amarna period, both royal and otherwise, are also shown with some of these features, suggesting a possible religious connotation, especially as some sources suggest that private representations of Akhenaten, as opposed to official art, show him as quite normal. However, according to some controversial theories, the strikingly unusual representations may have been due to non-religious factors – Akhenaten may actually been a woman masquerading as a man, which had been known to happen in Egyptian politics at least once before, or he may have had some intersex condition.”

    Also, I want to ask Greg what he makes then of Savitri Devi’s respect for Akhenaten. I do recall that she praises the way Akhenaten believed that all of life formed a whole and I think she mentioned that he was vegetarian. But she didn’t mention that he banned the worship of all other gods and declared them “false” gods. Thoughts?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 1, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Amarna art is definitely mysterious, but there is no way it could be influenced by Greek art. The chronology is way off.

      Savitri Devi saw Akhnaton as a kind of life-affirming pantheist. She was willing to overlook his persecution of other religions, even though she despised the same intolerance in the Biblical monotheist tradition. There is ample evidence that Akhnaton not only ate meat, but actually killed it too: there is a low relief in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of him sacrificing a duck by wringing its neck.

      http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1985.328.2

      However, there are no images of him engaged in hunting or war.

  7. rhondda
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I do have a question.
    On page 11, Assmann says that he is following a vertical line of memory, not a horizontal continuum of history. So he lines up Akhenaten, then Moses on top of him. However, I thought a vertical line represented the hierarchy of being. Assmann does not get into the ideas of Akhenten at all as far as I have read. It is just this memory of a very bad time by the people. when everything was changed by Akhenaten, so the next one was a very bad time in memory too. It seems to me he is on a horizontal line that may run parallel to the historical one with each side having different perspectives and not a vertical one at all. His references are people who are writing on the same theme. Am I way off in this?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted July 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      I think you are conflating two senses of “vertical” here. Assmann deals more with Akhnaton’s ideas in other works.

      Assmann’s whole concept of “mnemohistory” strikes me as too clever by half, insofar as I do not see any distinction between it and simple intellectual history, i.e., the history of ideas, not necessarily the history of facts. I have not yet read his books devoted specifically to this subject matter, though, so perhaps there is more to it.

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