Footnote to p. 14 - Conversations with Atheists

Rousas John Rushdoony, The One And The Many, (Fairfax, VA: Thorburn Press, 1978), pp. 36-45.

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Chapter III


1. Egypt

Apart from biblically governed thought, the prevailing concept of being has been that being is one and continuous. God, or the gods, man, and the universe are all aspects of one continuous being; degrees of being may exist, so that a hierarchy of gods as well as a hierarchy of men can be described, but all consist of one, undivided and continuous being. The creation of any new aspect of being is thus not a creation out of nothing, but a creation out of being, in short, a process of being. This conception of being in process, when seen in its cosmic aspect, can be either static or dynamic, the framework of reference being history. The process is static if it flows upward out of history, as in ancient Egypt; being in this perspective has achieved a desired earthly order and now exists to serve, magnify, and then move into the eternal order. The process is dynamic if it flows forward through history towards a final historical order, or if it merely flows forward as endless process, as in Mesopotamian thought. In both forms, a cyclic view is possible, and "eternal cyclic renovation" was an aspect of Egyptian Hermetic thought as well as of other philosophies.1

For Egyptian thought, god and man were of a common nature and alike products of a common being. As Wilson has observed, "Between god and man there was no point at which one could erect a boundary line and state that here substance changed from divine, superhuman, immortal, to mundane, human, mortal." The Egyptian religious faith was not monotheistic but monophysite, not one god but one nature in common to gods and men. "It is not a matter of single god but of single nature of observed phenomena in the universe, with the

1. (W. M. Flinders Petrie: Personal Religion in Egypt Before Christianity (New York: Harper, 1909), p. 166.)

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clear possibility of exchange and substitution. With relation to gods god men the Egyptians were monophysites : many men and many gods, but all ultimately of one nature."2 This common nature was shared by the entire universe in varying degrees and set forth in various aspects of worship. Juvenal, in Satire XV, commented on the "garden gods" of Egypt: "It is an impious outrage to crunch leeks and onions with the teeth. What a holy race to have such divinities springing up in their gardens! "3

Both gods and men developed or evolved, and in a very real sense, battled their way out of the original chaos of being. According to Fontenrose, "The peoples of the Near and Middle East looked upon creation as a process of bringing order out of chaos." This is both process and combat. "For the cosmos has been won from the chaos that still surrounds it, as a cultivated plot from the encompassing wilderness."4 Chaos or darkness generates life; it is both the source of life and the enemy of life. "Life requires order, which means putting a limit upon action in certain directions. But an order that resists all change and further creative activity denies life and turns into its opposite: it becomes a state of inactivity and death." Chaos and life are thus in a necessary tension: life without chaos becomes death, but life which surrenders to chaos and abandons order is also death. Life requires order, and order means death, the triumph of chaos. As Fontenrose notes, "This is only to say that both life forces and death forces are necessary in a properly balanced individual and world."5 Here we have the dialectic of man in the ancient world: chaos and life, a dialectic which undergirds much of subsequent thought. Expressed in world-wide myths of antiquity, it reappears as modern medical science in the psychoanalysis of Freud and his theory of Eros and Thanatos, life instincts and death instincts." 6

2 John A. Wilson, "Egypt," in Henri Frankfort, etc.: Before Philosophy, The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man (Penguin Books, 1951 [1946]) p. 74f.
3 G. G. Ramsay, trans.: Juvenal and Persius, Satire XV, 11. 9-11 (London: William Heinemann, 1930 [1918]), p. 289.
4 Joseph Fontenrose: Python, A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), p. 218f.
5 Fontenrose, p. 473.
6 Ibid., p. 474. See R. J. Rushdoony: Freud (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1964).

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Chaos and cosmos must thus co-exist in balance in the ideal state. Cosmos means the world of the gods and the world of men, heaven and earth, and chaos is the underworld. The ideal state, the high point of being and "the center of the world," is that society where the three levels of being-heaven, earth, and the underworld-are in communication, and "this communication is sometimes expressed through the image of a universal pillar, axis mundi," which brings all three together.7 A state or empire which dominated the world scene of its day was especially sure that its society represented the center of the earth, the high point in the process of being to date, that order in which chaos, men, and the gods were in communication. Thus, in Assyria the king officiated before a garlanded pole or tree which has been explained as "the ritual centre of the earth."8 This communication was the basis of political and religious life: "reality is conferred through participation in the 'symbolism of the Center': cities, temples, houses become real by the fact of being assimilated to the `center of the world.' " 9

This communication rested in a community of being, through participation in one common being, out of which the gods had germinated and developed, and from whom men were germinated. According to the Papyrus of Ani,

The Osiris, the Scribe Ani, whose word is truth, saith : I flew up out of primeval matter. I came into being like the god Khepera. I germinated (or, grew up) like the plants. I am concealed (or, hidden) like the tortoise (or, turtle) (in his shell). I am the seed (?) of every god. I am Yesterday of the Four (Quarters of the Earth, and) the Seven Uraei, who came into being in the Eastern land. (I am) the Great One (i.e., Horus) who illumineth the Hememet spirits with the light of his body. (I am) that god in respect of Set. (I am) Thoth who (stood) between them (i.e., Horus and Set) as the judge on behalf of the Governor of Sekhem (Letopolis) and the Souls of Anu (Heliopolis). (He was

7 Mircea Eliade: The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1959), p. 37. Willard R. Trask, trans.
8 Eric Burrows, "Some Cosmological Patterns in Babylonian Religion," in S. H. Hooke, ed.: The Labyrinth: Further Studies in the Relation between Myth and Ritual in the Ancient World (London: SPCK, 1935), p. 63n.
9 Mircea Eliade: Cosmos and History, The Myth of the Eternal Return (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959 [1954]), p. 5. Willard R. Trask, trans.


like) a stream between them. I have come. I rise up on my throne. I am endowed with a Khu (i.e., Spirit-soul). I am mighty. I am endowed with godhood among the gods. I am Khensu, (the lord) of every kind of strength. 10

This pride of achievement manifested by the god Osiris can be shared by men. Man is able, by works of righteousness, to become one with the gods. To become one with the heavenly beings, he must be able to affirm a confession, which, among other things, declared:

. . . I have not committed sin. . . . I have not stolen.
. . . I have not slain men and women.
. . . I have not stolen the property of God.
. . . I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men. . . . I have made none to weep.
. . . I have not been an eavesdropper.
. . . I have not shut my ears to the word of truth. . . . I have wronged none, I have done no evil."11

Having been judged innocent, the deceased becomes divine, declaring, "There is no member of my body which is not a member of a god. Thoth protecteth my body altogether, and I am Ra day by day."12 Salvation is deification. Moreover, "It is not spiritual but physical, salvation that is sought." 13 In the biblical faith, resurrection is an act of discontinuity and a miracle. In the Egyptian perspective, man, after death, manifested a continuity either towards chaos and destruction or towards deity and resurrection. The doctrine of the resurrection in Egypt was set in the context of a naturalistic, fertility cult perspective. The gods themselves "are not immortal but perennial" 14

The first creation arose out of the primeval waters of chaos, the

10 E. A. Wallis Budge, trans. and intro.: The Book of the Dead , Ch. LXXXIII (New Hyde Park, N. Y.: University Books, 1960 [1890]), p. 552f. On Osiris, see Sir James George Fraser: Adonis, Attis, Osiris (University Books, 1961 [1914]). On the centrality of Osiris, see Sir Wallis Budge: Egyptian Religion (University Books, 1959 [1899]).
11 Book of the Dead, Ch. CXXV, pp. 576-580.
12 Ibid., Ch. XLII, p. 608.
13 E. A. Wallis Budge: Osiris, The Egyptian Religion of Resurrection , vol. I (New Hyde Park, N. Y.: University Books, 1961 [1911]), p. 276.
14 Jane E. Harrison, "Introduction" to Budge: Osiris, p. V.

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gods and the primeval hillock or mountain arising and then becoming the source of subsequent being. Chaos is the ground of being, and the source of being, and an Egyptian papyrus declared:

The All-Lord said, after he had come into being: I am he who came into being as Khepri. When I had come into being, being (itself) came into being, and all beings came into being after I came into being. 15

The place of creation is the primeval hillock, mountain, or pyramid, arising out of the waters of chaos to establish order. This sacred mountain or tower is the meeting-place of heaven and earth, where communication is established between heaven, earth, and hell. It "is situated at the center of the world. Every temple, or palace-and, by extension, every sacred city or royal residence-is a Sacred Mountain, thus becoming a Center."16 True social order requires peace and communication with both chaos and deity, and society either moves downward into chaos or forward into deification. The significance of the Tower of Babel is thus apparent: it denied the discontinuity of God's being and asserted man's claim to a continuity of being with God and heaven. The Tower was the gate to God and the gate of God, signifying that man's social order made possible an ascent of being into the divine order. The Egyptian pyramid set forth the same faith.

The gods arose out of chaos, and the primeval earth hill or pyramid is their fitting symbol. In relationship to eternity, the gods stand thus:  . In relationship to man, the pyramid is inverted: . Man's relationship to the gods and heaven is also symbolized by the pyramid, pointing upward. In later mystery religions, and in Kabbalism especially, the two pyramids, the inverted pyramid of the gods and the sky-reaching pyramid of man, were brought together to form a "star," , the double pyramid, the union of the human and the divine, their coalescence in the war against chaos. Its first known Jewish use is in the third century A.D. In Egyptian thought, there is a continuity

15 James B. Pritchard, ed.: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, second edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), p. 6; re. the primeval hillock, see. p. 3.
16 Eliade: Cosmos and History, p. 12. See also Henri Frankfort: Kingship and the Gods (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962 [1948]), p. 151ff.

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rather than a coalescence of human and divine, so that the relationship of the two pyramids can be perhaps described symbolically thus: . The meeting point of the two pyramids is the pharaoh. Ritually, "one of the highest sacraments consists in setting up a mound, or altar, which represents the world. The sacrifices by the ritual recreates the earth; but he recreates it by the same methods as were used by the original creator." 17 The ruler is thus also a priest as well as king, since he, as the apex of the pyramid, is the person who has contact with the gods. Indeed, he may be himself divine either in his person or office.

The Egyptian pharaoh was both man and god, priest and king, the umbilical cord uniting society with the gods:

Worship King Ni-maat-Re, living forever, within your bodies
And associate with his majesty in your hearts.
He is Perception which is in (men's) hearts, And his eyes search out every body.
He is Re, by whose beams one sees,
He is one who illumines the Two lands more than the sun disc.
He is one who makes the land greener than (does) a high Nile,
For he has filled the Two Lands with strength and life....
The king is a ka, (vital force. . the other self which supported a man)
And his mouth is increase.
He who is to be is his creation,
(For) he is the Khnum of all bodies, (Khnum. . a god who fashioned mortals. . )
The begetter who creates the people18

As the umbilical cord, the pharaoh was of necessity central to both political order and religious order. As Mercer noted, "The most fundamental idea of worship in ancient Egypt connected itself with the person of the god-manifesting pharaoh."19 Similar concepts, traced together with the ancient Egyptian beliefs to "old and wide-

17 A. M. Hocart, "The Life-Giving Myth," in Hooke: The Labyrinth, p. 266.
18 Pritchard: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 431.
19 Samuel Alfred Browne Mercer, "The Religion of Ancient Egypt," in Vergilius Ferm, ed.: Ancient Religions (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950), p. 37.

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spread Hamitic belief,"20 are present in Africa in the twentieth century, holding that "all the people are the slaves of the king," who is "absolute lord and master of the land, and of the bodies and lives and possessions of all his people."21 Common to these African cultures, as to those of the ancient Near and Middle East, is "the idea of a ladder, reaching from earth to heaven,"22 a form of the belief in the pyramid or tower.

Atum, the first god, was bisexual, "that great He-She," according to a coffin text, and "He was not only God but all things to come."23 "Osiris is past and future--cause and potentiality. "24 These two aspects were opened to man by the pharaoh. "The king was the mediator between the community and the sources of divine power, obtaining it through the ritual and regularizing it through his government."25 The king was necessary to social order, and he was essential to social salvation. "The king was recognized as the successor of the Creator, and this view was so prevalent that comparisons between the sun and Pharaoh unavoidably possessed theological overtones."26 Kingship in this sense was basic to civilization, and the coronation of the pharaoh was "an epiphany." The pharaoh represented order against chaos. His death was a temporary victory for chaos. Nature required kingship, for nature represented order as against chaos, so that nature was not conceivable apart from the pharaoh, who was not only the mediator between the gods and man, and between society and nature, but the source of order as against chaos.27 Incest was an important aspect of Egyptian mythology,28 and, between brother and sister, common to the royal line.29 Al-

20 C. G. Seligman: Egypt and Negro Africa, A Study in Divine Kingship (London: George Routledge, 1934), p. 60.
21 Budge: Osiris, vol. II, p. 162.
22 Ibid., II, p. 168.
23 R. T. Rundle Clark: Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt (New York: Grove Press, 1959), p. 41.
24 Ibid., p. 157.
25 Ibid., p. 121. See also Wilson, op. cit., p. 73.
26 Frankfort: Kingship and the Gods, p. 148.
27 Ibid., pp. 3ff., 33, 101, 212.
28 Ibid., pp. 168f., 177, 178-180.
29 Immanuel Velikovsky: Oedipus and Athnaton, Myth and History (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1960), pp. 96-102.


though economic motives were present, such incest also had a deepseated religious motive. It was a controlled act of chaos, an act in which order deliberately entered into chaos to make it fruitful for order. Plutarch's Lives, in describing Julius Caesar at the Rubicon, reported "that the night before he passed the river he had an impious dream, that he was unnaturally familiar with his mother." Suetonius reported the same dream, or a similar one, for an earlier date in Caesar's life:

The following night he was much disquieted by a dream in which he imagined he had carnal company with his own mother. But hopes of most glorious achievement were kindled in him by the soothsayers, who interpreted the dream to mean that he was destined to have sovereignty over all the world, his mother whom he saw under him signifying none other than the earth, which is counted the mother of all things.30

This concept, somewhat dimmed in Caesar, prevails full force in some contemporary cultures, where incestuous unions, normally a horror and a terror, become obligatory in the invoked chaos of the festival. 31

The king warred against and controlled chaos, and the duty of the people, as well as their privilege, was to be in subjection to the king in order to participate in the community of heaven, earth, and hell in the person of pharaoh. "One might say-though only metaphorically-that the community had sacrificed all freedom in order to acquire this certainty of harmony with the gods." Harmony was central to Egyptian religion. 32 Because of the centrality of the king to all things, the "great oath" in Egyptian courts of law was by the life of Pharaoh.33 For the Egyptians, "right conduct was `doing what

30 Suetonius: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars (New York: Book League, 1937), p. 6.
31 Roger Caillois: Man and the Sacred (Glenco, Ill.: The Free Press, 1959), p. 117. Meyer Barash, trans.
32 Henri Frankfort: Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961 [1948]), p. 58.
33 Margaret A. Murray: The Splendour That Was Egypt (New York: Philosophical Library, 1961 [1949]), p. 78. See Genesis 42:16, Joseph's oath, "By the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies." For Murray on the pharaoh as a god, see p. 174ff.

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the king, the beloved of Ptah, desired.' "34 Magic, man's attempt to manipulate and control the powers of nature, was central to Egyptian society and life; the gods had used magic against chaos, and man must utilize the magical powers made available by the gods.35

The king was one of the gods and "the one official intermediary between the people and the gods, the one recognized priest of all the gods." 36 He was the Shepherd, a divine title, of the people, over "men, the flock of the gods."37

The dialectical tension of Egyptian thought was between chaos and life, but chaos itself could appear in life, when social order collapsed or weakened.38 Chaos therefore could itself be in life, whereas order meant the unity and harmony of heaven, earth, and hell under the divine monarch. The one and the many were brought together in the person of the king. The Egyptian language had no word for "state."39 For them, the state was not one institution among many but rather the essence of the divine order for life and the means of communication between heaven, earth, and hell. Life therefore was totally and inescapably statist. In this perspective, anything resembling liberty and individuality in the contemporary sense was alien and impossible. Moreover, the cyclic view of nature and history which is basic to the Osiris faith and Egyptian religion made for a pessimistic world view. The Isis temple inscription, reported by Plutarch, cited two aspects of this faith: "I am the female nature, or mother nature, which contained in herself the generation of all things." "I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my peplum no mortal has uncovered."40 First, a total immanence is asserted deity does not transcend the being of humanity, it is a common

34 E. O. James: The Ancient Gods (New York: G. P. Putman's Sons, 1960), p. 261.
35 Sir E. A. Wallis Budge: Amulets and Talismans (University Books, 1961 [19301), p. XVf. See also Budge: Egyptian Magic (University Books, n.d. [18991).
36 Wilson, op. cit., p. 73.
37 Nora E. Scott and Charles Sheeler: Egyptian Statues, "Instructions for King Mery-ka-Re" (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1945).
38 See "A Dispute Over Suicide," in Pritchard, op. cit., pp. 405-407.
39 Frankfort: Ancient Egyptian Religion, p. 30.
40 James Bonwick: Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought (Indian Hills, Colo.: Falcon's Wing Press, 1956), pp. 145, 149.


being, generated first out of chaos and then out of the gods. Second, it has an unknown potentiality: its future is unknown, covered, and veiled. There is no eternal decree of law and order, based on an absolute and totally self-conscious potentiality. Instead, there is only a tenuous community against a background of chaos and an unknown potentiality which may include chaos. The only slim wall against this was the king, the divine monarch and the human apex of the risen mountain of order out of chaos. In his person, pharaoh was the identity of all being and the identity of unity and particularity. All men had to be under him to be in being. The official voices from Egypt affirmed the stability and permanence of this order; history has entered its emphatic dissent.

According to Anthes, for the ancient Egyptians "Eternity is oneness," and the "human goal after death is deification."41 Deification was entry into the oneness of the divine order, and membership in the state in this life was similarly participation in the divine oneness manifested in the pharaoh and protection against the horror of chaos and meaningless particularity.

41 Rudolph Anthes, "Mythology in Ancient Egypt," in Samuel Noah Kramer, ed.: Mythologies of the Ancient World (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1961), pp. 41, 51.
42 Thorkild Jacobsen, "Mesopotamia," in Frankfort: Before Philosophy , p. 139f.

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