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 I M H O T E P : an extraordinary man

 

Statue of Imhotep in the Louvre

 

His origins :

 

Where did this man of exceptional genius come from ? The name IMHOTEP means " the one that comes in peace". There are few testimonies and texts which survived the 2 fires which ravaged the great library of Alexandria in the first and fifth centuries, (which gives even more importance to the Greek testimonies dating from the VIth century BC).

PLATO, who was born in Athens in 428BC, took a close interest in the writings of his eminent predecessor, SOLON, (also Athenian, and born about 648BC). SOLON was admired among his fellow citizens for his honesty and integrity.

SOLON had written that an old priest of Saïs had spoken of the existence of a former empire which had extended as far as Egypt ! This ideal kingdom was called ATLANTIS (!) and was founded by Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea), about 9 000 years ago.

Therefore using the date 8975BC (the year of the deluge), less 600 years (corresponding to the period of Plato), we can give an approximate date of the creation of Atlantis, (or under its original name " the first heart of the god Ptah"), as 8 375BC.

Solon affirmed that for "a long time this kingdom was inhabited by some wise men and good", but was later "taken over by corruption", to the point that numerous people perished "drowned. "

"Now", pursues Plato, "this Egyptian priest affirmed that he was himself a descendant of famous high priest IMHOTEP, keeper of the memory of Atlantis and of a religion of the ONE God, who showed the way for souls to rise toward the sky".

Even though this is a very tempting testimony, and very exciting to contemplate, few pieces of evidence have lasted across time for us be able to describe this civilization, whose survivors were able to reach the solitude of Sinai, (mid way between Egypt and Mesopotamia), while waiting to persuade Pharaoh Djeser of their mission.

This message is not in contradiction with the Bible, but it tells of a time long before that of the Hebrew Bible. It shows too that the cult of One God existed in very ancient times. Actually the Bible does not only contain the message of God and the history of the divine messages given by the prophets, but it also contains the history, the trials and wars of the Jewish people from the time of the Patriarchs.

Flavius Joseph Ben Mathias confirms this in his chronicles : " The History of the Jewish people and the Bible ", written in the year 80AD. Now although Flavius was descended directly from the royal Jewish Hasmonaean branch, he was first prisoner, then the friend of the two emperors Vespasian and Titus.

It is not easy to separate the two messages. The Jewish people, during their long stay in Egypt before the Exodus, were influenced by the religion and writings introduced in the IIIrd Egyptian dynasty by Imhotep and his men. One can in practice call IMHOTEP an "Egyptian Moses" and an precursor of the religion of the One God.

Let us not forget that king Djeser worked copper and malachite mines in the Sinai, where the wells of water were so far away (more than 60 km), that many men deported to the mines died on the way. Probably this place was not chosen by chance.

In any case, Imhotep could have been no ordinary man, because he was a genius in so many fields: mathematics, astrology, maps of the stars, the art of healing, of mummifying the dead, architecture (including the art of planning, estimating weights, the art of carving enormous stones and putting them in place, he knew how to close up the tunnels with sand and other materials). But above all, he taught the Egyptians the picture alphabet that Champollion was to decipher 4 500 years later !

If we can allow ourselves to compare, Jesus, who said he was "king of an other world", come to give homage to the truth, has definitely some points in common with Imhotep the teacher, and Osiris, the king killed by Set, his jealous brother, (of whom we will speak more later! )

Surprising also is the episode of the transfiguration on the sacred mountain, (in the Sinai ?), where Jesus needed the silence of the disciples, Peter, James and John, who all lived through this "journey in time". And the Bible is clear on two other points: Moses and Elijah both passed 40 days and 40 nights in solitude on Mount Horeb in the... Sinai !

 

I M H O T E P  -  THE MAN who spoke of a GOD of Truth

 

It was inevitable therefore that one day the scholarly Imhotep would be taken to the court of king Djeser at This. From there, things progressed very quickly: the king abandonned his capital and his mastaba (already half constructed) to Bet Khallaf near Abydos.

This tomb imitated those of the preceding kings, but was very small compared to the enormous funeral complex constructed at Saqqarah! Impressed with his theses and pronouncements, the king invested him with some of the highest functions of the kingdom, those of VIZIER or "first minister and high priest", the chief of the clergy and of physicians of the time who practiced those two professions.

One tends to consider only Imhotep's tremendous work as an architect and that of professor of medicine! But his greatest work was of a spiritual nature : that of religious reform.

When one knows that the Egyptians at that time made human sacrifices to their gods, the task of Imhotep at Heliopolis was immense. Fortunately the clergy adopted the changes of ideas without violence, and bowed to the power of "ONE god, who is above" all other gods.

It is difficult to understand how this reform was carried out. It removed progressively the superstitious cults which were intermingled with belief in: djinns, genies and magic. It awakened the idea of personal conscience and the image of Ka, in the mind of the gentle and generous men.

The Egyptian liked to have a picture of god before them when they prayed; so it was not easy for them to understand that this universal God was hidden, invisible and without form!

Even in the New Empire, the priests continued to assimilate the One God of Imhotep with Amon, the master of all the gods of ancient Egypt. This happened especially at the time of the death of the shepherd of the people, the Pharaoh, who aspired to become an Osiris and a celestial star, as expressed by this priest of the New Empire :

When like the gods, he was lying on the horizon,
and all the rituals of Osiris had been done for him,
he sailed on the sacred river in order to go then to his rest
in his eternal home to the west of Thebes, and his
son can solemnly succeed him on the throne.

His father Amon, the Master of the gods, Re, Atoum and Ptah
crown him in the " Lord of the two Earths" in the place
where he was created. The people rejoiced because he was
seen as the sovereign of the two kingdoms, as was Horus
when he took power in lieu of his father Osiris...

In the manner of Pharaoh, all honorable human beings will return one day to their creator and omnipresent father, who at times will be regarded differently according to our minds and our culture.

God remains the Eternal, the attentive, the imperceptible, the mysterious,
the infinitely great and infinitely small, capable of always knowing
the hearts of all his children who wish to return to Him.

This is also expressed by a cantor in poetic terms in an extract of stories written by Sinouhe 4000 years ago :

Homage of the soul dedicated to his Creator :

"I was taken up to the sky and united with the solar disk
My body returned the one that had begotten it

I was yesterday, I am today and I know tomorrow

I am Re and Re is in me
The Being is in me and the none-Being is in me
I am master of the soul of God who holds me to his breast."

 One cannot help once again of thinking of the words of Christ told by Saint John in his XIV chapter (23) :

If someone loves me, he will keep my word
and my Father will love him. We will come to him,
and "we will make in HIM" our home...

Like some missionaries in the mountains of Mexico, Imhotep made certain concessions, and instead of eradicating the old beliefs, he integrated them with his own, to allow his supporters to better understand : the journey toward the West bank of the Nile, under "the eye of Re".

The frontal eye of Re (or third eye of god) symbolized for the Egyptian the universal strength of the hidden god. Like Re, this GREAT INVISIBLE GOD drove away the darkness, and created life again each morning.

Was it merely chance that at Memphis they associated with PTAH, the god of Perfection, two other essential divinities: MAAT, goddess of truth and justice, and THOT : the god of wisdom ?

 

The young Pharaoh under the protection of Hathor and of Horus

 

Maat and Thot are the two main authorities of the celestial court presided over by Osiris. They could reject a person's soul or give it eternal life.These first aspirations were handed down to us on papyrus which is now more than four thousand years old!

 

The first pictures of paradise :

 

In the first drawing one sees a mummy and its "Ka," which later underwent the trial of judgement, this idea being symbolized by a "step pyramid", from the top of which the eyes can contemplate the infinity of space, while eight luminous points (of stars ?) descend slowly on to it, to penetrate and restore it. In the second picture: one watches the purification of the soul, which bathes in the Great Lake of the sacred Lotus, to rid itself of the last traces of terrestrial impurity. The soul emerges pure and rejuvenated, as if reborn at the breast of Nout, the mother goddess of the sky.

Restored, the soul rises higher and higher up the ladder of the rays of the sun, until it reaches the "boat of truth on the celestial Nile", where other purified souls are also waiting for a second merited afterlife in the sky.

This kind of glorious spiritual image shows that many Egyptians were thirsty for words of wisdom. Thus, even though Imhotep doesn't seem to have wanted to show us more of the other world and teach all the nations, one thing is certain :

In spite of the doubts imposed by worship of evil spirits, men of God already existed "well before the advent of the pyramids".

 

I M H O T E P was often compared to THOT, the god of wisdom

 

The oldest hieroglyphic writing found by scientists are the Texts of the Pyramids. They were written around one century after the start of the third dynasty but the only parts remaining are those containing wise words and maxims (comparable to the Book of Proverbs in the Bible). This collection of wisdom and advice is attributed to Imhotep.

This is confirmed by the song of the harpist, which can be seen written in the funeral temple of King Antef (2120BC) of the first Intermediary Period :

"What remains of the tombs of our nations' builders?
I have heard the words of Imhotep and of Dedefhor*
that are the rules and counsel "which will never pass away."

The walls have fallen and the tombs are no more.
My heart rests in peace; only forgetfulness gives us serenity.
My heart by joyful and do not fight.
Dress yourself in fine linens and anoint your head with myrrh.

Do your earthy destiny and do not torment yourself.
As worry will never save anyone from his tomb
and no one can take his earthly possessions with him."

* Dedefhor, a prince at the court of Cheops .

 

The association of Imhotep and Dedefhor suggests these two persons upheld the principals of wisdom and highmindedness that will remain valued for ever.

If we believe the treatise of the priest of Sais who said to Solon (around 600 BC) that "he was a direct descendant of Imhotep", (despite more than 2,000 years having passed) this proves that the great Imhotep was well established in Egypt with his initiated colleagues. It shows that he had a family, and that his descendants continued to develop the idea of an invisible, omnipresent universal god.

Sixteen hundred years later, the Hebrew people took up the flame of faith, taking it to the East, then to the Christians and Moslems whose Koran largely repeats the message of the Bible (as it was taught at the time of Mohammed).

Imhotep lived about 1600 years after Noah, 800 years before Abraham and 1500 years before Moses. The teachings of Imhotep and those of the great men of the Bible are not contradictory but similar and even complementary in essence. One must be careful not to enclose one’s belief in a hermetically sealed cocoon of dogma!

The wise man will keep an open mind and study and compare different ideas, instead of discarding them stubbornly. Ecumenism is not meant to convert others to one’s religion, but to look for ideas in common which will one day bring the reign of God and peace here on earth.

Because the message of Abraham is formal, The Noahic Covenant addresses ALL men of all colours and nations.

Moreover, there are an enormous number of points in common between Judaism and the religion and wisdom of Imhotep. The two religions are based on the love and fear of God, respect for one’s parents, for one’s neighbor and even for a stranger. Circumcision was not invented by Abraham, since drawings dating from the Vth dynasty show priests circumcising adults, proving that circumcision was already practised from adolescence before Abraham's birth! but certain pharaoh mummies are not circumcised, so it must not have been obligatory.

There was one other custom that the Jews learned in Egypt, in memory of the victory of Horus over his uncle Set, the symbol of evil spirits. Since the Old Kingdom, they had placed a winged solar disc (the emblem of the victorious god of Edfou) above each door of the temple.

This sign kept away all evil spirits from sacred places. The Egyptians of the Old Kingdom understood that it was not enough to worship their god with words but they also worshiped him in their hearts and in their daily lives. Paul in his second letter to the Romans (V.13) agreed wholeheartedly with this.

It is not those who only listen and pay lipservice to His laws who are justified by God, but instead those who put these laws into practice. When pagans who have no religious law naturally do what that law asks, they become a "law unto themselves" (a principle of personal religion). They show by their witness that the law is written in their hearts and thoughts. This is what will be seen on the day when God judges human beings. True circumcision is that of the heart, practised according to the spirit and not to the letter...

In other words : true faith does not consist of dreaming of good actions and good intentions, but of putting them into practice.

Moreover, even if one finds under the sand of Egypt all the writings and saying of Imhotep, this would not mean that the Bible (which was written later) does not have value as a guide for all humanity. It would not put into doubt the existence of the prophets, for these men had a distinct mission concerning the daily life of their fellow men.

The work of Imhotep and his spiritual brothers is an example of tolerance, which shows how this far, seeing man of genius did not want to shock his people, but instead guide them by his thinking; developing their sense of purpose to discover for themselves the unbelievable potentials of spirit over matter, old age and our earthly mortality.

 

WRITING ENGRAVED IN THE TEMPLES DURING THE PERIOD OF THE DECLINE

 

For almost 2000 years the High Priest IMHOTEP was considered to be "a mortal guide to everyday life". Generations of Egyptians held on to his writing and advice, rather than to the cult of his personality. However, from the "period of the decline" there appeared many epitaphs and proverbs to his new found divinity in almost all the great temples of Egypt : Alexandria, Mendes, Denderah, Karnak, Edfou and Philae, where a temple was consecrated to him near to that of ISIS, and also in Nubia he was worshiped as far as the Sudan...

(Stele 46 from Saqqarah from the Egyptians museum at Marseilles). This is from a comparatively recent period when the Egyptians considered IMHOTEP as a god because of his numerous miracles :

APIS-OSIRIS, the first god of the West, the Lord of eternity, King of the gods.
Behind him stands (with bare feet like Apis), in human form, IMHOTEP the sublime,
the god of doors (which allow passage), who restores humanity to life.
(Saqqarah, 224 BC, Stele 28, Vienna 154).

IMHOTEP "the son of the god Ptah" the one who knows all things in the books of the library,
The one who restores those things destroyed in the holy scriptures.
The one who knows the secrets of the house of treasures...
(Stele of Psenptais (90BC to 41BC)--British Museum 1026 (886).

OSIRIS, the great god, Lord of Roseatou, the first in the west,
APIS-OSIRIS the king of the gods, the Lord who governs eternity.
ISIS the Great, the mother of the gods, the eye of Re, the queen of the sky...
and IMHOTEP, son of Ptah, doer of great deeds and amazing marvels...
(Thebes-IMHOTEP, son of Ptah, messenger of Apis, who is seen as a child...)

In the temple of Hathor at Denderah there are inscribed on the walls the words of Imhotep, the great son of Ptah, the great god of Denderah :

"He is the king of the two Egypts, the autocratic ruler " IMHOTEP, SON of Re,
he who lives forever, comes to you at Denderah.
IMHOTEP, son of Ptah, residing at Denderah,
he brings wonderful things to fill the table of sacrifices and festivities forever...
These words written 2500 years ago on the stones of the temples were reassembled and deciphered between 50 and 120 years ago...

Taught in the same way as the great god Thot, his watchful heart mearures all things.
He knows the course of the stars, he estimates the crops, he alleviates famine.
Learned in speech, he knows the word of God. He restores men... and protects pregnant women. He makes the sterile fruitful and gives them sons who bring vigour to their old age.

ESNA - In the antechamber of the treasure room in the temple of Horus - IMHOTEP was the heir to all that was south of the wall (the Gd wall of Memphis?), he who could cure all ills in his own special way.

PHILAE : On the column of the western tower are the words of Imhotep the Great, son of Ptah, the helpful and kind god descended from Tatenen the Lord of life, the gift of LOVE from god by which all men live. Lord of good health who will save all people who appear to be dead. He makes the egg to grow in its shell.

Imhotep at the Isle of Philae; he will pay heed to the curing of illness when he is called from anywhere...

These are the only messages left from the Period of the Decline. They are repeated constantly to remind us of the grandeur of this man, whose fame lasted thousands of years, ending in his deification (against his wishes) as a healer. (Today we would call it "canonization".) Like the phoenix, the royal bird that was reborn form ashes five centuries after being burnt to death, the Egyptian culture was several times threatened and destroyed :

The first time was in 48BC, when Caesar ordered the burning of the Egyptian fleet and the principle buildings of the port where the allies of Ptolemy XIII had taken refuge. The latter was in conflict with his sister and wife Cleopatra, whom he wished to assassinate. The flames burned down the famous Library at Alexandria, and destroyed 700,000 books, including thirty books in Greek by the celebrated chronicler Manethon (written for Ptolemy 1st).

The second library at Alexandria had been constructed in part beside the temple of Serapis of Alexandria. Theophilus and his nephew, St. Cyril, the future orthodox patriarch of Alexandria, closed the temple and persuaded the crowd to burn 4 million books (in 391) to eradicate all traces of paganism and impiety.

Hypathia , the leader of the school of philosophy and Greek mathematics was also killed in 415 by a crowd rallied by the monks! Thus by 450 AD there was no one left who understood or read Egyptian, as all the world wrote in Latin or Greek.

Then suddenly, in 1824 a Frenchman named Jean-François Champollion started a resurgence of interest in the interpretation of ancient Hieroglyphics. In 1832 (the year of his death), he left to posterity his famous Franco-Egyptian dictionary of the ancient hieroglyphic letters that his brother published following his death...

 

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